Friday, March 29, 2013

Another "Office Call" and Playing Santa

May the hair on your toes never fall out!
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

I took my sewing machine to work today for another "office call" - a friend needed a hobbit skirt to wear to a hobbit party this weekend.  (Yes, I work with some pretty cool people!)  

Luckily, her vision was very simple - a rectangular piece of fabric wrapped around her waist, with an elastic waistband.  She had been planning to hand sew it all.  Once I ascertained that she didn't want anything fancy, I was happy to volunteer. ;)

So, I took my machine and she brought the fabric and I sewed up the side seam, added a casing around the waist for some elastic and gave it a hem - and faster than you can say "lunch break is over!" - we had a hobbit skirt!

I asked for a picture of the whole ensemble - hopefully she'll get me one that I can post next week...  :)


In further "playing Santa" news, I'm planning a visit to Mexico for Ana's birthday, and I have been doing some internet shopping for gifts to take for her youngest nieces and nephews.  Four boxes arrived in the mail today!  (Christmas for me!)

They contained:  

These four gifts for the 2-and-under crowd (3 boys, 1 girl):  

These two gifts for the two boys in the 4-5 year old range: 

And three Klutz books for the girls in the 9-12 age bracket:  

I'm still waiting on the robot-building kits for the four boys in the 10-14 year range - but once they arrive, I'm ready to go!  

The real trick, of course, will be fitting everything in a suitcase...  ;)

Here's wishing everyone a good weekend - with lots of time to sew!  :)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Next Up...

Mix and match are the main key to become fashionable.  
~ Lanitya street styler

I guess I'm alternating between sewing tops and skirts for my new wardrobe.  My last project was a skirt, and so now it's time for a top.  I'm thinking about combining this fabric with this pattern (short sleeved version).  

I'm not 100% convinced that it's a good match.  The pattern seems so curved - princess seams, puffy sleeves and rounded collar - and the print seems so square.  

One reason to go with this pattern is that I definitely want to use it for my one and only Liberty of London fabric - and this will give me a chance to work out any potential kinks first - before cutting into that oh-so-expensive fabric...  

Of course, I could always just bite the bullet and make a real muslin - with super cheap fabric that I don't expect to wear - instead of using fabric that I really like and want to wear.  ;)

The other pattern I'm considering is this Amy Butler pattern - but for a camisole, not a tunic.  

What do you think?  Which pattern would make the most fashionable "mix and match"?  Or should I look for a different pattern altogether?  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Pictures

Who can watch so intently, so patiently and with such stillness as a cat?  
~ Gwen Campbell

In this particular case I know exactly what...  

has so thoroughly captured Oliver's attention...

It is his nemesis, Sophie, whose movements around the house must be carefully tracked, for his own protection...

My poor baby...  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Weekend Woes: Part 2

The difference between school and life?  
In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test.  
In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.  
~Tom Bodett

The other thing that kept me away from my sewing machine this weekend was writing a final exam for my ESL class.  

I'm not much into testing or grading in my ESL class.  I figure that the only test that matters for my students is whether or not they can interact with people in the community, speaking English.  

I do give a weekly quiz on their vocabulary homework, but I don't collect or grade it - we go over the answers together in class.  The point is to give them an opportunity to self-assess their studying habits and their progress.  

But I do give a final each year.  And I collect it.  And I grade it.  

But I'm not grading my students.  

I'm grading myself.  

It is a way to figure out how I am doing as an ESL teacher - what things I am doing well and what things I need to improve.  

It is a way to determine whether or not my class has value-added in their lives.  

I have a test that I have given for the past 2 years, but even after I shortened it last year, it was still way too long.  Rather than just try to shorten it some more, I decided to re-write it from scratch this year.  

There were the usual sections on re-writing sentences into different verb tenses, changing declarative statements into questions, and forming comparatives and superlatives...  

But I added a section to reflect the time we spent with Rory's Story Cubes.  Want to try it and see what it's like?  Look at the picture of 9 cubes above.  Pick any 3 images and write, in a comment to this post, a short "story" (1-3 sentences) that ties those 3 images together.  

