the post-baby wardrobe blues

Warning: slightly ranting, rather candid post ahead. This was originally going to be a post about a shirt that I finished about a month ago, though I just got around to photographing it this past weekend. Though, really, I don’t know what to say about it, because once again, the results just aren’t what I wanted them to be.

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The concept was good. I took my Sewaholic Renfrew pattern, and the concept from a nursing top that Heather kindly sent me back during my first pregnancy, to attempt to make a boring, basic black tee. Because I somehow didn’t have one, and given my love for bold print skirts, this was a serious hole in my wardrobe. So I used the front band and the instructions from my Peekaboo Patterns nursing camisoles as a guideline. As you can see, it didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped.

I know exactly why. It was a combination of the pattern size being wrong (measuring for my nursing chest size is failing me at every turn lately) and the rayon knit being too drapey to have what turns out to be the necessary recovery for a shirt with two holes in the front. It’s already sagging to just below the covering band, despite the fold over elastic I put there in an attempt to keep it snug to my body, and I think I may have to sew the front completely closed in order to keep this wearable. Which defeats the entire purpose of a nursing shirt. At least the skirt turned out ok, even though all I did was buy it at the thrift shop and shorten it a few inches. The waistband was up to my ribs before–an odd feeling, since I’m not short!

IMG_5145 My apologies if this is sounding like a downer. But the truth is, I’m frustrated, and I’ve been getting increasingly so for awhile. Looking at these pictures, you can tell that I don’t feel great about what I’m wearing. Honestly, I haven’t felt great about almost everything I’ve made for awhile now. I was thinking about it today, and for the entire past 12ish months, I really only have two projects, that weren’t super-simple basics, where I feel like they look decent on me and really suit my style. I showed a picture on Instagram of one of my currently in-progress projects that’s also turning out to be less than I’d hoped, and a (kindly meant and worded in a constructively critical way) comment that I might be better off just cutting a different shirt entirely out of the fabric and starting over nearly sent me off crying. I feel like I just don’t know how to sew for myself anymore, and given that I’ve been sewing mostly clothes for coming up on 30 years now, that thought is horribly depressing.

It’s a hard place to be, sewing for the in-between. I recall having issues after my first pregnancy, and having a few misses on trying to sew for nursing-friendly and more changeable sizes than I was used to, but I think it’s actually hitting me much harder this second time around. I wasn’t expecting to have two kids less than two years apart. And while I wouldn’t trade Padawan in, he really is a sweet and happy baby most of the time, having two pregnancies this close together has really done a number on my body. I’m actually in physical therapy right now, because my hips got completely out of alignment between the two pregnancies and it was starting to make just normal, everyday walking painful. I also started this pregnancy at a higher weight than my first, since I only had something like a month between finishing up with nursing and getting pregnant again, and didn’t have a chance to drop those last few pounds. Long story short, I feel like I’m sewing for someone else’s body now, and I just can’t seem to get the hang of it. My older clothes are still too small, trying to sew looser/more forgiving silhouettes are resulting in things turning out too big, and I’m not even sure what looks good with all of these extra lumps and bumps that I have now. I just feel frumpy pretty much all the time. And of course I’m complicating things further by breastfeeding.

I can’t give up sewing, it’s too much a part of me. But I am seriously beginning to wonder if I should just step back from clothes for now, and focus on stuff like the boys’ Halloween costumes that I’m working on/all of the boring-but-necessary sewing that I’ve been procrastinating on (oh, hi, bedroom curtains that shrank shorter than your lining two years ago). I’ve never had a sewing slump like this one before, where I consistently have far more misses than hits. It’s demoralizing, especially when it’s been such a struggle to get sewing time to begin with. And until I’m 100% sure that I’m done with having babies and massive weight shifts, I don’t know what to do about it.

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Ease into Motherhood

I’ve been seeing posts pop up on Seamstress Erin‘s new series, Ease Into Motherhood, all over my feed for the last couple of weeks. Since this has been my life for two years now (how is Hobbit 2?!?), I thought I’d add my voice to the conversation.

I’ve found that motherhood is pretty much all-consuming, most of the time. At least, for me. As I’m sitting down to type this, I have the baby strapped to my front in the carrier and crying while I rock back and forth to try and calm him to sleep, and I’m having to stop every 30 seconds to keep the toddler from getting into something that he shouldn’t be. Most of the time, my time is not my own. I’ve had to rethink how I do everything, from my job to my hobbies to even the most basic necessities like food and sleep. And I’ll be honest, sometimes it feels like my body isn’t my own anymore either. Except for about two months last summer, I’ve either been pregnant or nursing for close to 3 years straight now.

Now that I’m past that “fourth trimester” (how is Padawan 3 months already?!?), I’m finding that in some ways, life with two kids is easier, and in some ways it’s much harder. It’s easier, because so far, the baby is sleeping longer and easier than his older brother ever did (thank God, because that was a rough 18 months!), and will actually let me put him down for 5 minutes so I can do things like empty the dishwasher or go to the bathroom. I’m also not freaking out every five minutes about how to best care for him, since I’ve been through this before. On the flip side, now that I also have a toddler, there’s the added pressure of trying to keep him from base jumping off of every piece of furniture in the house/still sticking things in his mouth that he shouldn’t be/actually having to start disciplining him when he’s not listening/etc. Plus the guilt that he, or especially the baby, may not be getting the one-on-one attention that he should be.

