Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chuppah Collaboration - Bamboo and Silk

I was honored to be asked to make the cloth portion of the chuppah for the upcoming wedding I have been sewing my little guy all these fancy clothes for.

The groom made all of the wooden parts. He took 4 bamboo poles and staked them into the ground using Tiki Torch stakes.  He wrapped the top of each with twine like this and had it taper a bit.  He cut the front top and back top poles to six feet long and the side top poles to 54" long.  Onto the ends of all 4 of these poles he screwed in metal rings that were 1 1/2"  in diameter (I couldn't find anything similar in a quick Google search).  He placed the side poles atop the ones in the ground, then put the front and back atop those.

They had debated whether or not to have the chuppah be free-standing or to have the holders actually hold it, and the stakes will allow them to do either, although I think they are going to keep it in the ground.  If this is the case, then they will take the stickers off the stakes, or wrap them in some of the leftover silk.  On the big day, they are also going to adorn the poles with lemon leaves like this wreath uses.

To make the chuppah cover, I made a sleeve for the pole to go into that was wide enough for the ring to pass through.  They wanted a foot of material overhanging, so I measured 15 1/2" inches from the edge, then folded it over and marked it at 12 1/2" inches and made the seam there. I counted across six feet for the body of it, then added 15 1/2" inches, and made a cut.  This cut was actually the hardest part of the chuppah, since the silk is pretty delicate and there wasn't any pattern to follow (on the material).  I was afraid to rip it, like I cut most of my material, but was later told that would have been okay.  Next time I use silk I will try it...  Then I did the same measurements and seam on that side and hemmed both sides (pressing a hem first and tucking the excess fabric inside).

The width happened to be just wider than their chuppah (either luck on my part or good planning on their part), so I was able to keep the edges as the selvages.

The next step of the project was to make 4 little bags, one for each corner.  The couple sent everyone a card to return with their RSVP and asked them to write on it a wish for the couple and their future together.  These cards were to go into the bags.  So to make the bags, I cut across the width of the silk a piece 11" tall.  I cut it into 4 pieces, and pressed a hem into what would become the short side of the bag (a la my re-usable produce bags).  I stitched on two sides, then made the hem on the top.  To attach them to the chuppah, I made a strap for each by cutting a 4" strip of silk.  I then pressed it in half, and pressed it closed.  I stitched up and down this strip.  I cut this into 4 pieces, so each turned out to be about a foot long, or just under.  I took four rings like these and folded each strap in half around a ring, then stitched it to the hem on the side with a seam (remember these bags were made with only 2 seams; this way, the seam side stays up and the fabric side would be down towards the audience).  To attach the bags to the structure, we just put them on top of the rings holding the sides up.

When we did a trial run of the chuppah put together, it was quite windy. This made me go back and add fabric rings to each end of both silk sleeves so they could be looped around with the metal hooks onto the poles.  These were made the same way the bag straps were constructed, and were about 5" long.

Another adjustment after the trial was that the poles were originally  made shorter in the back (see top photo).  This was to make the cloth more visible and create a cozier "house" feeling (I think- I actually didn't ask but that was the impression I got).   With the wind, it seemed like it would make the "house" too short, so we experimented with raising the back poles to the same height as the front (see bottom photo).

T-minus 8 days...

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Favorite Toddler Books

My son is almost 21 months old.  His tastes in books have been changing, and here are some of the current favorites...

This book actually tells a story, which a lot of the beginner books lack.  It also has animals-- so you can do fun noises.  I often read this one with my own story to their theme, but, hey, I'm the one talking here.  And it's more fun for me that way.

Yes, I know, it is the old classic.  But it is a classic for a reason.  The objects in it are becoming more interesting and our little guy likes to interact and tell the story with us.

I think this is the one we have... except ours is also in Spanish.  But it is a good book because it has a zillion animals in it, and our guy can read it on his own.  Then he can point to animals and we can tell him the names.  Plus I get to brush up on my Spanish.  It is endlessly entertaining.

