Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just Another Day in Paradise

Day 2 of my renewed effort to blog regularly. It was 80 blooming degrees today! Again! On the 24th of September! It is the warmest September on record here, and today was absolutely gorgeous weather. It was a nice day at school. So very different (in a good way) from being in the mainstream classroom. Partner and I prepared for a presentation we will be giving to staff tomorrow, I made some really cute Bingo games using Dolch words, and we taught everything except Kindergarten. It was relaxing and enjoyable due to it being "Game Day", and all in all a good one.

I gave a fellow teacher and her kids a ride after school because their van battery was dead. Cute kids and they loved riding in my new Ruby. I really didn't mind a short drive on a beautiful afternoon.

Bob's jury duty is extending into at least one added day, although there is danger it will run over into Monday. Monday is the day he is supposed to be having his first go-round with that test they give you when you are over 50. You know, the one that is unpleasant, but doesn't seem so bad after you've gone through a day of preparing for the test. Personally, I think he'd be willing to fillibuster the jury deliberations just to postpone the test, and I really don't blame him.

A fellow teacher brought me a felted bag she made for her daughter. She isn't happy with the way it turned out and would like us to add leather handles and maybe a lining. I'm not sure what I can do for the bag or her satisfaction level. The design of the bag is one problem, the yarn she chose is another, the way it felted is a problem, and on and on. I'll give it a try, but I'm not sure that we can really help it.

Today I am grateful: for a peaceful day at work, the beautiful weather, a newly bathed new car, my daughter's seemingly okay health, and a tasty grilled salmon dinner. Life is good.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back at it

The first month of the 2009-2010 school year is drawing to a close. It has been an (ahem) interesting start to this new year, my 28th of being a teacher. Our school start was delayed due to ongoing construction within the building. I changed to a new teaching assignment in which I share a classroom with another teacher. Both of my children have been ill and hospitalized this month. There have been times this month when I have thought about starting a new anonymous blog where I could rant to my heart's content. It's not like I have that many readers to this blog, but there are times when I have wanted to blow off steam without anyone knowing.

Let me say this. Although there have been many worries and stresses in the past month, I am noticeably less stressed than I would have been had I had a regular classroom and group of 27 students to call my own. The new job assignment, although chaotic, has been very much what I expected and tried so hard to secure. My new partner and I are getting to know each other and finding our way toward sharing a space for 8 hours a day. And my children seem to be improving and their health is always a source of gratitude for me.

My puppets have really gone by-the-by since July, when the craft show was cancelled and we took our trip to Yellowstone. I have sold 4 which are ready for delivery. This is a source of disappointment to me. I believe I have a great idea and a good product. I find that once the show was postponed, putting the kits together have become a source of stress for me, and that is not what I wanted. Once again, I enjoy the process of making the items, but once the pressure of "business" arrives, the fun goes away. I need to remember this and adjust my artsy time accordingly. I am an idea person. I love creative thinking, problem solving and the challenge of developing new ideas and projects. I do not like the pressure of sales and/or deadlines. This is an important lesson for me, which I need to remember.

My basement studio has been at a standstill for many months now. I still love the concept of having all my creative bits and pieces in one place. It is a true fantasy for me to think about having spaces for my yarn, clay, paints, fabric, sewing machine all ready to go in one big workspace. I don't know if the basement will ever be finished, but if it is, it will be a dream come true.

As always, I have many, many more ideas than I have energy to pursue. I am seeing myself changing and looking at life differently. I feel as though I am still in a mid-life transition which has been going on for the past 5 years. I've been doing some research about this transition, in which physical changes occur in the processing centers of the brain. There is some indication that the maturing brain blends tasks across hemispheres. The left and right, which are so distinctly separated in the young brain, join forces to problem solve and view life in the senior years. I would love it if I could access and open the creative centers of my right brain without the fear of the "realist" in the left brain jumping in with common sense, practicality, and cost figures. I am becoming more patient with myself, and content to see where the transition leads. I actually passed up a challenging job opportunity this summer, and I'm glad I did. Could it be that I am mellowing in my middle age? I suspect those around me would say NOT!, but I feel that I may be finding a way to being more content and relaxed in who I am and how I spend my time. Does that make me less ambitious or just wiser about life? I'm not sure it does either, but I think I am headed in the proper direction. Will I reach a point where I can just choose to be still, live in the moment, and enjoy relaxing? Hmmmm, that seems a quantum leap, but I would like to move down that path.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vacation 2009

Bob and I are back from a camping vacation to the Black Hills, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Badlands, and Teddy Roosevelt National Parks. As noted in the previous post, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to this 11 day CAMPING adventure. Great news! We both survived, and had a pretty darned good time, most of the time. We ended up spending three nights in motels, and seven nights in the tent. After setting up and tearing down the tent four times on the trip, I have to say that we have the process pretty much down to a science. I am learning a lot about camping, and my husband's affinity to require the camping gear to be cleaned, stored and used in very specific ways. He has a "system" in his mind, and it takes a bit of getting-used-to. For me, this trip was all about the scenery and the animals we saw. Aside from the animals we see routinely back home, we saw: bison, elk, mule deer, prairie dogs, herons, pelicans, osprey, wild horses, pronghorn antelope, ground squirrels, and one each grizzly and black bear. We heard an elk bugle one night, and saw one fight between two bull bison. The only animals I wished we had seen (but didn't) were bighorn sheep.

The scenery is just as beautiful as I remembered it from our last trip out there seven years ago. It is impossible to take a bad picture if you remember to remove the lens cap and hold the camera relatively still. This is my favorite spot in the Grand Tetons, and my favorite picture from the trip if I must be made to choose. Yellowstone is a much larger park, and there is certainly a greater variety of interesting things to see there. But for sheer beauty, I don't know of anyplace in the world that has more of an impact on me. It truly is my "happy place" and I never get tired of the view.

I hope we will return to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. It is a place of unsurpassed beauty, forever changing landscape, remarkable wildlife, and for us, treasured memories.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kids Getting Hitched, and Preparing for Departure

Last weekend was fantastic! We had 12 twentysomethings, plus three dogs, plus two weddings going on. It was the type of weekend we used to have regularly when the kids were home. Our yard was a tent city, lots of cooking, laughing, and business. I loved it. Every minute of it. I miss having the hustle and bustle around the household all the time. I miss these twentysomethings calling me "mom" and wanting to share their lives with me. It was wonderful.

Now that it has quieted down again, today is packing day. THE packing day. THE only day to prepare for our 10 day camping trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. "The List" is in progress, the dishwasher is changed out, the dryer is running, medications ordered, doctor appointments are rescheduled, and Bob has called to see how things are going here. I love the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, I really do. But the camping portion of the trip has me feeling a bit indifferent and worried. I believe we are going to have a great time, but I'm having trouble getting excited about leaving tomorrow. The day before any trip is usually a day of nerves, and not wanting to forget anything, and finding stuff I rarely use. This time seems to be no exception. I am hoping that I will be able to blog a bit while we are on the trip, but we will have to see where we can find wifi service and power. In the meantime, I'm off to change out the dryer again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

One of those days....

You've had 'em, you know you have. Today is one of those days when it is important, very important, to just keep feeding me as much refined sugar and salt as you can possibly find. Just keep it coming and we may make it through this day unscathed. It would be wise to permit, make that encourage, me to nap in between fixes of sugar and/or salt. I've eaten a Hershey bar, pretzels, and "caramel" toast. I washed 'em down with a Diet Coke....caffeinated, thankyouverymuch. These are things I don't eat when I have my wits about me.

I've warned Bob. He knows what he should do when he gets home. Sometimes he likes to live on the edge, today might be one of those moments. I've even explained that there are times in a woman's life when biological factors swing in one way or another and it is best to just don the protective gear and hide. Don't be a hero, Bob; just pass me some Ho-ho's using a long stick.

