Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Countdown Give Away - Week #1

I have decided to celebrate the holiday season by offering a give away each Friday for the next four weeks.  (The fact that I like shopping and was running low on ideas for posts this week may have contributed to this decision...)  Each give away will be collection of sewing-related gifts with a theme.    

This week's theme - in honor of the anticipation that accompanies this holiday for many people - is "pins and needles."     ;)

The give away package will include:
  • A box of glass head pins
  • A package of Schmetz sewing machine needles
  • A package of hand sewing needles
  • A hand needle threader
  • A handmade pin cushion
  • A vintage thimble
The give away will be open until midnight (EST) next Thursday (December 6th).  I'll announce the winner and the next give away on Friday, December 7th.

To enter this week's give away, just leave a comment (and don't forget your name!)  

Good luck to everyone!  :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Finishing Details

The details are not the details.  They make the design.  
~ Charles Eames

The rain coat is finished - yay!  :)

It is my first lined coat, so I found the details of finishing the lining really interesting.  First, consider the sleeves:  As you can see in this picture of the coat turned inside out, the lining (with the 1/2 inch folded over) is actually the same length as the sleeve:  

But the instructions had me whip stitch it approximately one inch inside the sleeve, like this:  

Apparently the excess folds over and allows for some ease in the sleeve:  

I did make one embarrassing mistake.  When I was working on the bottom hem of the laminate fabric, I did my stitching on the inside.  See how nicely my stitches line up with the inner facing?

Unfortunately, the outer facing is narrower than the inner facing and so my stitches look quite odd on the outside - the "step up" that you see below in the hem, should be around 1.5 inches closer to the center seam, to align with the outside facing edge stitching...  :(

Ah well...  If I wasn't so paranoid about leaving holes in the laminate fabric, I'd rip it out and re-do it.  I'll just have to hope that the 3-year-old boy doesn't notice!  ;)

Next, the instructions had me do the lining bottom hem the same way as the sleeve lining hem - I pulled it up and whip stitched it to the laminate about 1 inch away from the bottom of the rain coat:

Then I folded it down and whip stitched the little open side seam.  Again, apparently the idea is to allow for ease on the inside.  

The very last step was to open up the center back basted seam - providing one last bit of ease inside the coat:

And that was it!  I thought all those little bits to put ease into the lining were really interesting.  

Voila!  The finished coat:

Of course, the REAL picture will be my friend's young son modeling the raincoat - stay tuned!  :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Video Game Progress

Not everyone is meant to make a difference.  
But for me, the choice to lead an ordinary life is no longer an option.  
~ Spiderman

Brandon has finished two drawings of the superhero for his first video game.  I am excited to be the first to introduce to the world:


Someday, he may be a household name!  

And I'm in on the ground floor - Brandon has promised me that I'll get copies of all his best selling video games for free!  ;)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ESL Class Gifts

Every gift which is given, even though it be small, 
is in reality great, if it is given with affection.  
~ Pindar

Tonight is our ESL class Christmas party.  In my first year teaching ESL, I came up with an idea for a Christmas gift for my students and I've used it ever since.  

Sometime in November I have a class picture taken and then I email the file to Zazzle and have ceramic Christmas tree ornaments made for all of my students.  :)

Here is this year's ornament:  

I have the academic year printed on the back:  

Last year I chose the star shape:  

I had a big class last year and the picture didn't fit on a circle...  

And in 2010 I went with a postcard ornament:

My original thoughts were that this gift would increase their feeling of "belonging" and provide them with good memories for years to come.  

As usual, when it comes to my ESL class, I'm finding that I probably benefit as much as, if not more than, my students - as each year I put up one more ornament than the last year, and more and more memories of the amazing people that I have had the privilege of knowing fill my heart.  :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gratuitous Kitten Pictures

The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face 
whether they see a moth or an ax murderer.  
~ Paula Poundstone

Popeye definitely rules the Christmas village:

But he's not so sure about that moving train...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Preparing for Christmas

We can only be said to be alive in those moments 
when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  
~ Thornton Wilder

Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite holiday of the year!  We had 7 friends over and I served a traditional meal - turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, homemade bread, corn and broccoli casseroles courtesy of a friend who made extra for me (thank you, Melany!), and pumpkin and pecan pies.  :)

One of our guests was marveling over how good my turkey came out and I pointed out that I've had many years of practice.  That reminded me of my first Thanksgiving as a new wife.  It was a bit of a culture clash for me and my husband.  ;)

Growing up in my family, my mom did the daily cooking, but my dad did the special occasion cooking.  My husband and I were married in September and I had been doing the daily cooking for 3 months.  Then comes our first holiday as newlyweds - Thanksgiving.  