The impact this has had on my sewing has been especially noticeable this time, since I had to downsize my creative space from an entire room to one wall of our walk in closet, with most of my supplies stored out of sight in a closet two stories down. I ended up doing a pretty serious purge of my fabrics and yarns, along with some drastic cuts to supplies for other crafty hobbies. I now do most of my pattern tracing and cutting out at my parents’ house, since my mom has a space big enough to do it and our kitchen table is basically changing pad central now. (Thanks, Mom, you’re the best!)

My body is so different now from what it was pre-kids. I think that’s been the biggest adjustment for me, at least for sewing. I was so spoiled before, with a pretty steady weight and being able to figure out quick cheater ways to adjust my patterns and all. But 2 babies and being closer to 40 than 30 later, I’m still trying to figure out what “normal” is for me now. I may not know for awhile, since I’m still nursing and trying to lose some baby weight–much harder this time, especially since my hips got all out of whack over the course of these two pregnancies. (I actually just started physical therapy for that, so hopefully the problems will get fixed.) Plus there’s the question of whether we want to try for one more child or not. Normal might be a long way off.

I’ve been having to seriously rethink my style over this last year. And a lot of the things I want to sew have had to go on the back burner. (I’m looking at you, Ginger jeans.) What I thought was flattering on me before just isn’t anymore, with my new thicker waist and mom belly. I’m finding myself considering patterns that I never would have before, like things with elastic waists that are more forgiving for my constantly shifting weight. I’m having to learn to think of my sewing as every little step counts, rather than the hours at a time that I used to be able to do. I have to really prioritize my projects in a way that I didn’t have to before. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing–after all, even though my maternity clothes have taught me that I get really bored with a small, minimalistic wardrobe, a more carefully considered wardrobe means that I’ll get more use out of the things I do make. And, as slow as I am these days, I’ll never run out of things to sew! Which is probably good, because so much of my life seems to be things that never get done (including my small bit of work outside the home, because there’s always another lesson to teach, or more practicing or rehearsing to do), that it’s nice to actually be able to look at something at the end of the project and know that it’s done, ready to just be enjoyed, and be able to pick up and start something new.

Also, I’ve learned that making things for kids can be very rewarding too. I’m not planning to make entire handmade wardrobes for either boy. We were given way more baby clothes than one kid ever needs, and I’m actually relieved that my older son has gotten to a size where I feel like I can actually justify making the occasional shirt because we don’t have 50 of them already. But it’s been fun to make the occasional toy, and Halloween costumes! Plus, even though decent boy patterns are much harder to find, the results can be pretty adorable. I mean, look at these two.

 

I’ll be honest… sometimes I wish that sewing was a bigger part of my life still. But at moments like this, where the baby just woke up crying in the carrier again and the toddler just came over with one of his two favorite stuffed animals to try and cheer his little brother up, it’s much easier to remember that this is just my current season, more time to sew will come again, and I need to take advantage of these moments while my boys are little.

Just call me Goldilocks

I’m going to do a little time traveling today. Not too far back, just to May. I was able to get back to sewing surprisingly fast after this baby, and managed to knock out three projects within the first six weeks of bringing him home. Unfortunately for me, the results have been less than stellar. But I do like to keep it real around here, and not every project is a success, so I’ll share them anyway. Hopefully the photos are OK, but the phone photos that I had to resort to are better than none, right?

20170703_141316My first project after Padawan was born was to knock out two pairs of shorts from Simplicity 1367. Shorts are legitimately the big hole in my wardrobe– I don’t particularly enjoy wearing them because I’ve never been all that confident about how I look in them, but skirts aren’t  always practical for life with young kids, and our summer is way too hot and humid for jeans. And I only had one pair of shorts to get me through the entire summer. I thought this pattern would be good for post-baby wear and (hopeful) weight loss because of the knit yoga-style waistband. Theoretically, I still think that. The problem is that I cut them out while I was still pregnant, and either I remembered my measurements from after the first pregnancy wrong, or I underestimated what size I might need, considering that I started this time with a few pounds more. They’re too small. I recently checked my measurements to cut a different project, and I probably should have gone two sizes bigger, though I made the largest size for the envelope that I had.

Matcha and shortsThey fit enough to be wearable, barely, but they fit me like maternity jeans after the halfway mark or so–the woven part rides too low in the back, and the knit panel is necessary to cover the rest. It feels awkward. It looks awkward too, if this backside shot is any indication. I’m hoping that as I lose some of this baby weight, that they might work better. (Assuming that I can, because I’ve been trying to up my exercise and drink more water and stuff steadily for two whole months, my best streak of consistency in my life, and guess how much weight I’ve lost? NONE. I’m so upset at this.) In the meantime, I bought a second pair at the thrift shop on a $2 sale day. (Along with jeans, because I needed those too.)

Some other details: the solid pair is made from nonstretch lightweight denim and an interlock knit, and the print is a rayon-blend twill that I got in an online fabric swap several years ago, plus a rayon jersey. The rayon jersey, which I bought second after deciding to also make the denim pair, works much better for the waistband. Or it would, if the print pair fit. The interlock is thicker, and I actually basted a fisheye dart in back to keep it from gaping away from me, but once I figured out that the shorts were going to be too small, I decreased the seam allowance on the denim pair, so it works a little better to squeeze them on. IMG_20170428_105621I did add patch pockets to the front of each pair with the intention of holding my phone when I’m dealing with the boys. It’s hard to squeeze it in since the shorts are tight right now, but it helps me tell the front from the back. It would definitely need a tag or something otherwise. I also added several inches to the length, I think around 6″, because the idea of my thighs in short shorts is uncomfortable. That’s exactly why I prefer wearing skirts in summer, I can cover more of my legs without looking frumpy. Anyway. Did I mention that the lining on the denim pockets are geeky fun? My mom let me raid her quilt cotton scraps, since I pretty much do all my cutting out at her place while she gets grandson time, and this piece was from Spoonflower.

