Sewing top 5: Goals!

My favorite of the top 5! As is tradition, I’ll begin with reviewing the goals I made for this year.

    1. Figure out a workable new sewing setup. Check, as already discussed in the reflections post.
    2. My first actual sewing goal for the year is to try making bras. Also check. See hits and misses.
    3. I really, really need some pants this year. And I desperately need some shorts. Technically, I did meet this goal, even though I’m struggling to style the one pair of pants and my shorts were a flop.
    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…. I didn’t get to the Archer, though I do have a better idea of what adjustments I’ll need to make to the pattern now. My knit top was a flop. I don’t think I’ll bother with another nursing hack for now, since I’m looking at a maximum of 4 more months this round and wearing the nursing camisoles with regular knit tops is working fine. At least my Bruyere worked out!
    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. This was still a problem later in the fall. Even though I started this project pretty much as soon as I was done with Halloween costumes, I just couldn’t finish it quickly enough. But the coat is getting close to being finished–I only have the closures to go–so I should be prepared for any oddly warm winter days. (Like the beautiful warm days we had in February that stopped just in time for my birthday to be cold again. Such a tease.)

Moving on to my goals for next year…

  1. I’d like to work towards developing a nice stash of TNT patterns. My sewing time is so limited these days, and I’ve had so many misses over the last couple of years, that I think it’ll help me quite a bit to have some go-tos that I can be sure of. I was thinking about this quite a bit during November, thanks to the TNT theme on the Sewcialists blog. And I do think I have a couple that I’m fairly confident about– the Sewaholic Rae skirt for sure, but I’ve also had mostly good results with the Cake Espresso leggings, and the Deer & Doe Plantain top has worked well during and after both pregnancies without alterations. (I also realized during the month that I could combine those three patterns into one cohesive outfit, so that may have to happen sometime.) I think the Cashmerette Appleton dress has some strong potential, after the changes I made with my second dress, and also the Deer & Doe Bruyere once I make the tweaks mentioned in my last post. But I definitely also have some basic garment types that I need to figure out. Another skirt silhouette or two, some alternates for knit tops (I still want to get the Renfrew working again!), definitely some layering pieces, etc.
  2. This may be the year I finally have to tackle one of the few garment types I haven’t tried: a swimsuit. I’ve hated shopping for those for years, and I did run into a few situations this year where I needed a swimsuit and just hated the way I looked and felt in it– my only option was an unsupportive hand me down one piece, thanks to the baby weight, and I still can’t help cringing when seeing pictures of me walking on the beach with Hobbit over this past summer. My coverup options weren’t great, either– just a pair of postpartum athletic shorts that clashed horribly with the swimsuit, or one of my husband’s gigantic t-shirts. I don’t want to be so self-conscious about my thighs or chest or anything that I can’t just enjoy being with my family, you know? I don’t have a pattern or fabric yet, but I think that if I combine three different Jalie patterns, I can make my absolute perfect swimsuit. Including sun protection!
  3. I need to restock my pajamas. Badly. All of my old ones just either don’t fit anymore, or they’re horribly stretched and worn out. I know I have fabric for three pairs of pajama pants on hand, though I’ll need to see if I have anything appropriate for summer. I got the Carolyn pajamas pattern for Christmas this year, and I do also have the Grainline Lakeside pajamas to try out.
  4. Even though I know that a complete minimalist approach to my wardrobe is not for me, thanks to my maternity months, I have gotten interested in capsule wardrobes. I saw some really neat ones over this past year, namely the sudoku style wardrobe that Elizabeth made, and the 4×4 capsule concept introduced to me through a series on the Curvy Sewing Collective. I don’t have time to sew a full wardrobe from scratch, and I’m not sure the Sudoku one would work for me and my size-limited shoe options. But one thing I really liked about the 4×4 in particular is that I can build on pieces I already have, and allow for prints! So even though I doubt I’ll finish one next year, I’d like to start building towards some smaller capsules within my wardrobe. I did start sketching and brainstorming patterns and color schemes for at least two, so I’ll likely get back to that in a future post.
  5. In general, I want to be more creative in using what I have. I want to continue my Refashion Redemption Project, to solve some problems with things I’ve made since all of these body changes started happening. I want to play with dyeing fabrics in my stash to make them better fit my favorite colors. I have a list of 20+ projects that I can make from stash alone. Honestly, aside from Halloween costumes and the aforementioned swimsuit, I can probably go most of the year without buying fabric, unless I need linings or something, and easily not run out of things to sew! Not that I necessarily will, but if I can use more of my existing resources than I consume, that’s a win.

