Friday, May 28, 2010

When bold color combinations go wrong...

Green Goblin Sheepy Soaker Front

I'm still here, and still (hugely) pregnant--I'm officially full term now, at 37 weeks! But apparently along with my sense of balance, I have also lost my keen sense of color combination.

See Exhibit A, above. After I totally misread the instructions on my last Sheepy Soaker and ended up with a diaper cover that is sure to extend up to Cartoonist Baby's adorable little armpits, I made this stripey number.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, I love stripes...

And I love combining purple and green...

My Plum Polka Dot Mini Wardrobe, V2

Valentine's Day date--23 weeks pregnant!

But as I was blithely knitting away, Cartoonist Husband pointed out that somehow, this particular purple and this particular green, in this particular striped configuration couldn't help but remind him of a certain Spiderman villain:

Oh well. Green-Goblinesque or no, it'll still keep her adorable little butt dry, and it's still way cuter than any disposable diapers. Here's a back view:

Green Goblin Sheepy Soaker Back

P.S. How about you, readers? Do you have any stories of promising color combinations gone wrong?

P.P.S. I just thought of another one, actually, also pointed out by Cartoonist Husband. Back in January I made a sweatshirt for a serger class, and I thought it might be cute to make it in red french terry with black ribbed edging. The unflattering 80s unisex pattern didn't fit at all. So I spent way too much time trying to alter it for maternity, but never got around to reattaching the second sleeve...

Ugly Red Sweatshirt Disaster

Mostly thanks to an unfortunate resemblance to a certain doomed class of Star Trek character:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Finished: My No-Pattern Reversible Shirred Skirt!

Finished: My Reversible Shirred Skirt! (36 weeks pregnant)

After all my trials, tribulations (and eventual triumphs) with shirring, I actually finished this skirt three weeks ago--just in time to be too exhausted to photograph it or write about it. But I have been wearing it (mostly the purple print side) and it's just what I wanted--comfortable, stretchy, cute, versatile, and totally wearable post-pregnancy too! It's shown above with the polka dot top I also sewed for the mini-wardrobe contest deadline I failed to make.

Side note: is my 36-weeks-pregnant belly a big round basketball or what? I know it looks cute, but it sure feels like a big lead weight!

Pattern Review: "Self-drafted" reversible full skirt with elastic shirred yoke. (If you can really call playing with a bunch of rectangles "drafting"!) I originally planned to modify this purchased non-reversible Burda 7910 skirt pattern, but it turned out to be a circle skirt which just didn't work with my fabric.

Inspiration: I needed 4 pieces for the mini-wardrobe contest that could combine to create at least four outfits. I decided to do 1 top, 1 (reversible) skirt, 1 dress/jumper and 1 top/cardi/jacket.

The reversible skirt was inspired by a RTW Gap skirt my mother gave me ages ago. On the fit side, it fit me just fine before pregnancy, but continues to be comfy and wearable after 40 additional pounds of bust, belly and baby.

On the versatility side, I found it great for travel. Cartoonist Husband and I traveled around the Yucatan penninsula in Mexico by bus in 2007 and last year, and around London, Amsterdam and Southwest France and Paris via train, subway, bus, ferry and car. So we were all about packing light--just one carry-on sized bag each. Reversible shirred skirts are PERFECT for that, and they don't look so bad even when wrinkled.

Shirred skirts were also popular in the 1940s and 1950s for women's and girls "play" clothes--or so I gather from the Sears catalogs of the time.

Also, I needed an excuse to buy that fabulous Maggy Lawn cotton print from Emma One Sock before it sold out.

More photos:

Note: I know the hemline here looks like it's WAY below the knee, but it's actually just below--I think it's the angle of the camera on my tripod making my legs look short.

Another side view and a front view (since I don't usually pull up my tops to show the yoke!)

Finished: My Reversible Shirred Skirt!Finished: My Reversible Shirred Skirt!

Back views: (Somehow the purple skirt seems to peek out from under the black skirt despite them being hemmed exactly the same, but I just don't care all that much)

Finished: My Reversible Shirred Skirt! (Back View)Finished: My Reversible Shirred Skirt! (Back View)

Entire review--with some explanations and in-progress photos--after the jump. I had meant to do a proper tutorial with diagrams and all that, but that will have to wait.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Finished: My Purple Sheepy Soaker Wool Diaper Cover!

Purple Malabrigo Sheepy Soaker

Exhausted, pregnant and laid up in bed as I have been lately, I needed a quick little creative project that did not involve being hunched over a sewing machine or cutting table. So after my successful yarn de-stashing, I examined what I had held onto and decided to make some small, easy baby things.

