Sunday, April 19, 2015

Finished: Quick & Cheap DIY Tablecloth Ring Sling (& Thoughts on Finding Time to Blog AND Sew)

Better photos of my DIY tablecloth ring sling, with actual baby. #SHBsewalong #babywearing #babyDWood #isew #tcrs

Becoming a sewing blogger is contradictory: blogging can inspire you to sew and can be creative in itself, but it can also be a time suck that takes you away from your sewing machine. Suddenly you have to find time not only to to make your project but to photograph (and photoedit) it, write it up (and edit it), answer comments — and, if you're really intense, provide detailed tips, tutorials and even patterns.

So given my limited free time lately as the mother of an 11-week-old boy and a 4-year-old girl I've been trying — and failing — to shorten my blog posts, limit the excessive amounts of detail and cut back on all the sketching and sewing planning and organizing of fabric and patterns I enjoy so much, but which rarely turns into actual sewing. And I'm giving myself permission to take really quick photographs in front of the only spot in my apartment which is vaguely clean and not worry that I can't crop out all the clutter.

I do think planning and sketching can help ensure a garment fits and flatters and actually gets worn ... but since I'm trying to break out of a sewing lull and seriously squeezed for time, it's probably better just to grab a pattern and fabric and just SEW.

(And yes, of course I realize it is possible to sew or knit without publicly documenting it... but at this point, it's almost a compulsion. Part of me just doesn't feel a project is truly complete until I've blogged it, Raveled it or Pattern Reviewed it... or at least Instagrammed it.)

So, anyway. I made a baby carrier out of a fuschia Mahogany brand tablecloth for the Small Human Being Sew-Along and it was ridiculously easy and satisfying. Start to finish the whole project took less than an hour for pressing, pinning and sewing, and that was INCLUDING watching the video tutorials and reading the instructions. It probably took less time than typing up this blog post.

DIY Fuschia Tablecloth Ring Sling

The details:

Pattern: Used the free "A simple un-padded sling" ring sling tutorial with gathered shoulder option from Jan Andrea's Sleeping Baby Productions baby crafts page — she has a huge wealth of free baby carrier sewing patterns, with great videos and essential tips on selecting safe and supportive fabric, weight-bearing rings and strong thread. I didn't bother with a pocket as I didn't have enough extra fabric.

Fabric: Half of a 90" x 60" Mahogany fuschia and yellow tablecloth (100% cotton jacquard). After washing, my piece was about 87" x 29", and the final sling measureds 75" (12" is taken up by the rings area).

It can be hard to find high-quality, supportive and pretty fabrics at a budget price for babywearing, but Mahogany cotton jacquard tablecloths have been road-tested extensively by many babywearers, come in many cool patterns and colorways, and are quite popular for DIY wraps as well.

Notions: Weight-tested size large silver aluminum rings from SlingRings.com, high-quality polyester thread (I used Mettler Metrosene, but Guttermann is also popular for sling-making).

Cost: About $25 for the tablecloth half and sling rings together. Which is pretty sweet as commercial ring slings often cost between $85-$200.

I split the other half of the tablecloth with Clio, so we're going to be babywearing twinsies.

DIY Fuschia Tablecloth Ring Sling

I cannot emphasize enough how much I ADORE this carrier. I've been wearing it all over the place for the last few days — even for outings of several hours. I love the bright pink color, I love how soft and supportive it is, and how "grippy" the fabric is (it really grips the rings and stays put once well-tightened). Baby D seems to love it too, as he falls asleep very quickly in it! And it is much more comfortable than it might look, as most of the weight is spread across the back, not the shoulder.

DIY Fuschia Tablecloth Ring Sling

I'll probably get more practical use out of this sling than anything I've sewn.

This shot probably best shows the actual color:

DIY Fuschia Tablecloth Ring Sling

Again, I'm trying to keep this post short, but the Sleeping Baby Productions instructions are great and easy to follow. Do read them carefully, though, especially in regard to fabric selection — you are going to be carrying a precious baby in that thing, so you want to make sure you select good fabric and sew it carefully and securely with strong thread (she recommends three parallel lines of stitching, spaced about 1/4" apart).

