I remember going through baby clothes for my firstborn and thinking how amazing it was that there could be so much pink in one place. Pepto Bismol pink, Barbie pink...pinkpinkpinkpinkpink. I rebelled quite a bit with both girls and put them in whatever "boy" clothes I liked. But I also came to terms with pink. It's actually a really nice color. It's warm and friendly. Good qualities on any occasion.
I wasn't quite prepared for how pissed off I'd feel about gendered clothing now that I'm expecting a son. The social taboo against cross dressing your kid doesn't apply anywhere near as powerfully with girls. It's all down to this: female=less than male, so a feminized male=less than male=bad/damaged/gay. A boy in pink isn't just a boy in pink, he's being humiliated by being associated with girls and women.
Yeah. Funk that. On so many levels.
Big Butt Baby Pants and tiny onesies, in various colors, including some pink.
I've been on a sewing binge recently. Just kids' clothes, not any of the quilting projects languishing in bins in the sewing/meditation room (yup, that's exactly what it is: craft room and home zendo; for some reason the dude does not display Buddha-like equanimity when my craft junk finds its way into his side of the room).
I have developed, to my deep chagrin, a startling pickiness in kids' clothes in recent months. It really began when the big kid outgrew a size 6/6X pants length and needed a 7. That shifts you up into the 7-12 size range, which I'd always kind of looked at askance. Even when both of my kids were comfortably settled in the infant and toddler Zone of Cute I could see the tween thing staring me down in the front of every Target store: "Just wait. You will get here," the Targets seemed to say. No! Go to hell! Clutch the babies tight, etc., etc.
What happens in that 7-12 range is that clothing companies target either the lower end of the range or the upper. It's pretty simple and obvious, and makes perfect business sense. The issue is that the companies that target the lower age range are all more expensive catalog brands like Hanna Andersson and Lands End. The brick and mortar clothing retailers all seem to sell a very much more "fashiony", tweeny look. That doesn't work for my stuffed-animal-cuddling, dolly-loving 6 year-old or this particular mother of a 6 year-old at all.
(I have to add here that this has nothing whatsoever to do with "modesty". I'll be rude and admit that the idea of being concerned about the "modesty" of little girls creeps me out. My kids get to spend huge swaths of their days running around totally naked. Our two rules are: clothes on when company comes over, and our junk is private in that no one gets to touch anyone else's and no one wants to get an eyeful. I don't need to turn around and see that while I'm baking something. Just...community-minded nakedness, please. As far as appropriate public attire is concerned, as long as my kids (regardless of gender) are flashing neither nipples nor knickers I'm satisfied they're covered enough for decency. Moving on.)
We have a few more compounding factors right now: a desire for mix-and-match, minimalist wardrobes for the kids that look clean and pulled together, an extraordinarily tight budget, and a desire to avoid sweatshop production when at all possible. Such a tall order! (There's some other garbage having to do with baby boys and very much wanting my son to be able to have butterflies on his clothes, but that's for another post.)
Ultimately it's only budget-friendly because I already have a fabric stash, but with a mind towards summer labor that might produce what we need come fall, I've been making some of what I want at home.
These are both the modkid Kyoko dress, with short sleeves and worn without their obi-style sash. It's a very loose dress, and knee length on both girls. Really pretty perfect for what I envision for their wardrobes next year: four or five casual dresses that slip over the head, worn with sweaters that match and long leggings in the colder months and on their own with shorts or knee-length leggings underneath in the summer. Easy as pie. Toss in a couple of t-shirts, shorts, and a fancy dress outfit and we're pretty much set.
Of course these are probably the last couple of years of the big kid wanting to wear dresses all the time. So it goes. I made hers for her last Christmas, along with the little shawl. The dress fits her perfectly right now, so I'm planning to make her several more in this sort of purple/coral/teal color story, then buy some of the nicer, thicker leggings in colors that work with them all. I can make her some headbands and whatnot, choose the yarn for the fall and winter handknits so they go with everything.
I finished the little kid's dress this morning. She has a pretty awesome red/pink/green thing going on:
This goes with her two wool cardigans, which I hope will last through most of fall if not until next spring.
I started to feel a little self-conscious revealing this plan, like I'm being weirdly controlling, and then I reminded myself that anyone who has ever raised children is likely to see the merits of paring down the kids' wardrobes to exactly what's needed, what works together, and what looks nice.
Perhaps I'm putting more thought into it than most, but then again I'm also clocking quite a bit of time at the sewing machine and I want to make the VERY most of that time, so there you go: strategery.
