Friday, September 28, 2012

Looking Ahead

Hello friends!

Here I am with random updates. I haven't had anything to blog about recently, so I just stayed away and did my own thing. Did you notice that I didn't apologize? I've heard that you're supposed to say "sorry" to your readers if you copped out of posting for a certain number of days (e.g. 1). I say Bah! to that. I was busy swimming. And I baked cornish pasties, which took two whole days. Also shortbread. And I was painting. And procrastinating. I've actually been meaning to write this post for a while but I wanted to procrastinate on that. What fun! All this time I thought procrastinating was limited to just sewing and cardboard. Now I've discovered I can procrastinate on blogging, too! What a versatile bad habit!

But okay - updates:

1 Bad Days
I love all your Bad Days stories and superhero costumes, capes and shirts. Reading about them gave me definite Good Days vibes. Thank you, friends! And hang in there, if you're in a Bad Day funk right now- as they say, "This, too, shall pass".

2 Bella Bag Auction and Sale and Whatnot
Since I've been asked, here's the tally. The bags were sold within hours, thanks to you wonderful folks! I have no bags left (except the one I made for myself). Samaritan's Purse gets $415.00 and I'm feeling very humbled and yet proud that I get to contribute to their awesome work by selling things my hands made. It blows my mind. Thank you all for your generosity!

3 Halloween
You've actually written/hinted about wanting to see what costumes I'm making this year! I haven't started! Remember how I procrastinate every year until the week before? And then finish my costumes several days after Halloween itself? Well, the plan is to keep to exactly the same pathetic modus operandi in 2012. Why change something that clearly doesn't work but is such a comfortable rut to be stuck in? I will share, though, that so far, the girls are swaying dangerously towards the wretched princess/fairy thing again. They tricked me with that whole ungirly archery party tangent. They still want gowns and sparkles and rainbows and wings and ....ahhhhhhh! More of the same for Halloween!!!!! I surrender.  Just to make it slightly fun for me, however, I think I am going to introduce fake corsets. Last week I was in JoAnn looking for zippers and found myself in the fleece aisle, checking out costume raw materials. Flabbergasted because this was me being uncommonly efficient and plan-ahead-ish. Successfully removed myself to the aisles containing useless and generic notions instead.

Also people have also written to ask if I will sell them the costumes I've made for my girls, if my girls have outgrown them. Alas, no. I will never sell those dresses. Even if they are outgrown, the girls are still using them to play Dress Store aka Boutique. And they still doggedly squeeze into them if they can. Those dresses are much loved and we plan to keep them for as long as the moths will let us and someday hand them down to our daughters' daughters, if we are so blessed. 

4 Jenna's Birthday Party
And this is the real reason Halloween gets the rush treatment every year. Jenna has some charmingly unrealistic ideas for her 2012 party, including a papier-mache ("Not cardboard, Mom, because that's not waterproof but papier mache is!") pinata that, when a string is pulled, dispenses actual water, not candy. It's taking us a while to steer her towards a workable theme because Jenna is a person who knows exactly what she wants and who will tell you, "Hrmph. My ideas are better than yours". Once we have a workable theme, we can get started on party prep and then maybe the Halloween costumes will have a chance to see fruition.

5 Fall Sewing
Almost a month into the start of the school year, I've finally conceded that the girls need hoodies. Well, Jenna needs a new zip-up reversible hoodie and Emily needs pullover fleece hoodies and maybe an upgrade on her old zip-up one. I've got the fleece and I scribbled their measurements on the back of a store receipt somewhere, so I really have no excuse not to get started. I might even sew them beanie-type hats if I feel a particular need to avoid starting on the H. costumes.

6 Painting
I've been painting late into the night the past couple of weeks. I'm almost done with the project I was telling you about here. Who would've thought I'd finish it before Christmas? Painting is so therapeutic in ways that sewing will never be. I will share photos soon.