Matcha and shortsNext up, I made the Matcha top from Sew Liberated. It popped up on my Instagram feed as a breastfeeding friendly shirt, so in a highly unusual move for me, I bought a brand new pattern and sewed it nearly right away. I should have made a test version. But stupid me, I decided to dive right into the Cotton & Steel challis that my mom gifted me with in lieu of hospital flowers. (Note to my husband, if you ever read this: I will never complain about you buying me fabric instead of flowers that will be dead in a week.) I rounded up on the size to go with my current bust measurement, but the pattern didn’t mention any finished garment measurements. (My one criticism of the pattern, since this company is new to me.) It was huge. What I probably should have done, once I realized this, was unpick what I’d sewn up to that point, retraced the pattern in a smaller size, and recut from what I had. But since I was in the middle of Doug watching the boys so I could sew and I have nowhere good to cut at home for now, I just started tweaking what I had. A lot. So I took in the side seam in the back, took a tuck under the back of the shoulder detail, turned the back into a large box pleat (okay, so that one was a  case of not reading ahead to see that it was supposed to be gathered), shifted the collar down about 2.5″ in the front, and so on.

Matcha and shorts The result is a pretty close approximation of the pattern, thankfully, and it’s very comfortable on our summer days with 3000% humidity. I couldn’t let this lovely fabric be a failure, because it feels so nice (and cool) to wear. Also, Alice in Wonderland print. This makes my literary geeky heart so happy. I actually do like the box pleat in this, too. And the neckline is really unique. There’s a hook and eye that helps hold it closed, and it has worked out very well for nursing so far. I keep thinking I’m going to add another hook and eye so that I don’t have to keep wearing a camisole underneath, but since my new necessary sewing setup means I have to go to the basement, haul a wire shelf out of the closet– most likely while wearing a baby and trying to keep a toddler from grabbing craft supplies and running– dig out the hooks and return everything else, it hasn’t happened yet.Matcha and shorts

Since this experiment gave me no real indication of the fit, I pulled a piece from my stash and cut out the sleeved version for the fall, about two sizes smaller. I haven’t gotten to sewing it yet, so stay tuned.

It’s admittedly frustrating that these three things had so many fit issues, since I have to fight for every scrap of sewing time that I get these days. That’s a large part of why I splurged on the fabric for the Rae skirt from the last post– I just needed something quick and simple that I knew would get good results. I did finish another project recently that seemed to work out, so I’m hoping that means that I’m back to a better streak of sewing. After this run, I could use a few more projects that are just right.

I’ll be back…

It just might be awhile before I have anything new to show off of any needles or other craftiness, since my big 9 month project decided he was done.

Meet Padawan! He was born on Friday night after a shockingly accelerated labor (as in I really wasn’t sure we’d make it to the hospital on time by the end, and it was all over less than half an hour after we got there.)  He was 8 pounds 3 ounces, and 20″ tall. I don’t think Hobbit knows what to make of this yet– he was interested for a few minutes on Friday night, then got fussy, then didn’t want much of anything to do with either him or me yesterday. Toddlers. Hopefully I’ll be forgiven soon. 

Anyway, we’re going home today, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to pick up any of my projects again, while I’m healing up and we’re all getting used to each other. (And hopefully getting more sleep than Hobbit let us have.) In the meantime, happy Easter and happy sewing!

Wardrobe Architect Revisited, part 2

For this episode, I’m revisiting lifestyle and silhouettes.

Lifestyle: I honestly don’t have to rehash the entire worksheet. After all, my history/family background and such hasn’t changed. If you are interested in  reading the original answers, you can do so here. But here are the things that have changed…

5. Activities- How do your day-to-day activities influence your choices?
When I originally wrote this, I was working part-time at the garden center, teaching music lessons, and a newlywed. Now, as a mostly stay at home mom, I need to think more practically about my clothes. If you follow my Instagram, it’s pretty obvious that saying Hobbit is “active” is a bit of an understatement! And with a little brother on the way, I think the bulk of my wardrobe is going to have to be made up of clothes that are easy to care for, easy to move in, and at least for now, easy to nurse in. I still need some nicer things for church and teaching/performing, especially now that I’m also playing in an orchestra again. (Oh, hi, all the black clothes!) But after several months of also following along with some ideas for toddler activities, I’m also realizing that I really could use some loungewear as well, particularly things that either I don’t mind getting messy or that stains come out of easily. I still love (and miss) jeans, but definitely don’t want to go through the fitting process again only to lose the results to finger paint or other messier play! (I might be better off getting that stuff from the thrift shop though, since my sewing time is limited.)

6. Location- Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?

Well, I still live in the same area, so mid-Atlantic humidity and wacky temperature swings are still a thing. (Wow, this past winter was nuts.) I’m mostly revisiting this because I’ve since discovered that I actually don’t mind wearing skirts when it’s moderately cold, when paired with leggings and boots. And I’ve also reluctantly concluded that I’m going to need  some shorts for our hot days, because moms with little boys hanging on their legs and running all over the playground probably can’t live in just skirts.

