i sewed a fair amount in middle and high school, mostly hand-sewn crazy quilts with my friend erin (totally rock and roll). so when i was pregnant with shosh, it was only natural to haul out the ol' sewing machine and see what my crazily nesting ass could whip up. blankets, bunting for her nursery, bibs and burp cloths, little fabric birds for a mobile. clothing was always too intimidating, and i've never been able to follow a pattern (still can't, really). my grandma, whose ancient and wonderful viking i inherited, was the same kind of sewer. she was totally self-taught, making things up as she went along and rarely following a pattern. she'd take things apart to see how they worked, then sew up a new one, which is exactly what i do, fifty years later. weird confessional sidenote: part of me wishes i'd saved the underwear collection we discovered while going through her dresser after she died. she had dozens of pairs sewn from every scrap of fabric imaginable, bright florals and pink paisleys and everything silky-soft in between. maybe someday i, too, will be the kind of woman who whips up a pair of undies from every soft-fabric project scrap i encounter...ah, someday.
the first time i ever made clothes for sho, it was her first fall and i had been reading a lot of little house on the prairie. deep in my bones, i felt the need to prepare for the changing seasons in an elemental, simple way - to sew clothes that would keep my small babe warm through the bitter michigan winter. i used old t-shirts to make many versions of the 90-minute shirt, some adapted into dresses, others into little matching sweatsuits. it was incredibly satisfying work; a tangible, practical way to put my love of that little bald-headed baby of mine into action. it was an amazing feeling to take a ripped old t-shirt, sit down at my sewing machine nook under the stairs, and emerge an hour later with a one-of-a-kind creation for my girl. i loved that she'd be wearing soft, awesome-looking clothes made with serious mama love all winter long. many have been passed along, but some of the things i made that fall still remain:
when spring rolled around, i found myself overwhelmed by the same urge to create new clothes for the new season in my girl's life, to celebrate the return of the sun and waving leaves and warmth on our skin. ever since that first change of season from summer to fall, i have felt the pull of the sewing machine every time one season wanes and another waxes in. for me it is a way of honoring the change in weather, of feeling connected to the cycles of the earth in a very practical way. i'm thankful that we've never had a lot of money for clothes, because i doubt that i would have pursued my sewing so enthusiastically if i'd had the money to buy new ones. this way is so much more rewarding.
for sho's second winter on this earth, i was obsessed with pants. i took apart a pair of hers to figure out how it worked, and made a pattern out of a brown paper bag taped together, which i still have and use for new baby gifts today. if you're reading this and thinking about sewing clothes for the first time, i recommend starting with kid pants. they're quick, surprisingly easy, and so satisfying - you'll be hooked. it's a gateway drug into the world of sewing for your kiddo, with this easy tutorial for reversible pants quick on its heels (i wish i'd thought to look at either of those links before battling it out on my own; they're great)! you can use a pair of your kiddo's pants to make the pattern if the size in the linked tutorial isn't right - just be sure to use a non-stretchy pair of pants if you'll be using non-stretchy fabric, and likewise with knit fabrics. i was totally hooked on making quick-change trousers from the book handmade beginnings, which i checked out from the library and drooled over for a solid month before regretfully returning it. i'd really recommend her book, as well as handmade home (my fave) and growing up sew liberated for sewing inspiration and patterns that aren't too obnoxious to follow. below are some of the pants i made that fall, a few of which still fit today. (i just put those floral pants on shoshi this morning before i left for work, in fact!) the cuffs allow these pants to be worn for ages; just uncuff 'em as your babe grows.
the thing is, i'm not a great sewer. i get frustrated and rip out seams and swear at my machine, which is why these days i rarely try anything that's too elaborate; i know my limitations and would rather have fun while sewing. i'm an immediate gratification type of sewer, totally. if you're just starting off, i would advise you not to linger too long on those glossy pages in the books i linked to above that say "advanced" or "intermediate" sewer. stick with really simple projects you can finish in a half hour at first - burp cloths or a soft blanket or a bib. when you realize how easy those projects can be, and run through the house yelling "look what i just made! look what i just made!" for the first time...that's how you'll get hooked. not with some elaborate baby hoodie with pockets and toggle fasteners and a hood, tempting as it may be. if your kiddo has outgrown the bib/burp cloth stage, this stuffed bunny tutorial looks rather fabulous to me, and not too tough to make at all. you are going to make mistakes and rip out your seams and/or hair, but try to keep in mind that that's how you're learning (at least, if you're like me...). when i think back to some of the mistakes i made, i just have to shake my head and say, "oh honey." but i had to make 'em to learn, and i'm so glad i stuck with it! [peep our shop if you'd like to see what we've been up to lately - new monsters and capes up today.]
this summer, i've been obsessed with making the dresses featured below. i can easily make two during a little after-sho's-bedtime-before-mine sewing session, with no frustration involved. perfection. i'm already setting aside long-sleeved onesies and coordinating fabrics for fall and winter dresses for shoshanna. i've made a few circle skirts for her as well, and have been pleasantly surprised by how simple they are. i might just step outside of my kiddo-sewing comfort zone and make one for myself soon....
anyhow, thanks for listening to my rambles about my journey thus far sewing for my little shoshanna mary. i hope all those blasted links might be helpful to some of you out there who are interested in sewing for your own little ones! i chose them carefully and can recommend every one.
i know this blog doesn't have a ton of readers yet, but i'd like to thank you guys for reading with a very little giveaway - with another in the works for later this week! it's a crown, which i'll embroider with the initial of your choice on a patch in the front before sewing it together, with elastic in the back for easy on-and-off. i'll ask the winner for the head circumference of their little one so i can make it fit just right! [also, i know there's some pink in there, but it's a manly pink...however, if you win and had a boy in mind for the crown, and that boy would rather not have pink, i will happily make another crown just for you.]
just leave a comment below (be sure to include a way to get in touch with you), and introduce yourself if you'd like to. i'll choose the winner using random.org on friday august 7th. good luck, and thank you so much for reading!