sewing

body art and handmade bathing suits

38410326582_a35332f8d5_z

I've come to think of my body as an artistic canvas. I get to drape it with fluid fabric of any colors of my choosing, I get to form that fabric into shapes that I find interesting, flattering, and comfortable. I recently expanded the canvas to include tattoos that hold deep emotional meaning as well as aesthetic intrigue.

 

Unlike canvas, however, the body is not only subject to the artist's vision and direct hand- it is the work of life itself. There are lines on my body that came about through my own creative agency, and there are lines and contours that are written by growing babies, painful accidents, and joy-filled meals. There are crevices etched by worry, and wrinkles bearing witness to hysterical laughter. We all move through life with a body that is partially our own making, and partially at the whim of time and circumstance. My body is a visual artist in its own right – a storyteller – of all I have lived through. Through making my own clothes, I intend to honor both my artistic agency and lack thereof when it comes to living with this ephemeral body of mine.

26665750669_c80b03894d_z

I have long admired the work of photographer Jade Beall, and last year, I had the honor of having a photo shoot with my friend Jessi Blakely, as part of the process of opening to the beauty of my body's story. The intent was not purely about my own body acceptance, but to be a strong example to my son, Lachlan, who has some storied lines of his own – the first of which he acquired two days after birth. Three open heart surgeries and countless chest tubes later, a mere glance at his chest shouts of his story, his sorrow, his pain, and his strength. I want him to know that his scars are beautiful, and so I will embrace mine as well.

After the photo shoot, I was on my way to peace with sharing my body with life's paintbrush, but I still had a hurdle to cross: swimwear.

37726829234_8fd083b9d1_z

Intellectually, I believe that a bikini body is a body you put a bikini on. Emotionally, I always remember the times I overheard the words “really bad stretch marks." I remember the time I wore a bikini and I overheard a child asking a parent what was wrong with my belly. In front of my kids, I unabashedly state that my squishy skin is a testament to my wondrous ability to grow their very selves and carry them each around for nine months. I feel an obligation to show all the little kids that stretch marks are normal, but I am not made of steel. No advertisements feature women with stretch marks. If you have them, you're expected to cover them up. Unfortunately for me and my short torso, that meant ill-fitting one pieces that made me feel matronly and didn't help me have any artistic agency in my collaboration with the tattoos that life etched on my body.

38441885231_2412ab605d_z

I never thought sewing myself a Sophie Swimsuit would bring me into harmony with my body, but it has been transformative. The suit's design has helped me find a happy medium between feeling completely exposed to scrutiny and being a representative of love and acceptance of a mother's capacity to stretch and grow. The bikini bottoms cover most of my stretched-out skin, but I am happy to have a nice bit peeking out over the top. I reduced the rise of the bottoms just for that reason, and omitted the waist elastic so that my belly skin doesn't squish out over a tighter waistband. It's like putting on yoga pants instead of an elastic-waist pair. Big difference in comfort.

38441889031_cf0f3c1e6f_z

The details: My measurements are 29” underbust, 34.5” full bust, 29” waist, and 37” hip. I chose to make a size 4 top with a size 5 cup. In the future I will enlarge the cup slightly, as you can see that my measurements are 1/2” more than 5” underbust/full bust difference than recommended for a size 5 cup. I cut out a size 8 bottom.

38441868501_6aa4176477_z

The fabric is a denim lookalike swimwear spandex from The Fabric Fairy. I have a multi-colored version in my head, but this suit is an elegant (very) wearable muslin.

37555063725_2510eb0f1a_z

I can jump in this thing. Play with my kids. Bend over. All while feeling confident, secure, elegant, and creative. No store-bought swimwear can make you feel like that. Thank you, Heather, for being an agent of self-love. You can do it, too. It's not too hard – just one seam after another. #sewingisselfcare


a geranium xp made of scraps, fit for the fanciest of small people

20171102-DSC_8340

One of my favorite slow fashion practices is also my one of my most creative – figuring out how to make use of small bits of leftover fabric from my own clothing projects to make dresses for my daughter, Sadie. She only wears fancy dresses, of course. ;) I'm always smitten with the results: truly unique pieces of wearable art.

