Friday, August 21, 2015

Coupla Bags

It's so hard to be productive in the summer, isn't it?

It's a trade-off: wonderful outdoor lighting but no time to make anything to take photos of.

Just last week, I was thinking back over what we'd actually done this summer and I realized how different the last couple of years have been than the ones before. In the old days, when my kids were babies and toddlers and preschoolers, our summers were one big parent-centered entertainment fiesta. Or, for that matter, the other months were, too: every day is a No School Day for babies and toddlers, right? We'd wake up early (because the kids did) and fix everyone breakfast, and spoonfeed it to them. We'd pack everyone in strollers or wagons, along with all the sippy cups in the house and enough finger food to feed a small country, to take a short walk around the block, pausing to watch caterpillars crawl across the road or a dog sniff a bush. We'd strap everyone into backward-facing car seats and make mini-trips to mom haunts: the soft foam playground, the Open Gym For Small Feet, the Monday Mom Meetings at the park. We'd research all the free admission attractions and religiously memorize the schedule, and doggedly get in line because there was no way we were paying full price when our kids would need naps the minute we got in the door. 

And then there were the Organized Crafts - buckets of markers and crayons and foam stickers and construction paper and glue sticks and pipe cleaners and tempera paint and macaroni and googly eyes. Our kitchen table was buried under them. Our floor was littered with them. And our sofa still vomits them out, indigestible mementos from a bygone era, when we turn out the cushions for vacuuming even now. 

How I don't miss those days. 

In the past two years, however, our summers have changed. We sleep in and let the kids make their own breakfast (and clear the table). We don't have bags of frozen chicken nuggets in our freezer for a never-changing lunch. The kids ride themselves around the block on their bikes, and visit the neighbors to invite them to ride themselves around the block with them. They plan their own playdates. They make their own schedules. They call and Facetime their friends to keep in touch. They plan their own birthday parties. They have extra-curricular activities that don't involve me as their instructor. We swim when we want, eat when we're hungry, read when we're bored, and entertain ourselves. We have conversations in sentences and paragraphs, literal and figurative, concrete and abstract. 

And we pay the admission for museums and zoos and other attractions - because we actually spend enough time there to make it worth it. 

Even their meltdowns and bickering - yes, those still happen - are different. They're eloquent and logical, more about my space vs. your space and my rights vs. your rights than I'm So Freaking Tired And Overstimulated That I Can't Stop Screaming.

Somehow, behind my back, the children have grown up. 

When I was in my Weird Clothes years - you know, when you seem to be perpetually pregnant and/or nursing and for modesty's sake you just throw on whatever sack isn't in the dirty laundry hamper at the time - I was secretly afraid my babies would morph overnight into Children (uncute) and Tweens (uncouth). So I tried to savor their fuzzy peach heads and chubby wrists and grape toes and jellybean bodies and willed time to slow down, slow down, slow down. I will never get them back, I moaned. I will lose these years forever. I will forget what a baby smells like. 

And I did. 

But so what?

I'd never have believed it, back when I was tethered by strands of sentiment to my sweetly napping infants, but these Older Years are just as wonderful. And they take away some of the fear that the teenage years and the college years and the adult years will be weird and awful and somehow deficient. How can they be, I reason with myself, if they belong to these same children who are blossoming into fuller, richer human beings?

So we're coasting along now, enjoying these golden days of sunshine, choosing as-and-whens over must-dos. At some point, I will need to start planning Halloween costumes -at least one child already has an opinion of what she wants to be. And I am happy to say that at least one child has also decided not to have a birthday party, opting instead to spend a day out with a few close friends. And everyone has started ice-skating lessons because living in Minnesota and not knowing how to ice-skate is like living in Singapore and not knowing how to swim. But that's about as structured as our time out of school has been. I'll be honest and say that I do feel frustrated some days when it's suddenly midnight and the dishes are still in the sink and I haven't sewn anything for days or responded to the business emails in my inbox and I can't remember where the hours went. It's just that overly-focused part of me reacting to being carried away by the easy flow of summer. 

I tell it to Chill, Already.

But sometimes, when the flow pauses long enough to sneak down into the sewing room, I make a bag.

This one was designed entirely to demonstrate the famed Recessed Zipper technique. No other reason.

And this is the penultimate Time Warp Bag.

If it were solids, I'd turn out a bag like this in a couple of days, max. 

But when I work with print, it takes five times as long. It's scary how quickly your eye is drawn to misalignment; when everything lines up, your mind sweeps over it without noticing because that's the way it should be, but when it's off, you can't stop looking because somewhere in your brain, it's a disconnect, an anomaly in the natural order.

