Monday, June 28, 2010

Sewing For Baby, Part 1: Making Time

I talked last time about how great sewing baby stuff is. Even as a kid I remember some of the wonderful things that people made for me. I still have the sweaters my mom knit me when I was a kid and am waiting for my daughter to be old enough to wear them too. I still curl up under my baby quilt when I'm feeling really crummy. My sister loved one sweater so much that she has knit an adult version for herself. I only hope that my daughter will love the things that I make her as much as I loved the things that my mom made for me.

The only real problem with making things is that they take a long time. Even a fast project takes an hour or two and slower projects may take weeks or even months. So where does a busy mom (or anyone else) find the time? The real answer is that you have to make it. Do you watch TV or ride in the car when someone else is driving? This is a great time for anything that doesn't take lots of equipment or electricity. I have sewn by hand, stuffed toys and knit entire afghans (as well as socks, sweaters, booties and soakers) in the car or watching my husband play video games in the evening. By using these times for the handwork you free up the normal downtime in your day for the part of sewing that requires cutting, ironing or using a machine.

Another big time-saver is having a dedicated space. This is something that I learned watching my mom. She had an actual sewing table so her sewing machine was always out. She didn't need to take 10 minutes to clear off the kitchen table, 5 more to set-up the sewing machine and a few more to dig out her project, by which time she would be needed elsewhere. Everything was set-up and ready to go. Sometimes stuff would get stacked up on the sewing table, especially if my sister and I had been rough on our clothes lately, but the sewing machine was there and ready. Over the years I have gone back and forth on having a dedicated space. When I was a teenager I set aside part of my bedroom as a sewing space, but as a college student my sewing machine frequently lived in the closet only to be used when I pulled it out for a specific project. This of course meant that my poor roommates had to work, and eat around my sewing until I got to a stopping place and could pack it up again. I still have unfinished projects from this era because out of sight is out of mind. With memories of this I asked my husband that wherever we lived once we had kids that I have a space for my sewing. I felt this was fair because as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) sewing and such was part of the job I assigned myself. If he gets an office at work, I should get something like it at my work. This space has allowed me to take full advantage of the time that I do get for sewing. I can run to my sewing room as soon as the baby is down for her nap and work until she wakes up. I have been known to leave a project in the machine mid-seam with the needle down and the machine off because she has woken suddenly and needed me. Because I have a dedicated space I don't have to worry if I don't get another minute to clean up before dinner, I can just close the door and know that my project will be waiting the next time I get a chance to work on it. I am lucky enough to have a room, but anywhere that you can set-up a sewing machine and an ironing board can be used. Both my mom and my aunt used a corner of the formal dining room (this is nice because you have a big table to cut stuff out on that is rarely used). I have seen laundry rooms and basements set-up for sewing. Guest bedrooms and a corner of a large master bedroom are also options. At one point I even ran an extension cord into a walk-in closet and set my machine up on a small table. Look at your space and think creatively, if you really want to sew a dedicated space is really worth it.

Think too about the times that you aren't specifically needed. If you have everything organized and ready you can do a lot during a 45 minute nap. After everyone else is in bed or before the baby wakes up in the morning can be useful times as well. With older children you don't need to watch them every second so if your sewing space is located where you can still keep tabs on them you can work while they play. Also, take advantage of "Daddy time". My daughter loves playing with my husband and I take advantage of this time to sew, cook, clean or read. If I want to watch them play I generally try to have my knitting to work on at the same time. At this point I've been doing it long enough I don't have to look at what I'm doing for simple projects so I can watch them play and talk. If you really want to, look critically at your home and your day and try to find all the little bits of space and time that you can devote to creating things. I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get every time I see my daughter playing with a toy or wearing an outfit I made. I love how clever I feel when I pull on a sweater against the cold that I created with my own two hands, a couple sticks and a few balls of yarn. Making things isn't something that happens as much as it used to which makes the things we do still make very special. Make something special for the ones you love, and don't forget that that includes yourself. Make the time to create something tangible, something new that wouldn't exist if you weren't here. Think about the ego boost that that can be on a bad day. :)


  1. One thing I discovered when my own babies became toddlers is that it is no big deal to remove the needle from the sewing machine and stash it in the pincushion, out of reach of tiny hands. This takes maybe a second or two, with practice, and after a while it becomes automatic, even with loud screams and banging noises (or, worse yet, absolute quiet) issuing from the next room.

    This practice has had the happy consequence that I always use the appropriate needle for any given project, because it is, after all, no big deal.

  2. The aforementioned sister did consider, briefly, using an almost identical mint green yarn as well. She opted for a heathered grey tweed instead because she likes it better. She also likes referring to herself in the third person. As if you didn't know.