Screenshot_20171102-123630
Screenshot_20171102-123630

The canvas for Sadie's dresses is almost always the Geranium pattern from my dear friend, Rae Hoekstra. It's my tried-and-true Sadie pattern, and when Rae released the Geranium XP a few months back, I was excited to add sleeves, bows, and collars to the mix.
Screenshot_20171102-123630

Sadie is a complicated child to dress nowadays. When your primary goal is to be amazingly fancy AND comfortable, but when that often translates into wearing your most favorite dress (also a Geranium, shown above) WITHOUT a long-sleeved shirt underneath and WITHOUT a cardigan or jacket (because, well, it somehow detracts from the fancy quotient) then you have a recipe for cool weather meltdowns.

I believe strongly in letting my children pick out their own clothes and define their own styles, and if that means leaving the house on a 40 degree morning wearing the child's choice of garments, then so be it. I'll bring along a jacket once the child decides that warmth is a desirable feeling. This strategy always worked for my boys, but it doesn't seem to work for Sadie. She would rather freeze and be grumpy than wear a hand-knit cardigan. (Sigh.)

And sew …

20171102-DSC_8352
20171102-DSC_8352
20171102-DSC_8352

I made this long, fancy, Geranium XP out of some wool flannel I had left over from an Ashland Dress sample. The accent fabric on the bodice and the hem band are scraps of raw silk that I had dyed using indigo and logwood for my Strata Top. I love the nubby texture of the raw silk, and how the bow is accented with darker fabric on the underside (my own little hack.)

The bodice of the dress is fully lined with the brushed side of the wool flannel facing her body, so the whole thing is both cozy and warm. I think it could just as easily be nightgown, it's so comfortable.

The larger scraps become clothes for small people, and the leftovers from this process are still in my scrap pile, waiting for the day that I have enough time to quilt. By that time, I hope all these little snippets of fabric will be full of memories of life lived in their larger counterparts – both on my body, and those of my children. What magnificent quilts they will become.


wardrobe mix-and-match with indiesew's 2017 f/w collection

20171025-DSC_7583The Carrie Cardigan shown layered over my upcoming pattern, the reversible Metamorphic Dress, which drops on November 1st! Be sure you're on my mailing list to get the 30% release discount. 

 

When I first see a sewing pattern, a few questions pop into my mind:

 

  1. Is this a good shape for my body? (Wondering what works for YOUR body? Stasia's Style School is a transformative experience in self-love and acceptance via the art of getting dressed in the morning. Sign-ups for the new session are today!)

  2. How can I layer this and mash it up with what is currently in my closet?

  3. How can I make it my own, either with fabric choice, natural dye, or pattern hacking? I'm keen on creating clothing that fills me up as an artist and makes me feel both bad-ass and creative while wearing it. Hence my recent obsession with natural dye, a craft I am learning from Kristine Vejar's inimitable book, The Modern Natural Dyer.

 

Indiesew's 2017 F/W collection hit the bullseye for my requirements (and I was thrilled to have my Matcha Top as part of the collection) and I quickly cleared my sewing table and got to work. I already had a black silk Matcha Top in my closet, so I sewed up a pair of ikat Burnside Bibs to go with it. The bibs are a straight size 4 with a Version 1 top and Version 2 (gathered) bottoms. The Matcha and Burnside go together like peanut butter and jelly … but I didn't fully soothe my Burnside Bibs itch until I had made up a cropped pair in fluid, creamy sand washed rayon. This pair goes perfectly with close-fit tees, like all of the Stasia versions I have in my closet.

