Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recital time = Sequin hell

Oh, sequins. How I loathe thee.
Since I've been mostly kicked off Halloween sewing machine duty, thanks to the lure of pre-made costumes and my husband's dislike of my sewing induced personality changes, I pretty much only drag the machine out a few times a year anymore. Recital time is one of my constants as there is always some sort of costume that needs tweaking, or building.

This year I made two young boys shirts for their jazz dance (there seems to be a lack in acceptable male costumes as these are typically the ones I am roped into making), and it went so smoothly I never even thought to take pictures of the process. However as soon as I saw the material I would work with for the next job, I knew I had to document the process. Sometimes I take pictures just to save my sanity. A habit I started back when I was first an at home mom and I found that taking a picture of an awful mess helped me laugh at it. I don't know why it works, it just does. I'm simple. Don't judge.

I have to admit that the taking pictures thing didn't really help this time around. My task was to take one sequin vest and somehow turn it into two sequin neckties. The fake kind of tie with elastic or velcro bands that go around the neck. Laughably, I figured this wouldn't be that hard. That is until the sequins started to rain off the vest as soon as I cut it, instantly covering my house with a million multicolored, stroke inducing, bits of hell. And when the second sewing needle broke when hitting a random sequin wrong I knew I was in over my ability to effectively deal in any way that resembled sanity. Yeah, it was THAT kind of project.

Thank goodness for bloggers that like to share projects! When frantically googling things like, "how to make a necktie that attaches with elastic" and "what have I gotten myself into this time" and "is there gluten in vodka" I found this tutorial from the awesomely named blog: Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! (Which TOTALLY fit my mood at this point so I saw it as a sign I was on the right track.) I didn't need the exact tutorial as I wasn't converting a man's tie into a child's tie, but she helped me figure out how to create the fake knot for the tie which had me stumped.

These are the steps I did differently than the tutorial. Instead of converting a larger tie into the smaller one since I was creating ties for nearly man-sized boys, I used a regular tie as a pattern. The vest was lined, so I cut out the pattern from the liner and sequin material at the same time.

I then turned the edges inward and used a million pins to hold it all together. At this point I stopped taking pictures because things were getting rather, uh, tense. Machine sewing cost me four needles, a sewing machine foot and almost an eye. That's when I switched to hand sewing. But even then the thread kept catching on the pins and the sequins. The process of constructing the ties took a better part of two days. I used language I am not proud of.

But by all that is holy, I finished in time for recital pictures!
Since I did not have any black elastic but I did have black velcro, I made straps out of the back of the vest and attached velcro to it. I followed her instructions to make the top knot and it worked perfectly. Probably the only part of the project that didn't give me hives.

 My boy modeling one of the finished products though it wasn't for him.

What my cute little "Puttin on the Ritz" guy is wearing. I guess the older boys weren't too keen on wearing full vests of multi-colored sequins, hence the lesser evil of the sequin ties. Well, lesser evil for them. For me, much like tiling stairs, sequins are now on my 'avoid forever and ever' list.

Things I learned through this project other than to avoid materials with sequins? You never know when posting a tutorial on your blog might actually save someone's butt, a sort of grown up version of 'sharing is caring'. That for me, three days is not enough of a turn around time for a sewing project. That the distillation process likely removes any gluten that vodka might have started with. And that I'm not as emotionally stable as I'd like to believe, hence me understanding why I no longer get to sew Halloween costumes. Sigh. Acceptance is the first step to understanding.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Entrances and Exits: Pt. 1

Hi, Blog! It's been awhile, huh? Let's just ignore my six month absence. Lots happened. Good, bad, ugly, lovely; basically life. But I'm back. I'm older. I'm wiser. I'm grayer and more wrinkly, my left knee has a twinge in it now, and sometimes my left eye too. I've given up gluten and dairy, and ... ahem. Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Apologies. Absences. Anyway, I'm still here and I'm still making stuff, so basically what I am saying is at the core of it all, life is good. And in the end, I still want to blog. So here I am again. Good to see you. Pull up a chair and have a cup of jasmine tea with honey and coconut milk, my new go-to drink of choice due to the giving up of dairy thing. Coffee sucks with coconut milk. Just trust me on this. Let's catch up, shall we?

So I think this is where I left off: In the middle of my stairway, battling dust bunnies and bad lighting. I think I listened to about ten audioboooks total in this stairway over the last year. I particularly enjoyed the Mercy Thompson walker series, if you're into the paranormal werewolf thing. That was fun. Yeah. This has been the Longest. Project. Ever.

Actually, this project started a lot further back than this latest active stage. It has been almost a decade in the making. A long, long time ago on a dark and stormy night, I found a box of tiles in our very scary basement. (It wasn't a dark and stormy night, that just sounded good. I'd never in a million years go into our basement at night. Not even for the promise of a brand new fat puppy.) Some day I am going to do a blog post about our basement. Maybe next Halloween as that would be the most fitting. But, as freaky and full of soul eating shadows and things with too many legs as it might be, it also has some cool finds. Which in a way makes it even more creepy. Because it compels me to keep going down there like a Stephen King novel moment waiting to happen. I scored some awesome old tin washtubs down there that I used as planters just a few weeks ago, which is a whole other post. Anyway, ten years ago, with the discovery of the tiles, the stair idea was born... 

That entire last paragraph was completely superfluous. Ignore it, please.

I planned to do something like the above picture. This was a prototype to the tiled stair faces that envisioned. I was practicing making mosaic tiles using polyclay mosaic pieces adhered to the plain white tile with liquid sculpey. I think I made this tile like five years ago. At the time I was thinking I'd put one word per stair. Things like Love, Laugh, Play. Very Hallmark meets Martha Stewart.

The truth is, if I had gone with the whole making of mosaic tile words for my stairway, even if I had started the project five years ago and worked on it every day, I'm guessing I'd still be working on them. And by this time my whole house would have a perma-polyclay odor. Yum. So I am glad that fantasy passed with time. Sometimes procrastination is my friend.

This photo was probably last summer, after I painted the hall and stairs. Twice. The first time the color was a sort of awful pink. The second time it is obviously a sort of awful purple, but you know what? After two times painting a stairway like this? I can work with purple.

In this photo I had already hung all the prints along the walls. My vision for our previously dingy, drab and dirty stairway was to introduce color and brief bits of happiness. So I went on an etsy print buying rampage. Because nothing says happiness like a woman on etsy with a mad itchy paypal finger. Yeehaw! I will share the different prints in the next post because even a year later, they make me smile. Sometimes money spent on etsy is better than money spent on therapy. At least, that is what I tell my husband and he agrees with me because couples therapy cuts into his video game time. Win/win.

I don't think I have a before, before picture. I'll have to dig. But trust me. It was ugly. So ugly that I sort of felt frazzled every time I came through here. This is an old house and the old wavy, cracked plaster and beat up stairs are just going to be a part of our lives for awhile, but the lifeless stairway was really getting to me. I wanted color and well, to embrace my cheesy... I wanted uplifting.

Basically, I wanted to feel good about coming home. I wanted people to smile when they walked through. Enter or exit in a better mood than they were in before. I mean, an entrance is rather symbolic isn't it? A transition. That little extra emotional boost can make a difference in a person's day. And since my family lives here, that means it will make a difference in every single one of our days. So, basically, a concept I sought that was worth painting the narrow stairs of death. Twice. But not three times. So I've chosen to embrace my inner purple unicorn. Unicorns are uplifting, right?

This photo captures the dark days of the project when the inevitable unpredictable thing happened. You know, the thing that always messes up a big project? This one was almost very bad. I had these tiles leaning up against the stair bases, almost flush. I wanted to see how many I could get across. I fell in love with the white against the purple at this point. The black letters are paper taped on the tiles as a trial run. I was planning on painting the tiles going with the black on white thing. And by this time I wasn't feeling the individual words anymore and wanted a quote. One of my wisest friends found the perfect quote for me. Thanks, K. :0)

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
- Mary Oliver.
Not a bad reminder to see every day, especially when one walks treacherous stairs.

Scary, treacherous stairs. You might have noticed how freaky the top of this stairway is. Yep. I have over a decade of muscle memory into these stairs. My husband and children have their whole lifetime of muscle memory into these stairs. You'd be surprised at how much adding a quarter of an inch to the face of a stairway can mess with muscle memory. After three of us almost fell down the stairs when our heels hit the back of the tiles and pushed us forward off balance, I knew the tile thing was not worth it. After ten years, the tile project was derailed. But I learned back in the days of trying to paint my living room with textured paint, that killing a loved one in the name of an artistic vision is not okay.

I was very, very not happy. I mean. This was the whole point of this project. My freaking stairs were PURPLE due to this project. I had years of my life into these stupid stairs at this point and it was all to chase happiness. Not frustration. Right? My happy stair project was Not. Doing. Its. Job.

So what do I turn to when I seek happiness? Margaritas? Well, yes... Of course. And coffee, until the dairy-hates-me thing. But for my non-liquid happiness needs? My heart belongs to - Scrapbook paper! Yay! And mod podge. Which are two things that I use so often that I really should have just created a blog based on the crap I do with scrapbook paper and mod podge. I don't even scrapbook. I am very, very bad at it. I know it is hard to believe, but I'm too verbose for a mere 12x12 square of paper. But I can sure cut and paste with the stuff that could make kindergarten teachers weep with envy. Not to toot my own horn or anything. But seriously? This turned out kind of. Awesome.

Let me present, the longest stair project EVER: (Which sort of makes the longest blog post ever actually fitting. Life. It is art.)

Uplifting Entrance = Achieved

What I want to do with my one, wild and precious life?
Not spend this much time on a stairway. Ever, ever again.
But now that this is finally over, I can honestly say it was worth it.

P.S. I used a font that I got from here on this awesome blog: Kevin & Amanda. I just printed the letter outlines out on regular printer paper, cut them out and mod podged them on some of the scrapbook paper 'tiles'. Then I mod podged the tiles onto the face of the stairs. Someday this will be a nightmare to get off. But I am hoping by then it will be someone else's nightmare, along with the fear-garden that is my basement. Have fun with both, future person that is likely to hate me. Believe me, when you are sweating and swearing on the stairs, trying to make them do what you picture you want them to do? Somewhere in the world, I will feel your pain. My advice to you? Leave the box of tiles in the basement. They are evil.