Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Learning About Craft Businesses

A local homeschool group puts together a craft fair every fall. Anyone can sell at it, but it's particularly a chance for kids to experience a bit of entrepreneurship -- developing a product, organizing, pricing, advertising.

Annabeth and I decided to purchase a space to sell doll clothes, having discovered people would actually pay money for things we make.


 We made sure we had a lot of items at a lot of price points.  It was sort of crazy here in the weeks leading up to the craft fair, as a matter of fact, as we made clothes and shoes, figured out pricing, rehearsed efficiently setup of our display.  We also signed up with Pixie Faire to sell  items made with their patterns -- an easy process, but someone actually did ask if we had permission to sell items using these patterns, so hooray for being official.


Oddly enough, someone also asked if the clothing would actually fit the dolls.  We had, of course, tried each item on a doll at home as soon as we finished making it.  More to the point, though, we had 6 dolls standing or sitting at our booth wearing various outfits; and during the course of the day Annabeth had small girls help her decide on new outfits and participate in re-dressing the dolls.  

The oven mitts were popular.  We should've made a bunch to sell as Christmas ornaments.  Pattern from Lee & Pearl.

Annabeth wants to continue selling the overstock plus some new items.  The biggest barrier is letting people know what we have.  Attend more craft fairs?  Use social media?  She's been working on photographing various outfits. 


She has strong opinions on what what constitutes good doll photography.



I think she's starting to get the hang of it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

School desk upgrade

One issue with blogging much about homeschooling a high school student is that the choices in education become so highly individual by this point.  Gone are the days of general discussion of phonics vs. whole word, or spiral vs mastery.  High school is the realm of a child who might be deciding whether or not to dual enroll several semesters of calculus vs. a child who might be figuring out how to run their own business. I really think that's a big reason why so little is written about how to homeschool high school (well, and by the time you get to high school you're so busy with the actual homeschooling that you don't have a lot of time to write about it, let alone find anything interesting to photograph).

However school is accomplished, though,  a unifying element for all students is the need for an area for writing and/or computer.  For Ananbeth, a huge fan of Katy Bowman, this involves sitting or lying on the floor. 

This year for Christmas we found the perfect desk for her:

a bamboo bed tray (shown here on Christmas morning with treats from the stockings -- potato chips and juice).

It's easily portable, so she can take it to various rooms of the house or carry it out to the porch. It fits her laptop nicely. The top can adjust to tilt various angles, but so far she hasn't been interested in using that feature. 

Theoretically it will hold up well enough that she can still use it when she moves out into her own place, which will probably not have furniture.



Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wizard of Oz

While Annabeth was busy with Scrooge Thalia arrived home from a semester in the UK and set to work as tech director and lighting director for Wizard of Oz.  The show opened 4 weeks after she got home, so it was a whirlwind of activity.

There was no scene shop in which to make the set, so she used our garage


and basement. (That's Annabeth helping with the wood.)


Since this was over Christmas it was often cold.  Also, rainy -- the time frame included the days and days of rain that ended up flooding most of the area, shutting down interstates and generally causing a disaster.  Our house stayed dry, but it was stressful from the rain alone, not to mention trying to quickly build and paint things in unsuitable space.

Part of the design involved curtains, so I said I'd do those.  For the forest she needed a 40 foot span of muslin strips dyed various shades of green.  I rounded up an assortment of RIT dyes in various greens, plus black, brown, and yellow and set to work in our kitchen sink.


The muslin supplied for the project was 120 inches wide; the bolts varied in length from 7 yards to about 10 yards.  I took the fabric off the bolts and ripped each into 4 large sheets 30 inches wide.  I dyed the gigantic strips two at a time.  As the work progressed I got more and more random about my dye mixing; the last batch was simply "dump everything left that's open together and see what happens".  I also did quite a bit of throwing more dye in during the soak process.  We didn't want an even dye job, so I was splotching it up as much as possible.

The real trick was trying to get the sheets to dry given how soggy the climate was at the time.  Putting them through the dryer tinged the dryer drum green so I quickly stopped doing that.  I ended up with a fairly complex system of racks made from ladders, chairs, and anything else I could grab.

Then the sheets were ripped into 6 inch wide strips, varying from about 10 feet to 20 feet long.  These were sewn on headers -- I didn't have a 40 foot header, so I used some donated upholstery fabric to make 4 headers that were 10 feet each.  


I couldn't really spread out the project anywhere in the house, so it was a tangled mess in the entrance as I tried to somewhat methodically put various colors and lengths of strips together.


It turned out pretty well, though



especially considering how inexpensive it was.


Annabeth hadn't auditioned to be in the show since she knew she'd be busy with Scrooge, plus would probably help with the set.  

However, some dancers dropped out (possibly because they belatedly realized that doing a show over Christmas break means that you have rehearsals during Christmas break including every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's Eve -- the company spells this out clearly, but people don't seem to "get" what that really feels like in real life).  During Scrooge performances Annabeth got a message from the Wizard of Oz director asking if she could come be in the Jitterbug -- just the one dance, which isn't a huge commitment.  So, yeah, that's a fun number, and a minimal commitment.  Scrooge finished, we helped strike, and the next day Annabeth went to Wizard rehearsal ... and as long as she was there, could she please help out with another dance number ... and another....



And she ended up being Nikko, the flying monkey.  Really, a dream role. 

The show was great, but, wow, was it stressful.  

The mission of this theater company is to give young people opportunity to develop skills in all aspects of theater, and I think this was a great example of what they're trying to accomplish. 





Tuesday, February 2, 2016

More Scrooge







Annabeth played the Ghost of Christmas Past in this production.  She needed a dress that was a cool white, Regency-style preferred.  We used Simplicity 4055 view A with modifications (linking to the Pattern Review page for this pattern since Simplicity's new website is a disaster).

We used a crepe satin for the base layer, and a textured chiffon for the overlay. We raised the neckline., and closed it with a zipper -- much better for quick changes.  Annabeth hated the cap sleeves, so I lengthened them to about elbow length, then added fabric hanging on down to her wrists.

The overlay turned out to look like a fairly stupid effect in these fabrics, so we ended up adding a ruffle of chiffon to the bottom of the base dress.  It gave a suitably droopy diaphanous, dead look.



It turned out to look a bit like a nightgown, unfortunately.  But, hey, Scrooge was in his dressing gown, so maybe that was okay.



Overall, this was a GREAT show.  The kids were absolutely marvelous in it, and wonderful to work with. The costume committee was super, too -- a great group of women who did far, far more  work than my small contributions.  The theater seats around 400, and three of the four performances sold out.




Monday, February 1, 2016

Scrooge

Moving in no particular order through the backlog of things I meant to post about, the Christmas show for 2015 was Scrooge.  Annabeth wanted to audition for it because she knew the director -- she had been in shows with him before and wanted to be in a show  he directed because she knew he'd be awesome as a director.

I volunteered to help with the costume sewing.  At first we just went through heaps of fabric to find suitable cape material for use in outdoor scenes.

Then I was handed several yards of brocade and Butterick 3648 (out of print, sadly) to make Scrooge's dressing gown. The pattern wasn't actually quite right for the job -- the skirt was too wide, the front edges had no facing, it had no belt.  But it was much closer to an appropriate shape than any current patterns by the major companies.

So, after reducing the skirt width by folding up the pattern pieces, making facings for the front, 

making a belt  (sewn directly to the robe) and adding a pocket


Scrooge had a rather nice dressing gown


which was his costume for most of the show.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Costume Sewing -- Three Blind Mice

At the moment I'm helping with costumes for a show.  I'm rushing those right out the door onto the performers without pausing to take pictures.  I hope to get some snapshots during rehearsals because it's really handy to have a record of these things for those future days when I'm wondering how in the world I came up with something or what alterations I made.  Here's a look back at some costumes I made nearly two years ago and never chronicled here.


Shrek was presented in Spring 2013 by a youth community theater group.  Annabeth played one of the Three Blind Mice.  I helped with costumes in general; one of the tasks was putting together the total look for the Blind Mice.


We painted dowel rods for the canes, and glued pink and white sparkles on them ("we" meaning Annabeth).  Gloves were cheapies from a party supply store. Wigs were borrowed from another theater group we work with.  Ears purchased.  Each mouse had her own hot pink hair piece.


Tails were a basic fuzzy fabric tail.  Annabeth has spent many Halloweens dressed as a cat, so making tails is pretty much second nature.  
(And, by the way, Donkey's costume, which you can see in some of these shots, is absolutely fabulous. The person who made it does amazing work. On the other hand, Donkey neglected to stay hydrated and ended up fainting from the heat during one of the performances.)


Pattern used for the dresses was Simplicity 1609.  Fabric was a pink brocade from Fashion Fabric Club.  Delivery from Fashion Fabric Club was very quick, by the way, but they ARE right here in town.  The dresses were lined with a basic pink lining fabric from JoAnn; the pattern doesn't call for lining, but I didn't want the brocade to stick to their tights while they were moving.  I bagged the lining.  I also left off all of the interfacing since this wasn't a garment for long term everyday wear (although Annabeth wore hers several times after the show).


As usual, Annabeth was smaller than the smallest size of the pattern, so that took some alteration time.  Really, it was interesting to make the exact same pattern for three differently shaped girls. I made muslins for all three so I could get the fit right.  The theater groups we're involved in generally skip that step, but I think it saved me time in the long run since I didn't have to go back and try to correct fitting errors after the dresses were made. 

I would recommend the pattern to others, although I'd recommend making a muslin first to check the fit.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Our Silent Auction contribution -- American Girl doll clothes

Choir goes on a week-long trip every year to various locations in the U.S.  Thalia participated for all 4 years of high school, and visited places like Florida and Colorado.  Last year was Annabeth's first year to be eligible to go.  At first she was not impressed with the idea of going -- for one thing, they were going to the Dakotas, which sounded boring.  But Thalia insisted that she really should go, so off she went -- she loved the event, and she loved the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.  

One of the fundraisers to pay for the bus is a Silent Auction.  It's held about the time of baseball's Opening Day, so it has a baseball theme, although all sorts of items are auctioned.  Over the years I've thought about what we could contribute to the auction, and finally decided that what it really needed was something that kids would be interested in.  We decided to go all-in and make it baseball themed.  Thus, American Girl baseball-themed outfits.

Annabeth and I worked on these together.  Most of the clothing patterns came from Pixie Faire, which has a wide selections of patterns for dolls.  Many of them were collected during the Freebie Fridays, which is when they offer one of the patterns for free.




The hat was made from a Lee & Pearl pattern.  Honestly, we think Lee & Pearl have the absolute best AG patterns available.  The logo was a bottle cap print out I found on Easy -- I printed it out (enlarged) on Avery iron-on transfer paper and put it on the fabric before I sewed up the hat.


Josephine modeled something a bit more swanky.  Again, these patterns are all from Pixie Faire.


Instead of a hat she had a clip:



And, of course, a handbag.



And shoes. 

Annabeth made all the shoes.  There's something enthralling about seeing a row of little doll shoes.  Well, maybe not for most people, but I just love tiny accessories.


Annabeth insisted that the packaging presentation for the actual auction had to be Just So. She carefully placed the items in cardboard boxes she had decorated, and included a photo of the doll modeling the clothing.  Each outfit was given a name.



The bidding turned out to be fairly level; we really were filling a gap with our contribution.  It helped that people knew that they were also contributing to a mission project with their bids.

This is how we found out people would actually hand over money for doll clothes we made.  And that gave us our boost into a new adventure of going to craft fairs selling handmade clothing.  More to come on that later.