Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Weekend Activities and Rock Painting

Another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone.  Where does the time go?  I hope you did something to commemorate those who fought to keep us free.  We spent some time sprucing up the yard and rehung our American flag on the front porch after adjusting the pole attached to the house. 

I have many relatives who have served or are serving in the Military.  All of my uncles on my mom's side and my dad's who were of age served during World War II, and they all came back alive, thank God!  My husband's father also served, and also returned.

Sadly they're all gone to a better place now.  Many of their graves got flags this weekend.

Here's a link to a very nice pdf file that tells you about when to display a flag at half staff, to denote mourning:  Flag document


My grands and I enjoyed some outdoor activities too.  The weather was surprisingly nice for Wisconsin, and Saturday was just about perfect.  Inspired by my recent Rita-encounter and discussion on painting things (see Rita Farro's blog, link at right, for her awesome projects -- especially her porch sofa and her washer and dryer), the girls were given authorization by Grampa to paint the rocks around our back yard patio slab.

First we assembled all our supplies.  I've been saving sticks from popsicles for occasions like this... they are perfect for stirring the paint or picking out small bugs.

Then we got ourselves properly garbed so as not to get paint in our hair or on our nice pink skirt...
With a paper plate or three, and some brushes their dad had in the garage, we were set for the afternoon.

Miss A was hard at work painting the turtle stepping stone.  No plain green turtles for this girl!  Give me orange!  Give me purple!

Miss E did one stone in black and white and decided she had done enough.  It's hard to get teenagers excited sometimes, but she did post it to Instagram...

Miss A continued, and used a sponge pouncer to add some nice color to one of the bigger stones.  And of course an artist always signs their work.  The date is down between the stones.
I sat at the table under the umbrella, supervising and prepared to reload pallets.  
I painted a flower pot to use in my sewing room.  The advantage to flower pots for storage is they are nice and heavy so they don't tip over when bumped.  I still have to glue the ribbon on to hide my uneven strip intersection.  The sealant made the pot nice and shiny.

If you're going to paint stones with children, here are a few tips:
  • Wash the stones with dish soap and rinse well.  They should be very dry before you start.
  • You will need a trash bag close by, and lots of paper towels and rags.
  • Keep soapy water on hand for color changes!  Kids tend to put LOTS of paint on the brush and don't always use it up before changing colors.
  • Use acrylic paint, the cheaper the better.  Use brushes you don't care about reusing because they get worn down if the stones are rough. 
  • Sponge brushes cover lots of territory.  Those tiny brushes that come in the box of paints are useless for a project like this.  Don't go smaller than 1/4 inch wide bristles for little kids.
  • Have lots of paper plates or meat trays available.  Mixing colors on the pallet is fun, but if you mix too many of them, you get brown.  Or a horrible sickly greenish-gray.
  • When brown or yucky green happens, start over.
  • Paint dries fast outside so pallets need frequent replenishing.
  • Use a coat of spray sealer to help the art work to last.  The artists will be disappointed if it's gone too soon.
  • Be ready to love whatever they do.  You're likely to get something along the lines of Picasso.  Or Big Bird.
  • Acrylic paint washes off MOST surfaces but be careful about your clothes.  It works on terra cotta, glass, concrete, wood and other surfaces.  You can mix it with fabric medium and heat set it to paint tote bags or clothing.
The artist giving her mom the nickel tour...
This was a fun activity for a weekend afternoon.  I enjoyed being outside and the girls enjoyed decorating the stones.  Now we're wondering what else we could decorate.  I think I have at least two ugly black suitcases...  and I have some Modge Podge in the resource center!

Get creative!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Take the Time to Smell the Roses...

You have heard the saying "Stop and smell the roses". 

Family, job, work, home, church, friends, pets, dirty floors and laundry.

All these things make demands on our lives and our time, and they have a perfect right to do that.  We all have things we must do just to get through the day.  Maybe you're the one responsible for all of it, maybe you have help.  Some of it doesn't have to be done today, right now, but eventually you run out of underwear and you just have to bite the bullet and do the laundry.

