Sewing top 5: The Best-Laid Plans

Once upon a time, I had sewing goals for 2019. (And a knitting goal.) But then I found out that I was pregnant last New Year’s Eve, and my goals didn’t happen. The end.

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Ok, not quite, but that certainly threw a wrench in my plans! Just to review, here’s what they were:

  1. Leave room for frosting. Yeah, this year has been all about necessities. Especially since I had virtually nothing to wear for my entire summer third trimester, until one of my cousins generously donated her unneeded maternity clothes.
  2. Work on the “Mom Wardrobe”. I guess this happened in some way, it just happened to be mostly maternity mom!
  3. Get creative with some #sewingleftovers. I guess I’m good on this one now, until my daughter has her own fashion opinions…
  4. Work on my styling. Totally didn’t happen, since the first 3/4 of the year was “anything that fits”, and right now it’s “anything warm with nursing access.”
  5. Finish up my Gnarled Oak cardigan for real this time. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA… yeah. Haven’t touched that one in months.

So now that that’s out of the way, the upside to having all of my plans thrown out the proverbial window is that I’ve had plenty of time to consider what might be realistic goals for 2020. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Embrace the slow and steady. Besides living up to my blog’s music-inspired title, it just makes sense for now. Big chunks of sewing time don’t happen often for me in this life stage. Even the “Sew in 30” tag that I’ve seen about Instagram is often more than I can manage. So what I’ve been trying to do throughout the fall, and would like to carry into the new year, is aiming for a more consistent sewing practice. I know I can’t do daily, since I have some weekly evening rehearsals and sometimes the kids just don’t let it happen. But even only 10-15 minutes a few times a week add up.
  2. Attack the refashion/scrap bins. I’ve missed refashioning, and I have a few obvious candidates to tackle — the vest that died in the wash, de-maternifying the shorts I made last year since the alternate waistbands are already cut and waiting– but I also have a bin of clothes to recycle that’s been largely untouched for a few years. I also have some rather largeish scraps that have been lingering in two other bins. It’s time to start paring that down and either get these textiles into my wardrobe (or possibly baby girl’s), or get them out of my house to make room for new things.
  3. Bust some stash. As you may recall, I got a LOT of fabric for Christmas last year. Like 73 yards of it. And while several of the things I made were from that haul, since I thankfully had the foresight to look at some patterns that would work with the thought that I might end up pregnant, a lot more of it than I planned went untouched. I’m not going to say I won’t buy anything, since I’m sure I’ll need buttons and thread and such, but I do want to focus more on using up what I already have instead of buying more.
  4. Have a plan, but hold it loosely. The #makenine feels a little restrictive for me at this point, especially since I have certain limits in place already (hellooooo, nursing wardrobe!) I like the other idea I’ve seen of the Seasonal Sew 3, and I think I’m going to aim more for that. But at this point, I think I’m going to play it like choose 2 projects at the beginning of a season, possibly one simple and one more involved, and then add a third depending on how my sewing time runs. I do know I have two projects with a deadline (a nursing-friendly dress for a family wedding, and the hopefully wearable muslin blouse I need to make first), so I’ll have to factor that in for probably the late winter into the early spring to make sure that gets done on time.
  5. I’m carrying this one over from this past year: Work on my styling. Because I really didn’t have a chance to do that in 2019. I still feel like this is going to be a struggle for awhile, because I’m having a really hard time lately putting outfits together with the hodgepodge of nursing-friendly-enough/seasonally appropriate things in my closet. I’ve mostly been wearing jeans and the same 3 plaid shirts, and then wracking my brains every Sunday morning for something a little nicer that I can still nurse in, particularly on the Sundays that I’m up front with my flute. But since it’s easier to factor in nursing for clothes with wardrobe longevity than with maternity, I’m hoping that I can start making some intelligent choices to fill in the gaps, and finally get some of that wardrobe cohesion that I’ve been dreaming about for a long time. (You know, as long as I can still bust stash. And keep my prints.)

And maybe, just maaaaaaaaaaaaybe, I’ll finish that sweater sometime in the next decade.

