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A Gift a Day 2016: Introduction

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A Gift a Day TPH


I've made my lists (of which there are several) and I've been going through my fabric. This year, I plan to fulfill requests that my children have given me, and use up the fabric I already have to do so.

I've had several requests for clothing this year, including a few very specific things. Some items won't be surprises, but the fabric I choose to make them in may be a surprise.

I get several of the same questions about this series each year that I would like to answer in this post.

1. Are these the only gifts you give your children?

No, they are not. I buy gifts, often used (and sometimes new) at garage sales and thrift stores. I redeem Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards to buy gifts, and use Amazon credit I receive from sales made through my site (thank you for purchasing through my affiliate links!) and I redeem surveys from Pinecone Research to purchase items on Etsy (some of which I use to make gifts, such as jewelry supplies and patterns).  This year I have already bought some items for my eldest son on clearance at Old Navy, some vintage style dresses for my eldest daughter from Amazon, and a few gifts for other children. 

2. Do your children like the presents they get?

Well, they still get excited for Christmas, so I think I'm doing something right! I keep a running list going during the year of items they mention that they want, and then I ask questions again this time of year to make sure they still want those things. Usually, they add a few new wants to the list too!

My eldest son has loved ties for years; one year I made him a purple tie because he really wanted one. He still wears it. Many gifts are still well-loved and often passed down (in the case of clothing) to younger siblings as they are outgrown.

What works for my children may not work for yours. Ask questions! Find out what they really want and need. Their answers may surprise you!

3. You make a lot of gifts for girls. Do you have any ideas for men?

I have 5 daughters, and my eldest has a birthday right before Christmas, so I do a lot of sewing for my girls this time of year. I do some sewing for my boys, but rarely for my husband. I can usually find the items they want cheaper than making them. My husband happens to love chocolate chip cookies (in fact, it's the only kind of cookie he likes), so I have made him his own batch of cookies more than once as a gift, and it's always well-received.

4. Do you have any more ideas for gifts?

I have several boards for gift ideas on my Pinterest boards. You can find me on Pinterest here. You can find my past gifts in my Gift a Day series here. And I've got an upcoming post planned to share some inexpensive gift ideas that you can purchase (no sewing required!)

5. What sewing machine are you using?

This is the sewing machine that I have, but it is no longer being made. Janome has several similar machines that are currently available. I like my machine a lot. I used to own an 1949 Singer 401A (which was like carrying around an anvil when you wanted to move it) but many years ago both mine, my mom's, and my grandmother's refused to keep tension, and after having them repaired multiple times, I decided it was time to part ways and get a newer, lighter machine that wouldn't have a tension problem after every 3 stitches.

Sewing Room Table The Prudent Homemaker

6. Where do you sew?

I am very grateful to have a sewing room with a door that locks. However, if you need to sew somewhere where your children cannot see, I would suggest a small table set up in your bedroom while you work on gifts so that you can keep them a surprise.

7. What are you planning to make this year? 

I have been asked for dresses, skirts, blouses, and more. I'll finish whatever I can do in the time I have.

Now I have a little secret. I make more gifts after this series is over. Gifts that take too long to finish in a day are the ones I make (or finish)  in December. Often they're started in November during this series, but I can't finish them in one day. I don't usually show those as December is so busy, and yet, some of those are the really amazing gifts. I don't want to sew presents in December, as I'd rather do other things in the afternoon, but I haven't managed to not sew in December yet. This year, I really want to finish sewing for the children in November and spend December doing other fun things together (I've got a whole board pinned for that).

I'll do my best to complete a project each day before it's too dark to take a photo. Daylight savings time is this Saturday, which means next week will be even more challenging. I sew each afternoon during quiet time, and sometimes a little before and after. I can sew a little bit at night, but I find it more challenging to sew at night (I find that I make more mistakes at night).

I look forward to sharing my first project with you tomorrow!



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A Gift a Day: Day Eight: Ballet Skirt

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One of my daughters requested a ballet skirt to play dress up. We have a lot of leotards at our house, but not as many ballet skirts (we've found leotards at garage sale over the years for very little).

