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Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Cleaver, Version 5.0? (June 30, 2011)

I’ve never been an apron-wearing gal. This changed on Monday. When it’s your apron, one you designed and sewed, you can become an apron-wearer in a heartbeat!

We started our aprons at our final sewing class a few days ago. Somehow I thought I’d finish the whole thing there, but this was not so. After our tutorial we measured and cut our fabric using the teacher’s prototype. I finished mine at home and was happy with some parts of it but it didn’t have the retro feel I wanted. So I shortened the length three inches, rounded the bottom of it, fixed the strap and kept adding rickrack until it had the fun vibe I was after. Betty Crocker with attitude? That’s me!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Step Away From the Machine! (June 26, 2011)

I’m obsessed and I know it. There’s no denial involved. But being obsessed with sewing and creating does not exactly put me on the Ten Most Wanted list. It’s hardly a crime to have a passionate love affair with my sewing machine, right?

When I last blogged, I’d just left my first sewing class and excitement was pumping through my veins. Now: thirteen days later. Tomorrow: my last class. Veins: still full of enthusiasm.

Thirteen days ago, I couldn’t figure out how to load my bobbin. It’s an older machine and the instruction booklet’s diagrams left something to be desired. Twelve days ago I walked into a local fabric store and asked if anyone could spend five minutes helping me. Two super nice women spent twenty minutes with me, and after that tutorial, I understood the machine a little more. Major victory!

At the second class, we made bags. We were asked to bring whichever fabric we wanted. I brought two pieces of fabric I’d bought sometime in the last year, without a specific project in mind. Sometimes I just buy a piece of something that inspires me, and one day I’d bought some red cotton with white polka dots, and a piece of red fabric with a Hawaiian Hibiscus print. Would I use both pieces together? Who knew? I liked that both had contrast and cheerfulness. I chose to make one side of my bag one print, and used the other fabric for other side. A few days later I fooled around with my machine again and created flower petals. Later, more fooling around with felt and rickrack (with which I am deeply obsessed!). Voila! Happy red flower (whose center is made of buttons I bought in the liquidation I wrote about last month). Here’s how my bag turned out:

Tomorrow we’re bringing our bags back to show the class, before we start on simple aprons. I’ve been looking at apron photos online for inspiration and I’m getting awesome ideas! My faves are the retro ones because they are so playful. The colors and patterns are fun, fun, fun. And why should kids have all the fun clothes? Why can’t grown-ups wear many patterns all at once? (I already do! Personally, I think grown-ups would be happier if more clothes came in cheerful, fun colors. Why do clothing makers think khaki is an uplifting color?!) I’ve already started on some of the extra pieces for the apron—a pocket and the straps. Can’t wait to get to class and work on my June Cleaver-meets-Katy Perry apron. Watch out, ‘cause there’s a tidal wave of ideas flowing!

Monday, June 13, 2011

But I Don't Speak Machine! (June 13, 2011)

Five weeks ago today I did something that I hoped would spark a big new adventure. I got a sewing machine out of my closet and opened it for the first time in eight years. I rearranged the contents of my art studio/baby room (no easy feat) to make a specific place for the machine to be, with the notion that if it were set up, available for use, beckoning to me, I would use it.

The only problem is that I don’t know how.

So the machine sat in my studio, ready, waiting, and did I peek at the instruction manual? No. I learn much better by watching someone. But today, five weeks after hatching my idea, my plan is rolling. Well, inching along may be a more accurate description. But movement forward, nonetheless!

Today I attended a free sewing class through the community college system’s Continuing Education program (funded partially by tax dollars. Yay!). It only meets three times for four hours each, so I won’t be designing dresses alongside Betsey Johnson right away. But here’s why all this is blog-worthy: today is symbolic. I’ve wanted to learn to sew on this machine for the last nine years, since I found it in an alley. But I’ve been Mama for more than seven of those years, and scraping together time or energy to do something that is not directly related to kids, career or home has been a major challenge. It’s meaningful that I woke up nearly an hour early, drove the machine to class, lugged it upstairs, and chose to ignore the long to do list I always have, in order to prioritize learning something exciting, something that is just for me, to feed my creative soul.

I arrived ten minutes early to find a long line stretching from the classroom door. The teacher announced that she could take thirty-five of us, and I was so happy that I was number thirty in line. There are thirty-one women and four men. Go, dudes! I like the diversity that community college classes tend to have. There is a big mix of ethnicities in class, and some students are ESL students. Some students are twenty-year-old fashionistas. Others are retirement age. We are bonded by our common desire to learn to sew. For some, it could be a career path. For others it may be something they’ve wanted to do for ages just for fun. The teacher is a peppy woman who has been teaching for thirty years and really brings enthusiasm to the room. Today was our intro day, so it’s not like I walked out with a collection of new clothes to wear. We watched a video about parts of the sewing machine, and even though I’m intimidated by all the buttons, gadgets and levers, I do understand the parts a little bit now, which is exciting. (I liken this experience to learning to drive. Once you know how, you’re not even aware of all the things you do simultaneously, but at the beginning, it’s a lot even to remember which is the brake and which is the accelerator!)

At home I tried to load my bobbin into the bottom of the machine, to practice a little. No luck. Could not figure it out and the instruction manual has very fuzzy photos that do not clarify! But I will not be scared off. Now that the thread ball is rolling, I’m ready to learn to speak machine. I’ve hand-sewn since I was a kid but it’s time to learn how the machine can help me turn the hundreds of ideas in my head into colorful reality. So stay tuned for the next chapter!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fraction Fiesta (June 8, 2011)

Today I am exactly 37 years, 6 months and zero days. You know what this means, right? If I’m 37.5% of 100, today is my three-eighths of a century! (Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten all the fractions/percentages stuff from 7th grade!)

How does one celebrate being 3/8 of a century? Above, I illustrated what 3/8 of a cake would look like. Can you sing 3/8 of the tune “Happy Birthday?”

This is probably one of the less celebrated achievements in life. I seriously doubt Hallmark has a line of 3/8 birthday cards. Maybe they should! Maybe this will be my intro to greeting card design—a line of cards celebrating obscure milestones. Of course for most of us, life is very busy and we are lucky to remember the actual birthdays of those close to us. (This is why all the card companies have belated birthday cards.) So aspiring to calculate and remember a friend’s 3/8 of a century is a bit optimistic.

It was a few weeks ago that I realized this day was coming. I called my Dad, because he is a math enthusiast. He was excited that I had noticed my upcoming 3/8 of a century, as this is precisely the kind of thing he often calculates. Once, we were visiting relatives and all of a sudden, a whoop of excitement came from the next room. Dad shouted happily to my sister that it was her 1/8 of a century (she was exactly twelve and a half that day). Dad threw himself a One Billion Seconds Alive party when he was approximately thirty-one (he figured out to the nearest hour what time he would reach this milestone). So you see what I mean. Our family is no stranger to celebrating obscure anniversaries.

Hopefully I’ll have a chance to celebrate other milestones too, besides the birthdays ending in “0,” which tend to be celebratory affairs. My great-aunt is almost 101 and very sharp, so I have hopes of longevity. If you’re not doing anything in December 2073, I’ll be celebrating my 100th birthday. Watch for the Evite.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One-of-a-Kind Treasure (June 1, 2011)

Architecture is a big interest of mine. The first college class I ever took was an introductory architectural drafting class (using pencils, not Auto-CAD!). For a minute I considered becoming an architect but really, I’m an artist at heart and the idea of having to modify my creative ideas into something that would be both plum and level just felt too constricting!

Still, I love architecture and for a while now I’ve been meaning to blog about some great buildings. (But I’ve been very busy doing creative stuff, blogging about creative stuff, and making lists of other things to blog about.)

A minute ago I came across a photo online that has halted me in my tracks. The other four things I was working on simultaneously will have to wait a second because this house is so cool! For a while now I’ve been plotting about creating some kind of interesting outbuilding in our back yard. Depending on my mood, this building sometimes takes the form of a cute artist's studio/gardening shed with a green roof (more on this another time. Green roofs just came across my radar a few months ago and I LOVE the idea of putting a bunch of succulents on a roof.). In other moods, I think I'd like a quonset hut green house. Other times I envision building a hodge-podge, funky building made of old windows, with nothing matching. A true artist’s creation! That’s why this photo spoke to me so much. I’d never seen anything that looked like the image in my head.

This building is in Christiania, Copenhagen, although the architect/builder is unknown. It’s made completely from reclaimed materials, and there is a move to make it a historic building.

Let’s talk reclaimed materials for a second. It’s a great idea as it prevents those materials from going to landfill. But in all honesty, my interest in turning one thing into another is mostly rooted in the creativity it inspires. You’re forced to be extra imaginative when repurposing something, as opposed to starting out with a completely blank slate.

We’ll talk architecture again soon. Right now I’m off to the kitchen to repurpose last night dinner into today’s lunch!