Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm Back!

Hello, my dear friends!

I'm happy to say that I'm back from maternity leave. I have two delicious little girls, Elisa and Amanda, who have just about quadrupled their weight since January. As their nights get longer and my REM sleep returns, I'm itching to get back into the sewing machine saddle.

My professional re-debut actually took place in June, when my friend Wendy asked me to participate in her elementary school's Festival of the Arts. I had the honor, privilege, and challenge of giving six 20-minute presentations (to grades K through 5) back to back in one corner of a gymnasium. I wanted to show them the thrill of sewing, interior design, fusible web, being your own boss... all in a third of an hour.

And this is what we did. Pillows!

When each group had filtered in, I got their participation like a comedy improv show.

"I'm going to sew the pillow that YOU design! Give me three shapes, please."

With hands raised, of course, three volunteers suggested shapes. With the younger groups, the shapes were pretty basic, like a square and a circle. The fifth graders, especially, were a lot more creative: a number five and a graduation cap (since they were about to graduate to middle school).
One exchange went a little like this:

"Yes, ma'am," I said to a little child with long, curly hair. "What shape should we use?"

"I'm a boy."

"Oh. Huh. Sorry. Well, what shape should we use?" (Moving on quickly).

Next I asked them for which color fabric they wanted each shape to be cut out of.



"Circle." That was one of the kindergarteners. "Great!" I said, "And what color should it be?"

Finally, once the shapes were cut out, I asked them where they should each be located on the face of the pillow. Once again, the fifth graders outdid everyone else with recommendations of a broader, overlapping design. That, you know, made sense. The graduation cap on the 5, with a circle behind them.

Thanks for my friend and assistant, Wendy, all of the shapes received iron-on adhesive, and were then ironed on to the pillow fabric. As I talked about the joy of sewing and other fascinating topics, I threaded a needle and stitched all but one side of the pillow. I turned it inside-out, explaining what I was doing as I went along, stuffed in the stuffing, and sewed up the last side.

"VOILA!" I roared as the 20 minutes came to an end. I received a great round of applause each time. I don't think making a pillow has ever ended in such fanfare.

One of Wendy's fellow teachers remarked later, "She can hold a needle in her mouth, thread it, and crack jokes, all at the same time." I hadn't realized that my whole life had been working up to this performance, but it seems clear now. Napoleon Dynamite remarked that girls like boys with skills. It goes both ways. I got skills.

By the end of the two hours, with the sixth pillow coming together, my performance voice had started to get a little dry, and I was glad it wasn't a K through 6. Nevertheless, I was brimming with pride at what turned out to be the most participatory guest program the whole week. And so excited to have my children grow up to be crafty little kids making design decisions with the best of them.

The pillows now reside in the Principal's Office on the couch reserved for very special guests.