Today’s post is a double whammy: I’m going to talk about easing into motherhood as a sewist and, also, about the much-loved Colette Moneta!
I recently stumbled across this blog post from Jodi of Sew Fearless (in collaboration with Monserratt of Mexican Pink and Erin of Seamstress Erin designs), calling for a discussion this July about experiences of life as both a mother and sewist. I’m the mother of one little 2-year old monster. The way I experience sewing (like all aspects of my life) has been changed forever since he came along. So a celebration and discussion of how we #easeintomotherhood resonated with my sewing experience.
At the same time, I don’t feel remotely qualified to muse about my thoughts on sewing, without also showing you something useful. So, I thought that I would also showcase what is, hands-down, the most frequently sewn pattern in my wardrobe – Colette’s Moneta. My experience of motherhood as a sewist is inextricably linked to this pattern!! (So if you are here more for Moneta than for the motherhood thing, feel free to scroll straight down below!)
Sewing machine as a lifeline
I have to confess that the massive body changes and general exhaustion of pregnancy meant that I didn’t touch my sewing machine during pregnancy. I found out I was pregnant during during a trip to Paris. Giddy with excitement, I immediately stockpiled all kinds of lovely, soft, stretchy jerseys. I had visions of a perfect maternity capsule wardrobe. In the end, I didn’t sew a single maternity item!
This was a first, important lesson sparked by pending motherhood: perfection is no longer the objective – aim smaller!
After my son was born, I dusted off my sewing machine and it became an integral component of what I like to think of as my road back to normalcy. I spent many an hour hunched over my machine with his sleeping body attached to me in a sling. The sewing machine was his earliest form of white noise…
Moneta and friends …
When my son was born, the most immediate need that I hadn’t thought about in advance was the fact that I had no front-opening clothes suitable for breast feeding. Enter Colette Ceylon, Seamwork Adelaide (how could I resist a pattern named after my home town!) and Papercut Patterns YoYo dress!
But my real wardrobe staple during this time was Colette’s Moneta. I have made Moneta at least 6 times. It is just so simple to make. And oh sew comfortable …
And was ever a better garment invented for travelling and long-haul flights?
But, I digress…
Moneta also makes a fantastic dress for new mothers. It’s perfect for when you need to be active enough to do all the heavy lifting a little one seems to require, but still want to attempt to give an impression to the outside world that you’re not quite as frumpy and falling-apart at the seams as you feel.
Moneta for Nursing
By adapting the technique used in this blog post by SewZo, I created a nursing hack of Moneta, which saw me solidly through the first couple of years of my son’s life (it took him a while to let go of the whole breastfeeding thing…)
My series of Nursing Monetas were about being able to create a little something (quickly and easily) which simultaneously made me feel connected to my son, but also like an independent human being. It was also about having a project that gave me something I could control (well, in small 15 minute bursts!) while my entire world was transforming around me. Plus, wearing Moneta encouraged me to change out of my pyjamas each day. Maybe to even go for a quick stroll outside …
One of my nursing Monetas (which I unfortunately don’t have a good photo of!) was hands-down my most worn item of clothing ever. It was a simple black and white Breton stripe. I wore it until my son’s constant clawing for milk or cuddles distorted its elastic nursing flap and neckline totally out of proportion. Then I wore it backwards, with a jacket over the top, for a few more months. I couldn’t bear to throw it away…
More than meets the eye
Sewing is about more than just pretty dresses.
It is about being complete people by spending time with our creative sides. It is about indulging in ourselves. These things have only become even more important to my well-being (and therefore my son’s well-being) since he was born.
With the massive time squeeze placed upon us all by motherhood, we have to give up so much. I have accepted that I no longer have time to go to the gym in the evenings. Or to do Saturday morning yoga classes. Or to swim laps at the pool. Or to watch films at the cinema. But sewing was where I drew the line. Where a little space for selfish “me-time” still has to be carved out.
I’ll take what I can get…
Whereas I once dreamed of lazy sewing weekends, I now desperately relish a couple of sewing hours after he has gone to sleep. And, of course, more so than ever, sewing time means less time with my wonderful other half, who has been equally exhausted by Papahood …
It’s hard to find the balance and, yes, on some days, sewing has to give.
