Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

I like spending time doing things I’m not very good at. Apparently.

I like cooking. But what I really like is looking at pictures in cookery books and imagining cooking them. It seems to be the same with sewing. I like looking at pictures of things I could sew, and imagining how nice it would be to have sewn it, without actually putting the hard work in.  Imagining sewing something lovely is more satisfying than spending lots of time and money on a sewing project and ending up with something less-than-lovely.

I’ve also discovered the joy of buying downloadable patterns.  Find a picture of something you like, enter your Paypal details and in seconds a pattern arrives in your inbox.  Instant gratification at its best! (Followed, of course by the delayed ungratification of making something wonky and badly-fitting).  However, there are a few issues.  Firstly, after downloading the pattern yesterday I discovered my printer had run out of cyan ink. Despite repeated pleadings, it wouldn’t print out a pattern in black-and-white because it had no blue.  Whatever.  So I walked into town, eating into precious sewing time, and visited three different shops before finding somewhere that sells my printer’s cartridges.

So. I got home, had some lunch and then printed out the pattern.  This one is fairly easy because it’s only 4 pages of patterns. Some run to 32 pages or more.  Once all the pieces are cut out, you stick them all together, the different parts being matched up with stars and circles and squares. This is quite fun. Except (and here’s the second problem) I can’t cut straight and I can’t stick straight.  So it was challenging trying to fit the ‘straight’ edge of the pattern piece against the straight edge of the folded material.  In the end I lined the top and bottom of the piece against the edge and hoped for the best.  The instructions which came with it were pretty straightforward (so far) and I’m pleased with it.

But it’s quite addictive. I have found loads of patterns for cute little things to sew for girls.  And bags. Lots of bags. I don’t really use bags, but I like the idea of sewing bags.  There are quite a few sites which offer free patterns, or patterns which can be downloaded for a few dollars.  I linked to a list of free patterns for dresses for girls here, I really like Made By Rae and MADE (apparently the key to having a successful sewing blog/business is having ‘made’ in your title. Fortunately I am about being awesome rather than successful sewing) but I’d quite like to have a go at making some clothes for myself.  So, do you use downloadable patterns? Any recommendations for other sites where I can satisfy my pattern-habit?

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Don’t worry, Small Girl, there aren’t any tigers!

I’ve been having trouble sleeping recently. This is not my fault.  For the past week or so, Small Girl has been waking up at 11 pm, 1 am, 3 am and then on and off until around 6 am, needing to be fed back to sleep. This can take twenty minutes.  So I’ve been surviving on two or three hours’ sleep.  This is roughly as bad as it sounds. Or possibly worse.

We’re still breastfeeding and we’re still co-sleeping – you might remember that I love co-sleeping so much that I bought a bed specifically with that in mind. But I decided to try sleeping in separate rooms, to see if she would sleep better.  It made me sad, but on Monday night I made my way up to the spare bed in the attic and settled down for the night.

I don’t like sleeping in the attic.  It’s too dark. And it feels… spidery.  There’s a hole in the skirting board underneath the bed which I’m sure has spiders in it, and the eaves are boarded up and are almost certainly harbouring spiders. However, the bed is very comfortable and I did sleep – Small Girl woke around 1-ish and then at 5, and when I resettled her at 5 she put her arm out just to check I was still there, so I decided to get back into bed with her (one night in the spare room and already I’m talking about getting back into bed with her, rather than the other way round…). And when I got up I felt amazing – clearly I only need three hours’ sleep to feel invincible.

So last night I tried the spare bed again. Except every time I tried to put her down she cried and was hard to settle, and she was reaching for me, as if she didn’t want to be left. So I ended up sleeping in bed with her again. And she cried when I tried to put her in her cot, cried when I tried to put her on the bed, and every time there was a little arm reaching out for me, a little hand just checking that I wasn’t leaving her. And this morning I felt knackered again.

There’s a theory that babies have an innate need to sleep with their parents – just like we have an innate fear of the dark and of heights and of scuttly things, babies have an innate need to know that their parents are around to protect them from tigers (there’s a lovely cartoon to illustrate this but googling ‘tiger baby co-sleeping cartoon’ didn’t find it for me). And I am concerned that one night on her own has made Small Girl insecure.

(Actually, at the moment Big Girl is imagining that our house is over-run by invisible dinosaurs, lions and dogs and I have to say, “no thank you, dinosaur, go away”. So maybe Small Girl should be worried).

