Thursday, January 5, 2017

Happy New Year! New Year Crafting Resolutions

Well, it's the 5th of January and I finally finished the next to last gift I had to do.  After the first of the year, I monogrammed towels for my husband's brother's grown kids and finished the hat I was knitting our niece.  Her towel set is actually a housewarming present as she purchased her first home in 2016.  I still have a kitchen towel to complete for my Mom, and need to desperately get busy working on the grandson's sweater jacket for his February birthday.

Since we'll be moving in a little over two months, I've been doing a lot of packing of things we want to take, but don't necessarily need now.  There's a lot of that as well as a lot of getting rid of stuff we don't want/need anymore and don't want to pay to move.  I've donated several sewing and quilting books to ASG already.

My new crafting (i.e. sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery and maybe tatting) room is a lot bigger than what I've had in the past, and I am so pumped.  There's the stairwell and a half bath at one end with a window in between, a storage closet and the closet for the furnace/air conditioning inside parts, and the rest of the 18' X 39' space is mine!  Actually the closet and bath are there for a reason, too, but I just can't wait to move everything into the space.

So here are my resolutions for the next few months:

1. Get everything sorted through and packed.  Take the important stuff (machines in the case of the craft area) and other things we don't want the movers to take and put them in our storage area.

2. Donate what is useable and we don't want and get rid of the rest.

3. Finish the birthday sweater/jacket.

4. Learn to tat after we are settled.

5. Start a crochet project.  I really miss using the hook!

6. Finish projects for other great nieces.

There are probably lots of things I've forgotten, but this is a start.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Keeping My Serger Humming While Busting My Christmas/Winter Stash

First let me say that I really LOVE my Babylock Imagine Wave serger! I've been using it for over ten years now and it just never lets me down.

Since we're moving in the spring, one of my goals has been to cut down my sizable fabric stash.  (Another goal this year is to make everything I can without spending any more money.)  When you've sewn for over 50 years, it sort of grows, and while an analogy comes to mind I'm not putting it in writing!  I not only have to move my stash, but move it to my new sewing room upstairs.  I'm trying to save the movers' backs (and our pocketbook) a bit of wear and tear.  That said, I realized this would be the last time I'd be making holiday gifts for coworkers, so wanted it to be something they'd use and perhaps think about me when doing so.  It also needed to be something that was fairly quick.

After a little thinking, I came up with sets of napkins with a Christmas or winter theme.  As most of you know, quilting fabric comes in 44"-45" widths.  Since I was stash busting I was limited to the amount of fabric actually on hand.  That means out of a yard or a little more I couldn't do the big (18"-20") napkins and get more than four, so I decided for most people I'd make six luncheon sized napkins.

Here's the process when you're using quilter's cotton:

1. Tear, and I do mean tear, all four edges of the fabric as close as you can top/bottom and so you get the complete selvage edges off the sides.

2. Measure your fabric piece and determine if you can get three 13" to 14" napkins from across the width.  Figure out what it is, and most of the time I went with 13.5" squares.  Tear the fabric into these squares.

3. Iron the fabric flat--I use a little spray sizing to give the napkins some body.

4. The next step requires the use of one of my Corelle fruit bowls that match the plates I've had for over 40 years.  I use it to round each of the corners of the napkin.  For these smaller napkins, I set a corner on my cutting table so it is against the grid, then place the bowl so that the edge of the bowl touches the 2" mark from the corner on the top and side, then hold the bowl down and cut the corner off.  (For larger napkins like the 18" to 20", I use the 3" mark.)  I cut with my rotary cutter. Repeat this till all corners are off.

5. I have my serger set up for the rolled hem stitch. For mine, I actually use a little smaller stitch length than the manual suggests as I like tight rolled hem.  I put Polyarn or Wooly Nylon in BOTH upper and lower loopers, then a thread that matches the background of the napkin in the right needle.  Make sure you set your serger up and test for a rolled hem before starting on a napkin.  [Note:  I really like Superior's Polyarn better as it takes the heat of an iron better than the Wooly Nylon, which melts.  I still don't advise ironing the rolled edges, though.]

