Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sewing For Myself Week #4

Berry Barn Designs
It's hard to believe this is the end of the 4th week of the 4x7 sewing challenge from berrybarndesigns.  The challenge was to spend 30 minutes a day, all month, sewing for the pleasure of making things for ourselves.

During week #1, I thought I'd get my sewing room organized, a goal I've hand since the dawn of time.  Instead, I whipped up a sewing machine cover that I fell madly in love with and did a couple of of odds and ends.

Week #1 was a snow week, literally 5 days off of school, so finding time was a breeze.

During week #2, I embarked on a heart quilt.  I think I had started planning it out in week #1 but I really made progress during week #2.  Because I didn't have an actual pattern, just a picture I found online, I've been winging it all month.  The half square triangles were a fun challenge, which is good because I needed 231 of them.  I made them way too big, so now I have an enormous quilt on my hands, rather than a throw or wallhanging as I intended.

Week #2 shocked me with my inability to devote 30 minutes each day to sewing.  I made up for it by spending more time on other days, but it was a surprise that 30 minutes isn't really available to me every day.

During week #3, I worked diligently on the heart quilt and had to make sure those band uniforms were done, done, done.  That wasn't so much selfish sewing as better get it done so I get paid sewing. 

Week #3 was February vacation and also a big snowstorm, so finding time was a little easier.  Sort of.  I ended up teaching a class the mornings of that week and beanster came to visit so I was very busy being entertained by her.

This past week was week #4.  Back to work, no beanster to entertain me and difficulty finding 30 minutes every day.

Serious ice and snow.  This was the skating rink that was my driveway for most of the week.  We got more snow on top of it which made it deathly for a couple of days but as the snow melts and refreezes every night, it's getting crunchy and slightly better for traction.

I only slid under my Jeep once this week.  I was just trying to get into it....

We had a day of flurries all day long which made this view one of the prettiest since I've been at this school.
After I posted it on instagram, I realized it looks like the snowdrifts go right up to the doors, which they do.  But this is the courtyard outside my classroom and those doors are not the main classroom doors, so no one has touched the courtyard.   I love untouched snow.

This view never gets old, even when it's been my morning view for 30+ days.  Seriously more than a months since I've seen bare ground on the front yard.

With all of that, significant progress was made on the quilt front.
I got the whole top put together and realized that these last two rows, the rows with the smallest number of red and pink squares, were upside down.  I internally cried for a minute and then realized I didn't have to remove the entire rows.  I just took out the sections where the squares were upside down and flipped and resewed them.


All of the hsts and their white balance squares are together.  Most of the points are visible and I'm pretty happy with that.  I am lazy and refuse to trim my squares before sewing them.  I prefer to wiggle them and coax them into line.  Really, I'm afraid that my reference point will be off and I'll cut them all wrong and really be in a mess.  I find it easier to push them around and make the seams go where I need them.

To balance out the odd rectangular shape, I will add a couple of rows of just white squares.  It's now too wide to be a throw but not wide enough to be an actual bed quilt.

I have a fantasy about something pink and red along the edge.  Something about half of a hst, maybe.  I have no idea what that will be like.

I think the shape might still be odd, even with the addition of the white rows, so I have some thinking and ironing to do this week.

Now that the 4x7 sewing challenge is over, I feel a little lost!  I'd like to thank Sarah at berrybarndesigns for this challenge.  I never participate in any sewalongs or challenges but the timing was just right.  It really made me think more about sewing and why I do it and how I'd like to experiment and never do.  I liked having to "check in" every week and see where everyone else was in their progress.

I also discovered that even in the dead of winter, when it's cold in my sewing room, with the right clothes, it's really not that bad and the light is really amazing when I get up there in the afternoon.  So now, I really have no excuses.

But, I'm a little sad with no one to check on my progress!  That means you all better keep coming back so you can see the finished product!

Linking up here: 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sewing For Myself Week #3

Berry Barn DesignsWell, what a week this has been.

When I decided to do 4x7 sewing challenge,  I thought 30 minutes a day of sewing time would be easy to work into my routine.  Hardy ha ha ha ha hah.

It was a breeze the first week, when I had snow days up the wazoo.

