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As we’ve now done every other since 2008, the Cleaver clan (now expanded!) took our bi-annual trip down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. It’s a long trip cobbled together on buses to/from Boston and long plane flights, but the travel is worth it to see my now-distant family.

A few nights before we left Mr. Cleaver and I tried to figure out how many times we had done this Thanksgiving trip (this was the 4th): there was the year I have memorialized in a photo on my desk, when my mom  and her mom came and my cousin Preston was there and my grandmother Leota was still alive and there was only one wee member of the next generation.

Then there was the year my grandfather, now a widower, had my brother and I cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving and when we visited my Great Aunt Betty at her house and she gave me a little brass bird to take with me to look at and think of her. She’s since moved to a senior living community and I haven’t seen her since.

Then most recently, the year we met my little red-headed first cousin once removed, while I was pregnant with my own little red-headed girl, and we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle and went to Disneyland.

This year there was one less member of the eldest generation and two more members of the youngest.  All reminders of why its so important to make the trip, if only every other year. My uncle said it best this year  – “traditions like this don’t just happen, you have to put in the work and everyone has to pitch in.”

I’ll admit that this year, with LMC as part of the group, made for a very different experience for me – not to say she was trouble – she was spectacular on the all the travel and in adjusting to the new people and surroundings, but it really struck me how much more your attention is divided when you’re the parent of a small child. When a half an hour conversation turns into 10 minutes because she needs you in another room, or the shift in times from up late and sleeping in to early to bed, early to rise. But I loved seeing LMC read a book with her Great Aunt, or sit in her Great-Uncle’s lap to watch the Polar Express or for her to play kitchen with her cousin and try to be like the big girl. Not to mention her first experiences seeing a baby hippo, chowing down on In-N-Out fries, or taking her first pass at big-ball bowling.

To some extent, visits to my family during the Holidays have always felt a little bit nostalgic – going back to the places I loved as kid and remembering all the things we did in those backyards and houses, but this year I was reminded how great families (and I have some great family), allow you to change and grow and love you all the more for it.

And for that, I’m thankful.

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On Friday we had our second snow of the season (the first being a dusting the weekend after Halloween), but it now being mid-November, this one is the true harbinger of winter.

We’ve shifted our clocks back, I’ve pulled out my sweaters, and generally speaking, the first snow comes right around Thanksgiving, so it’s all in good timing. We’re acclimating LMC to snowpants and boots and mittens (which are tiny and adorable), and planning on more indoor time.

My most recent take on the Geranium dress, made out of some lightweight shot cotton, is mostly inappropriate for the weather, but I bought the fabric back on vacation and cut it out months ago and we can always layer, right? In any case, I cut it long in the hopes that it’ll still fit come warmer days, which are now very far away for Maine. I’ve got a second dress cut out in the same fabric for her still-nudist doll, which I hope to have done by Christmas.  Because there’s nothing like November to kick-start a slightly dormant crafting bug.

Do you have any Christmas crafting plans in the works?

Birthday Dress
As Little Miss Cleaver is several weeks into her one-year-old-ness and several friends and family have had welcomed new babies in the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about those first few heady days of parenting of how quickly your life shifts to a new norm, and then I thought about how it’s changed what I make and why.

Thanks to Mr. Cleaver’s keen understanding of how making stuff is important to me, I’ve been able to do a fair amount of sewing since LMC’s birth. However, two vital things have changed about my sewing time. One, it’s in shorter spurts now and perhaps less frequent, but all the more welcome and two, the things I make are usually, though not always, for someone with wee clothing needs a bit different from own. Because of these two changes, I’ve experienced a few new things about sewing that I thought I’d share.
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1. Trying out new things is easier when the project is small

Before I started sewing baby stuff, I had never completed a project in knit fabric. I’d made a few attempts in the past, but never really finished anything. Then I decided to make some envelope tees. The fabric was fairly stable (interlock) and the seams were all of six inches long. It was a small enough project that even if I screwed it up, I was out of a quarter of a yard of fabric, maybe. I’ve probably made about ten or so since, some in interlock, some in jersey, some hacked together with the Geranium pattern into dresses.

Having worked in this small scale, I’m much more comfortable with knits and am eyeballing some larger-scale knit projects for myself.
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2. There’s frosting, there’s cake, and then there’s bread. And there is nothing wrong with sewing any of them.

Tasia coined the whole frosting vs. cake terminology, but sometimes, even cake is too fancy of a word for some items.

There are a lot of things that I used to think that I’d never bother making, because they were just too dull and/or readily available inexpensively. Like solid-colored t-shirts, non-fancy underwear, leggings, plain socks. But then you figure out that those ready available things are kinda cruddy. The number of onesies we bought that got holes in the fabric is astonishing, especially considering the early ones that were worn for maybe 3 months by something that didn’t move much.

