crafting wellness

body art and handmade bathing suits

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I've come to think of my body as an artistic canvas. I get to drape it with fluid fabric of any colors of my choosing, I get to form that fabric into shapes that I find interesting, flattering, and comfortable. I recently expanded the canvas to include tattoos that hold deep emotional meaning as well as aesthetic intrigue.

 

Unlike canvas, however, the body is not only subject to the artist's vision and direct hand- it is the work of life itself. There are lines on my body that came about through my own creative agency, and there are lines and contours that are written by growing babies, painful accidents, and joy-filled meals. There are crevices etched by worry, and wrinkles bearing witness to hysterical laughter. We all move through life with a body that is partially our own making, and partially at the whim of time and circumstance. My body is a visual artist in its own right – a storyteller – of all I have lived through. Through making my own clothes, I intend to honor both my artistic agency and lack thereof when it comes to living with this ephemeral body of mine.

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I have long admired the work of photographer Jade Beall, and last year, I had the honor of having a photo shoot with my friend Jessi Blakely, as part of the process of opening to the beauty of my body's story. The intent was not purely about my own body acceptance, but to be a strong example to my son, Lachlan, who has some storied lines of his own – the first of which he acquired two days after birth. Three open heart surgeries and countless chest tubes later, a mere glance at his chest shouts of his story, his sorrow, his pain, and his strength. I want him to know that his scars are beautiful, and so I will embrace mine as well.

After the photo shoot, I was on my way to peace with sharing my body with life's paintbrush, but I still had a hurdle to cross: swimwear.

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Intellectually, I believe that a bikini body is a body you put a bikini on. Emotionally, I always remember the times I overheard the words “really bad stretch marks." I remember the time I wore a bikini and I overheard a child asking a parent what was wrong with my belly. In front of my kids, I unabashedly state that my squishy skin is a testament to my wondrous ability to grow their very selves and carry them each around for nine months. I feel an obligation to show all the little kids that stretch marks are normal, but I am not made of steel. No advertisements feature women with stretch marks. If you have them, you're expected to cover them up. Unfortunately for me and my short torso, that meant ill-fitting one pieces that made me feel matronly and didn't help me have any artistic agency in my collaboration with the tattoos that life etched on my body.

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I never thought sewing myself a Sophie Swimsuit would bring me into harmony with my body, but it has been transformative. The suit's design has helped me find a happy medium between feeling completely exposed to scrutiny and being a representative of love and acceptance of a mother's capacity to stretch and grow. The bikini bottoms cover most of my stretched-out skin, but I am happy to have a nice bit peeking out over the top. I reduced the rise of the bottoms just for that reason, and omitted the waist elastic so that my belly skin doesn't squish out over a tighter waistband. It's like putting on yoga pants instead of an elastic-waist pair. Big difference in comfort.

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The details: My measurements are 29” underbust, 34.5” full bust, 29” waist, and 37” hip. I chose to make a size 4 top with a size 5 cup. In the future I will enlarge the cup slightly, as you can see that my measurements are 1/2” more than 5” underbust/full bust difference than recommended for a size 5 cup. I cut out a size 8 bottom.

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The fabric is a denim lookalike swimwear spandex from The Fabric Fairy. I have a multi-colored version in my head, but this suit is an elegant (very) wearable muslin.

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I can jump in this thing. Play with my kids. Bend over. All while feeling confident, secure, elegant, and creative. No store-bought swimwear can make you feel like that. Thank you, Heather, for being an agent of self-love. You can do it, too. It's not too hard – just one seam after another. #sewingisselfcare


the stasia dress pattern is here - sew yourself some secret pajamas!

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A knit dress that feels like wearing secret pajamas. Optional pockets. Multiple sleeve and length options. A close-fitting tee perfect for layering. A pattern-hacker's canvas. Tons of tips for sewing with knits. And a lot of love - wrapped up into one amazing pattern!

Find your PDF pattern here for 20% off with coupon code: STASIALAUNCH.

Friends, this dress is so close to my heart.  Many of you know that I was designing patterns and very active in the sewing blogger community before we learned that my second son, Lachlan, was to be born with a very serious heart defect. I kind of disappeared to the world as we went through three open-heart surgeries, cardiac arrest, and years of physical and emotional recovery. I thought my love of design and fashion was only part of my life "before the diagnosis." I dug in to this intense phase of motherhood, stopped creating regularly, started wearing yoga pants every day, threw my hair into a hat. I just sort of faded into motherhood. 

At the beginning of 2017, I happened upon Stasia Savasuk via Instagram, and I was most intrigued by this lovely woman who, despite having lived through the hell of fearing for the future of her sweet child, DID NOT DISAPPEAR. She did not turn off her artful expression, she did not hunker down in the emotional fog and keep her sparkling face from peeking above the clouds. She was showing up despite it all. And all of a sudden, just like that, I felt my OWN creativity start to dislodge from its corner ... freed to once again follow its flow and pursue its passions. This stuff wasn't superficial or selfish! And, in seeing me enlivened by work that I love, my children are learning about art, persistence, and how to be an entrepreneur. All because I found my creative fire again in Stasia's Style School. My tip for you: let your clothing become your art, and you will feel the creative ripple pulse through the rest of your life, as well. 

