Easing into Motherhood: One Stitch at a Time

I feel that I could write a chapter on the influence of sewing and motherhood on my life. I hope I can do this topic justice in one blog post.

Momming it Up with my Crew – everyone except The Boy in Mama-Made

I’m honored to have been invited to contribute to the #EaseIntoMotherhood series hosted by Jodi, Erin, and Monserrat. Here is a collection of my thoughts as a mother who sews.

The following testimonial will include the role sewing has played in enhancing my personal life and happiness over the past ten years. It does not include the tremendous support I have received from my husband, our extended families, our faith, and our community in my parenting journey. 

Our wedding day: June 2006.

You see, I have been a mother for most of my adult life. I met my husband in college, got engaged my junior year, and we married a few weeks after graduation. I gave birth to our honeymoon baby 9 months later.

On top of the roof of the North American College in Rome Thanksgiving 2006 when I was almost 6 months pregnant.

I do have a few memories of sewing as a child but not frequently enough that I feel that motherhood actually changed my relationship with sewing. If anything, sewing changed my relationship with motherhood.

I still remember the first birthday I had after we got married. In 2007, my husband very proudly walked in with a HUGE box, a birthday gift from my parents. I was nursing our brand new baby and overwhelmed by the sight of my first “real” sewing machine. I have absolutely no memory of this, but my husband swears that at some point between bouts of morning sickness I mentioned wanting to learn to sew. He suggested a sewing machine to my parents.  Even though I had very happy memories of watching my mother sew her own clothes, learning to do it myself honestly stressed me out. When my family came out for our firstborn’s baptism, my mother helped me thread the machine and we bought some fabric at our small town discount store. It wasn’t love at first sight.  While I enjoyed making a few simple things, the idea of choosing a project, buying fabric, and figuring out how to use my new equipment each time was exhausting.

I had another baby 17.5 months later. This is basically what my entire life looked like at this point:

While the first six months of having 2 under 2 were hard,  we found a routine where I had 2-3 hours in the afternoon where both children were sleeping. It was then that I started to take my machine out of the closet more often to make burp cloths, rag quilts, simple skirts, and aprons. When we moved into our “forever home” in 2010 with the plan of growing our family, I suddenly had a dedicated space for my sewing machine. No more boxing up my projects to free up the dinner table. I could sew in a way that my little ones allowed and just shut the door on my projects when I needed to. I made party dresses, tiered skirts for Polish dance practice, and had a few misadventures with making purses. Thank goodness I’m figuring that out now.

One of my first sews with a real paper pattern. And first time doing elastic shirring. I loved having my own little space to sew.

 

I knew at some point in blogging about my creative endeavors I would need to write these words simply because they have shaped who I am as an artist:

In January 2011, I miscarried a little boy named Peter. 

In July, I suffered a second very early miscarriage. We named him Adrian.  I was in a very real fog of grief. I kept the door shut to the nursery in our brand new house and instead used it for storage. It was so hard to focus on the joy of the children I did have when my heart longed for more. Losing Peter was the first time in my life where no matter how hard I tried I didn’t get what I wanted. 

I think of my missing children every day. It’s like every family picture is incomplete this side of heaven. I have been the first phone call for friends going through this fog. I can promise that one day “I lost you” won’t be the first thought that creeps up along the lump in the back of your throat.

Even now, six years later, my lost babies (along with my living children) are the inspiration for a long-term quilting project I’m working on. I celebrate the lasting imprint the experience has had on my life – and how it has shaped my relationship with the rest of my children.

A block from the #SewcialBee Sampler Hosted by Sharon Holland Designs and Maureen Cracknell. I have named this quilt “Heaven’s Playground.”

Six years ago, sewing became a healing therapy for me as I balanced all of these new emotions.  I started to be more adventurous and discovered sewing blogs and PDF patterns for inspiration and sewing education. One of my first adventures (and how I first connected with Jodi, one of the hosts of #EaseintoMotherhood) was the Pajama Eater pattern!

My daughters were growing quickly and they were enthusiastic recipients of my projects. I tried to embrace more complicated projects for the special occasions in our lives.

I made these dresses for them to wear to my nephew’s baptism. Shortly after this picture was taken I was surprised to find out I was pregnant again!

When I found out I was pregnant again I was diagnosed with a common hormone deficiency. I had frequent labs and injections twice a week to make sure my hormone levels would support a pregnancy. After each milestone week, I would make him small items for his layette. I had a few periods of spotting and modified bedrest and I would spend hours taking my mind of my worry by watching sewing videos on YouTube and reading sewing blogs.

Almost a year to the day after our second miscarriage, we delivered our first living son – an adorably large, fussy, and hungry boy who never slept. I found that he loved to sleep in his Rock and Play while the dryer hummed next to him on one side and my sewing machine whirred on the other. I may not have been sleeping but at least he was.

When I was pregnant with my 4th baby (now youngest), I had let go of so much of the fear that haunted me during my pregnancy and postpartum with my son. I still had the same medical concerns, but I allowed myself the anxiety-relief of light and simple sewing when I was pregnant with her. She rescued my heart from fear just by being herself.

