Friday, January 30, 2009

Pattern Review

Kathy asked me about Pattern Review in one of her comments. The actual web address is linked here.  For anyone that sews, this can be a valuable site to visit. There are many thousands of members and many patterns reviewed. Granted all of the fashions aren't necessarily  ones I would find suitable, but there is much that I do like.  A couple of examples of specific helps to me have been:

*An alert that the "cow" bag I made the Princess has 3/8" seam allowances (it is standard to usually have 5/8".) The "cow" bag pattern only notes this little (but critical)  tidbit in one obscure spot - so that PR alert saved me much grief. 

*The fleece hoodie I recently made runs rather full through the sleeves and shoulders, but is also a bit on the short side in length. By knowing that ahead of time (from reading reviews others had done of the same pattern) I was able to be alert to fitting adjustments that I needed to make. And when I wrote my review of that same pattern - I reminded folks that make length adjustments to also adjust the pocket placement (something I neglected to do.) 

You don't need to have a paid membership to read the reviews there. And you can get a free trial membership for 30 days. That was what I did at first to see if I liked it. After discussion with my husband we decided that I would buy a yearly membership for at least the next year or two.  The annual membership cost is minimal - and as a member I get discounts on classes, among other things. The on-line classes have been great for me. I just can't commit to taking classes outside my home, yet I need regular structured help to move ahead in my sewing. If you read my sewing story you will know I have sewed for many years, but have never been really good at it - just enough to do basic items. At this season of my life the Lord has brought sewing back to me in a significant way and I need the on-line classes, tutorials, and message boards at Pattern Review to help me.

I am currently working through the Beginning Sewing Labs 101-104. While I do know the basics and am not a "beginner"(I rated my sewing level as "advanced beginner" at the site), my sewing experiences have been so hit and miss over the years that there are many, many simple things that I have never learned. These classes have been great. I also did a fabric oriented class that covered all about knit fabrics. It was hugely helpful for me as fabric knowledge is one of my two weakest areas. The other is fitting and alterations. That is the subject I will work on next when these basic classes are done. 

I have also joined my first PR contests. While I am not contest competitive - I am contest motivated. I love having contest goals and focus. I also am learning interesting ideas from other PR members. As a result of the current "Stash Contest" I learned from "Ody" how to add length to one's blankets and sheets. With a Dh that is 6"4" keeping sheets tucked in and feet covered can be challenging. I would never have thought that just by stitching a length of fabric at the bottom of our top sheet where it tucks under the mattress is a way to give just that extra comfort zone. 

So for me a membership at this time is a benefit, but even if this is not a place the Lord is leading you to invest with your time or money, I would still suggest checking PR before tackling any sewing project in order to see what others have to say about a pattern you are considering using. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Florida Homeschool Evaluations

One of several means of satisfying Florida homeschooling law, is for a FL certified teacher to attest that a student has shown progress commensurate with ability. There are wide interpretations of how that is accomplished. The easiest way for me to address this issue is probably just to list some major points that Dh (a FL certified teacher, and homeschool evaluator) and I have encountered over the 16+ years we have homeschooled our 4 children. 

*Yes, you can evaluate your own children if you are a FL certified teacher. No, it isn't cheating! 

*Shop around and ask a lot of questions. It is very important that you find someone that understands home schooling is not the same as school at home. 

*You should receive the evaluation in your hands, and you are the one to turn it in to the designated authority in your school district (county). You do not have to turn in that particular  evaluation if you are uncomfortable with the results. You may hire another evaluator or use a different option for your student's evaluation. But if you homeschool under the authority of the county, you do have to avail yourself of one of the legal options the state law offers. 

*You have one year from the time you inform the county you are homeschooling to turn in your evaluation. You can turn it in early, but don't be late, please as you are then breaking your contract with the state. There is no "deadline" or other arbitrary date when an evaluation is due - you have one full year. Some counties do have a "deadline", but that is only because they have, thus far, gotten away with it.

*The evaluator does not assign grades, grade levels, promotion or retention to grades, or credits. This is the right of the parent educator only.

*The evaluator cannot tell you what subjects to cover, nor the scope or sequence of the subjects you chose to teach.

