Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wishing You a Happy Holiday Season!

I love my tree this year, but then I love it every year.  If you noticed that the manger is sitting in a massive amount of fake snow, I take no responsibility for it.   The kids helped me decorate this year. The youngest is about to turn 21 next month, and, still, they manage to act like, well, children.  The only difference is that they now bring their mates to join in their shenanigans.

Wishing You a Exciting Holiday Season
and New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Newest Apron

I've finally got some sewing finished.  This is a late birthday gift for the younger son's girlfriend--only a little late, though.
Kelsey is in culinary school, hence the culinary queen.  I had to go look up my own apron tutorial created when I made my other son's fiance's apron.  So nice to have a blog to keep all these things.  It's a quick and easy project if you want to try one.  The tutorial is here.

We also got Kelsey a bead for her Pandora bracelet.  That's what is tucked in the little pocket. It's the ladybug bead in red.  Pandora has made my life so much easier.  I can always find a new bead for the girls to add to their collections.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Stuffed Animal Tree Skirt

Wondering what to do with all those stuffed animals and dolls that the kids have outgrown?  You might want to pack them away.  They make a great tree skirt.  I packed away the stuffies and dolls that my kids especially loved and, at some point, started putting them under the tree at Christmas. There is nothing better during the holidays than listening to my kids reminisce about them.

Keegan's beloved Jeremy Fisher frog,

Kiefer's Bunny and Julia for whom I had to make up countless stories for bedtime,

And Kyle's cowbunnies that I made during his cowboy phase are all part of the collection.  The cowbunnie hats didn't survive but they still have their bandit scarves.  These were bad cowbunnies complete with black hats.

Who remembers Lamb Chop? There is a well-worn puppet version and one from Macy's (obviously with the name right on the hat!) under our tree.

There are couples under there:

And this menage a trois that resulted from a misunderstanding about who was buying what.  Now that I have seen Sister Wives, I refer to this set as Brother Husbands.

As the collection grew, I realized the tree skirt was wasted--you couldn't see it at all.  The toys became the tree skirt.    They all squash down nicely in a plastic box for storage taking up surprisingly little space, too.  Besides, the original tree skirt while nice,  never stirred up fond memories and got everyone talking.

What are all those holiday tins under the tree?  I started using the too-cute-to-discard holiday tins to store delicate ornaments before packing them into the big boxes.  The ornaments get unpacked and hung,  the tins are scattered in with the stuffies, and they are right under the tree when it's time to put ornaments away.   I know I could refill them with home-made treats to give others.  However, I love baking about as much as I love cleaning toilets.  No, I'd rather clean toilets really.  Holiday baking just ain't happenin' in my house.  Now that I've said that I am reminded that I promised to make another gingerbread house this year.  Why do I do these things?  Must get back to work.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Experimenting with Glitter Ornaments

How cool is that!
I've been filling clear glass and plastic ornaments with glitter using Mop & Glo floor wax as the adhesive.  I bought a giant pack of Martha Stewart's glitter.  This one to be exact:

I like the solid colored balls such as these:

but I decided to try mixing it up as I did with the painted balls such as this on in previous years.

Here are some of the results.
This is with two colors dropped in carefully on each side before
shaking.    I used a funnel at first as most tutorials suggest,
 but found that the glitter drops in pretty neatly with the bottle
 top off.

This had  a number of colors placed in separately.
 I like the swirl that resulted.

This had much more of the purple with another color.
Again.  I put them in separately.

Then I took the bottles with just a bit of glitter left and shook them together in a bottle before putting the glitter in to see how that would work.  Here are a few of those:

These look much better than they appear in the pics.  Some of these are just two colors.  Others are a mix of four or five that show clearly up close.

I was a bit worried about doing this with the plastic balls, but they worked out great.  They have some give when you press on them, but the glitter stays on perfectly.  