20171025-DSC_7606

20171026-DSC_7901

Finally, I whipped up (and I mean whipped – it took 30 minutes to serge together once I had prepped and cut my fabric) a Carrie Cardigan. Mine is a long-sleeved, short-length XS, and it works well for my short stature (I'm 5' 4".) I used an organic cotton knit for this, with little stretch and recovery, and the pattern is forgiving in that regard. If you're curious how I went about hand-painting the fabric with natural dyes, be sure to sign up for my bi-monthly newsletter here. I have a little video going out to my list on Saturday!

20171025-DSC_7548

The cardigan layers exceptionally well over wide-leg pants, the Burnside Bibs, and dresses like my linen Metamorphic Dress or my go-to ikat Washi Dress.

20171025-DSC_7542

20171026-DSC_7708

20171026-DSC_7731

The only thing I haven't sewn yet is the Coram Top, and after seeing Sew House Seven's topstitched version, I think that the tunic may find a way into my closet, too.

You can find all of the patterns in the collection bundled for a discount over at Indiesew. For more collection inspiration, check out the rest of the blog tour posts below!

 

Oct 18: Grainline Studio

Oct 20: My Handmade Wardrobe

Oct 23: The Doing Things Blog

Oct 24: Sweet KM

Oct 25: Sew House Seven

Oct 26: Threadbear Garments

Oct 27: Sew Liberated


the secret to never again taping together PDF sewing patterns

20170803-DSC_5549

I mother three little people, which means my leisure time is, well, rather skinny. The LAST thing I want to do with my precious sewing time is assemble and tape together 42 pages of a print-at-home PDF pattern. It makes my knees hurt just thinking about it. Fortunately, I'll never have to do it again, thanks to a new printing option I discovered recently.

While print-at-home patterns have their place, particularly with smaller children's patterns, most independent pattern companies have started including larger-format copy shop files in their digital patterns. The idea behind the copy shop file is lovely - the customer can send their file to a local print shop like FedEx Office or Staples and have them print it off full-size on a sturdy piece of paper. No assembly required. But there's a catch.  Sometimes the copy shop staff doesn't know how to deal with the file and they end up fitting the patterns to the page, drastically throwing off the scale and therefore the fit of the pattern.

If you get your pattern properly printed (make sure to always check the measurements of the test square before paying for your pattern!) you are likely to be surprised by the cost. I've been charged anywhere between $8 and $23 to print off the pattern pieces for one pattern. Lastly, it's too much of a hassle to swing by the shop to pick up your pattern that you eventually forget it's there. (Yep! That's happened to me twice.)

20170803-DSC_5547
Such was the rather deplorable state of digital pattern printing until I learned about PDF Plotting from one of my Stasia Dress testers. (I'm not receiving any sort of compensation for promoting their work - I just feel that their service revolutionizes sewists' experience of digital patterns!)

If you are willing to wait and print three (or more) PDF patterns at once, the price per pattern will be between $1.20 and $3.75, plus $7 per order for shipping. (That's where it becomes a better deal to print of many patterns at once, to offset the shipping cost.) I recently spent $15 to print and ship three patterns to my door. My order arrived 2 business days after I placed it, and the patterns were printed on quality paper and shipped in a roll so there were no creases to iron out. 

Screenshot (4)To place an order, you'll need to first download the digital pattern to your computer. (Don't attempt to download to your tablet or phone - those operating systems don't often handle large files.) Some files, like those from Sew Liberated, are delivered as a zip file, which means that the files are compressed in order to be sent over email. You will need to extract the files (follow the instructions for your computer's operating system by asking Google. It's as simple as pressing the "Extract" button on my system, for example.) Once you have your files extracted and saved to your hard drive, determine the size of the files you need to print. All of Sew Liberated's copy shop files are sized either A0 (33.1" x 46.8") or A1 (33.1" x 23.4"). The file size is stated in the file name - if it's not, just open it in Adobe Reader (available as a free download) and move your cursor to the lower left corner of the file. The dimensions will pop up for you. Head to PDFplotting.com and click on "B&W Prints."

