Tag Archives: personal

The bigger kid’s library bag

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Collage of handmade library bag

Last year during the end of year sales, I convinced The Husband to buy me a basic sewing machine. I have had a tiny little craft machine for a while, but I never use it because it refuses to thread fine sewing thread through it. I keep thinking that surely it’s the way I’m using it but if I look at it honestly, I think it’s more that I bought a cheap little machine and it’s giving me cheap little results. The Husband, bless him, doubted I’d use a sewing machine but since it was on special he bought me one and much to our surprise, I have made a handful of things – mostly kids things. A toy mei tai, a pair of pants for my son, a pair of shorts for baby girl, a cover for the couch, a skirt for myself, and so on… It’s such fun.

The only down side is that I seem to have fallen down the rabbit hole when it comes to fabrics. Ermahgerd. Fabrics. I can spend hours at my local fabric store, browsing through the fabric. I buy canvas and drill cotton because hey, who knows when you might need to upholster something!? I buy synthetic stretchy fabric and lace because mini skirt with lace. I buy fat quarters because PATTERN. Recently I’ve also been buying cheap t-shirts so that I can cut them up and make clothes for the kids. The result of is that I now have a stockpile of fabric and very limited skills to use it.

The last thing that I sewed was a library bag for my son. He started pre-school this year and the class will sometimes take a trip to the local library. Personally I can’t imagine herding a bunch of pre-school aged kids to the library, but if that’s what the teachers want to do they are MORE than welcome. The only thing is, in order to borrow books he needs a library bag. I trawled the shops for a suitable bag – one that was cute, inexpensive, a good size for him, and also well constructed. It turns out your options are limited when your requirements are that lengthy! There were plastic type drawstring bags, canvas totes from the local super market, the list could go on, but they were either too big, too small, too cheap looking, too expensive…

So I decided to combine my basic sewing skills with Pinterest, and set out to search for the perfect library bag pattern. I opted to sew a tote style bag – mostly for aesthetic purposes, but also because an adult sized shoulder strap would be large enough to be a cross body strap on my little guy.

The tutorial I found on Pinterest was this one –> “The Library Tote bag” by Diana, from Saving by Making. Her bag looked so cute and I knew immediately that my fabric (thank you stockpile!!) would work.

Photo of dog print canvas fabric

I had half a meter of this cute dog print canvas but to me it seemed a little on the thin side. It’s not like I thought my son would be bringing home mountains of books, but I wanted to make sure the bag was sturdy enough, so I hunted down a couple of other tutorials and opted to sew in a layer of navy blue linen as a lining.

I followed Diana’s instructions to make the bag, minus the French seams. To make the lining, I just made the bag body again – using the linen this time – and before fixing the shoulder straps, I sewed the lining to the canvas (right sides facing), leaving some small holes for the shoulder straps. Carefully, I turned my bag the right way around and pinned my shoulder straps in between the two layers. Then I sewed up the shoulder straps and closed the holes. I added a little snap to the center of the opening so that the bag could be “closed” (ie the books wouldn’t fall out if a slightly clumsy pre-schooler fell over)

This bag is so cute. On the days where my son isn’t in pre-school, I confess to taking his library bag out to the shops with me and using it as a shopping bag. It’s much better constructed than the canvas tote bags they sell in the supermarket (even with my beginner skills) and the fabric is divine. Soft and silky, but sturdy and strong.

If I were to make another bag I’d probably do the French seams in addition to the lining – just so that the finish was a little nicer. I’d probably also make the shoulder straps a little thicker – just a personal preference – and I might have a go at sewing in a zipper. The zipper is only because my kids and my cat all LOVE to raid my bags. I don’t keep food in there, but apparently items in my purse, my hair clips and elastics, pens and notebooks, are ALL worthy of little fingers or paws… a good zipper keeps the little people (and cats) at bay!

Photo of the completed library bag

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On the road to a stronger me

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Picture of an empty road, captioned On the road to a stronger me

I’ve had two kids and it’s reasonable to say that those two pregnancies knocked my body around somewhat! I had always accepted that I had shit core strength (excuse my language, but I think the crudeness is apt) and it’s a bit alarming to me to realise now that I shouldn’t have accepted that as a fact!

After I had my son, my body bounced back really quickly. It probably had something to do with the fact that I had been extremely fit and active (except with poor core strength) before I was pregnant, and I kept up with the exercise before he was born. But when I fell pregnant with baby girl, it was a different story. I felt pretty fit – I was walking about 3km every working day, but I had neglected so much of my body. At around 5 months pregnant, my belly button caved in. Literally. It turns out I had (and still have) Diastasis Recti, which, to put it blunty, means that at 5 months I suddenly had a gaping hole where my abs should be. Thus the caved in belly button.

My daughter is 14 months old now and believe me when I say that it’s a shock to the system when you’ve always considered yourself reasonably healthy and slim, to suddenly notice that you have a gut – and an ugly gut at that. No matter how many people will laud the “changes” that a woman’s body goes through during childbearing and birth, it sucks. Stretch marks, split abdominals, stitches from here to there (I’ve had a c-section and a vbac – there are scars all over!). Those women who escape totally unscathed, I bow down to you. You may just be blessed with great genetics, but you get my forever envy!

About 4 months post partum I decided I’d start exercising. It was time to kick the mummy tummy in the guts and chase it away with clean eating and regular exercise. I was excited and more to the point, motivated! But it turns out it’s hard to exercise when you are looking after two kids. And eating clean? Try clean eating while breastfeeding!! I double dare you. I stayed motivated for about 6 weeks and then said “goodbye” to a fitter, healthier me. I’d closed my DR gap from around 3 finger widths to 2, but I couldn’t make anything else shift.

Fast forward to now and I’m motivated again. I’m also back at work! This might sound counter productive, but stick with me here. Work = kid free time. Which really equals a holiday from the house, which equals TIME. I now have time to exercise. It’s not a huge amount, but 30 minutes each day is actually practical. Again, I bow down to the parents who can actually juggle staying at home and looking after kids, with dedicated exercise and clean eating. Truly. You are AMAZING. On the weekends I try to do my exercises to heal and strengthen my core and I end up with children climbing all over me. I wait until the evening when the kids are asleep and it seems like the failsafe to wake my kids up is to start exercising.

The other big thing which has changed about my exercise motivation is the exercise program I’m doing. During my search on how to “heal” my caved in belly button, I discovered that a) you shouldn’t do certain exercises because it will make that mummy tummy worse (good bye crunches, hello squats!!), and b) there were some very good programs available which targeted this problem specifically. I signed up for the 12 week MuTu System program and it has been nothing short of amazing. I confess I still don’t eat well (still breastfeeding here), but the changes which have happened in such a short amount of time with this program have been amazing. My tummy is looking flatter and while my belly button still has a strange hollowness to it, it’s not quite as odd looking. And a fancy side effect of being on this program is that my back aches and hip aches have disappeared. My core strength is improving, but I suspect the real reason is that this program focuses on alignment, and for a long time (since before I had kids), my body has been poorly aligned. It’s such a work in progress, but I’m so excited that suddenly things are changing and that I can change things.

So I’m on the road to a stronger me. The stretch marks will never disappear and I’m always going to have a gnarly looking scar on my abdomen, but hopefully my belly button will look “normal” once more and I will feel happier about myself.