Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Sewn : The Brooklyn Hoodie

Well hello there! A little while has passed since my last post, I've been living my life in a blur of nappies, housework, gardening and getting myself back on track with a few things. Hopefully I'll post a life update shortly but for now lets have a finished sew!

I've had these photos sat on my hard drive for around a month now, and the hoodie was finished probably a month before that. The reason why I've been reluctant? I felt enormous. I'm just being honest here, I chose to make a nice cosy hoodie as my first post baby sewing project as it wouldn't need to be fitted, so I could get back to my machine as quickly as possible. Also, who doesn't love a comfy slouchy hoodie?!

However, when I had finished I asked my husband to take a few photos and promptly burst into tears.  I'm not being hard on myself, just a 6 week post partum body is a pretty scary place, it's probably not a bright idea to have photos taken.

Fast forward another month to when these were taken and I was feeling much more myself, I've been back to exercising and clean eating and settling back down to my pre baby figure. There's another post in that one I am sure! It turns out that if you spend 9 months eating all the Reese's peanut butter cups you end up with some erm, excess timber. Who knew?

Anyhow, onto the hoodie! The pattern is the Brooklyn Hoodie by Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick patterns. I made the medium size, in this gorgeous light weight sweatshirting from Backstitch. (You can find it here if you'd like some of your own). There's a great series of sew a long posts on the SBCC blog too which are really helpful.

Sourcing notions was a bit tricky for this one. I live in a small town on a Cumbrian peninsular and our shopping options are fairly limited. We have one or two sewing shops in town and a couple of haberdashers on the market but it can be difficult to get bits and pieces, though I try to shop as locally as possible it can be frustrating.

I love it! I've now lost a bit more weight than these photos show and it's probably on the too big side but it's still lovely to snuggle up in when an extra layer is needed. I really wanted to get it finished in time for James completing the Fred Whitton Challenge back in May, which I did! Cycling is a big thing for the boys in our house.

I'm modelling here with scruffy post workout hair! Apologies for the less than brilliant photos.

Hopefully I'll be back soon with some more completed projects and an update on our little family.

Jenny xxx

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Introducing Our New Arrival

Well, as promised I am here to let you know that our beautiful third baby, Juliet Joy, joined us on March 11th.

I'm sitting here at the breakfast bar quietly tapping out this post as she naps in her pram after a long walk.  It's taken me a couple of weeks to get around to posting due to the usual business that surrounds a new baby, midwives, health visitors, family, friends, neighbours, our house has been a hive of activity and excitement and we couldn't be happier.

James has returned to work today (& starts a brand new job role, which is also very exciting for us), Jack is in nursery as usual so it's just us girls. It's going to take some getting used to being at home with a baby again!

So, details. I went into labour on the Friday evening and everything happened quite quickly. From feeling some cramps at around 4pm I made tea, put our little boy to bed and ran myself a bath. I knew from previous labours that this would be it but things were definitely not yet established so I decided to relax and hope that the night wouldn't be too long. After I got out of the bath at around 8pm, contractions started in earnest so I had James hook me up to the Tens machine kindly lent by my friend Emma and went downstairs to watch TV and pace around the room. By this point my Mum popped home to get her overnight kit to watch Jack when we went to the hospital. I called the labour ward to let them know that I was in labour but not yet ready to come down, I also asked if when I did come, I could use the birthing pool, as I did with Jessica.

By 10pm I was considering running another bath. Contractions were coming thick and fast but I really didn't want to rush to the hospital after only a couple of hours of labour and be told to come home again. My Mum suggested I rang them and asked their advice, on hearing me speak the midwife said "you sound in a lot of pain, how far apart are the contractions?", "oh, they're just like one continuous one really", "right, I think you'd be best coming down now"! Looking back I am glad I didn't get in the bath again, it could have been a home birth!

Once we arrived at the hospital the midwife examined me and confirmed that I was 6cm dilated. Thankfully the Active birth suite was free and the pool was already filling. I climbed into the pool and after a further 30mins of contractions, with a little gas and air (which made me feel drunk and horrible) I knew I needed to push. 10 minutes was all it took to meet our little baby who I caught in the water at 11.01pm.

