09 December 2010

I made these

I am in awe of myself.

And that doesn't happen often, so when it does, I feel like I should throw myself a party. Maybe I should. But we'll get to that later.

For now, I'm happy with throwing Jules a party. I can hardly believe it myself, but in a few weeks, my baby will be turning FIVE YEARS OLD. There are days when I feel like walking around, jaw on the floor, in complete amazement that he's passed the crawling, babbling, pooping-and-peeing in a diaper stage. Then there are days when he seems to me to be wise well beyond his years. I wonder if I will always feel like this. Will we be having a conversation when he's 40 and I stop myself and say, "man, how did you get to be so smart? Those are words that should be coming from the mouth of a 60 year old and YOU'RE NOT THERE YET, my child." I hope. to. god. that we can have that conversation. That he'll still be amazing me. I'll still be a spry 74 year old, after all. And, even more importantly, I'll still be his mama, in love with him and all he has become (and has yet to become). Oh, I hope. I do hope. And I believe...

But back to the present, because it is here, right now, where we're having a lot of fun, where we're driving each other crazy, where we're living. Here. NOW. This is the place, the reason, for writing this damn blog, however sporadically. So back to the dolls.

Let me start by saying that I am really invested in these dolls. Too invested, probably, but I'm fine with that.

The doll on the right? Pippi Longstocking. Faceless. For now. And the doll on the left is Mr. Nilsson, Pippi's little monkey sidekick. I learned to sew to bring these dolls to life. As I type this, I realize how crazy boring domestic that sounds. But it's true. So let's back up.

About a month and a half ago, I took Jules to the kids section of our neighborhood video store and told him he could pick out a movie. For whatever reason, he was drawn to this random, 1990s, animated version of Pippi Longstocking. We rented it, he watched it, and he was hooked. Of course I was thrilled. Growing up, I'd had a very very vague notion of Pippi Longstocking, that she was something weird, something European, a girl about my age. But beyond that, nothing.

Then 30 years pass, and I have this almost five year old, a very spunky, very irreverant, somewhat bilingual, somewhat eccentric (in a good way) child who is, oddly to me, "turned on" to Pippi. It's like my lost childhood flooding back to me.

It helps, let me say, that Pippi is a little nine year old girl who has the strength of 10 men, that she flouts gender stereotypes, that she thumbs her nose at "tradition." And it's strange, I'll admit, that at 39 I am finally falling for Pippi, too. At nine, I was just not ready for her. At almost five, I am amazed to see, that my son..........is. Maybe not completely. Maybe he's just drawn to the lewd, crude bits and pieces of Pippi and doesn't get all of her nuances. I don't care. I am celebrating the fact that she caught his attention at all. And she grabbed mine along with it.

So when, four weeks ago, Jules asked for a Pippi Longstocking doll for his birthday, I was all over it. I first scoured the net, looking for something suitable, sure there would be something I could charge to my credit card and have waiting at my doorstep in a matter of days. Pippi Longstocking dolls exist, yes they do. But they're either outrageously expensive ($100 or more) or........... crocheted. Don't get me wrong. Crochet is fine for scarves and sweaters and potholders and such. But for dolls? I'd rather buy a macrame plant hanger with an owl ornament. So I knew if I were to make Pippi a reality for Jules, I'd have to make her myself.

My only problem, of course, was that I'd have to teach myself to sew.

The last time that I'd sewn anything (besides a ragged hem on a pair of pants) was when I was 13 and my step-mother was pregnant with my baby sister. I was in home economics, everyone else had chosen to sew a beach towel, and I presented my teacher with a complicated cloth doll pattern that I just "had" to have stitched by the end of the quarter. My sister was a December baby, born a week before classes ended for Christmas break, and I stayed up late into the night before our assignment was due, hastily stitching on a patchy bald yarn hair ponytail at the last minute so I could bring her to my baby sister in time, not knowing back then that a newborn baby couldn't even see, let alone hold, let alone 'ooooooh' and 'aaaaaaah' over the doll I'd labored to make.

