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On craftiness and full disclosures

April 24, 2013

Right now, I’m pinned underneath a sleeping 6 month old. We think she’s teething, as she’s startled herself awake from three separate naps today. Since we’re desperately trying to get her into some kind of a sleeping rhythm after the constant disruptions of house remodeling prevented one for her first six months, I decided to take one for the team and be her human crib for as long as she needs to sleep this afternoon. It was cozy for the first 15 minutes; now that we’re at a full hour, various limbs are starting to fall asleep and I’ve had tons of time to ruminate on all the other things I could have accomplished in this time (or, for that matter, in the hours that she should have been napping this morning).

I’m fortunate that my parents are here this afternoon to help with my other kids, as this wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Please note this sentence, we’ll return to it.

I’ve been following various bloggers’ creations for Kids’ Clothes Week over the past few days, and it’s all incredibly impressive. The creativity and skill out there is amazing and very inspiring to me. But at this particular stage in my life, I’m finding reading these blogs is also having a negative effect – it’s making me question my own self worth. I find myself comparing my accomplishments (or lack thereof) to someone else’s: thinking jealously, “she’s got a baby younger than mine and can whip out more in a couple of days than I have in a year. What’s wrong with me that I can’t even find an hour a day to sew?”

On the whole, I’m very grateful for the life I have, and realize that any inconveniences (read: total lack of time to myself these days) are the results of choices I’ve consciously made, and are also temporary. But, going back to that boldfaced sentence of mine, I wish we’d see a little more transparency in this generally wonderful community. I’d love to see more explanations of where a blog author’s kids are while they’re hand sewing their spring wardrobes. Grandparent’s house? Daycare? Playing underfoot? Not so I can judge other people, but so I can stop judging myself. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of thinking that the point in time blog posts showing someone’s smiling kids wearing their carefully made creations are another person’s whole world, rather than a carefully curated portion of it.

I’d love a little more full disclosure in the crafty blog world. More posts like this one from Girl’s Gone Child. Rock on, Girl, and thanks.

Anyone else out there feel the same way?

Baby’s awake, my time is up.

Um… I’m back. And I finished the kitty.

April 21, 2013

Well, that’s a little embarrassing.

It’s been almost a year since I last dealt with this blog, and I really didn’t mean to give up on it, but a lot has happened: bought a house, sold a house, fixed up a house, moved everything we own from one to the other while the electricians were still cutting holes in every single wall of the house to rewire it, lived through plasterers and painters and bathtub guys, had a baby, etc. It feels wrong to give such a nutshell version of the past year as it has all felt so utterly exhausting and overwhelming (in a good way, but still), but the detailed version would get really boring. So, let’s suffice it to say that when I think over the last year, I want to take a nap, and also that not a lot of sewing has gotten done in this time.

Oh, and yes, we had a baby! Baby K. She’s awesome, and very well-loved. It is hard to imagine a child who receives more affection than this one.

But back to business. Here’s what I’ve made in the last year:

  • 3 panel curtains to fit in the Ikea Kvartal track curtain system that functions as a wall-to-wall closet door in the baby’s new room
  • an eleventh hour welcome-home outfit for her (which matches this outfit)
  • a bucket hat for M since she lost hers on an amusement park ride last summer
  • and I finally finished up Katie Kitty (from the Wee Wonderfuls
    book
    ). Let’s take a look at her:

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I started her a year ago as a gift for my niece, and finished her up just in time to give her as a first birthday gift. Yes, I’m that slow. I used the very last of the corduroy from Mr. Sews’ grandma’s stash for her body and scraps from my trip to Purl Soho for the dress. I don’t know that I’m crazy with how her face turned out, but she just needed to get done so there she is.

So, where does that leave us, little blog and me?

I desperately want to start sewing again but I’m Just. So. Tired. Sleep training (really, is such a thing possible? We’re seeing no results… You’d think that by my fourth kid I’d know what I’m doing already), potty training, a house full of kids with colds. I’m making no promises but I hope by at least posting something I’ve broken the spell a bit.

