Saturday, September 6, 2014

Why Elementary School Is More Fun

We are officially BTS now and after such a gorgeous summer with very little humidity and day after day of awesome weather, we were welcomed back with 80+ degree days and humidity at about 500%.  Not a great combo in an old school with little air circulation and windows that only open a little bit.

I was soaked for 4 days.  Like being swatted all day with a sopping wet rag.

And for 2 of those days, I had to deal with kids who were also pretty damp.

It might have been my best back to school yet, despite the yucky weather!

And already, I'm reminded why 4th and 5th grade are much more fun than middle school:

1.  Kids actually got excited when I showed them my new toy that I made.  If they have a birthday when they have French, they tell me and I put this on their chair.  They already started calculating which day their birthday will fall on and expressed HUGE dismay if they realized they don't have French that day. 

Middle schoolers would have been like psssshhhhhhhhhhht whatEVER.  I'm never telling you when my birthday is!

2.  Kids enjoy sitting on the floor in front of you.  And they can keep their hands in their laps.  I'm getting some awesome foam tiles to sit on, thanks to but they were totally willing to sit on the bare floor.

Middle schoolers would not have sat on the floor, with or without foam mats.  Those who did would have been poking and tickling each other and God knows what else.

3.  A boy came up to me and asked me to put an elastic back in his hair.  He has new cornrows and one of the rubber bands fell out and I guess he assumed I could put it back in for him.  As I was doing my best attempt and rewrapping a cornrow, a kid asked "what are you doing?" and I replied "I'm doing his hair" like that was an every day thing.

Middle schoolers- ew I wouldn't even want a middle schooler that close to me, let alone touching the hair myself.

4.  We did a cooperative team building activity all morning and kids actually stood in circles, held hands and did what we asked.  They laughed, they cheered, they yelled, they had a blast.  And so did the adults.

Middle schoolers would have complained of cooties, sweaty palms, accused people of liking or not liking each other and there would have been NO cooperation.  I sweat a little imagining how frustrating that activity would have been with my previous middle school students!

5.  Kids actually ask for help, ask where teachers' rooms are and take directions from any adult within a 2 foot radius.

Middle schoolers pretend they know where they are going and end up in the wrong place but refuse to ask for help and then get mad when someone helps them anyway.

And the best reason to be where I am now?  They aren't self conscious and will blurt out whatever I tell them to say and not think too much about how silly they might sound or how they might look.  This might be the best reward for working with 9-11 year olds.

I don't know how I kept my sanity for the 17 years I taught middle school students.  I loved doing it, but if you asked me to do it again, I'm already starting to think I'd have to say no.....  Ask me if I'd like to go back when I'm knee deep in 4th graders who don't know how a 2 pocket folder works so they can write their names in the right place....

Linking here:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Long Sleeve Lady Skater Perfection

I said I was done sewing knits because I'd used every knit that was available at the fabric store, but here I am again.

Now I have to be done with knits because I don't need any more clothing!

I found this stretchy fabric and thought it might make a nice long sleeve version of the Lady Skater from kitschycoo and it might look a little bit fancier than just a regular knit because it has some texture.

It has a little bit of a lacy look to it.  I have to say that it's not the softest material on the inside, so I'm not sure how much I will end up wearing this.  It's very polyestery on the inside.

 The pattern for the Lady Skater came with several sleeve length options so I used the full sleeve length on this one.
I love the cuff at the bottom.  The sleeve was long enough without it, so I cut about an inch off before I added the cuff.

As I mentioned in this post, the  neckband just goes in so smoothly it's a luxury to make! 

She also has her act together when it comes to the sleeves.  They fit in beautifully and the ease is truly easy to deal with.  The edge of the shoulder is spot on and I like how the whole sleeve looks whether it's short or long.

I've discovered with all of my knit creations, I can't tell front from back quickly because there isn't a tag or zipper, so for easy reference, I sew in a little color at the back so I know!

Using my new friend, the twin stretch needle, the hem was a breeze and though you can see it from a distance, which I suspect means it tunneled more than it was supposed to, I like the overall look.
If kitschycoo would design other clothes, I am quite sure I would buy the patterns and make them because it is amazing to me how well the sizing matches real life and how easily it all comes together.

Again, I only used my serger for joining the dress and used my regular machine for topstitching only.  The seams are fabulous and there is a nice stretch from the serger.

I really need to stop because I have no room left in my closet!

