Friday, September 30, 2011

Temperature Control: A Fight For All Seasons!

Warning:  This post may or may not contain Polish words that are misspelled and used incorrectly.  Also, for the ease of storytelling, much of this post is told through the use of pictures.   

On paper, my husband and I would probably be a horrible match.  We are complete opposites!  I like to read, worry, camp, get muddy, sit on the beach for hours, go on day trips all the time, avoid numbers, and develop new nervous twitches.  My husband will read a magazine but rarely a book, he does not worry, he does not like to camp, mud is not his friend, he will sit on the beach for a couple minutes, likes to go on day trips some of the time, misses taking math classes, and does not have any nervous twitches.  He does sometimes develop an allergy to onions (inside joke.)  On paper we do not mesh but I guess there is something to be said for the cliche that opposites attract.  Our biggest issue is not so much that I have about 715 nervous twitches (what a blog that would be) but that I am always cold and he is always hot!

At the beginning of our marriage this caused some issues.  We have a quilt and in the winter we would add flannel sheets and a puszyna.  That's right, sounds just like it looks.  I know what you are going to say!  What the hell is a puszyna? I said the exact same thing to my husband when he started throwing out all the Polish words on our honeymoon.  Krutka anyone?  This post is not about the end of a loaf of bread so let me get back to temperature control.  Once when he was out of town for work, I took a trip to my parents house and brought back a my super warm and heavy comforter.  It was a dream to sleep under.  My husband did not agree and after one night said the "death comforter" needed to be returned to my parent's house immediately.  I was not happy.  I am always cold.  Our bedroom is an attic in an old bungalow.  We are hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and comfortable in the spring and fall.

Then, one winter, my mom bought us fleece sheets for Christmas.  These sheets are an absolute dream for me.  Kevin was not so excited about gift of fleece.  He thinks they are ridiculous.  Clearly we needed a compromise so we came up with the following schedule.

October 1:  Flannel Sheets
November 1:  Add the puszyna
December 1:  Remove flannel, add fleece sheets
February 1:  Remove fleece, resume flannel
April 1:  Plain old cotton sheets and light weight blanket

Yes, this may seem a bit extreme but this schedule works for us.  If it is 90 degrees or extremely humid out the air conditioning does get turned on but we still fight over this threshold.  Kevin would turn it on as soon as the temp in our house hits about 75 degrees.  Given our different tolerances for hot and cold, our winter sleepwear tends to differ a bit too!

In the winter, Kevin wears to bed what we refer to as shiny shorts.  The rest of the world calls this type of apparel, basketball shorts.  He will also wear a tee-shirt.  I wear fleece pajamas and I have many pairs along with thick fuzzy socks.  Our bedroom is cold and my husband will not let me have the "death comforter" therefore I must dress accordingly.  Since I am branching and out trying new things, I had the following thought:  Why not make flannel pajama pants?!?!

Well, now that I have made the flannel pajama pants, I can think of two reasons why not to make pajama pants.  1.  For about $10 to $12 at Old Navy and Target, I could have been lounging around in new flannel pajama pants a month ago.  2.  Store bought might be a bit more stylish.  However, making the pajama pants was definitely a bonding experience for my mom and I.

When I first took the pattern out of the packet, I thought:  Whoa, this pattern was written in Polish.  I did not understand anything.  I folded the pattern back up and waited for my mom to visit.  When she arrived we spread the pattern and fabric on the big table in the basement.  We tried to figure out the size.  I bought a pattern for small, medium, and large.  I usually wear a medium.  However, according to the package, my measurements peg me at a size 18 which was not included in this packet.  Expletives were flying.  My mom reassured me that sizes on patterns are always wrong and we could go ahead with the medium.  After we cut out the pattern, I held it up to my body.  Can you say enormous?  My mom's response, "You don't want your pajama's too small.  Do you?  I like mine kind of roomy."  No, I do not like my pajamas too small but if we had made the pants completely as is, I could have shared my pajamas with a full grown hippo.  At any rate, we cut the pattern, pinned the pattern, cut the fabric, and left the project for another day.

Mom measuring and checking out the pattern

Mom teaching me all about grain and pattern placement
Today was another day and we once again got started on the pajama pants.  My mom and I had a really interesting conversation about what you do if you don't cut the fabric straight.  Do you continue to sew on the 5/8 marker or do you compensate?  I was not understanding her, she was not understanding me and this resulted in the use of the seam ripper.  The conversation was so inane that I cannot even write a sample for you!  In the end, my mom said, "If you are sewing such an uneven line, you need to stop what you are doing and fix it.  If you can't cut a straight line, call Kevin."  Well, okay then!  Between the two of us, we figured out how to sew those pants.  I really think photojournalism is the best way to tell the rest of the story.

Pinning pants!
Something is not right!  I am just not sure what!

