Wednesday 12 July 2017

Ease Into Motherhood: Get Yourself a Thing

"Ease-in to motherhood 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. We invite you to share how you embrace yourself throughout motherhood, to appreciate all the physical and mental energy it takes, to accept and love the changes in your body, your mind and your life. We invite you to share how you still dedicate time to care for yourself. We invite you to share how sewing is a part of your life through the journey."

Monserratt invited me to contribute because she knows me and knows I have a lot to say about motherhood.  Although I will probably be repeating some of what is said by the other contributors, I am a bit further removed from having babies and toddlers, so hopefully can give a perspective from 10 years in the future for those of you in the trenches of early motherhood.

I was always a crafty kid, and carried all my supplies with me through various apartments and houses, and would occasionally make something.  I always had some fabric and a machine, and rarely did more than some alterations or curtain making, but every few years I would pick up a pattern or a Burda magazine and go through a sewing phase again.  It was a skill I could draw upon, but I didn’t consider it a hobby… because I didn’t need one.  I took night classes.  I gardened.  I travelled all over the world.  I ate at a lot of exotic restaurants.  I went out with friends, and spend a happy amount of time alone reading and doing creative things.  Then I decided I wanted kids.  (I waited to have children until fairly late in the game; I was 35 when I had my son, and 39 for my daughter).  There are drawbacks to having kids late, but also great benefits: financial stability, emotional maturity and confidence, and a stable career with excellent maternity benefits. 

***American readers should skip the next paragraph if they want to avoid reading about the shocking reality of living in a socialist state ;) ***

I was lucky enough to have both of my kids at a great hospital here in Montreal, where I was basically left to my own devices until I called for a nurse.  They were uncomplicated births (despite both kids being OP…those of you who’ve had posterior presentations know what I’m talking about, but I’ll leave out the details for those who haven’t).  I think I got a bill for $50 for each birth because I asked for a private room rather than sharing with another mom.  I took a year off with full pay after each birth, had breastfeeding and postpartum support from public health nurses who would come to my house, then had a CPE for my kids just down the street when they turned 1 year old.  (Centres de la Petite Enfance are our subsidized child care centres, that have trained Early Childhood Educators and charged $7/day, including chef-cooked meals.  I think the cost has gone up to $9/day now).  Needless to say, I had lots of support and an easy transition into motherhood. 

And yet.

It’s difficult to go from being able to spend each day as you please:  To wake and sleep when you want.  To work until the work is done and then leave, no matter the time of day.  To pick up and travel to the wildest corners of the world, and then come back with complicated medical mysteries that only made the stories more entertaining when you share them over late night drinks with friends.  To spend a few hours each Saturday cleaning your home, and then having the rest of the time free.  To work on projects uninterrupted from start to finish. 

To have just five g-d damn uninterrupted minutes to think.

Getting my recommended 5L of water a day
 The first three months or so with a new baby are like one long day that never ends: baby wakes crying, you change them, nurse them, wash them, sometimes change them again, hold them and play with them a bit, then they fall asleep again (if you’re lucky).  Repeat every 2-3 hours.  You do whatever you have to do during that unpredictable amount of time the baby is sleeping, although everyone will tell you to rest during that time, but then you never leave the house or get anything done.  So: if you sleep, you feel that you got nothing done, and if you do work, you feel exhausted.  Being an efficient, goal-oriented person is impossible with a newborn.  This is the time to put any projects on hold, read all those books piled up on the bedside table while you feed or hold the baby, drink 5L of water a day, and try to grab 1 hour snatches of sleep when you can.  This stage will end, even if it feels interminable

Then they get older, start sleeping longer, and you gradually emerge from the sleep psychosis and regain the ability to think again.  This is usually the point where moms get frustrated and wish they could have some time to themselves.  This is the time to get a Thing.  Maybe a Thing that gets you out of the house (like going to the gym), but if that’s not your cup of tea, a crafty Thing is perfect.  You can tell your partner (and yourself) that you need 1 hour to work on your Thing, and don’t let yourself get interrupted.  The satisfaction that you feel for starting and finishing your Thing is hard to explain to someone without kids, but believe me, the Thing can be immensely important.  The Thing gives variety to a day that is like every other day.  The Thing gives you something to think about when you’re at the same playground that you’ve visited 1000 times before.  The Thing gives you something more interesting to talk about with other moms than sleep schedules and weaning and hockey lessons and who is walking / talking / reading / getting early acceptance to Harvard. 

