Flashback: What my childhood summer looked like (and how to make skirts for stuffed animals)

When I was Julian’s age, I lived with my mom in Los Angeles during the school year and with my dad and stepmom on the central coast of California during vacations, including the full length of summer. (When I hit about 12, I became more interested in my friends than my dad and his small town, and I stopped spending my summers there.) My dad and stepmom were schoolteachers so it worked out well. They barely worked during the summer, and my cousin Xan would come along with me to spend a few weeks there. My half brother and sister were not yet born, and Xan and I were only children who looked to each other for sisterhood.

Note: Here I refer to my dad and my stepmom as “my parents”, so just go with it. That’s how I talk in real life as well, also referring to my mom and my now-stepdad as “my parents”. It’s not that confusing. Really.

My dad and my stepmom did teach summer school however, so they were out of the house for a few hours every morning. Xan and I were probably 7 and 8 and we’d hang out at home alone, making only a small amount of trouble for my parents to clean up upon their return. Or so we perceived. My stepmom would leave us a list of instructions: a few chores and specifics about what to eat for a snack.

I am on the left; Xan is on the right. We are both wearing rad shoelaces. Take note.

We would make perfume out of mashed up flower petals, water and food coloring. (Why would you want colored perfume? Ask a 7 year old.)

We’d hang sheets over chairs to make a fort and hide in there while playing with a Lite Brite.

We’d cut up fabric scraps and make clothing for stuffed animals, always with the intent of producing a wedding between two of the plush lovers.

When my parents returned, we’d play Crazy Eights or go swim at the lake. The days are a blur of memories to me, all good.

When Julian had his friend Maia over recently and they set about making clothes for their beloved Webkinz, I handed over a whole bunch of fabric and showed them a couple of techniques. It took me right back to my summers at my dad’s house, planning weddings between Snoopy and Monchichi.

Here’s one very simple technique you can use to dress up a stuffy, a style that I think is especially charming on an elephant or hippo. No sewing is required. Cut a bagel-shaped piece of fabric and use it as a skirt. Because the stuffed animals are squishy around the middle, keep the inner circle small. Knit fabrics work well because they are stretchy. The swatch above is from the sleeve of an old long-sleeved tshirt of Scarlett’s.  As with all of my sewing projects, perfection is unimportant.

This post is part of a series sponsored by Hallmark as part of their Life is a Special Occasion campaign.