Me:  These pants are huge!
Mom:  You don't want them too snug!
Me:  My crotch is not around my knees!
Mom:  Something is not right!
Mother!  What are you doing back there?
Ah ha!  Front and back and right side out.  Looking a bit better!
Mom giving me a lesson how to sew a curve or crotch!
Waist is not done, nor the hem.  But we are getting there.

Hot stuff!!!  Not!
Working on the waist band

Safety pin stuck in the waistband because it came undone.
Must have McFlurry.


Snuggly pants, snuggly pillow, clashing patterns. have it...I tried to make pajama pants.  It is good to try new things.  I think I am going to stick to pillows for now but I might try a skirt at some point.  While there is there is nothing wrong with the pajama pants, I am not going to rush out to buy more fabric to sew more.  I am going to wear them because I am wearing them right now.  Therefore, you know what I am wearing to bed.  All this talk about wearing is wearing me out.  Guess it is time to drag myself up to our drafty bedroom.  Good night!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Insider Tips and Tricks

When you are a newbie in any field or stage of your life, sometimes insider tips and tricks keep you going when you feel like quitting.  Quite often quitting is not even a choice.  You have to learn and evolve.  Most of the times you need some sort of teacher, mentor, or guru.  I am not saying I have never quit before - I have.  In college I tried out for the Michigan State Crew Team.  And, I am proud to say I made it!!!!  I was pretty proud of myself.  When I realized the commitment involved, I quit.  I was not exactly a natural super student.  There was always something infinitely more interesting than economics going on in East Lansing and I was never one to say "no" to a good time.  When you are that kind of person, maybe the crew team is not for you.  It is quite possible that I would have flunked out of college.  But, I have not quit all of the challenges in my life, after all, my kids are sleeping in the next room.

I remember when my kids were first born and the feeling of euphoria that took a giant leap into my body.  I was thrilled, excited, and in love.  I was also lost, scared, and really tired.  My husband was home for a couple weeks so I had a lot of help during the day.  At the time, very few of our friend had kids which is shocking because I was not a young mom.  I guess a lot of my friends were a little big younger.  While I had a lot of support, not a lot of insider tips.  As the months went on I started meeting new friends and developed friendships with a great group of women in my neighborhood.  And then my friends started having kids!!!  We were able to trade stories, figure out was normal or not, compare childhood diseases, diagnose childhood diseases, laugh, give advice and take advice, and just become friends.  It has been so nice.  But, without these tips and tricks, it is almost like you would have to reinvent the wheel.  I have been thinking a lot of about this kind of stuff lately because I am a new aunt.  I know what my brother and sister-in-law are going through.  Adjusting to having a new little person in their lives who needs them twenty four hours a day, seven days a week is downright draining and fun.  I wish they lived closer so I could go over there every so often with a plate of cookies, make them a sandwich, and give my niece a little cuddle whenever needed.  But, I don't live close so I am leaving by train on Sunday to meet a little girl who I love so much but have never met!  I hope that I will be able to give some love and support to my family and help them out whenever needed.  Maybe I will be able to share some tips and tricks with them, without being an annoying older sister.  

My mom and I!
Today my parents came over to retrieve their little dog and share pictures of my little niece.  While they were here, I asked my mom the sewing guru for a little help.  I am trying to make pajama pants and could not for the life of me figure out how to read the pattern, cut the pattern or even sew the darn things.  Seriously, they are four pieces of material.  What can be so hard?  Well, there will be a whole post devoted to these darn pajama pants, stay tuned.  What I will tell you, it is that I learned a few things today.  I watched my mom and she watched me.  The way I was pinning the pattern onto the fabric was just kind of stupid.  I was pinning up and down, my mom pins to the side.  We laid the fabric out on the dining room table in the basement instead of my basement floor.  What a novel idea!  A hard flat surface in which to work instead of my carpeted floor!  I can even cut a straight line!  Also, instead of cutting out four pieces at a time, Mom folded the fabric in two and just did it twice.  Mom is a GENIUS!  She also taught me about nap and grain.  Mom really needed to put on her teaching hat today because I just wasn't understanding.  As it was explained to me, the nap is the direction of the fabric.  This was illustrated to me by stroking the dogs fur.  That was my ah ha moment.  Right now, it is not really an issue because I am not working with fabrics like corduroy and velvet.  Then we moved along to the grain line. Up until now, I just sort of ignored the grain line in the fabric.  Mom has tried to explain.  I did not get it.  I ignored the grain line.  Another ah ha moment, the grain line is good.  Before you start pinning, measure the grain line to the edge of the fabric and pin the pattern to the fabric.  Keep this up for the length of the grain line and this will insure your finished product hangs the way it is supposed.  I am sure I am not explaining this all that well.  But, the thing is, the point of this blog is to share my experiences, I am not a sewing teacher, yet!  I do hope you generally get the idea of nap and grain from my description.  Next time she comes over, we are going to sew the pajama pants.  Here is a sneak peak:  They will be flannel AND paisley.  Yep, Victoria's Secret is going to be after me too!  