In my altered state, I have agreed to go on a 10 day camping trip to Yellowstone. Now, it really isn't surprising that I am going to Yellowstone. I love it there, really I do. As for the Grand Tetons, I would gladly live there just to get up every morning and gaze upon their beauty. The key word in that topic sentence was camping. Yes, camping. Tent camping, even. Now, some of you know the story of the one, exactly one, time my family went camping when I was a child. My maternal grandparents LOVED camping, but my parents decidedly did NOT. The horrors of camping have been reiterated on a quarterly basis throughout my life.

Other "accomplishments" of the day include: showering, but not fixing my hair; wrapping wedding gifts, with new wrapping paper that somehow ended up being too big for the boxes yet pieced together at the ends; buying desired concert tickets on the radio auction; and throwing in certificates for three fast-food places just for good measure; and thawing porkchops, but so far I've not managed to cook them.

Ahhh, I love vacation. A million things on my to-do list, and exactly nothing accomplished. I think I'll just chalk it up to hormones and see if I can whip up some chocolate-covered potato chips.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Felted Bag Lining Tutorial--Part Deux

Here we are again, back at looking at lining felted bags. This time, I will show some pictures of a flat bottomed bag that has a magnetic closure.This is a very simple rectangular bag made out of Noro Kuyreon. The Kuyreon does all the striping work for me, and I love the colors. Noro is tough to felt, but if you have patience, it will create a lovely felted fabric. I didn't go with any embelishment on this bag, except the black leather fobs and silver rings which attach the hand-tooled and custom dyed leather handle. The fobs are sewn to the felted bag before I start the lining. I took this picture with the snap open so that I could show where I position the magnetic snap.
Here we are, looking inside the bag. This is drapery fabric which is much heavier than basic cotton gingham. I love the country look of gingham. Notice how the light color makes it easy to see inside the bag. This lining has two large pockets and a flat reinforced bottom. Let's turn it inside out and give the lining a better look.

Because this bag has a flat bottom, it stands up easily. Here we can see the magnetic snap and the size of the pockets. Notice again how I hide my stitches at the top of the lining by using a blind stitch.
I've laid the bag down so you can see the corners on the bottom of the lining. This bag bottom is reinforced with plastic canvas cut to fit and sewn to the felt bag bottom. It gives more support than interfacing. The plastic canvas is sandwiched between the felt and the lining fabric.
This is a close up of the square corner. It is made by folding the corner of the lining and sewing a diagonal which matches the width of the bottom. I trim away the extra triangle of fabric to reduce bulk in the corner. This also shows the tiny stitches I take to fasten the bottom of the lining to keep it securely in place while the bag is being used.
I hope you have enjoyed this little two part tutorial of how I add lining to finish my felted bags!

A Tutorial for Lining a Felted Bag -- Part One

A few folks have asked me how I line my felted bags. Please understand that I am not a "sewer" by any stretch of the imagination. This is just how I go about lining my bags. First, I choose a remnant of either upholstery or drapery fabric. I go with something fun, but also lighter colored. Dark linings make it difficult to see inside the bag. Once the bag has been felted and is dry, I double my fabric with right sides facing and lay the bag on top. I use the bag itself as a "pattern" and just cut around it leaving maybe a 1/2" seam allowance. If the bag has a flat bottom (let's say 2") I cut the lining about 2 1/2 " longer than the height of the bag. That extra 2 1/2" will become the bottom of the lining.