Ballet Skirt The Prudent Homemaker



Sheer fabric, 45" wide and length to whatever you chose for size

1" wide elastic for waist

Matching thread


Sewing Machine


Sewing pins


Tape measure to measure child's waist

Large safety pin


This was no more than a piece of fabric with a narrow hem at one end, and a casing for elastic at the waist, made my folding the fabric down (and ironing) at 1/4", and again at 1 1/4". I left a little opening after sewing the waistband to feed the elastic through with a safety pin. I then sewed the elastic together, and sewed the opening shut. Before ironing and hemming the end, I sewed the piece together lengthwise, using a French seam to keep it from unraveling.


About 45 minutes. This is probably a much faster project, but I had to stop and start a few times while taking care of my family.


The fabric was a scrap that was handed down to me and was just the perfect amount to make this. The elastic was purchased in bulk from Wawak (it comes on a huge roll) and cost me around $0.36. I just went over to Wawak's site and they currently have rolls of elastic on sale for 25% off. 36 yards of 1" elastic is currently on sale for $13.88, which would bring the price down even lower (note: they have other widths as well).

My youngest children have all loved this ballet class dvd for children from the ages of 2 to 6. It's just the right length for their attention and is fun for them when playing at ballet.

For older girls, there are several videos on You Tube that you can use.

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A Gift a Day: Day Seven: Pencil Bag

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Bird and Polka Dot Pencil Bag 1 The Prudent Homemaker


Fabric for outside. I cut two pieces 10" by 4".

Fabric for lining, cut the same size as above.

9" zipper



Sewing Machine


Sewing pins



I like both this tutorial and this one for making a lined zippered case. I sewed the project with a 1/2" seam allowance.

Bird and Polka Dot Pencil Bag 2 The Prudent Homemaker


30 minutes. The tutorials that said this was a 15 minute project, and if you just count sewing time, it is, but it also takes time to iron, measure, and cut your fabric.

Bird and Polka Dot Pencil Bag 3 The Prudent Homemaker


I used scraps from another project for the outside, fabric that was given to me for the inside, and a zipper from my grandmother's collection, so this cost me $0.

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A Gift a Day: Day Six: Child-Sized Aprons

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Aprons The Prudent Homemaker

I made an apron for three of my girls, choosing a fun fabric that each of them would like.



3/4 yard fabric for each apron, plus an additional 3/4 yard if lining the apron



Sewing Machine


Sewing pins



Marking Pen or pencil

Bird Apron The Prudent Homemaker 


You will need the fabric amount for length, but not for width, so you will have scraps leftover for another project if you lay out the fabric and fold it just wide enough to cut out the apron.

Bird Apron detail The Prudent Homemaker

I used an apron we had to copy for the pattern, and added a 1/2" seam allowance, plus more to fold down at the top (about 1 1/2"), but you could freehand draw the pattern on a piece of fabric folded in half. For this size apron, including seam allowances, the apron is about 25" long.

Since I chose to line these aprons (one was a thin cotton, and the others a thin upholstery fabric), I sewed the front to the back and left the tops open for a couple of inches. I then turned the aprons right-side out and ironed them. I then folded in the side seam allowances for the top, and then ironed a 1/2" fold down from the top towards the back side. I then folded the top down again another 1", ironed and pinned it in place. Then I stitched across this fold.

Apron string detail The Prudent Homemaker

For the ties, I cut pieces lengthwise from the fabric, each 2 1/2" wide by 24" long. I folded in the ends and each side by 1/4" and pressed them. I then folded the ties in half lengthwise and topstitched them close to the edge. Then I sewed them to the apron.

Apron string detail 2 The Prudent Homemaker

I then topstitched all the way around the edges of the apron.

London Map apron The Prudent Homemaker
London Map apron detail The Prudent Homemaker

Approximately 2 1/2 hours per apron. 

Paris apron The Prudent Homemaker


$ 5.99 to $9.87, depending on fabric used.

