Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Never-Ending Master Bath Saga

Is my master bath finished?  No, but I do FINALLY have a shower enclosure.  Yesterday I caulked everything else needing it.  Today I paint the trim and door.  I will not sleep until it is FINISHED!

So why am I posting today?  I was checking out a link party and saw what look very much like my own bathroom cabinet--right down to two green rugs in front of the cabinet.  That blogger asked for ideas on hardware for the cabinet.  I'm posting this so she can see what we did and to let you know what she did for WAY less money.

Go check out what 3krazychics did to update her old cabinet using some Rustoleum product.  It looks as nice as mine (Yes, I'm bragging about my cabinet.) for a whole lot less money (Yes, I wish I had seen her post before spending so much money on mine.).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tammy Vitale: Sharing Insights and Inspiration

Tammy Vitale has some wonderful blogs and an email thing going that have been giving me an emotional and spiritual lift for a while now.  These are a few of the recent email messages that have been particularly enlightening for me. 

This message is one that I heard when I was young, but never in such a direct and succinct way.  I only wish that I had truly understood it years ago. 

"The traditional female ideal of assuming responsibility for the lives of those around her is not only egotistical but doomed to failure.  The myth that women are spiritually superior—responsible for saving men and children through remaining spiritually pure and selfless—oppresses both women and those around them.  The female hero, by electing to live her own life, automatically frees those around her to live theirs."

I actually still benefit from this one because I STILL tend to feel as though I have to "save" everyone in the family.  This message has come to mind several times since receiving it when I start trying to come up with solutions to everyone's troubles.

As I read the following one, I thought, "Yes!  That is exactly what had been building in me. 

Nothing was working - not in my professional life, my private life.
As the months progressed, I could feel my panic rising
I was again at the beginning of a quest, a turning point
and I was failing it.
"What is it?" I shouted inside myself.  
"How Am I supposed to change?  What do you want?"
It's hard to not sound melodramatic
about these times of transition. 
                                                              Christina Baldwin

My AmeriCorps service has been far tougher than I thought it would be.  For every one I please at the nursing home, it seemed there were four more who are not pleased.  At home, instead of having fewer people as my last one was off to college, I have more and all the ensuing problems that come with meshing adults of varied personalities and cultures.  I tend to forget that life is like the tide continually changing and not quite as predictable as we would like to believe. I was seeing failure rather than transition.

Tammy sent this message yesterday.

"Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.  It just keeps returning with new names, forms, and manifestations until we learn whatever it was to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves."
                                                                Pema Chodron 

Once again--so fitting for me.  Too many times this year, I have chosen to ignore things rather than deal with them.  They didn't go away.  They eventually had to be dealt with.  Dealing with them was often uncomfortable.  However, not dealing with them merely delayed the inevitable increasing the time and level of discomfort!  

If nothing else, these quotes help me to see that I am not alone in my thoughts, feelings, and foibles.  More often, though, they also give me encouragement and direction.    

If you would like to find out more about Tammy, here are some of her links.

Sixties Women
Wylde Women's Wisdom:
daily inspirational quotes delivered free to your in-box.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kite Flying Time!

With the warmer weather, I'm in the mood for flying kites again.  It's been a long time since I made these kites using David Michael's book, Making Kites, but they were easy for a novice to make and are as nice as the first day they flew about 12 years ago. 

Michael's book has a ton of ideas for making kites and spinners from all kinds of materials--poster board, shiny metallic wrapping paper, acoustic tiles, garbage bags, and, of course, ripstop nylon.  While the book gives clear and concise measurements and directions for some of the kites such as the Delta Star on the cover, sometimes you are on your own to figure out the measurements.  That can't be too hard, though, since I managed to do it easily for the two kites above!   

