Category Archives: sewing

Welcoming Seraphina

Our littlest one was officially welcomed into the world and into our community with a shower of blessings and rose petals.  As with our vow renewal, it rained and the ceremony had to be moved indoors at the last minute.  I planned everything in pastels.  A friend showed up unexpectedly bearing huge bouquets of flowers in the brightest and boldest of hues; a complete riot, so entirely different from everything I had imagined and completely perfect.

Our Sweet Wild Violet wore the gown and bonnet I made for her sister 5 years earlier.  It was a bit too warm to add in the stockings as well.  I love that they both were able to wear it.  Still I wanted to make her something special of her own.  The party was to be an all day event.  Since it didn’t seem practical to keep her in the gown all day, a party dress was in order!  I decided to give the Lizzy Dress another go using the chart this time.  The yarn is Knit Picks Diadem in ‘Azurite’, blue, blue…deep blue…like the ocean and the sky, her eyes when she was tiny, her beautifully formed umbilical cord, our birth tub!

Rosebud had a new frock of her own to coordinate.  I modified this pattern for the bodice.  Originally I pictured it with a floral skirt, featuring hints of that same blue.  I think there was a specific Liberty of London print that I kept seeing in my mind whenever I closed my eyes.  Then I remembered this amazing single yard of green Radiance, cotton silk blend, that I had tucked away for a special occasion.  I thought the combination a bit daring really.  The silhouette has kind of a regency feel with the empire waist, scooped neck, slightly puffed sleeves, but the striking colors make me think of some of the really bold fashions that started appearing in the 1920′s.  Kind of a The House of Eliott vibe.  Together they put me in mind of the skyline around our home…treetops reaching up into the deep blue of an early autumn sky.  She looked a tiny goddess in it.

I wanted to get some really nice photos of my girls in their dresses, but I didn’t take most of the candid shots that day.  The pictures of Seraphina in her gown and most of the decorative detail ones are mine, but most of the rest were taken by other people as my camera got passed around throughout the day.  I’ll have to try to get some better ones for posterity’s sake.

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by the ocean

Photos of our trip, more or less in chronological order…

Because this is the same trip that we take every year, with many other families, the amount of time that we saw our children was in direct proportion to their ages; Seraphina never left my side, whereas I barely recognized Iain by the end of the week, it had been so long.  He, and Elijah to a lesser degree, were absorbed into the pack of roving teens and tweens that I used to hold as babies and chase as toddlers, almost every one of them taller then me now, with these deep, booming voices.  Each June seems to bring up questions of independence and boundaries, a growing experience for us all.  I find myself watching all of these great big boys and girls and wondering if someday we’ll be making this same journey with our grandchildren underfoot and what that would look like as a truly multi-generational event?  Or will they have long lost interest by then, leaving us old folks alone telling stories of them around a campfire, if the tradition even survives at all?  All I know is that it seems like yesterday that I cradled baby Elijah in my arms while planning the first of these trips.

Màiri and I made a mermaid in the sand.  Her favorite book right now is Jane Ray’s Can You Catch a Mermaid?
I was extremely grumpy about going to the beach and not being able to at least bury my feet in the sand or dip my toes in the water. harrumph.  I’m in compression stockings every day now.  Maybe by next year I’ll be able to experiment a bit, but it was just too risky this year…too much at stake, too many people depending on me.  I’m still a bit…fragile?  Come autumn I think I’ll be able to cultivate a kind of cute look, pairing them with dresses.  At the moment though I’m just that nutter walking around in tights on the beach.  It’s astonishing how much of my wardrobe is medically mandated. (grump. grump. grump.)  So…what to wear?  I certainly wasn’t going to be trotting a swimsuit out there.  As it turns out I needn’t have worried.  Blankets and sweaters featured heavily in Seraphina’s first visit to the Atlantic and I seriously doubt that say, all of the dads huddled in pink children’s beach towels would have judged me whatever I wore!  But of course I didn’t know that in advance.  My very vague thoughts ran somewhere along the lines of the stockings and a nursing cami with some sort of easy-to-nurse-in, long-tunic-y, loose-cover-up-type-thingy over top.

The pattern is a slightly altered Color Twist Kimono Top.  Deciding to make something, spur of the moment in the middle of the night, doesn’t exactly leave you with a large selection of fabric possibilities.  This particular jersey, chosen almost exclusively because there happened to be the right amount of fabric, was originally intended for kid pants.  I will say that’s it’s very, very soft; comfy and nice for little people to cuddle up to.  Steve was thoroughly unimpressed with the whole thing.  When I asked him what he thought, he said, and I quote, “eh”.

