Fashioned By Mom

It has only become to clear to me in my adult years how unique parts of my childhood truly were. When we’re growing up, I guess we assimilate naturally into the world around us. Our perception would then be that “this is normal”. The skeleton elements of my childhood are pretty average: public school, Christian household in the suburbs of a big city. But some of the best parts of my “kid experience” were things way outside the norm and one of the most unique I owe solely to my Mother…

My Mom used to make our clothes.

To some, that sounds insane. I was born in 1984 in a Naval Hospital, not on a prairie in a covered wagon. And yet, hand-made clothes were completely normal for me. I have memories of my Mom taking me and my sister to the fabric store to pick out patterns. She’d show us the picture on the front and we could pick out our favorite. Then, we’d get to go up and down the aisles pawing through rolls of fabric looking for something that “spoke” to us. She’d even let us go to the button section to select the buttons we wanted for the front.

When we’d get home, she’d bust out her flexible tape measure and tickle the measurements out of us. We’d have to stand with our arms out like we were flying while she pinned the patterns to us and made notes. The patterns just looked like tissue paper with a bunch of dotted lines to us. But to Mom, they were the earliest signs of art. That’s how we discovered our Mom was a magician. We’d go play or watch TV while she sent the sewing machine into crazy fits of noise. Hours later, she’d still be pinning and sizing and cutting. Sometimes, she’d fall asleep right at the sewing table, pins and thread stuck all over the place. But somehow, a few days later, we’d have a dress. Somehow, she’d turn a bunch of folded papers into an outfit.

Eventually, I wanted to know about the magic that Mom made. I wanted to know how it all happened. I started watching her work. I’d ask to help cut the thread or pin the fabric. She taught me how to load the new thread, fill and change the bobbin spool, and how to sew different stitches. I started with small projects and had made my first beanbag by the time I was 10. A few years later, I finished my first quilt at 14. It was exhilarating to me. And yet, for so many years I have taken those skills for granted. It has taken me a long time to realize how lucky I am that my Mom shared her magic.

Sewing Meme

One tradition we had around the end of September every year was to pull out the Halloween box from the rafters to decide what our costume would be. My Mom would plop the box down in the garage and we’d take out all of the props collected over the years. With the props as inspiration, we’d head to the fabric store so Mom could get the right fabric for our costumes. Sometimes inspiration came from movies or books. Either way, they were made by Mom.

One year – I think I was 8 or so – I pulled out a brown grass hula skirt and threw it on over one shoulder so it draped across me instead of sitting at my hips. I shouted, “Look Momma, I’m a caveman!” Right away she had her vision. She went to work on making a skin-colored body suit and a pair of grey fuzzy boots for me to wear. She found a giant bone and fastened it to a clip to sit in my wildly teased hair. She even made me bone earrings and bought a plastic club for me to carry. I really did look amazing. I never gave her credit for it though. Since it was my normal, I guess I just assumed it was everyone’s. I assumed all of the kids in the parade that day at school had moms that sewed their costumes. I don’t think I ever truly grasped how lucky I was.

So here I am, 30, and sewing my costume for this Halloween. I have kept the tradition alive my hand-making my costume every year, and my Mom is in my heart the whole time. Thank you, Momma. Thank you for sharing such an amazing gift with me. I can’t wait to pass it on…

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Macabre meets Elegance…on a Budget

WARNING: This is one of those nerdy “Do It Yourself” posts. I can’t help it – I’m damn proud of my work and now I want to share! 🙂

As I detailed in a previous post “Let’s Give Em Something to Talk About“, Jamie and I are planning on having the kind of wedding that has people talking for years. Our hope, although not our motivation, is to surprise and wow people all through the night. Our motivation is simple – do us. Every detail of this day has been hand-constucted (and I do mean hand constructed) by us, for us. I decided pretty early on that I was going to make everything the for the wedding myself*. I am pretty crafty (and VERY thrifty) so it worked out. I quickly became one of those “DIY Brides” one might see all over the internet, although I consider myself in a separate category since I never once looked at a Bridal Magazine nor did I ever sign up for Pinterest. 😉 “Doing it myself “also helped our budget significantly, which was a major bonus since we are paying for this shindig on our own.

Even though we really didn’t get serious about planning the wedding until we booked the venue back in March, we had slowly been creating our vision over the course of the last 10 years. It is that vision that has been coming to life these last few months….and IT. IS. BEAUTIFUL.

Since our theme is “Day of the Dead” (which totally speaks to our cultural interests and lifestyle) we have been challenged with finding the perfect combination of Macabre and Elegance. We both agreed we wanted the theme to come across clearly, without looking too much like a Halloween Party. I, however, am obsessed with all things Halloween so I couldn’t help but get inspiration from the classic Halloween Tree for our center pieces.

This is a typical Halloween Tree

Being from California, I thought it might be really cool to work in Manzanita, a plant native to desert regions of California, Arizona, Nevada and other similar regions. It has that Halloween Tree look so it worked perfectly.

Here’s some manzanita growing wild in California.

I went online and found a place in California that shipped the branches wrapped in string to preserve them. When they arrived, I cut the ropes off and let them sit.

They looked like this

Even though the umber look of the raw branches looks amazing, we decided we wanted them black so I laid them out on plastic and spray painted them.

Painted black

I then casted the branches in plaster using a throw-away plastic cup and Plaster of Paris. The throw-away cup was key so I could just cut it away after the plaster dried.

Cup is key

I bought little glass vases at the dollar store and, once the plaster was dry and free-standing, I placed it in the vase. In order to cover up the ugly plaster, we came up with the idea of using sand. It reminded me of summer camp as a kid when the counselors would give you a weird looking bottle, googgly eyes and 5 different colors of sand. All of those strange Google-Eyed-Sand-Creatures are probably in my Mom’s attic somewhere. But at least I got some practice for this! Our color scheme is Black and White with Cranberry accents throughout so we chose black and cranberry sand:

Step 4

Next I got to work on decorating them. I ordered crystals online and bought black wire thread from a crafts store. I threaded over 600 crystals over the course of about 2 weeks, but since I was off for the summer, it was really fun and almost soothing. I also decided to make paper flowers. The images below look a lot more like pink or red, but it’s really black and cranberry.

Made using a punch-out

Finally, I went online and ordered a bunch of black butterflies to add to the branches. They turned out so cute!

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I’m finding that working on all of these little projects (I also made a photo booth, all 9 bouquets, the guest book and the table assignments) has made me so proud of this wedding. Of course, I would have been proud of what it stands for no matter what, but since my own, hand-made touch is on everything- things that Jamie and I cooked up in our creative brains – it makes the day so much more personal. If not a single person at the wedding comments on the intricately painted cake-topper, the handmade photo booth, or the one-of-a-kind guest book, it won’t upset me. Because each time I catch a glimpse of those things in the background of pictures, or each time I remember that night, I hope I’ll also recall the heart and energy put into creating it all. And that is the whole point.

*If you’d like information on prices, where I ordered my supplies, or specific how-to’s just  shoot me an email at thatlesbianteacher@yahoo.com.