I managed to make a couple of things for both of my kids this Christmas, so: huzzah! But I procrastinated, and ended up being rushed in the day or two prior to Christmas Day finishing things up. Which meant it was the perfect time to decide to make some lined drawstring bags to wrap the gifts in.
Last year my sister had passed along some remnants of Christmas fabrics she'd used to make pajamas for the whole family, including a couple of Hello Kitty prints, and I knew the girls would really enjoy them. We've done fabric wrapping for a couple of years now, and love it. It's actually very beautiful, simple to make and use and eliminates all the trash that's made opening gifts.
For the new bags, I used this lined drawstring bag tutorial and they turned out beautifully. They're lined, and have a double drawstring and a gusseted bottom, so they're very sturdy and they stand up well when they're filled.
There were paper tags with my kids' names on them, which I did a super duper job covering over in MS Paint.
The books we bought them fit perfectly in the simple fabric pouches I made last year (sitting underneath the new bags in the picture), and the handmade things fit in the Kitty bags. Just right.
Unexpected bonus: my girls stored their stocking loot in them after they'd finished opening the stockings and gifts. My older girl automatically popped all her stuff in her bag, which was a pleasant surprise. The bags kept everything together and they could carry them around or put them in their room or whatever and not lose anything or get things mixed up. Most excellent.
One of my goals for the coming year is to burn through my fabric stash, and I will be making more of these bags as birthday wrapping (if I was going to buy fabric for that express purpose, the Sarah Jane balloon print would be incredibly sweet), as well as some to use as project bags, maybe some to sort and store toys for the girls.
Simple and useful.
At the symphony last week I couldn't help but notice the stream of young girls coming out of the hall carrying their American Girl dolls, all dolled up. And so it was that I had an idea planted in my head, however obliquely, that I might, at some point, like to make my girl and her doll matching dresses. Last night, right after sitting down to watch Män som hatar kvinnor with my dude, I thought I might try to whip out a little matching number for Miss Addy at the opera...you know, without a pattern and while reading subtitles.
Addy would like you to try to avoid looking at her raw neckline (that's a long movie, but apparently not quite long enough for adding the bodice and midriff linings), but I assure you that her seams are French.
And the real point of all this is that now my sister has to bring my loudly dressed daughter and her loudly dressed doll out for some fancy singing. HA! Satisfying.
The big kid is going to her very first real live professional full-length opera this weekend. She has been anticipating this, quite vocally, for months now. She knows she is very, very close, and she is over the moon.
At this point, she knows The Magic Flute inside and out, which is good; if the opera has subtitles she won't be able to read them. But she knows what they're singing about, in every. single. scene.
I have become more familiar than I ever would have thought possible with this opera (if I ever thought I would become familiar with any opera, ever, which I didn't) over the course of weeks and weeks of feeding her obsession with (repeated) viewings of a recorded production and a film, audio recordings and books, and I can say without reservation that it is enormously silly. And the silliest of the silly persons in this silly opera is a bird catcher named Papageno, who wants nothing more than to find his "Papagena", a little wife to settle down and make babies with. He finds her. It is sweet and charming. This is my favorite performance of their duet at the end. They are singing about how much they want their love to be blessed with children...and arguing, in a sexy-flirty kind of way, about having boys or girls. Traditionally Papageno and Papagena are costumed in feathers. And for this weekend, on this most special of special occasions, my girl requested a Papagena dress.
I stopped short of hand sewing hundreds of feathers into a skirt, which she would have preferred. She did insist on a halter top, so we picked out McCalls 5838 and found this ridiculous bird fabric at JoAnn and trimmed it in a most flamboyant, silly way. I think for the show itself we may be able to arrange some kind of plumage in her hair.
I hope someone at the show gets her dress and what it's all about, although something tells me she will be helping them out by telling everyone who comes within three feet of her that she's wearing her "Papagena dress". And if she does, she will, perhaps, finally be in a place where she has a shot at getting a knowing smile.
Go have a wonderful time, little dove.
This weekend has ruled. Mr. T brought home this ridiculous Bonnaroo ice cream. I had a wee nibblet. Nommmmmmm. So far the only less than great moment was when I was waiting for the big kid and her dad at the symphony and I decided not to walk one block over and see the Nick Cave exhibit at SAM. Instead we went to Starbucks. What is wrong with me?
Oh well. We'll hit it as a family before it departs, which is better anyway.