We LOVE this book.  All of the noises are great, plus there is a page with the moon and howling, which has been great as he is starting to talk.  It is also good for learning numbers.

These are a little young for us now, but have been great.  It is fun to lift flaps to interact and then discuss the objects and people.

He is really into opposites right now.  We don't have this one, but she is fabulous and he loves "up" and "down" and "in" and "out" in other books.  One that we read often is called "Big and Little" and I can't seem to find it on Amazon to link it.  It has a bear and a mouse on the front cover.

This is one of our favorites, too.  It rhymes nicely, and mirrors our own bedtime routine.  The problem with it is that you don't want to interrupt the rhyme to talk about it, but it is fun anyway.

It is fun to moo and baa along with this one.  This also uses real photos, which is a lot more helpful than illustrations.

This is another favorite of ours.  The story repeats the same language, which is helpful.  It is also nice to see the animals in different positions than just facing you.  Other than that, I don't know why he loves this book.  He just does.

This book has holes in it to stick your finger in.  It also has strawberries, which we have growing in the garden, and we also get at the store very often-- so it's a good standby.

We have just started to get into sticker books (we did it around 19+ months).  There is the whole debate about whether to un-stick the errant sticker and re-stick it where it belongs, so I am not sure about it.  We do use it, and he does like it a lot, though...

I made a family photo book using one of the online services where you upload photos and they turn it into a board book for you.  I can't remember the name, which is okay since the book is falling apart from over-use, so I won't recommend the company.  I think laminated family photos would also do the trick.  He is really into names and people right now.

This is a good book because the duckies are 3D and one squeaks.  It is a little long-winded but who needs to say all the words, anyway?

Do you have any favorite toddler books to share???

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Folklore Bag from "One-Yard Wonders"

This is the Folklore Bag from the book: "One-Yard Wonders" by Yaker Hoskins with some interior pocket modifications.

I really like the size of the bag and I think it is clever how she uses a yard of material to make it taller by blocking across the top. Her directions were easy to follow and really clear. The pattern was made from pieces included in the book, which come on huge sheets of pattern paper. I traced these onto white paper, and liked this better than cutting the massive pages.

She uses interfacing on the bag, and I would have liked for her to use it on the straps as well as the body of the bag. When I make this again, I will also add another layer of interior fabric to the block across the body of the bag to give it more substance.

Her pattern calls for the interior pocket to be a small one on one side. I modified this to make it larger and snap to the lining. I added another zipper pocket on the other side of the bag. When I make this again, I will make a larger zipper pocket and do the other side the same (with a larger pocket with a snap).

Overall, I like this bag. I like that it is two straps instead of one, and the size and weight of the bag ~ except that the straps are too flimsy.
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Here is the book if you are so inclined.  It had a lot of good ideas, and I have bookmarked about 5 to make.  Stay tuned...
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Babies" the Movie and "Our Babies, Ourselves" the Book

The movie, "Babies" follows four babies through birth through about a year old in San Francisco, Mongolia, Tokyo, and Namibia.

After all the hype, I was expecting to see a little more and be a little more "wowed" by it.  I liked how each age was shown from one culture to another.  The similarities in babies were clearly shown. 

When they juxtaposed the music and yoga classes the city babies went to with the animals and siblings the other babies spent their time with, I felt a little embarrassed to be on the class side of parenting.  Seeing it almost was like being given permission to skip some stuff like classes-- and even books.  It looked absurd to me to see the San Francisco baby being read to when she was obviously only interested in mouthing the book.  I nearly laughed out loud when the mother was shown reading a parenting book.

Speaking of parenting books, I suppose this comes back to the points from Meredith Small's books on cross-cultural parenting:

 I really enjoyed these books, especially, "Our Babies, Ourselves."  It basically showed that the traits that a culture values are given to the babies and it gave examples of how this is done.  For example, we value independence, so we put our babies in their own beds early.

In the movie, I really wanted to be the Namibian baby.  He had freedom of movement of his body and free access to mother's time and milk and did not have to wear a lot of clothing for warmth and modesty, and was allowed to live diaper-free.  I enjoyed watching the more traditional way of parenting.  There were a lot more flies in their life than I had imagined, and the adult males were not shown. 

The Mongolian surprise for me was that it was a medicalized birth.  They also had a traveling nurse visit later and weigh the baby.  It seemed like that mother had a lot of other tasks and the baby was often left at the mercy of his older brother.  In one scene, he was tethered to the bed and was playing with a roll of toilet paper.  I think that Mongolia here was shown as a semi-modernized society, since they had television and cars, but lived in close proximity to the animals and there weren't any roads.  In another scene, everyone in the theater gasped as his head was narrowly missed by an animal hoof.

The Tokyo and San Francisco babies seemed similar, with strollers and baby carriers, and groups of moms and classes and playgrounds.  The dads were present in these cities, but the children were the only child (or oldest) in each family.

I left there thinking how we would be fine with more time outside and fewer toys.  My husband's impression of the movie was that babies all hit the same milestones and grow up similarly all over.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Toddler Dress-Up Vest and Bow Tie

Like any good sewing project, I had to make the vest twice to make it just right, but WOW was that worthwhile. The fabric is a thin wool suiting material on the outside and the vest is lined with normal lining material (I think it is acetate). The pants are unlined. The bow tie is made of silk and fusible cotton and velcro in the back.

Let's start with the vest. This was made using Simplicity 8442, which is a vintage pattern. The first rendition of the vest is in the top photo. It is a size 2T and the arms and shoulders fit right, but it was too short. The second rendition is in the other photos and I lengthened the pattern at the waist by nearly three inches. The bottom photo shows off the vest buckle (Dritz nickel). I took the buttons off old men's khaki pants. The pattern was easy enough to follow and has you turn and topstitch the vest. The sides under the armholes are left open and closed with a seam you can see from the inside. In my first pass at this, I closed them up, which made the armholes a bit smaller than they were meant to be. I used pinking shears on all the seams since that wool keep unraveling and frustrating me. The lining really helped keep it in check.

For the pants, I used my favorite pants pattern. I used the larger size, since the pattern works best on stretchy materials and I didn't want it to be too tight. I pinked the seams before using a zig-zag overstitch, and I added a topstitch around the waist to make it more formal. I also ironed a crease into the pants to make them look dressier. I chose to do a normal hem instead of a blind hem, but a blind hem would work nicely here. The fabric was fairly difficult to work with. I felt like every time I stitched with a thin seam allowance, the fabric would start to unravel. Pinking the seams seemed to help a bit.

I made two pairs of the pants in case they get soiled on the event night (which is likely since the wearer is nearly two and likes to move around).

The bow tie was made using Little Londyn's Little Guy Ties pattern for the Studious Guy Bowtie. It was really quick and easy to make, and it super cute. I like how it velcros in the back. If I'd make it again, I would add an inch to the neck band, to give him a little room to grow.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Bride Chicken Curry

The story goes that the cookbook author’s mother-in-law was a new bride in India and this was her first cooking experience-- after killing and butchering the chicken… it is really fabulous…

New Bride Chicken Curry

4 T canola oil

2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped

2 t finely grated garlic (about 4 large cloves)

1 ½ t cayenne

½ t turmeric

¼ t cumin seeds, finely ground

1 cup plus 1 T hot water, divided

3 medium tomatoes, minced (2 cups)

3 pounds chicken parts

¾ t sea salt

1 T apple cider vinegar

1 t sugar or honey

Heat the oil and sauté the onions until they turn dark brown. Mix the garlic, cayenne, turmeric, and cumin with I T water to make a thick paste. Add to the browned onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir constantly over medium heat until the tomatoes start to break up, about 2 minutes, making sure the mixture doesn’t scorch.

Add the chicken and mix to coat with the spice paste. Stir over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup water and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Add the vinegar and honey, simmer for 1 minute, and then taste. Adjust the salt, sugar, and vinegar if needed. This curry should be sweet and sour and spicy-hot. Serve hot.
Serves 4 to 6.
This is from this cookbook and the cookbook is really fabulous (I halved the salt like I do in all of her recipes, though):
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Oilcloth Tablecloth

I had been meaning to make an oilcloth tablecloth but just recently acquired oilcloth I actually liked looking at enough to put in the middle of the house! This is from the Amy Butler LOVE line, and I love it! Ha ha.  This line of oilcloth is supposedly PUL, and I do feel that it is different than other oilcloth I have since it feels like more of a cotton knit than a plastic (for lack of better words to describe it).  It does feel different than solid Fabrite PUL I have used to make diapers with, though.

To make this tablecloth, I brought my two yards of the fabric to the table. I measured how far off the edges it fell, then cut the length such that it would fall over the ends the same amount that it fell over the sides. I hemmed all of it.

So easy to make, and so easy to keep clean! My husband initially thought it looked like it belongs in a bad Italian restaurant, but has since turned a corner.
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Monday, May 3, 2010

The chicks are here!

The chicks are here! They are now 3 1/2 weeks old, and are really big. They only have about 1/3 of their bodies covered in fluff, and are feathering out nicely.
We had them in a brooder box inside, and just moved them outside to the newly constructed coop (the run is still under construction). When they were inside, they were living in a cardboard box with a vinyl floor and newspaper under a heat lamp. They are in total luxury now, with mulch bedding, and big roosting bars. They even got some chicken scratch this morning (ie pounded rice we had laying around), and pecked at it happily.
They have figured out how to use the ramp to get in and out of the backyard, although I have seen them sliding down it and then flying the last little bit. They seem to understand walking up it. They also seem to like standing in the doorway looking out.

We got three different breeds: Barred Rock, Aracuna, and Rhode Island Red. This should give us a multi-colored egg basket.

So far, the Barred Rock seems to like being handled more than the others. They are all growing at different rates. They travel in a flock together around the garden, and sleep in a big pile.
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Sunday, May 2, 2010


We have a wedding coming up and I had thought I would dress the little guy in a tie and suspenders. I finished the tie ages ago (see earlier post), and just finished the suspenders this week. They took so long because I needed to have 4 suspender clips and 2 vest buckles (so I had to shop twice since I counted wrong in my head the first time).

I followed this tutorial, and translated the Moda-speak into inches.

It was a PITA to turn the suspenders, and if I were to make these again, I would just iron them closed and topstitch all around and save myself (ok, my husband- I did half of one and got way too frustrated to finish) a bunch of time turning them.

I also didn't stitch them together in the back as she suggests, because they are so so so long.  I guess this will be his only pair of suspenders for a long time.  I am going to safety pin them together in back when he wears them out.
I liked her use of the vest buckle, though, and I tried it with D-rings before trekking back to the store for vest buckes, and it wouldn't have worked; plus, they look really snazzy.

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Darker Bedroom Curtains - Amy Butler Fabric + old sheets

As summer is upon us, it seems to be too light in the evening to go to sleep early. Our old curtains were light white canvas, and I liked that they let the light through. But in the interest of sleep, something had to be done.

These are made in two layers, and attached at the top only. The old sheets are navy blue, and happened to have a slit on one side that the existing rod fit through nicely. All I had to do to make them was hem the Amy Butler fabric on both sides, then fold it over and stitch it just below the slit. The block of navy on the front side of the curtain is at a different height on each curtain. After cutting the first layer and attaching the blue, I hemmed the bottom.

I like these so much that I think I may re-do more curtains around the house.

....and now, off to tidy the room... I do like how the offset blocks work together, though...

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