Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Flannel 101

I was determined to make matching outfits for my little ones for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So off I went to my favorite fabric store. It's a small, family owned drugstore that also sells fabric. It is not much to look at on the outside and is located in a really sketchy part of town, but inside, it has a very nice selection of quilting cottons. And you never know - you might want to grab some aspirin while you're buying a few yards of gingham, especially to get you through the long nights of sewing.

I dashed in to look for some inspiration. Sewing winter clothes in Florida is tricky. The fabric needs to look wintery. I refuse to dress my family as though we're on a Hawaiian vacation in December, even if the temperature may be in the 70s. There is nothing fun about looking summery all year long. Let's pretend we have seasons. And as important as wintery-looking fabric might be, the fabric cannot, I repeat cannot, feel very wintery. Or we will die of a heatstroke. And all of my nights of hard labor will be in vain.

I stumbled upon the loveliest kelly green cotton flannel with a tiny navy blue plaid going through it. It looked ever-so-Irish schoolgirl, which is exactly the look we are going for. Fuzzy enough to say winter, thin and cottony enough not to cause a heatstroke. Perfection! It was on sale, it was kelly green, and it was MINE. Unfortunately, there were only 1.5 yards on the bolt. I could have cried. Every other flannel in the store was too plain or had snowmen and pinecones on it. Not the look we're going for. So I bought the green flannel, and decided to see if I could make it work.

I agonized over cutting the fabric, afraid I'd get started and not have enough for three whole outfits. After a great many hours of sewing, here is what I came up with: a pleated green skirt for my eldest daughter, a jumper with a bit of navy piping at the yoke for my middle daughter (there wasn't enough fabric for a dress with sleeves, so a jumper was my only option), and a longall for my baby boy. It was not the most fun I've ever had sewing. But I did finish (in the spirit of full blogger disclosure, I finished a week after Thanksgiving. Finishing all three outfits before Thanksgiving Day was physically impossible). And here is what I learned:

1. Never, never, ever be lured in by even the loveliest of flannel. It stretches, it gives, it will try your soul. If you do give in, be sure your flannel does not have a plaid pattern on it. If it does, then every time your fabric stretches, there is a very obvious wavy line across the outfit to point out your not-so-exact sewing.

2. Flannel does not pleat well. At all. It is soft and squishy. It wants to be made into a quilt. It does not want to be ironed flat into crisp, delightful, Irish-schoolgirl pleats. And if you do iron it into such pleats, they will just come back out again by the end of the day.

3. Sometimes it is more important to finish a matching set of three outfits, even if they are not as perfect as you had envisioned, than to have a matching set of three half-finished outfits in your stack of unfinished projects. The workmanship on these outfits is not what I would like it to be. But they are, indeed, matching outfits, and they are on the three little ones I love the very most, and they still look sweet running around all green and lovely and soft, even if their pleats do not hold and their seams are not straight.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pizza Fridays

Friday night is pizza night in our house. Always (almost). And, of course, I make everything from scratch. The dough is started while the two eldest darlings are at school. It rises and falls until I pick them up from school, as they wait expectantly for pizza night. The dough is rolled and topped with either homemade pizza sauce or garlic and olive oil, depending on the topping combination. Most Fridays it is some variation of red sauce, spinach, roasted zucchini and onion, feta, and mozzarella cheese. This Friday it was artichoke, roasted veggies, ham, and mozzarella. It was divine.

I adore family traditions. I was raised by two marvelous parents who, unfortunately, prided themselves on their lack of staunch traditions. We might have turkey for Thanksgiving, or we might have pizza. We might travel for hours to dine with extended family, or we might eat alone, just the four of us, at Picadilly Cafeteria (I was mortified that someone might see us, the wandering gypsies of Thanksgiving Day). And these same parents were always slightly confused as to why their tradition-craving daughters balked at their sometimes randomness.

And so we eat pizza, every Friday. Just as we did as I was a girl. And I gasped as I rolled dough this Friday, wondering how it was that these two fun-loving, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants parents of mine had a tradition as (almost) set in stone as my own. And then I remembered. It was not always this way. I was raised in the country, on a small farm perched on a hill surrounded by both fields and forest. It was an enchanted way to grow. We ran free in the woods in the evenings, my sister and I, carving fairy lands under trees, picking flowers, exploring of uncharted lands. In the mornings, we awoke early, before the sun dared to dapple our windows, to make the hour-long drive to school, to town.

As much as we loved our surroundings, this country life, city life existance, there were two things we craved:
cable television, as it could not be had where we lived (clearly, these were the olden days), and pizza delivery. No pizza man in his right mind would drive as far out as we lived, and so a thin, frozen pizza with tiny squares of greasy pepperoni was the only sort of pizza we knew as children. But the idea of someone delivering food right to our door was positively amazing.

Years passed, and my father's job took us far away from our little farm. We moved states away from the only land I'd ever known, the land I could not imagine myself without, to the city. City far removed from any small farm or woods for wandering. It was a strange, surreal life, trying to fit in to a culture that was so strange and busy and cramped.

But as soon as we were settled, we suddenly had the two things we had always lacked: the blaring of cable television, and the Friday delight of the pizza delivery man ringing our doorbell. And so it became, as a fourteen-year-old girl, that my family gained a tradition. We ordered pizza almost every Friday night, the consolation prize for those ripped up and replanted. And oh, the freshly-delivered deliciousness. I'm quite sure it is much more of a delight when you have pined for it for so very long.

And so I make pizza every Friday night, binding together past and present, hoping that some day my little ones will roll and flour, every Friday night, with their own little ones, and tell the stories of their youth, and a God who is faithful.