Tea & Crumpet Dress Sew-Along, V 2

a little springtime

My Tea & Crumpet dress sew-along starts April 1st. I have made two of these dresses and they are lovely. While they are full-coverage and modest, they are also short and barely feel like wearing a dress at all! The pattern allows you to build a fitted, semi-fitted, or loose option. 

Shown here: a fitted option in wool crepe, lined in a silk jersey. Fits perfectly, feels incredible!

Tea & Crumpet Dress Sew-Along, V 2
I took about a billion detail shots, as this wool crepe was entirely too beautiful for words.

Tea & Crumpet Dress Sew-Along, V 2 Continue reading

the point of pain, perhaps there is no point

I am packing up to head into town with the children. My daughter takes the recycling out, headphones in her little jewel-like ears, as per usual. I hear a small commotion and look outside to see the blonde head of my youngest – he’s racing through the yard. My first thought when I see my kids outside is such gladness they get to be here, not in school. My second thought is usually an intense surge of love so deep it is like a drug hit.

I hear my son crying now. I have a hundred and one things I’m (trying not to be) thinking about, but when Nels comes inside I know something is up, the intensity. “Pip!” he cries out, tears streaming down his cheeks, naming our youngest cat. “He had a rat in his mouth and I tried to get it away from him and he bit down and I heard it squeaking!” Hot tears brimming in his eyes, his face flushed. I bring him on my knee and he curls in close as if he was still a young child. I feel grim about this all, because I can just hear the squeaking, too. I also know in just a moment of my care he’ll calm down. And he does.

My kidney pain is horrid. It comes and goes. Last night in yoga class I panted and closed my eyes and tried not to throw up. Coughing weakly a bit. I’m feeling angry as I stretch up, arms reaching up up up, then fold, and then lift, then plant hands, then plank. Angry. Angry at whom? No one did this to me. Or if they did, why anger? What is the point? My shoulder twinges. I move back into Child’s Pose prematurely, my forehead on the grimy mat. My mind on the palm of my hands, the deep stretch in my hips, which feels divine.

I suppose I’ll never really figure it out.

hoodie bravado

what’s on the happs

Welp, peeps. I have had a BUGGER of a time with my sew-alongs lately. Almost everything that can go wrong, has been going wrong – short of my blog somehow catching fire and burning down. 

That said, I am growing increasingly sure I want to keep offering these online sewing lessons! To that end, now is the time to give me any input for future sew-alongs. In this post, I offer a preview of some garments I’m planning on leading us through in the near future. Remember, in about two weeks we’ll begin the Tea & Crumpet sew-along. I hope you’ll be joining us!

In the meantime, for May: the Elevation hoodie from New Horizons Designs (formerly Terra’s Treasures). Remember the P51 Flyer jacket I made Nels, in waxed canvas? Yup, that was one of Terra’s! She has a gorgeous eye for design!

Do I even need to explain why I love this hoodie? No, no I don’t. First of all, hoodies are awesome and I might fight you if you disagree.

hoodie bravado
But also: I mean, this hoodie? Check it!

Elevation Hoodie from Terra's Treasures
Colorblocked – very on-trend, but always awesome. An inset kangaroo pocket with welt openings. A hood overlap and drawstring. I mean – COME ON!  The pattern comes in a children’s version (size 6/12mos. to 16), a women’s version (bust 31″ to 51 1/2″), and will soon debut a men’s version!

Now, the Elevation hoodie’s instructions are so wonderful that, frankly, I can’t see room for improvement. But I can put the piece together with volumnous up-close photos, give you my special tips on working with knit fabrics, and showcase a lovely bamboo french terry from Nature’s Fabrics.

For June – provided no mishaps – I gotta make a summer dress in double-gauze. Specifically, this lovely fit-and-flare from Bootstrap. The pattern is $1.49. 

Custom-Fit Sewing Patterns - Fit And Flare Dress With Sleeves
For a custom-fit pattern. Yeah. 

