Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sew NOT a Seamstress: Goal #4 Complete

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.
Goal #4: Sew an article of clothing and wear it in public  - COMPLETE

I've mentioned before that I know the basics about sewing but to actually sew an article of clothing and wear it in public? Well, that's something I've never done (and probably for good reason).

My original plan was to sew this cute little number:

"Sewing Level 1: Very Easy" the instructions promised. I can figure this out, I reasoned. Then I opened up the pattern which was covered in letters, symbols, notches, and dotted lines of varying lengths and thickness and felt my head start to swim. Yeah... that's not gonna happen without some semi-profession help.

On to "sewing an outfit" round two. I hunted down this simple, old tank + elastic + fabric = dress on Pintrest:
(source here)
Simple enough right? Yeah, that's what I thought too. Then a few thing happened which slowly unraveled my sewing aspirations. 

Thwart #1: Discount bin fabric. If you've hung around these parts long, you know I'm a gal who loves a frugal bargain. So off to JoAnn's discounted fabric rack I frolicked. I found a fabric that I really liked for $2 a yard! Problem was that it only sorta matched the old tank top I was planning on using for the project. Don't buy fabric that sorta matches. Just don't. 

Home again (home again, jiggity-jig), I happily began my project.

And then... Thwart #2: Attempting to cut fabric on the floor while fighting off two curious twins. Trying to avoid accidentally removing the fingers of my children with my extremely sharp rotary fabric cutters, I wasn't exactly paying close attention as I quickly sliced the fabric while also nudging the twins away from the dismemberment zone with my foot, elbow and/or knee. The result was that I cut the fabric too short and the wrong direction. Awesome. 

However, stubborn and cheap as I am, I did not scrap the unfortunate fabric that had been improperly sheared by my careless wielding of rotary cutters. Instead, (though I'm embarrassed to admit this because I know is at least one individual reading this post who happens to be completely brilliant at garment creation (yes, I'm referring to you Jordan N.)), I patched together the too-short, wrong-direction fabric with a panel of the remaining fabric. Resulting in a double seam on the back of the dress  which was made more noticeable by a pattern that did not line up.

Thwart #3: Buying patterned fabric. 

Thwart #4: Impatience, a short-attention-span and laziness. When I start a "just for fun" creative project, especially with something I'm not especially talented at (i.e. sewing), I like to crank it out fast and have instant results. Compounding this need for instant gratification and lack of skill was the frustration that the further I got into the project, the more I realized it was no turning out like I wanted it to. Not only did I have a double seam, but a funky, not-hanging-right hem. To confirm what I suspected (that this dress was beyond saving), I put it on and tried (unsuccessfully) to avoid the thirty pins holding the mess together.  And it looked awful. 

The colors did not match (please refer to "Thwart #1), the fit was all wrong and not even a little bit flattering. There was obviously only one thing left to do (give up you say? heavens no, that would be too easy). I only half gave up - and the top portion of the dress was given a new home: 

Whatever. The tank top was over ten years old anyways and too short. But daggonit if I didn't pay good money for the skirt fabric and elastic. I was determined to figure out something else, double seam, awkward hem and all! 

My Solution: Leaving the hopeless hem and irreversible extra panel as it was, I hiked the skirt portion of the dress up to my armpits, folded the elastic to the inside, tied on a sash to create an empire-waist and hailed my simple, strapless, shift dress completed.

Now for the second portion of the goal - wear it in public. Gulp. I don't get many opportunities to wear a dress in my line of work (that is, a stay-at-home mom), so it seemed my only option was wearing my creation to church. To my young, urban, artsy, hipster church. Double gulp.

But I did it. And when the whole outfit came together, even though I knew my dress was a bit haphazard, I still felt attractive wearing it. 

The moral of this sad tale? Sewing clothing takes patience and skill, and should not be entered into lightly. But (should you forego the aforementioned advice) with enough of the right accessories and a little confidence, just about any mess of a homemade dress can look pretty good.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Why being a new mom is like being a 7th grader

I keep trying (and failing) to write a blog post. In fact, I've got two really (potentially) good posts half-baked but every time I try to finish them, my would-be brilliant insight just kinda fizzles. I start with a really good point and end up with crickets chirping in my mental void. So I thought I'd just start writing with no plan, no point, and see what came out.

