a study in improvisation

Sometimes, I feel like I’m not a very creative person.
Sure, I look creative. After all, I have a music degree (two, actually), and I mange my own clothes. I also enjoy cooking, most of the time. But here’s the thing: I’m a classically trained musician. Which is basically the equivalent of not being the author who creates the story, but the translator who takes a different language and rewrites it into English. The times I’ve gotten the most nervous performing have been the times I’ve been told to just make up a part. And I see this in the other things, too. I can follow a recipe well, but I struggle to take a handful of ingredients and turn them into a tasty meal without one. And I choose the fabrics and tweak the fit, sometimes I mash together two patterns if I’m feeling brave, but it’s almost always someone else’s design that I’m just interpreting.
Self-drafted wrap skirtThat being said, this skirt was definitely out of my comfort zone. And it’s certainly not perfect. If this was Project Runway and Michael Kors was still a judge, he’d probably pull out that Becky Home-ecky phrase, furthering my dislike of him for making my name synonymous with bad sewing. But I made it, without a pattern, and it did what I wanted it to do. And that’s pretty huge for me.
So here’s the details: it’s two yards of quilt cotton that should be all wrong for me–mint green? Pink? Really? But the flamingos called to me. I cut it to the length I thought would be good, plus seams and hems, then cut that piece into thirds. The back is adjustable, with buttonhole elastic courtesy of Brooke, who kindly sent me some from her own stash when she learned via Instagram that I didn’t have any. Aren’t sewcialists the best? The front waistband is flat, and secured by two buttons– one inside, one out. I fully lined it with some white polyester from my stash, which took my totals down another 2 yards.
Self-drafted wrap skirtI think my favorite detail is the front curve. I had to wing it, because I didn’t have anything in the room that was round and large enough, and our plates aren’t round either. But I think it turned out really nice!

I was also pleased that I was able to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions, as wrap skirts are prone to. I first wore it for a morning out with Doug and Hobbit, on the boardwalk at one of my state’s busiest beaches, as we had a couple of errands to run at specific stores in that area. It was quite breezy, but my legs stayed covered!

Self-drafted wrap skirtI’m also pleased that I was able to finish it in time for the end of the month, since this fabric just screams summer and probably won’t really work once it starts getting colder. I may have a long way to go to truly get the hang of designing my clothes from scratch, but I think this is a step in the right direction.

(Note: the stupid Blogger app on my phone ate about half of the original post when I was trying to get off of the original draft, so I’ve reconstructed it as best as I could.)

transitional sewing

Sewaholic RaeJust a quick project to share today. This was the only photo that sort of turned out, to be honest, and I’m limited on time while the baby’s napping. I tried a couple of side shots, but I’ll admit I’m feeling a little self-conscious about how I look in those– I know I should be kind to myself, since 8 weeks ago I was just going into labor, and lots of people around here have been telling me that I look great. But I think I’m ready to not look like I have a baby bump on here, you know?

Anyway, the skirt. I’m trying to focus on projects that are relatively quick to make and forgiving on the fit, while I restock my wardrobe with a few basics to help me get into the fall. This is the Sewaholic Rae skirt, which was designed as a beginner skirt, so I figured it would work up fast. Also, elastic waists are my friends right now. I was really happy with how this turned out. It was a fairly instant-gratification project– I think it only took me 3 or 4 afternoon naptimes to sew up, and those have been quite variable in length so far, so that’s not bad. The fabrics are leftover pieces from this skirt and these pants, and I think they pair well together. I’m calling it my Zelda Rae skirt, because I have to admit that black and tan makes me think of German shepherds, and in particular, the very sweet one that my parents had while I was in college and beyond. But I also figured the black and tan combo means that it would go with a lot. Aside from that, there’s not much to say about the construction. There’s only two pattern pieces. Which also makes it quick to cut out, and since that’s not my favorite part of sewing, that’s fine by me.

It’s a little wrinkly looking, yeah. But the tan is linen, while the black is a linen-type. So let’s call this “embracing the nature of the fabric” instead of “I’m too lazy to iron while trying to get us out the door”, ok?

