Sunday, December 21, 2014

Top 10 Posts of All Time Part 1

It's the end of another year and I'd like to share my top 10 posts of all time.  According to the number of views.  According to blogger's calculations, anyway.  Some of these are not what I would have chosen, but they must have caught the eye of someone who needed to know more!

Starting off, #10

Why You Should Hire Me as An Interpreter

I've been a French teacher for over a decade and in order to become one, I had to pass a test that said I could speak French adequately and therefore probably could teach it. At least at the lower level.

I've enjoyed the French language since I first heard it when I was 6 and had it once a week at school. After high school, I had no plans to continue speaking French, but we know how things never go the way they are planned. So, here I am, teaching others how to speak French, hoping someone catches the bug like I did.  At least one person has as one of my former students got married in France to a real, live French man last year.  Phew, my job is done.

I don't usually fancy myself as bilingual and I am sure that anyone who is French and speaks with me at length would attest to that. But, I can certainly make myself understood and manage quite well when I am in a French speaking country. I have never been in an emergency and had to speak French, but I am pretty certain that I could at least communicate my needs and get the help I needed. And understand what they were going to do to help me.  I like to hope so, anyway.

In the summer, we have a great influx of Canadians around the first week of August, and I always get excited when they are from Quebec and I might be able to speak French to them. Last week, we had more Quebecois in the park than Americans!  People form Quebec are called Quebecois in French.  We don't really have a good English word, so when they talk about themselves in English, they call themselves "quebekkers" and are totally fine with that.

We Americans are always fascinated by the tiny little trailers and vans that Quebekkers come in for camping and this group of 3 did not disappoint.  Two little Westphalia vans and the tiniest, ancient trailer.  For 6 adults and 5 kids.  We can't have tents, so I can't even imagine how 11 bodies fit in this situation.

But, I got to speak French to them.  And that has to be worth the price of admission.

There was also another Westphalia with a couple who stayed for almost 2 weeks and I was able to talk to them just about every day, sometimes for a long time.  They even came to my monthly Table Francaise group and shared a pot luck with us and were amazed that we crazy Americans really speak French to each other when we get together once a month.

As I was talking to this couple, I found myself saying some things that really blew my mind.  Some phrases fell out of my mouth that I didn't even know I had mastered.  It's always the tricky phrases that separate the truly bilingual from the fakers.  Like the phrase "it's not worth it" is like the most difficult thing for me to master, but I think I might have.  Another one is "I realized"  I think if a person can say that properly, no other test should need to be administered because that is one stinker of a phrase.

We had quite lengthy discussions about our jobs.  Mine is pretty simple to explain, but hers is something along the lines of a registrar for GED or technical type education and it took a while to understand.  We discussed the recession.  We discussed some animals that are endangered around here.  We talked at length about where to ride their bikes.  We talked about our favorite activities.  We talked about how disappointed they were with Nantucket.

And all the while, I was really pleased that I could uphold a pretty rapid conversation and not sound like a dolt.  Most of the time.  I have to credit these monthly Table Francaise meetings with some of it.  Speaking real French, beyond French 1, with adults once a month does keep me on my toes.

But, with all of my self praise that you just read about, you really should hire me as an interpreter because I would provide you endless entertainment.  Even in English, my brain goes far faster than my mouth, so I can never keep up and I can't ever find the words I want on the spot.  I'm always great for thinking of comebacks like 5 minutes after the fact.

Imagine that in another language.  I can go on and on about very intricate topics and then say something very brilliant like "his/her mother was/is going to the store" which is like basic French.  And I realize I'm doing it, but I can't stop myself.  Or correct myself.  A wall just goes up and that's when I start gesturing. 

Or someone can say the most common thing, like "did you get up early this morning" and my brain just stops and can't decipher any of it.   I start to panic with an internal dialog going "that's French, right?  I know that's French right?  What does it mean???  Wait does this mean I can't really speak French????"

I can only imagine that if I were an interpreter for say, the government, and could pass all of the tests, and manage to tell someone how to disarm a nuclear weapon, it would be in the moment when I need to tell the disarmer what to do with that crucial last wire, and my brain would take a break. 

And I'd toss in the odd English word, typically that word is "you know", like that will help anything.

And then my undiagnosed ADD would kick in and I'd be off in never never land thinking about bread.  Or something.

And have you ever realized that  interpreters are literally speaking while the person is speaking?  That's the part that fascinates me the most.  I know that I can talk while someone is talking and I will still get the gist of what they are saying, but there is no way I could do it verbatim.  And ongoing.  And sometimes, these interpreters are in horribly loud places with bombs going off and they manage to stay focused.

