Saturday, April 21, 2012

Zakka Challenge #3: Pincushion


I sat out last week's Zakka Style challenge because the book I ordered hadn't arrived yet, and the free preview on my phone only went through project #1 (besides, scrolling pages on my phone to make that tote got old very quickly - I'm glad I got the book).  This week's challenge was a pincushion, which took a faction of the time of the zig zag tote (although I love that tote, and use it all the time, so it was worth it).

As I was going through my stash of supplies, a theme started to emerge: Wizard of Oz.  It was like it came together all on its own.  True to my original intention, almost all of my supplies are repurposed, too!  Here's what I used:

- linen (right panel), from the same curtains used in my last project
- rainbow elastic (middle), from the antique store (symbolizing over the rainbow, of course)
- words from the "wizard," which I had printed out on fabric about 4 years ago with the intention of making a skirt for my daughter.  The skirt never materialized, but I kept the phrase and found it in my box of embellishments
- covered button, from a long-outgrown chenille Baby Lulu overall set.  It symbolizes the poppies that put Dorothy and her friends into that nap in the field, right before they get to Oz

- yellow linen and Oz fabric - not repurposed, but from long-ago fabric store purchases
- heart button on back - symbolizes the Tinman's heart, natch

I stuffed it with crushed walnut shells, so it's hefty and nice.  I don't know what I'm going to do with it, since my quilt guild just had a pincushion swap and I was the recipient of an awesome one from a fellow member.  I don't need another for myself.  Maybe this will be the first item in the hope chest I've always been meaning to put together for Kate.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Earth Day Crafting with Kids

I know Earth Day is later this month, but I am off this week while the kids are in school, so I've had some time to volunteer in Kate's classroom again this year. Her Montessori school encourages involvement and participation from parents to a high degree, which makes for an incredible number of different talent and inspiration and instruction to enter her classroom every year. We are all really lucky she's enrolled there.

So this year, like last year, her teacher was kind enough to allow me to come in and share a few recycled crafts with our up-and-coming generation. Last year we made Mors Bags, which ended up being quite an undertaking, especially with a group of 25 kids, most of whom had never used a sewing machine before. Still, it was awesome; when I visited her school for months afterward, I had kids walking up to me asking, "Are we going to make more Morsbags?" Today I had one girl tell me she still uses hers at home. Yes, teaching imparts lessons that last well after students walk out the schoolhouse doors.

We didn't make Morsbags today. Instead, I came armed with five crafts, all made from upcycled t-shirts, which are plentiful and free (and, bonus, easy to work with). All of the projects were greeted with enthusiasm (some with more enthusiasm than others, but the kids were all ready to try anything, which made for a fun morning). Here's what we did:

1. Shopping Totes - I thought these would be more of a hit, since they're no-sew and simple and I love them and I think the idea is so clever. But the kids seemed very concerned with the 2"-or-so hole that results in the bottom of the bag once you draw the string through. I told them to just not put anything too small in the bag, but they didn't seem convinced, and they looked at me skeptically, like I was trying to pull one over on them. Whatever. I still love them, and I'll be making more for home. The kids seemed to have a tough time using the safety pin to guide the t-shirt strip through the bag bottom, too.

2. Bracelets - no tutorial or link here, because we simply braided 1"-wide strips of stretched t-shirts into long lengths and wrapped it one or two times around wrists before we tied them off. Basic. The kids loved seeing how jersey stretches into a skinny rope if you pull it tight enough, and even boys liked the bracelets.

3. Circle Scarves - easily the most popular of the five crafts from today. The kids absolutely loved it, and the scarves came together much more quickly than I had even thought they would. Kids were even able to easily show latecomers to the group how to assemble the scarves by themselves, and when they were done, they had substantial, tangible, fashionable items to wear. Plus, it inspired some of them to think about what they could do with their own t-shirts once they got home. I did advise them to check with their moms and dads before they started cutting up their clothes, nut who knows if they'll follow my advice?

4. Dog & Cat Toys - we took 1" strips of jersey (about 10 per toy) and tied random knots in them. Dogs like chasing them, and cats like batting them around with that cat-playing thing they do. Easy peasy. And my dogs have never been harmed by them, even when they swallow pieces of the fabric (which Angel does quite frequently; I think sometimes she eats directly from my scrap basket). Make one knot per toy or make 6 knots. Pets like them all.

