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Friday, June 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: What would Maria von Trapp do? She’d sew

UPDATED: Fri., April 17, 2020

The Ditto family in their Easter finery with a von Trapp twist. (Courtesy)
The Ditto family in their Easter finery with a von Trapp twist. (Courtesy)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

I am not a seamstress. I can sew a straight line and have made my fair share of pillow shams and curtains over the years, but that’s about the extent of my skill set. But a few days before Easter, I heard two of my boys discussing how excited they were to get their new neckties, which the Easter Bunny usually leaves for them in their baskets.

Their conversation stopped me dead in my tracks because I happen to be on friendly terms with the Easter Bunny, and I knew for a fact that – with it being the end of the world and all – she had neglected to buy neckties. She also had forgotten to buy Easter dresses. She had in reality forgotten to buy everything except the Easter candy, and that’s only because candy is always in the forefront of her mind.

Back in the days when the Dittos had a reliable income and Amazon had a reliable shipping schedule, this would be no problem. I would hop online after the kids were in bed, locate some cute ties and dresses and have them shipped to me in time for the big day. But those good old days are long gone.

“What’s the most difficult way I could possibly solve this problem?” I wondered one night as I pondered my dilemma. Suddenly, it hit me: When Fraulein Maria’s back was against the wall and the von Trapp children needed clothes, what did she do? She cut up the curtains and made them.

“I’m going to von Trapp the heck out of this,” I decided. Yes, Julia Ditto, former seamstress of mediocre pillow shams and elasticized Bermuda shorts, would use leftover material from her stash in the basement to sew neckties for her four sons and skirts for her two daughters. In three days. With roughly 45 seconds of free time to herself per day. What could possibly go wrong?

Luckily, I am a night owl, which coincides nicely with the fact that nighttime is the only sliver of my day where I can put two coherent thoughts together or work on a project for more than 30 consecutive minutes. And so it was one night a few days before Easter that I got to work on the neckties. The tutorial and pattern I found online were shockingly easy to follow, and once I recruited my daughters the next day to help me with this surprise for their brothers, things really started clicking. The neckties turned out fantastic.

I turned with naïve excitement to the Easter skirts. By then, it was Friday night, and I was hoping to have both skirts completed by Saturday morning. This is not an ideal timeline for anyone who is not an accomplished seamstress. I cut, pinned, stitched and un-picked my way through the pattern using an old bedsheet for one skirt and a long-discarded curtain panel for the other. Fraulein Maria Do-Re-Mi’d her approval in my head as I worked.

My husband occasionally poked his head into the room where I had sequestered myself. “How are things going?” he asked around midnight.

“This stopped being fun about two hours ago,” I replied.

“Anything I can do to help?” he asked.

I tossed him the sewing machine manual and begged him to figure out how to sew a buttonhole. I now think, as part of counseling before couples get married, they should be required to learn how to sew a buttonhole at 1 in the morning. It is very instructive regarding the state of your relationship. Thankfully, Logan and I survived the test.

By Sunday morning, my children were impeccably dressed in their fabric-scrap Easter best. The hills were indeed alive that day – not with the sound of music, but with the sound of a scared little Easter Bunny scampering away afraid for her life. She’d better run. I’m still holding my sewing scissors.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at

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