I fall into a weird category of millennial sewists who were taught sewing by boomers. I learned to sew in elementary school in the basement of a lovely lady named Mrs. V. This means that I have a lot of old school habits that almost anyone my age still has. For example, up until very recently, I finished all of my darts by sewing off the point and tying together my two threads by hand. (I stopped when I learned this is a relic of old, inaccurate machines and it is totally safe to backstitch at the point of your dart.)
Another such old-school fallback is preferring scissors over a rotary blade. My mom quilted a teensy bit when I was a quilt, so I saw these pizza cutters in action, but equated them with long, straight lines and figured they didn’t work for garment sewing. Fast forward to the Instagram age when I saw EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER using rotary cutters for clothes. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a cutting mat and rotary blade for a while, but knew it would be expensive and that I would rather save that cash for fabric.
This year for my birthday, I asked for a large mat and blade because I knew that my quilter Mother-in-Law would find way better deals than I could and I didn’t want to think about it. My in-laws and my parents went in together on a large self-healing mat (24×36 inches) and I shortly after bought myself a 28mm cutter.
Here are my first impressions of using a rotary cutter as a life-long scissors devotee:
-a petite blade is key for small curves. The internet (thanks, Instagram friends!) advised me to get the smaller blade over the larger (ie 45mm) and I am really glad. A bigger blade would definitely be tough on tight curves.
-rotary blades can be more precise than scissors. I figured I would have less control with a blade than with scissors, but I can definitely get significantly closer to the pattern piece in a more fluid motion with the rotary blade.
-you can lose control on long, straight stretches. More than once I’ve sliced off a 1/8-inch strip of pattern piece when going long.
-get the biggest mat you can afford. This was more internet advice I needed. My ultimate plan is to get a second mat to cover my whole sewing table, but for now the 24×36 incher is doing fine. I’ve cut out two midi-length dresses and I find I actually don’t need to move my fabric around that much.
-it is actually much faster. I didn’t believe it until I did it, but rotary blades are really much speedier.
Anyone else a scissors holdout like me? What’s your reasoning for not trying a rotary cutter? Does anyone else have weird old-guard sewing habits that don’t match their age?
Welcome to the first of many maternity hack posts! Every year, I typically make one dress that will serve as my semi-formal wear-to-all-occasions dress, and, being pregnant, this is one to-do I couldn’t skip. I have several tea party events this spring (the first being high tea at the Canadian Museum of History this past weekend), as well as a graduation and probably other things I have forgotten.
Because I am not planning on being pregnant again, I’m trying to avoid making garments I’m never going to wear again, so I’m hacking regular patterns as much as possible. I spent a long time pinteresting to find a semi-formal maternity style I actually liked but could also wear again after being pregnant.
This led me to the Chalk and Notch Orchid midi and am I ever glad it did. I’d never made a Chalk and Notch pattern before and was excited to try a new company.
The fabric is from Fabrications and I am really impressed I actually made something out of a timely fabric that you can actually still buy. (I am a habitual long-planner and sew most things after a year or more on my stash.) This stuff is a mustard viscose poplin that only cost $6.99 per half metre but is PERFECT for this pattern. You all know I love yellow, but I’ve been focussing more on soft neutrals lately, so this was really exciting to work with. It washes well, presses nicely and isn’t sheer. It wrinkles a fair amount when your hot, pregnant bum sits on it for over an hour, but I can deal with that.
I didn’t make too many alterations to the pattern. I cut the bodice as I normally would, grading out a size to the waist, but shortened it by an inch. If you plan on wearing this dress in maternity only, I recommend shortening another two or more inches depending on your body, but I want to wear this at my natural waist later. Because I have more bodice fabric bunched up above my belly, the wrapped part of the bodice gapes a bit, so either tack it down or make sure your finishing inside is nice enough to peek out on occasion.
The skirt required more altering. I decided to forego the slit in the front as I figured it would look reeeeeeaaaaally weird on a baby bump, and it also made the construction significantly easier. I also took out the pockets for the same reason. I added an extra eight inches of width to the front to gather later by adding a four inch-wide panel to the front seam and cut it on the fold instead. I also added an extra two inches of length at the centre front in a curve that eased to the normal length at the side seam. This is to avoid the front being way shorter when my belly is big and I can easily re-hem it later.
In the construction, very little changed. I sewed the bodice according to the instructions and found them very clear. One little word of advice about the flutter sleeves. The pattern gives you the option to line them or hem. I chose to line as a I figured my fabric was light and drapes enough, but if I were to do it over again, I would hem. Unless your fabric has ridiculous amounts of drape, I recommend hemming to make sure you lose none of the ruffle.
