Sewing and motherhood are intertwined in the past 5 years of my life; being pregnant sparked my urge to make things and while I love staying at home with my 2 kids, crafting is my main outlet. Life after my first child looked much different than after my second child, so I’m joining Erin, Monserratt, and Jodi for a series called Ease In to Motherhood, which is “a sewists’ celebration of motherhood and the changes it brings to our lives. During the month of July, we invite you to share your experiences of the physical and mental changes of pregnancy, childbirth and/or any other way a child comes to your life.” Be sure to click over and read what other bloggers had to share for the series – and if you’re pregnant or parenting check out my other related posts:
- Nursing friendly PDF patterns
- Making time to craft and sew with kids at home
- Why I didn’t take a maternity leave from Swoodson Says
- How to make any tshirt maternity
I grew up surrounded by sewing, with stories of my Grandma making her kids’ pants from their old sofa and my Mom making our Halloween costumes and refashioning prom dresses (a picture of my favorite, in this post!). I inherited my Grandma’s machine when she passed away and made sporadic attempts to teach myself how to use it, using traditional paper patterns resulting in a fold-up shopping bag monstrosity made of thick twill and several misshapen pillows. I spent hours reading sewing blogs and buying fabric from thrift stores, as if I’d learn how to use it all simply by hoping hard enough.
Something about being pregnant finally pushed me over the hump and I started to try and figure out sewing in earnest with several nursery projects. I took a 10 month break after my son was actually born, and then finally made a whole outfit with PDF patterns that were easier to follow, the first clothes I’d sewn. This is a classic example of post-1st-child sewing, I didn’t love it but I was committed. Half way through, I realized the sleeves were going to be longer than I wanted and the color combinations didn’t really work. I felt this intense pressure to finish something, ANYTHING, and have it just be done (as opposed to all the mundane, recurring, relentless tasks of raising babies that feel like Groundhog Day with the nursing, the diaper changing, the shushing, the hoping for a longer nap, the nursing, etc. etc.). I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad and decided it wasn’t worth it to re-do.
Working in stolen bits of time, the pressure to make something not only quickly but without errors often left sewing feeling like more of a chore than an escape. I tried sewing clothes for myself but was stuck in my pre-motherhood frame of mind; finding myself sewing clothes for a lifestyle I no longer led, clothes that fit a body I no longer lived in. I tossed my bikini bathing suits without a second thought, figuring my stomach was “ruined” by stretch marks and extra skin, unfit for the public eye.
I wish I could point to one project or words of wisdom that hit a tipping point but that time period is mostly a sleep-deprived blur. I finally upgraded to a more reliable machine after struggling with my Grandma’s and started to feel like I had more wins than losses. Slowly, sewing became a true hobby that recharged me and I added blogging into the mix. I’d posted sporadically on the free WordPress software prior to 2014 but decided to dive in and treat it as a part-time job. Looking back at my very first income report, I cannot believe I kept going, but I’m glad I did!
By the time I was pregnant with my second child, I felt more confident both in sewing and parenting. Instead of dreaming about vintage skirts and dresses that I always thought I’d make, I embraced the body that I had and made things that I would actually wear. Most of the maternity shirts I could find were tight but solid, boring colors or shapeless shift tops meant to conceal so I sewed myself a loud, over the top leopard shirt that made me happy.
After my second baby was born, sewing and blogging time had firmly been established as my time to recharge and Swoodson Says was actually generating some money. I regularly took (and still take) a whole weekend day to sew as uninterrupted as possible instead of working in tiny chunks of time that popped up like after my first was born. Instead of wasting time being frustrated that she wouldn’t sleep in her crib (and trying 500 different ways to convince a baby to sleep when and where you want them to), I brought her down in the carrier to cut and sew. I knew how to make things. I knew how to parent a sleepless child. I knew that I needed to, in equal parts, savor the snuggles and also have a creative escape from constantly being touched, needed, and drained.
At the same time I’d gotten rid of my bikinis after baby #1, I took half-naked pictures of myself after baby #2 and posted them on the internet, in a post about sewing for my postpartum body. Sewing and blogging gave me a sense of agency and purpose, unapologetically making things I loved and sharing them in a space that was mine to control. While there was still a relentless stream of nursing and diapers and naps and shushing, I had tangible proof, in my eldest son, that time would keep zooming by. It was (and is) usually worth it to take a few extra minutes and rip out those wonky stitches or change fabric choices mid-project. Above is a great example with the Grainline hemlock tee – I tinkered with a pattern and different fabric choices not only to sew something I genuinely loved but also to sew something for the body I had. It felt good to make something that fit me just how I was, and not how I used to be or how I hoped I’d be soon.
My second “baby” is 2.5 now, so it’s much easier to take a full weekend day to myself and the sleepless nights have more or less passed. With no more nursing, I finished this Ebony Tee (full pattern review here) and then ran out after dinner to photograph it without worrying about night feedings! More and more my kids can watch me sew and even start to help. They bring new ideas of what I should make for them and it’s so fun to be able to fulfill their (often random) wishes for specific clothes or toys. I love that making things has taken a central role in my life and helped me not only stay sane but also grow. The baby factory is definitely closed, but the habit of carving out sewing time for myself and my business is a permanent one!
I’d love to hear how sewing and parenting have woven together for you? Do you find yourself sewing differently after more than one kid?
Friday 7th of July 2017
I really like this. My second baby is almost 9 months now and I'm starting to not feel so guilty in taking the time after she goes to sleep (and before my oldest goes to sleep) to cut and do a bit of sewing in the daylight. I've started sewing more for the body I have than the body I used to have and it's freeing to have things that fit me now and fit my lifestyle. I do need to work more on sewing casual stuff (most of my handsewn clothes are for work/church), but it's so freeing. Thanks for posting!
Stephanie - Swoodson Says
Friday 7th of July 2017
Happy to hear it, friend!