Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sewing Camp Week One: Funny Thing...

Funny thing about sewing camp. No one ever makes a mistake.  Yesterday, much of my day was spent ripping out "seams" where girls had sewn over folded lumps of fabric to join all the possible ( and some impossible) sides of their lunch bags together.

But when asked how this happened, they have no idea.

"Miss Loris, it just came out that way."

"It was fine when I pinned it, Miss Val checked it."

And yet...!

Young sewers have a challenging task.  The machine they are working on is complex and sometimes, depending on the make, finicky.  One of the things the girls forget to do is lower the presser foot, which keeps the fabric flat and the stitches small and even.

The teachers can always tell when a student has forgotten to lower the presser foot because there is a snag of thread on the back of their project that looks like a pile of knotted silly string.
that nest of thread is supposed to be in the bobbin, not wound and caught.

But every single student will PROMISE they lowered that presser foot and swear that the machine is faulty, no good... or doesn't like them.

"Ah, Nature, framed in fault..."

Teaching provides me with much entertainment, maybe because the students are unaware of their glaring humanity. In English class, the chattiest students could never admit they had been talking.  Ask a student to hush while his mouth is open and he is leaning toward his friend and he'll swear on their girlfriend's iPod that they were NOT talking. I never had the time, during a lesson, to ask what they were doing if not talking, but I sure would love to know now!)
gotta love the pink pirates

Despite having nothing to do with the problems that "occur" along the way, people produce beautiful and important hand-made things.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sewing Camp: Week One Projects... Pencil Rolls and Lunch Bags

Working together today we had lots of fun.

Everyone needs a pencil roll and a lunch bag, right?

We're making them this week at Sewing Camp.

Valerie created the pattern for these cute pencil rolls.

They are made from two rectangles with a square added for the pocket part.

She made the pattern pieces from paper bags! 

 This gave everyone practice straight stitching, pivoting, top stitching and clipping corners.

 And they personalized them in such a wonderful way.

The lunch bags were the second project of the day.

We found the pattern on Martha Stewart's website, but she used oilcloth (which is VERY expensive).

This one is made from left over black out fabric; this fabric is what is used to line curtains so that no light can shine through. It has a flannel side and a rubbery side.  You could also use an old vinyl tablecloth or any scrap of waterproof fabric.

Cut a rectangle 29 1/2 inches by 8 inches. Cut two side panels each 12 3/4 inches by 5 inches. I found a slightly bigger rectangle than the original pattern called for works better.

Fold the long panel, inside out, (we put the rubber side in) and make it into a U shape by making a crease to create a 5 inch bottom.

Now add any ribbon or decorations that you want to run lengthwise on the bag.
The piece I had was stained so after cutting it out, I sewed on this great orange ribbon to hide the stains.

Pin the side pieces (one at a time) to the U shaped bags, right sides touching.  Sew 1/4 inch seam around the U, pivoting at the corner.

Snip the corner to the seam, carefully, so that it doesn't buckle.

Turn right side out and finger press the seams flat.  It is hard to get them absolutely flat, and you can iron the blackout fabric if you do so on a low setting.

Topstitch the seams.

I added a handle because my husband said lunchbags work better with handles. I added a button to be used for closing the bag and made a loop closure by gluing the loop beneath the top flower.

I reinforced the sewing of the button on the inside by stitching it onto a big of hidden ribbon.

The flowers are made from a pattern I found on Martha Stewart's website and the template is downloadable.  I used some batik I had. Batik works well for flowers because the color is bright on both sides. I made the petals double, using two coordinating fabrics.

After making them with four petals, I decided five would be better, and so from now on plan to make five petals as seen below in the pictures that show how to put the flower together.

You can use covered or coordinating buttons.

You could decorate it any way you'd like...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sewing Camp: Week 1 Projects

Every summer, my daughter-in-law Andrea, her sister Jen, my daughter Val and I run a sewing camp for girls age 8-14.  

The first week teaches beginning sewing skills and during the second week, things get a little more complicated. 

Sewing Camp is wonderful fun. The girls are so creative and we are always amazed at their sense of style and color and their creativity.  

Whether we make pajama pants or beach bags, the girls decorate their hand-sewn work with embellishments they make.  

Today was the first day. 

