Name: Ashley

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    Handmade Handmaids: A Tutorial

    July 13th, 2017

    When I saw the protesters in Texas dressed like Handmaids protesting restrictive abortion laws, I knew I had a new life goal.

    I mean, think about it. This protest marries literally every single one of my interests. Books. Feminism. Protesting. Politics. Sticking it to the man. Theatrics. Crafts (because CLEARLY I would make my own Handmaid costume).

    So, duh. I had to do it, right? There was only one problem… I live in the great blue state of Illinois. All that stuff about calling your reps to voice discontent and stuff? I hardly ever get the chance. Give or take, every single politician that represents me is a Democrat. We also have some of the best healthcare laws for women in the Midwest.

    But I was getting jealous. These Handmaids kept popping up all over the place. Ohio. DC. They even greeted Donald Trump IN POLAND, which is so badass I can’t even believe it.

    When, oh when, was it going to be my turn? Would I have to go to another state to participate? Because I would. I soooooo would.

    And then it happened. Remember how I just extolled Illinois’ cool-hued virtues? Well, that’s true with one (kind of important?) exception – our Governor is a Republican. Don’t ask me how this happened. It certainly wasn’t because of me, who hauled her 9-months-pregnant ass to the polls the day before her due date to vote for the other guy.

    Side note: Rauner, our governor, is not only a Republican; he is a business man-turned-politician who had zero political experience before he took office. Shortly afterwards, Illinois went almost three years without a budget, is now in some of the worst debt it’s ever been in, and he’s hiring reporters from Breitbart to manage his next campaign. This might explain why Illinois was a beacon of blue amongst a bunch of midwestern red in this past presidential election because, you know, we LEARNED OUR LESSON.

    But as far as women’s rights went, Rauner wasn’t supposed to be that bad. He was pro-choice! I could work with that…?

    Until he started playing party politics. You’d think he’d wise up since he’s up for reelection shortly and Illinois almost always landslides for the Democrats but, you know, his choice.

    Enter HB 40: A bill that deals with healthcare, but the sticking point here is that it ensures that women will have access to abortion in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

    It made it through the House. It made it through the Senate.

    And, you guessed it, Rauner says he is going to veto it.

    So, on Monday, I saw an event on Facebook. A group of women, dressed as Handmaids, were going to go to the Thompson Center in Chicago – Rauner’s Chicago office building – and protest.

    This. Was. My. Chance.

    The group was already formed, but I took a shot, emailed the organizer, asked if I could sew my own robe and join, and she said: “Absolutely!” And then, I asked if my friend, Julia, could join too. And she said: “The more the merrier!”

    YES.

    So, I set out to find tutorials for making a Handmaid costume and was literally shocked to find that there weren’t really very many out there.

    Something as silly as that isn’t going to stop me, though! And now it won’t stop you, either, because you’ll have this comprehensive (and quick!) tutorial to be your guide. Praise be!

    (Let’s see how many Handmaid’s Tale jokes I can make in this tutorial, shall we?)

    Supplies:

    • Red fabric
    • White fabric
    • Coordinating thread
    • Red ribbon
    • White ribbon
    • Sticky-back velcro
    • White poster board/foam board/vinyl board
    • Sewing machine
    • Sewing notions (scissors, pins, measuring tape, fabric maker, etc.)
    • Optional: serger, interfacing, a pre-made white bonnet

    For this tutorial, you will need at least a basic knowledge of sewing, and it really helps if you have a serger. I needed to make five robes in one day, so I cut a lot of corners. I’m going to show you how to make these the quick-and-dirty way, but if you are an expert seamstress, you may want to add some fancy finishes to really up the ante. I know how to do these things, but I was also comfortable with the fact that these would probably get worn once and no one was going to be close enough to see how janky they were. Done is better than perfect, and blessed be the fruit… of my labors.

    I was also comfortable making these on the cheap. I bought this red broadcloth from Joann’s for $3/yard. Broadcloth gets a bad rap, and for good reason: It looks like crap and should really only ever be used for something low-stakes like this. You get what you pay for.

    First, you need to figure out how much fabric you need. Take your measuring tape and measure from your shoulder to your ankle. You don’t want to trip over this thing and become some kind of internet meme, so you don’t want it dragging on the ground. Then, multiply that measurement by 2. Convert it into yards, add a half yard, and that’s how much fabric you need.

    We’re just handmaids, so we can’t do a lot of math, right? So here’s my example:

    -55 inches from shoulder to ankle. 55 x 2 = 110
    -110 divided by 12 (inches) = 9.16 (feet)
    -9.16 divided by 3 (feet) = 3.05 (yards) + 1/2 yard = 3.5 yards (I rounded. It’s fine.)

    What you see below is 9 yards worth of fabric. I got 2 adult robes, 2 toddler robes, and 1 baby robe out of that amount.

    Once you have your fabric, I highly recommend you leave it folded in half. It’s a lot of fabric, and unfolding and re-folding that much fabric is going to get tedious. If you’re an avid sewist, you probably know to pre-wash your fabric and all of that, but we are trying to do this quickly and easily and you will probably never wash this thing, so don’t worry about it. Or do. Maybe you want to avoid the red LITERALLY bleeding like an infertile handmaid onto the clothes you are wearing underneath. I did not have that problem, but you never know. Your costume, your choice.

    So, fold your fabric in half lengthwise (or keep it folded) and then fold it in half width-wise. From the bottom cut edge of the fabric to the top folded edge should equal your shoulder-to-ankle measurement (mine was 55 inches). Cut off that extra 1/2 yard and save it for your hood.

    Next, most robe tutorials will say you need to lie down and draw from the selvedge edges (the long side that isn’t the fold) to your armpit. I tried that. It didn’t work because how was I going to draw on the fabric while lying down? And yes, I am wearing my Women’s March t-shirt to make my Handmaid’s protest robe. #Resist2017

    Instead, what I did was I got a long-sleeved shirt from my closet, folded it in half, placed the fold on the fold of the fabric, and drew that way. Go in on a diagonal up to the armpit, then come out again on the way down. Cut this out. Give yourself some space on the sleeves; Handmaids aren’t supposed to be sexy, so this stuff should pretty much hide your shape. Then, on the top, cut a little area out from the fold to just before the armpit for your head.  

    At this point, you may want to try it on to be sure you are doing it right. I did this because, while I didn’t need it to be perfect, I did need it to fit. It fit, but I felt weird about taking the picture with the timer. I think you can probably tell.

    Now, the internet is full of advice about this next step. Do you sew the side seams first or cut it open first? I did not know that this was such a fiercely debated topic because I didn’t read much of the internet before I started this as I was trying to get in character and Handmaids are not allowed to read. (Just kidding. I am lazy.) So I cut first. In retrospect, it would have been much easier the other way around. Live and learn.

    You’re cutting right up the middle of the front side of this thing. You need it to open, so this is a good place for it to do that. This is also probably a good place for a “may the Lord open” joke so… there you go.

    Next, you are going to want to sew this thing together. This is where the serger comes in handy. I serged EVERYTHING. Side seams from bottom all the way to the end of the sleeves. Neck opening. Bottom. Up each side of the opening.) I did not finish any seams (the serger did that for me) or hem anything (the sleeves were on the selvedges so they didn’t need it, and the neck opening/bottom/front opening were serged so I didn’t have to.) If you don’t have a serger… sorry. This is going to take a little longer because you have to hem all the cut edges so the fabric doesn’t fray.

    Next, you need a hood. Take your leftover fabric and trace out something that roughly looks like a hood. Do not be a perfectionist about this; you are not even going to wear the hood. It is for visual only, under His eye. Cut two pieces. Serge these together from the top to the bottom. Then, open it up and serge across the bottom. Again, if you don’t have a serger, do your thing to finish those cut edges.

    Pin the right side of the open hood to the right side of the back of the robe. Sew it on.

    Then, tack a piece of ribbon to each side of your opening. Originally, I had the ribbon in the middle, then I realized I wanted it closed a little more, so I put one ribbon in the middle and one at the bottom of the hood on the other side. Then, I sewed a hook-and-eye to the inside flap so it would stay closed.

    May the Lord open, indeed.

