Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Sunday Outfit

Another photo by my 10 year old photographer son.

Last Sunday, the members of our church were getting together for a Christmas dinner right after service. I wanted to look festive for the season and wear red. I don't really like red. I actually don't think I own anything in that color. I always feel that the color red brings out the reddish undertones in my skin and that is why I don't own red colored clothes. Okay, now that I made that point emphatically, I decided to make this red/pink top.

I used McCalls 6435 for the sweetheart neck line but I changed it and added a flounce hem to it for some pizazz

Underneath, I wore a black sleeveless dress that acted like a skirt. Although, you can't see them, I wore grey textured tights and grey wedge shoes. I really liked my outfit and love the fact that I can whip something up so fast. That's right, I impressed myself! lol.  The top could actually read a little  "Valentines Day" but I still like it.  I felt pretty and festive and had a great time! Merry 5th Day of Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

I Choose Light: Merry Christmas

Hubby prefers to keep his identity private.
I dug up this picture of hubby and I a couple of weeks ago. A year before we had our first child,  we were asked to play Mary and Joseph for a Christmas play at our church. We were given a plastic doll for baby Jesus and were sent on our way with our script. If only life were that easy; a plastic baby that doesn’t cry and all you have to do is say your lines. Sounds good to me, or does it? There is no choice involved in this scenario. On a very difficult day with my youngest child, I pondered this whole idea of choice.

Dan was sick one day and stayed home from school. The day after, I decided he should stay home again to rest but rest he did not! He ran back and forth, climbed everything and broke a couple of things. The last straw was when he poured a half bottle of juice on the floor. I determined he was fine to go to school. I put his coat on, and off we went to the bus stop.

I felt bad, though. Like I had to take my kid to school because I needed a break from him. I felt selfish, a bad mom. The teacher doubted my decision in taking him to school after he had been sick the day before. I felt judged.  

Many people tell me that my hubby and I were chosen for this mission, caring for two special needs children. That we are so patient, kind, and loving. Sometimes I feel God thinks too highly of me and made a mistake. I am not always patient. I am not always loving and kind. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a saint, I am not the virgin Mary! Or perhaps I am just like her.

We often attribute saint like qualities to Mary, and she did have them, but in reality she was just a mere mortal like you and I with choice. I believe in a God of free will. We are not robots, He can't control us that way.  God chose Mary to carry the Saviour in her womb and ultimately mother him until his death but she had to choose back. Jesus was birthed amidst adversity. Mary and Joseph were not married and people were talking. God chose that scandalous scenario and Mary chose to be up for the challenge despite the many doubts, fears and feelings of failure she might have had about mothering Jesus.  He was in fact a special needs child too. He was the Saviour, it doesn’t get more special than that! As an adult, they called Him crazy and dillusional and as a child, He must have been very difficult to understand. I could imagine Mary having moments where she didn’t know what the hell she was doing.

At the end, yes, God is in the business of choosing but we also need to choose back. I can choose to fall into despair or I can choose to be kind, patient and loving. Perhaps the saintliness comes in the choosing of light.  And sometimes the most loving and kind thing I can do for my boys, and for me, is to get a much needed break no matter how selfish it may appear to me or others. That's choosing light. I have no plastic babies and have not been handed a script. Sometimes I will succeed and sometimes I may fail at this mothering thing. My power is in choosing kindness, patience and love, for me, my hubby, my kids, the world, whenever I can.

I wish you kindness, patience, and love this Holy Day season.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sunday Outfit Post: A Collaboration with my Boys!

I usually take my blog pictures when the kids are at school. This is why you usually do not see pictures of my Sunday outfit posts. But I liked this ensemble so much that I recruited my older son to take some shots of me. He is currently in the photography after-school club and loves being behind the camera. 

I wore this outfit two Sundays ago to church. It's a see-through black top with a black camisole underneath. The skirt I made from a self-drafted pattern. It has panels that are subtley colorblocked in grey tones. This did not happen on purpose, I ran out of the grey fabric I started the project with and couldn't find an exact match when I went to buy more.  I finished it off with a black faux leather obi belt.

Low and behold, my little one came in to infiltrate the photo shoot! This is why I don't take pictures on Sunday! It's a welcomed surprise, though!

Isn't he adorable! We are always trying to teach Dan boundaries but he knows I will stop what I am doing to give him a hug!

Another shot taken by my oldest. He did such a great job! It was fun collaborating with my boys on this blog post. I think you're going to be seeing a lot more Sunday outfit posts from now on!   

Friday, December 14, 2012

Special Needs Super Mom Spotlight: Designs by Tiffany

Tiffany and her son, adorable!

For me, creativity, self-expression, fashion, the arts, all of these help me enjoy life more fully, connect with others, and de-stress, especially since I parent two special needs children. For a long time, I have been wanting to start a series where I interview other creative moms of special needs children in an attempt to learn from them, create community and awareness, and bring attention to other fabulous designers doing it all.

I am so happy to present to you Tiffany Jones of Designs by Tiffany as the first designer in this series!

Designs by Tiffany offers "handmade accessories that can add the extra touch to your outfit at a low cost". She makes earrings, scarves, hats, and even blankets.

I ran into Tiffany's shop while searching for some cool BIG earrings. I don't normally wear BIG earrings but felt that with my hair straight and pulled back, it would add a certain pop to my outfit. Voila, I found these on Tiffany's website. They are large, silver fabric tear drop earrings.

Silver tear drop earrings, $12.00

 I love them! They are so much fun and really jazz up an outfit.

Then I discovered she was a mom to a special needs child and wanted to find out more:

I know you say in your profile that you started crafting to relax after your son's diagnosis but did you craft before?

I learned how to craft in the April before my son got sick. I learned from my sister in law when my father in law had a major stroke and passed. When my son got sick I started learning more and doing more projects because I noticed it helped me relax.

Specifically, what kind of crafting do you do and what materials do you use?

I crochet scarves, hats, earrings and blankets. I also make earrings from fabric and ribbons.

Large, unique DREAM earrings, $12.00

Large plaid fabric earrings, $12.00
What is your schedule like? How and when do you find the time to work? Do you craft full time or do you have another job?

I teach second grade language arts in Houston TX. During the school year, I'm up at 5:30 am but I get home around 3:00pm so I take a few hours to myself before I get my son from daycare. During that time I also look up projects or try a new project. I tend to work on more projects during the summer, winter, and spring breaks since I don't have to teach. I craft part-time but if I had more business I would love to do it more.

Blue crochet ruffle scarf, $20.00 

Besides crafting, what else do you do to relax or unwind?

Beside crafting I enjoy shoe shopping. I'm very petite and a lot if times it's easier to find shoes than clothes.

What is your son's diagnosis and how does it affect him?

My son has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. With his condition it causes his joints to swell which cause pain and fevers. The type that he has can also cause his liver and spleen to swell as well and we had an issue with that this summer. When he has a flare up it hurts for him to walk and he tends to have high fevers. If left untreated it can cause permanent joint damage and disabilities. We have to make frequent visits to Texas Children for IV medicines and test when he has a flare up. When he doesn't have a flare up he is like a normal three year old.

What tip(s) would you give moms caring for special needs children

Advice I would give is to always take some time for yourself to unwind. Sometimes the hard part is finding what helps you unwind.

Kids/adult owl hat, $22.00
Where can we connect with you besides your shop? 

Facebook fan page: designsbytiffanyj

Twitter: @misstiff02

Thank you Tiffany!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sweatshirt Reconstruction #2: Color block

So serious, but I'm really giggling inside, lol

Hello all! So here's another sweatshirt reconstruction. Could it be it's a little out there because I made it during the Star Wars marathon Thanksgiving weekend?

It didn't quite turn out the way I wanted it to but it sure is interesting.

For this reconstruction, I used two x-large sweatshirts (a grey and a black) and made it from a pattern I drafted myself. I definitely wanted it to be a color block and wanted a corset-type feel but the neckline came out too low causing the grey upper panels to flop on my shoulders. That's when I decided to add the crew neck to hold them in place and now it looks a little warrior princess.

It's actually growing on me, I love the hi-lo hem and the grey-colored back. I might wear it somewhere. I just don't know where yet.

What do you think?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Deep Pressure Vests: The New Fashion Trend?

Is it me or do these fashion photos scream DEEP PRESSURE VEST! Do these models have sensory issues? My worlds collided as I looked through the fashion magazines I had bought this month. I like when that happens.

December/January 2013 issue of Harpers Bazaar, p. 289

December 2012 issue of Marie Claire, p. 185
These two tops are both by Balenciaga. The first is a leather top and costs $2,150. The second is a cheaper version, a navy top for $1,535.  I guess with the way the world is going, we could all use a little pressure, good pressure, that is, to keep us together! But not for this much money!

Anyway, "deep pressure vest" is all that has been on my brain lately so I am sure that I am the only one that read "sensory needs" when I saw these photos. My little Dan has deep sensory issues which come with his autism. For some children with autism, feeling where their bodies are in their physical space, is difficult. Thus, a weighted or deep pressure vest helps kids like Dan feel grounded.

In particular, deep pressure vests deliver a hug sensation which helps calm hyper-active kids like mine. Studies claim that deep pressure releases naturally calming chemicals in the brain, along with endorphins which stimulate happiness. We could all use a hug, right?

Dan's ABA therapist used a deep pressure vest with him last year during her sessions and I saw that it really helped. Alas, no ABA therapists this year, and hence no sensory pressure vest unless I decide to make one. And make one I will because, like the Balenciaga tops, they are expensive, although not as expensive. 

I did find this affordable one that might work if I decide not to go the DIY route:

Available at Not so bad at $39.99-$69.99

Available at for  £245 (around US$380)
This one is super high tech with a zip and velcro fastenings and has air pockets. There is also an attached hand pump that allows the wearer to apply and regulate soothing pressure by pumping or releasing air to deliver a hug sensation.

Available at for  $199.00. This looks like something I can make. A band and straps, I think that could be pretty easy.

I consulted with Dan's OT and he told me it would be a good idea to make one if I wanted to. I made him a weighted vest 2 1/2 years ago with help from his Early Intervention OT and it yielded good results. I'll show a picture of it on another post. Anyway, it got too small for him and I was going to make him a bigger one but when I consulted with his current OT, he felt that what Dan was craving more was the pressure, not the weight.
There is one home made deep pressure vest that I found on the internet by

It looks very cool and possibly easy to make. She is also a mom of two kids with special needs. Check out her site, it has other great tutorials too.
Well, I 'll keep you posted on my progress. I'm not sure what Balenciaga had in mind with these tops but for a little while sensory issues and glamour went hand in hand and that's okay by me. Maybe photoshoots like these will make little girls feel comfortable and confident wearing their deep pressure vests when they need it. Especially since there are less girls on the spectrum and therefore, less role models for them. Now I need to find a nice photo of a male model wearing one for the sensory seeking boys out there! Wish me luck!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tutorial: Underneath Sleeve Shrug, Add Sleeves to Your Summer Clothes

Necessity is definitely the mother of invention! This tutorial is based on my need to convert some of my summer pieces into fall/winter wear. It's a shrug you wear inside your clothes! More and more, I am trying not to have this dichotomy between summer and fall and have my wardrobe reflect a smooth transition rather than a break. Too philosophical?

Anyway, here's the pattern I made from a New York Times paper page. I buy the paper all the time, read it, and then  save it to cut it up for patterns. Am I the only one who does this? 

Well, here it is, it's a very simple pattern:

Cut and paste this pattern and enlarge based on your measurements
My shoulder circumference is 15 inches so with stretchy material, 14 1/2 is good, with a little seam allowance. My arm length is 21 inches but I like my sleeves long and semi ruched at the end so 27 inches worked for me. Now use your measurements to make the pattern.  

Place on fold of fabric. Use pins or weights to hold down pattern in place. These are ankle weights that I should be exercising with, lol.

This is what it looks like after cutting.

Open it up and this is what you'll have
Unite top and botom points on each side


Now we're going to make a binding for the opening

Cut a 36 in. long and 2 1/2 in. wide strip. Add the two ends of the strip and stitch

Now fold width-wise uniting seam allowance

This is how it will look from the outside

Iron, imprinting the fold on fabric

Pin to opening of shrug, raw edge to raw edge. I always pin top, bottom, left, and right and then ease and stretch the binding to fit the opening.

I like to serge all the seams but if you do not have a serger, you can zig zag stitch or just do a regular double stitch for durability.
Now I will show you how I use my "underneath clothes" sleeve shrug.

This is a summer top I made a while ago that I absolutely love and would love to wear in the winter showing off the color block, without covering it with a sweater.

Here's my little underneath sleeve shrug

Voila! I have a nice seudo winter top
My underneath sleeve shrug is also great for winterizing strapless items

This is what it looks like without anything over it. Here, it is paired with a sleeveless/strapless jumpsuit. It's a little too bare for me but you can wear it like this too.

From the back

With a knitted vest. You have three layers going on; jumpsuit, sleeve shrug, and the vest

I like it this way the best! I love layers.

So grab your stretchy fabric and scissors. This is a super easy project that really goes a long way in "stretching" your wardrobe. If you have questions, please leave a comment or e-mail me.