Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I just wanted to let everyone know that we are safe as we ride out the worst of Hurricane Isaac.  We have no power but managed to supply a bit of juice for a small window unit, the fridge, and a couple of lights via a generator. I have caught up on my reading and day dreaming and napping, so now I'm bored and want this all to be over. I think electricity will be restored by Thursday. I'll be thinking of new projects in the meantime.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sew-Special Birthday Party!

Yesterday, I was pleased to host my first ever sewing birthday party at Wendy's Sewing Studio. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it was the mom who approached me with the idea for her 9-year-old daughter. She explained she had purchased a truckload (that's right) of 60 kiddie sewing machines a few years ago and had either sold or given away all but 12. Her idea was to give each child the sewing machine as a party favor and have a sewing theme. I was approached to teach the girls to sew just before the cake and refreshments. After giving this serious thought for several weeks, I decided I just had to do it. After all, I had the facility, ample parking, lots of chairs and tables, and the mom was so sweet and persuasive, I couldn't miss this opportunity. I wouldn't get rich doing birthday parties, but at least I might pick up sewing students for my Summer Camp or after school activities. I also decided to make a little purse pincushion for each girl as a door prise.

The week before the party, all the little machines arrived and we all began unpacking them. I personally set each machine up and loaded the bobbins and threads. Luckily, they all received a mini sewing kit with each machine so nothing had to be purchased. I was relieved to discover all machines working.

The mom, Angela, purchased cute printed fabrics for the kits and we decided it would be age-appropriate for them to make a small square purse. I requested that each girl have at least one adult assistant attend the party. Angela decided she would serve pizza and box juice in addition to the cake. The cake she supplied was adorable and in keeping with the purse theme. Purple and pink were the desired colors of the day.

The day before the party, I set up the tables, plugged in the machines and cut all the fabric squares for the girls. I also gave them a small scrap of fabric to practice with. I arrived a few hours early the day of the event in order to set up my video equipment and lay out all the little goodies they would receive. When 1 o'clock arrived, the moms and attendees began to arrive. Even though 12 girls rsvp-ed, only 10 arrived and after waiting about 45 minutes, I decided to begin the lesson.

I explained via Powerpoint, how the purse would go together, demonstrating mostly to the moms what was to be expected. I laid out the ground rules such as only adults could use the irons and no food or drink around electrical equipment. I had the girls repeat what I was saying in unison for assurance they had been listening, and I instructed them of the operational basics of the machines. Working on practice pieces, we began sewing. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk, to the 10th power. Picture ten assistants giving direction at the same time while girls happily pushed the tiny food pedals to make the machines work. I said a quick prayer that none of the machines would break and practiced breathing techniques to keep myself calm. Then I signalled them to stop.

Next, a lesson in how to pin the fabric together. I announced the most important thing to remember is, YOU NEVER SEW OVER A PIN, and had them repeat it out load. Okay, so that wasn't very difficult. Again, they began to sew. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk they went, diligently stopping just before each pin to remove it, and then stitching resumed. They made it through both edges of their purse outers. Sweew! No blood, no tears...a very good sign. Then, I had them repeat the procedure on the lining fabric. I demonstrated how to turn the upper edges under and the assistants pressed them in place. I explained how to position the lining inside the purse outer and they pinned the layers in place. Straps were inserted between the two layers and pinned in place. I decided that the little machines wouldn't be strong enough to sew through 4 layers of fabric and the straps, so I asked the assistants to sew them together using my machines while the girls had refreshments.

The girls hungrily devoured their pizza and then they sang Happy Birthday to the birthday girl both in English and French, since the girls all attend The French School at Audubon Elementary. Each girl left with their little machines, which were quite a surprise to them, their little purses, a goodie bag, and a well-deserved dose of self accomplishment for having participated in such a wonderful day.

End of Summer Crunch

I received a phone call from a mom who was in town for ten days visiting relatives. She was interested in booking a workshop for her 9-year-old daughter and 10-year-old niece the last week before they returned to school. Having had such a positive experience from teaching my group of 11-year-olds, I agreed. They booked two days of sewing lessons.

The girls arrived bright and early on the first day prepared to work and have fun. I thought it would be a great idea to have them make a pillowcase dress just like the older girls except without the contrasting band on the hemline. I started them off making a simple purse-size tissue paper cover letting them choose the fabric they wanted. They did a pretty good job, but it didn't take long to realize how different their motor skills were compared to the 11-year-olds. They had a bit of difficulty keeping the fabric straight. I found myself using a video game analogy in order to train them to keep the foot even with the fabric's edge. It worked and they completed their projects just before lunch.

As soon as they finished eating, we returned to work. I cut out the fabric blocks to size and had them mark and cut out the armhole openings. They sewed up the side seams and I had them zigzag stitch over both seams to finish them off. So far, so good. Off they went to the ironing boards to press the seams. Yikes! They didn't grasp the idea of standing the iron upward after use and soon, I was literally putting out smoke bombs. I was kicking myself for not supplying iron rests. Lesson learned. They really enjoyed ironing and even managed to scorch a few spots. Oh well. I should have turned the temperature down a bit. Another lesson learned.

We cut out the string ties and they stitched them up. We ended the day on a positive note by using the tube turner on the ties. That was a lot of fun for them and I felt really good about what they had accomplished. The moms were so excited when they saw the completed tissue paper cases.

I spent a good portion of the next day overcast stitching their edges and inserting bias binding in the armhole openings for them. I didn't think stitching-in-the-ditch was something they would be able to do and my goal was to have them wear the dresses home on Day-2. I also turned under all the edges of their pockets and pressed them in place.

The next day, they arrived bouncing off the walls and ready to sew. I had them turn under the neck edges to form the casing and sew them down. Having edge-stitching feet on their machines was a godsend and they performed this task to perfection. They turned under the hemline for a simple hem and stitched them in place. For the pockets, I decided since they were having trouble handling seams with pins, I would glue the pockets in place so they wouldn't slip and the girls could just zip around the edges. That decision was pure genius.

When the dresses were completed, I glanced at the clock in shock to discover we had 2 hours of class time left, so I decided we would make matching purses for their dresses. I had the girls fuse the largest flower with Wet N Gone then had them cut them out. We then applied them to their purse fronts. I decided to zigzag stitch around the flowers for them, as the design was way too tedious for them to handle. I made a long strap from bias binding and they completed their purses in the afternoon.

When the moms arrived, I thought they would start crying at the sight of their daughters. And the girls were so excited they were already making plans to come back during the Christmas holidays when they would be together again. Looks like I'll be busy this December. In November, I'm doing the 11-year-olds during the Thanksgiving break too. These just happen to be my lean months and I can't think of a better way to spend the holidays. I asked the girls what else they had done this summer and among other things, they had participated in a cooking class, which they didn't enjoy because the teacher treated them like little kids, they said. And they had to use plastic knives to cut up veggies, which was a complete drag for them. I was happy I had decided to allow them to iron for themselves and challenged them to work on big kid garments. It made them feel special and made me feel as though I had accomplished my goals this summer. It was a win-win situation all around.

Fun at Martha's

I must say, the past School of Art Fashion (SOAF) was quite unusual. You might remember that I was scheduled to teach at the SOAF this past July, and because of low enrollment my school was cancelled. Well, it seems as though my school wasn't the only cancellation. That doesn't really make me feel better, because what that tells me is attendence is down all around. But, my pre-day classes had respectable numbers and those classes went off as scheduled.

I wish I had the pleasure of telling you I was able to take a ton of photos, but that is not the case. I was busy teaching and didn't have a co-teacher this time so photos did not get taken. But, I did manage to snap a few pictures of some of the artwork from my crayon tinting class. Here are some of the lovely creations. (Remember, these do not contain embroidery stitches or embellishments yet).

One of the highlights of the SOAF is shopping. Martha makes sure there are lots of bargains to be had and these photos highlight some of the events of Teacher's Selling Night.
Students lined up to attend Martha's fabric sale.

All you can stuff into a ziplock bag for $25 sale.
Rows of kits from the Wendy Schoen booth.

Loads of Floche for sale.
Pink polkadots are my trademark. Beautiful Embroidery Club lessons for individual sale.

Kari Mecca's dress kits for sale.
Debbie Glenn's Teacher Demo Night booth.

Kari Mecca presents her Whimsy Sticks.
Gail Doan and her pretty kits.