Does this dress make me look pregnant?

I gotta tell ya, there’s a level at which I REALLY enjoy the few moments of life when that isn’t a relevant question. Because quite a few of my favourite styles of clothing, um, make me look pregnant. Even when I’m not. I love empire-waisted dresses, including ones with gathered skirts. So, while pregnant seemed like the perfect chance to indulge that love.

This pattern was a recent donation(among many, many others) from a friend of my mother’s. Thank you, Bernie! We all know I’m a sucker for 70s dresses, and I have a bad case of sundress-on-the-brain, so this was an easy thing to gravitate towards. I have had NO energy for the last several months, but finally just in the last week or so I’ve had a tiny bit of extra jam in the evenings, enough to very, very slowly piece this dress together over the course of the last couple of weeks.

The pattern is in a size 12, which WAS my size, but is now a good three or four inches small. At its core it’s a simple princess seam empire bodice with a lightly gathered tiered skirt; there are some cute ties across the bust, though I almost skipped them. I made quite a few mods on this first version to be more maternity friendly—I prepped a shirred panel to cut the back piece from, and after some measuring made a small FBA on the front.

For this particular dress I just used a simple gathered rectangle for the skirt, to take advantage of the border embroidery of my fabric. And it’s probably more full than it needs to be, or would need to be if it weren’t going to be going over twins.

I feel like this is about how big I’ll be by August.

The front hem will certainly go on lifting as the belly expands, but I’m cool with that. It’s a bit long as it is.

I thought that the front tie provided an opportunity to try out some kind of a nursing access point for the sundress. I never had any nursing-specific clothing with my first two pregnancies, and I did plenty of nursing, so I’m a bit sceptical about the value of such mods, but I thought I’d give it a try, at least.

I basically just sewed the CF panel separately from the side front panels + ties, and then lapped the pieces and tacked them at top and bottom. If the ties are tied everything stays securely in place, and if you untie, you can fold it back and access the slit. In theory the other side will stay closed, though if it becomes an issue I can see adding some kind of a belt-loop in the middle to keep the non-nursing side in place. As I said, we’ll see. That particular feature isn’t likely to be tested until next summer, anyway.

So between the FBA and the little bit I added at the side seam and then the stretchy back, I actually had to take in the side seams, an inch at the under-arm tapering to more like 1 cm at the bottom of the bodice (tricky to do because I made the whole thing very clean-finished inside, pretty to look at but not exactly easy to alter, especially when one of your layers is on the bias. It’s not super pretty up close. I’m very curious to make this without the stretchy back at some point just to see how it would compare. The (2 cm) FBA gave a LOT of projection in the boob area, rather more than I currently need, but it’s somewhat adjustable by tightening the ties, so it seems to work. I’m not sure if I’d do it again, though. And my boobs are likely to get bigger before they get smaller again.

I used my favourite gathering-with-dental-floss method, using a cording foot from a set I bought last summer to keep the dental floss snug in the middle while I zig-zagged over it. This definitely makes it a more foolproof method. I finished the bottom of the bodice and the top of the skirt separately so I can take the skirt off and re-adjust if I want fewer gathers later, though attaching the gathered skirt to the shirred back was kinda hell so I’m not sure I’ll wanna try that again.

All in all I think it’s a pretty cute experiment. I feel like the proportions might be better if the bodice was slightly longer, but on the other hand since my belly starts right below my boobs, I don’t think that would really work very well right now. So it is what it is; i may try styling with an elastic belt below the bust to see how that looks. But for maternity wear, I think I’m pretty happy with it.

Now if only it would get warm enough to wear it!

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Class samples: Jalie Tee

I wanted to teach a basic tee shirt class this summer, and Jalie seemed the obvious choice. Their basic fitted tee pattern, 2805, has a few different cute necklines (even if none is the scoop neck I prefer), and I felt pretty confident that the sizing and drafting would be good. I’m not sure if this sweet floral is really “me,” but it makes for a beautiful sample.

Everything is taking me a really long time to make right now, but this was still a pretty simple, quick sew, aside from how spread out over days the process was. I often just wing my neckband pieces, but I used the Jalie pattern piece here and of course it’s perfect. Neckbands on V-necks need to be a bit more precise, IMO, so a good pattern piece is worth it here.

Speaking of V necks, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

The one thing I would change on the pattern is that the sleeve pattern piece is cut on the fold. I prefer a full sleeve piece, even if it’s symmetrical, so I can cut out the pair all at once (I feel the same way about collar and yoke pieces for shirts). But it’s easy to make that change at the tracing stage.

I did not raise the underarm on this version, as I often don’t need to in Jalie patterns, but I think I would lift it just slightly in the future. There’s a balance in underarm fitting between mobility and wrinkles, but I tend to lean to the mobility side, wrinkles be damned.

