sewing

Finally

It’s been busy.  

My husband and I just returned from taking our baby on a trip to Missouri to see family. We spent four days in a house with six other people, bringing the household total to nine people, ranging in age from six months to forty-six years. We arrived in time for an ice storm and were essentially snowed in until our departure.  It was our first trip with the baby, and while it went well, it was intense.  I still can't believe that I was one of those people at the airport that I always pitied in the past (a person with a baby and a stroller and car seat and unbelievable amounts of shit in my luggage and carry-ons).


In spite of snow days and trips, I finally made something practical for the baby, with extra bits I already had, instead of buying new stuff:




I borrowed the pattern from some other bibs given to us as gifts, and used my serger to keep it fast and simple.  The material came from a hand-me-down baby blanket that we did not need.  They are not beautiful, but they are something that I made with resources I already had, which felt good.  As the baby starts to eat real food, I am coming to realize that I will need many, many, many bibs.  And a sense of humor.

Also, we’re moving.  Stay tuned.

Maternity 101

I started wearing maternity clothes this week.  I felt bad about it because it seems so early.  Nonetheless, suddenly none of my pants fit.  It was nearly overnight, and for a person like me who views a closet as something to be curated and tended to, like a garden, it was cause for minor mourning.  For some reason, I thought it would be a more gradual and less dramatic transition.  But no.

Let me say this.  I understand that many people in my life have already been through this at least once, or even multiple times.  I am late to the party.  For some, this experience was years ago, and for others it much more recent.  I have come to realize how isolating an experience this is, although I also recognize that to be part of nature's plan.  You aren't supposed to be focused on child-free aspects of your life when all of your body's energy is working to prepare you mentally and physically to produce and care for offspring.  Biology requires that I learn how to put the needs of another before my own interests and curiosities.  Since this is not easy, nature wants me to start practicing now,  months prior to birth.  I have never questioned the fact that my pregnant and new-parent friends kind of disappear, but before this, I had also never examined the minutiae which creates this dynamic, nor how it feels to be the one disappearing.

One of the strangest things has been the loss of use of tools that normally bring me comfort.  Aside from the love and caring of my husband and friends, which I have obviously not lost, food and clothing are two things which I consistently rely on to make me feel good, better, energized, comfortable, comforted, happier, more relaxed.  When I am anxious, I organize my closet.  When I am not thrilled about getting out of bed, I make espresso.  When I feel toxic, I eat more salad.  When I need a pick-me-up, I reach for a favorite outfit.  If the budget is tight, I style new outfits using old clothes.  When the budget is generous, I enjoy the energizing power of new clothes.

The first trimester of pregnancy yanked those familiar crutches right out from under me, making it harder to feel excited about the baby whose arrival I already found intimidating.  Even though we completely brought this upon ourselves, I can't deny that it feel profoundly unfair to not only have to give up cocktails and my favorite jeans, but to also not find appetizing most of the foods which I normally would use for nourishment.  Luckily in recent days, my appetite has been returning to a version of its former self.  Clothing, however, remained a source of depression.

My job offer arrived the same week that I outgrew all of my pants.  Along with the offer came the news that the dress code is business casual.  Not unreasonable, but bad news for the woman who was hoping to skate through pregnancy in muumuus and leggings.  It also thwarted my goal of making my own maternity clothes, at least in the very short term.

What followed was a harrowing round of research.  I do most of my shopping online, and only venture out to stores occasionally or out of necessity.  So I started looking for new clothes this way as well, but then got nervous about the fit of garments on my new shape; I had no idea what to expect.  I fell down the rabbit hole for days, disappointed with how few choices there seemed to be, and amazed that I had never known about this situation before.  I combed through my pattern-drafting books, and there was not a word about the fit of maternity garments.  I also reviewed my vintage sewing books, of which I have a handful.  They were also silent on the subject of the pregnant female figure.  I couldn't even find any fashion design sketches on the topic.  How could this be?

I commonly hear people remark on how expensive maternity clothes are, and then ask why someone would want to spend money on items they only wear for a short time.  But I will say this: sad as it is, for how long do we normally wear garments that we buy?  Certainly we have items that we wear for years, but on the other hand, I would wager that most people buy many things that are worn for far less than a year.  Especially those of us in our twenties or thirties.  In recent years, I have been working to buy things less impulsively, and with a longer view, but on the other hand, when I broke down yesterday and bought those comfy maternity jeans and a cute new business-casual outfit which shows my bump, I felt very happy.  I felt good, and comfortable, for the first time in weeks.  I felt like my old self and my new self were finally united.  That in and of itself has value.  And even if I can't wear these things for the entire next six months, I know that I will continue to need them for at least a period of time after the baby is born.  If it turns out I can't use them after, I'm sure some other woman in my life will be thrilled to use them, and there is also value in that.

I still plan to try to make some garments, but in the short term, I'm thrilled to be able to once again throw on some jeans, eat something yummy, wonder who my baby will be, and go about my day.

New Skirt and New Life

Many people close to me have heard me go on and on about my love for the work of Alabama Chanin, a company which not only creates beautiful couture garments using earth and people-friendly methodology, but also open sources their methods so that people who enjoy the making process, or want to get the look without the price tag, can still wear their uniquely Southern and feminine styles.