So, let’s end this post with things I’m excited about:

  • The dedicated Kids Clothes Week web site! How cool is this? I am not even considering trying the spring challenge, as I’d be setting myself up for failure, but I’m all over the summer one. And it sounds like this site is going to be really awesome, with pattern reviews and stuff.
  • Summer. School and ballet class over, my older two home for the whole day (hopefully entertaining the younger two…)
  • The Skater dress. Bought the pattern and have taped the pages together, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I really want to put flutter sleeves on it but I probably ought to start by just following the instructions instead of trying to innovate.
  • This shirt that a friend told me about. This could be a key element of my non-maternity Units wardrobe.

My own little Units maternity wardrobe

June 8, 2012

I laughed when I read this post about Units, the knits store from the 80’s, at Simple Simon & Co the other day.  I’m guessing I was in maybe 4th grade or so when Units hit it big in my little city (though we tend to be 5 or so  years behind what the rest of the world is doing) and even then I thought it made a lot of sense.  I mean really, all those simple pieces, in cool colors, that you can mix and match?  Genius.  And now, since having purchased 6 yards of knit fabric to make t-shirts, it looks like I’m setting out to produce my own little Units maternity wardrobe.

When I bought the fabric, I took a guess at how much I’d need and bought 1.5 yards of green, 1.5 yards of taupe, and 3 yards of black.  The 1.5 yards produced one t-shirt with enough left over for something, but not for a whole t-shirt.  I decided to trace a knit maternity skirt from Old Navy and give that a shot.  I had enough green for the skirt part, and then I got the belly band part from the 3 yards of black.

knit maternity skirt

And here’s what I came up with… just in time to get it into the Skirt Week 2012 Flickr pool before it closes!

Shirts to fit my baby belly

June 6, 2012

I’m at the half-way point in this pregnancy, and have been squeaking by with my non-maternity t-shirts and a Bella band for probably way too long.  Even I realize that I can no longer pull it off…  A t-shirt that ends a good inch above my belly is not so appropriate on my 35-year-old pregnant self.  But t-shirts and I have a love-hate relationship: I love to wear them, and I hate to buy them.  I have a very small frame on top – narrow shoulders and not much in the way of a chest, and this + my freakishly long torso = an endless search for t-shirts that fit.  And that’s when I’m not pregnant.  When it comes to maternity tops, forget it.  They’re either tents on me, or else they’re as short as a regular t-shirt… not very attractive on a baby bump.

So this go-round, I decided to give up on ready-to-wear and just make my own, using the Megan Nielsen Ruched Maternity Tshirt sewing pattern and the Laguna Stretch Cotton Jersey Knit (which just went on sale today! ) recommended to me by Jenna of Sophisticated Seams.  I wish I could say that the process has gone super smoothly, but sadly, my small-frame issue has reared its ugly head even here.  I had a hunch from both the pictures of the finished product and the pattern itself that the pattern was written with bustier women than I in mind… and I was right.

Here’s how it all played out: I started by making test-run #1 of the extra small (with the length graded out to the medium size and the neckline made less-scoopy) using some spare interlock knit yardage… results: not spectacular.  The pattern itself is well written, but it was way too loose on top for my body shape.

To try to fix it, I messed around with seam widths on test-run #1 until I got a t-shirt that seemed to fit better, then cut apart the finished product, traced it onto pattern paper, and re-added normal sized seams.  (Please let me take a moment now to refer you back to my previous post about how much I don’t enjoy drafting patterns).  Here’s the difference between the fabric as cut to the pattern (on bottom) and as cut to my modifications (on top) – look closely at the left-hand edges:

I sewed up test-run #2 in the same fabric, and… results: better, but the neckline stretched out so much in the back that it would have been embarrassing to wear in public.  I attached to rib knit to the neckline to reel the wavy neckline in, and ended up with a serviceable but meh [shoulder-shrug] looking t-shirt.