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2019 top 5: Highlights

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

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

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

 

Sewing Top 5(ish): Hits and Misses edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the sewing blogger year! I always enjoy reading through people’s reviews of their year, and having a summary of my own to look back on. Though I may not be able to be quite so literal about the top 5 thing this time. I looked back quickly over my 2019 posts, and I only have 5 for the entire year! Granted, I often shared multiple projects in each post. Still, clearly, this was not my year for either sewing or writing about it. So, since I don’t feel like every project translated clearly into either hits or misses, let’s see how this plays out.

The definite hits:

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1. My MVP (Most Valuable Pattern) of the year award goes to the Chalk & Notch Pony tank. I basically lived in these all summer long, between two that I made for myself and two that my mom made for me out of some of her leftover fabric. The one I’m picturing here, from this fun print featuring many of the British things that I love (tea! Beatles lyrics!) never made it to the blog, though I did share it on my instagram account. I finished it back around the beginning of July, and this picture was from when I was around 7 months pregnant. It’s too cold to take a new one now! I suspect this pattern will have some staying power in my life, since it’s a great breezy tank for our notorious summer humidity. Even when I’m not suffering through it in third trimester misery.

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2. The other project that didn’t make it onto the blog: I finally made a wearable muslin of the Hudson pants, years after that bandwagon left the station. To give them a mini writeup: They’re from stashed ponte, originally tagged for a sewing dare that I never had a chance to complete. (Sorry, Gillian!) I added a wedge to the back rise, lengthened the legs instead of adding the bands to the bottom (I figured that would look better with the clunky, made for men sneakers that my extra wide feet often force me to buy), and I skipped the waistband stitching to make the drawstring channel. My reasoning for the latter is that I’m most likely going to be dropping some weight over the next several months, now that my “fourth trimester” is over, and I wanted less to unpick if I need to adjust the elastic. I need to figure out an easy solution to keep the elastic from rolling in the wash, because basting in some side seams didn’t work, that fell out in the wash. But for comfy mom pants that I don’t have to be embarrassed to run errands in, they’re definitely a win.

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3. The overdue Archer shirt. It was on my to-make list for about 2 years in a row, and then by the time I finished it, I only got to wear it once before I outgrew it! But I’m making up for it now that I’m out of maternity clothes, since it’s one of the only warm nursing-friendly shirts I currently own. Also, it looks great with my RTW gold jeans, which are one of the only 5 pairs of non-Hudson pants that (mostly) fit me right now. (Of course, this is also the picture from when I was pregnant.) Now that I’ve been able to really test the fit, I’m much happier with the tweaks I made to the sleeves and the hips. I do wish it was a couple of inches longer, because I do feel like the proportions are a bit off on me lengthwise, but otherwise, I feel confident in saying this can now be a go-to buttoned shirt pattern for me.

A hit and a miss:

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This picture pretty much sums it up perfectly! The wolf shirt that I recently made was a definite win for my younger boy. He’s worn it regularly since, and was very happy the other day when I hand-stitched the ears so they’d stay up. My older boy, on the other hand, has worn the shirt about twice, and never voluntarily. I finally ended up taking it out of his closet this week, telling him that if he asks me for it on his own, I’ll give it back, but otherwise, I’m setting it aside for when his little brother outgrows his. Sadly, he didn’t put up much of a fight about it.

The misses:

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Aside from the wolf shirts, the vests that I recently made for the boys to go along with their daddy’s were a definite miss. They still haven’t worn them past the approximate 30 seconds during our hiking day. The younger boy may still get a few sewn things from me, but I’m thinking that unless he specifically asks me to make something for him, with the possible exception of a Halloween costume, I’m done sewing for the older boy until further notice. (I really wish I’d figured this out before I’d ordered a themed fabric panel for each of the kids, but at least I’ll have fun sewing up the baby’s. She can’t argue with me about it yet!)

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2. On a similar note, my vest. Between the sizing issues that came from guessing at my size during the third trimester, and the shredded fabric problem, it’s just unwearable. I’ve currently got this hanging in the sewing portion of my closet, partially deconstructed and in need of picking a new lining fabric. I think that next time, I’m going to go for one of the cottons in my stash, because obviously the brocade was a bad choice. But since I have to take it apart anyway, at least I’ll be able to fix the sizing while I’m at it. It’s just a question of how long it’ll take, because I’ve got multiple projects in various stages of work that are currently higher priority to me.

