Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flounces in Color

The best color in the whole world is the one that looks best on you.  
~ Coco Chanel

While I spent the majority of my sewing time last weekend working on Ana's skirt, I did manage to put in a few minutes on the 3 dresses that I am making for the daughters of my friends at work.  

I had already attached the flounce to one dress:  

Last weekend, I got the flounces basted on to the other two dresses.  First, Minnie with her white polka dots on red:  

Second, a teal flounce to accompany teal birdies on a yellow background:  

I just used the natural width of the contrasting fabric and it turned out that my flounces didn't need much gathering - they'd probably look cuter if I had started with a longer length.  

But I'm still pretty happy with them.  :)

Let's see if I can finish up these little cuties over next weekend - fingers crossed!  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
~ William Blake

I never noticed the symmetry in her fur until this pose...  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Christmas Present Unwrapped

The gifts that one receives for giving are so immeasurable 
that it is almost an injustice to receive them.  
~ Rod McKuen

Last Christmas I gave my friends Margarita and her daughter Mariana one-day passes to one of the water parks in Central Florida - Discovery Cove.  They redeemed their passes over the holiday weekend and here are some photos from their adventure:  

Discovery Cove has an aviary, where you can feed the birds.  As you might imagine, this has resulted in VERY friendly birds!  ;)

There is a "coral reef" exhibit where you can swim in (chilly!) salt water with lots of beautiful tropical fish and this "river" for humans only, where you can warm up afterwards:  

The highlight is the 30 minutes or so that you spend in the water getting to know a dolphin.  There are kisses:  

A ride:  

And some belly rubs!  

The dolphins are well trained, but that doesn't mean that they aren't still wild animals - very large, very strong and at least somewhat unpredictable wild animals.  At one point, the dolphin assigned to their group was distracted by another dolphin and the trainers hurried all of the people out of the water while the two dolphins "played" and "flirted" - which I imagine was probably the P.G. rated explanation of what they were actually doing...  ;)

They had a wonderful day!  Some gifts are worth the wait...  :)  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Maybe You Should Sit Down For This...

Leave it to me: I'm always top banana in the shock department.
~ Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

Are you ready for a shock?  I have sewn!

Yes, all it takes is an extra long weekend and I can finish all my regular chores AND get into the sewing room!  :)

Oh, and a project deadline doesn't hurt either...  ;)

I was able to make Ana's skirt.  The first step was the waistband - here it is with a 1/2 inch wide elastic around the top:  

There are 10 skirt panels.  They are sewn together along all 11 side seams (to form a circle), before the pleats are put in.  The pleats are stitched closed such that they contain the side seams:  

Here you can see one of the pleats being opened up:  

Given that there are 11 pleats, I realized that if I was off by even a small amount on each one, it could add up to a serious mis-match with the waistband.  So, I only sewed 10 of them:  

Then I lined the skirt up with the waistband and used the mis-match to figure out exactly how large to make the 11th (and last) pleat:  

It worked like a charm!  Here's the finished skirt:  

You can see that I left the elastic hanging - Ana can do the last fitting step of pulling it to the length she wants, stitching the ends together, trimming the excess and closing up the small opening in the waistband.  

I sure hope Ana likes it!  :)

It felt so good to sew again!  It looks like I'm probably going to get a long weekend every week, starting mid-July and continuing through to the end of September - thanks to the upcoming federal government furlough.  Maybe I'll have enough time to put a real dent in my queue!  :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Measurement Math

If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it.
~ John Grebe

Well, recent events have conspired to disrupt my sewing queue.  As you may remember - and I can barely remember because it's been so long since I've been able to do any sewing! - I was working on clothes for my friends' assorted babies & toddlers, when Ana asked me to try to sew her skirt this weekend.  

The main issue is size.  The smallest size on the pattern is size 4, and Ana is probably a size 0 or maybe -2.    ;)

One good thing - the pattern I'm using has elastic around the waist - greatly easing the challenge of fitting!  (Another good thing - it can worn at just about any level between the waist and the hips.)  

Anyways, she gave me the (circumference) measurement representing the line (somewhere between her waist and hips) where she wants the top of the skirt to sit.  I added 3 inches for ease and the side seam allowances, then divided that in half and used that number to modify the skirt yoke:  

You can see below how I just folded the pattern along the sides to get the length I wanted - happily, the yoke pattern is a perfect rectangle!  

Next up, the skirt panels - there are TEN!!!!!  Yikes!  