 I stumbled onto my Thing when my daughter was 1-year old, and I had both kids at the CPE.  The director stopped me one day and said, “I need someone to sew some new sleep mat covers for the groups.  You have a sewing machine, don’t you?”  She gave me the cut fabric and I whipped up 30 covers in a couple of days, and thought, “That wasn’t as hard as I expected.”  (Turns out that the fabric hadn’t been prewashed, so they all shrunk and couldn’t be used, but that’s another story.)  I decided to dig out some old patterns and make myself a few things to fit my Mom Bod.  I had some trouble with fit, and thought, “I wonder if there are any online tutorials?” 


I found Burdastyle.  I downloaded all the free patterns (OMG there were so many free patterns back around 2009-2010).  There was a whole world of patterns and tutorials and fabric shops there to inspire.  Even if I only had 10 minutes until naptime was over, I could take a quick look at vintage patterns for sale on Etsy and study the pattern pieces to learn about construction.  I could look at the independent pattern companies and see what I could make to fit my new (and constantly changing) post-partum body.  I had never been able to buy a fitted dress off the rack, but it was a simple thing to print a Sewaholic pattern that would work for my size 6/10/12 body!  If going shopping at The Mall with a post-partum body makes you feel frustrated and powerless, making a personalized article of clothing gives you back your power.  I had found my Thing.

I found sewing blogs.  I followed along with The Sew Weekly, then went to NYC in 2011 when Mena arranged a meetup.  I thought it would be weird and awkward to meet strangers from the internet, but it turns out that sewists aren’t perverted old men in greasy trench coats waiting to kidnap me.  Surprise!  We all had the same Thing, and we could talk about the Thing while we shopped for fabric and ate and drank and showed off our beautiful makes. 

You don’t usually learn this until you are an adult, but the unfortunate truth about friendships is that they are usually based on proximity.  You become friends with people because you live in the same neighbourhood, or your kids go to the same school, or you work together.  You may not have much in common aside from that physical proximity, but you make do.   When you make friends because of the Thing, you start off with a shared passion, and skip past all the what-do-you-do-where-are-you-from-where-did-you-go-to-school polite cocktail conversation and skip right to the important stuff:  OMG-your-ass-looks-so-good-in-that-pencil-skirt-which-pattern-did-you-use?!  We are almost without exception an open minded, interesting, passionate group of people.  (I say almost without exception because there must be a rotten sewist somewhere, but I’ve yet to meet them.)   Now when I travel, I have a premade set of friends that can show me corners of their cities I would never otherwise find. I’ve had beds offered, drinks bought, and free patterns given to me by the best gang I’ve ever been part of.  The conversations rarely start with talking about our kids, but when they do, it’s not in a competitive Mom Olympics type way; it’s a genuine curiosity about how each of us fits kids into our lives.  I apologize to any sewists I’ve met over the years who I may have scared off having kids, but I don’t sugar coat it – there is enough sugar coating to the mythology of motherhood without pouring more on.  It’s wonderful for those of us who chose it, but it isn’t compulsory (unless certain people in charge of drafting health care acts have their way, but that’s another political conversation I shouldn’t get into here).    

So here I am, almost 12 years after becoming a mother, and I’m finally able to catch my breath and look back.  I’ve been pregnant for almost 2 years with 3 pregnancies; I’ve breastfed for 4 years; I’ve gained and lost countless kilos; I’ve visited the ER covered in blood and vomit, or carrying a barely breathing child; I have a lot more grey hair; I’ve been mortified in public more often than I imagined possible….but I’ve survived.  Those little 10 minute vacations from motherhood that my Thing provided have expanded over the years into hours, then days, and now I take the whole summer off and can work on projects whenever I want.  You’ll have some bad times and you’ll have to put your Thing aside until life gets back to a new normal, but your Thing will be waiting for you.  Find your Thing, and it will grow along with your family. 

Hell, they may even join in.


