Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DIY: Apron Sew-Along, Putting It All Together

As I type up this here blog post, I've got my feets up, my hair down and my Brand New Reversible Apron with Ginormous Pockets on. Yay, it's finished! As I was finishing up my apron this past weekend, I was suspiciously surprised by how smoothly everything was going. I mean, my seam ripper was actually collecting dust! I remember looking at it, flipping my hair and thinking, "Humph! I don't need that old thing anymore, I'm BEYOND mistakes," which, of course, was like The Kiss of Sewing Death. As you'll find out in the following clips, it didn't take me but a hot minute to make a big-fat-hairy omg, my apron is practically hanging down to my ankles mistake. But don't you worry, I'll fill you in on the oops-deets so the same won't happen to you.

Now, if you've not started on your apron yet, lemme direct you here. In this post, I'll introduce you to pattern and pocket making. 

In this here post, I'll share with ya how to do the following:
*  Make your neck strap (which, for some reason, in the vid clip I refer to it as a "necktie". Der.)
*  Make your tie ends
*  Assemble the neck strap and ties ends to the apron
*  Finish off the apron and call it a day!

I'd also like to invite you to share your completed aprons on this here blog!
I mean, you've already been sharing 'em on the Apron Sew-Along Facebook page (which totes makes my day when I see 'em) so why not show 'em off here? I'd love to put 'em all together in one big ole apron-tastic blog post. I know several of you made children's aprons and/or went a totally different apron-sewing route. I think it'd be a blast to see 'em all! To make that happen, I do hafta set a deadline. If you haven't started yet, no worries! You still have plenty of time. Just to give you a deadline, please email me ( or share on the Apron Sew-Along page a snapshot of you in your apron by Sunday, September 7th. I'd love a brief description on your fabric choices and where you plan to wear your apron. 

But before we can do that, we gotta finish this thing! So, without further ado, let's get to work!
Neck strap and tie ends. Because I like to have a bow in the front of my apron, I decided to make my tie ends 4" X 30". You could adjust that length, of course. You might wanna cut out a couple different lengths with your wrapping paper, pin them to your apron and see how that length suits you before cutting into your fabric.
If you plan to tie your apron in the back, you could use the same pattern piece for your neck strap and tie ends, thus cutting three pieces of fabric from one pattern.
To stitch, pin those right sides together. As I mentioned, I like the ends of my pins to face my sewing needle. I don't wanna chance running over a ball with my sewing machine. No one likes squished balls. 
For the neck strap, simply stitch the long edge, flip inside out and iron. I have a tool for flipping fabric but you could just as easily use a safety pin or maybe a pencil. Youtube can help you out with tips and tricks on that.
For the tie ends, you'll not only sew the long end but also one short end. To do that, stitch the length of the long end, stop about 1/2" away from the end, lift the presser foot, rotate the fabric, lower the presser foot and stitch the short end. If that run-on sentence has left you confused, see the gif below. 
Make more sense?
To put the apron together, you'll need to pin your neck strap and tie ends on the right side of the apron (it doesn't matter which side). Now, my mistake was pinning everything in and stitching before I tried it on and checked the fit. Go ahead and pin your neck strap on and try the apron on so you can see if adjustments need to be made. Once you've got the fit where you want it, pin the neck strap 5/8" (or whatever your seam allowance is...mine is always 5/8") from the left and right ends (as seen below). For the tie ends, pin them 5/8" from the curve of the apron. 
You'll want to pin the tie ends to the apron body just to keep them out of the way as you stitch. Now, lay the other half of your apron on top of this with right sides together. Pin the top, curved side and sides. Stitch everything except the bottom.
Here I've got my right sides together and I'm ready to stitch everything except the bottom edge.

"I lay mah hands on ya apron and you'll be healed!" (said in my sad attempt to impersonate an evangelist. And that apron needed some healin' as you'll find out in that thar clip.

Here I'll talk making adjustments to my mistake and finishing the thing off.
Because my apron straps were too long, I went about fixing it by seam ripping out just the top of the apron, pulling those straps up, repinning and stitching again.
I snipped off the excess before flipping it right side out.
I finished off the bottom of the apron the same way I did the bottom of the pocket from the last apron post. I simply tucked the bottom inside, ironed and stitched. 
And, there you have it! There are definitely some things I might do differently on my next apron. I think I'd like the length longer and the pockets less tight. But I'm happy with the outcome and the kids have loved the print. I've been wearing it all week and feel kinda naked without it on when I'm in the art room!

