Sunday, December 27, 2009

the end of a season

I believe I am returning from my longest-ever blogging hiatus. I've had a few topics bouncing around in my mind, but never made it to the computer with the expressed purpose of recording said topics. For now, suffice it to say that we've been extremely busy, in more ways than one. Of course, Christmas is a busy season for all of us, isn't it? My wonderful husband's dedication to building us from debt to wealth (thanks, Dave Ramsey!) really freed my stress this year. I decided to make as many Christmas gifts as possible, to get done what I could manage without gaining extra grays (where are all these gray hairs coming from??), not spend an excessive amount of money on people who have everything they need and most things they want (like ourselves), and to let the rest sliiiiiiide. And as a result, for the first time in many many years, Christmas was fun. I love giving gifts--truly--but I hate the artificial pressure of our artificial celebrations during such a sacred, REAL season of what should be the most genuine and humbling of celebrations.

Rachel is 3 1/2 now, and she understands so much. How do you teach a kid that this a season to GIVE, not get? I told her every chance I got. I helped her make gifts for a few of her most beloveds--her grandparents and her daddy. But everywhere we went, people asked Rachel what she wanted for Christmas, what was Santa going to bring her, and if she had been "good enough" to get STUFF. Stuff, people...really?? That's what it's all about?

I have never reflected on the toy drives that occur during this season. We are encouraged to make Christmas happen for families who can't afford to "do" Christmas the way Christmas should be done (apparently). I have never, until this year, considered the implications therein. What is Christmas?? Is it a time when it's okay for kids to be greedy? Who are we, that we can "make" Christmas for people? The very beauty of Christmas is that it is available to everyone, no strings attached. There are no people who cannot experience Christmas. Christmas is nothing, if it is not free and available to all.

I don't mean to downplay the mercy ministries that happen during this season. After all, as we reflect on God's mercy in sending the greatest gift to us on Christmas day (or somewhere around that, anyway), how could we not respond by extending similar mercy to those among us who are without? But this is the first year that it struck me that it is all vanity if we don't proclaim the name of Christ and communicate God's ultimate gift to us. All of our mercy-giving and gift-giving, even among our families and close friends, is vanity without Christ.

Jarrad and I are very blessed with families who seem to genuinely enjoy blessing us with good gifts during this season. We hardly feel the need (and nearly feel guilty) purchasing gifts for our own children because of the volume of gifts given them by others who love them so. We would never want to take the joy out of that. But I can definitely say that I'm at a loss for how to help my children understand that receiving gifts is absolutely at the bottom of the list of important-things-that-happen-in-December. I do think we'll start by trying not to allow our children to get caught in the "gift race," wherein one finds oneself trying to guess who will spend how much to buy which gift for me so that I can do my best to match, if not exceed those gifts by giving equal, if not better gifts in return. I shook that this year, as I've been most guilty in the past.

Okay, okay...I promise I'll do a fun post soon about all the stuff the kids got for Christmas. In the meantime, here are a few of the gifts I created for our loved ones this year:

An outfit for my nephew, from a pair of my cords I never wore (the pants are a tad too small for him...sad!)

key fobs! (these were so quick and easy and FUN to make)

embellished onesie and handmade tutu for my niece (my favorite gift, hands down)

hand-printed tee for a cousin, whose name I drew at Thanksgiving :) ...he's a bird lover!

laptop sleeve with matching drawstring cord pouch, made from an upcylced hoodie (second fav gift)

Monday, October 12, 2009

what keeps me busy

I have recently fallen in love with sewing. I tried a few times in the past, but never got into it. But I have discovered that I just don't think it's fun to cut into a pattern and turn it into a garment. What I DO think is fun is to look at fabric and create something from it. And so, after wading through several tutorials online, I have found bits and pieces of inspiration all over my house.

My first recycle project was a t-shirt reconstruction. Rachel and I participated with some friends in the Walk4Hearing a couple of weeks ago. My friend Carla had special t-shirts made for our team: Team Turtles. Rachel's adult small was, needless to say, too big. So I turned it into a!

I used one of Rachel's existing dresses as a guide, cut the original shirt down to that size/shape, and sewed the side seams. I then took one of my discarded ribbed tanks and cut out sleeves and a ruffle for the bottom of the dress. I made the ruffle by pulling the fabric as I ran the edge through my serger. I used the bottom hem of the ribbed shirt for the sleeves so that the edges were already finished, and I ran one straight stitch with elastic bobbin thread to give the sleeves some poof. I also ended up having to put darts in the back because the dress needed more shape and still looked really big on her.

I had so much fun doing that, that I decided to recon some others of my discarded clothes.

I had this striped long sleeve tee that I LOVED the colors, but never loved the shirt itself. So, per tutorials I found online, I cut the sleeves and made them into a little pair of pants for Rachel. It was SO easy that I couldn't resist trying to use the rest of the shirt, too. However, not wanting the outfit to be overwhelmed by stripes, I dug through our giveaway pile and found this plain brown shirt that I used to love.
Armed with scissors and a newfound interest in gathering and shirring, I cut a bodice from the top of the striped shirt and sewed it to the gathered bottom of the brown shirt...

Clearly needing sleeves, I employed the sleeve portion of the brown shirt, also adding a line of elastic for fluff. The sleeves landed perfectly at her elbows! The biggest mistake I made was forgetting to add seam allowances in the sleeves, so I had to kind of finagle the armholes to match, which rendered the top a bit lop-sided. Live and learn! Finally, I used the bottom hem of the striped shirt to make a simple beanie(Rachel ultimately complained the hat was too tight...oops.) All told, it was the most fun I've had sewing, hands down.

And now...the finished product!