Monday, March 3, 2014

Making a Sock Monkey Will Make Your Life A Living Hell

Last weekend, John and I went over to Joe and Jodi's to watch Six Nations rugby with a few friends. Rob brought over his three kids (ages 3, 5, and 7), and luckily enough, John and I went prepared with craft kits to keep them entertained while the grown-ups watched the game. Brilliant idea, right? Wrong. Naively, I hadn't realized that the kits required not just adult supervision, but total adult involvement - as they always do. Which meant that far from being sprawled out on the sofa, Jodi, Kirsty, and I were left to demystify instructions on how to make bouncy balls, a felt owl key chain, and a sock monkey.

I felt totally responsible for this unfortunate assumption that the kits would be mildly age appropriate (they were, but just needed a lot of hands-on help!) so I helped the oldest with sock monkey construction. First of all, HAVE YOU EVER MADE ONE OF THESE THINGS? THEY ARE NOT SIMPLE. THERE IS NOTHING EASY OR SIMPLE ABOUT MAKING A SOCK MONKEY. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST INVOLVED CRAFT PROJECTS I HAVE EVER UNDERTAKEN.

Meanwhile, I had a bored 7-year-old on my hands who, thank goodness, patiently waited as I frantically and sloppily hand-stitched arms, ears, legs, and a tail for her to stuff with poly-fill fiber. Long after the game had ended and the 5-year-old had burst into tears because she wanted to get home, I was still sewing like a madwoman/child laborer because the 7-year-old begged me to sew the mouth on before she left. Finally finished, and with a contact nearly dangling out my eye, I hunted down the girl (who was now playing a game of hide-and-seek behind the couch) and handed her the far from satisfactory sock monkey, which she grabbed immediately from my hands with delight. It looked awful, but passable. The stitches were totally exposed in the seams and some over-zealous stuffing had caused some of the poly-fill to bulge out of the sides.

As a child, I was always a crafty kid. My mom bought every craft kit under the sun to keep me entertained through long summers and winter breaks. When my friends came over, we made sequined headbands and friendship bracelets. We played with iron-on transfers on t-shirts (with my mom's help, of course) and made lanyards out of beads and that weird plastic-y material I can't even describe. As I grew older, my craft kits got stored under the bed but I was still heavily involved with art - painting with acrylics and watercolors all throughout high school and winning a few contests here and there.

As an adult? I hadn't touched a craft kit until that afternoon. But the whole time I was on the train back to London, I couldn't help but think, 'Could I make a better sock monkey than the one I helped produce that afternoon?' I'm a pretty competitive person - and a perfectionist. The combination of these two things meant one thing: I had to make a sock monkey. A good one.

So I decided to make one for my baby niece (when she's a bit older, of course!). And let me just preface this by saying that there are not nearly as many craft stores in the UK (read: one) as there are in the US. In the States, we tend to craft like it's our main source of leisurely activity. I can count 3 craft stores within a 2 mile radius of my Washington home already.

But this didn't stop me. First, I went to the Hobbycraft website and bought a bunch of stuff: poly-fill, buttons (for eyes), felt (for the face), and thread in every color. Next, I went to the Gap and chose some socks (3 for £10) in fun colors. Then I went to YouTube and found this video, which has the clearest instructions and the best tips ever. And after a few days of spreading out the work, I ended up with the sock monkey in the photo above. It's not bad, but it's not exactly professional either: a closer look and you'll see exposed thread in the seams, uneven stuffing, and the fact that the stripes don't match up on the arms.

But as time-consuming as it was (I also think I broke my back, ankles, and eyes in the process, as I was bent over in the worst light and most awkward positions imaginable), it was also a really fun project to make. And I have to admit, I was kind of proud of the finished product.

Even my parents seemed impressed. I showed it to my dad yesterday on FaceTime and we had a conversation that went like this:

"Dad, want to see the sock monkey I made?"

"Wow, that's neat! Hey, if you have time, make me one too."

"Yeah! I want to! What color do you want?" I held up two pairs of socks to the camera.

"Oh, definitely the darker one. That way, it won't get dirty."

"What? Where are you planning to take this sock monkey, Dad?"

"Oh, well, I don't know! To work, to the grocery store ... everywhere!"

So there's Dad's monkey on the right, in progress, and Dorothy Rose's on the left. I think that they could be good friends, don't you?

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