Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Child Needs Pockets

Here is a tutorial on adding flat pockets to the front of pants.

Here is one on adding pockets to the waistband of regular elastic pants.

Here is one for adding pockets to one piece pants.

This photo is of my first attempt at following one of these tutorials.  I followed the first one and think it went just OK.  I think they are slightly lopsided from one leg to the other, which is unfortunate since these are in wool suiting, and meant to be dress-up pants.  I haven't ironed them yet, but think that won't help their unfortunate placement.

Stay tuned for further pocket additions. Pin It

Sweater and Shirt into Sweater Vest + 3 Pairs Pants

This was an old sweater of mine whose zipper stopped working. The other shirt I used was an old light brown shirt of my husband's. I ran into this tutorial on Made and was inspired.

My version of the sweater vest ended up slightly different than hers. Mine had to open up through the front because I was using a old cardigan instead of an old sweater. Once I removed the non-working zipper, there wasn't enough sweater fabric left to do anything with except have a vest that opened.

I opted for buttons instead of a zipper because I had some that matched, and the only separating zippers I had that were approximately the right length were in red and white, both of which I thought wouldn't look good. I debated whether or not to use the hood from the cardigan, thinking that we get a lot of use out of hooded vests. But they also aren't as polished/ fancy; in the end, I let me son decide, and he said "no hood."

I also did the binding slightly differently than she did in the tutorial. I didn't have any ribbed fabric, so I took the bottom band off of a man's size large shirt for the middle section and it fit perfectly. The arm bands were the bottoms of the sleeves from the same shirt, which I didn't even have to open up. I attached them all the same way that Katrina attaches the legs and waist of her soakers, then topstitched to make the seam lay flat and make it look more polished.

With the cardigan arms, I made pants. I cut them off and angled a crotch into the fabric (you could easily do this by laying a known pair of pants on top or a pattern you like). Then I added a waistband like my favorite pants do, using fabric from the man's shirt to hold the elastic.
These are a bit long, but really trim and cute when worn. The contrasting color stitching that was left in the center adds a nice detail, and actually looks like a zipper at first glance.

With the rest of the man's shirt, I made two pairs of pants.

This pair was made from the arms in the same manner as above. They are a bit wide when worn, and I may need to take the sides in. The length is good, though. You can see on the hem where I removed the arm ribbing for the vest.

These last two photos are of the second pair. These were made from the body of the shirt and using my favorite pants pattern. I am adding length to this pattern lately, though, as my son has gotten taller but not wider. Whenever I use it, I add about 4" to the bottom.

When I cut them, the backs ended up with some stitching left from the original bottom of the shirt where I removed the ribbing for the vest. The front didn't. In order to keep them the same length, I hemmed them by sewing a zig-zag over the edge of the front side. These ended up a bit long, so I may just hem them for now and take them out as my son gets taller.

I like the detailing that remained from the original shirt on this pair. On one side of the back, you can see the sewn-in "V" from the center middle of the original shirt. On the front, you can see some of the original stitching that attached the middle of the shirt to the arms.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

EC/ Diaper-Free Baby

Disposables or cloth? Or... nothing?  There is another way to respond to an infant's potty needs rather than what has become traditional in industrialized nations.  It is called Elimination Communication (EC), or Diaper-Free Baby, and it is the norm in all other areas of the world, and its use is on the rise here.  The basic premise is that babies are born potty trained, and don't want to soil themselves or their caregivers.  They need us to just show them where to potty and help them get to that place until they are big enough to do it themselves.

We practiced this when our son was young, and have really enjoyed the added closeness it has afforded our family.  Our son is now 2.5 and has been in underwear every day since 10 months and is about 85% miss-free while sleeping at night and about 95% during naps.  He has been reliably pooping in the potty from three months of age.  He tells us when he has to go, or takes himself.  Sometimes he likes to sit on the potty alone for ten or fifteen minutes (hello, shower! or Facebook time...) and read a book or play with a toy.  He always tells us, "All done!" when he is ready to come off, and has been starting to wipe himself and hop off.  Sometimes he likes company when he sits there, and we read together or talk.  