6. I usually begin my serging on a straight side just after the curve.  Hold the tail of the rolled hem you've previously done while you begin and rolled hems tend to curl and can end up in your new stitching.  (Ask me how I know from multiple experiences!) Make sure you are cutting off at least 1/8" or so as you serge so the rolled hem has a nice, crisp edge to roll. [Note: If your fabric has from fray whiskers where you've torn it, make sure that the cut is at least 1/8" inside where the frayed part ends.]

7. As you begin to approach the corner, you need to start to gently curve the fabric so the you're consistently cutting off at least 1/8" of an inch, and sometimes you'll have to get more. I use the fingers on my left hand to do the gentle twisting to get around the corner.  Remember, it's better to cut off a little too much than not enough, because you'll have rolled hem hanging on to thin air if you end up cutting nothing.

8. Continue around the four straight sides and three corners, and when you get to the last corner remember that you are going to not only have to turn, but cut off the beginning tail and overlap a bit of the already sewn rolled hem.

9. Leave the tail attached and use Fray Block to seal the hem.  I like it better than the other popular Fray product as it doesn't discolor over time and becomes fairly soft after washing several times.  I have napkins I've used for decades that I've used this on, and I've never had one fray apart.  Let it dry.

10. Once the Fray Block is dry, hold the ending tail out and cut close to the overlap.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Holiday Project Update

I've been busy over the last month or so working on projects for people I love.  The first piece I finished will go to one of the daughters, and is on the right in the picture to the left.  It's a lacy scarf that I crocheted after I got home from Stitches Texas, so it has a foundation row where the chain and the first row are combined.  I loved taking the two classes from The Shibaguyz!  I learned so much.

The second is for granddaughter #1, and is a cowl.  She has to wait at the bus stop this year to go to middle school, so I knitted the one from the Craftsy Fall Knit Along with Kate Atherley.  I didn't make as many repeats of the pattern as it called for as her neck isn't as large as an adult's yet.  Besides, when you live in the south, there truly aren't too many days when she'll be wearing it, but I know it can get cold waiting for the bus.

I also have two projects on different knitting needles.  The first is a cabled hat that I'm making for our niece who does live in the cold winter weather area.  When we were there this summer, she told me she just loves gold, so that's what she's getting.  This project is also from Craftsy's Fall Knit Along.  Love the videos with the clear photography!

The other gift I have on the needles is actually going to be a zippered sweater jacket for the grandson, but it might be for his birthday rather than for Christmas.  My hands got tired yesterday knitting on the cables, so I switched and actually got this much done in an afternoon.  Very relaxing after the cables!  I'm making it a little big, as he's growing like a weed.  He has a really long, thin torso, so it's important that the length of the body and sleeves match him.  I bought an extra skein of yarn to make that happen.

I have other project yet to start.  The twins need another leotard each--this one will be made from a swimsuit pattern rather than the leotard, which was a little tight.  I'm making DD#2 some things for her Montessori school.  Not sure what else will appear from my crafting, but I'm sure something will--it always does.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sewing Again. . .

You know it's been a long time in between sewing projects when you haven't hooked up your sewing machine since it was cleaned early in the month!  Today it not only got hooked up, but it was used on a project from start to finish!  I cut out and sewed up one of the leotards we'll give one of our twin granddaughters for her birthday this weekend.  I have the pattern all cut out and taped for her twin's, which will be tomorrow's project.

I love the Wild Ginger Child's Play software.  I think they are on version 6 now, and I've been using it to make kids' clothing since v1.  Our oldest granddaughter has always been thin, and it's been difficult for her to find pants with a small enough waist that are long enough.  She's a preteen now and is maturing, so I figure it won't be too long before she'll be able to use the women's software, Pattern Master Boutique and the Knit program.  These days when we have more than a quick weekend together she likes to sew along with me.  I think she'll get to learn to use the serger this coming summer.

I'll add to this post when I get the second leotard done.  I had to write today, though, because it felt so good to complete something in the sewing room. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Gearing Up for Holiday Projects!

I love the possibilities of this time of year.  There are always so many different projects I want to do--some knitting, some crocheting and some sewing for the holidays.  I'm already working on a crocheted scarf pattern I found in the book Knit Local by Tanis Gray.  I think all of the other projects in the book are knit, but this beautiful pattern, Wildflowers Scarf designed by Linda Permann, caught my eye.  I'm using some yarn I got last year at the Hill Country Yarn Crawl at The Tinsmith's Wife in Comfort.  It's a fingering/sock weight yarn hand dyed in Austin by Bronotta Yarns named "Citadel" in the color Sargasso.  It's a beautiful mix of green to teal that is gorgeous as the pattern begins.