Today was great!  It gave me the boost I needed to keep sewing.  It is the little tips and tricks that make hobbies, jobs, and life a wee bit easier.  But, it is important to give these tips and tricks without sounding like an obnoxious know it all.  Let me remember this advice when I travel to visit my niece.  Give advice when solicited but give my love freely.  Enjoy your weekend folks.  I will be back sometime next week.  Oh, and I promise the next post will be heavy on pictures!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Runner? Pillow? Or Both?


Anyone who has been to my house knows that crafts are not really my thing.  I 100% appreciate handmade gifts and crafts, but I don't do them.  No one, I mean no one has ever walked into my house and said, "Wow!  That is awesome.  I can't believe you made that."  Usually, there is a snicker from those who have seen my attempted crafts.  Trust me, I don't take it personally.  The snicker is usually warranted.  Despite this, I did start sewing and blogging and in return discovered something about myself.  You want to know what I discovered?  I am not completely inept.  Since I am not completely inept, I decided to make a runner for my kitchen last night.

Have any of you taken a literature or creative writing class?  If you have, you have probably heard various versions of the following two statements.  1.  Write about what you know  2.  Always write.  It is true that it much easier to write about what you know.  I remember in college taking a course which was themed the American Dream.  We had to pick our research topic the first week of class and then present our papers at the end of the course.  So, I picked The Bell Jar.  It was on the course list and I knew the book well.  Write about what you know, right?  Well, it turned out that my professor and his wife were well known Sylvia Plath scholars.  I figured this out about half way through the semester when I realized my main source was the professors wife.  Then, my professor started to tell me about how they traveled to England to interview Sylvia's husband, Ted Hughes.  The pair spent many hours with Sylvia's mom and other important people in her life.  Do you want to know how I felt?  First, I felt really excited to be in my professor's presence.  I mean, how cool is that!!!  Next, I felt fear and panic.  He was kind of a Plath know it all and I really needed to make sure my cite my references.  I spent the semester writing and re-writing and I got an A.  I wrote about a topic I was comfortable with (Rabbit is Rich was not an option) and I kept working on it.  I guess there is some truth in those two saying.  But how exactly does this apply to sewing?  Bear with me, it does and I do have a point.

I am have been making a lot of pillows.  I have been doing it over and over and over again.  I am going to make more and more pillows.  But, I needed a pillow break or should I say a break from pillows.  Soooo, write about what you know and keep writing.  Reapply to sewing.  Sew what you you know how to sew and always sew.  As a new sewer (that does not look right) seamstress I am sewing nothing but what I know.  It is probably a good idea to branch out a bit and as a result I will always be sewing.  Onto the runner.

My mom made us our curtains in our kitchen last winter.  We were at Ikea and found the fabric and it was on sale.  Yippee!!!  We bought a lot of extra fabric since we did not have the window measurements with us.  A couple weeks ago, my mom brought over the extra fabric so I could "practice."  Yesterday I bought a pattern for runners.  I knew I could not cut, measure, and design a runner without any help.  According to the pattern, I was supposed to use multiple fabrics.  I did not.  According to the pattern, I was supposed to sew some kind of border on the bottom of the runner to create a flatter surface.  I did not.  According to the pattern, I was supposed to make the runner fatter thicker by using a fleece insert.  I did not not.  I simply used the pattern to cut out two pieces of material.  I cut out two pieces of material, sewed them inside out like I would a pillow, turned them right side out, hand sewed the small hole, and broke out the iron.  Well, I think I figured out how to make a body pillow.  Yes, my runner is basically an unstuffed pillow but I think it looks pretty good, for a first try.  Heed my warning Martha Stewart:  I am on a role and after your job!

Curtains my mom made and the Rejuvenation light fixture that Kevin won!

Dining area (ok, nook) prior to the runner.

Nook with the runner - ohhh - what a happy spot.  

Anyone want a snack? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Because Everyone Needs a Little Support!

We all need a little support from time to time.  Actually, we all need a little support pretty much all the time.  I know I do.  I don't function well when I am stressed and I am not always a stickler when it comes to details and specifics.  Which is strange because I am pretty good at planning events and those require attention to details.  I am also a fairly good baker which to some degree also requires one to be attentive to details and specifics.  If you haven't noticed by now, my personality is at constant odds with itself.  It can be a very trying way to spend your life - trust me on this one.  This is why I need my husband for balance and support.  I know I make fun of him a lot and I know I drive him crazy but in the end, it is all about balance and support.  Besides, the fact that we are so different results in numerous belly laughs a day.  And at the end of your life, no one care how much money one has made, one cares about how many belly laughs one has had.  At thirty seven, I deem my life a great success!