I'd be too busy thinking about what great fodder the situation would be for my blog and I'd forget all about what I was doing.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pssst....I'm Giving Something Away!

So, I've teamed up with SewMamaSew to give away one of my ponyhats on instagram!  This ponyhat is grey and navy striped with a stretchy hole at the top that lets your ponytail swing out loud!

The only way to enter is to go to instagram and find me.  I'm @frenchymms .  You need to comment or like the post where I explain my giveaway, before 11:59pm Friday. 

One lucky winner will be sporting this all winter long!

If you want your very own ponyhat, I have a few for sale in my etsy and I can do colors of your choice too. 

Stop looking like a boy when you wear a hat- set your ponytail FREE!

My sister is also giving away a neat treat on her instagram so go like hers too!  She's @callajaire 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mrs. Claus Enters The Modern Age

Way before I knew what a mashup was, I made this Mrs. Claus outfit for an organization that I volunteer with every December.   Click on the link to find out where I got my inspiration for the dress.

I'll tell you at the bottom of this post why I dress like this, but I'm so excited that my revision of this mashup worked, I have to tell you that first.

When I made this costume the first time, I took the pattern for a top of some random dress that I had and added a circular skirt to the bottom.  I literally took the fabric and laid it out flat and cut a large circle with a circle in the center that I thought might fit my waist/hip area.  No seams, just one big circle.

I had no idea what I was doing or if it would even work, but it seemed to come together the way I wanted, so I finished it and added the white trim.

In those days, I never altered patterns to really fit my small upper body, so the shoulders drooped way down and it was a pretty square shape.  But, the skirt is so much fun, it forgave the ill fitting look of the top.

Every year, I pull out the dress and every year, I think something must be done.  I've tried adding the white belt and not adding it.  One year, I finally sewed it on.

But I never liked the way it looked.

Also, the neck has always been too close.  I've thought I should maybe cut the neckline down, but I always imagined that I'd create some sort of avalanche effect where it would just keep getting wider and wider at the top and be totally ruined.

But, 2014 has  been the year of the Lady Skater, thanks to Amanda over at kitschycoo.  You can see 3 versions here and there are a few others from August if you go searching on my blog.

Someone on instagram made a Lady Skater Mrs. Claus dress and it all came together in my head.  I was pretty sure my current dress was big enough that I could take it apart and use the Lady Skater pattern for the top and make a dress that fits me more like it should.

I wanted to keep the big circle for the skirt, so I figured I could just add it to the revised top.  I really like the fullness of a circle skirt!

So, here is the original.

Too long in the waist, the sleeves are a little too long and the shoulder seams come down about 4 inches down my arm.

And I don't like that white belt at the waist.

Or the skinny neck.

It wasn't hard to pull it apart, though I had sewn on that white trim like I might be some sort of scuffle that might result in ripping off the fur.  That was the hardest part to deal with!

This was the top once I took everything off.  Plain Jane, very home made looking.

 Here is the front once I cut it up Lady Skater style.  I don't know why there appears to be a perfect V at the bottom of the neckline because that isn't supposed to be there.  Must be an optical illusion...

I still had some of the original fabric (from 8 years ago!!) but because I paid no attention to grain lines or the stretch of the fabric, I didn't have any that I could use for the edge of the neckline.

Never fear.  Since I knew I would put fur on the neckline, I decided to use some red knit fabric from my red shirt that I made this summer.

To my eyes, it's SO OBVIOUS that the neck edge is a different fabric but no one will ever see that so it doesn't matter.  Just like it doesn't matter that the entire dress was sewn with pink thread because that's what was in my serger and I was way too lazy to rethread it with red!

The sleeves were cut down nicely, but because I didn't pay attention to the layout of the original, they don't have a lot of give because they stretch the wrong way.  They are fine, but not perfection.

Luckily, the bodice was cut out on the correct lines, so it came together as it should have.

The skirt is a tad shorter than I would like because the waist is so short.  But, the whole thing fits much better, in my mind.

Sadly, there was no photographer available to take a picture of me in the dress when I wanted to write this post, so you can't see the marvelous changes.

I'd still like a big, black belt like Santa Clause himself because I feel like it's a little bare in the middle.  But it's much better without the white belt, don't you think?

I also really like the slightly larger and lower neckline.  It's not a huge difference but it's enough that it makes me happy.