Our son at 3 weeks old being held "in-arms" over potty.
It can be done full or part-time, though, and most families who choose this method start by three months of age, and their babies usually "graduate" around eight or ten months of age (girls are anecdotally quicker than boys).  Families who practice part-time have graduates later, but reap many benefits along the way, with the greatest being their baby's continued awareness of their body's need to eliminate.

Other benefits of EC include using fewer diapers, and using them as back-up rather than relying on them.  The ecological footprint of the baby is reduced enormously, especially since poops usually can go into the potty within two or three months very reliably, which means families choose cloth diaper backup without a lot of the messy clean-up sometimes associated with cloth diapering.  Babies rarely sit in a dirty diaper, which helps avoid diaper rash and the possibility of a baby UTI.  

One of the purposes of EC, to keep the baby's awareness of elimination, is increased with the use of cloth, since they learn to tell you when they are wet and connect being wet with an internal feeling.  Cloth lets them feel wet, but disposables are so advanced and wick the moisture away so quickly, that babies who wear them never feel wet and never associate the bodily feeling of eliminating with any feeling of wetness.  With EC, the caregiver who uses cloth changes the baby ASAP out of the wetness, so the baby never becomes accustomed to that wet feeling.  Many babies who are "diaper-free" actually wear cloth training pants most of the time, so they can feel the wetness but not make a mess every time they have a "miss."

EC also helps caregivers and babies feel more connected, since the caregiver has another way of communicating with the child and understanding their needs.  They avoid the distaste associated with diaper changes, which could be misconstrued by the baby as distaste towards them.  It is often likened to breastfeeding and associated with the attachment parenting style of care-giving.  Elimination, when using this method, becomes a time to communicate and bond with the baby.  When my son was younger, we used to spend our time on the potty reading books and exploring some toys.  

On vacation in Hawaii at 9 months, taking a potty break.
Potty time has always been a special time for my son and I.  I used to get frustrated, though, when I would go to a group or baby activity and need to excuse us to go potty, then I realized the other moms had to spend the same time changing their babies, although it was deferred.  It also gave my son and I time to re-connect when in a busy place that could be potentially overwhelming.  And now, later, I hardly think of his potty needs without him telling me, and others are still spending this time changing their toddlers. I was glad for the activity of going to the potty, though, when we were at home alone together when he was young.  It gave me a little more of a sense of purpose while being home with him, and a little extra time to connect with him.  When Dad was home, it gave him a way to connect and meet our son's needs in a similar way that nursing allowed me to connect with him.  Moms who work often have their caregiver do EC as a job requirement, or choose an EC-friendly daycare.  Some also do part-time EC at night and on the weekends.

Moms with more than one baby report that the extra time spent with the younger baby on the potty doesn't interfere with time needed to attend to siblings.  I have read that EC if often easier with older siblings because the siblings are more attuned to the baby, and often point out when the baby has to go.  Supposedly it becomes another family activity.

I also chose this method because it was appealing to me to have his pottying in the toilet as a matter of course, and I didn't want to introduce it after he got free will and a greater interest in things besides his caregivers.  We treated it a lot like nursing.  There was never any praise, just like there was never praise for nursing.  There was also never any punishment or disappointment for "misses," just a quick clean-up.  The only verbal acknowledgement was a quick (and semi-rare, actually), "pee pee/ poo poo goes in the potty."

At 11.5 months, playing with a favorite toy (sunscreen bottle) on the toilet insert.
We used timing as one of our main methods of EC.  By paying attention to him as an infant, we learned when he had to go potty.  Immediately after waking was always a time he had to go.  Whenever he woke up, we would take him right to the potty.  This was the easiest "catch" of the day!  We also always took him when changing activities, too, and before and after a car or sling ride.  Timing was strong for us: preemptive peeing helped keep our EC practice about emptying the bladder more than holding it.

He also gave us signals when he had to go, and still gives us signals!  They used to be things like squirming a certain way, or a particular cry/ yelp, or having gas if he had to poop.  When nursing, he would pop on and off the breast when he needed to go, then he would potty, then finish his nursing session.  His signals now are grabbing himself, or squeezing his legs together.  Gas is still a signal as well.  The child often uses sign language when they are slightly older to tell the caregiver they have to go, and families develop a "potty sign" or use the ESL sign for "urine." Some families report their babies blowing raspberries when they need to go.

