Tuesday, January 10, 2012

DIY: Pirate Style

Apparently, I've much to learn about fashion. Today, I was told, "Mrs. Stephens, I like your pirate dress." Er, my what? "You're a pirate! Cuz that big black collar thingie makes you look like a one." Sweet.
Hiya and thank you for visiting my blog! I'm interrupting this post to say that I recently finished another embroidered dress which you can read about here: http://cassiestephens.blogspot.com/2012/02/turn-him-loose-jill.html

I thrifted this '70's era black sailor dress at the end of the summer. I'd been looking for a little sailor get-up and this seemed to do the trick...except for one tragic flaw. It was booorrrriiiing. If I'm going to wear something, it better be glittery, bedazzled, patternedy (a fashion term, look it up) and just overall over-the-top tacky. And I kinda fell asleep just looking at this number.
When I told a kindergartener today, "You look nice with your shirt tucked in," I was informed, "It's not called 'tucked in', it's called 'rodeo style'." Yeehaw.
I knew I wanted to alter it somehow but nothing was coming to me. Ideas never do when I sit down and focus on them. They usually come to me when I'm falling asleep or doing something extremely mundane, like attending a faculty meeting (haha! I kid!). So I had this dress hanging in my sewing room for ages just waiting for the idea to come.
Not too long ago, I woke up early, washed and straightened my hair and went to school bumpit-less. When my first class arrived, one of my fashion-savvy first graders said, "Where is the beautiful Mrs. Stephens? Your hair is so flat." Humph.
 This idea actually came from this lovely blog: http://misskatie-littleredsquirrel.blogspot.com/'' A couple of months ago she showcased a beautiful skirt that she had embroidered pin-up girls all over. I decided to do the same. Seeing as how my dress has a sailor style, I thought my little pin-ups would WW II era sailor girls.
The next day, when I had this same student in my class, I was OF COURSE wearing my biggest baddest bumpit. She was so thrilled that she decided to pat me on the head and say, "Good, Mrs. Stephens!" Little did she know that those bumpits have teeth and when she patted my head, they poked and startled her causing her to shriek and pull back her hand. Revenge is so sweet.
 I scoured pinterest for pin-ups and started sketching out and altering my girls. There weren't too many sailors girls to be found, so for some of these, I added sailor-esque details like the anchor and the steering wheel. I know it's not called that but I'm too lazy to find the correct term. Stern? That sounds right.
After a very in-depth demonstration on rainbow printing today, I asked my fourth graders if they had any questions. One student raised her hand and asked, "I just have to know, how many pairs of tights are you wearing right now?" Oh boy.
My favorite thing about working on this dress, aside from being done with it, was the people I met while working on it. I only work on embroidery while traveling. It gives me something to do in the car or on the plane. On a recent trip out to California, I took my embroidery and met two truly delightful women. Both were so excited when I took my work out. They had both embroidered in the past, one even worked as an embroidery designer in New York, and both lived during World War II. It was such a delight hearing their stories and receiving letters from them upon my return home. Chatting with them has me working on my next project. And, no, it's not a pirate's outfit!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What the Art Teacher Wore #1

Monday, shopping with the family in downtown Franklin. My last day of break, sniff. sweater: Ann Taylor, thrifted; belt: one by me, for sale in my shop; tights: dunno, Target?; boots: Seychelles picked up at French's Boots; Egyptian-print dress: from this sweet etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/VintageWithAppeal
I thought I'd start snapping some photos of what I wear during the work week. I've decided to do this for a couple of reasons. For starters, I absolutely love outfit posts. I am always amazed, not to mention inspired,  by the creative looks people put together.
Tuesday, back to work planning with fellow art teachers. Yeah, yeah, I've still got Christmas decor up. Shut up. sweater: another thrifted Ann Taylor; dress: Black Friday sale at anthropologie; belt: bird buckle by me, for sale in the shop; tights: Target; boots: Frye, another find at French's Boots. You Nashville locals must get yourselves there!
The other reason is, I can never remember what I wore with what. Seriously. For example, that Egyptian print dress in the first photo? When I decided to wear it on Monday, I couldn't remember what sweater I liked to wear with it. This is not a case of "too many clothes" (okay, it actually is, but let's just pretend it's not in case hubs ever decided to read this), it's really a case of terrible memory. I actually had to get on facebook and pull up the photo of myself wearing the dress with the mystery sweater to remember what I wore. Purty sad.
Wednesday, first day back with the littles. Question of the Day: "Mrs. Stephens, do the erasers on the pencil shoes really work?" I told 'em I don't make mistakes so I didn't have a way of finding out. sweater: thrifted (what is it with me and thrifted sweaters?); belt: squirrel buckle, made by me, for sale in the shop; tights: Target; shoes: made by me; dress: vintage, from a great shop called Nostalgia in Knoxville http://www.nostalgiamarket.com/
 Maybe this little weekly clothing diary will help me remember? That's IF I can remember to take the photos. And, sorry, my photos are not going to be polished or professional in any way. I mean, it's just me, my tripod and a timer. I've only got 10 seconds to run in front of the camera, suck it in and attempt not to look more ridiculous than normal.
Thursday, standing in front of my art history timeline. Favorite comment of the day, "Mrs. Stephens, your hair is so tall. Can I touch it?" belt: thrifted; tights: Marshall's; shoes: Clarks; Egyptian-print dress: from another sweet esty seller, http://www.etsy.com/shop/ohdearthings
However, I don't plan to document my weekend outfits. They're more functional and kinda boring. Our weekends usually involve a road trip of some kind, hiking or hitting the thrift stores (for more sweaters, of course!). This weekend, for example, we road tripped to Gatlinburg where I was swathed in long johns, sweaters and jeans. Not a look I care to share with others, ya know?
Friday, third day back with the kids and I've already acquired a cold that stole my voice. The soft talking works wonders in the classroom...too bad I'm such a big mouth normally. Hubs is enjoying Silent Cassie a little too much. BTW, I hate this photo. jacket: Modcloth; dress: Francesca's; tights: Marshall's; shoes: Shi; headband: fabric from my stash
So, that's it. If you like, consider this your weekly "What Not to Wear".

