summer sewing daydreams

Well, here we are…about 2 1/2 weeks before my due date. Sadly, I’ve reached the point where it’s just too physically difficult for me to start any new sewing projects, other than the hand-stitching I’ve been doing on a second quiet book. (Thanks for all the kind words on the last one, by the way! It was fun.) Between my back refusing to let me sit comfortably anywhere for longer than 5 minutes, and my belly getting in the way of both the sewing machine table and my ability to get the leverage needed to work the foot pedal, I’ve just had to accept that I’m just going to have to wait and see what sort of time I can carve out to delve back into this with a newborn. I have managed to finish a couple of things this month, which I’ll show soon. But I’m coping in the meantime by playing around with pairing patterns and fabrics in my stash to figure out some potential projects that will be forgiving of the changes in my figure that will still be happening/easy to adapt to my new lifestyle of mostly stay-at-home mom. I do plan on picking up the music/sewing lessons I teach again, hopefully around mid-to-late August. So teaching-friendly clothes are ok, and I don’t have to do all yoga pants. I don’t even own a pattern for yoga pants, anyway. So there’s good incentive to not even go there!

(Honestly, I’ve managed to stay within the recommended range for pregnancy weight gain, even though it sounds like Hobbit is going to be a bigger baby than I’d expected–not a 9-10 pounder, thank God, but still bigger than either of us or our siblings. I guess all that nausea has been good for something after all! So I’m hoping that means that maybe all of those Thurlow pants will fit again this fall, since I didn’t have to give them up until almost the second trimester. That would help sooo much.)

Anyway, here’s some of the potential ideas I’ve been bouncing around:

IMG_25131. Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges dress. This one is at the top of the list, honestly. I’ve had this pattern/fabric combo bagged up with notions for about 2 years now, with the intention of sewing it for the summer-to-fall transition. But other projects kept getting in the way. I still really like this rayon challis print, though, and I’d like to see it become something. The bonus is that there’s so many colors to pick from in the print that it’ll be easy to adapt to fall layering with boots and leggings. Plus, it’ll go great with the next cardigan I plan to make for myself, whenever I finish the quiet book and can get back to knitting instead of hand-stitching! The gathered/tie back waist should make it forgiving for whatever’s going on with my waistline, and the button front means it’ll be great for nursing.  I am thinking that maybe I should wearable-muslin this first, since I do have some bedsheets in the muslin bin with a similar drape to this fabric, and my bust measurement is already a whopping 5″ bigger than it used to be! (Good thing I hadn’t traced this one out yet, right?)

IMG_25062. Sewaholic Rae skirt. I bought this one kind of on a whim during one of her past sales, since it looked like it would be a more flattering fast skirt to sew than some of the older patterns that I had. I’ve never made it, but elastic waists are sounding pretty good right now, since they’ll be a little more adjustable as I lose some of these pounds I’ve put on. Also, I could use some bottomwear, since I have basically zero shorts that will fit me this summer, other than a couple of elastic-waisted pairs I picked up at the thrift store recently that I’m just hoping will fit–not like I could try them on to see. I’m also not sure how many of my skirts I’ll be able to squeeze into, or how quickly. That’s what I get for generally preferring the fitted waist aesthetic, right? I probably won’t do quite this many, but here’s a couple of things I found in the stash that might work. (If I combine the black linen-looking stuff and the camel linen, at least– I don’t really have enough of either to make anything, since they’re both leftover pieces, but have been thinking for awhile that they might pair nicely.)

IMG_25123. Seamwork Adelaide dress. I was really excited to see this one in the current issue, because it looks like it’ll be a really forgiving make as far as sizing goes, though still a little more flattering because of the belt. And, again, it’s a really nursing-friendly option. I do have a pattern subscription at the moment, so the pattern is safely downloaded and awaiting printing. I’m thinking maybe this twill for it–it was given to me for free and I have quite a bit of it, so it’s not a huge loss if the pattern doesn’t work for me. My one debate is whether to hunt down those snaps, or to just use buttons, since I do have a lot of buttons. Particularly, I have these sparkly red ones that I got to make a Beignet skirt that never happened–I later ended up deciding that a red skirt isn’t really something I’d use much, and swapped the fabric–and I think that and maybe some red topstitching could provide some much-needed interest to this otherwise rather boring fabric. Thoughts?

