sewing with kids

Five Tips for Sewing with Young Kids Underfoot

I’ve been in a season of slow, simple sewing. Have you been in a season like this? I’m a homeschool mama with five young kids, including a toddler whose favorite pastime is coloring on the walls and climbing onto everything he shouldn’t.. some days I barely have time to go to the bathroom, let alone sew an entire handmade wardrobe. Most of the projects I’m sewing lately are things I can complete in one sitting, generally a pattern I’ve sewn a dozen times, with slight variations here and there. I’ve sewn a bunch of garments recently that haven’t made it to the blog, for myself and the kids. None of them earth shattering in their execution, but all of them well-loved and well-worn.

I’m learning a lot these days about taking seasons as they come. I’ve had years and months where my sewing machine has been in constant use, and others where carving out time seems a bit trickier. Recently I was talking with some friends about how disappointed I was that I hadn’t been able to find the time to sew myself jeans, so I had to buy them instead. At first, it felt a little like a failure. I know how to sew jeans – I’ve done it several times, and before I got pregnant with my youngest, I had drafted and sewn a pair that I’ve been dying to tweak to the point of perfection. But my jean-sewing season will come back, I just need to give it time.

If you’re in a season like this, here are my best tips and encouragement for you:

1. Find a way to sew alongside your kiddos: For me right now, this means a shared space. I have my sewing tables set up in a corner of the room, the kiddos have an art table on the other side, and there are toys for my toddler and younger kids to play with as well. This could mean that you have a special bin of toys for your kids to play with only while you sew or that you give them a bucket or art supplies and let them create something alongside you. There’s something beautiful about creating together!

2. Use pockets of time: five minutes here and there to put a pattern together, cut it out, and prepare your fabric. When you need longer stretches of time, sew during nap time or after they’ve gone to bed. During some seasons, late night sewing isn’t an option, though (hello middle of the night feedings and teething toddler, I’m looking at you!), so make use of times when your kiddos are content to play.

3. Keep it simple when needed: What I’ve found is that small, simple sews can be deeply satisfying in a season where it’s hard to accomplish much. Pillow covers, simple tees, and pajamas are the way to go if you need to keep it simple, but still feel accomplished. When you start sleeping through the night or your toddler is more content to play alone and not demand every second of your attention, more complicated projects will return to your table.

4. Babywear, Pack ‘n Play, or highchair: find a way to safely contain your baby or toddler nearby. I’ve definitely worn my babies and toddlers in a sling or Ergo while sewing or put up a Pack ‘n Play next to my sewing machine. I had a “duh” moment recently when my friend Jodi shared an Instagram story with her toddler eating in a high chair while she sewed – brilliant!

5. Give yourself grace and remember it’s a season: this has been a constant mantra in my mind lately, and I’ve been so encouraged by friends reminding me of this. It won’t always be like this, and I don’t want to wish away these years when my kids are at home with me. Whether you’re a homeschool mama like me or you volunteer daily in your kids classroom or you work in or outside of the home, it can be hard to fit in time for hobbies and passions when you have littles! Embrace the season you’re in and prioritize the things you love, even for just a few minutes at a time.

Whatever season you’re in, whether you’re cranking out projects or looking longingly at your serger when you pass it by, remind yourself that each season has it’s time. Be present. Remind yourself that seasons change and kids get older. Let yourself be okay with whatever sewing time life has for you right now. And be intentional to carve out more time when you can.

Some nitty gritty sewing notes: this is my go-to sewing pattern (quick and easy!) – the Alex and Anna pajamas from Peekaboo Pattern Shop. I did make a matching pair for my six-year-old (mostly because he desperately needed pajamas, and I found a pattern in that size already cut and ready to go), but he refused to comply with my adorable matching jammie photo shoot that I had in mind, so I have proof of his pajamas over on Instagram too. These are jammies are the ultimate in comfort, since they’re sewn with jersey from Raspberry Creek Fabrics. All the RCF love and heart eyes over here, y’all.

Speaking of heart eyes….

Gah!! I can’t handle the cuteness of this age, even if he does color on all my walls.