The second week proved impossible but I made up for my time on the weekend.  I didn't realize how hard it would be to find 30 extra minutes for fun sewing time.

The third week was vacation, so I thought it would be just like my snow week.

Fat chance.

You might recall my serger disaster a month ago.  That's right, a whole month ago.  I was in the middle of making these band uniforms when my serger came to a screaming halt.  Actually it was a big clunk and then a halt.  And I sat completely speechless for about a whole minute and then went to the local place that can repair them.

A whole entire month later, I finally got it back.  All I had left to do at the point was sew up the side seams and make the dreaded hoods.  I could have done both without the serger but I knew it would look so much more finished with serged seams.  Plus, that hood needs to be super stretchy, and only a serger can get the right effect.

 I was so thrilled to have it back.  No only did she fix the looper that was broken, she replaced the bulb and the little holder at the back for 2 of the spools.  It broke off as I put it in the car and I figured  I could live without it, but for a reasonable price, I was able to get a new one.

So, I sat down Saturday to get serging and spent the next hour or more threading, rethreading, swearing, almost screaming, rethreading, bribing, swearing, almost crying.  And then completely giving up.

I was ready to drive right back to the store and demand that someone fix it right then, not some time over the next month.  But, I hoped it would just magically cure itself overnight.

And it did.  So off I went sewing all of the side seams and the hoods, lickety split.  Except it wasn't so lickety split because I needed to get more of the hood fabric but there was a snow day, so I had to wait.

And we had a concert to attend one of the nights.

Eventually, all 23 hoods and shirts were done!

 They opted to take away the red belt and swinging piece.  That was the only part of the costume I really like and it was my favorite to make.  I had made a little channel for the red part to hang down and be able to move freely.

But, it was a lot less work without it and definitely saved them a lot of money.
23 hoods tops off the box and off they went.  Now to get a picture of them in action!

So, I could finally focus on myself for the rest of the week.

Except that I forgot to mention the little class I was teaching at the cultural center every morning.  This summer, my friend and I are putting on a fashion show of silk clothing that she had painted and designed.    She wants to have some kids in the show.  So we got this harebrained idea to teach them how to paint and then sew.

And it was a fantastic class and the kids were great.  But it ate up 3 hours of every morning all week.

And then we had a visit from Beanster at the end of the week, which was fun but took up more hours of daylight time.

I prefer to sew in daylight because it's warmer and brighter in my sewing room.  No matter the light situation, at night, I just don't have good light in there.

In any case, I managed to make up for the lack of 30 minutes a day by spending many more minutes when I had the time.  I think I had all of the HST squares cut and ironed last week, so this week, I had to decide what to do about the background.  Remember, I wasn't supposed to buy anything for this 4x7 challenge because I wanted to use up things I already had in my stash.

It so happens that I had a sheet left over from a project I did.  I like to use sheets sometimes in a quilts, which I know is somehow cheating.  I just like the firmness of the fabric.  With a million HSTs that are all slippery and off sized, nice solid sheet material was a welcome relief for stability.

So, one night, while I wasn't sewing, I pressed the sheet, which was a major accomplishment for that day.
Then I had to determine the size of my HST squares.  It turns out that because I didn't use a pattern and made up the sizes, my squares are 3 7/8 inches.  That's not too random.....  So I cut all of my squares from the sheet another night, having to count and do weird math to make it right.

I hope I have enough white because I'm sure I have no idea what the brand of sheet was so I can't get another exact one.

Finally, I got all of my clipped rows and got to work.  To try to maintain some organization, after I laid out the squares last week, I numbered clothespins and clipped each row with the first square on top being the left side of the row.  It's my answer to the little alphabittles I've seen.

This worked really well until I forgot to check off a row on my self made pattern and thought I had miscounted and almost had a disaster.  Must check off row by row!

Pressing as I go is unheard of when I sew.  I can't use an iron in my sewing area, and running up and down stairs with projects in tow is no fun, so I usually do a lot of moving, poking and prodding, but not ironing.

I'm determined to do this one the right way, so up and down I've been going, pressing, pinning, sewing, pressing some more.

And so far, I love how it's coming together.  It's just so huge!!  I think this might be the first time I've ever made a quilt and haven't seen it get smaller as I make it.  I swear it's growing wider and wider!