Our theme this year is "Be Cool For School," because this allows us to make a variety of things that can be used throughout the school year. 

Today after introducing the sewing machine to our students, Andrea helped the girls make a fleece hat.

To make one yourself measure the circumference of your head (or the head of the person for whom you'd like to make a hat. 

Cut a rectangle from fleece 18 inches on one side and the head measurement on the other side.  Most girls made hats 18 x 22 inches. 

Fold the rectangle in half and in half again so that the width is what is folded. Cut a triangle to the folded point and then sew the long straight edge.  Open the hat up and sew the point to make the hat top. 


Wouldn't you know it, but they found all sorts of wonderful ways to embellish their hats! 
To make this cool flower, cut a circle. Run a wide or basting stitch around the edge. Pull the loose ends to gather the flower up.  Sew the gathered edge together and sew on a button to make the center and hide the raw edges. 

Some girls made pom-poms and sewed them at the point.  Can't wait for winter!

Monday, July 26, 2010

What To Do When It is Too Hot Outside part 2

Here is something wonderful

to make with children during the hot summer days:

They are dragonflies and ladybugs made from empty water bottles!

Save the empty water bottles.

Use empty cereal boxes

 or any light weight cardboard

 or scrap paper for the wings.

Dragonflies have four wings... just in case you want to try for realism.

While we were on vacation, Val made these to entertain two tired boys.

Draw or color on markings.

We forgot to bring tape, so she made small holes in the wings and tied the wings on with yarn she'd brought to crochet.

We had to make them again, once home.

Try pipe cleaners for the "antennae."  Fly them around, race them and swoop them!

Smaller cousins take cover!

What To Do When It is Too Hot Outside... Part Three

Kids like to cook and
even when it is hot,
people have to eat.

My grandsons love to help me.

They especially love those big wire wisks, the red measuring cups, and the most messy ingreidents.

I let them stand on a chair and wear an old apron, which does absolutely no good.

This brings back wonderful memories. When my sisters and I were young, we made what we called "messes" for our Grandpa to try.

we take a break from cooking with some of our cousins

  I remember once mixing sugar, syrup, peanut butter and vanilla in a big stainless steel bowl.  We could hardly wait for Grandpa to try it. My dear grandfather, who loved to eat, made a very convincing fuss over it.

Joey and Jack tell me they are good at "dry ingredients.

You simply can't worry about the mess.

And they're learning fractions, measurements, having fun doing it and somehow it ends up tasting great!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What To Do When It is Too Hot Outside

To me the answer is:
or make things,
including food,
 and if desperate organize the messy closets in your house.

Let's start with reading:

Here's another poem by Li-Young Lee that I love.

It is for you to read if you're too hot to go outside:

My Father, in Heaven, Is Reading Out Loud

My father, in heaven is reading out loud
to himself Psalms or news. Now he ponders what
he's read No. He is listening for the sound
of children in the yard. Was that laughing
or crying? So much depends upon the
answer, for either he will go on reading,
or he'll run to save a chid's day from grief.
As it is in heaven, so it was on earth.

Because my father walked the earth with a grave,
determined rhythm, my shoulders ached 
from his gaze. Because my father's shoulders 
ached from pulling the oars, my life now moves
with a powerful back-and-forth rhythm:
nostalgia, speculation. Because he
made me recite a book a month, I forget
everything as soon as I read it. And knowledge
never comes but while I'm mid-stride a flight
of stairs, or lost a moment on some avenue.

A remarkable disappointment to him,
I am like anyone who arrives late
in the millennium and is unable
to stay to the end of days. The world's 
beginnings are obscure to me, its outcomes
inaccessible.  I don't understand 
the source of starlight or starlight's destinations.
And already another year slides out

of balance. But I don't disparage scholars;
my father was one and I loved him,
who packed his books once, and all of our belongings,
then sat down to await instruction
from his god, yes, but also from a radio.
At the doorway, I watched, and I suddenly 
knew he was one like me, who got my learning
under a lintel; he was one of the powerless,
to whom knowledge came while he sat among 
suitcases, boxes, old newspapers, string.

He did not decide peace or war, home or exile,
escape by land or escape by sea.
He waited merely, as always someone 
waits, far, near, here, hereafter to find out
is it praise or lament hidden in the next moment?

