Easing into Motherhood

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Today I’m writing about something a little different, motherhood and sewing. I regularly read Seamstress Erin‘s blog. She has a fun and eclectic style that I admire even though it isn’t my style. This month Erin (along with Jodi from Sew Fearless and Monserratt from Mexican Pink) are hosting a celebration on motherhood, our bodies, and sewing called Easing into Motherhood. So I thought I’d write up my own story. I’m sure to many women parts of it will be so familiar as it seems like many mothers experience similar stories even if we many only hear about them through the magic of the internet.


Sewing came into my life a long time ago. I have few memories from the days before I picked up a needle and thread and started creating. I felt like as oddball child with my interest in girls lives from previous time periods both historical and fictional. My early sewing days were filled with making costumes such as a Victorian dress made with table clothes and something resembling a Southern belle.

As a young adult sewing continued to be a for fun activity. Even though my hips were a different size from my bust I could still shop for clothing in regular stores as long as I was careful to select dresses with gathered skirts or separates. I was also very scared that if I didn’t dress trendy enough I’d never find a boyfriend. Silly, but true.

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My pre-marriage sewing consisted of 1950s and 1960s dresses made with quilting cotton. I didn’t make a lot of dresses as I was super super broke. I also didn’t know anything about buying fabric aside from wandering the aisles of JoAnn’s and picking up things I liked. Some times my dresses turned out awesome, sometimes they did not. As long as I picked styles with full skirts I could cut a straight size and sometimes I would design my own styles. Everything was still purely for fun or for a specific purpose (like Halloween).

Then I had baby #1.

By the time I was pregnant with my first daughter I had discovered sewing blogs, local sewing stores, and started buying fabrics other than quilting cotton. I distinctly remember getting pregnant and searching the internet for vintage maternity dresses. I was SO SURE I was going to make all my maternity clothes. I’m sure you can see how this turned out…I made 2 elastic waisted skirts for work and that was it. Morning sickness was unrelenting for the first trimester, I lost a lot of weight, and then I spent the rest of my pregnancy sick from undiagnosed gallbladder issues.

I also spent my pregnancy dreaming of the perfect breastfeeding wardrobe I was going to create. I even commented on the (now discontinued) blog 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World. Here’s a screen shot of my comment. I’m laughing at how naive I was back then. Also, the comments section on that blog are absolutely filled with people I recognize today. Hilarious blast from the past.

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After having Lu I was hit with so many issues. I mostly got my waist back, but my breasts were huge so none of my pre-baby clothing fit right. I also continued to have gallbladder issues that lead to surgery at 3 months postpartum, issues with creating enough breast milk, a full time job, a baby who never slept more than 2 hours, and a husband who was working on the road when Lu was 6-12 months old. Somewhere in that first year I managed to fit in a sewing class on making your own custom sloper. I squeezed myself into my me-made pre-pregnancy clothes for sewing classes, but I can’t remember really sewing myself any everyday clothing to fit my new body. My husband bought me a fabulous new Janome and I retired the Brother my parents bought me as a teenager.

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I did manage to make multiple historical dresses. How crazy is that? I was too out of it to make myself a work dress, but I made a 1930s dress, a full bustle gown, and a few other things for when I volunteer at a local museum.

And while I wasn’t doing much sewing when Lu was a baby, I was doing a hell of a lot of knitting. In 2013 I knit 35 projects (14 accessories, 8 baby items, and 13 sweaters for myself). I knit while I breastfed, while I was pumping milk at work, while I was between tours at the museum, in line at the post office, when I was a passenger in the car, and basically anywhere and everywhere I could hold the needles. Sewing meant setting up my machine and finding my place in the project. Knitting could be picked up and put down at nearly any point in the process.

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I knit this while I was in labor!

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During pregnancy #2 I didn’t even bother trying to sew maternity clothing. I bought a few things and wore them on repeat. Instead of sewing clothing I took up quilting starting with a quilt for the new baby.

After Charlie was born sewing came back into my life full force. Only this time I wasn’t sewing for fun, I was sewing for a purpose. Two children had left me with a body that no longer fit well into any clothes I could buy. I stumbled through 10 months of breastfeeding with a combination of Cake’s Tiramisu pattern, and Sewaholic’s Yaletown dress. Wrap dresses were my jam. So practical for nursing and those endless pumping sessions.

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When Charlie weaned it was like my body was handed back to me. Knowing she was my last baby I could move forward making clothes I’d love to wear. Things with zippers and made from woven fabrics with no elastic. Magical. IMG_4311

Being a second time mom was also so very different. I was so much less anxious all the time. Charlie slept better than her older sister and my husband did less traveling. I started sewing most nights from 7-8:30pm and with 90 minutes per night plus nap times on the weekends I could actually dedicate my mind to figuring out fit issues. I started making muslins instead of diving straight into a project and it was so worth slowing down to have better fitting clothing.