Wednesday 13 April 2016

Me Made May 2016

This will be my 5th Me Made May!  (I actually typed 4th, but then went back and checked.  Time is accelerating or something.)  Last year's pledge to take my photo every day with someone and explain the concept of MMM went over quite well; it got people talking about clothes and creativity and fast fashion, and I've already had a few people ask if I'm doing it again this year.

I don't think I will "up the ante" by wearing only 100% me made, because frankly, since I've started teaching, I don't have the free time that I used to, so I haven't made much in the past year.  More than making new things, what really needs to happen soon is facing the not-quite-right things.  I have several makes from 2010-2012 that don't fit (I didn't know how to deal with all that extra ease in the Big Four patterns).  There are also some damaged favourites that need more than a quick patch-up so I can put them in rotation again.  So, here goes:

 'I, Vicki of Another Sewing Scientist, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '16. I endeavour to wear a me-made item of clothes each day for the duration of May 2016, and to alter / repair / rework one old item per week'


Sunday 3 April 2016

Why do you sew? My odd reason...

Better fit?

Creative outlet?

Ethical concerns?


How about comfort?  

I don't mean the comfort of well tailored clothes; I mean real comfort against the skin.  I haven't read any blog posts about this, but it's a major factor as to why I sew.  I hesitated to write about this because few people understand exactly what I mean, and when I try to explain it, I often get called out for being a little bit odd.  Well, bear with me and my little bit of oddness:

Really, Gap Body?  Were 6 tags really necessary?

Most RTW clothing can be uncomfortable to me, and some can be downright torturous.  I'm not talking about the usual scratchiness of a label on the back of the neck, although all trace of those are  painstakingly removed by me.  I'm talking about fiber content and thread itself.  I've had people laugh incredulously when I say that a linen or acrylic garment is too itchy.  I've had to turn garments inside out because the seam thread is irritating my skin so much that I'm scratching myself raw.  And wool is just straight out of the question, even cashmere, and even if the garment is fully lined.

Sometimes I do a better job of removing the tags than others
I can sometimes bear a garment for a few hours if it isn't too irritating, but I often can't wait to get home and rip it off.  It's not an allergy (I don't get hives), I don't have dry skin, and I'm not on the autism spectrum (although I do have family members that may be); I think I'm just one of those people with a really sensitive sense of touch.  

This acrylic hip-length sweater was exactly what I was looking for, but I almost tore my skin off both times I tried to wear it to work.
When I make my own clothes, I can pick the fabric and finishes that won't irritate me.  I can tweak something if I know it won't work, such as encasing elastic shirring rather than leaving it raw against the skin.  And I don't have to wear anything inside out anymore. 

Any other "Princess and the Pea" sewists out there?  Chime in so that I don't feel like the only one squirming away in anything other than cotton, rayon, silk, or high quality linen!

Thursday 30 April 2015

Me Made May 2015: Coming Out of the Closet

'I, Vicki of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '15. I endeavour to wear at least 1 garment or accessory that I have made or altered from second-hand each day for the duration of May 2015.  I also pledge to "Come Out of the Closet" and tell someone each day what MMMay is all about.  (I may or may not get photos of these people, because some may not want to play along).'

This will be my 4th Me Made May, but the first in which I won't be travelling!  Doing MMMay on the road was actually quite easy, because when you're packing for a trip, you tend to choose 5 outfits and wear them repeatedly.  Now that I'll be home, I'll have to try a little variety.

2012:  lecturing at University of Cape Town

2013:  Dinner out with Myra and Andrea in Tampa, while working at USFlorida

NYLon14, at the V&A in London.  I'm there, believe me.

How can I top last year?  

Friday 2 January 2015

Some garments that I love but Mr. A.S.S. doesn't

I don't have a DSLR, and I usually end up taking photos on my phone or on my son's point-and-shoot camera.  I know there has been a lot of talk around the blogosphere about quality blog photography, lighting, layout, etc. but I figure that you'd all rather see a few poor quality photos than nothing from me for another few months, right?  

First up are my crazy pants.  Yup, they've been dubbed crazy pants by my 5-year-old, who keeps telling me to take them off.

You can tell from my expression how many fecks I give.

They give me a delightfully flat Mom Butt, but the rayon challis is soft and warm, the fit is pyjama-esque, and the print is awesomely '70s.  Who cares what anyone else thinks?