It'll be fun to see what you guys come up with!  And I'll share some of my students' stories too.  :)

So, the final is this week - keep your fingers crossed that the test reveals that I have "done good"!  ;)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekend Woes: Part 1

Whatever story you're telling, it will be more interesting if, at the end you add, 
"and then everything burst into flames."

~ Brian P. Cleary

One of the things that came between me and my sewing machine this weekend was taxes.  Sigh...  I looked ahead at my calendar for the next couple of weekends and realized that I had better get a jump on these... and then everything burst into flames.


P.S. - So, did it work?  

Friday, March 22, 2013


He had a notebook. He took notes in it. It was always useful. And them Sybil, gods bless her, had brought him this fifteen-function imp which did so many other things, although as far as he could see at least ten of its functions consisted of apologizing for its inefficiency in the other five.
~ Terry Pratchett (Feet of Clay)

I'm sorry I didn't get many posts up for you this week.  I'm still under the weather.  :(

I'll try to do better next week.  

Until then, wishing each of you a good sewing weekend!  :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

Camping is nature's way of promoting the motel business.  
~ Dave Barry

Notice how he has dragged his toy into his tent before taking his nap?  ;)
(Oh, and yes, the tent is on its side - a victim of earlier playtime...)  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tying Up Some Loose Ends

It is the loose ends with which men hang themselves.
~ Zelda Fitzgerald

Sadly, my weekend wasn't as productive as I would have liked.  I didn't feel great...  

But I did tie up two loose ends.  First, I finished the pink Snoopy A-Line dress - I'll try to have some pictures of the little girl modeling it soon.  As you may remember, the fabric had been a Valentine's Day gift from her mother, and her mother's reaction when she saw the dress was - Oh, that was supposed to be fabric for you to make yourself something!  

Now, I'll wear some pretty "young" prints - but even I draw the line at Snoopy delivering valentines...  ;)

Here's a scary thought - maybe the fact that I actually have a line isn't apparent to the people who have seen me dress...  Yikes!  :(

Second, some folks mentioned that they couldn't play our Valentine's Day project recording of "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" originally posted here last Monday. So, I did some "research" (i.e., a Google search) and found some alternative ways to try to let you all hear it.  

No, no...  No need to thank me!  ;)

A BIG shout-out and thank-you to Don James for this amazing 3-part tutorial that showed me how to do all this!





I hope that at least ONE of these works for you.  I know you all were just dying to hear it!  ;)

I'm bummed that I didn't get to start another sewing project, NOR did I make it to the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo, which was here in Lakeland over the weekend...  Hopefully, I'll have a little more pep next weekend...  And I hope that you had a wonderful sewing weekend.  :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Advantages of Having Nieces

Some girls are just born with glitter in their veins.  
~ Paris Hilton

Years of sewing for my two nieces has resulted in a box full of pink ribbons, lace and dangly-things, which I have raided to "jazz-up" my Snoopy Valentine's Day A-Line dress.  ;)

I'm going to use the pink grosgrain ribbon as a tie to close the back (rather than a button) and I'm going to use the pink ribbon with dangly-things as a decorative strip aligned approximately under the bodice (i.e., higher than the waist).  

In other words, just a few small touches to make sure that this dress doesn't fade into the background...  ;)

Here's wishing each of us a good sewing weekend!  :)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Interior Design: ESL-Style

A designer knows when he has reached perfection not when there is nothing left to add but when there is nothing left to take away.
~ Antoine de Sainte-Exupery

Our theme this week, in my ESL class, was "Around the Home" and I am pretty happy with how my activity idea worked out.  I used this Melissa and Doug Play House! Reusable Sticker Pad and divided my students into pairs.  

One student in each pair got a blank page from the sticker book, like this kitchen:  

And the page of related stickers:  

The other student in the pair received a printout of a scene that I had previously created in this room, such as this one:  

The second student had to tell the first student which stickers to put where in the room in order to recreate the scene.  In English, obviously.    

And without any pointing or gesturing!  ;)

Then, of course, the students switched roles and I produced a new picture to recreate.  

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and they finished their scenes pretty quickly!  

It's funny - I do a similar activity earlier in the year with geometric shapes and colors, and my students have a lot of trouble with it.  One possibility is that, because it's earlier in the year, their English is weaker.  

