Euphoria

My birthday, as you probably won’t recall, falls only a week after the twins’. I’m pretty resigned to it being permanently eclipsed now that they’re around, but this year was a bit of a bigger one: 40.

I could probably muse about what it means to have ended another decade, or the approach of middle age; about body changes and how they interact with fashion trends to affect your style. I could even say something about the fact that this blog was only a few months old when I turned 30.

But instead, I’m going to celebrate my birthday present. After years of wistful wishing, intermittent planning always aborted by some more pressing expense, I walked downstairs yesterday morning to a comically large box on the dining room table.

My husband (abetted by my children, my mother, and at least one sewing friend), had pulled the trigger I have never been able to, and bought me a coverstitch.

And because he’s him, it wasn’t the baseline model I had generally planned on. The Babylock Euphoria has all the bells and whistles, including air jet threading for the looper and a harp space big enough for a quilt, should you decide to coverstitch your quilting.

I can’t even wrap my head around it, to be honest. But it’s there, begging to be used. There’s about a million accessories that I need to buy (all the binding attachments, for a start)… and I’m back at work so my time is even more limited… but it’s here!

For my first project, I picked a design I’ve been musing about for months as a nursing-friendly topper. I used my trusty knit sloper and drafted the crossover and flare right on the fabric.

It’s cute, casual enough to wear working from home but spiffy enough for when I’m in the office, and best of all, it has miles of hem for testing out the coverstitcher.

Because this was self-drafted very much on the fly, there wasn’t really any testing of where the crossover would fall; I kinda feel like an inch or so higher or lower might have been better, but I’m not hating it. My bust point fell abruptly by at least an inch on August 31 last year (the day the twins were born) so my sense of where certain points on the pattern fall is a bit inaccurate these days. At least it still mostly fits.

I’m very happy with the width of the flare and the flutteriness I ended up with though.

I need to slow down and build a bit more precision with the thing, but as time poor as I am right now that’s maybe not going to happen. On the whole, though, it makes the whole hemming process much faster. I haven’t even needed to use a fusible so far.

In desperate need of pressing!

The weather turned sharply nasty in time for my birthday, and we realized that the twins had outgrown most of their clothes during the last month while they were wearing mostly diapers (with occasional cute dresses). So tonight I spent some time cutting out some little pants and sweaters. Of course the first ones I went to sew up aren’t terribly warm, but those will come, I promise. These are cut from Jalie 2920, the classic leggings pattern, in the smallest size, which is a kids’ size 2. Technically far to big, but smaller than the baby sweatpants pattern I was also testing out so I thought I’d give them a try. This shiny polyester doesn’t have a huge amount of stretch so they actually work as loose-ish pants right now. I don’t think it’ll hold up, but it’s pretty and the fabric was a hand-me-down I’m unlikely to use for anything else. I actually had to turn the tensions (both upper and looper) down fairly dramatically on the coverstitch for this fabric, which was another lesson learned. I’m thinking matching dresses…

And more to come!

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Katabasis (in the NICU)

There’s a script to birth.

The baby is born. They hand her to you—wet and naked, or freshly dried. You pull her to your breast, skin on skin on skin. She roots, head turning blindly, mouth wide and hungry, and finds a nipple, and you feed her from your body, that she will live. This isn’t everyone’s script, but it was mine; I had followed it twice before.

When the twins were born, I didn’t get to follow it.

I’d rather not go back there. Close the door, turn out the light, walk away. It’s taken me a year to put this together end to end. It’s not tidy writing, half poem, half prose, half mess. But let’s do it, in honour of their first year.

It’s a tunnel, a chthonic journey. I looked it up and found this word: Katabasis (Going down). It’s the hero’s journey down to the underworld, to retrieve his lost love.

30 weeks six days.

First, you are alone, when you should be half of a pair (I should be with two babies). It’s a lost, wild, numb feeling. You talk, laugh, move, like a living thing, but really you’re a kind of ghost.

We kept asking, “When can we go down?” And the answer was “Soon, not yet.” I’ve never felt so pointless, useless, as we waited.

