Monday, May 2, 2016

How to build a happy personal style uniform (plus Me Made May kickoff)

I don't know about you, but when I drag myself out of bed in the morning, torn from sweet sleep by the phone alarm or a child screaming "Mama!", I am far too groggy to make complicated garment-and-accessory coordinating decisions.

Yet for a long time I resisted the idea of a personal style uniform, because it sounded far too boring and restrictive.

Style Reality vs. Style Fantasy

In my fantasy life, I'd improvise amazing/surprising/creative outfit and accessory combinations each morning. In reality, I had neither the time nor energy for this, and my remaining garments left after an intense KonMari purge brought me joy separately but didn't necessarily play well with others. My thrift shopping, sewing and knitting tended toward the random "hey I like this piece, WHEE!" without a larger wardrobe plan or goal in mind.

As a result I'd been really feeling that awful "frumpy mom" feeling, often heading off to my (very casual-dressing) office in random assortments of jeans, T-shirts, hoodies and a ratty ancient backpack big enough for toting breast-pump supplies... or skirts tops and shoes in an assortment of silhouettes and patterns that somehow just didn't really "go."

Wardrobe Architecting It

So for some months now I've been on a project to try to pare down my style to its core, curate a few select silhouettes and styles and color schemes, and develop a more cohesive and happy personal style. To move from frumpy random chaos to creativity within happy constraints.

I've also been slowly working on replacing worn-out cornerstone wardrobe pieces — my winter coat, hat/scarf, work bag — with second-hand or deep-sale items (mostly via ThredUp — here's a $10 coupon referral code if you haven't tried it) that can elevate the others and will last for years. For example, my 13-year-old wool winter jacket had more holes and patches and no original buttons left, so I replaced it with this clearance-rack Guess wool jacket that makes me happy every single day... the perfect backdrop for my bright hand knit accessories.

All while keeping my wardrobe lean and purging as needed. I have ONE winter jacket. ONE spring trench. ONE pair of knee-high boots. ONE pair of winter boots. ONE pair of sneakers. One work bag. One purse. Three pairs of flats. Three pairs of heels. Etc.

I got a lot of ideas and inspiration from the Colette Wardrobe Architect series, as well as the Into Mind wardrobe curation blog Sarai recommends in that series, as well as this Ted Talk on the "10 Item Wardrobe."

I still haven't identified all my key silhouettes and combinations (especially with skirts), but so far I've built out two main uniforms of style happiness.

My personal daily elements of style

So here are the constraints I gave myself for these first uniform drafts:

  1. Casual—but polished (as in a ponte knit blazer, not a ratty old hoodie)
  2. Stretchy—but not sloppy. (as in dark wash high-waisted skinny jeans)
  3. Fitted and feminine—but not constrictive or skimpy. (as in a colorful ITY jersey wrap dress, but not a tight mini skirt.)
  4. Bright and bold colors and patterns—but in reasonable doses. (Still working on this).
  5. Mostly flat shoes—but not orthopedic or overly chunky looking.
  6. Scoop or V-necklines up top.
  7. Classic pieces, but nothing too boring or conservative (if it has a neutral color, it has to have fun details or shapes).
  8. Comfortable and stretchy—but still structured. (Stretch is my friend, whether in knit ITY jersey wrap dresses or dark skinny jeans or a ponte blazer).
  9. A nod to vintage 40s/50s silhouettes and styles when possible.
  10. Soft fabrics that feel great against the skin (such as merino, modal, microfiber.)
  11. Makes me feel happy and confident.

Edited to add two criteria I thought of later:

  1. Nursing friendly (though I don't pump at work any more, so non-wrap dresses are OK if I can change when I get home).
  2. Doesn't show stains easily.

Which basically boils down to the formula:

Fitted + stretchy + bright & bold + casual yet polished = a wardrobe of awesome secret pajamas at all times.