But HOW do you do it?  Is it an ice cream sundae task or a root canal task?  If it looks like you're going to go have a root canal, who wants to come along?

If you absolutely dread doing the laundry or the grocery shopping, there's no way you're EVER going to be able to convince someone else to do it, or even help you with it.

I actually enjoy doing laundry, even though I don't do much of it anymore.  I have people for that.  My DH is retired and he has over time taken over all the household chores except for dusting and cleaning closets.  And he always smirks when I say "I have people"...)

One of the best things I heard at Nancy's Notions Sewing Weekend, and I heard a LOT of good things, was Mark Lipinski's lecture on the Slow Stitching Movement.

Do you remember Mark's magazine, Quilters' Home?  I loved that magazine.  Here's one of the issues I have...

Mark had a life threatening kidney failure and got a transplant.  During that process, his life changed.  You can read about it if you don't already know on his Slow Stitching Movement web site.  I recommend you go there and read the whys and wherefores of what the SSM is all about.

It was a revelation to me... mindful sewing - I get it!  I like it!  I'm going to try to practice it.

Hobbies, if done correctly, can relax you, lower your blood pressure and improve your mood, give you a sense of self satisfaction and take away the worries of the day.

They can also help you focus your thoughts, and inspire you with ideas for the challenges you may be experiencing in the rest of your life.  When I concentrate on what I'm doing at the moment, sometimes my unconscious brain will be reviewing something else and suddenly I'll have a eureka moment. 

Whatever your task, whether hobby or work, try to 'be there' as much as possible and not be worrying about what ELSE you might be doing.  When that happens sometimes mistakes are made and sometimes they're irreversible.  Like texting while driving, or cutting out the wrong size from your pattern on the last three yards of fabric on the bolt. 

Whatever color YOUR roses are... you know what to do.

Sew on...slowly :-)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Threads Post - Common Objects with Sewing Uses


As defined by dictionary.com:

  • Small items used in sewing, such as pins or needles.

Recently I read an article in Threads Magazine about ordinary objects that have unexpected uses in the sewing room.  Here's a link to read it for yourself:  Threads article

It was interesting to me that I am currently using a couple of these myself and two actually made me say "AH HA!... what a great idea!"

The ones I have used:

  • Forceps or hemostats can be purchased on Amazon or from local medical supply places, or you can ask your nurse or doctor friends if they can bring you discards (not straight from the operating room!)  They make great grabbers for all sorts of task, like getting out the pin that broke or turning small pieces right side out.
  • Painters tape was kind of a natural since it leaves no residue on fabric or anything else.  It makes for nice straight lines, and if you're coloring or painting on fabric, it's a no brainer for resist areas or taping down stencils.
  • Interdental brushes -- In my humble opinion, the more often you clean the lint out of your sewing machine the better it will run.  I use several things to do this but one thing I never do is blow into any machine.  That puts moisture in where there are metal parts.  I do use q-tips and GUM mini-brushes to pull the lint out, and a small lambs wool duster to gather the big pieces up.

  • Chopsticks are good pushers, and I like the wooden ones.  If you hit them with a needle, there's no breakage -- at least of the needle.  Plus they are cheap and plentiful if you eat Chinese food as often as I do!
The ones I said AH HA to:

  • Wooden spoon:  using the handle of the wooden spoons in my kitchen to keep from ironing the impression of the seam allowance into the side seams of the pants I make?  Priceless!

  • Silicon mat:  they go into the oven, so why not use them with your iron to keep things from burning, like your fingers?  That's one of those why didn't I think of it things...

The one I said no to:
  • Using an exacto-knife blade anywhere.  I don't care how careful you are, you are going to cut something with it that shouldn't be cut.  Like your fingers.  Or your hand.  Ask me how I know that...
All in all, it was a good article to read and think about.  There are things like binder clips and pony tail holders and empty mayonnaise jars

and a gazillion other things that could also be on the list, but this is a good start.