Because I removed the pockets and the front slit, the skirt was ridiculously simple to sew up. I basically gathered the front to the regular size, sewed the side seams, added the drawstring casing and attached it to the bodice. When gathering, start and finish your gathers about three inches from the side seams as you don’t really need it there. I also suggest doing four lines of gathering. Do two lines of gathering around the seam that will attach the bodice and skirt together (the seam allowances 3/8 so stitch at 1/4 and 1/2 inch) but ALSO one line of stitching on either side of where the drawstring casing will attach to the skirt. The casing is an inch wide, so your two lines of gathers will be at 1 1/4 and 1 1/2. This is really important because if you don’t also gather at the bottom of the drawstring casing, you will have uneven or large puckers that just won’t look good on your belly.
I also want to talk a bit about the length. I didn’t shorten the skirt as I love a good, long skirt, but I also wanted wiggle room to see how it all looked on my bump. I’m 5 feet 2 inches, so this meant the pattern ended up ridiculously long. I think I chopped off a solid 3 inches, so keep that in mind, short ladies.
Another note to preggos out there: you may choose to size down in this pattern. At my regular size, I think this pattern would look pretty and flows, but the extra volume in fabric in addition to my extra volume in bazooms and belly make me feel a little bit frumpy, and there is a solid amount of ease of you to play with.
Ooooookay, friends. After much deliberation, I think I have nailed down my pledge for Me-made May:
I pledge to wear as many me-made garments as possible and to feel as good as possible in my ever-growing skin.
I pledge to keep things interesting by finding creative ways to wear favourite me-mades that are not maternity.
I’m pregnant this year, so I’m taking it easy on myself. I have a very limited amount of clothes that fit, so I’m not going to give myself a minimum ratio of me-mades to wear. I also find it a bit silly to disallow myself from wearing rtw maternity clothes that I love and will only get to wear for a few more months. Basically, I plan on making May my own me-made maternity fashion show and y’all are invited!
I’m going to track my outfits similarly to last year, with a quick photo every day and a grade for the day in certain categories. This year, I’m tracking:
# of me-mades
# of maternity-specific garments
Appropriateness to weather and occasion
I’ll do a roundup at the end of the month, it if you want to see each day’s photo in real time, follow my on Instagram! @couturious
Long post ahead! I’ve been asked a few times recently “how do you do it all?” (I think, referring to being a pregnant mother with a full-time job who makes most of her clothes.) I’ve thought about it a lot and have decided that it is important to talk about.
I want to start by addressing the idea that it is insulting to women to ask that question, “how do you manage to fulfill your duties as an employee and a mother but also being a person with interests and hobbies?” when that isn’t a question we would ever think to ask a man. I think that depending on who asks that question can it can be really condescending or very empowering.
The ladies of Love to Sew often ask this question of business women who also have children and I know that it comes from a place of genuine curiosity for themselves and on behalf of their listeners. I really, really enjoy hearing the answers to these questions.
I think it’s really important to talk about this as women. I think we need to normalize all the ways we fit in what we think needs to be fit in. I think we need to have conversations about the help that we get. I think we need to remember not to feel guilty about prioritizing ourselves and our hobbies.
So, how do I do it? The easy answer is mostly privilege and some intentional life hacks. These are the ways that I manage to be a good wife, mother, employee and person while still finding time to make a lot of my clothes and sleep a consistent 8 hours a night:
Privilege. I was fortunate enough to come from a good home and was able to go to university to become a teacher. I have a well-paying, secure job with benefits and I have the mind-space and financial security to dedicate a lot of my time to a hobby. I am a white, heterosexual, able bodied, cis-gendered woman who came from a middle-class family. My life has been pretty easy.
I pay someone to take care of my child during the day. We were lucky enough to find a wonderful woman in our neighbourhood to take care of our daughter so I can work during the day. It also works out that when I have time off (ie. March Break) daycare is still open and I can send my kiddo to her care provider, giving me a full-day to run errands, cook, or more importantly, sew.
I pay someone to clean my house. I pay $80 CDN for someone to come clean my two bedroom apartment for about three hours every other week. This was probably the longest but best decision I ever made. While it saves me three hours every two weeks in cleaning time, it has, more importantly, saved me way more time and head-space in never having to worry about my kitchen floor being dirty. I honestly don’t even notice any more. It has taken so much off my mental load.
