Made stuff Monday 6 – Sailboats and Lullabies!

I mentioned previously that I discovered the wonderful world of indie pattern designers… Well, one name that kept coming up was Oliver+S, so I figured I would look into that, and wow. Smitten. Between the (sadly discontinued) paper doll styling on the envelopes, and the really lovely, clean lines of designs, and the awesome names and the fact that there are a decent number of boy options that aren’t just a t-shirt or a button down… I am in love. And THEN, just as I was sitting, hemming and hawing about these patterns, there’s a sale. So, that happened. I got the Sailboat, Lullaby, Book Report and Bedtime Story patterns. (And have now, 2 months later, used all but one of them (which is slated for making Christmas PJs), so it was definitely worthwhile!)

Thankfully, they are available as printable PDF files, because shipping from the States is of course, outrageous. The Sailboat Pattern has truly adorable little cropped trousers which I just had to make for Sirocco (5 is still little enough to be truly adorable, right?). So armed with my new pattern and some lovely seersucker that my wonderful Mum got me as part of my Birthday Fabric Shopping Extravaganza, I set out to make the pants. But there was going to be some fabric left, so I wondered if maybe I could get Mistral a matching skirt in there…And then it didn’t seem fair to leave out Baby Chinook, so, maybe, if I turn this, and squeeze that, and use a contrast for the side panels…. Success! Ninja cutting at it’s finest, though I do say so myself. Trousers, skirt and a sweet little shirt out of one (perhaps generous) meter.

Poorly lit, sewing room floor shot. Victory! It will fit!

I loved making the Sailboats, the instructions were as good as generally reported (thanks to my reading of most of the archive of both Bartacks and Singletrack and Five and counting… in a fog of newborn nursing – Ladies, if you’re reading this, thanks.)

 

Look at that facing!

I felt very pro making these, whereas I usually feel like I just throw things together. In fact, I wpuld say this really marked a turning point in my sewing, something just clicked. I loved learning new techniques too! I did go the lazy route on the button and used snaps… we’ll just claim it was for ease of self dressing for the kids, mmk?

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Definitely kid-approved!

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The Lullaby top was lovely too. I was a bit concetned about the shape, that it would be too brrezy, or ride up, or look a bit girly with the width at the bottom, but it stays down beautifully and just flows over that darling baby belly. Key element here is the sleeve length: long enough to keep little arms warm and short enough not to get slobbered on (too much). That bias bound neck and cute little placket make my heart sing. I am thinking it could be cute inserted on the outside for a bit of contrast too.

It’s styled here with some darling Wiksten bloomers made out of the last useable scraps of a large sailboat print thrifted shirt that has made 3 different kid garments. Not bad, if you ask me!

Anyway, that’s it for this edition! So many makes yet unblogged! Working on it… really hoping to get them all shared up here!

Love,

Belligerence&Chocolate

Women in STEM and other hot topics part 2/2

Right, so I  had great intentions of finishing this off on Friday, but we were hit by a vomiting sickness, so yeah. Everyone is better now, thanks for asking.

When we left off we’d determined you need Smarts, yes but also Spark. But that’s not quite enough, there’s a third “S”. Support. And here, ladies and gents, is where I think we fail women, (and other minorities, but let’s keep our focus for now.)

Support. We touched on it, with mentors/teachers/family encouraging people along their path, or not. Or encouraging them to follow other paths.  This is a subtle, complex issue. It can’t be understood by looking at a few statistics nor summarized in a cute infographic, but it can easily be dismissed with a stinging cartoon.

Financial support is probably the first thing that springs to mind – grants, scholarships, fellowships exist that are reserved for women and this is great! But why are they necessary? Shouldn’t women be able to compete on their own merit? Well, it would be lovely if they could! But this is the last step in the support network and to even be there and compete for financial support we need to make sure that students are supported in other ways through the earlier parts of their academic career. This is very much a  “band aid solution” addressing the symptom (women are not hired) without going to the root cause, without even needing to ask the question (WHY they are not hired). It’s an easy way to seem/feel helpful without addressing the underlying issues and structures that are causing the symptoms. It’s not an important thing, given the circumstances, but it’s laughably insufficient.

