My first maternity leave with Cal, you'll remember, was three weeks into my Anesthesia residency. So I spent much of that five weeks off from work trying to memorize Baby Miller, or at least, you know, sitting at a desk with Baby Miller open in front of me. That was...fun.
With Mack, I had the second round edits due on my book--and this was a big edit, since the first round manuscript had the chapters arranged by theme instead of chronologically; it was basically akin to dismantling your entire house and then building it again but with the rooms all in different places, with, uh, new doors and hallways connecting them (that creaking sound is that of a metaphor becoming overly labored)--so that leave was also spent marinating in a stew of low-grade obligation and stress.
But this maternity leave, I think I pretty much cleared the deck. I'm not even doing those speaking engagements anymore, so there's no more of that "I gotta do my slides, I gotta review my slides, I gotta practice running through my slides" that has catagorized most of last year up until the Spring when I quit traveling.
So I'm doing some sewing is what I'm saying.
Some functional stuff I made for the baby. That blanket, based on the tutorial here, and that crib sheet, based on the tutorial here. Both were actually really easy, so fellow novice sewers, have at it, you will be surprised and pleased.
Then I modified the measurements on the fitted mattress sheet tutorial to make a cover for the diaper changing pad here. This was especially pleasing because I got this piece of red striped cotton fabric from the "scraps" bin at the fabric store for 99 cents. It was just big enough for the project, which was a happy coincidence. (Joe also thought it was a coincidence that the cover matched the alphabet print hanging over the changing table, but I disabused him of that notion quickly--THE COLOR COORDINATION WAS PLANNED, DAMMIT.)
Speaking of salvage, my new thing is sewing with knit fabrics from thrift store finds. Woven fabrics are nice and of course come in gorgeous prints, but in making things for kids, knit fabrics (think T-shirts, stretchy pants, etcetera) are much softer and more comfortable, especially for a baby. Even for older kids--Cal complained endlessly when he had to wear this button-down shirt for school picture day, but he will wear any T-shirt or polo shirt until it basically disintegrates. So anyway, I found this soft cotton sweater at the thrift store--not my style, and also not my size, but appealing in its oatmeal and grey stripes. As you will soon see, I love stripes. So I hacked off the bottom part and hacked off the sleeves, and made these two new items, respectively.
The internet is full of variations on how to make a dress from a onesie, so I'll just point you to this one here and say that I just sawed off a tube of fabric from the bottom of an adult T-shirt just to make it that much easier. For comfort I decided to place the skirt part up higher, like an empire waist, so that the inflexible part of the stitching wouldn't be over the baby's stomach, where her width is the widest.
The pants I made out of the sweater sleeves, which was great because I basically had only had to sew the crotch seam and the casing. (Tutorial for that little project here--but again, the internet is full of similar tutorials and variations therein, just look around.) The onesies I got from Rock Bottom T-shirts, who I've mentioned before and with whom I have no relationship, but boy do I love them. (Another plug: I also ordered some polo shirts from them for Mack's school uniforms--they are of surprisingly good quality.)
Using the bottom part of a T-shirt to make a dress was so easy that I just went ahead and made a couple more for the fall. MORE STRIPES, PLEASE. (No pants out of the navy and grey striped T-shirt, unfortunately--I would have loved to make them, but unfortunately that T-shirt was short-sleeved.)
And just so you don't think I am totally anti-pink, this last one here, which I'm hoping will fit by around Thanksgiving.
Just an observation--your local Goodwill is where all Gap, Old Navy and Target-branded shirts (your Merona, your Cherokee, your Massimo for Target, what have you) go to die. It's like the elephant graveyard of soft T-shirts.
Another thing that they have at thrift stores is old sweaters. Many of them are hideous, but some of them are decent, or, barring that, made of very soft wools or cotton (sometimes even cashmere) that you can rescue and turn into something else. I found this grey angora turtleneck sweater that I was able to turn into two things for the winter. (I kind of wish I had taken I picture of the sweater before I started, but this was my first time doing some of this stuff so in the event that it turned out crappy you understand I wanted to hide the evidence.) First, these pants:
Again, from the sleeves of the sweater. The angora is really pretty soft, but wool always has the potential to be scratchy so I decided to line the inside of the pants with the remnants of another thrifted T-shirt. I actually had used that T- shirt to make another pair of soft pants, but I screwed that pair up in that I wasn't playing close attention and ended up sewing half the seams on the outside, half on the inside. However, all was not lost--I just slipped that whole pair of pants inside the sweater pants, sewed them together and folded up the cuffs, and behold. Mistake rectified.