I was planning to try to do the cooking.  Instead of a turkey, I thought I'd do something smaller and so I purchased 2 small Cornish hens.  But I was totally confounded when I couldn't find an opening for the stuffing.  Naturally - having grown up in a house where the man was master of the special occasion cooking - I turned to my husband for advice and assistance.

Now, my husband grew up in a family where the kitchen was 100% the domain of the women.  In fact, when we were opening our wedding gifts, his reaction to a vegetable peeler was, "Cool!  What's this?"  

So, for months, everything had been going smoothly, and in accordance with his expectations, in that I was handling all of the "kitchen stuff."  Suddenly, out of the blue, during the most complicated meal preparation, I was asking for his advice and help!  He was caught completely by surprise - and not the good kind of surprise!

We were each feeling stressed - it seems so silly now, but at the time...  And so there were some tense, slightly elevated voices.   I was feeling shocked that he wouldn't help me during my time of need and he was feeling shocked that I would turn on him with such unreasonable demands.  I think it was one of the first moments of disharmony in our newlywed lives.  

Needless to say, we got past it, and now, 30 years later, I've got the turkey thing down pat.  

Oh, how did I resolve the no-opening issue?  I chopped those suckers in half with a butcher knife, stuffed them and "stitched" them back together with toothpicks before cooking them....  ;)

"Finesse" has never been one of my strong suits!  

Anyways, our dinner yesterday was delicious, but the highlight of the day was definitely setting up the Christmas decorations - a tree, village and trains.  

Apparently I'm not the only person who has trouble with subtle - courtesy of the girls, a snow storm engulfs the village:  

The trains were a new experience for our guests, and they loved it!  

Most everyone spent the afternoon on the floor:   

Watching their enjoyment is definitely one of my life's treasures!  

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories?  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things I am Thankful For...

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  
It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  
We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.  
~ Albert Schweitzer

What am I thankful for?  

1. A husband who will help me get the Christmas decorations out of this closet:

2. The fact that only one of our cats thinks that this is a reasonable place to pee:

3. See #2 above:

4. Most of all, I am thankful for all of the people who have rekindled my inner fire at one time or another: my husband, my heart's daughter Ana, my friends, my ESL students... and the list goes on!  I am truly blessed!  

What are you thankful for?  :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh, man... I'm in Trouble...

One trouble with trouble is that it usually starts out like fun.
~ Anonymous

I just discovered that you can buy independent patterns (pdf format, mostly) on Etsy.  

And now that my friends at work have 3 girls in the 6-18 month old range, I've gone a bit crazy shopping for patterns for little girls...  

Look at the 3 patterns I just picked up from The Lily Bird Studio on Etsy:

Aren't they adorable?  

I've seen some independent patterns on You Can Make This and Craftsy, but somehow it's the shops on Etsy that are sucking me in...  

Do you buy independent sewing patterns online?  If so, where do you find your favorites?  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gratuitous Kitten Pictures

What greater gift than the love of a cat.
~ Charles Dickens

I spent last weekend visiting my Grandmother and, if I didn't know better, I'd say that the cats are happy to have me home.  

Popeye curled up and slept on my stomach - an honor he usually reserves for his beloved daddy.  

I'm not sure if Oliver was happy to have me back or "his" suitcase.  ;)

But it doesn't look like I'm going to be able to go anywhere else, anytime soon...  ;)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Project Preview #7

I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly.  
Tuna Fish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock.  
~ Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

And the last of the selected Christmas gifts from the One Yard Wonders book - something different:

A casserole cosy.  Happily, I have tons of insul-brite left-over from last year's Christmas projects.  :)

Here is fabric my friend selected from Pink Chalk Fabrics:  

Now that all the requests are in and the fabric has arrived, it's time to get sewing!  :)

Are you doing any Christmas sewing this year?  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

The whole world is a playground, and the cat is the rightful royalty therein.
~ Karen Duprey

Our royalty...  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Christmas in a Shoe Box

Christmas, my child, is love in action.  Every time we love, 
every time we give, it's Christmas.  
~ Dale Evans

I didn't get any sewing done this weekend (boo!), but I did take the kids (Carolyn & Brandon) to Target and each one of us filled a plastic shoe box with Christmas gifts for a child in Haiti.  :)

We are participating in this drive (click here) sponsored by New Missions (main page here).  

