Not just another baby story

I thought it would be fun to share the story of my daughter’s birth from the photographer’s perspective.

 

I was sweating in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart when Tamika called me on a swampish July afternoon to ask me a question. She wanted to know if I would photograph her daughter’s birth. “I don’t know how you feel about that,” she laughed; I didn’t know how I felt about it either. There are several factors my mind quickly went to that could have kept me from saying yes, for instance, gratuitous pain or bodily fluid, both of which I’ve long assumed I have a low tolerance for. But Tamika has me wrapped around her finger and she makes everything in life feel beautiful and celebratory. I’ve known her for over three years now but only in the last year have we built a firm friendship and have become ingrained in each other’s lives. She’s taught me how to celebrate the mundane. She’s shared her family with me, her dreams, her precious tea. She laughs with me a lot and gives me a sassy look -a look I can’t help but imitate regularly. I trust my life with this woman. She is quiet, she is fierce, and she loves Jesus. She is also very intentional with her life and friendships. I didn’t understand fully why she wanted me there but when someone like that has loved you so well, a big question slowly turns into a simple answer: absolutely.

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Close to a week before the birth I dropped by the Fairmount House to talk through the details surrounding Tamika’s delivery. It should have been no surprise to hear the plan entailed being just as quiet and chill at seven centimeters dilated then when she’s sewing a peplum top sipping on some hot tea. She wanted a peaceful and subdued atmosphere but I doubted this projection. I was leaving for Atlanta for a conference a few days later and texted her to suck that baby in until I returned. Baby obliged and the family went to the hospital half an hour after I returned to the city. That’s what I call perfect timing.

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I joined them at 10:20 PM on a Saturday night, a weary traveler who hadn’t showered in two days and smelled like beef jerky (Let it be known, I erased this sentence twice before I resigned to full disclosure) I anxiously walked through the deserted halls of the hospital, finally forced to face my small anxieties I previously squelched of what would happen that evening. The nurse buzzed me into the maternity ward. I could hear a fresh baby crying in a room down the hall; I smiled and breathed deeply as we entered our room. It was dimly lit, smelling of lavender and peppermint. Tamika curled up on her side in the hospital bed, smiling between contractions, happy to see me.

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Labor was less stressful than I had braced for but I imagine Tamika could tell a different story there. There wasn’t any drama. There were minimal monitors and beeping. Husband wasn’t stressed. Nursing staff wasn’t rushing in mid-contraction to see if it was time to push. No one rushed anywhere. I’m not entirely sure why I was expecting these things. Too many episodes of Offspring, I suppose. Tamika labored quietly.

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Her friend, Louise, tended to her every need and encouraged her as she progressed in labor. I sat back quietly with her husband, my camera always close. I’m one of those sense-ers, the people who can walk in a room, lick my finger, hold it to the wind, and come back with pretty accurate readings on tension and drama in the situation. Being in labor and delivery was a constant sense check, especially when you’re capturing someone’s pain. An hour into that room I came to the definite conclusion that there will always be something inherently awkward about sitting on a couch with your legs crossed sipping on a cup of coffee while watching someone agonize a child out of their body, or even worse, taking pictures of them. There’s just no way around it.

That evening reminded me that, like most things I’ve experienced in life, is experienced individually, but is done best together. It’s good to lean in the uncomfortable circumstances of life and stay with loved ones even when you feel incapable of healing or helping. Sometimes our presence and our attention can be enough; not enough to change people or pain but just enough to remind each other that we don’t have to be alone when we hurt; that when we absorb the desperate squeezing of a hand our willingness to sit with the suffering produces the courage to keep on. Tamika has sat with me as I’ve cried over heartbreak or confessed sin in my life or probably more commonly, where I’ve been unwilling to see the next best step. Andy Crouch says that persons created in the image of the triune God do not flourish unless they are placed in community. As I’ve flourished, this past year I’ve learned a healing community looks a lot like a delivery room; waiting, anticipation, and continual prayer. And when the time comes, change happens.

