crafting a meaningful little project at a time

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Maternity Crafting: Totally Worth It!

I had to take a pause yesterday when my daughter asked me why I never make anything for myself.

What? Yes I do! I make things all the time! Why, just last week I was working on a skirt for…oh. Well, before that I sewed up a few bibs for that baby shower…right. But wait- didn’t I just get done working on Baby Boy’s scrapbook?

Hmmm…point taken.

This came up when I was standing in front of the mirror in Little Lady’s bathroom, tugging around at an ill-fitting maternity shirt, wondering out loud why it was so baggy here, so tight there, and why it didn’t seem to fit me the way it had fit the model in the magazine. (Well, there are several answers to that last part, but we won’t go there!)

Little Lady said, “Mommy, let’s get out your fabric and make you a new shirt! Then you can make it however you want! You NEVER make yourself anything at all!”

Why is it that the biggest duh moments, the smartest and most insightful comments, seem to keep coming out of these little mouths while I-the grown-up- just spend my time overcomplicating and overthinking everything?

Why is it that I sew stuff for my kids all the time, but I never make anything for myself?

Am I not worth the time and effort? Hmmm…that’s a thinker…

So I spent late hours last night trolling Pinterest for some clever DIY maternity tutorials. The thing that’s been bugging me most is the shirt situation: I may be getting wider and rounder by the day, but my height is still stuck where it stalled out in sixth grade- 5 foot 3 inches (and that’s on a good day). My torso is super short, so most of the maternity shirts and dresses that fit belly-wise are super long. The ones that aren’t gathered on the side are very tent-like, and “flattering” has become a word that just makes me laugh out loud.

Here are some of the ideas I thought I might try…the dress below is a pic from a tutorial on Do It Yourself Divas, and the rouched shirt before and after pic is from a tutorial on Made.



I spent about $15 between JoAnn Fabric’s Red Tag clearance section and Goodwill’s tank top section yesterday morning, and about ten minutes sorting through my own tank top & t-shirt collection and sewing supplies to find some elastic for rouching.

Now the tricky part: finding time to sit down and tackle these projects! If Little Lady had a class spirit day next week, would I find the time to make her a special skirt? Absolutely. If my son was invited to a birthday party, would I make time to create a gift for his little buddy? Totally.

So why is it that when I look at my to-do list and look at this pile of material and collection of ideas on making my own everyday wardrobe fit correctly, my initial reaction is, “Oh, I’ll work on that when I get all this other stuff finished. If it doesn’t get done, then that’s ok too.”

Hmmm…maybe Little Lady has a point?

Fine. I made the time. And of course, I’m so glad I did!

I tried something along the lines of this dress, though I deviated considerably from the tutorial. I eyeballed everything as far as measurements go- I tried on the tank top, marked just below the bust, and chopped that off. This particular $2 Goodwill find had some interesting layers underneath that I hadn’t noticed when I bought it- this made pinning really fun. But I think the added layer helped make the top sturdier, which kept the weight of the skirt from pulling too much on the bodice. For the skirt, I had picked up a remnant that was just over a yard and a quarter- I just sewed this up the back into a tube, and sewed a casing in the top wide enough to accommodate a yard of 1.5 inch braided elastic. Inserting the elastic here created a fitted, gathered top, which allowed me to bypass the hated task of gathering by hand! Then I just attached the skirt directly to the top (not flipping inside-out the way the original tutorial showed). This gave the dress a finished look without needing ties or bog floppy bows (not quite my style anyways). After hemming the bottom, the dress was done. All in all, it took maybe an hour to pull together. This is terrible news: I think all my tank tops are in danger now!
I also tried out the rouching technique I saw here on some giant t-shirts I recently picked up from Target, and it was super easy! Well, aside from the fact that I had a hard time keeping the elastic steady and stitching in the seam of that wiggly knit. I think that more pinning and more practice would solve that problem, but for a first try- and given the fact that the end result is supposed to be bunchy-I’m happy with the results.