I funded the expedition and gave each of them a budget and significant freedom in filling their boxes however they saw fit, with only a little bit of guidance.  (For example, I steered Carolyn towards a dark-skinned Tiana doll, rather than a blue-eyed, blonde Cinderella and I discouraged Brandon from getting toys that required batteries.)  

Brandon (12) took his budget very seriously - he kept a running total in his head and discarded things that were too expensive.  Carolyn (10) didn't give it a second thought, selecting stuff she liked without even glancing at the price tags.  She went way over - I probably should have kept her spending in line, but she was having fun and it is for a good cause...  (Plus I might be a pushover...)

But I wasn't totally hopeless.  At one point, near the end of our expedition, Brandon was estimating out loud how much money he had left to spend in front of Carolyn and she looked up at me hopefully and asked, "How much money do I have left?" I answered, "None!" with great firmness!  ;)

It was fun to watch what they picked and, I have to admit, they did a good job.  Each included several small toys, some articles of clothing (t-shirt, underwear, etc.) and some school supplies (pencils, a notebook, etc.).  Carolyn also included some hair accessories and costume jewelry.  :)

And man, did they squeeze a lot into each shoe box!  

I tried to follow their example when filling my shoe box, but, as Brandon reminds me periodically, kids know best what kids want.  ;)

Anyways, I'll take our package to the post office tomorrow and hopefully, in a couple of months, we will bring a little Christmas cheer to 3 children in Haiti...  :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Peek Inside: A Guide to Fashion Sewing

Asking a seamstress to mend is like asking Michelangelo to paint your garage.  
~ Author Unknown

Today's "peek" is inside the 5th edition of Connie Amaden-Crawford's "A Guide to Fashion Sewing."  

The book has 22 chapters, plus a few appendices and a glossary.  

Here is the high level table of contents:  
  1. Equipment, including sewing machine
  2. Fabric
  3. Body types & size charts
  4. Patterns
  5. Assembly sequence
  6. Stitches
  7. Seam finishes
  8. Darts
  9. Pleats
  10. Bias treatments
  11. Sewing with Knits
  12. Zippers
  13. Pockets
  14. Sleeves
  15. Collars
  16. Necklines
  17. Facings
  18. Linings
  19. Tailoring
  20. Waistlines
  21. Hems
  22. Closures
Each chapter starts with an overview of the relevant, important concepts.  Here is an example of this section (2 pages) from the chapter on pleats:

(Sorry that the 2nd page is not well aligned...)  

Then, each technique or concept is explained and illustrated in detail.  Here are 2 of the 4 pages on a welt bound pocket:

(Again, sorry about the misalignment on the second page - I was struggling with my scanner...)  

As you can see, basically everything is illustrated with drawings.  There is a section of photos in the fabric chapter, but no others.  Do you have a preference between photos and drawings in your sewing reference books?  

The book seems pretty complete to me.  I was pleasantly surprised to see sections on a bustier (with boning) and a waist stay - techniques I used for Susan's wedding dress, but not exactly everyday fare.  At least, not in my sewing room...  ;)

On the other hand, there were only 5 pages on fitting.  She has you interface your major pattern pieces and then use them to fit, rather than make a muslin.  

The book also comes with a DVD that has videos.  Here is the main menu screen:

I have watched half a dozen of them so far.  They were all slow and clear, and with good camera angles so that you can really see what is happening.  

I will say that they are definitely geared towards beginners.  The videos that I watched did not include a number of little tips that I was expecting - for example, when sewing darts, she has you backstitch at both ends.  At the dart point, I am used to stitching right along the crease for a short while and then leaving a tail and tying it off by hand.  I can't remember exactly where I learned this - is it not worth doing?  

Also, instead of using a corner turner, she used the tips of her scissor blades to poke out a corner.  Yikes!  I clearly remember being scolded for this in a day-long sewing workshop...  

Anyways, I haven't watched all of the videos, but it looks like she walks you through all of the steps in sewing a shirt.  