IMG_25074. Grainline Archer blouse. I’ve had this pattern, and this Japanese linen fabric that I specifically bought for it, for about a year and a half now. And since this is a looser shirt by nature, I probably won’t have to size it up quite as much as I would other patterns. Which will make it more forgiving for (hopeful) weight loss, too! The pattern is printed, but I do need to assemble it.

IMG_25115. Colette Mabel skirt. Another pattern I own/have printed, but haven’t tried yet. It’s not like I haven’t gotten plenty of practice sewing knits lately, but I do have a couple of interlock jerseys from Joann’s that are a little on the thick side for tops (I know, because I’ve used them for a couple of tops), so this could be a good candidate for fast, easy bottomwear. This color is the only one I have that’s large enough by itself, but I do have some brown as well that might work if I pair it with something else. Or just buy a little more fabric. I bet Joann’s still has it.

6. A nursing top or two. I think I could make one pretty quickly from Simplicity 1469, since I’ve already used that one and I have some knits that would work well together for a sleeveless version. (I just might want to reduce the width of the back a little, since I won’t have to make it quite so maternity.) I’ve been advised by a couple of helpful sewcialists that the smaller nursing openings will probably work better than I thought, so thank you for that tip! Another option is to play around with altering one of my more basic knit top patterns. I’m thinking maybe the Deer & Doe Plantain to start, since I won’t have to worry about the waist sizing, given that it fit me as it was until probably month 6! Also, Heather was kind enough to pull out some of her old nursing tops awhile back and Instagram a few pictures for me so I could get some ideas, and the Plantain looked like a very good candidate for some similar hacking. (Thanks, Heather!)

IMG_2514Other possibilities already in my stash for maybe a little more down the road, when I have a better idea of sizing…Some, but not all, pictured here: a nursing-hacked Renfrew, the Granville blouse, the Yaletown blouse, the Maria Denmark Edith dress/blouse, the Espresso leggings (because I’ve decided I like leggings for layering under skirts, and definitely not because I’ve decided I like leggings as pants!), this random Simplicity shirtdress that I forgot I had, Butterick 5084 looks like it would be fairly easy to hack for nursing based on tutorials I’ve seen, and I could possibly adapt Butterick 5206 to be a real wrap top instead of a faux wrap top. I’ve been wanting to revisit that pattern for awhile anyway, and I think one of my Paris fabrics could be perfect for it!

I’m trying to look at this as more of a list of ideas, and not an actual project list. After all, I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to sew anything, especially if I can only grab 10-15 minutes here and there. It’s hard to predict, without knowing how well this baby will nap and things like that. I know I’m prone to overly ambitious lists of what I think I can get done in any given season, and I don’t want to put myself in a position where I’m frustrated about how little I’m finishing when I’m already going to be sleep-deprived and trying to learn a whole new skill set to enable tiny human survival. At the same time, Future Zombie Me will probably benefit from having a more narrowed-down list of possibilities for when I do have some time here and there to work on something. It’s going to be hard for me to not have a concrete list of plans, but hopefully I’ll be able to adapt and go with the flow a little more for now.

Have you ever had a season where you knew sewing time was going to be a rare commodity, or you were going to have some serious measurement changes? How did you deal?

The Quiet Book and The Ring

I’ll be honest– I was not expecting this project to take so long. I thought I could easily finish both this and the second felt quiet book that I cut out shortly after Christmas before my due date. With only 4 1/2 weeks to go, I don’t think that’s going to happen now. But I’m proud of how this turned out. I just really hope that Hobbit will enjoy playing with it, when he’s a little older!

