A Mama's Body

How we feel in our bodies and how we see ourselves is such a funny thing, isn't it? The way that it can utterly shape how we spend our days, weeks, and years. How looking in the mirror, or avoiding looking in the mirror determines our sense of self worth. After Silas was born, I lost the baby weight and then some. His constant need for movement definitely had something to do with that. But I didn't bounce back from Theda's birth in the same way. She is two and a half and I still find myself in a body that I don't recognize and in which I don't really feel comfortable.

My kids don't care about this difference between my actual body and my historical body, obviously. All they see is their mama. My husband doesn't care either. He has always loved me exactly the way that I am regardless of what shape that "way" takes during any given season of our lives. Society doesn't care. Seriously. The average person that I run into at the library or the grocery store does not have time to care about my body. It is a disconnect that exists within me alone. But that doesn't make it, or its consequences, any less real. When I don't feel good about myself, I'm less likely to parent gently. When I don't feel like I deserve to be cared for, it's hard to care for someone else.

I've been thinking a lot about sustainability lately and the ways in which it connects with body image. I remember when I was first waking up to living a more sustainable lifestyle and I often felt paralyzed that there was no perfect answer to anything. Purity is impossible. All choices had some sort of negative environmental cost and the trick was to prioritize the changes that made the most impact and to allow myself grace in those choices. And so I started to ask myself, how could I turn this rubric inward? What do I need to prioritize and where do I need to afford myself a little grace?

I realized that one of the most necessary things that I needed to do was to change the way that I dress myself. I need to allow myself to put in the effort to do more than just the maintenance tasks of showering and brushing my teeth. This means investing in clothes that actually fit and seeing the act of dressing myself as a creative one. Allowing myself to care. I've been wearing disposable clothing items for three years now - cobbling together an ill-fitting and temporary wardrobe from discount stores and secondhand shops because, even though I couldn't admit it, I felt that I was disposable too.

It was with these thoughts bubbling in my head that I agreed to do a sponsored post for prAna. I've admired their clothes and sustainable business practices for years, and loved the few pieces of theirs that I own. So, I decided to give it a go. They sent me a pair of pants and a sweater. They arrived. I opened the box. I tried them on. And I started to cry.

The difference was just so dramatic. In that simple act of putting on quality clothes that are well-made with intention, I was affirming that I - my body, my life, all of it - are full of intention too. Each moment of each day is too precious to waste. I'm working towards choosing to embrace it. 

prAna would like to offer A Life Sustained readers 15% off all purchases with code GH2ALF17

prAna provided me with these clothes, but the opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own.

A Baby Surprise Jacket, Four Years in the Making

It seems like ages and ages ago that I cast on this little jacket. It probably seems that way because it was indeed ages and ages ago. Four years ago. I started it for Silas, using a toddler hack of Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket. All that was left on it was to seam it up, but I just couldn't figure out how to do it back then and he outgrew it before I ever had a chance to finish it. So, into the bottom of the yarn bin it went. I remember being heartbroken about it. I used scrap yarn from all his baby knits...the gray from his T-Shirt Vest, purple from his diaper covers, the two rows of green from his baby beanie, yellow from his aviatrix, and bits from other projects as well.

Lately I've been feeling a strong pull to tie up loose ends. To finish the unfinished. Close books. Put to rest. I haven't knit anything in months and decided that I wanted to finish up something old before I started something new. So, with a different toddler in mind, I pulled out this little jacket. After a quick YouTube tutorial and two nights on the couch, I crocheted the seams together and finally (finally!) had a finished jacket (ravelry notes here). It is probably the most "handmade" looking thing that I've ever made. It seems very grandmotherly. I decided to embrace this and go all out by sewing on some vintage wooden toggle buttons.

Theda loves it. I put it on her this morning and, even though the temperature broke 70 this afternoon, she refused to take it off. Maybe there's something fitting about this - the weaving together of the story of these two children. What she receives are hand-me-downs, but she breathes into them a life all her own.