Anyways, I took the amount that I had reduced the yoke pattern piece and divided it by 5 to figure out how much to reduce each skirt panel.  Then I divided that number by 2 and reduced each side of the panel by that amount.  

Again the sewing gods were smiling on me, because the skirt panel pattern piece is symmetrical.  

As with the yoke pattern piece, folding in the sides of the skirt panel pattern piece worked, with the minor exception that I had to make a small snip where the pattern flares, to allow it to lay flat when folded back.  

Finally, just to make sure everything would be okay, I worked the math backwards - I measured the width of the side panel and figured out how wide it would be after I assembled the 5 panels:  

It turned out that it didn't work out exactly right the first time.  Thank goodness I checked!  Luckily, I still had the pleat size to work with!  The pleat width in the pattern was 3.5 inches - I played with the number in Excel and found that a pleat width of 3.25 will get me pretty close to having the yoke and the assembled skirt panels match in width.  


As I read back over this post, I see that some reference to good fortune occurs 5 times!  If you are going to try to sew something long distance - without being able to take measurements yourself or do any fitting - you aren't going to get a better pattern than this!  ;)

Now that I've got the numbers all worked out, it's time to cut!  Yay!  Actual sewing is occurring!  :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Teaching English with Norman Rockwell

I paint life as I would like it to be.  
~ Normal Rockwell

One of the best investments I've made for my ESL class is a set of 11 x 17 inch reproduction prints by Norman Rockwell on scouting.  I use these images for all kinds of language activities in class - speaking, listening comprehension, grammar lessons, you name it...  

They are perfect in so many ways - full of concrete, every day objects and relationships - each is different, and yet there is enough overlap that I can pull a set of 3 or 4 images that have a lot in common.  

This summer, I am using the images to get my students to generate language and to reiterate two key grammar concepts that we have been studying all year - constructing negative sentences and questions.  

First, I break the class into groups of 3-4 students and give each group an image.  Then I ask each group to generate a series of positive statements about their image.  

Once the positive statements have been generated, we reconvene as a class and practice turning them into negative statements and/or questions.  

Here are some examples that my students generated last week, based on the two pictures above:

Image #1
There is a dog.
The boy is on top of the chair.
The man has exercise equipment.
The boy's pants are blue.  

Image #2
The boy is carrying two big bags.
Father wishes luck to the boy.
Mother says goodbye to the boy.  
The dog is happy.  

I'll leave it as an exercise to my readers to turn those positive statements into negative statements and questions...  ;)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It Never Rains...

Bring in ideas and entertain them royally, 
for one of them may be the king.  
~ Mark Van Doren

I've had this beautiful, pink, cotton pinstripe in my stash for a couple of years - just waiting for the right pattern to come along:  

Then, yesterday, I get my Burda Style magazine in the mail and find - not one - but THREE patterns that are all clamoring to be made up in a beautiful, pink, cotton pinstripe!  

One contender is this shirt dress.  The only thing I worry about is the vertical darts on either side of the center front - I'm not sure how well they'll work with the pinstripes...  

Another possibility in the dress category is this wrap-around summer sun dress.  The fabric is the perfect weight and I think I could keep the pinstripes lined up - although I do like the design shown here of a solid bodice and flowers in the skirt.  

Finally there is a blouse with a mandarin collar.  Unlike the model in this image, I don't really think it's a "prissy" shirt and would wear it buttoned up.  ;)

Why do ideas keep coming to the party alone, instead of bringing some free time with them?   ;)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

There should always be one more cat than person, 
so everyone has one to pet, 
and I have two to myself.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Our Summer Has Started: It's Official!

"But if you have so much fun, then why don't you get together more than once a month?"
She looked at me like a wise old owl and winked.  
"Do something too often and it stops being special."  
~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt)

Plus, I'm half afraid that doing this more than once a month would kill me!  ;)

Yup, over the weekend we had the first of our monthly summer pool parties...  There were 9 children, ages 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 13.  How's that for a spread?  

My husband and I did have the assistance of 3 additional adults (2 moms & 1 uncle) - thanks goodness!  

It was your standard welcome-in-the-summer-while-celebrating-two-birthdays pool party.  I made homemade pizzas and cupcakes; my husband grilled burgers and hot dogs.  

I was busy enough that I didn't get any pictures of the kids in the pool - but one family brought a pinata - in the shape of a guitar in honor of my husband (one of the birthdays was his).  And I managed to get a couple of quick snaps:  

Here the 3-year-old and 5-year-old model the pinata.  