Emotional support. Loaded expression, isn’t it? “The problem with girls in the lab is that when you criticize them, they cry.” We’re not talking about that kind of emotional (though if you’re trying to make your students cry you’ll probably succeed and you’re probably an ass.) I think that most young women of my generation have been told over and over that “girls can do anything!” and that sounded great. Our brothers and guy friends were NOT told that boys could do anything though… Nobody told them that they could be preschool teachers, secretaries, nurses, dancers, or that they might want to take some time off from their careers to care for growing families. Nobody told them that if they found the right girl they could just drop everything and move to the town with the great PhD program she got accepted in. Nobody told them that these were valid and valuable choices. But they are. They ARE. If you’re a guy reading this and have never even thought about this before, you can perhaps start to appreciate the intangible biases women face. When were told we can “do anything”, but we were shown that we should do traditional “women’s work”, we absorbed both messages. Keep a spotless home, have all the babies, get to the top of your field! Because “girls can do anything!”Anything! Everything! Because “girls can do anything” women feel like they have to do everything… we have to unlearn that. We need a different narrative for our daughters, we need to talk to our sons too. To our young friends, to our students. Nobody can do everything. We all need each other.

Which brings us to community support. How can our communities, our families be more supportive? This differs from emotional support in my mind – we’re talking more concrete actions here rather than words and attitudes. I have some suggestions and questions for different groups (and as this little rant has gone on for some length already, I think we’ll end with those. Please feel free to discuss this further with me in person or in the comments though!)

If you are a woman in science (or a man in a traditionally feminine line of work): You go! You’re awesome! And this was probably a lot of work… You likely deal with unkind comments on a regular basis, or perhaps worse, condescending comments. “Oh, you’re so brave… I could never do that.” can be as grating as “You don’t belong here.” If you happen to have a bit of energy to spare, try and be visible in the community. Befriend people with kids if you don’t have your own. My kids love their “Astro Aunties” and their “Uncle Nurse” and there’s no better way to challenge stereotypes than by creating a new normal.

If you are a man in science (these tips are from Kyle): “Talk about this stuff. Decide not to be a jerk. If you see other people being jerks, tell them to stop.” I admit it does sum it up nicely.

If you are the partner of a woman in science: Discuss your career plans! Be supportive and encourage her. Ask what her ambitions are! Ask her what you can do to help with them. Ask yourself questions too. Would I relocate to advance her career? Am I doing my share in running the household? How can I support her work if we have kids? Am I willing to be the primary caregiver for a period of time? (Yes, pregnancy is a ladies only thing, and newborn care is probably easier for women if they are breastfeeding, but past that really early stage men can be extremely competent!) If some of these questions had never occurred to you, ask yourself why and ask her if the opposite ones had occurred to her. You might be surprised by your bias.

If you are the friend of a woman in science: Feed that woman! Like literally, especially during proposal time or thesis writing. But also figuratively, make sure she’s keeping up her mental health and doing the other things she loves. Friends don’t let friends burn out. Celebrate milestones! Ask her seriously about the workplace situation, especially if she’s just moved to a new group. Is she being respected? Are people supportive of her work? If not, she’ll be glad to have someone to discuss it with and if so, celebrate that too!

If you are a conference organizer or employer: Does your workspace include facilities for families? Childminding and/or playrooms can be the difference in mothers attending and are also a chance for the next generation to be around scientists and think it’s a cool job. Mistral still goes on about “her office” at MITP... small steps to big changes…

If you are a teacher: Try and get to know a student’s interests before suggesting a career path? It sounds so obvious… but seriously grades DO NOT always equal passion. Check your bias too, are you letting it influence how you treat students? Get to know some scientists! And artists! And just people in other careers generally. As a “retired” teacher, I know that the community can be very insular and by not reaching out beyond our little education circle we are doing a disservice to all.