Eventually you find your way to the underworld.

Eventually, they tell us we can go down. Everything is strange and overwhelming. The doors are big and heavy and closed; entrance strictly monitored. We learned the first ritual fo the NICU, scrubbing in. Beyond the doors and the sinks, a cramped, alien underworld, a sea of incubators surrounded by machines, wires, cables, tubes—a halo of technology monitoring, maintaining, keeping bodies, too tiny to live, alive.

We are in the way, intruders in this realm. They tell us we are welcome, that we will learn to belong here. We don’t believe them.

Small spirits in plastic boxes, too fragile to live.

Rules

There are rules in this underworld. No phones. One visitor per bedside. Too much activity today—let them rest. We stub our toes on the rules, again and again.

Rites

Strict rites which must be followed. Scrub with soap for thirty seconds. Follow with sanitizer. Wipe your phone with the disinfectant wipe. Hand sanitizer again when you go from one isolette to the other.

Isolette.

Altar. Bier. Reach inside and feel the tiny flutter of the heartbeat, the rise and fall of ribs like toothpicks. We learn the names of all the wires and what they watch. Heat, heart, breath. The tubes and what they carry: air, fluid, food.

One hand for the head, one hand for the body. The appropriate gesture of worship.

Talk to them, we are told. Tell them stories. They hear your voice. They know your voice. You voice will help draw them to the land of the living.

Skin to skin, another ritual. Ceremonial garments chosen carefully: wide neck, loose body. Let them be as close to your heart as they were, before. Sit in contemplation. These are the only peaceful moments.

Libation.

The breast pump is the most ceaseless ritual. Mark your time by it. You cannot stay in the underworld; you cannot live in the land of the dead (of the not yet living). But you can pump, and feed them of your body, and maybe one day they will come be with you like living babies in your arms.

The first precious drops, golden miracles. 10 mils. 10 more. A syringe connects to the tube that runs down their throats into their bellies. The first feeds are a single millilitre. It looks like the right amount for such a tiny body.

We pump more, and more. When we have enough milk, still we continue, anxious. The ritual comforts us.

Anabasis (coming up)

I held Tristan on the evening of the first day. I was frightened to touch her, and desperate to hold her. They were intubating River; I couldn’t hold her yet.

I held River on the third day. She was extubated, but under a bili-light blanket.

They sent me home from the hospital on the third day. You can’t live in the underworld. I cried a lot, and told my husband that it was ok that I was not ok.

On the sixth day (31 weeks +5), they detach the intravenous fluids. They can live on my milk, delivered through its own tube. Their stomachs work. Their intestines function. This is a victory.

The breathing supports step down. Intubation to CPAP, CMAS to CPAP, down to 2 litres room air. On the twelfth day (32 + 3), they breathe by themselves. Holding our breath that they will breathe. Later one will reverse, because nothing in this underworld is a straight line.

On the eighth day, River cried and I comforted her. I felt like a parent for the first time.

The ritual of the blanket.

On day 9 we find that the body temperature monitors have been removed, and the twins are wrapped in blankets. Thermoregulation is a victory.

On the eleventh day, a magician dressed as a nurse helps me hold them both together.

On the fourteenth day (32+6), we are moved to the oasis. (To Elysium?) There are only four isolettes, a permanent table for the nurses, space between the isolettes for the rocking chair. For the first time, my husband is comfortable enough to hold them.

On the 17th day (33+2), I am permitted to put them to my breast. They both latch well. I cry. I know motherhood isn’t the same as breastfeeding, but my heart confuses the two.

At 33 weeks gestation, they have only just developed a sucking reflex; I have to watch to make sure they stop to breathe. The next day Tristan has twenty bradycardias, episodes where her heart rate drops terrifyingly—all oral feeding is suspended. She is diagnosed with a UTI and ends up back on breathing support for two more weeks. During the whole time she can’t eat by mouth, but sucks ferociously on her pacifier during her tube feeds.

One day, River is fussing as I hold her during rounds. I quietly nurse her, and she is satisfied and goes to sleep. I get in trouble after because it isn’t the time to feed her, and at her next tube feed she regurgitates milk from an over-full tummy. Another toe stubbed on the rules. But how can I regret the first time she communicated her need and I responded?