    Next, we are on to the hat. Without this hat, you’re just a grown-up Little Red Riding Hood, which is a little weird because it is not Halloween.

    This is where you could save a ton of time by just buying a pre-made bonnet and following this video tutorial. (The jig is up. I stole some of her jokes for this post. I am not sorry.) Even Amazon Prime wasn’t fast enough for this turnaround, though, (and those bad boys are like $8/piece which, considering I spent $3 on all of the fabric I needed for 5 bonnets, seemed not very frugal) so I had to make my own. There are a million bonnet tutorials on Pinterest that look a lot better than this, and I probably should have used one of those, but it was getting late, I was tired, so this is what I did.

    First, measure your head from under your ear, up over your head, to under your other ear. Add an inch. Then cut a square with that measurement. Mine was 19 inches on each side. Equal sides, equal rights. Be there or be… ok you get it.

    A rotary cutter is awesome for this. Or use scissors. It really doesn’t matter.

    Next, fold in each side a quarter inch or so, then again another quarter inch or so. Press. I’m not going to lie – I didn’t measure when I was folding. Just eyeball it.

    Sew all the sides down, just like you would a hem. You’ve essentially created a large handkercheif. 

    Then, on one side and using your machine’s longest stitch, sew a line of basting stitches. Leave the tails long. You’re going to gather this as much as you can, so take the bobbin thread, hold it, and gather that sucker up. Tie the threads together at the bottom.

    This is the back of your bonnet.

    But it looks weird, right? Right. So fold that front edge over about 3-3.5 inches. You can try it on your head to see what you like. Press it.

    Then, cut two pieces of white ribbon – one for each side. Sandwich one at the corner between the bonnet and the rim and tack it into place. Repeat on the other side.

    Cute, right? And you can stop there, but I wanted to be authentic. So, take your stiff material – I used the foam board – and draw a shape that looks roughly like this:

    Cut it out. Then, put one side of the Velcro on the bottom (shorter) edge. Lay the other side of the Velcro on top with the sticky side exposed.

    Put your bonnet on, then slap those wings on your head and push down and you are done!

    I am fully aware this looks ridiculous. I cut more off of it because, while likely accurate, I also needed to be able to see things for, you know, safety. It’s not an exact science; just do what feels right to you.

    Finally, try the toddler robe on your small daughter and feel really good about your handiwork, but also really disturbed by the fact that your 2.5-year-old is dressed as a walking uterus. 

    This protest was one of the most powerful and visually striking protests I have ever either witnessed or been a part of. I am so honored that I was able to participate, and so excited that my costumes turned out so well.

    NOLITE TE BASTARDES CARBORUNDORUM

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    Sew-fragettes: Supporting 21st Century Girls with 19th Century Crafts

    July 2nd, 2017

    If you’ve followed me for any length of time here, you know that I love sewing and knitting. You might even remember my ill-advised last attempt at opening an Etsy shop

    I think I figured out what was wrong with that attempt. You see, I don’t really need more money. (I mean, who doesn’t need more money, right? But we’re happy and comfortable and I like my job, so… not me.) I craft for fun, and for charity.

    And then, it dawned on me. Craft for charity! I’m passionate about girls’ education. That is my number one issue when it comes to feminism. I’m a teacher, right? So it makes sense. But around 75% of my girls live under the poverty line. Education is a way out for them, but it is becoming more and more of a distant possibility with the rising costs of college. Make no mistake about it: these girls are more than capable to receive a college education. Many of them are accepted to several four-year universities each year, but can’t figure out how to afford them and so they end up getting a job or attending community college.

    So I want to use my crafting for good. I want to provide at least a $1,000 scholarship to a local girl each year. And I’m using this new Etsy shop to help do that.

    Every penny of profit I’m making from this shop is going towards this yearly scholarship, and most of the designs I will have available will be feminist-inspired. So you can wear your feminist pride while knowing you helped do something good in the world. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

    I decided to start small to see how it goes, so right now there isn’t a ton of stuff, but I will soon have more scarves, totes, and splash-proof zipper pouches, all with feminist designs. I also take custom orders, so hit me up if you want something!

    Take a look, buy some stuff, do some good. Thanks for your support!

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    Everyone’s Body Fails

    June 27th, 2017

    I have a body.

    For the most part, I like this body. When I want it to dance, it dances. When I want it to pick up my child, it picks up my child. When I want it to breathe in fresh air, it breathes in fresh air. It exists in the world. It takes up space. Sure, it takes up more space than it used to, and my back aches in ways it never did before. This is the price my body pays for childbearing, for aging. So I dance, I play, I salute the sun. I manage.

    When I was pregnant, my body worked beautifully. It grew – round and full. It sheltered. It protected. When I laughed, my belly shook with the joy and hope that only new life can bring. It moved and kicked with something that was not me, but of me.

    And then, my body failed.

    I did not go into labor. My induced labor stalled. I required surgery to remove my child. I couldn’t breastfeed.

    My body had betrayed me. My mind had done all the preparations, all the calculations, and it had never occurred to me that my body wouldn’t follow instructions. It had always been a bit of an overachiever before.

    It took me a full year to come to terms with the fact that this needed to happen. That I got exactly the birth experience I needed to have. That I had to learn the first and greatest lesson in parenting, and I had to learn it fast:

    You will fail. And everything will be fine.

    After an F on an Algebra test in 8th grade, I had never failed at anything. It had never occurred to me that failure was an option.

    For a full year after my body failed us, I contemplated the obvious. We could have died in childbirth when my body refused to go into labor, if this were decades ago. She could have died from my lack of milk supply, if this were centuries ago.

    Before this, I never had to spend much time in doctors’ offices. I’ve read that it’s not uncommon for the bulk of a young woman’s experiences with the medical profession to be during her childbearing years. And all of a sudden, I was seeing doctors and specialists every other day. Checking my scar, worried about depression and anxiety, trying to get the milk flowing, checking her weight. My doctor’s office and hers became a refuge where I was not judged. I was only helped.

    I never once thought about how much this would all cost. We had insurance, and we needed care, so we got care.

    When she turned one – almost to the day – I remember the world opening up again. I cried my way through a yoga class that morning, reliving memories of surgery and struggle I never though I’d have, and then it was like I could breathe again. Only, I didn’t know I couldn’t really breathe before because it had been so long.

    For the year following that, I didn’t think much about it anymore. I excelled at work. I had this amazing, funny, smart daughter so, even amidst my failures, I must have done something right. My marriage seemed back on track after the stresses of literally just keeping this child alive each day. We started talking about a second, since the first was so wonderful. We had always said we would survive the first one before even thinking about a second. We weren’t just surviving; we were thriving. We talked about waiting, trying to see if we could plan for a summer baby. We are teachers, after all. Maybe we could make that work.

    I didn’t think about my body and its failings again until May. I had learned my lesson. My body had failed, and it was fine. My body was stronger where it had been broken. I was weirdly proud of my c-section and the visible badge I now carried below my belt. I had come to see my experience as lesson rather than failure; as part of the journey rather than end goal.

    In May, I sat in my classroom and cried. A friend came in the room and saw the news on my computer that the House had passed their version of a healthcare bill. Among many, many other issues much more serious than mine, my body was going to cost us money, and a lot of it. Enough of it that I wasn’t sure we could afford this second child we had talked about, that we had dared to allow ourselves to desperately want, even if it meant another surgery. Another failing body. Another 10 pounds. Another year of not being able to breathe.

    I was heartbroken. I was thrown into a place yet again where I was considering my scar, feeling the full weight of my body on my mind, contemplating failure, feeling less than I should.

    “The Senate will never pass it. Not as-is.” This was what I was told. What we told ourselves.

    Now it’s June and the Senate might pass it. It has changed some, but not enough, and not in a good way as far as I can see. It might affect my body – the one I struggled to see as strong, beautiful, amazing – in this great, blue state of Illinois with my excellent insurance from my excellent employer. It might not. Regardless, it will hurt more than it helps. It will devastate families. It will devastate women. Because we have bodies that grow other bodies, and sometimes those bodies don’t work exactly the way they are supposed to.

    What this bill fails to take into account is that everyone’s body fails at some point. It’s the human condition. It’s what connects us all.

    This shouldn’t be a death sentence, or a path to financial ruin.