7. Body- In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

This one is probably the biggest change from before. As I said in the last post, it’s been awhile since my body wasn’t undergoing constant changes, given that I’m ending up with 2 kids less than 2 years apart. (Not by more than a few months, but still.) And if you’ve been following me within these last 3 years, you know that one of the things I’ve struggled with is coming up with things to sew that have a flexible enough fit to accommodate the changes in weight/measurements that still feel like me. It’s looking like after I factor in the weight I’m going to lose that’s actual baby, I’m facing an approximate year of nursing plus about 30-35 additional pounds to lose if I want to get close to where I was before all of this started. And since one of the things that my favorite silhouettes before tended to play up was my waistline, and that’s pretty much shot at this point, it’s much more challenging to figure out what feels flattering to me when I’m still also self-conscious about the same areas as before plus that.

Now for the more fun part– silhouettes! The words I came up with to describe my ideal style before were casual, colorful, cozy, artsy, and geeky. And that still feels right to me. But for silhouettes, a lot of what I’d said before involved favoring more fitted silhouettes. Fit and flare dresses, peplums, waistline definition, and so on. That’s where I have to rethink things a little more. Fortunately, I have been collecting inspiration on Pinterest for awhile now, and in combing through the outfits that I liked well enough to collect on my Wardrobe Architect board, here’s some things I’ve noticed:

Jeans and maxi-skirts for days are apparently two of the major things I’m drawn to– there were far more long skirts than shorter ones or dresses. And you all know how I feel about my jeans. (I’ve been dying to try the Ginger jeans pattern for years now, but, you know, double pregnancy fitting issues.) Still lots of jackets/outerwear layers, too. One thing I have noticed about the outfits that I’ve saved over the last year or so is that I do seem to be finding more pins where the shirts are more the type that are still fairly fitted in the bust, but drapier in the waist. That will be much more forgiving for me now, so that may be a good thing to keep in mind for future top patterns, even though I still see a place for tops like my beloved Renfrew. (Assuming I can get a nursing-friendly hack to work for that!)

Incidentally, another thing I’ve noticed about Pinterest is that it’s often rather challenging to find outfits that aren’t just solid neutral everything. SO MUCH TAUPE. And I particularly found it harder to find things with prints, period. But I have also noticed that solids are more palatable when they have some kind of interesting design detail, like that drapey teal top in the top row. But anyway, moving on to some more seasonal stuff

You knew I couldn’t do this without some geeky inspiration, right? I’m seriously in love with that Faramir outfit in particular, and not just because he’s actually my favorite male character in the Lord of the Rings books. I realize that the color palette here reads more fall, but I found it easiest to find silhouettes that would work well for the more transitional weather of spring and fall here. It’s mostly cool enough for pants and boots. I can layer up, like with the plaid shirt and the jacket. And I can wear tunic-type shirts– I think something along the lines of these cream and green ones in the bottom row are a particularly good style evolution for me, because the belts still give them a bit of waist definition, even as the respective pleats and drapiness are better for the weight fluctuations that I’m still getting used to. (I may seriously have to knock off that cream one, since it’s also very nursing friendly!)

Winter clothes have always been a bigger challenge for me. Frankly, a lot of them bore me, even though a lot of that is probably more the palette. But I did find these three that I liked. The long cardigan gives that outfit the artsy element that I’ve been missing. The middle outfit would be a great one for things like running errands and chasing the boys outside, without feeling embarrassed about how I look– I really do feel much more put together in jeans than yoga-type pants! And the outfit on the right would actually be a great casual teaching outfit, with the trouser jeans and the nicer top/cardigan. The pants remind me of the Sewaholic Thurlows, though maybe just a bit straighter in the thigh to give it that wider leg. I miss those pants.

Surprisingly for me, I actually had a lot of trouble finding some ideas for summer outfits. At least, ones that don’t involve a maxi-skirt. The thing is, I don’t particularly feel comfortable wearing shorts, since I don’t like to show that much of my pasty thighs, but as stated before, sometimes they’re just more practical for my current lifestyle. And it’s especially hard to find outfit inspiration where the shorts aren’t super short, even when you plug in search terms like “mom outfit” along with it. Like that outfit with the coral top? Love the concept, since I can get all over a colorful, printed top that’s flowy enough to deal with our 80-90+ degrees plus all the humidity days that we often get around midsummer or so. But I’m pretty sure that Hobbit’s shorts are longer than those shorts, and he’s still under 3 feet tall! (I think.) The length on the other outfit is much better, though I doubt I’d tuck in any portion of my top during those really sticky days. Again, I like the concept, though, and maybe it’s time that I considered trying out a woven tee pattern, if I can find one that wouldn’t just look like a sack once it got past my chest. I do have two on hand that might work (the Sewaholic Belcarra and the Seamwork Akita.) I do have a couple of shorts patterns to try out as well, hopefully this summer since I maybe have one pair of shorts that may or may not end up fitting to get me through the entire season, and I’m hoping that they won’t end up looking dreadful on me.

So, to sum up, it looks like the silhouettes to aim for now are more fitted at the bust/flowy at the waist and hips, and try to figure out a way to fit some pants or especially jeans. Also, it looks like separates are something I lean much more strongly towards overall, though I still love me a good maxi dress. But even though I know I’m not the type of person who can have the 40 hanger capsule wardrobe and be happy in all seasons with that, the potential ability to mix and match more within those mini capsules that I’m still trying to build will serve me well.

well, that was…interesting.

So you know how, at the end of every year, it’s pretty much traditional to share your sewing goals for the following year? And I’ve had “try making a bra” on there for several of those in a row now? Well, I finally did it.