My bottom line:  I wish that I had had this book when I first started sewing and wasn't familiar with many of the techniques used in sewing patterns - it seems like an excellent place to go for more detailed guidance on a technique-by-technique, as-needed basis.  While I know more of those techniques now, I can still see myself turning to it sometimes.  :)

So, do any of you have this book?  If so, what do you think of it?  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Christmas Project Preview #6

Woke up this morning with a terrific urge to lie in bed all day and read.
~ Raymond Carver

The last two Christmas gift requests trickled in after my trip to Mexico.  The first is another bed organizer from the One Yard Wonders book:

My friend and her boyfriend agreed on this fun fabric from Pink Chalk Fabrics:  

It reminds me of the decorations for the Day of the Dead that I saw last week in Mexico!  :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

What do Americans Really Think about Top Fashion Designers?

A lot of my peer group think I'm an eccentric bisexual, like I may even have an ammonia-filled tentacle somewhere on my body.  That's okay.  
~ Robert Downey Jr.  

I recently learned about a delightful way to gain insights into the thoughts of typical Americans.  Maybe you've heard of it?  It's called Google Autofill.  

It's simple, really - you just start to type a query into Google, and it automatically fills in the most common searches that started the same way.  This shows you the common assumptions and burning questions on the minds of the American public.

The example that I saw was investigating stereotypes about states by looking at the first 4 responses to the query "Why is --fill in your state here--  so"

For example, if you enter "Florida" for the state,  and Google the phrase Why is Florida so, you get these responses:
  • hot
  • stupid
  • flat
  • crazy
Hence, we gain some insight into what the typical American thinks about Florida.  ;)

I thought I'd try it with famous fashion designers.  I used the stem "Is --fashion designer name--".  For example, I typed Is Donna Karan into Google and looked at the top 4 Autofill queries.

So, what do you think?  What are the most common stereotypes about top fashion designers?

Here is the result of my "research":

The most common query about fashion designers is whether or not they are gay.  This query came back as one of the top 4 most popular queries for 14 out of the 20 designers that I checked!  

The second most common query - returned on 10 out of 20 designers - was whether or not each is dead or alive.  

Tied for 3rd place - coming up on 7 out of 20 designers - was whether or not each is married and some variation on whether or not that designer's brand is a good brand, high quality or expensive.  

Finally, the one that struck me as odd, for 5 out of 20 designers, one of the top 4 popular queries was whether or not that designer is Jewish.  What's up with that?  

Some of the queries are kind of unfortunate.  Poor Kate Spade and Liz Claiborne - top queries on them include whether or not they are real people!  And lots of people want to know if Donatella Versace is a man or a transvestite...  

And Alexander McQueen?  Well, obviously, everyone wants to know if he is related to Steve McQueen!  ;)

Want the gory details?  Here is a breakdown by designer name and queries:  

Were you surprised?  I must admit, I was kind of surprised by some bits - like why would Jewish (5) and racist (3) come up so often?  And I guess I was kind of surprised by the fact that 65% of the most popular queries run on 20 different famous fashion designers can be covered by 5 questions - are they gay? dead? married? Jewish? a high quality brand?  

So, now that you know about this cool way to do research on the way America thinks, what are you going to go Google?  ;)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gratuitous Kitten Photo

You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats.  
~ Proverb

The "metro" map that Oliver is sleeping against is actually a collaborative project that uses a standard public transportation format to represent hikes in England's Lake District - how cool is that?  

It is called "Tubular Fells" (with "fells" being the British word for hills and mountains) and you can see more about it here.  :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Michelle's Close-Ups

When I have a camera in my hands I feel happy.  
I feel like I am learning something...  I can be someone.
~ Suchitra at Kids With Cameras

Not all of the kids enjoyed having their pictures taken.  One young girl (~12 years old), in particular, preferred to be behind the lens.  I let her borrow my camera for most of the day and here are some of my favorites of her images:  

I told Michelle that, in the United States, when someone takes good photographs, we say that person has "a good eye."  I told her that she has a good eye.

And then I said that her other eye wasn't too bad either...  ;)

I got a laugh with that one.  :)

Later, however, she topped me - her mother asked all of the children if they had thanked me for their gifts and I said that they had thanked me, about 100 times.  Michelle piped up, "Yes, if you take away the 2 zeros..."

I guess I should add that she has a quick wit along with her good eye!  :)