Tied for third: these two refashions that I threw together back in the winter. The thing is, I just haven’t worn them since these pictures. I don’t think it’s a complete lost cause, it’s just that they’re both kind of in the “closet orphan” category right now, due to having surprisingly limited options of what to wear while I’m in the nursing stage. Also, I still want to dye the knitted shrug to better fit in with my wardrobe colors, and need to figure out what color. Maybe teal?

So, maybe it’s all of the hormonal craziness that’s been messing with my head all year long, but I’m kind of struggling with feeling positive about my sewing output this time. I mean, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do for myself during the maternity/immediate postpartum stage, which was a full 3/4 of my year. And it seems like it’s easier to see what didn’t turn out as hoped this time, but it was also a lot more dependent on, say, the whims of children under 5, since I did a lot more sewing for others than usual. So I think this is going to be a good month to regroup, finish up the couple of projects that I currently have going, and start with a fresh slate in the new year.

Sewing top 5: 2019 goals!

As is tradition, I’m going to begin this post with a review of my goals for this past year to see how I did.

  1. I’d like to work towards developing a nice stash of TNT patterns. I think I’ve made good progress on this! I think I’ve got my new sizing figured out to the point where I can use my old beloved Sewaholic Renfrew again. The Stasia tee/tank by Sew Liberated looks like it will become a favorite, and I look forward to trying the dress sometime. I have high hopes for the Helen’s Closet Blackwood cardigan. And both the shorts version of the True Bias Lander pants and the Itch to Stitch Mountain View jeans were a success, which fills a huge hole in my TNT pattern stash!
  2. This may be the year I finally have to tackle one of the few garment types I haven’t tried: a swimsuit. Done. See this post.
  3. I need to restock my pajamas. While I still feel like I could probably use another pair of pj pants in not-flannel to pair with a tee for those middle temperature nights, I’m in much better shape for the solstice seasons now.
  4. I’d like to start building towards some smaller capsules within my wardrobe. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily sewed for that in this year, but I did spend a lot of time evaluating what I have, and that’s a good start. See this post.
  5. In general, I want to be more creative in using what I have. I really didn’t buy much fabric this year at all! Which made the experience of shopping for the few carefully considered pieces that I did buy (and used right away) more special. I also got a few things out of my refashion bin, so that’s a good bonus.

My bonus knitting goal was to finish my Gnarled Oak cardigan. Yeeeeeah… that didn’t happen. I basically spent the entire year knitting two sleeves and no yoke, but at least I made visible progress. Still, I think my days of knitting this in the car while Doug drives are over, because now I have to read charts and I am cursed with very swift motion sickness when reading in a car. (My lifelong sorrow, as Anne Shirley would say, since I could have read SO many more books in my life otherwise!) Maybe third year will be the charm?

On to 2019! So here’s what I’m thinking…

  1. Leave room for frosting. I’ve been all about practical garments and filling holes ever since the Mom Wardrobe became a thing for me. But one of my favorite garments that I made this year was a colorful, gorgeous, unnecessary dress. I was also having a good deal of FOMO over the #sewfrosting challenge that happened last month, especially since my life just didn’t allow me to jump in. So yes, I need to work on filling those wardrobe holes that I feel are in my life, but I also need to remember that sewing is supposed to be fun, and I don’t have to have slow fashion guilt over just making something because I want to.
  2. That being said, my next goal is to work on the “Mom Wardrobe”. The struggle is real, people. I think I’ve got a pretty good grip on what to wear on days that I’m teaching, or to go to church. Where I’ve been having trouble all year is what to wear on the days that I’m just at home! And now that my teaching is consolidated to 3 days instead of 4, there’s more of them. Since the boys are getting to the ages where art supplies and dirt are a bigger part of everyday life, I need things that are easy care, but hopefully not embarrassing to wear out on errands or to the playground. Right now, I’m living in mostly badly fitting blue jeans that I bought in postpartum desperation, and inadequately warm knit tops. So I’m thinking maybe some Hudson pants (I know, last indie pattern sewist on earth), maybe another pair of pull-on jeans if my stretchy enough stashed denim is enough yardage, and cozy tees and layering pieces. And a lot more tank tops for summer!
  3. Get creative with some #sewingleftovers. Since the fabrics I often use just aren’t the best for rough and tumble boy clothes, it’s not often that I can just make smaller clothes with what’s left. So I’m looking for inspiration for adult garments that involve elements like patchwork or print mixing, and hoping that maybe I can use up some of these smaller pieces in a stylish way.
  4. Work on my styling. I know that’s not quite a sewing goal, but I feel like it’s related. Knowing that separates are my favorite things to wear, I’ve been saying for years that I want a more mixable wardrobe (without having to go full out neutral Pinterest capsule, ugh). I did enjoy doing Me Made May and the Slow Styling challenge that happened in October on Instagram, and think it’ll be a good way to help me be more thoughtful about what makes sense to add to my wardrobe. I’m just not sure how to do this yet, like whether I should document the outfits with me-mades (or even including my RTW) on IG stories, or what. Any suggestions?
  5. You know, the first four goals were easy to come up with, and I’m drawing a blank on this one. So instead of a sewing goal, I’m going for knitting and will say that it’s finish up my Gnarled Oak cardigan for real this time. And then think through some smaller projects that I can mostly tackle with my existing yarn stash, because clearly I am not in a life stage where knitting sweaters is a good idea! I’m thinking maybe I should finally try socks. I have enough for 2 pairs, though my continued ability to make those will depend on the availability of non wool sock yarn. But since the cardi may very well take all of 2019, given my record lately, I won’t stress about that right now.

