Marigold and the Roid Rage

On Saturday afternoon, I visited an old friend from college who just had her first baby a few weeks ago. We’re the later bloomers of our class – most of our former classmates have kids in grade school or older now – so it was such a joy to spend time with her and chit-chat about poop and spitty messes, the particular nuances of working motherhood when once is well-established in one’s career, and so on. We took baby for a little ride to a row of secondhand shops and did some thrifting. She’s such a tiny, tidy little package I just held her in one arm, cuddled up to my chest, so her mama could shop hands free.

MADE IT: The fabric is Riley Blake Woodland, and I just got a fat quarter pack that I cut into strips and pieced. 

Isn’t she delightfully teeny? I normally don’t get all gushy over babies – even my own, really – but she was so very sweet and belongs to one of the sweetest couples I know who waited so long for her. It made me very happy.

That’s the first quilt I made in a long time (quilting is not my forte, as my mom is uniquely gifted and keeps us all in quilts anyway) and I was so tickled at how it turned out. Nothing fancy, but it did inspire me to try more quilting again in the future – making a quilt is like making a lovely, giant puzzle. Poppy has all these fun features for free-motion embroidery and decorative stitching, so we’ll have to set aside some time to try that out.

When I headed home from my visit, I was suffering from a curious case of baby fever – very unusual for me, as we long ago decided that the twins were our complete family and we would not have any more. But shopping with the other baby just filled me with these peculiar thoughts, about how EASY it would be if we had just one more, how SIMPLE it would be to wear just one baby and get things done, how CHEAP it would be since we have all the stuff already, how PEACEFUL with only one newborn to cuddle…

I was on the verge of asking Dan to reconsider when I got home. There was noise in the nursery – naptime was over and I was there just in time to get the girls up.


A few weeks ago, we took the crib rails off and gave the girls a little freedom, expecting we’d have to do some work to get them to stay in their beds. It was something of a necessity, as they are now big enough to fling themselves ungracefully (and dangerously) over the rails. They had been doing okay with the new situation – Juniper especially, the girl loves her sleep – but Marigold was struggling to keep herself reined in. We’ve pretty much emptied the nursery in preparation to move their room to another part of the house, so we figured she could just bounce off the walls of the empty room and not wreak too much havoc.

Let me repeat. OH MY GOD.

“Mommy, I lotion!” said Marigold proudly, showing me her arms and legs. But it wasn’t lotion, it was caked on her like a paste, gunky like a diaper cream, which would be hell to get off but…

Juniper just shook her head and pointed at her sister. “No no.”

I yanked the tube out of her hands and shrieked. I grabbed her and hauled her to the bathroom, stripped her to her diaper and began scrubbing with a washcloth and hand soap.

When Marigold was a newborn, she was diagnosed with a small labial adhesion. It’s a not-uncommon condition for little girls, especially preemies, and doesn’t require much work to fix. Some people opt to leave it to potentially resolve on its own, but the untreated condition can lead to issues with cleaning, UTIs and other bacterial infections, which are no joke in an infant who can’t tell you what hurts. So we decided to do the treatment – a teeny-tiny dab of a certain cream on the spot every day for a few weeks till the adhesion dissolved.

Marigold was covering herself in concentrated estrogen.

As soon as I got her sufficiently cleaned, I hit Google – could one overdose on this stuff? Should I call poison control? Would she turn into a werewolf? Mostly satisfied that there was no evidence of any bizarre or scary side effects, I began peppering Dan with rhetorical questions.

“How did she get this?”


“Do you know how long it’s been since we even used this?”


“Two and a half years, it’s been YEARS. It was a house ago, why did we even move this?”


“Where was it in the closet? How could she reach anything but the books and toys?”

I wasn’t even really asking him, he just happened to be there – lucky guy.

Marigold had a crazy evening. It might have just been normal toddler crazy, but she was a full-on drama queen: up and down, rage and snuggles, pouts and tears, all-around LOUD. Good lord, I thought, how much of that stuff did she absorb? Should I have used a different soap? A loofah?

“How long was she up before I went in there?” I asked in Dan’s direction, trying to calculate the length of exposure and the approximate area of skin covered, wondering for the dozenth time if I should call the doctor.

He grunted.

Anyway, she’s fine. But it just goes to show you, you can THINK you’ve got things all put away, or thrown away, or locked up, safe and sound – but there can always be something. Be gentle with one another’s mistakes.