It started out with 340 foundation crochets.  I wrote about taking a class with Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby at Stitches Texas in the technique, and I really, really love it!  The scarf is crocheted the long way, so there's only 12 rows in all.  I'm almost done with the fourth, and the lacy flowers it's creating are wonderful.

Yesterday I was texting with one of our nieces and found out she likes gold, so she's getting a knit cowl from the pattern Kate Atherley is sharing on the Fall Knit Along on Craftsy.  It's a fairly simple knit lace pattern, and best of all one of my friends and I are going to have our own Knit Along and work on it beginning at the end of the month.  The KAL has a hat for November, but not sure I'll get to it this year, but did get enough yarn that I could.

My two gymnast granddaughters are going to be getting leotards sewn by me.  I have a great source at Needlenook Fabrics in Wichita to get the type of fabric needed for them.  It will be nice for them to have something that no one else has, and each will be different.  I have a few more doll clothes they might get, too.

My other sewing project will be for DD#2 and her husband.  They're opening a Montessori school next year, and I'll be sewing several things for the school when the remodel is finished.  I don't have a list yet of what she needs, but am looking forward to helping her with this.

The only grandson will get a GREEN knitted jacket.  He's going to be 4 soon, but think I'll knit a 6 so he can use it for a bit.  Green is his absolute favorite color, and I also found a really nice, 70% off, backpack for him with his beloved Ninja Turtles on it.

Miss V will get a new charm for her bracelet--haven't been to pick it out yet.  Saw her wearing it when she went to her first-ever school dance not long ago.  Made me smile.  Her Mom and Aunt loved theirs as well at that age.  I'll be giving her something sewn specifically for her, but haven't decided what yet.

Not sure what else will be on the docket.  I always think about the kids first, and quite frankly, there will probably be someone who gets a box with a partially (hopefully mostly) finished project in it that I'll complete after Christmas is over.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Great Time At Stitches Texas!

I learned to crochet when I was a kid from my grandmother.  While I was in college I taught myself to knit using the English or Western method, which means I was a thrower.  I did both when the mood struck until around '85 when I went back to grad school and something had to give.  I stayed with the sewing, but the fiber arts went by the wayside.  During the last three years, I've picked them back up again--first knitting, and last fall crochet.  It has truly amazed me how much everthing's changed about the crafts, from the yarn to the needles and hooks to the methods, and what hooked me on working with them again was the math that is used to create things to actually fit.  That said, I want to continue to grow in my knowledge of these particular fiber arts.

A week ago I attended the second Stitches Texas at the Irving Convention Center.  Last year I took two days of knitting with Andrea Wong, and was hoping she would be teaching her knitting socks using the Portuguese knitting method, but when the classes were announced, she wasn't there.  I looked through the offerings and decided to do a beading class with Judith Durant, two crochet classes with Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby and two classes with Gwen Bortner.  I picked wisely--there wasn't a single class I didn't gain from!

Beading with Judith Durant:  We explored five different methods for inserting beads into our knitting.  Not all are equally pleasant to do, however!  Spending close to an hour on threading beads probably won't ever be my idea of fun, but the results are pretty spectacular.  As a result, I bought her book Knit One, Bead Too: Five Techniques for Knitting with Beads. We worked on all five, and there's an amazing scarf in the book that I hope to get done up for someone special's birthday soon.

Gwen Bortner:  I took two classes from Gwen--one on working with non-wool fibers and the other on how to knit backwards.  The non-wool class was the first one I had and the knitting backwards was the last.  Gwen is extremely organized and has great notes.  She had a lot of information to share about non-wools, both animal and plant based.  I needed some information on linen as I have some waiting to become a shell, and she was most helpful with that.  The knitting backwards class was taught in an amazing manner, because she didn't show us a thing, but had us learn to think about how we would hold our needles to do a stitch, then what the motions would be to accomplish that on the back side of the knitting.  It's going to take practice, but I think I'm really going to like working with this for short rows of all kinds!