I sat in the water gazing at this tiny, calm little baby who appeared to be simply snoozing on my chest, no crying, no fuss, just happily sleeping away. I took a quick glance down below and in my post birth haze I saw something between the legs and declared it was a boy. In the following five minutes we made a few jokes about how I wanted a second bathroom in the house so I could use a clean toilet of my own without "boy wee" everywhere. We explained to the midwives that although we didn't find out the gender of the baby at the scans we had felt all along it would be a boy, as we couldn't imagine being lucky enough to have another girl after losing Jessica. However we were happy, a healthy second child was all we asked for. At that point the midwife looked a little quizzical and suggested we check again. Imagine my surprise when I looked properly (and didn't mistake an umbilical cord for something else) and discovered we did in fact have a daughter! There were many tears of happiness, as I'm sure you can imagine.

We returned home the following day and have been in a bubble of pure happiness ever since.  Whilst in no way does Juliet replace Jessica, our arms feel full with the joy of family again, I don't think I appreciated quite how redundant I felt only having one baby to care for. Having a girl is the icing on the cake, it allows us to grieve for Jessica as the person she was, rather than grieving for the both her and the loss of a daughter. Now we can look towards the future and know that all our hopes and dreams for a little girl can happen.

Since her birth, many people have been in touch and remarked that her arrival must have been "bittersweet" or "very emotional". Of course it was emotional, giving birth always is! But bittersweet, definitely not. The way we grieve for Jessica is the same whatever day of the year or occasion it is. Juliet's arrival can only be positive and happy, it couldn't possibly be anything else.

Jenny xxx

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Life : Lately

It's been a busy few weeks here as we get closer to my due date. Baby is holding out, despite me feeling like it's arrival will be imminent for a few weeks now!

Our little man turned four at the start of the month, which was a surprisingly emotional day for us.

We are so proud of the little boy he is growing into, always smiling, chatting, a constant blur of movement and noise yet simultaneously affectionate, sensitive and well behaved, I couldn't be happier. I often find myself taking those Mummy moments, where you sit back and think wow, this is my child and look how lovely he is! I always wanted a "little James" and the pair of them are definitely two peas in a pod.

We kept his actual birthday fairly low key and celebrated at home with family and a couple of his friends from down the street. I imagine this is the last year I will get away without organising a proper kids party so I'm making the most of it!

Jessie on Jack's third birthday, with her Aunty Helen
The day was also unexpectedly emotional as I couldn't help but feel Jessica's absence, probably as Jack's third birthday was the last time a lot of people saw her, as she passed away 11 days later.  Grief is a funny old thing, it really does sneak up and grab you when you least expect it to, for example Christmas passed relatively easily, however a day which should technically be all about Jack was filled with thoughts of Jessica. Early February was definitely a time for the "this time last year" game.

So what else has been happening?? I've been growing a small human! Pregnancy has been kind to me in so far as I've been lucky enough not to have any major issues, but I certainly haven't escaped the usual complaints! I don't think I've had a full nights sleep in weeks now, the pulling of my belly on my back just means that I can't get comfortable in bed regardless of how many pillows I prop myself up with. I am definitely at the stage where I feel I'd rather have the baby here now! However, it won't be long and I am so excited to meet this little one.

I paid a visit my wonderful best friend Emma who has recently opened her own photography studio in Preston.  Whilst it isn't her usual line of work, she offered to take some maternity photos for me before bump becomes a baby.  I couldn't be happier with the results, she's an incredibly talented photographer and even brought along a make up artist for a little confidence boost, which made a lovely girly day out for me!

I finished work for maternity leave in the middle of February, which I was very much ready for. It's been a relief to have a couple of weeks where I don't *have* to rush in the mornings and can take the day at my own pace. My lovely colleagues treated me to some beautiful flowers, lovely chocolate (I guess I must have spoken at length about my love for Reese's this pregnancy...) and some vouchers for Cath Kidston. I'm really going to miss them over the next 12 months, I enjoy my job and am lucky to be part of a really great team where we all get along really well.

I had the biggest surprise on a snowy day in February when Emma arrived clutching a large wrapped gift for me from a group of friends. I assumed it would be something baby related, imagine my surprise when I opened the paper to find a beautiful Kitchen Aid stand mixer! I'd said that I really didn't want a baby shower this time around so they had taken it upon themselves to arrange a surprise which was just so thoughtful and touching. I've already given it a good workout, I've been baking cakes and bread and it came in very handy for whizzing up batches of pancake batter!