So, without further ado, I present the Lord of the Rings quiet book, in all of its thick glory. (Seriously, this thing measures over 3″ thick! Though I’m sure it would compact if I put something on top of it.) And I cannot take credit for the design, it’s a pattern from the juliebell shop on Etsy. (With a few minor modifications on my part here and there.) One picture-heavy post, coming up!

Cover pagePage 1: The front cover. In the original pattern, it called for a brown cover, but I used maroon instead– I’m justifying it by saying it ties in with the Red Book of Westmarch, from the books. But really, it’s that I’m cheap. I couldn’t quite find that “copper canyon brown” and I had a bunch of the maroon that I was able to get from my mom for free. (All of the felt in this book was either specially purchased for this project, or mooched off my mom, who wanted to get rid of it anyway in preparation for moving. All of the threads, embroidery floss, and miscellaneous notions, however, were part of my stash.)

ShirePage 2: The Shire, with some panels you can lift and peek under. I’ll admit I thought long and hard about adding the pipe, because I don’t want to encourage smoking, especially given that the smell really makes me sick even when I’m not pregnant (and far, far worse when I am, apparently. Truthfully, frequent exposure to that was one of my major incentives to not go back to my old retail job this spring.). But in both the books and the movies, it’s kind of unavoidable that there is pipe smoking, especially in hobbit culture, and I couldn’t think of anything else to go there. So I left it.

Rivendell pagePage 3: Rivendell, with one of my favorite–and bulkiest–features of the book…the Fellowship of the Finger Puppets! Seriously, how cute is that? I did change up some of the suggested colors for things to coincide a little more closely with the movie costumes, since a lot of the styling seemed to be based on the films anyway.

Gollum PagePage 4: Help Gollum find the Precious. He really is a friendly-looking Gollum here…but hey, this is basically baby’s first introduction to my #1 fandom, so why scare him right off? I did end up tweaking the face a bit, because my embroidery floss was so close to the color of the felt that he just looked weird with no nose. All three of the pieces under the water snap on and off, but I only took off the one hiding the Ring for this photo.

Try on the RingPage 5: Try on the Ring. This was the one I changed up the most. The original page had just an embroidered Ring, and I wasn’t sure what the action was here. Lay your hand over it and watch the Ring disappear? If I can’t figure it out, there’s no way a toddler could. So I used some wired gold ribbon in my stash to make a Ring that you can slip your fingers under. (The hand was also originally facing the other way, but that was just me making a mistake and not wanting to unpick the embroidery.)

EaglesPage 6: Help Gandalf escape. Technically, this should probably come before the Rivendell page, but this is the order the instructions had it in. And the bulk of the pages meant the eyelets I’d originally planned to use didn’t work, and I ended up basically just punching holes with an awl and threading the binder rings through, so they’re not the easiest to rearrange. It’s just an eagle on elastic, so he can get some distance between him and Orthanc. I also made sure to machine-sew both ends down as securely as possible, in hopes that the boy won’t be able to yank it off first try!
MordorPage 7: Help Frodo and Sam through Mordor. Again, a somewhat less bleak and dreary Mordor, given that there’s trees and a pond. (I’m guessing this path leads through Ithilien first.) I’m especially proud of the Eye on here–maybe I spent a little more time embroidering on it than necessary, but it didn’t look as fiery and evil as I wanted it to after adding the initial embroidery. So I added more color, and I think it helped.

Mt DoomPage 8: Destroy the Ring in Mt. Doom. Again, I was having a little fun with the embroidery on the lava, mostly to make sure the orange showed up well. As for the Ring itself, it actually is a replica of the One Ring– it fell off of a bookmark I had gotten back when the movies were first out, and I had left it sitting with my jewelry supplies for years. Fortunately, I actually remembered that I had this now that I had the perfect excuse to finally use it–crafty pack rat tendencies for the win! (Again, this is machine stitched on as securely as I possibly could, to try to avoid any choking hazards.)

AragornPage 9: Help Aragorn become King. I was working on this one while having a craft day/My Little Pony marathon with some friends recently, and we all had a good laugh over Aragorn in his undies! Again, I slightly altered the embroidery to do a white tree instead of dots on the king outfit, because Gondor demanded it. I know it’s hard to see in this picture, but it’s there.