So I mentioned the rain.  And the motel.  There was also some bowling at the height of a storm.  Read as: knitting, nursing, sipping tea and watching bowling for some of us.  Which had the advantage of hot tea, not to be underestimated, especially on a day when you woke up in a cold puddle, but on the whole I greatly preferred the days of knitting, nursing and watching kids playing in the sand, in the pond, in the ocean.

She built up quite the reputation among the children for her well honed biking skills.  I love watching this girl of mine, so strong and confident in her body and her abilities.  Who am I to tell her what she can’t do? Well, alright, sometimes…but mostly I just watch and am in awe of the grace and ease that she takes for granted.  Such a gift.

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Esme

I made a wearable muslin of the Esme Top pattern by Sew Liberated.  I used some leftover flannel from the kid’s Christmas pajamas two years ago. I really like the pattern, and the cut of the top in general, but I am having some sizing issues.  Going off the size chart and what I guesstimate my bust measurement will be postpartum, it tells me I should be making a size 16.  This didn’t really sit right with me, since for a loose fitting top like this my gut was to go with a size 6.  Also, I just made a dress by this same designer where a size medium was clearly sufficient.  To be safe I went with an 8.

Why yes, this is the top that’s supposed to be 4 sizes too small for me postpartum over my very full term belly.  Perplexed?  Me too.

I know it’s supposed to by very flow-y-loose-fitting, but I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be so much so as to accommodate 40+ weeks of baby.  I had plans to lengthen the pattern and make a dress out of some really lovely blue linen, but I think I might want to see exactly how this falls on the body I intend it for before committing myself to that.  I will say that this top is really soft and seems quite comfortable and I’m very much looking forward to wearing it after the baby comes.

About the buttons…they are just sewn on the front button band.  I sewed a single snap inside to keep it closed.  Only one because that was what I had.  I convinced myself that this was to make for easier nursing access, but I think it really had a whole lot more to do with the fact that I really, really hate sewing button holes.

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made

The details on some of Galen’s birthday gifts….

First up some pants.  Somehow, all of the sudden none of his pants seem to fit, it’s amazing how that seems to happen overnight sometimes!  The few pairs that did still fit were uncomfortable or in poor shape.  He prefers comfy “mommy pants”, meaning mama-made, though he does sometimes call them maternity pants on account of the stretchy waist bands.  This first pair is our favorite.  They are reversible pants made out of two layers of flannel.

  And the other side:

Pair #2:

Brown corduroy that reverses to flannel…

And #3:

A pair of single layer twill pants, made with spring in mind.

Iain and Elijah carved him a ukelele holder…

And of course there was a birthday sweater…

Remember his need for a very particular birthday sweater this year?  I made the largest size, added 4 extra increases and several inches to both the sleeves and the body.  Fingers crossed that this one should last him a while!

And now everyone has one.

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brown may be the new blue…

Nursing dress # 3 in chocolate brown (you can see number one here and number two here).

It looks better on.  I’ve yet to figure out a good way of padding out the bust of my dress form.  Because of course it wasn’t made in the shape of a postpartum nursing mama, but in the shape of someone who’d last given birth four years prior.  There is a difference, it’s not a small one, and if you have kids you probably know this already.  Anyhow, that’s the reason that it doesn’t lay quite right. 

For a pattern I used a little bit of the Empire Dress pattern that I talked about here, parts of this tutorial and a whole lot of ingenuity.  My first attempt did not turn out as I had hoped.  I adapted the skirt from the dress pattern and used the Twist Top tutorial pretty much as written for the bodice.  It was rather baggy and awkward looking, not at all fitted, which I suppose makes sense, you can see from her photos that her version has a fairly loose fit.  But my inspiration was actually this form flattering dress, which I knew had in turn been inspired by that tutorial.  Many alterations later and I got a lot closer to what I was looking for.  Due to all of the taking in/taking apart/re-doing the whole thing did not come together as cleanly as I would have liked.  I do have all of the alterations marked out on my own personalized pattern now, so fingers crossed that the next attempt should go smoothly!

And for the babe… Picky Pants, a Pilot Cap and Ruby Slippers all in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes “Brown Sugar”.

The color puts me in mind of sugaring off, a weird nearly spring type of association for me.  The tiny booties are my favorite.

And just for a change of pace…

a little green.  Another pilot cap, toddler sized this time, in Valley Yarns Northampton “Apple Green”.

