Tuesday, December 20, 2011

slow poke

I finally finished a baby boy quilt for one of my friends and co-workers. It is only my second quilt, and my first done solely on a sewing machine. This is my first attempt to use pre-cuts, and I must say it makes the steps so much easier for a beginner!

Like me, my friend is a Steelers fan, but I didn't want to use the Steelers fabric that is available because it all looks the same. So instead I chose a charm pack of Fairy Tale Friends by American Jane for Moda because it is still childlike, includes some of that Steelers black and gold, but is also beautiful and high-quality fabric.

While the final product was as basic as a quilt can be, I was so excited that I was able to make and give a handmade gift to a friend. I am in the process of making some applique onesies for her little guy, then I will attempt to sew my first "grown-up" bed quilt, which should be interesting.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

giveaways and gift certificates

I was in awe last week when I discovered the giveaways being offered on Sew Mama Sew! and Quilting Gallery. I had no idea this existed! People were giving away fabric, notions, and all sorts of homemade goodies. I frantically entered as many drawings as I possibly could, and while I didn't win anything this time around, I'm hoping that next year I will actually have something to offer to someone else.

Starting out is so very tough. I have so many ideas floating around in my head, but I never have the time to actually create. I have been so inspired from seeing what others do; it makes me realize how talented and clever so many are out there. I don't know many people personally who love to sew or make quilts, so the virtual world has opened my eyes to so many possibilities.

My fabric stash is rather small, so I was elated yesterday when I received two gift certificates to Sew Mama Sew! and Fat Quarter Shop during a Christmas gift exchange. Woo hoo! So this morning I'm shopping for some fabric with a cup of Dark Roast in hand. And I'm happy because it's Sunday, which means I have the time to get started on something...

I sewed my first change purse with a clasp. Like most everything I attempt, it is crooked, but I love the feeling of making something functional. However, next time I think I'll make it a bit more spacious.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

sewing in school

I love working with children. In fact, I knew I wanted to be a teacher at the ripe old age of seven.  But my sole wish is that I somehow find a way to balance the 9 to 5 (or should I say, 7 to 6) with my intense desire to work on creative projects at home.  By the time I drag myself in from school in the evening, all I want are my flannel pjs and a comfy place to rest my head.  I'm too exhausted to think, let alone create.

I loved attending school as a child.  Many of my teachers were inspiring and creative, and for that reason every day was an adventure.  I sometimes wonder if I was lucky, or if they simply had more freedom back then...freedom to teach in their own way, to let their personalities shine through, to break the rules during instruction when it meant being effective and engaging.  Cool projects and creative activities were the norm.  I made many a diorama, terrariums in 2-liter pop bottles, hanging mobiles out of wire hangers, paper mache globes, and clay pots.

So how is today's classroom different than I remember?

In many ways the profession is becoming more robotic.  While I completely agree that standards are important and even needed to make sure everyone is staying on track, I do not feel it necessary that we all do our jobs in the same way.  We are often told how to teach, what to write on the board every day, how to assess (bubble sheets, bubble sheets and more bubble sheets!) "effectively."  Many of our meetings are now spent analyzing test data, which is dry and dull.  As a result, there are no more terrariums and dioramas.  Teachers no longer have time to plan effective lessons.  Creativity suffers.

But what do I know, right?  I only have thirteen years in the classroom.  Apparently there are others out there...most of whom have never stood in front of thirty six-year olds, who tell the rest of us how to deliver it in the "most effective" way.  

So why am I rambling on about this in a blog about my fabric obsession?

I am fortunate to have an incredible, creative bunch of students in my class this year.  So I decided to break the rules a little...to allow them more opportunities to build, explore, create.  They're making toothpick bridges and paper cars with Lifesaver wheels in science.  And recently I purchased Sewing School, which is written by two teachers.  This book has a selection of sewing projects for children to complete, and it has been a wonderful resource.

Today the kids had the option to be "creatively productive" at the end of the day.  Some made "get well" cards for a fellow student, others bound toothpicks with Elmer's, and many elected to work with needles, thread and fabric scraps.  It was so rewarding for me to see their excitement at the opportunity to be creative, and they deserved that brief opportunity to break the rules.

Monday, December 12, 2011

my first quilt

I had been pondering the idea for years, but never took the time to actually start one. In actuality, I lacked the time and the confidence.

But this summer I decided I would stop making excuses and attempted my first quilt. I had no idea where to begin, so I just went to Jo-Ann's and purchased one of their kits. I thought the colors were feminine and bright and knew they would work for my sweetie's sister-in-law, who was having a baby girl at the end of August.

Once I brought it home, I realized that I hadn't made the best choice. Some of the fabric was satin, so it didn't cut well, and it was fraying everywhere. The original pattern didn't include any actual "quilting"; instead it came with backing fabric to attach to the top...no batting, no binding, no quilting involved. But I ended up adding my own batting and binding and quilted it to make it more authentic.

It didn't turn out too shabby for my first time, but it took what seemed like forever to finish. Part of that was because I insisted on doing it all by hand. I hadn't played with my grandmother's sewing machine in years, so I was convinced that hand quilting was the safer option.

While it was rather simple in design, I was still proud of the finished result. Sadly I forgot to take a picture of the final version before giving it away as a gift; however, I did snap a shot of the quilt top.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

learning to fly

I finished my second (ever) quilt yesterday. My co-worker is having a baby boy at the end of this month, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to put together another of my crooked creations.

I love to sew, but I have always figured everything out as I go. I don't like reading or following the directions. I've never taken formal classes or asked for help. So instead I make it harder on myself by plowing through the unknown blindly.

This is true for everything I've done in life. But when it comes to being creative, I don't want to wait until someone else shows me. I want to figure it out now. Instant gratification. Perhaps that is why my piano playing is clumsy and my creations are often off-kilter and crooked, with little use of proper techniques.

I am hoping that the more I practice, the better I'll become and the more "polished" my creations will appear. While I try to tell myself that every snarled stitch and puckered square adds personality to my work, deep down I want to get better and to do it as well as the pro quilters I so admire.

In the meantime I'm dabbling in the onesies craze and attempting to make gifts for all the friends and family members around me having babies.