 Paris Apron detail The Prudent Homemaker

I bought the bird fabric and the Paris fabric from Hobby Lobby at 30% off (regular price $10 a yard). These are from the upholstery section, and are 30% off this week.  Three-fourths of a yard at that price  is $5.24. The London map fabric I purchased from Create by the Yard on Etsy. I found some other great fun London fabrics on Etsy as well that I considered for this project. The fabric with shipping for this project cost me $9.12, plus the lining.  (I ordered a yard and a half, so that I have some for other projects. This is the amount I used for this project). I lined the aprons with unbleached muslin, that I bought 50% off at $.99 a yard (for 36" wide; it is currently this price online at Joann Fabrics).

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Sewing for Operation Christmas Child

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OCC The Prudent Homemaker

I am excited to participate in filling shoeboxes this year for Operation Christmas Child! These gifts go to needy children all over the world.

I spent some time recently reading stories of those who had received shoeboxes as children, as well as those who have helped distribute shoeboxes. I took note of what gifts were most useful and meaningful to so many.

You can choose to make boxes for a boy or a girl,  in the age categories of 2-4, 5-7, and 10-14. Operation Christmas Child receives the fewest boxes for boys ages 10-14, so we choose that age. I also have two boys in that age group who gave me lots of feedback on gifts.

School supplies and hygiene supplies are especially needed.

Using fabric, zippers, and ribbon that I had been gifted (much came from my grandmother's collection, some from my mother-in-law's, and some from others), I made bags to hold our gifts that will be useful gifts in and of themselves.

OCC Pencil Bags The Prudent Homemaker

I made a lined pencil case. I chose a dark patterned fabric for the inside, so that any marks from the pencils won't be noticeable on the inside. Inside we placed 10 pencils (tied with a ribbon), 13 colored pencils (also tied with a ribbon), a black pen, a red pen, two pencil sharpeners, and an eraser.

I also sewed a little book with blank computer paper. I cut several sheets of paper in half, and enclosed it in a half sheet of cardstock. I sewed it closed down the middle. I embossed a tree on the front cover (picture of the front further down the page).

OCC Toiletry Bag The Prudent Homemaker 

I made a larger bag in the same manner for a toiletry bag. Inside I placed 2 combs, a pair of nail clippers, 2 nail files, a washcloth, 2 toothbrushes, toothpaste, lip balm, solid lotion (like lip balm), and 2 handkerchiefs that I made from the same fabric I used to line the bag. It is a soft cotton.

OCC Marble Bag The Prudent Homemaker

I made a drawstring bag to hold marbles.

OCC Matchbook Sewing Kit 1 The Prudent Homemaker

I made a small matchbook sized sewing kit with cardstock, thin cardboard, thread, a piece of felt, 2 needles, and 3 safety pins. On one of the safety pins I included 2 shirt buttons. I stamped a design on the front and stapled the cardboard holding the thread and felt holding the pins and needles into the bottom.

OCC Matchbook Sewing Kit 2 The Prudent Homemaker


OCC Matchbook Sewing Kit The Prudent Homemaker

We also included a 2-subject notebook with lined pages. The notebook is divded in the middle with a blank page with pockets on either side. I put the blank book into one side and envelopes into the other. I think finding them there will be a fun surprise.

OCC Other Items The Prudent Homemaker

We packed a small ball and a paracord bracelet. 

We packed a t-shirt.

OCC Box The Prudent Homemaker

We included 2 bars of soap. One of these would fit in the toiletry bag, but two would not, so I packed them outside the bag. I double bagged the soap.

The toothpaste, lip balm, and bar lotion were all packed inside a ziplock bag inside the toiletry bag. (Note: These items are prohibited to ship from Canada but not from the U.S.)

OCC Box 2 The Prudent Homemaker

We also included a bag of hard candy and gum (these are also prohibited to ship from Canada but not from the U.S.) I also, per their recommendation, double-bagged the candy.