Now, what exactly do you suppose was happening here:

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Doing the T-Shirt Mash

My sister a-ster started something on her blog a while ago called the Monthly Mashup.  You're encouraged to mix two or more patterns together to create a new piece of clothing and then share.  So far, she's pretty much featured clothes that she makes for Beanster, so in my mind, I was thinking it had to be kids clothes.  DUH.

It's the internet.  No rules are enforced, right?  I could mash potatoes and share it and what could she do?

But, until recently, I hadn't made any clothing, so I wasn't really into the whole mashup thing.

And then I discovered kitschycoo, knits and both the comino cap top and the lady skater dress.  And all hell broke loose in my sometimes creative brain.

While I like the comino cap top, I wasn't thrilled with the cap sleeves or the neckline.  I LOVED the neckline and the sleeves of the Lady Skater dress, but the option for the top by itself wasn't there.  I had already thought I could just merge the two and my sister confirmed it when she was like "just match them at the waist..." and I knew it would be a breeze because they are very similar from the middle of the top on down.

And voila, my new master plan.  I had decided on the length for the comino cap, so the only thing I had to do here was merge the lady skater top to the top of it.

 I love the red.  It's kind of a faded red, but the best choice at the fabric store. 
 The sleeves are just the right length for me and I love both the sleeve edge and the neckline edge.  They go in beautifully.

And when you topstitch, I just think it looks fantastic.  The bands match the openings so well, there's not much of a worry about accidentally gathering the sleeves or the front/back.

Ok, forget about the shirt, what is the niceness that my hair was doing here?  I feel like it usually looks ratty when I whip it back like this (my signature 'do) but the light must have been just right...

 K-ster is going to have to change the angle from which he takes pictures because my upper back looks enormous at this angle.
Just the right amount of looseness without being droopy.  I'm not a snug knit wearer, so this mashup really combined the best of all worlds!

I was really struggling with hemming my knit creations until I was finally able to get my hands on a twin stretch needle.
While Joann fabrics carries this brand, for some reason, my local store does not have this model and the women had never heard of a stretch twin needle.  I knew they existed and my sister told me that in her store, they are in a weird location, so I told my local people where it is in her store, but they said they didn't have them at all.  So, I resorted to finding them somewhere online.

I truly believe this has solved my hemming issues.  Here's a view of the top and the interior of the shirt, so you can see what I mean.

My interior view seems to be the opposite of what I see when I look online and see what a twin needle does, but it's doing the job and that's all I care about.  I suspect it has "tunneled" a little and someone will probably have a solution to suggest.

Also, I only used my serger for joining this entire shirt.  I figured out that if you read the manual that came with the machine, it actually tells you how to fix some of your problems!  All I needed to do was change the differential feed number and the waviness disappeared.  I love how the inside looks so neat and tidy!

Sadly, I have no picture of me conveying a weird message in this shirt, but I will in my next post, when I feature a long sleeve Lady Skater dress.

Linking here:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Now Let's See Who's Wearing the Pants

As my adventures in sewing with knit fabrics continues, I ventured into the land of pajama pants this week.

K-ster has had a pair of lounge pants for well over a decade and they are missing some serious fabric in places.  I know they are over 10 years old because they came from a store that no longer exists.  They have lasted and lasted and except for a big hole and a fraying waistband, they are surprisingly not bad.

He wears a few pair of nylon running pants but I seriously hate them for a whole slew of reasons.

And then there are the fabulous Corona pants that came in a can.  Someone gave them for Christmas eons ago and they hold up nicely but he needs something else.

When he saw my knits for me, he asked me to make him some pants.

Sadly, his requirement of "Bruins colors or Bruins logo" wasn't met, but I did whip up these bad boys in his favorite color.

The problem with sewing for tall k-ster vs. short me is the amount of fabric required.  I didn't quite need the amount I thought I did during this fiasco, but I still needed 3 yards to make them happen.  Even when the fabric is on sale, it's not proving to make sense financially to make rather than buy these pants.

I did discover a few changes that need to be made.  He isn't 14 feet tall, so I could reduce the amount by almost 12 inches and the width at the bottom of was equal to the top.  This is not so good, as we discovered the hard way one morning.

He was standing and the next thing I knew, he was stumbling-lurching-falling toward me because he had started to walk but got caught in the "bell bottoms" as he called them and stumbled.

So, I tapered them like the fabulous pants I started out talking about, and it's much better.  If I make them again, I know where I need to cut back.  But still, it will be well over 2 yards that I need and unless the material falls off the back of a truck somewhere, I'm not sure I will bother.

