Tuesday, May 22, 2012

feel free to tell me if this is counts as my psychotic break

One of the few things I've learned about having a girl baby (and granted she hasn't arrived yet, but preparatory efforts are underway, after all) is that girls clothes are more expensive than boys clothes.  With the exception of color most newborn clothes are basically the same (schlumpy variations on windsocks with arms, essentially) but when you start getting into real clothes, you see that girls clothing costs more because girls clothing is fancy.  Seriously, the variations and accessories are endless.  Little dresses and skirts and pinafores and hair bows and ruffle butt diaper covers and little baby legwarmers and oh internet, tell me what else that I never knew existed but now apparently need.

Lots of commercially available girls' baby clothing doesn't really appeal to me--either the print is unsavory or the pattern is too frilly or it falls into the category that I have dubbed "baby slut"--but there's lots of cute stuff out there too.  Cute stuff which, unfortunately, tends to cost a lot of money.  With the exception of winter jackets and this one grey cotton blazer I got for Cal as a two month-old that make him look like mini Kim Jong-Il for the two seconds that he actually fit into it (classic rookie move--never buy a blazer for a two month-old unless you just have money to burn) I don't think I spent more than $10 on any single item of kids clothing for the first year of either Cal or Mack's life.  For Thing 3, though, we could spend that amount on any one piece of clothing easily.  Hell, we could easily spend five times that amount for one clothing item, and that would be par for the course when it comes to girls' clothes.  

I've become especially enamored of these reversible pinafores that I've seen on Etsy, because--well, look at them.  First of all, they are adorable.  Secondly, you can wear them over anything--short sleeves and leggings, long sleeve and pants, bareback in the summer.  Thirdly, you can get a lot of wear out of them, because an outgrown dress can just as easily be worn as a shirt.  Fourth: DID YOU HEAR THE PART WHERE I SAID REVERSIBLE?  Spill your pureed peas down one side and you still have a whole other side to work with.  

The downside, of course, is the price.  Prices vary by vendor, but look, I'm not going to spend $50 on any vestment for a baby, unless it plays calliope music and turns baby poops into rainbows.  The dresses are cute as all get out, but the expense is just impractical.

Or, I thought to myself, you could just sew your own damn dress, it's not like Etsy is some kind of magical baby dress generating machine.

For those of you who know me in real life (hello, real-life friends), I think you would agree that "makes her own baby clothes" is probably not a real accurate description of my, uh, life schema.  I am not one for the domestic pursuits.  I can sew in a central line and I can sew up a simple laceration, but that's about it.  I don't know how to use a sewing machine, for one.  I don't tend to craft--strike two.  But I am fairly stubborn, and after a while, I started to think, you went to med school, for chrissake, surely you can sew some stupid little baby dress.  What are you, chicken? (That's how I berate myself, by the way.  Like Biff to Marty McFly.  Now make like a tree and get out of here.)  

So I did some research online and read some tutorials and thought, huh, this doesn't look too hard.  I found my sewing machine (this is the one I have, which seems to strike a nice balance between being pretty affordable yet advanced enough to be reasonably idiot-proof) and actually read the instructions.  (Those are the words printed on the paper that comes in the box.  Yes, I too have learned something today!)  And then I went to a discount fabric store--one of those that's fun to browse, but it certainly has more than its share of giant bolts of football team logo polyester fleece, that kind of place--thinking I wouldn't find anything appealing, and actually walking out with some nice cotton prints.  So I decided that I was just going to go for it, and started and finished my first sewing project last night--my first sewing machine project ever, mind you--and came up with this:






I would put a step by step here, but I don't see any point in reinventing the wheel, I basically followed this tutorial exactly.  The only minor modifications I made were that I squared off the straps instead of rounding the ends, and used snaps instead of a large button so it could be truly reversible.




You can see from the pic some imperfections in the stitching (like I said--it was my first sewing machine venture EVER), but I was actually surprised to find that the whole thing was...pretty easy.  My first attempt took me about three hours--for someone with experience, it would probably take less than half of that time.  I was surprised at how easy it was, actually--so easy, in fact, that I went ahead and made another one.  This one turned out a little better, what with the practice under my belt and the choice to use two more similar weight fabrics (the blue checkered fabric on the first one was much more lightweight, almost gauzy, and had the tendency to pull and pucker).






So...that happened.  And now I'm like Zoolander looking into a puddle wondering, "WHO AM I?"  I thought the minivan was game changer enough, but just who is this person who is sewing her own baby clothes?  Is this normal or a sign of my spiral into madness?  

Also...what else should I sew now?

62 comments:

  1. Linda_M8:15 PM

    Those are absolutely adorable! I have no good (or bad, come to think of it) advice on what to sew next. I just had to comment on how cute, and say good job!

