Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Art of Tidying Up....Sewing Room Edition

My sister-in-law turned me on to a book about organization called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Written by Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo, it reveals long-term strategies for dealing with the seemingly constant volume of clutter that plagues our homes, particularly our closets,drawers and storage spaces. The main thing I took away from it was that purging does not require eliminating things because they number too many, but eliminating things that do not bring us joy. I thought the book was interesting and I have already started incorporating some of the many tips found within. When I tell friends about it, they are like - "YOU? Interested in organizing? Let me put on my surprised face..." And they all pooh-poohed the notion that tidying up could be either easy or life-changing. I will always disagree. I started with my kids' rooms and after 3 days and several hours later, I collected a box worth of consignment clothing, a box for trash, and 4 boxes for sale or donation. And they haven't missed ONE thing that I removed from their space. I tackled the kitchen pantry (1 bag of trash) and the dining room (1 box for donation). We just went through a cross-country move so I would argue that our stuff has been reduced anyway, but it sure did feel good to pitch more.

Next up, the sewing room.

Well, I call it the sewing room. Others might have reason to call it the laundry room. Here in California, just like in Virginia, my sewing stuff is wedged into the smallest room in the house....and I love it! It is always a bit of a mess, full of unfinished projects, pattern notes and a variety of other items that need attention of the sewing kind, like hems, holes in jeans and buttons. I can find what I need, but I am always feeling like I could do much better. So I decided to give this space the tidying up treatment. I dumped all of my fabric on the floor in the living room and started sorting. So much fabric - so little time - is all I kept thinking. Much of what I found was scraps or very little yardage of certain fabrics. I bagged them up and set them by the door to be taken out with the trash. After all, if I haven't used them in all of these years, they must not be bringing me joy so they should go. I finished folding and straightening the other 4 tubs and felt complete. Until the next day. That bag of scraps was really haunting me. Why couldn't scraps also bring joy? I decided to set about trying to find a use for them. I can always make bias, or hair bows, or pin cushions with this stuff. But how about a whole dress? Let's try and see. I found some blues and started cutting and piecing.

And then I spent a happy Saturday afternoon sewing while my kids frolicked around town with the husband. And - I am taking a very small victory lap - I can use those scraps! The dress is peasant, shabby-chic, bohemian-cute (sort of - I'll have to work on my pattern matching). Four different fabrics, each panel gathered and sewn to the next, with straps and trim made of fabric as well. It is nothing that innovative, for sure, but it is made up of what others might deem just too small to use. I rescued the bag of scraps, organized them by color/pattern, and put them back in the sewing room, satisfied that since they now bring me joy, I should keep them.

Now I just need to make 10 more of them and post them to Etsy. My daughter loves it so if I don't sell a single one, she will have a fun wardrobe for the next year. I do enjoy tidying up, maybe even more than sewing. The fact that by tidying up I found something new to love about sewing is all the better. I haven't tackled my own closet, my bedroom or the bathroom cabinets. Frankly, the sewing room is still a hot mess. But I have far too much sewing to do now so all of that tidying up will just have to wait.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Project Run and Play

Talk about going off-book, my new California friend thought it might be fun for me to join an online sewing challenge called Project Run and Play. Each month, a design is presented and you are asked to rework, restyle, or remake it as you wish and post for all to see. Sounds like a total nightmare for someone as hesitant and totally inflexible as myself. So, of course, I'm in! I took Alida's adorable bubble dress design and made a few of my own changes, though I thought the original was simply perfect.
First of all, I wanted something my daughter would love and she is a girly girl who loves flowers and lace. I used a pretty blue cotton with daisies for the dress and added eyelet trim to make it even softer.
The same friend who encouraged me to participate in the monthly challenges also gave me the idea for a little jacket to add to the design. I made a bolero that is lined with eyelet that peeks down past the hem and has a one button closure. Rachel hates the jacket. She kind of hates everything I make for her so - moving on.
My very particular daughter doesn't like elastic around her body so I modified the top so that it only has a band of elastic along the back rather than all the way around. She tolerated this for the first few pictures.
I made the ties a halter, in part, because I thought the light colors warranted a more summery feel and also because it was the only way I could figure out how to make sure the straps were completely reversible....because the dress is reversible, too!
Turn it inside out and you have a white eyelet dress. By the end of the photo shoot we already had grass stains to show off so I can't imagine we will be wearing the white side very frequently, though Rachel did say she liked it better this way. She was also sure to remind me that I owed her a treat for her time and participation. 
A few more pics of the dress and jacket...
I sort of liked the challenge. I can't say I'll participate each and every month but it was nice to get the creative juices flowing and to marvel at the wonderful work of others.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Little Rae's Design has arrived, but will it save me from myself?

