Martha Stewart would have been disgusted.
It took me six trips to a fabric store, five trips to a craft store and two trips to a big-box retailer to make two simple children's costumes and a few basic Halloween decorations.
I had foolishly volunteered to make some of the projects for this week's Halloween cover. They looked so simple on paper.
But there was much complaining during the actual crafting. Not to mention a second-degree hot-glue gun burn on my left index finger. I had a some creative ideas of what Martha could do with her crafty magazine and supplies.
Thankfully, my mother was visiting from Texas during this ordeal. She used to sew clothes for us when we were young — without ever using a store-bought pattern. Needless to say, I did not inherit her DIY DNA. She "helped" with the actual sewing on the machine I so enthusiastically bought years ago but pull out only during her visits.
I can't appreciate why it is better to spend hours making a costume, when Walmart has rows of them for $10 a pop.
This is not say I haven't tried to nurture my inner domestic goddess. I paid — yes, PAID, for several weeks of sewing lessons. I forked over money to learn how to do alterations that a nearby tailor is able to complete in a tenth of the time with much more professional looking results. I should have saved my money. The tailor knows me by name.
I have a theory on Martha disciples. They are good at following precise directions. They have the patience to complete step A before jumping to steps B, C, and D. I prefer a more free-spirited approach to do-it-yourself projects. When I cook, I improvise. I don't like long prep work or exact measurements. I look for shortcuts.
That probably explains why I'm a terrible baker and lousy seamstress.
What is it that drives women, who are already overworked and overcommitted, to spray paint their own gourds to make ghostly creatures to hang from the porch? Are we trying to reclaim the domesticity we traded long ago for careers and nonstop overscheduled child-rearing? Are we seeking redemption through scrapbooks and glitter glue?
I may not be able to keep our house spotless, but by God, I made that the pot-bellied green witch out of a skein of yarn and oddly shaped gourd.
A funny thing happened during my foray into DIY holiday crafting. My husband, who is the least crafts-oriented man I've ever met, got roped into helping me and my mom. He spent an hour fashioning a witch's hat out of newspaper, which he intended to paint black, for our daughter's costume. It was so flimsy, and her head barely fit through the hole.
I bought a child's witch's hat from Target for $1.
Undaunted, he also carved the jack-o'-lantern and helped assemble the stacked pumpkin man. They turned out pretty good. Maybe not up to Martha standards but good enough to display in front of our neighbors.
Rather than see my own domestic failures in my kid's homemade costumes, I see my mom's willingness to spend a day of her vacation making sure her grandkids' costumes are not a hot mess. When the jack-o'-lanterns my husband carved greet me as I pull into the driveway, I am reminded that I married quite well.
I guess it's possible to get burned — and warmed — by these sneaky DIY crafts.
(Aisha Sultan is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(c) 2009, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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