But there’s also a strong argument to be made that for everyone’s sake I need to sleep: I need to be doing well at work, particularly just now; and I need to not be grumpy; and I need to be happy and well-rested and enjoy being with my children.  And she will get used to it. But I want Small Girl to know that she is safe and secure and loved all the time.

I don’t think I actually want anyone to tell me what to do. I’ve heard all the arguments for both sides, and it’s a decision I have to make, by myself. And it will be ok. I’m actually thinking about seeing how she sleeps in with her big sister. I think she might like it. But just now, I feel like I can’t make a choice which works for my family, and that makes me sad.

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Hey, it may be wonky and too small, but at least I made something.

I have finally done some more sewing, as I said I would. I used this tutorial to make this dress for Small Girl:

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It isn’t very good.  The material around the armholes is ruched up badly and the hem is wonky. And I’m fairly sure it won’t actually fit her, so I’ll try to give it to someone with a smaller baby who will have to pretend to be delighted.  I also love how suitable the colour is for a toddler, and that the style and fabric is so suitable for autumn in the UK.

But, nevertheless, I have made something. And I’ve learnt a few things.  Firstly, I like sewing. I don’t like making patterns.  Easy enough, I’ll stop making things where you have to draw your own pattern, which may lead to fewer wonky hems.  I’ve also realised that I’m not very good at cutting out – the two halves of the dress weren’t actually the same size, even though they were cut with the same pattern. This is just because I’m slapdash. So next time, I’m going to try to take more care. It really is that simple.  And I remembered how much I enjoy sewing – the feel of something coming together, and having a finished item at the end.  I’m going to make the most of it, before my girls realise they don’t have to wear what I’ve made, that there’s a difference between ‘uneven’ and ‘asymmetric’ when it comes to hems. I don’t think I’ve got long.

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I like to fling myself wildly from one bad idea to another. This is my favourite so far.

If you thought trying to build flat-pack furniture at tea-time with two toddlers was a bad idea (as my best friend kindly commented, “it was a stupid idea and you brought it on yourself”. Or something; I wasn’t really listening), I may have surpassed it.

Tomorrow I’m at an NCT Volunteers Day at Warwick University. So tonight I’m staying in a Premier Inn. Yes, I’m in a hotel with two toddlers. I’m asking for disaster with children, outside the controlled environment of my own home.

So far this has involved me trying to unpack the bare essentials for bedtime, while Small Girl unpacks *everything* and flings it round the room; ringing reception to inform them that Big Girl has dropped a glass in the sink and smashed it; and trying to get Small Girl to sleep in the travel cot while simultaneously trying to stop Big Girl jumping on my bed, shouting ‘hello’ to Small Girl, and flushing the toilet. As we have an en-suite, Big Girl has been to the toilet three times this evening. Each time, she opens the door, flooding the room with light, and talks loudly to me, while I try to shush her, hoping to be firm without actually making her cry. This is a difficult balance to achieve at the best of times, and these are far from the best of times.

So I’m in a lovely hotel room, which feels like a luxury. Except the kettle, tv and lovely soft bed with reading lamp are all in the bedroom with a sleeping toddler and a not-sleeping toddler. So I am hiding in the bathroom, hoping not to lacerate my bum on any remaining shards of glass that Big Girl has distributed, reading a magazine, not even having a bath in case the sound of water wakes up Small Girl or bring Big Girl charging in to find out (loudly) what I’m doing. This is my sort of a Friday night. And no, of course I’m not jealous of the volunteers who haven’t brought children and are stopping on campus and drinking in the student bar…

We single parents, we know how to live.

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Note to self: don’t be so bloody stupid

There are days when I should not be trusted with toddlers. Or flatpack furniture. And definitely not both. Today was one of them.

So, I bought a new chair for Big Girl to sit on at the table. It’s not a high chair, but it’s a chair with a high seat. I started trying to put it together at 5.15 pm. Yes, tea-time. Big Girl wanted to sit on her new chair. And she wanted to help to make it. I didn’t want her to help but I said she could. I thought I’d get away with asking her to hold things. Small Girl wanted to help. I moved her away. She climbed back over me. I moved her away and sorted out all the bits and pieces and checked them off against the list. She climbed back. I decided to ignore her and look at pieces of chair. She rummaged in the bowl of screws and bits of plastic. I moved her away. She screamed at me. I looked in the bowl of bits. Where there had once been four big screws, there were now only three.