My husband got first shot at the pinata - we trusted him to keep his eyes closed!  ;)

The other birthday celebrant (13 years old) was up second.  

And his 11-year old sister went third.  

At that point, yet another urgent something popped up that demanded my immediate attention - I think I had to go inside to get plastic bags for all of the kids to hold their "loot" - and the camera was forgotten.  Sorry... :(

But don't worry - there are probably 4 more of these in my future this year - so there will be plenty of opportunities to see a pool full of kids enjoying a special day.  :)

It did wear me out - it was all I could do on Sunday to squeeze in my regular weekend chores between some serious naps...  I'm looking forward to the holiday weekend coming up - maybe I'll finally be able to get myself into the sewing room.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sewing Plans: Some Fabric Updates

Details matter, it's worth waiting to get it right.  
~ Steve Jobs

While I haven't made it into the sewing room for a while, I have made some small steps of progress on two of my current projects.  

First, one of the little girl dresses - I had been planning to use a bright pink fabric for the border (see here), but on further viewing, it wasn't a good match.  

So I went back to the fabric store and found the PERFECT border - red with white polka dots, just like Minnie's bow, dress and shoes!  ;)

Next, you may remember that recently I tried to lure Ana back into sewing by buying her a beautiful butterfly print, but she turned the tables on me and talked me into agreeing to make a skirt for her (see here).  And then she asked for a contrasting yoke on the skirt...  

Another fabric shopping trip (oh darn!) and I found this burnt yellow fabric.  What do you think?  Won't it make a nice combination?  :)

Fingers crossed that we all get some sewing time in soon!  :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

Cats sleep 
Any table, 
Any chair,
Top of piano,
In the middle,
On the edge.  
~ Eleanor Farjeon

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mayfaire 2013

We need a festival now and again, no matter what situation we're in.
Ichirou Ohkouchi

I would have loved to hole up in my sewing room all weekend and sew, but our city held an art festival over the weekend and that sucked up Saturday pretty completely.  In the morning, the music studio where Carolyn has singing lessons had an hour on stage - she sang in two group songs:

...and had her second solo performance of her life.  She sang "In My Own Little Corner" (from Cinderella with Leslie Ann Warren) and did a wonderful job!

We went back to the festival in the evening with our dance teacher and her husband, for dancing to a live band and fireworks.  We had a lot of fun dancing - although it was mostly the hustle and the cha-cha - and we really enjoyed the band, MPIRE.  :)

The one thing that I thought was funny was that one of the leads had a small fan on stage, blowing his hair back.  It reminded me of the movie "Wayne's World" somehow, like a rock and roll parody...  ;)

Our view of the fireworks was "blocked" by an American flag - so I tried to make the best of it with my photography...

It was a special day - even if sometimes I despair of ever getting back into my sewing room again...  Sigh...      

Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy Birthday to the Love of my Life!

I've learned that you know your husband still loves you when there are two brownies left and he takes the smaller one.  
~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.  

My favorite sight is the twinkle in his eyes.  
My favorite sound is his laughter.
My favorite place to be is in his arms.
My favorite color is pink.
(Just in case it was getting too mushy...)  

Happy Birthday to the man who leaves me BOTH brownies!  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Say Cheese!

The single most important component of a camera is
the twelve inches behind it!
~ Ansel Adams

My first ESL student to complete the first challenge of the summer:  

Each summer, I present my students with a series of 5 challenges - things to do in the community, in English, by themselves. 
  1. The first is relatively easy - buy a gift card at Starbucks.  
  2. Next, ask an employee at Wal-Mart's to help them find an item.  
  3. The third is to return that item and get their money back.  
  4. Fourth - apply for a library card and check out a book.  
  5. Finally, make a reservation at a restaurant over the phone and then meet me there for lunch - order in English and talk with me during lunch in English.  

They have to bring the evidence of their success in each challenge to class the following week, and I take their pictures and post them on a bulletin board.  

My big challenge is getting them to smile for their pictures!  ;)

In English, we tell our photographic subjects to say "Cheese!"  Apparently in many Spanish countries they say "Whiskey!" instead.  ;)

But neither one works for me during these mini-photo shoots.  :(

I can sometimes make them smile by saying, "Pretend that you are happy!"  ;)

Which reminds me of my Dad - who REALLY hates having his picture taken.  He is a hard case.  "Pretend that you are happy," only got an awkward grimace - it took "Pretend you are happier than that!" to get a real smile...    

Do you like having your picture taken?  How do you get your photographic subjects to feel comfortable and smile naturally?  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hello, Band Wagon - Is There Room for Me?

