catching up

I have two projects to share today.

My goal for Me Made May was to focus on the making end of things, and specifically to experiment on using up some scraps and refashion bin items. In typical fashion, I overestimated how much I might be able to handle, and pulled out probably 5-6 options so I could follow my whims. And then I only sewed one thing. But I am pleased with how it turned out, and I needed an easy win.

It’s the Pony tank by Chalk and Notch, which I already made twice last year. (Though I only recently got to check the fit without the baby bump!) I made this one two-tone to use up some remnants. I’m pretty sure the black was from my nursing tank, and the coral was a piece that I snagged from my mom’s leftovers.

I didn’t have quite enough of the black to cut it as a full piece, so I pieced it together at the straps. My original plan was to make it so either side could be the front, so I cut it with the v on both sides. I also originally intended to make the black side solid, but I underestimated how much extra length I’d need to add for the extra v. And even though I pieced both that and the armholes, I didn’t even have enough left to add to that! So I recut it with the coral. Aside from the “design details”, the construction was straightforward, with the main difficulty being my usual kid-related time constraints.

Speaking of the kids, the other project was for my daughter. This is the Lucy dress, by Peekaboo Pattern Shop. It’s a simple little dress, but it took me several months to make. I added appliques from the leftover lace from my wedding dress to make it extra special, since I was planning to use this as her baptism dress, and I had to hand stitch those down. I also changed the hem to a faced one, to protect the stitching inside. Whether I can actually use it for her baptism is TBD, since my church hasn’t been able to reopen yet. And that admittedly slowed me down, just like with the chambray dress, since I was mentally struggling with that probability.

Aside from the lace, I didn’t have anything appropriate in my stash, so the rest of this was part of my one fabric purchase this year. The fabric is the “Manchester” cotton from Kaufman, and it’s a lovely textured yarn- dyed shirting. I ended up buying a couple extra yards of the blue, and still have quite a bit of the minimum order yard of white left over. I’m not really sure what to do with it yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. Eventually.

Since then, I’ve been slowly chipping away at a rather basic knit project. My sewjo is pretty nonexistent right now, between current events weighing on my mind, coming off another round of sudden unemployment (for my husband, the pandemic has destroyed the little bit of flute teaching that I had left), baby sleep regression, and trying to plan for the upcoming school year. (Today is my oldest son’s birthday, and I’m wondering how I already have a kindergartener!) It’s hard to not feel guilty about not sewing much, when I look in my closet and see the shelves of fabric waiting to turn into fun new projects. But I’ve been in this place of extended lack of sewing motivation before, going into my senior year of college with multiple stress factors happening at once. I think it’s safe to say this year qualifies! So it’ll come back. Eventually.

A decade in review

I was catching up on some blogs, and saw a post from Doctor T Designs where she did a retrospective on her best projects from the last decade. Since I’ve been writing about my sewing for well over that, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing. Fortunately, I’ve long been a fan of the year end review, so finding my favorites from each year was easy! So let’s hop into the TARDIS and do a little time traveling to see the best 10 projects of the 2010s, shall we?

Burdastyle 5/2009, #110

2010: This was basically the Golden Age of my crafting life. I was single and working multiple jobs, but I spent a lot of my free time making stuff. So I was working a lot on improving my sewing technique. I was making jewelry. I was dabbling in screenprinting, and doing paper scrapbooks. I was also subscribed to BurdaStyle at the time, and as someone who grew up sewing the Big 4 almost exclusively, this was my stepping stone into the world of indie patterns. I was so proud of how this blouse turned out, and wore it often. It’s no longer in my wardrobe, as it was too fitted for all of the body changes that this decade brought me. Maybe I should see if the pattern is anywhere near my current size and give this one a reboot!

A multi-Burda hack job

2011: It looks like this was a year that I was really into experimenting. While trying to find the pattern for this pair of pants (which turned out to be 3 patterns), I came across a bunch of refashions. I seemed to have been rather into knitting that year, too, and finished my first sweater. As for these pants, they were directly inspired by a pair I’d seen from Anthropologie, which was a favorite inspiration source at the time. On a personal note, this was also the year that I met and started dating Doug, though not till the end of the year!

My first jeans!

