It’s been a while since I’ve cobbled together a lumpy pillow that roughly looks like a stuffed animal. I used to do it all the time. In fact, when I was little, many of my daydreams centered around the day that I would finally own my own sewing machine and then I could make anything I wanted. I envisioned a whole world out of stuffed material. There would be trees made of green calico and brown felt bears with black pleather noses… I would make a whole forest of animals!

Then I grew up and realized that sewing is hard and it takes entirely too much time. However, I did buy a sewing machine when I got old enough and I’ve made the odd lumpy pillow over the years.

So when Bug came to me dressed in a brown-flowered skirt and the only brown t-shirt she could find (that happened to have pieces of cake on it) and explained that she was a forest girl and all she needed to complete her pretend world was a pet owl that she couldn’t find anywhere in her vast (and I mean vast) collection of stuffed animals, I hesitated. It was true. She has every animal under the sun I think but she does not have an owl. Octopus, check. Ferret, check. Owl: no dice.

At first I rolled my eyes at her and told her to just imagine one or to find some other forest animal to play with. I’m sure the Forest Girl would be friends with all the animals. As she ran off, slightly distressed, to look one more time inside her hedgehog for some sad sorry owl substitute, I gazed over at my new clean work table and my stack of folders representing all the jobs I’ve got going on right now and sighed heavily. Then I decided that I would much rather make a stuffed owl than attend to my many deadlines. Blast it. Life is short. I should make an owl, I thought.

I see an owl

I hauled out my banker’s box full of odd bits of fabric and called Bug over to help me pick something owlish. She was beside herself excited of course. The prospect of making an owl, from fabric with mommy’s sewing machine! She hadn’t even thought of that. This was probably a bit foolish on my part because now she’s going to be thinking I can make anything she sets her heart on at the drop of a hat.

I’m sure I’ll soon cure her of that.

owl parts ready, set...

Anyway, she picked some red velvet for the body, some orange raw silk for feet and a beak and we found some buttons for eyes. I was going to use that brown corduroy for wings but like all my sewing projects, it got simplified in the end. I’m not that amazing at sewing.

pipe-cleaner bones

I did, however, have a fantastic idea for the feet. What if I sewed the raw silk around some pipe cleaners so they could bend like real talons?!! I didn’t sew tiny claw tubes and then turn them inside out or anything. That would be madness. No, I just sewed seams around the pipe cleaners, cut off the excess and let the raw edges fray. The owl would have floppy-feathered* feet like real owls do.

sewing feet

It actually worked really well.

clipping edges

With Bug hovering at my side, I sewed up the owl body, snipped the edges, turned him inside out and let Bug stuff him. I stuck the bendy feet inside the body where the stuffing hole was and sewed him closed with a kiss and prayer.

ooops, he hangs upside down

And that is how Owly (or Velvie, as Bug calls him) became the floppy-feathered owl that hangs upside down from branches. So his bendy feet aren’t strong enough to hold up his own stuffed-with-fluff weight. That’s okay. He’s still cute. (Maybe I should try that trick with a bat next time.)



And she loves him.

messy end

I’m not really sharing this story so you can say, Oh, wow you’re such a great seamstress! (snort.) or Oh, Brenda, you’re such a great mom. Because I’m not. I like to put pictures up that make me look like I’m doing a half-way decent job but really, I’m just like every other mom on the planet nagging and yelling and failing everyday at motherhood. I should share the humiliating jacket story that happened the other day. Ugh. It was terrible.

Okay I’ll just share a little bit: I thought I’d teach Bug a lesson about not getting ready fast enough in the morning by making her wear an ugly jacket to school. It wasn’t even an ugly jacket but she hates it with a white hot passion which drives me crazy because I think it’s a perfectly nice jacket and it’s cozy and warm. I can’t stand seeing her shivering in the cold on the playground when she has a perfectly good jacket to wear but she’s too vain to put it on. It’s big, I’ll give her that and I guess the kids don’t like wearing things baggy these days or something but sheesh! The battles we have over that stupid jacket some mornings make me want to wave a white flag and tear up my mom card.

So she made me mad one morning like she often does by not getting dressed and not getting her shoes on and just generally goofing off and being a normal six-year-old. I lost my temper and said, That’s IT! You’re wearing the ugly jacket and you are going to learn a lesson. You’re going to learn to get ready quickly because you never know what punishments might await you around the corner if you don’t take Mommy’s nagging seriously, rant, rant, rant.