*The evaluator should include no information on the evaluation form except what is required by law. The sample form above was developed many years ago by Dh and is valid for all FL counties. Our district's sample form given to all homeschool parents in this county asks for notes on student progress (or something to that effect.) It really is none of their business and goes beyond the scope of state law, so it is not required. But many parents don't realize this or are intimidated, and many certified teachers don't question what comes to them on an "official" form.  (See my second point above!)

*If you have a question, feel free to write me in the comments section, or use the e-mail address that connects with my blog profile (if you don't have my primary e-mail address). 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Sewing History

Lindsay over at her blog called Lindsay T Sews (Again) started many readers writing their sewing "back stories".  I have mentioned snippets of my sewing history here and there, but thought I would go ahead and write it on my blog - and include a picture of the machine on which I learned to sew. 

Other than the children's cardboard sewing cards that many of us had when very young, my first sewing, that I remember, began while sitting with my Grammy Page on her front lawn one summer about the time I was 8 years old. She taught me to hand sew a skirt and blouse for my Barbie doll. It was quite well done by the time she helped me finish it. We had well fitted darts, snaps to fasten it, a skirt band and nice hems. I had also learned to knit a few years before that and would knit Barbie clothes as well. (Barbie was big in my area for anyone in sixth grade and under - but few could afford the "store bought" clothes - so we made do and learned to make them ourselves.) 

My other grandmother, Meme, would sometimes make my sister and I dresses for school, but she lived far from us and I never saw her actually sewing - I only knew it was possible to make really great clothes at home that were unique and cute. So in high school I looked forward to home ec. class. While the fussiness of the home ec. teachers tended to be a bit exacting for me, I did learn a lot, and loved sewing on a real sewing machine. My first project that I can remember was a yellow, collarless, sleeveless dress. I learned to make facings, put in a centered zipper and make darts. I wanted to make more clothes, so a close friend's mom agreed to help me make another project. It was a maroon vest and matching skirt. The vest was lined, and the A-line skirt had a lapped zipper and a waistband. I now had the basics down and was off on my own. 

The next problem was that I had no sewing machine, and no money in our family to spare for one. Meme came to the rescue. The Singer in the picture above was loaned (and many years later given) to me by my Meme. I continued to make outfits for myself all through high school and college. They tended to be simple, but I did expand my portfolio of techniques enough to manage to do box pleats, shorts and culottes, and even was tapped to do some costumes for two college productions. Usually I just followed the steps in the pattern directions or stumbled onto how to make it work.

When I got married the Singer didn't automatically come with me since it still belonged to Meme at that time. So my wonderful Dh bought me a Kenmore machine for our first Christmas as a married couple. That was 28 years ago.  I sewed outfits, costumes, and baby clothes at times, but I was a bit frustrated as I was very poor at fitting (I thought the patterns were supposed to fit right out of the package) and still had only basic sewing skills. I had no one to teach me and, especially, no time to take a class --- then came the internet. 

Over the past year I have discovered sewing blogs, which led me to Pattern Review, which led me to the Stitcher's Guild and on and on. I have been taking sewing lessons on-line from Pattern Review, and still teach myself a lot just from reading other's sewing blogs. In the past year I have learned more about sewing than I had in the last 30. I truly believe the Lord opened the door so that I can develop my skills in order to minister to more families - and my children too!

Addendum: These two machines (and a 1955 Singer Featherweight 221 - an e-bay recent addition) are the only machines I own and use. The Singer machine is a 1946 Model 201-2. Though it is a straight stitch only machine, it works great and I love sewing on it.  The Kenmore is a 1980 Ultra Stitch 12. It has  zigzag and a few decorative stitches. It tends to groan a bit, and occasionally wheezes, but it too is still working for me. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Duggar's New Book

Loved it!!!! I got this book for my birthday on December 26. I finished reading it the evening of December 27. I couldn't put it down. Now the Princess is reading it. It doesn't matter if you are not yet a parent (or even not yet a spouse), a parent of few, or a parent of many - there is a lot of great wisdom in here for everyone. I highly recommend reading this book. I am always slow to think outside the box, but the creativity and frugality of the Duggars challenged me to look at all things with a new "eye". You can buy the book and view their website from here

(You can also see more about the Duggar family on my blog by using the wedding label below.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Amazing Graze General Store Contest