If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, influential adult in a kid’s life: We are living in the digital age, we are also in an era of re-skilling, there are so many ways to get by, so many possibilities for work, so many options to pursue, the world is different and will continue to change, a “good education” is not what it was 50 years ago or even 10 years ago. Let the kids cast the net wide, let them pursue their interests. Teach them to be responsible with resources, to think and question what they are told. Read them fairy tales and biographies. Make art and food and messes with them and then clean up together. Introduce them to your friends, have them talk to adults. Trust them, love them. Accept that your girls could want to be home makers or programmers, authors or landscapers. Accept that your boys could also make any of those choices. Try to raise them not to be jerks and hopefully the rest will follow.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

p.s. There is so much so much left unsaid here, but I’m glad to have this space to at least hash out some thoughts. Sadly it seems that the Strickland Nobel is now tainted by her former supervisor and fellow recipient’s grossly inappropriate videos and total lack of recognition of her work. Distasteful doesn’t even begin to cover it. We can and must do better. Drs. Azi, Arianna, Anastasia, Helen, Hannah, thanks to you and all the others who’ve been there having these conversations with me and others over the years.

 

Women in STEM and other hot topics. part 1/2

It’s been quite the news week for this hasn’t it? Scandalous sexism at CERN on Monday, Nobel Prizes on Tuesday! And of course as I know… a few… scientists, this has been a topic for conversation. Especially the first point, the second has been mostly covered with the statements “Yay!” and “About time!”. So, TL;DR – Some big shot at CERN gave a lecture “suggesting” that “maybe” there was actually no sexism at all in science and that any incentive/positive discrimination toward women was weakening the field by keeping good men out of jobs. Full disclosure: I disagree completely. But it’s an interesting little thought, no? Because of course, we want the very best, and so we wouldn’t want to miss out by excluding any group! But here’s the thing: Those brilliant young guys, the ones who deserve the jobs, they will get jobs. Academia is a hard nut to crack, and yes, if you do fill a few of the top jobs with women, there will probably be a few men who don’t make it in as a result… but they won’t be the ones who are passionate, who live for this, who work their butts off for this. They’ll be the one who thought it could be fun, who have another skill set to put to work, who’ll probably do just fine in industry or in a lower stress position or be excellent technicians. They’ll teach at community colleges, and high schools, be passionate amateurs or wonderful fathers and inspire that next generation of true researchers to go and learn about stuff. We need those guys! We don’t need lazy researchers, we don’t need people who mess with data to boost their citation count, we don’t need people who are anything less than passionate in academia. We don’t need people who are anything less than brilliant at what they do. We need talent, and skill, and imagination.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most people aren’t cut out for academia. I know I’m not. “But you could totally do a Masters!” I’ve heard that one. “But you’re so smart!” Yup, I sure am. “You got really good marks!” Uh, yeah… I’m good at bs’ing my way through exam questions and I write a well reasoned essay when I try. (This  is a rant though, please don’t judge my essay writing by this piece!) And here’s the one that starts to sting: “You’re too smart to {be a teacher/ just stay home/ give up your career/ do a trade/ work in a daycare/ not try to stay in university for as long as humanly possible}” You don’t get through the wringer on good test skills alone. You need a spark. And you need to feed it into a fire. You need smarts and spark.

So lets talk about spark for a second shall we? Most people have something that they are passionate about. Some people are passionate about something in the sciences – Kyle is about astronomy. He loves that stuff. I couldn’t care less, really… Space is really big, the end. I am passionate about making things. I love textiles, sewing, weave patterns, knitting, all of it interests me. Kyle is pretty happy to have clothes that fit and tents that don’t leak. I’d say it’s a darn good thing that he’s the scientist. Though based on my marks in high school I could’ve easily gone to university in the sciences! But I didn’t. Because I KNEW I had no interest there. I have friends though, male friends, who had comparable marks and were strongly encouraged (by teachers, by family, by peers) to go and study chemistry, biology, math, what have you. I remember conversations with two such young men where I said variations of “Are you crazy, man? You’ll hate your program and yourself if you do that!” I am glad to say they both found other, more suitable (for them) things to study. I’m not taking credit for it, but what if no one had been there to give them permission to NOT go into STEM? They’re bright guys, they could maybe have made it. They’d be there in the job pool by now, too far in to back out, competing for jobs that could have gone to someone else. We need to intervene early.


I have kids to care for, but I want to get this out asap, so, uh, watch this space, I guess?

love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

 

Made Stuff Monday 5 – First Communion necklace

A testament to the spring and summer we had, this was a mostly completed draft that I never ended up publishing… So, enjoy a totally out of season First Communion post!

