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:


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:


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).

Friday, March 27, 2015

Double Giveaway: Little girls dress pattern & maternity pattern bundles (Oliver + S, Megan Nielsen, Simplicity, New Look)

As I gear up for the Small Human Being Sew-Along in April (join us? on Flickr! and Instagram!) and pin pattern and design ideas on the #SHBSewalong Pinterest board, I've been doing a bit of deep "I never plan to be pregnant again" spring cleaning and wanted to offer up some lovely patterns I will never need again to readers who can actually use them.

First up, I have a bundle of six girl's dress patterns in sizes 6 months to 3T or 4T. My little girl is not so little any more, and I never got to sew most of these before she outgrew them — I was holding on to them JUST in case I had a baby girl. Which I didn't. They are all in factory folds except the Oliver + S Ice Cream dress pattern — it's cut in a size 4, but done in a way that you can still make all the other nested sizes.

Anyway, I've got two Oliver + S patterns (the Playdate Dress and Ice Cream Dress or Tunic), two Simplicity Project Runway patterns (2193 and 1924), Simplicity 4203 and New Look 6360.

The Ice Cream dress is my favorite — I had to go ahead and buy it this week in the larger size, because it is just the BEST. Here's my daughter in a wax-print version I made for last year's school picture day:

All of these little girl patterns start small enough that you could easily use them to join the April sew-along. Just saying.

Next I have a set of three lovely maternity sewing patterns: Megan Nielsen's Simplicity 1468, and Simplicity 1359 and 1360.

I will be choosing a winner for each via random computer drawing on April 3 (THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS FOR ENTERING!). To enter:

  1. Like Polka Dot Overload on Facebook and/or follow me on Instagram.
  2. Leave a comment on this post letting me know you've done so, indicating which bundle you would like to win (the dress patterns or the maternity patterns), and providing your email address so I can contact you.

P.S. As part of my spring cleaning, I'm selling all sorts of things on eBay (sewing patterns by Oliver + S and Colette, maternity clothes, cloth diapers, kids shoes, a non-maternity Tracy Reese Plenty dress), all at low prices with free shipping, so feel free to take a peek!

P.P.S. At 7.5 weeks, the little dude seems to have graduated from being grumpy and gassy most of the time to giggly and smiley. He just looks up at me or my husband or his big sister and smiles and coos and I just MELT! Eek!:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Small Human Being Sew-Along: Sewing Stuff for Babies and Parents. Join Us!

It can be hard enough to find the inspiration and carve out the time to sew in daily life in between work, family, stuff, whatever... never mind when you haven't slept more than two hours at a stretch in three months and a certain very small human being in your life refuses to nap except while being danced across the floor in a sling as you loudly hum a lullaby in a very specific way. Which is why Cindy (of Cation Designs), Clio (of Clio & Phineas) and I decided to team up to encourage and inspire each other to sew for our new small human beings (and ourselves) during the month of April.

Won't you join us? You don't have to be a sleep-deprived, milk-spattered new parent to participate — you can make stuff for ANY baby or new parent in your life (your own, family, friends) or for donating to charities that ask for baby items.

Cindy has written up the official rules on her blog and Clio has her kickoff post up as well, but the basic gist is (grabbed from Cindy's blog, because I am trying to type while nursing and it is a struggle) ...

  • Human babies only, not fur babies (sorry fur babies!).
  • Items should be for babies or parents of babies ages 0-12 months old (It's OK if the baby isn’t born yet!).
  • They can be for any baby -- your own, a friend’s, a niece/nephew/grandchild/whatever, or you can make baby items to donate to charity (we will be posting about a few charities that accept baby-related donations if you would like to do this).
  • Sewing only (no knitting or needle felting or other crafts). Hand-sewing, serging and sewing machine are all acceptable construction options.
  • The sewn item can be as simple or as complex as you like -- if all you sleep-deprived parents have time to do is sew a simple cotton knit baby hat or serge a pair of reusable nursing pads, that’s cool.

Timeline: We'll sew during the month of April, and then at the end of the month we'll do a round-up of our favorite pieces and choose winners for some prizes!

Categories: Sew as many items as you would like to enter into three categories: 1) Baby Clothing, 2) Baby Accessories and Other Items, such as quilts, toys, burp cloths, bibs, etc., and 3) For Parents -- because you can still do somewhat selfish sewing! -- things like maternity clothes, nursing tops/covers/pads, diaper bags, and baby carriers.

Prizes: We will choose a winner for each category to receive a year's subscription to Ottobre kids' sewing pattern magazine, and randomly select a couple of winners to receive a copy of the Oliver & S Lullaby Layette pdf pattern.

To join the sew-along, just leave a comment here or on Cindy or Clio's blog, and feel free to join us and share your in-progress photos in the Small Human Being Sew-Along Flickr group. We'll be posting inspiration and pattern ideas for the sew-along on our blogs, and chatting about the sew-along on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #SHBsewalong.