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I actually use apparel fabrics and the results are far superior to quilting cotton (even if the prints aren’t as cute). At this point I only own one commercially made dress, a leftover from when I was still breastfeeding that still garners lots of compliments. But I think the biggest compliment is that people don’t even suspect my clothing is homemade. These years of blogging and working on my skills have lead to a wardrobe of custom fit clothing that makes me feel confident both as a woman and as a mother.

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Pajama Party

Last weekend temperatures went soaring into the triple digits, so naturally I spent a good chunk of it sitting on our non-airconditioned kitchen sewing new pajamas for me and the girls! Pajama party!

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First up are these matching doggie pajamas in super soft double gauze. I’m almost done sewing up all the fabric I purchased at Hart’s Fabrics back in May. This double gauze hadn’t been on my list, but Charlie started to get antsy so I let her pick out a fabric. She latched onto this Shiba Inu print. I thought it was corgis like my sister’s dogs but nope! Wrong dog breed.

Since it was the end of the bolt I bought it all instead of the 1 yard I’d planned. It was a good decision because I was able to just barely get 2 nightgowns from the yardage.

I was really torn on what style to make. I wanted something that could pull on rather than zip or button. Charlie is starting to get better at dressing herself and elastic helps the process along.

A quick glance through my patterns and I easily settled on Simplicity 2913, an It’s Sew Easy pattern that is now out of print. I’ve made the dress version before, but in order to save on fabric I used the top pattern and added a ruffle to the bottom. I could just squeak out both dresses by cutting out the original top pattern then accessing the remaining yardage and cutting it into strips for the bottom. Charlie got a narrower ruffle cut on the grain and Lu got a wider ruffle cut from the cross grain.

The pattern runs a tad bit on the large side since both gap in the back. I cut a 2 for Charlie and a 4 for Lu which is pretty in line with their measurements. I’m not fussed about it because they are kids and these are nightgowns. Most importantly the girls love these and have already worn them twice this week.


Next I turned to my own double gauze nightgown.

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It’s another version of the Fifi Pajama pattern only I’ve lengthened the top to make it a nightgown. I really like the top portion of the Fifi and even if it isn’t the most supportive thing ever it is lovely to wear to bed in the summer. I’ve followed the same sizing as my last version and I will say the double gauze is a little stiffer than rayon so I probably could have added a touch more coverage at the bust. Oh well!

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The fabric was also picked up in May at the Birch Fabrics store in Paso Robles. I try to stop in when we drive by because you never know what kind of sale you’ll find. This time I paid full price (boo!), but that’s okay. I tend to pay full price for things I really want instead of impulsing buying more fabric during a sale. Though now that I’ve worked with Birch’s double gauze I am tempted to pick up more for summer pjs.


And last up is another set of matching nightgowns for the girls.

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So silly! Of the two sets I made these simple but soft shifts were the clear favorite. I can’t blame them. The fabric is some butter yellow cotton jersey rib adorned with green pineapples. I got it in a KnitFix from Girl Charlee. I hated my experience with the Knit Fix. Really and truly hated most of the fabrics I received, but this particular fabric is perfect for nightgowns.

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Picking a pattern this time was easy and maybe even unnecessary due to the nature of rib knit. I found my copy of Made by Rae’s Flashback Skinny Tee to trace off the neckline and armscyes then cut a rough shape of a dress. Binding finished the neck and arm holes while the hem is left unfinished. Simple. Fast. Most importantly comfy and cool.

I might make a few more nightgowns in the coming weeks, but we’ll see. I want to make Lu some skater dresses, but she doesn’t need them. School starts one month from today and then she’ll be in uniforms all week. Charlie will be in uniforms as of September first so nightgowns make are logically the right thing to make. Which will win? Logic or my heart?

 

Flower Girls

I can’t believe my sister’s wedding took place 2 months ago! Time moves so quickly and we’ve had many milestones in our family this summer as the girls move from on from their current schools to new programs.

I made the girls some pretty sweet dresses for the wedding and by now they’ve been worn on nearly a weekly basis. Gosh it is nice to see Lu and Charlie love something I’ve made them! So here is a little look at the unicorn and mermaid flower girl dresses.

For the actual wedding ceremony we all wore petticoats. The girls had poofy white versions and I added tie on gold glitter tulle overskirts. Hilariously Charlie’s petticoat was stiffer than Lu’s and Charlie’s petticoat actually stuck straight out when the over skirt wasn’t in place. Both girls had a marvelous time dancing and spinning and admiring the fluff.

Charlie is especially taken with twirly dresses right now. Everything must be pink and she declares “Mommy, I feel pretty!”. It is very sweet even if it makes dressing her each morning slightly more challenging. Lu was also a fan of dresses at 2 years old, but wasn’t quite so picky about sparkles and tulle and twirl factor.

