Monday, July 23, 2012

Craftiness Is Not Confined to My Workroom

Well, it's been a week.  

My son's preschool teacher used to say things like that when I'd pick him up at the end of a class.  She didn't like saying "he had a bad day" or anything negative in front of him, so she would say, "Well, he's had a day."  That way, I'd know right off the bat that something had happened, but would wait until the right moment presented itself before asking her about it.  This sounds like it could be annoying, and I imagine I thought it was at the time.  But when you think about it, it makes sense - I was alerted to the fact that something not so great had happened, while we were preserving whatever peace of mind he'd attained in the aftermath.  Since he was a bit high-strung, this was a particularly effective way of coding the message for Mom.  

Fast Forward to the present: here I was, working my caboose off to get the Relay For Life pouches ready to take with me to the Relay.  After struggling at the computer (see this post), I managed to get about half of them done for donors - especially those I'd be meeting up with at the Relay - when I finally called it a night and decided to get the rest done after the Relay.  I figured it would be a good thing to work on while I was recovering.  


First things first.  I did manage to correct the stitching on the reduced cupcake image, and, as promised, here is the net result:

MMMMM....doesn't that frosting look much better?
I like learning new stuff.

Then dawned the day of the Relay.  I made it there in time to register and find my team before the opening ceremonies & Survivor Lap started, which was good.  I hadn't had time to make up a pop-up display for the pouches, which would have made it a lot easier to see.  Most of my team didn't know that I was bringing them to take more orders, so when I wasn't at the table, they weren't sure if they should be selling the ones I had brought or if they were just for show.  As a result, I didn't sell as many that day as I was hoping to.  Bummer.

The Relay started off well, though:

About half of the team goofing around for a photo op!
I'm the one in the back in the black pants and black shoes.
Too bad you can't see my purple hair.  It was awesome.

I'd arranged with my sons (and one of the girlfriends) to meet me at the track with lunch, and to stay to cheer on the team.  My oldest and his girlfriend had decided to go to the local swap meet first, then he would text & ask what I wanted for lunch, pick up his younger brother, and head my way.  Lunch time came and went, and around 1:00 or so, I texted him and his brother, asking what happened - did someone sleep in a little too long?  Find something terribly interesting at the swap meet and lose track of time?  Forget about mom's lunch?  

How about "None of the above" ?

I finally get a call back from the older son around 1:15 - and he's calling from the emergency room, where he was taken by ambulance after being hit on his motorcycle.  He hadn't wanted to call me, knowing I was pretty determined to get my miles in at the Relay, but he knew I would be worried about him not showing up (and he felt bad that I didn't get lunch) so he called anyway.  He didn't want me to leave the Relay and head to the ER (yeah RIGHT - like any mom would sit back and say "OK, I won't head straight down there, like, YESTERDAY!"), but I knew even if he was perfectly fine, he wouldn't know how to check out properly and I knew he didn't have the $75 co-pay with him at the time.  Besides, I can never take it for granted that he's "just fine," in spite of his insistence.  I could tell he was upset & spooked, and if all I needed to be was moral support, it was still worth the trip.  So I finished up the lap I was working on, took my bead, and told one of my teammates where I was heading.  

Oh, yeah.  The beads:

The commemorative bead stopper, made by one of the volunteers.
Some of the volunteers donated a huge box of pony beads
and plastic lanyard cord - that way, as you made your way around the track,
you could simply pick up a bead and string it while you were walking.
This helps you figure out how many laps/miles you've walked.
Simple, but genius.  Trust me, when you're exhausted after walking the track
and napping here and there for 24 hours, picking up those beads is the ONLY
way to keep track of what you're doing.
Here's a partial view of my 10 miles.
After being in the ER with my son for several hours, meeting with the doctor who had overseen his care, making sure he hadn't had internal injuries, picking up his crutches and then his medications and getting him discharged, I needed to get him home and DOWN.  As in, "you're not moving unless you need to go to the restroom" DOWN.  Got some food in him, gave him his pain meds, made sure the girlfriend was settled down - the poor thing was beside herself - she was really rattled because he had held the bike up as he was getting hit, so that she could jump off the back and not get hurt - it was all he could think about at the time.  We've nicknamed her the Backseat Flying Ninja, because usually she has a hard time getting on and off the bike - but this time she was fueled with adrenaline and made it off in one giant leap!  Trying to hold the bike up while being rammed by the truck in front of him (that guy threw his truck into reverse & backed into my son without looking) was what had caused his injuries - pulled ligaments & torn muscles in his groin area & thigh, a pretty good bruise in his abdomen from the motorcycle handlebars slamming into his stomach.  Thankfully, nothing worse.