I did decide to do one little side goal this year. I’ve been interested in the 100 Day Project for awhile. I honestly don’t feel like sewing is necessarily a realistic way for me to participate in that right now, as I have things like orchestra rehearsal nights where I can’t leave the boys unsupervised long enough during the day for even a short sewing session, or I have to sometimes wait to have time to cut my next project out in my mom’s sewing room. But since I can usually grab 15-20 minutes on a computer every day by letting the boys watch one of the irritating preschool cartoons that they like, I’m going to attempt to do a digital scrapbooking project for that this upcoming year, starting in January. I don’t know yet if I’ll share that here or not, but it is a creative project, so I might do that on IG stories or something. We’ll see how I feel next week.

I’m still feeling torn about specific project goals and how to plan them (like Make 9 vs seasonal or something else), though maybe I’ll have more clarity after Christmas and a nice little stash tidy. And Gillian had an interesting suggestion on Instagram that I’m mulling over. So I’ll keep you posted. How do you plan your sewing? Any goals or plans that you’re particularly excited about for 2019?

Sewing Top 5: the 2018 misses

This was a little tough for me this year. Honestly, I feel like I’ve had a good sewing year overall, and even the things that weren’t 100% the way I wanted them still got worn multiple times. And I don’t want to be the person who’s critically nitpicking apart my own projects, you know? But here’s what I do wish had gone a little better this year.

2018-03-03_08-55-56 1. Taking time for muslins. My Easter Deer & Doe Reglisse dress was wearable, and I’m actually really happy with how my hacks went (lengthening the skirt and adding pockets!) But there were some fitting issues around the armholes, and they’re a little deeper than I would like. I was sewing this on a deadline for the Day & Night dress challenge, so I didn’t feel like I had time to test anything out, but if I had taken that time, it might have resulted in a better dress. I still wear this during the warmer weather, but I might need to take a second look at that area and see if I can fix it.

 

 

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2. Notions sourcing, specifically for my swimsuit. Again, I was overall happy with this project, particularly the shorts. The only foam cups I could get around here were awful, though. I couldn’t figure out how to sew them into the meshy pockets, the shape of the stiff foam was completely unnatural, and they were a real pain to deal with whenever I washed the suit. I’m coming to find that I’m having trouble finding even notions that I need at Joann’s, as they’ve been cutting back on buttons and trims and such. It makes me sad, as it’s literally my only sewing store around. As for this suit, I did find an older swimsuit with softer sew-in cups that I can recycle, if I can just figure out how to stitch them in. At this point, my only guess is to put the swimsuit on inside out and literally hand-sew them to the mesh so I can mold it to myself. Which means it’ll probably wait until a warm spring day next year, because I can not sit around in a strappy top during the winter.

