Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meet Laser

Since I've been in a little bit of a project funk lately, I thought I'd take the time to share some parts of my life since this is supposed to be about Life. Family. Crafts.  So, I browsed through some of my photo albums and lo and behold, one of the largest is the one where I toss all the random photos of our dogs.

Picking Laser up at PAWS

What a sweet face!

Laser came to us via the PAWS With a Cause organization.  We volunteered to be foster puppy raisers with the hopes of raising a puppy for about a year and then turning him over to PAWS to help someone with a physical disability.  Laser had other plans.  Laser was a "difficult" puppy.  My poor husband who was new to dog raising told me that I seriously undersold the difficulty level.  I told him that not all dogs are like Laser.  We had to walk Laser twice a day for VERY long walks to try to tire him out.  When that didn't work, we got special permission from PAWS to run with him in an attempt to wear him down enough to be manageable.  At this point in our lives, both Dave and I were running marathons, so Laser built up to some serious mileage.  He just became a very fit high-energy dog with greater stamina.  Laser was smart enough to learn everything - he was just so smart that he tried to figure a way around the rules.  If you've read the book or seen the movie Marley and Me, they must be cousins because pretty much if you take away the fear of lightning, Laser was a whole lot of Marley.

Laser was donated to PAWS from a private breeder, likely because his tail was accidentally docked as a puppy and thus "non-standard" for the breed.  I've since learned there are two main lines of labradors - Show and Trial Bred.  Show are the stocky, blocky CALM and affable labs bred to amble around conformation shows and look pretty.  Trial Bred labradors are leaner and longer with a tighter coat and thinner tails.  According to Wikipedia, they are "commonly higher energy and more high-strung" and "as a consequence may be more suited to working relationships than being a "family" pet."  Any guesses which line Laser is?

LASER stands for Light Amplification through Stimulation of Emission of Radiation.  My husband Dave is a physicist who works with lasers and Laser was on the list of PAWS approved names we got to choose from.  He could also have been called Quark or Kafka, so I think he got the best of the lot.  (Dave's other pets have been named after physicists and mathemeticians, which is how Otto and Erwin got their names and I eventually played along by suggesting Sophie.  Bonus points if you know the last names without Googling.)

One of the neat things about being a foster puppy raiser is that you're encouraged to take the puppy with you everywhere you go.  Laser wore his little PAWS cape and went with me almost every week to the grocery store.  We took him to festivals and races.  I took him to the library, and to Toronto when I ran the marathon there (he refused to pee outside for nearly the entire weekend because it's such a dog-intense city and the smell overwhelmed him).  We flew with him to San Diego - yes, he got to be in the cabin with us, go NWA for their policy for dogs in training to be service animals.  While in San Diego we took him to Sea World along with countless coffee shops.

Toronto Marathon

San Diego Sea World

Needless to say after lots of encouragement and coaching from Ellen, our wonderful PAWS field representative, Laser was officially career changed after trying to drag his caregiver at doggie daycare across the street.  Career changed is really just PAWS speak for "He's too much of a spazz for our program and we would never trust him to be left alone with a person using a wheelchair".

Sadly, the t-shirt tells the truth

Through contacts with PAWS, we tried to find another career for Laser because man, he needed a job.  He was too big for arson since the investigators might need to carry the dog up a ladder.  He was ironically not insane enough for bomb or drug detection.  They use balls as the reward for those dogs and while Laser is a retrieving fool, he didn't try to dismantle a dresser when the trainer put a ball in one of the drawers.  Laser was just like "Uh, the ball's in here - where's my treat?".

PAWS would have placed Laser with a family - apparently there's quite a market for highly-trained purebreeds who are past the puppy phase.  But, masochists that we apparently are, we decided to keep Laser as our "forever" dog.