At 16 months, using our family potty sign.
We used intuition to learn when to take him to the potty, although not as much as many who use this method.  Some people report just knowing their child has to go, and taking them, and others report feeling a faux-miss in the form of warmth under where the baby is sitting on them, and taking them, and the baby urinates.

When taking the baby to the potty, cuing is the main way that two-way communication is developed.  Basically, when first starting out, the caregiver makes a cuing sound whenever the baby is eliminating (often "pss pss" for urine and a grunt for defecation).  Then the caregiver takes the baby to the toileting location and gives the cue, and the baby knows that this is where they are supposed to eliminate.  When young, caregivers hold the baby "in-arms," which is basically having the baby in a squat between the caregivers arms, with the adult hands under their thighs and their bottom over a receptacle like the toilet.  Many EC-ers transition as soon as the baby can sit to a little potty or put a potty seat on the toilet.  Babies soon learn their regular potty locations and don't need the cue sounds.  It is useful to maintain them for times like public toilets or airplanes.  

Cues are also useful for pottying a child in the middle of the night when they are half-asleep and give a signal like a yelp or thrashing around.  In the middle of the night, older children will often wake up and yell "pee pee!" or take themselves to a little potty in their sleeping area.  At 2.5 years old, our son wakes and calls for us to take him to the bathroom.  He pees before bed, then my husband takes him before he goes to sleep a few hours later, then he sometimes wakes one or two more times in the night to go.  Many children never have to wake to go to the bathroom.  There is a theory that night peeing is related to food intolerances and allergies, but we haven't done the legwork for our son in this area.  To us, the advantage of his bodily awareness overshadows his nighttime need for us.  Many EC families choose to only do daytime EC and use diapers at night until the child is older and wakes with dry diapers.

There is special clothing that makes EC easier, but is not necessary.  It is easier to get a baby to the potty quicker with less clothing to remove, so babies often live in a shirt and baby leggings or split-crotch pants when at home and cloth training pants when out.  There are even drop-flap training pants to make it easier to offer opportunities for a dry-diapered baby to potty without using a changing table.  The degree of special clothing depends on the degree of commitment to EC, though.  Other items like waterproof pads help protect laps and furniture.  Tiny potties are available as well.  All of these items together still cost less than conventional diapering, and most have resale value.  A lot are also easy to make, and there are websites to help you do this with minimal skill and experience (like  The internet is invaluable when finding other EC-ing families and resources to make EC easier.  There are even an Diaper-Free groups that meets regularly around the country.

In split-crotch pants while hosting a play group at 7 months.
Choosing to practice EC full-time was one of the best parenting decisions that we made.  His peers are starting to potty train, and I can't imagine trying to get my strong-willed two-year old to learn how to do this now.  At the time, he just did it because "pee pee goes in the potty."  He never had a diaper rash, and I have a stash of cloth diapers and training pants in excellent condition (they never got pooped in).  I will re-use them then re-sell them.  He stayed in touch with his bodily functions, and poops every day (some of his friends went a week between when they were little).  He got the benefit of learning to sit, crawl, and walk unencumbered by diaper bulk.  He also got extra cuddle time and my husband and I got extra time to feel like we were meeting his needs, and I think he cried and fussed less because it was one more need we were able to attend to when he was pre-verbal.

Taking Dolly to the potty at 23 months.

"The Diaper-Free Baby" by Christine Gross Loh: an excellent basic overview book about EC and how to do it.  A little heavy on explaining the gear choices, but useful and accessible.
"Infant Potty Training" by Laurie Boucke: a detailed explanation of the history and methods of full-time EC. She is one of the first who brought EC to Western nations, and gives some valuable insight.  Slightly extremist in her implementation of EC, but a good read nonetheless. Nice site for basic information and resources. One woman's experiences in great detail. Quite helpful. Listserve that is an easy way to get advice from other parents around the country who are also doing or have done EC. Valuable resource. Listserve for East Bay Diaper-Free families that is useful for meeting others in the area who are practicing EC. Really useful resource to make any of the clothing items at home yourself (and some are really easy) shop that sells useful EC items

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Pattern review: "The Detour" Diaper Bag

This free diaper bag pattern is called "The Detour" Diaper Bag. Cute name for an okay bag.