With the real Stasia as my muse, I started working on the Stasia Dress pattern. My goal was to create a dress that was easy to sew, infinitely customizable, incredibly comfortable to wear, and that provided the wearer with a feeling of her own POWER, FREEDOM, and BEAUTY. This is my wish for you, and the Stasia Dress is my gift to you.

Get your sewing machine humming, and find let your inner beauty shine through to the outside with the Stasia Dress.


crafting guilt

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Growing up, it was understood that my dad would spend a certain amount of time in front of the television during football season. My mom supported it (he needed to relax after busy work days). The same football ritual was upheld and supported by countless females in the family. The women tended to household responsibilities and children while the men relaxed.

I'm not writing to pass judgment on sports. As my mom recognized, it is a valid way to wash away the worries of the world and engage in some fun. What I'm wondering is, does society bestow upon me, a mother of young children, the same unquestioned right to relax? Because I've noticed something lately, especially when I pick up my knitting project. It's a feeling of guilt. A “bad mom, bad housekeeper, selfish artist” kind of feeling. And I guarantee that my darling dad never felt that when he sat down to watch a game.

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This feeling is surprising to me, given that I have a very supportive partner. He willingly provides me time to knit and sew. Sewing time, for me, can be filed under the “getting stuff done for my small business” category. Knitting, though, is pure diversion. All that time I spent knitting my Find Your Fade Shawl? He jokingly said it best himself: “Each of those stitches is made possible by my Dad Skills.” Unquestionably, he has some mad Dad Skills, but I noticed a shift in my own self-consciousness when he said it. Was I overly depending on him for my leisure time? What do my extended family members think about a mother who sits down to knit an unnecessary garment? (Why would she do that when there's Target?) On and on went the grumbling, negative voice in my head.

When my partner read this, he said, “I feel the same guilt when I play the banjo.” Perhaps the gender-specific hobby guilt is shifting with the times, but it still doesn't erase the feeling that we, particularly as parents, should always be doing something else. Something immediately productive.

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As I've written before, I feel like I have a healthy relationship with my (very short) to-make list. I don't resent my children because they keep me from obsessively making. I find the process of slowly making things to be meditative and fulfilling – when I can get over that feeling that I should be making a grand dinner/doing the laundry/reading to the kids/putting together some sort of amazing science experiment. I recognize this feeling of guilt is a construct of my own mind, helped along by societal expectations. And so, I've started considering the following, in order to access the mindful, relaxed state that I seek when I craft:

  1. Knitting and sewing are my Artist's Way. Just because I am not writing in a journal or painting, it doesn't mean that what I do is not an artistic practice. I should speak of it as such – to my children, to my extended family, and to my friends. Fiber art is a productive and worthy form of artistic expression. It is good for me to show my passion to my children, and for them to see me as a real artist (even though I don't make a penny from my knitting.)

  2. A regular knitting/creating routine is in order. Just like Monday night football, I think it would be helpful for me and my family to know what to expect in my artistic practice. Perhaps I should sit down with my coffee and yarn for a predictable 30 minutes each morning? Maybe a weekend morning sewing session? I am also going to try putting on an audio book that we all enjoy while I work with my hands. I suspect that my eight year-old will also pick up his own knitting project while we listen and knit.

  3. Communicate that handwork is also a spiritual practice. Taking time to breathe, clear my thoughts, and enter the present moment with my craft ultimately helps me be a more present mother. A mother who is comfortable with slowing down, ripping out stitches, starting over again, and being at peace with the process. Because truly, that's the heart of the problem. Our society prioritizes “doing” over “being.” I have no problem “doing.” Most people don't. I can always use more practice just “being,” and my fiber art can help with that.

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“Feelings about the past and the future pass through our knitting consistently. Thoughts can be neatly filed away into the fabric, enabling the present to be less cluttered and free for more mindful knitting. Let your processed thoughts flow with the yarn into the knitting. As your rows build up, let your stories of the past and future leave the present, and find a suitable place to rest within the knitting. As the stories are knitted away, notice the sentiment behind them and, with a clear head, continue to form useful, beautiful fabric. Woes will start to evaporate into your knitting rather than reside in your body. As you knit more rows, continue to use this simple filing system, until you feel you have fully entered your peaceful, sacred knitting space, and are free of any niggling fears.”

Rachael Matthews - The Mindfulness in Knitting - Meditations on Craft and Calm

Pattern info:

Rainbow shawl - Find Your Fade Shawl, knitted with fingering-weight yarn from my stash

Cropped sweater - Tegna Sweater, knitted with yarn from Welthase in Antique Rose colorway

White, two-tiered dress under Tegna Sweater - upcoming reversible Metamorphic Dress pattern from Yours Truly. ;)