Last year, my big girl wanted an apron for Christmas. I wanted to make her one. I knew I was capable of making her one. But I was exhausted by December—the end of year stuff and the birthday holiday stuff and the grief stuff. So I let it go to make space.
This year on our fall walks, my big girl started talking about a collecting bag to put leaves and acorns and fancy rocks in on our walks. This year on our fall walks, I started to envision making a messenger bag. I pictured it slung across her body, easy to open, slowly filling with pine cones and bits of bark.
Last year, I needed to let go. This year following through on my plan brought joy.
I found the fabric. My sister talked me through the cutting and orientation of the pieces over the phone. Then I moved the hissing hot iron over the fabric, smoothing it before measuring, marking, and cutting.
I maneuvered the thread through all the ups and downs and turns needed to thread my machine as though it hasn’t been months and months since I used it last. I checked and rechecked that I’d pieced the fabric together correctly. Then I made fast, confident seams, my foot light on the pedal, my fingers moving the fabric through.
Even as the clock ticked late and I knew I needed bed, I kept working, coming each night to a clear stopping point. I don’t have a place to leave my machine set up, though sometimes I wish I did. This was a quick project, but I put off doing it because I had to clear a spot to set up. I worked late because I could only work on it once the girls were asleep, the light from the domed overhead lamp spilling down on my fabric spread across the kitchen table.
I’m impressed I didn’t get the owls on the bag upside down or that the pocket didn’t end up in accessible between the lining and the out fabric. But more than that I’m pleased by the process. There is something satisfying about creating something palpable, something you can hold in your hands.
Throughout this month, we’ve been reading stories about homemade gifts—the button string Mary and Laura make for baby Carrie; the train and doll and bracelets Erkki makes for his brothers and sisters in The Best Christmas—stories about the pleasure of making and giving.
This time of year gets so busy, so emotionally full. It’s easy to let go of the making. On Cyber Monday, I was tempted by an explorer’s kit from Cricket Media that had a messenger style bag, a water bottle, a compass, binoculars, string and knot tying instructions all in a cute little suitcase. And it was 70% off! One night at 11:30 when I was trying to find a piece of lining fabric that would go with the owl print I had picked and wondering if I’d finish the bag in time, I wished briefly that kit were being shipped to me.
But I’m so glad I passed. We didn’t need the rest of the pieces, and I needed to make this bag. I enjoyed the process of figuring out how to make it work, the measuring and cutting, the pinning and stitching, the turning and snipping. I loved the focus. I loved creating something with love.
And when my big girl opened it up and put it on and declared she wanted to go for a walk RIGHT NOW so she could use it, I smiled.
“You know I made that for you,” I told her.
“Really,” she asked wide eyed. She looked down at the bag, “I didn’t know. It looks so REAL!”
We did take a walk in the misty, late afternoon fog. It was the kind of day we probably wouldn’t have been inclined to go out, but the bag drew us on.
Barely steps from the car, the girls found a side path they had never noticed, a fairy house, a fort, as if the bag open us to adventure on the familiar walk.
The dog loped and zoomed back and forth ahead of us. My big girl put bits of birch bark, a couple of leaves, a cat tail exploding into a mess of fluff into her bag. It was just what I envisioned back in the fall when she couldn’t hold all the pretty leaves she found. I smiled and breathed in deep the damp air.
In December I let go of a lot to make space, but sometimes I choose to hold on and craft joy.