Was the crazy neckline the fault of my hand drafting, or of the interlock (which was way heavier and much less stretchy than the Laguna I would be using for the final product)?  I didn’t feel like adjusting the pattern yet a third time to find out, so I decided to go with what I had and make a t-shirt out of the Laguna.  Results: PERFECT!  Exactly what I wanted.  It’s so amazing to wear a t-shirt that’s legitimately long enough for my torso, able to handle my baby bump, and to know that I made it myself and that, as A told me this morning, “looks like you bought it in a store!!”

If you’re still reading this, it’s probably because you’re considering buying or making this pattern.  If you do, I’d tell you: a) it’s a well written and visually attractive pattern but not ideal (as it’s drawn) for women with narrow frames – I’d say that if you can wear shirts from Lands End without it looking like you’re swimming in them you’ll be fine, b) it uses up a lot of fabric because of the ruching (I probably could have eked out 2 t-shirts out of the 2 yards but sadly had only bought 1.5 of the green), c) the Laguna knit is a fantastic fit for this pattern.  I will hopefully adjust my already-adjusted version of this pattern post-pregnancy and just make my own t-shirts when I need them.  How liberating!

My daughter has grown too tall.

May 24, 2012

When it comes to hand-me-downs, people tend assume that the littler of the siblings get the short end of the stick.  At this stage in our family’s life,  though, it’s the older sister who often ends up feeling resentful and angry:  since A seems to have grown about a foot over the past year, almost all of her favorite summer dresses are now inappropriately short.  She’s been informed in no uncertain terms that they now belong to her younger sister, and as a result, M has about 10 dresses (some that she still fits into from last summer, and some that used to be A’s) in her part of the closet and A has maybe three.  While this means that A will luck out and get some new ones (which she will no doubt mourn in a year or two), at the moment she’s definitely missing some of her favorites.

As we were going through the dresses that no longer fit her, she found one that she was particularly attached to.  Ignoring the fact that we’re getting our house ready to show in hopes of selling it and dealing with all the work that that entails**, I told her I’d turn it into a skirt for her.  So here it is, step by step in all it’s glory: cheap 2011 H&M girls’ dress, repurposed as a skirt.

The Dress

I think this dress cost $5 at H&M last summer. Maybe $10?

The Plan

1) Cut off the straps and the upper bodice.

Seriously, I can’t believe she wore this as a dress last summer.

2) Serge the raw edge, fold over to just below the top seamline, press, and sew.  Don’t worry about it being pretty.  Insert elastic.

See what I mean about it not being pretty? I didn’t even fold the serged edge under. Quick and dirty.

3) Try it on for size, adjust elastic, and sew up the open hole.  Admire, and worry about the plight of factory workers in third world countries**.

The Skirt

Voila! It’s a skirt.

**I had many thoughts while I was making this.  Some of the thoughts were about whether my house is tidy enough to show to potential buyers, some were about whether it’s insane to move a family of five to a new house when you have a baby on the way, some were about how I can’t believe I bought this dress for $5 (maybe $10?) last summer and hey look it’s falling apart in a few places, and quite a few were focused on wondering what the working conditions were for the people who did the original sewing.  Maybe they were great, maybe they were awful, I have no way of knowing but you have to wonder how a dress that sells for so little could net the factory workers who made it much of an income.  I struggle with things like these, and putting stitches into a piece of clothing that someone else’s hands had already worked on made it hard to push the thoughts away.  No epiphany was reached, unfortunately.

Reverse Stitch: Mermaiden

May 12, 2012

Life has been very busy lately (househunting!  school fundraisers!  ballet recitals!), and while I have any number of unfinished projects, nothing’s quite ready to have its own dedicated blog post.  But I don’t want to get out of the habit of posting, as I have found that it keeps me inspired and gives me motivation to get stuff done, so today’s a good day to write about something I finished a while ago.

