Saturday, July 8, 2017

Parting Gifts

The end of this school year had several good-byes.
I teach at a high school that has a long was founded in 1890.  Yup, it's 127 years old. There are many traditions in this place, but a way of saying farewell isn't one of them.  Each year, the now defunct social committee planned some type of parting gifts for the folks leaving.  Those who had been there for a longer time got some larger, nicer, more meaningful parting gift, and those who were new-ish got something small (candles, lemons, mug, etc.).  The art teacher did, and still does, make a handmade book for folks to write thoughts and memories down and to say farewell.  They are amazing, and involve ceramics and/or painting and/or hand-stitching on beautiful paper.

At a previous school I worked at, the tradition was that if you had been there 5 or more years, the secretary knit you an afghan in school colors (side note: babies got a baby afghan in school colors!).  Folks often stayed till the 5 year mark just to get the afghan.  I'm fortunate to have an adult and baby version.  They are beautiful, and remind me of the wonderful years I spent at that school.
Exactly what it was intended to do.

So, as I mentioned, my current school didn't have this kind of on-going tradition.  The last few years, an assistant principal has been in charge of planning the farewell lunch and gifts.  I emailed one and asked what she thought of creating some type of tradition. She thought it was a great idea and gave me free reign (silly girl!).  I made wall-hangings/table-runners for folks in out school colors of purple and gold. This came from a Row-by-Row pattern of rain drops.  I experimented with other layouts, and other color combos, but it really wasn't spectacular.

As soon as I made what you see here, the original pattern, it was right.
Three of the folks who were leaving this June had been there more than 5 years.   I made 4, just in case.  Some folks don't announce their retirement or employment changes too far in advance, so I wanted to be ready.  The good news is I'm ahead for next year...

Also, my son finished 6th grade this year.  It was his last year in elementary school.  Next year, he'll be a seventh grader in Junior High.  He is able to attend a junior high near my school, and I will be able to drop him off at school in the mornings on my way to work. Our daycare provider, Miss Janet, has been an amazing gift to our family.  She has stuck with us through some very difficult times.  One morning as I was dropping the kiddo off, she asked if I had seen a certain quilted pillow her daughter had shown her. She described it to me, and was really struck by it (she had never mentioned something like this to me before!) and what one could do with it. I told her to have her daughter send it to me on Pinterest, and I'd check it out. It was books on a library shelf in a way that I had not seen before.  I had a conversation with her daughter about her favorite colors - bright pastels - and I was off to the races.  It would be the perfect gift. I went through my selvages and fabric that had pictures on it, and did some fussy cutting and fancy stitching.  Even managed a water theme with all those aquas and blues.

This was "due" the same day as the purple and gold rain drops. If you read my previous post, you may note that Mary, my big machine went kaput.  Impeccable timing, but somehow not surprising.  I mangled my way through the quilting, and got it done.
I'm grateful that I  am allowed and encouraged to make gifts for folks.  I love making, and I'm blessed that people like what I make, and they feed my habit.

A Trio of Pouches

After an amazing vacation to the Florida Keys, I am home and sewing again. I missed the time with my machine. I had forgotten, in the interim, that Mary, my big Brother machine, was in for repairs.
It can straight stitch and zig zag, but couldn't free motion without snapping needles. Good thing that I bought a 100 pack of Schmetz needles via Massdrop. I snapped 5 in 15 minutes, and went to my local Quality Sewing and Vac for help. They filed a burr (or three) from the needle plate so I could eek out the 4 projects that were all due in a day and a half. It worked for about 10 minutes. But now I knew it wasn't me, and 4 needles snapped to finish up the projects (I will post about those later...).
I also forgot how to actually thread my Featherweight as well. The stitches were a bird's nest. And as we know, if there's a problem with Flossie's stitches, it's not her. It's something I did. I made multiple tries and FINALLY got it right. My brain was too muddled from a long vacation and lack of practice!
So anyway,  I got to play!
I will be leading a staff sewing "fling" next week, and the group had requested zipper pouches. So I've chosen two simple, beginner-friendly ones. The first will be a flat pouch, and then a pouch with boxed corners and stitched in tabs around the zipper. I'll try and remember to get pics and post them. BUT, as I was trolling around the internet looking for simple patterns and some measurements, I came across Noodlehead's open-wide pouch tutorials. So cute, and pretty easy, and a way to get back into the zipper groove.
I like how they came out, and getting to play with some pretty fabrics in bigger chunks. Note to self: time to get a bigger variety of zippers on-hand!
I made the full set of three...the large is huge. Part of me wants to use them because they are so pretty, but they might make a great gift for someone.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Baby, Baby, Baby

I promised pics of some baby quilts ages ago, and then never managed to get them posted.  I will share some here, and some made since.  I have a real treasure to show you though...the first quilt I ever made.

