Sunday, February 15, 2015

How to Dress for Pregnancy (and not look like a small lost whale)

I thought I would share some of the things I discovered while attempting to look nice and dress well during pregnancy.

1. Silhouette. 

Assess your wardrobe for the shapes you usually wear. I wanted to dress like 'myself' just pregnant. I didn't want to wear things I wouldn't normally wear just because I was pregnant. So I took a look at my wardrobe. Things I normally wear fall into 4 silhouettes: Hourglass, Triangle, Tube, Lollipop. Out of these the only one that didn't work for pregnancy was the hourglass - because you lose your waist. The tube shape would become a little bumpy but still a tube. So I had three silhouettes to work with.

2. Dress for Trimester. 

Your body shape changes as you go through pregnancy. You don't need the huge tummy space at the beginning. For the first trimester you might get away with wearing your loose normal clothes. For the second trimester your tummy is small and cute, might as well show it off so people know you are pregnant not getting fatter and can congratulate you. Third trimester you are just huge, so no point hiding or attempting cute-ness unless you normally do cute. Third trimester I went for smart and stylish options - dressing up not down. So that meant wearing a stylish jacket (left open to drape) and nice jewellery even if just going to the supermarket.

3. Shop with Caution.

Don't buy too many maternity clothes if you can avoid it because you won't wear them for long. I only needed maternity pants at about 20 weeks in and was out of them by about 1 month after delivery. One or two pairs of maternity jeans and or dress pants should be enough and a couple of pairs of maternity tights if you wear tights. For tops and dresses I just brought my normal silhouettes in 2 or 3 sizes larger to accommodate my tummy. That way after pregnancy I'm still wearing them.

4. Breastfeeding. 

Don't forget breastfeeding if you plan to. Buy tops with buttons or that are loose at the hem so you can feed easily later on. That way you only need to buy one set of tops instead of tops for pregnancy and then tops for breastfeeding. Stretchy jersey fabric long tunic tops are good as are button down shirts a size or two larger than you normally wear (roll up the sleeves to avoid looking sloppy).

5. Body Changes.

Your body changes in interesting and unexpected ways. Generally what were 'problem' areas became enhanced as a result of pregnancy. My ankles usually retain water so they retained even more water during pregnancy. My feet swelled to 2 sizes larger (had to buy new shoes as nothing fit). My already large bust grew even larger. My ribcage grew wider to accommodate the baby and the extra lung capacity needed and I grew 2 inches across the bust so none of my fitted dresses or tops fit me by 5 months pregnant. My fingers swelled so I couldn't fit my rings on. My hips became 2 inches wider.

6. Work with your Good Features. 

Play up your good features. My arms stayed nice so I wore sleeveless tops. My skin was wonderful due to the pregnancy hormones, so I didn't have to wear makeup much. Despite my ankles swelling my legs stayed relatively slim so I could wear skinny jeans (plus the enormous tummy makes everything else look smaller by comparison).

7. Cheer Yourself. 

Cheer yourself with cute clothes for the baby or a nice jewelery for yourself. You will probably feel horrid and huge at some point, so buy the baby something nice. Enjoy the pregnancy, its only 9 months and you get a cute baby at the end of it. In a few months after the baby sleeps for more than 1 hour at a time and you start to look and feel normal again you will probably look back on your pregnancy with fondness. The baby will probably rip a necklace off your neck and dangly earrings off your ears so go with small stud earrings or a ring (though your fingers are probably swollen so buy rings with caution!). Or save the money for a massage or nice dinner after delivery.

8. 9 Months. 

It took 9 months to grow huge so it will take at least (possibly some parts of your body will never be the same again) as long to shrink. The media has unrealistic expectations about being a 'hot mama'. Ignore that and enjoy your child. Sure, eat healthy and exercise if you have the energy and time (who does?!) but don't beat yourself up about not fitting unrealistic ideals. I'm not a supermodel to begin with, so why should I look like one after having a baby? My feet will apparently never go back to their original size and I'll always be a size larger (hello new shoes!).

9.Kiss those soft baby cheeks often. 

Most of all enjoy the wonder that is a new life. Congratulate your body for growing and nurturing a child and be kind to yourself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I'm still here

I never meant for this blog to slowly fade away. I did intend to keep it up and to post all the lovely things I do and make.

