Monday, March 30, 2009


I made my first refashion in high school. I took one of my father's white work shirts, cut the collar off and left it mandarin style (I think that's what it's called) and drew Milo on the backwith a Sharpie. I loved Milo. *sigh* It was so easy to love a drawing of a fictional person based on a real person. High school was weird.

Then my parents sent me to Catholic school (we weren't even Catholic! Reform school, more like.) And I was required to wear a lovely wool kilt every day. Plus, I was only allowed to wear a white or yellow shirt, and navy or 'fleshtone' pantyhose. It was very hard to be fashionably creative in this environment, but I did manage to turn an old kilt into a pair of suspenders to jazz things up. Paired with an antique top hat, it made my kilt much more palatable. I had to take my top hat off in morality class, though.

So this whole trend of turning men's dress shirts into other things is really compelling for me.

For the fashionable mom from Just Tutes. I love this, but waiting for J to be done with 5 shirts is going to take awhile. He does have a nice assortment of stripes and plaids, though.

For the fashionable kiddo from Lillipops Designs. If I could get away with wearing things like this myself, I would. Hmmmm. Food for thought. I love every single thing in Lillipop's shop.

But everyone has to start somewhere, so I used Cheytown's Button Shirt to Button Dress tute which I seem to be the last person in blogland to try. But I am very pleased with the results.

When I cut it out, I made the inside of the shirt the outside of the dress, which gave me a nice instant sort of kickpleat in the middle. I did try the knifepleats for the trim at the top. For the bottom, I cut a curved piece hoping for a ruffle, but I think I didn't curve it enough and it is sort of just a contrasting hem. But I love it anyway. The length is a little over the top, but somehow matches the style. I think it kind of says "My dad was a goth and my mom watched Beetlejuice too many times, but I am really a princess, aren't I?"

Excuse the poor pictures. I was hoping to take some better ones, but with all the sawust in the house, it isn't going to happen any time soon.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just under the wire

I finally finished up my entry for Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing Design Challenge. It's very interesting how much I have learned about myself as I worked on it. And it worked hand in hand with a couple other things to enlighten me. First off, here is my entry.

One of the things I have learned recently is: I have no style. I mean, current style. I used to have style, in my own way. But ever since I had kids, it has just been whatever I can cram myself into that doesn't have holes in it. And recently, that has been an incredible challenge. Apparently I can only go about 2 years without buying a pair of pants before I have holes in every single knee - right and left, though left always goes first.

Second, I am fat. Oh, you wouldn't think it to see me on the street, no. But I am. Fat enough that when I went to try on dresses to wear to my brother's wedding in June? Oh, I can't even tell you how awful it was. I can never show my face in J Crew again.

So I have had to think a lot about style to do this project. What was it that used to drive my style, and how do I recreate that in an adult sort of way. In high school and college, I had one pair of ripped patched jeans. ONE. I also wore cargo pants long before it was cool. And Chucks long before they were cool. In fact, 7th grade was sheer torture because Keith Cronin refused to stop teasing me about them, and I refused to stop wearing them. Keith, I'm sure you have grown up now. I forgive you.

Other than that, I wore collared shirts, white v neck t-shirts and a jean jacket with Darth Vader on the back. So my style is simple, first off. And moderately tailored. But with a little kick. I can't wear Chucks anymore, to my great dismay. Now I wear Birkenstocks 24/7. I own the two pairs on my worksheet and one other pair. Grownup feet need more support. Sigh.

So I went into Kohl's the other day to buy Blue a swimsuit. And while I didn't find her an appropriate swimsuit (Gag - no, not Hannah Montanah, pleeease!) I did stumble into the women's clothing section. Believe me when I say that Kohl's has been there for 3 years and I have never been in the women's section before. I have been in the section right in front of you as you walk in, but never in the women's section in the corner. You know, with the slightly preppy stuff. Hm, now that's interesting. My friends would never describe me as preppy, but - moving on.