On the nineteenth day, they are given clothes. This is also a victory.

On the 30th day (35 weeks), the Jim Pattinson Children’s Hospital opens. We arrive early to follow our babies on the Great Baby Migration to the promised land of the New NICU. It’s nice to have the ability to sleep over, but mostly I preferred the Oasis. Our solitary room is lonely and the isolettes are on opposite walls, making it almost impossible to hold both babies together. And the chairs are not very comfortable.

The last month is a slow road winding into the distance. Weight gains. Breathing. I am permitted to nurse each twin twice a day, no more than fifteen minutes. They weigh her before and after, a practice damaging to the nursing relationship, so I have read, but deemed necessary here. I am tired of telling every new nurse, every day, that I will want to breastfeed.

They begin to supplement the twins: two feeds a day of preemie formula, for extra minerals and calories. I will need to supplement them the same way when they come home, they tell me. I cry all day, because this feels like, again, my body is not enough. The failure of your body to provide as it should is the most haunting ghost of this underworld.

The slow road is almost, but not perfectly straight. River is moved to feeding on demand—loses weight, refuses feeds. For four days she won’t nurse, and takes bottles sporadically. I wonder if maybe she will never nurse again. The same nurse switches shifts and takes on overtime to see us through. They put her back on scheduled feeds, finishing through a tube. Eventually, she nurses again. She’s always slow to start—at breast or bottle—but she likes to fall asleep at the breast without letting go. I dream of the day where she can be that annoying baby who likes to sleep with a nipple in her mouth.

The first day I get to nurse Tris again, she is so eager. It’s wild and exciting and she takes (according to the scale) 42 mLs, a huge amount for her. I still have to watch her breathing. I pay close attention; I often catch the oncoming bradycardia before the machines do.

The braddies, bradycardias, are our nemesis. Both twins have them several times a day, more when eating. They are what stands between us and going home. On the 50th day, the doctor raises the possibility of sending the twins home on oxygen, rather than keep them. It cuts like a knife—they don’t need oxygen, haven’t for weeks, except that it helps keep them from forgetting to breath. But the idea of having them home makes it worth it.

(As of the twins heard her, their bradies reduce sharply)

Home. The goal. The land of the living. The end of the half-life. It’s strangely terrifying. How will I live without constant daily weights, without the reassurance of a nurse at hand at every moment?

On the 54th day, for the first time, I spend the night in the twins’ room. This is a disaster. Every little grunt and twitch wakes me; isolettes across the room are nothing like having the baby in a bassinet right beside the bed, or right in the bed with you as I did with my older children. I wake up every hour, if not more. This does not assuage my terror.

On the 55th day, I tandem nurse both twins for the first time. It’s wild and crazy because I am trying to watch both their breathing, but the milk flows fast and plentiful.

On the 56th day, Tris comes home at 38+5. My heart is torn in two, because with River still in the NICU, I have to choose between my babies. Once a baby leaves NICU, they can’t come back. I tell myself eight hours at the hospital with River still leaves me more time at home with Tris than we had before. Despite the pain, it’s easier to transition to the complexity of life at home one baby at a time.

Tris coming home

On the 60th day, River comes home at 39+2. Everything is quietly, achingly wonderful. And yet very, very, very hard.

My first picture of all four girls together. And at home.

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A shirt to match a shirt

Shirt on left is mine, shirt on right is from Baby Gap.

I can’t remember who gave us the hand-me-down little white shirt (on the right). It’s Baby Gap, and fairly exquisite, with lots of cute details—back buttons, smocking, little puffed sleeves.

But there was, of course, only one, and while I don’t NEED to dress my twins alike, it’s fun to at least have them coordinating. So for a long time I’ve wanted to make a second similar shirt.

Things crystallized when I came across two little scraps of pintucked batiste, I think made as demonstration or practice pieces, too tiny for most anything but with too much labour put into them to send them to the bin. Just right, as it turns out, for making a wee little 6-month sized shirt.

