Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Next Phase

My oldest turned thirteen last week.

I am henceforth officially the parent of a teenager.

I promise, though, that this isn't going to be one of those nostalgic and overly-sentimental posts I am apt to write whenever I think of my children Growing Up.

I am actually a bit excited. See, for years, all the young people I've ever had dealings with were teenagers. Like youth group and the girls in the dance team at church, and my high school students when I taught Physics. Loved them. Loved that age so much.

When I was a guidance counselor in Minnesota and Singapore, I worked with both teens and children and discovered that while both were intensely rewarding and enjoyable, given the choice, I'd still pick teens. I remember wishing that when I became a mother, I might somehow give birth to teens rather than babies, because surely I would be frightfully awkward with humans who couldn't hold conversations and with whom I'd have to instead make blubbering sounds and devise bizarre hand games just to say hello.

Then: motherhood.

Real motherhood, with real babies and real blubbering.

Not gonna get all weepy here (I promised, right?) so let's just say that I've loved having babies. And toddlers-in-potty-training. And preschoolers. And just. . . Children. And - would you believe it - when I see some stranger's baby staring at me, my hands fly to my eyes and my mouth says peekaboo, and the baby might even smile at me, and I don't even think about how socially ludicrous that is because it really isn't.

To say my children's existence has forever changed me is a huge understatement; I'm not even the same person to whom I might make a comparison. There's very little of Old Me left, and yet I'm More. And all the things I thought were a big deal back then - Barney vs. Sesame Street, CrySelfToSleep vs Cosleeping, Nursing vs. Formula, SterilizedBottles vs Whateversinthedishrack - aren't even on my radar now.

Even "what's your favorite age?" isn't a question that crosses my mind any more. Every age rocks. Every age is better than the one before because these are my kids, who are People with Personalities, and each day, week, year, they're becoming more like their true selves, the ones I didn't even have a clue about when they were just born and toothless and inarticulate. Of course I have fond memories of the baby years with the fuzzy heads and wobbly bums. And of course I've saved all their early stories (the ones written entirely in capitals and consonants) and drawings of the family (all shaped like pickles). But the future excites me. And teenhood, with its possibilities and sweetness and vulnerability and strength, is right there at the top of the list. 


While I've been a mentor and teacher to other people's teens, I've never been a mother to my own. So many of you guys are way ahead of me in this, though and there's so much to learn from you. I want to hear your stories, your advice, the things you are loving or have loved about being a parent to a teenager. So would you leave a comment to encourage me, caution me, or even just come alongside and confess that you're about to step over this brink yourself and you're scared pantsless but agog at the same time? 

Two other things:

One, while trying to think of birthday presents for my new teen, I thought I'd write her a story. Now, this was a risky endeavor because it could've ended up being a Lame Story. Or it might actually have been a Half-Decent Story but maybe a story as a birthday gift for a teenager isn't cool. Whatever. Was I going to take the risk anyway?

I wrote the story. 

It was satire, because teens like satire and irony (at least I did as a teen). And it's set in her school, which was even riskier, because well, middle school. And I wrote her and her friends into it, too, which was the riskiest of all, because it meant descending into my unreliable memory bank for catchphrases and observations and signature gestures from all the playdates they've ever had, which is - even at 1 am when my brain is most alert - a gamble.

"Please, God, let her like it a little bit," was my prayer as I stashed it in her backpack to find on the morning of her birthday. When she got home, she said I was "spot on" about her friends. And then, because she thought it was funny, she read the story to them.

Ridiculously relieved. 

Note to self: motherhood is Risk. Therefore, grab it by the horns and run with it. 

Two, I am making bunnies. Oddly cathartic. More details to come!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Convertible Bucket - Deconstructed

Last week (-ish), I showed you guys this bag I'd made and polled you about whether to turn it into a pattern or do a quick deconstruction. You voted - and a deconstruction it is!

Made a second bag this week - one, for in-progress photos, 

and two, to show how it can be made with regular straps in place of the rouleau kind. 

Apart from the strap variation, it's the same bag - carry it over the shoulder as a tote,

or convert it into a backpack

and carry it one-shoulder style

or over both.

