April 24, 2012

Sewing Mini-Class: Upcycle!

     Hello my blogland beauties! I've missed you. For the record, I'm blaming my decrease in blogging frequency on three factors:
1. Spring. Sunshine, fresh air and all that rot. I find it rather irresistible.

2. Instagram. You know I totally heart Instagram, but posting to IG is, really, like mini-blogging. It temporarily fills my need and then I feel justified in further procrastinating my planned full-size blog posts.Not fair. Particularly to you non-insta-peeps out there. I'm sorry. :-( 
 3. Life. Oh, what irony it is that that which I most love to write about--my simple, crazy, beautiful, family life--is that which also keeps me from writing more often. Well, I suppose that's life (ha! see what I did there? Life...that's life...Oh, the cleverness of me.)

     Aaand...moving on. Part of my life, a big part of my life, is active participation in the women's charitable service organization--the Relief Society--of our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The aims and purposes of the Relief Society are to "increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and help those in need." As part of the goal to strengthen families and homes, our monthly meetings often focus on practical skills that families can use to run resourceful, economical, happy homes. And last week, at one of those very meetings, I had the opportunity, alongside my lovely and talented friend Liesel, to teach a mini-class on upcycling/ repurposing old clothing to extend the life of your family's wardrobe. As this is something I am passionate about  and love to do, preparing for this class was a lot of fun for me. And, like with the class on finding good literature for children, I thought I'd give a little recap here.

     But first, some pretty pictures! These are a few of the sewing projects that have occupied me of late...and they all fit perfectly into the upcycle theme.

A hole-in-the-knee, too-short pair of jeans belonging to Mr. Riley got patched with a fun, vintage knit and cuffed (albeit unevenly in this shot) to look like clam-diggers: too short on purpose. 
Huh? Huh? See that wardrobe-stretching awesomeness?

Paired with an appliqued-in-the-same-vintage-knit-to-cover-the-stain tee-shirt, and that's one cute warm weather outfit for my one cute boy.

The humble beginnings of this adorable dress now in the ownership of Miss Laurelei, were as a hand-me-down, with a couple small stains on the front skirt panel that Mamma just couldn't get out...

...so I covered them up! By using what had been the waist tie-backs of the dress as a sash and attaching a semi-sheer vintage apron (yard sale!) I had in my stash, the dress became new again. The apron straps became little flutter sleeves, and the whole blue and white ensemble became on of Miss L's new favorites. 

Tossing her hair like a rock star...had to put that one in here.

(A young Taylor Swift?)

This next one was Laurelei's Easter dress this year, and it was upcycled from....

Yep. That is my big sister Ashley, as flower girl at a cousin's wedding, in all her 1982(?) be-ruffled glory. Which is now this:

Mr. Riley also had a handmade (though not upcycled) Easter outfit this year; one that involved Shelley Figueroa and Karen LePage's beautiful book Sewing for Boys,  and was meant to be Vintage Fabric Project #3, but, alas, the bow tie has gone MIA. So that one will have to wait...

     Okay. So those are a few of the projects that were shown in our little class, not to toot my own horn, or Liesel's, really, but to generate ideas and start discussions about the possibilities of reuse for what might have once been throw-away items. We got into tee-shirt necklaces, taking in and hemming pants, letting down skirts, shrunken wool...but what it all came down to is what is outlined in this handout: If you can stitch, cut, and iron a (roughly) straight line, YOU CAN DO ANY OF THESE PROJECTS. 
     I have found, when talking to people who don't consider themselves to be 'crafty' or 'creative' that lack of ideas is rarely the problem. It's lack of confidence that gets 'em every time. But I promise you, gentle readers, you can do it!
      So click on the link to the handout for a list (a barely-scratching-the-surface-list) of upcycle/repurpose ideas for your family's old clothes. There are links to some really useful tutorials on there, including genius instructions from One Pearl Button, Portabellopixie, and Handmade Baby Clothes, because we all need one another's support and ideas.

Now go forth and upcycle. And share what you make--I wanna see!