Screenshot (7)
As most copy shop files will be A0 size, you will pick the 36" x 48" option above. In the drop-down menu, select 1 for # of originals and 1 for # of sets.  Click on the "Choose File" button and add your file.

Screenshot (10)

I'm not sure if it's necessary, but I opted to click on the "My file(s) require special sizing instructions" button, and added the above text, just to be sure.

Screenshot (12)

Add the pattern to your cart, then click on "Continue Shopping." There is a $7.49 cart minimum to place an order, so add those other patterns you've had languishing on your hard drive  (or pick up a few new ones you've had your eyes on!)

If you end up using PDF Plotter, or if you have any other suggestions on how to best print PDF patterns, let everyone know in the comments below!


the stasia dress pattern is here - sew yourself some secret pajamas!

Hikeindress700

A knit dress that feels like wearing secret pajamas. Optional pockets. Multiple sleeve and length options. A close-fitting tee perfect for layering. A pattern-hacker's canvas. Tons of tips for sewing with knits. And a lot of love - wrapped up into one amazing pattern!

Find your PDF pattern here for 20% off with coupon code: STASIALAUNCH.

Friends, this dress is so close to my heart.  Many of you know that I was designing patterns and very active in the sewing blogger community before we learned that my second son, Lachlan, was to be born with a very serious heart defect. I kind of disappeared to the world as we went through three open-heart surgeries, cardiac arrest, and years of physical and emotional recovery. I thought my love of design and fashion was only part of my life "before the diagnosis." I dug in to this intense phase of motherhood, stopped creating regularly, started wearing yoga pants every day, threw my hair into a hat. I just sort of faded into motherhood. 

At the beginning of 2017, I happened upon Stasia Savasuk via Instagram, and I was most intrigued by this lovely woman who, despite having lived through the hell of fearing for the future of her sweet child, DID NOT DISAPPEAR. She did not turn off her artful expression, she did not hunker down in the emotional fog and keep her sparkling face from peeking above the clouds. She was showing up despite it all. And all of a sudden, just like that, I felt my OWN creativity start to dislodge from its corner ... freed to once again follow its flow and pursue its passions. This stuff wasn't superficial or selfish! And, in seeing me enlivened by work that I love, my children are learning about art, persistence, and how to be an entrepreneur. All because I found my creative fire again in Stasia's Style School. My tip for you: let your clothing become your art, and you will feel the creative ripple pulse through the rest of your life, as well. 

With the real Stasia as my muse, I started working on the Stasia Dress pattern. My goal was to create a dress that was easy to sew, infinitely customizable, incredibly comfortable to wear, and that provided the wearer with a feeling of her own POWER, FREEDOM, and BEAUTY. This is my wish for you, and the Stasia Dress is my gift to you.

Get your sewing machine humming, and find let your inner beauty shine through to the outside with the Stasia Dress.


crafting guilt

20170709-DSC_5258

Growing up, it was understood that my dad would spend a certain amount of time in front of the television during football season. My mom supported it (he needed to relax after busy work days). The same football ritual was upheld and supported by countless females in the family. The women tended to household responsibilities and children while the men relaxed.

I'm not writing to pass judgment on sports. As my mom recognized, it is a valid way to wash away the worries of the world and engage in some fun. What I'm wondering is, does society bestow upon me, a mother of young children, the same unquestioned right to relax? Because I've noticed something lately, especially when I pick up my knitting project. It's a feeling of guilt. A “bad mom, bad housekeeper, selfish artist” kind of feeling. And I guarantee that my darling dad never felt that when he sat down to watch a game.

