Monday, May 21, 2012

Rags to Riches

This is a rough time of year around our house.  Coach and I end our semesters in such a frenzy, I feel like the kids’ school years kind of fizzle without notice.  Somewhere amidst the piles of papers and dirty laundry jut errant notes from school about Water Day, Awards Night, and one very delinquent lunch money fund.  It’s tough to keep up for most of the year; finals week, nearly impossible. 

So, when Little Man asked me to make tote bags for his teachers-- four days before the end of school-- my knee-jerk reaction was “Hmnawwwwwwwwwww…”  You know, that comatose fugue you get when all of your neurons fire at once—like keys on a typewriter.  I started to kindly make my excuse, but his teachers were so great this year, and he looked so excited about it, in the end, I couldn’t refuse.                                                                   

“Okay, Buddy.” I grabbed his spindly shoulders and steered him toward The Stash.  “What fabric should we use?”

"I want this."  He pointed to a brightly-striped curtain panel I thrifted from Goodwill last year. 

Thrift store curtain: before.
Uh… The curtain cost $3, and despite being washed and dried twice, may once have hung in someone's window. 

“Miss Kathy's favorite colors are pink, orange and yellow.  Miss Cheryl's favorite colors are blue, green and yellow.  This one has ALL of those!” 

For a child who can’t decide what to do with his tongue when he spits out his toothpaste, this was a freakish amount of certainty. 

Clearly, this wasn't the vibe I was going for.  I was hoping for something sophisticated and subdued, more Barney’s than Barnum & Bailey.  And, what is the etiquette here?  Thrifting?  Re-gifting?  Still, it was clean, sunny, and of sufficient yardage to eek out two tote bags, complete with custom pockets and handles.  Given my work schedule and time frame, I decided to save the moral debate for another day.


I made Noodlehead's Summer Madras Tote, the same pattern I used for a recent swap.  I wanted to somehow customize the bags, but my silk-screening gear is still packed away in storage. Instead, I used freezer paper to stencil the school crest onto white fabric, and the 6-Minute Circle to frame them out.  

Look at the tiny carving I had to do!

The circles turned out a bit more 'rookie' than I would have liked, but the ladies seemed to like the finished products.  We outfitted each bag with a bundle of gerber daisies and a gift card for the local ice cream shop.  It was a frantic race-to-the-finish, with final grades just due and a pending trip to KC to work the Modern Meet-Up, but Little Man and I finally got to deliver the bags the day after school let out.  (Why make one when two takes three times as long?)   :)

We found his teachers hard at work in their tiny pre-school classroom, miniature desks all pushed aside and prepped for summertime cleaning.  He delivered each bag so carefully, like a nervous Mommy leaving her little one for the very first time.  Then he stopped to study the empty room.

"You come see me next year," Miss Kathy said, leaning down to hug him.  "I'll be right outside my doorway when you're walking down the hall."  He bobbed his blonde head in a nod against her leg.  "Love you," she said to the top of his head, and he switched legs to Miss Cheryl, who hugged him, too.  They thanked us both again and wished us a happy summer as he quietly took my hand and we headed out the door.

He left school that day so much more than two hugs the richer.  The past few years have been a really difficult time for our family.  Like so many people, we've faced unemployment, relocation, and 31 months in my in-laws' basement waiting for our house to sell.  Of all of these hardships, floating the kids from school to school has been the most difficult to bear.  After the amazing year the kids have enjoyed, and the loving welcome by our parish and school, we feel so blessed to have finally settled here.  Re-gift tote bags don't quite seem enough.

As we pulled out of our parking space on the way home, I asked if he was glad the teachers liked his gifts.  

"Yeah," he said softly.  "But, I might still cry a little."

Me too, Buddy.  Me, too.



  1. Seriously Girl, you know how to make someone get all emotional. I think the bags turned out super cute and definately made an impression on the teachers.

    Hard times make you appreciate the little things that you do have and those that you surround yourself with; because at the end of the day it's not WHAT you have, it's WHO you share it with.

  2. awww, you're super mom! These are GREAT. Ashamedly, I did nothing for the girls' teachers.

  3. Lovely story Lynne and the gift bags are the icing on the cake!

  4. Oh and I forgot to say that at first I thought you had a made a fancy Miss Stash Would crest/logo!

  5. lynne, i think you made everyone tear up a bit with that one. way to pull through with such cute bags. i think they're great and i'm sure he appreciated it too :)

  6. Such a sweet boy! I cried a little bit, too, little man. The bags are adorable! I can speak from experience, these are incredible teacher gifts! Such a good mom, you are.

  7. Teary eyed here too! What a sweet story and adorable bags!

  8. Lynne, I love your story, the bags, and your son! How funny that he said he might cry! Did anyone make you a teacher gift?

  9. What perfect gifts for two ladies who were so important to your son. Love and emotion all around. What a great story, it will be with you forever. Thank you for sharing and the best of everything to you and your family.

    Have a super great sewing, stitching, and family day!

  10. What a happy, summery bag. Looks fab.

  11. What a lovely post. Why do we feel bad when it comes to re-using something and calling that a gift? Think of the work and love you put into these gifts that you wouldn't have if you'd just gone to the store and picked up some other factory-made thing. Not to mention that you did such a great job on them.

    Your little one sounds like a real sweetheart. "But I still might cry a little." had me holding back a few of my own.