But, let get back on topic, shall we?  Support, we all need it.  Humans, all living creatures, the environment, and lets face it, even inanimate objects need support.  Ever hear of support beams?  There are so many ways to support someone or something that the list is absolutely endless.  My Pillows for HAVEN project came to my mind just because I saw my own kids hugging their pillows.  Plus, I really like to hug my pillow at night even though it has to be the worst pillow in the entire world.  So, I figured, why not try to make pillows for kids at the HAVEN shelter.  I am never going to meet one of the kids who gets one of my pillows.  I will probably never get a thank you.  But it does not matter, not even a little.  I think of the teachers, co-workers, family, and friends who have been there for me through some pretty dark times.  We should help others for the sake of helping others.  We should help others because at sometime in our lives someone helped us out and did not want a single thing in return.  At Christmas, my church always asks members to sign up to bring in gifts for needy families.  I never seem to get to the sign up sheet in time - again, lack of attention to details.  But, I am going to help twelve kids right now.  And, I did not do this project on my own.  My mom, Kathy Christopher donated money.  My friend, April Mrosewske donated batting.  My husband ran out to get more batting when I ran out.  Mimi stuffed the pillows and handed me pins.  It was a team project and I appreciate each contribution.

Mimi stuffing pillows!
Violet kind of just wanted to play!
I am hoping that periodically, in a perfect world that would be every quarter, to do some kind of charitable project.  Whether it is for HAVEN or a different organization, I would like to donate snuggly pillows!  Just remember, even if you don't realize like it, you are probably supporting someone.  Holding a door, letting someone move ahead of you in line, giving out a big hug, bringing ice cream to friend who is having a really bad day, it all makes a difference to someone.  

Me hugging twelve pillows!  

They look pretty cozy!
Pillows for HAVEN is now pretty much complete.  I just need to find a day to make my delivery, preferably on a day when Mimi can come.  She has asked many questions about this project and has asked why it is important.  I think it is important that she is there when the project is complete.  So, thank you so much for everyone who sent messages of support and to those of you who gave.  It is all appreciated.  Now go out there and show some support.  At the very least, go out there and give someone something to belly laugh about!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fabulous Fabric!

What an exciting day in Berkley, Michigan!  As least it was an an exciting day for me.  First, I now have another title: Mommy, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Crazy Pillow Lady, and now I am Auntie Jenny!!!  My new little niece was born yesterday and I have not yet met her.  Little Anna lives in Chicago with my brother and sister-in-law.  She is of course a cutie and I got to hear her cry today for the first time.  It was pretty exciting.  Violet said she was too loud and does not want to look at pictures of her little cousin.  I think seeing an actual little baby makes Vi uncomfortable because she is realizing that as much as she would like to be Baby Vi, she is actually a big girl.  So, happy day for me but not so happy for Violet.

You are probably thinking to yourself, "I sure hope something else exciting happened today!"  Well, something else exciting DID happen today.  Actually, something exciting came in the mail.  The fabric that I ordered from Fashionable Fabrics arrived today.  I ordered twelve yards of what I think are pretty snazzy fabrics.  As I was looking at them today I thought, "Hmm, some of these fabrics would make nice purses or tote bags."  But, while I am not far off from branching out, I think I am going to stick with what I know right now, happy pillows.
Fabric still wrapped in plastic

Fabric out of the plastic
Aren't the colors perfect?  The kid fabrics are a nice soft cotton and the other three are decorator fabric.  I can't wait to get started.  This project is going to be like the ACT of sewing.  Can I do it?  Can I make?  Will someone log onto Etsy sometime in the next couple weeks and say, "Oh, I must have that pillow!!!  It was made just for me!"  Well, that all remains to be seen.  All I know is that the coming weeks are going to be busy.  It will be a time to concentrate and a time to test my new found sewing skills.  Also, if you did not read my last post, it is time to put Kevin's diagram to good use!  Here is the link to Mathematics + Sewing = Panic  in case you missed it - I am now off to spend a few hours in my sewing spot!  Hope you all have a great night!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mathematics + Sewing = Panic


My mom and dad always tell me that by the time I was a year old, I was already speaking in complete sentences.  I was a pretty verbal child and a bit of a free spirit.  I did not enjoy living in a black and white world. I preferred a more colorful world where anything could happen.  Kind of like Oz where apple trees can talk, monkeys can fly, your best friend is a scarecrow, and you can wear sparkly shoes that don't perfectly match your outfit.  Unfortunately, I heard the word "no" a lot AND quite often there was a right way and a wrong way to do something.  And that my friends, is why math and I have NEVER gotten along.  

When I was in elementary school and I had to learn my multiplication tables.  It was sheer misery for everyone in my family.  My parents bought this torture device disguised as a toy called "The Multiplier." (I tried to find a picture but could not.)  It was a big black square with the number 0 - 12 at the top and 0 -12 on the side.  You would slide the corresponding colors and numbers to get the answer to 4 x 4 = 16.  I am sure there are some kids who cared, but I wasn't one of them.  I would rather make fun patterns with the colors and numbers on "The Multiplier."  My parents made me use that thing pretty much every single night.  Torture.  Pure torture.  