I did the twin needling on the Rocketeer, where I had to relearn the “always test!” lesson again… for only the millionth time. Ah well. After some unpicking and careful testing of stitch length (longer), presser foot pressure (light but not too light or the fabric doesn’t advance well), and tension, I finally got good results. And yes, I used Steam-a-Seam in the hems.

Now does the shirt fit me? Well, I made my current size, which is U grading to V at the waist and hips. And it’s good, or would be good if the bump weren’t bursting forth at a rate that makes me think of those supernatural movie pregnancies where the woman gives birth within the space of days.

But I can definitely do a maternity bump hack on the next one.

Happy sewing!

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Going around again

Because I wasn’t doing anything else with the next twenty years of my life, right?

Our family at present

At the end of February, I had a lapse in birth control. I needed to renew my prescription, I was sick, the weather was terrible, surely a few weeks off the pill wouldn’t come to anything. I’m thirty-eight. The time in life when people work for months if not years to get pregnant. (Yes, I can hear you laughing already)

A few weeks later, my breasts were sore and I couldn’t sleep. Then I was sick (exhausted and nauseous) for a week. I finally made it to the pharmacist for my birth control. It’s so nice that they can prescribe that now! As a precaution, I picked up a pregnancy test. Just in case.

My husband spotted it when I got home and had a little bit of a freak-out. “Take it now!”

“It’s just a precaution, babe.”

“Now now now!”

I went into the bathroom. The second line showed up basically instantly. It doesn’t necessarily count though. You have to wait one to three minutes.

I left the stick in the bathroom and set a timer. Syo (who will be sixteen shortly) got home from school.

The timer went off and we rushed into the bathroom. Two lines, definitely.

“Does that mean pregnant?”

“Yes, that means pregnant.”

“Syo!!!!!! Get in here!!!!”

So that was it. No discussion. No backing out, no second thoughts. Barring unforeseen complications, we’re having a baby. Sometime in November or early December.

A few weeks later I had seen a doctor and booked an ultrasound, and an assortment of other tests. Last time I was pregnant, I was blithely confident that complications were things that happened to other people. This time, I feel like one of the people complications happen to.

A few days ago I had an ultrasound. We’re hoping to improve my rather shaky dates. I’ve never had an early routine ultrasound before—it didn’t occur to me to get any prenatal care with Tyo, other than taking vitamins, until I was twenty weeks along. With Syo I wound up in the ER with heavy bleeding at nine weeks. The only thing I remember from that ultrasound was watching to see if there was still a heartbeat.

This routine ultrasound took a while. At one point the technician had to add a second squirt of goop. I found myself watching her face, wondering if I’d be able to tell if something was wrong. I’m not the best at reading people.

At last she said “ok, we’re ready to give you a look. Now, just so you’re prepared, do you have any history of twins in your family?”

And yes, then she showed me not one, but two little bodies in their little sacs.

In case you’re not quite up on the magnitude of this fuck up, my last baby will be turning sixteen this summer. My first baby will be nineteen, the age I was when she was born, when I give birth to her little siblings. Last time I was pregnant, I was twenty-two, and by twenty-nine I was thinking I wouldn’t want to put my body through that again.

We were always the young parents. That has its downsides—we were poor, unstable, very limited in our means. On the other hand, we were young, energetic, with vivid memories of our own childhood to draw on.

In many ways, our situation now is much better. Older, wiser, definitely more financially stable, if not exactly wealthy. I will have maternity leave from my grown up job—a year’s worth, and while my husband hasn’t been able to work outside the home for several years, he’ll be able to look after a small child or two when I go back to work. There are a lot of good things about us having a baby now, and while we’re no longer young, we’re not catastrophically old either.

If it weren’t for the part of my brain that keeps complaining that we were nearly done. The kids are nearly grown. I thought the next baby in my life would be a grand baby. WTF. I’m supposed to finally be experiencing adulthood that isn’t also parenthood, or at least, is the less-intensive (though maybe no less terrifying) tail off of parenting grown children. However, that’s only one part of my brain, and the other parts are pretty excited about another grand adventure. Those are not the logical bits, mind you.

The girls are happy. They’ve been campaigning for a younger sibling since they were old enough to articulate the concept. My husband is happy. Even my mom is happy. (My Dad, bless his heart, said essentially the same thing he did when I told him I was pregnant the first time: “Why?” Thanks, Dad.)

On the downside, exhaustion has sapped my sewjo big time. I have barely done anything except occasionally go down to the sewing room to putter. I still have to finish my quilt. I also have some class samples to do so I’m sure I’ll get to those. Right now I’m using Me Made May to take stock of what in my wardrobe will function for pregnancy (early and late) and nursing and there may be some desperation sewing later on if this bump keeps expanding at such a prodigious rate. I’d like to say I’ll be up for some cute baby sewing at some point… we’ll see. Especially since apparently now I’ll need two of everything?

