Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pirate-Related and other Unrelated Updates

Four completely random things to share today:

1 Pirate update:
The kids made me make the helm thing. I've added it as an update to the original pirate post. They've asked for an anchor and a gangplank next. And just fifteen minutes ago, they declared that they needed their mermaid tails because (and I quote): "Girl pirates have mermaid tails". I think I seriously need to vet the sort of books they've got in the libraries these days.

2 IKEA Sewing Machine
I've received quite a few requests for the English manual of this sewing machine. I have this to say
  • I'm sorry but I don't represent IKEA
  • I'm sorry but I won't be scanning my English copy to send to anyone
  • I'm sorry but I don't know where to get an English version of the manual
  • I'm sorry but my IKEA sewing machine still hasn't died. And I'm not holding my breath for that, either.

3 Why Am I Sewing 17 Headbands in Knit Fabric?
A: Because round numbers aren't as much fun as prime numbers.

4 Procrastination Rocks:

(From this week's USA Weekly).

Have a good week, all!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Pretend for a moment that all that greenery is actually blue sky and sparkling turquoise - and hopefully shark-infested- waters and today's cardboard toy will make a lot more sense.

We made a pirate ship!

For Kate, who is in a pirate phase.
(And yes, I am aware that people with vision in only one eye have impaired depth perception and should probably not be allowed near sharp weapons, but I was watching Kate carefully, as I always do even on days when she is using both eyes, so if you were about to call Child Protection, put the phone down and go take a long walk off a short plank already. Arrrrrrrr!!!)

So now that we're all in the appropriately belligerent, piratey sort of mood, let me tell you about our afternoon.

As I was saying, Kate is in her pirate phase. Any play phase that isn't princess/mermaid/fairy-related is heartily welcome - and encouraged -in our home simply because it's a delightful deviation from the norm. And since we wanted to support Kate in her exploration of other dress-up genres, everybody helped her make what she needed.

Emily made eye-patches

and a beard

and the Jolly Roger.

I, under the captain's orders, made a stand for her sidekick, Polly.

Kate herself made a cardboard telescope, but it's already been misplaced so no photos - sorry.

And you all might remember the treasure chest from some months ago.

Then there was the seaworthy vessel. 

Here's the box we started with. 
I turned it inside out so it was plain brown outside and thus more intimidating to enemies than being a traveling billboard for household cleaning appliances (although Windtunnel is a cool name for a ship).

Each cardboard thing I make has to be approached differently, depending on whether it starts out as a box or a flat sheet, as well as whether that box needs alterations, reinforcement or any other special treatment. This box was a good width, but too short - it needed length extensions.

So I added a slopey stern

and a pointy bow. 

The sides of the bow were curled

and a snipped seam allowance (what is the cardboard equivalent for this sewing term?) was incorporated into the base to allow for better gluing.

The bow was first glued onto the existing flaps

and then the curved sides glued to the base, meeting at the front.

Because this cardboard was thin, I folded down the top 1" to make a hem (there's another sewing term!).

and as this side of the bow was 1" shorter than the rest of the box, I added the cardboard equivalent of a hem facing.

You might have noticed that I was working with the box still relatively intact as I added the extensions - this helped keep its shape.

And now we cut the top off, and folded-hemmed those sides.

At this point, the girls declared the boat a canoe, found plastic sticks for oars and began rowing.

But we weren't done. 
The next thing we added was a mast - and its support.

It just wedges into the boat and can be removed if the kids want to do the canoe thing again.

The masts themselves were dried sunflower stalks from a previous summer (yes, we save everything).

We added horizontal yards (made of cardboard rolled into skinny tubes) and glued sails onto them. The sails, incidentally, were just the brown packing paper that came in the box with the vacuum cleaner - I was too lazy to even leave the premises to look for something better.

One last thing - the support for the parrot stand.

We were going to add the helm (steering wheel thingy) - a paper plate and popsicle sticks paper-fastener-ed onto a cardboard column in the bow, but we ran out of time because I had to go cook dinner.

(Updated two days later)
We made the helm - front:


While all this shipmaking was going on, Kate visited and did her own crafting. See those notches?

They were pizza slices for Polly. Everyone knows pirate parrots eat pizza.

Kate also brought on board her diaper bag of caretaking accessories. All pirate ships have this, you know. 

While all this was going on, Emily was downstairs making paper hook gloves.

And Jenna was thinking up this pirate riddle:
Q: What do pirates do when they're waiting for someone?
A: They stay right where they arrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I've said this before but it's worth repeating: I love being a mom of small children :)

A shot of the kids in character, so you get an idea of the size of the ship.:

Finally: the name of our ship: after throwing out our suggestions for suitable pirate-ship names (I was rooting for The Black Pearl), Kate christened this Queen of the Waves. A bit Malibu-cruise-vessel-ish, but Kate is the captain, so QOTW it was.

Not planning to make the rotating cardboard periscope yet. Suddenly got the urge to sew 17 knit fabric headbands. When have I ever resisted the urge to mass-produce silly things? Off I went!    

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wedding Weekend


Some random photos of the wedding I was telling you all about - the one that I was trying to sew a dress for and then gave up and dug some random thing out of my closet to wear to? Yeah, that one. 

Anyway, I was writing up the post for our family blog and thought I'd share some photos here, too , just so you get to see what store-bought stuff the girls and I eventually modeled.

Thank you, Old Navy and Target!

My jewelry, though, is handmade (by Auntie Laura). 

And here is a photo of me at the lake on the 4th of July, working on that Bag Pattern. Which I'm two-thirds-way through, incidentally, and up to photo #58. Prolly be close to 100 by the time I'm done. I have to say that annotating photos isn't my idea of summer fun, but it will teach people to make nice bags, so I'm not giving up. 

Now I'm thinking.... Kate is in a sort of pirate phase now. She made herself a telescope (and people used to think 4-year-olds couldn't make 3D cardboard stuff. Scoff!) and had Emily make her a beard, eyepatch and the Jolly Roger. I'll have to show you the ensemble some day - complete with parrot on cardboard stand, asking for c(w)ackers. But she needs a seaworthy vessel and the cardboard box from my birthday vacuum cleaner is sitting in the garage, plus I'd always wanted to make a rotating cardboard periscope, so...... hm.....

Or I could go swimming. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

About Men

Before we get to the men, I want to say that I had a birthday recently. My favorite part of birthdays is when people take me out for meals, especially if the people in question are the ones I usually cook for.

But there are other perks to birthdays, like gifts. I bought myself a brand new vacuum cleaner, for instance. I might get thrown rancid fruit at for this but, unlike cooking, I really, really like vacuuming. It's extremely therapeutic to hear the "tck tck tck" sounds of dessicated cheerios (or whatever snacks the kids eat these days) ricocheting off the innards of the Hoover as it runs over the carpet. The new vacuum cleaner arrived from amazon by Brown Truck on my actual birthday and I spent a very happy half-hour vacuuming the house. Bliss.

Obviously not all the gifts I received were from amazon (or the US, for that matter). Here is fabric from my lovely friend Eunice in Singapore. It's the same piece of fabric, in five panels. So fun.

And along with the fabric, she sent me buttons, trim and sweets (we call them candy in the US!) from our childhood.

I don't imagine you'd remember Eunice, but she's the one who used to exclusively love cows, and then developed an adulterous affinity for hedgehogs and owls, which I encouraged by making her the first Lunch Bucket ever to grace the pages of this blog. Anyway, Eunice and I go way back to when we were, like three years old in Sunday School. And we went to high school (we call it Junior College in Singapore) together, and then shared some English classes in the university. There were many evenings when we'd end the day with the same class and catch the same bus home. It was a long journey - about an hour - for as small a country as Singapore, and often bumpy, so we usually had a good supply of sweets to keep the nausea at bay.

Now, on one fateful bus ride, I found, to my consternation, that I'd run out of sweets. Eunice, however, hadn't. So I begged her for one. Wretched opportunist that she was, she offered me a deal. It was life-changing, that deal. Oh, I will never forget that day (and till now, she hasn't let me). This was it: in exchange for a Hacks honey-lemon sweet, I had to agree to give up my rights to swooning over a particular guy.

!!!!!!!  I ask you!!!!!!

Never mind that this guy was one of our really good friends and neither of us actually had any evil designs on him, particularly since I was also going out with someone else at the time. The only reason we picked him to fight over was because he was the epitome of cool; plus, at age 18, he felled the entire (female) high school population with his onstage solo rendition of U2's The Streets Have No Name. Killer. 

So now that we've established that our taste (if not our morals) was not being called into question, we return to the scandalous deal at hand. I was aghast. How dare she? Did she think I could be so easily bought?

Sadly, yes. 
It was either I agreed or I threw up on the bus. She knew weakness when she saw it. So there, on the top deck of the Number 10 double-decker bus, I sold my swooning rights, for one Hacks honey-lemon sweet. And, boy, did she hold me to our deal - for the next few years, she wouldn't even let me sigh if he so much as sang in church. Dang!

What did he think of the deal when he found out?
"What?" he exclaimed, grinning. "Just one Hacks?"
"Hey!" Eunice and I growled at him (she, triumphant and I, bitter), "It was honey-lemon, okay?"

Ah, those good times. How I adore Eunice - for her unconditional and faithful friendship, her twisted sense of humor that is such good company for mine and her sweet gentle spirit that tells me like it is when I most need it. Incidentally, that cool Hacks guy* is, I am happy to say, happily married with no known damage from our deal. And, at last check (February this year), that deal is still on, as Eunice laughingly reminded me, not that I feel any compulsion to swoon these days ;)

Here's another fabric gift, this time from London:

Have I ever told you about my friend Edwin? He has extremely good taste, and not just in fabric.

We've been friends for years even though we've never -thankfully - struck deals like Eunice and I have. We danced a bit, choreographed a bit, cooked a bit, wrote a bit, traveled a bit, and ate a lot. And watched a lot of movies and performances. And even sort-of-tried-to-stalk Paul Rudd in Manhattan. And he dyed my hair once, if I remember right. And because he's in the perfect job for it, I run a lot of my blog's legal and publishing stuff by him. And he videotaped the entire first season of Project Runway for me, just to make sure I was watching good stuff on TV. And he sews. Check these out:

In the days before he had access to a sewing machine, I altered his pants (trousers! Trousers, UK people!) If you know how I feel about alterations, you'll know this is proof of our deep and enduring friendship - and our mutual dislike of wearing clothes that fit poorly when something can be done about it. 

We haven't seen each other since Emily was a year old, though. It's hard, when we live in different countries. Soon, E!

Anyway, that's my fabric-related birthday update for the year. There is nothing better on one's birthday than to look back over the years and feel richly blessed by the friends one has. Even better than the fabric they sent. 

*The Hacks guy never gave me fabric. Our friendship isn't like that. Ours is the  microplane-zester sort and (in spite of the Hacks deal) one stuffed dinosaur, around whose neck I hung the tag, "I eat students" and which sat on my desk at school all through my teaching career. Take that, Eunice!