homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Monday, December 27, 2010

'Ey! Missus C!

Well, actually this would be Mrs. Claus, not Marion Cunningham. But if there's even a vague opportunity to throw a Fonz reference into my blog, I'm going to take it. That's just how I roll.

Welcome to Apron Monday (only one more to go!), and my latest gift-to-me apron. This custom number was created by my mother. What touched me most was the fact that when she presented it, she described it exactly as I would have in one of these posts. ("Full coverage for an ample bosom...two roomy pockets...feminine skirt...") This shows not only that she knows me (and garment construction) well, but also that she's a loyal reader. I love you, Mom!

This is the perfect holiday hostessing apron. Period. It's kitschy, pretty, and functional: the triple-crown of my criteria for apron love.

Oh. By the way? The first one to make a "Ho" joke at my Christmasy expense gets coal next year. I'm not kidding.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Manly, yes, but I like it too

Just in time for the holidays: another double-duty post: crafts AND collections. Today is the second of two aprons that are not part of my permanent stock but were made by me as a gift to someone. A while back, I shared the Church Lady apron, created for my favorite church lady--my sister. This is the companion piece, a barbecue apron for her husband.

I could have taken the easy way out. I could have bought a $5 blank at Wal-Mart and just embellished it. But I had some stash fabric and a vintage pattern and although I can pressure and overwhelm myself, the truth is that often the DIY experience is a gift to myself.

My new trick:
D-rings, for adjustable strap!

What I did well:
Double stitching!
Nice and neat bias edging on the underside.
(Yes, I trimmed that loose thread before wrapping the gift. I do have some pride.)
What I found disappointing:
Bias tape applied to top edge of pocket = my once-squared patch is now puckered. Boo.
Freezer-paper stenciling. Usually a win.
This time, the paper didn't fuse perfectly (I'd left some water in the iron and it steamed, urgh)
and there are some rough edges, especially on the lettering. :(
Also, as you may be able to tell from a few of the above images, the cut of fabric that I used was in my stash for far too long and has a permanent crease from where it was folded for storage. At least it's positioned down the center of the garment, which I suppose is a minor blessing.

All told, though, I was pretty pleased with how this turned out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Which The Irony Does Not Escape Me

Okay. I admit it. I was catty and perhaps even a little bitchy about the workmanship on yesterday's apron post. In the interest of fairness, I feel compelled to tell the world that I have been working on Christmas gifts today. One has a potential major goof that may bring me to real and gut-wrenching tears (the goof is an unfixable thing, and the last in a long series of steps that it took to make the item). Another is so Gawd-awful amateur-looking that I'm considering telling my recipient that the kids did it. Or that I was drunk while crafting. Or that the kids were drunk when THEY made that whatever-it is.

Yes, it's that bad.

But at least I'm still able to laugh about it.

Alas, no picture. The recipient is a regular reader. Um, so if you're close with me IRL, start worrying! I'm about to give some lucky loved one a well-intentioned but poorly-executed excuse for a gift.

It's the thought that counts?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ur doin it wrong.

Okay, it's Apron Monday and that seems to be the only thing that dragged me to blog-land today. I have tons to say, tons to share, but--ahem--the holiday season means I'm too dang busy "making Christmas" to be bothered with that pesky writing about it. Maybe soon.

Anyway, it's time to share an apron and I'm feeling petty. So here is nothing nice to say.

You know those iron-on transfers? The ones with decorative designs, like say--flowers or dancing teakettles or baby teddy bears? They're kitschy and vintage (or vintage-inspired) and I love them. They are also open to the final interpretation of the artist who uses them as a springboard. No two seamstresses will produce the same final product.

But I think that most of them would choose to work in a medium designed for fabric. Embroidery, naturally, is the most commonly used...but I could imagine some might choose fabric paints or fabric pens, or heck, even a BeDazzler just for kicks.

But felt tip markers?

Yes, really.

I try to make myself give the creator the benefit of the doubt. Quite possibly it was a child, and one who adored coloring. But marker? Really?

Oh and by the way, it's a half-apron, mass-produced (and kind of cheaply, by the looks of it), so I suspect it was a kit that came pre-stamped with the transfer design. It's also too small (again the child idea may have merit) and the only use this has gotten to date in my home is as a haircut cape.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Love a Parade (a story in pictures)