Being at home has of course given me some time to start work on the garden for this year.  I'm feeling really eager to get out there on some warmer days and start making a few changes and getting seeds sown but for the time being I've managed to get my seed potatoes out to chit, the grass mown and a little clearing of weeds and old growth from the flower beds. I've created a planting plan and ordered all of my flower and vegetable seeds for the summer, James and I are also planning how to overhaul our broken patio and completely change the bottom area closest to the house which should create a really exciting new space for us.

Inside, I've been nesting like only a third trimester pregnant lady can. I'm happiest wiping down my worktops, mopping floors and running the hoover around! I'm completely in love with the smell of cleaning products and laundry powders (something I've had all 3 times!). I am a bit of a neat freak at the best of times so it has been a new level of clean and tidy in here!

We've also been working hard to get things ready for baby, our little bedroom is now a nursery rather than a home office and whilst it's awaiting some finishing touches once we know what gender the baby is all the furniture is in place and we are good to go. Hopefully once everything is in place I will put together a nursery reveal post.

I've spent a little time crafting for baby, and finished a couple of little knits which I'll share in another post - they deserve their own blog space!

A big part of getting ready for baby has been getting established with the CONI scheme. CONI stands for "Care of Next Infant" and helps parents who have lost a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome to deal with the inevitable emotional difficulties of having another baby. So far we have met our new health visitors who have been really lovely, we have been given lots of information about the support available, and even had a baby CPR demonstration and been given a set of weighing scales and an apnoea monitor. My feelings are very mixed at this stage about how much extra support we will want or need but we are taking the approach of setting up as many support channels as possible and we can choose whether or not we want to use them as the time comes.

If you've made it through all this waffle, well done! Hopefully I'll be back soon to share the news of our new arrival.

Jenny xxx

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

2015 In Makes

Suddenly we are into February and it feels a little late for a "round up" post but since I've not blogged any of these projects it seems appropriate to jump in with a little catch up what I was making last year.

*Warning - There's some really bad selfies in here... I can only apologise*

Simple Sew Lottie Pencil Skirt

This pattern came with an early issue of Love Sewing magazine. I was just returning to work after maternity leave here and was planning a few work friendly wardrobe basics. I had so many issues with this pattern, from the poor instructions to the fact that the waistband pieces just didn't fit the top of the skirt. Which is a shame as the end result was cute and withstood quite a bit of wear in the early part of the year.

Sewaholic Renfrew - View C Cowl Neck

It's no secret that I love Sewaholic patterns and like many others the Renfrew is a definite TNT. I made my usual adjustment of adding 3" to the bodice length, I like my tops to comfortably cover my hips. This stripe was a lightweight knit I picked up in Abakhan some months earlier and had been sat cut out in my sewing box since the previous November. I'm really happy with one and it's taken a lot of wear, I'm looking forward to pulling it back out post baby!

New Look 6150

This gorgeous knit was picked up on my local market stall, we have a couple of fabric stalls and shops in our town and whilst they don't hold a massive array of choice I often come across lovely pieces whilst having a lunch time potter.  This crossover top is really sweet and has been worn a few times for work but I have to confess to finding the neckline just a touch high for my taste, that's a fairly minor issue though, it's still a really wearable make.

Sewaholic Cambie - My 30th Birthday Dress!

I had a proper party for my 30th so I wasn't letting the occasion pass without going all out and making a pretty frock in gorgeous Liberty fabric. It took quite some time to get the fit right, I must have put together 4 or 5 bodice muslins before settling on a 1" FBA in the size 8. Looking at these photos I am mourning my pre-pregnancy figure! This was such a fun sew, fully lined and paired with a gorgeous petticoat I really felt great wearing it. Pictured here with my wonderful friend Emma, who came along in her gorgeous BHL Flora dress.

More Sewaholic Renfrews

If in doubt, make a Renfrew, or two. Just using pretty fabrics from stash (the floral cost around £5 from Abakhan) to fill out my wardrobe with some basic tees. Not sure I will ever tire of making this pattern, it just provides the perfect base to show off gorgeous fabric in a totally wearable and useful garment.

Julia Cardigan

By this point in the year I knew I was pregnant so attempted to shift my sewing to garments that would see me through regardless of belly size.  This pattern was so quick and easy to put together, I could definitely see me making it again in a drapier jersey. It's seen plenty of action, great for wearing either with jeans or belting over a maternity dress.

