Life with Liz: Sew not a fan
We’re hitting the point of the school year where all the major projects are coming due. A had his annual science project due last week. G has his historical figure wax museum project due in a few days, and E has a class play coming up. Of course, we are awash in tri-fold boards, stencils, a few extra color cartridges for the printer, and every other craft supply known to man.
Since we’ve become more or less assembly line about this, and it’s not my first big project rodeo, and because I have a pretty full plate of my own distractions right now, I warned the kids up front that I would not be making any midnight runs to Walmart for supplies or overnighting anything from Amazon this year. I was available for proofreading and editing, and making arrangements to get extra-large copies made, if needed, but that was it.
It was going well until E said she needed a costume for her play. At first, the only information I got was that she was playing a “mother.” After looking in the mirror, I rounded up a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, and a puffer vest. Here you go, E. Now you can dress like me. “Not a MOM,” she huffed. “A MOTHER!”
A few days later, she handed me the script. After reading through it, it became clear to me that it was some kind of Native American fable. I was pretty sure we had some kind of leftover Disney-fied version of a Pocahontas outfit somewhere in the dress-up box. If that didn’t work, I was sure that the Wonderful Husband would let us borrow a few of his deer skins and we could fashion something out of that. When I took that idea back to my mini-boss, I was informed that “it’s not THAT kind of Indian, Mom!”
After a brief discussion of the proper usage of the word Native American, I suggested that perhaps she needed to get me a picture of exactly WHAT kind of costume I should be trying to construct, and preferably before the night before the costume was due. It turns out that the tribe she was supposed to emulate was from the Pacific Northwest, and they traditionally wore pointy straw hats to keep the rain off them.
With my limited time and resources, I immediately thought of a lampshade and suggested that we cover a small lampshade with some rough material, like burlap, in order to make the hat. I was proud of my noncrafty self for coming up with that one, but E was decidedly against it. She settled for her floppy straw beach hat. Close enough.
The rest of the costume was simple enough, and consisted of a brightly colored sheet, wrapped around her like a blanket. However, she felt that the blanket was a little bit too loose and it did keep falling down, so she asked me if I couldn’t make it into a dress. I guess she was more impressed by my attempt at crafting the lamp shade head gear than she let on.
Summoning all the craftiness that I don’t have in me at all, I looked at the sheet and determined that yes, in fact, I could cut a hole in the middle of it, and wrap a belt around her waist, and effectively make a “dress” out of it.
Of course, once I made the cuts, I realized that I was going to have to throw a simple hem around the edges in order to allow it to survive multiple dress rehearsals and the final performance without fraying down to a thread.
Out came the trusty old sewing machine. I know this must come as a shock to many of you, but I do know how to operate a sewing machine. When you grow up around a bunch of crafty people, sometimes you can’t help but pick up at least the most basic of functions. I can sew enough to put badges on Scout uniforms and hem pants, maybe throw a few patches on something, and yes, make a Native American costume out of a sheet. I can’t promise pretty, but it will pass as functional.
G, taking a break from his research into Nikola Tesla, was fascinated by the sewing machine. “But how does it work,” he kept asking. You know what’s more fun than trying to operate a machine you use three times a year? Trying to operate that machine with a curious 11-year-old sticking his fingers and nose into the middle of what you’re trying to sew just so he can “get a better look.”
Like the fool I am, I tried to use some sort of fancy rickrack stitch to make the costume look a little more tribal, which of course, resulted in issues with thread tension. When I finally got that fixed, my bobbin had run out of thread. It was just one of those days where nothing was going right, and it took three times longer than it should have, but in the end, E had her costume, and G had his education. The most important thing he learned about sewing? Don’t interrupt the string of bad words coming out of your mother’s mouth to ask if she’s ever done this before.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.