And to be honest, I’m a little embarrassed to show the results. But in the interest of honesty and lifelong learning and all that, I’m going to do it anyway.

first bra outsideThe thing is, it was never going to be anything more than frumpy to some extent, since it’s a nursing bra and therefore pure function over form. I got the pattern from Bra-Makers’ Supply, as it was the only one I could find that wasn’t a little bralette for, shall we say, the less endowed. (Especially when nursing. Ugh.) I had to completely guess at the supplies, since the sizing listed on the website was a bit confusing. So, given that I’m a complete newbie at this particular type of sewing project, I decided to just buy 3 of the large bra supply kits, along with the necessary nursing clips, and hope for the best.

first bra inside The good news is, that strategy mostly worked. (“Mostly” being the key word.) I had plenty of the band and trim elastics, and enough of the main fabrics to still have scraps left. Though not enough to line the cups. I wasn’t planning to do it to this one anyway, since I wanted to test the fit before I went to all that trouble, but I was hoping to be able to do it with the other two colors. I cut those out this afternoon, and just could not make that work. Oh well, I’ll be having to stuff these with nursing pads anyway.

This was SO fiddly to sew, moreso than any project I’ve done in some time. I guess it could be partially because of having to add that extra cradle bit to make the cups nursing friendly, and then having to wing it on finishing that seam. (It called for a strip of lightweight tricot, but the kit didn’t have it and the supply list didn’t say anything, so I had to just cut a strip of the leftover powernet and try to just make it work.) But mostly, I think it was all the elastic. That, and the seam finishing that left a lot of raw edges showing. I really feel like the whole thing looks sloppy, and if this is something I’m going to continue playing with past these nursing bras, I’m definitely going to have to clean up my technique.

first bra strap Aside from that inside cup finishing, the place where the bra kit really didn’t quite cover it was the straps. I suspected I’d be in trouble as soon as I pulled it out and saw just how short the strap elastic length was–it looked like barely enough for one, and I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to get two. I just managed to squeak it out, by adding a bit of extra length using the underwire casing that I hadn’t actually needed for this pattern. As you can see, there is virtually zero adjustability to this strap. So for the next two, I think I’ll be lengthening the casing bit.

I’m not about to put pictures of me actually wearing this thing on the internet, so as far as fit goes, I’ll say it’s probably good enough. If this was more of an everyday bra, I’d say that it really should have some more lift to it, but since this is one where my size will be changing multiple times a day and the underwires were problematic with my store-bought nursing bras, it’s fine. I’m actually wearing it right now, and it’s way more comfortable than my non-nursing bras that I’ve been forced to make work, and still more supportive than my saggy baggy older nursing bras. So in that, at least, it’s a win.

As stated, I did cut out two more today, and am hoping to get them knocked out before this baby actually arrives. It’s cutting it close, as I can only sew in short bursts before I just get too uncomfortable now. (But then, the same goes for everything else in my life right now, so…) And I’ve only got about 3 1/2 weeks before my due date, so wish me luck. Also, any of you more experienced lingerie makers have any tips for how I can get this elastic to stitch on a little nicer? Or what to do with the seam finishing to make this look better?

 

 

of bare necessities and sewing slumps

I’m not going to do a February wrap-up post this time, as there’s really not much to say. I did, however, recently finish a pair of nursing camisoles, with a third in the works. (Which I cannot fit over the bump, so floor modeling it is.) This is the second pattern of the nine that I specifically chose to focus on this year, the Uptown Camisole from Peekaboo Pattern Shop with the nursing add-on. The black is a rayon knit that I bought several yards of to make basic tops, and the charcoal is a long-stashed remnant left over from binding the edges of a Butterick knit dress that I made, oh, 8 or so years ago. It’s nice to have finally mostly used that up. 

Overall, the construction of this one was very straightforward, so the biggest challenge for me was using it as a way to further acquaint myself with the coverstitch machine. I did make a rather important discovery while experimenting with using it to sew on the binding, rather than turning it under 1/4″ and topstitching, which I’ve always found rather fiddly on knits.

The first attempt was a complete disaster, which resulted in my having to rip the (thankfully shorter) neckline binding piece off of both camisoles and recutting it. Mostly because, as you can see here, I ripped it full of holes. I guess that’s what I get for black thread on black fabric while sewing in a room with zero natural light at night, right? *eyeroll* I did still have to do the fold under/topstitch on one of the two after this, because I serged the new binding onto the shirt and quickly learned that it’s just too thick for my coverstitch to go through and still function well. I had much better luck with the second one, where I used the stretch stitch on my regular sewing machine to attach the binding before sewing it down.

I was also able to use the coverstitch for the hems (obviously), the elastic that holds the lower portion of the front in place, and the straps. I still have a bit of a learning curve to go on here, since the stitching on the back didn’t quite catch in several places and I did a less-than-stellar job of lining up the needle with the raw edges for the hem, despite pressing in place and measuring from the folded edge while sewing. But that’s part of what’s enjoyable about sewing, right, that there’s always something new you can learn?