Well it is truly Spring now and the weather is delightful! We’ve been having regular after school lunch picnics in this lovely natural playground between school and home. IMG_20180419_134826126

Trees, a small creek, happy kids (not shown are a stepping stone bridge, a wooden bridge a tunnel and a zipline!) They could probably just play and explore here all day… Which means, I have time to stitch! I got some really delightful Dandelyne mini-hoops for Christmas and have been hoarding them. Do you ever get that way with really wonderful supplies? They are just too lovely to use! Anyway, a sweet family from our church invited us to their daughter’s First Communion party and I figured it was an appropriately lovely occasion to pull out one of the mini hoops.

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So here we are, stitching in the wild! When I say tiny, I mean it. I based the design on this beautiful Prayer Book cover by Mary Corbett, obviously reducing the amount of detail enormously.

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Complete! Still wet from removing the marker. Can I mention how lovely water soluble pens are? Total game changer when I found out about those… Especially as my sketching tends to be messy at best and then used as a general guideline for stitching, rather than a carefully followed pattern.

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And here it is! In all it’s completed necklace-ified glory! I added a single pearl, referencing the Pearl of Great Price (pictured here, in French!). I was horribly nervous about how it would be received, but the girl loved it, and so did everyone she showed it off to. I usually just make things for my immediate family, so it was really a lovely feeling to contribute something to someone else’s special day. And of course, the lovely thing about a handmade, slow stitched gift is that it provides an opportunity to pray for the person you are gifting it to. Here’s to a lovely continuation of her faith journey for our little friend!

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

Do you make things for others? What do you think about when you’re stitching? 

Babies and blog breaks

Oh hello there, blog thing. One of my latest makes was met with a “That’s cute, maybe you should blog about it.” Apparently 8+ years of marriage has made us better at communicating because I distinctly remember these types of remarks causing major blow ups in our early years… So huzzah for growth! And for gentle reminders from mostly monosyllabic males.

Speaking of growth… There’s a new wind blowing around here. Little Chinook was born mid June and he’s been making everything a bit more complicated and a LOT more delightful, as babies are wont to do.

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The cuteness! The messy hair! The terrible photo quality! Part of the Great Blog Stall of Spring/Summer 2018 is the fact that my beloved Canon is refusing to turn on…. and I just haven’t had a chance to have it fixed.

Another, rather large part, has been my health – the  previously alluded to bronchitis took a toll and a really long time to recover fully from. I was finally finding my feet (and my voice, and a rhythm that worked) when the baby was born. Now that I’m almost 3 months post-partum things are starting to make a bit more sense again. That 4th trimester is no joke!

The last, and exciting, thing that’s been keeping me off blogging is just a question of seasons of creativity. I took advantage of a free Craftsy Unlimited (now Bluprint, I think?) trial during the kids’ spring break. Watching a few sewing class tutorials jump-started a season of intense learning and seeking to improve my garment sewing skills. This was further pushed along by a flurry of sewing blog reading, sewist instagram following, discovery of several indie pattern companies, and MORE sewing blog reading during the hazy first weeks post-partum where all I want to do is sit, read and nurse the baby. (Pour la petite histoire, as we say in French, I read Lawrence in Arabia after Sirrocco’s birth, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and a few other foodie books after Mistral’s.) The upshot of all of this is that I’ve completed 5 Oliver+S garments, 2 Brindille&Twig as well as a few other things, in the last 2 months.

We’ve done lots of consuming and are back to creating, baby! (I feel like this is something that Tsh Oxenrider talks about a lot… I like the idea. For instance, I’m sitting here and writing this BEFORE getting on Insta this morning, since I want to get it done!) And part of creating is writing about it, because I like writing. I don’t really miss much from high school, and even University, but one thing I do miss is how I was surrounded by other writers. (C, R, since you claim to read this page, I’m looking at you! And many others…) Blogging is not quite the short stories my friends wrote, or the poetry that I wrote, but it’s putting down thoughts in words, and it feels right.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

Written anything lately? I’d love to read it. 

 

Made Stuff Tuesday (again) 4 – Colour blocked sweater dress

This little dress was a morning sew with a toddler wandering around! So, fast and easy! The pattern is B3772 from Butterick’s (aptly named) 6 Sew Fast & Easy collection – see what I did there?