However, life got in the way. More accurately, a small wonderful little person got in the way!

Turns out my son is not a 'sleeper'. He doesn't take long naps during the day. He doesn't like to play alone. He doesn't like for me to be busy in another room or working on something he can't touch. He wants me to play with him, to talk to him and interact with him. He is curious and loves to explore. This all means my grand plans to make things for him (and myself!) while on maternity leave have not really happened. Instead I've been playing games, going for walks and singing songs to my son. 

I've made very little but I'm trying to work on a little bit of something every day.

Slowly I made my son a cardigan. I mixed four different yarns together to get a dappled effect. 

I'm back at ceramics. This time at the wheel, not just hand building. After almost 300 hours at ceramics I'm starting to make nice things that turn out how I want them to.

This bowl is wood fired in a dragon kiln. The colour comes from the ash in the kiln. Its magical.

I also look for workshops to attend while my husband baby sits.

I've taken up tapestry weaving and I love it. Its so exciting to see a piece develop.

This is the third part of a triptych I made for my living room wall.

Rather than blogging, I'm posting images of my work on Pinterest as Ellen Blue Triangle.

I'm still on Ravelry as Mrs Teapot. I just began updating the last 2 years worth of work!

And still working on my own little design collection now on sale in Japan.

And the exciting thing: my son loves texture. Its fun to watch him exploring with his hands, fingernails, teeth and tongue and even feet. He gets into all sorts of fabric and yarn and materials. He loves highly textured watercolour paper and paper string and things that crunch or are fluffy or smooth.

Maybe a love of yarn and fabric is genetic...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


My major creative project for the last 9 months has been growing a baby.

Hence the quiet blog and the resting.

My world is upside down in the best possible way.

Here are my 'feet' pictures from the first week of pregnancy until delivery. I took one picture per week for 40 weeks.

Growing a baby is an extraordinary thing.

Meeting the baby that has grown inside you is even more extraordinary.

I stare at his little face in wonder and awe.

How can it be that I'm his mother. What a privilege.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I'm still here

Its been a little quiet here for the past few months.

Resting has been a necessity rather than an option.

But 2014 promises new things and new making.

I have been making progress slowly on a few things. There has been some knitting, some dyeing and there will be some crochet to come.

I've been to a few museums recently. The Asian Civilisation Museum has some textile treasures.

This long timber piece with ornate mother of pearl ends is labelled as a 'warp beam winder'. Its from Cambodia and is early 20th century. As far as I can work out this is what the warp is wound onto and then it is placed at the back of loom under tension and as more warp is needed its wound out. More info on Cambodian silk weaving here and here. You can see a large beam like this at the back of some of the looms. And for interest, this site shows you how to make your own reed from bamboo if you want to.

These are embroidered collars from the Hmong culture, mid 20th century, from Northern Thailand. Clearer examples of the wonderful geometric embroidery here. The collars are worn at the back of the neck as part of a jacket.

This is a batik apron from the Miao of Yunnan in China, early 20th century. The central panel is batik while the sides are woven.

This looks like an apron but it is a baby-carrier from the Hmong of Chiang Mai. It dates from 2005 which is obvious when you notice the Doraemon fabric around the edges! The central panel is embroidered with a type of cross-stitch in geometric motifs.

These are waist ties from West Sumatra and were made in the late 19th and early 20th century. I would guess these are woven using a backstrap loom like this. The label says these are worn by men of Minangkabau and are symbolic of a male's ties to his nieces and nephews in a matrilineal culture.

This beautiful but hard to photograph piece is tapestry woven. Apparently tapestry weaving is rare in south-east asia. This piece is a skirt worn by Maranao royalty from Western Mindanao in the early 20th century. It is made of silk and because it has yellow it means it was worn by royal women because yellow is reserved for royalty in Moro communities and in Malay societies in south-east asia.

I'm currently reading this fabulous book on Prehistoric Textiles which is making me notice more about the textiles around me. Pre-historic people were weaving some very sophisticated fabrics and garments by 5000BC with patterns, multiple colours, fringing, beads and lace inserts. I hope one day to be as skilled as them with my weaving!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A little knitting

This leaf motif is from Golden Hands Magazine, published in the mid 1970s. There are many different leaf motifs: Oak, Ginko, Elm... so I've selected 4 to try.