Not much went into the making of this shirt. I sewed the side seams (actually I think I forgot to press them!). I rolled tiny hems with the rolled hem foot on my Featherweight, which for once behaved almost flawlessly, top and bottom. I hand-wound a bobbin of elastic thread for my modern Janome machine (I’m sure it would’ve worked for the Featherweight too but I didn’t have any empty bobbins for that one), and made a few rows of elasticated shirring stitches around the top of the shirt.

What took the longest was actually finding a similar off white fabric for the little sleeve/shoulder straps (and if the light is good you can see I didn’t quite succeed). The batiste I had made the pintucks in is just faintly ivory in colour. I’m sure I have more of it in stash somewhere, but I didn’t manage to find it, so I wound up going with a slightly heavier cotton for the sleeves. And the colour that seemed to match in my basement sewing room is, of course, way off in daylight. Ah well. Again they’re just rectangles, the edges narrow-hemmed, and a couple of rows of shirring added.

I basically guesstimated where to stitch the sleeves down front and back, but they seem to work all right. As a bonus, the very stretchy shirring makes it quite easy to take on and off.

So I’m pretty charmed by it, and I think it’s a good mate to the storebought one. We also have one matching (though from a completely different brand again) white ruffly diaper cover… now if I can just manage to make another of those!

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Variations on a theme

A few weeks back I presented my husband with several pieces of fabric for potential baby dresses, and he selected this blue/white shot cotton. And then we both got ridiculously distracted by dressing the babies in matching white things. You’d think we were noob parents, not veterans of 20 years. But the other day I finally tackled it.

These came together during a single day’s naps. (Which totals about four hours although less than half of that is reliable “usable” time.) this is possible only because I didn’t use a pattern or need to rethread any of the machines, and I had the fabric pre-washed and ready to go.

These look slightly different from the white and red-striped versions, but the basic idea is the same. I used the full width of the 45” fabric to make the dresses. I made the armscye curves a little bit smaller this time around, which means they’re less oversized than the other dresses… I may regret this later but I like how they fit now and our sundress season is short. They’re also a little shorter, although still long enough to catch on R’s knees now she’s crawling.

The biggest change I wanted this time around was to incorporate a bodice panel type thing front and back. Inspired by the free Oliver & S Popover Sundress, which I made aeons ago when my niece was three, but only goes down to a size 2. So the panels would serve as binding for the front and back, and then I would add bias tape to the armscyes that turned into the shoulder ties. (Opposite of the other two dresses, where the ties came from the binding that encased the front and back gathering.)

I also chose a wider binding this time, so I made sure to pre-press the armscye curve into it. I used pleats instead of gathering, just for a change, as I was bored of gathering, though I don’t know that the pleats where any less time consuming. And finally, I added a bit of pompom lace to the fronts.

As with the white dresses, I used the full width of the fabric, with a single seam in the back. I cut the front and back panels to the width I knew I wanted the chest to be, 12 cm, and then pleated to match that. I forced myself not to fuss too much over the pleats.

A bit shorter than some of the other dresses, but they still get caught on her knees when crawling.

My bias strips came out a bit shorter this time (or the method of binding the armscye requires a longer strip) so they tie in knots, not bows, but that’s all right for the thicker binding as bows might be quite bulky. I could’ve pieced for longer strips, but I didn’t.

I should maybe pause to mention that having a rotary cutter and mat has changed how I tend to make bias tape. I still start with a rectangle, cut off one end at a bias corner, and sew that to the other end, but instead of sewing the resulting parallelogram into an offset tube and cutting miles of continuous bias, I tend to cut individual strips, sewing them together only as necessary. It’s more annoying sewing the strips individually but the cutting is so much faster and more precise.

The worst part of nap time sewing is that I can’t really take process pictures, as I use my phone to play soothing white noise for the babies. I always prefer blog posts with process pictures. Oh well.

I gotta say, I think these are my favourite yet. I love the lace and the panel and the pleats. Part of me is wondering how many more little sundresses they could possibly need, but another part of me is eyeing up every light-weight cotton in the stash…

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Romping around

I don’t have a huge collection of baby patterns, which is to say that I still have more baby patterns than anyone who wasn’t planning on having any more babies in her life has any business having.

