Shortly after my niece-in-love Anna's first birthday, I had an epiphany. I'd puzzled over what to buy her for her birthday and landed on the idea of making her something, like I had for Christmas. Whatever I decided to make for Anna, I'd make for my other niece-in-love Katelyn.
As the idea formed in my mind, I knew it was a winner. My aunt had made me a cloth busy book when I was a baby. Each page had a different animal and an activity. For instance, you could zip the alligator's mouth open and close.
I loved my book, which stood up to my loving abuse all those years. In truth, I probably appreciated it more as an adult than I did as a kid but I do have fond memories of playing with it. I'm in awe of Aunt Kathy's hard work. Especially now.
A few weeks after Anna's birthday, I stopped by Kathy's house and picked up the pattern. She gave me a few tips as I leafed through the pages.
What on earth had I gotten myself in to? I realized that I'd never really sewn with a pattern before, outside of a pair of shorts sewn with my childhood best friend Ruth and her Mom when we were in 3rd grade. That's a lot of years ago.
I started gathering fabric here and there. Then I moved to Nashville. Then my office was a disaster and I couldn't really get to the sewing machine. Then I needed more fabric. I added it to 31 Things Before Turning 31, then 32 Things. With each excuse, the girls grew older. Katelyn turned one. Then we celebrated Christmas. Anna turned two. Rinse and repeat.
This past December, I was fed up with myself and this project. I kicked it in to high gear, finishing entire pages. I brought most of it to my hometown over Christmas in an ill-fated attempt to finish. The lion and the giraffe were completed. The self-imposed deadline was extended to Anna's third birthday at the end of January.
And yet, that came and went as well, as I apparently believed it was possible to edit my WIP and work on the most complicated sewing project of my life. I buckled down. The books would be finished by the time Mark, Erin, and Katelyn visited at the end of February. Come hell or high water.
I covered almost every surface of my home with various sewing implements. My grandmother's trusty Singer held up mightily until the last day or two of sewing. My hand became swollen from needing to manually feed the machine forward.
As the kangaroo fabric seemed particularly hostile toward being sewn, I vaguely remembered Grandma saying the machine had been giving her difficulty a good year or three before she died. I have no idea whether it was ever fixed or tuned up. Lord knows I haven't a clue about such things. Finding a Singer repairman has been added to my To Do list.
Her machine whirred through the stitches like a dream, a welcome treat after the Singer's distaste for work.
Two years after I conceived this idea, I wrapped the books up and doled them out to Anna and Katelyn. The looks of wonder on their faces...my joy was complete.
Anna and Katelyn will learn how to tie and lace, button and snap. It may be that their parents will enjoy playing with them more than they will for now. If the books haven't fallen apart, some day they'll appreciate the labor, the same way I appreciate my aunt's effort.
And if not, well, that's OK, too. I finished. Favorite auntie status is still intact.
A few crafty stats:
Hours spent: approximately one million
Times I said "I can't wait until this project is done!": about 6,233
Supplies: purchased from 4 stores, my mom's stash, and my own odds and ends
Sewing machines used: 3
Injuries: 1 (needle-pierced finger now mostly healed)
Happy nieces-in-love: 2
Yes. It was worth it.
Are you crafty? Do you tend to make things with more love or more perfection?