Happy Cry
Double-gauze is a wonderful fabric; it handles well, as it is cotton, and has some body and not so much drape. The fabric instantly delivers an elegance and vintage/heirloom appeal that is going to turn heads. There are so many places to get double-gauze, and I’ll be talking more about this in the set-up post for the dress sew-along. But some sources to get you way too excited interested: imagine gnats, fabric.com, fabricworm, Harts Fabric, and various Etsy shops (for your timeline, watch for where they ship from!). A sneak-peak of my first sample:

June Sew-Along Sneak Peak
***

So for the mid-to-late summer? Well – you tell me! I’m pretty sure I’d like to make up a pair of stretch jeans: again, from a custom-fit pattern metric. I could always lead us through a swimsuit for summer – find me a good pattern! One of these days I’d like to showcase on of Hot Patterns‘ garments – they have a wonderful size range, and ardent fans – and of course, I adore Jalie patterns more than a body should. In fact, there are so many good patterns out there it’s hard to narrow it down!

So that’s it – for the time being. I’m open to suggestions as always!

Kitten Sewing

ok, so here’s the plan –

When I arrive home from work, my son walks down the path to my little BMW, engine just off. He’s in his favorite play jacket – a puffy navy blue hooded car coat – and his little red canvas shoes and busted jeans. I can tell from his gait that he is sad. A friend took him to a homeschool gathering today, and all did not go well. Perhaps his sister has been unkind, in my absence.

My son is sad, and as I step up the path to meet me he says, “Mom… I had a rough day today -“.  But even as he mugs for some pity and some tenderness, he begins to smile. He is confused because his heart is breaking over the events of today, but he is so glad to see me because I make it all so much better. I can see it in his face, plain as day. I rarely think much on how much I mean to these children, but I think I have never meant so much to anyone else in my life.

Ralph and I made this huge commitment so many years ago, to be with our kids 24/7 until the day they chose to leave us, and we didn’t think so much of just how many wonderful benedictions this would bring. But in my son’s step down the rain-drenched walk, the spring earth warm and fecund and with a promise – crocuses and primroses already! – I can see my time is worth something, my every moment, just someone he can hang his hopes on when the day goes awry. And today? He hurt his foot. He wasn’t feeling well. He was snubbed by a peer. 

He was lonely, because I wasn’t home.

Tonight I give my husband a break from making dinner. While Phoenix studies for a biology test, Nels and I make first a salad (broccoli, basil, pecans, grapes, a lemon dressing), then a lasagna and garlic bread. At first my son is upset – he wants to be outside playing with friends. He doesn’t really want to help me cook. Soon he is wailing – hungry, angry that dinner is an hour out. But I have patience today, as a mother. I am kind and purposeful that dinner must be made. And I let him come to me. As I wash dishes I give him the territory of the sauce preparation, from chopping and sauteeing garlic, to mixing in fragrant spices. Soon he is a happy little chef, if a bit untidy. The sauce is quite good. I’ve taught him just a little about cooking. Life goes like that. A little at a time.

Parenthood has come, parts of it, come and gone so quickly. I’ve learned to slow down and really enjoy the moment instead of worrying too much. Yesterday, in a dark theatre, both kids. One kid paying attention, the other bored and doing little to conceal it. For the first blessed hour, contentment. My arms around one, then the other. My cheek in sweet, hay-smelling hair. Holding one another close. It’s not something I got to do as a teen, with my parents. It feels so special to get to have it in my life after all.

taters

On anger.

From Thich Nhat Hanh:

The first function of mindfulness is to recognize, not to fight. “Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me. Hello, my little anger.” And breathing out, “I will take good care of you.”

Once we have recognized our anger, we embrace it. This is the second function of mindfulness and it is a very pleasant practice. Instead of fighting, we are taking good care of our emotion. If you know how to embrace your anger, something will change.

