Monday, December 30, 2013

What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self? Looking Back in the New Year

I know that during this end of year time, we tend to look forward. But I thought, for this new year, I would look back, see how much I had accomplished and what I have to continue to learn.

In 2006, a year before Dan was born, the book, What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins was published. I remembered thinking,  "what a cool concept! I would love to write a letter to my younger self!" I never actually did, but I shelved the idea, knowing that I might do it in the future.

Then, in May of 2012, I  bought this issue of Oprah simply because the cover caught my eye. Isn't it amazing? I wondered how I could do this, how could I put a picture of my older self embracing my younger self and combine it with a letter to a younger me. I never figured it out, (if any of you know, please tell me) but when I found this Ziggy doll, I got an idea. The doll was given to me in 6th grade by a group of friends before I had back surgery for scoliois at age 11. I remembered my mom had taken a picture of me with it so when I found it, I attempted to recreate it as an adult. Here is the result as well as 5 consejos (advice) I would give my younger Nellie. Bare with me as I am still learning these lessons and will carry them into the 2014.

1. Your father's alcoholism had nothing to do with you.  He didn't drink because you didn't get better grades, or because his family was not interesting enough. This is an important lesson, little Nellie, because you are going to have two kids with autism and you are going to refer back to what you know, blaming yourself. You are going to think that you ate something you shouldn't have or that you didn't play enough Mozart to your unborn children. Stop apologizing. Not everything is your fault. You are not that powerful.

2. Don't hide, don't be afraid to shine and celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. I know you like to give the spotlight over to others and that you're a great listener, but we need to hear your voice as well. Just as others are gifts to your life, you are a gift to others. People need you. You are going to have a blog where you will be able to celebrate your accomplishments. Opportunities will come from this. Please don't say no to them.  Stop second-guessing yourself.

3. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need! If you plan on being a healthy mom, you are going to have to take care of yourself, little Nellie. Just because you have needs does not make you needy. You are going to have to learn to ask for help. No one does it alone, we all need each other. If someone says no, just move on and ask the next person.

4. Don't be afraid to switch paths.  You are going to do a lot of schooling and have two degrees that you will not use for a while. You will then teach yourself some new skills. I know it sounds crazy but it will be okay. It's going to be a tough ride full of uncertainties but it will also be fun. You are not your career. Don't get stuck on one track. You are multi-faceted, embrace it.

5.  Little Nellie, please do not take yourself so seriously! Don't be afraid to be a goof, to make mistakes, to laugh at yourself. This is what makes you human, real, and relatable.

Whew! I am kind of glad it does not happen this way. That we don't get a sneak peek or a preview of the future. I think I would be totally overwhelmed. I am glad I am learning these lessons as I go and look forward to new ones in 2014. Happy New Year.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Show, Special Needs, and God with Us: Thank You Very Much Mr. Roboto

Patiently waiting for Dan's class to perform, this was two or three classes before his. 
On Wednesday, I got to my younger son's Winter Concert on time! I was so proud of myself. It's usually packed and I always end up sitting in the 5th or 6th row because, yes, I am usually late. Not this time. I got there extra early and landed a seat in the second row, square in the middle, with no big person in front of me! Also, after looking at the program and realizing that Dan's class was one of the last ones to perform, I saved all my iPhone's battery life for countless photos of his class performance, I was so excited!

I watched performance after performance and then, finally,  Dan's class was next. There I was, camera in hand, positioned motionless so I could capture the perfect shot the moment he hit the stage. My Dan is a ball of energy that jumps, runs, and fidgets at every moment. Many of my pictures of him are mere blurs so this preparation was quite calculated. I figured I would be able to get at least one good picture of him for me, and yes, Facebook.

Dan's class, sans Dan. You can see a little glimpse of the kids dressed as trains.
The music for his class performance started and I began to look for Dan. I looked, and looked, but there was no sign of him. I smiled, masking my anxiety, as the music kept playing and the kids kept coming out in their costumes. I wasn't sure what he was supposed to be so I didn't know what to look for.  First, kids dressed as trains, came out; then others dressed as rockets. The next batch were teddy bears, and lastly, the robot kids. The music ended, his class performance was over, and still no sign of Dan.

I couldn't understand it. Did I miscalculate? Was his class actually the next one to perform? Was he so well disguised that I had missed him? Didn't I see his class heading to the stage? Then I spotted him with his paraprofessional (para), heading back down off the platform. My heart sank. I knew something must have gone awry. I silently started to cry as the music started playing for the next act. Tears rolling down, I started to get in my head, "couldn't his para handle him?" I thought. "This is a special school, aren't they supposed to be able to deal with kids that have sensory issues and are hyper?" The show was not over but I just wanted to leave. I thought of how I could make a grand exit to show how pissed I was and then write an angry e-mail to his teacher about how they broke a mother's heart.

Photo courtesy of
Then I took a hold of myself as I felt a calming presence over me. I looked back and Dan was sitting nicely with his para. I decided I was going to go over to his class and find out what happened. When they laid eyes on me, both his para and teacher had these apologetic faces on them. Before I could say "What the hell happened? They started, "Ms.______, I am so sorry, we tried everything and Dan just refused to go on. He ripped his robot costume off and started to cry. We really tried!" Ah, so there it was, he was supposed to be a robot. That puzzle was solved. I could feel my anger melting away. I couldn't hold it against them. They have a very good track record with Dan. I truly believed they tried their best. I couldn't help, though, to continue to ruminate; this is a class of 6 year old autistic children, could they have placed them ahead of the middle schoolers? Couldn't his para pack some snacks to keep him calm? Aaah, if I was going to to salvage this day, I had to decide to let it go. There was no time for what-ifs and recalculations, I sat down with Dan, bopped him up and down on my lap to the rest of the musical numbers, and enjoyed him. He was smiling and laughing; clearly, he was happy to see me. 

Then I realized, "of course! Dan is not a robot!" I can't just press a button and expect him to perform at will. No wonder he ripped that robot costume off! It was his own little performance art piece speaking against the constraints of society. What an extraordinary act of defiance. The boy is genius! Lol.

That act of defiance spoke to me more than the planned performance. No, I have no picture to show off, and I don't have the "he looked so cuuuuute" story to tell my husband. What I do have is a boy who is his own person. A boy, I need to continue accepting and loving for who he is. A boy that teaches me not to be a robot myself, to live my life to the fullest (John 10:10).

Photo courtesy of Britton Church,
I love Christmas simply because it is a reminder that God is with us; Emmanuel. This is what this season is all about. God is with me in this journey. Through the tears, the pain, the joy, the lessons of life, He is with me. He became human to share in our struggles and experience what we go through. And because we are human, not robots, He gives us the choice to be with Him. He never pushes, but shows up, ever so gently, at the right moment. Like the moment I didn't see my son on stage. He is with me and I, also, choose to be with Him.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sew and Tell: Leather Patch Artsy Print Dress

We have had three snow days this past week. This shot was taken right before the snow started sticking on Tuesday. I don't like snow but luckily the boys were able to go to school! lol. 

 I thought I'd bring you  little warmth by blogging about this leather patch dress I made during the summer. Although the summer was tough for me as I mentioned in this post, making this dress was a high point and I think I was subconsciously starting to work through the whole vulnerability/armor concept here.   

 First off, I LOVE this print. It's very abstract conceptual art reminding me of my days working in a museum. It's also colorful yet muted. I am trying to wear more color and not resort to the grey, black, and brown that I love. I do not like bright colors, I guess it's the New Yorker in me.  

 Although I consider myself a "refashion designer" there are times when working through a concept requires me to sew from scratch. The combination of leather with an artsy print make it edgy yet soft. I love that juxtaposition. 

 Back view of dress

 The waist of the dress is elasticized. The faux leather belt continues the leather theme.
 I also paired it with boots when I took these pics in September. During the summer, I mostly wore this dress to church with wedges. I will definitely continue to wear it during the winter with a bodysuit underneath or with a blazer.

What do you think? 

Okay, I think it's time to leave summer behind and get back to winter fashion: My next blog post will be a tutorial of an infinity scarf from a sweater. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I have not abandoned you! I have been swamped with Christmas orders and have not been able to blog. 

It snowed yesterday, here in New York, and I posted this pic in my Instagram; a summer dress I forgot to blog about. A little something to remind me of warmer days. The post will hopefully be up next week. In the meantime, please follow me on Instagram, I'll follow you too; @nelescdesigns. 

Oh, and if you want to order something from my shop, the mail clerk assures me it will be delivered in time for Christmas if I ship by December 20th, priority mail. So take a look see,

Monday, December 2, 2013

CYBER MONDAY SALE: The Sweater to Sleeved Scarf Tutorial Available for Purchase at Nelesc Designs

NELESC DESIGNS is happy to offer my second tutorial available for sale in my shop: THE SWEATER TO SLEEVED SCARF TUTORIAL.

You might remember that I offered the initial tutorial for free on this blog last year. I decided to revamp the original tutorial to include more photos and make it easier to understand.  This 13 page SWEATER TO SLEEVED SCARF tutorial includes color and b/w photographs, and step by step SIMPLE Tutorial instructions. 

Christmas is the perfect time to make hand-made gifts. This scarf is super warm. It wraps around your neck twice and stays put because it's designed with sleeves on each end. You can wear it underneath a coat or indoors during those cold, drafty days in the office or home. I love this scarf! It's a great autumn/winter wardrobe staple and, this tutorial, is available in my shop, for ONLY TODAY, CYBER MONDAY, for just $.99!  

The clothes from my pdf patterns and tutorials are intended to be made out of upcycled/recycled materials. As well as sweaters, I can easily envision this sleeved scarf made from sweatshirts, turtlenecks, and even t-shirts, if you use more than one. There are so many different options in terms of colors and fabric which make this sleeved scarf a great versatile piece.

While you are at my shop, you can buy a shirt as well. I know, shameless advertising! 

So there you have it, and, for only today, CYBER MONDAY, you will be able to get this pattern/tutorial for only $.99 in my shop.

If you decide to purchase it, please let me know what you think. I am also, always here to help if you need it. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sew and Tell: Grey Faux Lace Sweatshirt

First off, thank you so much for all the supportive comments from my last post. I know it was a long one! I appreciate you  reading through it and thank you, once again, for your encouragement. It meant so much! 

Now, on to this item.  If the beige dress I showed in the last post was couture, this grey faux lace sweatshirt would be the ready-to-wear version. It has the same princess seams as the dress and the same faux lace screen print, in white. It however, is just a sweatshirt, more relaxed in fit and cropped. In retrospect, I would have made it a little longer.  I plan to make and sell these in my shop, if you are interested, let me know.

Work in progress

 There is also no faux leather anything on the bottom sleeve. Definitely more relaxed.

 Lace print up close

I like it best with the sleeves rolled up. If you want to toughen it up and go for the vulnerability/armour look, you can wear a leather cuff with it.

I hope you like it. Please tell me what you think in the comments. I read every one and also reply to each.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Modeling Vulnerability, Armor, the Dress, and "Summertime Sadness"

Vulnerability...this has been the big theme for me lately. When you are a special needs parent you are automatically put in a position where you have to ask for help, making one feel, well... quite vulnerable.  You might say that all mothers have to ask for help, and they do, but not on the scale that mothers of special needs children do. You need people, and lots of them. Family, support groups,  church community, therapists, social workers, doctors, qualified babysitters, home health aides, etc. This needing, that requires asking for help, is absolutely incredibly difficult for me.

I didn't realize how difficult it was for me to ask for help until I read Brene Brown's book on vulnerability; Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (link on top). This apprehension for "help asking" caught me by surprise. I have two children on opposite sides of the autism spectrum. My oldest is 11, I am not exactly an autism mom novice. I thought I dealt with this whole vulnerability issue with my first child.  I guess there is more work to be done and much armor to chip away. Brown talks a lot about armor:

"We emotionally 'armor up' each morning when we face the day to avoid feeling shame, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. The particular armor changes from person to person, but it usually revolves around one of three methods: striving for perfection, numbing out, or disrupting joyful moments by 'dress rehearsing tragedy' and imagining all the ways that things could go wrong."
My kind of armor is perfectionism. She goes on to say, 
"All of these types of armor can make us feel safe and 'in control' in the moment, but they're really doing us more harm than good. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield-we think it will protect us but it keeps us from being seen."
I spent a big part of my life, armored up and I guess it's harder to penetrate than I thought. I grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who, although extremely loving, cared intensely about what people thought. We were never allowed to tell people we were living with a raging alcoholic even though our house was figuratively and literally falling apart. I also grew up in a fundamentalist Pentecostal church where proper dress and behavior were the norm and we were always to answer,  "en victoria!" (in victory) when asked how we are doing. Growing up, armor was my middle name.

Now you throw autism into the mix and what do you get? Vulnerability. Autism has been chipping away at my armor little by little and this summer, it came to a head, it took out a big chuck, leaving me feeling raw, disempowered, and helpless. This past summer was the toughest summer I had ever had to face,  my most vulnerable summer. Lana del Rey's song "summertime sadness" does not even begin to describe it. Okay, I'll stop saying summer now, lol.  Anyway, I needed a lot of help and I wasn't willing to ask for it until I broke down. There were other things happening, not just autism, that I might unveil in future posts but for now, I will say, that, although there is work to be done, I'm on the other side;  I feel joyful again, reconnected, and extremely hopeful.

Modeling vulnerability
As I always do in times of discomfort, depression and struggle, I make art, write, and pray. Not always in that order, sometimes all together.  Rainn Wilson, in an interview with Oprah I watched a couple of months back, says it better: 

"Art is a prayer. I believe the two are the same thing. So there's not any difference between being creative and being spiritual."

My art/prayer happens to be making clothes and so I decided I wanted to make a collection that reflected this whole idea of armor and vulnerability. My clothes have been so literal in the past, with the icons and all, I have been longing to make clothes that are more conceptual in nature, garments that tell a story. This is not a full fledged collection yet; so far, it's only two pieces, but I didn't want to wait until I finished them all before I posted about the concept. I figured I'd give you a sneak peek now and will let you in on my process in future posts.  I am still not sure if these pieces are just for me, whether I will sell them in my shop, whether they will be used for a future fashion show...I just knew I had to make them.

Here's the first piece. I have been working on it since September. You might know by now about my love of sweatshirts. I love elevating the lowly. That is exactly what God does.

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;"
1 Corinthians 1:27, English Standard Version

This dress is made from two sweatshirts. Humble, lowly material, no?

I chose beige to simulate flesh tone. I then screen printed the lace pattern. Lace is delicate, rips apart easily. It's a very "vulnerable" fabric. This is how I felt this summer. I ripped apart easily. Lace also speaks of intimacy. You usually see it on lingerie and screen printed on the beige, it gives a see-through illusion. During this time, I felt quite disconnected from all that compose my community. I felt alone but desperately wanted to be seen. 

What's a post about vulnerability if I don't take off my glasses!

The lower part of the sleeves are made from the top part of stretchy boots that I wore for years, the heel worn to disrepair. I wanted to use something recycled because nothing is discarded in this journey. This tough summer experience has informed me greatly, I learned a lot. I know what to do differently next time.

The boot material also simulates leather, a tough material. Armor, if you will. As a special needs mom, you have to wear some armor, it goes with the territory. People can be mean to your children, to you. I often feel I am on warrior mode all the time, repelling bullets with my big Wonder Woman cuffs. 

However,  sometimes, that same armor can prevent you from being vulnerable, being seen, asking for help. For me, the trick is to NOT see vulnerability as weakness and opening up to the right people is key. I took the first step in asking for help by opening up to a lovely woman who took me out to dinner, listened to me, spoke truth, prayed for me, followed up, and guided me though this time.

I was actually on the phone here, I had to take this call, lol.

I love that, unless you look really close, you can't tell that this is made from two sweatshirts and recycled boots. The screen printing process was more expensive than the actual materials! All is not how it seems. To the naked eye, I looked fine, was even praised for holding it all together, it was so far from the truth. This, an ordinary dress with layers of meaning, is just like all of us; ordinary people with lots of layers...and unless we choose to open up to people, the right people, and allow them to get close, they won't see the real you. 

How do you model vulnerability? What do you do when you're feeling down? How do you process? For me, art is my saving grace! God always reveals truth to me while I create. Whether it be sewing, singing, collaging, it's what gets me through. I would love to hear your thoughts and I look forward to sharing more about what I have learned.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Very First Hat Pattern and Tutorial for Sale at Nelesc Designs

I know that I wrote about my Helmet Hat Pattern/Tutorial back in April but since it's getting nippy out there, I thought I would reintroduce today. I love this hat! It's a great autumn/winter wardrobe staple and is available in my shop, for a limited time, for $5.00!  

If you have read my "about" page, you know I have been wanting to start selling my patterns and tutorials. I have enjoyed sharing my knowledge here through my free tutorials every other Tuesday and now I would like to expand on that through the tutes I'll be offering through my shop. These tutes will be more extensive and some will include actual pattern pieces as this new tutorial does. 

 This unlined hat is composed of a base with the surrounding leaf shaped pieces appliqued on. The leaf pieces are quilted with thread. The pattern/tutorial shows you how to make a HELMET HAT that fits a 22 to 24 inch sized head. 

This 27 page HELMET HAT pattern/tutorial includes color photographs, step by step SIMPLE tutorial instructions, and three pattern pieces that print onto multiple sheets. You will then need to match the triangles, connect them correctly, and then tape them together.

As you also know, I like to refashion garments so this helmet hat was designed to be made from upcycled/recycled fabric like sweatshirts or t-shirts. It gives you a chance to reuse those sweats and tees you have around the house. However, you can use most fabrics with this pattern/tutorial, new or old.

Since I launched in in April, I have had several sales of this pattern. This is what one customer said, 

"The tutorial downloaded safely, thanks - and it looks to be very detailed and comprehensive. Now to decide which sweatshirt is to be sacrificed first." 

So there you have it, and, until Nov. 5, you will be able to get this pattern/tutorial for only $5.00 in my shop. After that, it will go up to $8.99. 

If you decide to purchase it, please let me know what you think. I am also, always here to help if you need it. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hi all! I will be posting less often in the next couple of weeks. 

My husband had minor surgery. He is fine but still requires care so I'll be sewing when hubby is napping or doesn't need me as much. This is what marriage is about, for better or worse. We had a great, deep talk last night so I am actually happy to be taking a break from the day to day to spend time with him, care for him, and reconnect.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Circle/Spiral Pants from Pattern Magic 3 by Tomoko Nakamichi

As promised, I give you the circle/spiral pants I made the other day. It is from the book, Pattern Magic 3 by Tomoko Nakamichi. I love them!

Here's how they look in the book.  It is such a cool concept that I wished I would have thought about it myself, my loving draped clothes and all.

Here's my version. I didn't make them go all the way around in a full circle since this would have made them too long and super drapy...and I'm a shorty.  I already practiced on other stretchy fabric so I know what I'm talking about.

Here's what they look like held out. Weird right? Like a giant flounce.

Here they are on me, I love them!

I especially like them because I can get the whole leggings concept without them being super tight.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Reconstructing Jesus

Top is" before" and bottom is "after"
I print cultural icons on t-shirts. I love that I do that, I love bringing attention to heroes from the past, especially, African American and Latino/a heroes that people simply don't know enough about. These images have empowered me immensely and it brings me great joy to be able to share them with others through my shopHowever, my most beloved hero is Jesus Christ. He stands for, love, justice, redemption, everything I am passionate about.  

A long time ago, I decided not to design an image of Jesus in my cultural icons collection. I knew I would never be able to do Him justice. Actually, this image, also falls short. He looks too white, and most agree that Jesus most-likely had olive skin and "wooly" hair.

"While forensic anthropology is usually used to solve crimes, Richard Neave, a medical artist retired from The University of Manchester in England, realized it also could shed light on the appearance of Jesus...For those accustomed to traditional Sunday school portraits of Jesus, the sculpture of the dark and swarthy Middle Eastern man that emerges from Neave's laboratory is a reminder of the roots of their faith. 'The fact that he probably looked a great deal more like a darker-skinned Semite than westerners are used to seeing him pictured is a reminder of his universality,' says Charles D. Hackett, director of Episcopal studies at the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. "And [it is] a reminder of our tendency to sinfully appropriate him in the service of our cultural values."  - Mike Fillon, The Real Face of Jesus. 

I do however, love this shirt, the image is super powerful and I love that it says "won by one", more on that later. 

Anyway, I bought this t-shirt about 12 years ago. It was of course, giant, too big for me, so this is how I reconstructed it then. I simply made it smaller on the sides, cut the length, and opened the sleeve.

The length became a little awkward as years went on and it was still too boxy. Last week, I decided to reconstruct it yet again.

I added black t-shirt material on top in order to lower the image and make the shirt longer so I can war it with leggings or slimmer pant. I then scooped it out...a lot, maybe too much, but with a tank top underneath it looks fine and I actually like having it off the shoulder, giving it a little edge.

So here it is! Tell me what you think, oh, yes, the "won by one" actually reminds me of Sting's song "All this time." One of the lines in the song is "men go crazy in congregations but they only get better one by one." I LOVE this song and I always substitute the "one by one" in the song with "won by one" from the t-shirt. I'm on this journey to becoming a better person. I can't do it alone though. The whole idea of Christianity is that you can't save yourself. I need someone greater than me, I need a Redeemer and I also need people. You don't win in isolation. I know this isn't popular these days with the idea of self-glorification through social media, fashion, art, etc. Recently, I have been relying on God and people more and more as I go about my journey. Asking for help, trying to be of service. I'm a work in progress, a reconstruction of sorts, if you will. Who would have known a t-shirt reconstruction would bring about such deep thoughts, lol. 

On a lighter note, I m going to blog about these cool drapy pants next!