All in all, I think this is a great skirt for both the seasonal transition, and my sizing transitions. I’m definitely going to attempt at least one more of these, assuming the refashion I have in mind has enough fabric. I’m also debating about two more. I used a gift card I’ve been hoarding to buy some chambray, since none of my old skirts that weren’t already elastic waist were fitting. But then last week, I made the happy discovery that I’ve shrunk down enough that my TARDIS skirt fits again, even though it’s snug, and this other denim skirt is also right on the verge of fitting (snugly).  So now I’m questioning whether that chambray would be more useful as another type of garment. I also splurged on another piece of fabric just before the baby was born, because the Whovian in me demanded it, and I was originally thinking a different Sewaholic skirt pattern, but I think I might go with this instead. After all, the sizing is more versatile. And we know we’d like to have at least one more kid a little ways down the road, assuming we can, so I’d rather use my precious sewing time to make things that aren’t just going to fit for a few months before doing this all over again.

this year’s sewing, revisited

Now that I’ve been using some of these baby-related things for several weeks, I figured it would be a good time to look back at the things I’ve made this year, and see how they’re working out in the real world. If you follow me on Instagram, I apologize that you’ve seen some of these photos before, but it’s the only way I can actually show these right now.

IMG_20150705_082632First off, the maternity clothes that I made hoping they’d also work after. I haven’t had a chance to try out the Megan Nielsen top again, because it is way too hot and humid for polyester right now. But the two maxi-dresses (pictured here, and the solid black one), and the tie-dyed maxi skirt are all working out pretty well. There are things I do wish were a little different about each one. The yoga-style waistband on the skirt was a bit too wide even when I was pregnant, and I have to fold it over pretty far now. But it does fit without falling down, which was my main goal. This blue dress still feels a bit wide in the upper back, and I am debating whether to add a faux back seam just to take in some of that extra fullness–I’d hate for a print this lovely to feel frumpy! As for the black dress, the fit is still really good, even minus the bump. But I do need to hem it a little shorter. It was on the verge of too long before, and now I have to be really careful to avoid stepping on it when I walk. I just haven’t had the time to do so yet. On the plus side, the zipper nursing access, though not perfect, functions pretty well.

If you have no interest in reading about the more baby-specific makes, here’s a good place to stop! Otherwise, moving on to…

IMG_20150804_081217…the gender-reveal outfit! Along with Hobbit’s very skeptical expression. He’s not a small baby by any means–he’s only 6 1/2 weeks old, and we’ve already had to take the newborn insert out of his car seat, and several of his 0-3 month sized clothes are beginning to feel a little tight when snapping them closed. I say that to show just how ridiculously oversized this is on him! I think I may have misread the pattern. I thought it was a 0-3 month size, but I’m looking at the sizing chart on the website, and it looks like this may be more of a 6 month size. Which leaves me wondering if I should go back and add some length to the legs, since these are shorts and that would mean he won’t fit into these well until it’s cold. The thought of him not being able to wear it at all is mildly heartbreaking, and I do still have some of this denim left. But would that look dumb to have that seam there?

Next up: the diapers.
20150729_095433He’s modeling the smallest of the three sizes here. For the most part, they’re working out really well so far– we’ve been having to do laundry at least every other day because of them, but we haven’t had to buy a single diaper yet. (We were given some disposables at the shower, and have been using those occasionally, but for the most part, it’s been almost exclusively the sewn ones since I was recovered enough to start taking more stairs around week 3.)

At the risk of being TMI, for the most part, the messes have been contained well. I think we’ve had maybe 3-4 blowouts the whole time so far–granted, I try to change him pretty quickly as needed, but still. The kid really does eat like a hobbit (i.e. a LOT), so I suspect we’d have had a lot more otherwise. The only issue, other than frequent laundry, has been that the really wet diapers soak through the front where the velcro stitching is. They’re not constructed in a way that I can really go back and waterproof those seams, but I think it will probably only be another month or two before he outgrows this size anyway, so it probably isn’t worth the effort. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when I switch to the next size with the pocket inserts and snaps. The bulk of these has also occasionally made it hard for him to wear certain shorts and pants, but honestly, it’s been so hot here that we usually have him in just a onesie or a t-shirt anyway, other than when we’re in the icebox that is my church.

I don’t have pictures of me using the next three things. I’ve gotten some good use out of the nursing cover, including one incident where I had to feed him in a restaurant parking lot. Suffice to say, I thought initially that maybe it was too big, but I’m glad it’s the size it is. I’m still getting the hang of maneuvering him underneath, but I’ll figure it out. The diaper bag is also working out well, though it’s usually packed very full due to the bulk of the cloth diapers. The matching changing mat does the job, though the snap stopped working after the first time I washed it. I guess I messed something up when setting it, but I just fold it up and stuff it in the bag. It’s easier to maneuver with one hand that way, anyway.

So the last thing I have to review at the moment is the play gym.
20150718_110525 As far as I can tell what’s going on in a baby’s head, he really seems to love it! We’ve been using it almost daily as a mat for his tummy time, and once he starts getting fussy, I’ll flip him over and let him bat at the felt animals. He’s gotten pretty good at aiming for the lowest-hanging ones, and has also figured out that he can make them all shake if he hits the hula hoop instead. I’ve tried him with a few other toys here and there, but so far, this one holds his attention the best. So I’d say it was well worth the effort to make it. Yay for Pinterest wins!

