In which Eli and I unsuccessfully attempt to master new skills…

In a previous post or two I’ve mentioned my seeming inability to sew from a pattern. I’ve decided to get serious about addressing my distressing lack of this skill and have ordered a couple of pattern books. One is Sewing For Boys. I’m so excited about some of the clothing included in this book. My first attempt was most disappointing however. I figured I’d start out easy with a raglan shirt.

I used some of my over abundance of black t-shirt fabric that I bleached to a pleasing brown and added the blue taken from an old sweatshirt. I think the problem was in choosing fabrics of very different weights, coupled by the fact that I should have chosen the next pattern size up for Eli. I’ll be trying this one again soon, but after a quick try-on I could see this shirt was never going to work and no amount of top stitching and adding of neckbands was going to help.

At the same time it seemed that perhaps now it was time to get serious about toilet learning. (For Eli that is,… I’ve had this skill down for a while.)  The ill-fated raglan became fodder for some toilet training pants. I’m following this tutorial from Sew a Straight Line to make the boy some Itty Bitty Boxer Briefs.

The fact that the sleeve was the perfect size to get the front piece from confirmed my decision. While the sweat material wasn’t stretchy enough for the shirt it is wonderfully absorbent for the training undies. 🙂

The first pair was quickly followed by a second and soon many, many others.

After two days of much mopping of puddles, a quick realization that I am way behind in the amount of dry undies we are going to need, and the fact that Eli seems completely unmotivated we are going to take a step back.

I don’t want Eli’s learning to use the potty to become a battle of wills.  He didn’t last long in his enthusiasm to join me in this project. He likes responding to the timer and sitting on the potty, but he doesn’t want to stay there beyond 30 seconds, and then five or ten minutes later there’s another puddle. I don’t want to get into artificially motivating him with sticker, toy or candy bribes. He’ll “get it” when he’s physically ready and it becomes important to him to join the ranks of the potty trained. I think if I could let him run around in the buff, at least from the waist down, he’d much more quickly get the idea of cause and effect, but he finds that quite disturbing and just begs for a diaper. He’s ok if I put the undies on him but he doesn’t get that they aren’t to be peed in like a diaper and there is no initiative or attempt on his part to make it to the toilet. I don’t want to use pull ups for this reason, except occasionally to go out. He’s shown me that he just isn’t ready. We’ll try again in a while, and I will be ready with a basketful of nice thick underwear! Of course, in the meantime we’ll continue to practice having him use the toilet as often as possible.

There are tutorials for other styles of undies that I’m planning to try as well. Hopefully I’ll make quite a dent in my stash of t-shirts-for-repurposing.



  1. adohrenwend said,

    June 14, 2012 at 3:20 am

    I also find it difficult to sew anything entirely from a pattern, and the final product is usually something very different from what I thought I would be making at the start. I guess it’s good to just kind of embrace the adventure and just try to keep getting better at sewing. The little boy briefs are just adorable! So much cooler than anything you could buy at the store!

    We too had to attempt toilet training more than once with our oldest. The first time she just wasn’t ready. I tried a sticker chart and it worked for a while, but then it just became all about the stickers, so I decided that wasn’t what we were going to do. In the end it was mostly about my daughter’s ability to communicate. When she was mature enough to communicate her needs, and and was also more interested in doing things for herself like get dressed, bring her dishes to the kitchen, that’s when she was ready. It all happened really fast. I too thought it would never happen, and that I wasn’t doing something right, but in the end, when she was ready it was easy! You”ll get there, plenty of time to keep making undies until the time is right!

    • June 14, 2012 at 7:19 am

      I landed on the tutorial of the boxer briefs long ago and felt glad I had a boy. I think they are so cute, and am glad to now have an excuse to make them. It’s funny how if I trace clothing and make my own pattern, or if I grab a simple pattern off of a tutorial online (like these undies) it comes out well, but as soon as I purchase a pattern… I’ll just keep trying and eventually I’ll get there.

      Eli has days where he’ll successfully use the potty even 4 times and he’d been showing some interest. The only way to find out if it was time was to give it a go. But if we need to diaper a while more I’m completely ok with that. When he’s ready it’ll work out just fine. At this point there is no outside pressure like imminent preschool enrollment.

  2. June 14, 2012 at 3:44 am

    A friend told me the technique she used when she was toilet-training her son. I thought it was brilliant and wished I’d known about it when my boy was little. She would toss a couple Cheerios in the bowl and tell him to “sink the ship”. Seems like leveraging a small boy’s instinct to shoot & hit things would be a lot more effective than asking a small boy not to make a mess. *GG*

    • June 14, 2012 at 7:22 am

      Brilliant! That makes it sound actually fun. Girls kind of miss out on all the fun in this area I guess. But from what I hear many of them have an easier time of the transition anyway. Thanks for the tip!