A word or two about safety:

Making your own carrier can be a quick sewing high, but please make sure you know how to use it SAFELY — that baby is high, tight, secure to your chest (tummy to tummy), breathing freely, and seated in a nice deep pocket. I took a little free babywearing class with professional educations when I had my daughter, and I've also been to some great babywearing meetups with volunteer educators who can (I've just joined my local NYC chapter of Babywearing International, and besides meetups and baby carrier education and troubleshooting they have an awesome baby carrier lending library!)

YouTube is also a great babywearing resource. Here are my two favorite ring sling troubleshooting videos by WrappingRachel: "How to Use a Ring Sling With a Newborn" and "Ring Sling Troubleshooting: Keeping the Rings at Corsage Level".

But don't be too intimidated — wearing your baby should be done carefully in a safe carrier, but once you get the hang of it, it's easy, fun and life-changing. Ring slings are great for sleepy little snuggly newborns who need to nurse a lot (you can nurse in the sling and use the tail as a cover), or tired toddlers who can only walk so far before they want up on your hip. And they don't need to cost a fortune, either — if you sew, you can make a sling.

I have one more pair of sling rings and I think I want to do a brightly-colored double-layer silk dupioni or shantung sling with a pocket (I own one and it is AMAZING, but the color is rather subdued). I think I need about 2.5" yards of 56"+ wide fabric... I've been eyeing this lime silk dupioni from Fabric.com...

... and I have a 20% off coupon, but it is only 54" wide, so that might be a bit narrow once folded and sewn into a double layer... I think I'll keep my eye out for bright-colored nubbly silk on sale.

Or maybe I'll just get another tablecloth!

DIY Fuschia Tablecloth Ring Sling

DIY Fuschia Tablecloth Ring Sling

**Disclosure: Actions you take from hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for polkadotoverload.com (quite likely to be spent on yarn or fabric).

Friday, April 17, 2015

Done: A striped Jalie 2921 Scarf-Collar Top, hacked for nursing (SHB Sew-Along)

Baby only took catnaps today but somehow I finished my #jalie scarf top hacked for #SHBsewalong as a #nursingtop ...

"Rip!"

Is not the sound you want to hear when you have a project that is actually turning out awesome, and you are managing to sew in ten-minute baby catnap-sized chunks, and it is just SO close to done, and...

I had snagged this tissue-thin unstable rayon-lycra jersey on a broken plastic piece of my sewing table insert while hemming, opening up a hole right over the bust area. I was not about to scrap this thing, given how hard it had been to cut out (like slicing through water, argh!), so I repaired it with a little hand-stitching, and I hope no one is looking close enough to notice!

This breastfeeding hack of my beloved Jalie 2921 scarf-collar jersey top is my fourth piece for the Small Human Being Sew-Along this month with Cindy and Clio.

Jalie 2921 scarf-collar top--hacked for nursing

The inspiration: Specialty nursing tops aren't necessary for breastfeeding – but I love them anyway. Any top that can be pulled up or down or unbuttoned can work... but I like to be able to get baby his lunch quickly without a cover, and I don't want to show off my belly. So easy access is key, and tops that open right above or right under the bust fit the bill.

Recently, I acquired a few nursing tops in a great front overlap style by Boob Designs, and while I love the way they work, I foolishly bought light, solid-colored ones that developed breastmilk stains almost immediately. Here's how the Boob Nursingwear tops function (in a smarter colorway, too):

So I decided to make my own versions in distracting stain-hiding prints.

The basics:

Pattern: Jalie 2921 scarf-collar top (basically a knit version of a bow-neck blouse!), hacked with the So Zo nursing top tutorial. I'd previously made this fantastic top pattern (not hacked for nursing) in a floral and polka-dot version, both of which I wear, and get complimented on, constantly, so it is a real TNT.

Fabric: Slippery thin striped (rayon lycra?) jersey knit with good recovery that I got for free in a fabric swap. Horribly thin and unstable while cutting and sewing (I was swearing a LOT while cutting) so I can see why its former owner ditched it.