I started out trying to make Elizabeth Zimmerman's lacy little Baby Sweater on Two Needles from Knitter's Almanac, with some superwash yarn I hand-dyed in 2008:

My handpainted pink worsted looks like spaghetti

... but I found I was too darn tired to deal with even such a simple lace pattern. I knit the yoke no problem, but after knitting and ripping back the first few rows of lace four or five times I realized I needed something more mindless.

Enter the Sheepy Soaker! I had always been puzzled as to all the wool diaper covers I saw on my favorite knitting blogs, cute and ruffly as they were--why wool? Wouldn't it leak? Wouldn't it be hot and itchy for babies?

No, no and no! I mentioned before that one of the many baby-prep classes Masheka and I took was a free cloth diapering workshop (for those of you in NYC, it was at Metro Minis--they hold it twice a month and I HIGHLY recommend it). We already had more than 67 home-sewn cloth diapers of various sizes in our diaper stash thanks to my amazing mom:

IMG_6350, originally uploaded by beryldrue.

...but we needed a little Cloth Diapering 101. We wanted to get a sense of cloth diapering as a whole, what types are out there, how to properly wash them (especially since we live in an apartment building with shared laundry in the basement), how to deal with them while out and about, etc.

Many of the newer diapers (including quite a few of the ones my mom made, like the blue one in the above photo) are all-in-ones. With an absorbent lining sewn inside a waterproof outer layer made of PUL or the like, they're as easy to use as disposables (aside from the extra laundry).

And then there are diapers made of absorbent materials like cotton, hemp or flannel--they could be foldeds, prefolds, fitted or contour style, but they all need an additional waterproof cover. Said cover could be made from PUL, fleece, nylon--or wool!

Apparently, wool diaper covers (often known as "soakers" or "longies" if they're pants-length) are the king of cloth diaper covers. The class instructor could NOT say enough good things about them. Unlike synthetic materials, they're breathable, and actually a great choice for summer-time diapering. In its natural state, wool is waterproof thanks to the lanolin from the sheep, but it can also be regularly re-lanolized (using Lansinoh cream, even). Weirdest of all, it requires infrequent washing, because when baby urine meets lanolin, it produces some kind of chemical reaction that neutralizes the pee and turns it into soap.

Great, right? But commercially-available wool diaper soakers are mad expensive, often starting at $35 each or more. Even with a soft merino wool yarn like Malabrigo, I figured I could make the same thing with about $6 worth of yarn... already handily available in my stash!

Anyway, here are the details on my first soaker attempt (we'll say "attempt" until I try it out in the field):

  • Pattern: The Sheepy Soaker, available as a download for $5.75 from Sheepy Time Knits. It's an extremely detailed but easy pattern with 16 pages of photos and instructions for soakers in a variety of sizes and styles. It's knit in the round with no short rows (just some ribbing and a gusset).
  • Sizing: I skipped the newborn size and made a small for maximum versatility. I think I may have made it a bit too deep in length, but we'll see. (Update: I emailed with the pattern designer and I did indeed misinterpret her pattern instructions--it's about 1.5" too deep, so I'll have to come up with a fix).
  • Yarn: Malabrigo worsted merino in "polygala" (purple). SOOO soft!
  • Needles: The pattern recommends a gauge of 5 stitches to the inch, which I got using size 6 needles. I used size 4 for the ribbing on the waist and legs.

Here's a back view:

Purple Malabrigo Sheepy Soaker Back

I've also made the project details viewable on Ravelry, even if you're not a member.

P.S. For you non-knitting sewing moms out there, you can also sew wool diaper covers from old sweaters!

P.P.S. If you're wondering what the answer was regarding washing the cloth diapers--while baby is exclusively breastfed, you just throw them in a diaper pail and every few days you wash them once in cold water, once in hot water (using a diaper-appropriate detergent), and then dry. If baby is getting formula or solid foods, you have to shake the solids into the toilet first (or rinse them out with a diaper sprayer or the like) before washing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Cartoonist Husband!

My sweetheart Masheka is 37 today, and not far from celebrating his first Father's Day! The picture above is from a year ago today, celebrating his birthday at a pub in London with a giant fake tree growing up the middle (not pictured).

Today is also the 6th anniversary of our second date, on May 19, 2004--I figured things were going well when I got invited to meet all his friends for his 31st birthday after just one date!

I wasn't feeling well enough yesterday to walk to the store to get him a card, but I made a handmade cartoon card instead, which is always nicer anyway--I'll take a photo of it if I get a chance.

Speaking of birthdays... I'm turning 30 in less than two weeks! Normally I suppose that would be a Big Deal, but I haven't made any plans since I might be otherwise occupied... and I think Cartoonist Baby's birth day just seems more significant.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

When you can't sew polka dots, buy them

Pink nursing nightgown from Motherhood Maternity that I plan to wear after delivery at the hospital... wish I had sewn it myself, but at least it has polka dots.