And here are the first two variations I've come up with on that:

Uniform Formula 1: The Dress That Always Fits

(See collage image at top of this post). This is a more strict example than it sounds, but basically, this means a ITY jersey wrap/mock wrap dress in a fun print plus a fitted cardigan or ponte blazer + a fun necklace and flats. DONE. I wear variations on this maybe 2-3 times per week.

Here's an awful work bathroom selfie from one of my first attempts—I'll get better photos during Me Made May, but I wear this striped ponte blazer + polka-dot dress combo a fair amount:

And here's an example of Uniform 1 with a me-made dress and cardigan—obscured by a baby carrier, but you get the idea. (That's the fantastic "Sew What?" exhibit at the Children's Museum of the Arts in Manhattan, by the way).

The other uniform sounds so basic it hardly needs a mention... but it's taken me a bit of time to get just the right thrifted dark skinnies and soft fitted secondhand scoop-neck patterned tops in just the right length.

Uniform Formula 2: Colors + Stripes + Skinnies

What you see above is the winter version, but the warmer version is basically the same minus the wool socks and boots and with lighterweight cardigans and shorter sleeves. Sometimes the top is patterned and the cardigan is solid or color-blocked, and sometimes it's the other way around. The backpack pictured is my new Timbuk2 Sunset laptop-friendly work bag.

The Result: On the Road to Personal Style Happiness

My wardrobe/uniform building project is still very much a work in progress, but it's amazing the difference I've felt so far. I have so much less clothing stuffing my drawers and closets, but what I do have goes so much better together, fits better, and feels better. I feel happier about the way I look, more self-confident and less self-conscious and embarassed. Also: it is 1,000 times faster and easier to get dressed in the morning.

It's basically the equivalent of having a logo and style guide and short list of fonts for my personal brand... instead of using lots of different fonts, size and colors that all look weird and jumbled together, ransom-note style.

Oh yes, and I'm doing Me Made May again.

My first Me-Made-May photo is basically Uniform #2, but since I'm dressed for bike riding in the rain with the husband, the look is more casual than polished (and yes, don't worry, I was wearing a helmet it's just out of frame)...

My hope for this Me Made May month is to see what other basic formulas and uniforms I can develop to integrate my existing me-mades into my new world of constrained style happiness... to get photos that help me build what works and discard what doesn't... and to sew a thing or two or three.

I am also hoping to up my hair and makeup game (i.e. to actually do my hair or put on makeup sometimes). We'll see!

What are your favorite outfit formulas? Do you have a uniform?

P.S. Bonus adorable sibling photo, with my daughter in an Oliver + S Ice Cream dress I made two months ago but have yet to properly photograph or blog:

Monday, February 15, 2016

Slow Knitting: The Starry Starry Night Socks That Kept Me Going

Starry Starry Night socks (Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt from Interweave's Favorite Socks)

I always laugh when friends exclaim "you should sell those on Etsy!" over my projects because I'm pretty sure there is no sustainable business model for selling socks that take three months to knit.

No, slow knitting projects are like stately redwood trees, each ring (or row) imbued with depth and character and carrying echoes of the time in which you knit it—good or bad. The last three months have been tough—but these socks help me get through, and I thank them for it.

1. The Big Sock Bang

I first matched this intergalactic hand-painted yarn (Frolicking Feet in "Starry Starry Night" by Done Roving Yarns) to pattern ("Embossed Leaves" by Mona Schmidt from Favorite Socks) during the crafty high of last Me-Made-May. I was still on maternity leave, starting to feel like myself again and amusing myself by trying to photograph the kids and myself in as many me-mades as possible at a given time. Whee, look at us, we're all wearing things I made! Me!

Me Made May: Me and the kids in our handmades

2. Dark Sock Skies

And then I went back to work, and I was just too busy between nursing the baby all night, getting daughter to kindergarten early in the morning and pumping and work and EVERYTHING to take five minutes to gauge swatch what size needles I needed to use (thankfully the answer turned out to be 0, and not 000 like my last sock-yarn project).