So we looked for the missing screw. Not in the bowl. Not on the floor. Not under the table. Not in the box that all the bits came out of. Not anywhere. So I sulked. I said, “well, we can’t make it now”, and “I don’t even know why I bothered”. That sort of thing. I put the bits back in the box. Big Girl cried. I searched inside Small Girl’s clothes and nappy to see if the screw was in there. Small Girl screamed some more and hit me in the face. I decided to give up and just give them some tea. Big Girl asked if she could have her new chair. I said that she couldn’t. She said she wanted pasta. I gave her a Marmite sandwich. She cried and said she didn’t want to eat it. We all ate Marmite sandwiches.

So I told Big Girl I would go back to Ikea and get a replacement screw and make the chair tomorrow. I looked in the instructions to find out which screw I needed. I saw, under a picture of the screw, the number 3. There should only be three screws.

What I have learnt from this is (a) that flat-pack furniture and toddlers don’t mix and (b) that sometimes I should listen to my gut instinct rather than my toddler.

So here’s what you do when you aren’t sure whether to do something or not. Imagine someone else is telling you that they are planning to do what you are thinking about. A friend, perhaps, rather than someone you would hire ninja assassins to kill if you just thought you would get away with it. Imagine what advice you would give them. And then, for the love of God, follow that advice.

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My children are about to become buried in a shower of hastily-constructed dresses

This weekend has been a good one.  I’ve been on my first ever stag do for a friend at work, which was incredibly civilised – two pints of cider and a curry and lots of good conversation.  And I went to a sewing workshop to learn how to do clothes alterations – take up hems and put in darts.  I wanted to get some new sewing skills, meet some new people and get a little bit inspired to do some sewing again.

I know I said I was going to get sewing again. I haven’t. Well, I half made a little cat keyring. But only half.  I’m just not feeling inspired.  But at the workshop there was a woman with small children, and she said she likes making dresses for her children because they’re quick.  And Big Girl *loves* dresses at the moment.  She certainly doesn’t get her desire to wear pretty dresses from me.  But I’ve decided to try some dressmaking.  I googled “toddler girl dress free pattern” and found this – 25 free dress tutorials for babies and toddlers!

Despite my complete lack of girlyness (although I am very occasionally seen in a skirt and only really drink pink drinks) I am very excited.  I love the Andy Warhol dress – I want to make that for Small Girl. And I want to make the 2-minute t-shirt dress, although that involves somehow getting elastic into my sewing machine.  I’m also a bit scared by the thought of working out how to download a pattern, print it off and turn it into a real pattern.  But I’m going to head off to ebay to look at fabric…  Watch this space!

(No, really.  I promise.  Watch this space)

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All parents need a zombie survival plan

When pregnant with Small Girl, I spent a lot of time formulating plans for dealing with a zombie outbreak. I would get Big Girl (probably just ‘Girl’ then, as there was no-one to be big in comparison to) and I’d take her into the attic and we’d climb through the velux window onto the roof. And then we’d… Well, we’d be stuck on the roof. We could try jumping down into one of the single-storey extensions but that could be dangerous, and then what would we do? Ok, maybe we’d just run for it. Would I carry her or put her in the pram? Carrying her would be tiring and unwieldy, but at least she’d be close. What if the pram got stuck and I had to try to unstrap her? That would take time. What if I was too scared and abandoned her?

And that’s the crux of the matter. Would I abandon my baby to the zombie hordes in order to save myself? When it really, really comes down to it, would I be a good enough parent?

Sadly, at Greenbelt I may have discovered the answer. And I discovered it in the play tent – a massive tent full of sandpits and painting and colouring and toy kitchens and cars and books and sofas, and outside a picket-fenced area with slides, trampolines and ride-on toys. Big Girl loved it.

And here’s my confession: on Saturday afternoon, the afternoon of flash-floods and downpours, Big Girl was playing in a car and Small Girl was sleeping in the pram, and it started to rain. I ran for my coat. The rain became torrential and I still chose to put my coat on over rescuing Big Girl from the Little Tikes Coupe.

What might have happened was that I started going for my coat when the rain was light and so finished what I was doing. Or you could argue that, like putting on your oxygen mask in a plane crash, I was making sure I was dry in order to be able to look after my children. Big Girl was in head-to-toe pink waterproofs, after all. But there was a moment where I knew she would be scared of the rain thundering down on the roof of her car, of me running for the tent, and I did it anyway. I made the choice to leave her to the zombies.

Am I a particularly selfish parent, or does everyone have their zombie moment?

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