Looking forward to see in your creations, kids!

Monday, August 25, 2014

DIY: A Kandinsky-Inspired Dress, Part 1

I have officially gone off the DIY deep-end. I mean, I always knew I had a lil bit of trouble with focus  (if you read any of my posts for more than five minutes AND are able to follow the three different tangents I have constantly running, you deserve some sorta metal. Although metals are overrated, doncha think? You deserve a lifetime of chocolate. Or maybe a chocolate metal! Which, by the way, I don't recommend wearing on a hot day. Cuz people look at you real funny like when you're caught licking melty brown stains off your clothes. Not that THAT'S ever happened to ME. Ahem.) Er, wait. What was I talking about?! Oh, yeah. Focus. Or lack thereof, in this case.

At last count, I had about a dozen DIY's in progress. I keep starting another one then another one then, you guessed er, another-freakin-one. It's pretty much ridiculous. But when I get an idea, especially one that I'm excited about, I get this urge to start it right away. You know, before the excitement fades and I never get around to creating. So, like, I've got 99 craft projects but a completed one ain't 1. Well, that is, until this weekend when I forced myself to sit down, focus for more than five minutes and finish this Kandinsky-inspired number.
I was inspired to make a Kandinsky-dress for a coupla reasons. Our local art museum, The Frist Center for Visual Arts is having a great big exhibit of dude's work this fall/winter and I plan to take the kids field trippin'. Ole Kan's also been one of our weekly Artist Inspirations and an influence on some of our Dot Day projects. He's, like, kinda a big deal in my art room. So, despite a kindergartener telling me today, "Mrs. Stephens, you have too many art dresses!", I decided to make Kandinsky's Composition VIII into a dress.

Now, y'all might recall that last school year, I got it in my big-fat-Bump-it-wearing-head that I should make an artist-inspired dress a month. Before I go any further with this Kandinsky-can-can, I thought I'd (re)share these lil numbers with ya. 
My very first ever art-inspired dress was that Hokusai Great Wave number. Then I scored some splatter-tastic fabric online and stitched up that Jackson-Pollock frock on the right.

One of my fave ways to alter a dress is with appliqué. For both of these dresses, I cut out the letters/shapes, attached them to the fabric with a wee bit of Stitch Witchery (which is like iron-on glue for fabric) and then used an appliqué stitch around the edges. I'm not gonna lie, stitching the Warhol dress was a huge drag but the Magritte birds were a snap. 

These two dresses, like the one I'm sharing today, were needle felted. And I think that spending a coupla back to back hours hunched my Kandinsky dress could explain the unpleasant pain I've had in my neck all day (hello and thank you, Advil). That Starry Night light up number took a while but The Scream took For-Eve-RRR. I really was screamin' for mercy in the end.
But enough about all that, let's talk about this wackiness, ermkay? So I'm kinda on this 80's revival kick right now. All the fun and funky florescent clothing and accessories I've been seeing around lately have really been makin' me happy. Not to mention inspiring me. So when I got the sudden notion that I needed a Composition VIII dress, I drug the hubs down to ole Target, snagged this dress and that belt from the clearance rack and set to work. 
Now, usually, I just create what I like to refer to as "Reverse Mullet Dress"es. You know, party in the front, all biznatch in the back. Howevers, with this dress, I had to make it 360 crazy. I mean, there's just so much happening in that Kandinsky painting...and I wanted to include it all. However, when doing so, I had to be very careful with what shapes I placed near the rear. I mean, I didn't want some huge target on my tush. I don't need to tempt the kids to take aim on me anymore than they might be inclined to, know-what-I'm-sayin?
Oh, that Kandinsky. Do you know the guy didn't take up painting until he was, like, 30? That's about the same time I took up sewing. And look! He became "the Father of Abstract Painting" and I became, um, "that Crazy Lady who Dresses Weird." 
Oh! Here's a lil look at the dress before. It is a lil on the short side so that's part of the reason I'm wearing the crinoline underneath. I'll probably wear a black t-shirt under the dress when I wear it to school so as not to frighten the children with my bat wings.