Some tips:  
  • Mop & Glo works great!  I found that rolling the wax around for a minute, draining it completely, and putting the glitter in  immediately provided much better adhesiveness than letting the wax sit even for a short time. 
  • Very fine glitter works best.  I'm sure it doesn't need to be Martha's.  Martha does, however, have the best color choices.  Michael's and Joann's carry it.  With their coupons, you can get it for a great price. Of course, if someone knows of another company with 24 colors including lapis lazuli, peridot, yellow barite, and fire opal, I'd love to know about it.
  • I found that letting the finished balls sit for a half an hour before putting the tops on  carefully was sufficient.  I didn't have one incident of glitter being scratched off.  
I'm feeling a need to get back to making more sock creatures now.  Hopefully I will be able to  post about that soon!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor by Gail McMeekin

Bloggers and blog readers are creative people. They just have to be.  Bloggers share their thoughts and ideas and readers are looking for inspiration. Often readers are bloggers or would be if they had more time.   Time.  Therein lies the creative dilemma for most of us.  Finding time, using it effectively, overcoming the guilt we often feel for doing something creative when we think we should be doing more "useful" things. Who hasn't had this problem?

Gail McMeekin's book, The 12 Secrets of  Highly Creative Women, is filled with explanations of how we can nourish our creativity effectively.  McMeekin looks at many things that affect our ability to unleash our creativity including the innate differences in male/female thinking and cultural influences that are so ingrained we may well not realize how they are affecting our decision-making.  Through the lives, thoughts, and experiences of many women who have succeeded in creative endeavors, McMeekin offers countless ideas for setting up our lives to encourage our creative talents.

I don't know how I missed this book before!  The one I just got is the tenth anniversary edition.  There is so much inspiring, profound, and just plain useful information in this book.  I'm getting copies for all the females in my family for Christmas. How great if the young ones begin their adult lives knowing they deserve to take the time to nurture their creativity.  What great things might come of expanding our views of  women's roles in society and what great new cultural traditions we might pass down for future generations.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review of Uptown Coat Pattern from Favorite Things

I have a beautiful jacket almost completed.  I'm right down to the buttons and hemming.  Unfortunately, I just cannot make it fit well.  I used my measurements to decide on the size which turned out to be too big on the muslin piece.  I made the next size down, and it still does not look right in the chest area.  It looks great on the hanger--just not on ME.
I do need a better camera.  These fabric look so much richer in person.
 I have no idea why those white spots are there in the photo either!
Other reviewers said it was not for beginners, but I've had luck with a few clothing pieces before.  I am not skilled enough, however, to know how to make the shoulders narrower without changing the rest of the fit down through the chest area. I also think I would also need to put in darts to get rid of the slight bunching in the front armpit area.  Again, I don't know how to do this.  I could probably start playing with it, but I really don't want to put this much time and effort into altering patterns.  

I'm going to finish it and give it to the Goodwill shop.  Someone out there may have the figure for it!  For now I need to get back to my other sewing.  I owe someone an apron and still have lots of dish towels and cloth napkins to get ready for holiday gifts.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hand Washing Dishes is Dangerous

Who knew washing dishes was a dangerous job! My dishwasher died, and I was a tad too zealous handwashing one of my glasses. It broke in my hand leaving a gash requiring seven stitches.   Everything is taking at least twice as long to do including typing this.

There were some news shows a while ago saying that the "so-called poor" had luxuries including refrigerators, stoves, and air conditioners. Some even had automatic dishwashers!  I'm not sure when stoves and refrigerators became luxury items, nor am I sure an air conditioner could necessarily be considered a luxury for the very young or old in a southern city in the summer months. Now I'm thinking I'm going to have to tell those news guys that automatic dishwashers not only save water, but may also prevent injuries.  That dishwasher is looking less and less like a luxury to me.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do Your Kids Ever Amaze You?

Each of my kids has done things that have left me wondering how on earth this bright, creative, inspiring being came from me.  With my son Kyle, it is often his writing.  I know I said I would not post until my jacket was finished, but I have to share my son's short piece of poetry that author Claudia Ricci put up on her blog here.

Kyle sometimes shows me his work and sometimes not.  This is one I had not seen before.   It's the kind of writing that makes you stop and think about how you respond in certain situations, how you feel when you are in those situations.  I don't think I will ever look at a dropped glove the same again.   Stop and take a look.  If you, too, can empathize, feel free to leave him a comment!
Sadly this is the ONLY picture I could find of Kyle where he wasn't posing in some outrageous way.
Now back to that jacket.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Good Reason to Keep a Fabric Stash

Most of the time I feel a bit of guilt when buying fabric that I really don't have a specific use for like this one.

