As Little Miss Cleaver is several weeks into her one-year-old-ness and several friends and family have had welcomed new babies in the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about those first few heady days of parenting of how quickly your life shifts to a new norm, and then I thought about how it’s changed what I make and why.
Thanks to Mr. Cleaver’s keen understanding of how making stuff is important to me, I’ve been able to do a fair amount of sewing since LMC’s birth. However, two vital things have changed about my sewing time. One, it’s in shorter spurts now and perhaps less frequent, but all the more welcome and two, the things I make are usually, though not always, for someone with wee clothing needs a bit different from own. Because of these two changes, I’ve experienced a few new things about sewing that I thought I’d share.
1. Trying out new things is easier when the project is small
Before I started sewing baby stuff, I had never completed a project in knit fabric. I’d made a few attempts in the past, but never really finished anything. Then I decided to make some envelope tees. The fabric was fairly stable (interlock) and the seams were all of six inches long. It was a small enough project that even if I screwed it up, I was out of a quarter of a yard of fabric, maybe. I’ve probably made about ten or so since, some in interlock, some in jersey, some hacked together with the Geranium pattern into dresses.
Having worked in this small scale, I’m much more comfortable with knits and am eyeballing some larger-scale knit projects for myself.
2. There’s frosting, there’s cake, and then there’s bread. And there is nothing wrong with sewing any of them.
Tasia coined the whole frosting vs. cake terminology, but sometimes, even cake is too fancy of a word for some items.
There are a lot of things that I used to think that I’d never bother making, because they were just too dull and/or readily available inexpensively. Like solid-colored t-shirts, non-fancy underwear, leggings, plain socks. But then you figure out that those ready available things are kinda cruddy. The number of onesies we bought that got holes in the fabric is astonishing, especially considering the early ones that were worn for maybe 3 months by something that didn’t move much.
Now I haven’t made any onesies, mostly because I’ve yet to have any luck with inserting snaps, despite several efforts (any suggestions welcomed!), but if I could get over that snap-inserting hump I totally would the next time I needed onesies. Because there’s a certain satisfaction to pulling something out of the drawer and wearing it on a daily basis and having the fabric be nice, and the seams finished well, even if it’s super dull.
My style and sewing has become more utilitarian these days, and as much fun as it is to spend days making a fabulous dress, my current dream sewing project list is full of things those things that I never thought I’d ever bother to sew.
That’s not to say I don’t make the occasional fabulous piece of cake or frosting, like the Oliver + S Birthday Party Dress seen above or the wear-it-once Ewok costume , both of which were totally worth the extra effort in my opinion.
3. Multiples are your friends.
Not every project has to be a special snowflake. When you make multiples of something you only have to cut/trace the pattern in each size once and depending on your fabric, you can cut out multiple projects at the same, getting to the actual sewing quicker. A huge plus when your sewing time is more limited.
When you do the same thing multiple times, you learn from your mistakes and get better. And generally faster at it too. This can be particularly helpful if you’re making those everyday bread pieces and need a bunch of them.
4. When in doubt, make the longer version.
It has been my experience that babies grow taller much faster than they grow wider, which means those leggings turn to capris, those pants to shorts, and those dresses to tunics.
Little Miss Cleaver was about 6 weeks old when she first started wearing that green dress. As a one-year old she still has a lovely tunic that she wears. In that case, the knit fabric also helps, but I’ve been able to stretch the life of many a handmade baby item, simply by making the longer version.
5. You’ve probably already got a fabric stash, so stock-up on notions
I’ve got enough adorable novelty prints to last me three years (at least), so if I want to do a project, I’ve probably already got some fabricI can use, but having a good supply of buttons and piping and zippers and thread in a variety of colors means I don’t have to use my sewing time on a trip to the store that inevitably takes longer than I want it to.
Since I am sadly, not someone who ever inherited mason jars full of fabulous vintage buttons, I early on bought a bunch of packs of multicolored buttons in various sizes that have been indispensable. I learned my lesson and also have a good stash of elastic in various widths and plenty of machine needles. Figure out what you use a lot of and get a ton.
Also, when it comes to matching colors, there is such a thing as good enough. When my mother first taught me to sew, we would go to the store, pick out a pattern, pick out the fabric and carefully select a thread color to match exactly. Now I have one thread storage box that holds about 40 spools, and generally there’s something there that is close enough (unless it’s orange, apparently I have no orange thread), or maybe that project will look great with contrasting thread!
I’d also like to work on having a good stash of quality solid fabrics to use for contrasting yokes and linings.
And one bonus comment, that relates to baby clothing in general:
If it’s a practical button (i.e. one that you have to actually use to get an item on and off your child), anything smaller than ½” is just so not worth the trouble. Maybe 3/8.” Maybe.
Anything your kids have taught you about sewing? Feel free to share in the comments below.