20170703-DSC_4822

This feeling is surprising to me, given that I have a very supportive partner. He willingly provides me time to knit and sew. Sewing time, for me, can be filed under the “getting stuff done for my small business” category. Knitting, though, is pure diversion. All that time I spent knitting my Find Your Fade Shawl? He jokingly said it best himself: “Each of those stitches is made possible by my Dad Skills.” Unquestionably, he has some mad Dad Skills, but I noticed a shift in my own self-consciousness when he said it. Was I overly depending on him for my leisure time? What do my extended family members think about a mother who sits down to knit an unnecessary garment? (Why would she do that when there's Target?) On and on went the grumbling, negative voice in my head.

When my partner read this, he said, “I feel the same guilt when I play the banjo.” Perhaps the gender-specific hobby guilt is shifting with the times, but it still doesn't erase the feeling that we, particularly as parents, should always be doing something else. Something immediately productive.

20170703-DSC_4856

As I've written before, I feel like I have a healthy relationship with my (very short) to-make list. I don't resent my children because they keep me from obsessively making. I find the process of slowly making things to be meditative and fulfilling – when I can get over that feeling that I should be making a grand dinner/doing the laundry/reading to the kids/putting together some sort of amazing science experiment. I recognize this feeling of guilt is a construct of my own mind, helped along by societal expectations. And so, I've started considering the following, in order to access the mindful, relaxed state that I seek when I craft:

  1. Knitting and sewing are my Artist's Way. Just because I am not writing in a journal or painting, it doesn't mean that what I do is not an artistic practice. I should speak of it as such – to my children, to my extended family, and to my friends. Fiber art is a productive and worthy form of artistic expression. It is good for me to show my passion to my children, and for them to see me as a real artist (even though I don't make a penny from my knitting.)

  2. A regular knitting/creating routine is in order. Just like Monday night football, I think it would be helpful for me and my family to know what to expect in my artistic practice. Perhaps I should sit down with my coffee and yarn for a predictable 30 minutes each morning? Maybe a weekend morning sewing session? I am also going to try putting on an audio book that we all enjoy while I work with my hands. I suspect that my eight year-old will also pick up his own knitting project while we listen and knit.

  3. Communicate that handwork is also a spiritual practice. Taking time to breathe, clear my thoughts, and enter the present moment with my craft ultimately helps me be a more present mother. A mother who is comfortable with slowing down, ripping out stitches, starting over again, and being at peace with the process. Because truly, that's the heart of the problem. Our society prioritizes “doing” over “being.” I have no problem “doing.” Most people don't. I can always use more practice just “being,” and my fiber art can help with that.

20170720-DSC_5411

“Feelings about the past and the future pass through our knitting consistently. Thoughts can be neatly filed away into the fabric, enabling the present to be less cluttered and free for more mindful knitting. Let your processed thoughts flow with the yarn into the knitting. As your rows build up, let your stories of the past and future leave the present, and find a suitable place to rest within the knitting. As the stories are knitted away, notice the sentiment behind them and, with a clear head, continue to form useful, beautiful fabric. Woes will start to evaporate into your knitting rather than reside in your body. As you knit more rows, continue to use this simple filing system, until you feel you have fully entered your peaceful, sacred knitting space, and are free of any niggling fears.”

Rachael Matthews - The Mindfulness in Knitting - Meditations on Craft and Calm

Pattern info:

Rainbow shawl - Find Your Fade Shawl, knitted with fingering-weight yarn from my stash

Cropped sweater - Tegna Sweater, knitted with yarn from Welthase in Antique Rose colorway

White, two-tiered dress under Tegna Sweater - upcoming reversible Metamorphic Dress pattern from Yours Truly. ;)


coffee + thread blog tour: sadie's unicorn eleena dress

33843537592_59486e610d_z

Sadie's "unicorn dress," made with Coffee and Thread's Eleena Dress pattern, has fast become a new favorite. She asked to sleep in it as soon as it was done, right before bedtime, and refused to wear anything else for two days. (Which, as you know, is the highest compliment a three year-old can pay a sewing mother.) I loved sewing it - the instructions are concise, the design is flawless, and it produces an sturdy and lovely finished product. 
 
