Monthly Archives: December 2011

I Made It Myself!

My friend and fellow blogger over at Midlife Mixtape  wrote a terrific post about the sorts of homemade gifts she and her siblings created for each other when they were growing up. I know what she means when she says that some of those made by hand gifts were treasured much more than store bought ones. And it made me recall some of my efforts to do it myself without enough time…
So here is a (partial) list of the good, the bad, and the ugly things made with my own two hands over the years.

  • The chess set I made for my husband (then my boyfriend) who was going through a chess playing phase. I got the idea from  Sunset Magazine. It involved sawing 2″ x 2″ pieces of wood into various lengths, sanding them, and cutting out stenciled pieces of suede (why suede? I don’t know) in two different colors for the opposing pieces. I chose purple and gold for their royal flair. After the wood was sanded, I glued the flimsy, hard to identify WTF they were supposed to be suede pieces on the tallest (King and Queen) down to the shortest. Knocking the pieces around was more fun than actually playing, as I recall. 
  • I made my dad a pouch for his pipe tobacco: a rubber pouch covered with leftover suede I glued on. I soon discovered that bits of pipe tobacco stick to suede. Forever.
  • Chocolate truffles and babas au rhum. This was a joint effort, which turned out rather well, as I recall. We went through a long stretch of making things like this, and homemade hot chocolate mix, and little loaves of cinnamon bread…We “only” had one kid at the time.
  • The wine rack. Also a joint effort, a couple of years into our marriage. It was constructed of wooden dowels and what looked like short chair legs, hammocked with leather straps. The wood stain wasn’t  quite dry when we presented it to our friends. It was supposed to hold a dozen or so bottles of wine. I wonder if it ever did.
  • The hat rack. Now this was cool! Our older son loved hats (and he still does). We made him a hat rack out of 2 x 4s and dowels and gold coat (or hat) hooks. We painted it a bright shiny red on the 24th of December. It was pretty dry on Christmas morning. And full of hats!
Keystone Kops, engineer, Oakland A’s, magician’s top hat. etc.
  • The sweater vest. Oy. This was a Hanukkah present for my dad that ended up being more of an IOU: I ran out of time to finish it, so I presented him with the pattern picture and a promised completion date. I used a variegated yarn in shades of blue that I cringe when I think about now. But Dad did wear it. What a good sport!
  • Also cringe-worthy: crocheted ponchos with long fringe and knitted scarves with wiggly borders.
  • The hats. One year I made hats for family members out of fake fur. Why, I wonder. They all looked like they belonged in “Dr. Zhivago” instead of El Cerrito.
  • The parka. I made my husband a parka from a kit. It far exceeded the capability of my little Kenmore sewing machine, but I swore at it, pushed at it, and finally finished. Then came stuffing it with down. Some things you just ought to buy, you know?  But he wore it for years and it actually looked pretty good, except for a couple of places where the quilting goes all squiggly.
Made the sweater too. Damn!
But the best of all: one year I decided to make all the men in my family woolen shirts. I used a fancy Vogue pattern for some, and a less fancy Butterick pattern for others.

The plaids match, trust me

My husband’s was a lovely brown plaid, which I had to match; the two dads got navy blue, and I can’t remember what I used for the other two. (More plaid probably. What a masochist!) The shirts all required flat felled seams, which means they looked just as pretty inside as out. I  finished all five of them, even with a little kid under foot.  I must have been crazy. 

Even crazier, though: when my father died in 2001, I found the shirt I’d made for him still in his closet. And when my father-in-law died in 2007, we found his shirt too. 
Granted, these depression-era guys hardly ever got rid of anything that still had some wear in it, but I was amazed and touched just the same. 
So here’s to all the do-it-yourselfers out there! May your paint dry and your glitter stay in place. I’m going shopping.
Happy Holidays!
Incoming! 
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