I wanted to share a story with you. It’s about a group of remarkable teenagers and this amazing crafting project they undertook this Christmas. Definitely not the usual kind of story you read about teens these days. Something heartwarming to think about next time you hear someone talk about the problems with today’s teenagers. And inspiring. And pretty darn cool.
Last November as the weather got colder, my daughter and a few friends were starting to feel excited about Christmas and talked about organizing a little gift exchange. In a burst of Christmas spirit, they decided they would make each other gifts. Now, I thought this was a great idea when I heard about it, being a big fan of making things yourself, and I pictured them creating fun little things for each other, “little” being the operative word here. Like beaded bracelets. Or maybe painted t-shirts. Or home baked cookies. Easy things.
But no, not these girls. Raised in a world where you can google anything imaginable and find a Youtube video on how to do just about everything, these kids don’t have the same sense of limitations we grew up with. They think big. So they decided they would make things like a quilt. And a Harry Potter Weasley sweater. And shoes (seriously, they wanted to make shoes). Being a typically protective mother who wants to save her kids from the disappointment of failure, the conversations at home went something like this:
Her: We’re going to make a quilt for Winnie.
Me: A quilt??
Her: Yup. A quilt.
Me: You realize that quilting is a thing you learn. Over years. From quilting mentors, like the pioneers did.
Her: We’ll be fine. Becca is YouTubing it and she’s gonna teach us over Skype.
Me: But quilting is hard! Really hard!
Her: And we’re knitting a Weasley sweater for Meghan. Monogrammed.
Me: A sweater?? Not something easy like a hair band? Does anyone knit?
Her: Nope. We’re all knitting different parts. And combining them at the end.
Me: What?!? Knitting doesn’t work like that. There’s tension, and patterns, and dye lots, and all the parts will turn out a different size.
Her: Mum, you’re so negative.
And I realized she was right. So I decided to swallow my misgivings and be positive. Not easy when you have been brought up to always expect and prepare for life’s inevitable problems. But I figured these girls would just eventually realize they were in over their heads and lower their expectations accordingly. I was wrong.
The plan went like this: there were 8 girls, each would be receiving a BIG gift, and that gift would be made collaboratively by the other 7 girls. They would be making the following items:
A quilt. With hexagonal parts. Made by 7 people. Separately.
Bath bombs. With a matching bathrobe, of course.
Pillows and a bulletin board.
Duffel with matching cosmetic and toiletry bags. Cause a duffel bag just wouldn’t be enough.
Lace top. And a cookbook, complete with recipes, photos, and a clever photoshopped design.
Hat, and scarf (with each girl knitting her own section as it travelled around the city, kind of like the travelling pants), and mitts (which turned into socks when the girls decided that knitting in the round was too complicated – socks that were knit flat and then folded up like an origami box).
Wall art and handmade (!) shoes (which were later changed to embroidered Converse sneakers, thankfully purchased instead of handmade from scratch).
A Weasley jumper. Ask a Harry Potter fan if you’ve never heard of one. Knit in parts by different girls of course.
I think that list pretty well covered every craft possible. With the exception of macramé and candlemaking. (Sssshhh, don’t give them any ideas.) The plan looked like this:
Their collective crafting experience was pretty slim. But they pooled their resources. The girl who had knit before mentored the others. And the 3 who actually had sewing machines took on the brunt of the sewing. The rest was achieved thanks to google.
And so they got together and quilted. And knit. And sewed. And photoshopped. We had many conversations that went like this:
Her: I’m going to Winnies to quilt.
Me: Say hi to your pioneer ladies crafting circle.
This became the big narrative of Christmas around our house this year. How each project was going. Who was secretly getting together with whom in order to craft. Group trips to the fabric store. Youtube kitting tutorials. Girls sitting around together chatting and watching TV while sewing. Just like in the old days, except for the TV part. These girls worked on Christmas for 8 straight weeks. There was no one who had more Christmas spirit than they did. And I was astounded to watch their projects come together. It seemed impossible, but the quilt took shape, and the scarf grew, and the sweater parts started to arrive.
The final gift exchange took place at my house. There was a lot of last minute scrambling. The sleeves of the sweater were too short, which necessitated an emergency trip to see my mother-in-law, an old school knitter who scoffed at the pattern before tossing it out and taking those parts and taming them into the shape of a sweater. Which only served to make my impressed daughter decide she wants to start knitting without a pattern – after all, she’s already knit 3 things, how hard can it be?
The girls loved their presents. And I loved this story. I am pretty sure that there was not another group of eight regular 16 year old girls doing this kind of Christmas project anywhere on the planet. I was kind of awestruck. Teenagers are not supposed to be like this – creative, cooperative, aiming high and getting there. At least that’s what you hear. And who does things with their hands any more? These girls are both extraordinary and ordinary, probably like all kids. This gives me great hope for the future.
Recently, their brilliant and intimidating English teacher started a Friday lunchtime knitting circle. All the girls are going. And I have already received a new pair of mitts, knit in the round!