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  2. Those are so cute! I may actually have to try to make one myself.

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  3. Wow. It would never occur to me to sew my own baby clothes. (Only partially due to the fact that I don't have a baby, and mainly due to the fact that I have the manual dexterity of your average internist.)

    Another suggestion for inexpensive clothing, which a friend of mine who actually has a baby uses all the time, is Kijiji. She's been able to buy entire boxes of good baby clothes for $25-50 per box, and her kids are clothed exclusively in a combination of second-hand clothes and baby gifts.

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  4. Those are SO ADORABLE

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  5. I thought your scrub hats were sewn...so I always figured you for a majorly natural crafter. See, I was RIGHT!!! :-) So adorable! Take that CHILDREN'S PLACE! ♥

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  6. My grandma made me smock dresses like that! My mom saved them and I put them on my toddler boys when they were playing in the back yard. Easy diaper changes! I like the second one, especially. Congratulations on your first sewing projects! Do you have any good consignment stores in town? That's where I got a lot of stuff for my kids. I always looked with a wistful eye at all the cute, inexpensive girl stuff...

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  7. Kind I nicely say you disgust me? I TRY to sew. In my head it seems SO simple and logical. And it always becomes a HUGE hassle of broken thread or other issues. I'm now beginning to wonder if its my machine (a hand me down from the 70s). Yeah, I think I'll blame the machine! :) They are beautiful, I'm really impressed!

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  8. So freaking cute! You may not think yourself crafty, but I think you can do artsy craftsy stuff well because of how anal you are. I love art and making things and do possess natural talent, but my anal-ness brings it to a whole other level. Go OCD!

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  9. Those are so cute! You did a really good job!

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  10. Molly9:14 PM

    Slutty infant wear is also called prosti"tot". Just had a girl myself, and I like the "Little One" brand the best. Cute and reasonably priced, and less, words like "so cute" on the front.

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  11. You did a great job!

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  12. The dresses look really cute! I discovered quilting 2 years ago, and even bought a sewing machine (same brand as yours, with very similar features (my own mother was shocked).
    There are simple quilt designs you can make to hang on your baby's bedroom wall or to use as throws or wraps or blankets.

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  13. medrecgal10:02 PM

    Though you may not fancy yourself as a domestic goddess type, the little dresses are awfully cute. And who knows? Perhaps you'll end up with a tomboy type who'll love wearing her brothers' stuff, so that way you'll save a ton on the overly expensive frilly stuff. No, you haven't begun a descent into madness, you're just embarking on a somewhat different experience with this girl thing. It'll be fun to be along for the ride, too, for as long as you blog.

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  14. Anonymous10:16 PM

    Very cute and excellent job, especially for a first try. Just don't go completely crazy and start sewing up a bunch of mother-daughter clothes! I will not be able to stomach that.

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  15. Beautiful job! I love the fabrics you chose too, especially the birds.

    Suggestions for things to sew: car seat cover (also simple), legwarmers/babylegs (doesn't get any easier), cloth diapers (if you're into that) or diaper covers a.k.a. bloomers. Actually, I just remembered I have this site bookmarked: http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2008/11/babytoddler.html Lots of fun ideas and patterns!

    I'm trying to think of what I can make since I'm having another boy... I only liked dressing my first in cargo shorts and t-shirts, so rompers and overalls would probably not get used.

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  16. Erika (from Wellesley)10:19 PM

    Is there anything you can't do, Michelle? Those dresses are adorable and I can't believe you were able to make them look so fabulous and neat! I'm so impressed! By the way, where do you find time to do all of this stuff?

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  17. Next you'll be like my mother (who also worked full-time) and in late August you will go to the fabric store with your children and they will pick out a pattern for their Halloween costumes and you will sew the most epic costumes known to man. Which is how Halloween became my brother's and my favourite holiday outshining my birthday, Christmas and even back-to-school stationary supply shopping.

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  18. Oh my, this is the same pattern i used my girls, 42 years ago! It's still cute and you will live having a bunch of these. It's a style that works for little girls for along time...way togo!

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  19. Those are beautiful! Nice job!

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  20. OMG. What is next? Home schooling?

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  21. Anonymous11:21 PM

    agreed on the girl clothes being way more expensive than boy clothes - just wait, it'll get worse. i've always wondered why, since boy clothing typically requires more fabric...

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  22. Anonymous11:47 PM

    My mom is a seamstress and has taught countless people to sew (including me). She would tell you that you did an EXCELLENT job ... hard to believe it was your first time sewing with a sewing machine. Now, you officially have the bug. You'll try little shorts next, then move to stretchy fabric, then some ruffles, some smocking and yes, MAYBE, a quilt for the baby's room. Good luck! Remember, whoever dies with the most fabric stacked in the basement wins!