An Eleena Dress

We recently took a weekend trip to the grandparents' house to celebrate a cousin's birthday. A new dress was clearly necessary for such an occasion. Right? Right. So, this is the Eleena dress from Coffee & Thread. I actually was only intending to buy the pattern for these pants, but then I saw Meg's version of this dress on the blog tour for its release and fell in love. Plus, the pattern was on sale...who am I to *not* buy a cute sewing pattern when it's on sale?

Theda measured between a size 2 and 3, so I went ahead and made the 3. It's a little roomy, but at least she won't outgrow it in a week. I was able to make this during the day while the kids played around me. This is something that I've never been able to do before and it felt so freeing! This was also my first attempt at a zipper and an invisible zipper at that. It was so easy, I'm not sure why I resisted zippers for so long. I didn't even use a zipper foot.

The pattern did advise understitching the neckline to keep the lining fabric from peeking out, which I didn't do (I was in a hurry!). I didn't think that it would bother me, but it totally does. Note to self: don't skip this step next time! I also handstitched the lining to the dress along the zipper so that the raw edges wouldn't be exposed. It didn't seem like I was being instructed to do so, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Maybe it's one of those things that an experienced sewer would know to do and so they don't mention it in the instructions? I don't know. I also tacked down the collar in the front and back with a couple of stitches to keep it from flipping up. Regardless, I ended up with a nice, clean finish inside and a super comfy, sturdy play dress.

I really wanted to do the entire dress in the patterned fabric (Village in Mustard from the Abacus collection by Alison Glass for Andover), but I was just shy in yardage. I picked up a just a yard of it when a quilt shop down the road from me went out of business and was clearing everything out. I had planned to do the inverted pleat in the gold (Curry by Kona), but ended up doing the back panel in it as well. I had a scrap of pink (Bubblegum by Cloud 9) left over from her birthday dress and it happened to match the pattern exactly, so I decided to use it for the collar.

Perfect for all the berry picking, backyard playing, and immersion in puddles that goes on around here.

Easter Mama-Mades

This morning as Silas and Theda woke up bright and early for Easter, they found a new mama-made shirt and dress all laid out for them. It's the first time that I've really surprised them with clothes and having Theda rush into the bedroom to wake me and declare "Bunnies! Put it on!" pretty much ensures that it will happen again in the near future.

The dress is my second Geranium. This time I did the faux cap sleeves, pleated skirt with side seam pockets, and cutout neckline. I love it so much! It really is so quick to sew and the result is an adorable, but more importantly, sturdy play dress. The bodice is a napkin that I picked up at the thrift store and the skirt is some hemp decorator fabric leftover from when my mother-in-law so kindly sewed me a Mei Tai back when Silas was a baby (that we still use every day!). I added flat piping again because, hey, everything is better with piping.

Silas is sporting a Recess Raglan and this is the fourth time I've made one of these (The first went un-blogged, but you can see it in this post and here are two and three). This kid won't wear anything with buttons and pretty much will only wear knits, so this is a perfect one for him. The main fabric is Adventure Springs by Bonnie Christine for Art Gallery and the sleeves are City Lights Day by Leah Duncan for Art Gallery (I talk about Silas picking it out here). This is a shirt I intended (and attempted!) to make for him two years ago. I'm so glad I got to see him happily wearing it today.

After they put on their new duds, Silas and Steve made their annual Easter trip to the doughnut shop to pick up breakfast, which, coincidentally, is always exactly when the Easter bunny arrives. Somehow, I never hear him open the refrigerator door, take out the eggs that we've colored and then hide them in the backyard. Huh. Weird. 

Just the two of them searching for a dozen eggs in our yard is about the speed of our little family and it was a perfect way to spend the morning and then the rest of the day together. Happy Easter!

A Dress with Pockets

Awhile ago someone posted a picture of a dress by Remie Girl in one of my Facebook groups. It was this adorable, soft knit with enormous pockets. I became obsessed! For the next three nights I dreamt about this dress. Clearly I had to make it.