My stash does tend to get out of control cuz while I'm often short of sewing time, I always manage to have shopping time.  However, there was no way I was passing up this beautiful lining fabric at $1 a yard.  There were two pieces of the same fabric, both marked "as is" $1 for 3 yards. I've checked the fabric over several times and have not found any flaws, though.

It's been sitting in the stash for over a year.  Yesterday I found the most beautiful corduroy that would work perfectly for a jacket pattern that had been sitting here for about two years.   Even better, the lining matches the corduroy!  Yes!  It was a great idea to buy it--not feeling any guilt now. Keeping a stash does pay off.   These two were made for each other.
And the paisley and blue cords HAVE to be together in this jacket.
The paisley will just be on the bodice.  No more computer until this jacket is finished. That should give me some incentive to git-er-done.
The pattern is still out there if you want to see it:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sweatshirt Redo

I'm loving this "new" sweatshirt!  I need to get a dress form.  This looks much better on, but I can't take my own pic without getting that annoying flash in the mirror.

I had one sweatshirt that was too tight on the bottom with rough, scratchy cuffs and one that had bleach marks on the arms.  Being cheap frugal, I used the best of both to make one nice sweatshirt.

 How to get an unusual sweatshirt with lettuce edged finish?

I took one sweatshirt and cut it off just above the point where it started getting tight.  I also removed the cuffs on this one that were too rough and did a lettuce edge on the sleeves.  I used my serger to get a slight lettuce edge effect on the sleeves,  bottom edge of the top piece, and bottom of the added band.  However, you can also do this with a regular machine by using a close, wide zigzag as you would when appliqueing.  You MUST pull the fabric taut from the front and back  while sewing this on a regular machine to get the effect and to keep the material from being pulled into the machine.  Practice first!
Section cut off bottom of one sweatshirt
The 8" band added to the bottom was from the mid-section of the bleach-stained shirt that just happened to be the same shade of navy blue as the lettering on the first shirt and a good 4" wider.  I cut this band so that it would flair out slightly toward the bottom.  The band is the same width as the top piece where they meet and gets wider toward the bottom.  I slanted  my line out an inch on each side.  It doesn't show well in the next photo but you get the idea, right?  Gotta remember those hips.  In fact you might want to have the back hang slightly longer if you are blessed with butt.

 Just because I find it easier, I used Stitch Witchery ironed about an inch down from the top of the right side of the added band to hold the two pieces together rather than pinning.  The Stitch Witchery goes on the outside of the added bottom band so that when you iron the two pieces together the right sides of each piece will be facing you.  I hope this part isn't confusing.  Let me know.  Really, you are just sandwiching the edge of the added band with the adhesive ironed on inside the top shirt, straightening it out as you would like it and pressing according to the Stitch Witchery directions.   Then you can sew the two pieces together.  I  doubt that Stitch Witchery is up to permanently holding the pieces together.

 If you try this, you will have to determine how long you want the band to be based on the length of the top piece after you cut it and where you prefer the bottom to fall.  Remember the band needs to be about 2 inches under the upper piece.  You will sew about  1/2" down from the top of the added band.  That way, you will not be sewing on the Stitch Witchery which could gum up your needle.  It will also leave you with 1" of fabric that will be loose on top section so that the lettuce edge has room to "ruffle."

That's it!  I might try something similar on some of my slightly shrunken  t-shirts.  Taking out the existing hems and ruffling the edge should be just enough to make some of them wearable again.


Monday, September 12, 2011

That Baby Dress Really Needed this Hat, Didn't It?

The finished dress from my last post was screaming that it needed a matching hat.  I found a free pattern for this one on Prudent Baby.

 Did I make changes?  Of course I did.  The pattern is designed so that the hat can be reversible, but I decided I wanted something at the top of the hat when it was finished.  It needed more cuteness.  My fabrics on each side were so similar that I decided to go for it.  I put a fabric yo-yo on top:

I also wanted ties which the pattern didn't have.  Since I originally planned for this to be reversible, I decided on buttonholes with knotted silky cording.  You can see in the photo below that you can pull the cord to have the knot on either side.  Does that make sense?  You knot both ends of the cording.  Then you can pull the ties so that one of the cord's knots will be on the outside when you reverse it and one will be at the loose end.