Thank you, Threads editors.  Thinking outside the

Sew on...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Happy Friday...

Fridays are normally family sewing nights for me, that is unless the aunt who usually hosts us is on one of her world tours.  Well, not really the world, but she could be going anywhere in the US, that's for sure!  She's been to
 and to see the nation's parks on bus tours.

This week we're having a baby shower for the significant other of my other aunt's grandsons.  That's -- let's see -- second cousin twice removed, third cousin once removed?  Oh gosh who can get that right.  Sounds like a good subject for Jeopardy!
My 'sewing circle' consists of aunts and cousins and other miscellaneous relatives who are just part of the big category 'FAMILY'.  I tried to do a family tree.  I need a forest. 

Seriously.  In southeast Wisconsin, if you're part of the Paskiewicz family, you can hardly go anywhere without finding someone who knows one of your relatives.  I moved to Waukesha county eight years ago, joined a new church, went to a quilt guild workday and the lady at the ironing board said "do you know Jeremy?"

Of course!  His dad is my cousin Peter!

Here's my attempt at rendering the relationship between just the ladies in my sewing circle...

My mom (upper left blue square) was one of 13 kids.  She had two brothers who married two sisters. They always joke that when they like each other they're sisters, and if they're not getting on so well they're sisters-in-law!

They were part of a big family too...  I'm not sure how many there were, but just say lots. 

So back to the tree... my mom's side are the three blue circles and boxes.  The 'other side' are green.  I'm showing mostly sisters.  Two green squares are my aunts by marriage, and the one colored yellow is our sewing circle hostess.  That's not the whole family by any means. 

The green E is another sister who I include because HER daughters are in the inner circle.  We're the 'serious sewists'.  (We have two non-sewers who come just because.  We sometimes put them to work -- one is excellent at pressing.  They're our groupies.)

front row...center two are the sisters who married my mom's brothers. Another sister at far left.  Back row, from right, three cousins, a family friend, another cousin from the sewing circle and another family friend.  These ladies are all related by blood.  I'm the odd woman out -- only truly related to two of them.  The rest are family by osmosis.
Are you dizzy yet?  On the chart, I put my siblings down the left side of the page.  But then when I tried adding in my cousins, the paper wasn't big enough.  If you include spouses there are over 100 of us just in the first cousins generation!

She's the common thread.
The yellow circles represent my 'sewing sisters'... We ALL have our aunt/hostess in common.  We all grew up in the same general part of town, so I always knew them.  I always refer to all of them as my cousins, because I've know them all of their lives.  Even though sometimes their mom was only related to mine by marriage, their mom and dad were always called auntie and uncle, out of respect.  Probably not strictly accurate, but in my heart they are family. 

Somewhere are photos of us when we were all young kids and we had good laughs trying to figure out who was which and did you remember that you had that dress?? 

So tonight we'll welcome a new 'cousin' and her new baby-to-be.  We'll eat cake and laugh and hope we don't scare her off.  I knit a little sweater.  I'm sure someone made a quilt. 

Who knows, maybe she'll want to learn how to sew or iron someday...

Happy Friday, and sew on...


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sewing Women Are Awesome

If you are reading this blog because you read Rita Farro's blog, all I can say is THANK YOU and I am so blown away by Rita's generosity!  She is awesome in so many ways.

As you can read in my previous post, I won a sewing machine at Nancy's Notions Sewing Weekend Friday night YaYa Sisters event.

I know that the machine was from Babylock and Nancy's Notions, and suitable thank you notes are making their way to them at this time.  My mother always said writing thank you notes was part of our jobs as kids, and I continue that whenever possible. 

But it just seems so perfect to have won that machine at the 'hands' of Rita and Mary Mulari.

I have sewing sisters who meet on a regular basis like Rita does.  Mine meet on Friday nights at the home of one of my aunts (unless said aunt happens to be on a jaunt somewhere).  We have supported each other through loss and illness and celebrated with each other the birth of grandchildren and eaten cake for birthdays.  Girlfriends are true treasures.  If you don't have some, you can probably pick some up at a fabric store or yarn shop near you.  Really!

I like that Rita and Mary both appreciate that and encourage it.  And they both encourage sewing for joy and with love, regardless of your skill level.  And the more you do, the better you get at it.

My oldest granddaughter is the proud owner of the brand new Babylock machine I won last Friday.  She is 13 and a half, very creative, loves to craft and she knows how to sew.  She makes jewelry and wall art and is my best shopping buddy in fabric and craft stores. 

About two years ago or maybe more, she made a placemat using both my sewing machine and my embroidery machine.  She did it all herself.  We guest blogged on the American Sewing Guild blog.

She is always up for trying new things.  She tested all the fancy stitches on my machine on scraps of fabric just to see what they do, sometimes using pages from the telephone book to anchor her work because she thinks outside of the box.

This is one of my favorite things she's done, a fabric collage which she glued up on foam core and hung on the wall as artwork.

After I gave her the new Babylock, we went into the 'resource center' and kitted up a sewing box.  I believe in using good tools, so I gave her a nice pair of 8 inch scissors, a small pair of scissors, every size sewing machine needle I had, several spools of basic colors of thread, a box of quilters glass head pins, a box of finer pins, a pin cushion, various measuring tapes and small rulers, and a yard stick, among other things.

For her first project, she's making a pair of PJ bottoms with some cotton fabric she bought for that purpose (as in, she picked out, I paid for and I was supposed to sew!) the last time we were at our local quilt shop.  Black with spider webs... very cool.

I also let her pick out a whole stack of five inch squares from my scrap bin so she can practice her straight seams.  I cut scraps of quilting fabric into usable sizes rather than keeping big piles of miscellaneous stuff.  She is excited to be able to come away from the practice sewing with a potential quilt top!

Passing all this on to a new generation is invigorating and inspiring.  I can't wait to see what she does.  Whatever it is,  I will love it!  I hope to channel my great aunt Mary, who always emphasized the positive when she was teaching me sewing, and never made me feel like I'd done something terrible if I made an error.  She's say "OK, how should we fix that?" and fix it we would, or find a work around, or even start over.

That's what I love about Rita Farro and Mary Mulari... they make you feel like you can do it.  Whatever it is, try it.  If it doesn't work the first time, try again, or reach out for some help because chances are, one of those girlfriends will have an idea.  And Nancy Zieman too is always there, 24-7, on the internet, ready to help.   They are a big part of what makes the sewing industry so special.

Not to mention YouTube, where you can find so much good stuff.

If you're in a sewing funk, having stitcher's block, not inspired or not motivated, I highly recommend getting together with some sewing friends, and sharing what you know.  Put the fun back in!

Oh, and share your stash/resource center.  You'll never use it all in your lifetime anyway...

Sew on!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Best. Weekend. Ever.

I am back from my 'hiatus' and BOY did I have an enjoyable time!

I signed up for some seminars that were completely awesome.  Not a bad one in the bunch... and the one I was not totally in love with when I registered turned out to be the best thing I heard all weekend.  How awesome is that.  More on that later...

My friend Suzi went up last year for one day only, and this year I talked her into the whole three day experience.  I had made a room reservation early last year and got right into one of the Beaver Dam hotels instead of having to drive to Columbus or all the way home each night.  Score!

Next, I registered early and got all the classes I wanted, including two evening lectures.

The weather was good.  That's a blessing.  One year it snowed on one of the days.  UGH!

The one thing that wasn't good was that Nancy had some knee surgery and she wasn't going to be able to do her classes.  But two of my 'heros' of sewing were recruited -- none other than the Midwest YaYa Sisters Rita Faro (Iowa) and Mary Mulari (Minnesota).  If you have never seen these ladies, either singly or in tandem, you have missed out on something special.

Mary (www.marymulari.com) does magic with stuff from sweatshirts and applique to tote bags and zippers and travel accessories.  When I was in a sewing guild, the first outside speaker we brought to town was Mary.  Down to earth, great ideas, a lovely person.