Well....I finally opened my Etsy shop. Little Rae's Design has 3 little dresses for sale. I can hardly believe that after all of my sewing and all of my work, I have only THREE dresses! I probably have 15 that are sewn and sit just one button away from completion. I have pictures of 4 others that need to be thought through a bit more. I probably have enough fabric to make 50 dresses! But I can't buckle down and spend the time on it. I gave up several evenings to finally put the shop up and, frankly, I missed my other activities. I would usually be cleaning my house (which sadly, I really enjoy), working out while watching hockey (another rather strange indulgence of mine), or just reading and celebrating the freedom that surrounds me when kids are in bed and all is quiet. It is rather frustrating to just not have enough time to do what I really want to do.

Maybe it is less about time and more about confidence. I know deep down that we can always make time to do the things we really want to do. If we don't do them, we must not really want it. Like people who say they don't have time to work out. You do have time - at least - as much time as any other human on the planet who exercises. But we fill that time with other things that are more important to us, or easier for us. So the fact that it took me so many years to launch the store speaks volumes about what I really WANT to do and how I really feel about my sewing ability.

One thing I love about sewing is the opportunity to create something lovely out of nothing. I am a wonderful seamstress - I can admit that. I can follow a pattern to the letter and produce a perfect product. Once I no longer have a pattern, or a framework, I am lost....and it shows. I refused to use Etsy to sell someone else's pattern, someone else's idea. But my very own patterns and ideas just don't seem - well - good enough. I see all of these truly creative things on Etsy and I lose any sort of interest in presenting my own stuff. I read a quote the other day that has really stuck with me and seems to ring very true for my current dilemma...."Be yourself - - everyone else is already taken." I guess I can't argue with that.

My world is very upside down these days. Moving across the country has disrupted every part of me, inside and out. My physical surroundings changed but I changed inside, too. I told my husband that this move felt like I had a broken heart. A constant ache and longing for what could have, would have, should have been. I don't expect much sympathy. We moved from one lovely suburb and home to another just as lovely suburb and home. I have friends on both coasts now. We are exploring and learning and doing and smiling, each and every day. I thought sewing and launching the shop would make me feel better....give me something more to look forward to. Having sewing goals that allowed me to spend extended time with my sewing machine and supplies, who are like old friends, would heal some wounds. Unfortunately, the opposite is starting to happen. The more I sew, the less I want to sew. The more I sew, the less I want to be here and the more I long for things I had before. The more I sew, the less confident I feel. If I can't even produce a few cute dresses how can I possibly expect to fit in and be happy? Must sound rather I'll leave it at that. Regardless of how I feel, the shop is open and I reached one of my goals for 2015 already. That feels nice. Now if I could just lose those pesky love handles....

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Little Cooperation from Little Rae

That might be far too much to ask. I have always loved the idea of a little shop on Etsy. What a great little place for creative people to come together to share and sell and learn. I thought it would be easy....just sew a few things, take a picture or two and off you go. I crafted my own little pattern for a very simple dress. I made a few different sizes. I found a friend to help with a label and setting up the shop since I am deeply challenged when it comes to technology and anything online. And I have the perfect little model - my Rachel. She is cute and smiley and loves prancing around in dresses. But once I pull out the camera, all of the cute smiles and the prancing turns into scowling, complaining, and utter disdain for even looking in my direction. It turns out that posting on Etsy is going to be significantly more challenging than I thought. After 45 minutes of what I can only describe as pleading, I came away with a few usable pics....and maybe some that I will show at her wedding to prove that she was not the easiest kid in the world!

At least the dress fits and looks cute. Not sure what that means for the other items I want to post - I'll figure something out.

So I guess I still like the idea of a Etsy shop, but I'm not so sure I like the process. If I had just made socks, finding a model would be so much easier. Stay tuned - Little Rae's is opening soon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

So....who is this Little Rae?

After creating this blog and writing my first post I realized that I never really explained the title. Little Rae is meaningful to me in so many ways, but I think I'll start with the most obvious, which is that Little Rae is my daughter.