    I hope and pray and send all of my energy up to whatever being there is that this won’t pass. That we won’t be destroyed. If one good thing comes out of this mess of a year, I hope it is that.

    I hope the failure of this bill vindicates the failure of our bodies once and for all.

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    Public Schools Offer Amazing Opportunities – and Here’s an Example

    May 23rd, 2017

    I was driving to work this morning, listening to WBEZ (like I do most days), trying not to cry (like I do most days). But my ears perked up when I heard something about a school in Joliet.

    Now, I don’t talk about my specific place of work very often, if at all. And I do that on purpose – you know I’m a teacher, you know I’m in the southwest Chicago suburbs and you don’t really need to know much more than that.

    But this got me going this morning, because WBEZ misreported the story, and it is an awesome story. Our STEM students designed and 3D printed a prosthetic hand for a young boy, and this week, they presented it to him. WBEZ did say it was Joliet Central toward the end of the story, but they started the blurb by saying that it was a Catholic school.

    This is important because Joliet Catholic Academy is also in Joliet, and gets a lot of attention (for example: Rudy and football). From what I know (which isn’t much), it is a great school, and also in Joliet as the name suggests, but it is not the school where the hand was designed, 3D printed, and presented to a young boy who needed it. That happened at Joliet Central.

    Joliet Central High School is a public school. Our demographic makeup is 17% White, 21.2% Black, and 58.2% Hispanic. 72.2% of our students are low-income. (Source: Illionis Report Card) We don’t discriminate in our higher-level programs for students – in fact, we won a national award earlier this year from the College Board for diversity in our AP and Honors programs. The students who designed this prosthetic hand are representative of our demographic makeup at this school – white, Hispanic, and Black; male and female; and I’d be willing to bet these kids don’t all come from the 27.8% of our students who are not low-income.

    Public schools, especially ones like mine, get a bad rap these days and sometimes, like in this case, are all but ignored. Of course, we face our challenges, but we are providing truly amazing and unique opportunities for our students, and I wanted to set the record straight. I believe in public education. I believe public education benefits children, families, and communities, and this is a direct example of that. And it should have been reported correctly.

    See more photos here.
    See video here.

    Featured Image Credit: JTHS 204 Flicker Page

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    #MeMadeMay2017 – Week 3

    May 22nd, 2017

    I’m so close, you guys! I’m loving this challenge, and it is really helping me hone in on my personal style, as well as where the holes are in my handmade wardrobe where I need to make some pieces to fill in the gaps.

    So far, I’m learning that I have a good mix of professional and casual clothes. Lots of the professional clothes I make are dresses, and that’s fine for me right now. I prefer to make tops and dresses and thrift my pants rather than spend the time making them. I’m also learning that I love sewing clothes with knits. They are so much more forgiving (and quicker) Than wovens, though I do have my eye on a drapey wrap dress when I find just the right lightweight fabric to make it in.

    I’m also finding that I actually prefer to wear my handmade clothes over my ready-to-wear stuff. I’m not sure why this is – probably a combination of pride and how much I’ve learned about sizing and fit. There’s also something to be said for how shiny and new my handmade clothes are right now because, many of them, I’ve literally made the night before in order to have something to wear for this challenge that isn’t a complete repeat of the previous 48 hours.

    So, here’s what I wore! (Descriptions of the pictures go from left to right on the top, then left to right on the bottom).

    May 15 – These are the first two pictures in the grid. I wore my Hemlock Tee (FREE pattern from Grainline Studio) again, both because I like it and because I thought it went nicely with the jewelry Tim got me for Mother’s Day from WAR Chest Boutique. Also, Mother’s Day was the day before, and mama didn’t do any laundry. Whoops. Which also explains why Emily wore her elephant Geranium Shirt (pattern by Made By Rae) that I made for her last year and just barely fit this week. She loved it, though, so… whatever.

    May 16 – This is my Rosa Top (pattern from See Kate Sew)! I made this Monday night to wear Tuesday – I’m not even kidding. If you recognize the color, that’s because I accidentally ordered too much of the purple bamboo rayon for my Panama Tee Dress (see previous roundup). Turns out I had enough for this lovely top, so it was a happy accident, indeed.

    May 17 – My favorite Moneta Dress (pattern from Colette Patterns). I made this dress to wear at Emily’s second birthday party, and it has proven one of the most versatile pieces in my wardrobe. I can wear it plain, belted with a million different belt options, with whatever shoes and jewelry I want. I can wear a cardigan, blazer, or sweater over it. I can wear tights under it. It’s seriously amazing. I highly recommend black and white stripes for a wardrobe staple.

    May 18 – I’m in my Veronika Skirt (FREE pattern from Megan Nielsen) and my Metro T-Shirt (pattern by Oliver + S). Emily is in her monkey Recess Raglan (pattern by See Kate Sew, fabric from Sprout Patterns). She loves that shirt!

    May 19 – It was a cold last day for the senior class of 2017, so I’m in my She Persisted Featherweight Cardigan again. (See previous roundup for details.) Tim and I are both book nerding to the extreme in shirts from Out of Print Clothing, too. Couples who nerd together, stay together.

    May 20 – Another Featherweight Cardigan! This was my first one, and I learned a lot from making it. I learned that I do not like my cardigans fitted, cropped, nor with elbow-length sleeves. But, I love the color and the yarn from The Lemonade Shop is so soft and pretty, I like to pair it with longer tops and wear it anyway.  You may be starting to notice my obsession with purple. I like purple almost as much as I like navy.

    May 21 – Emily and I are looking adorable again. I’m in my Rosa Top, and she’s in her Rosie Top – the mini version of my top from See Kate Sew. She’s also in some self-drafted capri leggings that I made from some leftover floral fabric from a dress I made this weekend, which you will see next week! Hang on… I don’t think you can quite see exactly how adorable we are…

    Awwwwww! <3

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    #MeMadeMay2017 – Week 2

    May 15th, 2017

    Well, week 2 of this challenge got a little more difficult. I repeated things more (but, to be fair, I do that with my ready-to-wear clothes, too, when I know I’m not going to see the same people…) and, as the weather started to warm up, I started to realize that the only warm-weather clothes I’ve made are one t-shirt and some dresses and skirts. So I used that as an excuse to order some fabric to fill out some holes. Hopefully, the fabric arrives so I can hurry up and make some easy things before the weather is in the 80’s this entire week!

    May 8 – I’m in my Panama Tee Dress and Lodestar Shawl again, along with my necklace from Mata Traders and my bracelets from High Point Supply Co. Emily is in a super cute shirt I made for her. You can’t really see from this picture, but it has monkeys and bananas on it. The pattern is the Recess Raglan from See Kate Sew, but I bought it through Sprout Patterns, which is so cool. They print the pattern on the fabric for you, and you get to choose the designs you want. It probably cut the cutting process in half, which I’m a huge fan of. Here’s a better shot of the shirt. You may also notice that she has matching banana Toms shoes. What can I say – girl loves her some bananas.

    May 9 – Here is my finished She Persisted cardigan! I’m grateful it was cold enough at least one day for me to wear it. The pattern is the Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig, and the yarn is called She Persisted from Knitted Wit. 10% of the sale of this yarn went to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is pretty amazing. For you knitters out there, I did make some modifications, which are noted on my Ravelry project page. The t-shirt is also made by me. It’s the Metro T-Shirt by Oliver + S. This is literally the best fitting t-shirt I’ve ever owned, and I didn’t even make any adjustments to the pattern. I’ve ordered fabric to make more because I love it so much.

    May 10 – This isn’t made by me, but I did refashion it. It was a maxi dress, but it hit just above my ankle, which was weird. So I shortened it and now it is one of my favorite dresses ever.

    May 11 – Here I am in my Mandy Boat Neck tee, which is a free pattern from Tessuti Fabrics. It’s a one-size-fits-most pattern, which I was leery of, but I made it in a super flowy knit and I really love the loose feel. And, by now, you’re familiar with my necklace and bracelets.

    May 12 – Showing off my feminism, school spirit (the t-shirt was a fundraiser for Fearless Females), and craftiness. This is my Boothbay Cardigan, also by Hannah Fettig. You may notice I love her sweater patterns. They are just so wearable, and so easy to knit.

