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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Create and Donate - Pencil Cases

I'm blown away.

Honestly you guys, floored. It has been awhile since I've hosted a Create and Donate - over a year in fact. And I'm not going to lie - I wasn't so sure how it was going to go. I thought that maybe I hadn't organized it well enough or publicized it enough. And then you guys showed up.

Before even starting today's Sew, I had received donations to sponsor 12 pencil cases, and a very generous cash donation to purchase school supplies to fill them. Then we had a little mini army show up to make 6 more and to help me get a large portion of that work done this afternoon. Before we were all done, 2 more cases were spoken for, and Paige reminded me that a customer had come in and picked up a kit to make one of the pencil cases herself. 

All tolled, that's 21 pencil cases that will be going out to kids in need. 

We got a little more than 1/2 of them done today...



We had a little assembly line going. 
Cutting ribbon tabs...


Cutting fabric pieces...


Ironing fabric and interfacing...


Zipper instruction and insertion...


Completed bags and students with new skills...


Paige will love me for this picture in the morning...


The gang's all here...


These pencil cases and their school supplies are going off to children in the tutoring programs at Aslan Youth Ministries.They have programs that serve students in the Red Bank, Asbury Park and Long Branch areas. 

How you can still help:
We are having another Open Sew to finish up the pencil cases we didn't get to today. That will be held on Sunday, September 18 from 1-4 at Frame in Fiber, 1004 Trenton Ave in Point Pleasant. It is an open house type format. Come when you can in that window of time and I'll help you put together a pencil case. You'll need about 45 minutes-an hour. 

The money we have received so far will purchase a good portion of the supplies, but whatever other donations we receive, we'll continue to pass them on to the program - you can donate money or supplies themselves. Ideas include:
crayons
pencils
pens
Elmer's glue
glue sticks
Expo markers
highlighters
post-its
pink erasers
...you get the idea. You can drop supply donations off at Frame and Fiber through the September 18 Open Sew. 

The tutoring program itself starts at the beginning of October, so I will use the last 2 weeks or so of September to organize supplies and stuff pencil cases. Then the donations will be brought and donated to Aslan. 

Thank you again for everyone who has participated! And don't worry - we'll keep doing these community events. I really do like them so much!

Have a great week!
:) allison

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Unexpected Mother's Day

Yesterday Didn't Go Quite as Expected...

I knew my plans for "The Perfect Mother's Day" were heading off course the day before. I was hosting for my parents, my brother and his wife and my husband's friend who is staying with us for the week. I carefully and lovingly made a sour cream cake, one that my mom used to make with her mom. The cake decided to get stuck in the pan - peeling the whole top layer off. I was able to puzzle piece it back together and then the dog jumped up on the counter and inspected my work. So I wound up cutting a chunk out of the top where he got close.

Just before serving the masterpiece, I added powdered sugar. I went back to add a little extra to the missing top piece, and accidentally unscrewed the lid to the sugar shaker, dumping about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar in that one spot. So I had to cut the whole piece away and throw it out.


In the morning we woke up to a sick kid. He had been feeling a little off the night before and didn't feel like doing much but lay in bed come morning. Both my kids have lost their screen privileges this week because sometimes it's the only leverage you have as a parent. So instead of spending the morning at church with the fam, we were at home, where he languished and moaned and lamented about if ONLY he had something to do that was relaxing and would make him feel better, aka video games. And then - gasp - he played with some of his toys. 


My husband had to work for most of the day. His business is moving from its temporary location to its larger, permanent home and he only has a week to get all the heavy lifting done. So, with my blessing, he scooted off to get things done early Sunday morning. Just before cranking up the truck, he rushed back into the house with this orchid! He is not much of a flower-giver so this was most unexpected. (Trust me, he more than makes up for it in 1000 other ways - for one, he washes the dishes every. single. day. Not just when there is company, but even when it's just the 4 of us. Sorry ladies, he's mine!) 

He had kept the orchid in the garage overnight because of the surprise factor. But it's been like the tundra here and a little too harsh for a delicate orchid. So one of the 4 blooms fell off before he could present it. 