I like this poem because it touches some of the ideas that I've been wrestling to bring out in the editing of my soon-to-be-in-print novel Solomon's Puzzle -- in this case, the connection between fathers and sons. I like how this poet writes original, true and touching ideas about his connection to his father. The poet is honest and he has some beautiful things to explain about this human relationship. True, it is not a sit-com sort of father and son relationship, is it? It's too real and too confusing.

I also like the way the poet explores the idea of how people come to know things.  In a recent conversation, someone confided that the are upset when others say to them "God said to me..." or "God told me..." This always startles me too and I feel it is because I haven't the confidence to make such a claim. The person explained that biblical accounts of God speaking meant that the person who heard or understood was invariably frightened. Moses hair turned white, for instance. The point being that it seems odd that God would tell someone there's a parking spot around the corner and the person actually being calm enough after hearing that to drive the car one inch further.

However in this poem, guidance is sought, but how it is understood to the listening reader is mysterious, often a quick and unexpected interruption to every day steps. In the poem it is portrayed to show both serendipity and mystery,"got my learning under a lintel," or understanding comes "while I'm mid-stride a flight/ of stairs, or lost a moment on some avenue."  The sense of hoping for guidance, listening for it,  wondering about your next task, about the future, a perpetual condition of the thoughtful person is illustrated here.

What do you think, dear reader?

Next... crafts for when it is too hot outside

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Home for Wanderers

Before this weekend, I thought my friend Wendy's name was a bit ironic.  Wendy, one of my "homies," hosts a Bed and Breakfast hotel, in her home.

Wendy's name means "wanderer"and though she loves to travel, Wendy's roots run deep and one of the things she loves best is to make a lovely and welcoming home.

This week I was around to help out a little at Meadowgardens where Wendy hosted her son and daughter-in-law's wedding.

It was then that I began to realize how aptly she had been named.

For some reason, Milton's great and difficult poem, Paradise Lost came to mind, I guess because I have a vague memory of the last lines and they include the word "wander" the meaning of Wendy's name. In case you don't know the poem, it tells the tragedy of man's condition:

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world and all our woe,
With loss of Eden..."

... set to leave the garden of Eden and make their own way, through hard work and struggle, in the world.  

Adam and Eve...

... looking back, all the eastern side beheld 
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat... 
The world was all before them, where to choose 
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide; 
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, 
Through Eden took their solitary way.

We all leave home and wander through college and jobs and churches and groups to find our way. Sometimes it's painful circumstances that drive us from home, sometimes it is the call of adventure or vocation that bids us wander, sometimes its the need for escape, for rest, for inspiration that we leave.

These are odd things to think about while preparing food for a wedding, I know.

 But it struck me that Wendy provides a home for the wanderer.

Wendy's is one of the most comfortable, loving and gracious homes I've ever had the privilege of stepping into. A sense well-being surrounds, a cheerful expectation comes to you.

She is a most gracious hostess

preparing ahead of time home and garden.

She welcomed Barbara, the bride's mother, who brought things to make the wedding more as it might have been at her home in Zurich, Switzerland. What a joy it must have been for both mothers to work together to make the wedding celebration homey, reflective of both families and so delicious.

The traditional chocolates were set out in a prominent place in Wendy's warm home... the ladybugs are set out whenever good luck is wished.

All the way from Switzerland ingredients for the incredible wedding cake were carried.  It  looked like the Matterhorn!

Making special cakes has been a tradition in the bride's family continued here so far from home on this most special day.

The tables were set

food was superb

and fresh

to honor the family gathering together from near and far to talk and celebrate.
the bride and groom

Whatever unexpected and daunting problems arose, Wendy handled these with a cheerful aplomb I admire so much. Everything would be fine, she seemed to say with her smile and her joy; family dear and new were gathering at her home.

Every guest, young and old, close and distant, nervous or confident...

 even the four-legged ones,were welcomed as beloved. I lost count of the happy dogs!

The bride and groom were honored with a wedding dinner

on the porch

in the loveliest summer weather

with conversation and delicious, homemade food.

I've heard it said that being on earth is the space between two gardens, Eden the first and heaven the last.  Surely Wendy's home makes that space look and feel just like heaven will.

Congratulations to Wendy and her family!