The pattern is see&sew 4810, but frankly, this is like any other pyjama or elastic-waisted pull-on trousers, of which I probably have 10 or more patterns.  I have no idea where I got this pattern, but I'm assuming I bought it when it was new (1996).  And I was drunk and/or pre-menstrual.

Next up is my pleated mystery fabric skirt.  My daughter snapped this photo of my Mom and I while we did some boxing day shopping at Ikea.  It's blurry, but it's quite a nice photo of the two of us I think!

I picked up this soft, peach skin surfaced twill in the remaindered section of Fabricville.  You know that section, where everything is labelled 100% unknown fibres and costs $3-5/metre.  I LOVED the graphic print: kinda folklore, kinda graffiti, kinda Haring.

I didn't use a pattern, but just made a wide waistband with 2" ease, then used the full width of the fabric from selvedge to selvedge for the skirt so I wouldn't waste any of the border print.  I tried gathering it to the waistband, but it was just waaaaaay too bulky.  I pleated instead by marking the centre front, side seams and back seams, then dividing each section in half repeatedly and pinning down the pleats.  It took quite a while, so there were multiple G&Ts and the Downton Abbey Christmas special involved.

Centered zip, serged seam, and scant hem turned over once and top stitched.

And of course it has huge pocketses.  Every skirt needs huge pocketses, especially when you are constantly being handed things of varying levels of stickiness by offspring.  

I'm heading into a new, quite demanding job this winter, so I expect not to make or blog anything for the next few months.  Don't worry, I'll be back in the spring.  After all, I have this beauty of a fabric to use, and it may pop up on a couple more blogs in the near future…..keep your eyes open!

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Blog Hop

Clio from fivemuses nominated me for the blog hop, and it was probably a good idea:  I just don't blog that much anymore, for reasons that I'll explain a bit below.  But perhaps this will get me back into the swing of things.

1.  Why do I write?

Record keeping -> Community.

I started off writing only for myself, as a way to keep track of what I was thinking, what I was doing, and what I wanted to learn.  I didn't link to my blog anywhere else because I thought of it as a private diary of sorts.  Then I realized that there was so much interaction going on within the sewing community and I wanted to be part of it too.

I think I started sharing my blog when I decided to enter the Burdastyle "Party Through the Decades" contest in 2010….*goes digging back in time*…..ah yes, here it is:

I tried to copy the dress that Julianne Moore wore in A Single Man, and did a fairly good job for a beginner, I must say!  I got some good feedback and a few blog readers, which encouraged me to continue.

(It's so funny to look at this photo now, 4 years later, and remember the circumstances:  my cousin and his friends are commercial photographers and had just rented a studio, so I popped in to get them to take a few free photos for me - as one does with family.  We had bought this shag rug from Ikea to mimic the set from the film, and it kept getting fur all over the dress, so one of the people assisting kept lint-rollering me.  My 5 year old son and 1 year old daughter were running around in the background, and I was terrified that they would break something expensive.  The spotlights were blinding me, and all their assistants were staring at me……and I just froze.  I couldn't think of how to pose!  And the photographer kept trying to encourage me to move a bit, but I felt like a rusty robot!  My face in most of the photos was bright red and my eyes were closed, but luckily he managed to get a few good ones.)

2.  How does my blog differ from others in its genre?

Does holding on to the same old blog design from 2010 make me different?  Does my infrequent posting make me stand out in a sea of active bloggers?

*heh heh*

I think it's pretty obvious from the frequency of my posts and the outstandingly stellar graphic design of my blog that I'm not out to make money;  I'm not giving up my day job;  I'm not trying to attract a wide readership or increase my blog traffic.

Don't get me wrong: most of my favourite blogs that I started reading years ago have evolved into some kind of business, and that's part of the reason I still love them:  they are dynamic and give back and are evidence that a creative passion can become your profession!  However, I don't have the time, talent, or inclination to do that:  I'm just here in my little corner of the world, talking science and sewing.

3.  How does my writing process work?

Procrastination.  No, seriously.  I usually only make time to blog when I should be doing something else.  In fact, I should be writing an SOP for a new drug testing protocol now, but my mind is wandering, and I figure that blogging is a better way to distract my brain than looking at the latest photos of whatever celeb we are supposed to all think is important this week.