But I actually think that it has to do with the context - arranging furniture (and people) in a room makes sense.  But people have no frame of reference for an arrangement of red squares, blue circles and purple triangles...  

I need to think more about this and maybe revise my earlier activity...  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Human Chaos Project

You give but little when you give of your possessions 
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
~ Kahlil Gibran

What do an "Algebra Survival Guide", a copy of "People" magazine and a "Magic, The Gathering" artifact card have in common?  

Well, you may remember that I recently learned that a small gift I sent made a huge difference in a friend's life.  That reminded me of chaos theory, which says that little causes may have large effects, and inspired me to try to sow more little seeds of caring in the lives of the people around me.  

I don't know how often I'll post about this - because it's not about listing things that I do.  But, once in a while, if I think there is an important point that I want to try to remember for myself, I'll probably talk about it here.  ;)

As you've guessed by now, each of those pictures represents a small gift that I've given to someone in the last week.  (Believe it or not, someone actually did want a book about algebra!)  

One of my ESL students had a medical event that landed her in a long term care facility for a couple of weeks.  On Sunday I went to visit her and took flowers and some magazines (including People) to cheer her up.  She was happy with the flowers and the magazines, but what struck me was that the thing that made her the happiest was that I showed up - that I took the time to stop by and visit her.  Whenever anyone walked past the door to her room, she called them in to meet me.  "It's my teacher!" she said, "My teacher came to see me!"  

And that reminded me of another time when I had a similar realization.  I try to visit the husband and young son of my friend who passed away a year ago fairly regularly.  At first, I always wanted to take some little gift for the boy (who recently turned 3 years old).  But it wasn't long before I realized that the thing that meant the most to him was that I get down on the floor and play silly, imaginary games with him - like hide-and-go-seek or the sleepy-little-puppy game...  

It is so easy - especially with the internet! - to make a couple of clicks and buy a gift for someone.  But I need to remember that often what people really want is to have someone take some time and just pay attention to them.  

Anyways, like I said, I'm not going to post about my Human Chaos Project often.  But, you know, there's no reason you couldn't start your own Human Chaos Project...  It isn't expensive - I have it on good authority that all you have to do is take a little time and pay attention to someone in your life.  ;)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Photo

"Acronyms" are chemical substances secreted by moths wishing to have sex.  
No, wait, that's "pheromones."  
~ Dave Barry (attributed)

Sophie sports her new purple collar:  

Is this a fashion-forward statement?  Not exactly...  

She is a bit aggressive with the boys - especially Oliver.  This collar supposedly releases mama-cat pheromones that will help calm her down.  

Fingers crossed that it works because, if not, we're going to have to pump Oliver full of testosterone so that he will start defending himself!  ;)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday Morning Music

It's easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.  
~ Johann Sebastian Bach

So, you know those special effects gurus at Industrial Light and Magic?  Well, they have NOTHING on my husband, who managed to take my poor attempts at playing a recorder, add guitar and keyboard parts, work his mixing magic and come up with this:  

Our Valentine's Day (1.5 minute) version of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring:

May Bach forgive us...  ;)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why Do I Keep Doing This to Myself?

Did I do anything last night that suggested I was sane?
~ Terry Pratchett (Going Postal)

Why do I continue to try to sew when I am tired?  

I (foolishly) tried to get a start on the A-Line Snoopy dress...  

My thinking was something along the lines of, "Yes, I'm a little tired, but it's an easy pattern.  It won't be any problem."  


As I mentioned yesterday, there are really only a few pieces - front and back of the main dress and front and back of the facing.  The instructions are such that you can hide all of your seams in-between the body of the dress and the bodice-facing.  

That is, IF you actually FOLLOW the instructions!  I skimmed and thought that I had read that I was to attach fronts and backs at the SIDE SEAMS.  In fact, I was actually supposed to attach fronts and backs at the SHOULDER SEAMS!  

And, of course, I chose to do French seams, which was sufficient to discourage me from ripping them out...  

This set me up so that I could hide the neckline in-between the dress and the facing, but not the raw edges around the arm openings.  