Made It: Amsterdam All-Weather Coat

Last week I had the opportunity to be a pattern tester for Rebecca Page of “Mummykins & Me” as she prepared a new ladies’ coat pattern for release. The Amsterdam All-Weather Coat features princess seams for a smooth, tailored silhouette, and a bunch of accent options to dress it up or keep it simple. With the button loops and shoulder accents in place it has an almost militaristic vibe (in an old-school marching band kind of way, not like you’re going to go blow people up with big bombs). But, since I chose a pretty busy fabric for my outer, I decided to keep it simple and focus on the construction.

There’s a matching kids version available too, more unisex in style (no princess seams) and with patch pockets instead of on-seam pockets like mine. The website has lots of pics of the amazing work the kids’ pattern testers did, along with photos of the ladies version with other options and a range of sizes.

Options I used: Shoulder contrast, elastic button loops

Options I skipped: Back belt, sleeve loops, fabric button loops

Size tested: Ladies XS, no alterations

amsterdam-coat-front3I signed up for pattern testing noting my skills as “advanced beginner” because I’ve been sewing for nearly thirty years and I can handle my shiz, but I’m not super-fast and a lot of garment construction techniques are new to me. Plus, it was my first big project with Poppy, and in our honeymoon phase I thought we still might be working out the kinks.

This is not a pattern for someone who wants to whip up a quick jacket for unexpected cool weather. But it IS a pattern for the advanced beginner who’s ready to level up skills and techniques in garment construction. Grab it while it’s on sale now and take your time. Make a muslin first (I did!) to check the fit and to practice setting in the sleeves and getting tidy princess seams. This is especially important on a tailored coat like this – a bustier lady than I, with my same waist and hip measurements, would be happier with a size up. Your muslin WILL feel big because there’s an allowance around the whole thing to accommodate the turning you’ll do with the lining. Focus on getting the shoulder seam placed correctly and the sleeves the correct length, and line up the button markings on the front pieces to feel what it will be like when buttoned.

With any fully-lined piece, it looks like more and more of a hot mess the further you get because so many ugly seams are showing. Seam allowances fraying all over the place. Press, fold, press again – ARGH. When you’re used to working on a serger with tidy overlocked edges, it feels so yucky to have all those pieces just hanging out there. I confess, although the pattern didn’t call for it, I overlocked the seams where I set in the sleeves. With the shoulder pieces and the linings and all that coming together it just felt so bulky.

But fraying seam allowances aside, when you turn the whole thing right side out, it just gets awesome. You made a coat! A whole coat! Topstitching with Poppy’s IDT and blind hem foot was an absolute joy, so tidy and perfectly spaced. We are going to be the best of friends.

I’m probably going to switch out the buttons I chose – busy, detailed buttons on busy prints just get lost. I’ll find another project to show off the compass buttons and replace these with plain navy to go with the solid navy shoulder contrast. Then I’ll call it done.

Go to and grab the ladies and kids patterns on sale for a limited time.

“I be high”

first swingsThis is not about people with poor grammar partaking in mind-altering drugs.

The girls got their first swingset a few months before they turned one. They were widdle and squishy and slouchy and gumming on the straps because they had no teeth. In the hot summer evenings we’d tickle their bare feet and let them enjoy the breeze. In the fall, we kept the swings busy on the back porch while we listened to the helicopters over West Florissant Avenue and the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months.

In the spring we moved to the house with the very concrete back yard. Where would the swingset go?

porch-swingIn the end we left it at the old house for the time being – the old house is being rented by a family member who agreed it could stay till we got the new yard in order. The new house came with a rickety porch swing that immediately got the girls’ seal of approval. Too bad it was basically a death trap. We took it down almost immediately, and replaced it with the girls’ toddler swings from their swingset.

All summer long and into the fall and even the winter, they got to swing on our lovely covered porch and watch all the action on our street. Big kids on bikes and scooters, dogs out for a walk, babies in strollers, trains on the tracks two blocks away – they had a front-row seat in the shade. We’d even swing in the rain and stay dry under the deep roof of the porch.

porch-swingsThis spring, when we got the swings out of the basement and hung them up for the first swing of the season, something shifted. They’re nowhere near too big for the swings yet, at least not according to the weight and height limits, but those blue plastic buckets can’t contain them anymore.

“Push me.”


“More push me!”


“No, Mommy! I be high! Daddy do it.”