I have two favorite parts of these pants.

The first is the waistband which makes it feel like they will last forever.  A wider elastic would make more sense here, for sure.

The second is that my serger was exceptional the day I made these.  I have never seen it breeze through something so nicely.  When I first started, there was a serious problem and I almost just went to the regular machine because I don't know enough about my serger to know how to troubleshoot.  I did determine that the issue seemed to be at the needle and not in the ever hidden internal parts, so I rethreaded that one needle and it totally worked.  It made me want to make a million knits right now because it's worked so beautifully.

No waves, no weird stitch issues.

I seem to have exhausted the supply of knits at my local Joann fabrics.  I'm not looking for solid colors but the prints are all way too over the top for me right now.    I'm not the biggest fan of prints.   I have no idea what I'd be looking for online, so I think the knit bus stops here for me right now.  Sad, because I'm just getting into the groove and my serger is upstairs whispering for more.

K-ster won't model for us, so I'll leave you wondering what message we were all trying to convey in 1991:

Linking here:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sewing A Knit Dress Part Deux

You might have read that I've just entered the land of knit fabric and my passport hadn't expired, so I took another trip with a knit and I like this one the best.

Thanks to kitschycoo, I made both the Comino Cap shirt and dress.  The dress came out better than the shirt, but I decided the fit was not quite what I was looking for.

As I poked around her site, I found the Lady Skater dress.  It has several sleeve length options and I thought I'd give it a whirl.  This time, I wanted to try using my serger instead of just my sewing machine.

I found this fabric at Joann fabrics and because it was on clearance, I decided to use it even though it was a very stretchy, thin knit.  The colors are my favorite together and the softness of the fabric made me wish I could make lots of things with it.  Just my luck, there was just enough left, so I grabbed quickly and got to work.

I don't know what happened in the pictures, but the print looks nothing in those pictures like it does in real life.  The one right above is exactly the right colors.  In real life, I like this print a lot.

I first used a 1 inch hem, but I might have cut the skirt too short to begin with, so I ended up undoing it and just doing a lettuce edge with my serger.  I think it worked well for the fabric.

There's that hanger I removed last time and foolishly put right back up, so as k-ster was taking pictures, I was compelled to move it again.

I love the sleeves on this dress.  It's called a cap sleeve but I would just call this a short sleeve.  Cap sleeves are what I call this kind.

Plié, relevé and stay....

When I first made the dress, I hadn't shortened the waist high enough, so it hit right at my hipbones and I really didn't like it.  It also did something weird because I serged that part.  So, I cut off the skirt and brought the waist up about 2 inches and just used  my regular machine.  I like this waist much better.

Now, if I could combine the bottom of the Comino Cap top with the top of the Lady Skater dress, I think I would have knit shirt nirvana in my sewing room.  I tried this today with what I thought was PLENTY of fabric and it so was not enough fabric, so I had to give up before I even cut it out.  Very sad.

The fabric totally cooperated and came together really well.  My serger buzzed right through it, but I think I need to adjust some things.  I can't say the seams are not puckering a little.  It's all very stretchy, but they don't lay completely flat, like I wish they would.

As with  my other knit adventures, I will leave you contemplating the message I was trying to convey in this photo.

Linking up here:  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Blackberry Jelly Whether I Like It Or Not

We have lots of wild things that grow around here. 

I say wild, but most likely, someone planted them within the last 100 years and they've been left to their own devices.  Sometimes, we have more Concord grapes than a Welch's factory.  Other years, it's the blueberries that stain my picking hands.

And this year, it was the blackberries.  I want to like them, but their little seeds always hang around in my teeth and they are so bitter that they ruin any pleasure the berries might have supplied.

I know this from way too many summers of getting excited about them and eating them and instantly regretting that decision as I chomp seeds.

But this year, the amount of blackberries just standing at reachable levels was obscene.  I ignored them for a while and then I decided I had to figure out something to do with them. 

Because when life gives you blackberries, you really can't ignore them.

Within 20 minutes, I had 6 cups of berries. I didn't even have to try.  They jumped right into the colander.

I found a recipe for making blackberry jelly and I decided today was the today to try making jelly.  I was mystified that I could just boil them and not use a pressure cooker.  I'm not a canning expert, but I've always used the pressure cooker.

I decided that I would try using the huge pot that I bought for the lobster/steamers dinner that we had when my sister was here.  Yet another use for it and for the huge outdoor burner we bought for it.

Since the pot is so big, I can't fill it in the house, so I did the next best thing.

