Whose smart idea was it to include making sock monsters as an option in the summer activity box, eh?
Making sock monsters, sock monkeys, sock elephants and sock bunnies is probably super-duper easy for people who are competent at sewing. My sewing qualifications are that I can take up hems with neat little hand stitches and can replace buttons neatly. All other sewing jobs I have to do I do totally cack-handedly. I can only hand sew since I don’t even know how to thread a machine and I find it endlessly frustrating and exceedingly difficult. Sewing on Scout badges makes me grit my teeth, grimace and occasionally swear. I have a box in my bedroom that the kids call the toy hospital. In it they place any cuddly toy that needs a repair. The toy hospital has been overflowing for several months. I procrastinate over any sewing job that is non-urgent because I find sewing to be so trying. I have made sock monkeys, a sock elephant and sock monsters for my kids and those really were labours of love.
Knowing how much they love their handmade sock toys, I must have thought it would be a great idea to add that as an activity for the summer. I also thought it would be to their benefit to learn a couple of basic stitches and how to sew on buttons. Life skills.
The boys were excited at the prospect of making their own toys and trying something entirely new. They ran off to gather their chosen socks and then we settled down to start sewing. Do you know how much patience I have for threading needles? Very little. Want to guess how much patience I have for threading four needles? Zero. My ten year old chose a fluffy slipper sock which provided an extra degree of challenge since the embroidery thread kept snaggling up in all the piled fluff of the sock. I think I rethreaded his needle three times just for stitching the mouth. The boys had found stitching the mouths to be frustrating but they persevered and did it. It was useful that we were making monsters since it did not matter that the lines of the mouths were asymmetrical or otherwise wonky. Monsters are perfectly imperfect, right?
They enjoyed rummaging through my collection of random buttons to pick out eyeballs for their monsters. I have my Gran’s button tin since I spent many happy hours rummaging through them and playing with them. I think it might be a universal kid thing to find boxes of buttons appealing. Sadly very few of my buttons have any personal history. A few have been snipped from old garments but most came from a car boot sale to be deployed in craft activities and educational games I used to play with my kids when they were preschoolers. Eyeballs selected, the boys then sewed them on. To begin with they found aiming for the button holes to be difficult but then they got the hang of it and I could see they were experiencing a sense of accomplishment.
Then it was time to sew the legs up, having turned the monsters’ sock skins inside out, and the boys got to practice a different type of stitching. This they found to be much more enjoyable since, being on the inside, the neatness of the stitching did not matter. We left a gap between the legs – which my boys predictably called a “bum hole” – so we then turned the monsters right way around again. Then it was time for stuffing and they decided for themselves how plump or squashy they wanted their monsters to be. Then all that was left to do was sew up the “bum holes” and the monsters were complete.
I thought the whole activity had been a bit of an ordeal. I had been constantly rethreading needles. My oldest son had complained about me licking the thread to assist it in going through the eye of the needle so I had to contend with his germ phobia. Then there were all the snaggled stitches, the breaking threads, and the pricked fingers to deal with. They also started whining about how long this particular activity was taking. Oh well, I thought, they can’t all be winners. But, wouldn’t you know it, one of my kids had covertly been enjoying the activity all along, despite his outward protestations. The next day, he asked me if he could use another sock and make another monster. I was busy at the time but told him sure he could so long as he was prepared to do all of the sewing, though I would thread the needle for him. And so my 9 year old sat and sewed himself a sock monster with barely any guidance or assistance from me. So skills had been learned after all. The sewing ordeal had all been worth it.