I had a reliable source, and the news was alarming. I heard that Bunny and Giraffie were trying to share the same set of slipper jammies. And it wasn’t going well.
It started with making Grammy Jammies for my grandchildren each Christmas, their numbers now climbing to six. My oldest grandson, Ben, talked me into making jammies for his Bear. And it took off from there. Next was Mya’s Puppy. Last Christmas Isabel’s Bunny joined the jammie parade, and Maren’s baby doll.
“Jammies for Giraffie might be a good birthday present for Isabel,” my daughter advised. But what better project to tackle during my coronavirus sheltering time? The key was that both “friends” were JellyCat animals and shared the same shape – soft pear-shaped bodies, scrawny arms and big fluffy feet. It took several tries to get it right for Bunny, but I finally perfected the pattern. After 10 years of making slipper jammies, I had bags full of fleece scraps and I even scrounged up a few unused zippers. I was in business.
With extra time on my hands, it felt good to pull out my sewing machine, thread it up and make something from nothing. Sewing opens so many creative opportunities – designing the garment, choosing the fabric, picking coordinating ribbing, placing the print on each pattern piece. As my machine hummed, so did I.
My thoughts turned to the book I recently finished reading. I picked up The Murmur of Bees quite by accident in the early days of the invasion of COVID-19. When the spread of the virus was still news, I was surprised and fascinated to find that the book was set in Mexico in 1918, in the heart of the devastation wrought by the Spanish flu. It was history I did not know well, but it had an eerily familiar strain.
The family in the book fled from their home near town and relocated to another hacienda further away, where they rode out the worst of the pandemic. Mom couldn’t settle herself, and it was her young son who figured out why she was so distraught. He convinced his dad to return to their home, pack up her sewing machine, material and tools and bring them to her. She was puzzled and angry at their curious actions. Until she threaded her machine and began sewing. With each garment she sewed, a sliver of peace was restored. She was grounded at last, in the productive and creative endeavor of sewing.
I felt the same way. When Giraffie’s jammies were done, I needed another project. I decided little brother Michael needed a stuffed animal friend. Obsessed with the idea, I scoured the internet for a free pattern for a fleece animal. More scraps to cut up, excess stuffing that needed a home, and a load of fun later I had a soft little puppy for Michael. It was such a hit, that I couldn’t stop there. Five grandchildren later, I had a whole litter of pups and kitties!
There’s something inherently rewarding about using only what I have on hand. Taking bits and pieces and ending up with a little critter that will delight a child. There are many ways this pandemic has forced us to simplify life. To do without. To make do with what we have and forego what now feels like frivolous shopping.
Sewing returns me to my roots. My mom taught me to sew long before I took Home Ec classes in junior high. She made all my clothes until I took over, then sewed for my own children. By now when I sit down in front of my machine, innate skills take over. My hands know how to guide the fabric, my eyes gauge the seam, my foot regulates the speed. I reap the rewards of familiarity, of falling back on something soothing and rewarding. I feel Mom’s presence as I follow in her footsteps. I imagine she too would sew her way through this pandemic.
I hear that Bunny and Giraffie are friends again. And my daughter’s whispers, “Michael has taken to a Jellycat puppy recently.” I can already hear the whir of my sewing machine.