I'm very excited to be one of the stops on the blog tour for Meg's new book Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes & Projects for Your Creative Child.
Meg has graciously agreed to do a Q & A for my readers, and as I was thinking about the questions, I remembered back to a time not so long ago (though it seems like it, in some ways), when I wrote this post as part of her series on motherhood. How much has changed since then! Meg has given birth to not one, but two little men, her two books have been released, and in my own house, we have moved out of those delirious and somehow outside-of-time newborn days into what feels like a very busy world of childhood (currently three hours, at two different pools, five days a week, for swim team and swimming lessons!).
I am humbled to be counted among the friends that Meg has included in the dedication of her very special new book, and I hope that you will all appreciate her thoughtful responses in today's Q & A as much as I do.
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Grace: Thank you, Meg, for taking the time out of your summer routine to answer some questions! Speaking of that, what does your summer routine look like right now?
Meg: Thank you, Grace! Now that we have two little ones, I've been reminded again and again of the importance of a joyful family routine. Children thrive when they can anticipate the course of the day, giving them a sense of control and security. It helps us as parents, too, by reducing the amount of improvisation we have to do at times when we may be very tired.
At the same time, I am well aware of the obstacles most and probably all parents face in maintaining such a routine. Our routine lately has been a challenge. As you know, our second baby was born in February with a heart defect. Day to day, his most noticeable difficulty is that he doesn't have the stamina to eat a full meal of breast milk by mouth. He takes the rest through a tube, and this means that I have to pump a lot. It's super humbling to have a pump dictate your daily rhythm, but it surely does!
I wish I could say that we start the day with some guitar playing and singing, or that we spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing our food together. This can't be our reality right now, but it is just a season in our lives, one that shall pass. In this season, as in all seasons of our lives, we do what we can and try not to fret about the ways in which we are imperfect. In this season, we are the grateful recipients of a lot of help from family and friends. Grandma is out for a walk with my toddler as I write this (while pumping!)
Motherhood is a humbling experience, and right now I can't do all of the things I wrote about in my own book! That said, in this difficult and busy time, there are things that we can do to create a joyful life for our little family. We eat all of our meals together, even if we don't cook them all ourselves. We have a toddler art group once a week. We often eat a picnic dinner at our local park. My husband always puts Finn to bed by telling him stories that he makes up himself. Our boys are learning to enjoy and trust their extended family, and learning that they are loved and cared for by a circle larger than our nuclear family. All of these things are positive, joyful experiences in this season of our lives. I hope the book will be taken in this spirit. Rather than proclaiming that we all must be perfect companions of children, I offer ideas, ideals, and resources for enriching our time with children as we can.
Grace: One of the things that I think so many people appreciate about your work with Sew Liberated is your thoughtfulness in your approach to motherhood and raising your boys. How has motherhood surprised and challenged you?
Meg: Before I had children, I was under the impression that, as long as I had my wits about me, I could have a plan for everything. My house would be organized. My homeschooling map plotted from early on. My meals planned. Of course, there would be hard days, but everything would, more or less, go as planned.
Haha. Ha. Ha! Motherhood has humbled me, and made me realize that there are forces at work that are out of my hands. This has been challenging for me, as I am person who likes to have a plan. It has made me realize that being a good mother is a little bit about laying the right path for your children, but mostly about responding with empathy, respect, and grace when your children decide to take an unexpected turn down a different path. Plans can help guide a family, but we have to know when to modify them or decide when they aren't right any more for our current needs.
Grace: We all approach the "big" things in life with some expectations. Can you share how some of these expectations have been met in your motherhood journey?
Meg: I've always had an expectation that I could create a loving, respectful home environment that helped my children develop a sense of wonder for the world. I know I am capable of that, but I know that the most difficult work of mothering is not the aesthetics of the home you build, but rather the supporting structure of that home - the patience and compassion of the parents. The opportunity to become a more compassionate, patient person is the gift that a toddler gives to a parent. A baby whose health is tenuous gives the gift of living in the moment rather than spending too much time thinking about expectations. Motherhood is so much more beautiful than I could have ever expected.
Grace: Your new book, Growing Up Sew Liberated, is such a delight. What does it feel like to see your designs -- your imagination -- come to life on the page?
Meg: I'm very proud of this book, as I wrote it with my own children in mind. Writing a book is such a long process, from the signing of the contract to the day you hold the completed book in your hands. It's almost a surprise to see everything again! The final book, too, is a compilation of the talents of many people - editors, photographers, and graphic designers - and it's wonderful to see what an accomplished book-making team can do with the creative vision of an author.
Grace: Can you talk about your design process? Where do you get ideas? How do your work out the form and function of your projects?
Meg: I am so inspired by beautiful photographs on blogs (yours included, Grace!) as well as my contacts on Flickr. I tend to be rather insulated in my design universe - I don't follow high fashion or watch Project Runway or anything like that. I do have a style that I would call my own - it's a simple, rustic aesthetic with clean lines. For me, my designs must be both functional and beautiful. For my clothing designs, this means that they must be comfortable.
When I'm brainstorming a new design, I like to have a brain dump on paper - a collection of words that capture the essence of the finished product. After this, I start sketching. Once I have a sketch, I pick fabrics. Often, the fabric itself will inspire a design. With the final sketch completed, I begin drafting the pattern, either using my hand-drafted set of slopers (basic pattern pieces for tops, bottoms, or skirts) or I drape the fabric directly on my dress form. With accessory patterns, I just kind of wing it, with no guides! Those patterns are more trial-and-error.
Grace: Do you have a favorite project in the new book?
Meg: Yes! The art satchel, followed closely by the doll pattern.
Grace: Did any of the projects start out as one thing and transform into something entirely different?
Meg: The Irresistible Numbers started out as a framed, functional piece of art in my Montessori classroom. They soon morphed into something much more hands-on and functional - a set of numbers that could be traced, arranged, and played with.
Grace: As mothers, we all strive to balance meeting the needs of our little ones as well as our own needs. Can you talk about how you find this balance?
Meg: It is such a monumental task, to carve out some moments for yourself when you have a toddler and a baby. Both my husband and I try to take time to move our bodies every other day or so - whether it means going for a run, a bike ride, a weight workout, or yoga. We find it a valuable stress-reducer and a way to help us maximize our sleeping time.
In an ideal world, I'd like to have a regular meditation practice. For now, accepting the moment for what it is, I try to pause for brief periods of conscious awareness during the day.
Reading inspirational parenting books is a hobby of mine (my current favorite is "Everyday Blessings" by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn.) I'll steal some time for reading a book or check in with my favorite mama blogs in the evening after the boys are sleeping. It's so helpful for me to end the day with beautiful photos and wise words.
Grace: Do you have a favorite sewing notion?
Meg: Yes! Embroidery thread! I love adding embroidery to projects - it helps me slow down and appreciate the finished object so much more.
Grace: Thanks so much, Meg!
Meg: Thank you, Grace!
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Also, for readers of Uncommon Grace, Meg is offering a 20% discount on everything in her store, including her new book! Use coupon code UncommonGrace at checkout. The coupon is good until June 19. Thank you, Meg!
And please be sure to visit the other stops on the blog tour -- the bloggers who have gone before me this week were all incredible, and I'm sure there is a lot more fun in store for the rest of the tour!
Growing Up Sew Liberated Blog Tour
Join Interweave Books in a celebration of the launch of Meg McElwee’s new book, Growing Up Sew Liberated. The launch kicks off with a 15-day blog tour visiting education blogs, sewing blogs, parenting blogs, personal blogs, eco-living blogs, and some that are simply a combination of all of the above. You’ll meet some extraordinary women, see stunning photography, hear inspirational stories from Meg and many of her friends, and of course learn more about the book. Perhaps you’ll find some new favorite bloggers to follow along the way? Join us each day as we visit with:
6/6 Elsie Marley
6/7 Made By Rae
6/8 The Artful Parent
6/9 Rhythm of the Home Blog
6/10 Uncommon Grace
6/13 Frontier Dreams
6/14 Burda Style
6/15 Maya Made
6/16 Wise Craft
6/17 JC Handmade
6/20 Simple Homeschool