So I went to the sale rack on a whim and grabbed a few things to try on. And I scored a velvety black cropped jacket for 90% off of $80. And it's cute. It gave me hope, and I dragged a few other things in to try on. (Ivy was thrilled as you might imagine.) I have a very smart friend who said recently (right before the dress-shopping horror episode) "Just try on some things you would never try on and see how they look." This is just what my mother said to me during the prom-dress-buying horrorshow of '88. But on my way from the sale rack to the changing room, I grabbed things at random, in many sizes (because I don't even know what size I am). And I came away with not only the jacket, but a cute black bias cut skirt for ($3!), a white t-shirt with a knot between my boobs that looks fantastic (who woulda thunk it?) and a flowy shirt with a square cut neck - also adorable. Yeah, and a new pair of jeans with no holes.

I apologize if I am rambling. I am on my 8th cup of coffee.

Anyway lately I've been thinking a lot about fashion. What would I want if I had a weekend all alone to sew? What would really be my style? What would look good, not just frumpy. First, I made a few rules for myself. I wanted everything to be mix and match - Grrranimals style. And I was kind of stuck on the combination of red and light blue/aqua that I saw on the Feathered Friends fabrics. I am very much a fan of blue, white and green, but red is a different color for me. So I made a few things red, but my stock items are blue and white. My clothes were not allowed to have any dangly things. Ivy and Blue are awful with anything like ties on my pajama pants and such. Nothing like giving a kid a handle to undress you. I don't wear earrings or bracelets or necklaces for the same reason. But I am a fan of rings. And I haven't looked at rings in a long time either.

So I'm pretty pleased with my contest entry, and now I own a couple new things that make me feel better about myself, and I think I'm actually inspired to make myself something. It's easy to make cute stuff for kids. Kids are naturally cute. And so it always feel productive and rewarding. But I need to feel good about me, too. Seriously. And to that end, Jason and I bought an elliptical machine. And I have been on it every day. Every day but one. And so has he.

Okay, before I go on and on. Let me tell you about Blue. She desperately wanted to be a part of the clothes designing team. But really she just wanted to trace what I had done.

So I let her trace for a while, but then she got a little carried away and drew all over my entry.

Please notice the multi-legged pig on the bottom left. Blue is obsessed with pigs. On the right you will see three 'mermaids' Letters A, B and C. She handed this to me and said "Which one is different?" and then screamed with glee "A! Do you see? A has a flower in her hands!" A also doesn't look so much like a reptile, but I didn't mention that.

And even the page that she didn't draw all over was destroyed. Are those greyhound footprints on this page? Smudges from the floor in the car? I swear, these pages have been carried around everywhere with me for weeks trying to get finished.

Today, as I was trying to finish up, Blue wanted to do some more tracing. I told her she couldn't because I had already drawn these things three times (I can't even find the first incarnation) and I didn't have time to do it again. Besides, designers design their own clothes. She told me she was not good at that, and I convinced her to just draw what she would want to wear. And here it is:

The item on the left is a rainbow bathing suit. On the model is an "American" suit. But don't let's get carried away. After she was finished, Blue told me she really wouldn't wear that American suit. Same old story. But I'm so proud of her. She described it to me in detail and obviously put a lot of thought into it. I wonder if she should win a prize? I doubt she'd be all that into Weekend Sewing, but maybe I should get her a sketch book and a box of colored pencils?

Did I ever mention I love being a Mom? Even with all the hassle and exhaustion. It is amazing to watch these little people grow and learn and create. Awesome.

Now I have to go empty the bathroom of everything for the construction which will be happening in there soon. Don't be jealous, I haven't had a sink in two years, or a shower in 8 months. I totally deserve to have a sink and a shower.

Edited to add the links.
The button ring
The square ring with the blue stone

Antique Elgin watch
Red Birkenstock Alma

Birkenstock Milano
Sundance stacking rings

Sunday, March 15, 2009


What is it about people that makes them want to share of themselves? My husband and I met in college. One of the things I remember is that he was voraciously curious about me. I, in turn, was a person who loved to share of myself. Thoughts, facts, stories. Later, after I had known him several years and we had traveled in and out of each other's lives several times, I started wondering about him. Where did he grow up? Who was his family? It occurred to me that while he knew me inside out and upside down, I only knew who he was at the moment. It was like he had hatched out of an egg full grown. That thought stays with me, even now. Yesterday I asked him "Did you ever listen to 10,000 Maniacs?" and he said "I think I first heard them in college." which just floored me. Because 10,000 Maniacs In My Tribe was one of those formative albums for me, and I can't even imagine high school without them. Just hearing a phrase of any of those songs brings back technicolor memories for me.

So my husband is just not a sharer. It's not that he doesn't want to, or gives pieces of himself grudgingly - quite the opposite. But I wonder what it is about me that makes me want to post my "25 random things" on Facebook. Or complete the Stash Interview on Sew, Mama, Sew. What makes me want to give myself to random, faceless people?

Eh, well. That's who I am, no? So enough with the philosophical thought and on with the interview. Even though I'm late as can be with it.

  • What do you usually sew?
I just started sewing in ernest. I used to just make things when I needed something. I made a lot of tote bags, some curtains, a crib set for my youngest, not much else. And then I started sewing kids clothes. And more bags, and jammies for my husband. And baby shoes. I'm hoping to get started sewing some clothes for myself, too.
  • When you shop for fabric, what size cuts do you usually buy? (i.e. If you see something beautiful, but you don’t have a use for it right away, how much do you buy?)
It depends on where I'm shopping. The place I usually go for fabric is a kind of odd-lot place and fabric is generally $3 a yard. I've been known to buy two or three yards with no plan for it. But only if it is nice stuff. Michael Miller from 2007, Flea Market Fancy (short bolt - $1.50 per yard!). That sort of thing. But if it is something I have been oggling online and I am paying $9/yard for it, I will buy a half yard, or in the $6 range a whole yard.
  • Do you buy on impulse or do you go out looking for something you need?
Both. I like to hit my special discount store often, so the intent is not impulsive but the actual choosing is. They have a jingle at my special store that goes "I should've bought it when I saw it at Marden's" And that is quite true. (Can you believe I didn't buy the whole bolt of Flea Market Fancy? It wasn't there the next day, though, when I went back for more.) So I don't hem and haw too much about it while standing with a bolt in my hand. And I do a lot of oggling online, but it takes a lot of oggling for me to buy something, so that's not impulsive.
  • Are you a pre-washer? If you are, do you wash your fabric before you need it, or only when you’re ready to use it?
I pre wash everything as soon as I bring it home in hot water with a super hot dry. If it's going to be wrecked, I want it to be before I spend a lot of time with it, and with kids clothes, chances are it will get washed on hot, with other random colors at some point.
  • Do you iron it?
I grab it out of the dryer as soon as it is dry and fold very carefully. Then, I will iron if I need to when I go to use it.
  • How do you sort it? (color, print size, collection, etc.)
I have a bin for anything larger than a yard, and anthing smaller goes in the cabinet, with larger pieces going on the bottom shelves and smaller pieces on the top shelves. And I have two bins of very small scraps - one bin of favorties, and one bin that are not favorites.
  • Do you have any special folding techniques?
I wish. I try to keep the edges inside, but I need to develop a technique that works for me and my cabinet.
  • How do you store your fabric?
Just folded up in the cabinet or in the bin. I have found that I can't cram stuff in the bin, though, or it requires more ironing before I can work with it. So I tend to have stuff piled up on my bin, too.
  • What tips do you have for building up a well-rounded stash?
I guess I don't think I have a well rounded stash. I have only been at this for 6 months or so. I just buy what I like, and then I buy other things that aren't as compelling because I think they will be useful or they match something else I have. Often, I will find something I think will match something I already own and bring it home only to find it is from the same fabric line. I don't know if that is impressive or lame.
  • When do you say enough is enough?
I have no idea.
  • What are some of your favorite stash-busting projects?
I haven't needed to bust my stash yet. I have been a knitter for a long time, though, and I have never been troubled by my stash. I keep what I like and get rid of what I don't.
  • Do you have a current favorite print in your stash? Let’s see it!
Right now? The ducks. I love the ducks. There is a coordinating all-over duck print, too. You can see in lining those baby shoes in the last picture of my bin (that's where projects hover in progress).

  • What’s your definition of the perfect stash?
You know, I think shopping and choosing and aquiring are as much fun as the sewing, so I would hate to have a perfect stash. I am a collector at heart. I'm sure it will be a neverending quest to complete my stash.

And here are some pictures. My work area, all neatened up for your benefit. I'm really pleased not to have to drag everything to the kitchen table to work, but my space is small. Small, I tell ya.

Anything less than a yard in here. Tub of not-favorite scraps at the bottom.

Patterns, favorite scraps and thread.

Here's the bin of big pieces. Baby shoes and pajamas in progess as well.

Let me not forget to show you my ironing 'board'.

And here is the whole room. It is 8x6 - really it was a walk in closet. Jason has the left half, I have the right. It's tight if we're in there together. Tight, but companionable.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


My daughter Blue is autistic. I have so many feelings about this and sometimes they are rushing through my head so fast I can barely even catch a glimpse of them. She is very high functioning. Very. The fact is, she is so high functioning that most people don't know she is autistic. And certainly that is what I want for her. I don't want her to be judged by her neurological tendency, I want her to be judged on her amazing creativity and wit, her love of numbers, words and people. Her ability to tackle a challenge without her self confidence weighing in at every turn. She is like her father, and he is a man I fell in love with, and grow to love more each day. I would not change her. But - life is hard. And I feel like there is nowhere I can be really honest about this. Her teachers and therapists understand our challenges, and her father, certainly, and even her little sister is now beginning to understand what having Blue for a sister means. But to the big outside world, it is less apparent. I don't wish she were lower functioning, I just sometimes wish that she didn't look so darn normal. I wish someone, sometime would look at us while I am talking my very controlled hypnotic and repetitious patter that comes out of my mouth almost every waking moment and say "Hey, I understand. Me, too. See my kid? Even though he is walking quietly beside me right now and not grabbing every motherloving thing he sees off the shelf or screaming "You are never a good Mama!" or scratching me, he is like your kid, and we walk the fine like between control and upheaval, every day, all day. Just like you. You are not alone."

Some days, I feel such huge sorrow in my heart. I am undecided about whether it is feeling sorry for myself, or grief over the way I thought things were going to be but aren't. There is no doubt that Blue challenges me at every turn. She has pushed me as I require her teachers, therapists and parents to push her. Pushing to become more, better, stronger than I ever thought. Both of us. I stopped cutting fabric to come and write this because it felt like it was going to explode out of my head. There I am, in this tiny room barely big enough for one desk, let alone two, cutting out fabric for pants. Positioning pattern pieces as if life depended on making sure the right elephants got to the right spot on each pocket. But really, it is my child that has taught me this. And in a way, life does depend on it. Because she won't wear her pants anymore. Not even the knit stretchy pants. And she will sometimes wear a dress, but it was 17 degrees out this morning, and she won't wear tights. But she loves her oliver and s pajamas. So really? Making these pants is a deciding factor in how we live our life. If I make the pants right, she will wear them happily. If not? Then each day is a battle over putting on clothes. And it makes a Mama tired. I am just tired.

Then I read something like this post by Lucinda about Cooper's Flock. Her sweet little boy, Cooper, died at just 21 days old. I can't even fathom the depth of her pain and sorrow. And I am sure she is more tired than I am. Because I can get sweet hugs and kisses each day from my children, I can enjoy their individuality and sit in amazement over how they are growing and learning. I cannot imagine having that ripped away from me. And somehow it helps to know that what I have, this that makes me so tired and sad sometimes is really the biggest blessing I have ever known. Ever. And nothing better will ever happen to me in my lifetime.

So today I am sewing pants, and when my yarn comes in the mail, I will be knitting birds for Cooper and counting my blessings while I count my stitches.