As you probably predicted by knowing Bug from past posts I’ve written about her, she didn’t get over it. There were tears all the way to school. How could I make her look so hideous, she cried. All the kids weren’t going to like her. It was a tragedy. Weeping and gnashing of teeth…So sad, so terrible…

I was tough about this lesson all the way to school. I would not let her win. But when we got to school and I looked down at this little two-foot person standing next to me in the giant purple coat that she hates so much with tears streaming down her cheeks silently; I was a mess. How could I do this to her? She was going to be humiliated all day and what would she learn from it? That her mom is mean and has no taste in coats? At the same time how could I let her niggle out of this punishment without teaching her that crying and throwing fits works like magic? It’s the eternal parental predicament I find myself in. You just want to make them happy but you don’t want them to grow up like spoiled brats either.

So we sat on the wall outside of her school like we often do when we are a little bit early and soaked up the sun. She’d stopped crying and had finally accepted her fate. I was just tired and wanted to hold her close to me because I feel that way when I drop her off at school. I feel like I’m missing something when she’s gone from me and it makes me sad all day until I get to pick her up. I like to hug her and squeeze her and blow kisses and do all the mushy embarrassing things that moms do when they’re dropping off kindergarteners. I know she won’t let me do it much longer so I treasure it.

And as we sat there in the bright winter sun, I felt a little warm. It wasn’t that cold actually. It was warm enough to take our jackets off really. So I took her jacket off and stuffed it in her backpack just in time for her to run to the gate as the bell rang. Did she learn the lesson that I wanted to teach her? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever know. All I know is that this parenthood gig kicks me in the butt on a regular basis.


That and pipe cleaners make pretty good beak bones.

*floppy-feathered is what Bug says when she can’t pull her tights all the way up and the loose feet where her feet should be flop around when she walks.

That Jumper

front back

Remember that jumper I designed, or rather thought up in my head and then sketched, way back in December? I can’t really say I designed it since this sort of jumper has been around since the beginning of time. I just couldn’t find a pattern for it anywhere. Everywhere I looked I found patterns with multiple parts and gathers and pleats…I just wanted to sew a simple jumper for Bug with over-the-shoulder buttons.

Well. I finally sewed it! Praise the Lord.

So many people tell me they cannot draw a straight line and I always think to myself, That’s silly. Who wants to draw a line straight? And what’s wrong with stick figures?… Well, now I understand admiring something you do not find simple. Sewing for me is not simple. This silly SIMPLE jumper was NOT simple!!!

It took me months just to get the courage up to cut the fabric and then when I did, the pieces did NOT match perfectly…and THEN I had to complicate matters by making it reversible with two differing fabrics, but still! How hard could it be? It’s just basically a tube sewed together with wingy strap things at the top.

The linen on top, the fabric you see with the super cool birds and zebras, was a little bit stiffer and less stretchy than the cotton polka-dot calico I chose for the underneath and no matter how much I pulled and pushed, it never ever ever lined up perfectly. Throw in some beginner-style stitching and it just wouldn’t be perfect. It was frustrating. The only way this simple jumper could be finished was with my mom’s help and a zillion pins.

berry picking dress detail

I had visions of sewing dozens of these dresses in every imaginable fabric and pattern. I might even make doubles and sell them on Etsy. Well, phooey on that! I know I probably only need to sew one more to get over my fear and trepidation but I don’t see it happening. I think I’ll stick to computer designs. At least on my laptop if I want a line to go straight or curvy, it does; and if it doesn’t then I shut the lid and come back to it later. No seam ripping involved. I can click and make things disappear.

I know what I really need to do is suffer through five jumpers. The only reason designing logos on my laptop is easy for me is because I used to have to design maps for eight hours a day in Illustrator. It was hard when I started but by the end of my map-making career, I could make a map a minute. Yes, they were basic two-street maps with an “x” for the store, but still I could mask and create multiple lines with just a few clicks. Something like that is probably pretty tricky for a beginner.

I don’t see myself sitting down and sewing five jumpers though. Sewing is too messy and since my living room is my sewing room, I constantly have to clean it all up and put it away. I told Toby I’d sew all the time if we had a sewing room and he said if we had a sewing room there would be a relative living in it so I dropped the subject. Maybe someday.

In the meantime, I will be super proud of this jumper and make Bug wear it every chance I can. Which should be interesting since she’d rather be a rock-star princess.