2012. This was the year that I got engaged. This was also the year that I made my first successful pair of real jeans! They weren’t perfect, and haven’t fit since about 2015, but they were a great learning experience. I’d love to take on a project like this again.

The biggest sewing project of my life!

2013, and picking the project for this year was a no brainer! The first half of this year was almost exclusively focused on wedding planning and crafting. Including this little number, loaded with couture techniques and yards upon yards of fabric. I can’t imagine how much of that I would have needed if I’d done a train!

Vogue peacoat

2014 was a tough year to choose a favorite! I was sewing a lot of Sewaholic at the time, including multiple pairs of Thurlow pants (another pattern that I need to revisit). But in the end, I picked my heavy, nonwool winter coat. It’s still going strong 6 years later, and I cannot believe it’s been that long since I made it!

Maternity, or not maternity?

2015 was a game changer for me, for both life and sewing, as it was the year that my older son was born. So I did a lot of pattern hacking for maternity clothes, as most designers I knew of then didn’t start putting out maternity patterns until after. That includes this altered Simplicity pattern, which I still wear frequently as a non maternity skirt as well.

Cashmerette Appleton dress

2016 is currently kind of a blur in my head, between the toddler who refused to sleep through the night until the end of that year and ending up pregnant again more quickly than I’d expected! But I did have time to make a few things, including this hacked sleeve Appleton dress. I was pleased that it ended up how I’d pictured it in my head. This one is also still in my closet, though it’s definitely in need of some layering with the nursing factor!

Jalie Vanessa pants

2017: the year my second son was born, which meant a big learning curve in adjusting to being a mom to multiple kids! My best of the year for this one is a little surprising, as I was on the fence about whether the Vanessa pants were a win or fail in my top 5 roundup. But they’ve turned out to be versatile, at least for the warmer months, and I actually have fabric to make a second pair now. (A Deer & Doe Bruyere blouse was a close second.)

McCall’s 7350

2018: another year of trying new things (swimsuits! Pull up jeans! Using a coverstitch machine!) And this was also the year that I remembered that I still like Big 4 patterns as well, though indies dominated my decade. I thought about choosing the swimsuit, but this McCall’s maxidress was honestly my favorite project of the year. I’ve realized that since the kids were born, I’ve been very focused on practical clothing needs and learning how to fit all of the newer curves through multiple major body shifts. This project was simply for fun and because I liked it. I think I needed that. Though, on a practical note, this dress did work well for a few maternity wearings and is very nursing friendly, so it’ll get even better use this summer!

Grainline Archer

Which brings me to this year, and another one dominated by adding a baby to our family. Though I recently stated that the Pony Tank was my best pattern this year, I think the Archer was the winner in terms of stretching my sewing, especially after being necessarily knits focused for awhile.

So there you have it! 10 years, 10 projects. What was your favorite project or projects of the decade?

2019 top 5: Highlights

To continue this year’s top 5 series. I think that I’m going to skip reflections this time, since so much of my sewing was dictated by my pregnancy and I can’t really make any commentary about what it says about my style or anything. But I can talk about the non-sewing highlights. So here goes…