Size: Because I still seem to be shrinking slowly post-birth and this fabric is super stretchy, I decided to stick with my usual size even though my bust, waist and hips are all 3" bigger than last time I made this thing. Which is a size S (34" bust) overall, but a size V (37") for the bust and front sleeve armhole. My actual bust is 41.5" right now, so there's a lot of negative ease going on here.

Notions: 1/4" clear elastic for the bottom of the overlap and the top of the underlap. But I think next time I will use a heftier knit elastic, the clear stuff seems too flimsy to me for frequent nursing.

So it's maybe slightly TOO thin and clingy, but I think it will loosen up over time, and I personally rather a top be slightly too tight than too loose.

Jalie 2921 scarf-collar top--hacked for nursing

Instructions: Zoe's free tutorial was clear and thorough, and I found it easy to apply to this pattern I had already made several times. I did cheat a bit by just adding marks to my existing traced front pattern piece rather than creating new pattern pieces for the overlap and underlap, and it worked out fine.

Modifications: In her tutorial Zoe recommends the overlap ending 3/4 down the bust instead of under the bust, but I personally prefer the underbust line, so I moved it down. And the overlap front piece is split down the middle, but I made the underlap a single piece cut on the fold.

Construction notes: I made this all on the sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch, as I was visiting my mom and she doesn't have a serger. The fabric was so thin that it practically seemed to tear apart as I stitched, so I hope it holds up over time.

Side seam stripe matching win (nevermind the sleeves and shoulders):

Jalie 2921 scarf-collar top--hacked for nursing

How I found the time: I was visiting my parents when I cut and sewed most of this, and they held the little guy quite a bit while he was awake. I finished it when we returned to Brooklyn in very small chunks during baby's way-too-short naps.

Pretend nursing shot (baby was actually full, but you get the idea):

Jalie 2921 scarf-collar top--hacked for nursing

I've been trying to be more minimalist when going out with baby — no large bag, stroller, nursing cover, etc. So here I am about to pick up my daughter from Pre-K and take both kids to the playground... just wearing baby in a ring sling and carrying a diaper clutch with diapers, wipes, a change of clothes and my keys, ID and debit card. (My daughter wears her own small backpack with her Epi-Pens, water bottle and an allergy-friendly snack.):

Jalie 2921 scarf-collar top--hacked for nursing

Outfit details

Top: Made by Me
Leggings: Yummie Tummie by Heather Thomson compact shapewear leggings (scored on eBay for $3.50 due to a tiny flaw).
Diaper clutch: Skip Hop Pronto diaper changing clutch/station in a Jonathan Adler print, also scored on eBay.
Orange flats: Ahnu Karma ballet flats in Red Clay, bought on deep sale at Amazon. Ring sling: Sakura Bloom essential double-layered dupioni silk ring sling, can't remember the colorway as I bought it in 2010.

By the way, I do realize leggings are not actually trousers/pants/jeans. But since I don't have a single pair of non-maternity jeans that fit at the moment, I hope you'll forgive me. And these Yummie Tummie high-waisted tummy-control leggings are pretty amazing — thick and supportive and comfortable, and I immediately had people telling me "wow, you look great, getting in shape!" etc, even though my actual size and weight have not changed in over six weeks.

Oh, and I'll definitely make this top again, as this striped version was intended to be a wearable muslin. Next time in this chaotic Mood rayon lycra jersey, maybe in a sleeveless version: Amazing chaotic rayon/lycra print knit ...

**Disclosure: Actions you take from hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for polkadotoverload.com (quite likely to be spent on yarn or fabric).

Monday, April 13, 2015

SHB Sew-Along: Bicycle-Print hoodie, pants & bib (Brindille & Twig Free Raglan Hoodie)

My first sewing project since D was born 9 weeks ago. Little dude doesn't mind it's two sizes too big. #SHBsewalong #brindilleandtwig #raglanhoodie #sewingforboys #bicycleprint

Somehow, despite having a 10-week-old and a four-year-old I actually SEWED something. Three somethings in fact!

So I am very glad that Cindy, Clio and I decided to do a little Small Human Being Sew-Along this month, as it has given me the extra kick I needed to push on through the sleep deprivation and squeeze in time at the sewing machine again. (Not that giving birth to and parenting a small human being isn't in itself creative, but I thrive on MAKING and SEWING and DRAWING and KNITTING).