I’ll make a bonus knitting goal as well: since I’ve been knitting it for over a year now, I’d like to finish my Gnarled Oak cardigan. Finally.

Also, since my Christmas fabric acquisitions are in, and the stashbusting is an ongoing goal, here’s where I ended up as of the project I just finished tonight: I began the year with around 394 yards of fabric, and I now have approximately 342.5. Between the January fabric purge and actual sewing, I went through 108 yards this year! So a net loss of over 50 yards is good, I think. I’m honestly not expecting as big of a decrease for next year, but I’m hoping I can at least keep the sewing steady, even if it’s slow.

 

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the berry Bruyere

I’ll just say up front that this took forever. My plan was to make this shirt for the Sewcialists’ TNT theme month, to see if it would work well in a second iteration. Considering that ended over two weeks ago, obviously that didn’t happen. Between little boy sleep difficulties and rehearsals all over the place, it feels like I’ve barely been able to spend any time in my little closet!  But finally, I have a finished project to show again.

IMG_5448The pattern is the Deer & Doe Bruyere, and while I’m not sure it’s quite a TNT yet, I think it’s well on its way. Since my first iteration was a fabric that I have to wear a camisole under, it’s much easier with this one to see potential fit issues. The one thing I did know would need to happen was dealing with the bust darts. I lowered the horizontal bust darts about an inch (the gauze I used for the first version pressed nicely, so it works, but those darts were not designed for the post-nursing chest!) It didn’t cross my sleep-deprived mind that lowering meant I’d also have to shorten both darts. That took a couple of attempts at ripping out and restitching to point in the right place, but I think I got the horizontal ones sorted. The vertical ones still need to be about 3/4″ shorter, I think. The lengths are written down, so I just need to transfer that to my pattern. I think I’m also going to have to mark the point on the cuffs to gather to better, because there was more overlap on my green one and it made the plackets lie better.

IMG_5451Another thing I think I’m going to have to do is lengthen the bodice just a bit. Maybe 3/4″ or so. I discovered quickly that the undergarments are important with this one, because I initially wore it with one of my old nursing bras that the underwire fell out of ages ago, and everything lay sooooo much better when I switched to one of the more supportive me-made ones. But it still feels like the waistband is sitting just a tiny bit high.

Can we talk about the fabric? It’s a raspberry colored chambray from Robert Kauffman, and it was a delight to work with. It presses so well, and held up really nicely to the seam ripper. I’ll need to see how it fares in the ironing department, but I’d not mind using this quality of chambray again at all.

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The only downside of the chambray was the occasional thickness of the layers, despite my efforts to trim and grade. There were a few buttonholes that I had to redo multiple times as a result. If I do get my hands on this fabric again, I think I’d better find my rubber mallet that I got for jeansmaking. I know it’s in the downstairs supply stash somewhere… but anyway, look how crisp the pleats are! (Please ignore my derpy face. This really was the best shot of the back of the shirt.)

I think I’ll end up having to replace the buttons at some point, because the ones that were the closest match to the color at Joann’s were in a package labeled as craft buttons, and the quality is awful for garments. Despite my efforts to allow for buttonhole space when sewing them on, I discovered that they’re really hard to work. They’re so thin that I feel like I’m going to snap them in half every time I shove them through the buttonholes. Not to mention that it literally hurts my fingers to do so. It’s really impractical for what’s supposed to easily be a nursing-friendly shirt in particular!  I’m just not sure what to replace them with, since my color matching difficulties means I’ll probably have to go with a contrast. Any suggestions?