The bag is a nice size, and bags with interior AND exterior pockets are now favorites of mine. But the straps are a little flimsy for the bag size, and the closure tab is awkward (I would rather if it were larger or a different type-- like just a snap or a zipper would be even better). I like the exterior pockets on the front and back, and would make it again using the front angled pockets on both sides.  I like her bottom oval to add shape to the bag, although mine didn't line up right on the interior or exterior pieces.  I would also add a thicker interfacing to the bottom if I made it again.

For the interior pockets, I did one side with a zipper and the other side with a lined patch pocket. I used waterproof fabric as the lining (Amy Butler oilcloth) to make it easier to keep clean (FYI: The exterior fabric is from IKEA, and I didn't do two types of exterior fabric as she recommends because I thought the bag was busy enough).

Actual construction of the bag had some bumps in the road.  The directions and pattern pieces were a bit unclear in a number of places.

First, the pattern pieces could have been labeled better.  The same terms weren't used on all of the pieces (i.e. "lining" or "exterior" etc.), so I had to go through and make sure I was cutting everything out of the right fabric before doing it.  Also, it was unclear why she has you hide a nice exterior piece of fabric inside the front pocket instead of using interfacing.  She says it is to make it more sturdy, but isn't that the point of interfacing?

During the construction of the bag, she skimmed over a number of details.  For example, she said to make the straps.  I find it helpful when the instructions say how to do that with the pieces you have cut, and she didn't do that.

I also added topstitching where I thought her example bag looked a bit rumply-- like at the top of the exterior pockets, along the strap sides, and along the top of the bag.  I should have turned the bag through a hole in the top instead of a hole in the lining, and used my topstitching to close the hole.  Instead, I followed her directions and left a hole in the lining and closed it at the end. I don't like when bags are turned this way, since it leaves a place in the bottom of the bag that looks different than the rest of the bag.  I know, it is the bottom, but still- I would prefer if it looked as polished as possible.

Overall, I found the amount of effort required for this bag (between interpreting her pattern pieces and directions, and actually making it) to be too high for how nice the bag is.  There are a lot of cuter and easier free diaper bag patterns out there.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Katrina's Quick Sew Soaker in Windproof + Regular Fleece

I had forgotten how easy these are to make. They are fleece soakers, which are used for tucking a cloth diaper into and being mostly waterproof. They are used more after your child primarily poops in the potty, since they pull up and down rather than being able to snap off in case of a mess.

Fleece is incredibly versatile. It can be used as an outer waterproof layer (enhanced by a soak every now and again in fabric softener), an absorbent soaker layer in the middle of something, and as an inner layer for its wicking ability. I discovered windproof fleece after I didn't have a need for soakers (and longies~ the long-pants version of the soaker), and am looking forward to using these.

Malden Mills Windproof fleece is soft, breathable, thin, and more waterproof than the regular fleece I buy in the remnant bin at JoAnns (cute firetrucks on that one, though).  It also wears longer without pilling.  I am hoping it will make these longer lasting and more waterproof.  I am also hoping they may be able to fit under clothing, although we are not all that keen on two layers between us and the potty.

To make them, I used Katrina's Quick Sew Soaker pattern in sizes small, medium, and large. Her pattern is so easy and quick. The only thing you need to remember is to make sure you cut the leg and waistbands with the stretch of the material going long-ways, and that sometimes it is easier to attach these items with the extra tray portion of your sewing machine off.

To do this, you pin the leg and waist-bands where they belong. Then you slide that tray off to the side. Next, slide the pinned item in, around the part of your machine that is left behind. Then as you sew, the leg (or waist) part of the soaker circles around the machine. You don't need to be careful of the rest of the soaker slipping in where you are stitching, and it is quicker.