This outfit isn't quite as geeky as say, Cindy's AMAZING Hobbit outfit for her baby boy, but it still makes me super happy. I am a sucker for baby hooded jackets and bicycles, not to mention bicycle-themed baby jackets. So: fun all around!

The hoodie:

The basics:

Pattern: The sweatshirt is the free raglan hoodie pattern from Brindille & Twig, a new-to-me pattern company with lots of great modern designs for baby and toddler knitwear (found via So Zo).

Fabric: About 2/3 of a yard of bicycle-print organic cotton interlock from Birch Fabrics ("Just For Fun Bike It Multi") purchased at my fantastic neighborhood sewing/knitting shop, Brooklyn General (but out of stock at the moment on Fabric.com), plus golden yellow rib-knit from Sew Baby and some thin gray soft cotton lycra knit from my mom's stash.

Size: I agonized over this, but since he already had two me-made hoodies in size 3-6 months, I went for the 9-12 month size. It's way too big, but totally wearable for my big two-month-old guy — and he'll grow into it.

Pattern thoughts: I love the style of the hoodie—something about the shaping, especially of the hood and neckline, just feels very clean and modern to me. And I'm a sucker for piping, even if mine came out a bit wobbly (flat knit piping always seems to stretch on me!) It was also fun to make a pull-over hoodie—no snaps or zippers required this time! The lined hood is a nice touch, and the ribbed cuffs and waistband mean NO HEMMING.

Bicycle print baby hoodie and pants

Instructions: The photo instructions were very clear and helpful, but I do have one small quibble — there weren't a lot of notches on the pattern for matching up pieces, so I added my own.

Modifications: I made the piping 1/8" wider than directed, as I was afraid it would disappear into the seam allowance, and I'm glad I did (So Zo also mentioned this was an issue).

Construction notes: I made this all on the sewing machine, as I was visiting my mom and she doesn't have a serger—I just used one of those stretchy fake overlock stitches on her Husqvarna Viking so any interior seams would look neat.

It didn't occur to me until I started cutting that this bicycle pattern behaves like a large, off-grain stripe. ARGH. But I didn't have enough of the fabric to match everything perfectly, and somehow I went wrong with my attempt to match the pocket to the front—not even CLOSE. I seem to have incorporated a fabric run in there as well:

Bicycle print baby hoodie and pants

Luckily, Baby D cares not a whit (especially since babies have little practical use for pockets):

Bicycle print baby hoodie and pants

Whatever, Mama!

How I found the time: I was visiting my parents and would sneak away to the sewing machine at night once baby was asleep in the portable crib. I even got some daytime cutting and sewing in while baby was sleeping in the swing (oh how I wish it fit in our apartment! lately he only naps in a carrier at our place) and big girl was drawing or playing with her grandparents.

Newborn is asleep, big girl is busy drawing. #timetosew

And a flat view:

Bicycle print baby hoodie and pants

Pressing really saved this project. I turned the presser foot pressure down to 2 and was careful in my sewing, but I still got a fair amount of stretching and waving ... all of which totally pressed out. (I am slowly learned to love the iron.)

For the little knit pants/trousers, I just traced a pattern from a pair of Baby Gap jersey knit pants in size 6-12 months (I had accidentally left my entire stash of Ottobre magazines in Brooklyn!) It's just one pattern piece, but it's not symmetrical—the back is lower than the front for diaper room.

Tracing a pair of knit baby pants to make a #sewing pattern but the perfectionist in me worries the curve will be off by a few millimeters and wishes I hadn't left all my baby patterns at home in Brooklyn. #SHBsewalong #sewingforbabies. I decided to go for cuffed legs for laziness/cuteness, and a doubled knit waistband with no elastic (the jersey has some lycra, so it's sort of a yoga pants effect, very comfortable).

I think the little dude likes them!

I traced the pattern for the matching pants from a Baby Gap pair, then added cuffs & a wide waistband so I wouldn't have to mess with hemming or elastic. #SHBsewalong #sewingforbabies

Again, too big: but he'll grow into them. Next time I may shorten the rise and deepen the waistband bit.