IMG_5456I do have ideas in my head of how I can use this pattern for at least two more garments, so I do think it will be worth getting those last few fitting tweaks worked out so I can start hacking. Especially because, in spite of the waistband feeling a little high, I feel good about how I look in this shirt. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been able to say that, with all of the weight fluctuations and lifestyle changes over the past three years. Honestly, I feel like the opacity of the fabric makes it more flattering than my green voile version, even though I do still love the color. Since there’s a fairly good chance that this will be my last finished garment of 2017, though I’m very close to finishing another, it’s good to go out on a high note.

 

Sewing Top 5: Reflections

I definitely had some new challenges when it came to keeping sewing (and crafting in general!) as part of my life this year. So here’s my thoughts on that, with maybe a knitting bonus thrown in.

1. My sewing space changed drastically this year. I went from having my own room in our townhouse to having one wall of the walk in closet in our bedroom. Doug has been wonderfully accommodating of my need to have a place where I can leave my machines safely set up, from drilling a hole between the closet and the main bedroom wall to give me electricity, to moving his own rather minimal wardrobe into Hobbit’s closet so I’d have a little more room to work. I had to be really deliberate about choosing which tools I needed on a regular basis, since most of my stuff is being stored in a basement closet. I’ll be honest, I do miss having a larger space to work/natural light/being able to cut things out at home. I’ve had multiple instances of getting easily annoyed that I gave it up for a kid who wouldn’t sleep at all in there for several weeks, when running on an accumulated three hours’ sleep. But I know that it could definitely be worse. If I had to haul out and set up my machines every single time I can grab a few minutes to myself, I probably would have finished about two things this entire year. If that. So I am thankful for my husband’s creativity in making small spaces functional. And I’ll still hope that maybe someday, I can have a sewing room again. If nothing else, I only have to wait about 18 more years, right?

2. My mom has also been wonderfully accommodating in letting me use her sewing room. When the boys are napping or playing happily at her house, she’s usually fine with me sneaking upstairs for a little while so I can work in a half hour or so before teaching. I’m also doing essentially all of my cutting out and pattern assembly/tracing at her house now, since the only option at home for me is the kitchen table and I am 1000% sure I’d have Hobbit all over it because he’d want to “help Mommy”. The sentiment is admirable, but that’s just not going to work. I’ve mostly been a one project at a time girl over the course of my sewing life, but I’ve been keeping two projects going at a time this year– one for home, and one for her house. That’s been working out well for me, and I think I shall continue to do so as long as I’m working with this setup.

3. In a way, I think that having to downsize my space was good for me, because it essentially forced me to really evaluate what was in my various craft stashes–and what crafts to even continue. I got rid of a lot of stuff, from over 60 yards of fabric to about a third of my scrapbooking stuff to most of my beads. More on that later. Recently, I purged my patterns to get rid of everything that I’d previously cut in the old size that I doubt I’ll hit again. Even though I’m doing well with weight loss and trying to be more everyday active, I’m pretty sure that my hips’ bone structure is permanently wider! (I wish I’d started tracing my indie patterns sooner, because throwing out some of my older Sewaholics broke my heart a little.) This whole process has definitely fueled my desire for a more curated stash, particularly in fabric. I’m not worried about gifts, since my mom is usually the only person who buys me fabric and she knows my taste in prints and colors well. But in the future, I should definitely think twice before accepting others’ hand me downs. Because the vast majority of those just aren’t me.

4. I’ve missed refashioning. I need to start working that back into my sewing life again, because my one little salvage project made me ridiculously happy.

