Monday, December 14, 2015

Crafty Navy Wives

Many, many moons ago--thirty five years ago this month, to be exact--I married my high school sweetheart.  At the time, he was a newly minted Navy Ensign and a flight school student.
One of the great things about being a Naval Aviator's wife (other than having a handsome fighter pilot husband, who looked like a Hollywood heartthrob in his flight suit--and woah baby, in his dress whites, be still my heart!) was the unequaled camaraderie that existed between the squadron wives.  We gals got together regularly for wives' club meetings, both when the guys were stateside and when they were oceans away: we ate and drank, talked and laughed; we shared coping techniques for surviving long separations from husbands, along with favorite recipes; we delighted in each other's young and growing families, brought each other meals when new babies were born, and threw each other showers.  And because most of us were far from home, having followed our flying men to the duty station chosen for them by the US Navy, we became like family.

Sometimes, we even did crafts together.  Actually, we did this quite often.  It is my theory that many Navy wives become skilled cooks and creative crafters because they are so often alone at night while their men are serving on a ship in the middle of some faraway ocean.  Experimenting with recipes or craft projects is an excellent way to fill the lonely hours.

I still remember the first craft I ever did at a Navy wives' gathering.  One of the girls told us to bring along some scraps of Christmas material to the meeting; for her part, she brought Styrofoam balls and a finished sample of her creation.  Once we'd all had a glass of wine, beer, or diet soda, or a cup of decaf (depending on whether or not we were playing the role of DD for our pals that night, or whether or not we were pregnant or nursing), she proceeded to give us a how-to demonstration--and I thought her idea was absolutely brilliant!  With nothing more than a Styrofoam ball, a sharp knife, and some scraps of fabric, she created a pretty and unbreakable ornament that looked as if it had been quilted.  There was only minimal gluing involved, in order to attach a hanger.  But otherwise, it was a glueless endeavor.  (Good news for a woman who has rarely wielded a hot glue gun without second degree burns involved.)  Following her lead, I made one of these beauties at the meeting that night...then went home and made more of them, both for our own tree and to give as gifts to loved ones that Christmas.

Here is an example of what my first attempts (from circa 1981) looked like; every year when I hang these balls on the tree, I am reminded of those sweet long-ago days when I was a dewy-eyed Navy wife, when my husband and I were just starting out on our long life together.
Over the years, I've occasionally made new ones; but instead of using traditional red and green Christmas fabrics, I've chosen different "themes" for my ornaments.

Here's a Notre Dame beauty.
And here's one created by using our boys' Catholic grade school uniforms (white oxford button-downs, gray slacks, and maroon gym sweatsuits).
The white parts are actually bits of real shirts;
note the buttons still attached!
I made my daughter-in-law Preciosa a Notre Dame & Florida State-themed ball, using scraps of fabric left over from the decorations I made for the rehearsal dinner we hosted for her and our son the night before their December 2013 wedding.  I also made her mom one that was "quilted" with bits of burlap and scraps of ivory and navy blue satin, to remind her of the incredibly beautiful wedding décor she created for the big day.  The great thing about these ornaments is that you can also personalize them (by writing on some of the "quilt squares" with fabric paint), and they make one-of-a-kind gifts for friends and family.

You know, I've been wondering what to do with all the decades-old faded and stained baby clothing I have in the attic (items that aren't nice enough to pass down to my grandchildren, but which I haven't had the heart to part with yet).  And just this minute, I got a killer idea (I think a light bulb appeared above my head, I really do!).  I can take bits and pieces of those sweet little boys' clothes, and even the flannel receiving blankets they used as infants, and turn them into ornaments!  Stay tuned! 

Say, while I'm working on my sentimental Christmas balls, would you like me to take step-by-step photographs?  Are you interested in a how-to post?  Let me know, readers.  I'd be more than happy to do that for you.  I know how grateful I was when that Navy wife shared her craftiness with me, all those years ago.


  1. Actually yes, yes I am interested. I would love to craft some non-breakable cute ornaments for a garland in both my kiddos rooms for next year. Our house is too small for a tree in every room but a decorated garland would look darling I think. Great idea!

  2. Was just about to ask for a step by step when you offered, yes please

  3. Yes, please!! Step by step for me too, because I am not at all crafty but would love to try this!

  4. Girl, I'm working on that how-to post! I'm so excited that you're interested. They really are fun to make--and you can work on them while you're watching TV (a Hallmark Christmas movie, perhaps, or better yet, "Elf").

  5. My mom and I were just talking about making these with my grandma when I was little! I wish I still had our originals, but I love the idea of making some for my girls with the very distinct plaid they wore K-8th. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. :-)

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Meg! And have fun making some new ones (along with new memories).