Monday, January 23, 2012

2011: The Year I Learned to Sew

My mom loved this stupid blog despite the fact that I update only when I feel like it, make no effort to promote it and take horrible pictures, usually with my phone.  She died the day after Christmas; she was 56.

In fact, my mom loved all my lame attempts at making stuff.  My Etsy shop was a thrilling endeavor in her eyes and she'd patiently been waiting for me to hurry up and finish a damn novel since I was ten. For my 35th birthday in October she and my siblings bought me (a sure to be awesome) serger that ought to arrive in the next week.  I'll be posting my enthusiastic attempts at creation with that machine too, so watch out Internet.   

I haven't made anything yet this year, still working things out in my mind and haven't had the focus or drive, so in the meantime, here is a rundown of the sewing and craft projects that didn't make the blog in 2011 because I couldn't get my act together to get them up:

1.  Abby's mermaid costume:  made for a winter-time "Mermaids & Pirates" themed birthday party thrown by one of her best little friends.  The dress is a simple pinafore in crushed panne velvet.  It is unlined because I figured she'd only wear it once anyway.  I used an iron on mermaid patch that Abby fell in love with at the fabric store on the front and used Velcro down that back instead of buttons.  I had many things going on at the time so pictures are what the are:

Best full length photo I took, sadly.

Poor Ariel had to field a lot of questions about how she can live underwater.

Abigail the Angry Mermaid:  Nap time!
The fin is made of some sort of sparkly synthetic material and backed in the same crushed velvet-  trust me, it was awesome, despite how it might look in these photos.  I made it without a pattern, just drew it on the back of the fabric (on the fold so that it would be symmetrical).  I inserted matching ribbon so that it could be tied on like an apron and easily taken off if she wanted to ditch it (she never did).  I stuffed the bottom of the fin with fabric scraps.  If I made this again I would use thick batting instead so that it wouldn't shift as much.  The shell necklace is a souvenir from a long ago trip to Hawaii and finally had a real purpose.  The most fun for me was the hair clip which was made in about 15 minutes right before the party.  I'll be making way more of these, just better. 

2.  My Cleopatra costume:  made for Halloween, I didn't finish it in time because Abby got sick and I went instead as the Statue of Liberty, a homemade costume I purchased the year before.  The Cleopatra dress is made with crepe back gold satin (very pretty and high quality), lined in bleached muslin and absolutely festooned with tacky rhinestones. 

I used a fantastic product called "Jewel It!" to attach the sparklies.  It worked great and is completely washable. 

The weird cape/wrap thing wasn't easy to sew.  The material is terrible.  The Greek key ribbon looks okay now, but it was an absolute pain in the ass to attach properly, both at the bodice and along the edge of the skirt lining.  Fitting it was ridiculous because I don't have a dress form.  I'd have to mock it up in muslin and then try it on and awkwardly pin and mark myself using the mirror in the bathroom.  Eventually I found it easier to take photos of myself in it so that I could see the how it fit without contorting my body and messing it up.   A dress form is definitely on my list of things to look into in 2012.

Tip for beginners:  The least effective way of fitting a garment is to do it on yourself with a cellphone.

3.  Canvas chalkboards:  I have a joke of a number of standing appointments each day- kids to school and back, gym classes, lessons (piano, dance), sports (soccer, t-ball), personal training, therapy, doctor's visits, vitamin shots, etc.  Oh yeah, and work!  I realized at some point that my husband had NO IDEA what I was doing everyday or why I was always running out the door again.  I bought a set of pre-stretched canvas squares at Michael's and painted them with chalkboard paint leftover from the Library Book Box

They've gone crooked a bit, haven't they? 

Abby is my Cleverbucket and Henry is my Smartypants.  FYI.

I used a sponge brush to cut down on brush marks, but if you look real close you can see them.  It took a couple of coats.  Writing on them was not as easy as I'd hoped since there is no backing to press down on in the middle, but the chalk pens worked okay. These serve as a basic template to each day of the week.  There are always changes and things come up but this is the outline of my life. 

The list of rules for what needs to be done when we get home from school each day has worked especially well with the kids.  I just point to it when I get any fuss about changing out of uniforms or getting snack before lunchboxes are cleaned out.  For whatever reason the fact that the rules are posted makes it harder for my kids to argue a point, despite the fact that they can barely read.  Rules on chalkboards work well in the playroom too.  These were made reusing the Dollar Store chalkboards from Abby's birthday party.

4.  Kid's chore charts:  same goes with the chore charts, having them posted makes getting them to do it way easier!  I made these with my Cricut and a laminating machine.  I've had this set up close to a full year now and it's stood up pretty well.  They are velcroed to the file folders and then hung on clipboards in the kitchen.  I made a few blank ones so I could write down any special tasks or things they don't need to do regularly with a dry erase pen.  At the end of the week they get a coin (penny or quarter whatever I have on hand) for each star on their chart. 

Mostly pictures because I made these before Henry could read at all.

The book and pencil used to be for writing practice but Henry now interprets it as homework.  Which he has everyday so I need to make more.  I never had homework in Kindergarten! 

Clorox wiping the door knobs is probably her most serious "job".

Stars!  I should earn some stars for making them do their chores- that's the hard part after all.
The only downside to the chore chart system is that you have to monitor and enforce it as the adult and a lot of times I'm just too lazy.  Chores are done haphazardly in our house.  Some weeks I'm on it with the kids, other weeks, not so much, but they are still really young and the chores (other then feeding the dog and brushing their teeth) are not exactly high priority jobs or even really "jobs"-  more like "life tasks" that will get done regardless of whether or not I chart it.  I've found being lazy is the biggest impediment to good parenting.

5.  More Doodle Stitching:  I worked on these while at the hospital with my mom.  They were already traced out originally for Abby's mermaid costume.  As a person who has spent a lot of time in hospitals (and I have in the last several years, way more then I'd wish on anyone) I will tell you that eventually you find yourself  bored out of your mind.  It is a particularly draining kind of boredom since it festers beneath worry and helplessness whether you are the patient or not and I have been both.  Embroidery is the perfect task in that it is portable and easy to start and stop.  It is both mindless and focused. 

I have no idea what to do with these now.  More nautical hair clips for Abby?
Embroidery keeps you busy, but keeps you in the moment-  it isn't engrossing in the same way a book might be and you can chat and seem generally available to nurses/doctors/family/friends.  I did forget to bring both scissors and thread though.  Tip for (hospital) beginners:  dice and a pen and paper can save you from terrible anxiety.  My sister keeps dice in her purse (because she's awesome) and she once kept me company in a surgical waiting room by playing Kismet for, like, three hours. No joke. Also no joke?  I bought a pound of dice from Amazon for my husband for Christmas. 

I should organize this drawer.  This looks like we are hardcore gamblers. 

He was... confuzzled.  I thought it was a fun gift!  Who doesn't like dice?  I still need to throw a Farkle party.

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