I gave in and decided to hem a couple new dresses while I was on a roll, so now I have three tailored dresses and three “new” rouched t-shirts to lumber around in this week! I may not be able to change the fact that I’m not one of those six foot, slender preggers with a tiny basketball bump under their shirt, but it does feel good to have clothes that fit the way they are supposed to! Sewing for myself may become a habit…

The best part of this whole endeavor, as with most things I do, came about with the kids. The excitement Little Lady shows when she comes out in the morning to find something new I made for her drives me to stay up late, crafting tired for the sake of wide-eyed happy mornings. But who knew that her excitement would be for me too? Perhaps it’s a good thing to show the littles that I can take time to make things for myself sometimes too? Little Lady came out this morning to find me in my new dress and said, beaming,

“Mommy, you did it! You made your dress!  I knew you could do it- I love it!”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Crafting Kind-hearted Kids

Talk about melting a mother’s heart…
Little Man got to pick out a new toy at Target yesterday, as we were exchanging a duplicate birthday gift. His first stop was the One Spot: the Avengers cups and plates had caught his eye. As he reached for the cups, he stopped and said, “But what about Phoebe?” I explained that this was his time to shop for himself- Big Sis was at school, and plus this was his gift money to spend on himself. He dropped his hands to his sides and said, “But Phoebe won’t get a new toy?” I told him that no, this time I wasn’t buying one for her. His brow furrowed, then relaxed, as he smiled and said, “I know! I will buy her a toy myself!” The Avenger cups were forgotten as Little Man proceeded to spend the next five minutes browsing the One Spot for a perfect gift for his sister.
Fast-forward to that evening, after the kids had been put to bed. Little Lady’s having a hard time getting to sleep: rolling around in bed, organizing stuffed animals, fidgeting, and so on. Finally, when it becomes obvious that something’s on her mind and she’s not going to sleep, we bring her out to the living room. Immediately she says, “I have to stay up late because I have to make a thank you for Joey for getting me my La La Loopsey coloring book, Mom!” And off she goes to the craft supplies…
She proceeds to spend her “late night awake time” coloring, cutting, pasting, and arranging a tablescape for Little Brother to wake up to in the morning. (This is a double-heart-melter in itself: on holidays, birthdays, or other special days at our house I do this for the children- I stay up late to make them individual placemats, set out special dishes, lay out treats or scenes, and make a special little presentation for them to find waiting for them at the breakfast table in the morning. To see Little Lady use this loving strategy on her own tells me that they do value this effort, that it has stuck in their minds as something special to do to show one another their love and appreciation.)
The ultimate sign of love and selflessness in this activity is her addition of rocks: you see, these rocks have been taken from her prized rock and mineral collection. She guards this collection unlike any other- and she has quite a few…souvenir spoon collection, clip-on earring collection, treasure collection, you get the idea. For her to allow her brother to touch her rocks and minerals would be a feat in and of itself: for her to arrange them just so and offer to share them- even the coveted “Band-aid rock”- is amazing to me. She explained the rest of this to me: she chose to include the big green bow because green is Brother’s favorite color. The red and blue paper cut out is a fancy cup with water in it for him to drink, since we shouldn’t leave real cups out at night for the cats to drink out of. The little green and brown paper cut out is a palm branch, to remind little brother of Jesus. The drawing on the left has Mommy and herself with a card for him, and a butterfly, because those are just always special. The placemat has bubble letters because they are the fancy way to write someone’s name, and the card has the message inside, “Thank you, Joey, I love you.”
I like to say that my kids love one another fiercely: I picture their relationship like that of a couple lion cubs. They play, cuddle, attack, play, cuddle, attack…they are the best of friends one minute, and bickering like a couple of old women the next. We hear plenty of the, “He’s looking at me,” and “She’s making the scary face at me,” and “But Mommy, he’s breathing funny and it bothers me…” I wonder if I’m speaking a different language, if I’m failing them completely when I try to help them problem solve and be kind, only to find them pummeling one another when I turn my back. I’m working on crafting these little humans to be kind-hearted and caring…it’s always a work in progress… but I keep this in my heart: I know that the first thing they look for in the morning is each other, and the last thing they do at night is find each other’s hugging arms.
To anyone else, this tablescape may look like just a couple hand-drawn papers and a pile of stones. But to this mother, it looks like love…an act of appreciation…a sharing of a selfless heart…and it encourages me to keep spending time modeling these caring behaviors for my kids, to see them leaking out of little hearts and hands when I least expect them.