Which, frankly, I need right now, because I’ve been coming to the realization that aside from the coverstitch experiments, I’m just not excited about sewing these days. Or, more precisely, I’m not excited about what I’ve been sewing. I guess it’s to be expected, given that everything I’ve made so far this year has been strictly practical, and I’ve had a run of projects at the end of last year where I was less than excited about the results for one reason or another. That, and I’m at the point of this pregnancy where I’m sick of everything I’ve been wearing, and even have a little less to pick from since it’s been mostly colder than my last third trimester. Frankly, I just want to sew something that I don’t necessarily need, just for the fun of it, that will make me feel great when I wear it. But I’m not sure what that could look like right now, given that I have somewhere around 5-6 weeks of pregnancy left, and then the whole postpartum thing where my body just isn’t going to be settled enough to really fit anything for months. I’m hoping I can have a little more success in squeezing in some activity this time, since I’ll have Hobbit to chase anyway, but still. Exercise has never been something I’ve enjoyed, so it’s hard to motivate myself to do it. I also still have a few necessities that need to be taken care of, mostly hemming the nursery curtains and some badly needed nursing bras.

Have you ever been in this kind of sewing slump? Any suggestions for a fun project that might help, given my constraints? Or should I just take a break for some knitting or something?

Year-end wrap up

Since it’s time to tie up the loose ends of 2016, here’s a few unblogged projects, my stashbusting update, and some exciting updates to my sewing space!

Unblogged project #1: Hobbit’s Christmas shirt. I had just barely enough of this homespun type plaid that one of my grandma’s friends offloaded onto me, and I did have to supplement a bit with some plain black. Most of it was straightforward sewing, especially since it is a larger size of the same pattern that I used for his first birthday shirt. The one place I did have trouble was the sleeve placket. I don’t know if it was the particular method given in the instructions, or pregnancy brain, or what, but I could not make sense of how this was actually supposed to work! And I know I ended up doing it wrong– the inside of the placket is so wonky, and there is absolutely no way I would have been able to add the button mid-placket that the instructions called for, even if I hadn’t opted to go with the more casual buttonless look. I couldn’t find any pattern help for this part online, so I’m definitely going to have to do a practice run or find another method before I make the long sleeved version of this pattern again!

Unblogged project #2: I made another batch of diapers, using some PUL prints that I was given last Christmas for this purpose. It more or less took me literally all year to sew these, because I just worked them in between all of my other projects. But I’m hoping that this will be the largest I have to go, since Hobbit will be getting to an age where I can attempt toilet training next year. I can’t say I’m entirely done with diaper sewing, because a friend gave me some brand name adjustable size covers that she didn’t need, and I’ll need to make some inserts so I can use them as backups for either boy when I’m behind on laundry. But I’m getting close, and that’s nice. Now I just need to figure out some use for these large scraps that the oddly shaped pieces left behind!

The stash update: I started the year with around 426 yards of fabric, and ended with around 394. It’s finally going down! It looks like I used a total of close to 61 yards this year, and acquired about 30 1/2. Admittedly, about 17 yards of that was Christmas gifts this year, but I already have specific plans for most of those pieces due to the wardrobe holes that my mom knew about. She’s good like that. My stashbusting plan for this year is to donate several pieces that I just don’t think I can use, mostly pieces that other people destashed onto me that aren’t necessarily my taste. And then sew as much as the boys let me. I will have to purchase for a couple of specific projects, namely nursing bras/my coat lining/Halloween costumes, but I do want to focus on using what I have as much as I can.

Right now, I’ve been busy going through my jewelry supplies and drastically downsizing. Then I’ll have to tackle fabric, yarn and scrapbook paper. But I’m hoping I can get the room cleared and my new space set up as quickly as I can, because I have all of these pretty new fabrics and patterns, plus new toys to play with! Doug surprised me with a coverstitch machine for Christmas (eeeeeee!), and my mom recently informed me that she’s passing on one of her extra sewing machines to me, since she has multiple of those on hand. So I’m getting a newer model Bernina! My workhorse from the late 80s-early 90s is still running fine, aside from that one incident where the electric went out in the middle of my wedding dress, but I have to admit that it’ll be nice to have an actual stretch stitch that isn’t guessing at zigzags. And, well, a light on my machine that works, since that one has been useless for probably a decade. We’re still trying to sort out how exactly to configure the new space, but the most likely option at this point is to buy a wardrobe to store our clothes in the main part of the room, and then set up my sewing machines in the walk-in closet so that we can close the door and keep Hobbit away from all of the sharp pointy things. (As well as his little brother, who will henceforth be known here as Padawan, once he’s starting to get mobile.)

Top 5 of 2016: Goals!

Aside from hits, this is honestly my favorite category of the top 5. I like comparing notes from the previous year’s post to see how I did and where I still have room to grow!

So to start, here’s the review of my goals for 2016.

1. Shirtmaking…I would like to focus on finishing these nicely, and especially learning to do a proper full bust adjustment. I’ve never had a truly successful one yet. For the record, the patterns [I’d like to try] are the Grainline Archer, the Sewaholic Granville, the Deer & Doe Bruyere, and Butterick 5826. I also have some things that would make adorable little boy buttondowns, and another Butterick pattern to try out for that.

I did well with this one. Though I didn’t really get to the FBA, I did try out both the Bruyere and the Archer! I also made two buttondown shirts for Hobbit, though I ditched the Butterick in favor of the Peekaboo Patterns Classic Oxford, since every single Big 4 pattern I’ve tried to make for him was a fitting fail. Both of the patterns I made for myself were keepers. And I’ll get to the others, at some point. I’ve also been happy with the boy’s shirt pattern so far, and will show the second version soon. (I will say that it is nice to know that these shirts will see some more use when the new little guy is big enough!)