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Me Made May 2019

It’s the tenth Me Made May! I remember running into the first one when it was partway through, and being both fascinated and jealous (those were EARLY blog days and I had about two me-made garments.) I was first able to participate in the follow-up “Self-Stitched September” with a pretty limited (and slightly odd, in hindsight) wardrobe, and I’ve been on board, on and off, ever since, with a few years missed for various life-related reasons. (I swear I did 2012 but I can’t find any documentation of it!)

It’s interesting to look back through the years, as I’ve been at some very different places professionally and personally. The long gap after 2013 was caused by working two jobs for five years, which left me pretty much living day to day with no room for any kind of challenge—but I was still wearing me-mades and having quite a lot of fun with my wardrobe, actually. There were a lot of retro-style fit ‘n flare dresses, and they were a lot of fun.

Which brings my to my current pledge:

I, Tanit-Isis, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May 2019. I endeavour to wear me-made every day (except bras and socks) and to go through my wardrobe with an eye to assessing what fits and wearing conscious, thoughtful looks, not just throwing random items together. I’m in flux right now, body and style both, and I want to think about both how I actually look (which is changing) and how I want to look (which also may be changing?)

So there’s a few different things going on here.

  1. I have LOTS of me-made clothes at this point.
  2. My body has changed. Some of the stuff I made a couple of years ago no longer fits (which is killing me but doesn’t seem to be magically reversing).

3. My job has changed. I’m not working nearly so much “customer facing” work, and I find my motivation to go all out is somewhat diminished when it’s just the same co-workers who see me every day. Not that they’re not appreciative, but I’m not making first impressions.

4. Fashion is changing. Boxy silhouettes, wide-leg pants… buzzwords like “comfy”, “relaxed,” and “easy-fitting” seem to be dominating the fashion conversation these days. It would be really easy to fall into this, given the body changes I mentioned above, but frankly those are all the features of the 80s and 90s fashion I grew up with that I hated most. So I’m conflicted.

Given the above, I’ve often been feeling like what I pull out of the closet is either not creating a coherent look, or that the look I’m ending up with isn’t quite what I intended (or that I don’t even know what I intended.)

On top of that, sewing class samples for my teaching has been putting quite a few pieces into my wardrobe that were picked more with an eye to what can be sewn from the kind of fabrics the quilt-shop where I teach stocks, and to a lesser extent what is “hot”, than to thoughtful wardrobe-building for me. I’m not quite sure how to resolve this conundrum, though I could of course just give myself permission to not wear them. But I do like them.

So yeah, I need to think. To evaluate. Decide how I feel both about the current trends and how they fit with how I want to look and how I actually look. Me Made May may not solve this for me. But I’m hoping it will at least give me some more information about where I’m at. I’m planning to document on Instagram, probably via stories, and with any luck I’ll manage a summary post here in June.

Wish me luck!

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Tanit-Isis takes a class

So, I’m taking an introductory quilting class at Periwinkle. Kind of a work-perk thing? Anyway, it occurs to me that this is actually the first formal sewing class I’ve ever taken. Bizarre. Well, quilting is bizarre, too, so I guess that works.

The class is designed to take people from little to no sewing experience all the way to making a decent-sized throw quilt, in a sampler style of about a bazillion different blocks, in just seven weeks. Well, seven plus homework. We’re going to practice quilting and binding on a swatch because I don’t think she figures we can finish quilting the whole thing by the end of class. I’m pretty sure she’s right about that, though I really enjoy the intensity of the class.

Pattern overview

Things that bug me:

  • Cutting perfectly good fabric into teeny pieces just to sew it back together. Yes, I know that’s the whole point of quilting.
  • No steam. I’m not sure if this is common among quilters, but the teacher is quite anti-steam, because apparently it makes it too easy to distort the pieces. Meanwhile I don’t think anything I’ve pressed sans steam looks like it got pressed at all…
  • Doing math in inches. The entire cult of quilting is framed in inches and fractions thereof, and it makes me want to break things.
  • The whole pattern is predicated around working with fat quarters. Obviously none of my fabric was IN fat quarters, so I had to cut quite a bit of it into fat quarters.

Half-square triangle gris, waiting to be stitched together and then sliced apart.