Primarily to blame for the lack of blogging of late is my unbelievably scattered "mommy brain" (so much worse than "pregnancy brain"). When I have down-time (rarely) it seems near impossible to straighten my thoughts out enough to form full sentences. And in regards to wit, grammar, spelling, depth and flow? Forget about it.

Of course, there is also this pair of blond, blue-eyed cuties taking up most of my time, will and brain-power:

But I can't really hold it against them that I'm seemingly incapable of blogging. (Besides, I really don't want to become a mom who spends more time blogging about my kids than interacting with them.)

I think though, my blogging hiatus has been caused by more than mere distractions and a brain departed. I've got this tender new identity as a mom, which seems to means that I'm more sensitive to criticism than I used to be. I try to be really laid-back with my parenting and trust my instinct, but feel like I don't know what I'm doing a large portion of the time and that can be a scary place for a high-achiever to be. It's harder still when people make comments (well-meaning or otherwise) or give a little look that suggests that I'm falling short as a mom. 

When people make judgement about me - when it's just about me - I try to not let it bother me (at least not deeply and permanently). But judgements about me as a mother (perceived, passive-aggressive, accidental, or actual) reflect not just on me, but on the well-being, development, and survival of two helpless little people that I'm responsible for. That makes any critiques really hard to bear right now. So when it comes to blogging and sharing my thoughts, struggles, opinions and experiences, it's not as easy as it once was. Part of me is hesitant to write about anything much because I'm trying to protect the shaky identity I'm developing as a new mom. Pair that with a brain full of fragmented thoughts and here my blog sits silent. 

I know some of my feelings of judgement are perceived only. Like back in middle school when you are sure that the girls whispering are talking about you and you are sure that everyone in the room is staring at your long, gangling legs. Being a new mom is like that - your confidence is wobbly, you are not sure who you are or what you are doing but you are sure that everyone else is judging you as much as you are judging yourself. "Mom-guilt" I believe it's called and it's a doozy. 

So yes, some of this is just in my head. Not everyone looking at me in the grocery store thinks I'm in over my head with the twins (but oh if I had a dollar for every time I've heard the words, "Well don't you have your hands full!"). And some of the time I'm just being overly-sensitive. But some of the time, mom-guilt is real (though I know very little of it is ill-intended) and it's intense. 

It is hard as a parent to not feel judged and to not be offended by other's comments and observations on your parenting (or on parenting in general). A friend of mine once commented during my pregnancy (when I had unintentionally offended some people with my thoughts on natural childbirth), "Welcome to parenting - it's the most volatile topic EVER." Boy was she right. 

As someone who is pretty outspoken with my thought/feelings/views, this new sensitivity is a two-sided-coin. On one hand, I don't want to share for fear of being found lacking. On the other hand, I want to share openly because I really feel it's important to be honest about ones struggles in the hopes of encouraging someone else in the same boat that they are not alone. On the other, other hand (apparently this is a three-sided, three-handed coin), I'm more aware that the opinions I share could be hurtful to someone and make them feel judged by me. 

Oy. What to do with all of this? I have no idea. To share? To hush up? To be sensitive? To grow thicker skin? Maybe some Frankenstein-esque combination of all of them. I'm not sure, but I am seeing how important it is for a new mom (or just a mom in general) to feel like she's doing a good job with her kids. Okay yes, there are some moms whose parenting needs an intervention, and there are times when we mess up. But for the most part, most of us are just doing the best we can and that needs to be good enough for those around us - whether they fully agree, or have a different opinion or think there is a "better" way. We all can show each other a little more grace in the parenting department, myself (to myself and to others) included. 

(Showing myself grace is proving to be the most challenging part of parenting, especially when my middle-school lack of confidence takes over. But the thing I'm most thankful for right now is that I've got a steady husband who is constantly assuring and reassuring me that I'm a good mom. Considering he sees the good and bad of my parenting day-in-day-out and is my accomplice in raising these boys, his encouragement is invaluable to keeping me sane and semi well-balanced.)