It always drives me a bit bonkers when I excitedly click on a Pinterest picture or blog link claiming to provide a list of gifts you can sew for men only to find a half-hearted lists of just BARELY unisex gifts such as tissue cases, aprons and mug cozies. These are nice sewing project ideas and could be lovely stocking stuffers but I am fairly certain Matt’s eyes would not light up in excitement if he were to open up a quilted wallet on Christmas morning – even though he is likely a lot more aware of the love, time and work put into sewing projects than most men are. In fact, he would probably loyally use it for years to come but secretly wish that I had just purchased him a traditional leather one from the nearest department store.
In fact, just such an incident occurred last year when, a couple days before Christmas, I was struck with the urge to sew Matt slippers to put in his stocking. I had made slippers for myself in the past with great success and so set about making his confidently. Unfortunately, since this gift was a surprise, I couldn’t use his foot to measure or determine the angle for the heel or length of the toes etc. What resulted were two horrible items that [sort of] resembled slippers when off of his feet but when on, they were ALL WRONG – I had made the heel too low and loose while the front of the slippers were too long and snug. Despite these really clear faults Matt graciously insisted on wearing them Christmas morning until I tore them from his feet and threw them out.
In hopes that none of you will gather such stories of your own, I’ve assembled a list of DIY Manly gifts that I hope are a little more realistic than you might find in your average list and also contain aspects to them that (I hope) make them into something a man would actually choose to put on his Christmas wishlist!
For the Wood Worker:
- Instead of buying the latest screw-driver set on sale at your home hardware store and thoughtlessly wrapping it up, buy it and then customize it by creating an oilskin tool roll for screwdrivers, wrenches or any other tool that needs sorting by size and style. Merchant and Mills makes a very inspiring Tailor’s Tool Roll out of oil cloth and there are also lots of knitting needle roll tutorials out there that could be re-purposed to create a manly project! (See here for example)
- If there is a speciality saw or other sharp tool on the man in question’s wishlist, combine this gift with a custom leather scabbard or canvas case. You’d be surprised how easy it is to create leather products using rivets and a few simple tools. Or you could try hand sewing them with an awl and tough thread. If you need to learn some leather working techniques, check out Simon Herzog’s videos over at Kollabora.
For the Stylish Man:
- Indulge your man’s hipster tendencies and create a very trendy and desirable vintage-inspired shaving kit. Choose from the hundreds of pouch tutorials spread all over the internet and sew it up using a heavy duty metal zipper, manly canvas (in Hunter Green perhaps?). Fill the kit with custom pockets or straps to fit your choice of straight razor or safety razor, a shaving brush and a tin of shaving soap. This custom made case is beautifully photographed and described if you are looking for ideas on how to elevate your kit to perfection.
- Grab some of your scraps and practice a rolled hem to create a selection of pocket squares to complete a dapper outfit – especially worth your while if you have some Liberty fabric lying around. Have you seen how expensive those are????
For the Photographer:
- Of course, the camera strap is a classic DIY project if you have a photographer on your gift list. Since it is difficult to find amazingly beautiful ones with all the right features for less than a pretty penny, why not try making your own complete with secret battery and SD card compartment! Apartment Therapy has created a list of 20 tutorials that range from classic fabric straps to re-purposed belts to cozy scarf straps.
- While it’s a bit difficult to compete with all the amazing, purpose-built camera bags out there, if they are above your price range you could always purchase a readily available vintage camera bag from the thrift store or Etsy and customize it by adding specialized padded compartments to fit the intended camera, creating small soft lens bags, including bits and pieces such as lens cleaner, batteries and filters and personalizing it with an embossed monogram. There is a perfect example of a customized vintage-style case over on this blog.
For the Sportsman:
- The Strathcona Henley and T-shirt (were you wondering when I would sneak our own patterns into this list?) is the perfect base to create a customized athletic top. You could use wicking sports fabric to create a hiking or mountain biking top with a placket and short sleeves or use merino wool or cashmere to sew a cozy long sleeve tee to wear while skiing or boarding (a bit more stylish than long underwear!). I made my dad a hiking and biking top which he promptly test-drove on a hike to Ripple Rock last summer.
- Another neat idea is to sew a slim backpack to suit your man’s personal style and sport with a special compartment to fit a Camelbak water reservoir. Whether the backpack will be used snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking or skim-boarding, different sizes, fabrics, compartments and styles will be necessary – none of which you can alter if you buy a Camelbak backpack from the outdoor store! Think straps to carry your bulky coat when the sun comes out during spring skiing, a built in flashing light for late evening bike rides or a slim neoprene design that won’t go moldy when constantly being soaked in salt water. You can buy the water reservoirs separately to insert into your custom back pack.
For the Tech Savvy:
- #1 that comes to mind for this type of man is something that Matt would be embarrassed to admit that he desperately would like – heated gloves! After hours of working on the computer for Thread Theory, Matt complains of coming down with “keyboard fingers” which are icy cold and very difficult to warm up. It would be super easy to alter a pair of basic gloves to include a stylish (maybe leather or tartan?) patch on top of the hand. You could then fill these compartments with tiny remove-able and microwaveable hand warmers. There are plenty of tutorials for microwaveable neck warmers that you could use as a starting point for this project!
- Leather or wool cases are a perfect quick gift that are much nicer than most of the laptop and cell phone cases you might find at your nearest technology store. Simon Herzog, the afore-mentioned leather worker has a project on Kollabora that you can view for inspiration as well as all the videos on how to join and decorate leather.
I hope these ideas have helped break you out of the Christmas sewing box! Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that the Newcastle Cardigan can be instantly downloaded and sewn up relatively quickly to create the perfect Christmas sweater!