Here it is. Belated, but as promised...a few (ha!) snapshots from Friday night's Christmas parade, with all of its hometown goodness.
The Courthouse dome. Too bad the statue of George Washington isn't quite visible in this shot. It's really quite a lovely building. We stood opposite the courthouse; a great spot for viewing!
C and my mom, who will likely curse when she sees her photo online.
Look! She's wearing the Love Hat! I'm all about sharing.
Washington High School Marching Band.
No, not my alma mater. Actually our grudge-match rivals.
However, they have continued the tradition of super awesome uniforms,
and frankly this year they were the best band there. By FAR.
Besides, it's hard to really hate an organization that often marches herald trumpets.
Nothing says "small town" like a tractor.
...except maybe horses.
It wouldn't be a parade without fire trucks
Fire truck sirens are LOUD.
I'm not kidding. REALLY LOUD!
A group from one of six...yes schools represented in this parade.
None of which were Joyce Ellis. Local peeps--how long ago did that happen?
Humbug! This picture didn't turn out. This fire truck came all the way from Stoystown, PA...and is worth seeing because they put a decal over the "S" on cab doors. Yup. Toystown. It does not take much to amuse me.
Even punnier. When my mom said, "Here comes Frosty!",
I was expecting a snowman. Silly me.
My children discover that people in parades *throw candy at you*. Awesome!
When the Beef Stockmen truck drove by, my mother yelled, "Throw T-bones!" I love that woman.

It wasn't all sugar, though. A representative from one of the local ministries distributed these. And he was kind enough to hand them to the children instead of making them fight in the street like little pigeons. ;)
I love baseball cars. Golf carts, Beetles, doesn't matter. I find them delightful.
Perhaps my favorite group. Just because. I mean, look!
"Little Washington" has enough enthusiasts to have a Unicycle CLUB? That's outstanding.
This whole pictorial story should be building to some sort of closure-providing climax, but alas, my photos of Santa did not turn out. You'll have to use your imagination. ;)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Serving Our Lord. And the rigatoni.

I was raised Methodist. While Col. Sherman T. Potter was right on with his summation of the Methodist experience being largely about singing, there's another thing that we as a denomination do with enthusiasm: namely, pot-luck dinners. My childhood is filled with memories of spaghetti suppers in the church basement. The old ladies would fire up the slow cookers at the slightest provocation and the rest of the congregation would line up, paper plates in hand, to share fellowship the way God intended: with large amounts of starch.

So when I saw this fabric...

...I knew that it was destined to become a Church Lady apron.

Yes, folks. This week's apron was not a purchase or a gift. It was actually made by yours truly. Try not to fall over from awe.
Everyone together now: Awwwwwww.
(And shut up about the lighting; I'm a seamstress, not a photographer!)
The pattern that I used was Simplicity 5961, View A.

What I like about the pattern:
  • Clever folded waistband; it's a pretty touch.
  • Generous pockets = extremely functional.
  • Bust darts, for a closer fit. 
What I dislike about the pattern:
  • Really flimsy technique for attaching the neck straps
  • The pocket placement happens *after* the skirt has been gathered and sewn. What are they, sadists?

What I did wrong:
  • I eyeballed the pocket placement. There's nothing wrong with it, per se. In fact, I'm quite happy with where the pockets lie. But a second look at the pattern envelope gave me an "ah-ha!" moment, where I realized that they probably should have been positioned right against the center panel. Oh well. That would have been difficult to do cleanly anyway.
  • I put the bias tape on the lazy way. That is, I used Step 1 rather than Step 2 as shown at this lovely instructional site. Nothing wrong with that, except that I used 1/4" double-fold. That means that each edge is really 1/8". It's dainty and delicate, but the fabric that's trapped inside has a tendency to want to pull out. I've already done a few patch jobs while completing construction, and I fear that this whole thing may disintegrate upon laundering. Sigh.
  • The print on the fabric may be a bit too busy and visually distract from the design features. Ah well.
What I did right:
  • Really tiny precise handstitching on hem tacks. 
Yay me. Now if I could just learn to work with the focus of my camera properly, I'd be in business.
  • I was willing to redesign for fit. The neck straps are actually supposed to crisscross in the back and attach to the waist ties. Not only did that seem insecure (velcro tabs? really?), but the straps just weren't long enough to properly fit a full busted person. Screw it. Neck ties work just as well.
  • Measuring my bias tape before each step involving it. The pockets were meant to be completely bordered, but there wasn't enough left in the package. I saved myself a lot of angst by checking first.
All in all, I think it turned out pretty nice. And although I'm including this in my Parade of Aprons, it's not going to stick around for long. It's a gift for my sister (who is not online, so the secret is safe). She's now a Baptist. I'm not sure how frequently they (as a group) feast in the church basement, but they're people--I'm sure they eat. ;)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The week that was

I've been meaning to blog for days, but as usual I have to rely on stolen moments. Right now, as a matter of fact, my children are lingering neglected in the bathtub. They sound pretty happy to have some free play time in the water. I usually manage to call off the festivities somewhere between "pruny toes" and "frigid water". It's all good...

So, it was a busy week, and yet one in which I failed to take pictures. You'll have to pretend that I'm writing you an old-fashioned letter. You know, multimedia-free. You'll live.

Early in the week, I took the kids to the Mall. We never go to the mall. I rarely have both discretionary income and surplus patience, and it's just not part of our normal routine. But Stepson the Younger required a ride to meet friends, and we decided to stick around for a while. We had a good time...a little window shopping at the Disney Store, a long romp at the play area, a pretzel from Aunt Annie's, a very long look-and-play at the toy store, a ride on the Christmas train. Yeah, I was feeling indulgent. They were happy. I was relaxed. Life was good.