I recently completed my third Alabama Chanin garment, and I have been very happy with it so far.  It is longer than I expected, and also a little bit roomier than I expected.  This turns out to be a fabulous for me, since I also recently learned that I am pregnant.  The comfy, stretchy waistband is turning out to be exactly what I need, since slowly, one pair at a time, my pants no longer comfortably fasten.  More on that later, but in the meantime, here's the skirt:




(Belated) Birthday Stitching

For some time, I have admired Sublime Stitching, a crafty and modern sewing company, founded by a cool woman from Austin, Texas.  Finally, finally, I bought one of her patterns and enjoyed testing it out.  

My brother-in-law was recently married, which means that I have a new sister.  I bought this kit with her in mind, but missed the mark for using it as a shower gift last summer.  I was recently horrified by the fact that I almost missed her birthday, too.  She never misses my birthday.  So, if you want to see what I made for her, read on.  If you are her, watch for a little package, and decide for yourself if you would like to be surprised or not.  Do not keep reading if you prefer to be surprised.


This fine lady is sewn onto a dish towel for my new sister who loves to cook.

Stitching Time



There is little to report, but a nice calm before the next life hurricane is cause for celebration, not consternation.

Texas continues to entertain, although I haven't been struck with my usual urge to dissect local absurdities.  My mind has not been altogether here.  I had a nice visit to Minnesota, where I enjoyed the hot commodity of fresh air and open windows.  We didn't buy the land that I thought we would, and that was the right decision for the time being.  I'm still waiting for news on the dream job, which also has my mind one foot out the door, as slim as those chances are.  As per usual chez LaCasse, champagne chills in preparation for either an invitation to interview, or the inevitable thanks-but-no-thanks email.

I finished my classes, and am grateful to have no more homework.  My final illustration project left me with many ideas and with more work to do on my own this summer, which is, to me, the sign of a class worth taking.  So now, I'm doodling and stitching, organizing and plotting, drafting and resting, and alternating between feeling wonderfully relaxed and intermittently antsy.  I continue to sew by hand, even when I know I should switch to a machine...sewing by hand costs me time, but makes me happy and brave, so for now it dominates.

I have disassembled my wedding dress in order to examine the fabric for its reincarnation into the anniversary dress.  I have begun sewing a dress that I envisioned in my final illustration project.  And I really need to be making lightweight tanks and sundresses, because the Texas heat is upon me and I forgot how serious it is.

Reading continues on the history of cotton and it is an amazing story.  Vaguely familiar parts of our nation's history are coming to life in a much more vibrant way for me through the lens of the story of this challenging fiber, and its links to this part of the country.


Scrappy Purse Pouch



Here's my new purse pouch, made entirely by hand, with scraps from my sewing room.  It's full of feel-better bits for inside my big purse.  Band-aids, chap-stick, headphones, hair binders, stress-relief essential oil, Tyelenol...everything that you might need to increase your comfort on the fly.  And finally, I approached the scary zipper-monster.  It's not super elegant yet, but it's a start.

Now, time to get back to final projects and resume wizardry.


Make Clothes, Not Scraps

Since I have been learning to sew, I have accumulated many scraps born from testing fits of patterns, from making mistakes, and from making garments.  I can't bring myself to throw them away.  It feels so weird, and counter-productive, to take pieces of brand-new fabric and throw them in the trash.  As a result, I have a pretty large drawer of scrappy bits.

I recently read a figure that 30% of all textiles get tossed as scraps in garment production.  Given that we currently produce three times the amount of textiles that we did thirty years ago, doesn't that mean that we are currently "scrapping" almost the full amount of textiles produced thirty years ago.  I'm sure that we can do better.

Several months ago, I ordered some organic cotton jersey in a lovely blush color, which I think will be awesome with a little bit of summer tan.  It is natural enough to be earthy, but still could work with black, metal or chocolate colors, and so has just enough modern to it.  Equally excellent, it works well with other colors already present in my wardrobe, which for me is the key to not spending more time than necessary getting dressed for the day.

Inspired by Alabama Chanin's latest excellent book, I decided to see if I could build a basic summer wardrobe using a length of this yummy blush jersey.  I ordered an approximate amount that I thought would be appropriate, and it turns out that the amount I wanted was exactly the size that their producer knits it, which is even better for my experiment.  Hopefully, close to every bit of the jersey will be used to create the pieces.  I will be using the final project for my illustration class as a vehicle for planning the designs and I have four weeks to get that done.

New Dress, Plain and Simple


I've been working on this pattern on and off for several months.  In my mind, it was destined to be a nightshirt.  But after I slept in the original one, made from a light cotton woven fabric, it felt like too much, especially here in Texas.

So, I adapted the pattern for a soft knit fabric and re-made it, using sewing techniques shared in Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Sewing + Design.  Making it by hand and without binding at the edges felt more natural, especially for life in the oppressive heat which is hurtling towards us.  In the end, I realized that what I have is an easy, light summer dress made from organic cotton.  This photo doesn't do the light blush color much justice, but I plan to spend many summer hours in this comfy dress.