Tummy time view:

Bicycle print baby hoodie and pants

Oh, and the fabric was way too expensive and cute to waste the scraps, so I pieced together a little reversible appliquéd handkerchief bib from the scraps (I just traced a bib a friend sewed for him, but there are loads of free patterns online) with yellow snaps.

Reversible appliquéd bicycle-print handkerchief bib

Holding Daddy's hand

Reversible appliquéd bicycle-print handkerchief bib

No print matching effort by mama

My husband thought there should be four bicycles to represent the four of us, and I think he was right:

Reversible handkerchief bicycle bib flat view

So that's what I've finished so far. I'm also halfway through a (barely) wearable muslin nursing hack of the Jalie scarf-collar top, but I think I need to go pass out now before baby wakes up hungry again.

Also, a question: do my posts lately seem more disjointed/ungrammatical than usual? I can't help fighting this feeling that I am so tired I am not speaking/typing with any true coherence! So... sorry about that. If it is actually true. Or maybe not sorry?

P.S. Here are all of the official April 2015 SHB Sew-Along posts and inspiration so far:

  1. Cation Designs: Introducing the Small Human Being Sew-Along!
  2. B is for Baby, S is for Sew-Along!"
  3. The Small Human Being Sew-Along: Sewing Stuff for Babies and Parents. Join Us! (that's the post with the badges you can grab, by the way).
  4. Polka Dot Overload: Baby Girl Clothes
  5. Cation Designs: Baby Boy Clothes
  6. Clio & Phineas: Gender-Neutral Baby Clothes ("So You're Having a Gender-Neutral Baby")
  7. Cation Designs: Baby Accessories
  8. Clio & Phineas: Sewing for Moms & Dads (diaper bags, baby carriers and more)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

FINALLY: Cabled Chartreuse Knotty Gloves

Chartreuse Knotty Gloves

"They remind me of rubber dishwashing gloves."

Said my husband, innocently enough, as he photographed me doing the dance of knitting victory with my FINALLY complete spring-green merino wool Knotty gloves.

It wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear about the gloves I had started over a year ago and finished on size 000 needles after three false starts. Maybe it was the color, or the length, or my pose?

Chartreuse Knotty Gloves

Anyway, they fit perfectly now and I just love them. Chartreuse makes me happy!

These gloves were made to fill a serious wardrobe gap. I have several pairs of me-made fingerless gloves, but on truly chilly days I needed real finger coverage. So I've always ended up wearing ill-fitting cheap acrylic RTW gloves that were too short and left my wrists exposed to the cold.

Hence, the Knotty Gloves by Julia Mueller -- a free pattern designed for fingering-weight yarn with actual fingers and lovely cables and just the perfect length (she also has many other gorgeous glove patterns, all currently available for free since she closed her business).

I made mine with Studio Avenue 6 Bellwether Sock in the Spring colorway, a 100% merino wool hand-painted fingering weight yarn that seems to be discontinued (boo!).

Chartreuse Knotty Gloves

My husband made up for his comments by taking an inordinate number of photos for me. We struggled with lighting and focus, though -- most of the outdoor photos (we're visiting my parents, so there actually IS an outdoors) came out terribly, so we came indoors:

Chartreuse Knotty Gloves

Chartreuse Knotty Gloves

Oh, and here's a closeup, but it's preblocking, so the stitches look a bit wibbly wobbly:

Chartreuse Knotty Gloves

And why FINALLY? Well, I started these gloves in February of 2014, and gave up on them halfway through the first when they were coming out way too big even on size 0 needles. I finally found size 000 double-pointed needles (none of my local yarn stores had them, but you can find them on yarn.com or Amazon) and started them over again in January 2015 while I was waiting for baby and needed some serious distraction.

It felt like I was knitting with fragile bits of straw, and I went SO slowly for fear of the needles just snapping on me:

Ever tried #knitting with Size 000 needles? Going so slow because I feel like they are about to snap any minute. (I had been knitting the Knotty gloves with Size 0 and they were coming out way too big so I frogged them and started over with these teeny Bl

And they were STILL way too big, so I ripped back to the beginning AGAIN and added in lots of decreases (modification details here on my Ravelry project page).