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In the wee hour of Sunday morning, it was time. The doctor walked in followed by two nurses who stood in the back ground, waiting. The doctor asked me to help her tie her scrubs and she casually sat down on a roller chair and asked Tamika, “Are you ready to have a baby?” Husband, who appeared relaxed all evening, crossed his arms expectantly. As Tamika readied herself, we all rose to our feet, like a palace waiting for their queen. The room grew quiet, Tamika’s pain the only thing heard. When she bore down to push, I looked around the room at the seven of us. I thought about each generation before us, who labored out the next, and on and on, that brought us here, to a darkened hospital room to bear witness the birth of this little one. Tamika grabbed husband’s hand and I thought of my own mother’s soft tan hands gripping a cold hospital rail and my dad’s arm, as if it eased any sort of pain. It is crazy how humans can love each other that much without the slightest clue of who they’re bringing into the world and the heartache tethered to them. It’s crazy knowing my mom –like many others- would do it all over again if she had the chance. It’s even crazier to know paradoxically, that even that sort of love leaves the deepest part of me wanting, aching and lonely to be filled with an even holier, perfect love that only God himself can satisfy.

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It has always been mysterious to me why God came to us as a baby. I’ve wondered why didn’t he show his power by parting the sky when John was baptizing and instead a dove, drop a grown-up Jesus down then (or any other time and place, for that matter). But there, in that hospital room, I couldn’t help but think of Mary and how quietly the world changed when she gave birth and about how much the world that Jesus was born into desperately needed him as much then as we do now. Christ lived, died, and conquered death for that world and this one, with a promise to return. And so we’ve waited. At twenty-six, I’ve sat in front of enough television screens riddled with mass shootings, missing planes, abducted children, oil spills, and beheadings that at times life can feel so heavy that I’m sure it will split in two. Some days the goodness of life can be overwhelmed by the senseless viciousness of it. The earth has pretty much always been broken, as it has always been round. While Tamika labored to bring her little girl in the world, another friend’s days old daughter died that night in a NICU; the same night we stood in joyful anticipation of life, another room sat in grief. When I hear of these paradoxes, the wars and slavery, sometimes they just get called ‘life’, a pat answer for the worst kind of realities and confusion we live with. It has been difficult to look at the state of the world and not ask God what the heck is going on, what’s the plan here or ask ourselves, why can’t we just get it together for a second and stop killing each other? Over the years my trust in God has wandered in every direction–to his very existence to whether he’s even good to us. It’s inconceivable to me that God still wants me–the doubter, the naysayer of his love and kindness–and yet, I’ve felt his kindness in spite of my disbelief over the years. It’s wounded me in the best way; a wounding that has cut my pride down to size, picked me up, and loved me in spite of myself. There is so much in life I do not and will not understand but my prayer is that I, like Paul, will always say,

“How great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! Or who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever!”

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So when my dear friend cried out in pain as the child that she’s hoped and loved and labored for came, Jesus spoke to me in that room, in the still small voice recounted in Isaiah. He spoke the very words he spoke to his disciples in Matthew 24, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” And then he comes backFor good. And with one incredible push, a tiny Contessa Grace was welcomed into the world, quietly and wide-eyed on a dark Sunday morning. Her eyes moved about, as if she was taking in the new world and upon assessment, let out a pitiful grunt of approval. All seven of us chuckled quietly. It completely took my breath away. For the first time in my life, I understood pain and suffering in a whole new way. We can exist in a world of pain and still rejoice because we know hope is being born. It is all light and momentary affliction in view of the glory to come.

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Half an hour later, I sat on the couch holding Contessa in all her un-bathed curly-headed, slender fingered, baby-grunting glory, pushing back tears. Tamika looked over at me at one point and just raised her eyebrows and gave me a half-smile, like we’d both experienced something crazy. We had. I will always be grateful for Tamika and her husband inviting me into their sacred space and entrusting me with the honor of telling Contessa’s birth through my camera. I laugh thinking about the doctor looking at me before Tamika pushed and asking me, “Are you good?” –I can’t imagine what my face was saying. I can’t ever get it to shut up. Mostly, I’ve come away amazed at God’s design and how he is found at the start of every life, how he holds and tends to each one so carefully. I’ve seen his kindness and blessing in the face of suffering.

