Saturday, November 16, 2019

Field Trip Cargos.

Hello friends! It is finally starting to feel like autumn in the Bay Area. Although we haven't had much rain yet, the mornings are crisp and cold and the sun goes down at 5:30 PM. Joe has been growing like a weed, so he needs some new warm pants. Since there is no way I can sew my kids' entire wardrobes, I will likely buy him a few pairs, but I also wanted to supplement his mama-mades.

A couple years ago, I picked up a big piece of second-hand corduroy at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. If you are local to the Bay Area and haven't been to this wonderful resource, you are seriously missing out! They accept fabric donations, and I have destashed there a number of times, but I think overall I have gained net yardage because they often have amazing second hand or vintage pieces. This corduroy is soft and worn, and the piece was huge, so I am wondering if it was once used as a bedspread or part of a duvet cover? Joe is still very picky about his comfort, so I thought this would make a nice pair of pants for him.

The Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants and Raglan is a TNT pattern for me. I've made the pants at least three times that I can remember, and the tee too many times to count at this point. Joe still wears a pair of Field Trip shorts I made more than a year ago even though they are getting to be a bit snug and short. So I decided to try the full length pants again, this time in a size 7.

I sewed these up on my 1920s Singer 99, which was really fun. It's such a great powerhouse of a machine, and it makes such a quiet, pleasing "clack clack." You can see of a video of me sewing these here. I decided to use mustard thread for the topstitching - it's not true topstitching thread, so the effect is subtle, but I think it highlights the casual denim work-pant vibe of this pattern.

This pattern is a really fun sew - it has a lot of details, so it feels very satisfying, but I would still say it's a pretty fast/easy make. I first made this pattern in 2013, when Joe was four years old (look at him!!!!!), and I reported that these are a more time consuming, fiddly make than the other Oliver + S pants I had tried at that point. And that's true! But I guess I've come a long way in my sewing in the past 6 years, because now I would definitely classify these as easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy (also, I just sewed myself jeans, so obvs!). A relaxing and fun sew!

Hilariously, Joe is wearing a too-small Field Trip Raglan that I made him last winter here! Time for some new long sleeved tees, too! Look at his cute belly peeking out!

I tried these pants on Joe before putting the waist facing on, noted that I needed to shorten the rise a bit, and marked them for length. After I assembled them and tried them on Joe for these photos, I realized that because of the half inch I had taken out of the rise, the hem was now a hair too short. I also saw that the waistband elastic needed to be tightened up and they were too loose. So I unpicked the hems and used bias tape to hem them, as well as making the waist more snug, so they fit better now and have a bit more room to grow than they did in these photos.

As I did with the pair of shorts I made last year, I used a jersey for the waist facing. I chose a fun constellation print that I had leftover from a tee-shirt. I've talked about how Joe prefers knits to wovens many times, but I've learned that he will tolerate woven pants if the waistband is knit.

I am happy to report that Joe likes wearing these pants!! Some things never change, and it's always a bit nail-biting with this kid - will he actually wear the clothes that I make him? Especially when woven fabrics are involved. But this corduroy is so soft and worn (and quite warm), he seems to find them comfortable enough!

A funny note about Joe. He is in fourth grade now and doing fantastically. He's a strong reader and natural mathematician. He has good friends and is doing well socially. He really likes his current teacher, as well. She gave him a "self-evaluation" form to fill out, which kind of cracked me up - it reminds me of the performance evaluations given to top executives! Anyway, he wrote in his form that he is great at reading, really good at math, and when the form asked him if there were any areas he could improve in, he just left that part blank! So apparently, he is very self-confident as well! HA! It is so wonderful to see our once-painfully-shy Joe just blossoming into a confident and happy kid. He's still an introvert and a homebody, and likely always will be, but he is now as relaxed and comfortable in school as he has always been at home.

Over the past couple years, I have organized my sewing projects by serger thread. Changing my serger thread is a pain, so I try to minimize that by grouping projects by color. Right now I have light blue thread in my serger, so I am working on all of my light blue fabrics! I try to sew up at least two or three things before moving on to a new serger thread color. I thought I was the only person who did this, but recently on the Love to Sew Podcast, one of their guests reported doing the same thing, which I thought was delightful! (By the way, if you're not listening to this podcast yet, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? It's so fun! I have to drive a lot for work, and it is really fun to spend my commutes thinking about sewing, rather than work.) So apparently I'm not the only one! In fact I have lists in my bullet journal of projects by serger thread color. (I would like to do a blog post about how I brainstorm sewing projects in my bullet journal. Is anyone interested?)

So, looking at my light blue pile: next up is a pair of blue sweatpants for Joe and a Hemlock tee for myself from the updated pattern. And maybe some pj pants for the kids. My kids really love their pjs!