So, why on earth do I need this dress that I have now sewn twice??

For a really neat event called The Spectacle of Trees.  Click here to find out the fine details.   In short, there are 16 trees that have been decorated and filled with presents by different non-profits.  People come and buy tickets for $10 and then drop them  into the box for the tree or trees they hope to win.  The last night of the event, one name is drawn from each box and the winner gets the tree and every, single thing that was on, under or around the tree.

It has gone from a few gifts under each tree 8 years ago to trees that are now valued at over $10,000.  I'm not kidding.

And you guessed it, I am the lucky person who draws the winning names.  The guy in charge liked the Bass Ale costume I wore the first year, which was the inspiration for the dress (did you click on that first link way at the top?  It explained the origin of the dress.)  and he has me wear it each year to pull the names.

One might think that once you own a Mrs. Claus outfit you  might be called upon to wear it on more than one occasion each year.  Sadly, these class haven't come in, so I just bring it out each year for about 30 minutes.

If I knew I'd do this gig for the next decade, I might completely start over with this pattern but cut the skirt shorter.

There wouldn't be a waist seam at all and I'd still have a fairly full skirt.

But that would mean buying more fabric and putting more work into something that I probably won't wear too many more times.  So I won't do it this year.

But I'll think about it a lot and probably do it next year!

Linking here:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lady Skater 3 Part Series- The Best Part

This week, I've shown you my wild side in a 3 quarter length shirt and my softer side in a full length shirt.

Today, I'm showing you my new favorite modification.

I love the Lady Skater dress and have made a couple.

Then I merged  kitchsycoo 's Lady Skater top with the Comino Cap and created a t-shirt that I love.

Since that was so easy, I thought my  next task would be a breeze.  I wanted to make a dress along the lines of the dress my sister (callajaire) made for beanster that you can see in her post here.  I love the way that dress flows and doesn't have a sew waist.

She drafts and redesigns patterns all the time, so she said I could probably just take the Lady Skater and put the skirt and top together and lengthen it as far as I want it to go.  Just follow the lines, she said.

It made so much sense.  I knew exactly what I was going to do.  And I was tickled that I had some heavy duty wrapping paper that was on a roll and would be perfect to get one, long front and back pattern.  Then I'd just use the regular sleeve and neckline pieces from the Lady Skater.

So, off I went to get my fabric and came home to "draft" my new pattern.  I had been thinking about it for days.

And this is what happened.  I put the top and bottom together and then lengthened them to the length I thought I wanted.  48 inches from the shoulder to the bottom of the skirt which would let me have a 2 inch hem.

And then I got to looking at it and thought "there is no way I am that skinny right before the top of my hips. Olive Oyle, I am not.  But I went along with it anyway and cut out my fabric and sewed it all up.

And tried it on and trust me, there was no need for a picture.  It was awful.  So snug in the hips and the flare of the skirt started way down at the bottom of my knee.  Not what I had in my at all.  I really am NOT that skinny at the top of my hips!  This drafting this is for the birds.

But, instead of throwing it out, I finished the sleeves and then left it for the night and planned to hem it in the morning and give it away.

I know someone who is very skinny and straight through the hips and she's short so the length would work.  But how could I tell her I'd made it and would like to give it to her without making her think I'm stalking her and secretly making her clothes.  Creepy.

And then it hit me.  I knew EXACTLY what I had done wrong and EXACTLY how to fix it!

Phew, no need to freak out a coworker with my "I made a dress that's too small for me but would be perfect for you" plan.

So what went wrong, you ask?

Well, instead of doing this:
 And then following the skirt line all the way to where I wanted it to stop, like this:

I broke the top and bottom apart and put all of the length in the middle.   I measured out 48 inches on the table and put the top at the top and the bottom of the skirt at 48 inches and then filled in the paper in between.  I honestly don't know what I was thinking. 

This is where I demonstrate why I am not an engineer.  Can you imagine?

I spent so much time this summer perfecting the length of the torso of the Lady Skater and then completely undid that when I lengthened the mid section like that.

But, it made for a very simple fix.  I simple lined up the top and bottom pieces on the dress and cut the middle piece out.  Then I sewed them together as the pattern requires anyway.

And I have a very fine Lady Skater with the knee length skirt.

But, I still didn't have my magical dress like the one I intentionally planned to make. So, off to the fabric store I went on Black Friday evening.  There was no one there and it didn't appear to have been ransacked during the day, so it was a pleasant trip.  I found an even better knit and it was 60% off, so I was tickled.

