Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday, Shakespeare Edition

So far I've got a lady's blouse (Simplicity 3809)

a lower class man's shirt (Simplicity 3519)

a serving maid's skirt hung over the back of a chair, which is why it looks wonky (Simplicity 3623).

Of course, the cat is visible at the top of that skirt picture.  Because she's my constant companion, helping me, for example,  to figure out how much fabric I have vs. how much I need

We need at least 7 skirts, plus assorted overskirts and vests for the women.  Plus we need to clothe at least 5 guys.  Each shirt and each skirt takes about 3.5 to 4 yards of fabric.  WE NEED MORE FABRIC!  Aaaaaaargh!  Sooooo much fabric.  Especially white.

Okay, gotta go to auditions.  I'm toting this stuff along to show what it looks like so far, and what the size mediums come out to be.  Because we don't even know the sizes of the various characters yet, other than Don Pedro, who will be played by a professional actor.

Coming up:  where we're getting a lot of the fabric.  It's a great resource for any seamstresses in the area wanting to make things for charity (eg, Girl Scout troops, youth groups, theater groups).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some Recent Stuff

- GRADUATIONS.  We've attended 2 homeschool graduations, and skipped a third.

And there's at least one more next week, although we're not planning to attend it.  Todd Aiken was at one of the graduations.  His son, Perry, spoke at it.  Wow, Perry Aiken is really an excellent speaker, whether you agree with his views or not.  Too bad I forgot my camera for that one.

- THEATER.  Thalia's theater class put on And Then There Were None. It was the best set of the year.  It's a shame I forgot my camera, and no one has posted any set-only pictures on Facebook. Annabeth was stage manager. The play itself was mediocre, by the way.  But the technical theater kids (and their adult director) did a great job.

- RELATIVES.  A nephew came over to work on his resume and do some practice interviewing for his apres-college-graduation job search.  The day before he came another boxelder tree branch fell from that same tree.  So he also spent time chopping up a 30 foot tree branch, plus trimming other trees in the yard, digging out a yew, planting a new yew, and sharpening anything sharpen-able on the grinder we'd forgotten we got from my Dad (he sharpened his hatchet so much that it sliced through the case when he put it away).  And going to see The Avengers with us (our second time to see it).

- SEWING.  I went to Sharity Charity with the Shakespeare Camp director to find some Shakespeare-type fabric.  They've decided to make costumes this year instead of borrowing.  So I came home with several pounds of fabric, most of which smells musty, some of which smelled like cigarette smoke.  I've been throwing it in the washer if it looks even vaguely washable.  And hanging it out in the fresh air.

- BIRTHDAY.  A neighbor had a birthday party that we attended.  She used a lot of ideas from Pinterest.  It's fun to see ideas come to life from a Pin Board.  I'd include pictures of some of the adorableness, but that would invade her privacy.  Also, I forgot my camera.

Probably other stuff has gone on, but that's what I remember off the top of my head.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday

Earlier this week I was seized by an urge to sew a sleeveless top.  Also, I wanted it to be woven.  Perhaps it was some subconscious memory of last summer when so many sewists made the Sorbetto top from Colette Patterns.  Really, if you type "colette sorbetto" into a Google image search you'll find dozens of the things.  Same with typing that search into Flickr.  

So, obviously, I downloaded the pattern, printed it out, went downstairs to poke around in the fabric, and found a box of fabric from my sister in which I discovered a lightweight seersucker which would be perfect for summer pajamas. The "pajama" idea is my fallback position if this turns out to be something I'd rather not wear in public, by the way.  Plenty of fabric is left to make jammy shorts.

The light streak is from sunlight streaming through the window.  Let's pretend that's an artsy element, okay?

Next, a trip to the store to purchase some single fold bias tape (and witness a very long, angst-filled session at the check out when the person in front of me didn't have her tax-exempt status paperwork nor was it on file, and all I wanted to do was purchase a $2 pack of bias tape, for pete's sake -- I was  starting to think I should pay her sales tax myself, which I estimated to be less than $3 on the jewelry beads she was purchasing for who-knows-what tax-exempt purpose).   That trip will probably end up to be the most significant time-suck of this entire project.  Also the most expensive, since other than printer ink and paper, plus thread purchased in bulk on sale months ago, the bias tape is the only thing I'm purchasing.

If this works I'll be churning these out as the weather heats up.  Onward!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Weekend

Friday night we went to the Women's Banquet at church -- it's that thing that used to be the Mother-Daughter Banquet, but then they decided to make it sound more inclusive.  "We" in this case means Thalia, Annabeth, and I.  I remember going to these when I was little.  I thought they were exciting -- a chance to dress up and go out at night.  Now I mostly think they're annoying.  We went because Thalia's choir was singing during the program part.  The program was pretty much a mixed bag -- various groups of singers, some skits.  Some of the stuff was good, some was really, really awful. When I come across this post in future years I want to remind myself of the poem about the oyster; I'll undoubtably remember how much we laughed on the way home, and my remark that it was a good thing that Aunt Elaine wasn't there since she would've laughed even harder and then none of us would've been able to breathe.

On Saturday the kids had some of their theater friends over.  They ran around outside playing Freeze Tag -- the weather was gorgeous.  And then someone said, "Hey, can we play Zip Zap Zop?"  Which struck me as funny, because how many times are you in a group that decides to play Zip Zap Zop out in the back yard for no particular reason except they think it's a fun thing to do.

Sunday we had to be at church early for Thalia's choir.  Because nothing says Happy Mother's Day like being told to have your kid at church by 7:30am (what was the person in charge of scheduling thinking?). I wore my new skirt. 

There are wrinkles in front because I'd already sat through hours of church since Thalia had to sing the offertory at 2 services.

I need to take the waistband in some -- I left way too much ease in it, and it's baggy.  But it was still a fun skirt to make and wear.  I used the directions here at Gertie's blog, except I didn't actually make a pattern -- I just measured out the fabric and cut it.  And I didn't use as much fabric as she said, since I didn't have that much.  And I didn't gather it -- I just made soft pleats because I thought I'd like that look better.  Also, I wish I'd added pockets in the side seams, but I didn't have enough fabric.

Then for a Mother's Day treat we went to see The Avengers, which was really fun.

And now I'm wondering how it's suddenly the middle of May....

Friday, May 11, 2012


Or maybe "reboot".  Rejuvenate?  Whatever -- you get the picture, right?

Last week was stressful.  We had the stuff I talked about here and here, plus the stomach virus I hadn't mentioned (because you really probably didn't want to hear details), the pet that had a really horrifying injury (again, you don't want that mental image in your head) and subsequent euthanasia (which was just plain none of your business).

So this week has been filled with things the usual activities of preparing meals (same as every week), washing dishes (ditto), mowing the lawn ... the stuff most middle class people in the U.S. do all the time regardless of what's going on in their lives.  And some catch-up stuff insofar as grading papers, doing mountains of laundry, cleaning the floors, finally planting the flowers that had been sitting there all week.

And then, of course, the GOOD stuff -- hanging out in places like the library, reading novels, browsing the fabric store, making online fabric purchases, and sewing.

I picked up some extremely lightweight stretch denim at JoAnn Fabrics, and made a cropped version of the Style Arc Linda pant for summer.  Which isn't very inspirational to see on a hanger, given that they're just a black pair of pants.  But if you know Style Arc patterns you know that they fit right out of the envelope, and are comfortable and wearable -- rare traits in the world of pants sewing.  And being able to easily bang out a wearable garment is a great feeling right now.

Also, I found this fabric downstairs, which was part of a set of 3 coordinated fabrics purchased years ago.  I decided it should be a skirt, which I'll be making today.

Although now that I've hung it up and looked at it in the morning light I'm wondering if this is such a clever idea.  Hmmm.  Well, as I said last night, if it looks awful as a skirt we can just cut it up and make it into something else.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sound of Music

Where do I even begin to talk about this?  Hmmm.....

Okay, here's what our kids did.  Annabeth played a nun,
as did Thalia.

Thalia's main role, though, was as Elsa Schraeder.
Everyone comments about the hat.  She found it at an estate sale several months back, and bought it thinking it would be perfect if she ever plays Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn in The Music Man.  But then when she was cast in Sound of Music as Elsa, which she didn't want to do because she'd never auditioned for the part, she took comfort in using her outrageous hat.

In the stage performance, Max and Elsa sing How Can Love Survive.  In our version Georg Von Trapp joined in to make it a flirty little song.  This gave Von Trapp a bigger role, which was great because he was the best performer of the bunch and will be graduating this year (and it was really stupid to pick a play that relegated him to a bit part with songs that weren't in his best vocal range).(He also learned to play the guitar just so he could sing Eidelweiss while realistically accompanying himself in that scene - he's just that cool.)
As a matter of fact, they did so well with the general flirting in their scenes that someone asked them later if they were actually dating in real life.

The ball gown I made from Simplicity 2252.  The tulle poof was a little squished by the second night. You can enlarge these pictures by clicking on them, if needed.

Thalia's favorite outfit was in the second act.

Elsa, Max, and Captain Von Trapp sing There's No Way to Stop It in this scene.  Elsa was supposed to go down to, I think, the G for the final note, but forgot and took it up to the B (which she nailed).  If here voice teacher had been there he would've high-fived her.

She was also the woman at the festival who won't stop bowing.

These are the cloaks and knapsacks I made.  The stage was very dark in this scene (abbey gardens hiding from Nazis).  Note that I really thought about how those kids could get the cloaks on and off quickly, and designed fasteners accordingly.  I used large toggle buttons on one side, and 1/4 inch elastic looped on the other; both were backed with other fabric so they didn't rip the cloak fabric during quick changes.  I didn't have black elastic, so I colored white elastic with markers, which turned out to not work that well, but for 5 minutes on a dark stage it was okay.

There were some other costume snafus during the tech week rehearsals, and even during the shows.  For example, stick on velcro had been used several places.  Stick on velcro rips right off when someone's in a hurry - it really must be sewn on. It was one of those things I could've told them if they'd asked, but no one asked.  Also, itsy bitsy hooks and eyes don't work up the back of a dress during a quick change in the dark.  Etc. Live and learn, I guess.

Picture of final bows.  Thalia's hair is just hanging down because at this point she's been 3 different characters in the past 5 minutes, complete with total outfit changes.

Aside from having too many costume changes for a cast of this experience (forcing them to concentrate on messing with their clothes rather than learning the fundamentals of acting and singing their parts), the production had a boatload of pieces for the sets.  Thalia and Annabeth are part of the crew and helped build them, plus Thalia spent an entire day sewing curtains and pillows (only accomplishing a tiny portion of what needed to be done).  When Annabeth wasn't nunning at the beginning and end of the musical she worked as a stage hand.

A few of the sets -- I swiped these pictures from facebook, ahem.  The abbey.  I think the rose window gobo was a brilliant idea since it gave the appropriate feel without having to mess with building other stuff.  Those are the mountains in that background, by the way.
 The Von Trapp mansion.
 Maria's bedroom.
I'm missing the Mother Abbess' office, and the gazebo, and the mansion gardens (although you can see the latter in the background of some of the shots of Elsa/Thalia above).

Overall the production seemed ... amateur.  Well, duh, of course it was since these are just kids.  But this group did Charlie Brown last year, and that was absolutely magical.  But, hey, THAT was well chosen for the talent available, well cast, they didn't spend hours figuring out costumes and scenery to the detriment of working on the acting and singing. THIS entire production was a mistake from the beginning.  Other than a handful of bright spots, it looked like a middle school production.

Of the two nights, the first night, Friday, was marginally better.  Saturday night had more technical glitches, and the overall energy had gone downhill.  Von Trapp's performance Saturday was better, as was Max's.   The scenes with Von Trapp, Max, and Elsa absolutely lit up the stage both nights.  And there were other nice performances by the supporting cast both nights -- Liesl and Rolf, for example, and Mother Abbess singing Favorite Things.  

Conversation on the way to choir Sunday: "It's really a long show for Maria.  Sheesh, if you'd gotten the part [please note that Thalia DID NOT WANT THE PART] Mr. Voice Teacher would've immediately started you on an Olympic training routine to get you ready for 3 hours of singing."

"Yeah, it's sort of like at the end of the day at a feis when your foot hurts and you're tired and you hate everyone and want to go home, but you have to get up there and pretend to be energetic and love to dance." (Yet another reminder of how the conditions of competitive Irish Dance prepares you for so many other things in life.)

Once again I'm left wondering if I should hit the "publish" button.  Have I said too much?  I don't want to make hurtful comments here - the people involved are genuinely nice and well-meaning.  But, heck, this is the soft, gentle, extremely edited version of my thoughts.  Thalia also commented that she has the advantage of being able to complain with her peers about many aspects of this entire adventure, but I only have a bunch of parents who seemed determined to coo about how well their kids did (egads, people, they could've done so much better in different circumstances -- we had a great director, some good talent, willing volunteers who spent hours on behind the scenes work ... aaaaaaargh!).

Friday, May 4, 2012


It's the end of the week, and we're wrapping some things up for the school year.

Co-op is over.  That means that Notgrass World History, WriteShop, and Shepherd Life Science are also over.  Kinetic Physics is going to take a few more weeks -- they couldn't get it all crammed in during the co-op time frame.

Overall, Notgrass was a dud -- Thalia hated it.  But, hey, it was incredibly easy, and it got the job done.

Annabeth was neutral about WriteShop.  I think her writing has improved, but she's still not a huge fan of the writing process.  Her teacher for the class also used some ideas from  Jump In composition, which Annabeth thought was a fun change of pace.

Shepherd Life Science seemed like a good fit for a middle school science program.  The teacher for the class has done years of co-op science classes, and was able to come up with many experiments and games for the kids, which helped.  So, thumbs up for that program for us, but your mileage may vary.

Also this week we had Girl Scout Court of Awards, which marks the official ending of the year.  Except the girls have also planned several events for over the summer, including finishing a hiking badge, and camping.  So I guess it really just marks the end of having to go to meetings.

Best of all, this week is the end of Sound of Music.  I will be so glad when this show is over.

Last Saturday they had a work day up in Maryland Heights.  The original plan was to work from 10am to 6pm, with a rehearsal in the early afternoon.  Annabeth called me mid-afternoon to say that they'd be staying later.  I was sort of glad to hear that because I'd seen a weather report predicting bad storms in the area at 6pm.  And, yes, at about 6pm the tornado sirens went off.  Sitting in the basement, we turned on the weather news and saw that a tornado was forming in Maryland Heights, although it was east of where the kids were.  When I went to pick them up after 8pm there was still hail unmelted on the ground -- it had come down the size of tennis balls, cracking the windows of every single car in the parking lot.  Most of the cars lost windows, as a matter of fact.

For the record, Thalia called about 6:45 and said, "We're supposed to call you and let you know that we're not dead."  Really, I had confidence that they were with some really level-headed adults, and that they were as safe as anyone could be in that area.

So, anyway, everyone has had THAT mess to deal with on top of the general stress of tech week.  Things like, for example,  the thrill of trying to get cars and trucks repaired while also transporting scenery to the theater.

Performances tonight and tomorrow night, and then this is DONE! Woot, check another thing off the list!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Co-op Science Week 30

We spent first half of the class making our posters proclaiming that we are "3rd-5th" "SCIENCE" "CLASS".  Three separate posters, one of which had the option for drawing "whatever you want ... but remember that your parents and younger siblings will see this."

"I draw mice with machine guns all the time." I just rolled my eyes at that one.

I apparently should've specified that it was inappropriate to draw a picture of a classmate, complete with name label, that showed her being shot with a cannon.  Even if you apparently have a crush on that little girl (because, yeah, we all figured it out).

Then we went down to the display area where I hung up the posters over our table.  Then handed out spaghetti and mini marshmallows for a reprise of the engineering challenge I showed a picture of here.  Three of the kids hadn't done this before, having joined the class after Christmas.  It was satisfying to be able to show off the creations this time.

No pictures since the kids' name were plastered all over everything -- the posters, the marshmallow-spaghetti creations, and all the other little bits I'd saved this semester (clay boats, booklet on making soda, etc.).

We had an Open House that evening, displaying all of the things all the co-op has done this year.

And now WE ARE DONE!

Coming up next year:  I'll be teaching middle school earth science.