Rita (http://ritassewfun.blogspot.com/) is a force.  She specializes in all things zebra and her resource center is affectionately called "tee shirt mountain".  She once showed a way to hem jeans using tee shirt fabric that has done wonders to save my sanity.  Literally.  I check her blog regularly.  Life is better with a Rita fix to start the day.  Sometimes I comment on her blog and I always sign myself Sue from Milwaukee because that's where I work.

I enjoyed their Thursday daytime class.  Rita showed a ton of wraps (garments to wear to keep you warm and stylish) and linens for your bedroom, and Mary also did wraps and aprons and her travel accessories.

We had signed up for the Friday night event too.  They did a different set of things, there were live models, some of Rita's family had come to see "Grandma" work and she loved that. 
Mary and Rita in zebra from their promotional photo for YaYas.
The evening was so much fun.  Lots of laughter, modeling of wraps and tee shirt dresses, and aprons, lots of jokes and banter between Rita and Mary... a good time was had by all.

About to be made better.

Babylock's parent company, Tacony, now owns Nancy's Notions.  They took over the business several years ago and made some changes, some for the better, others -- well, the jury's still out on   some.  But this much I have to say:

THEY ARE VERY RESPONSIVE TO CUSTOMERS.  They care what customers think!  And they give great door prizes at their seminars.

Our ticket was our entry into the drawing.  The first prize was an Ott Light Floor Lamp.  Not a skimpy prize in anyone's book!  I did not win.  I turned to my friend and said "what are the chances one of us would win?"  Ha!  I won a peanut butter maker once about 35 years ago.  I'm still hopeful on the lottery.

So Rita has her granddaughter pull the next ticket.  She's six, and she can't read the name.  She hands it to Rita.  She says "Susan".  And pauses.  I'm sure trying to pronounce something like Ignatowski or Rachieniwicz or something because you know there are always about seventeen susans in any audience of women of a certain age.  Heck there were three just in my row!

Then she said "Slottke?  Hey, is this Sue from MILWAUKEE??" 

I sucked in a big breath.  OH. MY. GOD.

It's me!  I stood up and yelled "Hi Rita! It's ME!!"

I won a Babylock Sewing Machine!! 

It's called the Rachel.  It has 51 built in stitches and a drop in bobbin and a bunch of accessory feet and it's a freakin' BABYLOCK sewing machine!

Well, it could not have been more perfect, to win this at the YaYa Sisters, whom I have been following separately and together since who knows when and I love them both for their attitudes about life and family and women and everything. 

Mind boggling!  I could not stop smiling, even through the photos and the paperwork.  Oh, and if I had known I would not have worn horizontal stripes...

So if you know me you know I do not NEED another sewing machine.  I'm not one to collect them, but I have a few.  Let's say more than one and less than a dozen.  I brought it home and set the box on the kitchen table and called my oldest granddaughter over.  She's 13 and I've blogged about her sewing and crafting before.  She's pretty talented.  Mom and little sister came along too.

I asked her if she wanted a sewing machine.  hmmm... I don't know, she was a little hesitant.  I said "you don't have to use it today or even decide today if you don't want to."  She thought for a bit and we went on to other topics.  I emptied my big bag of newly acquired treasures.

We decided to open the box on the table.  We pulled out the machine and took off all the plastic.  I pulled out the accessories box and laid out the feet.  We perused the instruction guides.  We went back into the living room and left her with the machine. 

I could see her face.  She was intense.  And starting to smile.  I said "you know I was 22 years old before I had my first NEW sewing machine.  Before that they were all used."  She said "this is new?"  I said "yes, and Mr. Jeffery, the Babylock president, told me when I thanked him for the prize, it's the one they put into schools for students to use.  It's a very good machine."

She scooted out the front door.  A few minutes later she was back with her phone.  She took some pictures.

I knew I had her when she posted it to Instagram!

Instantly about 15 of her closest friends liked it.

Today we're going to dig in my stash for some project materials and make her up a sewing kit.

Babylock rocks!