I decided to finish those with some leftover pink bias tape that I happened to have on hand.  

I think it's going to end up looking pretty cute - but I'm still annoyed at myself for making such a stupid mistake.  :(

The thing is, if I wait to sew until those times that I'm fully rested, then I only end up sewing a little bit each weekend.  But if I try to squeeze in some sewing during the week, I often end up making mistakes...  I have to come up with some way around this situation - any creative ideas for me out there?  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

He who does not mind his belly, will hardly mind anything else.  
~ Samuel Johnson

I'm not naming names, but someone is picking up a bit of a belly...  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Next Up...

Happiness is a warm puppy.
~ Charles M. Schulz

For Valentine's Day, the mother of two of the children who come to our "swim parties" gave me a couple of yards of some Snoopy fabric:  

I think I'll use it to try out the A-Line dress patterns in this book.  Her daughter is a petite 6-year old who would look adorable in this!  :)

It's a simple pattern - one piece front, two piece back and bodice-facing.  Not sure whether or not I'll add a ruffle...  It should be a fun, quick project.  Hopefully I'll have some cute model pictures for you soon!  ;)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Defense Rests

Sentence first, verdict afterwards.
~ Lewis Carroll

Well, the Valentine's Day shirt for my husband is complete and the verdict is in.  First, some shots for you to decide what you think:  

Here it is being modeled in the un-tucked-in, typical Hawaiian shirt fashion:  

(I'm just now noticing that the two fronts aren't even at the bottom - sigh...)

And here it is being worn like a dress shirt - tucked in:  

A back view:  

He likes the shirt a lot, but... not as a casual shirt.  For his weekend wear, he prefers the old pattern.  I may need to continue searching for a new TNT Hawaiian shirt pattern...  But I feel pretty sure that I'll be making this pattern for him again!    ;)

Monday, March 4, 2013

My First Button Band

If you are not confused, you're not paying attention.
~ Tom Peters

Well, maybe I wasn't paying enough attention, but it didn't seem all that difficult...

The first steps were to interface the 2 button bands and then fold and press 5/8th inch along one long edge:

Next they get folded (inside out) along the mid-line:

Then the bottom was stitched closed and trimmed:  

And they were turned right-side out again - finishing the bottom edge:  

Then it was time to attach them to the shirt.  The unpressed, raw edge was aligned along the raw edge of the front center of the shirt and stitched:  

I graded the seam and pressed it in towards the band (away from the front of the shirt):  

Finally, the band was folded over onto itself and I stitched in the ditch to complete it.  (Slip stitching was another option.)  

It generally went pretty easily and came out pretty good.  The only issue I had was that the bottom didn't line up quite as nicely as when the shirt is self-faced...  

I don't know why I've dreaded these and avoided them for so long - it really wasn't too bad.  Tomorrow I've got pictures of the final shirt being modeled by a certain handsome someone...  ;)

What about you?  Do you prefer a button band or a pattern with a self-faced shirt front?  What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of the button band?  

Friday, March 1, 2013

An "Anniversary" of Sorts

Sunday will be the one year anniversary of the passing of a dear friend.  I didn't mean to have two "heavy" posts in one week, but in honor of her memory, I am re-posting the story I wrote last year for her son - this time with pictures drawn by my friend Beth, aka MissBlackPepper.  


The Story of Susan

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess named Susan.  Everyone in the Kingdom loved Princess Susan, because not only was she beautiful, but she was also strong and brave, smart, loving and – sometimes – just a tiny bit silly!  Everywhere she went she brought sunshine and laughter.  Everyone she met became a friend. 

Now, there are lots of stories about princesses out there and they all say that their princesses are special.  But Princess Susan was the most special of them all.  What made Princess Susan so special? 

Well, for one thing, she was strong and brave.  She could ride her Royal Bicycle through the forest as fast as the wind – and she wasn’t even afraid of the wolves.  She could climb the tallest mountains and touch the clouds – and she wasn’t afraid of falling.  She could ride the wild waves of the ocean on her Royal Surfboard - and she wasn’t afraid of the sharks.  And she kept her body strong by lifting weights and doing yoga in the Royal Gym. 