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I’ve thought a lot since then about what I would want Contessa to know about that night if she ever finds herself leafing through those photos. I would want to tell her that when she was born all the lights in the hospital shined brighter that night because that’s how it felt, as if her birth charged the earth’s battery by two hundred percent. I would tell her that her mama laid her on her chest and locked eyes with her and just smiled and said, “Well, hello there.” like they had met before and her daddy looked her over a thousand times like the Sistine Chapel. There was a small party with nurses who cooed and a doctor that smiled and Louise who giggled and Bri who took pictures. God smiled and the angels rejoiced.  And more than anything, I would want her to know that even though life is a struggle, we all count it a privilege to be here in a world with her, to live, to discover, to love, to yearn, to live life together, imitating the Creator.

 

Knock it Off – peplum top and cropped sweatpants

What a pleasure it is to work with the lovely Heidi of Elegance & Elephants in the return of her Knock-Off Series. Well, let’s get right to it. We are here to create and share fun clothing for younger ones inspired by designer fashion that is either available today or has a vintage feel and is no longer available. I like to think of this series as giving a nod to other designers while showing how looks can be recreated at home.

Whenever I am inspired by a photo, I tuck it away in folder. This happens to be the case for the look I created for my daughter.

Peplum top and cropped sweatpants by designer Rachel Roy
Peplum top and cropped sweatpants by designer Rachel Roy

I like that this design was not difficult to create pint-sized and translates well for a wide range of ages. This particular look features a color-block short sleeved peplum shirt paired with cropped drawstring sweatpants.

 

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How fun is this little outfit?  For fabric, I went with a sweater knit fabric in two colors similar to the inspiration pic, but decided to swap the dominant color.  I thought the lighter fabric would best suit my little one.  It cost me about $12 to create both pieces.  Curly Cutie loves purses and bags, so I couldn’t help but make a crayon tote out of linen and faux leather using a modified version of this pattern.

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If you have a basic t-shirt pattern on hand, or can draft one (from an existing shirt or by other means) you can create this top. For help drafting your own t-shirt pattern, Melly has talent that cannot be denied and will walk you through every step. You’ll need to take your basic t-shirt pattern and modify it slightly.  Bellow is a pic of the modified pattern pieces for my daughter’s size (5).

DSC08408bA FEW THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO BE MINDFUL OF:
(If anyone is curious, I have included my daughter’s modified shirt measurements where necessary – size 5)

– your original shirt pattern (front and back) will need to be shortened to account for height of peplum. (shortened to 9″ from base of front neckline, she has a longer than average torso I believe. peplum = (waist*2)x 3-3/4″)
– you’ll need to add seam allowances for both front pieces (either while creating modified pattern or while cutting fabric). (To create my color-block line for front, I measured in 1-1/4” from top of armhole and 3-3/8″ in from right side of pattern at waist and placed a mark. Connected dots and added 3/8″ seam allowance)
– you’ll need a short sleeve pattern and a neckband. (for neckband I cut a long strip of fabric that was 1-1/2″ wide and attached with 1/4″ seam allowance. I used a flat construction method, so I didn’t have a set length for strip)

If you, like me, are a continual recipient of the generosity of the online sewing community, then you may know that Heidi of Elegance & Elephants has made a retro sweatpants PDF pattern available for free download. This pattern can be used to create the cropped sweatpants.