So Dan would give the swing a mighty shove, flinging the complainer up and back till her toes were tickling the lilac bush and she was screeching in delight. Any slowdown from this trajectory led to wails:

“No! I want be high!”

Failure to reach the appropriate “high” arc led to more than one meltdown, to the point where they opted to get out of their swings entirely rather than be pushed anywhere other than high. So much for peaceful evenings on the porch.

Our neighbors up the street had a massive playset installed over the weekend – tower, hammock, monkey bars, the whole lot. No toddler swings. We were invited to come check it out, and I had words with Marigold and Juniper about safety.

“You can’t be high on these swings,” I said firmly. “These are big girl swings and you are still little. You have to hold the chains very tight and do not lean. Do you understand?”

They nodded solemnly. I plopped them each on a swing and gave two gentle nudges. Marigold was wide-eyed, Juniper was clutching the chains so tightly her little knuckles were white.

Two more nudges, a little firmer this time. Two big grins.

Our neighbor girls, aged four and nine, offered to take over pushing, and the twins were delighted.

“Not too hard,” I fussed.

“Mommy no push me!”” Marigold screeched. “Look!”


She was safe and holding on just as I’d showed her, swinging gently in the kind of low, lazy arc we used to push them in as babies. But without the blue bucket, how free she must have felt with no harness on her shoulders, with the wind on her back and her neck for the first time. She was the only force keeping herself seated on that swing; if she’d fallen I couldn’t have caught her if I tried. My little hurricane was completely in control as I stepped back to capture the photo.

“I be high!”

“I be high too!”

In that moment, so was I.

Opening Day, Patio Edition

The water table from grandma and grandpa is back for another season, with sized-up swim gear and real ponytails.
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I don’t get it. On the scale they barely weigh three pounds more than they did last year, and yet their little bodies have changed so much. They’re taller, leaner, stronger in a hundred ways. They can reach the top of the water table tower to pour in a cupful and watch all the wheels turn.

We had a really nice Saturday on the patio. The neighbor kids came over to play with the girls and they had a great time splashing one another and “painting” the fence with water. Their parents joined us for a cold beverage. The dogwoods are in bloom and snowing petals on the new grass poking up from under the straw.

It’s been one year this week since we moved into our house, and I remember when we bought it wondering if we would regret the massive spread of concrete in the back yard. There was so little green space for the girls. But after ripping down the rotting deck, clearing out the over-landscaped stretch along the fence and planting some seed, it’s looking more like we wanted.

The girls enjoyed helping with the dirt, seed and straw a few weeks ago.
The girls enjoyed helping with the dirt, seed and straw a few weeks ago.

Still a LOT of concrete, but we’re realizing the benefits of that now that the girls are getting really active on their new scooters. It’s such a perfect, safe place for them to practice riding.

Made It: The No. 26 Shirt

I got a new toy.

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Poppy, my new Pfaff Creative 1.5, joined my growing sewing studio this weekend. The people at the shop advised me to save the packaging in case I wanted to return her or trade her up.

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They don’t know my helpers very well.

I waited till my assistants were down for their nap to really set her up. Tiff came to do the final quality check.

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One of the main reasons I wanted a new sewing machine was my newfound love of sewing with knits. My serger makes short work of the inner seams and I was getting incredibly frustrated with the inability of my entry-level Singer to do nice finish work on the things I’d been making. Even with a walking foot, the feed was clunky and uneven. I toyed with the idea of purchasing a coverstitch machine instead, but decided that an all-around awesome new sewing machine would be a better investment. I chose the Pfaff specifically for the IDT – the integrated dual feed that eliminates the need for a walking foot and can be used with all sorts of specialty presser feet, so I can get that nice even feed with a zipper foot or binding foot – something you can’t do with a walking foot on any other machine.

Of course I needed a quick first project, so I stitched up the No. 26 shirt from E + M Patterns.

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Fun fabrics (95/5 cotton lycra) from Diaper Sewing Supplies

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This is the first time I’d purchased from E+M and I couldn’t be happier with the pattern. The yoke and gathering really up the ante from the basic raglan patterns that flood the market, and it gives me a nifty, non-panel way to show off a fun fabric without wasting a lot of yardage. The hi-low hem and the gentle shaping make the size 3 perfect for my girls to grow with this summer.

I can’t wait to really explore the full potential of this new machine. I splurged and chose a model with an embroidery unit, which opens up an entirely new spectrum of projects I can try out. Poppy and I are going to have a good time.

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