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  23. LOVE the birdie fabric! You did an awesome job.

    I second the bloomers suggestion. Nothing is cuter than a striped or ruffled bottom!

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  24. Fantastic job! The pinafores are so cute. My favorite is the red one.

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  25. Hi, I'm usually a lurker but I have to comment that the dresses are very impressive for your first project. I'm a fourth year med student and I hope that by sewing to procrastinate I'll be able to whip out some lightning bolt shaped stitches like in the A-team. As far as your next project goes, you should definitely try pillowcase dresses it literally a rectangle and some straps. (http://tipnut.com/pillowcase-dresses/) and if you're feeling fancy you can make them into tiered dressed.

    Mel@allwrappedup

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  26. Anonymous5:38 AM

    Whoa! From scrub cap to dresses, you go girl!! Are we seeing your Etsy shop anytime soon? :)

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  27. Sarah5:59 AM

    These are indeed excellent, and may I say that snaps are good because they do not require the dreaded buttonhole. My whole objective in sewing is to make sure I never have to line buttonholes up. One on a strap is do-able; a row is not. These are about the best thing to sew for a small girl, I think, because they can layer, or be worn alone, and all the other things you mention. Skirts are very easy but not practical until the child is running around (and maybe not then). Pillowcase dresses are fine when she is a little bigger. I second consignment stores.

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  28. Anonymous7:57 AM

    Wow, those are adorable! Don't overlook the joys of consignment shopping.

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  29. Mmmm... Where are you finding this allegedly expensive baby stuff? We've been buying Carter's for our daughter online, and everything is less than $10, and usually a lot less. And the girls' stuff is the same price as the boys' stuff (I buy both).

    The sewing is impressive (I guess that was the word I was looking for....) but honestly I haven't found dresses to be all that practical for our 4 month old. They ride up. And then there's the diaper cover thing that is a total pain in the butt. Now that it's getting hot, we put our daughter in a creeper if we're being all fancy, or a onesie if we're not.

    Your daughter is going to have adorable clothing though, if you keep this up. I expect pictures.

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  30. Cute kids clothes
    I never read this type of article before. I appreciate you for the article you have written. Thanks.

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  31. Anonymous9:15 AM

    You rock! Those dresses are adorable!
    I used the same outfits for the boy baby that I had for the girl baby, with a few new ones added in for color. It gets fun to dress girls when they can start wearing leggins and cute tops (9 months, a year?).

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  32. Anonymous9:25 AM

    keep the scraps and look for some quilt block patterns--log cabin and rail fence are simple straight cuts. You can easily make a quilt top---but if the idea of quilting is daunting you can outsource it to someone who has the setup and have it machine quilted. My daughter is moving into her first apartment next week and she still has her baby quilt.

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  33. So cute! I've had a sewing machine for years and only do small projects. Skirts have been very easy for my nearly 2 year old daughter and you only need smidgen of fabric.

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  34. Anonymous11:36 AM

    I saw the first dress and I died...and then I saw the second dress and I died some more. The fabric is soooo adorable! Good job mom!

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  35. You MADE that???
    That is AWESOME.
    I would say it's inspiring, but I'm not actually going to go out and get a sewing machine. Then again, it did cross my mind while reading your post. So okay, it is inspiring.

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  36. Anonymous12:44 PM

    Great Job! You will never know what lies in your depths until you try. And another great place to find those uber-expensive kids clothes on sale is Zulily. I am an addict!

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  37. Okay, I have always related to you and your writing, but now I think that we are long lost sisters of some variety (except I am not Chinese LOL).

    One - also an anesthesiologist
    Two - also can't stand spending money on kids' clothes and mostly buy very inexpensive items (I mean they are only going to wear it for such a short time! They won't know I got it at the bargain store). I refused to buy my daughter (she is the same age as Mack) fancy dressy clothes despite how many kids at preschool have them. Mostly she'd just rather wear her brother's hand-me-downs anyway!
    And finally - I also never had sewn and then felt compelled into making each child a quilt and bought a sewing machine and figured it out and did it.
    (But I haven't tried clothes yet - perhaps I will now?)

    Thanks for the awesome post and pictures (but, really, where do you find the time for these things?)

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  38. Are you kidding me? Those are freakin' adorable!

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  39. Anonymous3:18 PM

    it's your spiral into sheer awesomeness!! well done!

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  40. Those are fantastic!!! And that you MADE THEM? Get outta here!

    Thanks for posting the tutorial; as someone who also hates throwing money away on fancy clothes, I think I'm going to give this a try. Your pieces are totally inspirational.

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  41. Anonymous5:41 PM

    OMG You did such a good job. Geez, maybe you can open your own ETSY store and make 50 bucks a pop for each one you make...lol..