5. Sewing really is self care, at least for me. Sure, I make things for the boys on occasion, but since music is my job, sewing and reading are the two things I do mostly for myself. Reading is easier to work in while nursing, but I’ve known for a long time that going longer stretches without sewing has a negative impact on my mood. I’m glad that I’ve had a few years to accept the mindset of slower crafting, otherwise I’d probably be beating myself up for only averaging slightly over one project a month this year. And there are definitely times I’ve wished I was faster, like when I had to do a little binge RTW shopping early this fall just so I’d have pants this winter. But I have a much greater appreciation for the small steps now. And I think that as I slowly get back to a place where I’m more confident about having enough clothes that I can build outfits from again, that will serve me well in not just making things because I can, but because I want to.

Bonus thoughts on my other crafts:

Knitting, as I said, stays. I like having a portable craft. But I’ve found that for this season, portable is the only way I can do it at all! I’ve finished one project this entire year. For the rest, I’ve been either not knitting or working on the same cardigan, because Hobbit likes to grab my yarn and run. So now my knitting is limited to the car while Doug is driving! It’s working well for now, since I’ve been doing stockinette for ages. And slow progress, i.e. two or three rows at a time, is better than no progress. I’m not sure how I’ll handle the yoke yet, since that’s a chart and I can’t read in cars without getting a nauseating headache. But since I’m still on the first sleeve, I probably won’t have to worry about that for months.

I do still scrapbook, though I’ve mostly switched from doing the elaborate two page spreads that I used to into mostly using the pocket page protectors. It’s been working well, since I found a photo company geared towards scrapbooking that will make prints in a wider variety of sizes, including Instagram squares! I’ve been using them for a few years now, so I’ll just usually plan out my pages and what size photos I need, print several months at once, and then just do a little binge assembly when the order arrives. I’ve long been rather sentimental about memory keeping anyway, and I do see value in continuing to do that in as easy a way as possible, now that I’m a mom.

I did conclude that making jewelry doesn’t make much sense anymore, since I’ve barely been able to wear most of mine for 2 1/2 years now. I ended up getting rid of a bunch of both my me-made jewelry and my storebought stuff in a more recent (and still painful) closet purge. I do miss wearing it, and pretty much jump on it for concert days when I know little grabby hands won’t yank at it for a few hours. But I basically kept just enough supplies and tools that I can repair what I kept, and make just a few pieces more/embellish my sewing projects. And then I’ll probably just shop Etsy for any future jewelry wishes. It’s hard for me to essentially just give up on a craft that I did for so long. But so much of my life right now is prioritizing what’s most important, and when asking myself if I’d be scrambling to make a pair of earrings or sew a couple of seams during naptime, sewing wins every single time. And maybe it’s better to just focus on doing a few things well.

Top 5 Hits and Misses

It’s time for my favorite year-end series! Thanks for hosting this yet again, Gillian!

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of 2017! (1).jpg

I have to say, it was a rather mixed bag this year. I wasn’t the most productive in terms of finished projects. And I do have two currently unfinished things that seem to be turning out well, but I don’t want to hold off on this post in case I don’t finish them in time. That, and time to write on the computer instead of my Kindle is rare and must be taken advantage of. Let’s start with the hits, shall we?

nursing bras

1. The award for most worn definitely goes to my nursing bras. I only ever really blogged the ivory one, but I made three. It did get a little better as I went along, and the black one is the best by far. I’m happy to report that they are holding up far better than the RTW ones I used with Hobbit, since those were falling apart by the time he got to the age that Padawan is now (7 months). The fit is decent enough. I’m still thinking through whether bra-making is a field I want to dig further into. On the one hand, I do have a Craftsy class on them that I haven’t gone through yet, and I do get annoyed at continually paying for bras that start falling apart after a month. (Seriously, every non-nursing bra I had for the few months between weaning Hobbit and being too pregnant with Padawan to keep wearing them lost their underwires in that short time, and I’ll have to buy all new ones again when he’s done nursing. Argh.) On the flip side, this was super fiddly, and I really do prefer wearing the smoother foam-cup bras. Either way, this won’t be anything that’s happening next year. Maybe once I finally get my wardrobe in better shape again.

