Thursday, October 31, 2013

Prepping for Christmas Crafts

I'm learning skills I will use for the rest of my life by doing homework... 
procrastination and negotiation.
~ Bill Watterson

As you may know, I'm planning to weave rag rugs for my friends and co-workers this year for Christmas.  They mostly don't know my exact plans, with the exception of one or two who read my blog.  ;)

In preparation, I've been buying "cakes" of recycled t-shirt yarn in a variety of colors (from assorted Etsy sellers).  Here is my collection so far - I'm only waiting for four more to arrive in the mail (colors: apricot, butter yellow, royal blue and dark hot pink):  


While they don't know exactly what I'm planning, they do know that they get to choose their colors.  I'm not going to reveal the cakes, however.  Instead, I've just snipped an inch or two off each.  

This is what I'm going to spread out on the meeting table on Monday, with the request that each person choose three colors that they like and that go together nicely:  


I've written each person's name on an index card and will ask them to staple their three yarns onto the index card in a pleasing sequence.  That's the sequence of stripes that I'll weave into each rug.  

Hopefully they can negotiate among themselves, such that each person is pleased with his or her ultimate three selections.  (We'll see who picked up the best negotiation skills from years of doing homework...)  

Normally, when I (foolishly) plan these huge, mass projects for Christmas, I end up not making myself anything - because I'm so "over it" by the time I make a dozen of anything for other people that I'm not the least bit interested in making another one for myself.  ;)

But this time I decided to be selfish and so, not only am I planning to weave myself a rag rug, I also picked out my colors first.  My rug will have stripes of these colors:  


I do feel a little bit guilty for not letting other people have first crack at these beautiful colors...  :(

But I'm keeping them anyways!  ;)

Including mine, I'll be making 12 rag rugs.  And I've worked out my plans such that I can make 4 each time I prepare the loom - so I'll only have to prepare it 3 times.  That sounds manageable to me.  

Well, it sounds manageable now, anyways...  

We'll see how it sounds in late December.  ;)

Do you have plans to make any of your Christmas presents?  How are they progressing?  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Do You Craftsy?

Try not to have a good time...this is supposed to be educational.
~ Charles M. Schulz

I've signed up for 3 Craftsy classes, but, I am a bit embarrassed to admit, I've only started one of them - this one for weaving on a floor loom.  

I taught myself to weave from a book (albeit, a good book) and so I thought I'd try "taking" a class and see how much it helped to have an instructor - to be able to watch her and to be able to ask questions.  

Right off the bat, it appears that, when I was reading the book, I chose to learn the wrong method for preparing the loom.  The book shows 2 methods - working from the front to the back and working from the back to the front.  I picked "a" - front to back.  

My Craftsy instructor, Janet Dawson, teaches the back to front method - and one of the main advantages is that you can measure out the lengths of yarn in batches of multiple threads at the same time!  

Here is a photo of my throw-together "equipment" for measuring out the yarns, 3 lengths at a time:


Then, you do start with the yarns at the front, but you bring them through to the back and get them wrapped around the back beam, before passing them through the heddles (hanging needles) and the reed...  

Here I'm setting up the yarns in a "raddle" (like a big, upside-down comb) so that, when I bring them to the back beam, they will be appropriately spaced out for the width of my next project.  


Not surprisingly, it was much harder to do this for the first time than it would have been to use the method that I already know and have used many times...  And I'm not done yet - so the jury is still out.  But, hopefully, with practice this method will become as "easy" as the old one is for me.  ;)

Regarding my Craftsy experience, I have to say that I'm liking it.  The teacher is really good - she goes slowly and explains everything clearly.  The camera angles are usually excellent.  I like being able to re-play sections of the video over again and, the couple of times that I've left a question (tied to a spot on a video), the teacher got back to me very quickly.  

Have you taken a class on Craftsy?  Or some other video-based class?  What did you think about it?  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

Cats are rather delicate creatures and 
they are subject to a good many ailments, 
but I never heard of one who suffered from insomnia.
~ Joseph Wood Krutch



Monday, October 28, 2013

Quite a Ride!

Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park.  
Enjoy the ride.  
~ Anthony Bourdain

To celebrate our foster teen's 18th birthday, we spent a day at Busch Gardens this weekend, with friends.   


(That's actually them - my husband is the one waving.)  

I think she had fun!  ;)


This will be our last week with her - next weekend she's off to live with family in another state.  We had no idea what we were getting into when we stepped on, and it's been quite a ride!  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Special Birthday!

I have the body of an eighteen year old  
I keep it in the fridge.
~Spike Milligan

Actually, our 18 year old body has her own room.  Yup, our foster daughter turns 18 today!



Happy Birthday!  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Christmas, Already?!?

For so many centuries, the exchange of gifts has held us together.  
It has made it possible to bridge the abyss where language struggles.
~ Barry Lopez

I know - it's waaaaay too early to start thinking about Christmas...

Unless, of course, you plan on making Christmas gifts for family and friends.  But who, you might be wondering, would be foolish enough to do this, year after year after year?  ;)

Yesterday I distributed this invitation to 11 friends at work:


   Dear XX,

I would like to invite you to participate in a Holiday Gift Exchange with me this year.