I will confess that I haven't trimmed a single square.  I can't figure out how to trim things without making everything much worse, so I just wiggle and coax the fabric and hope it all lines up.  I worry that I will think I have just the right template and then cut everything wrong.

As I write this, I realize I have no idea what I'm going to do for batting or the backing.  I'm not supposed to buy anything new, I declared.  And I have tons and tons of leftover batting pieces but I always hear that piecing batting is a recipe for screaming and swearing.  And I don't know if I have anything big enough to back this mother.  Even in many pieces.

Time for the extra creativity to pop out right about now!

Linking here:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

All This Modern Technology

I've mentioned before on this blog that I'm a reluctant embracer of technology but I don't let it go for long before I learn about it and start using it myself.

As a teacher, I feel like I have to keep on top of all the latest technology or my students will be able to take over and I won't have a clue!  I think back to my sister's friend who somehow was able to control the VCR in the classroom with his watch and the teacher went bananas trying to figure out what was wrong with the VCR.

If you don't know what VCR is, you're too young to be reading this blog.  Run along and play or I'll tell your mother.

I was the last kid on the block to get a cell phone.  The only reason I finally caved was because of a month long trip to Europe that made me feel like I really needed to have a quick and easy way to communicate.  Without having to get a card from the local convenience store and use a pay phone because at the time, that was how you made a call in Europe.

So, in 2003, I got the cheapest phone available and went with T Mobile because they were the only company that offered an overseas plan at the time.  It's laughable today to think that I had to work hard to find a company that would let me use an American service in France!

I swore when I got home I wasn't going to continue the plan, so I didn't do a contract.  Back then, there wasn't a required commitment.  But, I also had to pay full price for my phone at that time.

Of course I kept my plan when I got home, but I'm one of those annoying people who doesn't carry their phone on them at all times.  I don't have a smartphone.  I don't have a data plan.

I still have the simplest plan I could get back in 2003 and the phone to prove it.  I can text and call and that's all I really need to do.

That isn't my original phone, but when mine croaked last year, I had to make a decision.  The school district gave us ipads, so I basically have a smartphone without the calling plan.  Did I really want to spend money to upgrade my plan and phone when I really don't need to spend any more time online than I currently do?

Nope.  I decided to go with the old flip phone and it's served me well.  And it's a fascination for my students if they see it because it's antique looking.

But the point of this post isn't to rehash my phone buying decisions.

It's to discuss people's use of phones and sharing their phones and people touching each others' phones.

I'm a little wary of germs and I believe that phones are petri dishes growing superbugs that will not only make us all sick, but will know how to use the technology on which they were bred and take over the world.   If they haven't already.

So, I don't love it when someone shoves their phone at me to look at a picture and suggests that I scroll through to look at more.  I find myself holding it like it's a Faberge egg and using only the minutest edge of the pad of my finger to scroll around.

I'm appalled when I'm in the fabric store and the cashier is handed a phone to scan the coupon that the customer just found through the app on their phone.  I see this all the time now and it just makes my skin crawl.

I remember a time when asking to borrow someone's phone was a party foul.  Now people are throwing their phones at each other like they're today's newspaper, with nary a thought about what they might be spreading all over those touch screens.

Since each student in my school has an ipad to use in school, I'm very familiar with filthy ipad screens.  You'd have to tie me up before I'd let a student touch my ipad screen, but on rare occasions, I have to touch their screens.  Like last week when they were sharing something with me in google docs and because teacher email addresses are a million characters long, I felt it was easier to just type it in myself.

And then I took myself for a booster of everything I could find because their screens felt soooooooo nasty.  I just wanted to cut my fingers right off!

We were all raised not to use anyone else's toothbrush or chew anyone's gum after it had been in their mouth.  Given what I see people do before and after swiping their screens, we might as well have one community toothbrush in public bathrooms.  It would probably be more sanitized, especially if it were a bathroom that gets sprayed with sanitizer every time someone leaves the bathroom.

I have a little confession to make:  I wipe my ipad screen( and the case it lives in) with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol on a pretty regular basis.  My friend who is a nurse practitioner told me about this trick and said it didn't ruin her ipad.  So every few days, or every day as we are in flu season, I give it a serious going on.  I'd dip it right in an alcohol bath if I could get away with it!