Cake Espresso Leggings

2. The “best wardrobe builder” was my grey Espresso leggings. It’s nice to have a pattern that works equally well for maternity and normal clothes! And since I pretty much exclusively wear leggings as tights instead of pants (except for that one time where I was 9 months pregnant and even my maternity pants weren’t fitting anymore), they’re pretty versatile. I still need to fix the teal ones I made at the same time, since that particular ponte just didn’t have the vertical stretch needed to make it work, but I’m hoping to add to that waistband sometime before the end of the year. We’ll see if I get to it.

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3. The award for “cutest project” definitely goes to the boys’ Halloween costumes. I mean, come on. I’m also gratified that Hobbit still pulls out the scarf sometimes to play with, since that was the most time consuming part of his costume.

Matcha and shorts

4. The “best salvage job” goes to my Wonderland Matcha top. Even though it started out ridiculously huge on me, I’m very happy with the finished result and wore it quite a bit when the weather was warmer. I’m still hoping to get the sizing on this sorted out, because I really do like the style and want this pattern to be a go-to.

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Incidentally, here’s a couple of projects I never got to blogging– I made a quick infinity scarf with the leftovers of this top, and a second one from a fun print I purchased specifically for this purpose. (I mean, tiny horse plaid!) I haven’t gotten to wear these much, since I spend a lot of time with a baby carrier on right now and they would just get soaked in drool, but I’m looking forward to mixing these in more soon.

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5. And the best “just for fun” project goes to my Norwegian Wood Rae skirt. The Sewcialists blog recently did a series on TNT patterns, and while it’s a little embarrassing to admit that my current TNT skirt pattern is an elastic-waist beginner pattern, it’s nice to have one thing that I can just whip out with fun fabric and know it’ll fit.

Now, for the not so good projects…

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1. The “fabric fail” award is a 3 way tie. The first is my nursing-hacked Renfrew. The concept was good. But the rayon jersey just drapes too much for having that kind of opening in the front, and at this point, it’s pretty much unwearable until I sew those nursing openings shut. Which pretty much defeats the entire purpose. I think that the sizing on this was also off– I made the largest size because nursing chest, but it’s just too long and saggy and baggy all over. I would like to do some more work on the Renfrew and figure out my new size, since this used to be one of my TNTs and I miss it.

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2 & 3: My black and ivory nursing camisoles. (Ivory only pictured, because the other is the same pattern. Plus bonus Padawan photobomb.) This was another fabric fail. It was the same rayon jersey as the Renfrew, and the weight of the elastic pulls it down past the opening band. I still wear them under other things, but I have to tuck the elastic under my bra band to hold it up. It’s definitely a fabric fail and not the pattern, though, because I made a grey one from a different remnant, and it has much better recovery, and works great.

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4 & 5. The “bad fit” award goes to both pairs of shorts that I made over the summer. I’m only showing the print pair here, since the solid was in the same picture as the Matcha top. At the time, the issue was that the largest size of the shorts were still too small for my postpartum body. By the time the summer ended, I’d lost enough weight that I could wear both pairs. But since the drafting still left the knit and solid meeting halfway down my butt and it always felt like the shorts were falling off, I really don’t think this is salvageable. The print in particular makes me sad, because I like the fabric for this one.

I have one bonus project that I’m not really sure which side it falls on.

IMG_5136 So, my Jalie Vanessa pants. On the one hand, first successful pair of pants I’ve had since I started having babies! On the other hand, I’ve been kind of stuck on how to style them, particularly since the weight of the fabric and the bagginess mean they really only work for warmer weather. Any suggestions on shirt patterns or silhouettes that might make these more versatile? I mean, I’d hate to toss out a pair of pants that actually fit just because I’m not sure what to wear them with at this point.

Matcha madness

Now that it’s December, I figured I’d better do a little bit of catchup on some unblogged things. After all, it’s Top 5 season!

IMG_5402This make is actually getting close to three months old! It’s just been really hard to get pictures of it, and I’m honesty still on the fence about whether it was a success. But here goes.