I started searching for a good knit dress pattern. I ended up going with the Isla Infinity Dress by Simple Life Pattern Co. on Etsy. I liked that there were several options for every element of the dress and I thought that even if I couldn't recreate my inspiration dress with it, it would still be a really good, basic knit dress pattern. Turns out, it was perfect! I went with the 3/4 length sleeve, the high/low waist, and gathered skirt. The pattern didn't include pockets, but I figured that was something I could wing. I love how slouchy the pockets are in my inspiration dress and this tutorial was very helpful to achieve the same effect. I used Telio Organic Cotton Jersey in Grey. It's always so hard to tell what a color truly is online. In the photos, this one seemed to have a purplish cast to it, which I liked, and I was so relieved that it really did have a bit of purple in it in person. I'm getting a little bit wiser in my sewing and I actually measured Theda before cutting this out. I ended up cutting out a 3T bodice and a 4T skirt because I wanted it to fall below her knee.

I'm so very happy with how it turned out! Theda is too. She had a grand time marching around the yard on this very warm, albeit windy, day. Her favorite thing to put in the pockets? Rocks.

A Second Birthday Dress

This little one turned two last week. Her birthday unintentionally took on a kitty theme. Jenny's Birthday Book made its first appearance at our house last month when we pulled it out for Silas' birthday celebration. (I totally lucked out and found a first edition in pristine condition for 88 cents at the thrift store!) She loved it so much that she wouldn't let me put it away and has insisted that it stay in regular reading rotation. She recites snippets of the whole thing, which may be the most adorable thing ever. "Up the stairs...go to sleep," is her favorite phrase from it.

Then, of course, there had to be a kitty birthday dress. The pattern is the ever-popular Geranium by Made by Rae. I love it so much! I already have a second one cut out for her Easter dress. The main fabric is Here Kitty Kitty by Alyssa Thomas of Penguin and Fish for Clothworks. The accent fabric, Bubblegum by Cloud 9, was a lucky perfect match found at JoAnn's. I wasn't necessarily intending to use an accent fabric, but I had less yardage of the kitty fabric than the pattern called for and was shy the flutter sleeves. I loved how it looked so much, I added some patch pockets and flat piping as well (inspired by this and following the tutorial here).

My first attempt at buttons! My machine does have a buttonhole setting, but it's the 1960's version of "automatic" so there's still lots of room for user error. I kind-of want to put buttons on everything now.

The patch pockets are perfect for holding Lego people, which both she and Silas call their "babies." She wasn't quite sure how pockets worked, but after a brief demonstration she saw their potential for holding all manner of treasures. There is a shortage of pockets in girls clothing. I think all dresses must have pockets from now on.

Here she is pointing to her favorite kitty; the "big one."

I actually finished sewing this up a full week before her birthday. Can you imagine?! Not staying up all night the evening prior? Why, that's unheard of!

And how could I resist making her an actual kitty to hug and snuggle? It's made from a pair of her wool baby socks that no longer fit (following this tutorial). It's stuffed with wool roving and even the embroidery is done with vintage wool crewel yarn. That's a lot of wool!

Giving her kitty some "huuuuuuuuuugs!"

I recently organized my fabric stash. It's lovely to see it all stacked up and color coordinated! Having it out where I can see it everyday has inspired me to actually use it. So, I made myself a pledge. For this summer season I'm not buying the kids any clothes at all, not even used. Whatever gaps they have in their hand-me-down wardrobe will be filled with mama-mades stitched from my stash. When I declared this plan to Steve he chuckled and muttered something along the lines of, "I'll believe it when I see it." I presented him with the kitty birthday dress completed a FULL WEEK before its deadline, but somehow that was not convincing enough evidence. So, I guess it's time to get to work...

Discovering Hexagons

After playing around with pentagons, Silas' sixth birthday seemed like a good time to discover hexagons.