I left him for awhile at home with his brother; the girlfriend, her parents, and I went to U-Haul to rent a trailer and then up to the accident site to get his motorcycle to bring home.  Eventually, after giving him his second dose of pain meds, I decided to head back to the track to walk off some of the stress.  I got about 5 more miles in to make it an even 10, and finally left around 10:30 or 11:00 pm.  Most of the rest of my team spent the night there and took turns walking the track while others were sleeping/napping, but I couldn't make it that long, especially with my son at home needing attention.  Still, it was a very worthwhile endeavor and I'm planning to walk again next year.  

I had plenty to keep me busy this week while trying to keep that son down and quiet.  He's like me - I swear we're half jackrabbit the way we're always jumping up to do something.  His girlfriend came over every day and stayed most of the day to keep him occupied and make sure he was eating, because I needed to get three bridesmaid dresses done for a client.  Keeping him occupied was a full-time job, especially when he started feeling better - he was so bored!  So they decided to go to the store to find something for him to do while sitting down - we went to about three stores and none of them had the toy he was thinking about getting (thankfully - it was an RC helicopter and I'm sure he would have been dive-bombing the Sewing Assistant).  Well, he had a plethora of PVC pipe and other assorted oddments from a project he'd worked on earlier, so they decided to make some marshmallow air cannons. 

The 99 cent store rocks for stale marshmallows - apparently, the best kind to shoot.

Decorated by the girlfriend - they nicknamed it the Phat Blaster, and that is
a cartoon rendition there of the Sewing Assistant.  

Stuffing a stale marshmallow into the barrel of the cannon, which was
lovingly decorated with kitty footprints.

Little Phat will be face to face with a version of himself as the cannon is being shot!
Unfortunately, they never really got a chance to test it out against the Sewing Assistant.
The girlfriend's brother & dad showed up to bring something over and help my son by rolling
the motorcycle up into the garage from where we'd left it on the curb.  Her brother then swiped her
cannon and stuffed too many marshmallows down into the barrel - so now it won't shoot.  Rats.  

So as you can see, not all the craftiness that goes on around here happens in my workroom.  

I got the three dresses done in time for the client to pick up to do the fittings, but needed to do a little more work on one that was a bit on the tricky side lining-wise.  So she left that one with me and came back to pick it up later on Friday night.  While she was there, I related to her that my niece had narrowly missed being at that theater in Aurora, CO with her boyfriend and his two sons - I never thought I'd be grateful to find out that someone was too broke to go to the movies, but this was certainly the case here.  It still freaked me out all day, though, just reading the reports and imagining what nearly happened to someone I love.  The client took a phone call while I was finishing up the bodice lining, and then told me after she hung up that she'd just found out that the bridegroom's sister had a very good friend (her sorority Big Sister) who WAS at the theater - and had been one of the victims that was shot.  What a sobering way to send your client off with dresses intended for a happy occasion.  I'll be seeing them again soon - which is good, because I forgot to photograph them in progress.  She was going to do the fittings but I will be finishing them off once she brings them back - hopefully, nothing else will happen and I'll be able to photograph them this time. 

Like I said - it's been a week.  Maybe the Sewing Assistant has the right idea for once (sure beats the migraine I got after everything was said and done):

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sewing for Charity - Finished Products!

Just have time for a short post - worked out some kinks today, learned a couple of new things in my embroidery software (amazing how desperation leads you to research, which leads to a wizard, who gives you the answers you seek - thank you, Mr. Patience!), found an awesome tute on how to very quickly make a lined zippered pouch here (and how have I EVER sewn one of these before I found this?), and ended up with this:

Purple zippered pouches, ready for my donors who gave $10 or more to the cause!

The interior lining - found in the remnant basket at my local fabric store for pennies!
The color was perfect - gives a nice, formal surprise touch in contrast to the fun-loving
purple corduroy exterior!

The Relay for Life official logo - this stitched out so nicely as you could see in the photos that I posted yesterday!

This embroidery stitched out so well it makes me want to nom-nom-nom-nom.....and this was yet another thing I learned today - that my Viking Girl has a separate and distinct stitch setting for satin stitch.  I've only had the darned machine for  6 or 7 years now - you'd think I would have noticed that stitch before.  I thought it was a bar tack setting and had never fooled around with it!  If you look closely (click on the photo and an enlarged pic should pop up), you can see the first go-round with the zig-zag stitch on my machine set to the lowest possible setting - BLEH!  You can see far too much of the underlying color poking through - couldn't get the density compact enough.  Changed to the new stitch and VOILA!  Instant satin perfection (the outside stitching)!!!!

This little doozy is what sent me on my researching spree this afternoon - I had accidentally reduced it too much - my software recommends only resizing 20% or less, and I must have just gone over the top.  As a result, the no longer nom-tastic frosting looks like it's slightly curdled.  (Compare this stitch-out to the photo directly above it - it's the same design!)  So today, I learned from Mr. Patience how to open up an existing design file, hide all the extraneous stitch points, color change info, and other objects and do a global properties change.  This isn't generally recommended, as any success you'll have is based entirely on how the original designer digitized and saved the file - but I'm anxious to do a test stitch-out to see how my changes affected the final result.  (For those of you who don't machine embroider, here's a brief translation:  Full-size?  Nice. Shrinky-dinked file?  Doesn't play nicely.  Fix?  Doesn't always go so well.)
Oh, and I changed the blobby cupcake liner as well.  Looked too much like old play-doh.  I'm about to do the stitch-out, so I'll let you know if I meet with success.  
These little pouches are going over really, really big - it's nice to be able to give my donors something nice, something personally made, to thank them for donating on my behalf to the Relay For Life.  My donations escalated ten-fold when I posted photos on my Facebook page and sent out an email promising one to everyone who donated $10 or more!  Awesome!

Back to stitching for me - then to bed!

Give 'Til It Hurts

And maybe even a little beyond.  

Today was spent embroidering for charity (and yay, my Viking Girl was up to the task after her brief stints in the sewing machine hospital!).  While I was embroidering, in between checking Facebook & my email for updates to my donations page, I managed to browse through a discount book I just bought at Barnes & Noble - a visual guide to Digital Photography & instructions on how to do some simple things in Photoshop.  I have other books, but this one had some pretty neat things in it I knew I could do right away.  It managed to demystify depth of field for me (being a craftsy-but-not-camera-savvy person, I jumped for joy when I saw the simple descriptions and lots and lots of sample photos).  That's saying a lot.  So as my Viking Girl was stitching out the samples, I played around with some settings on my camera and was very pleased with how one or two of the shots came out.  

Stitching away for the American Cancer Society!

I'm incredibly, stupidly pleased with the depth of field on this one.  I've never been able to achieve this effect before I bought this book, and it finally made some sense to me.  

The beauty of digital photography is that the ones that didn't quite come out were deleted right away.   Love being able to do that without having to wait for film to be developed, only to find out that my settings weren't correct or whatever.

I will be walking in the Relay For Life in Fountain Valley this weekend, and for those who donated $10 or more to the American Cancer Society on my behalf, I decided to make simple zippered pouches as a thank-you token.  
I downloaded the free embroidery designs at Apex Designs (
and also at one of my favorite sources, Embroidery Library

The cupcake design is no longer available for free, though - I think they were offering it free during the month of October 2011, so I downloaded it thinking I could use it at some point.

I knew when I found the purple corduroy fabric the other day in the clearance section at Joann's Fabrics, that I'd finally be able to do just that.  Finding it on the day that the fabric was 50% off the clearance price just made it that much sweeter.

One of my newer clients was kind enough to pick up some purple zippers for me when she went to the garment district in Los Angeles - and donated them to the cause since her mother is suffering from colon cancer.  

I made a list of all the people I have known over the years who have suffered from cancer.  Some made it through the struggle, some did not.  It blew my mind how many people made it onto my list - I lost count after 30 and I know I've forgotten a few more - if I know that many, and you know many more, how many cancer victims are out there?  (The answer:  TOO MANY.)  I've had a few scares myself but each time the results were benign and I consider myself very, very blessed.  I'll be walking for all of those people in my life who were not quite so lucky; I just wish I could do more.

So what's with the post title?  Well, while I was embroidering today I dropped my pair of embroidery scissors - you know, the little 4 inch ones that are incredibly sharp.  And instinctively, I slammed my knees together to keep the sharp blades from dropping into the Pergo floor.  Only I hadn't counted on catching the very same blades using my thigh muscles.


 I'm fine, but I'm going to be a bit sore for awhile.  Band-Aids and Neosporin are my friends.   Next time, I'm letting the darn scissors hit the floor (with apologies to my husband, if he's reading this).

Here's what my Viking Girl cranked out today:

Tomorrow, I'll be working on making more of these patches and then working them into little zippered pouches to give to my donors, as well as getting caught up on a few orders for some clients.  I'll post more photos of the finished pouches tomorrow. 

If you are interested in donating, here is a link to my page: 

The Sewing Assistant says you know you want that cupcake....

All proceeds go directly to the American Cancer Society Relay For Life, to help fund cancer research and provide support & assistance to those with cancer and to those who love them.
The Sewing Assistant would walk, too, only it sounds a bit too much like work.

Monday, July 9, 2012

New Post, New Look

Hey there - glad you didn't give up on me altogether!  It's been a pretty hectic couple of months and I've been sorely lacking for original post material.  Unfortunately, a lot of what I've been doing lately is for other clients, and I've given some serious thought to posting about the work I'm doing for them, since it involves original designs (and not mine at that!).  In the middle of all the work I've been doing, my poor Viking SE experienced a bit of work fatigue and ended up in the shop three times in the last month!  Thanks to the guys over at OC Sewing, she's back at home and raring to go again (you guys seriously rock!).

My oldest son and two of his friends decided that this would be a good time for them to take their first real Road Trip on their motorcycles, up to Sequoia Nat'l Park.  Originally, they had thought they would go north of San Francisco, but we talked them out of that since they had all recently had some mechanical trouble with their respective bikes, and talked them into going somewhere a little closer (we live in Southern California).  My husband just couldn't handle the idea of letting them take off on their own, so he and my younger son drove up there in one of the cars to be on hand, "just in case."  And also to get some hiking in - at one point, my younger son realized he was less than 40 feet away from a bear cub, startling him quite a bit (you just KNOW momma bear was somewhere close by!).  Still managed to get a good shot of the cub before fleeing down the hill (completely bypassing the trail, LOL).

I figured while they were all gone, I'd have myself a nice four day art retreat of sorts and had invited Son #1's girlfriend over to join in on the painting, dyeing & sewing.  The original plan was NOT to work on anything for anyone but myself over those four days, which would have been all well and good - except that a couple of clients had to push their order deadlines out a bit, and then I ended up with a two-day migraine (or stomach flu, or combination - the jury's still out on that one) at the same time.  NO FAIR, COSMOS!  It's not too often that I make time for my "own thing," and I was really bummed.  Still, when the migraine started to clear, we got out the paints, the dollar store t-shirts I'd been collecting for an opportunity like this, the dyes, bought some sheer organza type fabric to experiment with, and set up in the garage.  (No motorcycles in the way meant we could leave all the paints, dyes & fabric out on tables we set up - nice!)  We were having so much fun that we didn't even stop to photograph the process, which was actually a good thing since my free time had gotten so truncated.  In addition to all the other artistic endeavors, we decided it was a good time to dye my hair as well.  Part of it, anyway.

You know that poem, "When I Am Old, I Shall Wear Purple?"

Wearing the aforementioned purple - just not where you'd expect!
The reactions I've been getting have been nothing short of humorous - totally worth doing.  :)

Some of the randomness I managed to actually finish during the short time we were working playing:

A wine-colored t-shirt from the 99 Cent Store, painted & stamped with
Jacquard Lumiere paints and outlined with dimensional gold paint.
Not the best photo, but this was my favorite project.

This one?  Not so much.  It was mono-printed using an engraved foam
plate, then overstamped using the Lumiere paint.  When stamping,
the Lumiere seemed to experience a shift in the mica or metallic flakes
in the paint, which dulled the effect - the three bear images had to be overpainted with a brush.
I still don't like it - I may embroider something on other fabric and applique it
over this one.  Still ruminating.

The organza, which was dyed with Dye-Na-Flow from Jacquard, then stamped
using Lumiere paints when dry.
I am far too symmetrical in nature - I really need to break out of this rigid
grid-like structure.  But it did help to have something like this to work on
while the migraine was lifting.

A close-up of the dyed fabric & the stamps - you can see how obscure the butterfly looks, even though the metallic effect was not lost - the opposite is true of the other two stamps, which didn't lose too much detail while stamping but
lost the metallic sheen in the process.  I'm going to have to experiment a little more with this, it looks like a Rorschach test or something.

The Sewing Assistant, of course, spent most of his time yowling outside the garage door (in the hallway), protesting that he'd been left out of all the fun.  So he decided to have his own "staycation," and opted for a  Spa Treatment:
Ummm...the hot tub appears to be a bit....snug....

Oh, waiter!  I'll take a large Long Island Ice Tea, with one of those cute little umbrellas, please!
Sashimi on the side!

I've also decided to give the blog a bit of a makeover - let me know what you think!