Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Patchwork Tiered Ruffle Skirt

July 31, 2012

I saw this adorable skirt for sale on a somebody's home sewing blog.

Adorable, yes.  But I am not willing to part with $30 per skirt per little twirly girl.  Do the math.

Then I found a set of free instructions for a similar skirt here.

Difficulty level:  Beginner.  Sounds good to me.

Since fabric stores are going out of business left and right, the only place to go around here is the local Walmart.  So I bit the bullet and went.

I knew there wouldn't be any associate available in crafts to cut fabric for me, so I went the convenience route - fat quarters.  Sounds like a drinking game, or a dessert, but it's actually a cute little bundle of quarter-yard fabric pieces, already assembled in coordinating colors.   I was in heaven.  

Thankfully Andy had all the children with him that night, so I had the luxury of perusing the material without interruption.  It was laughable - I plunked myself down on the floor in the middle of the aisle with my fabric choices spread in front of me.  Cheetah prints for Theresa?  Lavender and pink ballet for Natalie?  Colorful batik for Clare?  Decisions, decisions. 

I limited myself to two choices that night, because I had no idea how easy the project would be or if my sewing machine(s) would even cooperate.  I went with rich colors and matryoshka dolls for Noelle.  This bundle just screamed Noelle!  And when I showed the girls the fabric, this is the bundle Noelle snapped up immediately, squealing with delight.

First I cut the material into blocks.

Then we laid the blocks into rows, deciding how we wanted the patterns arranged.  9 blocks in the top tier, 14 in the middle, 19 on the bottom.

Every sewing table needs a bottle of soap bubbles wrapped in zip ties.

Clare is sewing each tier together in a long strip.  She did almost all the piecing together.

This is the 1950 Singer that we rescued from a yard sale.
It is the preferred machine among the seamstresses in this household.

Then I topstitched the rows to give it a cleaner appearance and make the inner seams lay flat.  Clare didn't want to attempt this part because she was afraid her stitching wouldn't be straight and well, this would show.

Then we really got into the project and I forgot to take any more pictures of the process.

I made the casing for the elastic, and hemmed the bottom.  She put in the running stitches, and she really had a knack for gathering the ruffles.  I pinned the tiers together, and she sewed them.  Everything went smoothly, but then we had a fight at the end and I wouldn't let her finish putting in the elastic.

Suffice it to say that we started sewing around 11:00, and the skirts were on their bodies by 3:00.  Total cost for two twirl skirts - under $20, with lots of blocks left over for other projects.  About six hours time commitment.

P.S.  I finished a third skirt today, August 16 - the cheetah print for Theresa.  It took me about three hours of sewing time, but that was spaced out over three weeks.  It turned out the best so far!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Love Is...

I know it only looks like a light switch, but it means so much more than that.

Our lives are crazy busy right now.  My greatest wish is to have an afternoon when I can just stay home.  I am perpetually running here and there shuttling kids, doing errands both compassionate and mundane, fulfilling commitments.  My house is not a peaceful place to be because my hectic non-schedule has me constantly behind the housework 8-ball.  

I am so envious of people who have time to just sit down and read a newspaper or sit on the porch swing without being crushed by the awareness of everything that has been left undone and is waiting for me.

My husband works a rotating 12-hour swing shift, so he's usually gone, sleeping, or here, there, and all over the place between work and his own commitments.  Our hours with him are frequently seldom and precious.  

And yet, not too long ago, he used one of his rare afternoons at home to replace the ugly, faulty, fluorescent light bar in the bathroom with an attractive, reliable bar of globe lights, and updated the light switch to include two outlets, since there were no electrical outlets in the bathroom before this.  Now there is a nightlight and a plug for a hairdryer.  I feel so grateful every time I go into that bathroom and flip the switch.

I know it seems small and insignificant, but it is one of the many sacrifices, large and small, that this man makes for his family and for me.  It makes me feel loved beyond comparison.

Back in the 80s, we used to cut out these comics for each other all the time, and include them when we passed notes to each other between classes in high school.  We thought they were so appropriate to us, since we truly loved each other so much.  It wasn't until re-reading them after 22 years of marriage that I began to appreciate how profound these simple cartoons really are.

We thought we knew what love was back then.

But now I know the truth.