So I found a new use for markers this weekend:
Oh, man. Gorgeous. Give me a couple of boxes of Kaufman Kona solids in lights and darks and I'm all over that. It's easy to get carried away. I was supposed to be messing around with color for the big kid's quilt. I'd eventually like to make one for each girl, and I already have a few very dear fabrics set to go; it's a matter of rounding them out with some additional prints and choosing a pattern.
I keep trying to complicate it. But there's no reason not to finish where I've already started, and keep it simple. Markers to the rescue!
Do y'all remember this quilt top?
I pulled it out of the fabric cupboard this afternoon, and I feel like I never actually looked at it before. Only a very small handful of those (handstitched) hexagons are repeats; there are somewhere around 230 different fabrics in there. And I don't think they're reproduction prints, either. The fabric is nothing like contemporary quilting cotton (and can I say how much I love high-quality contemporary quilting cottons?). I would love to know more about this quilt top and the fabrics in it. Are they reproductions, or did she buy vintage fabrics, or did she (or her mother) save them up from the 30s, 40s, and 50s? Did she make other quilts, or garments with them? How old was she when she cut and stitched the top? Was it one "she", or a group of women? Fascinating. Best $10 I ever spent at Goodwill.
In any case, I decided that it was well beyond time to stitch this sweet top up into a quilt that we can put on a bed, admire and love. I made a spur of the moment leap of faith buying backing fabric, which turned out to be an exciting and, I think, perfect choice...just the right contemporary companion to all of whoever-she-was's handwork.
Which leads me to the point: I'm going to hand quilt this. It just seems right.
My impulse is to stitch around 1/4 inch inside the edges of all the hexes, which are all about 6 1/2 inches long by 5 inches wide. Maybe I could do one more layer of quilting just inside that line, too? That would bring the longest distance between quilting stitches to about 5 inches. Seems a bit far to me still.
So, what should I do? What would you do?
I caught a vivid glimpse of my own ridiculousness tonight. The younger one, who is at the time of this writing 27 months old, is going through a bout of separation anxiety, which has been hellish, for all of us. I had no idea that children her age could have separation anxiety, but apparently it's not unheard of. Anyway, she wants me to carry her around all day long, and cries when I put her down, and cries when I leave the room, etc. Not all the time, but, you know, at every point in the day when it is critical that I be doing something that is not carrying her around. Like when I need to use the bathroom.
I've been really, really stressed out because of it. So today I basically checked out on my kids. I stepped in for the usual and necessary intervals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, unclogging the toilet, dealing with various poop situations, but otherwise I decided we would stay home all day and I would do some sewing. The girls were told to entertain themselves. It felt radical, delicious and, yet, neglectful, even though I was there, responsive, and taking care of their physical and emotional needs. Even so, tonight I kept on sewing. The little one had a very late nap, and it was shaping up to be a late, late night with her, but I kept at it anyway. Eventually Mr. T took her into the bedroom to try to get her down, and I just let them go do their thing while I kept at the machine.
I felt so guilty.
And then I realized that I feel guilty for...letting my husband, my partner, my children's father, be the active parent so I can take a break? For real. Ridiculous.
I am insanely available to my children. It is extremely rare for me to be without at least one of them. Last weekend Mr. T took them both out to the park and left me at home, and I realized that it was the first time that had ever happened; each week, I simply escape out of the house here and there to run errands by myself. I finally realized what a dumb arrangement that was, and how much easier it would be for Mr. T to take the kids out someplace they like to be, and so I got this huge expanse (four, five hours?) of time to myself, in my house. That I used the time to clean and organize instead of take a nap and sew like I intended is another matter, but geez. Absurdly overdue.
I wake up with my children fighting over who gets to be closest to my body. I am their sole caregiver from 6:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. I am still their primary caregiver the remainder of the time. I need breaks. I mean good, solid, regular breaks.
I'M NOT GOING TO FEEL BAD ABOUT THAT.
Yes I am.
I believe, though, that this neverending Mommy shift is 99.9% of the cause behind my being a crankier Mommy than I'd like to be. Being unendlingly available is not good for me, it's not good for the kids, and it's not good for Mr. T, who needs some regular, long stretches of being the active duty parent. So if it's between feeling guilty for drawing a line in the sand about getting breaks and feeling guilty about being a bitch to my kids, well.
Guilt or no guilt, I got some sewing done today.
The big kid listened to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH while Baby bumbled around doing destructive things and I added three, nearly four more quilt blocks to the pile (their centers had already been sewn, I'm not that fast).
Maybe Saturday I'll do a few more.