Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DIY: The Tacky Christmas Sweater

One out of the four Christmas trees in my living room is currently a little less decorated. For a good cause. We were having our First Annual Tacky Christmas Sweater Day at school. And I was not to be out-tackified.

 I think hubs thought I'd gone mad, as it was approaching bedtime (which is an embarrassing 9 pm) when I started de-garlanding our tree. 

"Why are you taking down the tree?" he asked.  

I responded with a frantic, "I'm not taking down the tree, I'm making a Tacky Christmas Sweater with the tree because tomorrow is Tacky Christmas Sweater Day and I don't have one to wear!"

Nodding his head as if that explained everything (which it would if you knew me), "Oh, okay. I'm going to bed."
My DIY Supplies: sweater: thrifted leopard-print sweater; other stuff: Target: garland, fishnets, tights and random $1 ornaments that didn't make the cut
I don't know what "I'm going to bed" stands for in your house, but in my house it's kind of like a duck-and-cover technique. As in, "I just don't think I'm up for this kind of crazy, I'm callin' it a night."
When you make your own Tacky Sweater, don't let the garland just run freely under the needle as shown above. Show that garland who's boss by holding it in place as the photo below.
Because I had mucho cleaning to do in preparation for hub's big Second Annual Gingerbread House Competition and Work Christmas Party (aka SAGHCWCP), I didn't have much time to spare working on this sweater. Thankfully it was a 15 minute DIY which is nothing short of a Christmas Miracle for this Pokey Little Puppy.
Care to make one of these Tacky Lil Numbers? Easy. Just do the following:
  1. Set your machine to the zigzag stitch. I began with the bottom edge of the cardigan.
  2. It really helps to use your fingers to separate the garland at the middle as you sew. I felt certain that I'd never find a silver pin again in all that silvery garland, so I did not pin that mess down. I just went at it.
  3. Be prepared to vacuum up a lot of garland shreds as the needle tends to chew threw the garland.
  4. Make sure to really back stitch at the beginning and end several times. This will prevent the garland from falling out all day long. I did this and I still lost garland. I felt I was leaving a trail of Christmas where ever I went.
This sweater seemed to be a big hit with the kids and my coworkers. Folks kept dropping by my room all day long saying, "I was told I had to come see The Sweater."
Because my school is full of wonderfully fun folk, I wanted to create some awards for their taking part in our First Annual Tacky Christmas Sweater Day. We met for a hot minute after school to snap a year-book-worthy group photo and pass out these cheesey awards I created on the fly. Because of their NC-17 nature, we waited until the little ones were out of the building.
I paired my tacky sweater with my double pairing of Target tights (guess who has a serious fishnets-over-tights addiction?), my black Anthro belt, a vintage dress, a wee little red bow and a giant hair bow.
It was funny how this total tack-tastic package was like a Double Punch: first the Pow! from the Glittery-Garland-Gawdiness and then the Bam! of the Bizarro Bow Bun. I actually had to demo this hair how-to to about a dozen of my little girls. They were fascinated. Special thanks to Twila Jean for the super simple youtube tutorial!

And there you have it, kids. May the tackiness be with you this holiday season.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What the Art Teacher Wore #46

Another Messy Monday: Dunno if you can tell, but I tried my best to crop out all of the messy in the background. But it truly is the story of my life. Everywhere I go. Instead of the Midas Touch, I've got the Messy Touch. It's a gift, really. dress and top: thrifted; tights: Marshall's and/or Target; shoes: John Fluevog; apron: vintage, etsy
I've hesitated posting in light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Just like you, it has been on my mind and the sadness is heard to escape. We don't have a television so I've thankfully been spared the graphic images. However, I can't seem to stop myself from reading about the events online. I think it's because I just keep searching for the answer to the question "why?" Why would anyone do something like this? I'm trying to mentally prepare myself if my students ask me that same question. There is no answer.

There is no answer but there are things that can be said. Lessons that might be taught. I thought of some works of art and books that might help teach what life is all about: loving one another. Taking care of one another. Trying our best to be our best. These are the first books and artworks that came to mind. I would greatly appreciate more ideas from you if you wouldn't mind leaving a comment. Thank you.
Pastel by Mary Cassatt, 1990. This is what I wanted to do all day. Our children need to know they are loved. I have had a large letter written to my students hanging in my room for ages. It reads: "Dear Boys and Girls, You are Loved, You are Cared For, You are Important. Sincerely, Mrs. Stephens." I'm always happily surprised when I see a student stop and read that sign. I think I need to remind them of my love for them more often. Maybe a large display of Mary Cassatt reproductions would help convey that message.
Going for the Vintage Christmas Look: I've been getting a pinch tired of wearing just green and red. I thought I'd attempt to match my pink Christmas tree with my favorite color combo: pink and turquoise. sweater and tights: Target; dress: thrifted; belt: from the Cuckoo Clock Dress; shoes: thrifted and DIY'ed by me