The inside is fully lined, and has two pockets - one zippered

and the other not.

Here is the bag turned inside out to show you the snaphook lanyard for your keys.

Let's get started. A gentle reminder: these instructions are meant for to make items for personal use or gifts only, and should not be used for commercial profit in any way. 

Because this is a deconstruction, I didn't stop to take measurements of the various pieces. However, here are the finished dimensions of the bag:

  • Base diameter: 11"
  • Height: 13.5"
  • Infinity strap: 68" x 1"
  • Pockets: 8" wide and 7" deep

The bag is essentially a two-layered bucket. The base is a circle and the body/walls are a rectangle. The outer layer has piping along its lower edge. I pieced the main body as a printed lower section + a solid canvas upper band, which was about 3" wide.

The inner layer (lining) is also a circle and a rectangle, pieced in the same way as the outer layer. The two pockets are attached "in the flat",

and a snap hook lanyard attached to one of the body's short edges in preparation for being sew into the side seam.

Like so - the rectangular body is sewn into a cylinder, and then the base is attached to the lower edge to create a bucket.

Here is the outer layer also sewn into a cylinder, with the piping basted on after.

This is the snap-panel that converts the straps into their backpack configuration. It's essentially a 6" x 5" rectangle with snaps along its longer sides as shown. It's attached close to the lower edge of the body cylinder with a 1"- wide rectangle of stitches. I also centered it about the body's side seam.

When the snaps are fastened, the contraption becomes a tube that holds the straps in place.

After attaching the strap-conversion-contraption, the base is attached, and the outer bucket is completed.

The inner bucket is placed inside the outer bucket, their upper SAs folded to the WS and both buckets are sewn together around their openings.

The double-layered bucket is finished. 

The next stage is installing the grommets. These are what I used - they are about $10 for a set of 8 at Joann and about $11 on amazon.

The upper band is divided into 8, to accommodate the 8 grommets. This bag has a circumference of about 36", so the grommet spacing is 4.5".

To space the grommets, we started at the seam and measured-and-marked half that grommet spacing on either side. This was to ensure the grommets were installed on either side of the seam and not on the bulky seam itself. From either of these markings, we continued to measure-and-mark 4.5" sections all around the band.

The grommet pack came with a very useful template for tracing the circular holes.

Installing these grommets was easy - there was no need for a special installation tool, just the heel of your hand pressing the two halves together on either side of the circular hole in the fabric. 

Here are two halves of one grommet pair. The outside of the grommets are smooth; the insides have edges that snap together. The pack came with instructions for how to snap the two halves together.

This is the completed bag-with-grommets. All it needs now is the infinity strap.

I'm deconstructing the regular flat strap here, to show you how much it is like any typical strap you'd make for any typical bag. I cut two strips of fabric 69" x 2", reinforced the WS with fusible interfacing and sewed them together along one long edge.

Here is the seam showing the two strips sewn RS together.

However, the last 2" at either end were left unstitched.

Bring the WS of the strips together, fold in the remaining SA to the WS and edge-stitch along both long edges to create a standard strap. Again, leave the last 2" at either end unstitched.

Thread the almost-finished strap through the grommets of the bag, then bring those ends together and, with RS together, sew the ends as shown. Turn the strap RS out and finish edge-stitching the remaining sections.

Here is the finished bag with the infinity strap threaded through the grommets and connected at the ends. 

Let's revisit the first prototype, the one with the rouleau infinity strap. That rouleau strap was made exactly the same way as the flat yellow strap above, except
  • the fabric was much softer, to accommodate the cord inside, and
  • a single strip of fabric was used, instead of two, with a width sufficient to wrap around the cord.

This is the cord I used. 

This coiling cord comes in various diameters - mine was 1/2". 

A pack of 100 ft was about $25 at Joann.

The method is similar: sew a tube to accommodate the cord, turn the tube RS out, thread the cord through the tube (I used a large safety-pin and had to be very patient), hand-stitch the ends of the cord together (or heat-seal the ends, if you know how to), then sew the ends of the fabric tube together as we did with the flat yellow strap.

I made the bag with the yellow strap purely for this tutorial and don't intend to keep it, so if you'd like to buy it, you can find it here in the shop