I already had several of Shannon Mullett-Bowslby's  Craftsy classes, and really have enjoyed watching them, but honestly, haven't taken the time to practice.  I took an amazing class in Foundation Crochet, and the things I learned there are going to revolutionize my work!  I hate to chain stitch--yes, I know that's how you start.  Maybe I should say how you USED to start!  I can't even imagine doing that anymore, and to practice I'm working on a different scarf from the one mentioned above.  The first row is 340 double crochets--yes, 340.  That would mean 343 chains.  I don't know about you, but my nightmare is not doing enough and not discovering until I was almost done.  In foundation crochet, you actually create the chain and the accompanying stitch at the same time.  Genius!  I absolutely LOVED that class, and already have over 120 double crochets on my foundation chain for the scarf.  I also took a class he entitled The Joy of Ribbing.  He wasn't talking knit ribbing here--it can also be done with a hook.  We learned several different ways to do it, and that, too, I'll have to practice.  '

The company that sponsors these events is branching out next year and expanding the offerings at their events.  They have one next spring, I think on the East Coast, that will include other crafts, like quilting and sewing and other things as well.  I hope it goes well because it's an amazing idea!  The only problem will be deciding just what to take.  I do love to learn!

Friday, July 29, 2016

It's Just Around the Corner

My last set of grades are turned in, I have to meet someone to go over one last set of paperwork, and then I'll be officially retired at the end of August.  Forty-two years is a long time to teach, but I can remember clearly my first day as a teacher.  I think I had more butterflies than my future students that morning.  Something saved me, though.  This is that story.

My first teaching position was that of a fifth grade teacher for an entire rural town whose only big industry was a gravel pit.  The town was surrounded by farming country and it was 40 miles from where I lived.  Teaching jobs were hard to come by then as there was a surplus of teachers.  There were actually five of us making the commute, so I only had to drive one day of the week. The rides to school were usually quiet as we had to leave so early to get there by 7:30. We saw many a sunrise as we headed east out of town to our destination, and were always glad when we got to turn north so the sun was to our side instead of in our eyes.

I don't actually remember much about the ride to school that day.  I know I didn't drive as my day wasn't Monday.  We'd been coming the week before getting everything ready, and as you looked at the front of the two-story, red brick building built in the early 1890's, I occupied the upper right corner room.  Across the hall was the sixth grade, with the reading room, an empty classroom, the art room and the library on the same floor.  Grades K-4 were on the first floor and the basement held locker rooms complete with showers and a large gymnasium.  As most buildings of that age, it had originally been the town's high school.

The building was so old it had steam generated heat.  I'd chosen to put up colored burlap on the bulletin boards in fall colors, and had decorated the room with live flowers in pots on the large windowsills. I had geraniums, ferns and a cactus that actually bloomed each winter I taught there. The warmth and moisture from the heater was amazing.  Each desk had a 3-D name=tag attached as I anxiously awaited my students.

The night before the first day I could hardly eat or sleep.  My stomach was tied in knots with worrying about whether or not I could really be the teacher I wanted to be.  I knew I was going to have 32 fifth graders and I knew from one of the other teachers whose son I was to have that they had fired the fourth grade teacher from the year before for incompetence.  That was scary, but I really didn't realize all of the ramifications from that until the year got underway, but that's another story or two.

The town was quite hilly, and the school was actually built on top of one of the hills.  Thee were two sets of steps leading to the front door, and it was the town's tradition that the students lined up single file in the front of the door, which meant that the line snaked down all of the steps and continued down the hill along the sidewalk.  Even looking out the window right before the bell rang you couldn't see all of the kids.  The line just went on and on.

It was that line that saved me.  You see, I'm the oldest of five kids, so have always had younger ones in the family, and I took care of them and babysat for others a lot.  When I looked out that window, what I saw were "just kids."  That sight calmed the butterflies, I stood there gazing at the line and they just went away.  I've always been glad I had those fifteen minutes before my students entered the room.  They gave me the opportunity to cross the line in my head and heart taking me into my future as a teacher.

The last 32 years of my teaching career, I've been involved in teacher education.  Oftentimes when I work with student teachers I'll relate this story.  It's important to picture yourself in the role you've worked hard to acquire, and understanding that the students in your classroom are amazing individuals who will give you opportunities to grow as you in turn assist them as they learn and grow.  Visualize yourself as the teacher you want to be, and you'll be a step closer to becoming that person.