I almost always put 1 or 2 pockets in my linings. In very small bags, I stick with 1 pocket, because 2 would take up the whole inside of the bag. In medium or large bags, I put in two pockets. I cut two rectangles of fabric, about an inch bigger than I want my finished pockets. I turn the raw edges under and press. Next, I bring my little squares to my sewing machine (an inheritance from my Grandma) and sew a hem on the top of the pockets which will be the open side. I try to position my pockets in the same place on both sides of the lining and pin and sew. It only takes me a couple of minutes to do this, but I think pockets inside the bag are well worth the effort.
Place the right sides of the lining pieces together and sew the side and bottom seams. Test fit the lining in the felted bag. I like my linings to be just a tad bigger than the felted bags. Felt will stretch a bit with wear, and I like to plan ahead so my linings will still fit. If I need to take a little tuck in the top of the lining, it doesn't show much, and the lining will fit properly for a longer period of time.

I really try to make my bags so that they will survive years of hard use. I use double worsted weight yarn to make my felt thick and heavier fabrics for my linings. The heavier lining will withstand car keys and pens poking it.

The next step is to deal with the bottom of the bag. If the bag has a flat bottom, I like to reinforce that shape somehow. Over the years, I've used various materials to do this: 1/4" plywood, cut to fit; plastic canvas sewed to the felt; heavyweight interfacing sewn in place. The plastic canvas or interfacing are my favorite materials. Continuing with a flat bottomed bag, I measure up from the bottom corners of the lining and sew diagonally to make a square bottom in the lining which matches the bottom of the bag. The interfacing or plastic canvas is sandwiched between the felt and the lining.

If I am using a magnetic snap closure, I put it into the lining at this point. I always reinforce the back of the snap with either extra pieces of lining material, interfacing, or even leather. Make sure both halves of your snaps line up so that the lining closes to a smooth finish. If I am using a zipper, I like to hand-sew that in place with a secure backstitch and heavy thread. I then fold the lining and press so that when it is sewn in place it will cover my backstitching on the zipper.

I press the top of the lining before I start to sew it in place. I use a blind stitch and regular weight thread which is doubled. I try to keep the stitches as hidden as possible.
Let's take a look at a couple of examples. I just grabbed a couple of my finished bags, one with a round bottom and one with a square bottom. Let's look at the round bottomed one first.


Here is a basic round bottomed bag. It's a bit hard to tell, but I carried a royal blue and a navy blue yarn, so it is a rich blue color with a bit of depth to the color. There is a tab with a handmade embelishment. Basic felted I-cord handles.
Here's a closeup of the handmade pin I added to the tab. I make all sorts of embelishments out of driftwood, leather, glass beads, etc. That is my business card next to it, so you can get an idea of the size.


This bag is closed with a zipper. This picture shows the top with the zipper closed.

Now I've turned the bag inside out so you can see the lining. This is a light blue floral drapery fabric. There are two large pockets, one on each side. Because the bag is inside out and the tab and handles are pulling it, the shape looks a bit wonky, but it is symmetrical. I like to tell the folks who purchase my bags that they look as good inside out as right side out. I hope that the effort I put into my linings will speak to the care and quality I try to instill.


This shot shows the round bottom. I take a couple of small stitches which hold the bottom of the lining to the bottom of the felt bag. I think this helps to keep the lining in place when someone is rummaging through the bag.


This last shot shows the blind stitching I do at the top of the lining to hide the handsewing that I used to put in the zipper. I try to keep the stitches as hidden as possible. I will post this part of the tutorial now (because I get paranoid about losing a long posting) and post pictures of a flat bottomed bag that has a magnetic closure.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Finally Finis!

Finally, finally, after four years, and knitting Katie's lace sweater nearly two complete times; it is finished. I worked on it every day of this past week, my Spring Break. Sometimes for as much as 12 hours in a day. I broke one of my fabulous Harmony knitting needles under the sheer strain of the 550+ stitches in the border ribbing. Since I started the sweater for the second time back in June of 2008, Katie has converted to vegetarianism and lost about 45 pounds. Consequently, the sweater is big for ner now, but she says it is "comfy." I hope she will wear it and enjoy it. For my part, I am very, very glad it is done! Love you, Katie!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stash Management

Ah, where does the time go? So long since I've blogged, the time taken by school and the resulting exhaustion. I have finished a couple of sweaters for myself this winter, a pair of socks for Bob, a scarf, and a few hats. I have been productive, but not good at taking pics and posting them.