Now I've shared with ya all the deets of needle felting before (and if you need a refresher, you can visit here) so I won't go into it too much. I did my usual trick of sketching out my design in chalk before attaching with the wool roving.
Hubs walked in and was all, "why are you using such a small tool? Don't they make bigger ones?" I told him yes AND that they also make a needle-felting-MACHINE! "Why don't you have one?!", because you've not bought it for me yet, I replied while batting my eyes. All I got was a "huh". So much for that idea! I really do need to upgrade my needle tool though. Geesh.
So much for following my lines. I mean, I really coulda gone without drawing them. It is abstract. I don't know why I was trying to be such a stickler. 
Yay! Kandinsky-ness, complete! But, even before this dress was done, I got the grand idea for THIS NEXT Kandinsky dress:
That's right. In true "oh, look, squirrel!" fashion, I got the idea for this dress, shoved Composition VIII to the floor and dove into felting this guy. I just happened to have this little black thrifted dress in the back of my closet waiting to be DIY'ed. Now, the only prob I've found with felting this dress is making it so it doesn't look like a dress of areolas, ya know? Like, ew.
And there you have it! Another artist dress complete. I cannot wait to be the giant dork that I am and wear this to the Kandinsky exhibit. Cuz you know I totally will. Until next time, y'all!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What the Art Teacher Wore #111 and Dottin' It Up for Dot Day!

Feelin' Funky Monday: I wish I'd snapped a better photo of this skirt because it's straight up amazing. I scooped it up at the super fantastic etsy store SassySenoritaVintage (great shop, awesome seller!). It's completely hand appliquéd and so detailed. After receiving it, I thought I'd try my hand at the same appliqué method only to find that it's super intense! That's a DIY that might take a while. top and necklace: Anthro, gift from a friend; skirt: vintage, SassySenoritaVintageshoes: last season, Payless

Hey there, all y'all! Unlike last week when I wrote this post, this week zipped by at the speed of light. And it's kinda freakin' me out to think that we'll be in September before we know it. So much art making to do, always so little time! Story of every art teacher's life. 
This week I thought I'd share with you a lil sneak peak of our dot-inspired projects for International Dot Day! At first it was kinda tough coming up with dot-esque projects...and now I can't STOP coming up with ideas! I'm trying to force myself to save 'em for next year. I mean, we can't have every project this year be based around a dot...or can we?! I'll share the complete deets on these projects when the kids have completed 'em.

In other news: I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT THE APRON SEW-ALONG! I've loved seeing everyone's creations thus far (some of you have even finished your aprons, you over-achievers!), it's been so inspiring and super fun. If you wanna join along and see what's peeps be making, go here. This week, I'll share with you how to finish that apron off. Then I HAVE A SURPRISE in store for those of you that complete your apron! But you'll have to wait for the final apron-sewing installment to find that out, eee!

Also, can I just tell y'all how much I've loved hearing your stories of childhood memories that built the brick sh## house you are today?! I'm so inspired, happy, motivated-to-be-that-person-in-a-child's-life that you just don't know. You can still leave your story and be entered to win a Spiral Art Kit by August 31st. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Finally, can we talk about the neglected elephant in the room: The Artsy Book Club? This week I'm gonna show y'all the influence the Teach like a Pirate book has had on my first couple of days/weeks in the art room. I've tweaked routine/lessons/song-and-dance a little bit and I'm looking forward to sharing with ya what's worked and what needs more work, if ya know what I mean. 