Balls (in a three pack)--Dollar Tree

Washcloths (in a three pack)--Dollar Tree

Toothbrushes (in a four pack)--Dollar Tree (They also sell a three-pack that includes toothbrush covers)

Combs (in a multi-pack)--Dollar Tree

Paracord bracelets --Dollar Tree (We were going to make these, but one of my children wanted to buy them for the boxes)

2-subject notebook--Dollar Tree

Pencil sharpeners (in a twelve pack)--Dollar Tree

Marbles with shooter--$2.99 at Hobby Lobby

T-shirt--$2.97 at Hobby Lobby. Joann's and Michael's also sell inexpensive blank t-shirts, and they hold up well.

Toothpaste--$1 on sale at Smith's

Eraser, pencils, colored pencils, pens, blank paper--Back to school sales

Envelopes--Bought in bulk years ago from an office supply store

Lip balm and bar lotion--Samples. You can find a homemade bar lotion recipe here; pack it into a closeable container, such as a tin.

Soap--Given to me from someone who was moving, but Ivory soap can often be purchased for $0.50 a bar or less with coupons.

Fabric, zippers, ribbon, needles, thread, felt, pins, buttons--Hand-me-downs

Candy--Winco's bulk bins, bought on sale before Halloween

Ziploc Freezer bags--Sam's Club, bought on sale ($0.04 each).


It's not too late to pack a shoebox! Drop-off locations are open this week! Check here for a drop-off location and times near you.

Rubberband your box closed at each end and include the boy or girl tag with the age marked that you can print here. Boxes will be taped closed around the middle at the packing location. 

It costs $7 to cover the shipping cost of your box. You can pay with cash at the drop-off location, or you can pay online and attach the tracking label to your box from here. If you choose this option, you will know to which country your box goes.

Don't forget to include a note to the child! You can also include a family photo if you like.



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Christmas Doll Dress The Prudent Homemaker


When each of my girls have turned 5, I have bought them an 18" doll for their birthday or Christmas. This year, I bought this doll for Elsa. Her older sister has this doll (also a Madame Alexander doll). I wanted a similar looking doll (one with brown hair and brown eyes) but one that was also distinctly different in some ways so that they could tell them apart. However, I wasn't a huge fan of the outfit that came with this one. Elsa had requested a Christmas dress for a doll, but instead of making it for her baby doll, I made it for this doll that she will get on Christmas. I'll be making some doll shoes and socks to go with this doll as well.



Christmas fabric 15" by 44" (more if matching patterns; I used a bit more to cut the bows where I wanted them)

Small amount of black broadcloth for collar

Tiny bit of fusbile interfacing to line collar

Black grosgrain ribbon 7/8" (22.2 mm) wide by 40 (101.6 cm) inches long

Velcro, snaps, or buttons to close dress

Pattern from A Closetful of Doll Clothes (note: Butterick has several Retro doll dress patterns available right now that are similar in style; pattern sales should be happening soon)


Sewing Machine


Sewing pins


Copier to copy patterns or tissue paper to trace patterns


 Christmas Doll Dress Detail The Prudent Homemaker

This is the same pattern I used for yesterday's doll dress. I used a bit more fabric to allow me to match the bows for the back bodice pieces and sleeves, and to cut the front bodice so that the bow would be centered.

For the ribbon, I pinned it in place on the center of the finished dress, and sewed it in place on the top and bottom along the front bodice, leaving the rest to hang freely. I then tied it in the back in a bow. Both ends are cut on the diagonal to prevent fraying.


2  1/2 hours


The plaid fabric came from my grandmother's stash, and so was free to me. I bought the black broadcloth, interfacing and black ribbon at 50% off. The ribbon was purchased by the roll at $0.50 for the whole roll. Michael's and Joann's have sales on ribbon like this on a regular basis and especially this time of year. The black velcro was given to me from my mother-in-law.

I cut a matching hair ribbon that I had on hand and tied it around her head. 

Total cost: $ 0.15


Christmas Doll Dress Detail 2 The Prudent Homemaker


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