April 16, 2012

Play in the First Degree

Dear Blogland Mammas and Papas,
     I stumbled upon this article from Harvard.edu a few days ago through Pinterest (yes, I am back in full-on Pinning mode with the new ToS) and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind.

Einstein May Never Have Used Flashcards, but He Probably Built Forts

     Though it was first published several years ago, the writer's message is just as pertinent, if not more so, today. To summarize, the article is discussing the excessive, competitive nature of early childhood education today and the lack of time (and space) kids are allowed for free, imaginative, exploration play. Combined with the pre-defined, brain-numbing, electronic, plastic crap (sorry, strong feelings here) toys that fill the closets and toy chests of the modern American child, this pseudo-education of memorize, calculate and regurgitate is dulling children's senses to the wonder and beauty of life, of nature, and of their own potential. Focusing specifically on the deficit of natural, outdoor play space and time, the author (Lory Hough) quotes Elizabeth Goodenough (love that name), creator of the PBS documentary series Where Do the Children Play? and author of the book Secret Spaces of Childhood as saying,

“It shows the atrophy of adults who don’t know how to enjoy time or the outdoors, especially with children,” says Goodenough. “What started as a survival skill — building shelters and going out into the world — doesn’t exist anymore. Everything we do now is many times removed from the natural world. That’s why some kids say they’d rather be indoors where the [power] outlets are.”

    I can't tell you how spot-on I think her word choice is there. Atrophy. A muscle that used to work, but through disuse and neglect has become weak and is now dead. (That book, by the way, is so on my must-read list.)
    Now, before this post starts sounding too much like a ranting newspaper editorial, let me get back to being me here for a moment and tell you, Mammas and Papas (no, not the band-- YOU), how...hopeful this made me feel. 
     Did she just say hopeful? 
     Yup. Hopeful. And grateful and yes, I will tell you why. Because if it's being written about, it's being talked about. And if it's being talked about, it's being thought about, and if enough talking and writing and thinking goes on and spreads and grows, that's what makes a change. I am not naive enough to dream that every parent in America is reading articles like this (and I know that there are so many other sources for similar ideas out there) and saying, "Huh. I think I'll change the way I'm raising my children," but some are. And those parents who already held these beliefs and standards (and there are so many!) for their children are feeling encouraged by the knowledge that there are other parents out there like them, and there is something we, as a parent community can do to change the culture of apathy and atrophy that has become the norm. 
     Now on to the grateful part. Reading this article ignited in me a bright resurgence of appreciation for the childhood (imperfect though it may have been) I had and the parent it has helped me to be. I am grateful I had parents who gave a big, fat, flat-out NO to the option of a cable t.v. subscription until I was nearly 12 years old, and an even bigger, fatter flat-out NO to any kind of video or computer game system in our home. Ever. I think I played Tetris on our super-modern MS DOS computer maybe...5? 6 times?...throughout the entire course of my childhood. Not only did they say no to the same things that Brian and I now, for the most part, say no to as parents, but they said yes to things that were and still are sooooo much more important than Super Mario (my generation) or Angry Birds (hello, here and now). 
     Like forts. Under-the-kitchen-table forts, closet forts, cardboard-barrels-and-boxes-in-the-backyard forts...if my sisters and I could imagine it, we were, generally, allowed to build it. This is something I try so hard to remember when my little ones come to me with construction plans. It's not about the mess, or the small space we live in, or the chairs that won't be available at dinner time because they are being used as cave walls and castle gates and pirate ships. It's about nurturing that vision of-- whatever it is-- they see so clearly and so vividly in their passionate minds, and allowing them to make choices and take actions that will result in not only a physical manifestation of their own imaginings, but an experience in trial and error and, ultimately, problem-solving success.  
      My parents said yes to being outside. In fact they often said Go.Outside.Now. :-) And while we knew our physical boundaries (the stop sign in one direction down the road...the rope swing over the ditch bank in the other), we were blessed to live in an open, rural neighborhood with space to run free and acres upon acres of land that became whatever my sisters and I imagined it to be. Climbing trees and finding secret spaces under pine boughs, swinging on weeping willow vines and sucking nectar from honey-suckle blossoms in whomever's yard we might be in were things never forbidden to us. Not by our parents, not by our grandparents who were our neighbors, and not by our other neighbors, many of whom were elderly couples who, I believe, understood the value and beauty of a neighborhood where children could play freely and without fear. Brian and I don't, right now, live in a neighborhood where that is possible. But, to count our blessings, we do have a big yard. We do have access to forests and meadows and gullies nearby. And while we can't send our kids out beyond our yard with a "come home for dinner when it gets dark," as my parents so often did, we can take them out to the woods and rivers and trails and trees ourselves, and ensure the non-atrophy of their earth connection as well as ours.
     We can say yes, as my parents did, to sidewalk chalk and mud. To eating and reading and, when the weather is warm enough, even sleeping outside. We can choose parks that are more than "austere concrete and plastic gyms" (Goodenough) and we can support the preservation of open, undeveloped space in our community. Someday, Brian and I can choose to buy a home in a neighborhood  where our children can be children, in the truest, wildest sense; where they can learn to be who they are. And we can, now and always, remember to uphold unstructured playtime as their greatest means of education and self-discovery, and hope, always hope, that more and more parents will do the same.


April 12, 2012

Beauty All Around (My 100th Post!)

     When I started this blog in June of 2011, my life was, for many reasons, in a state of transition and unrest. I was writing my thoughts almost constantly, allowing the flow of words to anchor me as I figured things out. As I figured me out.

This is a page from one of the many notebooks/journals I filled that year.

      I have blogged before and was drawn to starting a blog again, but, knowing the commitment of time and energy that keeping a good blog requires, I had to ask myself if it was worth it, and why? The answers I came up with reminded me that I really did have much more figured out than I thought.

     I blog because I find the blog to be a medium, and the blogosphere to be a place, wherein words and images are essential to one another. Yes, an image may speak for itself and words may paint a picture, but, when balanced, whether serendipitously or purposefully, to complement one another, their combined power is unlike any human-made influence I have known. And I cannot separate my inclination to express myself both verbally and visually. I never could.

     I blog because I, like any mere mortal (okay maybe a little more than most), need validation. Immediate feedback and gratification. And admittedly, I blog (at least a little) to self-promote. To build a platform for my writing, to sell my stuff. To let the things I love to make and do do a little making and doing for me.

    I blog because I have finally figured out that I am happiest when I am creating--whether that's creating in a literal sense with pen and paper and paint and camera, etc., or creating beauty and joy in my family and in the world through kindness and service and love. Expressing my joy and gratitude through beauty is my gift.

     I blog because, even in the lowest, darkest times of everyone's life there still is, always, in some small way, beauty all around. And I want to share the beauty in my everyday and to inspire others to see the beauty in their lives as well.

     Thank you gentle readers, for reading and commenting. If I have given at least one of you a little hope, a little inspiration, a little smile or laugh, then I am happy with the written musings of my handmade, vintage, pretty life. My life of beauty all around. Won't you stay for the next 100 posts?


p.s. For those of you who don't follow either me (@amberjunek) or @portabellopixie on Instagram: the couch in that last photo has quite the story. Stay tuned...

April 3, 2012

Vintage Fabric Project #2

     I threw together this little project last week. Granted, it's not so much a 'fabric' project (although fabric is involved) as Vintage Fabric Project #1, but the box did come with my heap of vintage sewing goodies, so I officially declare, with auspicious, officious, and decorous decorum, this store-display-to-jewelry-chest upcycle to be Vintage Fabric Project #2.
Behold the before:

An embroidery floss/ crewel wool display case; nice honey-oak colored wood, three clear-fronted drawers, and a big DMC emblazoned on the top and sides. It was the adjustable dividers in the drawers, combined with the discombobulated, mish-mash state of my accessories, that got me thinking jewelry box.

And the after:

Isn't it pretty? May I just... express a little...um, if you'll excuse me for a mo'...

I'm all better now.

Do you have projects have you finished lately that make you squee! for joy?
 Share the links, I wanna see!