I'm honored to be part of the Coffee and Thread blog tour, featuring a panoply of design inspiration from all around the sewing blogosphere, using Olga's patterns as a jumping-off point. See below for a links to everyone else's beautiful garments, and enter the giveaway at Coffee and Thread's blog. As an extra perk, Olga is offering everyone 20% any pattern in her collection during the tour. Just enter code coffeeandthreadtour at the Coffee and Thread shop. (But hurry - the tour is over on April 14, 2017!)


33843537592_59486e610d_z
33843537592_59486e610d_z
33843537592_59486e610d_z
33843537592_59486e610d_z

For Sadie's dress, I felt fortunate to have placed this incredible, green unicorn double gauze fabric somewhat near the dobby dot in my stash. I'm sure this happy pair wouldn't have happened had I not! But, having recently left behind the pink-only phase, I felt emboldened to choose this new-to-her color combo. (And really, who could say no to unicorns and toadstools?)
 
Fabric: 
The Hit Parade Double Gauze by Lizzy House - from several years back, so you might have trouble finding it!
 
Robert Kaufman Double Gauze Chambray Dobby. This fabric is reversible - I used the white background with gray dots.
 
Sadie is petite, and I opted to make the 3T, even though she measures a 2T, in order to get more wear out of the dress. I brought in the side seams, which I can let out as she grows. The only other change I made to the pattern was to omit the (admittedly cute) collar, which I thought would be too much visually, paired with my fabric choice.


33843537592_59486e610d_z

It was pretty cold the day we took these pictures, and Sadie wanted to go all-out-fairytale with her purple velvet with a faux-fur lined hood. (Pattern in my book, Growing Up Sew Liberated.)


33843537592_59486e610d_z

And lest you think that all photoshoots go without a hitch, I present you with this gem:
 
33843537592_59486e610d_z
 
After all, dressing up a three-year old doesn't actually cover up a three year-old's three-ness. (I had forgotten my wallet and she was disappointed that we wouldn't be able to pick up a fresh loaf of bread from the bakery in the background! Poor girl! #mamafail)

33843537592_59486e610d_z

Check out the other sweet outfits from these talented sewing mama bloggers:

April 3
Enjoyful Makes ||Idle Sunshine || ZowieZo Handmade || Angie Burgett

April 4
Handmade Frenzy || Replicate Then Deviate || Fairies, Bubbles & Co || Coral + Co

April 5
Made By Sara || Naeh-Connection || The Bag of Unexpected || Circle Meets Line

April 6
Skirt Fixation || Sewing Like Mad || Hello Holli || Buzzmills ||

April 7
Little Cumquat || Thread Bear Garments || Pearl Berry Lane || Plus 2 is 5 || Sew Chibi 

April 10
Stahlarbeit || Knee Socks and Goldilocks || Bonnie and Lottie || Sew Sophielynn 

April 11
Mouse House Creations || While She was Sleeping || Mix it Make it || By Dagbjort 

April 12
Gaafmachine || Beletoile || LBG Studio || My Cozy Co  || As It Seams

April 13
Moineau & Petit Pois || Just Add Fabric || Sweeter Than Cupcakes || Frances Suzanne || Sew Liberated 

April 14
Stitched Together || S is for Sewing || Boevenbende || Lafolie Sewing Booth || Sew Pony ||
With Love By Eva 


finn's sidewalk fabric rowan hoodie

32921180845_87a4d47ebe_z

Somehow I have a boy who is a few months short of eight! No longer can I make him cute little bubble pants to cover his ample diaper. Nowadays, he mostly wants to dress like a ninja, which has understandably put a kink in my sewing mojo. ;)But we were both super excited when the inimitable Rae Hoekstra (of Made By Rae) asked us to participate in her Sidewalk Fabric blog tour.

You see, when Finn isn't climbing a tree, you're likely to find him drawing, which is why he picked this super cheery Art Class print. Now, I told him, he can maintain his ninja stealth while surrounded by art materials! Here he is with his favorite piece of art.  (And if you haven't checked out Art For Kids Hub yet, you should. I must mention them in every other blog post!)