Otherwise, I have been sewing a little, though I’m pretty much limited to when I can get him to nap. I’ve finished a skirt, but haven’t had a chance to photograph it yet. I’ve been going through my wardrobe and weeding out things that won’t work anymore, including several me-mades, and am debating whether to do the same with my sewing patterns. I’m helping my best friend with a DragonCon costume, which is taking all of my sewing time at the moment. I’ve got multiple other quick projects lined up for myself, mostly of the refashion type, and am hoping that I can get to them soon! I’m also taking part in the #sewphotohop meme on Instagram, which has been fun so far. (I have my account there set to private, since I post a lot of baby pictures there these days, but if you want to follow me on there, just send a request. It hasn’t been hard to figure out who sews on there, I’m just trying to block random strangers from getting access to the kiddo! At least, as much as is possible when posting occasional pictures on something as public as a blog.)

Quiet Book the Second: the Whovian edition

Given how long it took me to assemble the Lord of the Rings book, I’m utterly amazed at how quickly the second book came together! Granted, I had all of the pieces cut out and ready to go, since I cut out everything for both books at the same time. But the pages on the Doctor Who book were smaller and overall simpler, and had a lot less of sewing two layers together to make one piece. So even with my limited ability to use the sewing machine, both due to the small size of a lot of the pieces and the large size of my baby bump, the pages were all sewn/embroidered and ready to assemble into a book in about a month. I think the LotR one took about 4 times as long! So I’m really glad that I did that one first.

Of course, it probably also helped that Hobbit was quite comfortable where he was, and I had about a week and a half of end-stage/past-due pregnancy where I had nothing to do except watch tv, work on the book, and see if I’d actually go into labor or not. I did wait until after he was born to do the final assembly, since my sewing machine was needed. But aside from that, I’m pretty sure the kiddo was waiting until I finished his toy!

Anyway, here is the Doctor Who quiet book. Once again, I did not design this pattern, it was from an Etsy seller named BantamBB– I’m guessing the designer discontinued his/her shop, because I can’t find it on the site anymore.

coverThe cover page, which is pretty self-explanatory.

page 1The pattern originally called for a piece of plain black felt inside, but that wasn’t exciting, since the background is also black. So I raided my mom’s quilt scraps, and found this swirly space-looking print. Much more wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey, don’t you think?

pages 2-3The accessories for this were a little fiddly. Especially the scarf– I did glue it all together first, but didn’t trust the glue to hold long-term. I was having enough trouble getting it to stay short-term! But the Dalek wears a fez now. (Which can be easily removed and swapped out for another hat.) Fezzes are cool.

Also, I guess these are the WWII Daleks, given the colors.

page 4The difficulty with geeky quiet books, which I encountered to a lesser degree, is trying to make some of this stuff a little less creepy for a kid. Which was really hard to do for a Weeping Angel. The toothbrush/toothpaste does make me laugh, though. I’m hoping they aren’t too hard to get in and out of the hand “pockets”.

page 5The thing about the pattern for this page that didn’t make sense to me was that it was a line to follow to get the TARDIS to Earth, but the pocket that holds the TARDIS was located right underneath Earth! So I moved it to the opposite diagonal corner.

page 6I’m not 100% sure this page is going to function the way it’s supposed to, because I was having trouble getting the brads loose enough to actually make the limbs move, yet tight enough to hold it all together. I guess only time will tell. (I really don’t mean that as a pun, considering the subject matter of this show.)

page 7See, it’s educational! And the other quiet book didn’t have anything for number recognition, so I like that this one does.

page 8This was another one that I had to try to make a little less creepy. It didn’t help that the pattern example had the red-eye version that wants to kill you. So I opted for the less creepy one, since this is supposed to be a friendly Ood. The ball flips over to say “Bye”.

page 9The pattern didn’t actually specify what K-9 would be hiding. So I did my best felt approximation of the Tenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. Because, seriously, a Doctor Who book without a sonic screwdriver would be blasphemy.

So that’s it! I’m quite happy to take a break from anything too hand-sewing intensive for awhile, though I’m sure this won’t be the last toy I make for Hobbit. In the meantime, I’m reacquainting myself with knitting, since I’ve found I can somewhat awkwardly hold the needles over him and knit for short bursts during his post-feeding food comas. It’s been a refreshing change, after 6 months of hand-stitching tiny bits of felt.