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In the Art Room: The Smartest Artist

I've been at this art teacher business for something approaching 15 years and during that decade and a half, I've learned I suck at consistency. If you are in the teaching field, you know there are all sorts of tricks of the trade for establishing routine and discipline in your classroom. Using sticker charts, pulling popsicle sticks, putting marbles in a jar, you teachers know this stuff.

I created the "Masterpiece Gallery" years ago with frames donated from a framing shop that was going out of business. I used cork that comes by the roll as the backing and covered the cork with jersey fabric in primary colors. 

Well, I've tried all that. And I hate it. I can't keep up with it, I forget to give a sticker or drop a marble (I've lost too many along the way) and it just ends up being more work with less results. For me. For some of you, it may work beautifully. But you might not have that trouble with consistency like I do.  You jerk.

However, I recently did come up with something that I can keep up with. It's a two-minute activity I do with the kids as they are lining up to exit. I hand one random kid the inflatable microphone, making him/her our host and I shout "And now it's time for..." and the kids reply "the Smartest Artist!".

I then proceed to ask the kids questions about what we've covered today. For example, my fourth grade is doing metal tooling. So my questions were "What activity were we doing today?" "What is it called when you dent the metal in with your tool? (embossing)" "What is the Egyptian symbol for life?"(we are using Egyptian symbols in our design). You get the idea. As I ask the questions, the host will call on a boy or a girl and we keep score on the dry erase board.

The kids really seem to enjoy it. In fact today I was asked if we could make sure to clean up on time (because Mrs. Inconsistent is ALWAYS running late) so we'd have enough time to play.

Today, my littlest friends, the kindergarten, learned how to play a fill on the drums. They were wildly excited. Afterward, we drew self portraits of us rocking out on the drum set. Many thanks to Forks Drum Closet http://www.forksdrumcloset.com  for the generous donation!
 My art classes are a little on the short side. I see my kids for 30 minutes twice a week. That's IF I'm not running late. And in between getting supplies out, giving directions and cleaning up (if that's what you call what we scramble to do in 30 seconds or less), we are usually at a 17 minute work time. So this short little recap is just right for me to keep up with.
My amazing third grade artists. We spent many classes learning about the proportions of the face, shading and, of course Egypt. After capturing their Egyptian likeness, the kids created an almost life size sarcophagus.

Once the kids painted their designs in black, I introduced them to the metallic paints (insert choir of angels singing). To them, this is the best thing ever. The temptation to paint their nails is strong...but the impending wrath of their art teacher is stronger...as they know!

Okay, look. I don't claim to be the Smartest Artist. But if you need an end-of-the-class, everyone-loves-it, educational activity, I say try it. You might like it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

DIY: Sparkling Personality

 I've had my vintage paper doll collection stuffed in envelopes for months because I just couldn't think of a way to display them. So when Christmas rolled around and I was in a decorating frenzy, it came to me to dress my tree in vintage. 

I am about to go off on a wee bit of a rant. Before I do, I would like to preface my upcoming comments with the following bit of info. Try as I might, I do not have a Sparkling Personality. If it's morning, I am slumpy (that's sleepy + grumpy), before lunch I am often hangry (that's hunger induced anger) and in the evenings, I'm occasionally exhausticated (exhausted with a desire to self-medicate). This leaves just a few hours of the day for me to sparkle. And I'm no Edward Cullen, 'kay?

 While shopping in some little boutiques this past weekend, I saw the cutest ever glittery clothespins. For $25. Wait, what? Um, no. So I went to http://www.michaels.com/ and picked up these mini clothespins along with some finely ground glitter. I coated the top in Modge Podge, dipped in glitter, added another coat of M.P. and viola! Glittery Clothespins for under $5.