Both girls’ dresses were made with Oliver + S’s Fairy Tale Dress pattern only with a circle skirt instead of a gathered skirt. It’s a pattern I’ve used with success twice before and suited the event perfectly. The only negative comment about the pattern is the sleeves are fiddly. Where the tulip sleeves overlap there is 4 layers of fabric in the sleeves plus gathers and that is a lot of fabric to fit into a size 18 month armscye.

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I used quilting cotton from Sarah Jane for both dresses. My sister prefers gold over silver and the Magic line of fabrics all have shiny gold over parts of the design. I picked the prints and colors based on what was available at the time. Buying fabric in the middle of Easter dress season was a big mistake. I should have thought ahead more, but I was stuck without an idea until too close to the wedding date. Oh well! It worked out.

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And as I mentioned, the girls love these dresses and wear them really frequently. In fact Lu wore hers to camp and was the fanciest kid in the group. I’m just glad to see the dresses worn and loved. I really try not to make anything too precious for everyday wear.

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I think it would would shock some to see kids go straight from church to chocolate shake, but I can’t be fussed to make good clothes and play clothes when Lu is growing so tall and Charlie wants to be just like her big sister.  Plus starting this fall they’ll both be in uniforms and I want their mom made pretties to get worn before they are too small.

Fifi Pajamas!

Happy Summer Solstice! It is suddenly quite hot here in Southern California. I can deal with the heat during the day, but is sure is uncomfortable trying to sleep when it is still 77F in my bedroom at 11pm. Ugh! Not looking forward to the long hot summer ahead of us.

Pajamas are one of the items I rarely make for myself. The main reason I sew is to have well fitted clothing for my non-standard shape. In pajamas the fit is less important. On the other hand, I’m getting tired of buying nightgowns and pajamas sets in XL or XXL to fit my bottom while my top half needs 2 sizes smaller.

Recently I took a dive into my pattern stash and found Tilly and the Button’s Fifi. I actually made a nightgown version in January 2016 as a gift for my sister. It turned out really cute! And as luck would have it, I’d done an FBA on the pattern cups back then so all I had to do was trace off my size and get to sewing. Hooray!

So cute, right? I ended up grading between sizes, the top is a 6/7 and the bottom is a 7/8. The only change I made to the pattern aside from the FBA was to swap the bias straps for fold over elastic (FOE) instead. That was a lesson learned when I made my sister’s version. If you look closely at the pattern photos you can see the bend where the bias goes from edging to strap. Drove me bonkers when I realized that was considered normal for the Fifi. I like the FOE much better. The back of the Fifi top is a tad large, but with the elastic gently gathering the edge, the back feels nice and snug. I also much prefer the FOE straps for their supportive yet flexible hold. Support! It is sort of important!

I’m still torn on the shorts. Really out of my comfort zone, but I do like them for pajamas. Less twisting around than a nightgown and helps with the summer thigh rub. They maybe look tight in the photo, but they don’t feel tight in person and if anything the waist elastic could be a tad more snug.

Tilly doesn’t recommend using fabric with a directional pattern. It’s a fair warning as the top is cut on the bias and the shorts are cut on the grainline. Originally I’d bought this Cotton + Steel rayon with a Cashmerette Springfield in mind. It was part of my epic Hart’s Fabric shopping spree in early May and I’d had my eye on this print for months. But after I made my first Springfield I knew I didn’t want a ton of them. Just 1-2 would fill the gap in my wardrobe and the crane fabric had just exactly the amount of yardage needed for pajamas. Sold! The pattern is so busy, that I don’t think the direction is super noticeable.

I’ve worn this Fifi set a few times now and I do really like the top a lot. The fit is exactly where I want it, but the shorts are just not holding up like I’d hoped. They feel great the first night, but then the fabric stretches and bunches and the crotch doesn’t sit where I’d like for another wearing. Ultimately I want to wear my pajamas twice before washing. I’m on the search for a different shorts pattern, so if you have an option that is free or not too expensive, please let me know! I’m tempted to try the City Gym Shorts, but they only go up to a 46″ hip and I need a 48″ hip.

Closet Clear Out – Summer 2017

With the change in the seasons it was time to clean out my closet and say “Goodbye!” to the clothing that no longer made me happy. Some were duds, but others had just plain worn out.

First up is this hounds tooth dress from October 2016. There is nothing wrong with it. The fit is good, but there is just too much of the pattern. For now the dress goes back to my fabric stash to become something else. Maybe I’ll just lower the neckline and shorten it. I might even have some scraps leftover and it will become kids clothes. No matter the outcome, this fabric is likely to get used since it is in great shape.