I tried to follow a recipe on Pinterest. Seemed simple enough. Fresh veggies. A dip. Thin strips of zucchini. Take strip. Spread dip. Layer veggies. Roll roll roll. Veggie sushi - voila! What could go wrong? Thin, limp, seed-ridden zucchini strips that looked like octopus tentacles - that's what. I made two for effect and put the rest of the veggie strips in canning jars with the dip nearby. If you want to see what it's "supposed" to look like: you can click right here.



It rained super hard in the morning. NOT unexpected, since it had been doing that and not much else for the entire week. But what WAS unexpected was the fact that it cleared up, the clouds went away, the sun came out and we had a glorious, very Colorado-esque sky for the whole afternoon. 


I gave my son some Advil and allergy meds (I think that's mostly what we've been dealing with this season. It seems every week they have a head-cold-thing going on, but I think it's just that NJ plant life is finally catching up with them and yep - they've got seasonal allergies like their mom. :( But he was feeling so much better, we just had to get out in the nice weather. So we drove out to get some plants, and they planted their garden plots. They are involved in a Junior Master Gardeners program here in town, and aside from a little reminder here and there about spacing, they laid out their plants all on their own, including the ones they bought for me with their own money. 


My son even planted a pot of begonias for his great-grandma (in the little pot, just above the watering can). She passed last August and he was her little buddy. 


After planting, they busied themselves with kid stuff upstairs and I dragged some living room furniture out to the front porch for lunch. In the sunshine. By myself. Soup and toast and a good book. Um...swoon. Perfect afternoon. So what if we don't have patio furniture?




Our daughter gave me a card for Mother's Day. On the front cover is a picture of me. Looking like a man. Or a character from The Bee Movie. But completely accurate. Striped t-shirt, jeans, short hair, blue eyes. She gets me. 


Inside she wrote the most lovely things. Things I'll keep close to my heart for the rest of my life. One unexpected thing she wrote was that I "never give up." That stopped me dead in my tracks. Because I often want to give up. I often feel inadequate - as a mother, wife, homemaker, and certainly as a business owner. I feel like it would be a huge relief to give up the business part of my life, get a regular job where I just have to show up and do what they tell me. I asked her what she meant - that I never give up. She said -

"Even when you mess up, like on something in the sewing room or something else you're trying, you don't give up. You take it apart or try it again and make it better."

From the mouths of babes.

This is how she sees me.

This is how I WANT her to see me.

This is how I want her to see herself.

Mother's Day was perfect - probably my favorite in many many years. My family came. They ate ALL the food. And the cake. We planted a garden, enjoyed the sunshine, got chores done, and snuggled. I spent most of the day with just my kids. It wasn't fancy, it didn't go as planned. Heck, I didn't even get a shower.

But it was perfect.

And unexpected.

And I'm here today, writing you, because I choose to never give up.

:) allison

Monday, April 25, 2016

Behind the Seams - April

Family Hike Day


Yesterday we took the family up to Stokes State Forest for a little hike. My husband has an Adventure Fitness Center for kids and teens called Base Camp here in NJ, and part of his program is encouraging whole families to join us out in nature at different sites around the area and enjoy a day together hiking. We go about once a month and yesterday we explored a few trails in Stokes. It was the most perfect day and everyone had a lot of fun. One of the families had never before been on a hike! 

Stokes is large and there is lots to see. We explored the Stony Lake area. Our group ranged in age from 7 years old - 50 something, and had all levels of hiking experience from very beginner to advanced. 


The waterfall in the area was everyone's favorite. I caught a moment of my son's quiet contemplation. 


My daughter and her teen idol :). Matching step, stance and hair style. If I could hand-pick any teen for her to look up to, I couldn't have chosen any better!


Hi! That's me, at our lunch spot - next to an abandoned silver mine.


One of the teens from our homeschool program...


Stony Lake itself.


Four little fishy explorers.


Getting outside is so refreshing. Can't wait until the next trip!