Readers, how I've missed you! I've been continuing to have a rough time, physically speaking, and have been too tired to blog, or even read many of my favorite sewing blogs (horrors!). I'm in my 36th week of pregnancy now, and while I had vaguely heard the third trimester could be "uncomfortable", I had no idea I'd be in so much constant pain in so many places and barely be able to walk. Forget sitting in front of a sewing machine--lying on my left side with pillows supporting my belly is pretty much the ONLY comfortable position.

But don't feel too sorry for me--Cartoonist Husband is taking EXCELLENT care of me and I get endless hours of amusement watching Cartoonist Baby try to poke various limbs through my uterus. I am SO beyond excited that I will finally get to meet her soon!

But back to the real point of this post--don't you just HATE it when you have grand plans to sew something--but you run out of time or something happens and you are forced to buy it instead?

Especially when you already had the fabric and pattern in your stash?

A short time back I wrote about my plan of making several faux-wrap nursing nightgowns that could double as dresses. I'll may still do that at some point post-preggo, but since I'll be full term next week and am not likely to recover my sewing mojo in the interim, I gritted my teeth and bought two instead.

The one at the top of this post is from Motherhood Maternity--when it arrived in the mail I realized it might be a little flimsy to actually work as outside daywear, but it's certainly fine for having guests over in my early sleep-deprived weeks as a new mama. It sure hurt to pay $24 when I already had the fabric and pattern, but I had to squelch the pain.

The other one, from Japanese Weekend, is much more dress-like, with short sleeves and cute lettuce hem. Black might not have been the best choice considering all the light-colored cat hair floating around my apartment, but the other colors were too pastel:

I may also have mentioned that I had ordered a nursing bra pattern and the requisite fabric and notions from Elingeria in Germany. In fact, Michaela from Elingeria (coincidental name!) actually drafted the pattern at special request, since it previously was not available in small band/large cup sizes. It's available for anyone now, up to an I cup:

Ezi Sew 110

I was going to make it up in a fabulous red in 34G. But time ran out, and so I bought a few RTW bras from Bravado and Anita. Here's the Bravado one, known as the Bliss bra--it's molded, which is something I couldn't have done myself anyway, and incredibly supportive considering it has no wires:

Even more painful, I didn't have a chance to make my own nursing cover--what could be a quicker, simpler and cheaper project? Elizabeth at E Made This gave me the idea and I found that there were tons of free sewing tutorials for making them. I have plenty of suitable fabric in my stash and would just have needed D-rings and some boning...

But alas. I bought one instead, for the painful price of $32. I know some women don't feel nursing covers are necessary... and of course women should NOT be ashamed to nurse in public with or without a cover. But this is all new to me, and I want to feel as comfortable going out in public with my baby girl as possible--I don't want the fear of exposed breasts keeping us in the apartment in the lovely summer afternoons!

Anyway, it's cute and the fabric seems of very nice quality, despite the ridiculous brand name ("Hooter Hiders?" Really?!) Purple goes with everything:

Which is why I also got a Glamourmom purple nursing tank designed for large bust sizes (with a super-supportive built-in bra):

And an interesting patent-pending item called the Undercover Mama, which hooks to any nursing bra and converts most any top to a discreet nursing top. I got it in black:

Still... after so much sewing in the last few months, shopping somehow just feels WRONG. I've been SO enjoying wearing at least one or two maternity items I sewed myself every day, and clothes with pricetags that I didn't sweat over myself just aren't the same.

So I'm hoping those few RTW items will hold me until Cartoonist Baby and I settle into a routine and I get my sewing mojo back!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Naughty Cartoonist Baby!

20 Week Ultrasound! (cropped)

My little mischief-maker at her 20-week ultrasound this past January

Folks, it's been a rough week here at Polka Dot headquarters. When I wrote about Saturday about how tired and pregnant I was feeling and mentioned I might be slowing down the blogging soon, I didn't mean RIGHT AWAY.

On Sunday I was fully intending to do a fabulous photo shoot of my completed mini-wardrobe plan and wear said completed items to my BurdaStyle Sewing Club meetup. I was sitting at my serger by 7 a.m. (awoken by Cartoonist Baby and her famous kicks). My chartreuse cardigan was almost fully assembled by 9 a.m. ...

But just three hours later, Masheka and I found ourselves in the hospital Labor & Delivery triage unit very worried that our little girl was going to make an advance appearance (spoiler: I'm still pregnant and Cartoonist Baby is 100% A-OK!).