3. From darkness, light

Fall came, and with it, misery. In November I started getting—and staying—sick. Constantly, endlessly sick, in a sickeningly familiar way. Our whole family would catch a mild cold, everyone else would get better in a few days, and I would end up bedridden with what felt like the flu—a high fever, aches, horrible pain in my face, unable to breathe through my nose, so hoarse I could barely speak. Over, and over, and over.

I never really recovered fully, but after 2-4 weeks I would slowly start to feel somewhat less awful ... I'd have one or two days of joy where I could slightly breathe through my nose... and then the cycle would begin all over again. Chronic sinusitis strikes again, just three years after the surgery that was supposed to fix it. SIGH.

So in the midst of this misery, I needed something happy I could do while:

  • Lying in bed feeling crummy
  • Riding the subway to work terrified a nearby straphanger would cough on me
  • Pumping and grimacing (I'm glad they exist but breast pumps are the WORST)
  • Waiting in waiting rooms — at one point I had 8 doctor or lab test appointments in two weeks.

So I knit my Starry Starry Night socks. I knit while loopy with fever. I knit while feeling sad I had to cancel playdates and get-togethers and miss work. I especially knit after I had to cancel Baby D's first birthday party — it was the first time we had invited lots of friends over to our new apartment, but I wasn't in a state to host. (I don't think he noticed, because: CAKE!)

I just looked down at those little needles and made one loop after another.

And now they are done, and blocked, and they fit, and I love them. And I am getting good medical care and getting better, and I love THAT.

Starry Starry Night socks (Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt from Interweave's Favorite Socks)

Too bad I chose a high-contrast variegated yarn for such a detailed lace pattern. You really can't see the embossed leaves at all!

This is my happy toes not caring:

Starry Starry Night socks (Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt from Interweave's Favorite Socks)

I think the little dude loves them too.

Starry Starry Night socks (Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt from Interweave's Favorite Socks)

I will say after all that slow knitting, I did need a quick-hit palate cleanser. So I've got a chunky-weight neon green alpaca "Wavy Moss" hat on the needles that I MUST finish by TOMORROW — I've lost three hats in the past month and it is COLD OUTSIDE.

Wavy Moss Atomic Green hat in progress

P.S. full Starry Night socks Ravelry details here. It's a lovely patttern, but the lace requires care and concentration and chart-reading, hence the slowness. I made them slightly snug so they wouldn't fall down and sag, and so far it is working a treat.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sweaters and Hats Like Nothing You've Never Seen

Like nothing you've ever seen... because I forgot to blog them. Brought to you by in vivid low-res Instagram-selfie-o-vision because I can't manage to take real photos since we moved (where is that tripod, anyway?).

Hetty at last!

Anyway, I finally finished that Hetty cardigan (Raveled details here) by Andi Satterlund I started right before I got pregnant--it had been sitting around in need of bands, buttons and blocking for months. It fits nicely and I do love it, but I found the directions (especially for the lace pattern) confusing and I made an unsuitably rustic and weak yarn choice that basically required picking a barn's worth of straw out as I went. Still -- it is a done thing!

Sewn Hats: A Brief Obsession.

Two weeks before my maternity leave ended in June, I developed a brief fixation with sewing hats. My head is so large that "one size fits all" hats give me whamming migraines (if I can shove them on my head at all), yet I am also so pale and burn-prone that hats are a serious summer necessity. I became determined to master the not-so-arty art of sewing basic casual summer hats.

And because I was fixated, I became excessively concerned with trying to find the proper interfacing that would create "just so" hat results (and bags, too, because if I was going to get stiff interfacing, I might as well also learn to sew bags too, right? In all my spare time between caring for baby and trying to find an affordable apartment to move to and getting ready to go back to work?).

I spent way too many middle of the night nursing sessions googling "hat and bag interfacing types" and reading long forum threads and blog posts on the subject. My sewing club friend Valerie then accompanied me on a trip to the Garment District where we went into one of those stores where they have lots of interfacing but nothing is labeled and the staff seem to look with pity on those who ask questions but they somehow had none of the brands on my list so I panicked and bought like, 10 different kinds that I didn't note the brand or ... well, now I have a lot of interfacing. And no me-made bags. I could have bought several hats and bags with that money.