It is like cooking potatoes. You cover the pot and then the water will begin to boil. You must keep the stove on for at least twenty minutes for the potatoes to cook. Your anger is a kind of potato and you cannot eat a raw potato.

slings & arrows

After a brief hospital visit on Saturday, I was discharged home with a directive to make an appointment with my nephrologist, a small bottle of narcotic pain medication, a hole in my arm from IV fluid administration, and relentless attendant nausea and pain. I slept pretty well that evening – eventually – but the last few days have been rough.

In the shower this morning I cough and gag. I have steered clear of the narcotic pain medication as it makes me ill. Instead I load up on ibuprofen; only problem is, I’m supposed to eat when I take this stuff, and the nausea makes food difficult. I struggle some cereal down; hop in the car for my first day back at work..

I had a tidy two months off, and the time flew by. I’m surprised to find myself cheerful as I walk into the little government office where I work. I work with women who function as clerks; today I witness a man trying to bully one. He leaves, then comes back a few minutes later. In the meantime, my coworker has called for a bit of backup. Nothing dangerous but still. Unpleasant. “Ugly behavior,” I say, when he leaves. My coworkers cope with this sort of thing with a lot of dignity. They inspire me, because I’ve been disrespected recently and, even though I behaved myself, it still stings.

It’s beautiful out: stormy, but the sun breaking through now and then. Home from work (then yoga); my partner is searing garlic in a pan. My children are playing at their own enterprises; today was my daughter’s last-ever quiz in Biology so she’s happy. “Pay attention to me!” my son suddenly says, from the couch. He comes over and wraps me in his arms. “I love you. I missed you. Why were you gone so long?”

Why the hell do I give any good goddamn about how anyone else treats me, is what I’m wondering.

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along

tea & crumpet sew-along: creating your pattern

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along
OK stitchers – let’s get going! Today we are just talking about, and putting together, our dress pattern. Before jumping into creating your pattern, make sure you’ve done your homework. Use the first weeks in March to read and review our supplies post, and watch the videos I recommend there! And if you have any questions, please email or comment! Continue reading

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along

tea & crumpet dress sew-along! save the date

Hello you fabulous stitchers! Today I am announcing my April sew-along: a short, very feminine spring dress I have been calling the tea & crumpet!

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along
Yes, someone’s been re-living the nineties! This feminine spring dress can also be worn with traditional heels or flats. My second sample of the dress will be a 40s-inspired wool crepe and yes, I will be posting soon!

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along
Continue reading

longing, deprivation, and resentment

how to teach children Manners

Here’s The Problem

When my young children were in an organized playgroup there was a portion of the afternoon’s activities where toys were distributed to the little ones for a play session. The adults handing out the toys would march this toy basket past each child and announce, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!

Now – I am not kidding. The adults would do this when there was literally no cloud on the horizon. They’d say it whether a child had started to express a preference – or not. It was like a mantra.

And as you can imagine, for clever children this very sentence – this very, “I expect you to be a bunch of brats in a minute!” kind of thing – actually inspired some of them to feel anxiety. I mean, it makes sense. They were literally being told they were going to get something – and it wasn’t going to be something they’d like. And for some kids, that has become an all-too familiar and discouraging experience.

longing, deprivation, and resentment “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!”

And trust me – the irony of adults telling children not to complain – adults who I noticed did a whole heck of a lot of complaining about their lives while they’d stand around the picnic table – was not lost on me.

We tell children that kind of thing – you know, when we don’t want them to take too many cookies. Meanwhile, we can go out and buy as many cookies as we’d like. No one can stop us. In fact I’ve seen lots of grownups “throw a fit” when the cookies they want aren’t in the store, or cost too much.

“You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!”

Catchy rhyme, but – yeah. I’ve never liked that phrase much. As a matter of fact, I don’t like any rude phrase we levy at children to get them to shut up, sit still, or behave. (What makes it rude? The fact we would never, ever want someone to say it to us when we were upset!)

