Category Archives: sewing

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.


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.


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.


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?


little Rose Cheeks and how need became want

This year, when I started my Christmas gift planning, I was feeling a little scattered.  Some random ideas for random people, but no real cohesive plan.  I’m sure that by now, everyone has seen that “recipe” floating around the internet for holiday gift giving for children; something to wear, something to read, something they want and something they need.  More to just straighten things out in my own head then anything else, I decided to try breaking things up that way to see if it helped.

Something to wear was easy: Christmas pajamas for all.  We had something to read covered as well.  We kind of have a standard stocking formula: a book, a new deck of playing cards, candy canes (depending on the age of the child), some B-fresh gum (again age dependent), and art supplies.  This is generally how we replenish our homeschooling and art supplies each year.

For want, we tracked down a ping pong table on Craig’s List for the older boys to share.  Carrot the Prince was made for Galen.  Dear sweet Galen who always claims that he doesn’t know what it is he wants until he receives a gift, then, as if by magic, it always turns out to be just what he wanted, he just didn’t know it before!  Màiri Rose got a new tea set, as her beloved old one was missing several key pieces at this point, like, you know, a tea pot.

For need we replaced Iain’s old watch, which was to the point of being held together with duct tape and only sometimes actually telling time.  Elijah got a new winter hat (more on that later).  Galen recieved some buckets and boxes to organize the art supplies in his room.  And Màiri, oh Màiri, well Màiri is where things got tricky…

The original plan, that was well under way, was to make her a quilt for her bed.  There came a day where it was just the two of us home alone.  I went to throw in a load of laundry before reading her a book, only to find her poking about in my craft bags.  The canvas bags that I keep tied shut at that time of year, generally each containing a gift project, to be picked up and worked on whenever that particular child is not around.  She was holding the inner head for Galen’s doll.

The conversation that followed went something like this:

“what’s this?”

“that’s none of your business”

“I think it’s a doll.  I think you are making a doll.”

And then my reassuring her repeatedly that whatever it was, it wasn’t for her.  And from that point on, it was very common for her to say in a loud, exaggerated whisper, when I was just within hearing, “Oh, I hope I get a doll for Christmas!“  Right.  Now I had thought about Galen’s getting a doll and her not and how she might react to that and decided that in the excitement of the morning she wouldn’t much mind.  But now that the expectation of the possibility was there, well, that was a whole new ball game.

And so, a week or so before Christmas, I shifted gears, the quilt was abandoned and a relatively quick little dolly whipped up instead.  When I told Steve that it would go fairly quickly because the doll wouldn’t really have a body, he looked at me in horror and said, “you’re giving our little girl a dismembered head?!?”  I tried to explain, but finally told him he’d just have to wait and see what I meant.

She named her Rose Cheeks.  And yes, many a request for “Rose Cheek stories” have been made.  Turns out she is a cousin of Carrot the Prince.  And goodness, between the two of them this mama has been kept on her toes and needing to think fast.  The children decided that it would be fair if I told one story for each, every other night.  I’m really not sure that my tired brain can pull together 365 unique stories a year!


Carrot the Prince

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Galen who loved to hear stories.  When he was not more then 2 or 3 his mama started to tell him a story.  A story about a prince who’s true name has been long forgotten because as she began her story and introduced the hero, there was a small interruption as the little boy said, “yeah, but everybody called him Carrot”.  His mama laughed and said, “Carrot?  Alright, Carrot the Prince it is!”  And so Carrot the Prince was born and many, many a tale of his adventures have been told.  Sometimes the stories are very royal and magical indeed and sometimes they are a bit more ordinary and eerily similar to things that are happening in our own lives.  Either way Carrot the Prince, along with his father King Turnip and his mother Queen Rutabaga, are quite popular in these parts.

I’ve often thought about making Galen a Carrot the Prince doll.  As he is getting older and maturing rapidly these days, I thought this Christmas might well be my last chance to do something of that sort and have him really and truly appreciate it.  I’m so glad I did.


christmas pajamas and other things

Waiting for the phone to ring for the annual reading of T’was the Night Before Christmas with Pop-pop.  The waiting is so hard.

But then…

Little squishy wax people are a specialty of Màiri and Galen’s.

I found a hand-carved crochet hook and some knitting needles in my stocking.  Only in this house!

Iain and Elijah made the little ones some cool bath toys.  (instructions here)

I had five kids up at 3:30 in the morning on Christmas day (5!), though I’m pretty sure I was the only one being kept up by the littlest.  Thankfully I was able to convince them to go back to sleep for another couple hours at least.