For Valentine’s Day, both M and A got handmade gifts.  I’ll show A’s another day, and focus on M’s: the Mermaiden from Wee Wonderfuls: 24 Dolls to Sew and Love.  I love Hillary’s blog, as well as her sense of design and style.  I made Chloe and Louise for the girls a couple of years ago, and have been working on an embroidery pattern from the Wee Wonderfuls store for about 3  years now.  All very good stuff.  This was the first pattern that I made from the book though, and it was so, so interesting.

Mermaiden close up

What really surprised me was the construction of the doll – it’s sort of hard to explain, but the hair and fin are both sewn together as fabric pockets that you slide over the basic doll body and then stitch into place.  Very unusual and super quick & easy.  A nice on-the-go project once you get the basic pieces constructed (not that I ever do projects on the go, since I’m usually chasing after my 2 year old climber/runner).  Since M has always had a deep, deep love for a certain Disney mermaid (I’ll try not to get started on how I feel about that), I used a turquoise shimmery rayon-y fabric from the stash that I inherited from Mr. Sews’ grandma (I first used some iron-on interfacing to back it up since I know from past experience that it’s fragile as all get-out otherwise) for the body and some straight up red glittery satin for the hair.  She’s small but she packs a pretty fierce cuteness punch.

M was happy to meet the Mermaiden, and includes her among her menagerie of random collected objects (she’s our family packrat… cleaning out underneath her bed is always an adventure not to be undertaken by the faint of heart).  She spent Valentine’s Day afternoon cutting out paper rocks for her and getting her all set up for sunbathing.

Sunbathing Mermaiden

Kids Clothes Week Challenge Recap: I bailed

April 30, 2012

That’s right, I bailed on KCWC. Things were going so well, and then the third pair of pj pants kicked my butt, and exhaustion set in and I just couldn’t get myself back to the sewing machine. So I bailed. I learned some valuable things, though: 1) I can sew in the evening or blog in the evening, but not both, at least not while I’m pregnant, and 2) I vastly prefer using commercial patterns to drafting my own.  Both valuable lessons.

I finally got back on the sewing horse last night when I felt inspired to make a skirt that’s been hanging over my head for a couple of years.  When A was 3 or 4 years old, I sewed her a dress out of what may have been her most perfect fabric ever: yellow, embroidered with sun-like flowers, and adorned with clear sequins that glimmer in the light.  To say that she was devastated when she outgrew it and had to pass it down to her sister is a vast understatement.  At some point I made a vague statement about possibly making a skirt out of the fabric remnants, she took it as a promise, and I’ve been asked when the skirt would be made approximately ten million times since then.

Last night was the night.  I had a plan to make a ruffled skirt using this tutorial but when I unfolded the fabric remnant and realized that I only had a half a yard with a big chunk cut out of it (presumably for the old dress bodice), I almost despaired.  After a lot of sighing from me and some helpful insights from Mr. Sews, I realized that an A-line skirt was just barely doable if I cut the top six inches of the skirt out separately from the bottom portion of the skirt and then pieced the two parts together.  I loosely used this tutorial from Lynne of Sugar City Journal to plan out the skirt, but I added a lining and then created the casing for the elastic by sewing the skirt and lining together with a 1/2″ seam allowance, turning them right sides out, and then sewing another line about an inch below.  Since I needed every available inch of the fabric to cover my seven year old’s exceptionally long legs, this gave me about 3/4″ of length that would have otherwise been hidden in the elastic casing.  Woohoo!

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A was very excited when she woke up to find her almost finished skirt at her dining room chair this morning.  We did a quick fitting before she changed into her uniform and headed off to first grade, and then I sewed up the elastic, finished the casing, and hemmed the skirt and lining while J was refusing to nap in his crib.  She put the skirt on the second she got home and headed out to play.

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