How do you organize your sewing projects? Does anyone else do it by serger thread color? Or do you have your own unique system?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Halloween 2019: The Real Story.

Hello, dear readers! I will get back to you with School Picture Sewing: 2019 Cat Edition (Part 2) soon, I promise. Maggie's dress was finished just in time for the actual school pictures so all I got was an iPhone pic. But in the meantime, I had to stop by and share the kids' Halloween costumes!

Warning: This is long. The thing I missed about blogging when I was just doing instagram was being able to blather on and on for hundreds of words about whatever. So here we are! 

Okay, so, background: The past five months have been the busiest work months of my 17 year legal career, no joke. I am deep in what Gretchen Rubin has termed a "season of sacrifice" on her Happier podcast.  It's a good thing, the economy is booming right now, it's a growth period in my career, we're staffing up and it's not going to be this intense forever, but I have had to pare my life outside of work down to the bare minimum. Or at least, that's what I should be doing, but I'm no good at that, as you probably know. That is, I'm good at skipping chores I don't enjoy, like scrubbing the kitchen floor, but I'm really bad at taking a break from my hobbies. Like, my idea of paring down is that I didn't try to put up like 500 jars of tomatoes and chutneys and jams this fall.* I have issues. 

So rather than try to pretend that everything is hunky dory and that whipping up these costumes was no probs, I thought I would share how this ACTUALLY WENT DOWN, interspersed with adorable pics of my kids so you don't get too bogged down. 

Early October: Kids come up with great ideas! Maggie wants to be a blue leopard beanie boo (the one called "Leona" by the company but named "Meow Meow" by my kids). Okay, that's pretty fun, I can get behind that.

And Joe wants to be a flying squirrel! Not like Rocky and Bullwinkle but like this:

Image result for flying squirrel


Early to mid-October: I get excited, spend late night time researching flying squirrels on my phone, and have fun shopping and buying all the fabric! Most of Joe's materials come from Britex, which means that his costume is like, absurdly high quality. The fur on his hat is the nicest fur I've ever worked with (and was priced like it was patched together from real flying squirrel pelts). Maggie's materials, on the other hand, come from a variety of places, with the blue leopard print minkie coming from, and it turns out to be one of the nastiest, most polyester, grossest-feeling fabrics I've ever handled. This stuff makes your skin crawl and your cuticles snag.

Days after I've spent more than a $100** on Halloween supplies: My sister sends me a link to an Amazon flying squirrel costume that costs $20. Are you trying to kill me over here?

But never fear, mine will be SO MUCH COOLER.

Third week of October: I sew up Joe's hood using the ever dependable Oliver + S Cozy Winter Hood, and it's awesome. I'm feeling good about myself! I also cut out all of the basic pieces - tops and bottoms - for the kids' costumes. The t-shirt pattern (for both kids) is the basic tee from Ottobre 1/2019. The leggings are Oliver + S Playtime Leggings. 

My brother's girlfriend helped to design a bespoke Ty tag for Maggie's ear (which kept flipping back all night on actual Halloween, oh well!).

Fourth week of October: It's the last weekend before Halloween! I gotta get my act together! 

I don't have material for the insides of Maggie's ears! So we head off to Stonemountain and Daughter. What? They don't stock lamé anymore??! Well, I'm sure as heck not going to JoAnn's all the way across town on the weekend before Halloween, I shudder to think how long that cutting line must be. So I buy an 1/8 yard of gorgeous $22/yard green silk charmeuse and glitter paint and I paint this beautiful fabric. (The glitter paint continues to flake off all through Halloween.)

Then I sew up Maggie's hood and the kids' tops and leggings. Maggie's blue leopard print minkie feels so gross and polyester-y on the back that I underline her top in cotton knit to make it wearable. I go to bed on Sunday thinking, "no problem, I just have the finishing details, like Maggie's eyes and tail, and Joe's wings and tail, to do, I can do that after work this week." 

October 30: Of course, the problem was that I didn't get to these final details until about 7 PM on the night before Halloween. After a couple of insanely busy days at work, including a night meeting on the 29th, I find myself trying to finish up the costumes when I'm already exhausted and stressed. At this point, sewing these things is officially not fun anymore. Do other people ever get to a place of stress where they are just like "don't talk to me"? Or is that just me? ANYWAY. Pretty sure my brother and husband were literally tiptoeing around me while I sewed fluffy tails in angry, exhausted silence (in RETROSPECT, this is pretty funny, but it wasn't at the time, trust me!). 