I started with a bucket hat for my daughter, using the free reversible Oliver + S pattern.

But the largest size of this pattern was no match for my then-four-year-old daughter's big beautiful Afro, and she couldn't wear it at all.

I did manage to make her a circular sleep bonnet (from some bright-patterned ITY jersey I had hoped to make into a dress until my husband declared it "ugly" and "terrifying). I can't find the exact tutorial I used, but it was basically like this.

It's just two circles of fabric sewn together, with an sewn elastic casing channel and it took maybe 15 minutes total. Yet it is one of the most practical things I have ever sewn (so much better than the cheap breakable drugstore ones) and she wears it to bed EVERY night. Hat win?

And I bought this fantastic book of hat patterns in a wide range of sizes and styles, Carla Crim (aka the Scientific Seamstress)'s Sewn Hats:

(Do note that the book has been sold to a new publisher, so to get the downloadable patterns, you'll need to email the author for a link).

Finally, hat success! I made a striped black denim "Liesl Cloche" from some scraps leftover from a skirt.

The largest size fit me fairly well (though next time I'll scale it up even bigger):

And it is only slightly too big on Ms. Z, who likes to borrow it:

4 other random things

And then I went back to work, but not before making this Spoonflower fabric headband:

And some bibs:

And I've been knitting all along, like this preemie Kürbis pumpkin Halloween hat (Raveled here) I made for a friend who was collecting them for the children's hospital her preemie baby spent eight months in:

Or these Embossed Leaves socks that are ALMOST done now (I am at the tip of the second sock toe):

Why the rush to blog the unblogged, you asked? Well, baby turns ONE this weekend so is waking to nurse less (just 1-2 times per night) which means I actually feel relatively rested these days (in between bouts of winter illness). AND I finally set up my sewing machine, which had been near inaccessible since our move almost five months ago...

So... SEWING. It may actually happen around here sometime soon. Stay tuned!

P.S. Please tell me I am not the only one who hates that women's hats are usually sold as "one size fits all"?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How we bought an affordable 3-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. (PSST: SEWING ROOM)

Me, painting our new three-bedroom apartment bright orange and turquoise, as one does

Yeah, so, we bought a three-bedroom prewar apartment in Manhattan through an affordable housing organization. It was all rather sudden. We couldn't afford our neighborhood in Brooklyn anymore (see here for explanation of the below image)...

So we started hunting around in June and it looked like we were going to be moving to New Jersey or high up in the Bronx, and we kept applying to housing lotteries with no luck and all the waiting lists for Mitchell Lama buildings were YEARS long and then I randomly started reading about income-restricted HDFC coop affordable housing apartments...

And I came across an article about UHAB, a non-profit organization that fixes up dilapidated buildings and then sells the occupied apartments to current tenants and vacant apartments to moderate and low income families. What's especially cool about these apartments is that they are permanently affordable — they are real homes, not market-rate investments. Under new HDFC rules, they can only EVER be sold to families who fit the income restrictions for pretty much the exact price paid (plus inflation).

And I randomly called this organization and they had ONE three-bedroom apartment left for a family of our size and income in a building in Harlem and it could MAYBE be ours if we got our application in right away. So we stayed up all night assembling a massive pile of documents and bank statements and landlord letters and identity papers and paystubs and I messengered it over the next day.

After months of additional paperwork and various hurdles, it was done. We moved in September just in time for the start of kindergarten for Ms. Z and here I sit today in our new home in a 1910 elevator building in beautiful Hamilton Heights, Harlem.

So what about that sewing room, you ask?! Do such things exist in the isle of Manhattan?

Well, sort of. It's really a bedroom for one of the kids, but the little baby dude is still in a crib in our room for now, so I am going to temporarily luxuriate in the feeling of having an actual sewing room.