I liked how my last Matcha top turned out in the end, in spite of my sizing issues. So I decided to give it another go. I traced two sizes smaller than the original top, and pulled out a lightweight silky print that had been languishing in the stash for a decade or so. Long story short, a) I really need to find some finished garment measurements for this thing, and b) bad fabric choice. It was still huge, and boxy, and just didn’t have the drape that this shirt seems to need.

I played around with cinching it in, and toyed with the idea of making a belt with the scraps that are left, but decided against that, because the silky fabric would shift out of place and into unflattering territory fast. I actually did find a wide belt elastic that’s nearly a perfect match, but haven’t successfully located a suitable buckle to make that. So since the tied fabric belt made me look like Robin Hood anyway, I decided to err on the side of art teacher chic and turn it into a kimono style jacket. I guess that means this counts as the second piece for my Refashion Redemption Project. (The only picture I actually have of me wearing this is an Instagram selfie. But it’ll have to do. Incidentally, I’m also wearing one of the nursing camisoles I was never able to do a modeled shot of because I was super pregnant at the time.)

IMG_5404I’m really glad I’d taken the time to finish all of the insides with a bound seam allowance, since they’re visible now! I should have cut the strips wider, but live and learn. The bias strips were actually a recycle from an old bias cut, pull on skirt that I sewed ages ago. Refashion bin success!

 

A Harry Potter Halloween

IMG_5267Oh, hi, neglected blog! I’ve been struggling to get time to get photos of the most recent project that I finished for myself, but I figured it’s time to share the Halloween costumes that I made for the boys this year. Especially since this plan has been almost two years in the making. One of my best friends has a son 3 days younger than Hobbit, who happens to be a redhead. So we decided while they were still babies that we just had to dress them up as Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. (I can’t share pics of the two of them together, since “Ron” isn’t mine, but trust me, it was adorable.) We decided that this was the year to do it, since they were both old enough to walk on their own, but not quite old enough to have firm opinions of their own costumes. And I just had to turn Padawan into Hedwig.

Seriously, my boys are the cutest.

Isaac PotterFor Hobbit’s costume, I used a bathrobe pattern– the “Just Like Dad Flannel Robe”– that was included in Sewing For Boys. I’ve had this book since I was pregnant with him, but this was my first time using it. I also didn’t entirely follow the directions, since the robe was fully lined and I was planning to use fleece. The boy runs hot, so a double layer would have made him miserable. So I just lined the collar area with the burgundy fleece and blind-stitched it down, added some velcro to the front in necessary places to close it, folded the too-long sleeves up underneath his sleeves, and called it a day. (Honestly, since I had to bribe him with candy to get him to try it on at all, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time nicely finishing a costume I wasn’t entirely sure he’d wear. Thankfully, I did get him to wear it for the night of Halloween!) The robe itself probably could have been a little longer, but his friend that did have a longer robe had some issues with tripping, so it’s probably just as well that it wasn’t. (As for the too-short pants, I discovered when I got home that I’d accidentally put him in a pair of Padawan’s pants that somehow ended up in his drawer! Oops.)

The scarf was more time consuming than the robe, but I knew that I’d never finish it in time if I relied on knitting. So I sewed strips of gold fleece to the burgundy, sewed that into a tube, and then cut the ends into the fringe. One eyeliner lightning bolt and a purchased pair of glasses/wand later, and I had my little boy wizard.

IMG_5272 For my adorable little snowy owl, I used the KB Stitch Star Sleeper, which I already had, as my starting point. I mostly did the construction as is, with the additions of the appliques on the feet, and the wings. The legs ended up being too long, but I just tucked the excess up near the feet and it looked fine. I also added a velcroed on panel for the stomach, since we were originally going to take them to a Halloween parade where I’d likely have to leave him in the car seat, and that would cover the car seat buckles. But that got rained out.

The wings were a lot of fun to make. I drew the pattern for the wings and tail freehand as two separate pieces, then drew the lines on one layer of fleece with my chalk pen, sewed it through two layers of the fleece, and then trimmed up the uneven bits. Then I just stitched them directly to the sleeper. I was able to sew the tail and the center of the wings on with the machine, but I did the wingtips to the arms by hand.

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As for the hat, that was a free pattern that I found here. I ended up leaving the ear bits off after looking up pictures of snowy owls and seeing that their heads were rounder. I also freehanded the eyes, since the ones that came with the hat were a little cartoony looking for this. I’m really pleased with how this outfit turned out, and am actually thinking I may use this outfit as his “coat” for the car this winter, since the fleece is non-bulky enough to use safely with the car seat. (Both of the boys have blankets to keep them a little warmer, too, thanks to their Nana.)

I didn’t have time to make any costumes for myself this year, sadly. Hopefully next year I can manage something, because it’s more fun trick or treating when I have a costume, too!

redemption refashioning

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to comment on my recent post regarding my frustration over sewing through fitting transitions. It’s good to hear that others have dealt with this and come out OK!

I recently finished reading a book about approaching real life issues with the mindset of a gamer. (It’s the geekiest self help book that I’ve ever read, I love it!) One of the major points that stuck with me was the idea of a challenge vs. a threat mindset. In this case, viewing the situation as a fun challenge to take on willingly, rather than as a threat to my ability to continue sewing at all.

In fiction, I love a good redemption story. It’s lovely when a person or situation that appears to be a lost cause turns out to be good after all. What’s been one of the biggest frustrations in my sewing over the last year or so is feeling like I’m wasting my precious me time, and/or perfectly good fabric, in turning out bad-looking/fitting clothes. So I’m starting a new project: as much as is possible, I’m going to see if I can give some of these less-than-stellar garments some tweaks to make the time that I spent crafting them more worthwhile.

IMG_5159I’m kicking off with a project that I hadn’t blogged yet. This started out life as McCall’s 6885. Confession time: I only sewed about half of it. I started out making one for myself, out of a yummy Cotton & Steel lawn, and in a similarly colored flannel for my mom, as a thank you for all that she does to help me with the boys. (Printed with a TARDIS design, because my mom is awesome like that.) But then I got sucked into the more immediate practical need of Hobbit nearly outgrowing his largest diapers and having to finish the batch I’d been procrastinating on finishing. I’d also recently found out that I was pregnant, so Mom kindly finished this dress for me so I could squeeze into it once just before my first trimester ended. (As well as her own shirt. One of these days, I’ll thank her properly!)

IMG_5157I don’t have a great before picture. There was basically no extra room around my hips at all, and the pleat plus the baby bump meant the midsection bagged out horribly above it. Also, the shirttail hem just wasn’t working for me, given how high the slit ran and how tight the hips were. Even with leggings, I was kind of embarrassed to wear it, especially for work. It really didn’t get better after Padawan was born, either. One of the things that it did have going for it was the patch pocket that I added to the front to hold my phone. Even though it’s probably an odd placement for a shirt, I’m glad that I was able to keep it after the tweaks! Because pockets are great and more clothes should have them.

 

I couldn’t bear to waste the fabric, since it felt so nice to wear and sew with. So earlier in the summer, while I was sewing a bunch of navy blue things anyway, I decided to make it wearable. So here’s what I did:

  • Cut off the shirttail part of the hem to give it a straight edge all around.

 

  • Cut a couple of triangles out of those pieces, on the crosswise grain for maximum height.

 

 

  • Opened up the side seams and inserted the triangles.

 

 

  • Re-hemmed it to a nice tunic length.

 

 

IMG_5162And it looks sooooooo much better now! I tried to show the insets on this picture, but they’re really hard to see due to the random nature of the print. (Which, honestly, is probably a good thing!) It is a little bit of a closet orphan at the moment, because I can pretty much only wear it with jeans (something I do try to avoid when teaching, when I can — I’ve had to relax that rule since the kids came along), or one denim skirt that fits, but is awfully short now that my thicker waist makes it sit higher than it used to. I’ve paired it with the Jalie pants from the last post, since I had teaching today, though the baggier pants with a tunic top is not my favorite look. If I can ever find the right fabric, I think this would actually look amazing with some seafoam/ light teal pants. Maybe the Style Arc Elle, if I work up the courage to test that pattern. (Bonus: I have a cardigan from the Anthropologie clearance rack that would also go great with that color pants!)

Semi- orphan status aside, I have been pleased with this salvage job. After all, fabric of this higher quality is not allowed to be a wadder. What would you pair this with, if you were planning future fabric hunting/ wardrobe planning?

I volunteer as tribute!

Did you see that the Sewcialists blog is up and running again? Hurrah! I was happy to see that the first challenge of the reboot was one that I could easily participate in, since I’ve been missing out on The Monthly Stitch left and right. This actually wasn’t my original idea, I had a plan to make a skirt, but it involved some pattern hacking and using uncertain fabric amounts. (I was going to use some leftovers, but I still need to fix a pair of leggings that I made back in January or so first, so I’m not sure how much fabric I actually have left.) But it’s ok, because I accidentally stumbled into another tribute!

I’m sure you all know and love Gillian, from Crafting a Rainbow. She really does have one of the most inspiring blogs out there, IMO, between her talent for getting really good sewing conversations going in her posts, and the fun challenges she’s put out there over the years. Like the sewing dares– I haven’t forgotten about the two that I’d gotten on the last round, by the way– and the Better Pictures Project. And, well, I may have blatantly copied one of her recent pieces, right down to the fabric. But, to be fair, she’s the one who suggested the pattern to me in the first place! And since she’s the one who got the Sewcialists rolling again, it’s only fitting to do the tribute to her.

IMG_5132 That’s right, I made the Jalie Vanessa pants. In the same tencel denim from Cali Fabrics. One of my biggest wardrobe holes right now is pants, since pretty much every pair I’d ever made or bought stopped fitting about five trimesters ago (may you rest in peace, oh pile of Thurlow pants in my refashion bin). And since I don’t want to teach my flute lessons in yoga pants– or, really, be the yoga pants mom at all, unless I’m actually exercising — I definitely needed some options. I was a little skeptical about the jogger pants idea, since I never really liked the look of sweatpants. And the elastic cuffs that were one of the options just remind me of growing up in the 80’s. (This is not a good thing, since I’ve never been a fan of that particular fashion decade. Needless to say, I went for the straight hem.) But I think these actually turned out okay.

IMG_5136 Besides, they have functional pockets, and that’s more than I can say for pretty much every pair of jeans or shorts that I managed to scrounge up at the thrift store.

I’m still not exactly sure what to wear them with, since the more relaxed fit means that looser tops are pretty much out. Ideally, I would have made a top to go with this as part of the outfit challenge, probably something from Cashmerette since that’s one of Gillian’s favorites. But you all know how slow I am at assembling anything these days, so I just pulled out one of my most colorful tops in a palette that seems to most closely fit Gillian’s. (My first Kirsten Kimono tee, even though it’s still overly snug on me.)

IMG_5140The walking out outtake actually was one of the better pictures! So styling questions aside, I will say that these pants are super-comfortable to wear. A big part of this was the fabric, I think. The tencel denim is really soft, and even though it developed an odd fuzzy look after the first wash, I haven’t had issues with the dye bleeding into my other stuff yet. I’m trying to figure out what might be some good options for a potential second pair sometime, since I feel like the challis it calls for would be too lightweight. Linen, maybe?

I was quite happy with this first Cali Fabrics order– I got this and a second piece of fabric that got turned into a scarf pretty quickly. I seriously doubt it will be my last order from them. (Just the last one this year, since Doug and I made a deal– I wouldn’t buy any more fabric this year if he stops buying Coke. The sacrifices one makes for love. )

Anyway, I’m happy to get to take part in this community again, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what the next challenge is!

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.

IMG_5143

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.

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.