Flash forward 26 years later, to an even more "urgent" sewing project.

Lucky for me I have a friend (thank you Sloan!!!!!!!!) who loves me and will make time for me and has tremendous patience AND knows how to sew. So I bought my fabric and felt and thread and ribbons on the faith that, if I tried and failed, or if I didn't even have the energy to try, she'd bail me out. She's the kind of friend who, on the eve of your son's FIFTH (or fourth, or third, or...) birthday party would stay up until 4am faithfully sewing whatever little project you'd already practically killed yourself on just to see a smile on your kids' face. She loves you, and loves your kid, that much. Luckily, I only stole a few hours of her blustery afternoon, learning to thread (wind? fill?) a bobbin, thread a needle, troubleshoot a snagged thread, backstitch, etc. etc. She ironed, ironed, ironed. Gave me well-timed advice. And I? I RAN WITH IT.

I started with this doll (by Larissa, at Mmmcrafts) a Lauren Child-inspired version, made from this video tutorial/pattern of a black apple doll. Halfway through making the doll, we realized that she had no neck and had to snip-and-improvise to give her one. I'd bought red felt and stiff red Christmas ribbons to make Pippi's braids, knowing that the wonkier they were made to look, the better, and Sloan gave me tips on putting them together. She was amazing--my cheering squad, my mentor, my best friend all rolled into one.

But I was the one who, ultimately, pulled it off. And for that, I am proud. I will, of course, be CRUSHED if Jules is not beyond thrilled with his present, and am trying to steel myself for inevitable disappointment now. But I am determined not to let any negative response on Jules's part diminish the pride I feel right now for having pulled it off. Bravo to me! Hip hip hip!? HOOOOORAAH!

For the rest of my story, I need to back up once again. So after I "finished" Pippi, I got bold. Jules was also enamoured of her little monkey sidekick, Mr. Nilsson, so I wanted to bring him to life, too. But not for Jules. I have a nephew, Aiden, who is just 18 months older than Jules. He is a bright, happy kid who loves to read, has boundless energy and imagination, just like his cousin, and who lives just far enough away from us for us to feel really disconnected. I'd drawn Aiden's name for our family Christmas drawing and thought, "what better way to create a connection between Aiden and Jules, between Aiden and I, than to share with him something that we are just now discovering, that we are just now starting to adore? So I made Mr. Nilsson for Aiden (based on another of Larissa's designs), from a pair of brown corduroy pants I have not fit into since I gave birth to his cousin, an old pillow case, and a stripy shirt that I've also, quite depressingly, outgrown. But c'est la vie. Life goes on. I'll be sending him Mr. Nilsson along with a Pippi Longstocking story book and a very fun Caspar Babypants CD (the lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America) that we're all listening to, as his Christmas gift. I hope he loves all of it as much as we do.

And in the meantime, I'm cooking up another story. This one has to do, again, with a certain kid's fifth birthday party, and a pirate theme. But that's still in my future (this Saturday). Wish me luck.


  1. This is so awesome! Yay for you! You did an amazing job with the sewing (of course you had a talented teacher, too) and the entire spirit of the project is wonderful. I am terribly impressed and inspired, and you've helped me feel a bit of renewed energy for some last-minute holiday creations. Thanks! PS We love Pippi in our house too!

  2. You are amazing! What a sweet mommy you are!

  3. You are one determined lady! What a lucky birthday boy. Your Mr. Nilsson and Pippi look fantastic, and good luck coming up with a face for Pippi, I know that can be the hardest part.

  4. Way to go! They look absolutely amazing! Good luck with the pippi face, I have such a hard time with embroidery but I know you can do it!! :)

  5. I want to see the face you landed on! I was waiting for the call but never got one. I hope you got another volunteer!

  6. Sweet story! Thanks for the honorable mention. Love you!


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