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There is a reason my mother always did her sewing at night, after we were all in bed. I always knew she enjoyed those quiet, uninterrupted hours, but it used to baffle me a bit when she complained that there wasn’t enough light – why not do the sensible thing and sew in the daylight??

I finally brought out my sewing machine this week. That is, I brought out the one my grandmother gave me when she moved, replacing the one I left behind in England.

Bella has decided the only thing worth wearing to bed is a nightgown. She has exactly one nightgown, which she calls a night dress at bedtime and a morning dress when she wakes up so that she can keep wearing it until I eventually deem some activity as requiring day clothes and she goes to change (probably into a fascinating combination of colours).

So after weeks of promises, I brought out some flannel, found some thread, scissors, a pattern, set up the machine and set about making her a night dress. And then I thought perhaps I could squeeze two dresses out of the fabric and make one for Joy while I was at it.

We made quite a scene around the table. Bella was very helpful pinning things together. I only found three pins on the floor when all was done, which wasn’t bad considering how many she’d used to outline a dress for her toy cat out of scraps. Joy’s new favorite activity is cutting things with scissors. And after two weeks of ‘scissors are for paper only’ and a snip in the front of her shirt, I lost my mind and handed her some scraps to cut up. Light began to dawn as she reached for one of the pieces I’d just cut and we had a round of ‘Joy’s, Mummy’s, no.’ Which seemed to do the trick.

The high point of the morning was probably when I managed to get two pairs of sleeves out of the remaining fabric and felt rather chuffed with myself, only to realize two minutes later that although I’d cut sleeves for two dresses, I had missed the second halves of the dresses themselves. Two sleeves for half a dress each. Poor Bella, I had to cut hers down to complete one dress for Joy, and her sleeves are still waiting for replacement flannel.

The low point of the day occurred somewhere between the ironing board and the last hem. I was walking quickly across the room to pick something up and Bella was laying on the floor draped in purple fabric pretending to be a mermaid. Just as I stepped over her she made a sudden move and I stepped down square onto her ankle. She screamed, I screamed, I tried not to fall on top of her as I lost my balance trying to remove my weight from her leg. I cringed at the thought of the unforgiving tile floor under her and was sure I’d broken something.

I scooped her up amid a stricken Joy, in tears at the sudden noise and confusion. Propped her up on the couch, examined her ankle and ran upstairs for frozen peas, praying there was no lasting damage. Thankfully after half an hour of languishing in front of a movie she got up and walked without any difficulty. There isn’t even a bruise.

To cut a long, tedious story short, this is what I learned that day:

  1. Sewing involves scissors, pins, blades, needles, irons and other dangerous things which children are drawn to touch.
  2. You will spend more time fending off little helping hands from pushing the reverse button on the sewing machine than it will take to do the actual sewing.
  3. Having a separate table for the children to ‘sew’ on would be helpful for distinguishing the fabric in use and the scraps they may cut at will.
  4. Everything takes longer when little people are involved. Much longer.
  5. Involving said little people is a marvelous thing, and lets them show Daddy what they helped to make at the end of the day.
  6. Those quiet hours at night, when the daylight has faded and all the little helpers are dreaming peacefully are precious for both completing projects, and Mum’s sanity.

Joy wore her new nightgown to bed that night and I sighed when she woke up with cold feet. At 18 months old, she does not keep her covers on and at this time of the year should only be put to bed in warm pajamas with feet.

Poor Bella. But we’ve since visited my mom and came home with a piece of yellow flannel. Maybe we’ll try again tomorrow.