Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Few (too many!) New Projects

Lately, I've been on a bit of a project rampage.  Sewing, knitting, painting, and yes, even putting ear tags on our cows!  

I finally found some time this weekend to continue working on our curtains for the house.  We've been here almost a year, and the only ones that are 100% complete are the living room shades.  But, that's OK....instant gratification is over-rated ;)  Saturday, I managed to sew the second of the four curtain panels for our bedroom windows.  The valances have been done since last February, and I bought the material for the windows several months ago, but I just haven't had a free weekend to work on it since then.  They are looking really nice, even if I don't have any pictures to show for it yet.  Here is what the valence pattern looks like, though:  

The curtains for the bedroom match the darker shade of tan in the leaves (it's hard to see in the picture, though).  I also got the valence for one of the kitchen windows hung, but I still need to finish the curtains for the window to go with it.  Hopefully, it will all be done by the 2 year mark!
For Natalie's birthday, she received a couple of Barbie dolls.  Now, I'm not against the girls playing with Barbie dolls, but I am turned off by they way those dolls are dressed!  One of the dolls she got was a teacher Barbie with a little girl student, and a bunch of classroom stuff to go with them.  I LOVE that, because we home school, so it's cute to watch Natalie pretend to home school the little Barbie girl.  But, when the teacher doll came out of the package, she looked like this...


 I mean, what teacher actually wears this outfit to school?!  And, exactly what is Mattel trying to teach our daughters about how women should dress?!  I probably shouldn't be surprised, but still!  Anyway, while I appreciated the concept of the doll, the attire just had to go.  So, I thought:  "hey!  I've got a decent amount of scrap fabric laying around...I bet I could make some really cute Barbie clothes for her!"  How hard can it be, right?  Naturally, I hopped onto Google and set out for the perfect Barbie clothes tutorial.  It took some digging, but I managed to find it.  Then, I enlisted the help of my sister-in-law to make a few outfits for me (who is becoming quite the seamstress!), and voila!  Another project on my list of already too many =)  Today, I whipped up a new Barbie skirt and dress:

Ahh!  Much better:  now she is at least halfway on her way to looking less like a Victoria Secret model, and more like a fashionable, yet tastefully dressed teacher =)

 And, the partially finished still needs velcro in the back, and cap sleeves (the skirt needs velcro, too):
The tutorial I used for these cute little numbers come from a really neat craft blog called 'Craftiness is Not an Option'  She has some GREAT stuff on there.  You can click HERE for the link to the tutorials....the Barbie clothes are all the way at the bottom.  I did do a few things differently than what she recommends.  For example, you can see from my skirt picture, I made the waist band a bit thicker than hers, simply because my sewing skills are not that professional, so I needed the extra room for error.  She calls for the band to be 1.25" inches (before it is complete), but I cut it to 2".  And, I added length to the skirt...I did 5" instead of 3.5".  Also, instead of zig-zagging or serging all the edges of the fabric, I just sewed a narrow hem (turned the raw edge 1/4", then turned another 1/4" and sewed down) to give it the finished look.  I'm not good with the zig-zag stitch, and I don't have a serge machine.  That worked out quite nicely, but I had to add an extra 1/2" around for seam allowances.  I also sewed the darts on the bodice of the dress differently than she suggested.  For one thing, I had no idea what a dart was before looking at her pictures (except for those goofy things you throw at a target, that I can NEVER land in the bulls-eye!).  And for another, she has you sewing along side the pins, but that makes me *really* nervous...I've broken too many of my machine's needles by accidentally sewing over pins.  I know there is a way to do it without removing pins and without breaking the needle, but I don't know how.  So, what I did was pinned the bodice on Barbie, then marked where I wanted the darts to go with a pencil:

Then, I took the bodice off, made sure the markings were dark enough, and added a second set of markings about 1/8" to the outside of the first ones:

 Still with me??  Ok...then, I folded the fabric on one of the inside lines, and then sewed down the line that was marked on the outside of it.  Then, I repeated for the opposite dart.  After I sewed it, it looked like this:

front view:

Come to find out, in sewing, a dart is basically there to help shape the bodice of the learn something new everyday, I guess!  I'm not sure if that is technically correct, but it seemed to work.  It may even be way more complicated than using the pins like the tutorial said to, but it worked for me.  Also, I used a rotary cutter and rotary board to cut all my fabric to size...this made sure it was nice, straight, even, and that all the ends matched up properly.  That skirt is actually my second attempt...I didn't even take a picture of the first one.  When I went to sew the back of the skirt together, the lengths of the skirt completely didn't match up!  And, I tried to sew a snap on it, but I sewed one of them on the wrong side, and it just didn't work properly (please don't ask...).  I tried doing the zig-zag thing on the first skirt, but there were loose ends everywhere, and it looked sloppy.  Plus, it was too short.  Oh was fun to make, anyway, and it was a good test run =)

this photo also shows an example of the narrow hem I used in lieu of the zig-zag/serge technique:

Now, all I need to do is go to the fabric store and get some velcro to finish these pieces off!  I think I may get a batch of fat quarters to make some more outfits.  I have scraps, but it's not really little girl-ish stuff.  I'd like to try and make at least one of each of her items.  Ok...enough Barbie clothes talk!  I know I keep going on about it, but these were so fun to make!  I thought it would be difficult sewing all these little pieces of fabric, but it really wasn't that bad.  The hardest part was pinning the stuff together.  