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The only changes I made were to switch the buttons and buttonholes so that it buttons top over bottom and to cut two pieces for front and back (adding a seam allowance) instead of cutting on the fold. The front facing is one piece but the back is also split because I didn’t have quite enough fabric to make it in one piece. You may recognize the pink and orange from the 80s throwback sweater… The red is from another thrifted sweater picked up at the same time. Like in the previous project I had fun making the most of original details. The front pink panel is fussy cut to include the cute little embroidered Cupid. The buttons are also thrifted – there’s a couple enormous button bins at our local shop that the kids love digging through for treasures, and these fit the mood of this dress like a charm! I did the buttonholes by hand with some bright orange DMC embroidery thread, mainly because I didn’t feel like figuring out the buttonhole settings on my new machine – hah! Handmade buttonholes are really not that bad if you only have a few and  you want them to make a statement anyway.

I would include a nice picture of Mistral wearing the dress… but I don’t have one. Mainly because as soon as it’s on her she’s all:

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I had a lot of fun making this and it’s a nice weight to either wear by itself or throw on as a an extra layer over a lighter outfit. She’ll hopefully get a few seasons of wear out of it too – there’s a bit of extra length on the straps to move the buttons up (hence the swap from the original) and the A-line shape is quite roomy so it should work nicely as a tunic as well!

I’ve got a few projects finished up and photographed to share so hopefully I can do write ups and have them posted on time in the next few weeks! Today though, I need to figure out some sort of mostly orange outfit more Mistral to wear on Koningsdag (I made Sirrocco’s yesterday!)

What have you been making lately?

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

 

Friendship and conversation

Last Thursday was a good day for conversations – online and off. After several weeks of sickness in the house and similar stories in my friends’ houses I managed to catch up with one friend for morning coffee and another one for afternoon coffee on the same day! On top of that, Annie of Possum Cottage started an interesting conversation about intentional living and defining their lifestyle over on her Instagram. This got me thinking about who are friends are, and why we’re friends.

My two friends are, like me, mothers and married to academics. They’ve both been in this particular town longer than we have, but we share a history of moving around with funding and contracts and ending up in places we didn’t necessarily expect. We’re navigating raising small children without family nearby, in a culture and language that is not our own. Our best common language is English, but our kids are more comfortable in other languages (Dutch with one family, French with the other). We swap parenting advice and are alternately amused and baffled at what our friends back home, from here  and living abroad do differently. (How much outdoor time small children need daily is both baffling and amusing in terms of difference. From EXTREMELY high priority in Finland, diminishing through Canada, Poland, Germany and finally apparently “not really a thing” here in the Netherlands.)

Much as I really resisted the idea of living in a little “expat bubble” before moving here I am finding it really has its advantages. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Finding community is difficult, and while I’ve met some lovely people with common interests over the years I think in many ways finding people you can converse with make better friends.

Many of my friends my age are young scientists or artists building their careers. I have no interest in that for myself but I see their struggle to succeed in something they are passionate about and it’s so close to my heart because that’s where Kyle is at too. And it’s so fascinating to hear about their research, their art, their process. How they find and generate ideas, where they look for inspiration, what their hobbies are and how these different things feed off of each other, inspire each other.

Most of my “mom-friends” are actually a bit older than I am, though we didn’t have our first particularly young. I don’t know if it’s just a question of the communities we’ve lived in, or of who I happen to get talking to (though it probably has something to do with the fact that I was drawn to the quiet confidence of experienced moms of multiple/older children when I had my first – I had enough anxiety without having a bunch more first time moms panicking over small things around me…). Many of these friends have jobs outside the home too – which I don’t and don’t have much interest for either, honestly. It’s often a bit awkward – the whole “what do you do?” question is not a favourite. Of course, we talk about our kids and that is an inexhaustible topic, but the friends – not acquaintances, despite some being very friendly – are the ones where we talk about other things, about travel, about books, about our past and our future and our theories on how the world works. They are – most importantly – the ones who will turn to their children and say “Just a moment, Mommy’s talking right now.”

I think it’s starting to hit me t in spite of being very good at seeing the differences in age, stage, interests etc within my set of friends I’ve overlooked something important. I’ve often felt lucky to have so many creative, bright people as friends – that there were always such interesting people to talk to everywhere I went. I think there might be a reason for that. That maybe, just maybe, in spite of having a dusty degree and having retired from my official career, I might be one of them too.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate.