Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sometimes I Am Mistaken for Someone Who Knows How to Sew.

It's the Bean's first Halloween! Although it might seem logical to have her go as, um, a bean, I decided a while ago that she'd be a honey bee and I'd wear my bee keeper suit. Of course I needed to make her bee costume and since I am totally self-taught when it comes to sewing, searching for a pattern was my first order of business. You'd think that more babies would be going as bees for Halloween given the timeliness of Colony Collapse Disorder and all (!), but I didn't find much in the way of patterns. In my least confident moment, I'll admit to even searching for a bee suit to purchase, but I couldn't find anything worthy. So I took a deep breath, headed to the fabric store, and did my best to pretend that I knew what I was doing and therefore could figure out what to buy. My plan of attack was pretty simple: I wanted to make her a bee suit in the form of one of those zippy sleep sack things. I found this site here that gave me the confidence to just use another sleep sack as a template and not stress to much about the whole thing. I knew I wanted a fabric that was simple and relatively warm. Fur fabrics were out since I figured they'd shed like the dickens (that's right, I said 'like the dickens') and there was a bunch of fleece on sale so I got a yard of black and a 1/2 yard of yellow. I knew I wanted to make wings but I didn't want them to have any stiff parts or a frame of any kind since she'd be on her back in the costume at some point. I figured I could find a tulle in a heavier weight that could stand up enough on its own and just get tacked to the back of the costume. I found just the thing and as a bonus, the tulle had little globs of some kind of plasticky stuff that looked like shiny gems. Perfect. I also wanted to have her wearing a hat that I could stick antennae on, so I bought 1/3 yard of a black knit for that.

In the end, I used a sleep sack that had little raglan sleeves and cut out a front and back panel (adding seam allowances and extending the bottom and making a little stinger shape) and two sleeves. When I say that I added seam allowances, I mean that I just cut the fabric a little outside the edge of the template...like, I did absolutely no measuring and it was lovely. For the yellow stripes, I just laid one of the body pieces on some yellow fleece and cut out a piece of yellow in the shape of the middle (tummy) part of the template. Then I cut the yellow piece into stripes and sewed down every other stripe.

I sewed the stripes on to the body pieces first. If I was going to do anything differently, it would be to sew the stripes onto the black fabric before cutting the body pieces out. The fleece stretched a bit when sewing and it took some time getting used to, so the stripes were not perfectly straight. This meant that when I sewed the two body pieces together, the stripes didn't completely match up. As I was sewing the side seams, I worried that this would look terrible, but in the end it is totally not a big deal (and I am usually way crazy about details like that). I slapped (literally, note that my seams are not sewn straight at all) seam binding on the wrists and the neckline, which was a joy since I now actually know how to sew the stuff on correctly thanks to this tutorial. The zipper was just stuck on after cutting the front body piece down the middle. Fleece doesn't fray, so I just cut and sewed and didn't fuss at all.

I also made a little hat with the help of this tutorial and then I wrapped pipe cleaners around the little ears. There is no photo because Bean woke up from her nap before I could set it all up, but trust me, it's cute. The pipe cleaners are very temporary, which is important because if I feel like Stella's grabbing at them, I'm just going to yank them off.

This came out way way better than I expected it to. There were really no bumps along the way and this is why I get myself into trouble. I proclaim that I cannot sew and then I stumble my way through a project and it looks half-decent and no one believes me. In truth, knowing that this was a project that would be worn once and that its sole purpose was to simply read as bee, I was really able to relax and omit stupid things like sewing little insect legs (yes, I considered this at one point) and not care if the shape wasn't perfect or the zipper wasn't straight or whatever. It reminded me of my metals class when my teacher encouraged me to just make something quickly for the sake of finishing it, rather than in an attempt to make the perfect piece. I think I stared at her blankly for a while and then got back to filing all of the edges of each of my handmade jump rings for the necklace chain I was making from scratch. But now I see the beauty in making something quickly and without the need for it to be perfect. Sometimes what you end up with will get the job done! Stella will be a bee! And pssst! I think it all cost under $10!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don't Blink.

People tell me that a lot these days. Don't blink or you'll miss everything! This is in regards to, of course, my infant daughter. I think that we have been doing a good job of taking things slow and appreciating each moment. Even the hard ones. I am not blinking much these days. But there is this funny little part of me that thinks "nope, she'll be like this forever." It's very weird because I'm normally a pretty practical person and I also have empirical evidence that she's growing every day, and quite rapidly I might add. But still, every once in a while someone will say the usual "My babies used to be that size! Don't blink because she's going to grow up in an instant!" and that tiny little irrational voice in my head quietly whispers "No she won't."

Well, it's a fact that it's going to happen. One day I'll be going back to work and she'll be off to school and this wonderful year of being together will be over. But for now we are together and are having new adventures every day. I am very lucky to be a teacher at a school with lots going on. I am still doing the choreography for the play, so we go to rehearsal a few times a week and Stella has been patiently watching the progression of the production. Some days she Baby Bjorns it with her father and they watch some soccer or tennis. Today, the art class went across the street to the art center and did some raku firing outside. It was an insanely beautiful day, made all the more beautiful by the fact that we just came out of an extended cold/crappy/rainy period and Stella and I walked over to the art center and watched the dramatic process unfold. Luckily there were two firings so I photographed one and then just watched the other. Like raising Stella, raku is a process that is immediate and intense and you definitely don't want to blink or you'll miss something cool. I didn't blink much and I don't think the Bean did either. Here is some of what we saw:

Out of the kiln and into the fire:
Waiting for the magic to happen:
Out of the fire and into the bath:A finished piece:
Surveying some casualties:
And on our walk back across the school campus, I passed by my favorite tree. It's not the biggest or the grandest tree on campus, but it puts on a dazzling show for approximately one week each Fall. It is on the path to the Meeting House so, once a week, we all walk over for Meeting for Worship and pass by this tree. People often pick up leaves from this tree and I've seen both students and adults playing with a bright red leaf once or twice in a Meeting. It's even inspired some messages in Meetings. Each year when the tree turns, I make sure to focus on it as much as possible on that walk over, because I know that the following week the show will most likely have ended. I've missed it once or twice over the years. I just about missed it this year, but today found it in transition with just enough red on the tree and the ground around it to make me stop and stare. I'm glad Stella got to see it, too. I hope she didn't blink.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Then and Now.

My Mom and I finally went through the old box of family photos. Well, actually we went through one of the old boxes of family photos. Considering this is something we have been meaning to do for a hundred million years, organizing one box is a start. Part of the expedition was, for me, a hunt for baby photos that I could use to compare to Stella. Here we both are in the red and white stroller that my Mom saved. It was my stroller, then a stroller for my stuffed animals, and maybe will be the same for Stella when she outgrows it.

And now:
There is something eerie and wonderful about peering into the past with these photos. All of those babies are now starting families of our own and I look at us today, getting older by the minute. But then I look at these family photos and I see how young my parents, relatives, and their friends were. Looking at the photos was like having all of my family members, alive and deceased, in my living room all at once as I remember them from my childhood. Skinny, lots of hair, and the same bliss on their faces that I imagine I will see on our faces when we look back at our family photos 30 years from now. I posted a few of these old photos on my Facebook page and someone suggested that I take away the age with some simple photo editing trickery. But I like them just the way they are, imperfect and no longer crisp, but totally worth safeguarding with all my might.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Finished Blocks

Here are Bean's toy blocks! I am showing mostly one side of each block here, for obvious reasons, but the rest of the blocks are a riot of patterns and colors. It all somehow works in an it's-all-from-my-stash-so-it-should-work-out kind of way.
The pattern was very easy to follow, including the directions on how to sew the actual cubes together. I read and reread the directions before starting (yes there is a little halo over my crafty head) but it didn't make sense until I actually did it. I still can't figure out exactly how it all happened to work out, but I think that's mostly because of the limited brain cell reserves I have from not having had a full night's sleep in 4.5 months. The only steps I added to the instructions was to measure and mark in 1/2 inch on each side that I sewed up so that I knew where to start and end my stitching. This meant that on each of the four sides that I sewed together I just marked one side of each piece. When I sewed up the top and bottom ends of each cube, I marked in 1/2 inch on each side of the end pieces (since I was sewing all the way round and needed to know where I was going). It all worked out quite well and I'm currently working on sewing up the bag that goes along with the project (just waiting on an order for fusible interfacing to come in...I had to actually purchase something!). I have the pieces cut and I've made a big freezer paper stencil "S" on one piece so that there is never a question of exactly whose blocks these are!

In other news, I'm on such a freezer paper stencil kick that I think I'm going to stencil up some of the plain onesies that Stella has outgrown for a craft fair I'm doing in December. I think I want to create some scherenschnitte-inspired designs, mostly because I think they would be really fun to cut out. Also because scherenschnitte is such a crazy fun word. Something like this or this (greatly reduced in complexity). And I just discovered the work of Helen Musselwhite, not that it could be translated in 2-D but just because it's so dang amazing, check her out here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stuff for Stella

I'm just about done making my first project out of Amy Butler's Little Stitches. I have had high hopes to make lots of Amy Butler projects, but often my urge to sew comes in short little bursts and all of the piecing and cutting that makes her work so lovely seems like it won't give me the instant gratification that I expect from sewing (what can I say? I'm a knitter at heart.) But there are just so many sweet things in Little Stitches and now I have a daughter to make them for, so I set out to make the blocks.

I combined this project with my need to jump on the freezer paper stencil bandwagon (which, as you all know, left the station about 2 and a half years ago). Amy Karol (this was a project brought to you by Amy's) wrote about the process, and many others, in her new book in such a clear and simple way, giving me the motivation that I finally needed. If you haven't checked out her book, do! My favorite part is the fact that she states the aspects of the techniques that you will love and hate at the end of each explanation. It's good to know what will make you raise your fists to the sky in frustration before you get started, I think.

Anyway, these blocks were lovely to put together. Everything came from my current stash of stuff, which makes me very happy. It took a while to choose fabrics and I had to fight the urge to purchase something that was really perfect rather than settle for things that went together from my stash and were sort of perfect. But the truth of the matter is that all of my choices totally ended up being perfect and have worked out in their thrown-together kind of way. Here is the fabric, all cut up (minus one print that didn't make it into the photo shoot for some odd reason). There is a very soft, deep rose colored corduroy in there that came from Megan. She had this little backpack made out of the fabric and one day was done with it and left it on my porch to be turned into something new. Actually, she left it on my porch so long ago that I may be forgetting what she meant for me to do with it...hopefully cutting it up and sewing it into something else was the intention. Hm. Anyhoo, it has been softened so beautifully with all of the wear and tear it got and the addition of a few bits of corduroy gives the blocks some beautiful variation in texture, which I know Stella's little hands will love.

Of course, there needed to be some star-themed fabric in there (I've actually accumulated a bunch of star-themed things over the years, so perhaps it was already written that Stella would be here one day...) and this is the fabric that I chose to stencil Stella's name onto. I followed Amy's directions exactly, and got very clean and crisp results. I recommend using the technique if for no other reason then to get to experience the thrill of peeling off the stencils. Yee haw! I think the trick was ironing paper onto the back of the fabric, because I could swear that it seemed like some little edges of the letters didn't get perfectly ironed down. I was convinced that there were would be some blobs and I'd just have to live with it, but no! It all worked out. I am now going to be freezer paper stenciling everything in my path because it's so dang easy.
I am almost done sewing the squares, the longest part of the process which has come in fits and starts because I need to be Stella-free in order to get it done. I didn't have 4 inch foam, so I used a double layer of 2 inch foam cut into 4 inch squares. It's a little lumpier in some places than I'm sure it would be if I'd had the correct foam width, but it really isn't that noticeable. I asked Stella what she thought and she said "boooeeeaaaaapthththththt" which translates roughly to: Lumps? What lumps? So I think we're in the clear.

I plan on making the bag, but lord knows when. It will involve a freezer paper stencil, I can tell you that much! Thanks Amy and Amy!

made. by k.d.