Except that it is just a big pile of boxes at the moment:

And the only thing I've actually sewn in there so far was a gusset to expand Z's Ghostbusters Halloween costume because we didn't have time for a new costume idea this year.

Because life these days has been all about the sleep-deprivation of being a full-time working mom with a nursing-through-the-night baby, plus some unpacking, painting, and assembling of furniture...

Ruby the Riveter: My dad helps Z assemble her IKEA Kura bed.

I can't complain though. I may be a sleep-deprived half-functioning zombie, but the little dude is CUTE. And massive. And outgrowing all of his hand-knits which I have not had time to replace with newer, bigger knits.

P.S. Dressmakers, Tailors, Milliners and a Cartoonist

AND to top it all off, the building has a cool history. Z loves that we live just blocks from the former home of famed Harlem Renaissance anthropologist and writer Zora Neale Hurston. Plus my amazing mom put her genealogy skills to use and dug up the census records for 1910, 1920 and 1930. Upon which I learned that amidst the early residents of our building were quite a few:

  • dressmakers
  • milliners
  • tailors
  • silk and fabric salesmen
  • ... and even a well-known cartoonist!

So there you have it. It was MEANT TO BE. Now if I can just get around to hemming the curtains we hung up more than a month ago...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Finished: Fuschia Floral Maxi Dress (McCall's 6070 hacked for nursing with Simplicity frankenskirt)

So a few months ago I made this dress and went back to work before I could blog it. I wear it all the time and pretty much love it BUT I have to say my memory of its construction is rather hazy at this point.

I do know that I used my trusty McCall's 6070 for the bodice but did a (1"?) FBA to make room for a nursing mama's bust. Fabric is ITY jersey from -- where else? -- Spandex House.

The skirt was sloppily adapted from a random midi-length Simplicity dress I got free in a pattern swap — and I realized after sewing I could not actually walk easily, so ripped the seam back to make an improvised walking slit. (I folded the seam allowances to the side, ironed them down with fusible webbing, and sewed them too for good measure).

I needed the neckline to hold up to repeated nursing, so I bound the surplice edges with foldover elastic — it totally works.

I really agonized over the hemline. I tried searching for maxi dress hemline advice (having never made anything non knee-length before) but found all these goofy articles advising me to let the dress drag on the ground or to wear it with high heels to "elongate" the figure, because it is apparently a woman's duty to always look as thin and tall as she can possibly manage even if she has to tear her dress and cover it in dog leavings in the process. Definitely neither safe nor practical for my lifestyle (on New York City streets? while carrying a baby?) so I hemmed to wear with my favorite flats.

In other news, no idea why my daughter decided she had to throw a dress OVER her rashguard, but whatever.

I also made a lot of hats and other odds and ends I have yet to post... but for now I will leave you with this photo of me and baby D at a free outdoor summer concert (I made the hat, too, but that's for another post).

P.S. This is still early but it is possible we might be moving very soon. Which may mean a sudden onslaught of sewing... curtains. And pillow covers. I'm sure you can't wait!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A 10 Item Wardobe? (Or: It's OK to wear the same outfit over and over!)

This orange dress (shown in 2011) survived multiple closet purges over the years because I loved the color and shape. But I hated the length and never wore it—and now it's finally gone.

So I still haven't had time to blog several sewing or knitting projects, but thought I'd drop in quickly to share a little video. We're doing some triple super ultra major decluttering in preparation for an apartment move, so I decided to watch some downsizing/minimalism TED talks for inspiration (found via Apartment Therapy: Flirting with Minimalism or Downsizing? These TED Talks May Just Talk You Into It).

Anyway, thought I'd share this little one here — blogger Jennifer L. Scott on the 10-Item Wardrobe:

A lot of this material you might already have thought about if you've followed along with Colette Patterns' Wardrobe Architect Series (or read one of Sarai's blog suggestions, the minimalist capsule-wardrobe-building blog Into Mind.)