Our previous geometric introduction was so positive, having the shape revealed in the sea star, that I hoped to find a similar way to use nature to find our next geometric form. In one of my internet search rabbit holes, I read some fascinating facts about bubbles, including the fact that a bunch of bubbles that are uniform in size will always come together to make hexagons. But how to make this visible for a six-year-old?

I started with a clear box acrylic picture frame. On this particular frame, the corners weren't sealed, so I ran a bead of hot glue in each one to make it water tight. Add some soapy water and a straw and not much instruction was needed.

Once we had a good tray of bubbles, we placed another flat piece of plexi on top of the tray, which served to flatten the bubbles into a wall.

A dry erase marker let Silas trace the walls of the bubbles. Our bubbles were not uniform in size, so their hexagonal shape was not always obvious, but once he traced the whole thing out, it sure did look a lot like a beehive! 

We tried another variation of this experiment by mixing paint in with our soapy water in order to make bubble prints.

He wanted to hunt for and trace the hexagons on this one as well.

Greatly inspired by this post, we made hexagon tessellations using monochromatic images cut from magazines and our homemade hexagon inset.

We each chose to do our favorite color: red for him and green for me.

We also built a hexagon outside with logs that we walked every morning and tried to find hexagons out in the world and in nature (there are many!) We got some honey comb to try and made hexagons with the geo board and drew them with our inset. It may seem odd that we've spent such a long time focusing on so few shapes (two so far for the whole semester), but I think that it's been a beneficial experience. His familiarity and understanding of them is deeper than I think it would be if we were quickly moving on to the next thing. My original intention was to work through all the polygons sequentially, which would make the heptagon next, but I think that will just muddle the waters. Now I'm feeling the pull to focus on something completely different. Quatrefoil, perhaps?


Last weekend we all headed to a baby shower. Silas and Theda will have a new wee cousin in a few short weeks and they are absolutely thrilled (so are we!). I wanted to have a little something handmade to tuck into the gift bag, so I sewed up my very first pair of Maxaloones.

I bought this pattern before Theda was born (2 years ago!) and got as far as printing and cutting it out. How I wish that I would have mustered the motivation to sew them up! While she looks adorable modeling this (too small for her) pair, my heart melts at putting these on a little squish.

The accent fabric is upcycled from a knit cotton dress of mine and the main fabric is City Lights Day by Leah Duncan for Art Gallery. Silas picked it out. In the months leading up to Theda's birth I went on a spree of signing up for activities and camps for Silas. I think that I was worried he would be jealous of the new baby and having some special things for him to look forward to would lessen the blow. And, too, I think that I was worried for myself - that I wouldn't know what to do with two kids at home and would appreciate the structure of having outings to plan around.

One of the activities that we signed up for that first summer, were art classes at the downtown rec center. Most of the other parents dropped off, but Silas wanted me to stay, so I did. I stayed and bounced the newborn Theda in her carrier as she dozed. On one of these class days she had just fallen asleep as his class was ending. The thought of waking her in order to strap her into the car for the trip home didn't seem at all appealing, so I asked Silas if he wanted to go for a walk. Always agreeable, he said sure.

Prior to this he had asked me to sew him a shirt, so I suggested that we walk across town to the locally-owned fabric store for him to pick out some fabric. Their selection of knits was small, but he fell in love with this one and we walked back to the car, swinging by our grocery co-op for a pastry treat along the way.

By week's end, I had sewn him a shirt, using a pattern in one of my sewing books, which turned out to be the worst pattern ever. The neck opening was entirely too small (he couldn't get his head through at all!) and he never got to wear it. A quick Google search reassured me that this was a problem that others had had with this pattern as well and I'm not just horrible at making shirts. The fabric is so beautiful, though, and I hated to see it go to waste, so I tucked the shirt in the scrap basket knowing that it would be perfect to cut up for a small project. And then I needed to make some baby pants!