Want to start with something easy?  Try the Delta Star with all the measurements and directions.
 Making Kites (Step-by-step) 

Since I wanted to do a plain, old-fashioned kite, I used the Diamond Two-Stick pattern from  the book.  Unfortunately the books lacks measurements for this one.  Just in case someone else wants to try this one, I'm posting a semi-tutorial with the measurements I used.  My kites are about 31 inches across by 34 inches finished and fly just great.  Why those numbers?  No reason whatsoever.  It just kind of looked right and was smaller than the dowel length sold at the store.

Did I follow the Diamond's directions exactly?  No.  I don't think I am capable of that.  Rather than cutting out two triangular pieces and having to sew them together, I cut on the fold for one main piece.  I used a 35" line on the fold, slanted down and out 21" on the side, and drew a straight line from that point to the bottom on the 35" line.  All edges have a 1/4" seam folded twice for a clean finish.

Some things I learned along the way:
  • See that little green square between the two green circles above?  Don't do that.  I thought I would sew some of these squares on to thread the dowel through.  I actually had another one 3/4 of the way down.  They make it difficult to bend the dowel to fit into the pockets--very bad idea. After breaking a few dowels, I removed the one I had put on toward the bottom.  Putting on ties is a much better idea.  You absolutely need the tie at the point where the dowels meet anyway. 
  • I  also tried using 1/8" dowels figuring they would be lighter.  They are but they also break easily. The book says use 1/4" dowels and now I do!
  • Buy extra dowels and carry them with you.   Cutting the kite flying trip short because of broken dowels is so annoying!
  • For the side dowel pockets, make them rectangular rather than square.  Some of mine are square, and I think it gives the dowel room to move around.  I ended up sewing another line to make them narrower. And, don't make them too long!  It just makes it harder to bend the dowels into place increasing the chance of breaking them.  An inch and a half finished length is more than enough.
  • Use button or even upholstery thread to sew on the plastic ring for the kite string.  Those rings take a LOT of punishment from the wind.
  • Carry a needle, thread, and a couple of small rings to make repairs if needed.  You may never need it, but it's nice to know it's there. 
Back to the construction.  The fin is attached in the middle as you will see in the book (and in the pic below), down 3 1/2" from the top.  This is the piece that will hook to the kite string.  I used a 26 1/2" long  piece of fabric for the fin, slanted down a bit and out 16".   (This is not on a fold--you only want 1 triangular piece not a diamond shape.)

You don't want to come all the way back in at the 26" mark, though as you would on the main piece.  Square that off by drawing a line 2 1/2 inches down at the other end and drawing the line from the 16" point to the 2  1/2 inch point.  I think this picture shows how the end is squared off as opposed to coming to a point as on the main kite piece.

Sew on those corner pocket pieces and a circular plastic piece on the tip of the fin.  You are ready to tie on your string.  I used the plastic pieces they sell at Joann's for making Roman shades. You do need a tail--just a long strip with smaller rectangles spaced down.  I took a tuck in each of the small rectangles to make them look a bit like bows.  My tails are 30" long with five 5 1/2" long "bows" about 6" apart.

Last, about all those geometric shapes on my kites--I was just in the mood for doing appliques.  I cut out shapes, pinned them on, and did an applique stitch on the machine.  Then I cut out the main fabric on the other side to have the shapes show on each side.  

Next on my sewing list is to make bags for toting these around.  Why didn't I think to do that before?   I'll post a tutorial.  UPDATE:  Click here to see my version of a kite carrier.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Reading Boat and Book

I made this a while back with my niece when she was working on her master's in education.  She wanted to make something for special needs kids who needed help in defining where they should be during a given activity.  While is is great for these kids, really any little guy will enjoy and benefit from it.

The boat is a really simple design with a back V-shaped panel that gives it depth. There were no little people around to demonstrate it,  so my plushy monster, Elliot is in there.  There is a pocket on the center where the lifesaver is for the book that goes with this.