DSC08404b E&E PATTERN MODIFICATION w/construction changes FOR CROPPED PANTS:

– I added 2” to waist of pattern to accommodate 1” elastic waistband. I did not want to attach waistband separately, so I simply incorporated it into the pattern. I made sure to follow the gentle slanted line for the pants BACK.
– I serged elastic to waist, folded down and used a stretch stitch to complete waistband.
– Instead of adding button holes for a draw string, I opted for a faux tie at center front of waist band.  Completely non-functional, but cute to boot!
– Pant sides were sewn first to add stripe before being fully constructed. For the love of all things good, I could not sew the stripe to the pant without funky things happening, so hand-sewing has never failed me yet. I attached the stripes by hand. Such a small sacrifice for a great return.
– I cut a size 5/6 with the length of a size 3 and it worked out great hitting CC right below the knee.
– I used 9” of 1/4” elastic for casings at pant bottom.

For Fun:

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The series is wrapping up, but it’s still not too late to enter your Knock Off into the Flickr pool for a chance at some pretty nice prizes.   Did you happen to catch the other creations in the series?

Elegance & Elephants

Thanks again for having me Heidi!

Zebra in a grassy field

Another season of Project Run & Play has commenced.  It is something about sewing along with this competition that gets the creative juices flowing.  I was happy to jump on board for week 1.  The theme is “Put me in the zoo”, and we were to create a design inspired by a favorite animal.  Curly Cutie chose the zebra and after a quick search I found inspiration.

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I took to my stash as this would be another refashioned garment.

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The items used were either 100% linen or a linen blend, and I thought the colors captured the essence of the inspiration pic.  This dress has a nice fit and drape.  I think I can add linen to the list of my new faves.

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I thought it would be neat to go with  stripes for this theme.  The black and white stripes give me the zebra feel.  The blue stripe represents the sky, and the bottom stripe is a light oatmeal color similar to the grassy field.  It’s so light it almost gets lost, but adds a nice touch in my opinion.

Pattern is self-drafted (modified Simplicity 3859), and 4″ or 5″ strips were pieced together to make fabric big enough to cut dress pieces.

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dress front pieced fabric

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For the back we went with a simple exposed metal zip, and I’m pleased with the results.  Easy on and off.

zoo5zoo5bThat’s a wrap.

Girl's striped dress refashion

 

 

 

 

 

Curly Cutie’s object color palettes

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We  were sitting at the table going over a lesson for school when inspiration hit.  On the table, my daughter (age 6) pointed out a green piece of fabric, green toy car and a green crayon.  She looked at me and said, “Mom, look at this color palette.  I have an idea.  We can make several of these using different colors.  This would help baby boy (age 2) learn his colors.”  What a sweet idea.  I told her it was fabulous and we should work on it during quiet time.  That was a pretty big deal for me, because I do enjoy my down time but saw this as an opportunity to encourage her creativity.  I suggested we take photos of her creations (to the best of our ability of course).  We scoured the house for items that fit into the color categories she chose.  She would arrange the items for one color while I took pics of another.  We went back and forth in that manner until each color had been photographed.  I’m learning so much about how she processes information and what she values about her work process.  I did make suggestions about object placement for the photos.  We had lots of fun.  Now we just have to figure out what to do with the pictures.

color palettes-redcolor palettes-orangecolor palettes-yellowcolor palettes-greencolor palettes-bluecolor palettes-purplecolor palettes-browncolor palettes-blackcolor palettes-whitecolor palettes-pinkAny suggestions?  Let me know!

Conversations with “curly cutie” (round 15)

 

 

 

I know we have been looooong overdue for an installment of conversations.  I fell off in that I just stopped writing this stuff down.  Her shenanigans are so frequent we could have a book by now.  Lol.  Either way, this is a short one but I just had to come and let you know we are back in business.  You all have let me know that you really enjoy these conversations and I want to deliver.  Oh, Curly Cutie is 6 years old.

#1

CC:  I can’t believe you went to sleep in the hospital.

me:  What do you mean?  Oh, when we had baby boy?

CC:  Yes.

me:  Yeah, because I remember you and dad came home each night.

CC:  Yep, every night we slept in our comfortable beds.  Then, when the sun came up we got right up to come and see you.  They fed you breakfast and everything.

(I started thinking about how supportive she was when we were about to deliver baby #2.  She was right by my side until I started pushing, praying me through every contraction.)

me:  You were such a big girl.  You were mommy’s helper.

