Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From The Tubs Of Yesteryear

Jenna,  2007

Since we're on the topic of blog birthdays and blogging and suchlike, let's talk about babies. No, I'm not having another baby. What I mean is that when this blog began, I had a two-month old baby. But she was our third and I was done with all those charming handmade crib bumpers and car seats and drool cloths and bloomers and teeny dresses and nursery decor two babies before her. Which was a pity, I guess, because ikatbag never became one of those blogs that are full of maternity upcycles, baby models or baby shower gift ideas. Which maybe kinda gives the impression that, in spite of possibly being the world's most sentimental mother,  I never sewed stuff for my babies. Which is, well, sorta true and yet not. 

Here's the story. Emily was born while we were living in Singapore, before we moved to the US. She was my first baby and I was working in an office and doing crisis intervention in schools right up to the day of her birth. Zero free time to do anything remotely fun, let alone creative. I didn't even have the time to shop for clothes to fit my burgeoning belly so I had my Auntie Laura tailor my maternity wardrobe and Mum sew the bedinen for Emily's crib

and all those little newborn things that grandmas are so good at thinking of, like these mittens -

a little crumpled after spending 8 years at the bottom of a storage tub, but still a proud testament of her love.

I remember cramming all my babyphernalia shopping into one harried weekend with Mum, not long after which Emily arrived, three weeks early. I spent the first hours of labor walking around the hospital with my cellphone, calling the office and colleagues with emergency instructions on handing over case files, assignments and duties. 

Not the most romantic baby-blogging scenario, huh?

The months after I got home from the hospital were the most bizarre I'd ever experienced. Sleeplessness, coupled with complete ignorance of how to care for a newborn was just part of it. There was also the sudden switch from manic government employment (translation: robotic efficiency) to the relative aimlessness of post-natal recovery and baby care. I almost went crazy trying to find some semblance of control. Very funny to look back on now, of course. As if babies could be made to behave consistently and follow schedules and standards like a government organization! Ha ha ha!

Needless to say, I eventually came to my senses and surrendered. So what if I couldn't get the whole nursing thing down pat. So what if I couldn't tell heat rash apart from measles. So what if I'd never get to exercise till my baby was in high school. So what if I didn't hand-make my own baby food in single-serve freezer portions. Bah. 

And with that surrender, I was suddenly able to take time to feel creative. 

Remember when I mentioned in this post that, because of my job, I'd taken a 10-year hiatus from creative sewing? Now that I had the time (yeah, baby naps!), I needed simple projects to ease me back into it. Like these bibs. I found them last week while sorting through the aftermath of my garage-sale-motivated spring cleaning. I made myself crack open those 13? 14? tubs of baby memories. I'd kept everything, I tell you! These bibs, for instance have been around the chubby necks of all my babies.  And these are just some of the total number of bibs the girls went through. Yes, all handmade - some by my sister-in-law and some by me. Later, I went on to make hundreds

Fortunately I didn't only sew bibs (or those baby ribbon balls that I also mass-produced without sense). I eventually diversified. Here's a sleeper I made for Emily. 

Good basic baby clothes are hard to get in Singapore. Either they're exorbitant because they're branded and have hideous fancy embellishments or characters or else you have to get an overseas-dwelling friend to buy them and mail them to you. So when Emily grew out of her last fitting sleepers, I panicked and made her this one in the next size. Very pleased to see that the stripes align - I may have been sleep-deprived back then but I was still anal. Way to go, LiEr. And aren't those press-studs funny? I got them from Dad's hardware stash. And since his craft area at the time was leatherwork, they sure look out of place on this baby garment. Still, how many babies proudly wear their grandpa's stash notions on their outfits? 

Here's something else I made from the same fabric. I think these are shorts but they could well be a diaper cover, judging from the high-cut leg openings. What was I thinking? Inferior stripe matching here (the other side of these shorts is even worse), though.

My baby years went by in a blur. I marvel at how some bloggy moms have like 17 children in 15 years, six of whom are twins or triplets or whatever and they sew baptismal gowns for all of them and have updated baby books and have imprints of all their children's little feet in plaster-of-paris plaques hanging in their color-coordinated rooms. I could barely put meals on the table many nights and it took me a long time to accept that oatmeal and pancakes counted as a decent supper. One thing I remember doing that really helped was having an official closing ceremony for my sewing machine about a fortnight before each baby was born. This means that I finished up all my utility sewing two weeks before each birth, cleaned up and oiled my sewing machine, unplugged it, put the cover on, cleared my sewing table and said some kind of sappy farewell speech over it. Once, I even sent it into the shop for maintenance. And I didn't touch it for the first month (ish) after birth. Maybe I'm weird-dramatic that way but I like resolution and formally putting away sewing for a time when I needed to focus on a new baby, mood swings, bizarre body reactions and transitions for everyone, was resolution for me. I told myself, "Sewing will not be your new normal for a while. If you feel like you want to make a bib three weeks down the road and the stars align and the baby sleeps and the other children are doing their own thing, go for it. That will be a bonus. But if you go a day without sewing, your day is still complete because that's your new normal now." It saved my sanity. 