Now I haven’t made any onesies, mostly because I’ve yet to have any luck with inserting snaps, despite several efforts (any suggestions welcomed!), but if I could get over that snap-inserting hump I totally would the next time I needed onesies. Because there’s a certain satisfaction to pulling something out of the drawer and wearing it on a daily basis and having the fabric be nice, and the seams finished well, even if it’s super dull.
My style and sewing has become more utilitarian these days, and as much fun as it is to spend days making a fabulous dress, my current dream sewing project list is full of things those things that I never thought I’d ever bother to sew.

That’s not to say I don’t make the occasional fabulous piece of cake or frosting, like the Oliver + S Birthday Party Dress seen above or the wear-it-once Ewok costume , both of which were totally worth the extra effort in my opinion.
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3. Multiples are your friends.

Not every project has to be a special snowflake. When you make multiples of something you only have to cut/trace the pattern in each size once and depending on your fabric, you can cut out multiple projects at the same, getting to the actual sewing quicker. A huge plus when your sewing time is more limited.

When you do the same thing multiple times, you learn from your mistakes and get better. And generally faster at it too. This can be particularly helpful if you’re making those everyday bread pieces and need a bunch of them.

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4. When in doubt, make the longer version.

It has been my experience that babies grow taller much faster than they grow wider, which means those leggings turn to capris, those pants to shorts, and those dresses to tunics.

Little Miss Cleaver was about 6 weeks old when she first started wearing that green dress. As a one-year old she still has a lovely tunic that she wears. In that case, the knit fabric also helps, but I’ve been able to stretch the life of many a handmade baby item, simply by making the longer version.

 

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5. You’ve probably already got a fabric stash, so stock-up on notions

I’ve got enough adorable novelty prints to last me three years (at least), so if I want to do a project, I’ve probably already got some fabricI can use, but having a good supply of buttons and piping and zippers and thread in a variety of colors means I don’t have to use my sewing time on a trip to the store that inevitably takes longer than I want it to.

Since I am sadly, not someone who ever inherited mason jars full of fabulous vintage buttons, I early on bought a bunch of packs of multicolored buttons in various sizes that have been indispensable. I learned my lesson and also have a good stash of elastic in various widths and plenty of machine needles. Figure out what you use a lot of and get a ton.

Also, when it comes to matching colors, there is such a thing as good enough. When my mother first taught me to sew, we would go to the store, pick out a pattern, pick out the fabric and carefully select a thread color to match exactly. Now I have one thread storage box that holds about 40 spools, and generally there’s something there that is close enough (unless it’s orange, apparently I have no orange thread), or maybe that project will look great with contrasting thread!

I’d also like to work on having a good stash of quality solid fabrics to use for contrasting yokes and linings.

And one bonus comment, that relates to baby clothing in general:
If it’s a practical button (i.e. one that you have to actually use to get an item on and off your child), anything smaller than ½” is just so not worth the trouble. Maybe 3/8.” Maybe.

 

Anything your kids have taught you about sewing? Feel free to share in the comments below.

I have a confession to make.

I’ve become addicted to sewing baby clothes.

Teeny tiny adorable baby clothes.

When I started my sewing for the Wee Baby T, I avoided clothes as I didn’t have a good idea of what size babies actually are (still don’t really).

So I made other practical things: some bibs, a carrier, a nursing pillow, a toy or two.

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But then Made by Rae came out with the Geranium dress pattern and I was overcome with the cuteness. I downloaded the pattern the day it became available and set about to sewing it shortly after. It sat finished except for the closure for a while (I made several failed attempts at snaps, but need to purchase better snaps methinks), before I finally added some buttons. In the meantime, my addiction lay latent, as yet unknown.

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I had intended to sew some more baby clothes, in fact the weekend after we found out the gender I went and bought a bunch of fabric and some patterns for that express purpose, but still I held back.

Then a few weeks ago I was hit hard by the nesting instinct.

It started simply, an envelope tee from Growing Up Sew Liberated. But there was something thrilling about it. The tee was so little! It took such little time to sew! And I had successfully sewn something with knits for the first time!

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I started digging through my stash, pattern books, and pinterest to see what else I could make. I came up with the fabric for another tee and started planning for my next projects.

A few weekends and a few trips to JoAnn’s later (and a new found appreciation for sewing multiples assembly-line style), we have all this:

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Patterns from top to bottom:
Envelope tees from Growing Up Sew Liberated.
Geranium Dress from Made by Rae
Reversible baby pants from Growing Up Sew Liberated.
Baby Tights from Made by Rae
Basic Newborn Pants from Made by Rae

And I have more fabric! And more patterns! And more plans!

Who knows what my sewing time will be like in the not-so-distant future, but as long as that babe stays inside, she’s getting better dressed by the weekend. [Note to Wee Baby T: this does not mean you should take this as an opportunity to be overdue] 😉