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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Goodbye 2016!

2016 has come and gone. Last night we had storms passing through, but today has arrived cool, clear, and with a beautiful bright blue sky. Like many others 2016 was not my favorite year. Beyond the political landscape, it was just an okay year for our little family. We got by fine, the kids grew and thrived, but it wasn’t an easy year. By the end of it I felt quite worn down by the routine but also by the instability.

There was a lot of good stuff coming out of our house as well. I spent a lot of time on my sewing skills. I now have a much loved skater-style dress I make and wear frequently. I also discovered I do better when I work off the Gertie block then the Cashmerette block (for wovens). I’m sure in the coming year I will buy more patterns, but I also hope to make my own block again. I have a lot of ideas of dresses I’d like to make, but I think making my own block would really help me spend less time fitting and more time designing.

I made some misses too. A few poor fabric choices and a few patterns that just didn’t work for my shape. And sometimes things turn out okay, but they fail to make it to the regular rotation. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a sewer who doesn’t have a few flops every year.

And then there are my sweet girls! Not as much sewing for them as with previous years. Mostly because Charlie can wear so many things I made for her sister and she’s stayed quite tiny. Partly because Lu finally grew enough that she can wear commercially produced school uniforms! I ordered a select number of skirts and dresses in August and Lu’s been set for school since. I am incredibly proud of their swimsuits and plan to make them new suits for next summer. So much fun and really simple.

What’s next? I still have some quilts to finish. One for my bed and the girls matching quilts for their room. We moved all the baby stuff out over the winter break and we’re contemplating bunk beds this summer, so I’d like to get those quilts done. Otherwise I’ll just keep looking for new inspiration. I organized my fabric stash a bit this week and remembered I have fabric to make the Sewaholic Pacific Leggings, my SIL bought me the Decades of Style Lara Dress pattern, and I have more wool jersey to make a skater style dress. Maybe I’ll get to those things, but if I don’t it is okay. I can’t wait to see where 2017 takes me!

Sewing For My Curves

Hi there! Today I’m over at the Curvy Sewing Collective talking about how I sew for my curves. I hope you’ll hope on over and give it a read!

As an addendum I wanted to speak to the recent interviews with Tim Gunn and how it relates to my own sewing.

Tim got into a little hot water with his interviews, but I am that average woman. When we talks about the size 16 woman who lives just outside the misses sizing, he is talking about me.

Usually when I used to shop for clothing I could find tops that fit, but then I couldn’t find bottoms. And when you venture into the plus size stores the tops were too large, but surprisingly so were the skirts! So where do you go to look for clothing? Obviously I turned to sewing.

Even in sewing patterns I live on the edge. In the Big 4 (Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, and Vogue) my top half fits into the misses sized patterns, but my hip measurement is too large. And very often the indie patterns stop just short of my size. I recently went looking for a slip pattern and everything was either too small (misses) or too large (plus size). This is what makes me grateful for the skills I have in fitting clothes to me shape. But what about the millions of American women who depend on stores to purchase clothing?

And then there is Tim’s opinion that people should look “long and lean”. I know many women were unhappy with his statement, but that is honestly how I want to look. I’ve spent many years working on my fitting skills and critically analyzing my personal style to make myself feel long and lean. And that’s the key, I want to feel that way. I know I am neither long nor lean. So I work to create that illusion. Necklines to balance my bust, open cardigans to provide a vertical line, defined waists to show off my smallest part, and skirts with just the right amount of flair to balance my figure and skim my hips.

I’m sure some of this comes down to when I became an adult. I’m only 2 weeks younger than Britney Spears. I was a teenager/young adult in the days of ultra low rise jeans and when a boyish figure with large breasts was the most popular shape. When I graduated college and moved to The Valley I lived with two girls who went to parties at the Playboy Mansion when “The Girls Next Door” was on TV. I was never that version of beautiful. But I was able to embrace my figure. I could reach for fit and flare dresses and heels that made me feel more comfortable with my shape. And now I look back and see that I’ve always had a pretty similar style. As I’ve aged and my body has changed so have some slight preferences, but I’ve stayed true to my idea of what I think is flattering.

So while I understand why people are unhappy with Tim Gunn’s comments, I can relate to what he is saying. Many years ago he referred to the “Slobification of America” and that struck a cord too. In a word where crazy printed leggings are becoming the norm, I’m glad to hear a voice in fashion that is still pushing for polished clothes while encouraging inclusiveness.

 

 

 

Lovely Linen

Nothing says the end of summer like finishing a sun dress on Labor Day!

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But that is exactly how I spent my weekend when I wasn’t focused on potty training our toddler.

I love this dress. After so much frustration with getting something to fit I am thrilled I gave it one more try before moving onto another pattern.

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This is a mash up on my heavily modified Gertie bodice with the gored skirt from Cashmerette’s Upton Dress. When I made my Liberty dress a few weeks ago I made the mistake of lowering the bust darts way too much. This time I did all the same alterations only I lowered the bust dart 1/2 inch. Such a difference.

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Still not 100% perfect, but oh so close. Once I tried it on I had to take it in 1/2 inch at the under arm. No big deal and easy to adjust on the pattern piece.

But damn this fits my bust well.

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And in the back I got the back adjustment just right in the upper back. But then I forgot to re-add the width to the waist. Whoops! Also easily added to the pattern piece for next time. So you can see a bit of pulling there.