So: hurrah for finishing UFOs, hurrah for chartreuse, and hurrah for the spring weather that means I will need to pack these up pretty soon.

My current creative focus is on the Small Human Being Sew-Along for April, but my next knitting project is finishing up the Hetty cardigan by Andi Satterlund last seen on this blog when my waist disappeared mid-pregnancy:

Finally ready to start the sleeves on my Hetty lace cardigan by @andisatt ... Can you tell I started knitting this a few weeks before I knew I was pregnant? But based on my gauge swatches am still very confident it will fit post-blocking and post-pregnanc

She just needs sleeves, and then she will be Me-Made-May ready.

P.S. Has a casual comment ever made you feel bad about a just-finished sewing or knitting project that you put a LOT of effort into? I certainly won't be taking these gloves anywhere near soapy dishes!

Chartreuse Knotty Gloves

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What to Wear (and Sew) When Nothing Fits? Rebuilding My Wardrobe from Scratch

BurdaStyle "Melissa" High-Waisted Knit Skirt

"Congratulations! When are you due?"

"Mommy, how come your belly looks so OLD and WRINKLY and PREGNANT?"

The first comment is from a nurse when I went for a doctor's visit several weeks after giving birth. The second is from my daughter, who happily has no clue as to why this sort of comment might make Mommy feel less than totally amazing.

I've tried over the years to develop a magic body image "bubble of peace", in which I dress for and embrace whatever size and shape I am at the moment, avoid incessantly comparing myself to others, and shut out impossibly Photoshopped and personal-trained skinny celebrity imagery. But sometimes it is harder than others and I really have to pull out the Joan photos and the pictures of some beautiful real-life moms and gorgeous women of all shapes and sizes to calm myself down. This is one of those times.

If you read this blog regularly, you might be wondering: what's with all the baby clothes and doll-making lately, Mikhaela? Where are the vintage patterns, fitted cardigans and otherwise body-conscious garments you used to sew for yourself?

Readers, eight weeks out from having my gorgeous little baby boy, I am in a serious postpartum style and body-image funk. I realized this week I really need to Do Something to Feel a Little Fancy or I might just sink under Mom Frump Lake never to be seen again. In fact, the photo at the top of this post IS me post-partum... with my previous baby, in 2010. Er...

Every day I feel like I wear the same thing: too-loose maternity top + too-loose maternity leggings/jeans + me-made wool socks + ugly old sneakers. I'm carrying diapering stuff in a disintegrating 10-year-old backpack. The only pretty accessories I'm wearing are my wraps and ring slings...

Super excited that I FINALLY got the hang of nursing baby #2 in the ring sling, something I was never able to do the first time. D got hungry in the line at the thrift store, and instead of (a) getting out of line or (b) letting him scream, I was able to

Nursing baby in line at the thrift store in a silk sling while wearing ugly old sneakers

Luckily this guy is so cute hopefully no one is noticing.

Morning baby smiles! Can't believe this little dude is almost two months old! #babyDWood

Anyway. Right after D was born, I mostly lived in stretchy nursing nightgown/dresses (see one of my most popular blog posts ever: "Easy Access: Nursing Nightgowns that Double As Dresses"). You can't see my belly in this photo, but I still look rather pregnant.

Happy Valentine's Day from the four of us!

And really, I still feel pregnant-looking today, and it is bumming me out. I feel silly feeling bad about the same belly I was so excited about when I was pregnant, but I have even been congratulated a few times on my pregnancy and it HURT (though I was with my baby at the time, so I was also PUZZLED).

I've lost over 32 pounds since giving birth, but I gained a whole lot more than that, and things are just CHANGED in various ways — my bust and waist are both 4" larger than pre-pregnancy (though my hips are just 2" larger), I have a 3-months-pregnant-looking tummy, and everything is just more, I don't know. Squishy? And I'm not going to get into nursing bras here (that's a whole post of its own!) but I'm currently rocking a 34I (as opposed to my previous 32E).

So rather than sitting around in milk-covered old maternity clothes and feeling sorry for myself, I think I need to take some thrifty body-im-limbo wardrobe rebuilding action. Here's my little plan so far:

1. Stop wearing maternity clothes. Just STOP.

I think I am at the point now where it is no longer cool or working for me. I may still live in leggings and stretchy skirts and knit tops for a while, but I would like them to be actually fitted and not baggy around the middle. I've sold most of my nicer maternity clothes on eBay and given away or donated the rest.