But not every day.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing…
During those early months of my son’s life, there were definitely some sewing-related challenges. Not surprising, since I was simultaneously rediscovering myself as a sewist and (vastly more challenging) trying to discover myself as a mother.
The first time I decided to sew something after his birth, I bundled my fed, calm and dozing little monster into a sling and walked into town for fabric. In the course of trying to buy something while balancing him, I momentarily placed my (clean) purse on the cutting table. The sales assistant yelled at me for doing so and I burst into tears. Those post-partum hormones play havoc with our emotional responses, right?
I walked out the store and it took me a while to work up the courage to return.
My first post-pregnancy makes ended up being with online fabric purchases – much more manageable in my emotional state!
And I also have to confess that my first post-partum sewing projects did not tend to be the complicated kind. This is why I had such a Moneta moment. Most of my Monetas from this time period were without collars. Fold and zig-zag was about the most I could handle! If it was all too much, I just left the sleeves and hem unfinished.
Moneta is a great pattern for being kind to yourself.
Kindness and sewing do go hand-in-hand, right?
For me, this is really the key: being kind to ourselves.
If you want to sew, sew. Figure out a way with your schedule and partner and other commitments, to squeeze a little bit of it back into your life. It won’t be the same as before, but it will actually feel even more precious.
If you don’t want to sew, don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with you. Sewing is a part of you. It will come back when you and your body are ready.
The other unexpected change in my sewing life is that it has actually made me a better sewist. Since time is even more precious than before, mistakes are even more costly. I take more care. Time wasted unpicking or having to scrap a project is heart-breaking in a way that I never fully appreciated before!
I just don’t have the time to get it wrong anymore…
My Moneta roundup
I must confess that, after having lived in Monetas for the best part of my son’s first year, it has been a little while since I’ve sewn a new one up. But since this pattern is one that has meant so much to me, I would be amiss not to take this chance to share a few of my favourites.
Here is the first ever Moneta I made, still going strong. I love a good nautical theme.
I especially love the Peter Pan collar.
But, I also love the bow collar … Still undecided which one is ultimately my favourite!
I have sewn up all the collars in the free Moneta extras pack except for the scalloped collar. I feel like they make a big difference in the finish and feel of the dress. They also help stop the neckline from stretching out over time. This has been a problem for me when I’ve sewn up Moneta in bargain-basement jersey. For the record, when I sew with high-quality, thick jerseys, my Monetas are amongst the hardiest items I’ve ever sewn.
Construction-wise, you can see that on a couple of my Monetas, the elastic in the waistband has sagged a bit with time. I am not usually able to source clear elastic over here, so I sew them with regular elastic. When I have been able to get my hands on clear elastic, as the pattern calls for, the waistbands withstand the test of time much better.
Once, whenI found that my local fabric store had clear elastic in stock, I bought everything that they had and excitedly asked them if they could please re-stock it. They said No because I’m the only customer who ever asks for it. They weren’t being rude – just very honest and direct – typically Dutch traits!
I unfortunately don’t have photos of all my Monetas to share. Some I have slowly gotten rid of because they were made with fabrics that were just too bright and don’t really speak to me anymore.
Another died a rapid death shortly after construction. I made myself a black Moneta, but with a white collar and some white bands on the sleeve. It looked precisely like a French-maid costume, minus the apron! Oops!! My husband kind of liked it but, even for him, a nursing French-maid was just a bit confusing! At least I can blame post-baby exhaustion for that particular lack of sound judgement!
But Mother didn’t have to do it all on her own…
So, in sum, Mother wore Moneta, for quite a long while. Now she wears all kinds of other dresses too …
And it’s all ok …
We need to have the space and support to find our own way back to sewing. To resume our creative journeys in the way that’s right for us.
Thanks for the #easeintomotherhood initiative! It has been a really useful exercise to stop and think about how I combine the sewing and Mama facets of my life. Even more importantly, it is inspiring to know that there are so many others out there struggling (and succeeding) with the same challenges…