All Hail the Forgiveness of Knits

So I’m at the grocery store yesterday, remembering why I hate to go on the weekends–it was so crowded and the lines were so long. I’m at the back of a line of, like, a zillion people, and the dude at the front has just written a check.  Time to settle in for the long haul.  I look over at the magazine rack and spot a cover photo of a woman in a bikini with the headline, “So-and-so looking better than ever!” Now, I’m a woman, and one who recently gave birth. Like most women, that means I am two things: (1) a little bit vain, and (2) a little bit competitive. I see a chick in a bikini, and read that she looks “better than ever,” and I wonder how I measure up. So I pick up the magazine to flip through it.

I don’t know who this woman is, some reality show star/winner/personality.  She’s not familiar to me.  Turns out she’s a newlywed, and according to the first lines of the article, has recently had a baby.  On the facing page are the totally! unretouched! photos! the magazine has promised of her rockin’ bod in a string bikini on the beach someplace tropical.  She’s got an itty bitty waist and lean thighs.  And I do a little mental scan of my own body.  And I don’t look like that.  Not even close.

So I think, “Well, maybe her baby’s a lot older than mine!  Maybe she’s had more recovery time!”  And I find myself nearly frantically searching the article for a date or an age or some shred of fact that will back up this hope of mine, and make me feel better about the extra 20 pounds I’m carrying.

And then I see it: May 8.  The day her baby was born.  The day MY baby was born.  She’s exactly the same number of days post-partum as I, and she’s in a string bikini.  I distinctly remember our beach vacation a few weeks ago, and I was most assuredly NOT in a string bikini.

The woman at the checkout had to call out to me to get my attention, because this ridiculous article had plunged me into a reverie of self-recrimination.  I was busy feeling sorry for myself–and mad at myself–in equal measure.  I’m not fat, I’m not even especially chubby, but I’m not satisfied, and that’s bugging me right now.  And those totally! unretouched! photos! really irked me for making me wish I could sink into the floor–as long as under the floor was a liposuction surgeon and a treadmill.

I am reminded of my dissatisfaction each day when I get dressed.  And I have a whole other emotion: total gratitude for the amazing forgiveness of knit fabrics.  Praise heaven for their softness, their stretch, and the way they can mask our imperfections while making us feel pretty and confident.

Today’s project was a knit top using Cal Patch’s Design-It-Yourself Clothes.  It went together quickly and without hiccup, and I’m pleased with the result.  I’d love to have a couple more of these, but really, I love that as my body changes, I can always have a pattern in my back pocket to adapt.  I can always have clothes that fit me and flatter me at my fingertips, without spending a fortune.  I love knowing that this is suited to MY body, rather than being a tee off the shelf that may or may not cling in all the wrong places and make me feel self-conscious as my body returns to where it was pre-baby.

Sewing is a lot of things.  I like to be reminded that it’s a record of who I’ve been (someone who once had a below-the-knee romper with sailor collar that I wore proudly) and who I want to be (a fit and fashionable mom who’s satisfied with her figure).  I like that sewing keeps me honest (because the measuring tape never lies) and that by knowing what fits me I can create an illusion with fabric–or dispel one.

I still don’t know who this reality star was.  She did look fabulous, and very real.  After the horror wore off that I’ve been slacking while she and her personal trainer have been hitting the gym and counting carbs, I like that she was a little soft around the edges and that she’s content with that, even in a magazine.  I’ll take it a little more slowly–a knit tee rather than a teeny bikini–but I can see myself there.  Maybe next summer.

Next month, I’m teaching both Sewing Knits and Patternmaking over at the shop.  Click the links for details–both classes still have space!  Sewing Knits is great for those of you who love these fabrics–like the Michael Miller stripe in the top above–but have been afraid to try them.  Patternmaking is perfect if you’ve been working with sewing patterns and are having a hard time finding just the right design or style for what’s already in your head.  We’ll be using Cal Patch’s book as our main text, and we’d love to see you there!

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  • Dusty
    August 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Don’t beat yourself up. You have to remember that famous people have personal trainers, dietitians and people whose sole job is to slap donuts out of their hands. That’s not even mentioning the nannies, house keepers, gardeners, cooks…….. Us regular folks have to make ourselves work out, diet, take care of our kids, clean our own house, cook our own meals (run businesses), it’s no wonder it takes longer for us to get back to normal! (heck, it took me almost two years after my youngest was born). I’m okay with my less than newsworthy body and I’m infinitely glad that I don’t have to be under such intense scrutiny (and don’t have people hanging around taking pictures of me in a string bikini!)

    • Deborah
      August 24, 2010 at 9:42 am

      Excellent point! 🙂

  • cal
    August 23, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    YAY! good for you! a t-shirt is so much more USEFUL than a string bikini anyway ;n)
    i’m so proud that you’re using my book as the textbook for your class; thanks! please don’t hesitate to ask if i can be of any help or service…

    • Deborah
      August 24, 2010 at 9:42 am

      Thank you so much! I’m so flattered that you stopped by, and will let you know how the class goes–very excited to be using your book!

  • dana
    August 24, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Fabulous post Deb.
    And I’m pretty sure that person in the magazine has not had FOUR kids! (unless her name is Heidi Klum, in which case she’s not entirely human). Okay, sorry, I’m not making the situation any better.

    If you want the honest truth….I thought you looked totally great when I saw you and that was TWO months ago! And yes, all hail the amazing KNITS!

    cute shirt, btw. did you make that?

    • Deborah
      August 24, 2010 at 9:41 am

      Totally made this top! Super comfy, and the pattern drafting was easy. Cal’s instructions are great, and the measuring was the only scary part–ha!

  • Jasmine
    August 25, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I’ve been perusing my library’s copy of Cal Patch’s book for weeks! Any suggestions on where to get fairly inexpensive knits for a beginner’s practice? I hate to try something new on an expensive (and beautiful!) knit…muslins are definitely my friend.