Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ho Ho Ho... and mo'

Thank you for stopping by my blog on this most auspicious day: first day of the Ho Ho Ho blog hop sponsored by Sew We Quilt, and cheered on by Carol.

The Story

One year, at the after-Christmas sales, I bought several Santa figurines from Goodwill.  The idea was to give them each a new suit of clothes.
Basket o' Santas

This particular Santa (the rear left) is the last to get his Ho Ho Ho on, so to speak.

I used the clothes he was wearing as the beginning of a pattern for new clothes.  Made things prettier
with an embroidered and sequined velveteen in a deep maroon.  Reused the fur trim for Santa's robe.  Found several gold lame fabrics, and was determined to use as many of them as I could squeeze in (I just love mixing fabrics).

The banner he was originally holding was just silly: merely a piece of cloth.  No message.  No embellishment.  And barely hanging onto a dowel by cellophane tape.  Would that do for such a handsome, well-dressed fellow?  No way.

I took a lesson from my youngest daughter and embroidered on burlap (she is making a cross-stitch Christmas stocking in sort of a rustic theme this way).  Had to jazz it up a bit with trimming around the banner (who knew they made gold lame rick-rack?), a fancy metallic on the reverse side, and gold cording to hang it.

Had much fun considering what would be in Santa's sack.  The sack he came with was filled with greenery and holly berries.  Bah!  What about the toys?  Embroidered and added some beads to the top edge of the sack, then made a simple teddy bear. 

 Gold paper-wrapped gifts and toy-shaped plastic beads and buttons fill out the sack.  I still have the intention to make a tiny hobby horse, but we'll see if that really happens.  There is a definite tension here between having actual tiny toys that a child might explore, and having things arranged beautifully so they peek out of Santa's sack just so.  I considered hot gluing everything together because I was having such trouble arranging the items for the photos.

There you have it: the tale of a much-loved Santa who has been given new life.  And now looks fabulous.  (Thanks to my son for going up into the attic on such a hot day to bring down wrapping paper for the photo shoot.  The sacrifices our loved ones make to support our hobbies...)

Have you visited the other blogs who are hopping along today?  Such variety!  How can you pick a favorite?

July 31
Rainbows. Bunnies. Cupcakes.  (that's me!)

A lucrative County Fair

The County Fair was good to me!  I almost feel like an Olympic athlete: I have a medal count.  Those little ribbons that I covet have graced me multiple times this year.

The haul

Three blue ribbons (yay!!!)
Two second place red ribbons (still a big deal!)
Two lovely quilts that got lots of pairs of eyes on them (but no ribbons, alas)

Back in June, I set my aspirations to enter ten items into the fair.  Well, I managed to get seven things entered, and that seems darn good to me.  And, I was richly rewarded by the judges--just a bonus to all that hard work.


Oakie scored big-time for me, as three of my entries were about him.
Oakie's award-winning summer duds
1: Doll (or stuffed animal), outfit only
For this entry, I made a new visor (Oakie's old one got lost in a hurricane in Florida) and matching board shorts (swim trunks?)  I looked for a small-scale Hawaiian print, but settled on a tiny fishy print as being appropriate to the garments.

The board shorts were a bit challenging, especially since Oakie doesn't really have legs, just lower flippers.

I may revise the design a bit, if I make another pair, but these have enough design details to "ooh" and "aah" over: drawstring ties that emerge from grommet holes (embroidered); mock fly stitching; and seams that are top-stitched to resemble ready-to-wear styles.

2.  Doll accessory
I already blogged about Oakie's backpack, and it went on to win a blue ribbon.

Even without that pesky lining that I (wisely) decided not to add in.

3.  Doll clothes, woven
I think the "doll clothes, knit" category really means a garment you knit or crochet.  This category is for clothes that are sewn, but the doll (or stuffed penguin!) is not wearing the garment.

Oakie's dress attire (sailor suit) that I completed for last summer's Alaskan cruise won a red ribbon.

4.  Toy, book or game
I wonder how the judges manage this category, since it can be so broad.  In years past I have entered cloth books and a large "quiet cube" (like a quiet book, but in a big block shape).  I entered the Nancy Drew mystery block that I completed for a blog hop in March.

