Wednesday, September 30, 2015

WIP Wednesday and 100 Quilts for Kids!

I've been busy doing what I do best--teaching and crafting, working on my masters, hanging out with my dear husband, posting to Instagram, but not blogging :)

But it's time to link up with 100 Quilts for Kids--so I'm back on the blog!

I did manage to use some layer cake scraps to make this little quilt for charity:  It's the first quilt I've made start to finish in 5 days!

So glad I could participate in DC Modern Quilt Guild's cause--these quilts are all going to children living in the DC General Homeless shelter--I just wish it was more than one quilt...

Also on the sewing table is the JeliQuilts Triple Goosed pattern that I started over summer vacation:

That's all for now...I'm off to prep for Back to School Night :)

**Linking up with WIP Wednesday and 100 Quilts for Kids (see the link for more details on how to participate!)**

Friday, October 3, 2014

Handmade Whiteboard Erasers!

And so begins my attempt to actually post about some cool things I've been working on...well, at least I think they're cool...and this one wins teenager seal of approval!  (A very hard thing to earn indeed ;)

Somewhere, and I forget exactly where, I got the notion of using flannel as a whiteboard eraser.  I use little individual whiteboards in my classrooms.  Recently, I've found myself having students use "big" versions of the showerboard whiteboards for group work.  And, I've started using those old printable transparency sheets as cover sheets so that students can "write on" my multiple choice tests without actually writing on them!

All of these things seem pretty popular with my students, but they left my little erasers (essentially felt glued to a piece of wood) really, really disgusting!  So, it was time for a change.

Washable flannel whiteboard erasers!  No more waste...and they're cute and cuddly.  My students love them.

To make your own:
Cut long strips of flannel 6.5 inches wide, fold right-sides together hot-dog style, and sew a 1/4" seam to create a really long tube.   Press the seam open down the center of the tube and trim to 5" long.

Chain sewing, sew across the bottom of each.  Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each pocket.  Cut the threads, turn right side out, and you'll have these :)

Chop up scraps with a rotary cutter...
 Until they look like this..
By the way...chopping up the scraps was fun for I dug through the waste I was reminded of lots of old projects.  However, if you're going to make a class set of these, I recommend doing your wrists a favor and chopping over an extended period of time.

Gather the scraps in a bowl.

Use your scraps to stuff your pockets.  Pack the filling in there pretty good because the kids will take the loft out of them once they get their hands on them.

Use clips or pins when you turn the edges under.  I just did this by hand.

Once you have a bunch queued up, sew a straight seam close to the edge.  Don't forget to backstitch!

Et voila!  (As my French-speaking husband would say)  Your erasers are complete! 

Please comment or share pictures if you make your own :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

100 Quilts for Kids

Each summer our guild, the DC Modern Quilt Guild, hosts an annual charity drive gathering up quilts we've made together or individually to donate.  Check out more about 100 Quilts for Kids here!

When I joined the guild three years ago, I started this quilt with fabric inherited from my dear grandmother-in-law.  It's been sitting, waiting for binding, all that time.  (I really hate binding's sort of ridiculous.)  Well, there was no "I'm new to this school" or "We just bought a new house" excuse this year--so may I present...the finished quilt!

I've also been busy knitting and sewing up a storm--including teaching knitting classes!  Hopefully many pictures and posts to come soon, but here's a shot of my quilting on one of our group charity quilts :)


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why do we create?

I was thinking about this question a lot today...what is it that makes us LOVE to create? To keep coming back to it even when we've been frustrated by a project or busy with every other task on our to-do lists?

I don't really have much of an answer, but as I watched a bunch of worn-out, chatty students dive into a DNA origami project that involved coloring nucleotides (one student deemed it "color-by-chemical") I knew it was a universal trait.  I've never seen such a happy group of students--these are brilliant ninth graders, their work could pass for senior work most of the time--but, they're kids, and they love to color.  Some of them even came to study hall today just to finish (we're supposed to finish in class on Friday.  But they get to choose their afternoon activity, and they chose to come color and fold paper--it warms my heart.)

Meanwhile, I passed the time during their test knitting up the second in a pair of socks.  My love of knitting is keeping me sane during test days.  I want to keep my eyes on them so that they aren't tempted to let their eyes "wander," but I'm just not cut out to stare students down for four hours a day two days in a row. 