Alrightie, kids! I'll be back soon with more apron-age, a visit to my art room and a brand new DIY (er, finally! It seems I got a little distracted by Orange is the New Black marathons. My bad.). Chat soon!
Second Grade Reversible Abstract Paintings: I'll share the complete lesson with ya when these bad boys are finished. But for now, lemme give you the short version: listened to a variety of musical instruments (my gong, rain stick, and this thing called a spring drum that I'll share with you this upcoming week) and painted a variety of lines. Our influence was Kandinsky and how music influenced his work. Once the lines were painted, we've started adding color. Some kids have decided to also embellish further with pattern. I'm hoping by next week or so we'll be ready to start on the other side of this pizza round (purchased through School Specialty for $16/100 rounds).
Tacklin' Tuesday: Sometimes I get the question: How do you stay clean in the art room?! Well, I usually don't. Nor do my students. We're almost always in aprons but there are the occasions where we forget, there's a paint spill and clothes receive an unfortunate makeover. I had a sweet first grade student spill paint who FREAKED because she thought her skin would be permanently stained ("I can't be paint splotchy for the rest of my life!"...y'all, I tried SO HARD not to laugh). I thought we'd cleaned up the entire spill when a third grader came up to me later with the very same paint on her skirt (there'd been a blob hiding on the table, just waiting to attack). I felt so bad! But the next day, she came in with a bag of chocolates for me and a kind note from her mother telling me that "this happens, no worries." Gah! Such kindness. And chocolate! top and shoes: thrifted; skirt and necklace: Anthro
First Grade Concentric Circles and Radial Designs: For the dots in first grade, the kids painted their plates with a concentric pattern and then added detail in tiny brushes with black ink. Once complete, we created those painted papers (one side textured the other side dot-stamped) which we'll use to enhance our plates. This is gonna be for a great big hairy group project that I just can't wait to show you! Deets to come, y'all. 
Dang! Can you believe some of that detailed first grade painting?! I mean, these kids are 5 years old, y'all!
Maxi Wednesday: This is my Art Teacher from the 1970's ensemble. You like? I'm into this whole bright color/ethnic pattern thing that I'm seeing everywhere and it's totes influencing my outfit choices. dress: vintage, Buffalo Exchange
Sparkly Relief Dots by Third Grade: So my third grade kids cut out a circle from a styro plate and then added smaller styro circles on top of that. Once complete, we hit it with some spray glue, covered it with foil and they went to town creating their designs. They're kinda like round zen-tangles. I really like how they are turning out...but I'm uncertain just who we'll present these to the world. I'd love to hear your thoughts...should we simply mount them on a piece of construction paper? Maybe continue the line design on that background paper? Or perhaps create a design on the reverse and hang them mobile style? I'd truly love some input, y'all!
Thursday, Already?: This week seemed to zip right by for me. And next week will be the same as we have a half day on Friday and Monday off. Then, it will be SEPTEMBER! How in the world did that happen?! dress: vintage, Buffalo Exchange
Because I love them so and didn't think the first photo did 'em justice, I thought I'd share some close ups. 
String Art in Fourth Grade Land: When I was in fifth grade, we did this really fun string art project that I still have. I thought it was the best thing ever...and decided that my fourth grade should experience that fun-ness too. So we've spent the last couple of art classes decorating our boards (with a lil texture combin' and splatter paintin...since I was an 80's child, splatter paint seemed appropriate). The kids also had to start punching the correct amount of holes into the board and practicing their design ideas. Their fingers are itching to start stitching...and I'm excited to say we'll begin next week!
A Friday with Balls: Holy crap, when I saw this crazy ballsy outfit at Anthropologie recently, I knew I had to have it in my life. Of course, I waited around until the sucker was on double markdown (I just cannot stomach purchasing full price in that joint or even first markdown for that matter). I did learn something interesting with this purchase: if they don't have your size in the store but have it online, you can purchase it in the store and they'll ship it FOR FREE to your house. Which saved me like $10 in shipping. everything: Anthro
Speaking of shipping, there was some serious happiness in my mailbox this week! Artist and art teacher Daniel Langhans sent me those awesome CareBear stickers along with that rad card...and that envelope! You can find more of Daniel's awesomeness here: I can't wait to enlarger that envelope on the copier and make it into a sign for my art room!
And another art teacher buddy of mine sent me this gems she'd recently printed (Kelly, I LOVE THEM!). You can find handmade items by Kelly here: prints totally put me in the mood for my fave holiday. I already have a place for them on the wall in our living room, I just need to get them framed. Funny thing is, both these awesome artists are from Arizona! Thanks guys!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

In the Art Room: How Did I Get Here? (with a GIVEAWAY!)