Make sure the buttonholes are tiny--big enough for the cording to get through, but not for the knot.  I made a few practice ones and tried it out.  You all know that you need to put some tape on the ends when you cut it to keep it from fraying, right?  The stiffness of the tape is really helpful in getting the cording into that little buttonhole, too.  I'm going to try thin fabric ties with knotted ends on the next one.  I think that would look great, too.

In retrospect,  I think I should have put the buttonholes up a bit higher.  That would allow the sides to flare out a bit more for sun protection.

All in all this is a great pattern--soooo easy and cute even without the yo-yo really.  If you read through the comments on the Prudent Baby post, you will get some idea on sizing.  The pattern can be enlarged or reduced to fit your needs.

Now don't they look just perfect together?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sweetest Little Dress

Look what I made!  Is this not the sweetest little dress?   I used Jackie Clark Designs' pattern appropriately named Sweetest Little Dress.

The fabric, Junko Matsuda Tip Top Elephant Stripe in pink, and pattern were both from Pink Chalk Fabric.  I used one stripe for the bodice and put a few of the others together for the skirt pieces.

The pattern  has a hand embroidered design included, but I wanted to use this fabric which certainly doesn't need any embroidery.   My original intent was to put a blue ribbon across the bottom but Melissa talked me into something red and suggested the buttons be red as well.  The red was a much better choice.
This was my first time using rick rack.   It was really easy to work with, and I love the additional detail.

In the pic below you can see how I  cut the fabric so that a pink checked stripe would fold under for the hem.

The pattern is really simple for the most part.  I did have a one problem with it.  There are no markings for the buttons.  You have to wing it.  I was not really comfortable with that. I have never had a pattern without button and buttonhole placement before.   I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. Finally, I emailed the designer who suggested folding the fabric to find the center placement for the middle button.   It's fairly easy to figure out the placement across the shoulders.

 I was more nervous figuring out how far IN from the edges to place the buttons and buttonholes. The designer didn't answer this part for me (although I emailed her again).   I don't have baby clothes sitting around the house to use for comparisons or the little person here to serve as a dress form.  I finally just guessed at it.  I hope it will look as good on the wee person as it does on the hanger.

According to the designer,  button placement would depend on the size and shape of the button.  The pattern, however, lists quarter-inch buttons.  I would have preferred having the markings for the quarter inch buttons.  If someone wants to change that, they should be the ones that have to spend time figuring out how to make it happen.

Another thing is that the sizing is quite vague.  The pattern is listed as being for "up to 24 lbs."  Since it sure isn't for a newborn, I don't know what the starting number would be as in maybe 12 to 24 lbs.  As I said, I don't have any baby clothes around to compare it with.  I think it would be better for the company to determine the comparable sizing used as in 6 to 12 months or whatever along with a beginning number for the pounds.

Will I use the pattern again?  Probably.  It's a cute dress.  I will be able to make changes in the button placement if I need to.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hiking After a Hurricane

When we went camping within a day of Hurricane Irene, we were not expecting any real problems. We were heading into the mountains! It's far inland. No problems there, right?   Wrong.  Lots of wind, lots of rain, lots of places for all the rain to flow downward, lots of wash outs. From the State down to the local government and all the utility people did an incredible job of getting everything back on track for the tourists, but the Adirondack Park has a million hiking trails that are still a bit beaten up from the storm.

I thought you might like to see some pics of tiny Deer Leap Trail outside of Lake George.  We picked a short one with little elevation figuring that would be doable.

What can happen in less than two miles?

Well, in some areas the washout was so wide it was difficult to know if you were on the trail or just following a washout.  We were barely on the trail when we met two hikers who had turned around rather than go through the downed trees.

Sometimes you could go over and/or through

These were the easy ones.

It think he wanted to come home with us.

Stopping constantly to assess how we could get through through made this  two mile walk seem like  it was taking forever!

It's always good to have  a friend to go ahead for you.

These spots were tough.  You just could not see the path beyond because so much was down.  My husband and I made the mistake of both going off the trail at one of these spots.  We spent what was probably five minutes but seemed like twenty to me trying to find the trail again.  I have the "keep someone on the trail and stay within shouting distance" rule firmly ingrained now.

Nice place for a picnic lunch, but I think I'll wait for the clean-up crews to come through first the next time.