Simplicity 2447

There are no finished shots of this shirt as, it's not actually finished. It doesn't have any buttons or buttonholes yet. But shamefully I wear it quite regularly! The pregnant body situation means that I couldn't button it up if it was an option so I tend to throw it on over a maternity tee and leggings. This was my first adventure into shirt making and I thoroughly loved the opportunity to get really into details such as topstitching and plaid matching. The fabric is a soft brushed cotton I purchased from Croft Mill some time a couple of years ago. So one day I had better sew those buttons on!

Simplicity 1359 Maternity Skirt

Super quick and simple maternity skirt using a nice heavy grey jersey from the market. The elasticated waist can be expanded but I haven't needed to. I have worn this most weeks for work during pregnancy, a great basic. I wish I'd had time to make the t-shirt on the pattern too!

Swoon Patterns - Scarf Neck Cardigan

I love this pattern but the acres of narrow knit hem were challenging and I wish I'd made it in a slinkier, drapier fabric. I wear it a lot for work though, it's been another great piece to layer with maternity dresses.

Patons Fab Big Cowl

If you hadn't noticed, the knits are pretty thin on the ground so far in the year, I've got to confess to having completely lost my knitting mojo for several months so I just went with what interested me at the time, dressmaking and developing the garden. In September I picked up this giant ball of mustard yarn in John Lewis whilst out shopping with a friend to see if I could get myself kick started again. The terrible selfie is a "look Mum I finished something" photo from bed time one evening!

Burda 7165 - Maternity Trousers

Both pattern and fabric were purchased as part of a kit from MyFabrics. I loved sewing these up but shamefully they haven't actually left my wardrobe once. This isn't the first time I've made a leap for patterned trousers and not got to grips with wearing them. I think I prefer my prints on the top half. The fit of these was superb though and I was particularly pleased with the over bump band.

Pipe Dreams by Natalie Jubb

Using up some chunky yarn from stash for an instant gratification knitting project. The urge to knit always returns with the autumn weather. I started out making this for myself but a certain small boy stole it for himself.

Foxy Hat

I tried making him his own hat, which he loves, but I still didn't get the grey one back. This hat gets so many compliments!

Winter Wonderland Mittens

Probably the worst photo of what is actually a gorgeous finished item. In fact I don't even think they are blocked here, the cuff of the glove on the right still needs sewing down, oops! I started these shortly after Christmas 2014 so in a bit of an amnesty on WIPs I got them polished off. I love them, and just wish that this winter had been cold enough to actually need them.

Megan Neilsen Perfect Nursing Top - Simplicity 1469

I had such high hopes for this top but was left pretty disappointed by the sizing, it came up huge and I had to take about two inches off each side of the bodice to get it wearable, which was a shame as it put me off making it again. I've worn the end product plenty though which only goes in it's favour.

Baable Hat

If you went anywhere near Ravelry last Autumn you couldn't fail to have come across this gorgeous colourwork hat designed for Shetland Wool Week. Fast and fun to work up this is one of my favourite knits ever! I do so love knitting fair isle.

Santa - Jean Greenhowe

Years ago I made Jean's knitted snowman and he's a firm part of our Christmas decorations so I thought it would be fun to add Santa to the collection, mostly for Jack's sake. I love how these knitted toys breakdown into little sections, making them perfect TV knitting.

Quilted Tree Skirt

I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, in fact I pinned the Pinterest tutorial 4 years ago! With redecorating our living space in time for Christmas we invested in a bigger and more beautiful tree so the time had come to give it a pretty skirt. The Michael Miller fabrics came from a local sewing shop.

If you've made it this far, well done! Before I put this post together I didn't think I'd made a lot in 2015, but all together like this it's not a bad output.

I've certainly learned in the last year that less is more, and to pick my projects based on wardrobe need rather than leaping for the shiny "frosting" patterns and fabrics. I've also really embraced sewing with knits which has helped make my creations much more in line with the RTW pieces I would head for in the shops.

So lets see what 2016 brings! At the moment I am enjoying a little baby knitting, my sewing machine has fallen quiet as I feel so very rounded that I'm not feeling inspired to sew for myself. I'm really looking forward to getting back to it in the spring with a bit of luck.

If you'd like any links or more details on any of the projects, just pop your question in the comments and I'll do my best to help. I'll also try to brush up on my finished item photography!

Jenny xxx

Monday, 11 January 2016

2015, Looking Back.

I restart blogging, post twice and a year elapses.

Life has thrown us on a huge roller coaster and 2015 was the most challenging year of our lives.