Laser has mellowed with age.  A little.  PAWS dogs aren't allowed to go swimming since they don't want a dog pulling a wheelchair to be attracted to the water.  Once Laser was released from service, we found that he LOVED the water.  He would retrieve until he could hardly haul himself out of the water.  He also shows a pretty good aptitude for agility, and placed several times in his first competition.  He loves to go to the dog park and will retrieve endlessly.  We even discovered that he would fetch in the dark.  He waits until he hears the ball hit the ground and then runs in that general direction.

I love to swim!

He still has his faults.  He's a champion counter surfer and will get into anything that he can reach.  I have poison control on speed dial specifically for him.  He's eaten muscle relaxers, an entire bag of Halls, organic weed preventer, and ant traps.  So far he's still with us.  Poison control seemed to get a kick out of the Halls call - after telling us there should be no ill effects the operator said "his breath will smell good".  He still tries to drag me where he wants to go and has caused me to fall a couple of times.

The main thing about him now is that he does amazingly well with Arden.  Now that she's more mobile, he's had to become even more tolerant of her.  She loves to "ride" him - straddling him and bouncing up and down when he's laying on the ground.  His docked tail is actually a nice feature, as he doesn't whack into stuff or Ardens head like Sophie's does.  Arden likes to dress him up and he just sits there nicely looking up with big sad eyes as if to say "what did I do to deserve this?".  See above buddy.  See above.

So, that's the story of our loveable but frequently infuriating dog Laser.  Next time I don't have any fun projects to post, I'll introduce you to Sophie.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Garage Reconstruction Update

So, the last time we talked about the garage reconstruction, it looked like this:

[caption id="attachment_368" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Garage Demolition"][/caption]

Since then, we cleaned up the last bits of the structure and crammed it all into the rented dumpster - barely. 

The builder came out and checked the foundation and it's not adequate for the new garage.  So, that meant the lovely black walnut tree you can see apparently holding up the neighbor's dilapidated garage was in danger.  I spoke to an arborist and he said it would either not survive or would become unstable after they dug for the footings and therefore needed to come down.

I called and arranged for the tree removal, which I have to say was an unexpectedly easy experience.  I called, the tree removal guy came to my house within a couple of hours and called me back with a bid.  I told him I had made another call and wanted to give them a chance to call back.  The other guy didn't call back the next day so I called the first guy back and asked them to schedule the removal.  He said it would be Thursday.  Fine.  They called Monday around 2 PM and said they would start taking it down within the hour.  By the time I came home Monday evening, the tree was gone.  A week later the second guy called back.  Um, you're a tad late Mister.

I took all the plans and paperwork on to City Hall and got our building permit.  Woo hoo!  We're official!

We then needed to get the stump ground so it wasn't in the way of the new garage.  We also had a couple of other stumps to be ground, or we would have had them do it the same day.  Once we were ready for all the stumps to be done, I called the tree guy on Monday.  He said it would probably be Tuesday.  Fine.  They knocked on my door two hours later and were there to grind the stumps.  Is there such a thing as being too prompt in the service industry?

So, next step is the builder will construct the treated lumber footings and come the same day with the excavator and remove the old slab and dig the trenches for the footings and the drain.

Cross your fingers!  We're off to the races now!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kid's Clothes Week Challenge Day #7

This still took longer than 90 minutes the second time around, but it definitely went together a whole lot faster without having to run to the computer in our office before every step.  Nevertheless, this met the hour-a-day challenge for days six and seven. 

[caption id="attachment_359" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="90 Minute Shirt v2.0"][/caption]


This was made using a clearance rack Old Navy shirt of mine with an insanely wide rounded neckline that just never worked quite right.  I loved the wide band on the bottom.  This didn't have the extra-stretchy issues as my first shirt.  I used contrasting off-white thread instead of matching the grey from the shirt.  (Design feature or that I didn't have any grey thread?  You decide.)  