Love is......a light switch.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Regina's Worst Nightmare

My mother is in the hospital, and tonight I took Regina with me when I went over to visit.  Regina was cute, charming, and a little bit mischievous, running out of the waiting room into the hall, around the corner, and back again.  Except that one time, she was around the corner and I heard her start to cry.  I just figured she bumped into something, but then she ran back around the corner and straight into my arms, crying her heart out.  A few seconds later, THIS came around the corner:

It's the medbot - the programmed medicine delivery system.  It travels the halls unaided, opens its own doors and elevators, and broadcasts messages to pedestrians.  It also terrifies small children.  She didn't stray a step away from me for the rest of the night.

I don't care if it makes me a bad mom - I laughed my head off.  At least now I know how to make her behave - "Regina, the robot's coming!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Regina Is A Little Stinker.

Okay, so on our second floor there are four bedrooms.  One is the boys', and one is where the stairs go up to the third floor, so it has no privacy at all and as a result we use it as our schoolroom rather than a bedroom.

The remaining two bedrooms were occupied by the girls - the pink one for sleeping, the white one for all their dressers and toys.

This has been working out for us pretty well, except for one snag - Summer.  The pink room has no air conditioner, the white one does.

Today I got a bee in my bonnet to swap the beds and the dressers, so I conscripted my husband and sons to do the heavy lifting.  The switch didn't take long at all, so in about two hours we had moved everything, decorated, and cleaned up, leaving us with two functional rooms.  The girls were excited about the new setup and about the prospect of sleeping in air-conditioned comfort on this 95-degree, humid night.  

One half of the pink room.
I designated a place to read,  because the twins are becoming voracious, compulsive readers.

It won't be long before the carpet is covered with books and cast-off clothing, which will give Mommy an aneurysm.

The other half - still a work in progress.  Notice the top shelf of the closet?

Natalie in particular was delighted because she found herself a new little nook to hide and read.  It wasn't long before I realized that she had climbed up to the top shelf of the closet and had made a nest out of pillows and blankets.  She kept climbing back down, saying she had to "get things organized."  Must be her new word.  Not long after that, she had a comfy little setup with books and toys lining the shelf's perimeter.  
Natalie's nook.

Regina was in and out of the rooms while we were cleaning and reorganizing.  She was also trying to climb up with Natalie, but we wouldn't allow that.  At one point, all the girls were coloring in the white room, and I was carrying a basket of clothes into the pink room, which I thought was empty.  I heard a voice and turned to look at the closet, and I saw this:

Yep, she succeeded in climbing up once we were all out of her way the room, and she was happily swinging from the clothes bar.

The kid's got some upper body strength, I'll give her that.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Havin' Some Fun Tonight.

I should have titled this post "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight."

We have been cleaning our yard, patio and garage this week.  It's a slow process that involves deciding where to put all the accumulated junk that has piled up over the past four years, including all the junk that we had to take out of our old house and my mother's house, which both sold about six months ago.  Since that was the middle of winter, it was easier to just pile everything on the patio and in the garage than to deal with it all in the deep chill of winter.

But winter didn't last forever, and when the warm weather came, the patio began  beckoning to us from under her deep layer of debris, detritus and refuse.  It's actually a pleasant and shady place to sit.  Not that we'd know.

So we cleaned it off.  There were piles of scrap lumber and broken chairs, etc., that needed disposal.  My husband likes to burn anything made of paper or wood to reduce the amount of trash we put out.  We put some things into the burn barrel and went back to cleaning, keeping an eye on the barrel, of course.

When supper was ready, we went in to eat - forgetting about the burn barrel.  Andy was at work, Brian was away for the weekend.  It was just me, Conor, and the little girls at the table.  

There was a knock at the door.  I have some free things out on the front sidewalk (unwanted items unearthed in the backyard cleanout), so I assumed it was somebody inquiring about them.  Instead, it was a neighbor.

Her - "Do you know that you have wood burning out back?"

Me, nonchalantly - "Oh yes, we know."

Her - "No, I mean piles of wood, burning on the ground."

Me - Well, actually, I didn't say anything, because my heart was in my throat.  Yikes!  I hope I thanked her adequately.

Out back, we found that something had fallen out of the burn barrel, and ignited two of our wood racks that held our split firewood for the winter.  In addition, there were several spots on the ground around where dead leaves were burning.  I didn't actually see the conflagration because I was busy filling up buckets and trash cans.  Conor was the one who went up for the initial assessment.  All I could see was columns of smoke, which led me to believe that we had started a brush fire and the whole mountain was burning.

The actual damage was less serious, although still pretty serious.  Thank God that neighbor passed just then, so we could get it under control while there was still time.  It took us about 45 minutes until everything was fully extinguished.