For another thing, she loved animals.  She had two Royal Kitty Cats, named Teva and Ziggy.  I’ll tell you a secret – sometimes Princess Susan spoiled those kitty cats, but they were good cats and they loved her very much. 

And everything that Princess Susan did, she did well.  Princess Susan was so smart that she went to the Royal University and became a Royal Engineer.  She loved reading and kept her Royal Car, named Bunny, full of books from the Royal Library.  And she was so good with computers that soon everyone in the Kingdom knew about her Royal Spreadsheets and the Royal Websites that she made. 

Princess Susan also loved to sew, and she made lots of wonderful things with her Royal Sewing Machine.  She could make magic things – she made magic quilted bags for her friends and family that were always full of love.  And she made magic shirts for the knights who were fighting in a war far away.  The shirts helped keep them cool in the hot desert sun and protected them from harm. 

Now, one day, when Princess Susan was practicing her mountain climbing in the Royal Gym, she met a knight, named Sir Matthew.  Sir Matthew was a very special knight in the Kingdom.  He didn’t have a horse – instead, he had a Royal Hound, named Brix.  And every day and every night, Sir Matthew and Brix would patrol the Kingdom, looking for bad guys.  When they found a bad guy, they would put him in jail, so that everyone in the Kingdom could be safe and happy.  It was a dangerous job, but Sir Matthew and Brix were very strong and very brave and they kept the people of the Kingdom safe. 

Of course, Sir Matthew took one look at the beautiful Princess Susan and immediately fell under her magic spell.  And, of course, Princess Susan took one look at the strong, handsome and brave Sir Matthew and immediately fell in love with him.  So, it was no surprise to anyone, when Sir Matthew asked Princess Susan to marry him, and she said yes. 

The wedding of Princess Susan and Sir Matthew was the biggest and most wonderful event in the whole Kingdom.  Everyone came to celebrate and there was joy and happiness throughout the land as they became King Matthew and Queen Susan. 

But the joy of the wedding was nothing compared to the joy when Queen Susan and King Matthew welcomed their baby boy, Prince Andrew, into the world.  And while Queen Susan was good at everything that she had done in her whole life, when she had her baby boy, Prince Andrew, she found her most special passion – being a mama.  And every minute that she wasn’t taking care of her husband, King Matthew, or her baby, Prince Andrew, she spent helping other mamas and their babies in her Kingdom. 

Queen Susan and Prince Andrew went everywhere together and did everything together.  They went to a magic land called Amaya Papaya, where everything was small, just the right size for Prince Andrew to play with.  They had play dates at the Royal Park with Princess Lyla and the Princess Sisters CeCe and Frannie.  They went to the Royal Zoo and played in the Royal Water Fountains and fed the Royal Goats.  They played in the Royal Chik-Fil-A Playground where everyone has to take off their shoes – and sometimes Prince Andrew tried to put on other children’s shoes!  And they went to another magic land called the Grow and Sing Studio, where Prince Andrew learned to play music and dance and sing.  And everywhere they went, they smiled and laughed and had fun together. 

And Prince Andrew grew, tall and strong and brave like his father, King Matthew; with a warm, open and loving spirit – and just a tiny bit silly! – like his mother, Queen Susan.  And Queen Susan and King Matthew and the Royal Hound, Brix, and the Royal Kitty Cats, Teva and Ziggy – they all loved their Prince Andrew with all their hearts. 

One day, God realized that there were a lot of babies up in Heaven who needed a mama to take care of them.  And He searched the entire world for the very best mama that he could find.  Of course, Queen Susan was the best mama, with the biggest heart and the most love, so God decided to bring her to Heaven to care for those babies. 

Queen Susan didn’t want to go.  She wanted to stay with King Matthew and Prince Andrew.  But God said that they were strong and had each other, and He promised Queen Susan that she could become an angel and watch over them and take care of them from Heaven. 

And so now, Queen Susan is up in heaven, taking care of all those babies that don’t have their mamas with them – but she still loves her King Matthew and her Prince Andrew best of all.  And she watches over them and takes care of them and sends good things and good people into their lives every chance she gets.  And she will be with them forever and she will never stop loving them.  Her love is forever and ever. 

The End.