I also dove into yet another project requiring tedious cutting and pasting.  I love finding new classroom activities that require massive amounts of prep.  This is a DNA sequencing activity, requiring many segments of "code" all cut to different lengths.  Tedious yes, but there's really nothing else I'd rather be doing while monitoring a study hall.
Cutting the strips and gluing or taping them into one continuous sequence.
Laminated "sequence" ...enough for 6 groups.
So what is it that makes us love to create?  Is it using "dead" time for something productive?  Is it knowing you made something beautiful, enchanting, cool or amazing?  Does it free our minds from worry?  Is it the desire to make something for someone else--to be able to hand over love or care in the form of a tangible object?  Is it an exciting endeavor, a workout for your brain? 

It does all of these things for me.  What's it do for you?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Recipes worth Sharing: Lazy Day Cookies

I love my mom's Lazy Day Cookies!  I think the "lazy" comes from the fact that you use a cake mix as your only dry ingredient.

Without further ado...the recipe:

German Chocolate cake mix
1/2 c. packed brown sugar (I use 1/2 c. white sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp molasses sometimes)
6 tbsp. shortening or butter, softened
2 eggs
1/4 c. water

1/2 c. each of: pecan pieces, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease and flour a large jelly roll pan or 9x13" metal pan.  (I like the taller sides, sometimes it will rise over the sides of the jelly roll pan).
Mix the wet ingredients (sugar, butter, eggs, and water) with 1/2 the cake mix and beat well.  Add the rest of the cake mix and beat until smooth.
Spread over the cake pan.  (This is easiest if you flour your hands and press it out into the pan's a pretty sticky mix)
Sprinkle with chips and pecans and bake for 20 minutes.  Cool in pan.

Mmmm...the smell is the best part...until you get to taste them :)

Knitting Tips: Blocking your Finished Work

There are many great tricks to having beautiful finished knits.  One of the easiest is blocking.

When your piece is finished, soak it in cool water.  You can also throw in some "no rinse" soap, like Soak.  (Soak is also great for washing all kinds of sweaters!)

Gently squeeze out the piece and roll it in a towel to remove the excess moisture.

Lay flat to dry.  If it's round, try to move it a few times so that you don't dry a crease into it.
The difference is sometimes remarkable.  Here's a few examples:
Before...the orange is unblocked...note the ripply edges from the loose bind-off.

After...nearly as long as the teal cowl.

Lace Ptarmigan cowl before blocking

Smooth, open lace after blocking
You can use blocking to:
-stretch pieces to a desired length
-open up lacework
-straighten funky edges
-get a better sense of gauge by blocking your swatch (nothing worse than a sweater that doubles in size when you wash it!)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Reflection and Peace Quilt

I'll tell you right off the bat that this is a very personal quilt to me, and it is the first finish I've ever kept for myself.

Ever since reading an airline mag article about labyrinths and their meditative purpose, I've been incredibly intrigued by them.  The whole notion of turning a quilt into a labyrinth started fall of 2013.  An old college roommate is going to seminary here in VA and she and I got to talking about labyrinths.  She has a beautiful little cloth that is a hand-held labyrinth, and I thought, "How great would it be to trace your hands across a quilt as you meditate?"

I should pause here and say that while prayer has always been a part of my life, it has never been such a part of healing and peace to me as it has been in the past year.  Getting married, moving to VA, and finding a job that really seems "perfect" for me came with more challenges than I expected.  Literally crippling stress led to headaches that became so severe (right before I sought help) that I nearly got violently ill in front of students on a field trip that I was supposed to be chaperoning…It was a turning point.

I've been making a concerted effort to stay calm and trust that God will take care of more things than I often give Him credit for.  That, plus an amazing husband, family, and friends has led me to feel an incredible sense of peace during hectic, stressful situations.  I've certainly had moments when stress got the better of me, but they are much less frequent, and much more under my control.

All of these thoughts and hopes went into the quilt…and they are the reason I included various religious symbols.  I hope to continue to find happiness and peace where I used to find stress and frustration.  And I hope this quilt serves to remind me to take some time to pause, think, and give thanks for the blessings in my life.

I started the design by drawing out a labyrinth on some graph paper.  
Since I could only work with two colors, I wanted them to shine.  Kaffe Fasset's shot cottons were a no brainer.
Then I figured out simple blocks that could be strung together using 2.5 inch wide strips of fabric.
The blocks were sewn into strips and then quarters.

And then halves...
Until finally a finished top was born!

I added quilting to both colors.  Straight lines along the edges of the dark color and a free motion quilted edge for the light.  I made a test swatch for the quilting.  (Photo to come soon…with some detailed quilting pictures too!)

And my favorite part of the quilting…a microstippled "stained glass" medallion in the center :)  It's modeled after the North Rose Window of the Chartres Cathedral in France.  I want to walk their labyrinth someday...

The label, complete with the Hail Mary in latin…an homage to my faith.

And a few finish photos…

More photos here.