    May 13 – There’s no picture here, because I wasn’t wearing anything handmade. I started my couch-to-5K running program, and I did yoga at a brewery with a good friend from college, so I spent the day in athletic gear. I did get it secondhand from ThredUp, though!

    May 14 – Mother’s Day! I’m wearing my Panama Tee Dress AGAIN. To be fair, though, I did actually make it for Mother’s Day, but I finished it early so I’ve worn it a bunch. My necklace, bracelet, and earrings here are a Mother’s Day gift from WAR Chest Boutique and are made by women in the USA who are running from sex traffickers. My mom’s necklace is the same as mine from Mata Traders, but it’s silver. Shopping with a purpose, FTW!

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    #MeMadeMay2017 – Week 1

    May 11th, 2017

    For those of you who don’t know, Me Made May is a challenge where, throughout the entire month of May, crafters challenge themselves to wear their handmade clothes each day throughout the month. At this time last year, I was just learning how to sew and I had just finished my first two handmade sweaters so I couldn’t really participate. This year, though, I have really stepped up my game.

    I don’t have a ton of handmade stuff, though, so this has also really been an exercise in accessorizing to avoid feeling like I’ve repeated outfits. I thought that would be annoying, but it’s been really fun to pull out old jewelry and scarves in order to liven up an old outfit.

    I have to say, so far this has been really fun. I’ve been struggling to find my true style for a long time. I like to say that this has been since Emily was born and my body completely changed, but this style journey was actually probably started when my friend came to my college dorm before I was supposed to start student teaching and threw my Birkenstocks in the garbage. I fished them out, but the point was taken – I needed professional clothing for my professional job. There was a time there that I only wore collared shirts and trousers because that was the only way I knew how to “look professional”… until my students made fun of me. I hit a good groove with t-shirts and cardigans before Emily was born, but then my body changed so much that the t-shirts didn’t flatter my figure like they used to.

    I often say that making my own clothes – whether knitting or sewing – has helped me love my body, and that is true to an extent. I can grade patterns from a small size on the top to a larger size on the bottom and, because they fit well (and because there are no size tags for me to pout about), they make me feel good. But this process has been more than that. I’ve been able to tap into a network of people who have the same aesthetic (read: professional but also a little bit hippie) and ethos (read: I have the crazy idea that people shouldn’t die and, in fact, should make a living wage making my clothes) that I have, and so I have been able to make clothes that make me feel proud and good in every sense of the word. This challenge has really started to help me realize what my style is again, which – added bonus – is also going to help me simplify my closet even more, and now that I’ve found that, I am starting to feel really great about my clothing choices. On top of that, I see that there are holes in my wardrobe that need filling. I have a lot of sweaters and dresses, for example, but not a lot of t-shirts and tank tops. It’s been cold, so that has worked out, but the end of the month is going to be tough if I don’t get some of these things made!

    I’ll be doing a roundup each week of what I wore with links to the patterns in case anyone wants to try their hand at a creation. Here’s week one!

    May 1 – Luckily, May started off pretty cold in Chicagoland, which gives me even more variety in my style. This was my Indian Summer sweater. This is the first sweater I ever knitted, and it might be my most-loved, too. I love the stripes and the lace touch on the bottom, I love the colors I picked, and I love how it’s baggy but still classy. You can also see a great shot of my Espe Boots from The Root Collective here. I wear these guys probably 3-4 times per week.

    May 2 – Still cold, so I wore my Lesley Sweater. This one is fitted with an awesome wide neck. Also, as you will see this month, navy is my go-to color for all the things, so this one gets a lot of wear in the winter.

    May 3 – For the senior awards night, I busted out all the stops. (Is that the phrase? I feel like I got that wrong.) This is my newest addition, the Panama Tee Dress paired with my Lodestar shawl (in yarn from WeeChickadee Woolery, who I have to mention because I LOVE THEM). No joke, I sewed this dress earlier in the day to wear that night. I love it, and you’ll see it again this month, for sure. The necklace is an OLD purchase from New York & Co.

    May 4 – STILL cold, so I’m in my Toaster Sweater. This is so comfy, but I feel like the cut works for work or weekend. There’s also an Emily sighting here! She’s in a hoodie I made for her. That pattern is great – super easy, and unisex!

    May 5 – No handmades, only handmaids. This was the day after the House passed the AHCA, which lists c-sections as a preexisting condition (and like 50 other ridiculous things that no one should ever have to worry about paying for), so I wore this shirt along with an old, red cardigan and my red Toms. But, hey, the purchase of that shirt sent a book to a community in need, and buying Toms sends shoes to those in need, too, so this outfit was a win.

    May 6 – Date night! My mom came over to let Tim and me get out of the house for a little bit, which was awesome. So I stepped it up a little for a Saturday, wearing my Hemlock Tee (FREE PATTERN!) (There’s that navy again…). The necklace is from Mata Traders, and my bracelets are from HP Supply Co. and Alex + Ani.

    May 7 – A lazy Sunday in a shirt refashioned by me. I liked the way the top of the teal shirt and the bottom of the striped shirt fit, but not the bottom/top respectively. So I cut them up, sewed the parts I liked together, and ended up with a super cute top. You can also see me working on my She Persisted cardigan in that picture, which you will see in all of it’s glory next week!

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    Small Changes to a Greener Life

    May 2nd, 2017

    In my last post about the March for Science, I wrote about all of the things we’ve been doing to use less waste in our house. Let’s recap:

    … buying your clothes secondhand (or making them!), washing your clothes appropriately to keep them lasting longer, using dryer balls instead of dryer sheets, using a reusable coffee cup and water bottle instead of disposable ones (especially using ones made of materials other than plastic), using cloth diapers and menstrual pads instead of disposables, using cloth and wax wraps or silicone reusables instead of plastic wraps, using cloth zippered sandwich bags instead of plastic ones, going meatless one day a week, using natural cleaning supplies like vinegar and water…

    And I’d like to add putting a recycling bin upstairs so we are more likely to recycle bathroom waste, and reusing glass and plastic food containers for leftovers, and using reusable towels instead of paper towels because we did all that, too.

    Now, it seems like we are pretty close to being a zero-waste household. We are not. We take out the garbage far less than we did, but we’re not at zero garbage. Because, let’s get real. Sometimes, you have to do things that are convenient. Buy frozen food, put the raw meat in a plastic baggy, use a paper towel because you have a toddler and sometimes either a dish towel won’t cut it, or it isn’t worth using up all of them and having to do laundry to clean up a particularly bad mess. Sometimes you need a damn coffee in the middle of the day (see previous statement about toddler messes) and you don’t have your reusable coffee cup with you. Sometimes, your toddler just wants to eat fruit snacks and they come wrapped in whatever they come wrapped in.

    Trust me. I get it. I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of green living blogs, and they make it look so easy to have a zero-waste household. And, because green living is their job (and because they probably don’t have toddlers at home), it may not be easy, but it is worth it to do their jobs as bloggers well. For the rest of us who have other jobs and tiny children who refuse to eat anything but fruit snacks (did I say that already?), sometimes plastic is a necessity just to get through the day.

    The important thing to remember, though, is that what the world really needs isn’t for everyone to do everything (though that would be great), it is for everyone to do something. If everyone wore their clothes at least 30 times and washed them only in cold water, or carried a reusable coffee cup to the coffee shop, or ditched plastic grocery bags, it would make a huge difference.

    I think this type of all-or-nothing thinking keeps people from taking that first step. It certainly was that way for me. I figured, “What’s the point of bringing a reusable coffee cup. I’m one person out of a million, and even I don’t do it every time.” But small strokes fell big oaks, my friends. It’s the theme of this blog! If we each take one small step together, we can keep a ton of plastic and unnecessary waste out of landfills and start making a big difference to this world of ours.

    Who’s with me?

    Photo Credit: Andy Arthur

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    March for Science – Chicago

    April 28th, 2017

    I’ve been obsessed with greening my life lately. I try to post to Facebook several ideas people can do to make small changes in their lives to help the world. These are things like buying your clothes secondhand (or making them!), washing your clothes appropriately to keep them lasting longer, using dryer balls instead of dryer sheets, using a reusable coffee cup and water bottle instead of disposable ones (especially using ones made of materials other than plastic), using cloth diapers and menstrual pads instead of disposables, using cloth and wax wraps or silicone reusables instead of plastic wraps, using cloth zippered sandwich bags instead of plastic ones, going meatless one day a week, using natural cleaning supplies like vinegar and water… the list is endless.