My big takeaway? It's OK to wear the same items of clothing or the same outfits multiple times in the same week. Really. If it looks good and you love it — wear it and wear it over again (change your accessories if you like), clean it, repair it, and take care of it. Quality and fit and style over quantity.

That's why one of my goals for Me-Made May has never been "no outfit repeats."

A minimalist wardrobe approach has another bonus — even though I only have very limited sewing and knitting time, if I make the RIGHT things, they can still make up the vast majority of my mini-wardrobe.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fabric (and other shopping) discount referral code!

McCall's 6070 fuschia maxi dress

Don't be too impressed now — I sewed the above maxi dress back during Me Made May and I STILL haven't found time to blog about it. Give me a few more weeks!

Just popping in quickly to share a quick eBates discount referral code offer that expires at midnight (you get $5 when you sign up and use the code and I get $5, plus various bonuses if more than one of you sign up).

You might have noticed that I'm something of a frugal type (especially now that I have two kids and have just returned to work after the unpaid half of my maternity leave)... and while of course the best way to save money is to avoid buying unnecessary stuff, when I do buy something I try to get it the cheapest way possible — by buying secondhand when I can, and at a deep discount when that isn't an option, and always using a bonus point credit card* that I autopay each month in full. Every little bit helps, because when you save even just 5% you had to buy anyway, that's like getting a 5% raise.

Anyway, on top of any coupon code searching or other budgety schemes you might already have going, there's eBates, a simple online shopping rebate site that seems to have discount links for pretty much every site I shop on, from eBay (1% rebate) to (3% rebate). You just visit eBates, find your shop, click the referral link, buy your stuff and a month or so later, you get a nice fat rebate check.

And that's it — sorry for any spamminess, but I discovered the site via another sewing blog (Erika Made It) and am super into it as part of my overall Thriftiness Strategy.

Meanwhile, I am back at work, baby is not sleeping (predictably, he's making up for my daytime absence by nursing all night long), and I'm so tired that I keep stubbing my toes or burning myself or having other ridiculous small accidents (I think I put my bra in the fridge the other day?). I even ended up at the ER for a few hours not too long ago because I grabbed a hot pot without a potholder:

So sleep-deprived these days I grabbed a hot pot off the stove without a potholder and spent last night at the ER being treated for a second-degree burn. My sweet baby keeps waking up every 30-60 minutes (teething? Misses me when I am working?) to nurse t

So maybe I shouldn't go near the sewing machine any time soon?

But you know, the kids are awesome (I love saying "the kids"!) and life is good. I can't complain.

Tagged for #widn (what I'm doing right now) by @cliophineas : watching my 4-year-old read a bedtime book to my 4-month-old after a long day at work. What are you doing now @theslowsteady @moonthirty @melissajeangibson ?

*My favorite is the Chase Sapphire (referral link), which has up to a 50,000 point signup bonus (translates to $500 in cash rewards)... though of course if you run a balance or forget to cancel before the fee kicks in, it's not as great of a deal.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Quick Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt (Burdastyle Melissa Skirt) + Twin Needle Hem Troubleshooting

Burdastyle Melissa High-Waisted Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt

In the interests of blogging the unblogged, I'll keep this brief.

Burdastyle Melissa High-Waisted Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt

After all, why take longer to blog about something...

Burdastyle Melissa High-Waisted Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt

Than it took to sew it?

Burdastyle Melissa High-Waisted Blue Ponte Pencil Skirt

The details:

Pattern: Burdastyle Melissa high-waisted knit pencil skirt. It doesn't get any simpler than this dartless, three-piece (front, back, waistband) PDF pattern, a mere $3.99. I've made this before in a red knit maternity version and a sparkly spandex mermaid version, but this is my first really wearable useful version.

Fabric: Bright blue ponte doubleknit rayon/poly/lycra, I think, from Mood a long time ago. A stash-busting win! As noted above I had made this skirt five years ago in a red single jersey but it was too clingy and thin — this is a much more substantial and appropriate material for a tight-fitting skirt.

Notions: None — it's an elastic-free waistband.