  1. 20191208_072253The baby, obviously. 2019 was all about the baby. This pregnancy was the most challenging of the 3 for me, since it combined the 9 months of near- constant nausea from my first with the breathing problems from my second (the problem was apparently all in my deep diaphragm-breathing flutist’s head, but that didn’t make me feel any less constantly out of breath), with the added challenge of 2 active little boys to care for. I spent most of the summer particularly feeling like a miserable lump, and had to go back to physical therapy for my previous pregnancy hip injury because it flared up again during my third trimester. But the actual labor felt rather empowering to me this time, since I was able to handle both calmly walking myself into the maternity ward while in full labor (9.5 cm dialated! Doug was parking the car, since things moved faster than anticipated again), and pushing her out without panicking about no time for the epidural. Our plan is for this to be the last baby, because I don’t think that I can physically or mentally handle another pregnancy. But this sweet little girl was worth every moment of it. (This is her modeling the Petal Dress that I made from all of the corduroy vest leftovers.)
  2. 20191205_090605School days. Can you believe that my oldest is preschool age? We decided to homeschool this year for many reasons, though a huge factor was the timing of little sister arriving right at the beginning of the school year. We didn’t think that our often sensitive boy would respond well to the combination of a new sibling plus suddenly being sent away from us for hours at a time. And the thought of dealing with an imposed outside schedule plus a newborn and toddler made me really stressed out! So far, it’s been working out well for us. We did sign him up for a once a week homeschool class to give him some social time, which he loves. And we’ve been working through the alphabet and some basic math, which we did already do once, but mostly just through reading books because that was all I could handle while sick. He had picked up on counting well before, and is starting to grasp the concepts of addition and subtraction now. And he’s recently expressed interest in learning to read, since he’s picked up a few words. (Mostly his name, and “poop”, from one of his dinosaur books. Yes, he is definitely fitting the 4 year old boy stereotype here.) And I’ve been including his little brother wherever I can, which I think he’s enjoying. This picture is a recent one from learning what 100 looks like.
  3. The 100 Days Project. Speaking of 100… Even when I was feeling too sick to sew, I still needed a creative outlet! If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know that I’ve done scrapbooking steadily since I was a teenager, and last year, I started dabbling with doing it digitally. It’s been working out great for me, especially as something where all I needed to physically do was sit upright. So this year, I upgraded to a version of Photoshop that was actually made this decade, and dove in. I couldn’t quite manage doing it on consecutive days, largely due to an illness with a headache that forced me off screens for several days, but I signed up for the 100 Days Project to get some momentum going. And largely thanks to that, I busted through nearly the entire backlog of family photos that needed to be dealt with since getting pregnant with the younger boy, and have managed to stay almost entirely caught up on this year in the meantime! I’m not sure if the link will work unless you have an account with the site, but just in case, all of the 100 Days Project layouts are in an online gallery here, along with all of the other digital layouts I’ve made over the last year or so.
  4. All the books. This was actually a pretty good reading year for me, and I beat my Goodreads goal of 60 books. (Granted, some of this was short easy reader chapter books that I read aloud, like the first few Magic Treehouse books, but I’ll happily count everything that’s longer than a picture book.) A few favorite reads this year: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (one of my favorite authors), The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King, The Woodcutter by Kate Danley, Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, and the first 3 books of The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. (The 4th wasn’t available at my library and is currently out of print while they are reprinting with new cover art, the book I’m linking is currently on preorder for that set, so I’ll have to wait to finish the series.) Can you tell I’m a fiction girl? I’m currently working through a long historic fiction set in Renaissance Italy (Voice of the Falconer, by David Blixt, mostly during overnight feedings), and the next pick for the book club that I’m in (The Moment of Lift, by Melinda Gates).
  5. Hmmm. I guess for this one, I’ll say family life in general. Doug is being very supportive of my need to get out for breaks, usually of the music rehearsal variety, and is great about getting things done around the house so it’s not all on me. And aside from daily struggles around dinnertime (extremely stubborn picky eaters), and some more recent very physical fighting, the boys are both at a fun age where they can usually play well together and communicate well with me.

So that pretty much sums it up! How was your year?

 

An Ottobre trio

I’ve had to be very intentional about it, but I’m still managing to find some time to sew! I spent the first month or so after my daughter was born making something for each of the kids, to give my body some time to recover and find a new normal before trying to fit something on it again. Both patterns used were from my tiny stash of Ottobre kids’ magazines.

IMG_7930.JPGFirst up, my daughter got the Wild Cat hooded tunic from the Spring 2015 issue. I made it from some scraps of a hatchi sweater knit that my mom recently used for one of her projects, since I cut this out while still pregnant and it was more readily available than digging through my own scraps! Construction was easy, with the main challenge being the invisible zipper on a bound edge. It was a good opportunity to practice finishing edges with fold over elastic, since I haven’t worked with that often. I made the smallest size for this (92 cm), and this is her wearing it at around 3 weeks old. She’s about 2.5 months old now, and while it fits her much better, I think there’s at least a month left in it now. EDIT TO ADD: I just noticed that I forgot to add the photo! (Thanks, sleep deprivation.) So this is actually her wearing it for her 3 month old photos. I have plans to make this again soon, as my older son declared that she needs a Little Red Riding Hood outfit to go with what I made for them. So I got some crushed red velvet and will probably make the next size up to be her first Christmas outfit. My family is aaaaall casual when it comes to Christmas gatherings. So this over a onesie and leggings will be perfect. I’m thinking I may tweak the front to avoid the zipper, though, since I’ve been struggling with how to finish those edges without making it look cheap.