So – I don’t talk to children like that any more. I guess I think more of kids than that. And I guess I must think more of adults too, because here I am (partly by request), writing about a way to do it differently.

Now – this is a little awkward, but I gotta get something out of the way. I can’t write a little editorial here and be All Things to All People. So if you’re somebody who is now thinking something like: “What? You are crazy. The world is entitled enough as it is! Kids today are greedy, loud, and rude! Now we aren’t even allowed to say something like that? That’s just GOOD MANNERS. That’s common sense! Kelly, you are just Political Correctness gone mad!” etc etc – then here’s the deal. I am really happy to engage with you on these topics. Some other time. This piece? Is probably not for you.

But maybe you’re not quite in that place. Maybe you’re not that resentful about life in general. Maybe you’re an adult, a grownup – a teacher or daycare provider or a parent or carer – and you don’t want to talk to kids like that. You’re tired of nagging at them. What you really want to know is, if there is a better way.

Well, guess what? There is!

Here’s Why We Do It

So let’s look at WHY we say this stuff to kids. Because that will help us stop. The reasons are a bit multifacted, but not too complex.

People say this stuff to kids because, first: they don’t want their kids to grow up and be jerks. Or greedy (meaning fat, where food is concerned). Non-parents say this stuff to kids because they don’t want kids to have things nicer than what they had. More about this, in a bit.

Secondly, people say this to kids in an attempt to get their kids to behave so other people think they are good parents (or teachers, or whatever).

Thirdly, people say this stuff to kids because they (weirdly, in a way) want to pre-empt their kids’ pain. No one wants to see a child cry. It is embedded deep within us – yes, even the child-haters out there – the desire to care for them. Trust me – I get it. One time my three year old’s ice cream scoop fell on the floor, and he began to cry. My mother immediately leaned down to his face and said, “Well don’t get upset!” I retorted: “Mom, he’s three. What’s he supposed to be upset about? World Peace?” Like – can my kid have a minute to cry?

Now my mom loves my son – a lot. She was saying that because his discomfort upset her, and she hadn’t learned how to manage her feelings. Because her parents hadn’t helped her when she was little.

Because finally: people say this stuff to kids (shut up, don’t complain, life isn’t fair, etc) because of their own childhoods, where they were treated without courtesy or emotional intelligence. This explains why non-parents, who seemingly don’t have much skin in the game, will say some atrocious things to and about children. Non-parents say this ish as much as parents do.

So let’s talk about why these reasons, are crap reasons.

Don’t want your kid (or some other kid) to grow up to be a jerk? Focus one hundred percent more on yourself. Easy-peasy. Model the behavior you want to see in the world. Whether you are in the grocery store line, in traffic, or at home. Yes, even at home, where you behave the worst. Do better – instead of expecting other (small, vulnerable) people to, just because you can bully them into submission.

Second: caring what other parents, or adults, think of your parenting (or teaching style, or whatever)? Well, you are right! Lots of them are judging! Would it make you feel better if I told you “Don’t worry, the people who judge you are running around thinking unpleasant thoughts about other people all day!”? Because that is the truth. No one likes to be judged – or gossiped about. But are those the people I am going to parent for? No. I’m going to parent for my kid, and for me. I’m going to let those other people have their bad times and I’m going to be kind to them because they probably need some kindness. And no, I don’t have to hang out with them!

Third: you can’t pre-empt a kid’s pain, and it’s rude to try. If you look deep back in your childhood, you won’t appreciate the adults who tried to do this to you. This one is the trickiest of all. Lots of people have a deep-down embedded worldview that Life Is Unpleasant, so we must manufacture ways to teach kids about this; or maybe, when kids discover this, we have to RUSH IN AND TELL THEM, like some kind of insufferable person barging in all the time. Is life unfair? Aw, hell yeah. Are kids going to find this out? Yup! Are we supposed to make it more unfair? I can’t really write more about that than has already been written – here’s a fabulous piece, for instance. As a parenting guru once said – I paraphrase: “Adversity is good for children – but not when organized and created by the person supposed to care for them.”