This bag was designed entirely to demonstrate the Zippered Expanding-Compartment technique.

But with all those different straps, it's also a bag that can be used in lots of fun ways.

I have one more to go, which is thankfully less fiddly than either of these two. And I can wrap up the sewing and begin the photo formatting. And then we shall have tutorials! 


  1. Because of all the time you were with your girls when they were young they will be wonderful tweens, teens and young adults. Not perfect, but then who is. You are raising children who will morph into your best friends when they are adults. Good job!!

  2. Amen to your thoughts on growing children. Let's enjoy them as they are, with fond memories of how they were (and gratitude that they don't act certain ways anymore).

    I love working with prints, and I though I may not be quite as meticulous as you are, I know how the eye is drawn to misalignment. As I sit in church listening to the message (really!) my eyes are drawn to other people's dresses, analyzing the patterns and their alignment or lack thereof. And sometimes I think, "no one else notices things like this." Thanks for showing me that I'm not alone!

  3. Ahhh... I remember those elementary school years and also thinking how much easier life had gotten! It's a wonderful time of life - enjoy it to the fullest!

    Gosh, I have no kids at home, and I still find it hard to get any sewing done during the summer. I can't imagine how you've done it! And not just a couple of bags... but a couple of fantabulous bags! Wow!! The first one is gorgeous, and the second one is amazing! My brain has to have patterns to follow, so I'm ever so thankful for people like you who can do the designing as well as know how to put it all together. Kudos, my friend!!

  4. AMEN to all the parenting realizations - I LOVE babies, and couldn't wait to have a couple, but this middle part, where they're people but they still love & need me? I didn't anticipate it at all, and it's so great!

    1. I came to comment to agree with all of this. The bag, the print alignment, the delight in our changing offspring.
      They were great babies (well, one was...) and interesting children and a gas as young teens and a TERROR as 15 and 18 year old men. On Monday, the older one starts college, the younger one starts his first 50 mile scout hike. This house will be very very quiet.
      They have been in a hurry to grow up from the start, and this summer has given me wind burn for how fast it's gone. I just hope we all live long enough to keep enjoying driving each other crazy for many years to come.

  5. The expanding bag is genius!!

  6. I adore the expanding bag. I haven't seen one like that before! You work with prints in a way I haven't seen before - paying attention to all the details. It makes a big difference.

    Starting next month, I get a few hours to myself each week for the first time since 2006 as. Crazy!

  7. Thank you for your wonderful words about ever-changing little people. Not so little people, I mean.

  8. A lovely post, thanks. My children are 5and 2 and very much need the parent-centred entertainment, looking forward to when they are a wee bit older! But I'm also trying to enjoy the time when they are small and say silly stuff.

  9. We have goggly eyes scattered all around the house too! Are you telling me I WILL get my time back, eventually? My daughter is 2, and needs to be entertained every minute of the day - which is why I am trawling your archives for crafty ideas (and definitely being every inspired).

  10. this summer has been a productive sewing one for me for just this reason! My kids now entertain themselves for hours at a time (only needing me to remind them of food choices in the pantry/fridge and to mediate disputes over TV or markers or what-have-you) and i can be up late sewing/watching BBC and they will feed themselves breakfast while I snore.
    They also draw things that "You'll make this for me, right Mom?" And I do.

  11. Love the expanding bag, and will be looking forward to seeing more!

  12. What a beautiful post about bags and sewing and parenting and life! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  13. ditto on your sentiments in regards to children growing up, though I have a hunch that "the boy" is the one who will come home with a basket of dirty laundry lol
    I think the bags are fascinating, is that leather on the first one? I think it has a Kate Spade look to it which I think I admire from afar. The second bag looks like something very fun, practical and one that my daughter would love to use. Enjoy the end of summer.

  14. My kids are now in their 20's and you are right, each age has something new to offer and enjoy so I don't miss the previous ages either! Who would have thought?

  15. I can't wait to see the tutorial for the expanding bag because I am drooling while finally entering the stage of parenthood that you have so succinctly described; thus leaving time for sewing during the school year. :)

  16. Thank you for your musings on motherhood. I admire you as a mom so much, and I'd like to emulate the way you've raised such sweet, strong, and creative girls. I am in the baby/toddler/preschooler era, and your post gives me hope. It's also nice to know that there is someone out there who doesn't quite miss those years... It's a hard time (though worth every minute, for sure), and sometimes I feel guilty for looking forward to when my babies aren't babies any more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and giving me some encouragement.

  17. oh, and P.S., I am in awe of that bag!


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