32921180845_87a4d47ebe_z
32921180845_87a4d47ebe_z

We settled on the Rowan Hoodie in size 8. The Sidewalk Fabrics pair well with interlock, as they are lush and hefty enough for sweats, yet would be totally suitable for a t-shirt, as well. The Rowan pattern comes with over 140 possible variations, from short sleeves to pockets to shoulder and arm accent bands. I had a hunch the Art Class print would shine as arm band accents, and it turns out that the little colored pencils are the perfect size for the role. (I did have to break some rules regarding which direction the most stretch should go in order to get the pencils to "stack" on the arm bands, but the fabric has such a stable hand that it didn't affect my ability to easily sew. 

I would highly recommend Cloud9 knits if you are just starting off with sewing knit fabrics.  You can always check out my Craftsy class on sewing with knits if you feel overwhelmed.  Natalie, who is also participating in the Sidewalk Fabric tour, did a great review on my Craftsy class a while back, if you're on the fence. (Thanks, Natalie!)

32078134984_e5159e5455_z
32078134984_e5159e5455_z

Finn super-loves his new hoodie, and I really enjoyed sewing it up. It was my first time working with a Titchy Threads pattern, and it was a very pleasurable and frustration-free experience. All steps are very clearly illustrated with full-color photos, a copy shop file is provided so I didn't have to waste time taping pages together, and advanced sewists will appreciate the "cheat sheet," bare-bones summary of instructions. I'm feeling the itch to sew up some Small Fry Skinny Jeans and Twisted Trousers for Lachlan's upcoming birthday - the Titchy Threads pattern was that good! (Commence crazy birthday-making frenzy!)


32078134984_e5159e5455_z

Something about Finn's look here reminded me of this little guy below. Sigh. That's what he looked like in 2012, wearing his mama-mades. Feeling grateful that he still appreciates my wearable expressions of love!

6154045379_3793b63ea9_z
Three year-old Finn is wearing a Rough Edged Raglan from the book Sewing for Boys in a Spoonflower glasses print, and the Basic Pocket Pants pattern from my book Growing Up Sew Liberated in soft denim.


a philosophy of sewing

 

DSC_0082

Or, why I took a break from sewing, and why I'm back at it.

I worked myself raw in the years after Lachlan's birth and first two heart surgeries. I filmed my Craftsy course, came out with a ton of new patterns, and attended my first Quilt Market. Sew Liberated was our primary source of income while Patrick was in grad school, and since we had such high medical bills, it needed to grow. Sewing became work - something that took me away from my little family. But Sew Liberated wasn't cutting it. We made the decision for Patrick to teach himself programming so he could jump off the history PhD ship that was sailing to oblivion. We needed to be able to stay near Duke for Lachlan's cardiology needs, and we needed a more stable income. When he landed a programming job, I became a full-time mom, and no longer had the time to work on Sew Liberated, even if I had wanted to.

We hired Danica to run the show, and I took a deep breath. Lachlan's third open heart surgery was on the horizon, and I did a ton of mental work to prepare myself for that sickening moment when I handed my baby off to scrubbed and masked strangers. I meditated. I did yoga.  I tried to get us out into nature as much as possible. Tried to create a nurturing cocoon of a home. Tried to do anything in my power to equip my little ones with love, attention, and good memories. I birthed a sweet baby girl. I felt my ability to focus on anything other than my family slipping away into a pleasant, homey blur. My family became my creative outlet. Months went by, and I didn't touch my sewing machine. Then a year passed. I didn't miss it. It was work. I didn't want anything to do with it.

Lakishorts

I didn't miss that rushed feeling of trying to sew "just one more seam" before the baby awoke. I didn't miss feeling frustrated when I didn't finish a project in the allotted time frame. I didn't miss the constant stream of project ideas that would hound my thoughts when I could have been enjoying the present moment with my kids. I didn't miss the creative to-do list. I didn't miss the stacks of yet-to-be-used fabric, beckoning me from the shelf. They used to cast a shadow of resentment over my children for their incessant needs that took me away from being a more productive creative person. 