The problem with baby patterns, and kid patterns in general, is you have a pretty limited window of time in which to make use of them, before they’re outgrown.

Tris looks like she’s taking a bow.

So I find myself, since I DO have babies to sew for, making a mental list of the patterns I don’t want to miss out on. Fortunately it’s not a long list.

This six-month sized Simplicity pattern is indisputably at the top of that list.

At a guess, it’s 1950s? The pattern pieces are unprinted, and several of the dress pieces are represented only by newsprint tracings of the original pieces (at least they’re there, though).

I don’t have a HUGE amount of experience with unprinted patterns. Actually I’m pretty sure the only other one I’ve ever actually finished was this shirt back in 2012. There are resources out there that will tell you what the mysterious punched holes mean, but I mainly relied on a general familiarity with how patterns work and referring to the instructions. Because I like to make things hard on myself.

I’ve never made rompers before, so I did find myself referring to the instructions quite a bit. They’re sparse, but I found them basically perfect, and I even largely followed them. Up to and including hand-stitching the inside of the front bibs. I considered using snaps instead of the suggested buttons on the straps (they’re out of sight inside the back portion of the pants), but I all the sew-on snaps I could find were either teeny tiny or way too big.

They are, um, a little roomy. The elastic along the back of the pants are too loose (and I made it a couple of inches shorter than directed), and unfortunately given the construction it’s pretty hard to adjust this. I did add extra buttonholes in the straps, so they’re at a shortened length now but I can switch to the full length if they get too short before the end of the summer.

I wish I could shorten this elastic more easily.

I’ve got some vintage appliqués I’d like to stitch to the front of the bibs, if I get a chance. And I’ve got the dress view cut out…

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Butt ruffles galore!

Once I had the little dresses made, it become imperative that I make up some little ruffly diaper covers. While the dress was easy enough to draft without a pattern, I figured the diaper covers would benefit from starting with one, for speed if nothing else.

I don’t have a huge selection of baby sewing patterns—they really weren’t on my radar during my “collecting” phase since I was fully expecting the next babies in my life to be grandchildren. But Simplicity 8761, from 1970, had an excellent, ruffly candidate, and happens to be in the six month size range I’m looking for at the moment. And it was a diaper-style cut rather than a bloomer-style cut, which is what I wanted.

While I used the pattern piece for view 3, I went off road for pretty much everything else. The pattern called for gathered lace (to be hand-stitched down???)… I opted for bias tape, gathered with the ruffler foot on my Featherweight. The pattern called for a double layer of fabric to make finishing the curved leg edges; I trimmed away excess seam allowance and used more bias tape to make the elastic casings around the legs. Most of all, the pattern called for a diaper style opening, with snaps along the front hip seams. I liked the position of the seams but didn’t see the point in snaps, so I trimmed that section down and just made French seams.

Predictably, they’re cut for covering cloth diapers, so they’re pretty roomy on my disposable-clad girls; the next pair (because how could there not be more?) I will maybe lower the rise by about an inch.

I love the curved triple line of trim, though of course I couldn’t find my transfer paper to make it easier to mark the lines. I wound up using two strips of raw-edged bias cut 2.5cm wide, and the bottom strip cut 3cm wide. I like the subtle difference, though it was mostly because I was testing which width I wanted to use.

Also I did NOT hand-stitch the trim down as per the original pattern instruction.

The pattern called for only 12” of elastic at the waist, which works fine for River but confused me because it seemed really little (especially considering they suggest 10” at each leg). Then I realized the elastic in the original pattern only goes across the back portion of the diaper, not all the way around the waist. Oops. Fortunately scrawny little River fits it fine, and I made the elastic in the second one a little looser for Tris.

The diaper covers definitely took longer to sew than the little dresses, but I kinda think they’re even cuter. Though matching headbands may be required?

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Tiny twin dresses

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later.