 My stitching was not the neatest in the world, but I won a red ribbon.

5.  Any holiday-themed item
My final blue ribbon was for a textile item featuring Santa's sack.

Can't show it to you yet, because it is my surprise for the HoHoHo blog hop.  Check back soon for more details!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Progress on t-shirt quilt

Sweetie was kind enough to give me control of making a t-shirt quilt from all her college adventures.  Since I can complicate anything, I took it as a challenge to go all out and incorporate the t-shirts into an intricate design.  Oh yeah, it will be a thing of beauty.  If I can ever get it finished.

To me, one of the fun things about quilting is how you can go along in fits and starts, working 15 or 30 minutes at a time, in between other things, and still be making progress.  Eventually, though, I want to see visible progress: proof that all those little scraps will come together to make something beautiful.

That happened last night.  Some de-stressing sewing (after the marathon clean sweep adventure) resulted in 10 (of the 30 blocks) getting sewn together.

t-shirt quilt on the design surface

So the 2 bottom rows of the quilt are complete.  Feels good.  All the other blocks are at least to 9" x 9" size (most need to be enlarged to 12" x 12" finished size).  Seemed like a great time to lay it all out and pat myself on the back for being so clever.

Two of my favorite blocks, because of the centers
Sweetie went to college on a bowling scholarship, and played both rugby and football in her younger days.  Yep, I pronounce them cute as a button!

Gonna link up to Judy Laquidara's Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times.  Check out the fabulous work of others for inspiration.  Always a lot of inspiration to be had.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Clean Sweep, volume 2

The paper recycling bin runneth over
Been working away in my classroom, bit by bit.  Made a lot of joint progress over 4th of July weekend--with the help of my oh-so-tidy-and-organized Sweetie.  Since then, I have been spending about an hour and a half each weekday SORTing and TOSSing.  Getting curriculum materials put into file drawers.  With labels.

I swear, sometimes even the most basic accomplishments (files with LABELS!) seem to me like discovering fire.  Or inventing the wheel.  Sheesh.

But today...

Today was the last big push.  Final weekend day of the month of July.  And the deadline for getting the classroom tidy is July 31st.  Starting in August, it's time to start thinking about new classes I will teach in the next year.  (No time to process the past while I am planning the future.)

This is the stuff that goes away (not including trash)

TEN hours.  On a sunny July Sunday.  When the pool, and the garden, and the hiking trails all beckoned.  Ten hours in my classroom!  God Bless Sweetie.  She stayed with me, worked her fingers to the bone labeling and sorting and tossing.  And, most of all, kept me on task and focused on the parts that only I could do.  (Like the giant tote with mixed materials and notes from every math conference I have attended since 2001.  Gad zooks!  Did NOT want to go thru that tote.  But I did.)

The results

 The above pictures show just a bit of the excess baggage I was hiding in my cupboards (and drawers, and file cabinets, and boxes-shoved-in-corners).  We estimated 200 pounds of office paper are in that blue recycle bin.  (Wonder who gets to dump that out...)
 Oh my goodness.  So much room in those cupboards!

 I can find things!!! The file cabinets are equally lovely (although nowhere near as photogenic).

In Summary

I chose this photo to describe the transformation.  At the beginning of the total CLEAN SWEEP this summer, my paperclip storage was empty.  I had even asked a colleague for more paperclips, because I was totally out.  I had no idea that my paperclips were all being used up holding together USELESS bits of paper.  Ditto for my file folders, hanging file holders, 3-ring binders, notebook dividers, etc.  I have an excess of basic office supplies now, because they are not needed to contain or corral JUNK.

Flylady quote that seems most appropriate to the occasion:
"You cannot organize clutter.  You can only get rid of it."

Thank you, Sweetie!  I am years younger and pounds slimmer because of this.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Oakie has a backpack!

Started a completely new project, just in time for County Fair (entry due date: July 15th).  Made a tiny backpack for our intrepid traveling penguin, Oakie.  I had this planned for the past year, but had to wait for Oakie to come back from visiting his other parent on the East Coast.  (You know, because of fit issues.)