7 Bibs
I've been making bibs. It's dreadful. Not because I've gone and reverted to an old obsession but because I take them everywhere with me. It makes me look like a weirdo. And everyone asks me about them. Which is awkward because I generally dislike talking about sewing projects with other people. For one, what faster way to lose credibility as a sane human being than to tell people I make chickens and pigs that perform suspicious bodily functions? There are times I wish I could say, "Oh, I quilt." and look superior. Nobody would bat an eyelash at a response as regular as that. For another, I don't sew because it's a thrilling hobby I'm excited about - I just sew. I'd much rather talk about swimming or music or the state of the education system or ways to stop bullying in schools or whatever. Case in point: yesterday at the pool watching the kids at their lessons, a lady came up to me and asked me if I was selling my bibs at craft fairs. Horrified. Managed to choke out, "No!" and then felt compelled to explain, lest she think I was being selfish and hoardish of my bibs. Eventually got her to understand that I am useless at craft fairs and I only sell random odds and ends in an online shop and that the bibs were a gift for a friend having a baby. She left happily with a smile and an encouraging, "Well, you're doing such a good job with those bibs!" I should've just tinkered with my iPhone like all the other moms at the poolside. Oh wait, I don't own an iPhone. That's why I was viciously shoving a dowel into shapeless masses of fabric for entertainment. While sporadically looking up with random vocal explosions of "Go, Emily!" and "You can do it, Jenna!". No wonder people think I'm bonkers. 

8 The Doll In The Photo
Finally, there's that doll. Emily made her. Or, more precisely, Emily made most of her but I did all the fiddly curved bits and attaching of arms and legs. This is not a child's project. Particularly capable children might be able to sew those tight curves around the feet, hands and hair but they won't be able to attach the stuffed limbs to the inside-out torso while said limbs are also simultaneously stuffed upside down into the unsewn neck which then has to be sewn around those limbs. I don't even think some adults could do it. Still, it's a truly adorable dolly and Emily is very pleased with the outcome. We'll work on the clothes later. 

So that's what my October is looking like. Not relaxing at all. But exciting. Bring it on!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Had A Bad Day Two Months Ago

You know how sometimes you read blogs and the blogger confesses that she was having a bad day? And everyone, even the folks who usually only lurk, suddenly leaves like 100 comments saying the equivalent of, "Oh I'm so glad you wrote this. I love that you're wretched and common like the rest of fallible humanity because now I can stop believing you are superhuman and stop hating you for it! I love you!"

You know what strikes me about such posts? That they have photos. I'm sitting there thinking, "How does she have a bad day and still have the wherewithal to take photos, edit them to look moody and artistic and post them and blog about her day while using the word "Today" in her opening line? She's still superhuman. And I'm still a wretched worm that writhes about on my filthy kitchen floor."

When I have bad days, it takes me several days after to recover from and catch up with the mortifying mess that is their aftermath. On The Bad Day itself, I have a headache. I can't even sew (and that's saying something). I hate cardboard. Previously-adored music is like nails on a chalkboard. I want my children to stop asking me stuff and leave me alone. I don't want to get snacks for anyone. I don't want to cook for anyone. And over everything is the sense that I'd gotten absolutely nothing done since getting out of bed that morning. It isn't migraines - it's just a bad day. I often want to blog about it because I feel so deliciously crabby that it's sure to be a funny post. But I can never bring myself to because, well, it's a Bad Day.

Two months ago, I had such a Bad Day. It was one of those Particularly Bad days in which I was sliding down the side of the kitchen counter to squat on the kitchen floor with my hands over my ears. Nothing especially bad happened - and I don't even remember what was so bad about the day, except that my house was full of children (actually just three) and they were saying they were bored for the hundredth time and it was the peak of summer and there were still weeks more before they would return to school and be out of my hair, and I couldn't think of a single thing to cook for dinner that wasn't cheating, and the house needed to be picked up and probably the breakfast cereal was still on the table even though I was trying to plan for dinner and let's not even talk about the dishwasher or the laundry or the cobwebs or the sad potted plant dying in the window.

I decided then, that I needed super powers. There was no other way to cope. I HAD to make myself a superhero costume. It works for children, right? I mean, they wear a superhero cape and suddenly -Wham! -they're invincible. By that logic, an entire superhero costume would be ten times more powerful.

Listen - the reason I'm only telling you now is because that's how long it takes me to get anything done. Even just telling you about My Bad Day took two months. You have to believe me when I say that I don't just have Bad Days six times a year. I have them (and fractions thereof) quite often. But that Bad Day, the one that inspired my superhero outfit, was that long ago and only coming to light now.

So then I went out and bought Tshirts for my costume. Which sat on the floor of my closet for weeks. La la la la la la la. Then I planned my designs. Want to see some of the contenders?