I truly don't know how we would exist without the outdoor shower.

To make the jelly, first you must boil the berries to extract the juice.  All 6 cups of berries boiled down to 3 cups. 

And then you pour it through cheesecloth to get just the juice.  You're left with this pile of pulp.  I really couldn't decide what to do with it, but since it's full of those seeds I love so much, I decided to just throw it in the compost.

After boiling the juice and sugar to make it thick enough, I canned them and got a whopping 4 half pint jars.

I had cut the recipe in half because I didn't have enough berries after the first picking but I wanted to try out the whole making jelly thing before I went any further.  It worked exactly as it should have.

One of the bonuses of the big pot is the insert that came with it.  You can see it in the picture above.  I put the jars in it in the kitchen and took it out to the patio and lowered it into the water.  It has great handles for lifting and the best part is the little feet.  When I'm done, I get some heavy duty tongs to pull it out and then I can set it right on the patio, on its little feet, to cool.

The hardest part for me is getting the water to boil just as I'm ready for it to.  I spent a lot of time waiting for the juice to boil down and for the water for the canning to boil.

Since we still had a ridiculous amount of berries on the vines, I enlisted the help of k-ster, who was really the instigator of this whole thing because he said I should make jelly out of them.

This venture was slightly more difficult because the berries were a little more out of reach.  I thought with him being taller he could reach in better, and he could, but there were still so many out of reach.  The thorns are deadly and if you were to slip and fall into the bushes while picking, you'd be in a lot of serious trouble.

He finagled a few ways to get at the vines and when we finished, we had another 8 cups of berries. 

I went through the same process and all together, I made a dozen of the little half pint jars.

I didn't think I'd like the jelly much, so I tried it on a bagel.

I guess it wasn't so bad because I had to lick the plate clean!

And a few days later, we had another round of ripe berries.  I didn't want to buy more little jars, so I just picked some and made a cobbler.  It's good, but those seeds......

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sewing A Knit Dress

In yesterday's post, I showed you my first attempt a making a shirt from a knit fabric.  It's OK, but I'm not as in love with it as I thought I would be.

I decided it was probably the material I chose, and I also thought that if I made the dress from the same pattern, the skirt of the dress might help to pull the top down a bit and fit more like I wanted.

The pattern is for the Comino Cap from kitschycoo and it comes with 4 options.  There's a plain top and dress or there's a top and dress to make with a sweetheart inset at the top.

For both the top and the dress I stuck with the plain jane top.  No need to emphasize my FULL BUST and surely a sweetheart pattern would do just that.

I loved the color of this material the second I laid eyes on it and the bonus was that it was a heftier knit with a great stretch.  I figured if I couldn't make this fabric work, then knits are not for me.

For the dress, I stuck with the size up that I ended up using for the first shirt that I made.  What I didn't realize is that though I have that full bust, I have a narrow waist, so the dress sort of hung in a funny way.

My sister's brilliant suggestion to baste my alterations before I committed to the knit stitch was right on.  I took in the sides where the curves needed to be more defined, but then I found that the skirt was too poofy and I might have created the dreaded jodhpur hips that she mentioned.

So, I cut down the skirt a little too.

My favorite part is how the neckbands and armbands went on. I didn't use a contrasting rib fabric like I did on the shirt.  I was worried that using the same fabric as the dress might not work because maybe it didn't have enough give, but it worked really well.  The topstitching on that makes me so happy because it feels like it was professionally made.

You'd think I might have a picture of that but I didn't and my ipad is currently being used....

So here's another view to keep you thinking.

 Always thinking...
I worked really hard to remove that thing so it wouldn't be in the pictures...  and then it's there anyway.

I also topstitched the waist because I loved how it look.  However, when I put it on , the topstitching popped out because there isn't a whole lot of stretch in the waist.  Sad.   It's a small detail, but I feel like it makes the dress look finished.  I might try to finagle something and do it again.  I have a dress that I bought with a topstitched waist and it's a knit, so I'm sure there's a magical way to do it.

So, while the dress did come out just fine, and it's comfortable and I will probably wear it until it falls apart,
I think my next attempt with knits will be a different pattern.

Kitschycoo has the Lady Skater style that I like a lot because the neckline is lower and it has a real sleeves.

Or, I might mash up a different top with the Comino Cap skirt and really shake things  up.  Then I can participate in callajaire's monthly mashup!

In the meantime, I'll leave you pondering the message I was trying to convey in this picture.

Linking here: