Santa Jay

I love making Santa suits. Most folks are surprised to learn that I make them all year long. In many cases, when I go to build a Santa suit, it has been several weeks or months since the initial consultation. In those instances, I will talk with the Santa the week before to go over my notes and make sure that I’m not missing anything. As I tell them, “We’ve all slept since then!”

In one particular circumstance, Santa Jay (not his real name) indicated that he had lost a great deal of weight and he wanted me to measure him again before I cut anything. So, we set an appointment for that as well as to go over my notes. When he came to visit me, I could tell that he had been sick–really sick. Not only had he lost a great deal of weight, but his skin was extremely pale and papery, there was no twinkle in his eyes, and his breathing was labored.

I am always there to listen to my clients for whatever they may want to tell me, but I never press for information. Santa Jay didn’t want to share anything beyond the fact that he’d been sick, so I stayed professional, taking the measurements and going over the notes. His parting comment, however, was that he thought it might be his last year as Santa.

After he left, I sat in my studio chair at my sewing machine and just sobbed. Working with mostly older folk in the Christmas performer industry, I know losing a client is definitely a job hazard, but I admit that I’m a bit of a sentimental wardrobe elf and I get VERY attached to my clients. Thus, I was determined to make sure that his final season was a spectacular one, at least in terms of his uniform.

When I went shopping for the lining, I found a really awesome bit of fabric to incorporate–same thing with the trim and the buttons. The old saying that the devil is in the details is true, but it’s also the delight as well. Excited about my project, I threw myself into it with more than my usual gusto and sang to it sweetly about all the lives he would touch this season.

As is my habit, I sent him progress pictures and showed him the lining that I had found as well as the trim. His response was that it looked so good he wanted to be buried in it.

Heavy sigh and lots more tears. Dry off face and paste on determined look. Whatever he was going to do with his suit, he would be one spectacular looking Santa. PERIOD.

I finished my project in a few days and invited him back to try everything on. His breathing was still labored. His pallor was still there, but the twinkle had returned to his eyes.

I helped him into the robe and hat, and he smiled at himself in the mirror. I saw a bit of the old spark come back. He turned this way and that, admiring his reflection, and then turned to me with a big smile and asked if I would put him on my sewing list for next year.

In that moment, I felt the balloon of hope inflate inside me. In my head, I was jumping up and down and fist pumping, but the only outward display of said hope was the smile I returned to him. Perhaps he’d found his reason to fight. I don’t know. I’m not going to take credit for that, but I do hope that he’s around for many more seasons to bring joy and magic to children of all ages.

Until next time, dear readers. May your bobbins be full and your seams be straight!


Post Op – Part 1

I am not a morning person–not by anyone’s wild stretch of anybody’s imagination. Yet I still thought it was just desserts that my husband and I had to get up at 5:15 the morning of my surgery to appear on time for my procedure. His hip surgery required us to do the same.

We drove to the medical center in the dark, making it up to the surgery center in time to watch the sunrise. It was a brilliant shade of red as it made its way through the various layers of haze on the Houston horizon.

Unlike my last visit to the doctor, this time I was making jokes. I had a captive audience, and, since I have the same kind of macabre sense of humor as many in the medical profession, I had everybody in stitches.

My surgeon came in–in a very good mood–and noticed that I was in a very good mood, so when he signed my right arm (as they all do to make sure they’re working on the correct limb), he wrote in big bold letters, “YES!” I really liked that sentiment and felt very comforted by it.

My husband, of course, stayed with me until they rolled me down the hall. It’s a very surreal experience watching the ceiling tiles go past you overhead. I thought I would be asleep by the time I got to the operating room. No such luck.

