A Very Wilder Christmas

Hey Farmgirls,

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).

Popcorn garland and God's eye ornament on the tree.

Popcorn garland and God’s eye ornament on the tree.

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!

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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.

Good Ol' Rudolph

Good Ol’ Rudolph

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.

An Okay picture of the tree...I think it looks better in real life!

A fairly terrible picture of the tree…It looks better (less trashy) in real life!

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.

Playing with Christmas lights!

Playing with Christmas lights!

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!

Fantastic photo, courtesy of Evan Pederson

Fantastic photo, courtesy of Evan Pederson

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.

Making my first stitches in years; photo courtesy of Evan Pederson

Making my first stitches in years; photo courtesy of Evan Pederson

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.

I have to use a headlamp to see properly!  Not enough light in the yurt.  Photo by Evan Pederson

I have to use a headlamp to see properly! Not enough light in the yurt. Photo by Evan Pederson

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 use very high end measuring devices.  This book is a perfect pocket size!

I use very high end measuring devices. This book is a perfect pocket size!

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.

Ava fits so nicely under the tree--a perfect present!

Ava fits so nicely under the tree–a perfect present!

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…

Fabric and fire don't mix.

Fabric and fire don’t mix.

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!

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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

  1. I really enjoyed your blog today. Made me smile and even laugh (not AT you, WITH you!) I have to say yours is one of the only blogs that I try to read religiously when it comes in my email box. You brightened my day today. Thanks!

  2. kimmie says:

    I think your project looks great – and what little girl wouldn’t be inspired to help around the house if she gets to wear something this cute made for her with love! Way to go! so much better than “plastic crud” ; )

  3. Joan says:

    Way to go, Alex!!! with all the sewing. Merry Christmas to y’all. God Bless.

  4. Bonnie Lindgren says:

    Love the apron. Great color. Congratulations on making your gifts. The stories you share are very refreshing.

  5. Liz Bowling says:

    What wonderful precious memories you are making with your family. That is the heart of the farmgal. After 49 years I still make a snafu every year in someway. As the Amish say “it keeps me humble and thankful”. Merry Christmas and God Bless you three.

  6. susana says:

    Love the tree and who cares if its wonkey….its Christmas… love the baby quilt with the OWL on u, Neat . Lovely!! Susana

  7. Gina M. Danaher says:

    This was a perfectly charming and uplifting post. I meant to start my day with some Advent reading from the Scriptures, but checked my e-mail first and found this gem. We’ve been putting Christmas trees up for 36 years and this year one of ours fell over as we tried to adjust it. The water was already in the stand and it spilled all over our floor. It was quite a job trying to scoot this giant balsam (I misjudged the size also) around so as to dry the wood floor underneath. It did dawn on me that maybe we are getting too old for these live trees, but now that they are up and looking beautiful, maybe not.
    God bless you and your family.

  8. Gail Pederson says:

    Oh, would Grandma Ruth be proud of Evan and your improving skills,too. Merry Christmas and we cant wait to celebrate with you and Ava. Gail

  9. bonnie b says:

    Alex, I love your honesty and humor and I laughed through your post. You did a wonderful job on the aprons and I’m so glad you did not burn down the yurt in the process. Always enjoy your writings (I can sew, but do not have the knack at writing that you do – see we all have our gifts!).
    Enjoy all the wrappings with your little family (pun intended) and safe travels.
    Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

  10. diana henretty says:

    Homemade Christmas’s are the very best!!
    Right now I’m sewing homemade kitty beds, with fabric I’ve had for years and
    baskets from the thrift stores!!
    Merry Christmas from the Christmas City, Noel, Mo…….Hugs, Diana

  11. Reba says:

    Actually to be able to take an object (such as a book or another apron) is very talented when it comes to sewing. You have a good eye!! And a beautiful baby!!! I imagine that grandparents are excited about little Ava coming to visit!!! Happy Holidays!

  12. Alex, can I just say that I think you are a very talented Farmgirl? I do a lot of sewing and mostly feel like I can sew anything…. BUT, I do not ever have the courage to sew without a pattern. So to take an existing apron and use for a pattern, scale it down to the size you want, cut your fabric and sew it and have it turn out so amazing? THAT is talent!!! Good job, you can be really proud of yourself! I hope your trip “outside” (as my Alaska family calls it when they leave the state) is fantastic! – Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl –

    P.S. Little Ava has the sweetest little chubby cheeks!

  13. Deb Bosworth says:

    Alex, This post was a delight…I giggled ( along with you ) through most of it until I got the part where you caught the bag on fire… Then I got worried! LOL! You can blame that on the fuzzy brain you acquired after Ava was born. As a mother your intuition will bloom and grow but darned if you won’t lose your common sense from time to time! I think your Christmas is perfectly Wilder! You’ve got it right and you are TOO crafty! Your aprons are fantastic and ORIGINAL. Don’t be so hard on yourself girl! It’s great Evan is so helpful and knowledgeable. Blessings to you and your sweet little family…
    Love your posts!
    Deb ( Beach Farmgirl )

  14. Marge Hofknecht says:

    Enjoyed your blog! The aprons are lovely and I’m sure the recipients will agree! Celebrating Christmas with a baby in the home makes the holiday feel so fresh and new all over again. Seeing the wonderment in your child’s eyes as she beholds the singular charm of cheery Christmas tree lights, her mounting curiosity about the bright little changes all happening in and around her home, and enjoying with your little girl her first experience with age-old traditions, is God’s precious gift in itself to you. Merry Christmas!

  15. Laura R. says:

    Your apron looks great!! High five 🙂

  16. Pam DeMarrais says:

    Alex, I am so proud of you for taking up sewing! Home made gifts are the best. Love the apron and I am sure that the girls will too. Merry Christmas and safe travels to you!

  17. Denise Ross says:

    You did a great job. Seeing without a pattern sounds like something I’d do. I’ve sewn lots of things that way and they always turn out just fine lol. Well done. Love your tree, Ava sure looks a cutie, and the aprons. Sewing by headlamp is pretty cool 🙂
    Happy new year

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks, Denise! It is fun sewing without a pattern, I need to pick up some real patterns and see which I prefer. At least I know I can sew without if necessary. Happy New Year to you, as well!

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