Monday, August 29, 2011

Co-op Science Week 2

First, review concepts from last week: hypothesis, constant, variable

Next, introduce Galileo. The kids in this group who are also taking co-op history will be studying him later in the fall -- the co-op history class for grade 3-5 is using Story of the World 3, Early Modern Times -- mention this to the kids. Ask what the class already knows about Galileo. One boy mentions that he worked with gravity. Explain that he also worked with pendulums and telescopes. He's considered one of the father's of modern science.

For pendulums, describe how he would watch the chandeliers swinging in the chapel and wonder about the period (time to swing back and forth). Point out to the kids that Galileo didn't have a watch since they hadn't yet been invented, so he sometimes used his pulse to measure elapsed time. Draw a picture of a pendulum on the board, and ask the class what things we could vary to see if we could change the period. The kids came up with length of string, how far we pull it back, how much the bob on the end of the string weighs.

Set up pendulum on edge of table by using string, electrical tape, a paper clip, and hex nuts. Use iPad stopwatch function to time a minute's worth of swings while counting the number of periods (it's really, really hard to time a single swing with a stopwatch, so I chose to do it this way). Record results. Pull pendulum back higher, count, record (actually, I let the kids do this part); add more weight, count, record; shorten string, count, record. Discover that the length of the string is what governs the speed at which the pendulum swings. Write Galileo's mathematical equation on the board and explain it briefly to them (many blank faces while explaining pi and square roots). Mention that another way to change the period is to go to, say, Jupiter where the gravity is different ... digress into discussion of why this isn't a viable field trip option, and why H claims if we went to Jupiter we'd be "stuck". And quick mention that Jupiter is so big its gravity makes the sun wobble (bonus material!).

For gravity, discuss the question of whether heavy things fall more quickly than light things. Drop feather and hammer as example. What would happen if we ruled out air currents? Hold up ping pong ball and golf ball; drop simultaneously on the table (which is loud). Show Youtube video of hammer/feather drop on moon during Apollo 15 mission (which the high school physics class at co-op ALSO watched this week).

Discuss that Galileo didn't have slow motion cameras, etc., to use to figure this stuff out, so he did a lot with incline planes. Discuss problems of friction, and the advantages of waxing a slide on the playground. How does all of this relate to sledding in the winter? (We live in a hilly area -- the kids are pretty savvy on comparative advantages of sled-riding positions.) Segue into our engineering project of the day: Getting a ping pong ball down a zip line.

Some of the kids LOVED the engineering project. Some didn't have time to finish their designs, while some managed multiple tries. A couple didn't even try to make anything -- I need to figure out why that is, and see if it's something we can work on. For example, if it's fear of failure, the entire point of the exercise is to mess around and probably fail, and then think up new ways to work around the failure. In any case, I plan to have more engineering projects through out the year, as long as my supply of paper cups, string, and duct tape holds out.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekly Report 8/27/11

We were sick this week. It doesn't make for a very productive week. The kids had (have) colds, and I had some weird stomach thing going.

So, right off the bat we cancelled the voice lesson and the piano lessons.

Thalia struggled through Kinetic Physics this week in spite of her clogged brain and inability to focus. Her class is using the online homework package in which the teacher sets a due date beyond which the students are unable to enter their homework. The teacher has given pretty generous due dates -- the kids have several days to get the assignments done -- but, still, it's pretty apparent that falling behind will lead to a world of hurt. She had Rick help her with one of the problems, which gave him a chance to see what the program was like.

She kept up with Notgrass World History, sharing some of the odder tidbits. I'd share them here, but she was announcing these things on the day that I was really not operating at full capacity mentally, so I think I surely heard some of it wrong.

And Dave Ramsey told us how and when to save for college, after which we 1. practiced figuring out how much to put in a 401k vs. a Roth IRA at different income levels and varying company matching programs, and 2. practiced the ever popular rule of 72.

She got a start in logic, in which she'll be earning a half credit. I can already see applications for this in her discussions with her friends, not to mention her critiques of her various textbooks.

We laid out a course for Algebra 2 and for composition, but have put those off for a bit until we're more functional.

In the meantime, Annabeth has decided she doesn't like Life of Fred, but feels she should complete the book (percents and decimals). I can go either way with it -- there are other math programs that would be fine to use, after all.

She completed her first WriteShop assignment and emailed it her teacher after a brieg panic because our internet was out for a couple of hours on Friday (thus demonstrating why you shouldn't wait until the last minute).

Shepherd Life Science simply involved reading the next lesson and answering the study questions. Labs will be done in class -- I think the teacher is drawing in labs from Apologia Biology since she has quite a bit of experience teaching it.

She's been whipping through Junior Analytical Grammar. I need to figure out what to do when she's finished with it, since that day is quickly approaching.

And she's pointed out that we need to come up with some sort of history for her. My vote is another pass through SOTW2, but she's leaning towards the Renaissance. Hmmm....

Still not up to full speed on all of our subjects, but edging closer. I feel like we're still using impulse engines, moving out of space dock, but soon we'll be able to go to warp. Woot.

See more Weekly Reports (and link your own) at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lunch at Co-op

Annabeth announced that she didn't want to have to deal with a bento for lunch and that she'd rather just take a sandwich. So I used her bento box myself.

Vegetable egg rolls from Whole Foods (the dipping sauce was put in a little container to the side -- I didn't trust their little plastic carrying cup to stay together in a bento), chopped red and yellow pepper (the yellow pepper was the garnish WF used for the egg rolls), rice, chopped apple dipped in lemon water. I took a fork to eat it with (pink plastic Hello Kitty fork -- matched the bento box nicely, I thought); Thalia took the exact same thing with her usual chopsticks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First class of co-op science

Some background:

We have 11 kids in the class at this point, ostensibly grades 3-5 although I think one of the boys might be younger. Whatever. Also, another boy can't be there the first 2 weeks.

The emphasis of the class will be in-class activities. To a great extent this decision is based on past experience that kids in this co-op really stink at remembering to bring in their homework; plus the onus of at-home projects tends to rest with the parents at this age, and most parents are juggling enough without worrying about their kid's bean sprouts, or whatever other project they're supposed to observe at home. That pretty much rules out botany

I'd like to get them thinking in terms of the scientific method. I'd like to give them experience in writing simple lab reports -- the type of thing they'll do in Apologia General Science and Physical Science, which are popular middle school choices for these families.

Last year's science classes were zoology for grades 3-5, and earth science for grades K-2. I have student from both those classes, plus some other families that just started co-op. Striking off in a new direction, we're doing physical science.

Okay, what we did the first day:

Discuss why we're studying science. (Quick pep talk about them being the future Newtons and Einsteins.) We're learning what those that came before us discovered, and we're learning how to make our own discoveries.

Discuss forming a HYPOTHESIS. Use example of MythBusters putting a Mento into a bottle of soda -- they had a hypothesis of why the soda bubbled up out of the bottle. I'm discussing this with a 12oz. bottle of root beer in a large plastic pie plate set in front of me, whilst waving around a Mento. MythBuster formed a hypothesis, had one VARIABLE and everything else was CONSTANT. (Words in caps written on white board while I'm talking.)

Throw Mento in bottle. Root beer foams up. One kid, J, wonders what would happen if we threw in another Mento. Since I already knew what would happen (nothing) I did.

Discuss what other experiments we could do with Mentos and soda. Attempt to get them to think of other variables. This was fairly unsuccessful -- I need to work on my technique for getting this age group to brainstorm. Since we are a group of strangers it's even harder. Anyway, I listed out several on the board -- bottle shape, soda brand (someone called out that Diet Coke is best -- we discussed briefly), temperature of soda, number of Mentos. Circled "number of Mentos" and said that consulting with my own kids we'd decided this would be the best one to do in the group, so LET'S HEAD OUTDOORS AND DO THIS.

Grab 4 2 liter bottles of 7up from my car (I didn't feel like dragging them to the 2nd floor and then back down). I also have Geyser tubes, Mentos, a portable white board, and some triangular cardboard sleeves I'd made to hold the soda bottle upright since the center of gravity on them is such that when you pull the strings of the Geyser tubes it's entirely possible that you'll knock over the soda bottle and have it spewing out sideways.

I explained that we were using regular 7up because that's what Walmart had on sale.

We set off 2 bottles simultaneously -- one with 3 Mentos and one with 7 Mentos. I had the kids load them, but pulled the strings myself since it's nearly impossible for 2 people to pull the strings at the same time. Also, I left the top caps off of the Geyser tubes because the caps make so much back pressure that the soda squirts out the sides of the tube -- fun to watch, but we're trying to compare height.

The bottle with 7 spewed nearly twice as high as the bottle with 3 (NB: at home we tried setting off 3 bottles at a time, and it was almost too much to look at so quickly, thus the decision to only use 2 bottles at a time). The bottle with 3 went about as high as J is tall, which was easy to see since J pretty much refused to move out of the way with everyone else. I drew the relationship on the white board, noting that sometimes in middle school Apologia they'd have to draw what their experiments look like.

Then I said we'd set off a bottle with 7 Mentos and a bottle with 11 (11 is the most Mentos that will fit in a Geyser tube). One of the kids suggested that it would've made more sense to set off the bottles on the base of the volleyball-net poles. Wow, I hadn't thought of that -- we discussed pros and cons, and then switched over to setting them off there. The bottle with 11 didn't shoot off that much higher than the bottle with 7. I drew it out, explained that people have tested every single number from 1 to 12 and graphed it, and 7 seems to be the optimum number due to diminishing marginal returns (fairly obvious they hadn't heard that phrase before, although we use it at our house all the time).


Next, I commented, "You know, these Geyser Tubes come with all sorts of different shaped caps, and they claim that they spew out different shapes. I'm not sure if that's true. You want to see if it works?" Head back to my car to get 4 more 2 liter bottles, this time the generic diet cola from Walmart (which, by the way, didn't spew as high in our backyard testing). Set them off 2 at a time, this time with kids setting them up, pulling strings, whatever they want to do as long as they take turns. The soda spews out the sides of the geyser tubes as well as the tops. J stands in the fountain made by the sodas. We don't see much difference, except the one with 3 holes in the cap really does look more like a fountain.

By this time I've had B ask about a dozen times "Can we eat the Mentos?", and in spite of my assurances that the soda is nasty to drink with the Mentos in it, several kids want to try it. Looking at my watch (yeah, I now own a watch, purchased just for the occasion) I say, "Okay, let's go into the kitchen and see if we can find any plastic cups." The rest of the hour was spent sampling soda with Mentos, as desired (some kids wisely declined), being horrified that I was pouring the soda down the kitchen sink (how could I throw it out?) while trying to keep the Mentos left in the bottles from going down the sink ("picture if we plugged up the sink and a plumber had to come, and said, 'hey, your pipes are plugged up with all these Mentos!'"), washing off the stickiness of the day, then sending them on to their next class.

Overall, an okay class. J was appalled that I had purchased Geyser Tubes, saying you could make your own, and sort of designing it on the fly as he was discussing the concept. I suggested that he make one and bring it in next week -- I'll supply the soda and Mentos if he'll supply his design. I think J is going to be a lot of fun to teach. I'm sure the other personalities will begin to emerge over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Weekend Report

The important thing to note is that this was the weekend in which the younger Girl Scouts did backyard camping, and the next morning was the incident with the yellow jackets. And by "the incident with the yellow jackets" I'm referring to Annabeth apparently sort of stepping on some in the yard which stung her on the ankle (which she said initially just felt like yet another blister from dance -- what does it say about life when your kid thinks stinging pain in the ankle is a normal part of existence?), then other girls started getting stung, they ran into the house, the yellow jackets followed, the older brother of the house swatted and killed about 10 with a flip flop. I arrived a bit later to find kids coated with baking soda and holding bags of ice cubes to various body parts. The mom in charge was soooo apologetic that the insects were in her yard. I pointed out that they all got to have an impromptu first aid lesson. And when she called later that afternoon to check on Annabeth I commented that 5 years from now the girls will STILL be talking about this, and those who missed it would be sort of envious they missed out because it was going to be part of the legend of their friendships.

Really, can't you picture in 20 years some of them using whatever future Facebook-equivalent to say, "It reminded me of that time with the yellow jackets". Legendary, I tell you.

The stings on Annabeth's arms turned out to be very minor, but her ankle has swollen into a cankle. She's soaked it in epsom salts. I've since learned that tobacco is great first aid for the stings. Who knew?

(There were other stressful incidents during this backyard campout. Another offshoot was a girl being diagnosed with diabetes. That girl didn't get stung, so at least she has THAT to be thankful for. And other stuff happened with other kids. I think the hosting mom may really hesitate to host something like this ever again.)

Thalia also had a Girl Scout overnighter. But they stayed indoors, and it was just a typical sleepover. Hohum.

Saturday we watched O Brother, Where Art Thou to finish up our study of The Odyssey. I think I enjoyed it more having just read the book. I wouldn't have caught some of the parallels had it not been so fresh in my mind. The hair pomade, the beards they were wearing at the end, even the blind man on the rail car (okay, really I couldn't think who the heck that was -- I really drifted during that particular trip to Hades, apparently, and had to go back and figure it out later).

This was also the weekend Rick was out of town -- he went to Cincinnati to watch pro tennis. So Sunday afternoon we girls watched a chic flick -- Letters to Juliet. Fun, sweet, extremely similar to Leap Year (east coast girl goes to Europe, meets guy from British Isles she initially dislikes, falls in love, rejoins her boyfriend/fiance, yada, yada). Final scene was very weak, which was a shame.

So, movies and yellow jackets. And tennis. A weekend to remember.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekly Report 8/19/11

Co-op classes start Monday, and the kids have been getting emails from their teachers with assignments to have completed by then. Time to start gearing up!


Has started Kinetic Physics. Has never had to deal with significant digits before, so we found a couple of printouts via google. Also viewed a Khan lecture on the subject, but I think she liked the handouts better (or maybe that was me -- I'm not very patient with videos, preferring to skim through a page for the exact info I need instead). So far she's giving a thumbs up to the writing style of the text.

Has also started Notgrass World History. She says the writing is acceptable, although not too exciting. She likes the format -- each day read a section, answer some questions, take a quiz at the end of the week, write an essay, then repeat it all the next week. She's only doing the history component (it also has a Bible component and a lit component, each of which could be worth a credit).

Speaking of lit, THE ODYSSEY IS DONE! Woot! We stormed through several books of it this week, had Elizabeth Vandiver tell us what they meant via The Teaching Company DVDs on the subject. Now we need to watch O Brother Where Art Thou and wrap this Ancient Lit class up. I don't remember Brother well, but I think it will contain significantly fewer bath scenes than the book.

We also spent some quality time with Dave Ramsey learning about Personal Finance. We're blazing through this course, hoping to have the entire half credit done sometime in October.

She's supposedly studying for the ACT in September, too, although I think only about an hour was devoted to that this week.

Since she wants to take a tech theater class this year which we'll count for a half credit, I decided the desire to go see Joseph and the Amzing Technicolor Dreamcoat at a local church this week could count as homework -- we could look over sets and lighting and all. It was a free performance, with an offering taken partway through. We got what we paid for -- they had changed the musical to be churchier or fit their theology or because they couldn't competently do it as written or something. I threw a couple of bucks into the offering in hopes they'd use it to pay someone who knew how to do lighting. The amazing thing was the place was PACKED (and this was their 4th performance of 7) and they were getting a standing ovation ("If we stand up we're leaving NOW, okay?" "Fine!" so we beat all of the traffic out of the parking lot). Okay, seriously, there were some bright spots -- some people who were talented, some scenes that were well done. But it was a few hours of my life I'll never get back. "A few hours" because when we got home I HAD to watch the 1999 film version, partially to prove that yes, they really DID change the words to that song, and partially because they had ditched Any Dream Will Do (objectionable theology? bad vocal range? desire to substitute really insipid song about family that made for an incredibly botched ending? who knows). Annabeth said Any Dream Will Do was one of her favorite songs from the film, and it just wasn't right to have the musical without it, so we HAD to watch the film to hear the song.

Which reminds me,


Has been reading Shepherd's Life Science. And sewing horse blankets. And has been reminded daily that she needs to get back to doing math sometime soon.

and finally,


I've been throwing Mentos into bottles of diet soda and coming up with reasons this is a valid thing to do in a 3rd to 5th science class. I mean, valid reasons other than "it's pretty much fun." You know, some educational aspect. Because the class I'm teaching starts Monday, too. And I had to give an extemporaneous class description last week (it was extemporaneous because I'd neglected to read the meeting agenda and thus discover we were expected to do it), so I summed up my vision for the class with "Um, well, I think we're going to blow things up." Let me tell you, if you announce that in a parents' meeting, people tend to remember it. So I guess we need to blow some things up right off the bat and get THAT out of the way. Then we can get on to whatever other interesting Physical Science experiments I can come up with. Like setting things on fire (I need to check the location of smoke alarms on Monday).

Monday, August 15, 2011

And furthermore ...

Non-homeschool things we've been doing:

1. Lost one of the phone handsets. Again. It showed up several days later in the laundry room, an apparent victim of multi-tasking. Last time we lost the handset it was weeks until we discovered it rolled up in a sleeping bag.

In related news, I finally found the mini-muffin tins I couldn't find back in June (and already purchased a replacement for).

2. The kids went to see the Winnie the Pooh movie at the theater, which they said was quite charming. Annabeth dressed as Piglet for the occasion, using bits from a very old Halloween costume I'd made from Butterick 5172 when Thalia was 2 or 3 years old. Only the vest and hat fit; she wore a pink shirt and pink skirt under them. The other kids who went didn't see this as a cosplay opportunity -- go figure.

3. Went to Target and Walmart to see if they had floor cushions and beanbag chairs in stock, which typically happens during the back-to-school sales, after which they disappear. We found both. The color of the year seems to be black, as we found both items in that color. This means we tend to lose track of the cat:

Ack! The flash woke me up! Prepare to die!

4. Went to Bye Bye Birdie at the Muny, which was the final performance of the season. We thought it was really fun. Rick's aunt went on Wednesday and thought it was awful -- nearly left at intermission. On one hand, this is the woman who DID leave during Little Mermaid, declaring she really disliked Ursula (the best character of a great show!). On the other hand, I think maybe the shows vary quite a bit with the weather. She really loved Seven Brides for Seven Brothers the Wednesday before, while we thought it was rushed and disjoint on Saturday. The Saturday we went was hot, and the show lasted less that 2 hours; when she saw it on Wednesday the weather was cooler and the show lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes. Interesting, yes?

Anyway, the entire Muny-season-ticket experience has been fun this summer. We loved taking various friends and relatives. We loved discussing the shows with other friends and relatives. I don't know if we'll do it again -- sort of depends on what shows they offer.

5. Enoyed the cooler weather, which meant we could do things like sit on the playset and read

and also leave the windows open for hours at a time

6. Spent quite a bit of time reading. I checked 2 books out of the library -- Scratch Beginnings and How to Become a Straight-A Student. I couldn't decide which to read first, so I decided to alternate chapters. Wow, what a bizarre experience -- the authors are guys about the same age, and frankly their writing sounds a bit alike. Yet one is telling about how to work hard and succeed in college while the other is telling how to work hard and get out of a homeless shelter. The undertone of each book, though, is that it really sucks to drift through life without goals since that tends to lead to a downward spiral. But it's been a weird juxtaposition that's really affecting how I view each book.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Homeschool Update

This week Thalia and I have been working our way through The Odyssey, having recovered enough from the trauma of The Iliad to attempt another epic.

We're listening to Sir Ian McKellen read the Fagles translation while Thalia follows along in a paperback version of Fagles and I follow along on the iPad with a translation by Murray that's main attraction is that it's free online. Murray is fond of phrases such as "I ween". We're also watching the Teaching Company lectures by Elizabeth Vandiver on the subject.

While the main images I retained from The Iliad were 1. Achilles whining, 2. intestines unfurling on the ground, 3. black blood gushing forth, and 4. other random sharp objects being thrust through other random people's heads, the main images from The Odyssey have been 1. baths, which are typically followed up by an olive oil moisturizer and something fluffy to wear, 2. Dawn's rosy fingers, and 3. people stretching forth their hands to eat the good things before them (at a feast). It sort of comes across as chic lit after all the gore of The Iliad. If I were to write a paper on the subject, I think I'd make it about the baths.

We're also zooming through her half-credit requirement in Personal Finance using Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Personal Finance High School Edition. I'd never seen Dave Ramsey before. He's reasonably engaging, most of the things he talks about have been the same things we've talked about around the kitchen table for years (topics like "why we're too cheap to take up cigarette smoking"). We've now reached the point in the course where Dave wants the student to follow 4 Mutual Funds and 2 stocks; Rick thinks that the financial markets have changed enough since the course was written that it would be better to follow 2 Exchange Traded Funds and 4 stocks.

Local public and private schools will be starting in the next week, and a co op we belong to starts in about a week. We've been amassing other curricula, including Lial's Intermediate Algebra, Kinetic Physics, Notgrass World History for Thalia, Shepherd Life Science and Writeshop for Annabeth. I'm not too thrilled about those latter 2, but they're co op classes and she seems to be pleased to be taking them.

We still need to get our English course together for Thalia, and can't purchase Visual Link Spanish until later in the month when they release the new Mac version. We also have a lot of ACT study guides floating around the table where we're dumping all of our shiny new curricula (plus a copy of My Life as a White Trash Zombie for comic relief, as all these text books and study guides looked a little too earnest and it was a 4-for-3 on with the ACT guides). And we're in negotiations about what acting, musical theater, dance, and voice lessons will be taking place beyond all of this school work -- the kids think "all available", but we'll see what's affordable and what can be justified by somehow fitting onto the transcript.

Gearing up for the next season of schooling -- I wonder what adventures are ahead of us.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Dorothy Dress

Annabeth decided that she, too, would like to actually own her costume for Wizard of Oz. One of her arguments was that the purchased costumes tend to look sort of dippy -- they tend to be one-piece affairs with a faux-jumper front and a very simple back. Some of them even involved shiny, glittery fabric, shudder. And one of my thoughts was that we'd never find a ready-made costume that fit her well since she's more slender than the current average U.S. child.

Biggest argument against making a costume -- the gingham fabric. I was pretty sure that it would be difficult to find.

But, having made Thalia's witch costume, there was also the issue of Equitable Treatment of Offspring. So, in the end, I made the costume.

The children's version of the Wizard of Oz is Simplicity 4139. I opted to use size 8 and make it larger/taller where necessary.

Next, fabric. The director felt that 1/4 inch gingham would be okay since the venue was small (in a large theater you'd want something bigger). And, as predicted, this was impossible to find in St. Louis. The few 1/4 inch ginghams I could find tended to be baby pastels. (Also, various quilting stores apparently consider it an insult if you call them and ask if they carry gingham because they are SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT.) I found some online at and also at another place, the name of which I forget.

Next adventure -- ordering fabric online. The pattern calls for 3.25 yards of gingham for the size 8 costume; I decided to purchase 4 yards for a bit on insurance. Since we were on a constricted timeline (putting the show together in 3 weeks) I decided to see about expedited delivery. Here's how expedited delivery works at first you call them to ask about how to do it, wait patiently for 15 minutes or so for your turn "in line" on the phone, then have the customer service rep accidentally (I assume) hang up on you when you reach the head of the queue. Then you try the online chat, and discover that you have to place your order, then call them to tell them that you might want expedited delivery, and then they'll call you back "in a day or 2" to let you know how much the special delivery will cost. NO HINT AT ALL HOW MUCH IT WILL COST, which, of course, makes it impossible to comparison shop (although the only other place that had the blue gingham ALSO involved calling the customer service rep, which was a non-toll free call, and the person was away from their desk "so please leave a message").

Also, the concept that they'd call "in a day or 2" pretty much means don't expect to hear from them for 2 days. Meaning that if you don't like their charges in comparison to some other shop's, you've already wasted 2 days on waiting for them to call.

So I placed my little 4 yard order, then called them AGAIN to tell them to flag this order to indicate my interest in expedited shipping, since there's no place to check off that box while you're ordering.

And when they did finally call (2 days later almost to the hour), it was to tell me that the shipping charge for my 4 yards of gingham (a lightweight fabric that runs about $3 - $4 per yard) would be $50 to get it there the next day, $40 to get it there Monday, or the regular ol' $5 to get it there on Tuesday via "normal" delivery. Wow. I assume at least $10 of that goes to pay for all the frickin' phone calls customers have to make to even ask if the delivery is available, and another $10 for the various other inefficiencies of their system. I took the Tuesday delivery.

So, in review, poor service, poor shipping procedures, overall NOT IMPRESSED WITH FABRIC.COM!

Okay, now, back to the dress itself.

Guess what! This pattern is for a one piece dress, rather than a separate blouse and jumper. Surprise! Hahaha -- that's why we made the dress -- in order to have 2 pieces instead of 1. I guess the joke's on us! Not to worry, though -- I figured I could wing it to make it a two piece outfit.

I chose to make the blouse from permanent press muslin with a ric rac for the border. I chose a royal blue ric rac for the trim because I couldn't find a blue that matched the gingham better (side note: I ended up using the nedium blue gingham even though the cover of our DVD shows Judy Garland in more of a royal blue gingham -- Annabeth liked the medium blue better, and the director didn't seem to care -- the medium blue is currently sort of a periwinkle, and the current medium blue ric rac has more of a yellow undertone). I extended the length of the "blouse" pieces, left out the darts (I figured they were only there to accommodate the blouse-sewn-to-jumper nature of the Simplicity design), and extended the back pieces beyond the center back so I could use buttons instead of a zipper. I ended up scooping out the neckline more than the pattern -- it was going to choke Annabeth if I didn't. That involved making a new, longer collar; I also sewed a snap on the back of the collar to fasten the overlap of the button band. It sewed up quickly and easily, although for some reason I put the button holes on horizontally rather than vertically, which looks fairly stupid.

(By the way, you could theoretically skip this entire blouse-making adventure by going to a Catholic school uniform shop and buying a puff-sleeve blouse with blue trim, since we used to own one just like it.)

Then I started cutting out the precious, virtually irreplaceable (at this point, since deliver from is sooooo slooooow) gingham. First, cut out the skirt. I was familiar with the weirdness of cutting 3 identical pieces since I'd run into that while cutting out Thalia's witch costume. And I was pleased to note that the children's pattern has a separate pattern piece for each size of child, unlike the adult pattern.

BUT, while cutting out piece number 3 (having cut out pieces 1 and 2 and thus using yards of the fabric) I suddenly realized that the top and bottom of the pattern piece is CURVED. WTF? Why am I cutting a curve on the regimentally straight checks of gingham? I looked at the DVD cover again, and, indeed, the gingham checks do appear to disappear unevenly as though cut on a curve. But, hey, the adult size pattern cuts these pieces straight -- why does the kid size seek to drive us nuts with this? So, Ichopped off the curve and cut them off straight, slightly panicking that I'd ruined the damned thing. In the end, it was okay -- the length was still fine, the skirt hung okay, it was exponentially easier to hem and to apply the bias strip in a straight line since I could just follow the lines of the gingham.

I decided to line the bodice since it was not longer sewn directly to the blouse. I used some sort of slick lining from JoAnn Fabric. I'd considered using muslin, but decided the blouse might tend to stick to the bodice if I did that.

By the way, the bodice suffers from a common problem of Big 4 patterns -- it assumes that small girls have a bustline and curves that don't normally appear until years later. So a bit of adjustment is necessary to compensate (ironic since the original was designed to help de-emphasize Judy Garland's curves).

Then sew on the straps and trims, gather and attach the skirt, sew in the zipper, place it on the hanger, and realize that the reason you DON'T want to make this a separate jumper is because the bias-cut straps cannot support the weight of all of that gingham in the skirt without looking like a stretched-out mess. That's why it's supposed to have the jumper sewn directly onto the blouse -- to support the weight. Doh.

After pondering this, I decided to add a strap of grosgrain ribbon on each side, going all the way down the inside of the bodice to attach to the skirt both front and back. I machine sewed the ribbon all the way up the front and back of the bodice to help distribute the weight:

I'd made the straps (which actually have a "front" and "back" since they're supposed to be sewn directly onto the blouse) a bit long since I didn't know how long I'd want them. It was pretty easy to figure out with the grosgrain ribbon -- I just had Annabeth try it on, then pinned up the excess over her shoulders. It was just a matter of machine sewing the folds down, then. I left the sides of the folds open in case I wanted to have a velcro bar to keep the straps in place on the blouse, but that turned out to be unnecessary.

The bias-cut gingham straps on the outside of the bodice cover the grosgrain straps completely,

and the jumper really hangs pretty decently from the grosgrain straps.

I also added a tiny patch pocket to store dog treats for Toto.

Finished product back:

(Click on pictures to enlarge)

and front:

In the end it looked pretty good, but there were definitely times when I wondered what the heck I'd gotten myself into.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

One Short Day in the Emerald City

Miss Gultch being mean:

(Remember, clicking on a picture enlarges it.)

Cutest Munchkin of the batch:

The gang:

The Wicked Witch spying on them as they walk through the woods:

Poppies. Toto had issues with the scene -- in rehearsal he would play dead for about 5 seconds, but during the performance it was all too exciting. Dorothy managed to keep a firm grip on her/him though (plenty of lifetime practice with cranky cats that don't want to be held).

Emerald City:

Afterwards lots of people wanted pictures taken with Dorothy or the Wicked Witch. As it got later, Dorothy started to drift to the dark side.

Possible Christmas card photo:

Whew -- hard to believe it's all over!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In the Home Stretch

Still needs some hand work and a small pocket for dog treats. But essentially done.

I'll post more about the construction later. Including an explanation of why it was really, really stupid to make this a separate blouse and jumper. Also, doesn't that blouse look like a Clarkson beginner blouse?

In the meantime, Dayspring School of the Arts has made an event on their Facebook page for Wizard of Oz, and if you click on it you can see a picture of Thalia dressed as the witch (although her hair hadn't yet been dyed black at that point). I can't figure out how to download the picture to my computer, unfortunately. But maybe we can get some good shots in the next couple of days.


Okay, we found a few downloadable ones on Facebook, including the WIcked Witch terrorizing the Scarecrow

and Annabeth pretending to be a Munchkin

Monday, August 1, 2011

Non-sewing part of the weekend

Although much time this weekend was spent sewing, we also managed to make it to the Muny to see Little Shop of Horrors. Thalia had gotten a huge head-eating flower to wear for the occasion.

(I swiped this picture off of Trish's facebook.)

And went to a family reunion to see a boatload of cousins we don't often see. This is one family, for example:


The kids kindly explained to Uncle Mark how to send pictures from his phone to facebook.

There was some action with super soakers and water balloons, but mostly people just wanted to talk.

The cat keeps walking across the keyboard typing goofy things, and I need to round up kids and get them to Musical Theater camp, so I'm thinking I should leave it at that.