Sizing: I cut a straight size 38, which corresponds to almost two sizes smaller than my actual measurements. It's slightly snug, but I'm still slowly changing size in a downward direction almost four months out from giving birth to little D, so I'm sewing at a moving target.

How I found the time: This required just one baby catnap (for cutting time) and one short late-night sewing session after baby was asleep.

Anyway, even in my sleep-deprived time-pressed state, it was a quick sew. I basted the sides to check fit (better than unpicking serger seams later!), serged it and hemmed it with a stretch twin needle. No modifications needed.

I'm trying to get back to twin needle hems after backing away from them in frustration and resorting to zig-zags for a while... this hem actually popped the first day I sewed it, but I redid it after playing with tension and putting wooly nylon in the bobbin and it's holding up much better.

I read this little twin needle hem tutorial by Maria Denmark and it gave me the confidence to get back into it, though I've generally used Steam a Seam Lite 2 or washaway stabilizer instead of the strips of knit interfacing she recommends. I even finally hemmed my Tiramisu knit dress two years after sewing it:

Me Made May 17: Red & White Stripes

Me-Made-May gave me the extra push I needed to hem this thing... but baby pooped all over it while we were taking this photo, so I'm still trying to sun the stains out.

So yes: another fitted blue skirt. Not as playground-worthy as the stretch denim trumpet skirt I just made, but I go back to work in less than two weeks and I needed some versatile basics. It also made a perfect date night skirt for when my parents watched the kids and husband and I went to see the Avengers movie (eh, it was OK... not my favorite Whedon thing).

The little wool felt rose pin was made by my awesome Aunt Becky and the belt came with a cheap ready-to-wear dress I bought ages ago — I'm trying to broaden my accessory palette beyond just simple bright shoes and necklaces, but it really doesn't come naturally to me. Hmmm...

Another thing that doesn't come naturally to me? Posing. I read recently that the thing to try is pointing your toes in, and I wanted to try something new, but... this is just kind of awkward:

Me Made May 13: new blue ponte pencil skirt

Will I make this pattern again? Probably, though I'm tempted to do something to it to keep it interesting — add some seaming or a flounce, or use a bold print.

What's your take on twin needle vs. zigzag hems? (And I don't want to hear about coverstitch machines, there is no room in my budget or apartment for such things!)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

SHB Sew-Along Baby Clothes Roundup: Sweet, Cool and Geeky

Block-printed Lego Blocks Onesie/Bodyshirt
Baby D in his way-too-big-but-he'll-grow-into-it Lego bodyshirt

Our Small Human Being Sew-Along has come to an end (OK, technically it ended two weeks ago, but since your hosts all have small babies, let's overlook that, shall we?), and it's time to round up the final projects for Category 1: Baby Clothes! Cindy of Cation Designs will be rounding up Category 2: Baby Accessories and Clio of Clio & Phineas will be featuring the Category 3: For Parents projects.

We were impressed and inspired by what our participants made — especially since some of you had multiple small children running about, were tired and pregnant, and/or were working mamas to small babies.

I know I personally was so fired up by the sew-along I've kept the momentum going, and have really learned to work in tiny baby-catnap-sized time chunks — tracing a pattern here, sewing a few seams there, doing a little handsewing.

And on to the projects, in no particular special order. I do think I've captured everyone's clothes submissions here, but please let me know if I missed you, as we'd like to feature at least one piece from everyone. (Where I have used links instead of photos, it's due to photo permission issues, not because I didn't want to feature a piece).

The sweet

Lindsay (aka lindsaystitches on Instagram) made a sweet pair of harem pants style leggings for her baby girl due in July, using heart print knit leftover from another project:

Laurel (aka Dart & Gather) made this adorable appliquéd rabbit tee using scraps from old maternity clothes, as well as the Oliver + S layette set and coordinating hats I featured previously:

Rabbit tee 12M

Lisette of What Would Nancy Drew Wear? made this fantastic rickrack-trimmed romper from a 1950s vintage pattern, Advance 6063:

Advance 6063

Dina fought through her pregnancy nausea and exhaustion to make this adorable bear-eared jacket and pants (similar to our sew-along logo!):

Sew-Along co-hostess Clio made a sweet elephant print baby sleep gown for her little Taco baby with a convertible mitten cuff, and wrote up a tutorial for the cuff, too!

