I’ve just been looking through a Kath Kidson “make and sew” booklet free with the Sunday Telegraph. It features pretty appliqued things and hand-made things and tells you how to make your own peg bag and embroidery your own bedsocks with little tiny parrots. Well they looked a bit like parrots but could have been budgies or large water fleas.
It made me think about what I’ll do with my time when I do have time. Specifically, it made me think that I’d rather stick knitting needles into my own eyes that cut out a Kath Kidson template of a flower and make my own peg bag.
A peg bag?? I ask you. Pegbags are for wussies. Peg bags were among the first things we made at during sewing lessons at school. If you’re eleven it might be exciting to make a peg bag, if you’ve led a very sheltered life incarcerated in a cellar. I thought it was boring, even then. When you’ve got kids grown up and earning far more than you, it’s a totally ridiculous concept.
Surely we worldly women should be pushing ourselves, pushing the boundaries of our knowledge and experience, not sewing bleedin’ Kath Kidson pegbags. We should be out there doing stuff in the fresh air, planning cycling adventures, strenuous hikes, watery flounderings and in the dark evenings of winter, writing, painting, doing sewing yes but imaginative sewing – sewing from the heart, creating those amazing intricate machine embroideries with gold threads, glittery bits, and sumptious velvets.
There’s so much out there to stretch the skills, use the imagination, create truly individual pieces of art that to copy a peg bag from the S Telegraph booklet seems little more than crass.
Why bother with a peg bag when there is jewellery to be designed, mosaics to be made, wood carving to be attempted, sculptures to be fashioned with bare hands out of clammy cold clay, paintings to be daubed, bold, expressive, impressionistic or botanical drawings to be done where the beauty is in the accuracy and precision?
Creating the kind of stuff that an eleven year old is forced to turn out in school seems a terrible waste of life.
There was an era, when both my kids were young, that I had time for creative pursuits other than writing – although I did write a childrens’ book with a friend. In between breast-feeding and walking the dog and attempting some housework – albeit minimal – I’d sit and sketch the sleeping baby, his little fists curled, the adorable tiny, plump feet with those tiny toenails, pink, new and perfect, the face in profile, the soft ear and the downy hair.
It sounds twee and a bit naff to say it, but it was a lovely thing, to have the time to appreciate the wonder of these new beings. ‘Course I felt a lot differently knackered at 1.30am rocking a bawling baby with unspecified abdominal discomfort but the quiet times were some compensation.
I did do some sewing, back then – all connected with the sproglets – cot quilt covers with appliqued ducks to match the nice Sanderson goose and duck curtains, which I also made.
And as the boys grew, there were birthday cakes to make. I was in very early on the whole cake decorating thing and it was a struggle to source gum tragacanth, liquid glucose and various other ingredients that enabled some quite fancy cake decorating with run-outs and trellising. Gum tragacanth had to come by post and liquid glucose had to be fetched from Boots pharmacy for some unknown reason.
So the first birthday cake for son no 2 was covered in home-made sugar-paste with a frieze of run-out dancing yellow teddy-bears around the outside. Terribly fiddly but kind of worth it. Son no 2 was too young to appreciate it but there were always specific requests for birthday cakes as he got older.
The Madball cake was among the most fun to make. Mad balls were gory things – the sort of ball that you can imagine a young Christopher Lee lobbing into some girl’s bedroom to make her scream. They were like a spherical House of Horrors with blood, open wounds, stitches and gore. I had free rein to be as tasteless asI liked. Son no 2 was properly delighted with the result.
The one that was most tricky was the space rocket cake. I created a two foot phallus of grey buttercream icing pointing skywards on a big silver board. Yes I know. Grey seem very appropriate to me either, but it’s difficult to do edible silver in vast quantities.
So once the phallus was raised… ok to be perfectly honest it was leaning at a similar angle to the Tower of Pisa – it was a question of adorning it to look more like a space rocket than something from the ‘private’ shop. Silver dragees were the answer. I assumed the NASA engineers built rockets using masses of huge, rounded, silver rivets but it’s possible I was getting mixed up with Fireball XL5. Unfortunately they just gave the rocket a bling-infested Goth look.
I decided a nosecone would make it look more authentic. Blue and grey usually go together ok but Capt Sensible was perturbed by the blue, which in his view was more purple than blue.
“What the policeman?” splutted Capt Sensible. “You can’t show that to a load of six-year-olds – and definitely not to the parents!”
I changed the nosecone for a black one but it just looked even more dodgy. I only just managed to make it presentable with the judicious placement of some Lego astronauts, one of whom was stuck on the side of the rocket (doing a repair, I thought) with an arm stuck out clutching something that, in the eternal void that is space, could have been a spanner.
I need not have worried too much. At that age all kids want to do is destroy and eat.
As Confucius said “Better to have dodgy leaning rocket cake than perfect peg bag.”