I’m not the biggest fan of dresses on babies who can’t walk yet (they tend to bunch annoyingly and are hard to crawl in), but I’m also susceptible to the extreme cuteness of them. Anyway, after attempting and failing to find a pair of sundresses in the same size at our freshly-reopened local shops, I was seized by a wild impulse to put together some really quick, pillow-case-style sundresses for the twins.

Google quickly provided me with a tutorial, although I kinda had my own plans for how I wanted to construct them, with gathers fixed in a binding rather than a casing, so I was mostly just looking for measurements to start from.

The fabric is a red and white striped cotton border embroidery I had pulled out last summer (which tells you how much of a disaster my sewing room is these days) with a vague notion of making matching dresses for all my girls… (I had originally bought it on clearance with plans for an 1880s cotton summer dress, so I have a bazillion mètres of it)

The original pillowcase style would’ve been faster, but for whatever reason I wanted to use delicate bias bindings for the dresses. I also trimmed down and curved the front neckline a bit.

The tutorial I linked called for using the full width of a quilting cotton fabric, but since I was using the border embroidery I had no such constraints, so I cut each of the dresses with a hem of 30”. I opted for a single French seam at the CB instead of side seams, cut the armscyes from the folded edges according to the tutorial (minus the amount for the casing that I didn’t add)

Possibly I should’ve lined the dresses, as the holes in the border embroidery go pretty high on an eensy baby, but I didn’t. I’m hoping to make up matching diaper covers instead… we’ll see how that goes.

On the second dress I did the gathering a bit narrower and I like it better (especially on River, who is skinnier) but not enough to unpick the binding on the first one.

They’re a little large, but then babies tend to get bigger over time, even these shrimpy ones, so I don’t think that’ll be a problem. Maybe I should’ve used more than 30” of hem per dress, for a fuller shape, but on the other hand I didn’t want a whole lot more gathering on the tops. I think really the shape in my head would require an angled, A-line pattern piece, but that doesn’t work so well with the border embroidery. Anyway, I’m pretty satisfied. Now if I can just make those diaper covers happen…

See what I mean about bunching?

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Blackwood the Third

I’ve been napping the twins in the basement since it’s gotten hotter. It means that sometimes I can wriggle out from under them and sew while they nap. I’ve also put all the trashy battery-powered whiz-bang toys down there in the hopes of distracting them when they’re awake, which sometimes works.

Shortly after the twins were born, K-Line offered me a gift of fabric, and I wasn’t too proud to take her up on it, in the form of this yummy cotton rayon sweatshirt fleece from Blackbird Fabrics. It then sat, burning a hole in my stash, all winter. Finally, as soon as I finished my French terry leggings, I decided it had to get sewn; I had already decided on a Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan, because easy and the pattern was already fitted and ready to go.

The fabric sat, pattern pieces half-pinned, on my basement floor for weeks, a testament to the fact that my husband never goes down there and teenagers have no limits to their ability to step over shit. But eventually I did manage to get it cut out. After that the sewing actually went fairly quickly, even at the rate of a seam or two a day.

I’ve made two other versions of this sweater. The first is great, but being wool it’s not something I dare wear in my current constantly-being-puked-on state. I have been wearing my second, knit jacquard version, but it’s not very warm and the black I used for the bands is pilling (the jacquard is holding up better than expected actually). And my phone tends to fall out of the pockets when I sit down. That being said, it’s a cut above a shapeless sweatshirt, and I was excited to have a plainer-but-still-stylish version.

I made only one change to the pattern, deepening the pockets so my big ass phone sits securely down in them. However, I missed one critical fact about my fabric. Unlike any other sweatshirt fleece I’ve worked with, this one has its main stretch vertically. I didn’t notice—didn’t even think to check!—until the sweater was completely finished, so there’s not much to do about it. It fits fine, except the sleeves are quite snug, and hard to push up to wash your hands. Oops. Meanwhile they stretch loads lengthwise. Oh well.

Oh, and I chose to make the pockets raw edged rather than torturing myself trying to turn under the edges. No regrets.

Oh, and these are the leggings from my last post, because I live in them now.