Linking here:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sewing For Myself Week #2

Berry Barn Designs
Since I'm participating in berrybarndesigns 4x7 challenge this month, I've been thinking 24/7 about this project that I want to finish.

It's really hard to find 30 minutes every day to sew, but I spend more time some days to make up for it.

I had already started this project last week, when I went to the website I had pinned and counted the number of squares.

The heart alone has 231 squares which seemed ridiculous after I did the first 120, so I had to count again.   And it's really 231.

So, this week was spent amassing 231 half square triangles.  I like using them because of their precision, but I don't love  how time consuming they can be to cut.

The method I've always used in the past was to cut the squares, draw a line down the middle of the top color for each square and then sew 1/4 inch on each side of that.

Drawing the lines makes me crazy.  I sew because I can't draw, so making me draw lines in order to sew?  Really annoying!

But, my sister and my  mother told me about a technique where you sew all the way around a larger square and then cut on each diagonal.  No drawing lines!

Since this is a pattern with no directions that I am totally winging, I made up my own size squares.  I don't know how their method would work if the squares had to be a certain size.

I cut 6 inch squares of pinks and reds.  I don't like 1/4 inch seams because I find that they come undone after years of wear and washing, so now I do something other than 1/4 inch.  Again, because there are no rules to follow, I'm not sure what the seam allowance is but I think it's closer to 1/2 inch.

After pressing more than 231 squares, I laid them out.  This is much bigger than I expected.

It will be smaller once it's sewn, but I was not quite expecting it to be so big.  like twin bed size.

Ooops.  That's what happens when I go rogue and make up my own thing.

Now I have to cut the background squares and then put it all together this week.  It's vacation week, but I have a commitment every morning to bring my sewing machine for a class, so I'm curious how many days I will bother to bring it back into the house to do my own thing.

This challenge is really keeping my feet to the fire!

Oh, I almost forgot.

I started the week with this selfish sewing project.

No, not a garter belt.  I was trying to make my own headbands that actually might stay in place but after two attempts with different things, I'm done.  I have to wear a headband because I have a bald spot after having something removed from the top of my head.  Most of the hair that's actually growing is about 3/4 in tall and pushing up the plastic headbands I've been wearing, so I tried fabric.  The commercial brands just don't stay in place, no matter how thick or thin they are.

So then I thought if I used swimsuit elastic, which seems to have some rubberiness to it, maybe it would stay right where I put it because it couldn't slide on my hair.  No luck.  It was even more slippery!

Then I tried sewing a piece of ribbon onto some elastic.  No luck.

I'm one of those people whose heads just aren't conducive to headband wearing.  I see it all the time in my students.  Some girls look great in them and they never slide while others come in and their headbands have slipped so it looks like they are wearing crowns.

So, it's back to plastic headbands for me for a while.

As we wait for even more snow, I'm off to see what I can do while I still have electricity!

Linking here: 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What Gets You In The Sewing Groove?

While I'm participating in berrybarndesigns 4x7challenge this month, I'm sewing or actually in my sewing room more than usual.

See, my sewing room is devoted to sewing, but it's in a very cold room upstairs where there is heat, but I keep it as low as possible.  We need to make sure the pipes don't freeze, but the insulation is so insufficient, turning up the heat is like putting a heater on the lawn in just saying have at it.

So, I have my special sewing vest that I wear which keeps me surprisingly warm, and if I time it right, I get the afternoon sun, so I have the illusion of being warm.

Since the wiring in that part of the house is questionable, I don't dare use an iron in my sewing room or anywhere upstairs.  This means that any ironing requires running up and down the stairs, project in hand.  It's fabulous when I put a quilt together and by the time I've ironed a row of squares and get back upstairs, I can't remember which direction the squares are meant to go.

You might think I'd have a system in place to remember if the top square is the first square on the left or the last square on the right, but I don't seem to be able to make that system stick.

As you've read many times, I make sewing as difficult as possible for myself!

But, through all of this whining, I do manage to get a lot done thanks to the help of modern technology.  It used to be my CD player.   I'd put on a few different CDs and just sew away, singing my brains out.