I have been woefully negligent in sharing my various knitting and sewing escapades lately.  While we wait for this little one to decide to arrive I’m going to try to play a bit of catch up.

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nursing dress take 2

This one is a winner, shown here layered over a nursing tank.  Yes, like the first one it more or less fits now, but in a much different way.  And yes, there was a point where I was close to tears because my clothes fit.  But it looks perfectly cute on my dress form, so I’m no longer worried about it.  I can see myself reaching for this one again and again, both the pattern and the actual dress!  The fabric is a baby blue organic jersey.  The pattern came from Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated‘s Sewing with Knits Craftsy class.  This is the Empire Dress, size medium.  I made a sleeveless version simply because I didn’t have enough fabric for sleeves.

A little tip: Several times a year Craftsy has a big sale and this class, which is usually $39.99 generally gets marked down to $19.99.  It comes with 5 excellent patterns for women’s wardrobe basics that can be combined and adjusted to make all manner of things.  I’m doing a lot of playing around with them these days.  Even if you aren’t interested in the class, which I’m sure is lovely, I just don’t happen to have time for it at the moment, that’s a pretty great deal just for the patterns alone.

p.s. My blog has been nominated for the Apartment Therapy “Homies” award, under the “Home Design and Inspiration Blogs” category.  If you are bored and feel inspired to vote, you can do so here.  My blog is listed under the name Bespoke.

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Week in the Life: Monday

I know it looks like a weird way of cleaning out the fridge, but it’s actually math.  Please ignore the boxes in the background.  I’ve been sorting baby clothes.

Decidedly not school work.  These books are kind of the bane of my existence, but I suppose if it’s the worst they get interested in…

I set up a fun photo shoot to do with Màiri (I’ll share some pictures soon).  It was the kind of thing that takes a rather silly person to even think of trying and a completely ridiculous one to attempt it without another adult on hand to help out.  But they certainly had fun.

They came home from our excursion yesterday with clay.  This is Mossy the Gnome.  Apparently he’s not a morning person either because he looked much happier later in the day.  He gained a great many accessories as well.

Plantain crackers with all sorts of seasoning for a snack.

Dance night for the two of them.

The smell of broth simmering all day, followed by cauliflower soup for dinner.

A bit of top secret sewing for the birthday boy.

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the feeling human project

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a friend and she said something along the lines of, “won’t it be so wonderful, once the baby comes and you can really concentrate on yourself and your health.”  I’m pretty sure I looked at her like she had three heads, poor girl.  I think that the best way that I can describe my relationship to the postpartum period is lost.  I get completely and utterly lost in new baby land.  I as an individual almost cease to exist.  Part of it is just that new love, lost to the world infatuation.  But there is a more complicated aspect, one that I don’t really like to talk about, but I’m going to try because I think it’s important.  I have Elhers-Danlos Syndrome and POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and a host of other related ailments.  Basically my entire body is built wrong.  That’s the best and easiest way to describe it.  Normal everyday life for people like me is about the equivalent of how a normal, healthy person feels when they have the flu; the same achiness all over, the same level of exhaustion.  That is our normal and frankly we just learn to live with it.  I was well into my twenties before I realized that other people aren’t in pain all the time.  It honestly came as a shock.  I know that seems silly, but this is the only body I’ve ever known and I think that most people just assume that their experiences are more or less normal.  I know I did.

I broke my jaw when I was a child, probably around 5 or 6.  It went undiagnosed for 20 years.  We believe we know when it happened.  My parents did all they could, took me to the ER, etc, but somehow it was missed.  It wasn’t until I started seeing a dentist, who also happened to be trained as a chiropractor that it was discovered.  He looked at me and said, “your face is asymmetrical, something is wrong” and ordered a panoramic x-ray, where you could clearly see the break and how my jaw never grew properly since it was never set.  After the appointment no one could understand.  “But doesn’t it hurt?”  they would ask.  And the answer is yes, of course it hurts.  It hurts all the time, but everything hurts all the time.  My poor mother was distraught.  “But you never complained!  You ate and talked and never gave us any clue that there was an issue!”  I guess the feeling wasn’t enough out of the ordinary to occur to me to complain.  The broken jaw revelation was the first time I started to consider whether my experiences really were in line with what was considered “normal”.

There are better times and worse.  There have been times, in the not at all distant past, where I’ve felt like I was actively dying of exhaustion.  There have been times, though they seem very far off at the moment, when I’ve felt strong and active and even vibrant.  My body doesn’t handle stress, physical or emotional well.  My nervous system is frankly screwy.  The little things that most people take for granted because their bodies automatically do, like say adjusting your blood pressure when you shift positions and altering your body temperature to accommodate a change of environment?  These and many other things are in no way a give in for me.  It may all work out or I may make it half way across a room before collapsing.  It all depends.  I may be able to go for a hike without a problem or I may partially dislocate my hip while walking to the bathroom.  I might make it through the week just fine or I might wake up and burst a blood vessel turning the bedroom doorknob.  I may be able to get around alright or my unborn baby may kick one of my ribs out of place (yes, my baby beat me up).  You really never know what you are going to get from day to day.  But there are a few things that are certain; pregnancy and the postpartum period are going to be hard.  And when things are hard, surviving is the most I can hang on to and any little bit of energy that’s left over goes right to my family.  That is how it should be.  But it also means that there can be a long period of time, sometimes years, where I’ve not given myself even the most basic of care.  I’m thinking about that now and trying to be better prepared for the future.

When you are to the point of absolute exhaustion and pain that’s much more then you can just ignore, any little thing that doesn’t quite work or isn’t there when you need it can feel like a great big, giant, over-whelming problem.  It’s amazing how quickly the scales can tip from getting by to freaking out.  I want to make this transition as easy as possible and I want to nurture myself a bit in the process.  My thoughts on how to go about this are many dimensional.  I need things to support my body through this process to try to reduce the ill effects as much as possible.  It will be easier on all of us to have daily necessities lined up and in order; freezer meals and things of that sort, to have our space thoughtfully set up and arranged for ease.  Then there are the more personal things, like clothes that actually fit and maybe some little luxuries, that might feel really special at the time.  Even if I don’t totally feel human, at least I can maybe fake it a little better and have a few pictures from those early baby days that don’t make me grimace.  I want to enjoy this as much as I possibly can.  I remember a woman once telling me how she suffered from horrible postpartum depression.  Having lived through that experience, whenever there was a new mama in her circle of friends, instead of bringing a baby gift, she would bring a little something for the mother.  Some warm wool socks or something of that sort.  Just to take care of her a bit and let her know that she was being thought of.  I guess this is a little like that.  A collection of ideas and preparations that are a new baby gift to myself.

This was my first try at a new nursing dress.  I’m not overly thrilled with it.  I used some leftover fabric from the kids Christmas pajamas; not a normal color for me.  I used this pattern/tutorial.  It’s supposed to be a regular women’s size 6.  It, obviously, fits now, which leads me to believe that it’s not going to be terribly flattering further on down the line.  Steve says it’s because I’m so tiny.  Tiny!  Ha!  Tiny is not really a term I’m identifying with at the moment!  I got most of the way through making it before I realized that the dress part is basically held up by just a tube of fabric.  This is what I get for not reading through the directions first!  Did I learn nothing in elementary school?  Anyhow, I did not like that idea one bit, so I ended up attaching the jacket to the skirt, with elastic in the front and some other funky modifications that didn’t really come together very cleanly because by that point I’d already finished sewing the jacket.  It’s comfy and it will be easy to nurse in, but I’ll probably use it more as pajamas and for lounging around the house then anything else.  I don’t think it earns my “wearable in public” seal of approval.

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a birthday dress and sweater

Why yes, she does dance the entire time I’m trying to take her picture.  And yes, it does make it hard to get a shot that’s in focus.

On her birthday, Little Rosebud came out of the bath to find a chair with a new dress hanging on it and a couple of packages.  One containing this year’s birthday sweater and one with a new “hair pretty”; her term for all manner of barrettes, headbands, hair ties, etc.

I made up the dress pattern as I went along.  The neckline turned out a little lower then I meant for it to (it sometimes gets tricky when you can’t check measurements without ruining the surprise!), but otherwise I think it turned out well.  Twice in the last couple of weeks now Steve and I have had the same conversation, after the kids have gone to bed, both with her nightgown and this dress.  Holding it up and shaking our heads over how it looks awfully long, me saying that I was pretty sure my calculations were right, but it just didn’t seem like they could be.  Only to find each time it was a perfect fit.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they fit.  But, uhm, wow.  Just wow.

The sweater is the ever so sweet Little Ancolie.  It is such a beautiful pattern.  The yarn is Cascade 220 Sport, colorway: “Ginseng”.  I had to get a bit creative with the buttons.  She is forever talking about her 2nd birthday sweater, with the heart buttons and how she wishes it still fit.  I wanted to use the last of those buttons for this year’s sweater.  But alas I only had two and the sweater really needed four.  I think my solution worked out alright?

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