    And, the thing is, I have adapted every single item on this list in the past few months. It is surprisingly easy to make these changes en masse, especially with the advent of services like MightyFix and Amazon. (Yes, before you say it, I know about the carbon footprint of shipping items, but no one is perfect, ok? Better that than plastic, in my opinion, especially when companies are greening their shipping practices more and more.)

    So it made sense to me – in light of Trump cutting funding for the EPA and denying climate change and threatening to renege on the Paris Agreement, etc. – to join in the March for Science in Chicago last weekend.

    I’m no scientist. I have scientist genes somewhere in there, and I find science fascinating; heck, I’ll even go out of my way to encourage young girls into STEM fields, but I’m a humanities girl through-and-through. However, science is not only vital; to me, it is inextricably linked with the search for (and consequent recent denial of) truth.

    So I marched as a science ally, if you will. We packed up Emily, grabbed a parking spot on SpotHero, donned our Pussyhats, and went.

    The energy was great. The signs were hilarious. The costumes were fantastic. (Emily particularly loved the dinosaur.) And, like the Women’s March, it was just so good to be around people who felt the same way.

    We even ran in to the pastor of our church and his wife, and one of my favorite undergrad professors.

    This was the first march I took Emily to, and the first one Tim and I had done together. I was nervous about the large crowds coupled with a toddler that has a penchant for running away, but it turned out great. I’m glad she was a part of it with us, and I’m proud to pass on our activism to her generation – though, hopefully, they won’t need it.

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    A Partial Strike – #DayWithoutAWoman

    March 3rd, 2017

    Since the Women’s March organizers announced that our next step was to be a general strike to make our absence felt in the workplace and make it known how necessary women are to the economy, I’ve had my reservations. I applauded the women of Poland in October for their strike against their government’s proposed abortion ban, and I stand in solidarity with Irish women doing the same next week, but I can’t seem to shake the idea that ours is not the same.

    I’m a teacher, and though my districts have thankfully never gone on strike, I am no stranger to strikes in general. It seems lately that the Chicago Teachers Union calls for a strike every other year or so, and I follow this closely. They are extremely effective – you can’t keep working of your employers refuse to treat you like human beings who deserve good working conditions and living wages, and until you are working again, everything is at a stand-still. Strikes ultimately force those in power to listen to those who are directly affected by said power which, in turn, effectively transfers power from the have’s to the have-not’s for at least a little while. And that is important.

    However, A Day Without a Woman has seemed decidedly less focused than this. While I understand the intent – there is no better way to make our presence known than our absence felt – I don’t understand the purpose. Strikes, in my limited experience, function best when in a direct response to an economic or political problem, and when they seek a direct change as a result of that direct response action. While our president’s degradation and assault of women is no secret, it hasn’t been so for a long time. Furthermore, there have been no new incidents involving women that require direct action. So what does this strike hope to do? Change his attitude? Change his policy? I doubt either will come to fruition.

    To be sure, we should not refrain from striking just because we do not think anything will come of it, but it would make sense to have a more direct list of demands like the women of Poland or Ireland. Without such, I’m left with the question: Haven’t we done this already? When we marched for the Women’s March, didn’t that require many of us to take days off of work, shirk household and caregiver responsibilities, and leave the menfolk to fend for themselves in our absence in order to rally? How is this different?

    It is because of this that I have decided not to strike from my job. I want to save my striking for when it is a focused response requiring a direct action. So, I will come to school on Wednesday

    However, I will make my presence known in several ways. My girls’ group – Fearless Females – is running an awareness campaign about the plight of women and girls around the world for International Women’s Day. We hung up posters and are making announcements, and we are entering everyone who comes into my room wearing women’s rights apparel an entry into a raffle to win a prize. I will also wear red, like the Women’s March website suggests. (I will also, of course, wear my Pussyhat to school, though probably not in school because, you know, rules.)

    On top of that, I will be refraining from all nonessential duties at work. I will not respond to any email that does not need my urgent attention; I will not be running anyone’s errands; I will not be planning or grading or making copies – teaching and teaching only. On the home front, I will not be doing any childcare duties, either (though, in my house, this won’t make much of a difference because Tim is the parent-on-duty on Wednesdays anyway since I have early yoga and Fearless Females meetings after school, but these things are largely symbolic for many). I will, instead, attend a rally or a panel or knit another Pussyhat in public or do something that takes me away from the home. My family and I will not spend any nonessential money (nonessential being a caveat because, well, I have a dog that just had surgery and a toddler, so, you know, things happen) except to make a donation to an organization that directly affects women. I am also toying with the idea of live-tweeting the work/caregiver tasks I do end up doing during the day.

    All of this does not mean that I think you shouldn’t strike if you believe it is the right thing to do. It is just me wrestling with my own thoughts about the event. But, more than that, I want to push the women’s movement that was borne of the March into direct and motivated action, and I have a hard time seeing this as such.

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    We Are Teachers: These Women of Color Belong on Your High School Reading List

    March 1st, 2017

    I’m over at We Are Teachers this week, talking about nine women of color in literature that all high school students should be reading:

    1. Sethe from Beloved

    Beloved by Toni Morrison is an unforgettable novel about Sethe, a woman who has escaped from slavery. When she is found by slave hunters, she does the only thing she knows to do to save her children from a fate worse than death—she tries to kill them. She only succeeds in killing one of her daughters, who comes back to haunt her house. At times disturbing, this is a realistic depiction of what it was like to be a runaway slave in the American South.

    BEST FOR: Grades 11-12

    WHY I TEACH IT: As a runaway slave, Sethe is forced to make an unthinkable choice, and she does what she feels is best for her family. It takes an immense emotional strength to do what she did, and then to live with the consequences of those actions. Sethe is an important, realistic portrayal of what black women faced before the Civil War, and shows students another side of history they may not read about in their textbooks.

    Check out there rest of them here!

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    Today in Slow Fashion: Toaster Sweater and Espe Boots

    February 13th, 2017

    Saturday was exhausting. We had an all-day speech tournament – the one that could qualify  our students for State – so I left my house at 5:30 AM and wasn’t back until 9:00 PM. And, while one of our kids did make it to State (yay!!), some of them didn’t, so there were a lot of emotions riding all over the place. So Sunday was my day to recover.

    And what do I do when I’m recovering from things? I make stuff.

    I didn’t feel like making anything that required much thought, since the goal here was to fill myself back up after a rather depleting day, and I really wanted to see something from start to finish, so knitting was out. Enter: The Toaster Sweater from Sew House 7.

    This sweater was so stinkin’ easy to make, it probably would have only taken me about an hour and a half from first cut to final press if my serger didn’t all of a sudden start making seams that split apart about halfway through my first cuff. At that point, I had to walk away and come back because I was in no mood for problems. But, with a clearer head, I was able to fix the serger (just cleaned out the dust and re-threaded it and it worked just fine – go figure) and finish it all in one day. And I have a toddler, so that’s saying something.

    I picked the version 1 because I didn’t feel like learning how to do mitered corners, and I also know that I always think I want to have blousy, boxy shirts because I don’t always feel great about my body, but they never look like I think they’re going to look, so I went with the more fitted version. I have to say, I absolutely love it, and will probably make about 10 more of these, spring weather be damned!

    I’m wearing it today and I have never been more comfortable at work on a not-spirit-wear-Friday day. The long cuffs and bands give it a cool-to-wear-to-work vibe, but the french terry fabric I chose gives it a Sunday afternoon feel and I couldn’t be happier. I’m also feeling like it hugs all the right places and doesn’t hug all the wrong ones and, while I did use my new tailored-to-my-measurements dress form to make it, I didn’t make any alterations to the pattern. Since I’m a sleeve-pusher, I will probably make the cuffs on my next one smaller or use a fabric with better recovery since they are driving me a little crazy as they fall down.