I married a supportive, feminist husband and we talk regularly about emotional labour. This is one that probably saved me more than anything else on this list. When I started reading about emotional labour, I realized all the ways I was sabotaging myself by unwittingly taking on the “manager” role of our family (and this was before having kids!). We have discussed all of the tasks pertaining to keeping house and taking care of our daughter and divvied them up according to our strengths and interests. There are certain things I never have to think about because they’re just his job. For example, he takes care of all birthday and Christmas cards, booking transportation for travel, making sure we have cash for the cleaner, remembering to put coffee on the grocery list, getting the groceries, booking things like bike tune-ups, getting our daughter ready for day care (and taking her there) and many more things I can’t think of because I don’t have to and that is the point. I worry about meal planning and making the grocery list, booking doctor and dentist appointments for our daughter, making dinner and lunches (because I prefer that to cleanup!), doing daycare pickup, gifts for people like our child care provider and cleaner, I read and summarize articles and books about childcare for my husband when we’re looking for information on sleep or carsickness. Things like laundry and weekend food prep are usually divided fairly equally on a case-by-case basis, but it is always a discussion and I am never delegating.
We give each other breaks. Both of us are introverts and we live in a really small apartment, so we’ve always been in the habit of giving each other “quiet, alone time” in the apartment every once in a while. This now includes Hubby taking our daughter out for some kind of outing while I have a couple of hours to sew.
My kid sleeps like a champ. She naps for about two hours in the afternoon and is typically in bed before 7 p.m. so I hustle to get chores done while she is awake so that when she sleeps, I sew.
I have become an essentialist. Before it got buzzy (and before I bought the book) I shifted the way I functioned at work to spend less time but be more effective. I manage to be a pretty okay teacher but typically leave just after the kids do. More time for my family (and sewing!)!
I have a sewing habit. When I was off on maternity leave with my daughter, I challenged myself to sew every day. I managed to keep it up strictly for about six months (including during a camping trip!), but the habit definitely stuck. I no longer sew every single day, but it’s my default after supper unless I have something else going on. My husband and I have also developed a routine in the winter where every Saturday night he watches the hockey game and I get a few hours of sewing in. We pretty much never make plans on Saturday nights any more because we both love this ritual. He also enjoys that he subconsciously converted me to a Maple Leafs fan by my absorbing players names and positions by semi-listening to games.
I sew through “tired.” I don’t use “I’m to tired to sew” as an excuse. Unless I am literally going to bed, I don’t allow myself to cop out and just watch TV because I’m feeling low energy. Most of the time, I find myself perk up after about ten minutes of stitching and a glass of water. My first day back at work after mat leave, I sewed for about an hour, even though I was exhausted and set that as the precedent for my new “working mom” life.
I blog on the bus. I have a half hour bus commute to work each way and generally use the notes app to type up my blog posts. This is also when I do most of my instagramming (posting and research). A good portion of what I do for the Ottawa Garment Guild is also completed on my trusty #95 route. Without this time, there is no way I would have time to sew AND blog about it.
In sum, my friends, I think it’s important to talk about the ways we fit in our hobby to normalize the ways we make our life more balanced (out-sourcing, sacrificing etc) and less guilty. I refuse the embody the trope of the stressed, guilty, frazzled working mom. Let’s all be cool moms and share the ways we accomplish that.
I have begun sewing maternity wear! I realized that if I was planning on making maternity pants, I probably needed a few maternity tops, too I opted for a Megan Nielsen Maternity pattern as I love her stuff, but decided to not bother with the whole bundle.
The Cara Top is definitely a basic and super duper fast to sew up. It’s also a bit of a scrap buster as I made both of these versions out of scraps. You’ll recognize the white and black pin stripe from my MN River a while ago and the grey is actually from a cut of jersey that was originally meant to be the waistband on a pair of maternity jeggings that did not work out. More on that later.
I made up the black and white stripe first. I chose my size on my measurements at the time (I was probably about 16 weeks pregnant) as the pattern recommends that you use your pre-pregnancy or early second trimester numbers. This meant me cutting a size L and grading to an XL at the hip. This version ended up being a bit looser than I like my knit t-shirts, so for the grey version, I sized down. I find the smaller size fits much better in the shoulder.
This top fits fairly long and can easily be shortened if you are a petite lady. I also found the neckband to be a little longer than it needs to be, causing a bit of a gape at the lowest part of the scoop. Otherwise, I really like this pattern. The hem is slightly curved and the sleeves are just the right length.
I’m quite proud of my second, grey iteration as it involved a good deal of engineering to make it fit on the .75 m I had. I decided to make the front hem curve less extreme and took out some of the extra fabric meant to be rushed over my tummy. I figured the original was more that long enough to deal with a bit of shortening. The tshirt first perfectly right now, but probably wouldn’t accommodate a 9-month belly. I’m not super worried, however, since by that time it will be stinking hot and I will NOT be wearing sleeves.