Earlier in the year, our big wood rack shifted somehow and there was a small wood avalanche.  Some of the logs that had fallen were burned.

This wood rack was about ten feet long and stacked as high as those upright wood stakes.  It caught fire from underneath in two places.

I never did like how close Andy stacked the wood to the burn barrel.

My cousin Ian remarked, "Well, at least now you have charcoal!"

This is the dinner that was interrupted. 

What is this, the sixth fire incident we've had here?  Two chimney fires.  One blackened pot on the stove that filled the house with smoke.  One grease fire in a frying pan.  One box of matches that burst into flames when  accidentally left atop the woodstove.  I hate fire.  I wish I could be done with it forever.

I feel like I should say that this is the first incident we've had with the barrel in the four years we've been burning here.

I can't believe we forgot about the burn barrel.  I can't believe that the woods didn't catch fire.  I can't believe how the Lord spared us from a serious disaster, when we clearly don't deserve to be spared the consequences of our own foolishness.

My pitifully small heart is not capable of gratefulness that is as vast and profound as God deserves from me..

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monday, July 9, 2012

Who does she look like?

I have decided that Regina most closely resembles baby Brian.  
That is, TODAY she does...

Somebody needs a haircut.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lil' Bad Swimmer Girl

For the record, she didn't like the pool.  At all.  But she did have fun "pushing" her twin sisters (in the background) into the water when they came out on the pool deck!

Another Happy Anniversary

22 years.  264 months.  8035 days.  192,840 hours.  Doesn't seem like very long when you put it that way, not much of an accomplishment.  And anyway, why bother counting when we're in it for the long haul?  

Love you, my husband!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ashley's Angels

Several months ago, I chanced upon a website that touched my heart.  Ashley's Angels is run by a sweet woman named Dawn who makes burial gowns, burial wraps and other meaningful items for families who have miscarried or lost a newborn.  The idea behind it is not only are preemies too small for most clothes in stores, but also that shopping for something reverent enough to bury their child is almost unthinkable in the midst of all the pain  they are experiencing.

This, I thought, was definitely something I would love to do, to ease a suffering family's burden in just some tiny way.  I began a correspondence with Dawn and requested the patterns.

Simultaneously, seemingly unconnected, there was a handsome desk out on one of our neighbors' lawns, with a "free" sign on it.  Well, surely I could have used another desk, but I was surprised to find that it was, instead, a sewing table with a 1950 Singer machine inside, with drawers full of accessories and attachments.  Does it work?  I asked the neighbor.  She had no idea.

Enter Pete, a local retired sewing machine mechanic and shop teacher that one of my friends knew about.  He took the machine for a few days, oiled her up, replaced the cord, tuned everything up, and even gave me a tutorial - all for under fifty bucks!  He pronounced that it sewed beautifully, and said that if I wanted to buy an all-metal machine like it at today's prices, it would cost me over a thousand dollars.

Today I am down to three kids.  The house is like a ghost town.  Two are at work, two are with friends, two are at the grandparents'.  The remaining three are watching television.  A perfect opportunity to finally try out the new/old machine and the angel gown pattern all at once.

I am not a very careful seamstress.  Most of the time, good enough is good enough. I hate pinning.  I don't press.  But I usually just make pajamas or dress-up clothes, so it usually wouldn't matter.  Until now.

These have to be perfect.  I am in for a long haul here, fighting against my own haphazard, slipshod manner.  The finished product will be worth it, though.

Pete was right; it does sew beautifully.

The prototype, made from an old sheet.  I love the shape of the angel wing sleeves.

I had some trouble with the lace, and I don't like the way the neck turned out.  I think it should be a little bit lower.

Lace is surprisingly hard to come by in our area.  All the fabric shops are closing up.  This piece was a leftover scrap given to me by a friend.  Now I wish that after my grandmother died, I hadn't given away the bags of sewing notions that we found in her attic.  At the time, it just looked like a bunch of clutter that I had no space for.

The pattern said the gown should be open all the way down the back, but I sewed it up partway so my daughter could dress her baby doll in it.

It looked better flat on the table.  :-/

Oh well, you know what they say - How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice, practice, practice!

Picture Parade: Siesta, Take Two

This was the scene here at ten this morning.

Paper route.

Swim practice.  

Late nights, early mornings.  

It's all taking a toll in this house.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Picture Parade: Siesta

They both got up around 6:30 this morning.  

The only thing missing is the chalk outlines.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sunday, July 1, 2012