At this point, I run into issues. I thought I could fasten Joe's squirrel "wing" just to the neck and wrists of his t-shirt, but (a) the wing droops under his arms in a very non-flying-squirrel-like manner, and (b) Joe complains that the weight of his squirrel wing fabric pulls his shirt down from behind, creating a choking sensation at the front neckband. I will be honest, at this point I kind of want to bark, "suck it up!" but years of being this kid's mama have taught me that Joe is incapable of handling even mild discomfort, even for the sake of a killer costume. So, grumbling the whole time, I handsewed the "wing" fabric, which is like a skin toned swimsuit fabric, along his neck and arms to distribute the weight better and also tacked it to the bottom of his shirt. Then I pinned his tail through the shirt and leggings waistband to further anchor the wing fabric and reduce the drag on the back of the shirt neck.

At this point, it's late, I'm exhausted and frazzled beyond belief, and I decide it's a lumpy mess, and I'm unhappy with the effect but there is no time to fix it. I went to bed wondering why I do this to myself? Why didn't I just buy the kids some freaking store bought costumes like a NORMAL OVERWORKED AND FRAZZLED ATTORNEY? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???? UGH!

MORNING OF HALLOWEEN: Sleep helps some. I work from home so that I can go to the kids' Halloween parade. My sewing area is three feet deep in glitter, fake fur, and pattern pieces. I pack the kids off with their costumes and spend the morning trying to get a handle on my email inbox, which has, to my distress, become a place where important and time sensitive requests go to die. I am pretty sure there are actual cobwebs forming on some of these emails asking me to do important things ages ago! STRESSSSSSSS!

[Sometime around this point, my husband informs me that Maggie is being spotlighted as "student of the week" and that we need to find pictures of her and prepare a little presentation for her to give her class tomorrow. I explain to Steve that I literally cannot handle even one more thing and he flees, assuring me that he will handle it.]

HALLOWEEN PARADE AT SCHOOL: I drag myself away from the moldering inbox to go to the kids' school parade. Dang, my kids are adorable! And they are happy with their costumes! And their little friends are complimenting them, and their teachers smile at me and say, "you made that, didn't you?" The gloom starts to disperse, and I only find myself looking at the other kids' store bought costumes with envy and self-reproach a couple times.

That afternoon, I worked on my laptop on the back patio while my kids carved pumpkins, completely without adult assistance! Apparently, they have reached an age where they can be entrusted with sharp objects and no one gets hurt? Miracle of miracles! 

Unsurprisingly, their pumpkin designs are cat-focused:

HALLOWEEN EVENING: After a totally adorable photo shoot in my overgrown and autumnal back garden, the kids are ready to go trick-or-treating!! 

And although I was frazzled and tired and the costumes were not perfect (in my mind, anyway), the kids had a FANTASTIC time, clearly enjoyed their costumes, got pounds of candy, and I got lots of compliments! By the end of the evening I was explaining to folks that I sew my kids' costumes because it's fun for all of us! Yeah. LOLOLOLOLOLOL.

POST-HALLOWEEN: I am exhausted. My sewing area is a disaster. I never want to see fake fur ever again. I have decided that I really did push it too far with this project, my mental health was really suffering a bit there at the end, and that, at least as long as work remains this intense, I need to seriously rethink my choices as we approach the holiday season. It's not that I don't enjoy helping my kids to create the most amazing holidays - I do and it brings me a lot of joy! - but I always seem to, I dunno, overdo it a bit.  

Humor me for a moment here. People often ask me "how do you do it all?" and I tend to shrug a bit. I don't feel like I do that much, honestly. I usually explain that I'm a homebody, I enjoy sewing and gardening, my kids are introverts and homebodies and likely don't do as many activities as their kids do, and I like to keep my weekends mostly open and unplanned.  Plus, more humorously, I find most modern Netflix dramas to be too anxiety provoking, so "binge watching" is generally not a temptation for me! Ha! And normally, all this is actually true! 

But then there are times where I have to admit - I am doing too much, and I am doing it because I am driven and determined, rather than because it's fun. I can't be the only one, right? And when it is your creative hobby that brings you joy and fulfillment, when it is your much-needed break and "happy place" away from a challenging and mental job, it can be especially hard to just know when to stop! It's possible to burn out on even the best things!

Of course, I'm also thinking, my kids won't want me to sew their costumes for that many more years ... they are really at peak Halloween age right now, and I don't want to let these years pass by without enjoying them to the max ... one day I will look back on these photos and just see that they were joyful and happy, and isn't that the most important thing?

But, as Steve mildly suggested, next year I should probably start sewing a bit earlier! 

Do you have any words of wisdom for me? What do you do to create the magic while keeping the stress under control over the holidays? I could use ALL THE TIPS between now and Christmas!!! Or if you don't have tips, but you have been there, done that, and can commiserate please let me know I'm not the only one!  


* It's true that I tend to be an overachiever, at work and at home. I am always enthusiastically diving into new projects. But the truth is that Steve has been picking up some serious slack in the past few months and I am barely holding on, let alone cooking nice meals or putting up jam! I have kept up with sewing, but that's because I desperately need that tactile relief from my mental and abstract job.