:) allison

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Christmas Stocking Tutorial

I know it's only April.
But if you're anything like me, what happens is you have all these great ideas for handmade Christmas items and you put them off until December 20-something, and then you run and buy people gift cards never get to them. So I'm giving you plenty of time to work on Christmas stockings this year. Mostly because of my pushy sewing students who wanted to take handmade Christmas to a whole new level this year. You two know who you are. 

A note about me: I hate raw edges. I don't like seeing them. It makes things seem not as well made as they could be. And so when we were planning out stockings, and a cuff was mentioned, I cringed. Because on all of the stockings I had seen, if you pick the cuff up, there were raw edges under there. And that's totally fine! Because who besides me is going to look at the underside of the cuff of a stocking to inspect whether or not there are raw edges? No. One. I have problems. But if I was going to design a stocking with a cuff, it couldn't have raw edges. Because I'm crazy. 

There were a few failed attempts. And some unsavory words, I must confess. And then some praying to sweet baby Jesus to forgive me. And then a stroke of genius from one of my students that got us halfway there. And finally in the car ride home from class, I figured it out. So here we are. You guys had no idea it was such a process, did you? Pattern writing is no joke, trust me. I have a ridiculous new appreciation for the people who do it for a living. 

Anywho...

I made up a sample of this cuffed stocking, using two Christmas fabrics, muslin for the lining, and ribbon for the hanger. They are getting all fancy with appliques and trim. Once you learn the basic construction, the sky's the limit on the embellishments. But let's start with construction.


You will need:
3/4 yard of outer fabric for the main stocking piece. 
3/4 yard of lining fabric. I just used white muslin.
1/4 yard of cuff fabric.
a 9" length of ribbon. 
all the usual sewing bits and pieces.

I started with a stocking I liked the shape of. I placed it down on a piece of tracing paper and traced around it with a pencil. 


Then I used my gauge (or ruler) to add a 1/2" seam allowance around the entire edge of my stocking (the dotted line). I also eye-balled where I might want the cuff to be, and drew a line across my pattern piece there.


Using paper cutting scissors (not ones I use for fabric) I cut out the pattern on the dotted line. You can see my original traced line is still intact. I folded over just enough of my fabric for my pattern piece to fit on it, placed the pattern down and cut around the pattern using fabric scissors.


I repeated the process for the inner stocking pieces...fold...lay...weigh - this was new, should have done that originally - and cut.


Next I took the pattern piece and cut it the cuff line I had made earlier. I found it helpful to mark an arrow to show where the top is.


For the cuff, I cut 4 pieces. I started the same as the stocking inner and outer - folded my fabric right sides together and placed the cuff pattern piece down, arrow is pointing up. Then, I added 1/2" to the bottom of the cuff, (straight red line) and also I added a 1/2" flare to the bottom of both sides. I used a ruler to draw a line from the 1/2" flare to the top point of the paper pattern piece. (slanty red line) I did this on both sides. This gives your cuff a little bit of extra room around your finished stocking, but not much. You can make the flare 1" if you like.


I cut out one cuff set using these traced lines and the paper piece, and then I used the cut out fabric pieces to cut another cuff set. You will have 4 cuff pieces all together.

Here are all your stocking pieces...
2 outer,
2 inner,
4 cuffs.

If you're staring at the computer screen, hating everything about the cuffs - skip them. You can make this stocking without the cuffs if you like. No worries. Just let them go for now, skip all the cuff assembly pictures to follow, and skip right to the main stocking pictures. I won't tell anyone. The cuff made me quite grumpy while we were working it out.


If you ARE going to attempt the cuffs, here's how it goes. I told you earlier it might be helpful to mark the top of the pattern with an arrow? It might also be helpful to mark the pattern pieces. I didn't, but I think I will the next time. The bottoms of the cuffs are only slightly more wide than the tops and it's a little hard to tell the difference once they are sewn.

