Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

First and most important, Merry Christmas to everyone underway, standing the watch, and otherwise on duty this morning! Y'all rock...thank you for taking the watch to keep the rest of us safe and secure!

I, however, am not one of those people on watch this year. I'm on leave, soaking up the sunny Southern California days at my sister's house. We don't have many hard and fast Christmas traditions in our family. Over the years, we've been so spread out that year-to-year everything is a little different. When Mom was alive, she insisted on playing Santa, handing out presents from under whatever was serving as our Christmas tree. We had to wait until each person was done opening their present before the next person could start. I'm sure, as a kid, this drove me *crazy!* But it definitely helps prolong the moment of everyone's joy, as we all get to ooh and aah appropriately over each gift.

Speaking of presents -- good gawd is there pressure to find *exactly* the right thing! It shows you know the person well, you're caring enough to get something they want, and in my family, there has always been a weird dynamic between extravagance and thrift, which I think comes from not having a lot of extra money when my sister and I were young.

I've usually been pretty good with gifts. I'm sure there have been some years where I failed spectacularly miserably (please, family and friends, no need to remind me of these!). But on the whole, I try really hard to make my gifts thoughtful, meaningful, helpful, useful and fun. And if they don't cost a lot of money, all the better! These are qualities I value in the gifts I receive.

I gotta say, this year, I slam dunked it :)

Spoiler alert: Dad, Steve and Jan, and Linda -- don't read any further if you don't want to know what you're getting from me! Dad, your's and Sandee's is in the mail; Steve and Jan, I still have some tweaking to do on yours, so I'll bring it down next time I visit or have it ready if y'all come up; and Linda, umm, well, here's the thing...I still have to finish yours, so ditto the delivery note to Steve and Jan :)

I had all these DCU's (desert camouflage uniforms) from when I was on MAUI/at PATFORSWA that were taking up space in my closet, see. I can't recycle them at the thrift store; they're still in good shape; can't just throw them out.  So I started trying to figure out good ways to re-purpose them. Looking on Etsy, I saw some folks doing really creative work with old uniforms, like Emily at Emily's Custom Bags. She totally deserves the $50+ she gets for making her gorgeous bags out of what are otherwise useless rags.

But, frankly, I wanted something a little simpler (oh yeah, and I had procrastinated, and didn't think it was fair to ask her to make eight bags in 12 days on top of all her other orders). And I can be crafty if I wanna. So one evening, I broke out one of the blouses from the closet and started going to town with the seam ripper, deconstructing the shirt. I felt kinda like a butcher, wanting to use all the pig parts, saving them for sausage...I have plans for the collar -- maybe a wrist band with a pocket for running.

I wasn't sure how the bag was going to work exactly, but figured, how hard could it be -- rip a few seams here, sew them back in a slightly different construct. And once I got the system down, actually knew what I wanted to do, it was pretty easy.

Except, my poor sewing machine wasn't quite up to the task. I'd love to be able to say that I used my grandmother's treadle machine to make these gifts, but I broke down earlier this year, and bought an electric machine from Bryan at Brothers Sew & Vac in Silver Spring (great shop, btw -- very helpful and knowledgeable! Total small business charm!!). But I just got the starter model back then, not imagining that I might use it for a project like this. After I nearly destroyed it trying to sew through, idk, like 8 layers of heavy-duty ripstop material, I realized I could keep going with an underpowered machine, get thoroughly frustrated and probably irrevocably break the poor think, or I could admit my mistake and turn it in for an upgrade.


I chose the latter, and went back to Brothers. I got a very nice...probably a little too nice, what with all the extra decorative stitches and nonsense that I'll likely never use, but what the hey...upgrade that made the rest of the work a breeze.

I am happy to report that the bags were a total success with my sister. It took some explaining that these were uniforms that I couldn't wear anymore, and that I had made them myself (she said they looked professionally done!). In a stroke of good luck, she bought some bread for her husband yesterday, so I got to show off the usefulness of having used the sleeves as the sides of the bag, which made them perfect for baguette pockets. The straps are just long enough to get over a shoulder, but not too long where the bag drags on the ground if carried in hand -- didn't plan it that way, it just happened. The pants also turned out well. Definitely a smaller bag, but may be more useful for smaller trips to the store.

It drove me crazy the day I got the bags done, because I totally wanted to brag about them to someone and show them off, but couldn't post them to Facebook without all the recipients seeing them. It was worth the wait. And the work.

Merry Christmas, everybody! May you get all the presents you didn't even know you wanted, but will remind you daily of the people who love you!

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