Oh, and I made some badges! Here's the badge and code in two different sizes...

grab button for Small Human Being Sew-Along
<div class="small-human-being-sewalong-button" style="width: 300px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="http://www.polkadotoverload.com/2015/03/small-human-being-sew-along.html" rel="nofollow"> <img src="https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/img/b/R29vZ2xl/AVvXsEhEfbsTzDVAi808ZptYgplBbCWxfyUuMwcneaQx9iWwUa41I7j2Flen6jIiqM9K2a1UCY05MBENyX91PxnjvJCo2VjvuSCvZR-kFP_xNW50uVmTKFPj3FQOOBc444rllrMtUfcnVIq2e81B/s1600/SHBsewalongbadge1.png" alt="Small Human Being Sew-Along" width="300" height="300" /> </a> </div>

grab button for Small Human Being Sew-Along
<div class="small-human-being-sewalong-button" style="width: 200px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="http://www.polkadotoverload.com/2015/03/small-human-being-sew-along.html" rel="nofollow"> <img src="https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/img/b/R29vZ2xl/AVvXsEhEfbsTzDVAi808ZptYgplBbCWxfyUuMwcneaQx9iWwUa41I7j2Flen6jIiqM9K2a1UCY05MBENyX91PxnjvJCo2VjvuSCvZR-kFP_xNW50uVmTKFPj3FQOOBc444rllrMtUfcnVIq2e81B/s1600/SHBsewalongbadge1.png" alt="Small Human Being Sew-Along" width="200" height="200" /> </a> </div>

grab button for Small Human Being Sew-Along
<div class="small-human-being-sewalong-button" style="width: 300px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="http://www.polkadotoverload.com/2015/03/small-human-being-sew-along.html" rel="nofollow"> <img src="https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/img/b/R29vZ2xl/AVvXsEitKyMzCjgu39mEBGOs_BJ9qk0pBS2o3qo_Zqx32kzebG1tE2z5Dr8GF-wbCUumpIkV2vaYSNIYwk5Eduq6p9ftZ9gfDyU1BAVvmXeXbugfoNGN-NQ-FmSHJtHANsBuXql-g1uebWF12Kv6/s1600/SHBsewalongbadge2.png" alt="Small Human Being Sew-Along" width="300" height="300" /> </a> </div>

grab button for Small Human Being Sew-Along
<div class="small-human-being-sewalong-button" style="width: 200px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="http://www.polkadotoverload.com/2015/03/small-human-being-sew-along.html" rel="nofollow"> <img src="https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/img/b/R29vZ2xl/AVvXsEitKyMzCjgu39mEBGOs_BJ9qk0pBS2o3qo_Zqx32kzebG1tE2z5Dr8GF-wbCUumpIkV2vaYSNIYwk5Eduq6p9ftZ9gfDyU1BAVvmXeXbugfoNGN-NQ-FmSHJtHANsBuXql-g1uebWF12Kv6/s1600/SHBsewalongbadge2.png" alt="Small Human Being Sew-Along" width="200" height="200" /> </a> </div>

So what am I determined to find the time to sew? Well, at minimum I am hoping to make one item from each category — a summer outfit for baby, a baby bib, and a nursing top for me. If I REALLY get my sew-jo going, I'm also hoping to sew a ring sling, a baby quilt and some reusable wool nursing pads. WHO KNOWS?

The second badge was based on one of my favorite quick little things I sewed for my first small human being: A Basquiat onesie from one of husband's old T-shirts, with foldover elastic binding.

Boxing Basquiat Baby Onesie

So, will you join us? WHO NEEDS SLEEP WHEN THERE ARE CUTE BABIES TO SEW FOR? (I write in the dark with tired eyes as I listen for sounds of baby waking to eat).

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Baby D wearing stuff I made.


Baby D strikes a pose in a me-made kimono top with robot appliqué. That he is already outgrowing.

Presenting a photo roundup of Baby D wearing stuff I made him while I was pregnant. I'm too sleep-deprived to form too many actual sentences, but man do I LOVE getting to actually put this snuggly little guy into things I sewed or knit (which I have been Instagramming pretty regularly, if you like that sort of thing).

The little dude is growing RAPIDLY (at not-yet six weeks old, he is over 12 pounds and wearing RTW size 3-6 months), so I'm trying to get as much wear out of the things that fit or almost fit as I can before it's too late, since I am NOT having more babies.

In his Baby Doctor Who iron-on TARDIS T-shirt transfer (with big sis):


And the Funkadelic one-hour bodyshirt (matching photo with his Daddy's Funkadelic pending), which I originally sewed for his sister. Also: how cute are baby jeans? These are from the thrift store, not me-made, but I love that they have totally useless rear pockets because: jeans! on babies!


Growing into his Puerperium cardigan and accessories:


Which were TOTALLY too big at birth:


In his New Conceptions kimono top and matching pant sets — tops (as opposed to bodyshirts or pajamas) are rather impractical for such a young baby because they ride up, but I wanted something that wouldn't irritate his healing belly button. (For the record, these are gender neutral and I would have put them on a girl too, because tools and robots are NOT just for boys.)




The Kwik Sew red hooded sweatshirt I made from a secondhand cashmere cardigan (will get a better photo later, but this was great for Valentine's Day):


I am also wearing a me-made maternity top in this picture, because I still can't fit into regular clothes. Whatever:


I'm afraid I only have crappy Instagram camera phone photos of these handpainted handknit Better Than Booties cable socks and the Gift Wrap baby sweater and bonnet, but still!

Tiny socks for tiny feet, knit from yarn I handpainted (these are still a bit big, but I thought he wasn't going to fit into them for at least a year). #knitting #babyDWood #madeforkids

Heading out to the playground with big sis in the Gift Wrap baby sweater and bonnet I knit while I was waiting for him to be born (pattern by @carinaspencer ). #knitting #iknit #babyDWood #madeforkids

Serious chubby cheeks, I just love them.

And finally, not anything memade in this picture (besides the kids) but aren't they just the sweetest? It's moments like this that get me through the TOTAL LACK OF SLEEP in my messy, milk-spattered daily existence:


P.S. I mentioned in my last post we were having some horribly painful breastfeeding challenges due to tongue tie, lip tie and oversupply. I am happy to report that things are MOSTLY better (thanks to two wonder lactation consultants and an ENT). I can actually nurse now without screaming and crying in pain (which made it impossible to go out and nurse in public without screaming and frightening the passersby). I may even start doing some occasional pumping this week to get the little guy comfortable with bottles for when I go back to work in a few months ... which would mean husband and I can go out on a date next time my parents visit!


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