Meet Train Boy and Flower Girl. They are handmade.
Handmade is these dolls, sewn frantically during the time when I was supposed to be packing up my sewing things to move in just a few days, while my two year old boy sat on my lap attempting to 'help' by sticking straight pins into the fabric as I raced it through the machine, causing my arm to jiggle every 1.5 seconds so that every seam appears to have been sewn by someone suffering whole body tics.
(Handmade is a run on sentence, trying to capture every since nuance of a situation, telling a whole story, even if you have to pause for breath three times while saying it.)
Handmade is using what is available, which here means a dozen squares pulled from the neatly piled stacks, cut and organized, for quilts that I am never going to make. My regular fabric was already packed and since both children frequently like to go through the patchwork squares to pick out their favorite fabrics it was easy to justify the raid. But still, despite their earlier pawings, when it came time to decide what colour the body should be, there is a half an hour pause for angst ridden decision making, finally ending when I agree to do a two fabric body, to allow for a skirt that matches Smootch's tiered green one that she still wears three and a half years past it's construction (yes, it's getting pretty short).
The faces are drawn in with Sharpie, an aesthetically revolting concept, but insisted upon by Birdie who couldn't wait for a stitched face to be done in that mystical time I call 'later' (he's old enough now to not fall for that one anymore). Faceless dolls are highly disturbing to Birdie. So we do what we can right now.
Handmade is following through, even when we know it's not perfect. As a result of my frenzied pace, and the fact that instead of enlarging the lovely pattern provided by Emily Martin of The Black Apple as it was intended but Smootch insisting her doll be exactly the size it was on the paper when it printed, these dolls, are badly constructed. Really terrible. When I actually had a moment to truly look at what I was sewing, note that the leg on Train Boy didn't make it all the way into the body seam, the oddly textured head from my poor hand sewn ladder stitches to close the top, the over stuffed arms and under stuffed body, my only thought was, 'Crap! And I'm supposed to be a professional!'
Handmade is realizing that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is recognizing the substance in the object. My kids love these dolls. Birdie doesn't care that Train Boy's arms are upside down (omg, bad, right?!), because he likes that the hair is orange, just like he chose to match his own (don't try to figure out toddler logic). And there are trains on the body, a fabric brought to us by a dear friend, who picked it up at a garage sale because she knows how much Birdie adores them. Plus the legs are of the same fabric as his idolized sister's doll, a small connection to his hero, but real enough to make him feel close to her all the same. And he sat on mama's lap during it's creation, choosing fabrics, helping with his own two hands (pinning - ouch!), and giving the doll life by insisting it have eyes, mouth, and, donotforgetmama, nose.
For Smootch, who loves dolls and has been asking for a pioneer-esque rag doll for a month and a half now, well, turns out she was right about the smallish size of the dolls. They are exactly the right size to haul around by their legs or heads. They make great companions, big enough for play, small enough to fit in a pocket (if you don't mind eyes peeking out to see the world). Thank you, mama, for finally making me a doll!
Handmade is love materialized. Smootch has the articulation and acumen to tell me straight out that if she had to draw a picture of 'love' that she would have to draw a picture of an imperfectly sewn doll, made from patchwork squares intended for a quilt that will never be made, on a Sunday morning when there were other things we were supposed to be doing.
Handmade says we are here, now, and we love each other.
Today, as I finally packed up the sewing machine, I fought my urge to redeem myself with another go to make a properly sewn doll. Maybe one where the arms point the right way. But, knowing that my children are as happy with the badly sewn ones, it wasn't too hard to put my redemption on pause while I tend to other things. Next week or next month, maybe I'll get another shot at these Black Apple dolls. Or maybe we will be on to something new that I will get a chance to screw up with my clumsy hands while Birdie sticks pins into them.
I can only hope.