on sewing & momming

i took advantage of ramona’s nap to finish making the muslin for my next dress project. i started it the other day, after buying the local thrift shop out of king-sized flat sheets. (i got their entire stock, plus a gingham button-down for jared, a riding toy for ramona, & the world’s most elderly fisher price play rotary phone–it’s seriously mounted on a solid block of wood, & ramona has no idea how to use it because she’s never seen a real rotary phone, nor is she allowed to play with our cell phones–all for $5 total!) i knew i wanted to add flare to the skirt so i drafted that right into the muslin & got everything cut out but then i ran out of steam because i hate tracing darts, &  knew i’d have to move them down since indie patternmakers maybe don’t get that sometimes people are in their mid-30s & lactated for a year & a half (ahem), & the darts i did trace were all fucked up-looking…

anyway, i finally got all the darts moved & properly traced. i basted the whole thing together, complete with zipper, & tried it on with a great sense of trepidation. for some reason, i just expected it to be really ill-fitting & unflattering. i slowly made my way to the full-length mirror…& it looked great! nearly perfect. i’m going to have to move the horizontal bust darts down too (i don’t know why i didn’t do that in the first place) & i think i’m going to lose maybe quarter-inch off each shoulder seam, but i think those are the only changes i will have to make. i was really surprised at how good it looked!

unfortunately, the good fabric i’ve ordered isn’t slated to arrive until friday, so i can’t start sewing for real until then. friday is also jared’s 34th birthday. i had kind of hoped to have the dress done by then, just in case we decide to live on the edge & hire a babysitter & go out on a real date. but our anniversary (seven years!) is next week, so maybe i can have it finished by then instead.

this dress will be an experiment in several new skills: sewing with organza, setting in a sleeve, & lining a dress. i actually bought some white bemberg to use as a lining. i am considering drafting a facing for the neckline, because ramona is obsessed with my breasts & constantly yanks on the necklines of everything i wear so she can look down my shirt. i think she’s just really interested in bodies. she also likes to lift people’s shirts up to see their belly buttons, she looks up pant legs & sleeves…she is learning that clothing conceals body parts & she’s very curious about it. which is great & everything, but i don’t want her ruining the necklines of my handmade clothing.

i am also thinking about drafting a removeable waistband/belt for the dress. it already has a lot more shape than i expected, given the pattern photographs. but adding a belt could be fun.

i’ve been thinking about why i like sewing so much. obviously i’ve had a lot of other creative interests & hobbies over the years. i used to do printmaking, i used to paint, i guess maybe i still qualify as a zinester (even though it’s been almost a year since i released my last zine–though i have a draft of one rotting in my computer word program as we speak). but i think i love sewing more than anything else i’ve ever done. well…maybe not more than zines. i loved zines a lot, for a long time. i have a different relationship with sewing because it just isn’t as social. a primary component of zine-making is that other people read the zines & probably write to you or talk to you about what they think. zines (for me) were primarily about ideas & how people respond to those ideas. sewing is much more tangible because i am creating an object rather than compiling my own thoughts. & while i love feedback about my sewing projects, all that really matters is what i think of something. if i make a mistake with a sewing project, i can either unpick it & try again, or just chalk it up as a learning experience that actually taught me a real skill i can apply to projects down the road. i’m not sure what would count as a “mistake” in the zine world. writing something that ends up being wildly misinterpreted/hated? that’s happened to me before. i didn’t really learn much from it. it just made me feel frustrated. i’m not saying i never feel frustrated when, say, i sew an entire 22-inch zipper into a dress inside out, but it’s not the same kind of frustration. it’s easier to just grab the seam ripper & think, “oh well, mistakes happen,” with something like that than it is to have to deal with some obnoxious email from someone who wants to tell me how wrong i am about something that they just misunderstood in the first place. (which, granted, the goal of a writer is to write clearly enough that misunderstandings are few & far between. so one could make the argument that i should have learned to express myself more clearly. but the bottom line is that someone is always going to be offended by something someone says, no matter how clear they attempt to be, in the weird social justice circles in which i circulate(d) my zines.)

for me, sewing is kind of like parenting in that there is always something new to try, always something new to learn, & personally, i find the fruits of my experimentation much more fulfilling than i ever anticipated. over the years, i’ve noticed that a major source of depression for me is when i feel that i have nothing to look forward to, nothing to fill my time. which is obviously a huge problem for me, being on disability, & having limitations on what i can physically do. with a baby & a sewing habit, i definitely don’t have to worry about how to fill my days! & there’s always something to look forward to: ramona learning a new word, finding a cute new pattern i want to make, hugs from ramona, finding a great new fabric i want to work with, ramona doing something hilarious like sneaking into the pantry & then panicking & knocking everything in the pantry over in her haste to pretend she was never in there when she hears me coming, finishing a new dress or quilt or other sewing project & getting to show it off.

& there’s always something new to learn, which i really love. i love seeing some sewing technique i haven’t tried yet & trying to figure out how it’s done. i love trying to achieve new milestones with ramona. i recently stopped pumping (finally!), but kept giving ramona bottles at bedtime because i was scared she’d flip out & refuse to sleep if i gave her a sippy instead. then she stopped falling asleep on her bottle, so…i experimented with giving her a sippy. & it worked out fine. she seems just as happy to drink her milk from a sippy. jared decided he couldn’t take any more nighttime head-butting & kicking & insisted that we put the fourth railing up on the crib & stop co-sleeping. i was very sad about this & was terrified that ramona just wouldn’t sleep if she was corralled inside a crib after having access to our bed for her entire life. but…she actually seems to sleep BETTER alone in the crib. she wakes less frequently & falls asleep faster. like i said, there’s always something new to try.

i guess this makes sense, because i love being a mom & i love sewing. so of course there are some similarities in why i love them. & on that note, i hear ramona waking up from her nap.


Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

2 thoughts on “on sewing & momming

  1. I find sewing to be super zen. I like tuning out a little. And the awesome feeling of taking a pile of fabric and turning it into something else.

    1. i too find it very zen, usually. except for sometimes when i start feeling rushed because i know i don’t have much time before ramona wakes up or i have to go to bed, or if i run into some construction problem that flummoxes me. but i agree that it’s so cool to turn a big pile of unwieldy fabric into something useful & attractive!

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