Now, before you start panicking and looking around for an exit, I know that these gift exchanges can be stressful and expensive, so I have set this up to be easy and very cheap.  

What I would like as my Christmas present from you:
An Excuse

More specifically - an excuse to by stuff and use that stuff to make other stuff.  

Now, to be up front about this, the deal I'm offering you is not completely fair.  You don't get to tell me what you want.  I'm going to tell you right now that your gift is going to be some of the stuff that I make form some of the stuff that you gave me an excuse to buy.  

The best I can do is let you pick the colors of the stuff that I use to make the stuff that I'm going to give you for your holiday gift.  

And one last thing to note - I need you to give me my gift early.  More specifically, if you are willing and interested in participating in this holiday gift exchange with me, then:

I need for you to come to the  big table in our lab (room #) on 
Monday, November 4th at 12:00, to select your colors.

Supplies of any particular color are limited, so there may be some negotiating and "horse trading" amongst the people who decide to participate in this holiday gift exchange with me.  ;)

So, that's it - the good, the bad and the ugly about my invitation.  Obviously, I hope you decide to participate!  But I completely understand if you decide not to participate and there will be no hard feelings.  

In any event, I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season!  :)

Gwen

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Pictures

When a cat chooses to be friendly, it's a big deal,  
because a cat is picky.
~ Mike Deupree

We never had any really serious fighting when we brought Pepper into the house.  But this weekend was the first time we actually saw any of the other cats "snuggling" with her...  

Happily, my DH was able to snap these pictures:  


It would be Popeye first - he is such a sweetheart.  :)


By the way, we originally thought of the name Pepper because she is black.  

(I know, it doesn't get much more original than that, huh?)

But now we have determined that it's actually short for "pepper spray" - and refers to her impact on innocent bystanders, when she passes gas...  ;)

Monday, October 21, 2013

My ESL Class 2013

The only way that we can live, is if we grow. 
The only way that we can grow is if we change. 
The only way that we can change is if we learn. 
The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. 
And the only way that we can become exposed is if 
we throw ourselves out into the open. 
Do it. Throw yourself.
~ C. JoyBell C.  

I haven't written yet about my ESL class this year.  During this, our fifth year of existence, our little, church-sponsored, un-certified, free program - with only 2 classes (mine for beginners and another one for intermediate / advanced students) - suddenly took off and both classes have been routinely full to the bursting point, with close to 30 students attending each.  

That is, of course, until the night I took in my camera, to document the masses...  
And only half of my regulars showed up!  ;)

So, here are shots of half my students - working together on translating the lyrics from "Put A Little Love in Your Heart" from English into Spanish.  


I have a couple of families this year - one mom with one son and one mom with two sons.  A dad is usually accompanied by his two teenage daughters - but they are bilingual and I am usually trying to prevent them from just giving the dad all the answers.  ;)



I love this exercise!  I always start by talking about how translating is a two stage process - first, looking up each word in their dictionaries and then, second, taking that string of individual words (which often won't form a reasonable sentence in the new language) and trying to make sense out of them.  I talk about how computer-based translation programs struggle with that second task and can't always do it.  

Together, we see first hand how challenging it is, when we spend 5 minutes or more "discussing" (easily mistaken for arguing) how to translate a seemingly simple phrase like, "Think of your fellow man, lend him a helping hand..."  

"Fellow man" was the tricky bit last week.  Some people keep wanting to use the word "amigos" - which means friends.  Their Spanish is better than mine  - obviously! - so I usually defer to them as the experts.  But sometimes I try to hold my ground, when I am not sure if the Spanish word captures the nuanced meaning of the English word.  In this case, I felt like "amigos" refers to people you know and care for - and I wanted to emphasize that, in this song, "fellow man" refers to everyone on earth, whether you know them or not.  

Eventually, someone proposed an alternative and as soon as they heard it, everyone liked it.  (For anyone who knows Spanish and is curious, we settled on "pr√≥jimo".)  

In a somewhat ironic twist, this is actually the translation that Google Translate recommended - after all my talk about how difficult this is for computers!  ;)

Anyways, I love watching how everyone digs in and starts looking up words and proposing interpretations - and then how that engagement extends to the group discussion when we settle on the final translation of every line of the song.  

I hope that the words and phrases that they translate this way are more memorable and that this exercise builds their vocabulary.  But I think that the process of translating is very valuable in general and I also hope they are building a skill that they can use all the time.  

Back to our growth spurt, I can't handle 30 students at a time very well - if that many continue to attend regularly, I may have to split the group and, instead of having class from 7 to 8:30 each Tuesday, have 2 class sessions - one from 6:30 to 7:30 and one from 7:30 to 8:30...  

But, for now, it's really excited to see our program grow and have yet another group of motivated, engaged and inspiring people in my life!  :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Photo

Sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be near them.  
~ Veronica Roth

And sometimes, Pepper thinks to herself, the best way to help someone is to hold her things down so that they can't escape...  