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This summer dress was barely worn since last August. It is perfect for the weekend, but sadly the last time it was worn (Saturday) I discovered the fabric has a hole. Maybe I’ll save this for kids clothes too since the colors are so fun.

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Next is the blouse I made last May in hopes of finding something that would look nice tucked in. However it felt like I was wearing a scrub shirt so it had to go.

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And now here are some favorites that were just plain tired. This wrap dress is one of the first knit items I ever made for myself. It looks great, but the fabric looks sad. Art Gallery Knits are awesome to work with, but the darker colors look worn out really quickly because the back of the fabric is white. Every time you wash the jersey a little more white fuzz collects on the dark print. Boo.

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Next is another navy printed jersey dress from March 2016 that suffered the same problem. This time it is Robert Kaufman jersey, but I was more forgiving for the navy and green print since I bought it for a whole $3 a yard at an over stock store. Plus I cut a hole in the fabric when I was sewing it together. Now that I own more clothes I can allow myself to get rid of this. But gosh I love this dress.

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And last up is the kitty dress from December 2015. I’m really sad to see it go, but the fabric looks just awful. So many pills. So many. This knit came from Andover Fabrics and I’m super disappointed it wore so poorly. I’d hoped to keep on wearing it for a long time, but no such luck.

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On the plus side, now there is room for shiny new wardrobe items that will be made with my current skill set and taste level! Not all bad even if it is hard to say goodbye to the some favorite makes.

Ngaio Blouse

I have a new favorite pattern! The Ngaio Blouse was released by Scroop Patterns in early May and it has quickly become my favorite item to wear to work. I’ve actually made two!

 

I have a full review on the Curvy Sewing Collective, but I wanted to say a few words here about the how it feels to wear this blouse.

The more I sew quality garments, the pickier I’ve become when it comes to buying patterns. Styles really need to stand out or be really easily hacked to fit my retro-ish style. Scroop patterns fit into the first category for me. The Ngaio Blouse is really really wearable and professional. It is feminine, but not juvenile and that is a really hard balance to find. I don’t want to feel like I’m wearing a costume to work.

Ngaio is also really easy to wear tucked in. The darts at the back hip keep the blouse neatly placed while leaving the perfect about of volume above the waist. No other blouse I’ve worn has stayed in place so nicely.

And they feel so wonderful. The white version is a cotton lawn and even though it is slightly tight through the shoulders, it wears well. I don’t remember the last time I owned a white blouse (maybe college?), but it is so very versatile. It even coordinates with this awesome, but never worn skirt I made last year.

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And I love the rayon version. This dusty lavender rayon batiste is light as air. I thought I’d lose my mind trying to cut out the pattern. Every breathe would move the fabric, but sewing it was super easy and it pressed perfectly.

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The Ngaio Blouse and Fantail skirt combination is now my equivalent of a power suit for important dates at work. It feels fantastic to be cool, put together, and have that little swish follow me while I walk. Perfect outfit.

And lastly, I wanted to give Leimomi Oakes a huge shout out for including a sleeveless and sleeved option for the Ngaio blouse. Not only did she include both options, but she provided a different armscye for each version. That attention to detail is something missing from a lot of patterns, both Indies and the Big 4. It is one of those touches that has me eagerly awaiting what comes next.

Navy Fantail Skirt

There I was standing in the aisle of Harts Fabrics. My mom and I took a morning trip to Santa Cruz before heading back my sister’s wedding festivities. The morning hadn’t gone well. I’d promised my daughters some fun, but nothing was working out right. I was annoyed. I was mad. I was short tempered. My children were running in circles around the displays. But gosh darn it, I was going to find some pretty fabric.

Thankfully my mom started entertaining my older daughter by looking for some last minute wedding supplies and I was left with one child who we much better behaved once her partner in crime was occupied.

I wandered the aisles and kept coming back to the same roll of fabric. It was navy, it was twill, and it was rayon. Gorgeous and reasonably priced. 3 yards came home with me.

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I had no idea what to make with this lovely fabric, but it did fit in with my capsule wardrobe color scheme. I just had to pick a pattern.

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And then it hit me, Scroop’s Fantail Skirt. Could I make it with 3 yards of fabric? Yes! It even takes less than 3 yards of 60″ wide fabric. And I totally love the finished skirt. Look at those lovely pleats in the back. It has all the movement of an old fashioned skirt with the slim silhouette of modern clothing.

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Such fun to swish around in. The only bummer is the fit is more slim than I expected. I made a size 42 graded out to a 44 at the hip. That should have given me plenty of ease, but yet it clings slightly more than I’d wanted. At least it isn’t too tight to wear, but next time I might size up a tad depending on the fabric.

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But really, I don’t think I could have found a better fabric and pattern combination. The rayon twill drapes perfectly and this navy color will have me looking nice and professional even on the warmest summer day!