2. Use up some deep stash.

While I didn’t quite get as far in this as I would have hoped, I did use up one of my decade-plus old pieces. And I also ended up handing off a substantial pile of old remnants and some random yardage to my sewing student to give her different fabrics to practice on. So while my overall stash totals for the year aren’t the top numbers in the Stashbusting Sewalong, I did make some progress. I’ll probably elaborate on this in a final year end post.

3. Try something completely new. There aren’t many types of garments I haven’t tried to sew by now, so I’m leaning towards bramaking and/or lingerie. Some pretty new underthings would be a nice treat after I’m done nursing. Especially because my few nursing bras are already in awful shape, and I still have 6 months to go with them! Ugh!

Frankly, I didn’t get to this one at all.

4. Loungewear. I could use some new pjs, especially for the warmer months. And I do have a tested pattern I can use, since my Sewaholic Tofinos actually fit pretty well again already. Aside from pj pants, though, I could use some comfy clothes to wear around the house that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to run an errand in. Aside from one pair of pre-pregnancy jeans that never fit great, the only pants I have that currently fit are the one black pair and two pairs of jeans that I bought a couple months into the post-partum stage. And ok, they’re already big enough that functional belts are necessary, but all of the Thurlows and other jeans are still too small. (Waaaaah.)

Again, I didn’t get to sewing anything in this category, other than the one pair of pj pants that I was less than thrilled with. But I did buy some patterns near the end of the year that could possibly fit this, depending on what materials I use.

5. More mini-capsules! Either sewing more complete outfits, or new pieces to style with things already in my closet. 

As shown in my hits post, I did get to the complete outfit that I specifically had tagged. And while they were less than successful, the two basic tees in my misses were also attempts to work on this. Especially the coral one, since between that and the mint sweater from the other outfit, I now have two options to pair with my flamingo skirt that aren’t just a black top. So this goal was a success.

Now for the two non sewing ones I’d mentioned…

The first is that I’d like to do a bit more knitting this time. Ideally, I’d like to make a new cardigan, but I have other small projects I’d like to do as well, including one that’s already on the needles. I have a few things on the needles, actually. So I need to finish or frog them. Or in one case, probably restart, because it’s been so long that I have no idea where in the pattern I left off!

Mixed success on this one. I did finish some small accessories early in the year, but then got caught on some longer projects. Especially the sweater for Hobbit. It’s ended up being more of an ordeal than I’d ever anticipated, between learning that knitting bulky yarn is actually pretty painful for me and running out of yarn multiple times. That put about another month’s delay on finishing it. I’m getting eager to just get this done already, but I only have one sleeve to go, and am hoping to finish by the end of the year. I did manage to at least start that cardigan for myself, though, so that’s something.

The second is a closet purge. I’m probably going to wait until closer to the fall, after I’m done nursing and my measurements most likely stabilize. I’m hoping that by then, I’ll really have a better idea of what will actually fit again/what still fits my newish lifestyle, and can make informed choices about what to keep and what gaps need filling.

Well, as you know, I did this. I just wasn’t anticipating being pregnant a second time for it! But I do have a better idea of the holes in my wardrobe now, which leads me to my goals for 2017…

  1. Figure out a workable new sewing setup. As mentioned before, my sewing room is going to need to become a second nursery. Hobbit still isn’t sleeping through the night consistently, despite my efforts, and it’s the only way to just keep the boys from waking each other up all night long. So we’re bouncing around ideas for how best to set up a crafting space for me in our own bedroom, and I’m working on a system to store my must-have supplies in a way that the boys hopefully can’t get into.Related to this, I think I am going to do a small stash purge, since I also need to deal with yarn, scrapbook supplies, and other miscellany. I’m already mostly done with sorting through my beads and will be letting go of most of that, since making jewelry is the crafty hobby I’ve had the least time and use for. I can’t even wear most of what I’ve made until I’m done with the grabby hands stage, so…
  2. Now we’re getting into specifics. My first actual sewing goal for the year is to try making bras. For real, since I’ve mentioned it at least three years now. But these past 15 months or so have been particularly frustrating when it comes to RTW bras, so I’m going to try making some for nursing and see how it goes. I’ve already located a pattern and an online supply shop. I just need to figure out specifically what I need to buy, since the yardage requirements listed vs the size actually listed on the website was a bit confusing. Even so, my math indicates that the cost for supplies for one bra plus the pattern is about the same as buying one nursing bra from the mall. Since one of those didn’t even last four months before it started going bad on me, if this works out enough to make a couple more, it’s a good investment of both my time and money.
  3. I really, really need some pants this year. And I desperately need some shorts, because I literally had one pair that fit at the end of last summer and they likely won’t quite fit 6 or so weeks after giving birth this year. And moms of active little boys cannot live in skirts alone! I bought two patterns that have shorts that I can probably guess enough at sizing to get by. If one in particular works out, I can make pants with it too. I also have patterns from Seamwork and Style Arc that I need to try, which will likely be forgiving enough that I can just get over my fitting hangups and give it a shot come fall.
  4. Another definite hole I’ve noticed is nursing-friendly tops. So I’d like to make at least one more Archer, which I do have supplies and fabric for, and another Bruyere, which I need fabric for. I’d also like to come up with a knit top pattern, since I was less than thrilled with the results of my Megan Nielsen/Simplicity top. My plan is to try and hack my trusty Renfrew into something that will work for that, though having a machine that will help specifically with my knit hemming issues does give me a lot more options!
  5. The last definite wardrobe hole is a new coat. I need something that’s between my unlined Sewaholic trench and my as heavy as I could make without wool winter coat, because our crazy weather this fall meant that I had to guess at which one to grab a lot, and I usually ended up either too hot or too cold. So I’d like to make a midweight coat for those days that range between the 40s and 60s in the span of hours. I have a pattern, and a bolt of around 5 yards of olive twill that will be great for the outside. So now all I need is some microfleece or something to underline, some lining fabric/notions, and for my stomach to flatten out enough that I can actually muslin this thing.