Then there was the invention of the portable DVD player that I got for free when I signed up for Directv but it turned out that I don't love to watch movies enough to take advantage of that.

And then, the ipad came into my world.  It's the TV I've never had in my sewing room.  It's my little sidekick that plays shows I can't find the time to watch when they come on in real time.

And now, it's The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon that does it for me.  I never stay up late enough to watch, and until recently, I'd have quite a few episodes backed up that I hadn't seen, so I could just binge watch them and sew to my heart's content.  Now I'm a little more caught up, so I have to resort to other options:

Downton Abby from the Sunday before.  Wow is this season entertaining or what??

The Celebrity Apprentice which has totally passed its prime but if I'm sewing, I'll watch.

Nashville which has been on hiatus but I think has returned.  That show is better than people think and needs to stay on.

And if I'm really in a bind, I'll try to find something on Netflix.  Now that Friends is available on Netflix, I have to seriously refrain from even opening the website because I'd sit and watch and never turn it off.  That is my absolute favorite show of all time.

Except for the first 3 seasons.  I didn't love those days.  But the last few seasons were my favorite.

Occasionally, as with last week, I'll have a book on tape and that takes precedence over all other entertainment.  Unless it's a project where I have to read directions and be precise.  Then I can't listen to a book on tape because I miss crucial details.

It's amazing how fast I get to work when I have some kind of audio or visual entertainment.  And how much I don't notice the mayhem on my sewing room floor.  Or the cold (or hot in the summer but that's another whine for another day).

What keeps you focused?  What do you do for entertainment when you sew?  And do you have the luxury of everything you need in one room, or do you have to traipse through the house like me, with projects in pieces all over the place?

Linking here:

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sewing For Myself Week 1

Berry Barn Designs

Over the years that I've had my blog, I've sewn and not sewn.  I'd be all hot and heavy with something for a while and then leave my machine for weeks, months with nary a stitch.

I'm not sure what got it all going in the last 6 months, but I suppose it was my newfound enjoyment of sewing with knits, thanks to my sister and the amazing patterns of kitschycoo.  Suddenly, I was a sewing maven and I've really ramped it up in the past month because I took on the role of seamstress for the our local high school Winter Guard.  It's like a percussion//flag corps group that performs and wins prizes, in case you haven't heard of it.  It's often kids who are in marching band and since it takes place in winter, it keeps them active in band after the fall marching season.  Everything they perform is inside, usually in a gym.

They came to me with this and asked if I could whip up a little something like it.  There was a time in the 90s when I made 20 sets of mariachi sleeves for some marimba thing they did but alas, there are no pictures of that extravaganza.  This time, at the first inkling that I might be interested, they provided me with black t-shirts and off I went.  Once I got into the groove, it was like a factory in my sewing room and there's  been nothing but gold and silver all over my sewing room.

And when I say all over, I truly mean ALL.OVER.  I'm like a pig in slop when it comes to sewing and no inch of space is spared from the whirlwind that is fabric and thread. I'm not sure I even breathe when I get into a groove like that.  I turn on a book on tape and hours later, I'm drowning in spent threads and piles of work.

When berrybarndesigns offered a 4x7 sewing challenge for the month of February, I was intrigued.  Her simple guidelines state to spend 30 minutes every day sewing for yourself.  Each week, post what you've done and there will be prizes to win.

Not making crafts for someone else.  Not making costumes for any of your charity groups.  Not tailoring curtains for your neighbor's living room.

Just sew for yourself.

What a concept.  I've never thought of anything like it!  Just sew for ME?  WHAT????

Ok, honestly, most of the sewing I've done since July has been for me, with all of the fabulous knits I've made.  But as I was in the middle of costumes AND it was a snow week (literally 5 snow days in a row!) I jumped on board.

30 minutes a day?  How hard can that be?

And on the first day I got to work and whipped out an adjusted shirt for myself that I've been meaning to take in for like a year.  Bang, 30 minutes, no problem.

The second day, I tackled my sewing machine cover.  I had mentioned to berrybarndesigns that my big goal might be a sewing machine cover because I've never made one for myself and I saw one of hers and really liked the idea.

I went into my sewing room with actual intentions of simply spending 30 minutes trying to do some organizing in my sewing room, rather than actually sewing.  But, the next thing I knew, I had this ugly thing in my hands and I started thinking.

It's a plasticy thing that has kind of lost its niceness over the time I've had it.  It's kind of marked and dirty- weird since I rarely take it out of the house- and it had sort of lost its shape.  As I was wondering what I'd do for fabric, my eyes fell upon this amazing stash of home dec that someone at school had put up for grabs.

Amazing because it's all pretty substantial cuts of nice home dec.  And no one has claimed that they put it out there, so I truly don't know where it came from.  It's so fabulous that my sister actually said "are you sure it was out there for free" when I posted it on instagram.

I actually went back to the lounge to make sure that the sign really said free.  And I didn't take it all, just what I thought I would use.  I'm nice like that, not being greedy.....

I thought I was going to make a patchwork cover.  Probably because I'd seen one online that was patchwork and I liked it.

I started thinking about how complicated I was going to make it, because I sure love to complicate things.  Cut all the squares, put them together neatly, iron, trim.  Sigh.  And then I remembered!

I must have known this was going to be the first star in the stash  because I already had this featured picture in my photos as I started writing this post.

Already made patchwork!  The colors are just so amazing.  I'd like to make an entire wardrobe of this I love it so much.  In my previous life, I would have been Lilly Pulitzer though I think when people actually wear clothes of these colors they look ridiculous.  But for home dec items, especially in a feminine sewing room, it's perfection!

So, I got to work cutting up the plastic cover that came with my machine and then I cut the fabric approximately the same sizes as the pieces.

I knew that I wanted to do a light batting between two fabrics so I could quilt it and I was pretty sure that a soft flannel inside would let it glide right over the machine when I put it on.

I had already decided that everything I do in this 4x7 challenge had to involve my stash and that nothing was to be bought.  Not even thread.  I don't have quite the extensive stash of some people I see on instagram, but I've amassed some peculiar fabrics over time, so this challenge is all about rediscovering those and using them.

I have a very large assortment of pieces of batting left over from quilts.  I always hang onto them thinking I will do something (potholders, it seems) and then nothing ever happens with them.  I was thrilled to have a purpose for some of those pieces.

For the inside, I picked a flannel that I used for a baby quilt ages ago that I wasn't impressed with.  Something about it made me think it would pill and though I never heard from the owner (I can't even remember who I gave it to- how sad!) I suspect it died a slow death over time.  So, I had some scraps left that would be fine for the inside.

No one ever looks at the inside, right?  And that's a good thing because while my serger is in the hospital (going on THREE WEEKS now) I can't do those fabulous finished seams that I am so used to, so I'm really unhappy with the unfinished look of the inside.  I've been so spoiled for all these years having a serger to clean up all those jagged seams!

But no one will care, except for me.

So, I give you my masterpiece.

My favorite part is the detail I made at the opening for the handle but my second favorite is the band at the  bottom.  It was also in the home dec pile and I just think it pulls it all together so well.
I did my signature quilting stitch which is just the widest wave I can do on a pretty big stitch width.  I did it in both directions so it's well quilted.  It works really well for me on small pieces and it really gives a great quilted look.  I did a hot pink thread on both sides and I love how it stands out on some pieces and blends with others.

And, unlike that plastic cover, this can be throw in the wash if I ever deem that it's dirty enough from all the dust it collects.

I like to walk into my sewing room and just look at it.  I really makes me smile every time, especially as the explosion of gold and silver (or the remains of any project I've made) hasn't been cleaned up yet.  Those colors do a lot for me in the doldrums of winter with my oddly gray wardrobe.

I have enough to make a cover for my serger if it ever returns, and I can't wait.  That will be a little tricky because of the shape and because that cover is flimsy plastic so I can't really copy it as easily as I did the first one.

I'll confess that this was more than 30 minutes on one day, but since it was a snow day, I had the time.  It totally made up for the lack of time I had once school was back in session.  It was impossible on a couple of days to take 30 minutes to sew, so I was glad I had done this already!

So, are you ready to join in and give yourself the freedom to sew just for you?  Did I mention that she has PRIZES???  Link up here!

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