Friday, December 11, 2015

New Mom Guilt

It has been a little over four months since Elora was born. I don't think I've ever had a time when I felt so guilty over what I can't do while, at the same time, doing absolutely everything I can do. Everything is not enough: not enough food, not enough sleep, not enough cuddles, not enough money, not enough time. I feel guilty that I have to go to work, guilty that I can't pump more than 4 oz of milk at a time, guilty that sometimes I just need someone else to hold her, and guilty that sometimes I never want anyone else to hold her. I've spent plenty of time being critical of myself through the years - my appearance, my talents, my job performance - but I have never been more critical of anything than my role as mom. No job has ever been more important to me and I'm just not good enough for it. How critical everyone seems to be of a new parent is nothing to how critical I am of myself.

I'm pretty sure every new mother thinks like this and I'm completely sure it's not true. To that little life, I am everything. I am comfort, I am warmth, I am food, I am safety, I am fun. She loves Daddy too, who is all of these things except food, but Mamma is everything. I do my best and she's healthy, dry, clean, fed, growing, happy. This job that I'm not good enough for is good enough for her.

Frankly, I'm never going to be satisfied with it. There will always be more I should be doing and more I should be giving and more I should be whatever-ing. But not really. I should be doing exactly what I am doing, which is my absolute best at any given time. Even when I leave her in the swing crying because I have to eat is my best. I'm no good to her starving. Even when I leave her with my parents to go to work is my best. I'm no good if I can't help keep that roof over her head. Even when I head upstairs for a nap while my husband gives her a bottle is my best. I'm no good to her exhausted. The floors may not be clean, but the baby is laughing at her doll. I'm not clean, but the baby is splashing in her bath. No job has ever been more important and I am doing my best.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

And We Have Baby

My wonderful team of doctors said they wouldn't let me go past my due date of August 7, so we headed to the hospital to start the induction process at 1600 Thursday evening.

Well, induction did not work. They did the first step around 1700 or so that was supposed to soften and possibly dilate my cervix. I was having contractions all night, according to the monitors, but I didn't feel them. In the morning, my cervix was soft but not any more dilated and they started me on pitocin and I couldn't eat anything. The doc tried to break my water around noonish but it didn't work; still no change in dilation. Contractions got more intense and frequent, but I still wasn't feeling them. I started to around 1530 or so and, about an hour later, the doc came in to check me and found that my cervix still hadn't changed. He recommended we stop torturing me with the pitocin that wasn't working so we ended up with a cesarean birth.

I completely broke when the doc said nothing changed. It was an amazingly frustrating day to go through all that and get nowhere.

But a c section was a good move. Elora Anne was born at 1712, 21.25 inches long and weighing a lovely 9lbs 15oz! She was never going to make it out vaginally!

We're doing great. I was way too groggy to breastfeed, but my husband has been giving her a bottle and she's eating more and more at every feeding. Her blood sugars are looking great. I'm finally feeling less nauseated and drugged up, so I'll try to feed her today. Yesterday was totally an ordeal but, as they say, it was all worth it in the end!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Birth Altar

With a little more than a week (give or take) to go before Poppyseed is born, we're in full-on preparation mode. My hospital bag is packed, Poppyseed's hospital bag is packed, the bassinet is put together, clothes are washed. There are still a few things that need doing but, for the most part, if she wanted to come tomorrow, we're ready. (I'm really ready! The sooner, the better!)

I came across this article about birth altars early last week and realized I had forgotten something. Well, maybe not forgotten, because I researched this at the start of my pregnancy, but I definitely had a little more preparation to do. Some people bring things to help them before, during, and after labor. They can be items to focus on or to help calm them or a reminder of something that gives them strength, as faith often does. Tangible objects are unnecessary when it comes to faith but, the truth is, they help for a lot of people. That's what a birth altar is: objects to help with those things like focus and courage and healing on a spiritual level. Giving birth is a transformative event and transformation is a big deal in many neo-pagan faiths. 

Building a small, portable birth altar to take with me to the hospital is fairly easy. The first thing I needed to do with this project is to realize and understand that, once active labor starts, I'm probably not going to be thinking of much of anything else. So, I designed my altar with that in mind: putting objects in a bag where they can be brought out if time/space/mental capacity allows but will still lend their energies if they don't. 

So, I started with the bag that will keep all my objects nicely contained. I modified this free pattern to make a little bag in the size I need and in colors that meant something to me- purple for me, blue for my husband, and green for growth and new life (yes, I know that purple, blue, and green are the colors the pattern designer used, that's not the point!).