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  42. So sweet! I wish I could sew, but I have no crafty skills. Used clothes are the best! I have twin girls, so I have a ton of clothes. Between gifts, a twice yearly multiples used clothing sale, and four consignments sites on Facebook, I have only very rarely bought anything new, and I only bought things new because they were on sale.

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  43. Another Erika from Wellesley9:07 PM

    Baby clothes are just the beginning: http://living.msn.com/life-inspired/why-women-pay-more-1

    The dresses look great. Well done!

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  44. Annapolitan9:20 PM

    Wow, those are freaking adorable. I'm fairly advanced in the sewing skills department and I think you did a fine job. I just LOVE your fabric choices. And these smocks are so versatile because you can put a T-shirt underneath, or not.

    The next thing, obviously, is to make pants. Something you can pair with either the tops you sewed or they can worn with colorful little T-shirts. Pants are always my first suggestion for a beginner because even if they come out wonky, you can still wear them to bed, right?

    Pants are easy. It's usually two front pieces, two back pieces, sew up the crotch and then the side seams. Done! Oh, and hem the legs and do a casing for the elastic. If you can do reversible smocks, then pants will be a piece of cake.

    Also, you already have two pants-wearing offspring and there's a whole world of cute flannel waiting for you to make it up into warm jammy bottoms. (I don't even bother to make pajama tops anymore because isn't that what T-shirts are for?)

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  45. 1. Freakin' adorbs.
    2. Did you wash, dry, and iron the fabric before sewing? It's an important step; if you don't, your seams may come out wonky after you wash and dry the finished pieces.
    3. My personal limit on baby clothing is $4/piece but I'm a SAHM and have more time to shop than you do. Carters.com with 25% off coupons, Nordstrom Rack, Macy's clearance section, Target, and consignment stores are all great ideas. And make friends with generous people who have baby girls 6 months older than yours, LOL. I have the same issue with price and slutty clothing (what is with ALL of the ANIMAL PRINT?)
    4. More project ideas: crib rail guard (for teething, unless she just lives in MEGABED with you), crib skirt (suuuuper easy), a few identical lovey blankets (add little ribbon "taggies" for her to fondle), swaddling blankets (42" square flannel or muslin), blackout curtains for her room, pillow covers for the living room... I find that once I haul my sewing machine out of the closet, I just keep making crap so I don't have to put it away, ha ha.

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  46. Wow! Awesome! Beautiful baby clothes! I don't consider it as a psychotic break or something. I'm so inspired to learn how to sew. Hehe! Nice job, Michelle!

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  47. Very cute! And now you can see how easy it is to get hooked on crafts! Haha.

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  48. @milesclan
    If you are having problems with a sewing machine from thte 70's (both of mine are and still work great) - try having them cleaned and adjusted at a shop specializing in sewing machines...
    also constantly breaking thread is a sign that you have the tension adjusted incorrectly.

    Now to the main point: To those of you learning that sewing is not rocket science - good on you!
    All it takes it time and patience - and if my husband can do it, you can too. He has his OWN machine and sewing kit. All it took for him to want to learn was a boat needing canvas work!

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  49. Just wanted to say Hi, and the dresses are so cute! First time commenter, but long time reader. I love your writing, and your photography skills are amazing too. I definitely vote for some matching bloomers.

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  50. Anonymous8:36 PM

    1. that is just AWESOME.
    2. now you live in the south, so I MUST suggest you go all lilly pulitzer on us and make yourself one in the same print as one for the incoming thing #3. just saying.

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  51. Anonymous8:53 AM

    A quick tip- cotton 2T underwear makes a great diaper cover. But if you want to get all fancy there are great patterns on CD websites; My favorite is Rita's Rump Cover. http://handmadebyrita.blogspot.com/2007/10/httpwww.html

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  52. Totally unrelated to the beautiful dresses - but I was just re-reading "This Won't Hurt a Bit" and got to be reminded that Cal was born during July of your first year in anesthesia residency. I am starting internship *gulp* next week, and am currently 33 weeks pregnant. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for writing your story so I know that this can, in fact, be done.

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  53. Anonymous12:52 PM

    Wait what?? I thought you were having another boy? When did he turn into a SHE? Is the baby transgender? So confused.

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  54. doctor Mom11:22 PM

    Michelle, Just got back from our vacation. You never amaze me with what you can do when you set your mind on something. The dresses you made are prettier than those on line. If you have time, you can mass produce these. I am sure you will have a lot of customers. Both patterns are pretty, I particularly like the red floral print. I finally got a sewing machine and learned to use it. Unfortunately, I am still at the "shortening the pants" stage.

    Can't wait for the baby to be born.

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