4.  What am I working on?

I promised myself that this year I would start tackling my alteration pile.  While participating in The Sew Weekly in 2011-2012 was great to get myself motivated and try new things, the weekly format meant that if something wasn't right on the first go, it got thrown in the alteration bin under my sewing table.  And they've been there since.  There are a lot of things that were just a tiny bit too big or small, and an afternoon of work would put them back in rotation, but it's hard to go back when new patterns tempt you, isn't it?

I spy one thing that's been fixed since this photo was taken

Case in point:  This Hollyburn skirt that I made in 2012 is now about 3 inches too big in the waist.  (In fact, now that I look at this photo, it's riding a little lower than I usually like, so I guess it was always a bit too big.)   It's a great basic skirt, and the fabric is a gorgeous brown and gold shweshwe from Gaborone, so I don't want it to languish in the bin any longer!

So I made myself a deal:  for every two UFOs or alterations, I could sew a new project.  So far I've stuck to it.  This also means that I don't have a lot of things to show or blog about this year, but it's certainly helping me get rid of the physical and mental clutter.

5.  Nominations

I'm going to break this chain letter and not nominate anyone, but please take a look at some of the blogs in my blogroll that you aren't familiar with, especially the CanCon!

Friday 19 September 2014

You should probably be following me on twitter and instagram...

…because I've been so hella busy over the last few months that I've resorted to microblogging on those platforms.  My big research project, the one that takes me to Africa for occasional fabric shopping research collaboration came to an end recently, so there was a big push to get as much data as possible.  Then I was supposed to go down to part-time work this month, but was offered two part-time jobs, so I'm essentially working 1.5 jobs now.  Hmmm.  Strange how that worked out.  And tiring.

Anyway, I also managed to fit in not only a visit to NYC in August, but a visit to Toronto last week, which of course involved fun with sewing ladiez.  It feels a bit weird to blog about those trips, because they are no longer "meet ups with new sewing people", but weekends with friends.  It seems odd to blog about hanging with friends, doesn't it?

Well, I'm going to do it regardless:

HeatherLou and I drove well above the speed limit, trying to make it from Montreal to NYC in time for our dinner date with a few people that managed to get together to welcome Lauren to town.  I'm sure by now that you've read all about that weekend from Heather, Lauren, Jen, Devra, Nettie, Amanda, Suzanne, Clio, or someone else's blog/instagram/twitter, so here are just a few photos I've stolen from others.

Thank you Mood (and please don't be mad that I still haven't used all the fabric I bought at last year's visit...

At NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.  Garden visits are becoming de rigeur with us it seems!  Clio used to work here, so I couldn't pass up the chance to get the inside tour, so to speak.

The Blues:  some tie-dye print jerseys from Mood and Chic, and a hand batiked indigo cotton from Mali that I bought up in Harlem at Yara.  Seriously, go there.  Or check them out at

The B&Ws.  Some Anna Sui rayon challis that I hummed and hawed over until Devra bought some and tipped me over the indecision cliff.  And some Alexander Henry skull toile de jouy because seriously, look at it.

The Toronto trip was kind of a last minute impulse trip.  A film buff friend of mine was going to TIFF14 (Toronto International Film Festival), and when I saw the lineup he was going to see, I got itchy to go too.  Work + being the sole child care provider for 4/7 days a week made it tricky, but I managed to patch together enough help to make it work!

There was no fabric shopping involved this time around, and the last minute nature of my trip made a meet up impossible, especially on a school night, right Gillian? ;)  Catja and I did manage to get together and saw the premiere of Pride.

A bit of a tearjerker, but a great flashback to 1984 for those of us who were teens in the '80s, and thought that London was the coolest possible place to be on the planet.

And now some photos of the less famous people I saw at TIFF:

"Do I Sound Gay?" post screening with David Thorpe (dir.) and Dan Savage

"Rosewater" panel discussion with Maziar Bahari, Gael Garcia Bernal and Jon Stewart

Matthew Goode, Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch and Morden Tyldum (dir.) after the premiere of "The Imitation Game"

Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, and Christopher Plumber hiding back there, post "Hector and the Search for Happiness" screening

One of these days I'll post something about sewing again.  In the meantime, go check me out on instagram or twitter, because that's where I tend to hang out during my coffee breaks.  I'm just living vicariously through all your sewing until I'm out from under my work load!

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