And before we move on, let’s think about the logical extension of manufacturing unpleasantness for kids. A few years ago a friend of mine told me that my partner and I, and the behavior or our children, was so inspiring it almost made her re-think having children. But she said she never would, because she knew that if she had kids, she’d beat them. See – she herself was beaten, quite a bit. For her own good. She lived in a dangerous neighborhood, and they were poor, and life was scary. Her carers were strict, and violent. To keep her safe. She told me this – that she could never have kids, because she knew she would beat them – with tears in her eyes.

Now – those carers had every “justifiable” reason to beat this child. Should they have?

I’d love you to think on that for a minute. You’re thinking it’s an extreme example. It’s not extreme, in that it’s not rare, and hitting children is little different than using emotional or verbal violence on our children.

We are all complicit.

We need to change.

Here’s How To Change

Each of us needs to ask ourselves: are we responsible to help children, or aren’t we? If we truly want to teach children how to handle unpleasant or awkward social experiences, we should be a little willing to let those unfold a little bit – instead of prematurely rushing in to prevent (and thus inadvertently exacerbate!) these situations. As my friend Hafidha commented on the topic:

Hafidha's comment
It takes discipline, and our own emotional maturity, to do better. The most eye-opening thing about, “you get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit” – as well as the other things we say – like, “Because I said so!”, “Life’s not fair, get used to it!” and “You need to learn you aren’t the center of the universe!” – is that the adults who say these things are never, when I look at it objectively, adults who are particularly good role models.

We all have problems, it is true. But I have learned to take my parenting advice from the best. Not just anyone who has an opinion. I take my advice on “manners” from children and adults who model grace under pressure. I take my advice from parents who treat their children with respect. I take my advice from people who demonstrate they can speak their mind with directness – and kindness. From people who can disagree without devolving into name-calling or violence. From people who demonstrate empathy – and courtesy.

And “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!” – is not an empathetic, nor a courteous, thing to say. 

So how do we “teach” children manners?

We lead by example. (This isn’t a new concept – it is heralded in all the world’s religions, and also is based in scientific study.) Your example will go so much further than you realize – when your child is developmentally ready to emulate it.

We acknowledge that children are people, just like us. It’s pretty unfair to demand a child accept a situation with perfect equanimity when we could hardly do so ourselves. Let’s remember we all know what it feels like to have a huge freak-out – and let’s work on being the adult we’d want helping us when we struggle.

We stick up for vulnerable people being put down. Kids provide the most opportunities to do this. It isn’t that hard. It actually often brings a lot of joy!

We model courtesy toward others. We model this even when we don’t particularly like something that person does, or says, or represents.

We model direct confrontation. We show bravery instead of saying nothing in the moment – then later gossiping or complaining or worse.

We slow down. If we’re feeling frustrated, angry, and upset – we take responsibility for ourselves, and commit to some self-care.

Lots of grownups can’t, or won’t, do these things. Statements like “You get what you get” are merely forms of hazing. If a grownup says this sort of thing it’s most likely the adult doing the hazing is just repeating the behavior she endured. This is what makes the conversation so difficult. The grownups who do this the most, are the least likely to listen to a new approach.

But – that’s Okay. Because you listened. You read until the end of this piece. You can speak up and be kind to children. You can be a Helper – instead of a Shamer. You can work on your own discipline, gratitude, self-control, directness, openness, and grace under fire. Now that? That is the assignment of a lifetime!

And finally: I have a girlfriend who regularly interacts with children – she cares for her children and other people’s children – and in the many hours I’ve spent with her I have never heard her say anything demeaning, belittling, or cruel to a child. As you can imagine, children love her very much. As you can imagine – if you are good at deductive reasoning – children behave really well around her. I like it when I get to hang out with her. She’s a lot more fun than many grownups I know. 

It’s funny how it works out that way.