Spring break dancing — Shout out to substitute teachers!

Happy Spring Break! August 31 was my last blog post until now, because that’s when the school year started. That matters this year because I am substitute teaching this year. Sound awful? It’s not. I’m having a blast. It was the break I needed from my office/home office job. I put myself on a self-imposed sabbatical from my regular ‘day job’, and am very happy with my choice.

Of course, a few days have been nightmarish. I’m now afraid of 2nd graders. 😉

When this school year started, most of the students had not been in a formal classroom since spring break of 2020, when the pandemic shut down schools everywhere. For 2nd graders, that meant they hadn’t been in a classroom since Kindergarten. For 5th graders, which is the age group I started the year with, they hadn’t been in a classroom since 3rd grade. In other words, there was an extended period of easing in of the classroom structure, behavior requirements and expectations. The expectation to ‘sit down at your desk and be quiet and listen’, had been long forgotten. The classroom settings needed other options. I was inspired to see how some teachers arranged their classrooms, with diffused or dimmed lighting, curtain panels to separate sitting areas, and floor seating pads, to make calming and comfortable environments.

Since those first two months, I’ve spent most of my days in high school FACS (fka Home Economics) classes. It’s as enjoyable and rewarding as when I was a full-time salaried teacher for those first few years after college. I consider this subject matter to be ‘survival skills’, and I approach it that way in the classroom, and I feel that teaching it is important work.

There is a dire shortage of substitute teachers in public school. That is in part because of the pandemic, but also probably because substituting pays a wage similar to the fast food sector, with no insurance or other benefits. If school gets cancelled for snow or other cause, substitutes don’t get paid; not even those of us who had already committed to a sub job for that day.

On the positive side, a substitute can generally choose what days to work. You can choose your job day-by-day. And because of the sub shortage, there are a lot of jobs to choose from each day. You don’t have to work days you don’t want to. I’ve worked every school day but two this year. I didn’t expect to work every single day, but was having fun from the start, so it’s been an easy choice to keep going. I now have my favorite schools in the district, where I enjoy working the most, and where I look first for sub jobs.

In Kansas, the substitute shortage is so dire this year that they relaxed the requirements. You are now eligible to apply for a substitute teaching license if you are 18 and have a high school diploma. Normally, the requirement is a minimum of 60 college credit hours.

Kansas substitute requirements here: https://www.ksde.org/Agency/Division-of-Learning-Services/Teacher-Licensure-and-Accreditation/Licensure/License-Requirements/Standard-Emergency-Substitute-License-Requirements

And because we blog about sewing here:

This is what I’ve been helping sewing classes to make: Pajama pants, a hooded wrap robe/cardigan, and hand-sewn plushies. All are free downloadable patterns and instructions. Pattern websites below:

https://lifesewsavory.com/pajama-pants-pattern-free-pdf/
https://www.mygoldenthimble.com/make-your-own-cozy-hooded-robe-sewing-pattern-free-pattern-and-tutorial/
https://cholyknight.com/plushies/

A very special quilt pattern turns 89 today.

Here’s the pattern. It was published in the Kansas City Star on August 31, 1932.

What makes this pattern special? My grandma designed it…when she was 12. She sent it in to the Kansas City Star newspaper, who published it in their weekly quilt pattern series. Not knowing her age, they attributed it to her with ‘Mrs.’ before her name. That famous KC Star quilt series ran from 1928 to 1961. You can read more about it here. More information and a partial list of all of the KC Star patterns can be found here.

In 1986, the KC Star did a feature page on their quilt series, featuring The Purple Cross in their images.

Here is how the Purple Cross block can look in various quilt configurations. The diamond configuration was the first one I made. That is me and Grandma holding it.

Here’s a close-up of a kaleidoscope block.

Myrtle the dog stresses the importance of testing works in progress, and proper use of finished quilts.

This was the grandma who taught me to sew really well, on her dream machine, the Singer 401a Slant-O-Matic, that I now have care of, until it’s time to pass it on to the next generation.

The Purple Cross pattern is difficult. It starts out easy, when making the stars. But when you add the circle inserts it gets more complicated, and then the corners make it even more difficult. And then when sewing the blocks together I literally almost give up completely, feeling like I really don’t know how to sew at all! It would be slightly easier to construct if sashing strips are added between the blocks. As you can see from the examples above, I haven’t done that. I like the look of the blocks right next to each other.