Here's one:

And here's another:

But they all sounded so..... accomplished and powerful and ambitious and amazing and point-to-prove-ish. Which didn't at all resound with the true essence of My Bad Day Two Months Ago. So I threw them out. And decided on this one which, on some days, is the sad pinnacle of my superheroineness. It's true and honest and (to be fair, especially if you've had Bad Days yourself) downright applaudable, if I may so so myself. Here it is:

Wasn't it President Snow (in the Hunger Games) who told Katniss, 
"Aim high in case you fall short"? 

I beg to differ. I prefer: 
"On some days, just get food. 
Everything else is a bonus."

When I finally finished it and wore it for a test run, I was having a Good Day (it had chocolate in it, and lemon bars) so I was already superhuman and slightly disappointed to find that it had no effect on my already-abundant supremeness. I've decided, therefore, that this cannot be an Everyday Empowerment Tshirt- I mean, that's what stuff like My Favorite Jeans and My Perfect-Fit-Grey-Shirt are for, right? No, this superhero suit is for when everything is lousy and overwhelming and I find a rotting cabbage in the fridge and discover I'd washed all the darks (including the brand new denims) with the whites and and I forgot the kids' well-child appointments again and I'm wading knee-deep in prettyrellas and Barbiephernalia and Legos and polyester dress-up clothes bits and all three kids are sick so I can't pack them in the car at 5:21 pm and drive out to the supermarket to buy emergency ground beef or Tylenol. Yes, this is for those days. And I know you understand because you have them, too.

So....... that's my superpower. What's yours?

P.S. Yes, I know it's pink. Makes it that much more superpowerful, didn't you know?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gifts for Emily

These gifts are not archery-related at all but I thought I'd share them here because they involve fabric and sewing (and I know you like both).

Jenna and Kate sewed these simple pillow case dresses for Emily's 18" doll. We used Cindy's pattern here. Believe it or not, I've never made a pillowcase dress. This was my first time. And while we're on the subject, here's a list of Popular Sewing Projects I've Never Made:
  • crayon roll
  • zippered pouch
  • simple tote bag
  • designer fabric key fob
  • quilt
  • patchwork pillow cover
  • shirred top
  • ruffled apron
  • coasters
  • girl's dress from men's shirt refashion (or anything-from-men's-shirt refashion, really)

Anyway, this is the dress Jenna made. 

She needed quite a bit of help, even with pins and stitching lines drawn with marker ink. Sewing is only 30% about actual machine-manipulation. The other 70% is visualizing how pieces fit together to get the outcome you want. Jenna was excellent at the first 30% but she still has a long way to go with the latter 70%. It's something that comes with age, which I have a lot of, so I helped her.

This is the dress from Kate. And by that, I mean Kate serged all the edges and chose the ribbon and I sewed the actual seams and hems. Kate only wanted to make a dress because she saw Jenna making one. Hurrah for positive peer pressure.

I, of course, copped out on handmade gifts. I did, however, give Emily fabric., because that's what every good mother does, right? These fabrics are  delightfully pre-printed to cut out to make a doll and clothes

which we started on this evening, finishing two legs and two arms. It's hard for a little girl to sew around those skinny doll feet and thumbs! Emily got her first lesson in seam ripping. She thought it was cool. 

These were wrapped with two sewing vouchers in her name:

Note the fine print. This is very important for preventing ridiculous attempts to engage Mom when she's busy (and being crabby) in her other domestic roles. Do your children do this, too? Throw common sense out the window and embrace bad timing when they're hungry and/or sleepy, I mean? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Archery Party - Games and Medals

We kept the organized games to a minimum at this party. Several reasons, the most important being the kids were now old enough not to require entertaining or activity-management. Once they'd made their archery sets, we knew they'd be happiest just learning to use them. Grandpa Desmond provided us with ideas for more games but we were unable to even set them up because of the strong wind that day. These included bottles, cans and even cardboard boxes (yay!) as targets to knock over. We also considered tissue-paper in big frames (e.g. hoola hoops) hung from trees for the kids to shoot arrows through. Again, this idea was thrown out because of the wind. 

The only structured activity we had at this party, therefore, were these hoops that we hung all over the yard.

Here's how we made them.

Remember those foam pipe things we used for both the bow grips and the arrowheads? You wouldn't believe how versatile these are.

We used the single long, unslit tubes (the ones on the left in the picture below),

inserted a short bit of PVC pipe or a fat dowel

and connected the ends

into a circle.