2. Assess my pre-pregnancy items and TNT sewing patterns for fit & nursing friendliness

"One size fits sizes 2-12. Seriously." So goes the tagline on a pretty Gala wrap dress from Karina I was ogling for inspiration the other day. It's way out of my budget but just the sort of thing I need to make or buy right now — nursing-friendly, super-stretchy, a bright and distracting print, fitted and curve-hugging, but not too tight around the belly.

Luckily I have always been a fan of knits, stretchy things, wrap styles and surplice tops. A few of my me-made dresses have necklines too high and tight for a breastfeeding mom, but most are just fine. As far as TNT items I hope to sew again, I think I might do a few variations on my McCall's 6070 dress, maybe a top version too. I don't look like this in it right now, but it totally still works on me:

IMG_0590

And I think I can play around with versions of my beloved Jalie 2921 scarf-collar top, which somehow still fits as well:

Tie-neck knit blue floral top (Jalie 2921)

My me-made handknit sweaters are holding up just fine, and hopefully I can finish up my Hetty cardigan by Andi Satterlund in time for Me Made May... here's where I left her:

Finally ready to start the sleeves on my Hetty lace cardigan by @andisatt ... Can you tell I started knitting this a few weeks before I knew I was pregnant? But based on my gauge swatches am still very confident it will fit post-blocking and post-pregnanc

As for fabrics to make tops and dresses in, I have plenty of ITY and rayon jerseys waiting in the stash:

From Spandex House:

Fabric stash additions from Spandex House

From Mood:

Amazing chaotic rayon/lycra print knit ...

Purple and white rose print rayon/lycra knit from Mood

3. Fill major wardrobe holes.

The biggest gaps are in the jeans/legging, shoe and nursing top categories. As much as I'd love to try my hands at a pair of high-waisted Gingers, I'm not going to sew fitted jeans while my body is still so much in flux, so I hunted down some cheap second-hand shapewear jeggings and leggings on eBay from Spanx and Yummie Tummie—we'll see how they fit.

I'm not sure what to do about shoes right now. I somehow seem to have destroyed most of my comfortable flats by walking them to death while pregnant.

I picked up some nursing tops on deep deep sale from BOOB nursingwear, thrifted a few non-nursing tops and camisoles that work just as well for that purpose, and hope to sew some for the Small Human Being Sew-Along.

4. Embrace shapewear.

I've always had a few shapewear items to wear under special occasion dresses, but I think at least for now I might start wearing such things on a more daily basis. (That's more vintage style anyway, isn't it? Right?)

5. Never talk myself down or talk about weight in front of my daughter.

Which is apparently working, given her comments referenced at top. I felt like I was going to cry, but she was just genuinely curious—my squishy post-baby belly was just interesting to her.

6. Get fancied up for the camera

This always helps, and is one of the reasons I love Me Made May. Just the act of PLANNING what I am going to wear knowing that blog readers will be watching and putting on a tad of makeup instead of just throwing on WHATEVER... well, it helps. (Edited to add — speaking of photos, how awesome does this mother of three look in her bikini, with her squishy belly and stretch marks? Maybe a smile is the best accessory here!)

(By the way — if I had the budget, I would totally book a session with retro pinup style photographers Shameless Photo—they do hair, makeup and wardrobe as part of their packages and their photos are just amazing!)

Anyway, that's my tentative "fight the new-mom frump" plan. So: what do YOU wear when nothing fits?

P.S. Back in my pre-mom cartoonist days, I used to draw a sarcastic regular series about body image called "Your Yucky Body." One installment I did was about the rise of the "Mommy Job", a popular package of post-partum plastic surgery. I think nowadays this cartoon maybe feels a bit judgmental to me of women who choose to have plastic surgery, but I think my real point was more about how women are made to feel ashamed if they don't somehow "bounce back" and have flat stretch-mark-less bikini bodies weeks after giving birth:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Baby Girl Clothes Inspiration (Small Human Being Sew-Along)

Baby Girl Clothes Inspiration: Fun Fabrics

The most important thing to remember if you're joining us for the Small Human Being Sew-Along in April is: take it easy on yourself. We have deliberately set the bar low, low, low so even new parents or tired pregnant ladies can participate — all you have to do at minimum is sew an item (clothing, toys, accessories, whatever) for a baby or new parent.

