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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Crafty Mama

Today I spent my first morning in BJ's kindergarten classroom, and I have to say -- I have a Whole New Appreciation for Kindergarten Teachers. Especially ours. Not that the kids were bad kids -- not at all! But a room full of 30 energetic 4 and 5 year olds is no joke. And yet, our teacher kept things moving smoothly, with grace and humor. Talk about impressive!

I had a lot of fun, and I'm already looking forward to my next parent work time in two weeks. (S and I will be taking turns so that we both get some time in the classroom.) BJ was delighted to have me there, and he really enjoyed introducing me to the class. His teacher asked all the kids with parents to say something about their mom or dad, and BJ took this very seriously.

"This is my mom, Jen!" he told everybody. "She likes to make jewelry. And she has a sewing machine!" (Said in the same tone of awe that he usually reserves for statements like "I have the Coolest Science Toy Ever!") He then added, for good measure, "And my dad wears glasses!"

I found it very gratifying that his identification of me would be as a Crafty Mama. (It helps to ease my worries over some other statements the kids have been known to make, such as, "Only Daddies go to work," or "Mommies stay home with their kids." Sigh. Of course we do what we can to deprogram such gender stereotyping before it becomes an integral part of their world understanding, but it always makes me cringe to have to do so.) I suppose it isn't too surprising that he would have mentioned my sewing machine, since in the past two weeks it has been getting a lot of use.

After a long break from sewing projects, I was inspired by my first visit to the FabMo fabric giveaway last month.

Free designer fabric! Good crafty networking! What's not to like?

FabMo is a truly fabulous organization that taps into the green, crafty spirit of the Bay Area in all sorts of ways. They collect fabric and other items that would otherwise be thrown away and offer them up monthly to anybody who can put them to good use. They say they redirected more than 25 tons from the waste stream last year! Wowza! (And for the record, I should note that they depend on donations to keep things running -- there's a suggested donation of various amounts depending on the amount of fabric you take, though it's entirely voluntary. I was more than happy to contribute my fair share to support such a fine project!)

I had a blast looking through the treasure trove of textiles. I didn't really know what to expect, since it was my first time at one of their giveaways, and I found myself getting all sorts of notions about what I might make as I sorted and sifted through the piles. Most were designer samples (think the squares of fabric that you'd find at a furniture store as examples for how they might make your couch) and as such they were amazingly beautiful but also in smaller quantities.


I'd gone in with an idea about re-upholstering an old wooden chest that I've had for more than 20 years (and it was purchased used at the flea market section of Community Days in my hometown, so who knows how old it really is). It was one of the first furniture purchases I ever made, way back when I was a college kid finding affordable treasures for my own space. The seller had upholstered it in a cute shabby chic fabric. Though this was well before "shabby chic" had caught on, of course.
I still vividly remember buying it -- I think I maybe spent $40, which seemed like an awful lot at the time, even though I knew I was getting a good deal -- and I recall having S help me drag it from the flea market to the car. Ah, the things a guy will do for you when you're dating. (Though in truth, he's still good for a good trunk dragging even now. Especially if it's a good deal. Yet one more reason I love the guy so much.)

These days, the trunk was definitely showing its age -- stains on the fabric on top and a broken lid that had been repaired some time ago. When we moved a few months ago, I almost got rid of it. Nostalgia (and my father's pack rat gene) convinced me otherwise, along with the fact that it seemed a perfect opportunity to learn a little bit about re-upholstery.

Which leads me to the recent Saturday morning when I faced the Fabmo tables, motivated by the prospect of more storage space and an excuse for some quality crafty time. (Plus, I'd just had the sewing machine tuned up, so it was rarin' to go!) I selected my fabric squares carefully (feeling quite clever that I'd had the foresight to bring a pillowcase from our bed linens, for color matching purposes) and slowly a patchwork image began to form. Here's a sample of what I brought home:
Before creation, destruction. I ripped off all the old fabric and batting, carefully removing the old hardware, trim pieces and all the rusty nails and staples. More than once, I was glad I'd recently had a tetanus shot....

Only a few band-aids later, I had a new slate in the form of a big wooden box.

Cleaned it up and got to work planning out my patchwork. It was remarkably easy, actually. Took me less than a day of interrupted craft time to decide on a pattern and whip it up on the sewing machine. Attaching the fabric cover with the staple gun took another day. The end result is full of visual interest and texture:

Once I'd finished the patchwork trunk project. I found myself inspired to keep sewing. One particular square of velvet from the Fabmo collection kept appearing in my imagination -- a lovely swirly pattern in browns and blues. I'd planned to use it on the trunk, but it just didn't work out.

So I decided to work on a wall hanging for over the bed. I kept coming back to a particular image of a hot air balloon, which was suggested by the shape of a particular part of the velvet pattern. After a few sketches, I settled on an idea. Using a random brown square of woven fabric left over as a backing, I started laying out fabrics. I decided I would NOT purchase additional materials for this project. So I went through my quilting fabric stash, found greens and blues that would suit, and used a rather haphazard technique that was sort of applique, sort of quilting. I'm sure a quilting expert could find a bunch of things I did incorrectly, but hey, it worked!
I did end up going out last week and purchasing additional brown fabric for a true backing and binding to finish off the project. But especially considering the mileage I got out of free and on-hand supplies, I am quite pleased with the final result. It always feels good to put things to good use and add a little beauty in the process!

Close up of the velvet fabric that inspired the hot air balloon image. (Sorry about the flash -- ended up taking these in less than ideal lighting while hanging out with BB, but hey, better than nothing!)

BB wanted to be part of the pictures, too!
And this is now what our bedroom looks like, new stuff from top to bottom! (And new linens from our most recent anniversary!)
I even had enough Fabmo fabric left over to put together three new throw pillows!

So if you've been wondering why I haven't been blogging as much recently... these projects are part of the reason why! I hope to return to my more regular posting schedule very soon...

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