I wanted to practice my Fair Isle technique (which is not so good). 

I plan on making about 16 motifs and joining them together into a little blanket. I think it will look great, its just taking some time. Each motif takes me about 3 hours to do.

Still, I love how it is turning out.

The dark green yarn is a silk/cotton blend left-over from a top I knit last year. The bright green is mercerised cotton. The motifs have nice drape due to the silk and so will be lovely as a blanket.

Should be done by this time next year!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Some Gluten-Free Happy Things

Going gluten-free has not been that difficult for the most part. It has been only a small adjustment from the relatively low gluten diet I was eating for the last few years. At first I had thought it was just wheat that was the problem, but it turns out to be the whole gluten family: wheat, rye, spelt, kamut, barley... And I've also developed a mild egg allergy (though I can still get away with a tiny bit every now and then - like in a little icecream!)

However, the hardest things have been good pastry, cakes, pancakes and bread. I've got a good basic shortcrust pastry recipe that works well for either sweet or savoury pies (I just leave out the sugar for savoury)

I use this recipe for the pastry, but instead of shortening I use butter (and I use about 1/4 cup instead of 1/3), I skip the vanilla and for the flour I use half soy flour and half rice flour. I also double the quantities of flour (but not anything else) as the recipe only makes enough for the base of my tin. I find the rice flour is too crumbly by itself while the soy flour is too sticky. So putting the two together gives a balance of crumbly and sticky. It also allows you to press and knead the dough a bit without it falling apart. This mix holds its shape nicely when baked but you can't over-bake it as it tends to get tough. For a more textured version I use 1/3 cup of ground almonds and reduce the rice and soy flours to 1/3 cup. 

Here I used the pastry for a blueberry custard pie. I used a gluten and egg free instant custard powder with about 500g of blueberries piled on top. Then I mixed about 1/3 cup of blackberry jam with a dash of water to make the glaze. Then baked the lot for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius. I did blind-bake the pastry for about 5 minutes first because I was worried the base might get soggy. 

Turned out great and tasted wonderful. 

This sticky date pudding is soo good. I used this recipe here without any modifications (except using 'Egg-Replacer in place of the 2 eggs) . It was perfect. Totally not gluten-free weird tasting. The caramel butterscotch sauce was just lovely.

This was my first grilled cheese sandwich in 2.5 years. Two and a half years is a long time for anyone to go without a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.  I almost cried in happiness while eating this sandwich. 

It took a few tries cooking these to get this Ricotta Pancake just right. As I have a gas stove, it was a little too hot to cook these nicely. However, on the lowest temperature and moving the pan around while the pancake cooked, it turned out perfect. I served these with a dollop of ricotta on top and some blackberry jam. Though these are nice on their own. Certified good by the real-pancake eating Mr (and he is very particular about pancakes).

 The blog has some excellent looking other gluten-free recipes I'm looking forward to trying and the photographs are lovely.

My next challenge is gluten-free Snowskin Lotus Mooncakes as its the Mid-Autumn Festival. I plan to use this recipe. 

The trials and tribulations of Avocado growing

It has been a tense few weeks here as we watched our two avocado plants that I've been growing for the past year slowly loose all their leaves.

I sprayed them with some non-toxic bug killer to no avail.

Then I decided to do some online searching to find out what might be killing our beautiful friends. I finally discovered that they had fungus bugs eating their roots. Many of the sites said too bad the plants will die or to use lots of chemicals but one gave some helpful advice: stop watering the plants and let the soil dry out. Apparently the fungus bugs need moisture to survive and with no water the bugs will die but the plants will be fine. Once the soil is completely and utterly dry, you can start to water again, watching carefully for bug-action.

Today our second avocado lost its last large leaf. So both plants have are now stick-like and at first glance leaf-less!

However, both have started to sprout new leaves this week! Hurrah! 

I like to think that the little pep-talk I have with them every morning about them being such lovely plants and how much we want them to thrive has also helped. So yes, you should talk to your plants and tell them that they are great! (but also do some research on bugs!)