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3. Leaving room for my hips. Oh, hi, Akita! (I had to get at least one picture of this on my own blog, since this was from a Sewcialists post.) To be honest, this wasn’t really so much of an issue for my from-scratch projects this year, as I’ve gotten better at blending between sizes. But for my refashions lately, it’s like I’m forgetting that my hips are a full 3″ bigger than they were before childbirth, and it’s not looking like they’re ever going to go back. The print camouflages it well, but I ended up having to go back and insert a triangle in the sides to give myself a bit of extra room, despite checking the pattern sizing. I had a similar problem with this top, though I used basically the entire width of the print fabric so there really wasn’t much I could do. It’s wearable, but a little more snug in that area than ideal. So that’s something I’ll need to do a better job of factoring in.

4. Overplanning. This is honestly something I do in every area of my life– I always think that I can do more than I have time for. And then I get really down on myself for how lazy and unproductive I must be. Yes, I could probably do better on things like actually cleaning something instead of scrolling Instagram, but a big chunk of this is just my life stage, and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. As far as sewing goes, this manifested in pulling out more patterns than I’d have time for in a season, planning projects for challenges that I didn’t even have time to start, and in a few cases, not actually finishing a project until the season it was wearable in had passed. Lately, I’ve been feeling like it’s ok to cut back and slow down and try to simplify things, especially since I’m in a season where I really do need to focus more on things like building relationships with my kids (and making sure they’re not scribbling on the walls while I’m distracted.) So while I did pretty well with things like my Make 9 board, as long as I stick with having switched a dress hack out for the jeans, I’m seriously wondering if this might not be a bad year to skip that long-range planning and just focus on something more like the Seasonal Sew 3. And then I can just focus on what I need or want to make now, rather than tying myself to a list that might not end up working for me.

Hmm… I think I’ll just leave it at 4, actually. Because the only thing I can think of for #5 is maybe keeping my sewing closet neater, but let’s be honest, that will probably never happen!

Next up, my favorite of the roundups: Goals!!! (Though, due to #4, I’ve been having trouble evaluating that. And I’d really like to see what sewing goodies I get for Christmas before I try to do any actual sewing plans. 🙂

Sewing top 5: 2018’s greatest hits!

It’s always fun to look back over the year and see what worked (or didn’t) out of the things I made. So here’s the 5(ish) projects that were the biggest winners of 2018.
2018 top 5 hits

1. Pajamas for days. The most used pattern this year was undoubtedly the Closet Case Carolyn pajamas, as I used it to make 3 pairs of pants, 2 shorts, and 1 button up shirt. I’ve been happy with the fit right out of the envelope (minus the one butt adjustment I made before the first pair and kept), and having pockets puts this firmly in the camp of favorite pj pattern ever.

2. Bring on the frosting! Admittedly, my sewing over the last 4 years has been focused more on filling holes, mostly practical kid stuff, and just restocking utilitarian pieces. But this McCall’s maxidress that I made over the summer was just fun, and bright, and happy. And even though it reads more pink than I usually ever go for, I wore it quite a bit between the time it got finished and the time it got cold. (And I’m plotting a winter styling attempt.)

3. As cake as it gets. On a whim, after finding a cable textured ivory knit at Joann’s, I decided to make a basic tee to test a new to me pattern, the Sew Liberated Stasia tee, and hopefully replace the Kirsten Kimono tee that was too sheer and didn’t quite fit my hips. It certainly delivered, and became another frequently worn piece since it goes with most of my bottoms, solid or not.

4. JEANS! I don’t have a ton to say since the Itch to Stich Mountain View Jeans was one of my most recent projects, but I will say that I’ve liked the comfort level of pull on jeans more than I thought I would. And just because I don’t necessarily have a lot of tops to go with at this time (though that vanilla cake top will, lol) doesn’t mean I won’t shamelessly plan a mini capsule wardrobe to go with!

5. Hacking for the win. One of my long standing goals has been to improve my pattern hacking skills. The Seamwork Mesa dress that I hacked to be longer and nursing friendly was a definite winner, that got worn a lot from the spring though the fall. Apparently the community at large thought so, too, because that showed up twice in my Instagram top 9!

Bonus: the transitional coat. I have trouble counting this as a 2018 make, since the only sewing I did on it this year was to finish the toggles. But my Leanne Marshall Simplicity coat did exactly what I hoped it would, keeping me more comfortable on those 40s-60s range days. And rather stylishly so, I think.

Coming soon: the 5 things that didn’t quite work out as well.

Sewing Top 5: Real life highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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 Highlights of 2017

I usually do reflections with this one, but that would make this post too long. So here’s what’s been going on in my real life…

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1. Obviously, the biggest thing that happened this year was having our second son. It’s been quite the adjustment! There was close to a month and a half where we had the dreaded two under 2 thing going on. We’re just about at 8 months and 2 1/2 years now. It’s still two in diapers, two not sleeping through the night (that has been SO bad the last couple of months), and now we’re just barely hitting the point where they’re both mobile! Padawan is sitting unsupported for longer stretches now, rolling all over the place, and occasionally army crawling. He also loves to stand up with help, so I suspect it won’t be long before he’s trying to walk. The little guy is such a cuddler. And I have to admit that I’ve been overall quite pleasantly surprised by Hobbit– I thought he’d be jealous, since he was just getting to a more possessive stage around my due date. But for the most part, he’s turning out to be quite the attentive and caring big brother! I hope that continues.

Speaking of Hobbit, he’s getting to a fun age. His vocabulary has exploded over the last 6 months, we can actually have basic conversations, he asks me to read him books regularly now, and when he’s not doing the 2 year old tantrum thing, he’s constantly cracking me up!

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2. This has been a surprisingly busy year in my semi-professional life! I’m still doing the community orchestra, and am currently gearing up for a concert in which I play principal flute on one part and the highest notes I’ve ever had to play in my life on piccolo. I’m also still doing the flute choir, and we just recently did a concert featuring all female composers. (Which, according to our director, was surprisingly hard to assemble considering the general ratio of female to male flutists.) On top of that, I’d gone into the end of the summer thinking that this would probably be a good year to try and consolidate my teaching to fewer days– but then I picked up several new students! I’m up to double digits again now, which I hadn’t been in years. So a lot of my focus over the fall and going into 2018 is trying to figure out how to streamline and organize things at home to make it easier to juggle my job and the kids. (Also, since my mom is my babysitter for all of this teaching, she’s amazing and I couldn’t do this without her.)

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3. We survived our first overnight trips with kids! We took a somewhat last minute trip down to Virginia over Labor Day weekend, in which we drove through a big chunk of Shenandoah National Park. And then last month, Doug’s parents took us and his sister’s family to a waterpark resort up in the Poconos. The park was better than either of us had been expecting, and we agreed we’ll have to try to go back up there ourselves sometime when Padawan is older and can actually enjoy more of what the place has to offer. Also, we have a tentative goal of trying to get the boys to as many states as we can before they graduate high school, so this means they’re both up to five now. Not bad for the toddler and under set. (It helps that it’s really quick and easy to leave our state. Yay, northeast.)

4. We ended up moving to a new church at the end of 2016. It was a tough call for me, because I’d been at the same church for nearly as long as I can remember. But this one is more local to where I live now, and there’s a lot more kids around the boys’ ages than there ended up being at our old one by the time we left. So the highlight for this year is that we’re starting to find ways to get involved and it’s feeling more comfortable now. Which is always a plus, since I am such the stereotypical introvert and it’s always hard for me to go into new situations where I don’t know people well.

5. I feel like I’m finally starting to get healthy again. I wasn’t exactly unhealthy before, and I’m still not getting nearly as much sleep as I probably should. But the time around the end of my pregnancy was rough. I was having so much trouble breathing at the end that I barely slept at all for the last few weeks, and even spent a day at the hospital’s triage section of the labor and delivery unit, only to be told that it was just the baby’s positioning and I just had to ride it out. I ended up having to deliver without painkillers, which wasn’t my plan, but actually a blessing in disguise because I was able to get around again more quickly. Except for my hip. I’ve been in physical therapy for several months because my hips got so misaligned somewhere in there that even normal walking was really painful. It’s finally taking effect now, though I’m not done PT yet. I’ve also been trying to walk more , since I got a fitness tracker to help me keep myself accountable. And it’s helping, because I’m already more than halfway through the baby weight! Hopefully it’ll continue, since it’s Christmas cookie season, and I do love homemade baked goods. I’m hoping to spend more active time outside with the boys next year, and maybe work in a yoga DVD too, to continue to improve on that. Exercise really isn’t my thing, I seriously loathe running and never enjoyed being forced to do team sports in gym class, but I do enjoy hiking. (Except for the bug factor.) And we tried out geocaching during the fall and that was fun, so I think I can get behind doing more outdoorsy family activities.