Category Archives: Halloween

The Ghost of a Ladybug

I have a secret confession to make. Its a Bad one, so brace yourself.

I own a sewing machine.


Yeah yeah, it doesn’t sound so awful, does it?  At least until I let you in on my other secret confession:   I can’t sew.  Oh sure, I can make simple things, like pillows and blankets.  Things that are square, with straight lines.  I’ve even successfully hemmed pants.

I am fascinated with the idea of making my own clothing.  I have been ever since I was a little girl.  Not knowing what I was doing, I attempted to construct outfits for my teddy bears and barbie dolls, using scraps of fabric and elmer’s glue.  The resulting misshapen, stiff garment-alikes were never used for long before they were discarded.

Disaster struck the day I inherited my mother-in-law’s unused sewing machine, along with a box of thread in every color, buttons, even a repair kit.  But the machine never worked right, either due to mechanical flaw or my own failing in setting it up properly.  I blamed my inability to make anything on the way it would bunch up the fabric and ruin my projects before they even got started.

Then I bought a new sewing machine, and actually took the time to learn to use it.   I no longer had an excuse.  Nope, I just can’t sew.

I still like to pretend I can sew.  I’m smart, I can figure it out, right?  I look at fabric and I see so much delicious potential.  Its why I have four piles of fabric, with matching thread, buttons, and other “notions*” sitting in my craft pile.  I look at them and can still picture in my head the skirts and shirts they might one day be.  I can picture some of the steps required to construct them.  Not all, but some.

It might help if I could follow a pattern.  I tried once. I got an entire pair of pants traced and halfway cut out.  I even got so far as sewing together the pocket.   Now, seven years later, I still own a pile of pieces of pre-pant, and one very nice pocket.

Despite knowing full well that I cannot sew, I still somehow seem to think that I can.  I think it is a form of madness, brought on by the smell of fresh fabrics, the tactile excitement of running my fingers over soft cottons.   “I can totally do this,” is the lie I tell myself, followed quickly with “…and I’m totally gonna this time.”   As though it is only loss of steam that stalls my sewing, instead of the truth, that I just don’t know what I’m doing and I give up when it is obvious that I have ruined something beyond my ability to repair.  I don’t even know how to use a seam ripper properly!

My delusions of grandeur lead me to believe that I can make not only simple items, but complicated, involved projects like a halloween costume.  So one year, I was determined to make myself a ladybug costume.  Complete with a second set of jointed arms that moved along with my real arms.  It would look SO COOL!  My mental image made it look pretty awesome, at least.  The fact that I had no idea how to make one was no concern, I’d figure it out as I went along, like I always do.  I made a few sketches that were extremely rough, but already showing that I had no idea what I was doing.  I ignored that fact, and proceeded to Goodwill to buy some supplies, and then to the fabric store for more.

I got as far as doing some passable shirt Mad Science, grafting the shoulders and arms from one shirt onto another.  Some foam tubes provided the stiffness for the arms, and a pair of blown-up Nitrile gloves stuffed into a pair of gloves would be passable for a second set of hands.  Lacking anything better, I used some thread to attach it to my arm at the appropriate points.

At this point, it was looking pretty good.  I decided to make a mock-up of my idea for the vest and beetle shell.  And then.. it gets a little fuzzy in memory.  The Madness had overtaken me, which is never a good sign.  I can’t recall exactly what happened, but I do remember the aftermath, of realizing that I had no idea how to make a vest.   It took about three  years for me to give up on this idea, though I never revisited it.  I did eventually manage to let it go enough that I could throw away the evidence of my failure.

Maybe I’ll sign up for a sewing class.

* Notions are one of those things I absolutely LOATHE about sewing, and one reason why I won’t follow a pattern.  I just unreasonably hate the term.  It sounds so stupid.  Notions are the crazy schemes in my head, not an actual real thing that I need to buy!  I actually don’t know what it means, but I dislike it anyways.

Hallo, Weenie.

Tonight’s unbearably strong impulse is to carve a pumpkin.

Fortunately, I possess no pumpkins.  Cleanup is the bane of my existence, requiring far too much follow through to hold my interest.  Late at night, it would have doubtless been forgotten.  I would have wandered off, full of the smug satisfaction of a masterpiece completed, and leaving in my wake a gory mess of pumpkin guts, smeared across the tools and table to dry into a hard semi-permanent crust.  Pumpkin chunks intended to become pie would desiccate on the table into a shanty town for my fruit fly population, seeds left in a bowl on the counter never to be roasted.

Despite knowing the likely outcome, It was all I could do to resist taking off at 10PM on a gourd-finding expedition.  I was secretly hoping for an All Hallows Eve miracle.  A horrible accident involving a pumpkin truck outside my door, or the pumpkin fairy magically manifesting in my kitchen and turning my common every day boring food items into carvable cucurbits.  I even posted to facebook that someone should fetch me a pumpkin, knowing it would never happen but wishing that some intrepid enabler would hear my plea.

Instead of seeking out a pumpkin, I will placate the beast by posting photos of pumpkins from years past.  These are examples of terrible ideas that turned out pretty okay, in the end.

2005 was the year that I decided five pumpkins was a fantastic number of pumpkins to carve.  It started with a week of sketching, to make the perfect pumpkin plan.  I carried a stack of drawings with me everywhere I went; work, dining out, to my parent’s house, and erased and redrew and traced furiously until I had my templates ready.

I can recall, about halfway through the last pumpkin, hand stained orange and cramping from hours of delicate carving with a flimsy blade on an awful plastic handle, thinking that there might be something wrong with me.  But I absolutely could not rest until I had made one carving from each of my chosen templates.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next few years were pretty tame, as far as pumpkin carving goes.   I’d learned my lesson, it seemed, and avoided the Madness.  I carved at my parent’s house so my mom would clean up after me, and stuck to one or two pumpkins only.

Then came 2008.  Somehow my addlepated hampster-mind managed to cling to the idea that five pumpkins all at once was bad.  But purchasing a brand new chisel set from one of my favorite stores, Harbor Freight, in order to carve pumpkins BETTER was a great idea.  Sure, I’d never used a chisel and had no idea how.  But that wasn’t going to stop me.

Fortunately, pumpkins are a very forgiving art form, and near-disaster was averted.