The book was done with appliques and iron-on transfers for the lettering.  I covered the binder clips with cloth tubes to prevent the shiny chrome from vying for the kids' attention.  The overall purpose of the book is to teach the child about patience and the value of staying focused and on task.    It also, as you will see, contains a number of learning activities as well.
Inside the cover is a long poem that is probably NOT going to be read in one sitting at first!  It can be read  in part as the child is being introduced to the idea of using the boat, getting the boat out, and as the child gets settled into the boat.    The poem explains how another child named Patience Bean learns about being patient.  Over time, as kids pick up the rhymes, you should be able to read more and  more of the poem.  If the little one is getting impatient, read the important parts, explain the gist of the it, and move on to the rest of the book.  Click on any of the pictures to enlarge it for reading.

The actual story has few words and lots of activities.  Our "Patience" was drawn by my niece and painted on a little stuffed pillow form, but you could use a photo or scan in a picture for iron-on transfer.  That dot next to her is a Velcro dot.  Kids can move Patience from page to page as you read.
Here Patience asks the reader to look in the pockets for her treasures.  The pockets have different kinds of openings--button, snaps, Velcro--for practicing those skills.  Each treasure is a different shape and primary color so you can get some practice in on those.  Be sure to change up the placement on occasion.

The next page has zippered pockets.
Here a plastic side pressure buckle closure is used to hide the treasure.

 Last is a bottle with a message tied with a ribbon (tacked to the back) that has washed up on the beach.  Plastic cut in the shape of a bottle is sewn on with a zigzag stitch just as the appliques are.

How cute is that!  My niece is so creative!  The message in the bottle for the little person congratulates their patience and perseverance.
If you can't read it, again, just click on any of the pictures to enlarge.

We thought about making oars for the boat but decided against it.  Kids can make imaginary oars that won't accidentally hit someone.  The whole thing folds up nicely and goes into this tote with Patience Bean's name embroidered randomly across it.

If you want to give this a try for personal use and need any information, let me know. ( Please don't make these items for sale.  Thanks.)

Home-made Make-up Remover Pads

I do wish I could remember the blogger who suggested making make-up remover pads.  (If you see this, let me know so I can give you all the credit!) I took her advice and made some.  I sewed the pads, but if you don't want to sew, you could find a nice, soft material that doesn't unravel such as a fleece and cut squares or circles.  Decorative scissors would make them look nice, too.

I used Joann's regular cotton diaper fabric cut into 3x6 inch pieces folded over to 3x3.  As you can see (hopefully--just click on it to make it bigger)  from the photo below, they are sewn around the edges leaving a small opening to turn right side out.  Don't forget to clip the corners before turning.  I then top stitched  close to the edge around the entire outer edge. 

 Don't they look nice in there?

The only problem I had was figuring out what to do with the used ones in need of washing.  I didn't want to have to run to the hamper every time I used one, and they're so small I was afraid they'd be lost in the laundry.  My solution was to make a small voile bag to attach to the containers for the used pads.  The voile is airy enough to allow the pads to dry out preventing mildew.  If you don't want to make the voile bags, check the wedding section of craft stores.  They usually have small bags like this.

Here are the two in use at my house:

Yeah, the bottom one is a canning jar.  I embroidered an E on the diaper fabric for the top which worked well.  I have two sets of bags and pads for each jar.  The extra bags are stored in the drawer with the fresh pads in them.  When I put the towels in the wash, I take the voile bags as well and put up the fresh bags.  The voile bag goes into a lingerie bag for the delicate load and the pads go into a lingerie bag with the towels. Keeping the pads together in the bag is so much easier than trying to find them in amongst the towels.