If all you have is 15 minutes, well — go grab an old knit top or T-shirt, cut it up, and make a baby hat with this free pattern or with a cereal bowl.

Don't know any hat-wearing babies? Make a bib. DONE. YOU HAVE WON THE SMALL HUMAN BEING SEW-ALONG. (By the way, please do check out our #SHBsewalong Pinterest board for sewing inspiration and links to cool patterns and tutorials, free and otherwise).

Baby girl style inspiration

OK then. As the only sew-along host with a little girl (even if she is almost 5), it fell to me to provide a little baby girl sewing inspiration. Sewing for baby girls is pretty awesome. You can put a baby girl in almost any pattern or fabric you can use for boy clothes. You can keep it gender neutral, go for subversive with more traditionally boy styles OR you can sweeten things up with little dresses, ruffles, flutters and whatnot.

Anyway. At top—a fun fabrics collage. I have so little time to sew kid's clothes that I like to try to make really special garments when I do, and not just everyday basics. Gorgeous kids clothes are often distinguished by their fabrics — soft cottons in funky patterns, fancy cashmere, fine french terry, loud wax prints. Go for it! For example, here is my daughter as a baby in a hoodie I made from custom fabric with my husband's cartoons on it:

Blue Doodle Baby Hoodie (worn by Baby Z, 12 wks)

And here's my baby boy today in a cashmere Kwik Sew hoodie I sewed for him from a thrifted sweater:

Barneys sells cashmere baby sweaters for $150+, but you can sew one from a thrift store sweater for 1/50 of that price. Baby D is growing into his red cashmere hoodie that I made when I was pregnant, maybe I'll make some matching accessories from the left

Another good example: these wax-print baby and big girl outfits made from a mashup of free Made by Rae and Oliver + S patterns.

Baby Girl Clothes Inspiration: Appliqué & Embroidery

Appliqué and embroidery can elevate a simple garment to something amazing. Put a bird on it, put a cat on it, put a banana on it, put a robot on it, put a dinosaur on it, put a Time And Relative Dimension In Space on it. Whatever! Here is a pair of Ottobre "Pupu" overalls I made for my daughter with an appliquéd cat:

Z in her Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls

Baby Girl Clothes Inspiration: Colorblocking & Stripes

Stripes, colorblocking, contrast color bands — always the right answer. Combine them with appliqué or freezer paper stencils for extra baby clothes sewing excitement.

Here's a little color-blocked Ottobre outfit I made for my daughter as a baby, cut from clothes of my mom's that were headed to the Goodwill:

Red and gray polkadot baby ensemble

And here's a little outfit I made for baby boy out of a striped maternity top:

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Baby Girl Clothes Inspiration: Sweet Silhouettes

Finally, some things that are a bit sweeter and more ruffly or delicate.

Baby girl sewing pattern inspiration

The big pattern companies have a variety of fun baby patterns (I've made a few Simplicity and Kwik Sew patterns with excellent results) but don't forget to look at the independents too. So Zo had a great roundup of these recently (see part one and part two), with a particular focus on girl patterns. I was already a big fan of Ottobre Design, Oliver + S and Made by Rae, but Brindille and Twig and some of the others were new to me and very exciting.

I'm also a fan of baby sewing books — my personal favorite is the versatile Kwik Sew's Sewing for Baby but there are plenty of others out there too by Amy Butler, Oliver + S, Lotta Jansdotter and more.

And of course the Internet is overflowing with free digital patterns of varying quality — do check out our Pinterest board for free patterns for onesies, hats, sleep sacks, rompers, sunsuits, hoodies and more by a variety of talented designers and bloggers.

So if you're joining us for the sew-along, what are you hoping to make? Are you going for quick & simple or elaborate and embellished? (Feel free to discuss this in our little Flickr group too—we're starting to share fabric and pattern ideas already).

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