The year started well in January. I returned to work part time working just 3 days a week, Jack started to attend his school nursery on a Thursday allowing me a few hours at home with Jessica to get my jobs done. We settled into our new routines quickly, Jessica started to attend nursery whilst I was at work and enjoyed her time there.

Jessica Rose at 10 months

February changed the course of our lives forever. The month began with Jack's third birthday celebrations, then on the morning of Thursday 12th we discovered our beautiful little had passed away in her sleep. The events of that morning and the preceding evening will be etched on my mind for the rest of my life. From collecting her from nursery with what seemed like a routine tummy bug to hearing my husband screaming for me from the bedroom, waiting for the ambulance to come to being told that she couldn't be saved, I will take those horrendous moments to my grave.

After 8 long months we were finally given the results of the post mortem investigation and received a cause of death of "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome", or SIDS for short. They could find no reason why a healthy, happy and loved little baby was so suddenly taken from us.

We are very lucky to have a great support network of family, friends and counselling from a local child bereavement charity. We decided very quickly afterwards that this would not define our lives. We have an incredibly strong relationship and I clearly recall how we discussed that before our children there was "us", and that will always continue. Day to day we grieve as we need to. Some days are incredibly hard, most, to be honest, are just normal. We have a lot to live for, there's still so much in our future, not least the amazing little boy who needs his Mummy and Daddy.

Hello! Baby 3 at 12 Weeks
In June we were thrilled to find out that we were expecting a baby. We never wanted the age gap between our children to be long, so as time passed that gap would only grow larger. We missed the busy family home, we always wanted two children and in the spirit of not letting this defeat us, the only way was forwards.

The rest of the year has been a whirlwind of positive activity. We have made huge changes to our home, at a rate we could not have anticipated at the start of the year. We are thrilled with the renovations and finally feel settled and comfortable.

Hobbies wise we continue to grow and learn in our respective interests. James is still enjoying cycling and has set himself some exciting challenges for the coming year. Craft wise I continue to love sewing and knitting. My dressmaking has really come on this year, I've tried to move my focus to creating more practical and wearable pieces to fill gaps in my wardrobe which has seen many more handmade items getting wear. Knitting wise, I've been slowly pottering at whatever takes my fancy, I'm still a fan of knitting hats for both myself and the small people, I've also completed a couple of pairs of gloves and have a big cosy cardigan on the needles right now.

Julia Cardigan - Mouse House Designs

One hobby which took me by surprise was learning all about gardening. In the days following Jessica's death I was gazing out at the daffodils in the back garden (a sight which forever reminds me of my spring baby) and thinking about how I ought to cut back the unruly roses out there before the new growth took hold. I decided quite suddenly that gardening would be my focus, my Mum has always been a keen gardener and it had been on my list of things to learn when I had more time. Going suddenly from two children to one, I felt it would give me something to nurture, not to mention the fresh air and exercise benefits. If all else failed, I would get a nice garden at the end of it, so why not give it a go?


As I type I look back out on an entirely different scene, we managed to remodel large parts of our plot, adding new structures and plants, establishing rose beds and a vegetable garden. It quickly became my obsession as I happily absorbed new knowledge (I had no idea of my capacity for Latin plant names!), checked my precious little seedlings, fed and nurtured my beautiful roses (a tribute to our girl) and spent many an hour weeding, grass mowing, or tending to my plants. Just 30 minutes of an evening after work pottering cleared my head and frankly I think it was my saviour many days to just get out there and dig away the stress.

Jack continues to bring us so much joy and happiness. There really is no time for feeling sad with this little ball of energy and excitement in our lives. He is a bright, beautiful and sensitive boy who loves nothing more than running, cycling and swimming, he really has been my rock in the last year. He doesn't fully comprehend what happened to his little sister yet but it will come in time.

On holiday in Weymouth this summer

So what next? I feel that there's so much I'd like to write about, not least our journey as we learn to live with the loss of a child and the difficulties of having another baby so soon afterwards, I know that I have found reading about other's experiences of real comfort - I'd like to give something back.

I'd still love to use this space to talk about crafts, home making and gardening - I hope you'll read along and enjoy a virtual cup of tea with me.

So here's to 2016, what will undoubtedly be a difficult year, but full of promise and excitement. I can't wait to meet our new baby, get back out in my garden, continue with my hobbies and make lots of great new memories.

Jenny xxx