[caption id="attachment_362" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Trying on for fit"][/caption]

Again, Arden wouldn't hold still to get a good picture, but she was at least in one place for a moment after climbing up on a kitchen chair.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Toddler Open Gym Gymnastics

The local gymnastics center has monthly open gym for toddlers over 18 months.  The first one coincided with my Friday off (I currently work an Alternating-Fridays-Off, or AFO, schedule), so we packed up and headed to Freeland!  Arden had a blast!  She especially liked the bouncy floor where they do floor routines, hanging from the bars, the balls they use for rythmic gymnastics, and stacking and carrying around the foam squares from the pit.[gallery]

Kid's Clothes Week Challenge Day #5

Following the tutorial for The 90 Minute Shirt on MADE, this meets my hour-a-day requirement for the Kid's Clothes Week Challenge for days four and five.  I know it's called The 90 Minute Shirt, but it took me a bit longer than that, and I had to make up my pattern following the instructions here, also on MADE. 

[caption id="attachment_333" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Pattern"][/caption]

Here are my completed pattern pieces.  This part was pretty easy and straightforward.  I used a onesie that fit Arden recently, and then used a shirt she's wearing now to get the sleeve length.

[caption id="attachment_335" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Double overedge"][/caption]

 Since I don't have a serger (Dave if you're reading this - hint, hint for Christmas!), I found a stitch on my sewing machine that I thought made a close approximation - double overedge.

[caption id="attachment_334" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Completed shirt"][/caption]

Here's the finished product.  I did exactly what Dana warned about and wrapped the envelope backwards and had to tear it out and do it the right way.  This was even after I turned it right side out after pinning.  Mostly I think it was because the shirt of mine I used for this project is ribbed and really stretchy, so my front and back didn't look all that different.  I have another shirt and different ribbing to try this again, so I'm considering this a trial run.

[caption id="attachment_336" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Mug shot"][/caption]

It fits her pretty well, although since the shirt was super stretchy is looks a bit loose.  If I do this again with this type of material, I'll make sure when I pin the ribbing on that I keep the shirt from stretching. 

Anyone have any tips on how to get an 18 month-old to sit still long enough to get a decent shot with a point and shoot?  I see all these fabulous pictures you all are taking, and I cannot for the life of me figure how you do it.  This was one instant after I asked her to sit still for a minute, and then she was off again...

[caption id="attachment_337" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Tackling Erwin"][/caption]


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nursing Cover

While this is not technically children's clothing, I needed to make this for a baby shower gift this Sunday.  It will cover a baby, so maybe it counts?  Well, Kid's Clothing Week Challenge or not, here it is:

Since I followed the tutorial over at Sew Much Ado almost to the letter, I won't get into the nitty gritty.  I did make a couple of minor changes:

I added a pocket/burp cloth corner out of terry cloth.  My SIL gave me a Hooter Hider when I was pregnant with Arden and it had this feature which came in handy a few times.  This is an 8 ½" square folded over diagonally with wrong sides together and tucked into the bottom right seams before sewing.

I also cheated on the hems a little and pressed all the raw edges in as described in the tutorial and then just sewed two seams about 1/8" from the edges.

I did use the home decor fabric as recommended, but I'm still not sure if I like that better than regular weight/quilters cotton.  I'm worried that it will get stuffy under there for baby, and I actually liked the lightweight version I have because I felt it was very versatile - I used it as a stroller cover or even a little tent for sleeping baby on several occasions.  The heavier weight would be good if you're using light-colored fabrics and want to ensure opacity.

The tutorial by Sew Much Ado was very easy to follow.  The only additional instruction I would add is that using a zipper foot while sewing the seams around the boning proved to be very helpful in allowing me to get an even seam close to the boning.

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My Craft "Room"

Lately I've seen several tours of craft rooms, and I have to admit just a teensy bit of jealousy.  But that being said, I'm pretty pleased to finally have a spot that is just mine to do whatever crafting or sewing I want. 

Previously, I would haul out my Mom's circa 1960 New Home sewing machine and plop it on the kitchen table.  It would stay out until a) I finished the project, b) my husband got so fed up with it that he finally complained about it and I cleaned it off for a day or two, or c) we had guests over who actually wanted to sit at the kitchen table.

Earlier this year, I finally got my dream machine - a Janome Memory Craft 9700.  I wanted one that would be good for quilting, making clothes and crafts, and also did some embroidery.  Check, check, and check!  It made several trips onto and off of the kitchen table as well.

Then, this summer I sold my motorcycle (yes, I had a motorcycle - BTW, my husband did not :p ).  With some of the proceeds from the sale of my beloved but post-baby-neglected Honda Shadow, I bought two Pottery Barn Bradford three-drawer file cabinets.  I know I probably could have found something ramshackle to try to fix up beautifully like all of you, but I had been eyeing these things forever and I had cash burning a hole in my pocket.  I already had an Ikea Vika Hyttan stainless steel table top that I had purchased years ago thinking I could try to span the guest bed and make that my craft room.  That never happened, and now the old guest bedroom is Arden's room, and the new guest bedroom is the old office.

[caption id="attachment_310" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="My craft "room""][/caption]

So, put it all together in a corner of the dining room, add a $10 desk chair from Staples, and voila!  Instant craft "room".  I still need to do a lot more organization.  I'd love to have some open shelves with things in pretty baskets, but with two dogs and three cats, that's just inviting trouble.  I do most of my crafting at night, and you can see from the photo that the lighting is not ideal so that's why I often have a yellowish cast to my photos.  Do I sense a lamp shade redo in my future?  There's a bit of obligatory toddler-proofing as the corner of the table top was exactly noggin' height.  The stainless steel table top comes in handy for my little magnetic ruler - you can just see it through the mesh on the back of the chair.

[caption id="attachment_311" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption=""The Quilt""][/caption]

This polyptych art titled The Quilt was a wedding gift from my hubby, and is a local Michigan artist.  I admit, I had to google to find the word polyptych.  I knew what a triptych was, but had no idea what a four-part piece was called - quadptych?  Um, no.  But isn't it great?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jeans to Toddler Skirt Refashion

Remember the jeans I refashioned into a pencil skirt for me a couple of days ago?  Well, here they are again!

[caption id="attachment_270" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="All done!"][/caption]

I really liked the nice big hem on these jeans and knew as soon as I started the skirt refashion for me that I wanted to do a toddler skirt for Arden.  How handy that Homemade by Jill also had a tuturial for a baby skirt as a guest on another blog I'm following - Kojo Designs!  I wonder if she had leftover parts from her jean to maternity skirt refashion as well?  Her tutorial was for an infant, so here's my stab at it with a few changes to resize to toddler:

So, here's where I cut the bottoms off the jeans to make my pencil skirt.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="291" caption="Remember me?"][/caption]

Next, I had to sew the pieces together to get a tube of the appropriate width.  Arden has an 18" waist, and I figured that the pleats would take up about 8", so I wanted to start with a 26" tube.  I used a ruler and rotary cutter to get a nice straight line.

[caption id="attachment_271" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Straight edges"][/caption]

I sewed the pieces together using heavy duty thread and a denim needle.  I finished the seams with an overcast stitch (you can zig zag or serge if you have a serger), and then sewed the finished seams down to prevent any rubbing.

[caption id="attachment_272" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Overcast edges"][/caption]

 I cut the height to 7½" and finished the top edge.

[caption id="attachment_273" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Finished tube"][/caption]

Next, I cut a tube of t-shirt material 5" x 18".  I did one piece instead of two in Jill's instructions, but either way works.  I went with 18", so the completed tube would be a little smaller than A's waist and help it stay up.  I switched thread and put in a ball-point jersey needle.  Probably overkill on a simple seam but since I have the needles I should use them, right?

[caption id="attachment_274" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="t-shirt tube"][/caption]

Then I pinned for the pleats.  I used a centered box pleat in the midlle like Jill, but since I had the seams from the jean legs in about the right spot I made the single pleats go to the outside to highlight this detail.  I pinched ½" of material for each pleat, and the single pleats are about 2" out from the center pleat.  Repeat on the backside.

[caption id="attachment_275" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Pinned pleats"][/caption]

I sewed the pleats in place with a 1/4' seam.  Finally, I folded my t-shirt tube in half with the seam inside.  With raw edges together, I pinned the tube to the skirt.  I sewed it on with an overcast stitch to finish the edges and allow it to stretch.

[caption id="attachment_270" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="All done!"][/caption]

So, now for confession:  I adjusted all the measurements in my tutorial because somehow I had measured Arden's waist as 21" and completed this whole project based on that.  What's that saying - measure twice, cut once?  I blame it on a toddler who won't sit still for even a moment!  Anyways, it's still cute on her and doesn't fall off or anything.  It will just fit her for longer!  She's wearing it to daycare today even if it is a little too big.

[caption id="attachment_276" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Extra roomy toddler skirt"][/caption]

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jeans to Pencil Skirt Refashion

I have a pair of jeans I got in a post-baby attempt to be a little more current, but every time I wear them I spend the entire day hiking them up.  I've begun referring to them as my "just say no to crack" jeans.  So, into the refashion pile they went.  I've seen a few tutorials on how to refashion jeans into skirts, but most of them show where you can see the crotch and leg seams and inset the fabric from the bottom of the legs in the middle.  These are cute, but not quite what I was wanting.  Homemade by Jill has a tutorial for refashioned jeans to maternity skirt that is exactly what I was looking for, minus the maternity band.  So, here's my version using Jill's as inspiration:

[caption id="attachment_229" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption=""Just say no to crack" jeans"][/caption]

I started by using my handy-dandy seam ripper to rip out the inside seams.  For cheapo jeans, these were surprisingly well-constructed, and this took a while.

[caption id="attachment_230" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Inside seams opened"][/caption]

With right sides facing, I pinned the seams together and marked a line using a ruler and chalk to continue in a more or less straight line from the legs to the front and back seams.  I had to sew the butt three times to get a nice smooth transition without any lumpy butt.  I placed pins at the front and back where I planned to cut the skirt off, and stopped a few inches below the marker for a slit in the back.

[caption id="attachment_231" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Marking sewing line"][/caption]

I tried it on again to check the length I wanted to cut (this is where the lumpy butt corrections came in) and marked it.  Then using my quilting rulers to be sure I cut a line straight across, I cut the bottom off.  I have plans for the bottom of the legs - watch for a related post!

[caption id="attachment_232" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Cutting bottom of skirt"][/caption]

Then I finished all the raw edges with an overcast stitch.  You could zig zag the edges, or do a rolled hem to cover the edges.  If you have a serger that would be even better,  but until I get a serger, I like to overcast.  I also top stitched the slit opening, using the existing crease from the original seam.

[caption id="attachment_235" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Finished edges"][/caption]

On to the hem.  I wanted a hem nearly as wide as the jean's orginal 2" one, so I went with 1 ½".  I pinned the hem and sewed ½" from the overcast edge.

[caption id="attachment_236" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Pinning hem"][/caption]

Lastly, I clipped all the stray threads, and ironed the hem.  I've been wearing it since I finished it, and I think it's going to work tomorrow!  Final picture - I did have my husband snap one of the rear view, but I just couldn't bring myself to post it.

[caption id="attachment_237" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Front"][/caption]

The jeans had a lot of stretch, so these are surprisingly comfortable for as narrow of a skirt it is.  I'm pleased with the final result, and I'm sure I'll be wearing the skirt more than I wore the jeans, since I had to be very careful about choosing a top long enough to cover my rear.

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