I made a baby quilt for a young man who will be 20 very soon.  Eek!  I asked his Momma if I could take a photo of it, and she graciously pulled it out of its storage box  My heart is so happy that she knew right where it was..that told me a lot.  When I took some photos, I noticed a seam that had come undone.  I offered to bring it home to fix it.  As I looked at it, I was appalled and embarrassed and simultaneously thrilled to look at it.  There are elements that are so, well, badly done.  The quilter I am now just wanted to go through and "fix" it.  It took a lot of restraint to just fix the seam (a quick little zig-zag), and not go through and add quilting and more quilting.  There was a little of stitch in the ditch and that was about it.  It's amazing it survived the wash with so little holding the layers together.

By the same token, it is a time capsule of who I was then  And the comparison of who I am now, and how far I've come.  Things like using quilt shop quality fabrics, and using Warm 'n' Natural as opposed to the puffy poly stuff.  And now more quilting.  And bindings that are either done with tiny stitches that you can barely see, or machined for long wear and tear.  I used the pattern religiously back then, and now they are usually a jumping off point for me.

I can honestly say I've grown...I was a total novice and made it with love.  And even though I'm no longer a novice, I'm still learning.  And I still make each quilt with love - because every item should wrap you in love, and be blessed with prayers and happy wishes.

 I'm fortunate for the ability to do what I love and get to make baby quilts for my colleagues.  My administrators have enabled this habit, and it is baby season at our school.  These two have all gone to their respective homes, and the babies involved.  We are on baby watch for the most recent.  As a matter of fact, they were finding in-house emergency coverage today - I hope that means there was a last minute call to the hospital.  The one in the chair will be handed off tomorrow morning...this baby is due this summer, so it will find it's new home before the school year ends.

Also, I was so excited to make a baby quilt for an OLD friend.  I met him back when I was an undergraduate, and he was one of the engineering physics TAs.  I hated physics, and really didn't understand a lot of it, but it was a requirement for a BS in Mathematics.  I'd actually like to retake a physics class now as an adult, just to understand the ideas, since the math wouldn't get in the way at this point.  Anyhoo, Harry and I became friends, and over the years have stayed in touch.  A few years ago he met his love, and they married.  I was and am so happy for them.  They were trying to get pregnant for quite a while, and they have just recently been blessed with Miss Eve.  She is tiny and precious.  A week before she was born, I got the style, color and theme information.  Momma wanted a fish/marine theme, with blue, green and yellow.  Well, that was right in my stash!  I sent a few pics her way, and she chose one. The book was not available in print, and I was thinking I'll create my own pattern.  I found an electronic pdf of the book - it was only $6 ish for the entire book, or $3 for the one quilt. Of course I got the book (and am so glad I much inspiration inside!).  The only purchase was a half yard for the background of the fish.  And I probably could have made it work with my stash, but on such a short timeline, I didn't want to fuss with it.

Funny story, as I was about to mail this off, I realized I had no good pics.  So I went across the street to the park and tried to take pics.  Of course, every time I stepped away to take a pic, it fell to the ground.  Two middle-school aged boys were walking by, and I thought I'd risk it.  "Gentleman, can you help me with something?"  "Maybe..." (They probably thought I was a creeper at that moment).  I explained what I needed and they were happy to each take a corner.  They were impressed that I had made this thing.  I forget that not everyone gets to see handmade items created in their lives and homes.

 The quilt made it to it's new home, and I'm thrilled that they love it.  That really is the best praise ever. That and using it.  I need to send them washing instructions (I was so focused on getting it there on time, I forgot to include them), and an explanation that it is meant to be used, and it comes with a lifetime warranty.  So please, use it, and try to wear it out.

Life really is good!

A Tote for Fun and Important Decision Making

Pink and Gray totes are the cutest!  At least they are sitting on a "Caribbean Blue" chair.  

My TACMQG president had a bag making class. We met in a police substation (and it was a great space!). We used Bijou Lovely's Market Tote tutorial and spent the day making bags. The pattern is a fairly typical bag pattern, but is designed with a triple layer of fabric at the base, which means that you can carry a lot of groceries, or whatever.  Since Tacoma is going plastic bag-less this summer there is increased interest in fabric bags.  I love sewing with others sewing nearby. The conversation and support are always amazing.
I got to play on my Grandmother's 1938 Singer Featherweight.  It is a joy to sew on - if the stitches aren't perfect, it's because I haven't threaded it correctly. 

Some of my Guildmates were cranking them out! I managed 1. Sometimes I think I'm a fast sewist, and then I see  my masterful friends at work and re-learn better. I thought I might make it a carry bag for my Featherweight, but it wasn't quite the right size. We worked out the size needed and the necessary adjustments to the pieces to make one just perfect for the task. On my way home I stopped by Joann's and picked up some Home Dec fabric. How could it take me hours to pick 2 fabrics? No idea, but I finally found two I loved together. At the checkout line, I found totes for sale (7.99 or 9.99?) and it was cheaper than I could have bought the materials for. I bought it (in navy and leaf green, of course) and it happened to fit Mary/Flossie perfectly! 