Did anyone else have these yarn painting kits as kids? I obviously loved 'em, look at that ridiculous toothless grin. The surface was tacky so you just placed the yarn where you wanted kinda like the 80's American version of Huichol yarn painting. 
 So last week I just kinda casually threw out the question: Do you think your kid-interests have had an influence on your adult-interests? Y'all. What I heard back from you was a resounding YES. Your Tinker Toys instilled a love of sculpture; your Fashion Plates have you stylin to this very day; your giant collection of naked Barbies have lead you to long walks on nudist beaches. But I got to thinking (which explains the burning smell)...what else in your formative years built the foundation of the person you are today? I keep thinking of the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime: 
And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, Well...How did I get here?
"I hate rats.!!"...really? Cuz, you know, most people freakin' LOVE rats. And where in my 2nd grade life had I ever even encountered a rat, anyway? Did the rat outbreak happen to devour the Grammar Police because this wee paragraph woulda been under arrest, y'all.
 So, how DID you get here? What people, places or Mattel toys brought you to where you are today? Who inspired that passion in you to create, teach, stitch, cook, whatever-it-is-you-do-so-well? I'm nosy and I wanna know. So I've got a lil proposition for ya. I'll share my story if you share yours...AND if you do, I'll be placing your name in a drawing for a Brand New Car Spiral Art Kit!
Here's how you can enter the giveaway:

Share your story in the comment section below! 
Let us know who/what/how you were introduced to the creative passions you have today. Was it a teacher? A relative? A combo of a buncha stuff? 

Your name will be tossed in a hat and the winner announced in about a week on Sunday, August 31st! I'll (re)share your tale in a blog post and send you the prezzie shown above: A Spiral Art Kit!

Why in the world am I doing this? Because, man, as an art teacher, it's my overwhelmingly-intimidating job to inspire a passion for dreaming, imagining and creating in my students. By doing a little digging, I thought we could all learn how lives have been changed so we could return the favor to those who's lives we impact. Whether you are a teacher, a parent or that super cool aunt/uncle, I know you want to share your passion with the wee folk in your life. What better way to learn how them from our own past? 

So, what's your story?
Remember back in the good ole days when we could dress up on Halloween in elementary school? I just knew I was gonna be a vet when I grew up so I dressed as one every other Halloween. Oh, by the way, that Grim Reaper haunted my nightmares until about a year ago. 

 Well, since you (didn't) ask, I'll tell ya mine: I went to a very small elementary school that I have the fondest memories of. The only problem with the place was that we never had an art class. I knew I liked to draw but I was never exposed to art in school. Thankfully, they still taught penmanship back in those days and that was my creative outlet. I struggled with reading and was miserable at sports but man! did I have some of the prettiest cursive in all of elementary school land. It was the closest thing I had to drawing and I worked on those purple ditto sheets like it was my job. 
Updated version of letter to moms: "Dear Mom, You can be happy, my house is NEVER clean. Love, Cassandra". Whenever I talk to that lady, she always tells me, "it's okay, you are so busy with much more important stuff." Thanks, mom!

Thankfully, the parental units tapped into my creative outlets. They signed me up for drawing classes (even if I was the only kid in there with a buncha blue hairs...and I ain't talkin' hipsters, ya'll) and bought me craft kits. But it wasn't until I spent a couple summers with my grandma that I discovered my true love: crafts. In her wee trailer, that woman had every kind of craft supply imaginable. She taught me to cross stitch, embroider, create beaded jewelry, you name it. I remember the embroidered design I created that once finished, she stitched into a pillow for me. It sat proudly on our couch until I caught the stomach flu and tossed my cookies all over it. Ah, memories. 
Lil known fact: I was The Big Wheel Champion of Joliet, Illinois in the 1980s. This picture only shows what became the tip of my trophy iceberg. The only thing that stopped me from continuing my rein were those dang legs. They got so long I looked like a freaking praying mantis on a circus trike. I'm willing to bet my retirement that my mama still has those trophies in her garage.
When I hit fifth grade, I had a teacher that was like no other. She had a love for space (this was 1985, the year of both Haley's Comet and the Challenger) and art. That passion of hers was so contagious that I began drawing more, collecting all things space-themed and even wrote a couple of ridiculous plays (that she allowed us to perform). I honestly felt like she believed I was someone special. And maybe she did...or maybe she just had that amazing magical teacher touch that inspired all of her students to believe in themselves. Regardless, as a teacher, she had the greatest impact on my life and for that, I'm forever grateful. 
Isn't making a kid feel like a superhero a teacher's job? Such a tall order...but I'm willing to bet money that some of your stories will include teachers too.
I could go on and on with more stories of awesome teachers, painting professors (Barry, you are the best!), friends and fam that have inspired me along the way but I'd much rather hear from you! So if you have a moment and would be so kind, please drop me a line in the comments with your story. Remember, I'll enter you to win a Spiral Art Kit because I totes believe in a good bribe.

Chat with ya soon!