Couldn't be easier.

Then we got streamers

and wrapped them

to make six different colored hoops.

Which we then hung from trees (and anchored to the ground with stakes because of the wind)

and the kids went all over the yard trying to shoot an arrow into every hoop. It wasn't as easy at it looked, especially for the kids who had never used a bow before. But they learnt quickly, especially when they were allowed to practise at their own pace without adults holding daft competitions to stress them out (we offered lessons, though). When they were done, they got medals to eat.

These were just homemade sugar cookies with a hole punched out.

We frosted them to look like targets

and then strung them up with ribbons to go around necks. 

One of the guests had a gluten allergy so Emily made her a perler bead medal instead and we told her she was lucky because she was the only one who'd be able to keep her medal beyond a day.

This brings us to the end of the Archery Party tutorials! One last birthday-related post tomorrow: homemade gifts for Emily!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Archery Party - Target Pinata

Let it officially be said that this pinata is the prototype of more pinatas to come.
It is the fastest pinata I have ever made.
It is the best-performing pinata I have ever made.
It is the biggest pinata I have ever made.
It is the easiest pinata I have ever made.
It is the longest-lasting pinata I have ever made.

Because it is cardboard. 

Never again will I sully my hands with newspaper pulp and glue/flour/suspiciously gummy stuff!

For a person who is incurably infatuated with cardboard, I am ashamed to say that, in spite of seeing cardboard bash-up pinatas in every single party store, I'd never made a cardboard bash-up pinata. I've made a cardboard pull-apart pinata and a cardboard pull-candy-out pinata but never a bash-up one. 

Do you know why?  
Because I knew my heart would break to watch a cardboard thing being beaten to a pulp by young thugs wielding baseball bats, that's why.

Oh, the disrespect!

But this party needed a cardboard pinata because - shockingly - there wasn't any other cardboard thing there! There was PVC and wood and vinyl and webbing and fabric and foam and plastic cable ties and cookie dough, even. But no cardboard! Absolutely mortifying.

So cardboard pinata it was.

It was just two huge circles with a gusset of sorts, glued around it. We left a hole at the top for candy-filling

and punched holes on either side of that gap for stringing up.

And then the kids painted it rainbow colors, with one side in reverse color order of the other:

Then we filled it with candy.

And strung it up.

And the kids bashed it to death.

But not before it outperformed all its predecessors in Every. Single. Way. So I grimaced throughout the entire torture session and I might even have closed my eyes and shuddered. 

But it was truly magnificent: each hit produced just a bit of candy. Not an avalanche. Couldn't have been more perfect. It lasted long enough for 14 of the 15 guests to bash it once and release candy (the 15th guest put it out of its misery). And -for once- it took longer to destroy than it took to make. I call that Very Worth It. So from now on, unless there is a special need for a spherical/ovoidal one, I will be making all my pinatas from cardboard. It should've been a no-brainer, but my heart got in the way. I know better now. Cardboard is supreme. All hail cardboard.   

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Archery Party - Quivers

So...... the quivers.

Dad's design:

Remember that Dad is a sports archery coach, not Robin Hood. Sports quivers are not like the movies. Sports archers don't usually reach over their shoulders to whip arrows out in quick succession and fell game/villains. At least, that's not what I imagine when I think of sports archers. Emily, however, imagined quivers on backs, running through woods, powerful and free (Robin Hood, in other words).

I took Emily fabric shopping with me to buy lovely rich brown vinyl to make Robin Hood quivers, with light brown top-stitching and possibly tassels and other such woodlandish embellishments. Instead, she stopped at the marine vinyl rack and pointed.

"I want pink ones, Mum. And the blue looks nice, too. Also the yellow."

Rainbow vinyl. 
My Robin Hood aspirations evaporated.
"What about brown?" I bleated, without much hope.
"That's not fun." she said. "Pink is better."

This is her party afterall, not her forgot-to-grow-up Mother's.

So rainbow vinyl it was. 
Colored on the front, whitish on the back. These were about $17 a yard at JoAnn. Half a yard made four quivers. 

I'm going to share my quiver pattern with you. I used Dad's quiver dimensions but boxed out the bottom to accommodate the fat, marshmallow-headed arrows we were using. Remember that the pattern has NO SEAM ALLOWANCES, so add your own. Also note that if you make your quivers look exactly like mine, they will be for right-handers (see how the arrows rest against the curved lip of the the opening in the first photo as the quiver rests against the right shoulder). If you are making them for left-handers, just reverse the way the mouth/lip curves so the quiver can be worn against the left shoulder. 

