As a kid, one of my favorite places to go was the bookstore. While my dad was very careful to make sure my brother and I didn’t turn into spoiled, greedy monsters, he appreciated the value of books. Most books anyway. He would happily buy us any book we wanted as long as it was a “real book, not some picture book.”
I treasured my “real” books dearly, but that didn’t stop me from drooling over the craft book kits at the bookstore. You’ve probably seen the kits with the tiny, 50 page “How to paint rocks” book and the kit that includes a cheap set of paints, one paintbrush, and a bag of rocks that will never look like the photos on the box. I must have asked my dad to buy me one of these kits at least twenty times. “That’s not a book, that’s a box of toys,” he say. “If you want paints you have a box full of paint at home.”
Looking back at those exchanges, I know I wasn’t interested in the paints alone. I wanted the whole package. I wanted to learn how to do something and have all the tools to make it happen.
When my requests for the craft kits were met with a winter of “no,” I scoped out a new object of desire: Klutz books. Specifically, Simple Sewing. A cover-mounted plastic pouch contained pieces of felt, tiny spools of thread, needles, and ribbons in a miniature rainbow. It was perfect!
Since the book was the focus and only had a small pouch of “toys,” surely my dad would buy it! The book even contained instructions for seven hand-sewn projects, which I cleverly argued would keep me busy for the whole summer. “Nice try,” he said, leafing through the book. “It’s just a picture book. You’ll go through this in a weekend. If you want it, save up your money and buy it yourself.”
I turned the book over and looked at the price printed in the corner: $19.99. “$20?!” I whined, “I have to save twenty WHOLE dollars?”
“Plus tax,” my dad added, “which will be about another $2.”
I just about collapsed under the economic reality. Both my brother and I received a $5 weekly allowance during the school year (if we got straight As on our report cards). During the summer, we got nothing and had to grovel for extra chores that would earn us some cash. The only chores my parents would trust me with at the time were to wash the car, fold laundry, and separate zinnia seeds from the petals for my dad’s garden. The problem was that none of these tasks needed to be done more than once a week, and I wouldn’t get paid more than $5 for each chore. It ended up taking me two weeks to save the money, an eternity to an 8 year old.
The moment I tore the last zinnia seed from the petal, that earned me my last $2, I shouted, “That’s $22! Now take me to the bookstore!” He made me wait until the next afternoon as punishment for being bossy. The humanity.
The entire car ride to the store, my dad and my brother teased me. “Maybe the book will be gone! Someone else may have bought it.” I sat with my fingers in my ears for the rest of the trip.
At the bookstore, I speed walked to the kid’s section with the fury of an 80 year old grandmother at the mall. I was ready to claim my prize. It was right there on the shelf waiting for me, and I proudly carried it to the cashier. My sewing adventure was about to begin.
I made every silly project in that book. I’m not sure why an 8 year old needs a scented sachet, but I made one. I didn’t even know how to pronounce sachet. My mom was in hysterics when I showed her my “sach-it.” The strawberry pincushion was my favorite, and I must have made half a dozen. My stitches on my dishtowel apron, were so wide that my mom restitched my seams while I made my seventh strawberry.
When I see IG friends post about teaching their young children to sew, it touches my heart. I had so much satisfaction from my horribly constructed felt monstrosities. When see pictures of a 6 year old sewing on a sewing machine, I can only imagine the sense of pride and accomplishment that child must have. If I have a kid one day, I hope I can share the joy of making and crafting with them.