So anyway, Happy Birthday to Grandma’s Purple Cross Quilt Pattern! Looking forward to making more of these quilts.



And now for some music!

The Slicethelife.com song draft continues, and is now on Round 5. The Run-Sew-Read.com round 5 selection will be this weekend. What will it be? I’m still deciding. A listing of the songs in the first four rounds can be viewed here.

For Round 4 I went for fun and ornery. Here’s the post, and below the song and video. http://slicethelife.com/2021/08/22/2021-song-draft-round-4-pick-7-run-sew-read-selects-half-a-boy-half-a-man-nick-lowe/

National Sewing Machine Day is today (June 13)

For us sewing enthusiasts, isn’t every day ‘Sewing Machine Day’? Of course it is! I didn’t know until today that sewing machines have their own day. This article on PBS.org tipped me off. It’s a neat collection of sewing stories they’ve done over the years. (Click on this photo to view the story of this pretty old machine on Antiques Roadshow.)

Sewing Machine Patent Model | Antiques Roadshow

I’ve done a few blog posts profiling my machines, and have more still to profile. Here are the stories I’ve told so far:

Here’s the lovely Vera, and her story such as I know it: The lovely Vera has been called up for active duty.

This was my grandma’s 1958 Singer 401A, that I learned lots of sewing skills on at her house.

This was my first antique sewing machine purchase; a 1917 Singer 66k hand crank, manufactured in Clydebank, Scotland. Still one of my most precious machines. The blog post: This machine is a sewing ambassador.

The two below are my ‘modern’ machines. It’s hard to believe the Bernina 930 is about 35 years old. I’ll never want for anything more modern. This will likely always be my main machine. The serger/overlocker is my newest machine. Five years after its purchase, I still have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with it. (Future blog post coming on that.) But it does serve a purpose.

In future posts from time to time, I’ll continue to profile my machines one by one. There are a couple more Berninas, and the rest are vintage Singers. There’s a Featherweight, another beautiful hand crank machine, and more treadle machines. Each one is different and special, at least to me.

Which is better, new machine vs vintage? The debate will continue to rage on about whether modern machines are better than vintage, and whether to go computerized or mechanical. You can see where I come down on those issues. I love sewing with my old machines, and I love that if something malfunctions, I’ll probably be able to fix it myself.

Yes, you can restore an old Singer yourself. If you’ve wanted one of the old black Singer machines, don’t be afraid to buy one you see at a good price. Use the serial number to date the machine. The site http://ismacs.net/ has a great database of sewing machine manufacture dates, and a collection of manuals, photos, etc. The parts for the machines are still made, and the machines are quite simple mechanically. Some cleaning, oil and minor adjustments may be all that’s needed. You can buy the bobbins, needles, belts, etc. at a sewing store, some discount stores, or online. Youtube has many excellent videos on how to do the cleaning, oiling, adjusting and repairs if needed. If you find an old machine at a great price, give it a shot.

Mila dungarees (Tilly and the Buttons pattern)

I purchased the digital pattern [link here], printed out the 30 pages of letter-sized paper, and commenced taping them all together in a big rectangle. Then I cut out the fully-assembled pattern pieces.

(Image from Tilly and the Buttons webstore.)

They’ve put out an add-on pattern for front pockets. I made the pockets, too. Free pocket download and instructions here: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2018/06/mila-dungarees-pocket.html

How to add hip pockets to your Mila dungarees! - Tilly and the Buttons
(Image from Tilly and the Buttons webstore.)

The pattern instructions recommend using a fabric containing spandex. I did not follow the recommendation, and instead used some vintage thick brown corduroy that I inherited from my grandma’s stash. With no stretch to the fabric, I opted to make loose (baggy) overalls. They feel great and are fun to wear. I can do chores and run errands in them because they aren’t restrictive. I could take 3 inches out of the waist and hips, and they would fit more like the picture on the pattern, but that would compromise stretch and versatility. I’m happy with my baggy version, and am glad to have used some of my heirloom fabric.

More thoughts and recommendations:

No Front Pockets: I tried to put on the optional front pockets. Then I took them off, remade them and tried again. Then I gave up. I couldn’t get them to look right on the corduroy. I learned much, and should be able to get the pockets to look right on my next make.