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I made the boys’ shirts primarily with the younger one in mind. He has had a months-long obsession with stories involving the Big Bad Wolf, and it’s not uncommon to overhear him standing at the bathroom door while his brother is in there, yelling “little pig, little pig, let me in!” So when I saw this “Small Nice Wolf” shirt in the Autumn 2015 issue, I knew it had to happen. I had to purchase new for these, as I don’t have much gray in my stash, and knew the only shot at my oldest wearing it was to make it as soft of a fabric as possible. But I was able to use scraps for the face.

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Construction wasn’t bad, particularly since I took the time to baste the curvier seams before sewing. Good thing, too, since a few pieces got mixed up between the two sizes while they were sitting on my machine, and I initially sewed the smaller side front to the larger wolf face! The one thing I’d change is to secure the 3D ears better, because they tend to flop down during wear.

I think the end result is simply adorable, and Padawan was quite excited about the results! He has worn it several times since. I’ve had a little more trouble getting Hobbit to wear it, despite him asking me several times while I was recovering from having his sister if I’d started making his shirt yet. He has worn it a few times, and gets excited when he gets compliments on it, but getting him to put it on initially can be a struggle. He does like to have things a certain way, and he did admit to me today that it bothers him that the ears flop down when it’s being worn. So I think I’m going to have to go back and hand-tack the ears to the shoulders on both shirts.

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The best shot I was able to get of both of them wearing it. (I asked them to howl, and they enjoyed that part.) I have enough left that I can make them each a pair of pants, but I think I’m going to hold off on that. I’m feeling a little wary of sewing for Hobbit in particular right now, after the limited success of this shirt and what was basically a failure on the matching vests I made for them and their daddy. But I think maybe they’re warming up to my sewing for them again, as they’ve also renewed interest in the animal coats that I made for them last fall. (They still fit, since they were designed to be worn for 2 years, but it’s pretty obvious that neither of them will be able to wear them again next fall.) So we’ll see. I do have some knit panels on order for each of the kids, so I’ll need to decide whether to risk sewing for the boys again, or just make them into pillows or something.

Sewing Top 5: Real life highlights

It’s the year end roundup season again, hosted as always by the fabulous Gillian! This is an odd one to start with for me, but since I’m in the middle of a project, I’d like to reserve judgment on my best and worst makes of the year. So instead, here’s what has been occupying my (mostly) real life in 2018.

20180507_1927431. The Two Toddlers. (Can you tell I’m on a Lord of the Rings bender again? Technically, I guess Hobbit is really more of a preschooler than a toddler now, but since he started this year as a 2 1/2 year old, I’m going to roll with it.) Seriously, it has been a lot of fun to watch their personalities and relationship with each other growing this year. Hobbit is super-chatty and enthusiastic about learning, especially when dinosaurs are involved! We’ve actually slowly been starting to work on learning letters and numbers since the summer, starting with the ones in his name, and he’s been doing very well with it so far. I even caught him writing the first letter on our chalkboard wall downstairs recently, so not bad at all for a 3 year old! As for Padawan, it’s crazy to think that at the beginning of this year, he was just starting to pull himself to standing, and 12 months later, he’s not only running and climbing all over everything (so much climbing!), but he’s also starting to put together two word sentences. They mostly play very well together, aside from when one of them has a toy the other wants, so I’m thankful for that.

2. Facing challenges. While I wouldn’t exactly call this a highlight, it was a major part of our family life this fall. We found out at the beginning of October that the banking corporation that my husband works for would be outsourcing his job to India, and he would therefore be laid off in 45 business days. It was a scary prospect, especially the thought of losing our health insurance with two young and very active kids. But the whole experience really did help to strengthen our faith in God as a family, and it was good to see how our families and closest friends were so willing to step up to help, both by praying and with some financial support. Doug worked his tail off applying for everything he could find in the area that he thought he was remotely qualified for, and had a string of interviews, and even considered a major career change (trying out for the police). In the end, he got hired back for a different position at the same bank, in just enough time that he was able to end his old position on the last day and start at his new one the following Monday. And he even got a raise! Plus the process of getting ready for the physical test that he was required to take before being accepted for police training did make him take a very serious look at his health habits, which I think will be beneficial for both of us in the long run. I can hardly ever motivate myself to exercise, because frankly, I hate it. But I think if it’s something we’re able to do together or as a family, it’ll be easier to take care of myself, too.