I had been having what I thought were unusual stomach cramps and feeling quite dehydrated since Saturday morning, and it was getting to a point where my reluctance to bother our midwives over the weekend was outweighed by my discomfort. Lesson of the week: apparently I have no ability to tell the difference between stomach cramps and regular (if mildish) contractions coming 2-5 minutes apart. Seriously. When the nurse pointed at the monitor and actually used the word "contraction", I nearly fainted--this is not something a 33-week pregnant woman wants to be hearing.

But it all turned out well in the end. They got me on IV fluids to rehydrate me and did some tests, and five hours later we went home, relieved and exhausted and still totally pregnant. I've been taking it as easy as possible ever since, drinking GALLONS upon GALLONS of water and electrolyte-packed beverages and taking every opportunity I can to sleep and lie around with my feet up on pillows being doted on by Cartoonist Husband.

Unfortunately we found ourselves BACK in triage again last night--not as bad this time, but once again I was totally dehydrated. Still, Cartoonist Baby is doing great and totally healthy, so the title of this post is a bit misleading--it's not HER fault at all we're having all these scares. This stuff just happens sometimes.

Anyway, I've missed the blog and I've missed sewing. I'm going to continue to be completely lazy and try to stay positive--after all, this weekend is my first official Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Very Tired, Very Pregnant

Keith Knight helps Mikhaela sell comics in her sleep

Taking a nap under my orange (RTW, not me-made) trench coat in 2007 at a comics convention in Philly; cartoonist extraordinaire Keith Knight helpfully put this sign on me and I sold some copies of my book in my sleep.

Dear readers, I am TIRED. You may have noticed an extreme slowing of actual finished sewing output from me, and you would not be wrong. At 34 weeks pregnant, everything is just DIFFICULT, sewing not excepted. No compression stocking known to woman or husband-administrated massage (thanks sweetie!) seems capable of keeping my feet and legs from swelling to twice their size by the end of the day, and limping up and down the subway stairs and trying to keep fellow riders from jostling me in my ever-so-heavy belly is just NO fun. And repeatedly hearing things like "you're huge!", "are you SURE it's not twins?" and "you must be ready to go any day now!" from random strangers is just NOT helping.

(Random side note--I don't know how it is elsewhere, but 90% of the time in my anecdotal experience when someone offers me a subway seat it's a woman--most men seem to have a method of using their books, Kindles or iPods to pretend they don't see pregnant, disabled or elderly folks who are supposed to take seating priority).

The exciting part is--Cartoonist Baby will be here in just 3-7 weeks! Wow! If I wasn't still working I would just sit around on the couch all day watching my belly jump and move--she's an active little girl to say the least, and what before were just kicks and jiggles are now clearly little baby limbs. I just feel constantly overwhelmed with love for her, and can not WAIT to meet her and hold her and kiss her little baby head and smell her baby smell and... wow!

But alas, there's a lot of work to be done! Masheka--aka the Best Husband in the Universe--has taken on more and more and more of the housework (and he was already doing a solid majority before I was pregnant) as I've gotten more unwieldy, uncomfortable and sleepy. I'm basically just doing the cooking and some light tidying up at this point, but I am still helping out with our massive apartment decluttering and decorating project and any chores or to-dos that don't require moving heavy objects or standing for lengthy periods (like finishing up putting together the tax information for our freelance business--we had to get an extension on it for the first time this year, oops!).

Not that we're unprepared--I am a woman of many checklists! We finished up with the childbirth, birth center, breastfeeding, infant care, babywearing and cloth diapering classes, and will be done with all such educational things after our baby CPR/safety class next week. My midwife visits have gone from monthly to biweekly, and will soon be weekly. The "go bag" is in progress. We've got a likely pediatrician lined up, and we've got the bassinet, clothes, cloth diapers, a car seat (not that we have a car, but we'll need it for the cab ride home from the hospital), a breast pump, and all sorts of assorted baby gear from our generous friends and family. I've requested my 12-week FMLA leave (to start when Cartoonist Baby arrives, or at my due date, whichever comes first), and Masheka has put in for six.

So blogging and actual sewing here might become lighter (or at least less verbose) for a little while--and at some point in the next two months, there will be an indeterminate period of radio silence. I hope you won't go away for good!

But do not despair--as promised, I finished my reversible skirt, and the cardigan is almost done as well. I'm hoping to photograph them tomorrow. And the lacy hand-dyed baby sweater is coming along surprisingly fast considering my sporadic knitting pace!

And if you're wondering what a tired pregnant lady is doing up past midnight, well--I took a four-hour nap at around 6 p.m. today, and made the mistake of eating some chocolate-covered espresso beans when I woke up. But I think my bed is calling me again...