So. Darn. Cute.

My Method

backpack in blue buffalo check
First, let me give a shout-out to my mother, who sewed wardrobes of Barbie clothes all those years ago.  I now have a much greater appreciation of the patience needed to sew tiny details.  Thanks, Mom!

I measured across Oakie's back to estimate the size of backpack he could accommodate.  It was about 3" wide.  I had a commercial pattern for a children's backpack, McCall's 628.  The backpack to be made using that pattern ended up being about 12" wide when finished.  So I needed to make Oakie's pattern 1/4 of the original size.

Brilliant idea: use a 1" = 1/4" scale by transferring the measurements of the pattern from a 1" grid (like the one on my cutting mat!) to a 1/4" grid (most pads of graph paper use a 1/4" scale).
Original pattern piece
Miniature pattern piece

When using this method, transfer each pattern piece without seam allowances, then add your desired seam allowance back to the smaller piece.  Also, I had to determine how much turn-down would be needed for the casing, as I was certainly not going to use 3/4" elastic.

I wanted to mix fabrics, but the available space is so tiny!  Managed to fussy-cut the smallest dinosaurs for the flap and pocket; the pocket itself is lined with a green plaid (visible as trim along the top of the pocket); the back of the backpack is a blue/black mini-check (which was also supposed to be the lining, but really: lining?!); the straps are a mini polka-dot ribbon; and a coordinating yellow bias trim accents the flap.  Whew!  I think that counts as mixing fabrics.

Wish I had taken more photos before he left for the fair.  Alas, our boy is in the capable hands of the County Fair personnel.  I will go visit him next week and see if his tiny backpack has won a ribbon.  (Just wish that "cuteness" was one of the judging criteria.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kokopelli Quilting Company

Oakie checking out Southwest-themed fabrics
Visited Mom down in New Mexico earlier this summer.  She had not made it to any of the local quilt
shops in her area yet, because she was saving that adventure for me!  (What a sweet dear she is.)  So off we went, to Southwest Decoratives and Kokopelli Quilting Company.

What a lovely selection of Southwest-themed fabrics, quilt patterns, clothing patterns, and what-not!  I was drooling (of course), and Mom discovered the concept of fat quarters.  She had started piecing some Southwest fabrics awhile ago--chili peppers and Kokopelli being her favorite motifs--but decided she needed more fabric to stretch her piecing into a "large enough" size.  (I didn't ask her, "large enough for what?"  I know better.  I have boxes and bags of UFOs hidden away from inquiring smarty-pants' myself.)

Bought two jacket patterns.  I thought about making the Kokopelli Song Jacket one for Mom.  We'll see.  She actually prefers shades of blue (I'm the red/orange lover of the family.)

Jacket patterns from Southwest Decoratives
Can't you picture the jacket body in turquoise or deeper blues, Kokopelli's body in black, and the flying geese in pops of pink and brown?

And... I bought some fabric.  But it was on sale!

New quilting fabrics!

I got a yard of each of these fabrics.  I have been heeding stash-building advice to not buy so many novelty prints, so I thought these were safer bets than what usually catches my eye in the sale bin.  I am looking to use up some of my blue scraps soon, so the multi-blue dots seemed like they might bridge a lot of different blue hues.  And I am just in love with brown lately.  Can't explain it.  Buy what you love!

Existing fabric (left) & new fabric
Lest I be accused of adding to my stash too terribly much, let me add that I also was hoping these fabrics might go with the coordinating fabric for my daughter's (not yet started) t-shirt quilt.  Not that I had the coordinating fabric with me to actually check color or scale, mind you, but I was hoping.  So here are each of the new fabrics paired with the coordinate: what do you think?  Did I imagine the colors I was matching well enough?

Now, to praise Southwest Decoratives for going above and beyond: in the bag with my purchases, which I didn't discover until I got back home, were TWO freebies!  What a lovely thing to do!  I feel so special. 

Reminds me of a customer survey I filled out for a swanky hotel chain that asked if the hotel had any amenities that surprised and delighted me.  Yes, surprise and delight have become my go-to descriptors of amazing customer service. 

