Sunday, December 23, 2007

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine

All right, I lied before about giving up on replacing the vinyl tablecloth that we've been using as a tree skirt.

I decided to make one.

I didn't come to this decision easily, mind you. I had to do much soul-searching (well, Internet searching) and I had to discover that such an item could be made using glue and felt and not with any sewing.

Also, I had an Idea. Jesus, next time I have one of those somebody just tip my head back and fill me full of bourbon until I forget my own name. Oh, I should warn - there WILL be uncontrollable cursing as I document this process.

The Idea was to decorate the tree skirt with the kids' hand prints. The Idea is that every year we'll get the kids to make handprints with craft paint and felt and we'll glue them to the tree skirt, so that we'll eventually end up with kind of a graphic representation of their growth. Didn't you always love putting your hand in the tiny plaster handprint you made in kindergarten?

So, I traveled to JoAnn Fabric. I bought 2 yards of grey polyester felt ($8 per yard) and 1 yard apiece of beautiful wool felt ($15/yard) in red, green, and ivory (so that each year we can do the handprints on a contrasting color of felt). I bought glue and craft paint and a pair of pinking shears.

I picked out a satiny twisted trim in crimson red. I stood there and thought to myself, "How much trim do I need? If the tree skirt is a 60" diameter circle... what is it? πr2? No, that's way too much. 2πr? Yeah!" I double-check when I get to the lady at the cutting desk. "What's the formula for the circumference of a circle? Is it 2πr?" The lady says, "I just multiply the radius by 4 and add a little when I have to do that," and I think to myself, "Jesus, no wonder there are so many accidents on the highway."

So at the cash register it is not lost on me that the semi-cool tree skirt I saw at Crate & Barrel was $80, and I am paying $90 for supplies to make my own. It was the pinking shears that did it.

I begin. I fold the grey felt in quarters, then 8ths to make a wedge shape. I trim it so as to have the largest possible circle. I cut out a smaller circle for the tree to go in the middle, and a cut from the edge to the middle.

cut the square of felt into a circle

I set up the kitchen for handprints. Newspaper on the kitchen table, paint mixed on a plastic plate. Ivory and a little gold, for a swirly effect. I lay out that expensive red felt. I think to myself, "Try not to kill anyone if the paint spills or if they smear the paint or... whatever, just TRY not to murder anyone." We make handprints without incident. Oddly, Mr. Four and Big Man have virtually the same size hands, even though they are almost 2 years apart.

make handprints on the red felt

I decided on ivory paint on red felt because red paint on ivory felt would look like a bloody hand, but now that I'm looking at this, all I can think of is the Uruk-Hai. Oh well.

I start gluing down the trim. Rather than mark out a border that is consistently 2" from the edge, I use my thumb. This works pretty well.

glue on the trim

Until I run out of trim.

I am devastated. I was so proud of myself for remembering high school geometry, and I fucked it up anyway. I didn't make a circle of 60" in diameter, I made one with a 72" diameter. DUMB. DUMB! I am shy about a yard of trim.

So. I go back to JoAnn Fabric to get some more. I go to the JoAnn that has all my life been on the highway near my mother's house. It closed last year. I go to the JoAnn that is near where we live. They have the twisted satin trim in every color but crimson. I go to the JoAnn that is comparatively far from where we live. They, too, are out of red twisted satin trim.

One Friday afternoon, I load Mr. Four in the van and pick up Big Man and our friend Nature Girl from school. "We're going on a road trip, guys!" I chirp, and then proceed to drive ONE HOUR north to get to the JoAnn Fabrics that is in fact hell and fucking GONE from where we live. Luckily, they had the red trim. I had to restrain myself from buying the whole spool, just to fuck over some other desperate overachieving underestimating Christmas crafter. But the spirit of the season was upon me, so, loaded down with $2 worth of stupid trim, I bought the kids gummy bears and we headed back to the ranch.

May I say? JoAnn Fabric is, in general, an ok place to buy craft and sewing supplies. There are cheap remnants of fun fabrics to buy as dress-ups for the kids, there are bolts of crazy tulle and strings of sequins to look at with your kids. Granted, it takes a little patience for a four-year-old to hang in there while you're waiting in line to get your fabric measured and cut, or to not destroy the world while mommy ponders which of 14 shades of green embroidery floss would best represent the oak tree foliage in the background of yet another cousin's baby blanket, but there is frankly no need for the gauntlet of candy that you have to run in order to get to the cash register. Really, they can keep it together that far, but once they see the candy, it suddenly occurs to them how OPPRESSED they have been throughout the store, and they suddenly realize that mommy's buying all stuff FOR HER and they are getting NOTHING, and they suddenly must have a solid-sugar pacifier or else they WILL DIE.

vinyl tablecover 'cause the glue goes right through the felt

Back home, I finish gluing on the trim. This time, I cleverly put a vinyl table cover between the felt and the table - previously, I had not realized that felt is porous enough for the glue to go right through, and I had glued the tree skirt to the tablecloth slightly.

I have enough trim left for a border around the inside hole too, which looks good. I cut out the handprints and glued them to the tree skirt too. This is the point at which I glued my hair into the project. Goddamn hair.

glue the handprints to the grey felt

Almost done! Except for the JoAnn Fabric fiasco, this project didn't take long AT ALL. If I'd been at it all at once, a couple hours max.

I dug out some cotton embroidery floss and a needle to embroider each of our initials on our handprints.


Grandma's sprigged border stitch on my handprint

That green floss sure looks great against the red felt. Maybe I should embroider a border around each of the hands. AWWW, NAW! DON'T DO IT! The killer is hiding under the stairs - don't go down there!

Too late. I blew it. I have spent the past week and a half embroidering borders. I decided to do four different stitches, because, if you're going to fuck yourself, you might as well do it hard. Wait. That's - errrr.

Anyway. I pulled out my embroidery stitch book and found a couple good stitches, one of which apparently can only be done in a straight line.

closed feather stitch in the book
Closed feather stitch in the book.

closed feather stitch in practice
Closed feather stitch on the tree skirt.

You know what I'm going to say in the future about this part? I'm going to say that Big Man did it. Seriously. I'm going to say, "He was only six! Didn't he do a great job? For six?" Yes, that's right. I'm going to lie. If I say it often enough he will believe it himself.

Grandma's sprigged border stitch

The stitch I really liked, though - a nice sprigged stitch my Grandma used between the blocks of the wool lap blankets she stitched together out of the leftovers from making clothes for my mom and my aunt - wasn't in the book. I examined it closely and duplicated it. That was a nice little moment. Grandma's stitches were so even - she was obviously a machine when it came to these things. I have three of those lap blankets, and each one must have eighty feet of embroidery on it.

Xmas tree skirt FTW!

Tonight, I finished the motherfucker. Looks nice. My fingers hurt. FTW.