As I looked above me at the lights, I remembered another situation where I was wheeled into an operating room. That was 50 years ago when I fell on a glass bottle at the tender age of two and sliced all the way through my right arm, clear to the bone. I was unwilling to stay still for them to stitch it up while I was awake. I even succeeded in escaping a straitjacket. (Insert cheeky joke here.) So, they decided to put me under in order to sew my arm up. Still, I very distinctly remember those lights and the doctors in their surgical gowns and masks. I even remember that one of them wore glasses. He looked down at me and told me everything was going to be all right.

Well, this time, they didn’t have surgical gowns on, but they did have scrubs on, and they did have masks on, and my doctor even wore glasses. I don’t remember what story I was telling my captive audience, but I can pretty much guarantee that I fell asleep midsentence.

The procedure was short and sweet, and I felt like I woke up suddenly in the recovery room. I looked up at the nurse, raised my bandaged hand and wiggled my fingers. No pain. Other than the surgery pain, of course. I was elated. I started monologuing right then and there. The look on the nurse’s face was a mixture of complete amusement and surprise. When I took a breath, she said, “No one has ever woken up like that. “

I laid there with a silly grin on my face, humming the entire time while the nurse filled out paperwork and went to retrieve my husband. A single thought kept running through my head. I’m going to be OK.

We’re ALL going to be ok. Until next time, dear readers. May your bobbins be full and your seams straight!


Origin Story

Every superhero has an origin story, and, even though I don’t wear a cape (usually), folks are very curious about the origins of The Singing Seamstress.

I’ve been sewing since I was a young girl and performing since high school. The two did not come together in a meaningful way until I was past my opera phase.

My opera career consisted of mostly singing, dancing, and reacting to scenery. I played everything from a nun to a lady of the night to a peasant and everything in between. Because I am a tall woman—a presence with which to be reckoned, if you will–a lot of costumes didn’t fit quite right. Even after the costumer had her way with things, I would often come in behind her and fix things myself.

I got tired of being in the background, so I switched to musical theatre after five years in opera and started getting juicy lead and supporting roles. Now that I was out in front, I didn’t want to settle for just any old costume, so I started making them myself.

People started to take notice. Other actors began asking me to make their costumes as well. It went from two to four to half the cast and then full productions rather quickly. (Costuming a full production is a LOT of work by the way, and it’s a mostly thankless job, unfortunately.)

Somewhere in all of this, a fellow actor asked me to make him a Santa suit. Compared to my more recent creations, it’s a very simple affair–washable but sturdily made. Eight years later, it’s still in use and still looks like the day I delivered it to him.

He was so impressed that he got me in contact with the Lone Star Santas, the largest regional Santa group in the nation. I went to their annual shindig to hawk my wares and received quite a few suit orders. These folks were so impressed that they got me an invite to the largest Christmas performer group on Facebook (over 10k members). From there, I just posted pictures of the things I created. Between this and word of mouth, my Santa business grew by leaps and bounds.

Sometime after the Santa suit, another actor friend contacted me to help her BFF with his daughter’s wedding gown. They had originally taken it to “a lady at church,” and the gown needed a lot of work still. I had never worked on a wedding gown (unless you count the gown I found at Goodwill and modified to be my Halloween costume as the Bride of Frankenstein). Though nervous, I figured it couldn’t be all that complicated.

Well, I was both right and wrong about the last bit. All the fundamental parts were there, but the only garment more constructed than a bridal gown is a man’s blazer and some cosplay costumes. So, it was a steep learning curve–and I only had a week and a half to sort it out.

I managed to get everything in the right places, but, to this day, I still hate strapless mermaids. I also think I consumed a whole bottle of wine on my own to calm my nerves. After recovering, I realized that I could really make a go of this and decided to start networking in the local bridal industry.

I have since won six industry awards for my bridal work and am in The Knot’s hall of fame. It’s super cool to be recognized for my work when I love it so much.

I am more than blessed to love my life’s work. It has taken me a long time to get here, but the journey has certainly been illuminating. I eagerly look forward to all the new suits, all the new dresses, and all the new friends I will be making in the future.

Until next time, dear reader. May your bobbins be full and your seams straight!