I came home and correctly drafted my pattern, the way I originally intended, with the lengthening happening at the bottom, not the middle.  This picture shows the wrapping paper curling up.  It wasn't an asymmetrical pattern!

If you know anything about patterns, I am sure you see the grave error I made on the left side of the pattern.  When I lined up the top and bottom, I didn't line up the edges of the fold lines, so I did this wrong.  I had to take it apart and line them up and finagle the outer edge to suit my fancy.

And suit it did!

It has the lines I was looking for.  And the length is just what I wanted.  The skirt is super full which adds a weight that I like, but it ate up a lot of fabric!

Maybe if I had a little Captain in my, this would have gone smoother!

I do not love the back as much as I want to, but I think it's because I was standing funny.  I hope that's why.
It was loose but hugging in weird places and makes me think it's the swayback that kitschycoo mentions about the Lady Skater.  I'm sure adding length and weight has done something to the lines of the original.

So it's another grey, but darker and with some silvery thread in it.  I'm not sure what I will do with the other grey one.  Anyone want to buy it?  It will fit someone about 5'2"!

I've seen a lot of Lady Skaters on Instagram dressed up with scarves, so I think I will do that with this.

After all my fantasizing about this dress, I look at it now and think I should be floating out on the moors in Scotland a la Wuthering Heights.  Or walking through town in my low heeled boots a la Louisa May Alcott.  A lot of hullabaloo for what?

I used a total of 3 yards, almost to the inch to make this, so unless the fabric is 60% off again, I don't know if I'd make another.  This turned out to be really cheap, but because that skirt takes up so much material, I think it will be a while before I do it again.

Linking here:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Lady Skater 3 Part Series, Part 2

Yesterday, I brought you a picture of my wild side.

Today, I have to show you my favorite color under the sun.  In the softest knit I have ever felt in my life.

Seriously, I should just go buy bolts of it and make my blankets and everything I own out of this knit.

This is another Lady Skater/Comino Cap mashup but with the full length sleeves.  Kistchycoo has the best patterns I've seen and I especially love how she gives pictures in her tutorials and not just sketches, or worse, no pictures at all!  I only wish she'd make an adult skirt in the same pattern she has for all those girl skirts she's been whipping up!

So, in case you were too lazy to click the link to my post from yesterday, basically, I took the Lady Skater top and merged with the shape in the torso of the Comino Cap to get a top that I really like.  I made a short sleeve, a 3 quarter sleeve and now a full length sleeve.

 Again, I love how the neckline looks and how it stays in its own shape.

And unlike on my wild print shirt from yesterday, I mastered my double needle for this shirt, so I have a great hem that actually has some stretch.

Apparently, my Bernina wants me to put the tension number up really high to make the double needle work.  I don't really get sewing machine tension, but I've always thought that the lower the number, the less the tension.  And I thought with a knit, I'd want less tension.

I kept getting the top row of stitches looking good with the double need, but the underside look exactly opposite of what I've seen all over youtube and it wasn't very stretchy.  Just being silly, I put it all the way up to 8 last night and BAM, it did exactly what I wanted and has some give.


 One of my biggest problems is that my torso is short, so shirts are usually too long for me.  I hate tucking in shirts almost as much as I hate wearing a belt (which is why you will so rarely see me doing either or both) so I am usually a somewhat rumpled mess when wearing a t-shirt.

I found a length that I really like, for me.  It's just long enough without bunching up at my hips or exposing my mid section when I raise my arms over my head.  Which I seem to do a lot in my profession....

It is ever so slightly too loose right in the middle of the front and I might tweak the pattern a little more to see if that will go away.  For now, it's my dream shirt.

Come back tomorrow and see my newest take on the Lady Skater.  Get ready to laugh because I made such a ridiculous mistake the first time, I should have my sewing machine taken away from me.

Linking here: 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lady Skater 3 Part Series, Part 1

As I mention in this post, I discovered kitschycoo and her fabulous Lady Skater dress pattern this summer.  This was after I found her Comino Cap pattern and made one shirt but didn't especially like the pattern on me.

I love the top of the Lady Skater but I knew it wasn't long enough to make a t-shirt out of it.  So, I combined with the length of the Comino Cap and love what I came up with.  Go look here.

Since the Lady Skater has 3 sleeve lengths, and my first one was the short sleeve, I decided it was time to try this wild print with the 3 quarter sleeve and my Lady Skater/Comino Cap pattern.