Life did not get much better.  In high school, I had to take algebra and geometry.  I took all college prep classes except when it came to math and math based science classes.  Needless to say, I had some interesting classmates, experiences, and fun since none of us truly cared because letters just don't belong with numbers.  College math was terrible and I based my major on the number of math classes required.  Can you guess what I studied?  English Literature because I feel that diagramming a sentence is almost the same as math.  Useless.  Then, I decided to get my Master's in Urban Planning.  Do you know how much math I had to do?  It was horrible, particularly when I had to learn how to do transportation forecasting.  I am 100% certain that there is a computer program for that kind of thing.  Anyway, now you know how I feel about math.  And if you know anything about sewing, there is math involved and this is where the story begins, again!

Present Day

I married someone who enjoys math and in many ways this makes my life easier.  But, my husband seems to think that I should still try to work on my math skills.  Really?  At my age?  I think he should concentrate on his daughters and leave me alone.  So last night he gets out his computer and he is doing all sorts of calculations and trying to figure out how much my pillows should sell for once we get to that point.  I am playing around on my computer looking at pretty things on Etsy, he is on his laptop... calculating.  I turn off my computer and leave the room because I can't stand being in the same place as math.  My husband says, "Where are you going?"  I answer, "I don't know."  Our house is about 1,000 sq. ft. so there are some limits on my future whereabouts.  I end up in our bedroom reading The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan.  It is a very good book.  Next thing I know, my husband, the number geek has followed me upstairs.  He asks, "Do you have any fabric that is a full yard?"  I don't, I have two yards, three yards and some scraps.  He needs to know where I keep my fabric.  He is shocked that my sewing area is neat.  This is not going to go well.  He spreads the fabric out on our bed, critiquing how it was cut.  He gets out his big Black and Decker tape measure used for home improvement projects.  He keeps talking to me.  He keeps asking me questions.  I keep giving him dirty looks.  I want to read about Jake, the last werewolf.  My husband is annoying me.  Finally, he asks me if I would like him to stop talking.  Yes, Kevin, I love you but please do not talk to me when I am reading a good book.  This is why I buy my husband books about floor plans, homes, and green buildings.  These books will give me roughly an hour of silence when I want to read.  Kevin continues calculating, drawing diagrams, and measuring while I read a little bit longer.  He is excited because he has figured out a way to maximize the number of pillows I can make per yard based on the size and where I position the pattern.  He shows me diagrams and numbers.  I am glad he had fun with this project but I just don't care about diagrams.  You see, I kind of like to cut, pin, and sew.  When I bought my first two yards the fabric, the pattern said I needed 3/4 of a yard.  I bought a yard of two different fabrics figuring/hoping I would get two pillows out of it.  Yeah!  I was right.

I can still see my mom's face when we would be in sewing stores and she would be figuring out in her head how much of everything that she would need to buy.  Genius, I say, pure genius that anyone can do math like that in their heads.  I can't do it!  I can't do it!  Yes, I know I should be saying, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.  But the fact is, I really just don't want to do it at this point in my life.  

So, the moral of this story is that if you are a numerical moron, such as myself, do not marry another numerical moron.  My husband drives me insane but at least he driving the more precise needs of 715 Pillows.  Kevin, I thank you for your contributions but I have one request:  Please leave me alone when I am reading a really good book.  Thank you for your consideration!  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Contest: Pick my Next Fabric

Here we go, folks!  I am going to sell some pillows but I need the help my readers.  I found a few fabrics that I really, really like.  But, I just can't decide which one to pick.  I am curious what kind of print people I know like or prefer.  So here is your chance to let me know.  I know, I know this isn't the sort of contest where you actually win something.  All you get is the satisfaction of helping me out.  Come on, help me out.  Do you like A, B, or C?  Let me know by Friday so I can get myself some fabric and start stitching!

You can also post your comments on my 715 Pillow's Facebook Page.  But, you have to like me first...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Age of Why

Since my oldest daughter turned two, I have been bombarded with "why" questions.  Now that my youngest daughter is two I am hit double.  Sometimes I know the answers and sometimes I have to make them up.  When Mimi was at the end of her second year or early third, she always wanted to know people's names.  Garbage men, maintenance men, truck drivers, usually men.  Which is interesting because she does not really enjoy talking to men.  One day in Royal Oak, she asked me the name of a homeless man.  I tried to be honest and tell her I did not know.  I had to name him Henry.  Well, we saw him all over town, all the time.  "Mommy, there is Henry!"  Once, when I was at work Mimi saw him with Kevin and exclaimed, "Daddy!  There is Henry!"  Kevin called me at work and asked how we knew the homeless man.  Violet is starting to follow in her sister's footsteps, everyone must have a name.  She just doesn't usually like my answer and tells me the person in questions name is, well, person.  You are probably wondering what the heck this has to do with sewing?  Yeah, um, well, nothing really except I did have a question about pin cushions.

