Aunt Wendy’s gifts for oddly-shaped children

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Here I go again, waiting until the first of December to start work on hand-made Christmas gift items for 42 people. Each project has an estimated time value assessed to it, and according to the list of things I’d like to make, I’ll be done by March of 2018. Of course, these estimations are for people who use patterns and follow directions … pfffft.

I love to sew. Large chunks of my childhood years were spent, quite literally, at the feet of a master. My grandmother was a seamstress and my cousin Che’ Boy and I wiled away hundreds of hours underneath the kitchen table, listening to her scissors crunch through pattern paper and fabric. We figured out early on if we stayed under long enough, the grown-ups would forget we were there and speak freely around us. Under-the-table information was priceless, and if we lurked long enough, we not only heard juicy gossip about the Warner Robins High School prom queen, we got to hear my granny cuss. The phrase “Well I’ll be dipped in sh*t” is still gold standard Granny cussing in my world, and one I reserve to this day for crisis situations only.

My grandmother did beautiful, intricate work. She probably made a third of the prom dresses worn in Warner Robins between 1968-1977, and I can’t even begin to count the number of bridesmaid dresses I watched her hand-finish. Granny was often found in a cloud of pastel taffeta, with a pin in her mouth, sewing the next gorgeous creation. To this day I believe people can point out Willie Benton formal, I certainly can.

Granny still makes beautiful things, she’s spent most of her life leaving lovely all over the place, and that’s a trait more people should have. It’s one of the reasons I feel so compelled to make things for my nieces and nephews – it would be awesome to be remembered by them for creating functional, beautiful items out of fabric.

Of course, my items rarely turn out to be functional, per se, and most of the time they’re in the “What the hell is it?’” range. It would help immensely if I followed the example of my grandmother, by using patterns and exact measurements. Also, if I could actually sew a straight seam to save my life, things would probably be easier. Sewing is harder than it looks when you’re used to watching Granny whip out a beaded wedding dress with a seven foot train in 10 days’ time.

This is a ruffle-covered tactical vest for an infant with no neck.This is a ruffle-covered tactical vest for an infant with no neck.

George is accustomed to the seasonal insanity, he long ago learned to leave me alone when he hears me talking to myself from my office, which becomes a mad-scientist mixture of sewing/craft/writing space this time of year.

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“What the … ?? No way. Did I really just sew the arm to the neck hole? AAAAUUGGHH! Hey wait … maybe this will work … oh yeah, looky here, I’ve modified it into a turtle-neck vest. Hell yeah. I’m winning!”

He sits quietly in the smoke pit/sun porch with the dogs and waits for me to emerge from the office with whatever Godawful thing I’ve just made.

“Tah-daaah! This is the cutest thing I’ve ever made! Look at it! Ohmygodsocute!”

This is where he’s totally put on the spot, and has no idea what I’m showing him, but chooses his words as carefully as the male brain will allow him to.

“Wow babe, that’s really neat. The cat will love it.”

“What? The cat!? No! It’s for Aleks! It’s a vest! Look! It has ruffles and a turtle neck! It’s precious!”

This is where he should agree with me and reassure the cat, who is arched in the corner, looking pretty terrified by the prospect of a ruffly, turtle-neck vest being forced upon him, but the aforementioned “male brain” and the fact that George is painfully honest gets in the way.

“Babe, Aleks is six, I think her head is probably bigger than a softball these days. That’s a really tiny neck hole, does it stretch?”


“Do you think you could put some buttons on it or something?”

The prospect of buttonhole-placement is something people who don’t measure find despicable. This is where hours of self-inflicted frustration peak and I snap.

“I’ll just cut the dang thing off. It won’t have a collar at all. You watch. I’ll fix it.”

I lumber back to the office/cave, mumbling to myself about being dipped. Six hours later, I wake George up to show him the newly completed, modified, neck-less vest. At this point, his desire for sleep overrides his honesty, and he agrees that it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever made.

Our niece may never be able to wear the Aunt Wendy Original, which was modified to the point of looking like a ruffle-covered tactical vest for a neckless baby, but maybe one day when she grows up and has a psychological break and decides to hand-make a bunch of Christmas gifts on the first of December, she’ll think kindly of her slightly-odd, but well-meaning Aunt.

It’s all about making memories, right?

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