5. Headbands - the simplest craft of the day. Take a loop (or 2 or 3 or 4) of 1"-wide jersey, circle it around your hand until it's roughly the size of your head (don't forget, it will stretch, so feel free to make it snug for now) and - presto! - instant headband. I actually did this back in December when Kate and I went to see The Nutcracker and I needed a black headband to go with my dress. The kids seemed a little disappointed that there wasn't more to this one, and my original plan was to do a weave-type of pattern with the jersey loops, but after I saw how difficult braiding (see #2) was for some kids, I made a last-minute decision to nix the weave and go with this simpler version, which I like just as much.

Working with the no-fray, upcycled knit strips was definitely the way to go. Happy for the Earth. And a happy, no-fuss day of crafting for us. Win-win.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Opening Day Bag

When I was 12, I had a pen pal. I loved her. I was not in love with the girl in California, who I never met, but I was in love with the idea that I got to write words to someone who lived across the country, and she read them, and I felt connected to her. I felt like I owed it to her to write awesome things about my not-so-awesome life so that she would read my awesome letters and marvel about how awesome I was.

I think I began almost every letter with the words, "I'm sorry it's been so long since my last letter."

I feel like I should use those words here, now, but I won't. Instead, let's pretend that you are my awesome pen pal, here to read about my awesome life, and it has not been over six months since my last post. Let's imagine that I have posted almost daily, and my super sewing and parenting and wifing abilities have been nothing short of awesome, and now you're here to read about my latest awesome adventure. Are we good, then?


Then let me tell you about the Zakka Style Sew Along, in which I am enthusiastically participating. If you are at all interesting in sewing and challenging yourself, I highly encourage you to check it out. Not that I am a procrastinator by nature or that I need the motivation of a great challenge to keep me going or that the first project in this book would have sat in a half-completed state on my sewing table for months were it not for this sew-along, but if any of those things were true, I feel confident that my being part of this group would remedy the situation.

I have decided that all of my projects for the sew-along will be sewn from upcycled/recycled materials, which shouldn't be hard, since almost all of the fabric I have is previously loved. More on that in another post. Anyhoo, for project #1, the Zig Zag Tote, I started off with this:

The beige is a linen/cotton blend curtain, new in a package when I scavenged it from a co-worker who was moving on to a place where she would not be needing the curtains she purchased but never hung. The green is an Ikea sheet which I love and which was the victim of an unfortunate bleach accident almost as soon as I brought it home from the store. The blue-and-white polka dot is also a curtain from a bag of thrifted fabric I procured well over a year ago.

Given these raw materials, plus a few other notions and the bulk of my weekend, I emerged with Project #1:

Truly, I adore it and I'm glad I did it. I'm always encouraging my students at school to reflect and ponder, so let me do that with this.

What I love about this project:

1. The directions are very clear.
2. The colors are perfect.
3. Because of the interfacings I used, this bag is sturdy - VERY sturdy. I'm pretty sure I could take it to the beach and use it as a sand bucket. I won't, but I could.
4. The size is ideal. When I began making it, I thought I might use it as a gift; however, as the process went along (and it was quite a process, for reasons that have nothing to do with the book or the instructions), I decided that something that took that much of my time was probably something I'd want to keep. I added one more interior pocket than is indicated in the instructions, so it is big enough for my iPod, my phone, and my Nook, plus all of the other purse essentials. It will definitely be my summer bag.
5. The double-sided handles are fun.

Things I learned from this project:

1. Patchwork, and quilting in general, is all of the work I always thought it was. And probably more. Those zig zags are all made from individually cut and sewn triangles, and since my seam accuracy is not always the best, my points are not perfect.
2. I used a heavier interfacing than is called for in the instructions, which makes for a really sturdy bag, but it was difficult to sew it some spots because it was SO thick, and had lots of layers (and not like an onion or an ogre, either). My Brother held in there like a trooper.
3. When quilting with a thread color that will show, it's probably good if your stitching is near perfect. Mine is not. It's wonky and crooked in some places, but I still love it.

Why the name Opening Day Bag? I'm glad you asked.

While watching the Opening Day of baseball last week, my husband pointed out the new stadium down in Florida. While he was ogling all of the state-of-the-art baseball stuff, I was drawn to the colors of the seats:

I don't think you can see it here, but some of the seats are green. The blue and the green really grabbed my attention, and thus, the Opening Day Bag was born. Plus, it's the "opening day" of the Zakka Style challenge. And it's the first time I've done any real quilting on a finished project. So lots of firsts here. The name fits.

Play ball!