Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Oh, What Do You Do in the Quarantine, When All the World is Closed?

Sometime during the Covid-19 quarantine, I saw this t-shirt and just had to have it.  This is exactly what I expected I would do during a quarantine.  What could be better for an introvert like me than an excuse to stay at home and read books???  And I tried.  I really did.  And I certainly had the time.  There was a period of about 8 weeks when I barely left the house.  Simply sitting outside for awhile during the day was a big deal, it seemed. 

Our church has a song our children sing that goes, "Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green? Do you fish in a stream, or lazily dream on the banks as the clouds go by? [Chorus] Is that what you do? So do I!"  (I can't find a vocal version, but here is a piano version for your listening pleasure.). Throughout this quarantine, this song has been running through my head, with the words changed rather slightly.  My version goes like this, "Oh, What Do You Do in the Quarantine, When All the World is Closed?  Do you cover your face, and stare into space, and wish you could socialize?  Is that what you do?  So do I."  Sorry.  Sometimes I just have to get these things out of my head.

I am an avid reader.  I read all the time.  During the first 10 weeks of 2020, I read 22 books.  (I keep track of my reading on Instagram.). During the quarantine, you would have thought I would have read at least a book a day.  Certainly several each week.  But no.

Since the quarantine started, I have only "read" 4 books, and 3 of those were audio books.  All but one were long-time favorites.  I must have started a dozen or more books, read the first chapter, or maybe two, and put it aside.  It seemed that nothing could hold my interest, which is very unusual.  A response to the world situation?  Probably.  I've heard that others are having this issue too, which makes me feel somewhat better.

I didn't binge on Netflix either.  I watched all the Harry Potter movies early on.  They were on my list for Spring Break before there was a quarantine.  I watched The Fellowship of the Ring (but not  the others in the series,) the Patty Duke version of The Miracle Worker (I really have no idea why,) and the Disney version of A Wrinkle in Time.  It was this movie that got me listening to audio books at least.  I hated it.  I was so mad that they had changed the story so much from the book, that I just had to see if I remembered the story correctly.  I did. 

I had planned to teach A Wrinkle in Time this quarter, but of course that didn't happen.  I hadn't seen the Disney version of the movie before.  When I teach a book that has a movie, I like to have students discuss what was different.  Some differences are caused simply by time - every page in the book is a minute on the screen, they say, and most audiences today aren't going to sit through a 4-6 hour movie.  Those days are gone.  But Disney's A Wrinkle in Time is an example of filmmakers who changed some very important things about the story.  For example, the characterizations of the witches are all different than L'Engel wrote them.  The writers made some startling changes for this all-star cast.  And, they left out my favorite part of the book - the part with Aunt Beast.  This is the focal point of the story because it's where Megan realizes she has to go back and get Charles.  But they changed all that, and it just didn't work for me.  It might have been an interesting discussion with the kids though, so I probably would have shown the movie anyway.  Still, I was disappointed.

But I think I'm mentally focused enough to read  now.  I've got a backlog of good books that I intend to read this summer.  Stay tuned.

What I actually did during the quarantine, of course, was work from home and sew, which have already been documented here.  How did you spend the time during the quarantine? 

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Great Purge of 2020

It hardly seems possible, but we've lived in our house 30 years last October.  Kids grew up, and we put the old stuff in storage. Kids left and we put what they couldn't take with them in storage.  Furniture we didn't need?  Put it in storage.  Clothing we couldn't wear any more?  Storage.  Household stuff the kids might want someday?  You guessed it.  Storage.  We emptied - and refilled - the garage several times over the years, then branched out into storage units.  We. Have. Too. Much. Stuff.

So last week, the husband and I were discussing the situation and he agreed that it was time to do something about it.  Of course, I've been casually talking about it for months years, and maybe the inevitability - and expense - of it has finally made some impression.  I was more than pleasantly surprised at his easy acquiescence to the plan.  Grateful too, of course.  So Saturday morning, I actually started in the bedroom and purged some things, just to get off to a good start.  Then we grabbed breakfast and headed over to our storage units.  Yes, we have 2!  Yikes.  We worked like crazy.  No photos, sorry.  I hate to admit that I didn't even think about it. 

I'm no Marie Kondo - who could, or would want to, live with only 30 books? - but I felt pretty ruthless about getting the stuff out of there.  We filled the bed of the pickup 4 times and took 4 loads of stuff to the thrift store to donate.  We filled the bed twice more with trash.  We only quit when Doug came back after the 4th load and said that they stopped taking donations at 4:00.  I had at least 2 more loads ready to go!  It was so depressing to have to put all. that. stuff. back in the storage to wait until next week.  But, on the upside, that storage unit is now organized enough that I know what we're keeping and what we're donating.  Each child's stuff is waiting for them to go through it and do their own decision-making. 

The other storage unit isn't so overwhelming.  It contains a shocking amount of Christmas decorations - which obviously need to be culled and purged - and I know we will keep almost all the rest, but it will fit in the other unit, and shouldn't take more than a day to do.  So, from 2 units to one is a good start I think.  I'm hoping to get this part completed by the end of the month.  Yay for monthly savings!

Naturally, we both came home exhausted and sore.  We have definitely found muscles we had forgotten about.  

Then, after zoom church today, we worked on the house a bit.  My SIL needs a quiet place to work from home while he is here, so we rearranged a bit so he had a quiet work space with a decent internet connection.  Our internet is good, but is kind of spotty on the other side of the house, so internet was definitely a priority, and was a huge factor in the space we chose.

One of the things I always do Memorial Day weekend is bring home the bin of toys for the grands to play with during the month they are visiting.  Yesterday, while we were sorting and purging, we found 3 more large tubs of books and toys.  That is the mess you see in the photo above.  I sorted the toys from 4 large tubs to a large tub, a medium tub and a bookshelf. 

I threw out will donate tons of magazines and books (even quilting ones!, although I really can't see myself making a lot of those 90's style quilts - ever! and the hairstyles, fashion, and countrified designs made me laugh) to make room for the kids' books.  After 10 or 11 weeks of quarantine - their schools closed more than a week before ours did - one of the things grandma is going to make sure of is that we  reading every day while they are here, so finding the books was a thrill.  We will do the library (it's on their wish list) if we can, but we're still at 25% occupancy, so it's a bit uncertain. 

Of course there is more to do tomorrow, but I feel pretty good about what we've accomplished so far. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Out of the PPE Business

I thought I was finished with gowns and surgical caps after my last post, but when I opened FB on Thursday morning, I saw a note that some agency in town had requested 25 surgical caps and I only had 16 finished.  I still had the scraps from these gowns...

so I started cutting.  The caps take quite a bit of fabric for the ties, and I didn't have enough of the purple, so I started digging and found 2 pieces that coordinated well.

In 2 or 3 hours, I had another dozen surgical caps.

I gathered up the last 3 gowns, all the extra scraps and supplies, and the caps, and delivered them to the mask makers group.  I will sew more if I can, of course, but with my daughter and her family coming for a month, there may be a few other things to occupy my time.  And hopefully, the need for these things will keep winding down.  With any luck, I'm out of the PPE business.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Do you need a cap to go with that gown?

It seems I just can't help myself.  I keep talking quilts, but I keep making medical gear.  First masks, then gowns, and now surgical caps.  My friend who gave me the fabric for the gowns gave me some smaller pieces, and I just can't let it go to waste - and it doesn't seem fair to just shove it in my stash and move on - so the other day, I sat down and made several of these surgical caps.  They were easy, and like most other projects get easier the more you make.  And this fabric was so cute, they were fun to sew.  And they go pretty fast, I made 8 caps in about 4 hours, including the time it took to make and eat dinner.

The pattern is here.  There is also a video tutorial if that's your thing, but I'm too impatient to watch people sew seams - I've been doing that since I was 5 so it's not a mystery to me - so I prefer to skim down to find the place where it explains what to do if I'm stuck.   I know others get a lot more from video, so choose whatever works for you.

You can get 2 caps out of about 1/2 yard of fabric if you're careful how you cut.  I had to piece the ties on one of the pink caps, but I don't think that's a big deal.  The part that confused me was how the tie ends worked, but once I saw what she did, I realized it was genius. 

The only thing I did differently was to put a piece of elastic in the back.  People have different sized heads and I think the elastic may make it fit a bit better.  I used a piece of 1/4" elastic about 3-1/2" long, and attached it using the same method I've been using on Barbie clothes and hospital gowns -  feed it through the casing just until the end of the elastic meets the edge of the fabric and sew it down, then feed it the rest of the way, remove the safety pin, and sew that end down.  Now it is anchored firmly in the seam and can''t come loose. 

I have enough fabric for about 6 more surgical caps, I think.  Guess I should get on it.  They don't make themselves. 

EDIT:  In between the time I wrote this and the time it was to be published, I used that fabric, and managed to get 8 caps out of 1-1/2 yards of fabric by piecing two of the caps along what should have been the fold.  And - bonus for me - they're paisley, and I've always loved the way colors play together in a paisley.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Sewing for Ken

Once I had a wardrobe for Barbie, I realized that Ken deserved equal time.  Naturally I had to purchase a Ken and a Barbie as models for my clothes-making efforts.  Ken showed up at my house wearing only a swimsuit.  Barbie was slightly more fortunate, wearing a top and skirt and adorable pink high heels.  But Ken?  Ken was desperate!  As mentioned in the previous post, not so very long ago, I hated making doll clothes, but I have found a few techniques that have been shared with me, and I've included them here as "helpful hints."  I hope they help you too.

First, I dug in the scrap basket.  I found this piece of gray Kona cotton and a coordinating piece of light gray in a weave design left over from a quilt I made way back when.  I had lots of the gray Kona, but just enough scraps of the weave to make the shirt.  I found patterns for the shirt and the pants at chellywood.com.  Here's the link.  It should be noted though that I did not read the small print.  She clearly says this pattern does not fit Ken...  and she is so right.  I finished the first pair of pants, and I'm not sure it would have fit Barbie.  That first pair went in the trash.  But, being the resourceful person that I am, I slit the let of the pattern up the middle added 1/2" all the way up, and made the pants again.  This time, they fit!  It's possible that adding only 3/8" would have made for better fitting pants with no wrinkle across the derriere, but these are intended for rather little people, and I think ease of dressing and undressing counts for something.

The cutest - and most difficult - part about these pants are the pockets.  Clearly, I have more work to do to make classy back pockets.  Chellywood has a tutorial for the pants, and I assume it includes her method for the pockets, but naturally, being the impatient person that I am, I didn't watch it.  I don't think my littles will care.  

The shirt was from this same pattern, and it fit Ken pretty well.  It was also easy to construct, which counts for a lot.  The collar and sleeves fit perfectly, which is unusual for doll clothes in my experience, and also a plus.  The pattern shows long sleeves, but I cut them short - I live in Florida after all.  Helpful hint:  Hem the sleeves before you sew up the side seam.  For the blue beach shirt, I just used velcro - no buttons.  I cut a piece of 3/4" sew-in velcro in half lengthwise, so enough for 2 shirts from 1 length of velcro.  (The pattern set also has a tie and a pair of dress pants I haven't tried yet.)

This shirt also has a velcro closure, but I really love the effect of the buttons.  They are for show only.  No way do I have patience enough to even attempt buttonholes this size.  And in truth, the littles who are dressing the dolls probably couldn't manage buttons and buttonholes that small anyway.  I had a friend ask where I found the tiny buttons.  I bought them in a package at Joann's in the buttons section.  The brand is Findings.   I also found this online store that has both zippers and buttons for dolls, and Nancy's Notions also has doll buttons, but they seem to be in much larger quantities and consequently, much more expensive.

 I found Ken's T-shirt pattern here.  It looks a bit strange when it isn't on him, but it fits him pretty well.  For the fabric, I cut up a couple of t-shirts that have holes in them.  I have to say, using scraps and worn out clothes does make me feel a bit thrifty.

I used the same pants pattern to make Ken jeans and  shorts from my favorite pair of summer skimmers that unfortunately got a hole in an unmentionable place.  Barbie will get a pair of jeans from these too (and now that I'm making doll clothes, I might make some American Girl clothes since those are sooooo expensive!)   Helpful Hint:  Hem the pants before you sew up the inseam.

At the same time, I went hunting for a pattern for a pair of leggings for Barbie because every girl needs leggings these days.  I cut up a t-shirt I didn't like and Helpful hint:  used the bottom of the cuff for the hem, which made them super fast and rather decorative.  Helpful hint:  Putting the casing in the pants and skirts has been a pain up until now.  On this pair, I tried a technique I used on the sleeves of the hospital gowns - I sewed the casing, pulled the elastic through just far enough to stitch it down on one end,  pulled it the rest of the way through and stitched it down on the other end of the casing, then sewed the back seam.  It's counter-intuitive, but it really cuts down on the frustration of trying to sew the two ends of that tiny piece of 1/8" elastic together.

So, I'm having fun getting these dolls attired before the grands get here next week.  I promised the oldest that we would make clothes for her AG doll, but I think the younger ones would be frustrated trying to sew these little pieces for Barbie and Ken.  Then again, I was making doll clothes with my grandmother when I was about their age.  We may give it a try if they're so inclined.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Sewing for Barbie and Ken

When Spring Break started, I envisioned spending the whole time making quilts.  I was really into cleaning out the scrap baskets and it was going pretty well.  But once the covid-19 craziness started, I started making masks and gowns, and a quilt somehow seemed out of the question.  I just couldn't settle on a pattern, and I really didn't want to cut stuff out when my sewing room was so uprooted by the masks and gowns situation.  But I had gotten one of my granddaughters a Barbie for Christmas, and one day while we were talking on FaceTime, my daughter said that her youngest two would play Barbie for hours.  They had all kinds of adventures.  And imaginary adventures for kids are just my thing.  I really like to encourage kids in that regard.

So I started making Barbie clothes in between mask and gown sessions.  Honestly, I have always hated making Barbie clothes.  Other dolls, OK, but Barbie?  They're just so darned small.  I had made some Barbie clothes for her at Christmas.  And hated it.  All those little pieces!!! But I was lamenting the Barbie situation on Instagram, and an IG friend. said she made lots of Barbie clothes - and there was an easy way and a hard way.  Apparently, I had taken the hard road.

She told me about a Barbie skirt she had made over and over made from a simple rectangle.  She shared her "recipe."  Then she shared a couple of Pinterest pictures of other easy Barbie clothes.  I dug into the scraps from the hospital gowns (of all things!) and started sewing.  First, a skirt.

Then a boxy top to go with it, which is just about the easiest outfit ever!  A rectangle skirt and a rectangle top and two straps (which I have to say I'm pretty good at now after making the ties on masks and gowns for several weeks!)

Then another skirt that coordinated with the top.

Then yet another skirt.  But wait - Barbie needs more tops!

And this top coordinates with all the skirts, so that's a plus.

And let's try putting darts in the top and make another skirt.

And now since I'm getting pretty confident, let's try a dress.  This is the same top as the one above, with a gathered rectangle sewn on as a skirt.  This is pretty fun.

And now let's dig in the scrap bin and find more fabrics to coordinate.  Let's try a strapless dress this time.

And before I knew it - literally in one afternoon - Barbie had a whole new wardrobe for granddaughter's birthday.  And I couldn't wait to sew for Ken. 

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Maskmaker, Maskmaker

So, here we are.  Spring 2020.  Covid-19.  Quarantine.  I've been making masks.  Masks and gowns.  Masks ad nauseum.  If you're a quilter, it is likely that you have made a few (or hundreds) also.  This seems to have been the theme for Spring 2020.  I see them everywhere.  On Instagram.  On FaceBook.  Everyone trying to help.  Everyone coming together to do a little something to help.

For me it started one morning during Spring Break while I was perusing IG as part of my morning ritual.  My niece is a doctor.  The morning  that the CDC said it was ok for medical professionals to wear scarves, bandannas, or whatever they had instead of the protective equipment they were used to, my niece posted that it was not OK.  That medical professionals needed protective equipment to stay safe themselves as they treated infected patients.  But there wasn't much left in the stockpile.  It had been used and not replaced.  My niece was aghast (really, weren't we all?)  She heard stories from her friends in Seattle and New York that they were using bandannas or t-shirts over their faces to protect them from getting this virus.  By that evening I had made my first mask.  So had my daughter.  She researched mask patterns on the internet and tested what she found.  As we talked, I decided that a 3-ply mask made of quilting cotton had a pretty good record of stopping particulates, was easy to make, and could be made from items we mostly had on hand.  We had no idea what this would become. 

Everyone who knows me knows that fabric is no problem in my world.  In fact, I had done the calculations and bought 12 yards of fabric, just to be sure I didn't run out.  (Like that could ever happen!)  My goal was to make 100 masks.  But I didn't really think to buy elastic.  So Saturday morning, when it was reported that elastic was also in short supply, I posted the problem on my FB page, and a friend asked if she could help.  She ended up doing the legwork, finding it in a local shop, with a limit of 20 yards per person.  She bought me 20 yards.  I sent my husband after 20 more, and ordered another 50 yards on eBay.  I started making masks in earnest.

On Sunday morning, a friend tagged me on FB in a group a wonderful lady had started a FB group to make masks for medical professionals here in Pensacola.  I was all in.  I invited everyone I knew who sewed, and kept sewing.  By the end of the week I had made more than 100 masks.

And then there were 200. 

I was well on my way to 300 when the mask maker's group put out a call for people to make masks for our hospitals from a fabric that was reported to filter 99% of particulates and could be autoclaved and re-used.  I signed up.  I made 100.  And then another 100.  And then a third 100.  The need was met.  We could stand down.

Or, we could join another group that was making hospital gowns for nursing homes.  I made gowns.

A dozen the first week.

And we got feedback.  People wore them.  They were helping!  I recognized some of the ones in this photo that were ones I had made!

So I made 10 more the next week. 

And then I had to take a week off.  My neck and shoulders couldn't handle the constant sewing. But the following week I made another 4.   And then somewhere in there I finished off the masks I had cut out.

My mother always said that busy hands were the antidote to a disturbed mind, and I find that to be true.  This quarantine and the situation with this virus are just so uncertain.  So, if I'm honest, I made masks and gowns to try and help, yes, but also to keep busy and not give my mind the chance to dwell on what's going on. 

And maybe, just maybe, it made a smidgen of difference to someone I don't even know.  I hope so.