Her given name is Rachel Rose, but we call her Rae, or Rae Babe, or whatever we need to in order to stop her from running into the street. She is only 3, but "little" is probably not going to apply to her for very much longer, as she is enormous on the spirit, voice and activity scale. Rachel was an easy pick for me - my grandmother was Rachel. She lived with us when I was growing up and she rocked. She could do anything....cook the best fried chicken from scratch, grow a viable garden, sew, pull out tree stumps with her bare hands. (No really - she marched into the backyard and tugged for awhile and yanked the whole thing up. She was 65 when she did it.) Grandma Rachel taught my mother everything about sewing and crafting, and I learned from both of them. I have fond memories of snow days spent crocheting squares to connect for a family quilt. I remember trips to the fabric store to help my mother select fabric and notions for her latest creations. I was always so excited to open the pattern packet and cut out the pieces and help her pin them down. I remember feeling so responsible when Mom let me stitch small pieces with her sewing machine. I remember bragging to friends about my handmade Halloween costume or Homecoming dress, one-of-a-kind, compliments of my amazingly talented mother or grandmother. And I thought being able to sew was such a fabulous activity. It wasn't just a hobby in our house. My mother sewed to save money and give us things that maybe we would not have been able to afford.

 I don't know why I didn't start sewing more as a teen - I'm sure I was just too aloof to realize that sewing would outlast any boyfriend du jour. Maybe because I didn't need to sew to have what I wanted. I actually didn't acquire my current machine until after I was married and my in-laws gifted one to me as a Christmas gift. And then I started sewing again. I knew about patterns and fabric, but I just needed the practice. I tried patterns and worked on simple projects. Once my oldest child was born, I started sewing for him and then stumbled into helping out backstage with a community theater production and the sewing bug bit me once again. And then I found out I was having a baby girl! WELL! I wanted nothing more than to be able to sew for my daughter like my mother sewed for me. I started making clothing and curtains for others, throw pillows, baby blankets, book covers, shopping bags, pajamas. You name it, I have probably made it. My Grandmother Rachel and my own Little Rae represent my love for sewing. I launched an Etsy shop in their name (Little Rae's Design). I'll discuss more about my shop launch and my latest projects with the next post but for now at least the meaning of my blog name is more clear. And if you are wondering why sewing and sanity (or lack therof) go hand in hand, take a gander at the crazy little people in my life and you'll wonder no more.
A few years ago, my son Ben wanted to be a pirate, so I made Rachel his parrot. The parrot is nearly larger than the pirate, despite 3 years between them!!

They are happy little elves, unless they are not happy little elves, and then its hard to imagine getting anything done except containing the beasts. Here - they are happy. The Golden Gate Bridge - now a fixture for any successful weekend adventure - makes the elves happy.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Everything old is new again

True confessions. I have created a blog in the past. It was several years ago when my newborn son Ben was driving me nuts and my best girlfriend suggested that I find a creative outlet. It was her way of teaching me to survive my new stay-at-home status without losing myself in the shuffle. And it worked. I told stories about life with the baby and posted pictures for family and friends to see. And I felt normal and human again. Eventually, I stopped, but it wasn't because I lost interest or anything like that....I just stopped needing it. And then my computer crashed. And then I couldn't remember my passwords for the darn thing and - that was 4 years ago. One day soon, I will attempt to dig up that old blog that is floating in cyberspace somewhere as I type.

But I digress. I did not create this new blog as a continuation of my old blog, though the purpose is similar. As yet another attempt to capture my sanity, I have turned to the almighty blog. It is for me. It is for discussing my new sewing endeavors and sharing my ideas. It is for sharing my stories about my new life. It is for all of those times when I wish I had someone who was just like me who I could commiserate with about all things unrelated to sewing.

I do have a new life. In just 3 short months, I went from being a very productive, connected, organized SAHM in a lovely suburb of Washington, DC to a crazed, homesick, unwound SAHM in a lovely suburb of San Francisco. I live here now. It's pretty. The weather is nice....every day. And the people are nice. But it is not home. Prior to my move, I was deeply involved in community theater and costume design. I was pushing hard to finally open an Etsy shop for the dresses that I have designed for my little one. And I was just excited about sewing again. And then we moved and I spent all of my time packing, then unpacking, then trying to find the right grocery store and trying to get the kids settled and I stopped sewing. And the projects piled up. And my old life all of sudden looked really easy.

Every day is a get up and face a day with new faces and new challenges, to live in a new place with family and friends 3,000 miles away, to run a household relatively alone while my best friend and husband works to make the move worthwhile. And I thought that maybe if I focused a little more on the sewing and the things I can control, I might not have to struggle so much each day, and I might learn a few things and make a few things and enjoy a few things along the way. So, here's to my new blog. Something like the old one, but new.