The good news is, I don’t need any maternity clothes. Between what I sewed last time and a thrift store run to pick up a few more cold weather things, I should get by until April with no problems other than wardrobe boredom. I do want to make a couple of boy t shirts before Hobbit outgrows the yardage I have, and may need to make some machine covers, depending on how we end up dealing with the space. But aside from that, my game plan is to try and tackle the bras and shorts in particular before April, and start the coat during the summer so I have it ready to go when needed. And then work in pants and tops as I can.

Hope you’ve all had lovely holidays, with lots of sewing goodies! I know I’m excited about some of my gifts, and will be sharing soon!

Top 5 of 2016: Highlights and Reflections

Time to get thoughtful! And hopefully have enough pictures to keep this visually interesting. Ha.

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Let’s start with the highlights, shall we?

  1. For a little while, I had a sewing student. It was a bit hit and miss over this past year, because first I had to go on maternity leave, and then she couldn’t start it up for awhile. And she ultimately ended up moving to Florida around the end of the summer. But I did enjoy helping her figure out ways to translate her sketches into real garments (though mostly for dolls). And I did get a message from her around Thanksgiving to check her instagram account, because she sewed herself a costume. So it’s gratifying to know that she’s keeping at it, even though I’m not the one helping her anymore!
  2. This kid. Even though he’s mostly what’s keeping me from sewing more these days. He’s pretty much into everything, we’ve already been through our first emergency room visit with him, and I’m having to answer what “this” is about a million times a day. But it’s also fun to watch him explore and learn, I love how curious he is, and he’s getting to a really fun age where I can actually start doing stuff with him instead of just trying to keep him fed and changed. Hopefully he’ll adapt well to being a big brother this spring!
  3. My music life picking up again. I did orchestra for pretty much all but my first semester of college for my large ensemble credit, and have missed playing in that sort of group. I’m very thankful that the opportunity to play in this community orchestra came up. It ended up being more of a time commitment this fall than I anticipated, between extra rehearsals for a family concert and playing in the first chamber concert of the season (also more time away from my sewing machine), but so far it’s been worth it.
  4. Not being sick for this entire pregnancy. I’ve been more tired, and like the first round, I’m still oddly repelled by anything peanut butter– even Reese’s cups, which I normally love! But I’ve been able to drink tea the whole time, and the nausea did pretty much go away shortly after I hit the second trimester, and I’m so thankful for this. I have absolutely no idea how I’d keep up with Hobbit if this was anything like when I was expecting him!
  5. For one thing that actually is sewing related, I did finally tackle a few patterns and ideas that had been on my list for awhile. So even though my output this year as a whole hasn’t really been that great, I do feel like I accomplished something.

Reflections:

  1. To go back to my hits and misses for this year, I think my greatest strength and weakness were both fabric choice. Especially when it came to colors. For the most part, my favorite things were bold and bright. The things I didn’t care for as much leaned more towards neutrals and especially reds. Even though one of them was one of my oldest fabric acquisitions and one of them was much newer, it seems I need to really consider that maybe there’s a reason I automatically gravitate towards blues and greens, and stick with what I know I love.
  2. Surprisingly, since I’ve been sewing a majority of things that are knit since I first got pregnant with Hobbit, I’ve found that it makes the woven projects a bit of a treat. I really enjoyed making both my Bruyere shirt, and the Grainline Archer that I haven’t shown here yet. Even though the fitting on knits is generally more forgiving, sometimes it’s just lovely to sew with a fabric that doesn’t ripple or skip stitches when I try to hem it.
  3. One of the big things I did this year was a closet purge. I had to get rid of a lot of things that I’d made, many of which I loved, because I was almost certain that they’d never fit me again. (Some of those are now sitting in my refashion pile in hopes of getting a second life, somehow, because I just couldn’t give up the prints.) I really can’t say that I was left with a streamlined or cohesive wardrobe. Frankly, I found this exercise hard, because I am not a minimalist and would probably die of neutral colored boredom if I did one of those things where I only had 20 hangers in my closet. But I think I at least have a fairly good idea of what some major holes in my wardrobe are, and can try to remedy that going forward. The question at this point is more about what I can just pull from my existing stash vs. needing to shop for new fabrics, because I really do need to try to get this pile more manageable. (Sewing room is going bye-bye to make room for a second nursery, sadly. There’s a lot of piles that I need to manage better.)
  4. Looking over last year’s reflections, one of my complaints was about my sewing becoming more utilitarian and fueled by a need to just have something to wear rather than being able to make something that I love to wear. I do think that I found a little more of a balance there this year. But I wonder how it will go in 2017, being back to limited by what fits a rapidly changing body and specific wardrobe needs of being a nursing mom. I think the best way to summarize is more that I still haven’t quite found the balance between what I want my style to be as a sewist, and what I need my wardrobe to be as a mom. And I’m not really sure what to do about that yet.
  5. At least I’m getting better at embracing the “slow fashion” thing, since two of my projects this year took multiple months to make. And maybe a little less selfish about my sewing than I used to be, since I have enjoyed making the kid projects.