Happy slow sewing, friends. :)

 

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When Motherhood Isn’t What You Expected 

Anytime you bring a new baby home, your life is going to change. Most of those changes are so, so good. And many are just as difficult. But babies grow and (eventually) sleep through the night, and what was hard yesterday isn’t so hard today.

So when we brought home baby boy five, I expected certain challenges. I knew there would be countless sleepless nights ahead of me. I knew there would be crying – from both baby and mama. I knew there could be some rocky days as his brothers transitioned to this new person in our home. I knew that I should expect the unexpected.

photo credit: Brooke Collier Photography

But this most recent season of motherhood has been more exhausting and more challenging than I was prepared for. In the nine plus years since I became a parent, I’ve been a proud breastfeeding mama. Not in an “I’m better than you if you don’t breastfeed” kind of way, but in an “I’m willing to work as hard as I can to make this work, because this is what I believe is best for my baby.” And it has been hard work.

So of course, I expected the same for our newest babe. After all, fifth babies come at least with the blessing of experience – every little thing isn’t new and confusing, as it was with my first.

photo credit: Brooke Collier Photography

In the beginning, it was easy. He nursed like a champ, and we had very few problems. We settled into a groove and everything was going well. Until it wasn’t.

At a well-check, we discovered he wasn’t gaining weight. Even though I thought he had been nursing so well, he wasn’t growing like he should have been.

This felt personal. I’m the one responsible for this little life. I’m his sole source of nourishment. I’m the reason he’s not growing.

It took awhile to find the cause of his lack of weight gain, and in the process, we began to supplement. I cried when my husband gave him his first bottle. Not because formula was going to ruin my baby, but because I felt like I had failed him. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do – what I was made to do.

Through my own persistence and refusing to simply believe that my milk wasn’t “enough” we discovered our little one had a significant lip and tongue tie that had been over looked for months. Once we began down the road of supplementing (which was necessary, even if it was heart wrenching), baby decided he didn’t want to nurse anymore. Who could blame him, really. He hadn’t been physically capable of getting all the milk he needed when nursing, so when we introduced a bottle, he didn’t have to work so hard to fill his little belly anymore.

So my life revolved around feedings – pumping, attempting to nurse only to be met with screams and tears – his and mine, and bottle feeding. I felt like all I did was feed and pump, feed and pump.

My free moments were few and far between. When the baby was sleeping, I was pumping and homeschooling and trying to keep up with the daily tasks of mothering a small army of children. I was spending every second of the day – and throughout the night – caring for a child. I put all other things on the back burner – sewing, exercising, self-care. It was a hard and difficult season.

But because this was my fifth baby and not my first, I knew that it was just that – a season. Sometimes I would pump in my sewing room and look at my stacks of fabric, and my mind would fill with ideas for what to sew next. I would spot the half finished projects sitting on my sewing table, and wonder how long it would be before I could get to them. And then I would remind myself that it wasn’t always like this – and one day, it would get better. I would dust off my sewing machine and we’d pick back up like the old friends we are. This season was hard, but it wasn’t going to last forever.

About a month ago, I chose to stop pumping. Instead of feeling guilty for not nursing a full year or more like I had with my other kiddos, I knew that it was the right choice for me. I needed to step out of that hard season and create a little more margin in my days. My milk supply had been dwindling, and I knew that my body and my soul needed some restoration.

I’ve since returned to my trusty sewing machine and finished projects that I had begun months ago. My brain made space to create something new. I still have days or weeks where my sewing machine sits untouched. The dishes pile up and must be washed. The baby learns to crawl, gets into everything he shouldn’t, and suddenly I’m trading sleepy snuggles for chasing him around the house. Summer comes and we spend hours at the park.

Motherhood always brings the unexpected: joys, tears, adventures, and challenges. But I always come back to sewing, even if it comes in 15 minute increments, because this is my self-care. When life throws something at you that you weren’t expecting, the small moments of taking care of yourself become even more important. I know that if I don’t take care of myself, there’s no way I can take care of these littles of mine. When the season changes, I’ll have a renewed appreciation for an uninterrupted hour spent with my sewing machine. Here in this season of sleepless nights and countless bottle feedings, though, I’m okay with slow sewing with a side of baby snuggles.

Thanks, Jodi, for inviting me to be a part of the Ease Into Motherhood series.