    I can see pretty much endless variations to this sweater, and I plan to make at least one more in a floral pattern for those chilly, spring days. This fabric is decently lightweight, but not so much so that I need a cami underneath, and the mock turtleneck makes it so I don’t need a scarf over it, which is perfect for a chilly or rainy spring day.

    I’m wearing pants today because post-Speech-tourney Mondays are all about comfort (and survival), but I can totally see this sweater with a black pencil skirt, or with a navy-and-ivory polka dot swing skirt to dress it up a little. This is a versatile staple to my wardrobe that I will probably wear holes through, and is definitely my favorite sewing make so far.

    Today, I’ve paired the sweater with my black Gap jeans and my new, handmade Espe boots from The Root Collective. These were a Valentine’s Day present from my husband (that I picked out and ordered for myself because that’s how marriage works sometimes) and I cannot say enough good things about them. They are sturdy, well-made, and probably the cutest, most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned. They were delivered last Thursday, and I’ve worn them every day since. Of course I love that they were hand made by people making living wages with minimal environmental impact, but if we’re being real, what I love most about them is that they can pair with both black AND brown-toned outfits. This is what we call a win-win. Hey, who says sustainable fashion can’t be fashionable fashion?

    This review is just my opinion. I did not receive any compensation or freebies for it.

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    My Journey to #SlowFashion

    February 7th, 2017

    One year ago, I was knitting my very first adult-sized sweater. It was a goal of mine for 2016 to make a sweater for myself for no other reason than I could, and I would be proud to wear something I made with my own two hands.

    My first sweater

    Since then, I’ve made about a million baby sweaters, a total of four sweaters for myself, and one for Tim. There’s just something about sweater knitting for me that is unlike any other make. I don’t generally do any complicated lace or cables, so the endless rows of knitting are soothing and easy, and the end result is always fabulous. I have yet to make a sweater I don’t like.

    But something else happened when I started sweater knitting. I started to pay attention to other people who knit sweaters, and why they knit sweaters. Then, I started to see that these sweater-knitters not only knit clothes for themselves, but sewed them, too. Conveniently, my mom had bought me a serger for Christmas, and so I started trying that out, too. I made myself a few dresses, and I made Emily about a million summer clothes. Not everything worked out, and some of it fell apart after the first wash, but I learned a lot.

    At first, making my own clothes was an exercise in pride. I wanted to be able to say that I made my clothes, and I was excited to have pieces that were unique. Eventually, though, my journey into the world of slow fashion became much more than that. It became a new kind of activism for me, both in ethical fashion, and in loving my body.

    First, loving my body. Before Emily was born, I was skinny. Super skinny. And I didn’t have to work very hard at it. Everyone promised me I’d “bounce back” right away after the baby was born, but a c-section, some major anxiety, and a year of insomnia later, I started to realize I would probably never get back to the weight I was before I got pregnant. I bought myself some new clothes, but they were cheap and poorly made because I felt guilty about having to go through two entirely new wardrobes in less than two years between my maternity clothes and my post-baby clothes. I was never happy in anything I wore, both because the new clothes I had weren’t very nice, and because I had to cultivate an entirely new personal style because the tight t-shirts and cardigans I used to wear now showed by squishier belly. It was frustrating.

    It was also frustrating that I didn’t want to ever go clothes shopping – hence the cheap new wardrobe built almost entirely from Amazon and Target – for several reasons. First, most of my friends have babies of their own and taking babies clothes shopping is the absolute worst. I didn’t want to go alone, because that is soul-crushing, but I didn’t really want to go with friends, either, because it’s even worse when you try on a million things in the dressing room and don’t want to show anyone because you’re not happy with the way you look.

    One night, while Tim was out with the guys and Emily was sleeping, I had a few glasses of wine and decided I was going to take my own measurements once and for all. I figured this would help me order clothes online that would reliably fit me, and would help me choose sizes of patterns to make myself. So I did it, and it changed my world. I have not bought or made a single item of clothing since that does not fit me the way I expect it to which, as you might imagine, is really empowering. It truly taught me that clothes should be made to fit me, not the other way around.

    But an incredible by-product of all of this is that I naturally became more conscious of the clothing choices I was making. If I was going to spend time making an item to wear, it had to be perfect, and it had to be something that my closet was lacking. If I was going to buy something, I was going to buy nice clothes that fit well and would last. I had to be willing to spend a little more money, sure, but it would be worth it in the long run.

    As I found these brands of clothes that I liked, and as I did more research, I was drawn towards brands that were working to make a difference. The truth is, any way you slice it, someone makes your clothes. Is that person paid a living wage? Do they work in acceptable conditions? If you don’t know, and if you paid less than $20 for that t-shirt, the answer is probably not. Add to the human cost of clothing the fact that fast fashion is creating an environmental crisis, and that $10 cardigan you picked up from Walmart costs a whole heck of a lot more in the long run.

    I always kind of knew this, but doing the research really made it hit home with me. And, once we elected a climate change denier to the White House, I decided I had to do my part to make a difference.

    I know I said no New Year’s resolutions for me this year, but I do have a goal: I’m not buying any clothing that isn’t either second-hand or ethically made, and I’m going to make as much as possible of what I need or want myself. And I’m going to try to document this journey as much as I can on this blog so maybe I can inspire a few of you to make just a few changes to your wardrobe this year, too.

    Itching to get started? Try reading this quick e-book from The Root Collective.

    You can also try buying second-hand, which is a great and economical way to reduce the impact of fast fashion, from sites like threadUP, or you can visit your local thrift store.

    You can also follow these ethical fashion companies on Instagram to see just how beautiful ethical fashion can be:

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    Ms. Blog: The Women’s March on Washington Was as Educational as It Was Empowering

    February 2nd, 2017

    My post about the Women’s March has been re-posted on the Ms. Magazine Blog:

    She also mentioned that she learned a lot (and, as her former teacher, that was music to my ears). She saw one sign, in particular, that broke down the pay gap by men and women, and then by the race of the women, which was the first time she had seen the pay gap broken down in that way. What that taught me is that I need to do a better job of showing the young activists in our extra-curricular group statistics such as these that directly affect their lives.

    Read the full post here!

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    The Women’s March on Washington was Educational and Empowering

    January 31st, 2017

    I was very fortunate to be able to attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21 with a former student of mine, and the ability to share this momentous occasion with her was something neither of us will soon forget.

    Lizette is a very special young woman. When she was a sophomore in high school, she approached me about starting an after-school group for young feminists. She needed a sponsor for the group, and I agreed. Even though she graduated in 2014, our group still meets, and we are growing every year. Needless to say, I was thrilled to share such a momentous occasion with a favorite young activist. We were even able to bring signs created by current members of the group, which allowed them to be involved, and created a powerful connection between the generations of feminist activists in our school.

    The overnight bus rides there and back were brutal to say the least, but it was hard not to feel that we were part of a truly historical moment. Even though the cell towers were overloaded and we didn’t have the ability to check social media, we could tell that there were a lot more people there than anyone expected, and we could feel that energy. As Lizette noted: “Someday, I will be teaching a history lesson and this will come up in class and I’ll be able to say, ‘I was there!’”

    While the positive energy was palpable, so was the white privilege. There were a lot of straight, white, cis, able-bodied women there who seemed to feel entitled to something just because they showed up, because someone had called them a hero for doing so, and you could see that entitlement oozing from them as they not-so-subtly elbowed their way through the tightly-packed crowds just so they could get a little bit closer, or as they loudly asked questions in response to speakers’ points such as, “How are we standing on Native Americans’ land? This is Washington D.C.!”

    When we got back to the bus, Lizette noted that there weren’t as many women of color there as she would have liked to see, and we engaged in a discussion about white feminism and its sordid history. We both felt that the organizers did a great job creating the kind of intersectional space we would expect from a modern-day women’s rights rally, and as a Latina, she felt the speakers were inclusive and intersectional. However, we both noted that the crowd could learn a lot from listening to them.

    She also mentioned that she learned a lot (and, as her former teacher, that was music to my ears). She saw one sign, in particular, that broke down the pay gap by men and women, and then by the race of the women, which was the first time she had seen the pay gap broken down in that way. What that taught me is that I need to do a better job of showing the young activists in our extra-curricular group statistics such as these that directly affect their lives.

    All that said, though, the experience of attending the march – especially with a former student of mine – was awesome, in many ways. To see so many people put their “bodies where their beliefs are,” as Gloria Steinem said, was incredible. But it also hopefully opened a lot of people’s eyes to the awesome responsibility we have as citizens to not only show up, but to do the work. It was amazing to see Lizette, someone whom I have watched grow for years, have a fire lit under her. She and I both left the march having had an overwhelmingly positive experience even as we acknowledged that the movement had a long way to go, and we are already planning our next steps to participate in the resistance. The takeaway for both of us was this: Keep working. Keep showing up. Keep fighting. This is not the end.

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    Teaching Tolerance: For My Students, the Women’s March is Just the Beginning

    January 27th, 2017

    I’m over at the Teaching Tolerance blog today, talking about my students’ reactions to my going to the Women’s March on Washington:

    Their responses were as varied and multifaceted as they are. One girl said that the march should be a steppingstone to more concrete activism, and she wanted to see the march succeed. But she also wanted to see people use the event as a building block for other actions that would help lead the nation toward equal treatment of all Americans. Another girl felt passionately that women should not be slut-shamed. Several wished for immigration reform that would allow their families and the families of their friends to stay in the country. Yet another wanted to fight for comprehensive health care, and even more wanted reproductive justice.

    I promise to write up a post about my experience very soon. In the meantime, you can read this full article here.

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    Ms. Blog: A Crafty Way to Support the Women’s March

    January 12th, 2017

    I’m over at the Ms. Magazine blog today talking about Pussyhats: and the Women’s March:

    In launching the Pussyhat Project, the co-founders created a meditative and communal activity that serves as a mindfulness practice as well as an organizing opportunity. “We are hearing from participants that they are connecting through knitting circles, workshops, family, friends, and social media,” Zweimann told Ms. “People who are housebound are joining the movement. I have even connecting with a long lost cousin who will be wearing my hat at the march!”

    Each pussyhat carries a story, many of them moving and deeply personal. There are women who are unable to march sending a piece of themselves to a marcher. There are grandmothers and mothers using their craft to outfit their children, carrying on a tradition of both craft and protest. There are even people sewing hats with fabric from a deceased loved one’s stash—a fitting way to pay homage to activists who are no longer with us.

    For the whole story, click here!

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    3 Ways to Shut Down Pussyhat Haters

    January 8th, 2017

    Like most people in my circle of friends, after the election, I was left in a dark place. I wanted Hillary to win for women and girls everywhere, but I needed her to win to prove that progress isn’t perfect, but that it’s at least a given and not something we should have to continue to fight for.

    I, like many people I knew, was left questioning pretty much everything I thought I knew about politics, about America, about the world. And after a while, I was more than mourning the loss; I was downright depressed. How was I supposed to look my students in the face and say that everything was going to be OK? How was I supposed to raise a daughter knowing that she would know the word “pussy” before her 5th birthday? How was I supposed to tell my girls that they could be anything they wanted to be?

    I lost interest in a lot of things I used to love. Teaching and coaching, sure, but that could have been the product of the end-of-the-semester blues so I wrote it off as such. But when I started to lose interest in knitting and sewing, food, and yoga – and when I started falling asleep on the couch at 7 PM for no apparent reason – I knew something had to be up.

    Top that off with the fact that I wanted so desperately to attend the Women’s March on Washington but didn’t think I could. I just wanted to do something that felt like action, but it was too expensive, too hard to leave a toddler, I’d miss a Speech tournament, I had never done anything like this before, I didn’t want to go alone…

    And, just in the nick of time, I saw a post somewhere on my social media about the Pussyhat Project. If you haven’t heard about it, check out the link. (Go ahead. I’ll wait here.) The jist of it is that these women want to outfit all of the marchers in handmade – knit, crocheted, or sewn – pink cat hats. The idea is to create a stunning and noticeable visual statement at the march (and to keep the marchers warm, because it’s January in D.C. and it’s going to be COLD!) that protests our President-Elect’s use of the word “pussy” by reclaiming the word as our own, all while reclaiming the color pink – one that has been used against women to demean them – and the concept of handmade items that traditionally fall in the realm of women’s work.

    I jumped right on board. I’ve made over 30 hats, and will continue to make them right up until the day of the march. I will probably be knitting one on the bus on the way there. (Oh, did I mention I abolished all of those reasons floating in my brain for why I couldn’t go and bought a Rally Bus ticket? Because I did! AND I COULD NOT BE MORE EXCITED!)

    I knit. I sew. I’ve made a lot of hats. (This isn’t even all of them!)

    But, you know, hatters gonna hate, right? I’ve heard a lot of arguments against the use of these hats lately as the project has gained momentum and, while I see where these people are coming from, I disagree. If you’re a Pussyhat Project Proponent but are at a loss for what to counter, then here are some things you can say to those Pussyhat Pessimists’ arguments.

    Argument 1: These hats are silly. We need to be taken seriously.

    You’re right. They are. I have been wearing mine every day since I finished it, and I will admit that I feel weird about it. As one of my students said on the Speech tournament bus this weekend: “That’s an interesting hat choice for a grown woman.”

    This isn’t about one woman wearing a silly hat, though. It’s about over 150,000 women and men – angry women and men – wearing them in solidarity, and when the world sees us connected by this symbol, it will be powerful.

    Also, I hate to say it, but we have a President-Elect that says silly things. (And hurtful things. And demeaning things. And downright damaging things.) Sometimes, you just have to meet your opponent on their level to get them to pay attention. And he will be paying attention. This man gets rattled. Easily. 150,000 people marching against him, when the spotlight is supposed to be on him, decked out in pink Pussyhats… He’ll say something about it because it’ll get to him.

    Correction: He’ll tweet something about it. But it’ll still get to him.

    Argument 2: Pink is not the right color for this. Why choose such a girly color? And why cats? Why not vaginas or something more revolutionary?

    Pink is exactly the right color for this. Black or white wouldn’t make the intended visual statement, and Democrat Blue would just confuse the issue. Would you prefer purple as something girly but not too much so? Like Hillary Clinton’s concession pantsuit, all that does is blend the red and the blue, which isn’t want we want at all. Green? Yellow? Orange? It’s a women’s march. Pink has been used for and against women for a very long time, so why not reclaim it for this, an important women’s issue?

    As for the cat imagery, let’s never forget that kitties have claws. And it isn’t our fault he used the word “pussy” to describe women’s genitalia, opening himself up to endless cat puns. I hate to be the toddler here, but he really did start it.

    More importantly, though, these patterns were meant to be easily accessible to anyone, even those without a lot of experience. Crocheting an elaborate labia would be time-consuming and something only the most elite crafters would be able to do, which would not only defeat the purpose, but go completely against the accessible and intersectional nature of the event itself.

    Argument 3: Why waste your time making hats when you could be doing something more productive to “Dump Trump.”

    Well, as a matter of practicality, it’s D.C. In January. It is going to be cold. More importantly, though, this project was a way to channel anger, frustration, and astonishment for those of us who needed something to do and weren’t sure where to start. This project has been a lifesaver for me, and not only because I had something to do with my anxiety. Knitting (and other crafts) are so meditative that I had no choice but to slow down and become very mindful about my next steps. It helped me organize my thoughts and clear the post-election fog from my brain.

    Moreover, this project was intended to foster connections between people, and allow people who couldn’t attend the march a way to send a piece of themselves there. Knitting, crocheting, and sewing is all about making connections – connecting loops and knots of yarn, thread, and fabric together, sure, but also connecting crafters with other crafters. I even saw a post on Instagram that was a box of hats, each with a note saying that the hats were made from her late mother’s stash of fabric as a way of allowing her mom – who had died in December – to participate in the march. That, right there, is the epitome of love, and love trumps hate, which is possibly the most important message we can send right now.

    Photo Credit: Instagram User @mckfly

    Also, these crafts were and still are typically considered “women’s work;” something that was expected to be done in the home, alone, but soon knitting circles, sew-ins, and other craft groups emerged to connect people together. The natural outcropping of this is some discussion about more revolutionary topics in safe spaces for women to do so. That tradition has continued with several knitting parties across the country to make Pussyhats and discuss the next steps in our “craftivism,” and our resistance. I attended one at Women and Children First Bookstore in Chicago last week and it was amazing. It just felt so good to be with women who all cared deeply about feminist issues, and who all still felt dejected about the election results, and who all felt passionately about crafting for the cause. (See also: that point up there about making connections.)

    Photo Credit: Women and Children First Bookstore

     

    Photo Credit: Veronica Arreola

     

    If none of this works and you love the project while some of your feminist friends still hate it, you can tell them they by no means have to wear one, and then continue to rock your Pussyhat with pride. But, if you are going to the march and you can, pack an extra. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually give in to the power of the pink Pussyhat.

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    No Resolutions for Me This Year

    January 4th, 2017

    ‘Tis the season of resolutions and promises to ourselves. Of one-word focused thoughts. Of gym memberships and diet plans. Of trying to be better versions of ourselves.

    At the moment, though, guilt is probably the most powerful motivator in my life because I feel intense guilt for not being more, or better, or focusing, or dieting. I acutely feel the ever-present and all-encompasing Mom Guilt, sure, but also guilt over pretty much every other aspect of my life. I feel guilty over wearing clothes that weren’t necessarily made ethically. Over my toddler’s eating habits (or lack thereof). Over my own eating habits. Over going to yoga. Over not going to yoga. Over creating waste in my kitchen, my house, my classroom. Over taking a shower that’s longer than I absolutely needed. Over turning the heat up a few degrees to stop shivering. Over what I teach my students. Over what I don’t teach my students. Over the work I do from home. Over the work I leave at work. Over not really blogging or writing for the past few years. Over deciding to spend my time crafting rather than reading books. Over the election.

    You get the idea.

    The list goes on and on. It’s pervasive. It’s enough to make me not want to do anything at all… so maybe I should say that guilt is probably the most powerful un-motivator in my life sometimes.

    I have grown and changed quite a bit over the past few years. Some of this is for the good, and some not. There are some things I really like about my new self – I’m a mom! That is exciting and challenging and new every day. I’m really trying to do more with less, which feels good and productive. I’m trying to bring more mindfulness into my everyday life, which is a really popular buzzword right now, but I think it’s important anyway.

    But there are some things about my old, pre-kid self that I miss – Attending book club (and reading books in general). Dinner and drinks with friends without also having to entertain the kids. Writing. Being more politically active. Being more active in general.

    So this year, instead of making some kind of resolution based on the guilt I already feel, I’m going to try to recapture some of the things about myself that I liked before, while also retaining some of the things about myself that I like now.

    To start: Crafting Pussyhats and marching on Washington the day after the inauguration. Teaching Beloved by Toni Morrison to my AP students so we can have real conversations about race in America within the context of my class. Blogging more.

    But for now, I’m going to sign off and spend this last day of winter break with my kid. Because that’s important, too.

    Image credit: marc falardeau

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    Musings on #SlowFashionOctober 2016

    October 30th, 2016

    Last year, I came upon Slow Fashion October on Instagram and I was curious. At the time, though, I had just started knitting small things (mostly cowls and hats) that actually looked decent and, while I was proud of those things, I definitely wasn’t in a place to think about crafting much of a wardrobe. For Emily, sure. Her stuff is tiny and doesn’t take very long to knit, but for me? No way.

    On top of that, I still wasn’t very close to the size I was before Emily was born, and I definitely wasn’t close to the size I wanted to be, so I wasn’t sure why I would make myself clothes if I was just going to try to lose more weight. On top of that, I felt that my body didn’t necessarily deserve clothes that took a lot of time to make because it wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be. My solution at the time was to buy cheap clothes to cover the transitional period. I figured if I bought a few pieces, I could get by.

    What happened in reality over the past two years was that I essentially ended up with three wardrobes: my pre-Emily wardrobe I always thought I’d get back into, my immediately post-Emily wardrobe full of cheap pieces that never fit right and never made me feel good, and my post-transition wardrobe full of pieces I love and make me feel good and I wear all the time. Several pieces in that third wardrobe are handmade, because I realized at some point that clothes should be made to fit me, not the other way around, and when my clothes are well-made and fit me well, I feel a lot better.

    When I started to make and wear my own clothes, I also started to do a little more research into fast fashion, and it is kind of terrifying, though not at all surprising. As with many things in our speed-oriented society, there is a dramatic surplus, and the waste from the industry is ruining the environment. And the cheaper the clothes, the worse the problem gets.

    There’s no perfect solution to this problem, of course. We need to clothe our bodies, and some of us don’t have infinite funds or time to do so, but, as with every problem our world faces, I believe that if everyone did a little bit, we could collectively make a huge difference.

    For me, this past year has been about minimizing and feeling good. When we do more with less – use leftover food, for example, or create interesting wardrobes with a few well-crafted pieces – there are quite a few benefits. Personally, you look better, feel better, and save money. Globally, you make a positive impact on the environment and the economy.

    After all of this thinking and researching all month long, I decided there was nothing left to do, but to do it.

    To celebrate the end of Slow Fashion October, I decided today was the day to go through my closet once and for all. I started by telling myself that, yes, I did have a lot of well-made pieces from years and years ago (some of this stuff was from college, I’m not even kidding). In some cases – like with dresses that I truly loved that I had bought for bridal showers and weddings – they didn’t fit me anymore, and then I had to tell myself that it was time for someone else to enjoy these pieces. In other cases – like with some of the teacher clothes I bought when I got my first job – they fit just fine, but the cut was outdated and they didn’t make me feel good because they weren’t stylish. In other cases – like with the suit I bought for job interviews – they just didn’t have any use for me anymore.

    So, I purged. I packed away some of my nicer transitional clothes (if we do this again, not having to buy new clothes for the immediate postpartum period would be really great), and I got rid of three huge garbage bags of clothes, shoes, and accessories. On top of that, I put away some other pieces that had fabric that I really liked in order to upcycle them into pants for my super tall daughter. All in all, I got myself down to just one wardrobe that is filled with pieces that I enjoy wearing all the time and that are stylish now.

    I know no one wants my old clothes (as I stated above) so donating isn’t a great solution, but what was happening to me was that so many of my great clothing items were buried under years of accumulated crap that I didn’t like or wasn’t useful, and I was spending my mornings either crying that I had nothing attractive to wear, or disappointed that I was wearing the same old thing yet again and needed something new. And then I’d spend my afternoons on Amazon buying new, cheap clothes that I thought would make me feel better, thus compounding the problem. Now, I know that anything I pull out of my closet will fit well, look great, and pairs with most of the other things I own since I stuck to a definite color palette as I was purging.

    I counted, and if you count only items of clothing that could actually clothe by body – so not counting underwear, outerwear, accessories, shoes, gym clothes, spirit wear, and loungewear – I have approximately 140 clothing items left in my closet and drawers. This seems pretty great to me, considering Project 333, a guide to minimizing your wardrobe, suggests that you start with 33 pieces every 3 months, which would be about 132 pieces per year. I decided not to cycle out clothing items each season and, instead, keep all of my items in circulation because I live in Chicagoland and you never know what the weather might bring. Plus, putting a cardigan over a summer dress or top works really well for me, so I figured I’d keep everything out. It’s also very likely that I’ll donate pieces here or there throughout the next year as I try on clothes I discovered during this purge and decided to keep because I didn’t have time today to try everything on, or as I go through the year and realize that I’m not really wearing a piece as much as I thought I would.

    My goal for the next calendar year – until Slow Fashion October 2107 – is to be very mindful about my clothing. I’m only going to buy or make clothes if I truly need or want something new for an event, or if something I own wears out (or if I do finally lose that weight, but I doubt it at this point). And, if I’m buying something instead of making it, I’m going to either purchase it secondhand or spend the money on quality pieces that fit well from companies who ethically source their clothing. Furthermore, I am going to donate one piece of clothing for every item I buy or make. Oh, and I’m going to take the time to care for my clothes to make them last longer, not just launder everything in the quickest possible way.

    It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. And, while I’m a long way away from a 100% handmade wardrobe, it feels good to know that I’m trying to do what I can, and that tomorrow, when I go to get dressed, I know that whatever I put on my body will look and feel great.

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