Bulky facings: I wish I would have used a lightweight fabric for the inside facings and plackets. I used the corduroy, and it’s quite bulky. The bulk makes the waistband and side button plackets unnecessarily thick and stiff. It makes the overalls look wider at the waist and hips than if I’d used something lightweight on the inside, that would have enabled some drape in the fabric.

‘Overall’ Recommendation: Highly recommend. The pattern was accurate and easy to make, and the instructions were very well done.


Future post preview: I’m attempting to make homemade sauerkraut for the first time.

Painting smock made from a man’s shirt

This was a Christmas gift for my mom, who’s wheelchair-bound, with advanced Parkinson’s. She can no longer sew, and wants to try painting. So I made her a painting smock, upcycled from a man’s shirt.

The pockets and other add-ons are made with fabrics from my stash.

Here are some of the details.

  • The front pockets can hold supplies.
  • The ties go around the shoulders; not across the back, so she can get the apron on from the front, without being lifted out of the chair.

To protect her sleeves, I made these coordinating sleeve gaiters from chambray in my stash. You can also see the shape/template of the apron as it was cut from the front of the shirt.

And another smock!

After finishing the smock and then looking at the leftovers, I realized there was another smock in the back of the shirt, so I made her a second one, too.

How are the aprons working out? Well, she hasn’t shared any feedback (or paintings) with me yet, so I can’t assess the success. But I got a big smile from her when giving her the smocks, so I know they are appreciated and will be used.

Is there a tutorial? I didn’t take progress pictures to make into a tutorial. But if you do an internet search (like this) for images of aprons from upcycled men’s shirts, you’ll see a bunch of inspiring examples like I did before starting my project. The examples were all I needed, but the search will lead you to tutorials if needed.

Squishy Squeaky Squares — DIY dog toys

When Myrtle the two-year-old pup is being awful, and I need some peace, I can reach for the red plush fabric, and spend 5 minutes making her a squishy squeaky square.

When she sees me grab the red fabric, she calms down and sits as still as a statue by my sewing chair until I’m done. When I finish and hand it to her, her appreciation is a wonder.

THE PROCESS

The squeakers came from Amazon. For Myrtle, I got the 2-inch size. https://amzn.to/3jLL9q5



More desert island music

Round 6 of the Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft has just concluded. Four more rounds to go. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

For the Run-Sew-Read pick, click here, and enjoy the sample below.

Mask making continues, and gets more creative.

As masks have finally become plentiful, with enough supply to meet demand, my one-person mask making sweatshop is still operating, but I’ve slowed down production in order to indulge in more creativity. I’m using the same patterns as I was here and here, but have continued to experiment and add ‘improvements’ and improvisations.

I’m enjoying the process, and am grateful that I can do this one thing to help people navigate the pandemic. I’m inspired by all of the creative masks I see. Our community is under a mandatory mask order right now, and what I love most about it (besides the way it makes people keep each other safer) is looking at everyone’s masks. I love the vast array of prints and designs. Instead of people-watching, I’m now a mask-watcher.

My neighbor gave me a mask she made! I had given her a mask very early on. Then a few days after that, she came over asking where I got my pattern. Of course I printed her a copy to keep and use. Then one day she came over with this mask for me! She had worked her own details into it; filter pocket and good nose wire included. I love wearing it as much as I love my own. So, I say go exchange masks with fellow mask makers!

Another neighbor informed me that her mask was stolen from her car. So you’ve been warned, that the coolest masks have street value. Protect your valuables.

How long will we be making and wearing masks? I don’t know, but I just pulled fall and holiday woven cottons from my fabric storage, thinking I might as well get started on masks for the upcoming seasons.



And for some mask-making nourishment…

One big chocolate chip cookie…
For the sheet cookie, I added an extra cup of flour; spread the dough on a 1/4 -size sheet, and baked 2 minutes longer than specified for drop cookies.

It’s from this totally awesome recipe book.

Which apparently is still in print, which is a good thing.

Nelly Don Zero-Waste Apron (part 3)–Construction steps

After looking at the life and career of Nelly Don the iconic Kansas City designer in Part 1, and then deciphering the diagram for her 1925 patented zero-waste apron in Part 2, here in Part 3 are the apron construction steps.

The Apron and patent drawings:

Last week’s post provided measurements for drawing and cutting out the pieces, like this:

Nelly Don designed the apron to be sewn in one sitting, without having to remove it from the sewing machine. So now in Part 3 we sit down at the sewing machine and start constructing:

These are the chronological construction steps:

  • Hem all free edges
    • Side Panel (C) top edge
    • Pocket (D) top edge
    • Back (B) centers
  • Sew a Pocket (D) on each Side Panel (C)
  • Join Front (A) to Front Yoke (E)
  • Join Backs (B) to Back Yoke (F)
  • Join Side Panels (C) to Backs (B) and then to each side of the Front (A).
  • Join Front Yoke (E) to Back Yoke (F) at shoulders.
  • Hem entire lower edge
  • Bind neckline
  • Sew ties to back pieces at the waist line.

Here are the above-listed steps in pictures:

Hem all free edges (shown in blue)

Hem all free edges.

Sew a Pocket (D) to each Side Panel (C), along the bottom edge of the Pocket, right sides together.

Then flip Pocket right side up, and top stitch across lower edge of Pocket.

Join Front (A) to Front Yoke (E), right sides together.

Join Backs (B) to Back Yoke (F), right sides together.

Join Side Panels (C) to Backs (B), right sides together. Catch the pocket side in the seam.

At this point, the your pieces will look like this:

Join Side Sections (C) to Front (A), right sides together. Again, catch the pocket side in the seam.

Join Front Yoke (E) to Back Yoke (F) at shoulders, right sides together.

Tada! Now you have your lovely apron. To finish it, turn under and hem entire lower edge and the armholes; bind the neckline; and sew ties to the back for the closure.

How about some finished examples? These were my practice attempts:

This wraps up the Nelly Don apron series. My obsession with the patent drawings has been satisfied…for now; although I do keep thinking of more ways to experiment with it. Have you made a Nelly Don apron? I’d love to hear about your experience with it.

Nelly Don Part 1 is here.

Nelly Don Part 2 is here.



Back to 2020, Series 6 of The Great British Sewing Bee is about to conclude. It’s been a fabulous series of talented sewing contestants and their creations. Last week was ‘Hollywood Week’, and it did not disappoint! https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1148109945557937

Two weeks ago was ’80s Week’, and it was full of larger-than-life creations and personalities. https://www.facebook.com/greatbritishsewingbee/videos/568722604082017/

Nelly Don’s Zero-Waste apron (part 2)–measuring, drawing and cutting the pieces

The drawings of KC designer Nelly Don’s patented zero-waste apron, so intrigued me, that I committed myself to working out the measurements and construction process for the apron. My post last week about Nelly Don and her apron design (including a downloadable copy of her 1925 apron patent) is here.

And now, for the measurements and steps to cutting out the apron

The 1925 patent diagram shows a single layer of fabric. For my apron, I concluded the fabric needed to be 48″ long and 36″ wide (1 1/3 yds x 1 yd).

Drawing the diagram.  Start with the measurements across the yoke and work out the rest from there. 

From there you can work out the width of the side panels, and the front and back pieces:

Here’s the process in a step-by-step slide show. If helpful, it can be viewed on Youtube in full screen; pause and rewind as often as necessary.

For shaping the simple round neckline in the yoke pieces, here is a pattern you can download and print on an 8 1/2″ x 14″ (legal sized) sheet of paper:

I tried some different dimensions and measurements for the apron layout, but the version I’ve described above is the only one that really worked. Some problems I encountered when varying the dimensions were:

  • Narrowing the yoke width also means the side panels become narrower, which makes the side pockets too narrow to be useful.
  • A longer/lower yoke meant the side panels became shorter, which made for a shorter apron; which then made the A-line angle more exaggerated. Alternatively, if the hem length were maintained, it made the side panels sit too far below the waist, or not extend all the way to the hemline.
  • A shorter/higher yoke made the side panels longer, which made them come up higher to the waist. This made a smaller, tighter waist because the front and back pieces are narrower at that higher point where the waistline is located.

So, there you have the apron pieces. Nelly Don designed the pattern so that the entire apron could be constructed without ever having to remove it from the sewing machine. I’ll tackle that in the next post…