Friday, May 29, 2009

New Beginnings

Today, we have chicks. For three weeks, two of our hens have been 'setting' and today, the eggs have begun to hatch.

We noticed them in the afternoon and there were two, no three, then four, now six. We were fortunate enough to witness one chick crack through and unfold from the egg ~ wet, awkward and confused. Mama scooted the chick back under her and when it re-emerged it was fluffy and beautiful. Not the traditional yellow, but a soft warm tan more like their mama's coloring.

It's been a fascinating afternoon, filled with wonder and excitement. The third hen, who was not 'setting', has adopted two of the more adventurous chicks who wandered out of the nesting boxes. The chicks are still fragile and need the warmth of the mama hen for a few days.

As they were setting on a dozen or more eggs, each, there is no telling how many chicks we will have. Can't wait til tomorrow!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blackout fabric

The playroom is on the second floor and south facing, very sunny and hot. Not good for game playing, movie watching or keeping cool. So, long curtains, to replace the valances were requested.

As I wandered around the store looking at my options, I stumbled onto blackout fabric, which can either reduce or completely block sunlight (for those, like me, who'd never really looked at it before). There were actually lots of different types, but one really caught my eye as it is fabric on one side and sprayed foam on the other. And, also important to me, it is white on both sides. Although blackout fabric wasn't requested it became my top pick as it also reduces heat absorption!

I did a little internet surfing for sewing suggestions, and was surprised how little I found. So this project became one of trial and error. After much pondering about hemming the sides, finish hemming the top and bottom, how to hang, etc., I decided to make window shades that hang from tension rods inside the window frame. I decided this for a couple of reasons. First, total blackout wasn't really necessary for us. Second, I wanted the option of adding back the valance or some other curtain-ing in future. So creating shades seemed the best choice.

I decided not to hem the sides as every stitch creates a hole for sunlight to penetrate. Using the manufactered edge as one side, I carefully cut the other side to the correct width, thinking smooooooooth the entire time. It turned out suprisingly well.

I cut the fabric 3/16" smaller than the width of the window and 4" longer than the length. I folded the top and bottom down 2" and sewed a straight stitch with 6 stitches per inch. I sewed a small loop of elastic in the middle of the bottom stitching line. We purchased a long length of wood called lattice, cut it to 1/2" shorter than the width of the shade, and slipped it into the bottom pocket. We put cup hooks in the top center of the window frame. The elastic loop hooks onto the cup hook, allowing sun and breeze into the room. The wood in the bottom of the shade, adds weight, keeping it in place in the 'down position', but also keeps the shade neat and tidy when it is hooked up in the 'open position'.

For anyone else who might be thinking about a project here are my recommendations:

Use a heavy weight needle for wovens. You need to puncture the backing cleanly, but not leave such a large hole that the thread won't fill it in. There was some discussion, on the net, of the type of thread to use, but I used what I had, which was all-pupose, and it turned out well.

Use a walking foot if at all possible. It makes all the difference. I tried several, including a roller foot, and the walking foot is super fantastic. It was the only foot to keep the fabric from shifting.

Do not use pins, use clips of some kind to hold your hem in place. I used some office clips and pulled them off as they approached the needle.

And that is all. Some very careful measuring, smoooooth cutting and 8 straight seams later and the playroom is all happiness :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

I love the library!

I have always loved books, as long as I can remember. My mother was an avid reader and so am I. Books have a smell all their own and a really good book smells of knowledge.

My earliest favorite book was 'The Snowy Day' by Ezra Jack Keats. I remember reading it over and over in kindergarten. I could feel myself inside this book. Feel myself track through the snow with Peter as he adventured. It was magic.

Lately I don't have as much time for reading, but have found the most amazing thing at my library. Needless to say, I love the library, from the feel, the look, the stacks and stacks of books to the technology and the people who run it. The library is filled with mystery, adventure, exploration, excitement, learning, knowledge...

Anyway, back to the amazing thing I found at the library, it is called a Playaway. It's a recorded book, but in a small MP3 type player. Simple, only has the one book on it with just a few buttons to operate it. It's a book on tape, only current. Being a true bookworm, book lover, bibliophile, I definitely prefer to hold the book, feel the paper, smell the binding and read myself. However, this little invention is perfection for books I know and love. I'm currently working through Jane Austen!

To be certain, this is not new technology, but to me it is and I'm excited. I've been grocery shopping, gardening, and marathon cooking, all with the sounds of Jane Austen's heroines filling my ears. I'm keeping up with other goals and still feeding my soul with beautiful words.

So, if you need me, I'll be sewing some new shorts to go with my new blouses (see previous posts), listening to Elizabeth Bennett struggle against her love for Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Custom Fitting

I'm a curvy girl. When I find something that fits my bust it swirls and balloons around my waist. If it fits my waist, probably won't get it buttoned, or if it is a knit, then I get that oh so attractive concave horizontal pucker line. This is not a good look for anyone.

This year, I decided to figure out how to fit a blouse to my dimensions. There are lots of good books on the subject. I suggest looking at them all until you find the one that speaks your language.

You can also buy patterns that help you customize, but my biggest problem with these is the lack of pictures. To understand how to modify a pattern for a larger cup size, I needed the pictures to definitively show where to cut and widen, etc.

But, learning from a variety of sources is good. I'm glad I tried all the books and patterns I could find because, I've done it! I've produced a custom fit, no gappage, no puckering, blouse. I sewed it with a combination of french seams and flat fell seams, so there are no raw edges. Which sound very complicated, but isn't and leaves the inside as beautiful as the outside.

This went so well, I've moved on to a second and a third. I've also just about finished a dress from a pattern that fit my waist and just altered the bust so it will fit properly. And... with the knowledge I've gained, I altered three knit shirts I bought at the store to fit my waist. I'm pretty happy, can you tell?

Have I mentioned that taking good pictures is not in my skill set? No, well it isn't. This picture is of the first blouse and is intended to show you all the interesting points with this shirt: if you look closely, there is decorative stitching around the collar, a french seam joining the sleeve to the shoulder, a flat fell seam on the side, and the elastic in the sleeve was sewn directly to the sleeve with a wide zigzag, eliminating the need for a casing.

If you haven't tried custom fitting, think about it. Although it is time consuming to study and figure out what is right for you, the results are so worth it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A purse for a sweet birthday girl...

I am currently hooked on purses and this is my latest attempt. It's for a sweet birthday girl who is very feminine and will appreciate the glam I think.

The body is made from the crazy quilt style of piecing. I added some decorative stitching, beads, ribbon, and fancy yarn to embelish. I ignored the rules of convention, so there is cotton, satin, denim, glitter and synthetics and so very many shades of blue. In the end, the colors and variety of fabrics create texture and interest, making the purse very happy indeed.

Unexpected events...

A family member passed away last month, somewhat unexpectedly. Every person in your life is there for a reason. Sometimes you know why while they are in your life, sometimes you figure it out later.

As with every death, I find myself a little confused. The swirl of emotions, the inner reflection, the attempt to understand, the healing. I've been turned inward, trying to deal with the confusion, but it's time to open up again.

Tears have a wisdom all their own. They come when a
person has relaxed enough to let go and to work through
his sorrow. They are the natural bleeding of an
emotional wound, carrying the poison out of the system.
Here lies the road to recovery.
-- F. Alexander Magoun