I’m still bored with the usual red and green Christmas pajamas.  I went with robin’s egg blue instead.  The boys were made from the same old (now out of print I believe) Kwik Sew long john pattern that I’ve made at least 20 times now.  It required quite a bit of altering for Iain who outgrew that pattern long ago.  Elijah’s in the largest size now.  Finding sewing patterns for pre-teen/teenage boys is not easy.  Màiri’s leggings were made by tracing another pair to use as the pattern.  Her nightie is Kwik Sew 3105, view A, modified for length and without the bottom edge ruffle.  The bonnet is the Angry Chicken one, only with no brim and a chin strap and button instead of ribbon tie.  The stretch fabric made it lay a little funny in the front.

Back in November the Wee Girl asked if I has started making the Christmas pajamas yet.  When I replied that I had picked out the fabric, but hadn’t started sewing yet, she told me that I better get to it because Christmas was actually really quite soon.  Then she proceeded to inform me that she required a new nightgown, since she had grown out of her one from last year, and a new sleep cap and something for her legs “like the boys get”.  Yup, that’s my low maintenance girl.

Iain and Elijah seem to have appointed themselves as heads of the holiday cheer committee.  Despite the fact that they are well past the doll play stage, all of the dolls find their way back out and get dressed up for the occasion and special decorations show up for all of the toy people.  All to make things festive for the little ones or maybe to pretend, just for a day or two that they are little ones again?  It’s very sweet.


a very gathered skirt and a very cranky pregnant lady…

I found this tutorial for an adorable skirt.  I love that it’s meant to be worn both during and after pregnancy.  I have such an aversion to sewing something that can only be worn for a few months.  And being a skirt, it’s nursing friendly as well, which is something that I haven’t been taking into consideration these last several years, making my postpartum wardrobe limited.  Though probably not as limited as my current maternity wardrobe, which can only be described as completely pathetic.

She looks cute as can be.  I look like that girl in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ that blows up all huge and blue and ends up getting rolled out on her side.  meh.  Some women pull off pregnancy well.  I just look lumpy and frumpy and well fat.  Remember when I used to have an actual waist?  I do not think I appreciated that time enough.

When I first tried it on, the kids laughed and laughed and laughed.  It does look at least a bit better now that it’s hemmed.

I thought maybe a cardigan would help…

It didn’t really.

Clearly, I should have heeded her advice on cutting w-a-y back on fabric when working with cotton.

 Hey look, there I am!  In the front anyway…

Perhaps I should just walk around with one arm wrapped about my belly and one tucked under my behind so that people can tell where all the fabric ends and I begin?

Is it strange to say that even though I think it’s terribly unflattering, I still kind of like it?  It’s very comfortable and certainly quite feminine.  The pockets make me happy.  And when I look down, I like the way the gathers lay over my belly.  Not owning a full-length mirror probably helps a great deal too.


domestic scenes

A bit of sewing, a bit of knitting, a little nature, some kid art (the wood-burned horse above was a gift from Iain), a simple experiment and some apple pie.  Oh, and that funny somewhat cryptic looking letter above?  It’s code doncha know.  The latest craze around our house involved various people writing messages in code to be broken by others.  With letters just randomly appearing where ever the intended recipient is most likely to find it.

I just finished reading Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Clutter Forever by Karen Kingston, as highly recommended by a friend.  A bit of a mouthful that title!  I’m in the midst of a HUGE decluttering kick.  Call it nesting if you like.  It was a nice little motivator to be reading while working through things.  Anyone have any other simplifying/decluttering book recommendations?  There’s still a lot to be done here!  There are so many things in life, that I have absolutely no control over, that are so very painfully complicated.  This I have control over.  I don’t want my home and caring for it to be complicated.  Less is more.


more gathering in

I meant to include this in my last post, but got all caught up in the garden goodness and overlooked it.  Because of course it is not just vegetables coming in these days.  Lots of things are being packed away for the season, sheltered in the basement, under the house, on the porch.  As we enter into this season of fires, the wood that was stacked to cure in the summer is slowly being brought up under the house, where it will be stacked again, ready to be carried in as needed.

Iain, Elijah and I made this wood carrier as a gift for Steve quite a while ago now.  I did most of the sewing, while they harvested, carved and polished the handles.  It’s been rather useful I think, and so far it’s holding up well.  There are several tutorials on-line for similar ones, but none were quite what I wanted, so I took the features that I liked from each and put them all together into one carrier.