I described the pyramid we'd found and waited for him to jump on the bandwagon.  
Unfortunately, he's afraid of wagons.
And bands.
~ Jennifer Rardin

Well, I've seen people singing the praises of this show all throughout blog-land and I finally got around to checking it out for myself...  

A long time ago, I was a fan of Project Runway - but after a couple of seasons I lost interest.  There wasn't enough SEWING for me and there was WAAAY too much personal drama...  

Apparently someone in the U.K. read my mind.  Because we all know how entire countries compete for my attention!  ;)

I just watched the first episode of the first season and I really enjoyed it!  If anything, it's almost the opposite situation - the narrators go into detail on some pretty basic sewing skills.  

They play up the stress of limited time a bit, but for the most part the focus is on the sewing challenges themselves.  In the first episode, the contestants had to make an A-Line skirt with a pattern in 3 hours, had to modify the neckline of a RTW (or "off the peg" garment as they say in England) in any way that they wanted in 1 hour, and finally they had to make a casual dress, using the pattern of their choice, and fit it to a real woman in 7 hours.  

They talked about issues that I can relate to - like making poor fabric choices, being able to see your invisible zipper, stretching out silk so that it loses its shape and not doing a good job aligning a print down the front of a garment and at the seams...  

Hey - maybe they aren't reading my mind, maybe they are just reading my blog!  ;)

Anyways, make room for me on the bandwagon - I'm in.  

I doubt many people are as far behind on this one as I am - but, just in case you haven't checked it out yet, here is the link for season one.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

Spoiler alert.  Mayhem lives.
~ Hazel Grace Lancaster

Her name is Sophie and she is coming into a living room near Oliver...  

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Weekend of Accessories

"Do little pink fairies sing and dance in your world, Peabody?"
"Sometimes, when it's very quiet and no one else can see."
~ J.D. Robb (Promises in Death)

You know how sometimes the heavens open up and fate smiles down upon you and blesses with you a completely unexpected gift - a wondrous, transcendent gift!

Well, how does "sale rack, 50% off, and the only pair left just happens to be in my size" strike you?

For years I have been saying that - despite all evidence of my femaleness to the contrary - I hate shoes.  

I may have to change my tune...  

And look how well they go with my other new fashion accessory!  

It just doesn't get any better than this...  ;)

Friday, May 3, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different...

The girl is mother to the woman.

As you know from my recent sewing activities, many of my friends at work are in the midst of starting their families and there are now 4 little ones between the ages of 1 and 3 bringing both joy and aggravation (hopefully not in equal measure!) to these friends. 
We are all research psychologists of one form or another, and so we all have an inherent interest in human behavior – this makes for a lot of interesting observations and discussions about the children.  One topic that routinely comes up is the extent to which you can predict what type of adult each child will grow into. 
There is official psychological research out there that says that some personality traits are fairly stable across a lifetime; in particular, the extent to which a person is outgoing – or, eager to interact with other people and have new experiences – and the typical level of anxiety that a person experiences. 
When I think back on my own life, however, what comes to mind is an unusual “quirk” that has traveled with me throughout my lifetime, rather than some broad personality trait. 
A little back story: A few years ago I was out of the office for a couple of months recovering from surgery.  As part of my “Welcome Back!” party, my friends cleaned off my very messy desk. 
Now, some of you may shudder at that idea.  “My desk may look messy, but I know exactly where everything is!” you may declare. 
Not me – I had NO clue where anything was and I was actually dreading returning to that messy desk.  So, I was delightfully happy to return to find a clean desk. 
With one small exception…
During the “excavation” of my desk, my friends discovered NINETEEN partially used pads of notebook paper… (Yikes!)
And I was promptly forbidden from raiding the supply cabinet for any more pads, until I used all of the paper on those 19 pads.  ;)
To this day we have a running joke about keeping me away from new pads of paper… 
And the point of this story?  Well, during one of our discussions of children and adults, I had a flashback to grade school.  I must have been 8 or 9 years old.  The principal of the private school I was attending came to our classroom with a box of new notebooks and said that we could turn in any of our full notebooks to get new ones… 
And I got in trouble for trying to trade-in a notebook that wasn’t full yet. 
Yup, the personality trait that has stayed with me for lo on these 40 years or so is an obsession with new notebooks.  ;)
I wonder why that one never turns up in any research studies?  ;)

How about you?  In what ways are you the same as when you were a child?  And in what ways are you different?