That being said, I have made one of my resolutions to "fake it till I make it". Meaning, to work through whatever unpleasant mood I am in and turn it around to a positive one. Of course, I do think that it is fine, maybe even healthy, to be grouchy, angry and grumpy at times...as long as it is not directed with the intent to hurt others. So that's my plan.
One of the items I did pick up at a local boutique. Some sweet little DIY paper chains made by this company http://www.eastofindia.co.uk/

Wow, so that was a lot of prefacing. Now on to the rant. When my family was in town this past weekend, we did some shopping in one of the cutest areas near my home, downtown Franklin. If you're not familiar, it has the feel of an old fashioned town square brimming with boutiques and restaurants. It's also a place where  you can "shop local", if you're into that sort of thing.
Since I loved seeing my dolls on the tree, I didn't want to pack them back into the envelopes just yet. I knew they needed a place in my sewing room but space is pretty tight, as you can see. So I assembled my paper chains, attached the ladies with my glitter clothespins, and strung them above my framed collection of vintage notions. 

I was sad to see that several of the shop keepers/employees where just plain rude to us. When we entered several of the stores, we were not greeted or asked if we needed help. In fact, when we did approach some folk, it seemed that we were a real bother as they were texting or browsing on their computer. I have a habit of calling out "thank you!" when I leave a shop which was met on two occasions with a grunt.
Not wanting to put more nail holes in the wall (which already looks like a shooting range), I put stick pins in the wall and hung the chains over them.

As stated earlier, I'm not so great at masking my moods so I can relate to crankiness. But, really. With little local shops sinking faster than the Titanic, you'd think they'd work a little harder on their customer service. So I'm not sporting a name brand pair of heels or a headful of hundred dollar highlights. What I am carrying is a no-name brand purse with a knockoff wallet inside chuck full of Christmas cash I'm ready to spend. But not at your shop.
The funny thing is, I've never been treated like that when I walk into the franchise shops. Starbucks is one of the friendliest places around. It's no wonder to me that the little chocolate and coffee shop that was once next door where I was treated like dirt is no longer around. And good riddance.
It's not like I'm asking these people to go nuts when I enter the store, just fake it. Fake it till you make it. There, rant over.
Now, let me tell you about the shops in downtown Franklin that are local and experts at customer service. Here's a list of my favorite, always polite, strongly recommended shops: The Shoppes on Main http://www.theshoppesonmain.net/

And, my favorite, The What's In Store http://www.whats-in-store.com/

Happy Shopping!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

DIY: Back to Blogging!

 The above photo was taken this past July when I finished quilting a chevron pattern that I used to cover an ottoman.
Hi, there. I know, it's been a while. A year or three. But I've got the urge to start blogging again. I've really missed it, mostly because I like the idea of documenting what I'm doing. I don't keep a diary or a sketchbook so this is the closest thing I've got to remembering what I've been up to. I've got a terrible memory (which I seriously attribute to the consumption of too many Diet Cokes. It's the devil's nectar, people) and I'm pretty lazy so I'm hoping this will hold me accountable. And keep me off the streets.
I used this very easy chevron pattern found here...http://www.quilterscache.com/C/ChevronBlock.htmlI picked up the 4" foam from JoAnn's and a wooden board and legs purchased at Lowe's as the base.
 Over the summer, I decided to recover my homemade ottoman with a chevron pattern. I found this insanely easy pattern online (please don't let the cheesy outdated website fool you) and whipped this bad boy up. Maybe it's just me, but I'm still happy when I see it. Especially now that we've moved a couch into the room and it makes for a pretty awesome footstool. So I got it in my head that I could quilt. Me. Quilt. Haha, I'm so delusional.
Image from that dangerous temptress of a store that goes by the name http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/index.jsp. Has anyone hit their sales lately? I went on Black Friday, and as a buddy of mine said "I absolutely lost all sense of reason." 50% off sale items? Then, yes, I do need a feather and shell encrusted clutch in the shape of a hedgehog.
 Being the quilting expert that I am, I decided that I could quilt the incredible Navajo-meets-Chevron pattern as seen on the above anthro rug. Without a pattern. Or any idea how to make it happen. And with 1" squares. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I was planning on covering another ottoman. One that just happens to be 80" in length. Yeah. So I got this far...
And I just had to stop. Because I was becoming homocidal. I was working with linen because it's so stinking pretty but not a great quilting fabric. The weave in linen is big and tends to unravel easily. And I'm the worst at math so, as you can see, my edges just weren't matching up. I did more seam ripping and cursing than I did sewing. Finally a voice of reason (ahem, hubs) told me that maybe I should reconsider.

And so I have. What I love so much about the chevron pattern is the optical illusion effect. A tumbling blocks pattern has an even stronger effect so I've decided to give it a shot. I actually am going to sketch this one out as the pattern is difficult for my little brain. And I'm going to dedicate some of my blog posts to the making of it to hopefully hold myself accountable. Wish me luck!