Other things to note are my hems. You may notice I have decided to ROCK THE ZIG ZAG. Over the last year or two, I have been experimenting with different ways to hem knits. I busted my one double needle testing the hem and decided to just go with a zig zag and make things easy on myself. I still find that a zig zag is the flattest finish and if you are able to match your thread well enough to your fabric, you won’t even see the stitches.
I also finally invested in some wonder tape. While this stuff is not at all necessary, it makes hemming knits significantly easier. Everything stays exactly where you want it and nothing stretches or distorts. I used to occasionally deal with my hems twisting on curves, but the tape 100 per cent takes care of that.
This is my second pregnancy and I learned a lot about maternity clothes my first time around. I learned that maternity clothes are hard to find – even in large urban centres like Ottawa. I learned that they are pretty terrible in quality (I burned through the inner thighs of three pairs of pants and tossed two tops before reaching the end). I also learned that the maternity clothes available tend to be kind of frumpy.
I decided that for this pregnancy, I would make all of my clothes. My goal is to make clothes that I’m going to love wearing throughout my pregnancy but also make some of them work after. I do not plan on having any more kids after this one and I hate falling in love with clothes I know I won’t get to wear again.
I took an inventory of the clothes I had left from my last pregnancy and it is not a lot. I had borrowed a bunch from a friend, so what I was left with was kind of random items that do not coordinate. I was also pregnant during a different season, so a lot of what I have is not appropriate for spring/summer. (My first is born in late April and this one is due in late August).
What I have from my last pregnancy is:
-1 set of pyjamas
-ankle-length grey leggings
-3/4-length black leggings
-teal long sleeve henley
-off-while an gold star print henley
-black bow sweatshirt
I currently have another pair of leggings and a pair of mid-blue jeans in my drawer, but both are so thin in the crotch I won’t get more than two or three more wears out of each. I do also have a bunch of non-maternity clothes that will still fit for a good long time (a few pairs of leggings, and some t-shirts.)
Realizing how little I actually had, I quickly set to project planning and scheduling makes in my calendar. In order, I plan to make
-knit dresses (I’ve actually already completed two of these – a River dress and a Nikko)
-3 pairs of maternity pants which will get cut into capris then shorts as it gets warmer. (I plan on making the Goldilegs jeggings in powder blue corduroy and indigo and black demin.)
-3 light, work-appropriate tops (I’ve actually already made a Megan Nielsen Cara t-shirt and have downloaded the Victory Patterns Roxanne blouse which has suddenly disappeared from their website. I have a sheer pink sort of plaid rayon that I think will look awesome. I’m also considering the scraps from my cactus-print chambray Jessica dress. )
-A light blackwood cardigan (I’ve already bought some super soft grey and white striped ribbing and am sooooo excited)
-A casual dress to wear to things like barbecues or museums (This looks like it’s going to be a slightly modified Charlie Caftan in a navy and white windowpane check linen)
-Tank tops (I have neither fabric nor pattern picked out, but these will likely be loose Adventure tanks that I will be able to wear after baby is born. I’m thinking some ribbing and a cute little button placket)
-A bikini (My current bathing suit is high-waisted and will obvi not work. I have a yard each of black and white stripe and solid royal blue so I might make a couple coordinating separates).
-A chic robe to wear in the hospital and to receive guests once the baby has arrived. (I’ve already downloaded the Suki Kimono pattern and now get to spend months finding the perfect fabric)
These plans basically take me into July and will require some serious concentration to actually complete on schedule.
Hey, friends! I case you haven’t heard, I’m pregnant! This, of course, means I’ll be documenting my me-made maternity journey and this week I am collaborating with maternitysewing.com. I wrote all about why it is important to invest in an early pregnancy wardrobe that will later double as your go-to post-partum clothes. Click over to maternitysewing.com to check it out!
I have been dying to make this dress forever, but never felt cool enough to pull off a floor-length turtleneck dress. I decided to finally just go for it.
I was between a 12 and 14 for the bust and decided to go with the 14 so I would have less grading to do as my hip measured a size 16. Except I accidentally cut the 12 somehow (pregnancy brain) and decided to roll with it. I also shortened it by an inch on the bodice as well as the skirt as I am a short lady. I didn’t bother to muslin as the fit seemed forgiving enough to be a little looser or tighter with no real issue.
The construction was really easy and the directions really clear, so I had no issues putting this together. For the hem, I decided to go with my new favourite technique for finishing hems: the blind stretch stitch. I find it’s a really clean finish for knits you don’t necessarily want to look athletic.
Because I accidentally sized down in the bust, I decided to use the armhole facings as armbands and I don’t think it looks too bad. I really enjoy the play with stripe direction.
I have worn this dress once so far and am still not totally sure how I feel about it. I don’t typically wear skirts so long and I’m still wearing tights under it as it is still very much winter here.