** I am somewhat in denial about how much was spent on materials for these costumes. It was probably, ahem, quite a bit North of $100, although I did use some stash fabric for Maggie's costume ... as of November, I am back on the no-fabric-buying wagon. 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

School Picture Day Sewing: 2019 Cat Edition (Part 1)

Why hello there, my dear, neglected blog readers! It has been a while! I will not bore you with excuses, you've been following me on Instagram, you know that all is well in my world.

One reason I haven't blogged: I haven't been using my beautiful nice camera! I have been taking photos solely with my iPhone, which is fun and easy, but then I do end up missing having some decent frameable photos of my kids. Especially because they refuse to smile for other people. So I broke out the nice camera, and then I thought, oooh, I should blog this make! So that's how that happened. Plus, even for someone who basically writes for a living, it's fun to write something that isn't about work. I had forgotten how fun. That said, it has been so long, I had relearn everything! Where does my camera automatically upload to again? How do I insert a link? Ugh!! It's all slowly coming back to me now ...

Okeedoke! It is now October 2019, and my kids are 1.5 years older than the last time I posted. Joe is ten years old, has lost his baby chub, has grown-up teeth, and bruises on his skinny knees and elbows. He is in fourth grade and doing fantastically. He is a strong reader, natural mathematician, and a great student (remember when he was three and barely speaking?). He has lost much of his shyness - he's still definitely a reserved person and an introvert, but he is comfortable and easy with all sorts of people. Basically, he is really growing up! He is, as ever, the apple of my eye.

But one thing hasn't changed: My kids are even more obsessed with cats than before. It started as Maggie's obsession, which has turned out to be one of those true, deep passions (not a passing phase!). She loves all things cat cat cat cat cat cat cat cat. It's really next level now. She and Joe speak cat much of the time, meowing and growling is a form of communication in our household. Joe is not as single-mindedly obsessed with kitties, but when it came time to choose fabric for his annual school picture day button-down shirt at Stonemountain, he chose this amazing Art Gallery "Fierce Felines" fabric. This is a very fine quilting cotton, with a smooth and densely woven hand, more like a shirting fabric than a standard quilting cotton. Highly recommend for this type of application. It is a pleasure to sew with.

Of course, this is the Buttoned-up Button-down Shirt by Oliver + S. A killer pattern, which I have now made three times. (The first version is here. The second version is here.) I would make it more often, but another thing hasn't changed: Joe still loves his comfort, and he doesn't really enjoy dressing up. Don't let these sweet photos fool you; he took his shirt off as soon as I said he could and hung out in the undershirt for the rest of the day. He's a good sport, but this is not his preferred mode of dressing. (Sadly for me!)

Knowing this, I sized up a bit for this shirt. Joe is a small 10 year old (he is smaller than many of his classmates even though we held him back a year and he's older than his peers). Previous versions of this shirt were size 6; this one is size 8. The shoulders are a bit broad and the sleeves a bit long but I figure that gives him a bit of room to grow and this will still fit for his one or two other nice-clothes wearing occasions next year.

I sewed this almost solely on my old 1920s Singer 99, which I rescued from a dumpster in Vallejo in 2014. You can see a video I made of the buttonholer attachment working here. It had been stored away for all of 2019 and I pulled it out to make jeans (should I blog the jeans I made?) because I knew it would handle the topstitching thread better than my regular machine. That was so fun I left it out and used it to make this shirt, with the exception of serging the side seams. And now I'm working on another project - part 2 of School Picture Day Sewing, 2019 Cat Edition.

At the end of sewing this shirt, I had a bit of a dilemma, because it was impossible to find a basic shirt style button that matched this fabric. I posted on Instagram: Navy or white? And the responses were basically split right down the middle, which was amazingly unhelpful! Lest I conclude that either would look great, some folks felt quite strongly about it, as well! One person said, "navy would make me buy this shirt," with the implication being that they would just pass right by white with a disgusted look? I only slightly wondered if we would be able to remain friends if I sewed white buttons on this shirt!  No pressure, though! Ha!

The whole thing left me more indecisive than ever! Luckily, Joe is a Taurus and therefore much more decisive and less people-pleasing than his Libra/enneagram 9/INFP mother.  He chose white. I sewed them on with blue thread, and I think they look great.

I am hoping that the navy button folks will remain my friends despite this choice ... I am trying to put all the blame on Joe rather than having to displease half of my Instagram friends after the great shirt button controversy of 2019...

But here's something we can all agree on: Joe is a bonny lad and his mother loves him so.

I'm working on Maggie's school picture outfit now. You will not be surprised to learn that there are cats involved.

Who knows? Maybe I'll get back into this blogging thing? Only time can tell ...