Why are pincushions always shaped like tomatoes?  Tomatoes are yummy, juicy, and also rot.  If one was looking for a natural object to use as a pincushion, surely it would not be a tomato.  I decided to ask Google the question and see what sort of answers came my way.  According to EHow, pincushions were quite stylish during Victorian times and came in all sorts of shapes such as dolls, shoes, and various vegetables.  Once the pincushion was made available to the mass market, the tomato was the chosen form because it was easy to manufacture.  Also, because it is in the shape of a sphere, it is just practical.  Now it is tradition.  But also according to EHow, here are some other reasons the tomato pin cushion came to be.  1.  A ripe tomato on the mantel of a new home guarantees prosperity.  Because tomatoes were not available year round, a stuffed tomato served as a substitute and later became pincushions.  2.  During the Renaissance, tomatoes were evil but could contain evil so they were put on a mantel to keep the bad time away.  Again, since they were not always available, a stuffed version could be used and the pins may have been a voodoo addition.  That is the answer my quick internet search gave me.  Anyone looking for a topic for a school project or paper?  Could be interesting research.  

Then I started asking myself some more questions like, why do I always use the exact same cotton fabric?  Why don't I experiment a little?  As you may know from a previous entry,  Coupons: Are They Gifts or Pure Evil, I bought some new fabric.  I found a really good deal on flannel and decorator fabric.  The flannel made really cozy pillows.  Nice to snuggle, good for a bed.  The decorator fabric was fantastic.  I liked cutting it, sewing it, and I love the result.  I just should have ironed it BEFORE I sewed it.  So many things to learn. I am definitely going to be using this fabric again.  I can see why it is a little more expensive but I think the result is a beautiful and sturdy pillow for high traffic areas such as living rooms.  I was also thinking that corduroys might be fun to play around with.  All in due time...

Rectangular pillows made from decorator fabric
look nice on my bed! 

These pillows will also compliment your "Griffin and Sabine Trilogy"
and vintage Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books!

  • Now, onto my final why question.  Why am I NOT trying to sell these cute little pillows on Etsy?  Ugh, self esteem issues again.  What if no one buys my pillows?  What if everyone I know thinks I am crazy? (I suspect many already think I am a little nuts.)  What if people write horrible reviews about my pillows online? What if. what if, what if.  There is a poem called the "Whatifs" by Shel Silverstein and it is one of my favorites, you should check it out.  I am not going to let the whatifs hold me back.  Maybe I will fail miserably at selling these pillows.  The worst thing that can happen is that I spend some money and time and no one likes them.  Big deal!  My family and friends might get some more pillows and then I will give it up.  I will continue to sew for myself and the benefit of other, just for the love of sewing.  Okay, now I am just sounding corny.  Time to stop.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

715 Pillows is Going Charitable: Pillows for HAVEN, Oakland County Domestic Violence Shelter

The holiday weekend is over, school has started, my niece or nephew is due soon, and my husband will be traveling an awful lot for work over the next two months.  Ah, goodbye easy going summer, hello hectic days of fall!  While this season, like all others really, will bring challenges it will also bring opportunity.  I believe it is important to seek opportunities that will help ourselves and our family, but I also think it is a good idea to help others.

Lately, I have been making pillows for my kids, my parents, and my little baby friend.  Even though I have not been distributing and making pillows for dozens of people, those who have received a pillow have smiled and seemed happy.  My kids cuddle their pillow every night.  This makes me happy.  But, what about the kids who don't have access to a cuddly pillow?  I think there are quite a few kids out there who need something to cuddle.  So, I decided to make a few phone calls.

First, I called my husband's cousin because she is a volunteer at HAVEN, and has been for a long time.  I asked her if she thought they might be interested in accepting some pillows for the little ones who are staying in the shelter.  She thought it was a great idea.  The families only stay in the shelter for about ten days.  But, think of how traumatic it must be for a little kid to have to leave home, their room, and stay in a shelter.  Plus, this is a domestic abuse shelter, it is not as though this is an easy situation for anyone invovled: mother or child.  But, sometimes, having a little something special can change your day, at least make you smile.  Hey, when someone offers to carry my tray for me at Panera I generally feel like doing cartwheels.  It is the little things in life that really make a difference.  I thought, how nice would it be for a little kid, in a strange place, sleeping in a strange bed to have something new that is all their own.  With my cousin-in-law's support and a contact number at HAVEN, I placed another phone call this afternoon.

The woman I spoke with thought the kids would appreciate a throw pillow for their bed.  She was hesitant only because they don't have a lot of storage space.  But, since I don't work THAT fast, I asked what might be a good starting number.  She told me to start out with a dozen and then they would have enough to go around.  For some reason, I was expecting that I would have to fill out forms or paperwork, because when I worked as a volunteer coordinator, that is what everyone had to do.  Not in this case.  I am going to make twelve pillows and drop them off.  Hopefully, if HAVEN likes them, I will be able to make another twelve pillows and drop them off.

I don't have any pictures to upload of me on the phone since Kevin is back at work.  But, I am going to start sewing tonight with my leftover flannel.  If anyone sees flannel on sale, let me know.  Also, if anyone would like to help out, let me know.  If you have sewing machine, make a pillow or two.  If you can't sew but would like to help, maybe donate fabric or batting.  I just thought it might be time to help someone else!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Market Research

Now that I feel like I am getting closer and closer to actually selling these pillows, I figured that I should do a little bit of research on the subject.  Kevin, did quite a bit of work on it prior to announcing my pillow plan to me!  He looked up pricing on Etsy, checked out hand made competitors, researched blogging, ect.  But, we hadn't really spent much time actually looking, really looking at throw pillow, aside from the few that are hanging around our house.

Arts, Beats, and Eats!  Lots of hot weather,
but no pillows (that I saw!)
First stop this weekend, was Arts, Beats, and Eats.  Our primary reason for going, according to our two little ones, was to ride the ferris wheel and meet Super Why and Clifford.  And certain two year old actually believes her name to be Super Why.  Anyway, we had a few important priorities to accomplish.  As we were walking around we of course checked out some of the art.  People were selling paintings, photography, jewelry, dresses, scarves, metal and wood art, but we did not see any pillows.  Now, that is not to say we missed them.  It was in the 90's and humid, a bit too hot for us but we did not see a pillow! costs $1,500 to rent a booth for the weekend.  One would have to sell an awful lot of pillows!  Maybe it is just not cost effective.

Next on our whirlwind weekend of fun was a trip to IKEA, a family favorite.  We are not obsessed with IKEA to the extreme that our house is starting to look like a catalog but we do pick up a few things here and there.  Lamps, organization supplies, a couple bookshelves, things like that.  Besides selling a lot of meatballs, they all sell a lot of throw pillows.  Some are made from your basic cotton, which is generally what I have been working with.  They are completely stitched and can be thrown in the washer - simple, easy.  Others were pillow covers with either zippers or button holes.  The pillows covers were made with lighter and heavier fabrics and anywhere in between.  It was interesting just to get some ideas.  IKEA also sells some nice fabrics with interesting designs.  If I work my way up to curtains, I may have to make another trip.  We of course had to get meatballs, that is everyone except for Mimi, who feasted on tube noodles with parmesan cheese.  It just seemed logical to spend a really hot day checking out pillows and eating meatballs.  And in case you were wondering, yes, Kevin brought the camera.



And more pillows!

No, she does not eat meatballs!
No, she did not put sauce on those noodles!
I have also casually checked out pillows at Target and Pottery Barn the past couple weeks.  One of the things I have noticed is that quite often the patterns don't match up.  This is something that always annoyed my mom.  Now that I am learning it annoys me too!  I am trying to learn to match up patterns and I am hoping that I will be able to do it regularly.  It seems that it might be one way to differentiate between homemade and mass produced pillows.  It is worth a try!

Other new things on the horizon for 715 Pillows.  I started a Facebook page to promote my blog and possible future business.  From this post on, I am going to limit how often I post about 715 Pillows on my personal Facebook page.  Although, I will give people a friendly reminder from time to time.  I am going to post fabric pictures, project pictures, and staff photos.  I may even go so far as to host a few contests for loyal followers.  As always, I love all your ideas, comments, and suggestions.  Keep them coming!  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Coupons: Are They Gifts or Pure Evil?

The last time my mom was over, she brought me a couple coupons for Joann Fabrics.  One for 10% of your entire purchase and one for 40% off any regular price item and both MUST be used this weekend.  Instead of giving myself a little alone time, which I again threatened to do while attempting to get the family to put on their shoes, we all went together.  Going to the fabric store with your husband, a four year old, and a two year old is quite an experience.  The girls, don't want to be out of my sight.  My husband, the mastermind, behind this sewing adventure has decided that everything must be documented.  Thereby following me around the store taking pictures with our camera.  Document everything!

As you all know, I am new to this sewing thing but not new to a fabric store.  Fortunately, I have followed my mom around enough to know the basics.  However, I always start looking at fabric toward the front of the store, where the more expensive fabric is housed. Since I am still basically a beginner, I belong in the sale section.  I don't really want to go broke trying to figure out my craft.  Fortunately, I have been able to find some pretty snazzy fabrics.  Fortunately, my girls have been able to find some pretty snazzy fabrics.  Violet, found some fantastic cupcake fabric and she carried it all over the store.  I think I bought about two yards, we shall see what I can come up with.  Mimi really wanted snowman and pink fabric.  While looking at patterns, Mimi asked if we could make a carrier for a walker.  I told her since none of us were at the walker stage of life we would skip that pattern.  She was laughing a lot and telling me how silly she is.  Yes, Mimi is a silly girl.  Violet, was also getting a little ticked off because someone sat in her seat.  The nice woman who took the seat, which had been vacant for about ten minutes, offered to move but I told her that was not necessary.  Poor Vi, also got upset when we were waiting to get our fabric cut and she noticed someone was sitting in my seat.  She was quite boisterous as only a two year old can be and I felt like a I was living a version of Goldilocks!

Today's shopping trip ended up costing me $45.00 but I saved $43.00 which is pretty darn good.  But had I not had the coupon, I would not have spent the money.  I bought fabric for pillows and fabric for pajama pants.  Yes, I am going to make make myself flannel pajama pants.  The pattern was on sale for $.99 and the material was about $2.00 a yard.  I also FINALLY bought material for my my 18 month old buddy Bethany some pillows for her big girl bed.  Her mom took me to the airport so I owe them a couple pillows.  But, I would make her pillows anyways - she is a cute 18 month old and gives me hugs.

Pattern, thread, and material for my pajama pants

Home decorator fabric for a pillow- originally super expensive
but I got a super deal!

Vi's cupcakes!

This is more country than I am normally into but I thought it might make a nice pillow or five
or however many panels came in just under two yards.

Bethany's Butterflies!  I bought flannel so they would be nice and cozy.
Bought some extra too, to make something for my own girls!

After today's trip, I figure I have enough scraps, hand-me-downs, and new stuff that I should keep myself busy for awhile.  I did not sew tonight.  I am not going to sew tonight.  I am going to relax on the couch with a glass of wine and a movie.  Oh, my husband will be there too - asking lots of questions like: What did he just say?  Do you know if she ends up with him?  Why did he do that?  Since it is a long weekend, in between having fun, I am hoping to get in a few stitches, so more to come...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

Yesterday, Mimi and I decided to start work on our small recipe card holders.  We cut out material for two, because they are not going to be recipe holders.  Why, you ask?  Because Mimi claims she needs a new purse and if she needs a new purse, so does Violet.  The idea for this idea came from a sewing book that I bought for half off at Borders.  It comes complete with pretty pictures, patterns, and some pretty confusing directions.  Cutting out wasn't so hard, the reading of the directions is a different story.  It was like I was reading some sort of foreign language, complete with pictures.  I think cave writings are easier to decipher, seriously!  Since these are NOT going to be recipe card holders, but tiny purses for tiny girls, I am going to do my own thing.  Also, this obsession I have with these stupid holders is over for three reasons.  1.  I have been reviewing my dinner/holiday party history and the truth is, I am lame.  Most of the soirees I attend are hosted by my parents or in-laws.  2.  My friends who invite me to their houses for dinner or parties, really don't have huge expectations.  Trust me, I mean no offense because I always have a good time.  But my friends don't expect hostess gifts and no one gives them.  I would look like a big nerd.  3.  Plus, it seems like lately, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury have been having some great 10 for $10 sales and that is what I have been baking.  So, here reads fancy card in fancy recipe card holder bag:  One box of mix, follow directions, bake.  Smear one tub of delicious pre-made frosting onto cake.  Enjoy.  Ugh, no!  So, the tiny purses are cut out and sometime this weekend, Mimi and I will sew them together.

Now bubble was burst on my idea for scraps so I needed to come up with some other projects.  But, do not fear, I have some ideas.  I have left over fabric from some curtains that my mom made us for our kitchen window.  It is a bold, happy fabric that we bought at IKEA.  Some of you might have seen on Facebook, that Kevin won a schoolhouse light from Rejuvenation.  The light looks fantastic, however, the curtains no longer fit.  We, Kevin and I, are going to play around with some fabric and try to create some sort of simple cornice for the window.  Also, I am going to make a runner for our kitchen table.  Our table, was a welcome gift from the previous owner of our house.  However, there have been many painting, crafting, and play doh parties at this table and it is just not in tip top shape anymore.  It could use a runner.  So....stay tuned.  I am hoping to get that project started in a couple weeks.

Left over fabric from the kitchen curtains
Also, my dear mother came over today to take a trip to the beauty parlor (I know, I sound like an old lady) with her little granddaughters.  Everyone needed a haircut.  Yes, this has nothing to do with anything except my mom, Mimi, and Violet all got their hair cut and my eyebrows look a little less like Groucho Marx's eyebrows.  My mother brought to my house, aside from my father and their pooch, a lot of fabric.  A couple yards of a calico print that she is not using.  My parents have been busy spending my inheritance on new flooring, couches, and counter tops at the yooper residence.  The place looks great but is missing one thing...homemade throw pillows!!!!!  Tonight, I started cutting out and pinning the fabric together.  I am going to make two sets of pillows for the upstairs and downstairs living areas.  The couches on each level are shades of brown and the fabric will match.  It is the least I can do for the people I have terrorized, tortured, aggravated, and loved for the past 37 years!

Fabric for my mom's pillows
Me cutting fabric.  No, I do not fix myself up
before I sew.  Yes, I sew at night when I look awful.
Nope, I don't care!

Two pillows, cut out, ready to sew!
One more thing, I am starting to fix up my sewing spot.  I sew in a corner of our bedroom and my furnishings are all stuff that we don't want to use ANYWHERE in our house.  The table, was actually on my balcony when I lived in the "hot house" in Royal Oak.  The cubes came with Kevin and have been in pretty much every room.  But, I think it is a happy little space, at least I am happy when I am there.  And really, happiness is about the best thing anyone can ask for in life.

My happy place!