The EndPage 10: The End. Pretty self-explanatory. I wish that E was straighter, but the glue-tacking didn’t work so well and it was already falling off by the time I got through sewing on the first two letters. It probably would have worked better if I’d been sewing on a flat surface, but I wasn’t, and I was just trying to get it done by this point.

This was definitely a labor of love, and I’m completely amused by it, at least. And even though it took a lot longer this way, I’m not sorry that I took the time to sew everything instead of glue it, because I think it will be much more durable–especially given that on the occasions I did tack things down with glue, it was often peeling off before I even finished sewing the pieces! Even so, I’m thinking I might rely a little more on glue-tacking and especially machine sewing where I can for the Doctor Who one I have cut out next. After all, I’d like to start knitting again sometime this year!

Evaluating the mini-wardrobe

Now that I’m getting close to the end of my pregnancy, and in lieu of my participating in Me-Made-May this year, I thought it might be useful to take a look back at how I did with sewing for  myself in this transitional period. After all, I’d decided to make this more fun/interesting for myself by treating it as a capsule wardrobe, a la Wardrobe Architect. And I did learn some things about what worked/didn’t work for me. Also, in case a second baby comes along down the road, it’ll help me to have a reference of what I might want to consider adding!

Things I think went well:

  • Overall, I’m quite pleased with how well various alterations I made to several non-maternity patterns worked. Especially since pattern hacking is not my strongest skill, and one I’d like to keep working to improve. I would further tweak my Renfrew hack, but the dresses and maxi-skirt went quite well. As did the actual maternity alteration to the Manila leggings, even if the rest of it was a fail. So maybe there’s hope for me yet!
  • I also think I did pretty well at sticking with a cohesive color palette. 
  • I was able to surprise myself with occasionally being able to pull out non-maternity clothes to fill in some gaps. Namely my Plantain top and a couple of buttondowns worn over tank tops.
  • Also, aside from the first trimester, I think I did a pretty good job of sucking it up and plowing through sewing to fulfill needs that I had, even though I’ve still been nauseous at some point(s) every single day of this pregnancy. So go me.

Things I wish I’d done differently:

  • More vivid colors! Even though I did stick with the palette pretty well, I felt like things ended up being a lot heavier on the neutrals–the black, navy and grey in particular, just due to what I was able to find in thrift stores or what I had on hand that was working. By the time winter was wrapping up, I was sooooooo bored and wishing for cheerier, brighter things. (Ok, so I do that every year. But it was definitely worse with the much more limited choices I had.)
  • More prints! Especially tops. Because even with the things I found/made that were in brighter colors, I just haven’t felt quite like myself while wearing so many outfits that were just solids. I’ve tried livening it up with accessories, but a necklace can only take you so far on that, and I was honestly afraid to wear scarves for the first half of the pregnancy because of all the sickness. (Plus, having things close around my neck during the worst of that was really, really uncomfortable for me.) The couple of print things that I’ve made near the end are helping. A lot of this was really just me trying to work mostly with the stash that I had, but I think that, once I make some space on the shelves/if I need maternity wear again, I may specifically treat myself to some new fabric to expand this wardrobe.

Things I’ll need if this ever happens again:

  • More bottomwear. Especially of the pants variety. I refashioned 3 pairs of pants, outgrew one of them by about mid-March (which had been a little small around the waist/hips to begin with anyway, so I could only make it expand so much), and had to pretty much give up wearing the other two by mid-April because they were corduroy and therefore getting uncomfortably hot when spring weather actually arrived. Which has left me with only 2 pairs of jeans to get through the last 2 months, and I will admit that I do feel a little unprofessional when doing music lessons in jeans. I wouldn’t mind another knit maxi-skirt or two either, because the tie-dye one is sooooo comfortable. (I’ve tried wearing some of my older elastic-waist ones over the bump here and there, and they kind of dig into my ribs and gather weirdly under my tops. So it hasn’t been helpful.)
  • Pajamas. I got through the latter part of the winter with an older pair of PJ pants and an oversized thrifted top–but those got worn so much that the top has several holes in it now. Once things started warming up is when things got really tough–I had to resort to buying a shorts and tank set from Target, because I didn’t have anything that fit. (Note to self: Tofino pants do not make good maternity pants. Though I love them as a non-maternity PJs pattern.) 
  • Another pair of leggings or two wouldn’t hurt, if I have another cold-weather pregnancy. Or at least some more stylish knit pants (and casual tops) to wear around the house that aren’t fleece sweatpants that I used to wear under other clothes to keep warm on backpacking trips. That’s what I ended up resorting to on Saturdays/weekdays when I didn’t have to go out to save my jeans for nicer wear, and I felt so frumpy. Which is not the feeling you want when you’re already feeling like a nauseated whale.

Biggest hits: 
Honestly, aside from the refashioned corduroys (so useful) I feel like the best things I made were the ones that I’m hoping to continue wearing after this is over– particularly the black maxi-dress and the tie-dyed skirt. I may need to do a follow-up post later this summer on how well they actually work for post-pregnancy/nursing.
Maternity maxi-dress
skirt full panel

Biggest misses: 
Not my best project ever.1. The Manila leggings. Though I’m still hopeful that I can successfully revisit this pattern, now that I know that I really need to check the stretch before diving in. And probably add at least 4″ to the legs. But I really just didn’t feel comfortable wearing them very often–the color meant it didn’t work as a tights layer under the two shorter skirts I had (one black and one denim), and I really only wore them twice. One of those was to keep warm under the black dress for a cooler-day music performance at church, and the other was just around the house. And I have to confess that I threw the denim skirt on over it anyway, because even when alone in the house, I just didn’t feel fully clothed when wearing leggings as pants! I’ll probably keep these as a layering piece, but definitely not as a stand-alone.

(I still have to try out my Cake Espresso pattern sometime, too. If that one works out better, I might just transfer the belly alterations to that pattern if I ever need to sew maternity leggings again.)

Ariel-inspired outfit

2. The Ariel skirt. I actually only wore this one once, aside from the photos–I didn’t want to wear it over the winter because of the cold, and when I finally pulled it out in the spring, it just didn’t work well. I had to tie the drawstrings under the bust, which made the length kind of strange, and left a lot of weird wrinkles under the belly of the maternity top that I paired it with. Fortunately, it didn’t take me that long to cut and sew. And since it’s essentially two big rectangles and I still have almost 3 yards of the fabric left, I think this will be a good candidate for a refashion. Or at least a wearable muslin of some other pattern.

On the other hand, I did wear the top quite a bit. Though, as I stated before, I think the pattern hacks would need some tweaking for this to work well in later pregnancy. It fit fine for well over the first half, though.

Other things I won’t be keeping/need to rework: 
1. This isn’t one I made, but I bought this cream-colored maternity sweater at Target. I’m blaming this on poor fabric choice on their part–the structure itself is fine, but before the winter even ended, the color of the sweater just looked dingy and sad. I may just try to overdye it to extend the life.

2.This top. Though it wasn’t a maternity top, it actually worked well to get me through the winter, since it was roomier in the waist than a lot of my usual tops. And it’s not a complaint about the pattern, since I used the same one to make my sparkly knit top from earlier this year. It’s just that since this one was already several years old, the fabric was starting to pill to begin with. And with all the extra wears and washes it got this winter, given that I was pulling it out at least once a week (if not more), it’s just unsalvageable now. I do hate to just throw clothes away, even the worn-out ones, so I’m thinking I might just cut this one up and use it to stuff a toy or something. Stuffing is expensive, anyway.

So, that’s my little wrap up of how my me-mades have been working for me during a period of major physical changes. I already have a mental list of patterns I want to tackle once this baby comes! Now if only I could figure out a way to predict my bust size so I could start tracing or cutting…