The surgery day dawned. If I hadn't focused on Sew Liberated since before Sadie was born, now I didn't even give it one thought. Facing the tender, fleeting, mortal nature of being human gives you tunnel vision. This little boy of mine had his heart mended and fit by a tailor far more skilled than I. His surgeon's skilled hands touched Lachlan's heart, stitching pieces of previously-used human cloth onto my baby's own fresh tissue. Weaving gortex with muscle, he re-designed a circulatory system that would, for the first time, provide Lachlan with near-normal blood oxygenation levels and the energy of a typical three year-old. Lachlan's heart is re-purposed. Fully functional, yet beautifully flawed, like sashiko mending. 

DSC_0090

Nearly six weeks later, after battling with accumulating fluid on his lungs and the subsequent dehydration of his treatment, Lachlan's little mended heart slowed and stopped. I was at home, nursing a stuffy-nosed baby and five year-old. Patrick was with him as they rushed him to the pediatric cardiac ICU, soon starting chest compressions. When I got the call, I was eating a veggie quesadilla, which I spit out while I screamed and fell to the floor. I thought he was dead. I guess, in a way, he was. Had he been at home, 30 minutes from the hospital, he wouldn't have survived. (Hence our eventual move downtown. Covering bases, you know.) 

Lachlan recovered. But what does it mean to recover? To cover again. To mend. The mending is visible. Like his heart, life for our family would never be quite the same. There is a patch that covers our physical and psychological wounds. There is stitching that holds it together. Sometimes the stitching is pristine, in other places it is knotted with fear and anger. But we are functional. And achingly, imperfectly beautiful. 

We are still mending. A well-rubbed piece of cloth will, eventually, break down. When it does, we take up a needle and thread and piece it together any way we can. In my family, the cloth is often made threadbare by sibling bickering, hidden scary medical memories, and parental stress. But it can always be mended. Re-covered. Made functional. Unique.

DSC_0043

At some point, perhaps when that subtle shift occurred and my toddler started to spend long stretches playing with her dollhouse, a few minutes opened up in my days. I wanted to make her clothes as a gift of love. I cut into some soft cloth. She sat on my lap and removed the pins as I sewed. It was slow. But it brought me so much joy. I didn't take pictures of it. I didn't have to market the design. It was just that, a physical manifestation of love. An expression of my creativity and a happy investment of my time. I never want to sew for any other reasons.

Sewing has an important place in my life again, along with writing. But I have a personal manifesto that I now follow.

  1. Begin each project with the intention of expressing love and gratitude for the intended recipient, be it my own body or the vibrant bodies of my children.  
  2. Breathe deeply while cutting. Breathe deeply while sewing. Sewing is slow, and the act of slowing down is a gift of mindfulness. Accept any interruption in the process as a gift to be present. Find joy in the process, and appreciation for the amount of time it takes.
  3. Buy less. Make what you need, but not more.  When clothing wears down, mend it. Bring a mindset of minimalism to the fiber arts.
  4. Sewing is an act of self-care. It is not selfish. It is practice of mindfulness mendfulness. I sew because it helps me on my journey to be a more aware, loving mother and creative person. 

If I returned to my old way of sewing - the resentment, the oppressive to-make list, the feeling of being squeezed for creative time, I would need to stop and reassess. My time with these three little children is too short. With this healthier creative mindset, I hope to mend together my creative nature with parenthood.  

DSC_0097

I made these Rainbow Shorts for Lachlan using the Basic Pocket Pants pattern in my book, using Kaffe Fasset's Exotic Stripe in the Earth colorway.  It took me two weeks to sew them - a seam here, a seam there. He helped me. So did Sadie. He is clothed with love.