A bag!
Next, I began gathering gemstones. I started with a quartz point, which is one of the most effective healing and energy-amplifying stones around. I have a rose quartz, also good for healing but has some calming properties too. A red carnelian is a great stone for grounding and healing the female reproductive system (and, as a bonus, can help with lower back healing too). A green aventurine is good for healing and reducing inflammation. Amethyst, one of my power stones, is a great stone of balance. It helps to focus and calm the mind. Moss agate is considered a birthing stone, historically used by midwives to lessen pain and ensure a good delivery. It is a stone of new beginnings and can help speed up recovery. Tiger's eye has long been accepted as a stone of courage and overcoming obstacles. It can also be useful in healing the reproductive system. I have extras of a couple of these that will stay on my home altar and contribute energy and meaning from there.

A collection of crystals.

I'm also the kind of person who likes the symbolism in statues. I made two, not sure what would suit me best for the hospital altar. The first is a design I came up with years ago: an abstract mother and child figure. The mother figure is me, a blend of purple for me, yellow for my mother, and blue for my grandmother. I included them as the two largest maternal influences in my life that will be passed to my daughter. The child figure, just a ball held by the mother figure, is Poppyseed, of course: a combination of lilac for my purple and blue for her father. The second statue I made is based on the popular Millennial Gaia statue by Oberon Zell. I did not need all the "Mother of the Earth" symbolism of the original statue, but the form and pose was appealing to me. I made her from a stone-look clay in brown with lilac hair (again, to represent me) with a world-like belly because Poppyseed is already my world. I haven't decided yet which statue is going in the hospital altar bag, probably the abstract, but the other one will stay on my home altar with the extra stones.

Mother statuary!

While I doubt that the hospital will allow a burning candle or incense (I haven't bothered to ask and I won't), candles and fragrance are an important part of my spiritual practice. Thankfully, I already have a safe alternative that will be enough of a symbol of the actual thing for me to do the trick. The LED candles we got for our wedding are vanilla scented. The look of a flickering candle will help sooth me, as well as the vanilla scent it gently emits.

Modern witches use modern tools!

Next, I made an herb pouch. I put a few pinches of three healing herbs in it: peppermint, arnica, and white willow. There are also some cleansing herbs: sage, lavender, and dragon's blood resin. I've found that just having herbs near me lends their energy and I don't need much. 

Tiny pouch of herbs.

My birth altar also needs an altar cloth because, while it's likely to stay in the bag for the birth itself just for practicality, all of these things will be helpful in recovery too. I picked a piece of cotton in a pleasing pattern and color and cut approximately a 9x9 square (9 being a sacred number) and serged the edges.

Altar cloth.

There are two final touches for my birth altar. The first is for me; I made a bracelet out of gems to aid in birth and recovering. I used fluorite, long used as a healing stone and to bring balance to the body in times of stress, and moonstone, good for balancing feminine energies, to promote a safe birth, and encourage healing of the female reproductive system. After I have charged and dedicated my items, I will wear this bracelet daily. There are 27 stones, the same number I use for my wrist malas. I definitely don't think I'll be able to count prayers with a mala while in labor but I certainly can, and plan to, in the days leading up to it. Counting prayers with a strand of mala beads is a calming and meditative act to me - and to many who use prayer beads. I have also prepared some affirmations and prayers to repeat in the coming days and after Poppyseed finally arrives.

A wrist mala of fluorite and moonstone.

The last item I want to include is a gift for my daughter. Even though there is no shortage of gifts for my daughter, many that were made especially for her, this one will be packed with the altar if it arrives in time. It is an amber necklace, and there is one for me as well. Amber necklaces on infants seems to be a fad right now, but a witch already knows the value of amber. It is a stone (yes, not technically a stone) that has been used for ages to draw dis-ease from the body. As a healer, it promotes tissue regeneration and balances and cleanses the chakras. She is not going to need this right away, but it will go in the altar bag just the same, my first magical gift to her.    

All the things, sitting on my altar for dedication. 

Preparing a portable altar for a specific reason goes beyond just getting things that have meaning and purpose for the task. Like most magical items, you want to dedicate them: specifically state in a ritualistic way what the altar is for and why those items were chosen. This also serves to cleanse them of any previous, unrelated purpose, so all your tools and items are fully dedicated to the task at hand. Since I only just finished putting my altar together, with the exception of the amber necklaces that should be in the mail and on the way to me soon, I haven't done this yet, though some cleansing has already begun. My dedication ritual is simple, and there is no need for something elaborate and complex anyway. This final part will be completed, and the items packed away and ready, this evening. 