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The fabric is a linen/cotton blend from The Fabric Store. I purchased it right after the Upton pattern came out, but then it sat in timeout while I battled my fit issues. The fabric is quite open in weave so I lined the entire dress with some bright apple green Free Spirit voile I purchased when my local fabric store went out of business. The lining took just 2.5 yards, so I still have another 3 yards of voile for another project.

Thankfully here in Southern California we’ll have warm weather for another 2-3 months so still plenty of time to wear this beauty through fall!

 

Summer Sewjo

July has been one exhausting month! I signed up for a fitness program called StepBet which means I’ve been spending a couple hours a day walking instead of knitting and sewing. My poor hobbies feel so sad and neglected! It has also been quite hot so I am much more drained by all the physical activity than I would be in cooler conditions. All griping aside, I’ve enjoyed making walking more of a priority in my life. Just less to post here!

Anyways, I got to a place where I just needed to make something to get out of my rut. I’d made a few toddler nightgowns after retrieving my serger from timeout, but the one thing I tired to make for myself went terribly wrong. Some day I’ll finish it and post here, but I can’t bring myself to work on it at the moment.

And while I love a light weight woven summer dress, I found I was reaching for my knit dresses much more frequently. Who wants to iron when it is 90F in your house? So off I went to find enough yardage for a sleeveless summer dress, but I quickly found I only had one dress quantity washed and ready to go. Boo! So I pulled my sole pre-washed fabric, tossed it in the dryer to get the wrinkles out, and started cutting.

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What emerged was another Washington Dress hack. You may remember I made several long sleeve versions last winter, and thankfully the sleeveless version is just as nice to wear. With binding around the armholes, it feels a lot like one of my favorite tank tops from Target only dress-ified.

The process of making this wasn’t without drama. First I forgot to cut the back on the fold, so there is a big seam running down the center back and that also means the back is about 1/2 inch narrower than it should be.

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Because I used a 100% cotton knit (Alison Glass) there wasn’t enough stretch to the neckband as drafted. I had to cut out my first attempt and try again. The lack of stretch is also why the whole top feels a little more snug than usual and the armholes are a tad on the tight side. For the next version I’m going to pull out my favorite tank top and compare the armholes to see what adjustments might work.

Now I’m a little sad I let this fabric sit for so many months! It was originally purchased to make a Tiramisu, but lately I’m finding I like sleeveless dresses a lot more than short sleeves. Also I knew I was going to need to adjust the Tiramisu pattern, but I did not have the brain space to tackle pattern adjustments at the moment. Oh well!

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And because I always like to see how fabrics wear throughout the day, here is another photo taken at 6pm on a hot hot day. Fabric held up incredible well. Way better than I excepted. I thought it might stretch out quite a lot by the end of the day, but it held shape really nicely!

My little quilt shop is going out of business, so last weekend I picked up another dress quantity of Alison Glass knits in Peony to make a second version. This only took about 2 hours to make including cutting it out and dealing with all my errors. Sergers for the win! I stuck mine right in front of our wall mounted A/C unit so I was nice and cool. I serged all the main seams and only had to sweat at my regular machine to attach the facings and do the top stitching. Yay!

(#photobylu, my 4 year old was the only person available to take photos, so apologizes on their quality.)

Quilting Round Up Spring 2016

Lots of sewing going on around here lately, but most of it hasn’t been for me! I got a little backed up on my quilting obligations while I made Easter dresses and and recovered from the cold from hell.

First up I needed to work on my Super Awesome Fun Times quilting bee blocks. This is  Wanta Fanta. This was my first time paper piecing and it went fine, but I have to say it wasn’t my favorite thing to do ever. So much  paper waste! A few blocks was fine, but I can’t imagine picking bits of paper out of a whole quilt top.

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Next up was a cute Wonky Star in shades of pink. This was fun to make, though I realized I’m not any better at wonky quilting than I am coloring outside the lines.

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Lastly there is this mini block. I say mini because I was testing it for my friend and she accidentally wrote it for 1/4 the size she wanted. So you might see this one again in a bit when I re-make it at the full size.

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I also caught up on the Modern HST Sampler QAL only to fall majorly behind again. Oh well! At least I got the whole first quarter of blocks done in with both collections I’m working with.

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Lastly a non-quilt make. One of my co-workers had a baby girl this week so I made her a sweet Geranium Dress as a shower gift. Thank goodness someone had a baby girl! My boy fabric stash isn’t very big since I have two little girls and everyone I knew has had boys! I usually use this print to line Lu’s school uniforms, but something school themed seemed a perfect match for a co-worker gift. (I work at an arts school.)

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I wish I could figure out what line this fabric came from. There is absolutely no information on the selvedges, but the print is totally darling.

More is in the works so hopefully I’ll have a write up soon!

 

 

Podcast Review – Seamwork Radio

There is a new podcast in town and it is well worth a listen.

Today Seamwork Radio released their first episode A Radical Change in Confidence with Jenny Rushmore. It was so nice I listened twice. I think you might enjoy a listen too.

Prior to today I’d only heard of Jenny Rushmore through the Curvy Sewing Collectivea site that is full of pattern reviews, tutorials, and other posts all related to sewing for the curvy figure. I admit, I do not look at her projects terribly often because we have opposite shapes. But her interview at Seamwork today was amazing.

I think nearly everyone can relate to feeling ostracized and I admire Jenny for taking control of her life and persevering to learn to sew. She also acknowledges the ups and downs of being an active member of social media, such as internet trolls/bullies (Ugh! !Aready been the target myself!).

So run, don’t walk over to Seamwork Radio and give it a listen! I’d love to hear your take on the episode and if you loved listening as much as I did.