That said, when I eventually did turn the sewing machine back on weeks later, I made quite a few other baby things for the girls that I never took photos of - mostly clothes but also crib linen, nursery drapes and stuff like that. The costumes and toys came much later, when they were old enough that their independent play inspired me to make them. 
Chef's hat and apron for Emily, 3 years old

Lab coat for Emily, 3 years old

The first of our halloween costumes. For Emily, 3 years old

I loved having my babies but, truth be told, older children are much more fun to sew for, and a lot easier to take care of. 

Here's another project I've never showed you before because it's from the pre-blogging and pre-DSLR era: hand puppets! They look oddly familiar so I think I must have fashioned them after the Baby Einstein ones that were so popular at the time. They were a gift for someone, which was the only reason I have a photo of them at all. 

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

And you know... if you have a new baby in your life (congratulations!), just enjoy him/her. This is your new normal now. There'll be plenty of time for sewing and blogging later but those chubby little bunch o' grapes toes will not stay that way forever, right?


  1. Thanks for the walk down memory lane - can relate to so much of this (as my 5.5 year old wraps her legs around me as I read this at 1am in bed). I like the whole closing ceremony thing for sewing - I need to do that pre-holiday to save me from thinking I can make at least three new wardrobes of clothes the night before international travel with three small children! x

  2. Love the hand puppets. And it's nice to know that even you didn't sew that much with babies in the house.

    The two bibs of yours we have are well loved!

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  4. I completely understand what you mean about Singapore and baby clothes. I had my second girl when we lived there and the baby clothes were either expensive or hideous. I have memories of rompers and pyjamas covered in pictures of baby pooh bear and piglet. Thankfully I had frequent trips to Australia where I could pick up loads of Bonds gear.

  5. You had me at that first photo. :) Fun to read the "rundown" of memories and see some of your sewing projects.

    Did I really say the other day something about it would be good for all of us to be without the internet for a while? It was out for about 22 hours here... just got it back a couple hours ago. Amazing how much there is to catch up on in that short a time!!

  6. I have a new(ish) baby, and now, thanks to you, "peach fuzz head" and "bunch o' grapes toes" are stuck in my head all the time! :)

  7. Molly's "reading" over my shoulder... when she saw the puppets, she said, "Hey, we have those!" Yes, we do...

  8. what treasures! I must agree that the first few months are 'bizarre' but hey - it got me sewing again too!

  9. Thank you for this. In the world of the internet and blogs there can be a lot of pressure to do it all. To make all your kids' clothes and all their toys and throw perfectly coordinated parties for hundreds and make all organic food and... It can be overwhelming to say the least. I have 4 kids under 6 and it is easy to compare myself to moms on the internet that are churning out project after project with no problem. I appreciate many of your posts that help me realize that life has lots of different phases and I should just stop comparing myself. Thank you.

  10. Dear LiEr, I have been following your blog for a while now as a parent who likes to make things for her kids. I am not sure whether it has civered your radar, but the Maker movement is starting to gain momentum in Singapore with hackidemia events being planned every month and having our own annual mini maker faire. From your blog, i know that you make your annual trip to Singapore and was wondering if i could invite you over to share some of your work with myself and my colleagues who are trying to drive up the maker movement. We are at the Science Centre Singapore, which I am sure you have been to. we would be happy to have your kids over as well. You can get in touch with me by leaving a message on my blog... Hope to see you soon.

  11. Love it, LiEr! xoxo, Eileen

  12. you know, I am sitting at my table, crying over your words.
    Just moved into a new home (apartment, same number of rooms, but all a lot smaller than before, went here because it is with a garden and not on the 3rd floor).

    Sooo, I have a lot less space for all my scrap-, stamp- and sewing stuff. And expecting a babyboy in 2 months, having a 18mts old girl around, still having lots of unopend moving boxes around - I just MISS my creativity.
    I am very frustrated right now, sad (yeah, hormons might be a factor, too :)).

    Thanks for this post, even if I don't know yet, if/how it's gonna help me :)

    xoxo from zurich, switzerland

  13. Hi, I have just stumbled upon your blog, and I'm so glad that I did! that was such a great post and I can totally identify with it all. I'm nearly out of baby times with a 3yr old and 18mth old and sewing saved me as it was my only outlet other than washing, cooking and changing nappies.. I'm so looking forward to the years and fun ahead, I just really hope you meant it when you said that minding older children is easier and more fun :) thanks again x

  14. I have just stumbled upon your blog and I am so so glad that I did! That was such a moving pot and one that I can identify with. I am nearly out of my baby years with a 3 yr old and an 18 mth old, and sewing was what got me through the tough days. It was my only outlet after all the washing, nappies and tears! it was a blur for me too. But I am so delighted to have my babies and can not wait for the fun years ahead. I just hope you meant it when you say that it gets easier as they get older! thanks again xx


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