Freebies: butterfly fabric patch and a pattern

Kudos to Southwest Decoratives for the element of surprise.  I'm sure I will be back on my next visit to Albuquerque.

Monday, July 8, 2013

What does Santa say?

It's Christmas in July... coming soon.

Been working on designs for my super-secret Ho Ho Ho blog hop project.  One of the questions I must answer for the cross-stitch part of the project (it's a multi-media fabric/craft extravaganza!) is, "What does Santa say?"

There's the obvious "Ho, Ho, Ho!"  Nope, didn't make the cut.

Here are the two options I am considering:

I think that these go with very different Santas.  In fact, Sweetie steered me distinctly in one direction by painting a visual picture of the type of Santa that would accompany each saying: an elegant, Victorian gentleman Santa vs. a rustic, patches-on-his-coat, country Santa.

So... which saying won out?  Well, that depends entirely on which version of Santa is in the works, doesn't it?

And it just kills me that I can't let you in on the secret quite yet.  But check back on July 31st.  All will be revealed.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Friendly sewing

Went to stitch-n-bitch (aka Late Night at The Crow) with a goal: get moving on the stalled-out process of machine quilting a baby quilt.

I'm not that much of a machine-quilter.  In fact, I tend to lose steam anytime a project gets to the "big and unwieldy" stage.

But my friends helped out.  Not by doing any of the sewing, mind you, but by being there to distract me from the parts I don't love.
Seventeen sashing strips machine quilted. Woot.

And I wasn't the only one: Bonnie had also brought along a project that she had come to dislike.  Nothing like a little conversation to carry you through.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Clean Sweep, volume 1

The annual "clean my classroom over the summer" has taken on a new look this year.  Sweetie talked me into letting her help.  She is an expert organizer, and very tender with the easily-bruised feelings that come up when letting go of clutter.

I was very resistant to having help with this project.  I finally had to get out my journal and ask myself what was so scary about enlisting a helper.  A couple things came up:
  • It's my mess, my doing, and should thus be my responsibility.
  • Accepting help means I am a failure at organizing.  (Just to be clear: NOT TRUE)
  • I can pretend the mess is not really as bad as it is, as long as no one else sees it.

Well, a therapeutic hour of journal time later, and I was ready to tackle the mess.  With help.

My mess.
First order of business: empty everything out.  Really??  Everything?!?  Talk about resistance.  "I just cleaned that cupboard out last summer, it's not a priority."  "This drawer is working for me, why do I need to empty it out?"

Just like on the tv show Clean Sweep, we spent time taking everything out.  I always wondered how long that process takes (on tv, it is a brief montage, usually with catchy music playing).  Well, for this room: 1 hour.

The key to this process taking only an hour was to not try and do any sorting, or make any decisions about what to keep or what to toss.  Also, I had to keep the judgments at bay, or I would have been an emotional wreck from continually beating myself up for letting the space get so cluttered.

I was reminded by my darling Sweetie that 90% of everyone has some form of mess like this, somewhere in their life.  I am not alone.  And in fact, by confronting my mess head-on and without fear, I am actually going to make things better.  Not just a little bit.  A LOT.

After the haul-out, we spent some time looking for "low-hanging fruit" -- items that are easy to categorize as keep or toss.  Not as easy as I would have hoped, and I quickly became frustrated.

I have been listening to an audio course: Get Organized the Clear & Simple Way by Marla Dee.  She breaks the "do it" phase of organizing  (after "see it" and "map it" have been accomplished) into steps, starting with SORT. 

So that's what I have been doing the past couple days, working on my own without assistance:  SORT. 

Just sort things into like categories, with bold labels on each category.  Don't make decisions about keep or toss (that's why I can be trusted to do this step on my own), just sort. 

Today's success: in just over an hour, I was able to sort my way through this entire stack of papers.  (And believe me, at least 50% of the stacks of papers in my room are mish-mash miscellaneous, in desperate need of sorting.)

There you have it: on my way to a cleaner classroom.  And I'm pretty sure that this year, it's gonna get WAAAAY cleaner than it ever has been before.