CC:  Yeah, I just love processes like that that allow me to have those types of experiences.

me:  Lol!  You are funny.

CC:  I mean, I was just so happy to be there for you in your time of need.

me & CC:  LOL!

#2

CC:  Can’t wait to taste these potatoes.

(she tastes a spoonful)

CC:  Ooooh, they’re gooey.

me:  Yeah, I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the potato.

CC:  They are different than before.  I like them though.  It just makes me wonder, “what happened?”

me:  Lol!

 

Go here to read previous conversations.

My roots: Africa and America

I was super excited when the invite came from Heidi to participate in Roots: Sewing your heritage.  I just love it when art is meaningful.  Have you seen the other creations?  Just beautiful.

I am African-American.  Of African descent, yet born and raised in America.  Honestly, I still have questions about my roots, and almost allowed my lack of knowledge to keep me from participating.  One thing I am learning is that conditions don’t have to be perfect before I can put my “yes” on the table.  For now, I can celebrate what I do know: Those before me were born with purpose, and I am grateful for their strength and sacrifice.

*steps down from soap box*

I wanted to create an ensemble that reflects my appreciation for color found in African fashion and fit my 6 year old’s mature and hilarious personality.

When I think of modern African fashion, I think of bold and bright colors.  I think of energetic movement and strength.  The use of saturated solids, dazzling prints, geometric shapes and sophisticated silhouettes give a regal feel to garments and are breathtaking.  Muted palettes are also favored in African fashion.  There were several routes I could have taken when designing an outfit.  Color was my inspiration for Curly Cutie’s creation (say that 10 times – lol).  Feast your eyes on these beauties (pics will take you to source).

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african vlisco2 African Vibrations

africa bk cross African Vibrations

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See what I mean?  This was no easy task for a person with a go-to palette of black and white.  I appreciated the challenge though.  I feel a little more free now, like I could just about put anything together and say, “BAM, there it is!”

Here is my little one.

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We thought it would be fun to add a baby wearing element to this ensemble.  I have a friend from Ghana that taught me how to tie a wrap so I could carry baby #2 when he was just a little something.  This wrap is just a yard of fabric.

African inspired girls' clothing

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Pattern used for shirt is the Aspen Ruffle Dress by See Kate Sew.  As for modifications, I shortened it to make it shirt length.  I extended the height of the collar by an inch to make it more pronounced.  Decreased collar and elastic length.  I extended the sleeves to accommodate CC’s long arms.  Circle skirt is self-drafted with a contrasting waistband and back zipper.  I used a random pocket pattern to add pockets in side seams.  A pair of textured white tights and faux oxford shoes complete the look.  I know some of you are basking in warm sun, but it’s cold here.

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Now, about this hair and these accessories.  I was totally in the moment with this hair.

I had the idea to pull CC’s hair up with a banana clip.  I remember these from my younger days. So fun.  The front part of her hair is simply left loose with a couple of hair pins to cinch some areas.

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*back up on soap box and clearing throat*

Can I just say that I love natural hair?  I’m talking just the way it grows from our scalp.  There was a time when I didn’t feel this way and would incessantly straighten my hair by chemical force (lol) because I thought it was ugly and hard to manage.  My eyes have been opened and I know these things are not true.

I do not believe there is anything wrong with chemically treated hair.  I just did not appreciate the beliefs that fueled my commitment to the practice.  It’s nice to have options: straight, curly, wavy, coily, etc.  The opportunity to teach my daughter to appreciate everything about the way God made her is truly priceless.

*steps down*

hair and earrings

The fabric flower and covered button earrings are both handmade.  I wanted to find another place to incorporate the bold yellow fabric from her skirt waistband, and I thought a pair of earrings would be the perfect place to do that.

As for the shoes, they started out plain white.  I know people paint shoes all the time, but I wasn’t necessarily trying to do that.  I whipped out a blue Sharpie and white fabric paint marker and went to town coloring.  I was going for an oxford look.  Something simple that could be worn with other things. I removed the shoestrings so they could be worn free.  There is a piece of elastic inside that keeps the tongue from shifting.