I love the size of the pads, the cloth washes really well, it's good for the environment, and cheaper than continually buying pads.  Give it a try!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Oilcloth Bicycle Bags

Snow day!  Since it was an unexpected day off, I justified spending it sewing.  I did the bicycle bags from the book, The Feisty Stitcher.    I have the book, BUT I found a pdf  for them from the publishers.  Lucky you!  If you want to try these, you don't have to buy the book or even borrow the book from the library!  (You will, however, be missing out of more great project ideas.)  Either Google "oilcloth bike bag" or go to this link:  http://www.larkcrafts.com/needlearts/stitch-it-with-attitude-2/  and find another link at the end of the article.  For some reason, the direct link to the pdf does not work when I put it in here.
With nice weather on its way, these would made great gifts for bicyclists!  Here is the bag for the front of the bike.   I like the buttons on this one.
And, this shows the velcro for fastening it onto the bike.  I have both methods on since I don't know which will work best with my bike.  (Sorry, I refuse to shovel my way to she shed to show these on an actual bike.  It is still winter here as in, I am having a snow day!)  Take a look at the pdf to see how they look on a bike (and in some much more "grown-up" looking fabric.)

This is the bag for behind the bike seat.

I am NOT liking those buttons.  New picture of new buttons.  I like these better.  The book pattern calls for four buttons and the hair band closures.  I thought buttons and polka dots would be great together, but it was just overwhelming on this one.  I put on snap closures to cut down on the buttons. 

I do, however,  like the red Velcro on the back of this one.

I actually used PUL instead of the oilcloth suggested because this PUL was already in the stash.  I am keeping my pledge not to buy fabric til I get the stash way down.  This is not the lighter weight, stretchier, shiny PUL that people use for diaper covers.  This is a nice cotton poly-laminate. It was really easy to work with. 

I tried this pattern once without the the bias tape or braid, too.  I DO like easy.  I turned the flap pieces under a quarter of an inch and sewed a top stitch.  If you want to try this simpler design, I've included some pics to show you what I did below.

Follow the directions to create the basic rectangular piece in the book/pdf. Once you have finished putting together the two rectangles, turned it right-side out,  and sewn on the strap for holding the Velcro, DON'T turn the bottom up and sew it in place.  Instead, cut the angles for the flap as in the directions.  Now start folding in a quarter of an inch on each side.  .

You need to clip off  this point in the seamed corner to make it less bulky. 
Start folding the 1/4 inch.  This is really easy with the PUL as I think it would be with oilcloth because the fabrics tend to hold a finger fold well.  Once the back side is folded under, it is easy to match the front fabric to it.  Just a few pins will hold it in place for sewing.
If you want, you could sew the hair band in at the center point now eliminating the need for two buttons. This way you will only need one button to hook the hair band around.
This is what you'll have at the end of pinning.   You are ready to top stitch!

Here it is with the top stitching completed.  NOW fold up the bottom the suggested number of inches.  Remember that the Velcro strap will be INSIDE because you are about to sew the seams.  Continue on with the pattern creating the boxed corners.  If you put the hair band in the point seam, you only need to sew on one button now.  I do love easy!

One other change I made was to make the box corners 3/4 of an inch instead of 1 1/4 to give the bag just a bit more room.  If you make some of these, I'd love to see them.  Leave me a link to your blog in the comments or email me.

I'll leave you with a picture from the icy, snowy day--sun glistening off the branches in the aftermath.  It IS pretty.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How's That Master Bath Coming Along?

It turns out that remodelers and glass companies are almost as slow as my husband and me.  They take more snow days than an elementary school in the north country and don't work much on weekends.  The essentials are in, though.  The air tub:
and the television:

Sinks, medicine cabinets, toilet, and lights are nice, but the tub and the television are a bit of heaven. 

I love, love, love all the colors in the granite.  I couldn't decide which of the four pictures to show here because they're all so different and all beautiful.

Getting the glass shower enclosure in is proving to be a challenge.  The company just can't seem to make it here to measure.  They, like the remodelers, don't do snow and rescheduling can take a week and a half.  The third attempt to get them here is scheduled for Tuesday.

If it doesn't snow, we might have a finished bathroom in three weeks!  Until that time I am FORCED to get a glass of wine, light some candles, turn on the television, and climb into that huge bubbling tub.   It's tough, but I'll manage.