  3. ReStitch Me said,

    June 14, 2012 at 5:35 am

    My 5 kids are all grown and happily potty trained now….but looking back I know I stressed about it all unnecessarily. I think you are right to step back. Eli will be ready in his time. 🙂 Nice job on the undies too! My boys would have loved these!

    • June 14, 2012 at 7:26 am

      Yea, I’ve decided it makes no sense to stress about it. It’ll come when it comes. I certainly don’t want it to be something that I stress him about with. He’s still pretty little.

      The Kwik Sew book you recommended came in the mail the day before yesterday! I’m looking forward especially to the basic t-shirt pattern it contains. Thanks for pointing me to it.:-)

  4. Inder said,

    June 14, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    One thing about that raglan tee pattern (in my experience, anyway) is that it requires more than your usual amount of stretch. Lycra-y fabrics work way better than cotton interlock (men’s t-shirt material). Otherwise you need to size it up a bit and use ribbing for the neckline or it won’t fit over the kid’s head. I made several unsuccessful (or painful to put on) versions for Joe before I realized it just needs really stretchy knits.

    We’ve been working on potty learning at our house too, but Joe is so totally not ready for it. I’m currently taking a “break.” Despite wearing undies and constant potty time, and reminding about potty, and getting into battles over it, Joe STILL hadn’t actually peed in the potty ONCE. I think it’s going to be like his speech – he’s going to be a few months behind but when he decides he’s ready, he’ll be ready.

    • June 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks for the raglan advice. I probably would have tried again with more t-shirt material, this time all the same weight. I’ll make sure I have some that’s quite stretchy before giving it another go, and I’ll remember to go up a size as well.

      Sounds like Joe and Eli are on the same page as far as the potty is concerned. I bet you’d been hoping to have him out of diapers before the new baby arrived. From all I’ve heard though, if one waits until the child is ready it’s a much easier process for all involved.

      • Inder said,

        June 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

        Haha. Call me cynical, but I had no such illusions about pottytraining Joe before the new baby arrived! I just had a feeling it wouldn’t be that easy! But I was hoping to get the process started, at least. Now I’m kind of thinking, we’ll look at it again when the intense newborn phase is over. If he had made any progress on the pottytraining (which he didn’t) he probably would have regressed when the new baby came anyway, right? Luckily several of my friends have kids who didn’t pottytrain until four, so I’m not feeling like too horrible a mother because my kid is nowhere near ready at three years. And I’m really glad it’s not an issue for Joe’s preschool. Parents are under a lot of pressure to pottytrain these days because so many preschools require it for three year olds.

  5. June 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I can’t believe you make your kid’s underwear. You are amazing!! If only I were so industrious…

    And I totally agree. I’m all about the “Wait until later and it will be easier” philosophy when it comes to potty-training.

    • June 15, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      When I realized it looked like I’d have to invest at least $50 in training pants that he will outgrow before too long, and I have more fabric than I can shove in the closet it kind of made sense to me to do this. They are cute and fun to sew, so this is my way of relaxing. Eli is also more inclined to want to use things he sees his Mama working on at this age so that plays in to my whole master scheme as well!

  6. Maysem said,

    June 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    You don’t strike me as someone that lacks the skill of working with patterns… no, not you Karen!! I have a friend that like you can make her own patterns but not work with pre made patterns. I think it’s because people like you two are just too smart for patterns:) I just had to laugh when I read that you made your own trainers. I thought that was an adorable idea.. and I do think they turned out adorable. Good luck with the potty training!

  7. June 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I tend to have some issues with patterns, too. At first I was intimidated by them. Not so anymore but I still tend to tweak, add and subtract different things from the patterns. I don’t think anything that I have made has turned out the way the pattern called for. LOL And that’s OK with me. I call it individuality! 😉 And there are times when I just cannot figure out what on earth they are wanting me to. LOL
    I still have an un-potty trained child. I used to stress over it and then I decided that he will do it when he’s ready. I potty trained my other 4 and none of the things worked with my little guy. He is most definitely his own person and won’t so anything until he is good and ready to do it. LOL

    • June 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      My goal is to get where you are now… Not intimidated by patterns, able to use them and personalize them as I go. Thanks for the encouragement, I’ll get there eventually. 🙂 and Eli will too, in his own time!

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