27 birth affirmations, to be repeated four times (this is why we count with a mala):

I will have a strong and healthy baby.
I trust my body to know how to birth this child.
I trust my instincts to know what I need in labor. 
I am a strong and capable woman.
My body was built for this.
I accept myself completely here and now. 
I feel inner peace and serenity. 
I feel the love of others around me. 
I am a powerful, loving, and creative being.
My baby knows how and when to be born.
I will breathe deeply and slowly.
I am completely relaxed and comfortable. 
I will have an uncomplicated birth. 
I will have a joyous birth.
Birth is a safe and wonderful experience.
All I need to do is relax and breathe.
Everything is going as it should. 
Inhale peace, exhale tension.
My baby is healthy. 
I know my baby feels our calmness and confidence.
I am ready and prepared for childbirth.
My job is to relax and allow the birth to happen.
I am excited to give birth to my baby.
I have courage, faith, and patience.
My courage and patience will send my baby into my arms.
I am open to the energy of birth.
I deserve this wonderful birth experience.

Some pre-birth prayers:

Mother Goddess, sitting so gently, 
I will need both gentleness and strength in the days ahead.
Aid me as I become a mother:
You know well what that means.
May I know also. 

Stand about her, servants of the Mother,
Singing the birth songs clearly
So that my baby, although deep inside, 
May learn what she must know
To do what she must do.
Go before her, Great Mother,
Open the gates, open the doors, 
Open all the ways, that the birth might be easy.

The child moves down the birth canal
On the first of her many journeys.
Mother Goddess, make her journey be smooth and safe.

Some post-birth prayers:

On this baby who rests in my arms,
Pour blessings, O Lord, pour blessings.
On this baby who rests in my arms,
Pour blessings, O Lady, pour blessings.

May the gods walk beside this child throughout her life,
Guiding her steps into the way proper to her,
Guiding her way along the sacred path.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

If I Build It, Will They Come?

Last night, my husband asked me about my last blog post. He does not share my faith but respects that I have it and how important it is to me. Anyway, he said something very interesting that had me stuck deep in thought for most of the night and today too. 

He said, rather than look for a local fellowship that fits what I want and possibly being disappointed by what I do or don’t find, why not start my own. 

Why not start my own?

My first thought was that I absolutely could do it. It would include celebration of the holy days, lessons and learning and teaching, everyone sharing what they know, celebrating together, being together. It would require space. We could use the big room in the basement until I could get an outside area ready (and I could). There would be room for Sabbat-related crafts (one of my favorite parts of those previous gatherings), and pre-ritual pot-luck feasts. Not a carbon copy of what I learned from my time with Shadow Grove, though I would probably use that as a starting point. And it wouldn’t have to be just Sabbat rituals, there could also be Esbats, classes, meditation sessions. Possibilities. Just the thought of this makes my heart pound with excitement. 

There are some hurdles. 

The only space I have to work with is our home, and we’re in an urban area, not nearly as secluded as Shadow Grove is. But, I think that’s okay too. It just means our outdoor rituals would have to be quiet and reserved rather than loud and boisterous. And there is plenty of indoor space to work with as well.

Is there a demand for a pagan-oriented, non-denominational ritual, learning, and gathering fellowship in Southern Maryland? Are there people here searching for what I’m searching for and willing to build? How do I find them, or help them to find me? 

My husband also cautioned that I would have to be willing to see it change beyond what my first vision is. I completely understand that. While I reference Shadow Grove, it was not my only group, just the most recent and the best fit for me out of all the others. Even the Grove evolved and changed over the years I was involved with them. Any endeavor like this would eventually be shaped by those who are invested in it. I already understand and accept this, as I've seen it happen.  

So, what do you think? Why not start my own? If I build it, will they come?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Ramble

Someone in my minister group posted this interesting blog that briefly touched on the outward and visible devotion of other faiths that modern American paganism seems to be lacking. It is a brief read.

However, I think the point that Krasskova is missing is that modern paganism isn't like any denomination of modern Christianity where she sees such devotion and piety. Pagan paths are as numerous as the people who claim to follow one and there is no one single authority leading us or telling us how to worship or how to be 'good pagans.' Additionally, paganism of any kind is still shunned and persecuted in many communities, so of course we're less likely to be seen on our knees in front of some sacred building (do pagans have sacred buildings, even?) in an effort to protect ourselves. The fact that my relationship with Deity is truly a personal one and not something that I flaunt in front of the public eye does not make me any less devoted or pious than my brothers and sisters who make a big show of how very devoted they are.

Part of her point, though, I think I do see. A lot of people who claim paganism as their faith learned it from a book, and not a sacred and unifying text like the Bible, but probably something published by Llewellyn, which has the regrettable reputation of teaching McWitchcraft. Without the equivalent of a head church or knowing how to find who pagan leaders are even within your own community, all we really have are books and there is no criteria or proof of authority or authenticity required to write one.  In that regard, pagans the world over are reaching in the dark for some guidance or structure and only finding it in books penned by people with Wolf somewhere in their name. That is not to say that learning from books is bad, but the books available to us aren't teaching us the right lessons. What we need to know is that we can design our faith based on what feels right to us. That we can mix pantheons and official traditions and thoroughly build that personal relationship with the Divine. That a solitary path does not mean a lesser one and that keeping your devotion personal and private does not mean that you lack it.

I had a conversation with a friend recently who expressed an interest in paganism but did not know where to begin to learn and asked me for guidance. It made me wish I did have a Bible-type book to pass along to her as a good place to begin. What I need, instead, is something closer to a Sunday school lesson plan. I'm fully confident in my ability to put such a thing together but just being asked has made me miss the days when I lived in close proximity to a fellowship where dozens of us, all on our own unique paths, would gather for Sabbats and spend entire weekends celebrating that which makes our faith special and meaningful and powerful.

Then I find myself in the same position that I just stated most of us are in; not knowing how to find something within my community. And it comes with it no small amount of trepidation that any fellowships I do find would fit me and my path as well as the one I had. In addition to that, starting with a new group often puts you at the bottom, where people just assume that you know nothing just because you are new to them and treat you accordingly. In that, I have no interest. I have been walking this path for more than 20 years. While every step has the potential for a new direction, back at the very beginning when I was one of those people who only had a book by someone named Wolf is not one of them.

I was going to add that I don't feel like my current spiritual journey is missing something, but it occurs to me that I wouldn't be writing about this if that were so. I am a solitary priestess, but gathering and celebrating with others did bring a certain comfort to my journey that I can't create on my own. If only finding pagan circles was as easy as driving around town and making note of any church that matches your denomination so you can go during their scheduled times of worship and see if it is a good fit.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Another tutorial! How to tie an infinity scarf as a headwrap!

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Twenty-six Weeks

That's right, I'm just a week away from the magical third trimester! Poppyseed is growing. I'm feeling pretty well, all things being considered. Moving right along! 

Friday, March 20, 2015

No-Pattern Wing-it Chemise Tutorial Part 6

If you're following along, you now have something that actually does resemble a dress! Nice work! Today, we're going to add the finishing touches and I might even contemplate how to bring it in when I don't need all the extra room anymore.

The first thing you want to do is check the length. My chemise is about 45 inches from neckline to the bottom, and the bottom is hitting me right at the ankles. I'm just going to hem from there without any cutting. Depending on your height, you may need to cut some of the fabric from the bottom to get the hem right for you, just don't forget to include some seam allowance! This is a good time to have a friend help you, if you can. Don't be perturbed if it's excessively short on your either. The last thing you want to do is trip all over your garb, so I always hem my Faire clothes a little high.

I don't want to eat away too much of the bottom, though, because mine did end up shorter than I thought it would, so I'm going to make a fairly narrow hem. With your measuring tape and tailor's chalk, mark 1 inch up (or, whatever your measurement is for however wide you want your bottom hem) from the bottom all around the base. Don't forget to trim to even this edge out where needed, but I'm of the mind that the bottom hem of a full dress or skirt doesn't have to be perfect, because no one is going to notice among all that fabric especially when you're walking. Be as perfect or not as you are comfortable with here.

Marking the hem.

Fold and press up to the mark. Instead of folding the raw edge under like we've been doing for the seams, I'm folding the whole thing up at the raw edge so my hem will be about half an inch. Press again.

Fold to the mark and press.

Fold at the mark (where the raw edge is now) and press again.

 Next, go to your machine and use your hemming stitch of choice. Some people like a straight stitch, some people use a hem stitch that only catches a small bit of the outer fabric for an invisible hem. I like to just go across with a zig zag. Sew that hem however you want! I do suggest starting at one of the side seams. It just feels like a cleaner stitch line that way.

Stitching the hem!

All done!

Now, the fun part: grommets! Also called eyelets, I'm installing the metal ones for durability even though the kind that is sewn around the hole is more historically accurate. Most Faires will give metal grommets a pass. If you have a love-hate relationship with grommets like I do, you can sew hooks and eyes to your front slit instead - and those are historically accurate too. I don't need large, heavy laces for this chemise, so I'm using 5/32 inch grommets which also work well for the three layers of linen. Grommet pliers make this part really easy. It's okay to test the following steps a few times on some of your scraps if you need to get comfortable with your technique.

These small grommets are only one piece. You don't need a washer for these!

First, you want to decide how many grommets you need. The opening is about 10 inches long and I decided to place one grommet every inch. Start half an inch from the top (I'm considering the top to start under the ruffle and elastic section) on the inside and mark every inch with tailor's chalk.

Marking every inch.

Next, measure one centimeter in and mark along your one inch lines.

One centimeter in. Where the lines touch is where the grommets go.

Now, the point of no return! Make sure the post of your grommet pliers is where those two marks meet and squeeze hard, poking a hole through all three layers of your fabric.

Punch a hole in your fabric! Hold your breath and go!

Poke your grommet through the hole, front to back, set it on your pliers and squeeze hard! If you squeeze too slowly or lightly, your grommet may not set right and it's nearly impossible to do over.

Poke the grommet through the hole, front to back and...

...squeeze hard! Remove the pliers and check your work,
maybe even squeeze again. You want them on there good!

Check your work as you go. Hopefully, no edges are sticking out!
A nice line of grommets! Don't freak out if they're not perfectly in line.
Call that a mark of handmade!

Once all ten grommets are set on one side, it's time to do the other. I found that measuring the same way as the first left my marks off a bit, so I ended up lining up the front slit and marked where the first grommets were instead and then measured one centimeter in as before. (Note: if you want to do spiral lacing, which is more historically accurate, you don't want your grommets to line up. I didn't bother with spiral lacing, but here's a good site about the placement of your grommets if you want to give it a try.) Look at those pretty rows of grommets! Find some cord, lace it up, see how it looks. We're done!!

Lining the new marks with the grommets I already did was easier.

Look at all those awesome grommets, ready for lacing!

Well, we're done with the No-Pattern Wing-it Chemise anyway. I still need to make my over-kirtle and it recently occurred to me that I'll need some new bloomers too (bloomers are essential if you're going to a Faire in any kind of heat. Trust me!). I might be able to fudge bloomers, but the over-kirtle needs to be made. I'll be using a pattern for this one; it's one I've made before but I have to alter it and that part is completely new. That will be the next project! I have a just about a month to complete it. Think I can do it? Want to sew with me on this one too? Let me know! And if you make a chemise using these instructions, I want to see your work! I think I might see about making a post-delivery nightgown with some lighter fabric and maybe less of a front opening this way too.

All laced up and ready to go!

Now, I said I'd contemplate how to bring the whole thing in for when I'm no longer at a maternity size. The simple thing to do would be to sew the sides closer together. What I might do is add a line of loops down those side seams; I've seen faux leather cord used for something like this before. Then the excess fabric can be folded inward and the whole thing laced at the back. If you try it, let me know! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

No-Pattern Wing-it Chemise Tutorial Part 5

We're almost done! We did cuffs and sides last time, all we have left are the top and bottom edges and some grommets for lacing! How exciting! (I apologize that I can't seem to get most of these images to load in the correct direction. I hope they still help!)

Before we tackle the neckline, though, we need to fix something. I made a mistake when I didn't extend the front facing all the way to the top edge because those three inches will need to be hemmed somehow and I can't figure out a good way to do it. So, we'll fix that by adding another piece of front facing. Cut a strip from your scraps that is 7 inches long by 1 inch wide. (If you don't have enough scrap for this, and I still have plenty, you can use the triangles from cutting away the shoulders. Cut two pieces 3.5 inches by 1 inch. If you're really in a pinch for fabric bits, even a bit of white muslin will do as this will be turned under just like the front facing.) Cut your 7 inch strip in half so you have two 3.5 inch pieces.

Just like before, on the front of the chemise with right sides facing, line up the new facing piece with the edge of the slit. Fold up the bottom half inch - you can match it with the existing facing seam - and sew very close to the edge.

Pin the new facing piece.
Fold the new facing under and press. You may also want to turn under a small bit of the back edge and press that too. Most of this facing will be encased in the elastic channel, but a small bit on the bottom will not be.

This is the inside. You can clearly see that small bit on the bottom edge hemmed.

Top stitch this seam flat, very close to the edge, around the bottom fold, and up a little bit of the side. Yay, front facing fixed! Moving on!

Facing fixed!

We're going to do the neckline just like the sleeve cuffs. With your measuring tape and tailor's chalk, mark 3 inches from the raw top edge all around, including the sleeves, on the inside of the chemise. Fold the raw edge over to the mark and press. Take care around the shoulder seams and the front facing to make sure your edges are lined up. Your seams won't be lined up without adding some darts, which I did not do. Just work a few inches at a time as you press to make sure you have those three inches folded over evenly all around.

Mark three inches from the edge, just like we did with the cuffs.

To make a little ruffle, stitch all around 1/2 inch from the fold. I'm using the same elastic as I did for the cuffs (I know, we haven't measured the elastic yet; that's coming!), so make another line of stitches 5/8 of an inch below the first. (Note, my bobbin thread ran out here, somewhere in the back panel. If running out of bobbin thread in the middle of a stitch line annoys you as much as it annoys me, load a fresh bobbin before you begin this part.) Lastly, turn under the remaining raw edge and stitch very close to the fold to finish the hem.

Before we move on with the elastic, I decided to make a couple ties to go above the grommets and hold the elastic bit together at the neck. If you have ribbon that matches your linen, or is a nice contrast, just use that (neckline ties are in ribbon on my existing chemise). I don't have any ribbon I want to use, so I'll make the ties. Cut a piece of your scrap 21 inches by 1 inch.

Cut a strip 21 inches by 1 inch.

Turn both short ends under 1/2 inch and press (I marked this with tailor's chalk, but it's not important to be super precise here). Fold this in half lengthwise and press. Open this up, fold the two raw edges in to the center and press again.

Carefully press the raw edges into the center.
Maintain that center fold too, to encase the edges.
Work slowly, the thin piece of fabric can be difficult!

Now fold the whole thing in half and cut. you should be left with two pieces, roughly 10 inches long, folded at one end, and 1/4 inch wide. Sew along the open edge, very close to the fold, and the folded end. The un-hemmed end will be sewn at the edge of the front slit with our elastic. On to elastic!

Two front ties!

It's difficult to measure the neckline on my existing chemise because of how much it is gathered, but I got about 33 inches and I'm comfortable with that if it's a little off. I cut my elastic at 34 inches (because I added half an inch for the seam allowance on either end), which was about a foot shy of the rest anyway. Just like the sleeve cuffs, thread this through your elastic channel and pin at the edge of the fabric on either side. There is a lot of fabric to gather here, so take your time. Try not to twist the elastic in the channel and be patient if you come across a part that's just a bit too tight. You'll make it through! We're going to work the unfinished edge of our neck ties into this channel too, about an inch in so we'll be sure to catch it when we sew up the ends. Don't do what I did and lose your elastic in the channel. You'll have to start over!

Remember that the front facing is about a inch wide, so sew your first line of stitching over the elastic channel 1 inch in. Next, sew over that channel 1/2 inch in. Pause here to pull out the elastic end and trim it back, just like we did with the cuffs. Then stitch from the top edge down to the base of the elastic channel very close to the edge.

Sew three lines of stitching across the front facing, over the elastic channel.

This is how it should look from the front. We're almost done!

Check out your work! Turn it right side out and put it on! You have a gap in the front because we haven't added grommets yet, and it might be too long depending on your height (mine is actually perfect), and it's going to feel very tent-like because we made it big on purpose. How does the neckline sit? Can you push your sleeves up over your elbows if you get too hot without having the elastic cut into your arm? Good job! We're almost done! Give yourself a pat on the back and come back next time for finishing!

It fits my 19.5 week baby bump just fine! And some!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why Do I Have a Problem with Pink

For most people, having a baby girl means pink.  I only have a vague tolerance of pink at this point in my life. It's getting better, really, but it's a process. A lot of the people I know who are currently expecting have a hate relationship with pink and they don't want it anywhere near their baby girls. Purple is my favorite color, which goes well with greens and blues, so I'm trying to lean towards that rather than the pink everyone is going to throw at me and our daughter in the coming months and years. I remember getting a shiny new purple and white bicycle in my youth and I was so proud of it. I loved the way the purple tires left little purple skid marks on the sidewalk. I remember riding around, showing off my wonderful new bike to the neighbors and one of them said "I'm surprised it's not pink." I remember feeling so insulted that she knew me - her daughter's best friend - so little. She should have known how much I hated pink. I spat "I HATE PINK" back at her and rode off in a huff. 

The nursery is bright green. In fact, we're not really doing a nursery at all- that's just the color the room is. It's not going to be painted over unless Poppyseed decides one day that she wants it. She's not going to care about the color of the walls for some time anyway. My best friend offered to make it more girly for us, and I told her we don't want to force anything on our daughter; we don't need the room more girly. We don't even know yet how girly or not our daughter will be, but we know we don't want to force an identity on her. This is very important to me. She decided to go with a more forest theme instead of a focus on pink flowers and butterflies (I have nothing against pink flowers and butterflies, and they will probably still be a part of the nursery. I really don't know what's happening in that room that I've given Turtle leave to decorate, but if we hate it, we can always take it down). The going-home dress that I wore, which my daughter will also wear because I think it's too awesome that I still have it, is pink. My sister in law, who is very excited that we're having a girl, is buying some pink things and probably some girly things - but we're also getting her son's super hero hand-me-downs. I supported a Kickstarter for Princess Awesome, so our daughter can have fun play dresses with dinosaurs and pirates and atoms on them. 

A friend of mine posted this article this morning, and I think it behooves me to take it to heart.  I think our daughter can wear pink ruffles and climb trees if she wants to. She can dig for worms in a tiara if she likes. I will put her in Captain America Onesies and Batman t-shirts and a snap suit with dinosaurs, and maybe one day she'll ask me for a pink super hero cape. Or maybe she'll put on my high heels and play with my make-up and want baby dolls instead of Star Wars action figures. I would love it if she plays with my old Barbie dolls and My Little Ponies as much as I would love it if she asks for a bucket of green army dudes. I think part of not forcing an identity on her includes not denying one either. It's a fine line to walk, but why can't she have it all?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

No-Pattern Wing-it Chemise Tutorial Part 4

We took care of the front facing last time. Today, we're working on cuffs! I'm seriously guessing for this entire part so I hope it works! We'll be doing the neckline the same way if the cuffs are successful. We're going to need elastic, mine is 3/8 of an inch and flat; tailor's chalk; and a measuring tape.

Now, I've given myself 3 inches to play with at both the cuffs and the neckline. On the wrong side, open up your sleeves and mark that 3 inches across. Just past that line, mark half an inch in on both edges, so you know where your seam allowance is. I don't know if we'll need these marks, but mark them anyway just in case!

Mark 3 inches in.

Fold over the edge to meet your line and press. This will give us a 1.5 inch channel. If you want a little ruffle, and I do, sew a line 1/2 inch from the fold.

Sew 1/2 inch from the fold to make a little ruffle.
The elastic around the cuffs of my existing chemise is about 12 inches long. I played around with it with the measuring tape and that feels like a bit much, so we're going with 10 inches of elastic. I cut two pieces, one for each cuff, at 11 inches so I have a bit of seam allowance to work with (since I'm not 100% sure how I'm going to handle that just yet!).

Cut your elastic.
Sew a line about 5/8 from the ruffle seam. You may have to fold over at the ruffle seam to get the measurement right. This will be your channel for the elastic. Finally, turn under that free edge and sew along the fold to finish the seam like we did for the shoulder seams.

I folded the ruffle up so I could still use the guidelines on my sewing machine.
Be careful not to catch this fabric in your stitching!

Turn under the raw edge and sew close to the fold to finish the seam.

Thread your elastic through the channel. I hate gathering stitches, so I just gathered as I worked. This fabric seems to gather pretty easily on its own. Line up the edge of your elastic with the edge of your fabric and stitch along the seam allowance at both ends. You only need to stitch between the two seams of the elastic channel. Make sure none of the gathers are past this point into the seam allowance.

Sew down the elastic at each side, using our 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Finally, push back that half inch seam allowance and pull out the end of the elastic a bit, then trim it back as close as you can to the seam. This reduces the bulk here, which will make it easier when we get to the sleeve hem. Note, you still have a flat sleeve here. We'll close this up later. Repeat these steps for the other cuff. While we won't be done with this area until we seam up the sleeve, I'm feeling very good about these cuffs and I think the technique will work just fine for the neckline too. But we'll do that in a bit!

Trim your elastic to reduce the bulk of that seam when we sew it together.

Before we get back to elastic and necklines, let's take care of those side seams. It occurs to me that what I had originally planned isn't going to work, so first I want you to go back to those gusset seams that we didn't finish in Part 2. We will finish them now. With your tailor's chalk and measuring tape, mark 1/2 inch up from the unfinished edge of the gusset, just in that seam allowance on all gusset seams. Cut that mark, into the seam allowance without clipping the seam, fold over and finish the seam. It will become clear in a minute why we did this.

Mark and cut that unfinished gusset seam.
Finishing the gusset seam.

Now, the big seam! This part is very simple, there just happens to be a ton of fabric. Make sure your chemise is inside out and line up the side seams: start at the cuff and work back toward the gusset  and down the side and pin. If you have to add a dart because your gussets don't quite line up from the cuff, do it close to the gusset so those edges do line up (you don't need the raw edge of the hem to line up because we'll just be cutting that part off when we adjust it for your height, just make sure the cuff edges and the gusset edges and seams line up). You might notice that you can draw a line along all of those edges from the cuff to the hem and that's exactly what we're going to do. Start at the cuff, using our 1/2 seam allowance, and sew all the way up to the gusset. Don't stop there! Sew the two gusset edges together too (go through the little cut you just made above) and continue down to the hem.

Sewing the side seam. Here, I'm going around the gusset.

We're going to turn under and finish both sides of this seam like we did with the shoulders for that Elizabethan look, so press and pin and finish that seam, again from cuff to hem. Be very careful here; you can get your sewing machine to work on finishing those sleeve seams but you want to make absolutely certain that you don't catch any other part of the chemise in your seam. Go through the neck hole to the sleeve (this is why we haven't finished the neckline yet!) then get the part of the cuff opposite the seam under your presser foot.You will have a very small hole to work in, and a lot of bunched fabric all around until you get to the gusset. Work slow, stop every now and then to make sure you don't have any fabric caught underneath. Once you get to the hem, feed the chemise back under your presser foot and off of your machine.

Work slow and be careful! There is a lot of fabric and you want to
make sure it isn't under your presser foot as you work on this seam!
It's tough, but it can be done!

Now, turn it right side out and check you seams. Looking good? Great! Do the same thing with the other side!

Finished side seam. That's the gusset on the left there. Nice and clean!

It's looking more like a dress now, isn't it? Except for that huge, unfinished neckline. We'll get to that next!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

No-Pattern Wing-it Chemise Tutorial Part 3

Continuing from last time, it's time to tackle the front facing! I learned this technique from the same place I learned about the sleeve gussets and Elizabethan seams. It was used to completely finish a neckline on the surviving 16th century smock, but I'm pretty sure I can wing it and and use the same method to finish the front slit.  

Pin the front facing to the outside of your chemise, right sides together.

Line up the bottom of the slit of your front facing piece to the outside of your front slit, right sides together. If you measured with me, you should have about 2.5 inches to the top of the chemise after the edge of the front facing. Fold over the top edge a half inch or so towards you, so there are 3 inches on the front piece with no front facing. This fold will create a bit of a hem, which will help in later steps, and still give you 3 inches of fabric to work with when it's time to tackle the neckline. [IMPORTANT NOTE! If you extended your front facing piece to 15 inches long to avoid the extra step later, line it up with the top of the slit and don't fold over a seam allowance at the top. Continue below as usual!]

All pinned and folded over.
Work carefully, line up those cut edges as evenly as you can; this is going to be very important for the next step. 

Sew! Stay very close to the edge here, but take care not to go off.

Time to sew! Sew very close to the edge around the cut slit, keeping the fold you made when you pinned, and reinforcing as you round the bottom. Work slow, you want to be very close to the cut edge without going off, and you want to be sure to get both layers together. You might miss small bits here and there, and that's fine, we'll account for them in the next step.

Reinforce this part (sew back and forth a few times). It will take a lot of pressure and we don't want it to tear.
Work slowly as you go - I seem to be saying that a lot!- there is a lot of fabric to manipulate around as you turn corners on that edge. We'll end up making two more passes around the slit when all is done. In hindsight, I might have done the front facing before shoulders and sleeve gussets because of this. I'll remember that for next time.

Up the other side, be careful going over the fold at the top.
Finished seam around the edges. Remember, we're still looking at the outside of the chemise.

Turn the front facing to the inside, now wrong sides together, and press. Carefully press around the bottom of the slit. You will probably get a few little darts and that's okay. If you missed any little bits, just turn them in and press them down. Turn under the raw edges all the way to the seam you just created and press again. [If you want to add interfacing for stiffness, do it here. Cut two strips less than 1 inch by 10 inches and fuse to the inside, very close to the seam. I did not add interfacing.]

Turn the facing inside and press.
I have one dart from turning. This is fine. Try to keep the front looking flat if you can.

Turn under raw edges all around and press again, just like we did when finishing the shoulder seams.

Go back to your machine and top stitch around the seam you just created, all around the slit. Sew very close to the fold all around. You can see I pinned the outer fold from the back. If you pinned like I did, just be mindful of where they are as you're working with the front. [If you want to add a thin boning, unfold that outer fold before you top stitch.]

Top stitch over the folded edge down one side...

...around the bottom and back up the other side.
[If you're adding boning, you only have about an inch to work with for bones and grommets. Place your bones (10 inches long) very close to the seam, refold the outer fold, and stitch your channel. I did not add boning.]

Next, we're going to sew the outer fold. Start at the edge of the slit and sew across the top, down the side, around the bottom, back up the other side, and across the other top. Sew very close to the fold again.

Sewing the outer fold, where we turned under the raw edges.

The addition of the front facing here not only allows you to hem that center slit, but also gives a more sturdy, multi-fabric layer area for grommets. You should have about one inch from seam to seam here. We'll take care of the grommets later.

The finished slit from the front.
Now all the pieces we cut in step one are sewn together! Coming up: sleeve cuffs, side seams, neckline, hem, grommets, done!