Alright...on to the next project that I've had fun with recently.  Have you ever heard of 'Painting with a Twist' or 'Corks and Canvas'?  I'm not sure if those places are all around the country, or if they are just in our area, but I was invited to two birthday parties at these places.  Basically, it's a 2 or 3 hour acrylic painting class, and you can drink wine while you paint.  It's really fun to go with a group of girl-friends.  And, while I didn't have the wine, I did have fun painting, and I think I actually learned something!  They have all kinds of different paintings you can choose from, but the birthday girls picked out which paintings we did at the two classes I went to.  The first was Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night.  It was supposed to look like this:

(I realize this isn't *exactly* like Van Gogh's, but it was the sample from the local artist who teaches the class, and it was very good).

When I got there, they gave me this:

And, by the time I left, it looked like this:

Now, keep in mind that I have absolutely NO artistic ability, whatsoever.  I know mine was not the best in the class, but I was pleased.  At the second class I went to, we did a Fleur de Lis with circles.  I didn't get a picture of the teacher's painting (which was really beautiful), but this was the blank canvas:

It's kind of hard to see, but this it has a Fleur de Lis outline on it:

And, this is how mine turned out:

Again, I claim no artistic ability.  So, masterpieces they are most certainly not, but it was a lot of fun making them!  If you ever get a chance to go to one of these classes, I really recommend them.  I think they would be fun no matter what your skill level at painting.  Here's a link to the website:  Corks and Canvas or Painting with a Twist.  I think it's the same franchise company, but don't quote me on that....

Ok, onto the last couple of projects I've been working on.  I've been really getting into knitting lately.  What I love about knitting, besides the therapeutic and relaxing aspect of it, is that I can pick it up for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, and then set it down and come back to it later.  You can't really do that with sewing...when I sew, I have to really make sure that I have a large block of time carved out where I know I won't be interrupted.  Knitting, on the other hand, can be stuffed in my bag to do while waiting for the doctor, or by the bed to work on while laying the kids down for a nap, or even brought outside while I watch the kids play.  I have a lot of different things I want to try and make with knitting, but I'm trying to exhibit self-control here!  Phil makes fun of me for having a bunch of different projects going, but I'm convinced it's normal...right???  Right now, I have 2 knitting projects I'm in the middle of.  One is a baby sweater for Rachel.  I've been working on this for probably 6 months now, and the back is finished, and I'm more than half-way done with the front.  The problem is, I think the yarn is the wrong gauge for the needles.  My stitches are way too tight, and the sweater is kind of stiff.  I think I want to rip it out and try something else with the yarn and properly gauged needles.  I'm also working on a baby blanket from this pattern.  I'm just about finished, so pictures to come soon!  It's a really cool pattern.  I also attempted a pair of leg warmers recently.  I didn't finish them, because I was just trying to figure out how to use double point needles.  Again, the needles were too small for the yarn, so the leg warmers came out really stiff, but they were super simple, cute, and didn't take long to make, either.  I want to make a set with the proper needles for the yarn.  Oh, and I finally finished my set of wool diaper covers that I was working on over the summer!  These are one of my favorite things to knit.  They take an afternoon to make, and the chunky yarn and big needles are fun to work with!  They have buttons on them and everything =)  Can't wait to try these out on the new baby!!!

And, last, but not least, the final project I participated in was to help Phil tag the cows.  Now that we have 9 cows in our herd, and will hopefully increase that number come springtime when a few of the females calve, Phil decided it was time to start tagging them, so we could keep track of who's who, and of what kind of care we give each one.  So, we got to really test out the new cow chute for the first time this weekend.  And let me tell you...I am no cattle farmer!  I'm really just along for the ride.  I love having cows in the yard, the beef they provide, and the milk they will soon provide (when we get our milk cow...hopefully this spring), BUT I really don't enjoy messing with them.  If Phil asks me to, or he needs a second person to help him out, I'll do it, but it is a sheer act of love, because quite frankly, those things intimidate me when they get within a certain distance of me...especially if there is no fence to keep them from charging at me.  Like I said, I love having them in the pasture, and the benefits of beef/milk cows, but up close and personal...I feel so vulnerable around them.  And, according to Phil, they can sense my fear, so that doesn't help.  We have a love/hate relationship, me and those cows =)  But, anyway, this weekend, Phil needed an extra hand, so I went out there and helped him get tags in the cows ears.  Although, I'm not sure how much help I really was...I think all I did was bother the cows (that whole fear sensing thing), and make weird faces while trying to hold the nose pincher things, so the cow would be still, while Phil pierced its ear.  Yes, that was my job...the nose clamp holder.  It was interesting.  I'm hoping that the more I'm around them, the more comfortable I'll get.  But, they stare at me funny!!  On the plus side, when I told Natalie that the way Daddy put the tags in the cows ear was the same way that girls get their ears pierced, she decided she doesn't want to do it anymore =)  Hopefully that will keep her at bay for a few more years...

 one of the calves, unhappily waiting for us to do what we have to do:

Phil demonstrating how I should hold her:

Success! picture of me in action.  Phil had to act quickly...I wasn't very good at holding the cows.  I was afraid of hurting her.  Go figure. 


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