CLICK HERE to download Quiver Pattern

And here's how to make the quiver.

First you make the straps.

I used:
  • 18.5" of 1.5" webbing
  • 14" of 1" webbing cut into two pieces: a 10.5" and a 3.5" piece
  • one 1" buckle
Mount the female half of the buckle on the short 1" strap, fold the strap ends under and stitch to one end of the 1.5" strap. The end of my buckle was about 1" (or less) from the end of the wider strap. I also trimmed the wider strap roundish and sealed the fraying edge using the candle method.

I made quite a few of these straps. But you don't need to- you just need one.

Now you are ready to assemble the quiver!

Here's a tip:
Use a leather needle for vinyl. See those two needles outside the needle case? The one on the left is the leather needle. It's longer and thicker than the universal needle on its right. It goes through vinyl (and leather, too, I presume) like butter, doesn't skip stitches and is just lovely. I used regular polyester thread.

First, you hem down the top edge (and sew on the little name label, if you want). Were I not mass-producing and instead taking my time to produce a  single, professional-looking thingy, I'd bind this edge, not fold-and-hem it. (I'd also probably make it in brown leather, mutter mutter..... ) But as that was too much to do for 22 quivers, simple hemming it was.

You can do this two ways: one way is to pin or use binder clips or whatever helps you to keep that hem in place. This might leave holes and you might get little darts like this: 

It's OK, because it allows the hem to lay flat on the right side of the fabric, which is the whole point.

Or you could throw away the clips and pins and just ease it - much nicer.

Here- I made you a horrendously out-of-focus video (not intentional; just very poor movie-making skills) to show you how I did it. Note that this "easing" is not the same as the proper garment technique by the same name that I use for setting sleeves and other things into openings. That is completely different. 

So anyway, here is the (non-sleeve-setting) hand-easing method for hemming vinyl. Obviously this would be even easier on a straight edge, but I'm showing you a curvy edge just to prove that it works. Also note the part the walking foot played in the success of this technique.

Aaaaaand here are the 22 rainbow quiver hems. Takes minutes, literally. 

Once the hem is done, attach the ends of the two straps according to the markings on the pattern.  The wide strap goes on top and the narrow strap goes on the side of the quiver. I apologize for beheading the wide strap so that you can't see the buckle. The buckle side should be face down (i.e. touching your work surface) in this picture.

Next fold the quiver in half lengthwise, right sides together, and sew up the side seam from top to bottom. Remember to move the narrower strap out of the way so you don't sew it into the side seam.

Box out the base the way you would any boxy tote bag. My quiver's base was 3" wide.

Chop off the corners.

Turn right side out.

Vinyl seams don't lie flat (and won't succumb to pressing, so don't bother) so you'll have to top-stitch this side seam down. Because of the small opening, you won't be able to stitch more than about 2" from the top. That's okay- it's all you need to ensure the seam allowance lies flat at the mouth of the quiver.

Now slide the male half of the buckle onto the narrower strap like this. Note that I also sealed this free end of the strap using the same candle method mentioned earlier.

The buckle will now allow you to completely separate the straps 

and adjust the overall length of the strap across the body.

Ta da! A rainbow of quivers.

Here are fake slow-motion shots of the quiver in action.

Here is Jenna demonstrating how to swing the quiver around to your front so you can reload your arrows.

And that brings us to the end of the Archery Set Tutorial Trilogy:

But not to the end of the whole archery tutorial series. There are still the pinata, the games and the medals to go!

One more thing: I deliberately made extra quivers so the party guests would have some choice of color. We have three leftover from the party and I thought I'd put them in the shop so you can buy them if your kid might like one but you don't want to sew it yourself.
Update later today: Um.. they're all sold out now. 

Here are the three colors, modeled by Jenna (age 6). The dimensions are in the item description in the shop, but these quivers were worn by kids as small as Kate (she's 4) and her boy cousins (10 and almost 12). The curve of the mouth of the quiver was made for right handers but these quivers can be slung the other way across the body for left-handers as well. 

See you tomorrow for the target pinata!

P.S. Irrelevant point: I loooooove Jenna's hair. I wish I had Jenna's hair.