I refer to her as my bonus baby – not because she was a surprise – she wasn’t, really. Or because she’s a lot younger than her brother (only 23 months actually). She’s my bonus because I didn’t know how much I needed her.

In her newborn and infant days, I did hit the point where it was too hard to take four kids out of the house or organize for a babysitter for all of them so I could have some “me-time.” I found that I could much easier meet that need by sewing during naptime. When she was a newborn, I made her little hats and mitts and at that point, I realized there were hundreds of projects that could be made quickly without frustrating me. I also overcame my fear of sewing with knits through these simple projects.

A romper I made for her baptism party.

It seems that in the months following her birth, several of the initial challenges of sewing (reading patterns, working with knits, blending sizes) just began to click for me. It also coincided with the rapid growth of my older daughters who were steadily outpacing the height that RTW clothes are drafted for in their chest and waist measurements.

I’ve reached a beautiful point where I can say that I need to sew and my family needs  me to sew. I still struggle to find a good balance on the amount of time I spend on my sewing and blogging, but overall I think my family is grateful that I have spent as much time as I have on this skill.

My daughters are currently wearing a size 7 width and 12 height in their handmade clothing. And growing taller everyday!

I think that sewing has been such an important part of my life as I try to balance it all as a mother. Here are 10 things I’ve learned that apply both to motherhood and sewing:

  1. It gets easier. Whether you have 1 child or 10, you won’t keep making the same mistakes.
  2. Patience. Figuring out how to line up plaids utilizes the same skill set that keeps you from screaming when your 2 -year -old is trying to put his shoes on the wrong feet.
  3. Safely store sharp objects – even from yourself. (Raise your hand if you sliced yourself with your rotary cutter yet…. just me?)
  4. You don’t have to know it all at once. Don’t worry about potty-training when you’re still figuring out how to get a good latch.
  5. Invest in your kids, and invest in your hobby.  My children are of course the most important to me. When I am working on a project, I am taking from a well with a limited supply. I choose my projects wisely. I don’t have time to work on things I am not passionate about.
  6. Organization – spend more time doing and less time looking for things.
  7. Most people don’t notice your little mistakes. Whether it’s a sewing mistake or you forget the favorite snack for your kid, you won’t be remembered as a big failure.
  8. Evolve. It is okay to change how you parent over time. The battles I chose as a first time mom are different than the battles I pick now. Similarly, my interests in sewing have evolved.
  9. Be confident in what you do. Society sends us a lot of messages about how we should parent. The sewing world is no different. There have been times both in parenting and in sewing that I’ve tried to dive down rabbit holes to do what others thought I should do. I’m always happiest when I follow my heart and mind in sewing.
  10. There is no time like the present. Our kids will not be this age forever. While sewing will be there long after my kids leave the nest, I also remind myself that I should take risks to expand my skill set now.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read through my thoughts on motherhood and sewing. I want to extend a special thanks to the hosts Jodi, Erin, and Monserrat, as well as to the other contributors. Make sure you search #EaseIntoMotherhood throughout July to hear more stories. Share yours with me below!

15 COMMENTS

  1. Sherri | 12th Jul 17

    You have a gift and you are a gift. I speak of your gift of not just sewing, but using your words to touch others. And I’m glad I read this because I can see some similar struggles with the balance of sewing and parenting. I feel a bit like I have company in that. As always, all the best in everything you do, Eleri. I consider it a huge privilege to have met you even if it’s never been face to face.

  2. Felicia | 12th Jul 17

    Thank you for being so real. Love you, friend!

  3. Cassy | 13th Jul 17

    Such a great read…. maybe one day I’ll share a little about my journey too. It’s great to just document it.

    I love your tips and I should probably do a few of them. Getting organized needs to happen!

  4. Diane | 13th Jul 17

    A lovely family and lovely thoughts on them and sewing.

  5. Kathleen Kelley | 13th Jul 17

    Just beautiful!

  6. Melissa | 13th Jul 17

    This is a beautiful piece; you are an amazing example and inspiration – both as a mother and a seamstress. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  7. Mary | 13th Jul 17

    wow, love the pictures. That first one of the five of you is just photo-perfect.

    • MadebyEleri | 17th Jul 17

      Thanks, Mary <3

  8. Donna | 14th Jul 17

    Wow! Beautiful story and beautiful family!

    • MadebyEleri | 17th Jul 17

      Thank you, Donna!

  9. Kasey | 14th Jul 17

    What a truly beautiful testimony Eleri! I love seeing your growth through this! you have an amazing family and have been given some amazing gifts that you are using wisely! i love learning from you!

    • MadebyEleri | 17th Jul 17

      Thank you my friend!

  10. Ease Into Motherhood Week 1 Summary | 16th Jul 17

    […] Eleri from The Sew and Tell Project shares how sewing played a role in a turning point of her mothering. She also lists 10 things she learned that apply to both motherhood and sewing. […]

  11. Emily | 16th Jul 17

    How inspiring! Thanks for sharing! I really dove into sewing after having my first miscarriage. It was healing to create something even if my body wouldn’t.

    • MadebyEleri | 17th Jul 17

      I identify with this 100%! I’m so sorry for your loss.

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