20170122_162433The other sad/challenging event in the fall was having to put one of our golden retrievers to sleep. We discovered back in April that he had a tumor growing in his leg, and it was already huge enough that there wasn’t anything we could do, other than make his last months as comfortable as we could. I’ve lost pets before, but I’d never been in the room, and that was really hard. (I’m tearing up just writing this, and it was 3 months ago already.) So we’re a one dog family now. Hobbit still comments out of the blue that he wishes we could get Malkin back, which is so sad.

3. Sewing community involvement. It’s sometimes hard not to feel isolated from it when you’re not a very prolific blogger, or you can’t participate in challenges, or even sew the new popular pattern that everyone is making. But I did get to do a few things this year that I’m proud of. Like participating in Elizabeth’s Day and Night dress challenge, and Instagram challenges like #sewphotohop and #bpsewvember. I also got to write a guest post for the Sewcialists blog (something I didn’t think I’d be able to do, since I am ridiculously average by sewing community standards), and even got a response read on the Love to Sew podcast! (The Sewing Struggles episode, if you’re curious.)

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4. My reading life. Reading was my first hobby love before sewing was even an option due to my age, so I spend a lot of time being torn between the two. It hasn’t been quite as much of an issue this year, since I’ve gotten greater audiobook access, between LibriVox classics, library app loans, and when a good friend with similar taste granted me access to listen to her Audible account. (Though now the issue is distraction by podcasts and music!) I also had the opportunity to join a book club this year, mostly made up of women from my church, Though I wasn’t able to attend every meeting, I think it went a long way towards both diversifying my reading and helping me finally start making some better friends there (always a challenge for a shyer introvert). There was only one book I disliked, and several that I ended up continuing the series on my own, or plan to when I can. I’m ending the year with a Tolkien reread, since that’s a comfort book for me and it was a hard autumn. I’m feeling pretty good about how many books I was able to read on my own, on top of the many, many picture books!

20180707_1043155. Outdoor adventures. So you know how I just said that I hate exercise? Hiking is the exception. Doug and I decided to start a tradition with the kids early on where one of their Christmas gifts is an experience instead of a thing. We weren’t sure how to handle it last year with a toddler and baby, so we got a state parks pass, because being outside is good for everybody. It ended up being a good choice! We did some family hikes, attempted paddleboating (we’re saving the next attempt for when the boys are older!), and discovered a new to us beach park that was actually amazing, and we wished we’d gone earlier in the summer. We’re not doing that as the experience gift this Christmas, but I am planning to get the parks pass again for next year so we can do more exploring!

I think that pretty much sums it up! I’m still involved in music things, of course, like the community orchestra and the flute choir (though I’m taking a hiatus from the latter at the beginning of the year, because the next concert is scheduled for the day of Padawan’s birthday and I’m not missing that entire weekend with him.) And I’ve kind of rediscovered one of my older hobbies this year, as I’ve been teaching myself digital scrapbooking on a dinosaur version of Photoshop Elements. It’s actually made it so I’m starting to catch up again, because it’s so much easier to sit down for 15 minutes and work digitally than to haul out tempting glue and scissors with the boys around. I’m actually very strongly considering doing one of those 100 days challenges early in the year to knock some more out! I’ve also discovered a site that lets me download 5 free supplies every day, and does monthly themes where people who enjoy designing create digital papers and stuff that they give away for free! All of that stuff except the zoo pictures came from there. I’m thinking that redoing my blog header may have to be a thing next year, now that I’m starting to get the hang of this better. I don’t share about scrapbooking much on here anymore, but here’s a recent page that I’m proud of, from a morning we spent at a zoo with Doug’s family over the summer.

2018-07 Cape May Zoo 2

So that’s it! I’m looking forward to reading about more of what’s been going on with all of you this year!