Who is Mary/Flossie? I have never named my machines before, but many of y'all do and I love it when I see it or hear it. .I'd love to hear your opinions about this - either naming your machine(s) or what their names ought to be.  My paternal Grandmother (who is turning 100 this July 2nd!) gave me her.  She originally belonged to my Great Grandmother Florence. My Grandmother Mary purchased it from her (many decades ago)  and then several years ago sent it home with my Dad who had been out visiting Wyoming. I love it, and grateful for it every time I see it. She is a joy to sew on. So that's where Mary comes from. And Florence isn't an option -she wasn't a very nice woman...
My mother, Sally, who passed away in 1999, was the daughter of Flossie. Flossie (one of 4 kids: Acey, Dewey, Flossie, and Cossie) died when my Mom was 13. I don't know if she was a sewist, but my Mom sure was. I would love to honor her side of the family even though the Featherweight comes from my Dad's side. My big fancy Brother doesn't have a name either. 
I don't think I could name either machine Sally.  Should the Featherweight be named Flossie or Mary? Should I name my Brother the other name?  Or do you have any other suggestions? I'd love your feedback.

Funny how I can take something so silly, so seriously. If you haven't gathered yet, if there is something to worry about, I find it.  

Love to you all!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I'm Dreaming of a Tropical Vacation


I hope this finds you on a sunny day - at least sunny in spirit!  It's (still) raining and gloomy here.  It just snowed over 2 inches on one of our mountain passes last night!  We've had the weirdest weather this spring, and the sun has made a few random appearances. 
The only perk to blecky weather is that, as a high school math teacher, there are less wardrobe issues at school.   Our district has a dress code that basically says, in legalese, keep your private parts covered.  And don't expose shoulders.  That's so tube tops and halter tops don't happen.  And then there is no risk of a wardrobe malfunction.  Of course, some say that is sexualizing students and an example of gender discrimination.  It's distracting to see any students private bits exposed.  I don't want to see it, really.  And if I'm holding my breath that you might move the wrong way and expose your private bits, then you don't have enough clothes on.  Regardless of gender. 
Of course, it's never that simple.  We had a day and a half of nice weather (it broke into the high 60's) and there were issues.  In fact, we had LOUD protests outside my portable, with lots of drama, and news cameras(!) and interruptions to class.  All during AP testing, of course.  It was a challenge to teach that day.  Then the weather gods smiled on our school, and there has been no more sun.  They are promising some next week.  I'm not holding my breath for it.
Anyway, all this dreariness has me dreaming of sunny, tropical locales!  My best girlfriend and I are going to meet in Orlando, FL (she'll be finishing up a conference there) and I'm flying to meet her, and then we road trip to Key West!!!!!  I'm so excited..  I love, love, love, love tropical pictures and locations.  Seeing Key West has always been on my bucket list, since I was a wee child.
I grew up in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, where ocean water is dark and freezing.  There were pictures of my Mom standing in a very large pool.  Nope, that's from when my Dad was stationed at Key West Coast Guard Station, and she was standing in the Atlantic Ocean.  Ever since then I've loved water that looks like that.  I even got to go to Hawaii once, and that was amazing.  But Key West has been a part of my dreams from childhood.  My Mom was going through old boxes (again when I was young) and pulled out a navy and green paisley dress, and matching shoes - 60s kitten heeled pumps.  I thought it was beautiful, but I was already to big to fit into the dress my Mom wore when she was in her 20s.  I loved it though, and it was made of "Key West fabric" and the shoes were made with identical fabric as the dress. 
As I write this, I know where my love of blue and green and tropical comes from. 
I'm so lucky to have a friend who loves to travel, and thought to invite me and make a trip out of her work week.  We haven't traveled together, but we work shop well together.  We "get" each other, and can spend many (many!) hours together, and still wish we had more time to hang out.  We respect each others needs and tastes, and I think we will travel well together.  She is a planner - thank Heavens!  There are reservations for every part of the trip, and she has a list of activities that we can do.  I'm really easygoing, and I'm just up for the adventure.  As planning was happening, she'd email "what do you think about...." and I'd just reply "Sounds great!"  It all sounds great, and I can hardly wait to go.
One of our planning conversations revolved around a day trip to the Bahamas.  I admitted I didn't have a passport, so it wasn't an option.  My friend (who has travelled internationally for decades now) said no worries.  And it turned out the trip didn't have great reviews.  I wanted to us to not go because we didn't want to, not because we couldn't.  Hence, the photos.   (Edit: My passport came in the mail - only 3 weeks - and I'm SOOOOOOOOOOOO excited!).  It took weeks to get the appointment for the passport interview.  The actual interview only took about 10 minutes...filling out the paperwork in advance took way longer than that! 
So you can see I've had sunshine on the brain.  I used a Cluck Cluck Sew pattern, and this came out of it.  It just makes me smile, and the tangerine binding is the happiest fabric I can imagine at the moment. Note the tropical blue chair?  Yup, it's my favorite. 
I'm wishing you tropical times...