Marci over at "Down on the Farm" is having a give away - the prize is a $20 gift certificate from her store. Feel free to spread this far and wide. It is always fun when you actually know the real live person behind the blog. I first met Marci (and her wonderful family) back in the late '90's. She was just getting goats (and I had goats at the time as well) and she was also the nearest contact I had for buying whole foods in bulk - back then she lived in FL - right straight across the state from me. Now she lives in Ohio and I miss going to her house! Her blog is great, and she has an "Amazing" store. You can find her here.  (Look, I learned to do embedded links now!!!) The Friday, January 23, entry has the details for her contest. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Re-Useable Gift Bags

On Pattern Review they have several contests running for January and February - I joined all 3!!! This is one of my first entries (though I haven't yet officially reviewed it at their site - but I will soon.) It qualifies for the Stash Contest. This is all fabric I have had around for a few years. I decided to make it up into re-useable gift bags. First I googled how to make fabric gift bags. After quickly reading through the first several pages of hits, I didn't find any one bag that I really liked - but did find components that I could fit together into my own design. 

*I liked squaring the bottom of the bag - that was easy - fold out the point, measure up 2" along the seam line from the corner point, draw a line across that point, sew, and cut off the excess fabric. 

*Since this fabric was uni-directional, I made the bottom panel rather than fold the fashion fabric across the bottom. I didn't want a bottom seam. This is my panel ready to be folded right sides together and then stitch up the side seams. The red portion will fold to be the bottom.

* I did not want a drawstring top. I found a cute technique that uses either a ribbon (didn't have any on hand at the time) or a sewn tie as a closure. I really liked that look. So I made a tie from the red fabric, folded it (keeping one side about 2 inches longer) and stitched it into one of the side seams and it works great. I just knotted the ends.

*I could not stand the raw interior seams - so I lined it. This bag in the photo uses a red lining - I have since done another that uses gold. To line, I  just made another bag the same size, squared the corners, and with the right sides of the 2 bags together (one inside the other) stitched around the top edge leaving a small opening to turn it all the right way out. I then carefully pressed and top stitched the top edge. On this bag I also turned that edge in about an inch and top stitched it again. On the gold bag I just left the top as is. 

Here you can see the lining, turned in top edge, and the ties. 

These large lined bags will be used "in house", but I plan to make up others that are a bit less fancy that can go to new homes for next Christmas. 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tozer on Purpose

I really enjoy the writings of Tozer. Pictured is a book I received as a Christmas gift. I read widely and am inspired by many writers, both past and present, but I seem to connect to Tozer in a special way that always brings me to conviction of sin and hope in  doing better. I think it is his directness (the very thing that many detractors abhorred in him!) I love someone that is blunt and to the point. Those that tippy-toe around so as to not offend lose me in all their meanderings.

Below is an excerpt his writings that I received in a daily devotional:

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.... --Daniel 1:8Though we do not hear much of it in this age of spineless religion, there is nevertheless much in the Bible about the place of moral determination in the service of the Lord. "Jacob vowed a vow," and it was the beginning of a very wonderful life with God....Daniel "purposed in his heart," and God honored his purpose. Jesus set his face like a flint and walked straight toward the cross. Paul "determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified,"...

These are only a few of the many men and women of the Bible who have left us a record of spiritual greatness born out of a will firmly set to do the will of God....Let us, then, set our sails in the will of God. If we do this we will certainly find ourselves moving in the right direction, no matter which way the wind blows. The Set of the Sail, pp. 11-13

Friday, January 2, 2009

Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La

Can you tell I use this book a lot? When #1 son began high school (about 14 years ago?) I was looking for help with how to manage homeschooling a high school aged student. I found this book and have used it ever since for all four of my children. It isn't a "curriculum", but a way to record what you are doing into a format that school officials will understand. And yet it is more.....

For the author, Barb Shelton, this is a ministry given by the Lord to help families chart a path past "school subjects" and into a lifestyle of learning rooted and based in true education directed by the Lord and individualized for each child's unique God-given purpose. If you are burned out, fearful, uncertain of how to move forward, and stuck in the rut of traditional education, then this is the book for you. 

You can find this book by clicking on the title of the blog entry above. It will take you to