And the Big Man was there. C was ready. The kids have never done the meet-and-greet with Santa before (C because of age, T because of paralyzing bashfulness bordering on panic), so it was a big deal, for both C and me. T rolled his eyes, said, "Find me in the toy store when you're done", and removed himself from the scene lest he be pressured into an uncomfortable peer-pressure situation.

C was utterly adorable. I held back from taking pictures out of respect for the fact that I'd just refused the overpriced package of "professional" shots they hawk, but my memory-camera was working overtime. He seemed fascinated with Santa's white gloves, and kept twining his fingers with the ol' man's in a sweet and affectionate way. My heart about burst. This is our only child who's done the Santa thing with any enthusiasm (the stepkids were 3 and 6 when I met them, but even then they were largely meh about the whole idea), so I was eating up every precious little moment of it. <3

Afterward, we found T at the toy store, where I promptly surprised both of them by purchasing slide whistles. Which I let them use right away. Other mall patrons may not have been as amused as I was, but for that moment I was embracing joy.

Okay, kids are clean, dry, jammied, and snacked. Next chapter.

Mid-week, I had C at the dentist. Again, first time. Again, refer back to T and his tendency to completely wig out in unfamiliar situations. (We only recently had our first professional haircuts, and that was a huge milestone.) What prompted this visit was reports of pain. This kid has an incredibly high tolerance for discomfort; by the time he complains it's usually pretty bad. This was no exception. He has a number of cavities, two of which require root canals. One was taken care of at the appointment in question, the other will be fixed at a later (like, a few days from now) visit.

Yeah, I feel about *this high* as a parent.

The upshot is, he was SUCH a trouper about the whole experience. He's like a negative image of his brother in the drama department, I swear. Not only did he have no qualms about the whole "new experience" and "strangers" thing, but his only concern going in (and we'd discussed in detail what was likely to happen) was whether he'd get to see and touch the tools. He was curious and patient and other than a moment of intense WTF panic during the numbing injection (no surprise: I do that too, poor baby!), he seemed relaxed and easygoing and took it all in stride. At the end of the very long visit, he even hugged the dentist (who I will say had the best bedside manner of just about any medical professional I've ever met, with the possible exception of my favorite midwife).

That part of the week, not so joyful.

But we picked it up again almost instantly. That same night was the tree-lighting ceremony here in our municipality. We'd never attended, and I was curious. It was an indoor event with a moderate crowd. The middle school choir led a holiday singalong, the mayor introduced a number of local politicians etc., and hey--there's Santa again!

After a brief stop at the refreshment table, C demanded that we stand in (an ungodly long) line to talk to Santa again. Because...well, because he was right there! And besides, he was sure he'd forgotten to mention an important wish list item during their last conversation. I grudgingly agreed. And to chatting with the woman in line behind us. She has two kids (5.5 and 1) and C was instantly BFF with her daughter. Oh guess what? She's homeschooling too. Well, now we HAD to get to know each other. LOL We had a lovely chat and after the kids had their turn with Santa, we said our goodbyes.

The event was held at the Community Center and the kids and I still had energy to burn, so I took them to the walking track (as seen in a prior post about running). Hey! Our new friends were doing the same! Needless to say, there were a few "races" and then everyone migrated downstairs to play on the basketball courts. We went to bed that night tired and happy. :)

The final Big Excitement of the week, I actually did photograph. Perhaps once I get these darling rugrats of mine in bed, I'll make a new post with pictures. If not, well, I am suck. The event? A Christmas parade! In my hometown! Much love.

I don't know that I've ever actually seen a Christmas parade live-and-in-person. Oh sure, I watch Macy's parade on Thanksgiving every year, but battling the traffic and crowds to drag small children to the city? (Pittsburgh!) It's never seemed like my idea of a good time. Small town, though, I can do. And no, I was never in the spectator role when I lived there. I marched in that parade as part of my high school band, but I'd never seen it from the sidewalk.

It was BIG fun. I may have had more fun than the kids, and exhibited an excitement at seeing the many fire trucks that was probably unbecoming in a woman my age. Once the kids figured out that many of the vehicles would be carrying people who throw candy at you, I did not have to worry about complaints about the cold (and it was cold!). Early on, C suffered the little-kid indignity of not being fast enough and watching the big kids get the lion's share of the goodies. But he soon got his game face on and became aggressive. And proactive. Yes, my child chased several floats. What a proud moment, LOL.

All in all, the bulk of the week was about building holiday memories. The whole "damaged teeth" thing was a bit of a bummer, but all things considered even that wasn't as awful as it could have been.

Okay, I have GOT to get these kids into bed before they turn into Gremlins. Peace and joy, everyone!

Friday, December 3, 2010

{this moment} - 12/03/10

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.