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roots finalLol!

There are still a couple of days left, if you are feeling adventurous, to add a culturally inspired outfit to the link up.  The prizes look amazing.

Thanks for visiting!  Any questions or comments?  Drop them below.

Top 10 posts of 2013

I thought I would share the posts that received the most views in 2013.  Now that I look back, they all have to do with sewing.  Specifically children’s items.  Interesting.  If you’re into this kind of stuff, hopefully you will enjoy going back down memory lane with me.  The pics will take you to the post if you want to read more about the item (except for update pics).

TEN – Denim Quilt

quilt layout

Update:  So, I never made the quilt.  My husband put in a request for a pillow cover for his huge euro, and I thought this denim would fit the bill.  I stayed with the ombre idea and came up with a pillow cover that he is well pleased with.  Each side has a different design.

Before

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NINE – Fleece pants & t-shirt refashion

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Update:  We I liked these ruffle bottom fleece pants so much, I made another pair for this winter.  I made a long sleeve top with an XL cowl neck and incorporated an old sweater of mine for accent.

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EIGHT – My chocolate drop

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SEVEN – T-shirt refashion (high-lo peplum)

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SIX – Fab collab

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FIVE – Patchwork stripes

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FOUR – Sophisticated romper

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THREE – T-shirt refashion (handsewn edition)

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TWO – A gift for Curly Cutie

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THE MOST VIEWED POST OF 2013 – Men’s shirt refashion

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I’m officially excited for the new year.  Oh what fun this year has in store.

There is a time to dream and there’s a time to walk it out.  I’ve spent this year dreaming.  So  you know what time it is.  Lol!  Who’s with me?

Roots Sewing Series

Heidi over at Elegance and Elephants is the mastermind behind the upcoming sewing series Roots.  She wanted to combine her love for different cultures and sewing clothes for her children, thus the series was born.  She also reached out to other sewing bloggers to join in on the fun.  Every weekday from January 13-31, a new culturally inspired design will be featured.  Ladies representing twelve countries and five continents will be sharing.  How fun is that?

I was excited when the invitation came to participate, so you know I jumped right on board.  I am even more excited to experience the creative cultural designs from these other women.  If you decide to keep up with this series you will not be disappointed.  In the spirit of sharing, Heidi has opened up the series for others to sew along as well.  And I hear that the prizes will be pretty nice.  If you do happen to make a culturally inspired design for a little one, please don’t forget to add it to the flickr group.

My design will be featured on Jan. 29, 2014.

Is anybody else excited for the new year?

Havana style twists

Thought I would drop in to share a new hairstyle for Curly Cutie.  I am often on the look-out for things to do with her hair.  She has thin, fine natural hair.  Styles where her hair is put away such as braids or twists work really well and help keep the hair from tangling like it normally would in a loose state.

Quite a while ago, I ran across a style called Havana twists.  I thought they were really cute, and this was before they took the natural hair community by storm.  They were much thicker than the average two-strand twists and boasted an invisible attachment method.  After seeing the process of how some naturals put these particular twists in I thought it was easy enough to give a try.  I also thought it would not be too rough on Curly Cutie’s hair and I’d benefit from not spending hours putting in and taking down braids because they tend to be small on her fine strands.

There are lots of tutorials on how to do these twists.  There is even a particular hair I believe that was originally used for these twists.  That’s why I’m calling them “Havana style” twists.  I did not make CC’s twists as thick as normal Havana twists would be and I used Marley braid hair to achieve the look.

This is a fresh set of twists.

twists1To get the curl at the bottom, I used thin perm rods and dipped the twists in hot water to set the curl.  I had to leave the hair this long as it is only about 2 inches longer than her hair.

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I did brick layer parts on most of the head except for the front.  I wanted her to be able to have a part if she wore it down.

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I really like these because they do not pull to tightly at the scalp.

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I think they were a success.  Curly Cutie is pleased and has had fun wearing different styles.