Things that have blown my mind:

  • A 1/4″ seam allowance isn’t 1/4″. It’s 1/4″ less turn of cloth, with lots of experimentation sewing strips of known width together with different needle positions until the math works out.
  • Making half-square triangles in a giant grid and then cutting them out after. That was pretty fun.
  • How often Pythagorean theorem comes up, and then the quilters just dodge right around the backside of it.
  • How intense the need for accuracy is, especially with the seam allowances.
  • How hard it is to visualize what the different colours will look like in the different patterns. I mean, I worked at a fabric store for YEARS. I’ve helped people pick colours and prints for dozens of quilts. But visualizing the specific blocks? Mind melt!
  • Oh and I’m pretty happy to have learnt to use my shiny new rotary cutter “properly”.
  • I also love the variety of blocks we’re making, and how a few simple changes can make it look completely different.
  • The cat got locked in the basement and decided to give me some layout suggestions.

  • I am seriously looking forward to the quilting part, which I THINK I have more of a handle on than this weird piecing business. Because there’s bound to be little tips and tricks I’ve missed—but at least I’ll be a little more in my comfort zone.
  • Maybe?

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    Class Samples: Dress Shirt

    A very eager student asked about a class using this pattern. Curious, I was happy enough to oblige.

    The Dress Shirt is a simple, pared-down take on a shirtdress, and I actually really enjoyed the sewing process, particularly the front bib and how the neckline was finished. Things went a bit awry at the sleeves—my first inclination was to set them in flat, shirt-style, but there’s way too much ease in the sleeve cap for this method—lots of gathers that are difficult to control. So I did the second sleeve in the round, but still didn’t do a great job on the easing. Next time I would pare down the sleeve cap a wee bit.

    On the other hand, the pockets I added worked out fine.

    The back view is surprisingly attractive in this picture, at least (these are terrible photos but I had about three minutes to take them in, so it is what it is.)

    However, my biggest issue, far and away, is the fit in the shoulders. I did the same size (10) as for the Trapeze Dress last fall, which is technically a size down from my current measurements but a) there’s plenty of ease and b) I don’t think my shoulders have actually changed very much. Plus looking at the model, the pattern seemed to have slightly dropped shoulders, not really what I wanted. But, as it turns out, the shoulder fit has the same restricted movement and tightness across the back as I had in the Trapeze—plus a WAY low armscye.

    I did only two of my usual adjustments–when sewing up these class samples I try to stay fairly close to the pattern. I squared the shoulders slightly, and I raised the underarm about 1cm. I did the same on the Trapeze Dress, and I don’t think the underarm height there was a problem. But obviously a bit of a broad-back adjustment is probably in order.

    Dress lifts up at least 2-3” when I raise my arms. However, I do like the shorter hen length.

    But on this dress, the armscye appears to be dropped by over an inch. I could easily lift it up an inch to an inch and a half before I’m happy with where it falls. For that matter, if I can get the sleeves sewn in a way that’s comfy for me, I’ll probably take 2-3″ off the hem, too. But that’s more personal preference.

    There’s not much more to say as it’s a simple make. I really did enjoy the physical sewing of it. I don’t know if it’s the most flattering thing I’ve ever made (better photos might change my mind there), but it was a fun process!

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    Class Samples: Alder shirtdress

    It’s a bit sweet. And a bit snug right through the bust—I really need to come to terms with my new measurements. But I knew from scouring Instagram that I preferred the “fitted” versions of this dress, so I was at least somewhat intentional in sizing down.

    I considered adding back-ties, but with the down-sizing I didn’t really need them.

    Anyway. I love the short, sassy skirt. I love the fabric, which is a yummy double gauze. It might, however, be just a little too twee. I’m thinking I would like it paired with black leggings and tall boots. We’ll see.

    I went with a mandarin version of the collar. Partly I like them better, partly I’m hoping if I lead some students in that direction it will save some class time. This is only scheduled as a 6 hour class and I’m a little scared. Once it’s don’t being a class sample, I might even cut the neck down to a bound scoop. I’ve seen some hacks like that that I really like. I’m just not really a shirt-collar person, I guess.

    The front patch pockets are teeny weeny. I was a good sample maker and resisted the urge to skip them, but I did add some side-seam pockets, suspended from the gathered skirt seam at the top. This holds them in place a little more nicely than just side pockets.

    The construction went pretty smoothly, without any major and unfixable snafus. Unlike my last class sample. Still kind of reeling in horror from that one, honestly. For the arm facing, I used a bias tape I had made previously, and while I cut my pieces the same length as the pattern indicated, I think because I had already stretched the tape out going through the bias tape maker, they didn’t have as much give as if they’d been freshly cut that length. So it took some finessing to get them in properly, and it’s still not my best job ever. A half inch longer would’ve been perfect.

    What I completely failed to take was progress and detail shots, except for the one lone pic of the pockets underway. It’s too bad, because I like how the side pockets went together, and I actually managed some very nice inset corners, if I do say so myself. And the hem turned out really nice, too, if I do say so myself. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it…

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