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Avery in terry

After I had a little breakdown a few days ago, my husband committed to giving me an hour or two baby-free this weekend, and I took full advantage to make another pair of Helen’s Closet Avery Leggings.

This is my third pair, but my first post-pregnancy. I made two adjustments to the pattern, adding 7cm of length to the ankle and 2cm to the back rise. The extra length preserves the scrunch around the ankle, and the rise adjustment (which I have made in pretty much ever pair of pants I’ve made ever) just lets them sit a little more comfortably.

This pair is made in a stretchy French terry but it’s a bit less stretchy than the cotton spandex I’ve used the other times I’ve made this pattern, so they’re a bit snug. Except at the waist, where I put very little tension on my 1/4” clear elastic, so it’s a bit loose. Although nice for not digging in. We’ll see how they do for staying up. The double layer of terry in the waistband is a bit heavy, but comfy.

I guess technically they aren’t done, since I didn’t finish hemming them, but I suspect I’ll be wearing them just like this for a while.

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Quaran-teen skirt

Syo is sixteen right now, and home from school with the pandemic. Which causes all kinds of angst and strain, although she’s pretty happy not to have to get up in the morning.

It’s also meant we get to spend a bit more time together, now that she’s not at extracurricular activities every. Single. Day.

Inspiration skirt

Anyway, a week or so into quarantine she presented me with the above image (and a few others) of a skirt she’d like to make.

Me being me, I instantly began scrolling through my pattern database picking out pattern options. No, she clarified. She wanted to draft the pattern from her own measurements.

So we did. I dug out the only hard-copy pattern drafting text I have, Suzy Furrer’s Building Patterns.

Pattern drafting with help from your sister!

I confess I don’t love this book, maybe because I don’t find the diagrams terribly inspiring. I have preferred Metric Pattern Cutting or Patternmaking for Fashion Design. Syo hates working in inches, so I’m sure she would’ve preferred Metric Pattern Cutting as well. But I don’t own those ones (I should really fix that) and the library isn’t accessible so we went with Furrer. There were some things I liked—the skirt draft was a nice, self-contained module, and there were clear charts to mark down your measurements, and tables to walk you through all the necessary calculations.

What I didn’t like as much was the draft itself—it uses a larger front piece than the back, so the side seams are thrown slightly to the back “to make the backside appear smaller” (Syo said, “why would you want your butt to look smaller?”), and takes the exact same amount of dart out of the front as the back, except that some of the back dart is shifted to a shaped centre-back seam, so the back darts actually end up smaller than the front. Given that it’s only in the last few years I’ve had a shape where ANY front dart was useful, and my athletic sixteen-year-old has a flatter tummy than I ever did, this didn’t thrill me. And while I liked the part where some of the rear dart shaping was taken up in a shaped back seam, for this particular design it would’ve made more sense to omit the CB seam—which we could’ve done but it would have been a bit more complicated than with a straight centre back seam. If the fabric she picked had been a plaid, we would have done it, but for this subtle diagonal we didn’t bother.

It was fun to discuss the features she wanted, and what would go into drafting them. How to draft facing and lining pieces, and adding ease to the lining. Which side would be best for the invisible zipper.

Skirt front. You can see how much longer the back is.

How to make the front of the skirt as short as she wanted while preserving the length in the back (you can maybe see how curved the back hem is… we probably should’ve spread the curve out better, but she’s happy so I’m going with it.

And the back. I’m pretty sure it’s the same length on both sides, but my picture wasn’t straight on.

She’s more willing to unpick when she made an error or we changed our minds midstream than I am. When she hemmed the lining inside out, she went back and unpicked. I know for a fact I’ve never willingly hemmed a lining twice.

I didn’t make her put a hook and eye on the side zip. Yet.

I’m really proud of how she did on the invisible zipper, given how they can be finicky and it’s a pretty hefty fabric. And also on sewing up the seams below the zipper so they ended tidily.

So yeah. My kid made a skirt. I provided guidance, some hands on but mostly just verbal while I juggled the twins. Pretty proud of both of us, frankly. I wonder if I could get her to sew something for me… 😂

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