Okay, maybe not the world, but these guys are trying.
I started making sock monsters a few weeks ago in hopes of earning some money for the holidays. The monsters require little in the way of new materials other than stuffing and socks. Their features are created out of vintage buttons, embroidery floss, rick rack, even thread so old it’s wrapped around wooden spools. This makes them extra special because these notions were left to me by my mother and grandmother. It’s also, frankly, necessary frugality. I’m grateful every day to be writing and living on our little farm especially when others have greater struggles. But I do notice that smaller portions of bliss pie are particularly sweet, perhaps because each morsel is savored.
As I stitch odd little ears, embroider asymmetrical eyes, string bright tufts of hair and appliqué teeth on these monster faces my thoughts keep turning to a woman I’ve recently begun corresponding with, a woman whose selfless actions call out the best in others.
Her name is Sasha Crow. Back in the autumn of 2005 she read an article about an Iraqi ambulance driver who had been killed during a U.S. bombing raid while trying to rescue the injured. Survivors included his young widow with six small children. Sasha had a moment of connection reading the names of those children. She managed to contact the journalist to see what she might do to help the family. Finally the answer came back. The widow needed a quarter acre of land, two cows and some sheep. Sasha hadn’t expected this request, but mustered up a fundraiser among her Seattle friends to provide the struggling Iraqi family with some assurance of security.
After that Sasha was more crucially aware of the needs of Iraqi refugees, the largest Christian diaspora of our time. The slogan “Not In Our Name” suddenly took on many real faces. And Sasha’s life changed.
Now with activist Mary Madsen and other dedicated volunteers, Sasha runs a shoestring charity based in Jordan which provides direct relief to Iraqi refugees. Innocent civilians, described dispassionately as “collateral damage” in wartime, have inspired her to call the non-profit organization Collateral Repair Project (CRP).
Here I sit in my comfortable house night after night leaning close to a gooseneck lamp as I stitch soft toys. My dogs sleep on the rug nearby. I listen, as long as the Internet connection is good, to podcasts on science or philosophy or spirituality. When my kids come in the room I solicit their ideas for the next sock monster’s face. I hear wind picking up enough to give a delightful feeling of contrast: cold outside, warm inside. I know that my heart won’t let me keep any money I might make by selling these monsters.
Sasha and I have been corresponding in particular about a project she’s struggling to get off the ground. Iraqi refugees in Jordan are not permitted, by law, to work. Before being displaced by war they were teachers, engineers, business owners—-never expecting to lose everything. Now they try to live on small assistance checks while waiting to see what the future might bring. Sasha realized with horror that many of the babies in these families are sickly and malnourished. Their mothers have been separated from close extended family ties, traumatized by war, and too often are unable to breastfeed. Without this vital source of nourishment Sasha knows the infants suffer from the lack of nutrients at this formative stage. When there’s no money for milk let alone formula, what little milk there is gets watered down. Or worse, families must resort to feeding their babies sugar water. Sasha has tried promoting projects to advance the cause of breastfeeding through peer-to-peer relationships, like Le Leche League, but there’s insufficient funding. Right now she’s simply trying to provide formula and milk to babies in need. But no one, not one major relief agency, will partner with CRP’s Milk Fund because it’s a global goal to advance breastfeeding (a cause she supports, but logic dictates that formula is also needed in this situation). Even older children are not getting the nutrients they need. Hence, the project has to be funded directly.
All proceeds earned by these sock monsters will go to CRP. This first batch will be sold at Elements Gallery, run by artists Steve and Debra Bures. Then, if I’m weary of monster making I’ll come up with something else. Maybe an online art challenge with all works sold to benefit CRP. Or a big mid-Eastern feast this winter, all proceeds going to CRP. Any other ideas? I’d love to hear them.
Wind may be howling outside, but here the monsters are soft and made with love. In a small way they’re taking on the misery created by larger monsters.
How to Get Involved With CRP
Take a look at CRP Projects
How to Make Sock Monsters
Select a baby or toddler-sized sock.
Remove an inch or so strip from the open end of the sock. Snip open a small space at the toe. If you choose, make a small slit at the heel where you can sew in a tongue or tasty morsel the monster might want to chew on.
Then turn the sock inside-out. Sew the ends and sides of the ears closed in a continuous seam. Try making one shorter than the other.
Trim the seam.
Stuff the sock tightly with polyfill or old pillow contents or dryer lint or whatever you’ve got. Start with the ears and work your way down. Leave the bottom end open for now, as you may want to stitch through this opening as you add features.
Now it’s time to add personality. Remember if you’re making a sock monster for a baby, the safest features are those drawn or embroidered on.
Try some scary felt teeth.
A tongue made from left over bits of sock (yes, monster surgery).
Layered eyes of notions like snaps and binding.
A silly sideways felted mouth and giant button eyes.
Perhaps a bright patch of embroidery floss hair.
Or ring glasses.
Then sew the toe opening (monster rear) closed. You may choose to seam the sides together for a simple bottom, which looks like toes on this head-standing sock monster.
Or insert a bit of sock fabric and sew the opening shut, making a somewhat more stable monster (standing-wise, not necessarily emotionally).
I’ve been experimenting with feet, hands and wings on my next monsters. Sock monsters are much more forgiving than actual monsters, thank goodness.