We talk about it at the beginning of the year when we cover the rules. The Golden Rule, that is. I'm always surprised how many students are unfamiliar with it. I love this sweet book and it's illustrations. It's one I need to share with the children more often.
Wednesday: I don't even remember a thing about this day. I may have actually been able to go straight home from work, kick off my shoes and relax and that day. It's a rare thing, these days, and I cherish it! blouse: gift from a friend; dress: BCBG; red fishnets: old, dunno; shoes: Dolls by Nina
The Banjo Lesson, 1893, Henry Ossawa Tanner. I could go on forever about how much I love this painting. The way that Tanner created so much air and space in the room. That beautiful glowing light on the back wall. The dark foreground against the light background. And the tender moment of a young boy learning. There's no television blaring, no electronics, no one texting. Just an adult teaching a child banjo.
Tacky Christmas Sweater Thursday: Oh yeah. I was so excited about this day. I actually don't own a tacky sweater (which is shocking!) so I had to rob my tree of some garland to create this one. It was a snap -- I'll show you in an upcoming DIY. I even got to wear it out later that night to a buddy's Christmas craft night -- so fun. sweater: thrifted, DIY'ed by me; dress: vintage; red tights and sparkle fishnets: Target; shoes: Softt; belt: Anthro
The year before last, I received a grant to do an Empty Bowls project with the children. If you are not familiar, the concept is to have children create a ceramic bowl. Once finished, a large soup dinner is held, the bowls are purchased and soup is eaten from the bowl. The money collected is donated to a homeless shelter or food kitchen to help fill empty bowls that exist. We did ours a little differently because I didn't want the children not to be able to take home their own artworks. So we simply collected money from the sale of the bowl to the child's parents and donated that. To explain the act of giving, I read this book to the children. I have the hardest time getting through this book without tearing up. It gets me every single time.
Are you familiar with this book? I absolutely love it. I'm not going to spoil it for you because it's a must read. I've not read it to the children because it's too long for my half an hour. However, each year, when my fourth grade students are in their weaving zone, I read a chapter book to them. I think this will be my book of choice this year.
Frantic Friday: After work, I had to buzz home and get the house ready for hub's work party. We had about 25 dudes and their significant others over for dinner, drinking and gingerbread house making. I had to get outta this teachery garb and throw on my Light Up Dress for the occasion. dress: vintage, thrifted; sweater: H&M, old; green tights: also muy old; belt: Anthro
What else can be said? So much depends on them and how we teach and raise them. We must do this right.
Snap the Whip, Winslow Homer, 1872. I'm leaving you with a sweet image of children playing. I love the girls in the far left background with their hoop and stick.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

DIY: Have Yourself a DIY Christmas

Oh, look, it's just how I paint: sitting at my easel lookin' all 1950's glam with my puppy assistant. Except instead of a gown, I'm usually painting in my sweatpants (yes, I own one pair) and in place of a cute pup, I have an obese kitty who walks through my paint. But one can dream.
 As Christmas approaches, I'm coming to terms with a few issues I have. Well, okay, I have many an issue but for now, let's just chat about the ones concerning the holidays. So far, I've come up with these:
  1. I have a penchant for phoney-baloney pre-lit dwarf-sized Christmas trees. And if they are tinsel tress in some tacky color like pink, green or gold, I love them all the more.
  2. I have to make the majority of my Christmas decor. I can't buy it because that somehow feels like cheating . So at Christmas my house looks like some 4-H fair craft display. And I kinda like it.
  3. Once I start decorating for Christmas, I Just. Can't. Stop.
I created these paintings last year. The larger green painting I based off of a vintage Christmas card. I had picked up this little wooden house shape years ago at the thrift store. After painting the green canvas, I painted this little house to go with it. This sits in the front room of our house on my decked out easel.

For that over-decorating reason, I don't have any brand spanking new DIY's this week. So I thought I'd share with you a peak around my pad at DIY's of Christmas past. I'll just be giving a brief description of each as I still have more decorating and cleaning to do before the hub's work party goes down here on Friday night. On top of that, I've got a Tacky Christmas Sweater to whip up and the awards for the Tacky Christmas Sweater Contest we're having at school tomorrow. Whew! It really is the most insanely busy (and wonderful!) time of the year.

Enjoy! And if you have any questions about these DIY's, please feel free to ask.
I scored my first pre-lit tree of the year on Black Friday. I planted it inside of a paper suitcase that my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday last year. I created the paper chains years ago and they make an appearance every year, much to hubs dismay. He's not a fan of el paper chain-o.
 I created these hot air balloons ornaments with light bulbs, vintage fabric, Modge Podge and a bottle cap.
Despite the fact that this pre-lit tree is only partially lit (which is exactly how I like to spend my holidays), I still adore it. It sits in my living room surrounded by a couple of Rudolph paintings I created two winters back.
My favorite Christmas special has always been Rudolph. I used my Golden Book from childhood as the inspiration for these canvas board paintings.
 Favorite scene from Rudolph where Rudolph befriends fellow-misfit wanna-be dentist elf Hermey:

Hermey: Hey, what do you say we both be independent together, huh?
: You wouldn't mind my - red nose?
: Not if you don't mind me being a dentist.
: [shaking hands with Hermey] It's a deal.
I scored this pre-lit tree for cheap at Goodwill just this week. I added my paper doll collection as well as some vintage sewing notions.
This tree has everything I want for Christmas on it: gorgeous vintage dresses!
Last Christmas, I discovered pinterest and my life was never the same. I created that wreath with my collection of vintage glass ornaments. I began by yarn wrapping the wreath and then hot gluing the ornaments onto it. I then picked up tulle in the same colors and cut that into strips. I tied the strips of tulle onto a string of white Christmas lights.
Ya'll might remember my pink cuckoo clock tree from this post. My dream tree is a real vintage pink aluminum one. But for now, this one next to my mantle in the living room will have to do.
If only my Christmas shopping were so glamorous. I'm usually just clicking away on amazon in the wee hours of the morn. I painted this long painting right before painting the green one at the beginning of this post. These paintings remind me that I've not picked up a paint brush in some time. I need to do that. If I could step away from the sewing machine long enough.
Just a little close up.I have found that adding candy cane stripes to the edge does a great job of hiding smudges of paint and mistakes.
 Thanks for dropping by. I do hope your holidays are shaping up to be just plain fabulous!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What the Art Teacher Wore #45

Sausage-Sellin' Monday: When I was in Germany this summer, I picked up this dirndl because I knew the kids would enjoy seeing it during our study of Germany. And because I just love it. Dressing as dorky as I normally do, I didn't think twice about hitting the grocery after work in this getup. That is until the check out lady asked, "Hey, where do you work?" (before I could answer, she continued), "Do you work at the mall sellin' them sausages? What do they call that place?" Luckily the bag-gentleman was able to offer assistance, "It's called Hickory Farms, I think." Check out lady, nodding, "Yeah! That's it! You work at that place?" I hated to disappoint as they both seemed sad and perplexed that I was an art teacher. "But we're learning about Germany! And they do love sausage!" dirndl: Germany; boots: Seychelles; tights: Target
Dunno if you noticed or not, but I took What I Wore this Week off last week. Last week was a rough one that hit full tilt craptasticness on Thursday. I had gotten a late start that morning but just knew I had to wash my beyond-dirty mop of hair. Which made my late start even later. To compensate, I did minimal hair- and make up-doin' and rushed out the door. This I would regret as the following convo happened during my first class:

Kid: Mrs. Stephens, what's wrong with your hair? It's all [making an odd gesture around her head] messy.
Me: Well, um, I washed it today.
Kid: Where? [looking around the art room and then with a horrified expression] In the art room sink?!
Oh, look, it's my summer home in Bavaria, Germany. My fourth grade students are currently learning about Schloss Neuschwanstein (that'd be Neuschwanstein Castle to you English-speakin' folk) so I thought I'd include that in the artsy part of this outfit post. Hubs and I went with his boss and family a couple of winters ago. I'll share some of my photos of that trip too. This image I pulled form pinterest.
Yeah. Nice. Later I overheard a third grader say to another, "Oh, Mrs. Stephens is looking tired today." Defensively, I replied, "I'm not tired!" Looking at me sympathetically, she said, "Oh, maybe it's just your eyes then. [did I mention I had skipped my cat eye make up that day?] They look really tired."
The dashing King Ludwig II was born in 1845 and became king of Bavaria at the young age of 18. He is sometimes called the Swan King, the Fairy Tale King or just Mad King Ludwig. He acquired the first two names because his palace is near Swan Lake and the fairytale-esque castle he had created. And although his brother Otto was considered insane, the last nickname isn't accurate for King Ludwig II. He was definitely an eccentric but not insane.
But the cherry on the Super-Sucky Sundae was when kindergartenland came to my room.

We had thirty minutes to create a clay animal, get it put away, get our tables wiped down and get outta the room for the fourth grade. As you can imagine, we didn't make it. I had a coupla cryers, heads falling off animals, three-legged mutant mammals and one kid pee themself. AND we ran out of baby wipes. Which made for dusty crusty hands all around.

 When I was in the midst of the madness, I looked up at the clock and realized we just weren't gonna make it. In fact, time was already up, fourth grade was waiting at the door. Now, I have to tell you, my fourth graders are simply the best. I asked them to come in, buddy up with the kindergartener that was in their seat and help them get cleaned and lined up. And they did.

As the fourth grade and I sat down to finally begin our lesson and the kindergarteners were walking out the door, I heard one of my fourth graders say, "uh, Mrs. Stephens..." and tilted his head in the direction of a kindergartener. Who was licking the clay off his hands from the bottom of his palm all the way up to his fingertips. Before I could say anything to him, he waved goodbye with his other hand and walked out the door.

Yeah. So. It was a bad day. But I had to share it with you because, thankfully, now it's kinda funny. Except for the clay lickin'. That's just gross.
Cut The Lights! Tuesday: So when each class came to art, I invited them in, dimmed the classroom lights and turned on my dress, much to their delight. The only problem? I had one kindergartener that was obsessed with the light up dress. She kept telling me to "cut the lights!" so we could see the dress again. Eventually we had art in the dark. light up dress: made by me; tights: Target; shoes: dolls by Nina; sweater: thrifted
A view of Neuschwanstein from Hohenschwangau Castle. When you go to Neuschwanstein Castle, you park your car at Hohenschwangau Castle, a fantasy-style castle Ludwig's father had built near the Schwansee (Swan Lake). You can either take a carriage ride up the steep hill to the castle or walk. We opted for the carriage ride.

If this castle looks kinda familiar to you, that might be because Walt Disney used it as his inspiration when creating Sleeping Beauty's Castle in Disneyland.
Light Up Wednesday: When you make one light up dress, the kids expect you to light up all the time. So this outfit was a bit of a disappointment to the kids. sweater and skirt: vintage, thrifted; white blouse: gift; tights: Target; shoes: Clarks
In 1864, King Ludwig II began sketching out his plans for his palace which was intended to be a personal refuge for the very private king. The castle was funded by Ludwig's family fortune and borrowing, not with money from Bavaria. However, now with as many as 6,000 visitors a day in the summer, the palace provides much money for Bavaria.
Growing up a prince, King Ludwig II didn't have much of a childhood. He was constantly working on his studies and future duties of becoming a king. For that reason, he had a fascination with the carefree fantasies and imaginative fairy tales he heard in his childhood. While growing up, he spent a lot of time at his father's beautiful castle Hohenschwangau.
Cat Attack Thursday: My cat loves these shoes. Loves to attack them. So when I wear them, I have to put them on in the car. Either that or deal with runs in my tights and bloody legs. By the way, everything I'm wearing has a touch of DIY: I created the buttons on my sweater from clay, added lace to the bottom of my dress and crated these shoes. dress, sweater, shoes: thrifted; tights: Target
I created these last winter with a pair of t-strap shoes I found at Goodwill. You can read more about that DIY here.
I was so excited to find this Anthropologie sweater at the thrift store. Until I noticed it was missing buttons. I couldn't find any that I liked at the craft store so I created these bad boys out of clay. I pounded the clay onto a doily, cut out the circle shape, added the button holes and glazed them a satin gray.
During the Middle Ages, there were three castles that over looked the villages. One of those was called Schwanstein Castle. In 1832, Ludwig's father King Maximilian II of Bavaria bought the  ruins and replaced them with Hohenschwangau Castle. This is the castle that inspired Ludwig II. The ruins above the family palace later became the site for King Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein. Initially, the plan was to incorporate the older castles into the design of the new one, but for whatever reasons, that didn't work. 
Hubs and I a couple of winters ago. We are standing in front of what was to be a chapel had the interior been completed. Only 15 rooms of the castle were completed before the death of the king at the age of 41. Had the castle been finished, it would have consisted over around 200 rooms and been nearly 65,000 square feet.
Candy Cane Kinda Friday: This is actually a summer dress I scored in Germany...but it just looked so candy-cane-y I had to wear it. sweater: vintage, thrifted; green fishnets: Marshall's?
Sadly, King Ludwig II's creative and eccentric ways were his downfall. Being extremely introverted, the King avoided public functions and his kingly duties. This ticked off his government ministers but not the people of Bavaria. He was known for taking trips across the countryside, chatting with the farmers and people he met.
Even though the King paid for his castle project with his own funds and money borrowed, Bavaria still suffered financially. For this reason, the government ministers decided to get rid of their King. The only way to do it constitutionally was to have the King declared insane. Not long after his removal from the throne, the King died a mysterious death. At the time, it was ruled suicide...but there are theories his enemies shot him and left him to die at Lake Starnberg.
If you've managed to get this far, thank you for indulging me this super long blog post. I have really enjoyed sharing my art history research in these posts as it helps me prepare for my lessons. 

I hope you have a wonderful week!