Also in this go-around of making soakers, I went over each seam twice. I stitched them with a straight stitch, then did a faux-serge by zig-zagging over the edge with a wide zig-zag. This reinforces the seam and makes the whole item look more polished.
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Sewing Area

I always think it is helpful to see how other people organize their spaces, be they creative spaces or otherwise.  I enjoy getting ideas on how to make better use of my space, and hope you can get some ideas from me!

I use a Baby Lock Creative Pro and have been incredibly happy with it.  I always leave it covered when not in use, and it has been a workhorse since I got it.  It uses all metal parts, and doesn't need to be oiled.  The only maintenance needed is to get the dust out, which I try to remember to do every time I wind a bobbin.  It also performs better with a sharp needle.  I need to remember to change these more often! I also like the stitch choices and that the bobbin threads itself.  The digital choices of stitches make it a lot easier to repeat a stitch, and to remember what I did and to do it again.  It should have a 25-year life span.

My computer shares a table with the sewing machine.  This makes it easy to follow online directions, and I feel good about the paper I am saving by not printing everything.  I can also look up what I need as I need it, and more easily switch back and forth between activities.  My Kam Snap Press sits on the desk as well, but mostly because it is so heavy and I don't want to move it around every time I need it.  Items strewn about include some notions I need to put away that I bought today and my water bottle, glass, and a few coasters.  The coasters double as pattern weights.

I have a shelf on my desk, and on it is the landline, my finished projects and gifts in waiting (you see two of the Mei Tais I just made and a couple of burp cloths and a tin container I am waiting to use to wrap a gift in), and my scrap bin. Scraps only go in here until they can be cut into soakers or given to my 2.5 year-old for his scrap bin (he likes to cut them into small pieces and carry it around).  Under the shelf is my cutting mat, metal ruler, and projects-in-progress (that is a stack of Katrina's fleece soakers).  In the desk drawer are my office supplies.

My nook used to be a bar.  The shelves and fold-out table stunk of liquor when we moved in, and had sliding doors on them.  I quickly repainted and moved the doors to the garage.  I originally thought I would put my stash on the shelves and hang a cover of some sort, but I like the color and I like being able to see everything.  It helps me come up with ideas.

The shelves are categorized by type of fabric and then by color.  The largest bolts of fabric (i.e. Zorb) sit on the floor in the corner.  Everything else tucks in.

You can see knits on the bottom (just barely), and this includes old t-shirts.  The middle bottom shelf is fleece.  On the far left are new t-shirts in my son's next size up that I am intending on embellishing somehow.  The next shelf up is quiliter's cotton and flannel, and my soaker bin is on the far left.  The cotton is stacked by color, and the flannel is all together (I don't have that much of it).

On the middle shelf is my office.  There is a cork board you can't see, and it has coupons and keys on it.  Checkbooks, a hole puncher, and my stapler are next to my 3-tier in-box.  The top is for pending items, middle is for chocolate at the moment and sometimes it has a purpose, and the bottom has project folders in it.  Currently one is a house remodeling project folder and the other is a medical folder.  You can see envelopes and stationery in front of my receipt box (similar to this), which is next to more envelopes and sheet protectors.  I use sheet protectors inside those black binders to hold patterns I have printed.  In my part-time job, I do a lot of mailing and organizing.

The next shelf up is very tall.  On the left are art and crafting supplies like modeling beeswax, freezer paper, heat 'n bond, and fabric paint.  The bins hold my notions like buttons and vest buckles, then zippers, snapping supplies, and elastic.  The last two hold my labels and size tags, and sewing machine supplies and thread.  Then come my pattern binders, organized by category (baby, kids, bags, adults) and sewing machine manual. My idea pattern books are on the bookshelf, which is close by.

Above that are interfacing and batting and fancy linings, wicking fabrics, heavy denim and cottons, and waterproof fabrics.  The top shelf holds wool, heavy cottons, and old sheets and curtains.

The wall just to the right (you can see orange scissors) has four small bins attached to the wall.  These hold extra pens and markers and a short ruler and paper scissors, postage stamps and return address stamp, label maker.  Sewing scissors and my rotary cutter go in the top bin.

This system of organization is based on usage patterns and my limb length/ how often I can reach versus what I need to get up to get.  I like it so far, although it gets refined somewhat consistently. Pin It


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