To start the cuff, take both sets of cuffs, right sides together, just like you cut them, and sew down the left and right side of both sets, using a 1/2" seam, where those yellow lines are. Leave the top and bottom open. You'll have 2 fabric tubes. Then iron your seams open.



Turn one of the tubes to the right side, making sure you keep track of where your top is. Line up your seams and slide the two cuff pieces together, one inside the other, right sides of the fabric touching and top and bottom raw edges lined up. You are going to sew around the bottom edge of the cuff. In a circle - not straight across, but slide it over the table of your machine so that you still have a fabric tube. Leave the top of the cuff tube open. See how the top and bottom stuff is important?


Flip the cuff to the right side and iron the bottom seam so it's nice and crisp. Pssssssst...that inside part? That will wind up being the underside of the cuff and nary a raw edge in sight. Glory!


Then top-stitch this seam. Set your cuff aside for now.


Hi there! If you've skipped all the cuff nonsense, this is where we're meeting up. Ready to sew the inner stocking? Here we go!

Keep the inner stocking pieces together just as you cut them. You are going to sew them together, using a 1/2" seam, down the heel side, around the toe and back up the other side. Leave a turning opening, about 6" wide in one of the straight sides. Do not sew the top closed.




Next, sew the outer stocking pieces together. All the same details. 1/2" seam, down one side, around the toe and up the other side (you don't have to leave a turning opening) and leave the top open. Using sharp scissors, and being careful not to cut into your seams, clip into the curves of the heel and toe of the stocking.

Turn the outer stocking to the right side and press. Then, if you're using the cuff, slide the cuff tube over the top of the stocking. The raw edges of the cuff should line up with the raw edges of the stocking.


Take the 9" piece of ribbon and fold it double. Pin it inside the inner stocking piece (the right side) along the seam of the heel side. The raw edges of the ribbon should line up with the raw edges of the stocking.

See here? I pulled the ribbon loop up from the inside of its hiding place so you can see where to put it. Just make sure it's tucked back in before you sew.


All righty. Slide the outer stocking/cuff combination into the inner stocking/ribbon combo. All the raw edges from all the things should line up at the top and all the seams should line up as well. Pin around the top edges in a circle. You can peek through your opening in the inner stocking to see all your layers, happily nestled together. Sew around the top edge of the stocking, (again, in a circle - not straight across) so that the layers are all sewn together. Remove the pins - don't forget that one holding the ribbon hanger - and then pull everything to the right side through that hole.


Push all your curves out in the heel and toe and press both the inner and outer stocking. Then push the raw edges of the opening in the inner stocking to the inside, press and sew the opening closed.



Push the inner stocking down inside the outer stocking and iron around the top seam.


Your stocking is complete!


Here are the ones the girls are working on. Toldja they were fancy.



If you decide to work on stockings this year using this tutorial, I'd love to see them! 

:) allison





Sunday, February 28, 2016

Back to Reality

Feeling a Little Bit More Myself -

For those who read last week's post, things are on an uptick. The weather has been better, the sun has returned to its rightful place in the sky and this week we turn the calendar to March. (I am resolutely ignoring the prediction of snow for this coming Friday, thank you very much). Soon spring will be upon us and no one is happier than me!

I don't do so well during the winter. It's not necessarily the cold so much as it is the gray. It sinks into my bones and stays there. And while on the surface, working from home during the short days and leaden skies of winter sounds like a cozy, snuggly winter-dreader's dream, it doesn't really work out that way. I have to leave the sanctuary of the shop which is not all that insulated and not much improved by the little space heater, and sew in my house. And then this happens:

http://the-daily.buzz/working-from-home/

Sigh.

But this week, things started to turn around.

For one thing, I had a long overdue sewing class with some of my favorite students. They finished up some totes they had been working on and created a whole new list of class ideas that they would like to pursue in the coming months.



Secondly, construction in the shop is mostly done! And I got to take all of the fabric back down to its rightful place and set it up in the new space. It looks so pretty and ready for projects!


Lastly, I made some appointments with friends for lunch dates and get togethers. Anyone want to get on my calendar for sushi?
:) allison