I have a confession.
I’ve been a bad Farmgirl.
It is Dec. 14 (when I began writing this post) and I JUST put up our Christmas tree and Christmas decorations (of which we have three…two stockings and a felted mounted Rudolph head; stocking three is in the making).
I know that it isn’t a big deal. It’s true, though–sometimes I feel like a Farmgirl failure. All of you are so crafty and innovative! I can only assume that you are also punctual in your decorating. I’ve been struggling with a lack of a creative outlet for the last few months (aside from writing, which I am always thankful for!). This inevitably comes about as the farming season winds down and the days grow so, so short (Happy almost Solstice!). I think it also came with this whole stay at home mom thing. I wanted to create something and finish it!
It is our first Christmas as the unofficial Wilder family (Evan is a Pederson, I am a Wilson, put them together and you get Wilder! Ava is the only official Wilder, right now). We did go out as a family and cut down a spruce tree. I’ve never purchased a Christmas tree–even growing up we would always cut down our trees on my grandfather’s property in Minnesota. Even though our trees always get made fun of because of their sparseness, I love them! There are wonky branches that stick out way further than the rest and big gaps that giant ornaments can fill. One could call ours a “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” but I like to think it has character.
We have had two Christmas trees while in Alaska, and both have come from spruce trees with double tops–we just cut down one of the tops so the tree can still keep on being a tree. perhaps with one of the tops gone the second top will thrive even more? I’d like to think this is what happens. This usually makes the trees we get slightly lop-sided, but they are great for putting against a wall.
Apparently we were bad at judging the size of the tree we got, and once I brought it inside, it had a 6 or 7 foot diameter…that’s a lot when your home only has a 24 foot diameter! I ended up cutting off some of the lower, longest branches. It turns out this is great because now Ava and the dog can crawl under the tree without being poked.
I wish I had a video of me putting the tree up by myself. I imagine it was pretty hilarious. Our tree stand is pretty small, so the tree had to be balanced perfectly to keep from falling over. It fell over MANY times while I tried to balance it–scattering needles and little branches everywhere. My hair looked like a bird’s nest by the end of it all. I ended up securing the tree to the wall with some picture wire to ensure that it doesn’t fall on our sweet little curious baby! We don’t even have that many fun ornaments–just one God’s eye that I made a few years ago. The rest are generic bulbs from the thrift store. We also made a popcorn garland. Our tree is simple but fun.
Luckily, with some inspiration from all of you and the gift giving season quickly approaching, I’ve dusted off some very old skills. I’ve started to sew! Before yesterday, I had sewed exactly one thing in the last 15 years–it was a giant bear costume that I made in Korea for Halloween, and that was five years ago. I’m trying not to take on too much, so I’ve decided to sew some gift bags and two aprons for my nieces. They have about three billion toys, and the toy aisle overwhelms me to no end–all I can see is plastic crud everywhere. I’m sure there is some little local toy store or something around here, but with the winter also comes my home-bodyness. So, I’ll stay at home and sew!
To give you an idea of my sewing machine ineptness (my mom taught me how to hand sew, and I’m pretty good at it), I’ve adapted a conversation that Evan and I had:
Me: (looking at the instructions to thread the bobbin) I think a piece is missing! In the picture there is this little circle thing.
Evan: It’s the bobbin, it’s probably under the foot in the little casing.
Me: (looking very confused–both at his knowledge and his words)Foot? Huh?
Evan: The bobbin goes under the foot in this little metal thing so thread comes from the bottom.
Evan went on to school me with his sewing knowledge. His Grandma Ruth was an excellent seamstress. She even owned her own sewing shop in his hometown (in the same spot where, coincidentally, his mom just opened up her own holistic health clinic!). He spent a lot of time with her as a kid. Apparently he also has an impeccable memory. He proceeded to help me navigate the sewing machine and gently chide my pattern making and following. I think it is very cool that he knows way more about sewing than I do.
Speaking of pattern making–I get the same feeling in the fabric store as I do in the toy aisle–what is all of this stuff? All of these people obviously know what they are doing and I so obviously do not! How does a pattern even work? This fabric is nice, so is this one. Oh yeah, I need thread and pins and stuff don’t I?
I should be proactive during times like this and learn from the experience of all of these other women in the store. However, there’s something hubristic or embarrassed in me that holds me back. A thirty year old women should know how to sew, right? So, I find things that I already own and like, I inspect them carefully, trace things on cardboard, add a seam allowance, and everything seems to turn out alright. Patterns and some helpful instruction would probably make everything go a bit faster; alas, I am a slave to figuring it out myself (with help from Evan)!
I started by making some simple gift bags. I started the holiday season declaring that I would not be using wrapping paper–what a waste, right?! However, I do love wrapping paper, and I couldn’t deny little Ava the joy of tearing into her first presents. There’s also something very nostalgic about being surrounded by a sea of crumpled up paper. While most of the gifts I’ll be gifting will be in reusable cloth gift bags, a few will still be wrapped in good ol’ wrapping paper.
The bags allowed me to practice sewing without the pressure of destroying something more important. Most of them have turned out pretty well, with a few snafus. Evan had to remind me to “Drop the foot!” several times when I was sure I had broken the machine. And I very nearly burned down the yurt! Ava was napping, and I was sewing away. I thought it would be really nice to play some Christmas music and have a pine scented candle burning while I navigated the sewing machine. One of the bags isn’t so little–it’s the size of a small pillow, I guess. As I sewed, sewed, sewed–feeling very accomplished and full of Holiday spirit, of course–I smelled something burning! It was the bag I was working on, and I luckily caught it before it was fully on fire–just singed through the fabric. Phew! Needless to say, I moved the candle to an entirely different surface (duh!), and the large bag is now a medium bag…
So, the bags helped me get back into the groove of sewing. I made about a half dozen before starting on the first apron. The aprons are modeled after my favorite apron. I did the probably incorrect (perhaps it’s even stealing?!) method of tracing my apron and then I scaled it down to what seems to be the size of a 7-8 year old and a 4-6 year old. I also used state of the art measuring equipment like a Curious George book. I just finished one, and I think it turned out pretty darn well! This one is for my older niece, Nola, and the other is for her sister, CJ. CJ’s will have the same owl pattern but with salmon colored chevron accent fabric. I think I have proven my Farmgirl know-how with this project! It reminds of a spread in MJF a few years ago with vintage apron designs. I guess MaryJane is often photographed wearing some really neat aprons! Nola and CJ just got a brand new baby brother, and I’m hoping these aprons will encourage them to help out their mom and dad at mealtime!
We are excited to celebrate Christmas in the yurt next week, and then Ava and I will be heading to Minnesota early on Dec. 26 to celebrate with my family and Evan’s family…but Evan will stay in Alaska (insert sad face emoticon here). Hopefully I won’t have any more candle incidents!
I hope the next two weeks of Holiday madness are great for all of you, snafus and all! Please share any of your holiday mishaps or successes, we’d love to hear them!
Until Next time,
Sending you Merriment and Love from Alaska,
Alex, The Rural Farmgirl