2016 was the year I quit my job as a Marketing Director to become the William Lord Kelvin of poverty. “What is absolute zero,” I asked myself, and began my research. Be advised before you join me: most of the research is archeological in nature and involves delicately removing soil layers betwixt couch cushions in search of an elusive quarter. Because I was poor, I decided that I would make most of my Christmas presents for my family (scheduled to descend like a Biblical plague of locusts on January 1st). I had invested in a baby blue garage sale sewing machine several months earlier. What could go wrong?
I began with the idea that “if a five year old Pakistani kid can make this crap, then I shouldn’t have any problem at all. I went to art school.” WRONG! I know it seems valid to think that if a poor slave laboring child can make 90 of a thing in a day, a full-fledged, art school educated (we’re playing spot the oxymoron) adult should be able to make one of said thing given a pattern, instructions, and several weeks in which to complete the project. Still, WRONG. For instance, I thought I would make everybody really cute flannel pajama pants. I bought a pattern that came in a package that advertised it as “See and Sew.” To me, that indicated that you could just look at the thing and then make the thing. You probably didn’t even need the pattern, right? I purchased it anyhow as a backup plan – it was only $2.00. I feel like I need to explain something to you folks who have never tried to sew pants before: you do not know how pants work. You wear pants every day. You have tons of experience with pants. But let me say it again for those of you in the cheap seats: UNLESS YOU HAVE BUILT PANTS, YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW PANTS WORK. Like most great things in life, the secret and the mystery rest in the crotch. I spent about 6 hours sewing four pieces together. I made two strange skirts (my friend Teri called this making “pant”) and a fabric wad before the process of elimination and what can only be described as sheer luck resulted in two legs that functioned in a pants-like fashion. The fabric is light green. It has rainbows with pandas underneath them. I swear that initially the pandas were happy wee bears, but now that the pants are done the pandas seem to have an expression of total skepticism permanently etched on their bandit faces. They doubted me. I don’t blame them. I still literally have NO IDEA how to make pants. Sometimes, I lie awake at night trying to remember how I finally did it – flipping pieces around in my mind and drawing seam lines. I keep “making pant,” even in my dreams.
Since pajama pants were obviously out of the question, I decided to switch focus. My friend Amber had been talking for months about how she wanted and old school ruffled apron to wear when she was making microwave pizza rolls (tagline: Good Luck: Innards Are Either Frozen or Lava). I thought it would be downright noble to make her one. It took about a week and several technical support drop-ins from the Rev, but I finally got it made…and IT WAS ACTUALLY CUTE! I was obviously a genius seamstress, but the “Great Pants Debacle” was still writ large upon my recollection (we’re talking glow in the dark spikey graffiti), so I decided to stick with what I knew – super fluffy aprons. I made seven of them, largely because I could tell the Rev wanted one, and it took 6 tries to make one good enough for my mother. Hers has butterflies on it. Instead of flying upwards to blue skies and freedom, the insects are upside down, evidently dive bombing the floor. Good enough. This is how many friends wound up with aprons. Some look better in them than others.
“The problem with the devil is that he always want to dance” – Snoop Dog
I got a little full of myself due to the relative success of the aprons during Christmas Mark 1: The Quickening (we’re doing three Christmases this year…I know I said two in an earlier column, but the Rev has since snuck in an extra one). I had seen mermaid “snuggle sacks” (Pinterest for “sleeping bag”) and I thought they were cute. Unfortunately, the little kids in my family are boys. I’m pretty sure that if I tried to make them into mermaids they would just run away. They are also fast. I almost dismissed the idea until I saw a shark adaptation of the mermaid. The shark was about a gazillion times better than the mermaid because when a kid crawls into the maw of the beast it looks like he’s being devoured. This was irresistible. I found the pattern online. The actual pattern that comes in the little paper envelope with an actual photograph of what the finished project is supposed to look like on the front was sold out and back-ordered, BUT there was an option to download the pattern. It was less expensive and delivery was instant. I was running out of time before the family arrived for Christmas Mark 2: Thicker Blood, plus cheaper, so I went ahead and ordered the e-version. Don’t do this. Seriously, there should be about 8 scary warning signs and at least five of those little boxes computers throw up to prevent you from doing dumb stuff (“Are you SURE you want to do this stupid thing? Click Yes to continue or no to cancel”) preventing you from ordering pattern downloads. I probably would’ve done it anyway because no one can tell me anything ever, but it might save more intelligent people. The downloaded pattern arrived along with .pdf software to “read it.” Acrobat won’t work because Simplicity (the pattern makers) want to prevent you from printing the pattern more than three times after you buy it. This would make sense if there were any danger of anyone printing a pattern more than once. Essentially, what you get is a .pdf version of the pattern as it’s made to fit in the little envelope. Those thin brown paper patterns are about 6’ square. You don’t need all the pieces, usually, because there are generally three or four different versions of a pattern you can make. In the case of the sharks, there were adult and child versions and also mermaids. I wound up printing and assembling (with tape that I can’t reliably make work) 164 pages to get 9 pieces. Some of the pages were blank, but you still had to tape them in because if you didn’t you couldn’t get the next pieces to align. This process took two days and three rolls of Scotch tape. I kept sending progress photos to my friends who kept asking helpful questions like, “Are those white blueprints? You should NOT mess with blueprints. Step away from the home improvements.”
I persevered. I got my pattern pieces, pinned them to the fabric and cut out the S.O.B.s (Sharks of Boys – what did we learn about assumptions?). It was now December 30th. Two days were left to actually sew the sharks. I managed to get it done, though my house was utterly destroyed – I pulled scraps of fleece off of a ceiling fan four rooms away from ground zero. As I was cleaning, I accidentally jammed a straight pin a ¼ inch into my right index finger, but I had stuck myself so many times during the sewing process that it didn’t even phase me. I sighed, pulled it out and shoved in back into the pin cushion, finger guts and all.
On New Year’s Eve, I delivered the sharks to the Rev’s house. The sharks are huge. I crawled into Jovanni’s to illustrate how ludicrous it was to call the things “child sized.” The G.P. (Great Provider – my Dad) started cackling. I thought it was because it’s funny to see someone being eaten by an inaccurately colored shark with slightly stroked out looking eyes that MAY be slightly too far apart…until I looked down. I put the dorsal fins on backwards. It was too late to fix the situation, so we decided that Jovanni would just have the very rare Backwards Aspect Shark Suit (B.A.S.S.). We also decided his shark would be named Strokey, and that we were never ever going to tell him. Avery’s shark was correct. I’m a jerk Aunt.
The boys legitimately loved their snuggle sharks. Avery insisted on crawling into his head first which caused him to look like he was being brilliantly digested. I’m calling it a success, gift wise. As for financial savings, I am unsure. If I put any kind of realistic value on my time (remember: I did go to art school), I just gave away 7 aprons and two sharks valued at around $1,800. Totally worth it.