Pepper helps me with my "A Peek Inside" photo shoot.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Peek Inside: The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques

The look is elegant and sacrilegious and makes me feel sacred and immoral.  
Haute couture and getting hauter.  
~ Chuck Palahniuk

The last score of my Columbus Day shopping expedition is this book: The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard.  



Hopefully you can make out the techniques that are covered in the book from these photos of the Table of Contents:  






What really pushed me to purchase the book (besides the 50% off coupon that I had burning a hole in my pocket) was the first section on bindings and finishes.  Here are a couple of close-up pages from the section on finishing a v-neck knit top:  



You can see that it is full of detailed photographs of each step of the process.  



You may remember that I've tried one or two knit tops and...  Hmmm...  

How do I put this?  

Let's just say that I did not come out "on top".  ;)

So, this is on my short list of things that I want to learn how to do and hopefully this book will help me conquer the next knit top that I try!  :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Peek Inside: The Essential A-Line

Elizabeth lifted her skirt, disregarding modesty, 
and delivered a swift kick to the creature's head.  
~ Seth Grahame-Smith

Sadly, I must report that I didn't limit my shopping on Columbus Day to the pattern sale - I also picked up two books...  The first is called The Essential A-Line: Make 17 Flirty Skirts from one Basic Pattern, by Jona Giammalva. 



I have one of these books for making A-Line dress variations for little girls, so I pretty much knew what to expect - some of the variations are pretty trivial and don't really deserve being called out separately.  


But I do find it creatively inspiring to see all the different colors, fabrics, lengths, ruffles, pockets, etc.  It helps break me out of a mental rut of treating a pattern too literally...  


And, I do like A-Line skirts - they work with my body...  (Unlike, say, the heinous mini-skirt or the dastardly pencil-skirt - in either of which I dare you to try to kick a creature in the head!)  


Oh - and I had a 50% off coupon!  ;)


So, here I've included pictures of the 17 variations for you to browse...  Enjoy!  :)















I did think that it was nice that she included a maternity version...  


Did anything in particular catch your fancy?  

For tomorrow's post, I'll give you "a peek inside" the other book I bought...  
Stay tuned!  ;)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Columbus Day Haul

May all your troubles last as long as your New Years' Resolutions. 
~ Joey Adams

Joann's had a Columbus Day Sale, including 5 Simplicity patterns for $5!  Jackpot!  ;)

I've enjoyed the Palmer/Pletsch Fashion that Fits line that McCall's puts out, so I thought I'd try Simplicity's counterpart - the Amazing Fit line.  

I picked up this skirt pattern:  




And 2 dress patterns - a mock wrap dress:  



and a princess seamed, v-neck dress:  


I actually didn't see anything else in the Simplicity pattern book that I wanted for myself - so I picked up two patterns for the children of my friends / co-workers.  

A twirly skirt pattern for the 3 little girls:  


and a child's backpack pattern that should work for the little girls AND the little boys:  




So much for my "resolution" to not buy any more patterns, and to start "shopping my stash" of patterns...   :(

But how can you turn away from a $16.95 pattern when it is on sale for $1?    ;)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Road Trip

It was a shack, somewhere out on the outskirts of the Plains town of Scrote. 
Scrote had a lot of outskirts, spread so widely - a busted cart here, 
a dead dog there - that often people went through it without even 
knowing it was there, and really it only appeared on the maps
because cartographers get embarrassed about big empty spaces.
~ Terry Pratchett

I drove a friend up to mid-nowhere Georgia over the weekend.  

Here are some scenes from the Georgia High Tech Corridor:  


What do you think this place was?   Maybe it's a movie theater owned by a person named Gene, who never left Georgia but always wanted to see his name on the marquee...  



And for those who never leave Georgia, but dream of seeing the Statue of Liberty...  



It was a little sad - so many businesses closed...  



Everything went smoothly, but I'm really glad to be home!  

I'm off work today - Columbus Day - maybe I can squeeze in some sewing after I catch up on my weekend chores...  

I hope you all had a wonderful sewing weekend!  :)

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Rag Rug Reveal !

If it can't be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.
~ Pete Seeger

The last step in preparing the loom is to tie off the threads on the front and the back of the loom.  This part actually doesn't take too long.  Here are the threads tied off at the front:  


And here you can see the back of the loom - with the threads tied off and the excess length rolled up:  


Finally!  The pay-off!  I get to weave!  :)


Hey - wait a minute - that's not me weaving...  That's our foster teen!  


Surprisingly enough, she really took to weaving - much more so than sewing...  We were using recycled t-shirt yarn to make a rag rug, and she loved it...  


She ended up weaving for almost an hour and finished more than half the rug!  

Here it is before we finished tying all the fringe knots and cutting the excess yarn:  


Signs of amateur weavers (both of us) include the uneven width.  Nevertheless, the finished rug is super cool!  


Take a close-up look at the weave:  


Given that our foster teen wove so much of the rug, I gave it to her.  She was really happy!  

I've already ordered more recycled t-shirt yarn (from Etsy) and I think I may have decided on the Christmas gifts that I'm going to give my friends at work...  

Yup, there may be 12 more of these in my near-term future!  ;)

I hope you had a wonderful sewing weekend.  :)