Brianne Ramirez made a little floral ruffled romper — oh goodness this is cute!

Finally, Flickr user a2assiramarah made a raglan tee with a hand drawn elephant and coordinating leggings for her second baby girl.

The cool

Which is not to say the sweet items aren't cool, but only that I needed to make some categories here, so... these are cool.

Emily Breck says she feels meh about these footed baby pants, but I think they are pretty awesome:

baby got back leggings + feet

Masha at the Itinerant Seamstress blog made some awesome outfits for her fourth (not yet arrived) baby — I love her use of stripes!

The free Brindille and Twig raglan hoodie pattern was pretty popular for the sew-along. My friend Lee made two awesome versions—the red is my favorite, I love the striped hood lining:

second hooded raglan

Laurel made one too!

Brindille & Twig Hoodie 12-18M

And I made a bicycle-print one, with matching bicycle fabric pants:

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

Elena of Randomly Happy loved her Grainline Hemlock Tee so much she made her little guy a mini version:

Ms. McCall of Brown Paper Patterns blog copied a ready-to-wear cardigan and added a hood to her cute striped version:

And Flickr user oes1 made several fantastic outfits using patterns from Ottobre magazine — I love the knee patches here especially!

The geeky

Given your hosts, how could there not be a large component of geek-tastic baby clothes made for the sew-along?

We are huge Miyazaki fans here at Polka Dot Overload headquarters, so I may actually have squealed out loud in excitement when I saw adorable Totoro costume that AJ at Confused Kitty Creations made for her 9-month-old baby (and a matching one for her 2.5-year-old) using an online tutorial. (Like me, she mostly sews late at night when the kids are in bed):

(I am definitely tempted to copy her with a set for my kids... but I know my daughter would far prefer to dress as Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service.)

Becky of Sew and So blog guesstimated what size T-shirt her (not yet born) baby Jedi would fit into when the new Stars Wars movie comes out in December, and made this adorable colorblocked Star Wars quote top using scraps and freezer paper stencils:

Yoda shirt

Hannah of Making Rivendell in the Desert made a gorgeous LOTR-inspired baby eleven dress for her baby-to-be. Also: not only is she pregnant, she has three small children, so we were all in awe of her ability to find any time to sew at all. Here's how she did it:

With 3 kids under the age of 4, and being pretty pregnant with the baby that I'm actually making these things for (thus, needing sleep), I found with this sewalong how to get sewing time in: firstly, to sew in little chunks of time (15ish-25ish minutes) during their snack times or when they're in quiet play, the key being always being willing to walk away in a second when the kiddos were unhappy. This meant that I had less negative feelings about sewing, and the kids were happier, and I was happier (and less frustrated)... Also, exchanging my 1 hour or so after the kids go down that I used to spend on Pinterest/internet, for sewing time instead. I would have "sewing days" which were no internet days.

Baby Elven Dress with Belt

SHB Sew-Along host Cindy went into geeky baby sewing overdrive, and made her little Hobbit a ... Hobbit costume. To wear in front of a mini Bag End. While chewing on his Cindy-made teething One Ring. WOW.

In front of his hobbit hole

Not to mention a slew of geek-tastic fabric marker decorated tees, including a Firefly "Blue Sun" logo tee:

Geeky SHB shirts

Meanwhile, I made my little dude a way-too-big blockprinted Lego-inpsired onesie to coordinate with the Lego dress I made for his big sister:

Block-printed Lego Blocks Onesie/Bodyshirt

Phew, I think I got at least one baby clothes project from everybody in here? Please let me know if I missed you and I'll edit the post.

Thanks so much for joining us, whether you sewed just a little baby bib or a whole pile of elaborate baby outfits!


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