The rest of the sweater (meaning the body part) I used to make this little cardigan, and let me just tell you, I AM SO PROUD OF THIS CARDIGAN. I'd never sewn sleeves before, you see (something about the three-dimensionality of it seemed overwhelming to me) and I'd never drafted my own pattern before (I used a 6 month-sized onesie to approximate the size and dimensions), and while keen observation would undoubtedly reveal the amateur nature of this project, it actually turned out pretty well, and, I hope, very wearable. (I would have liked buttons ideally, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet, and I didn't want to screw up the sweater with my first attempts.)
I mentioned this was a turtleneck sweater, right? Well, there wasn't quite enough fabric to make the sleeves long enough, so I used the ribbing from the turtleneck to extend the sleeve length and make cuffs. YOU'RE GOD DAMN RIGHT I DID.
I also used some of the leftover ribbing from the turtleneck to bind off the collar. My stitching has its lumpy bits, but it won't be spotted from a trotting horse. (Remember how Ramona's dad said that about her lamb costume? I still think about that sometimes. That and how the older girls colored her nose with mascara.)
And this was what was left of the sweater after I was done. Every part of the buffalo, baby.
Now you'll have to remember that I only started sewing stuff like, what, a few months ago? So I'm fairly new at this game. However, as hobbies go, it's pretty fun. Someone in the last entry asked me what I thought people would need to get started, and I have a few things that I would suggest.
First: a sewing machine. I use this one, the Brother CS6000i, because while I didn't want to get the most expensive sewing machine in the universe, I also didn't want to get one that didn't have a good range of functions. This one is nice because it's computerized (meaning you can change the type of stiches by pushing a few buttons), has a lot of nice convenience features, is really easy to use, and most importantly comes loaded up with basically every accessory that you could possibly need. So I would recommend it, but it's also the only one I've really ever tried--there are cheaper models out there too, but I can't attest to their user-friendliness.
I'm going to assume you have scissors in your house if you're, you know, a human being, but I would also recommend (because I use it all the time) getting a rotary cutter (basically like a pizza cutter but for fabric and paper) and a cutting mat, unless you want to be like me with gouges all over one end of the table. Sure, you can use the scissors for cutting too, but for long, straight cuts, the rotary cutter is easier.
You can get thread basically anywhere, and if you're starting out, I wouldn't go nuts--just go to any kind of craft store and get the handful of colors that you need. But if you're looking for more colors to match your projects, this company called Threadsrus (I keep reading that as "thesaurus" but I think it's supposed to be Threads R Us--whether the R is written backwards is unclear) offers good quality thread at a very reasonable deal. I am not at the point yet where I am ordering 200 spools of thread, mind you, but I did order a smaller aliquot from them in an assortment of colors, and I've been pretty pleased.
Oh, one last thing. If you are prone to jabbing yourself with pins while you work (and I don't know how I am so injury-prone when sewing but I am--if I had as many needle sticks at work as I've had at home I would live at employee health permanently) might I recommend these? They are these little fabric clips that hold your cloth together in lieu of pins in most situations, and they work great. Don't bother with the small pack, get the big pack of 50, you will definitely not regret it. They are super useful, and, you know, not so pointy.
Of course there's a ton of other stuff that you can get if you're in the market and have money to burn, but for a start, that's what I would recommend. Anyway, sewing is fun, cutting up old busted clothes to make new cute clothes is fun, so let's all do it and humiliate our children by forcing them to wear our lumpy, ill-shaped handiwork into school! It'll be awesome!
Feel free to discuss other sewing recommendations--either for projects or tools--in the comments section, and we will all share in the goodness. And just so we don't get too far off course into turning this into a total other species of blog, my next entry will be the oft-requested "Day in the Life" post about private practice anesthesiology, or at least my experiences in that realm. It'll be a real humdinger!
Hope you had a good weekend.