I put off buying school supplies due to a deadly mix of denial and laziness. When the alarm bells in my head were impossible to ignore, I headed over to Target and picked the supply aisle in the way of all scavengers in the animal kingdom. I did well, missing only a zippered pencil bag. That’s not true. There were zippered pencil bags, but only in pink. We’ve established Mikey’s feelings on the color pink.
There were a few other places I could have shopped, and I’m sure I would have eventually found something, but I decided to try my hand at sewing. A pencil bag. Me. Sewing wasn’t something they taught in law school, but I think it turned out well.
Mikey picked out the fabric, if the sword wielding pirates, sharks, and Jolly Roger didn’t already tip you off. He originally wanted a ridiculous tattoo fabric ala Christian Audigier (denied) and then pointed out a bolt of flaming skulls on a black background (also denied). This third fabric seemed boyish but still suitable for a 6 year-old child, for Pete’s sake.
I used the Back to School Pencil Bag tutorial from Sew Mama Sew and Larissa from Rejoice! Bags. Larissa is my official hand-holder when it comes to sewing projects. She helped me sew Mikey’s saint costume last year, and this year she helped me by walking me through the process from beginning to end. If it wasn’t for her, you know I would have followed the tutorial without deviation. (Rule follower, remember?) She guided to me towards the less expensive and much easier to use flannel and broadcloth lining, and taught me a few short cuts during the project. Don’t ask me what short cuts because I have no idea. I sat there and did what she told me. Period.
It holds a ton. Twenty-five pencils, five glue sticks, and a pair of small scissors with room to spare.
I was pretty proud of myself when I came home Saturday night, and Mikey seemed pleased, especially with the fabric. Had I a little less pride, I would have taken my pencil bag door-to-door and shown it to the neighbors. As it is, I was shameless enough to show it to my in-laws when they came over the next day.
Piping! Sewing circles! Not bad! When Mikey got in the car after school, we started talking about everyone’s new shoes and backpacks and OH WHAT THE HELL, what did your friends think of your pencil bag?
“They thought it was stupid. They didn’t like it.”
Devastation. I almost started crying. I wasn’t upset that Mikey goes to school with a bunch of tasteless cretins. (Ahem.) I was upset because I felt like I set him up for humiliation. My mom, bless her heart, dressed me in proper, timeless clothes throughout elementary school. I wanted to run her over with my banana-seat bike. Would it have killed her to slip me some acid wash? A fluorescent off the shoulder sweatshirt or two? Noooo, I wore linen skirts with cotton blouses and peter pan collars. Sure, I would wear most of those outfits next week if I had them, and occasionally she let me wear more trendy clothes, but that’s not the point. The point is that Julie, Jenny, and Celeste dressed like Madonna from Like a Virgin and had big bangs with asymmetrical bobs. I had a Dorothy Hamill.
I braced myself for my punishment and asked Mikey what his classmates said. Exactly. I might have deposed him.
“Mom, I showed them my pencil bag and told them I picked out the fabric all by myself and then you made this just for me. And they looked at it, but they didn’t say anything. They just looked at it and said…nothing.”
Well, not to split hairs, but saying nothing is a heck of a lot different than saying, “I don’t like your pencil bag; it’s stupid.” I told Mikey it’s possible they didn’t say anything because they didn’t know moms could make pencil bags. When I first told him I was making his pencil bag, he looked at me like I sprouted a second nose. It’s possible his classmates couldn’t wrap their head around what Mikey was talking about, right? It’s also possible they liked it and maybe were a little jealous. Mikey mentioned that most of the class had nylon bags in red, blue, black, or pink. Sounds pretty boring next to sharks and pirates.
And, yes, it’s possible they thought it sucked. 🙁
In the end, I told Mikey I was pretty sure his classmates liked his pencil bag, but if he felt uncomfortable, I would go and buy him something at the store. I also offered to make him something in a solid, maybe not so flashy. He thought about it for a minute and asked if I would be willing to change something on the pencil bag. I said maybe, even though I didn’t know how I would manage it.
“It’s the zipper, mom. Everybody has pencil bags with black zippers, and I don’t want to be like everybody else. That’s boring.”
Were I better at sewing, I would insert a flame-red zipper and scream victory from a mountain top. But I’m not, so the black zipper stays. Next year, though, Project Unboring Pencil Case is on, provided (1) Mikey isn’t saying all this to make me feel better and (2) an Unboring Pencil Bag doesn’t get him tossed in a trashcan by bullies.