I am currently working on the Shimmer shrug from www.knitty.com for Audrey. She gets chilly at work and thought this might be useful. I'm making it in a deep brown color called Espresso. I started Friday night and have almost one sleeve complete. The sleeves are easy, the back looks a bit challenging in a lozenge lace pattern. The trick seems to be the raglan sleeve shaping while holding onto the lace pattern, according to the notes posted by those who have knit this. I am always happy to be knitting for family, and this is no exception.

A couple of weekends ago, when we were in the midst of a snowstorm, I started making an excel spreadsheet of my current yarn stash. What a project this has turned out to be! Bob helped me haul everything into the living room. I am currently over 300 skeins catalogued, with more to go. I do think that this will be a helpful point of reference for me, and may keep me from buying yarn when I already have it at home. When my home studio is complete, it will be nice to have all the yarn in one place and easy to find. Until then, the spreadsheet should help. Ultimately, I would like to post photos of the stash on my ravelry.com page and perhaps trade or sell some of the stash that seems lonely.

School has been terribly stressful. Not from the children, but from other political issues. Somehow I always seem to be drawn into these situations, and my colleagues want to make me a leader. I will be happy when this dispute has passed. I believe that we are fighting for a cause that would make our schools and community better, yet it is still a difficult circumstance. Only three months to go and a student teacher starting in three weeks! I think if I squint I may see a light at the end of this tunnel...

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Year's Purge to Refresh the Psyche

So, like many people, I have an area which is my collect all, throw it there for now, out of sight-out of mind, I'll get that in a minute. That place is our bedroom. While I am moderately successful at keeping our main living area minutes away from respectable, the bedroom gets frankly out-of-control. Normally, during the summer months, I give the bedroom a thorough cleaning and it looks and feels great, until about October. Once I get back into school, we begin that clutter-spiral that ends up as a major stressor. Last summer, I taught into July with the college gig, then my nephew came for a couple of weeks, and then I was back into the school routine. The room, which was bringing me to tears by last spring did not receive its customary, and necessary, summer cleaning.

With the coming of the new year, I can no longer bear the clutter and dust. Today began The Purge. As I am just coming off a two week backache resulting in an impressive Quasimoto impression, I am taking The Purge in stages. Thusfar in Stage One, I have hauled out a bag of old magazines and gone through two bookshelves. I've taken several bags of books to the basement. I love books, and have way too many. I never want to part with any of them, so they are in the basement awaiting shelves and a permanent home. A stack of sweaters has been refolded and placed in the newly finished cedar chest that Bob made me for the end of our bed. All of the yarn that had been on shelves in the bedroom has been brought downstairs and is awaiting sorting by colors to go into Ryan's old dresser.

At this point, my back has reminded me that this will only be Stage One; and so I am sitting blogging. I am feeling a bit better about the state of our room, but it will be a great relief when the room and closet are all clean. There is nothing like a clean room to begin a new year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Recently, I have been reading a book entitled The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin. In this book, the author lists “Personal Positive Priorities” exhibited by creative women. She stresses that creative people need to find the correct abundance formula that works for them. I would like to try to focus on bringing many of these into my life this year. Let's consider them my New Year's goals:

1. Time for creative exploration.
2. Fulfilling work.
3. Encouraging partners, friends, and community.
4. Personal growth experiences.
5. Good health, including nutrition, meditation, and exercise.
6. Nurturing living spaces.
7. Continued learning opportunities.
8. Self-protection from negativity and toxic people.
9. Reflective time such as vacations, health spas, and retreats.
10. Spriritual practices and beliefs that support your practice.
11. Independence in action and thought.
12. Solitude as needed.
13. Inner security and centeredness.
14. Connection with nature and the arts.
15. Activities that stimulate inspiration.
16. Balance