I see the animal prints and the crazy prints that some women are using for these patterns on Instagram and wonder what I can get away with.  As a teacher, I have to think that a kid has to stare at me for 50 minutes, and if the fabric is way too wild or silly, they could possibly lose their minds.

And so could my colleagues if they have to see me in it ALL.DAY.

Something about this fabric spoke to me and made me think I could pull it off in a shirt.  My sister thinks it looks like a pretzel exploded.  I think it looks like leopard print meets carpet meets some Disney ride at Animal Kingdom.

I don't usually go for off the wall prints, but I think this is just enough.  A whole dress would be ridiculous.

 I love the 3 quarter length sleeve, but my favorite part is the neckline.  I love the shape of it and how it magically actually holds its shape.

My one sadness is the hem.  I had a really hard time with the double needle on knits and only just figured out what I must have been doing wrong.  I ended up giving up on the double needle entirely on this and went with the triple stitch.  I don't like it because it restricts the stretch of the hem.

No one else would ever notice but it bothers me.

I guess I must have been trying to show the lack of stretch in this picture.  Or perhaps  I was getting ready to do an old fashioned jig.

Come back tomorrow and see my second installment in this 3 part series using the mashup of the Lady Skater and Comino Cap.

Maybe I will call it the Lady Cap?  Lady Comino?  El Comino?  

Linking up here:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Visit Me On Aunt Mildred's Porch

 If you visit my etsy on a regular basis, you might have noticed that the name changed.

As with the name of my blog, I hadn't thought out the name for my etsy shop and I needed something when I signed up, so I chose sparkling74, which is what I used when I set up my blog.  It's always irritated me that it's so random and I've been wanting to change it for a while.

So, after all this time, my etsy shop is now called On Aunt Mildred's Porch.  Go see but you have to promise to come back and see where the name came from.

Aunt Mildred's porch was where I trained to be an old lady.

Aunt Mildred was my great-great aunt who came to stay in the campground every summer.  She came for all of my mother's childhood and she came until I was in high school.  In my mind, she was always really old because, well she was really old for the whole time I knew her!  She lived to 103 and I was in my 20s when she died, so that means she was in her 80s and 90s for all the time I knew her.

In my earliest memories, she drove a big, old car that was banana yellow.  It had little crank out triangular windows in the front door as well as the regular crank down windows.  I thought those little triangle windows were the coolest.  I remember her driving me somewhere.  Probably to the grocery store because she didn't go too far.

Later, she got a smaller, but still big, car that didn't have cool windows.

And eventually, she didn't have a car at all, so my mother would take her where she needed to go.

Her trailer served as the office during daytime hours during the summer months. We grew up on that porch.  We played, we read, we ate hot dogs and beans every Saturday, we got in trouble and coulnd't leave the porch and pretty much lived our summer time lives from that porch.  If my mother wasn't in the house, it was likely she was on Aunt Mildred's porch.

Conveniently, Aunt Mildred's trailer was right in the middle of the campground so people passed by a million times a day.  The dumpster was right nearby, so every time someone went to the trash, they'd stop and say hi.  Pretty much anything that went on was seen or heard from Aunt Mildred's porch and if we missed it, someone was sure to come right by and tattle on whoever was doing something suspicious.

In those days, there were lots of ladies who were always crafting.  Aunt Mildred was crafty until her
eyes got too bad and my mother was always knitting or crocheting something on that porch.  People stopped by to show the latest crafting fad they were making or to see what my mother was working on. 

So, it was only natural that I should learn how to knit, crochet, cross stitch, latch hook and who knows what else on Aunt Mildred's porch.  I had a small laundry basket where I kept my craft of the moment and I'd stop and work on it for about 3.5 minutes and then hop on my bike to do whatever I did before returning a little while later to sit for about 3.5 minutes and do it all again.

I made a lot of stuff back then!  Mostly cross stitch  but I gave crocheting and knitting a whirl.  My problem with knitting was that I couldn't start a project without someone's help, so I quickly abandoned all hope of knitting.  Plus,  my mother was always making baby booties or little sweaters (who was having all those babies back then?) but I wasn't really interested in that. 

We didn't have the internet back then, so my family was the lucky recipient of all of my crafting.  I had nowhere to sell them and didn't know what else to do with all of those treasures!

Luckily, I have a way to promote my creative skills online and refrain from filling my friends' and relatives' closets with all of my handmade goods.  Go visit On Aunt Mildred's Porch while I'm throwing a sale during this week of turkey eating and black Friday nonsense.

Linking here: