Once a Teacher…

always a teacher, at least in my heart. I think that’s true of so many of us who spent a few years in the classroom but moved on to other careers or responsibilities, like raising our own kids. It’s been more than (ahem, garble, mutter) years since I stood at the doorway, greeting students on the first day of school. I was as nervous and excited as they were, maybe more so. But none of us looked nervous. No, that would have been so uncool—and a huge mistake for me. To teach a herd of teenagers, one has to be confident, a bit aloof even, and definitely able to deliver “the look” with deadly accuracy. I think it took me about 4 years to accomplish all that.

I loved teaching, loved the teenagers (really!), loved the subject matter (writing, literature, and American history), and loved the growth I saw from their freshmen through senior years. I didn’t like the drama, but that mostly came from other teachers and the administration. Honestly. Why did I leave teaching? Long story…that ended in Florida and began a new chapter working with children’s and YA literature. It’s all been very good.

So, what’s my craft du jour that dovetails with this post? How about something simple you can make for either your teen student or a teacher buddy? It’s fresh, functional, and fun!

  All you need is a small terracotta pot (with bottom), a bit of Styrofoam, a silk flower, and some school supplies. I used green paper clips, green pencil-top erasers, pencils, highlighter, scissors, ruler, Post-It notes, stickers, glue stick, red marking pencil, and pencil sharpener. Glue the pot to its bottom, sliding it toward the back so you can place stuff in front of the pot. Then shove the Styrofoam down into the pot. Glue a wooden clothespin to the back of the pot so it can hold notes and sticker sheets. Push down into the Styrofoam the pencils (sharpened is easier), highlighter, glue stick, scissors, ruler, and flower. Put a small Post-Note pad and sharpener in the bottom . Sprinkle the green paper clips and erasers around the objects, covering the Styrofoam. Voila! A desktop delight for teens and teachers alike.

 

 

 

     

Buckets o’ fun

In my quest to get organized, I had to go beyond the hanging organizer (see previous post). Yes, it’s finished! I think it turned out pretty-kitty well and it also got filled up pretty-kitty fast. I think it looks pretty-kitty pretty. Don’t you just love themes?

What could I do with the other stuff that didn’t fit into one of those pockets? Put it in bags? Bins? Boxes? Baskets? Buckets! But buckets are ugly and bulky, right? Well, not anymore. Introducing my “buckets o’ fun”! The first one I made is sans handle, but I think I’ll add it later. It continues the kitty theme, but not quite as directly as the new brown bucket. See that kitty on the front? I just imitated one of the kitties in the fabric used for the liner (same fabric used on the hanging organizer).

Now I’m using my buckets to hold things like rick-rack packs, patterns, notions, and little remnants that I might used for other things. Instead of a pile of mess, I now have some cute, coordinated organizers to help me be less cluttered.

In the next couple of days, I’ll be posting a pattern and instructions on how to make your own lined buckets. I hope you have buckets o’ fun, too!

 

Getting organized is messy

McCall's Crafts M6374

I found a fun and practical pattern for making lots of things to help keep some of my sewing and crafts more organized. It’s McCall’s Crafts pattern M6374. I can’t imagine paying $18.95 for a pattern—remember back in the good old days when patterns were in the $1–$3 range?—so I was THRILLED when Hobby Lobby had their occasional sale of all patterns for 99 cents. (It’s beyond satisfying to buy things for 99 cents, isn’t it? I love to wander around dollar stores.) So I bought four patterns, but knew this one was the one I’d open first. Why?

Because I need to get organized. I thought the wall-hanging organizer would be a good idea so I can get things off my sewing table, but still keep them handy. I’ll just hang it within reach while I’m sewing. (Oh, and a huge THANK YOU to my DH, Eric, for buying me a new sewing machine! Love it!) But things had to get a little messier before they got better. Isn’t life like that sometimes? I remember hearing that when I was going through some counseling several years ago. It’s like needing surgery. In order to heal, sometimes we have to get cut open, which can be very messy and painful indeed. And sometimes we need someone outside ourselves to help. For me, that has included God, close friends, special family members, and the occasional mental health professional. The end result, though, is worth all the tears. It means moving forward with more light and less darkness, more self-control and less trying to control others.

So here’s the messy part of my project: cutting out the 20+ pieces that are supposed to become an organizer. When I saw how many pieces were involved, I have to admit that I almost changed my mind. Instead, I decided to read through the directions so I could understand what each piece was, how it was sewn, and what purpose it served when finished. I did just that, and **Surprise!** it all made sense! I cut out each piece and began sewing. Less than 24 hours later, I was finished!

I love this bright, sparkly, kitty-laden organizer. Now I want to get busy making some matching accessories: probably the square pincushion and some of the round boxes to hold lots of goodies. Stay tuned for finished products in the next post!

I hope you’re learning how to put all your pieces in the right places, too. Thanks, friends, for coming along for the journey.


For the love of cats

I love to read cat—and dog and horse and all kinds of animal—stories. Just so you don’t think I’m purely a cat person, I’d like to report that my favorite dog book so far this year is A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron. Like the dog character did, this book is finding its way home the long way around: from one friend to another until I get it back sometime in the future. Please do read this book or recommend it to middle-graders and adults who love a good dog story.

But this post is really about the love of cats. Last night I finished Homer’s Odyssey—not the ancient tale of a hero and his quest, but the recent best-selling story of a blind cat named Homer, written by Homer’s “mom,” Gwen Cooper. The subtitle of the book distinguishes it from the classic: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat. Gwen recounts the joys, heartaches, discoveries, and personal growth she experienced since adopting a tiny black kitten who had no eyes. (Both eyes had to be removed when he was four weeks old, matted shut by infection, in order to save his itty bitty kitty life. He never even had a chance to open his baby eyes before having them removed.) Sensing that there was something heroic about this bundle of felinity, she named him Homer, after the blind poet. I can’t recall ever being so drawn in to a book about an animal as I was by Homer’s Odyssey. I smiled, nodded, cried, swooned, and cheered chapter after chapter. I think you will, too.

I have two cats of my own, Edie and Emma (see About Me page for photos). Not only do I feel a deeper appreciation for having them in my life, but I also feel that Homer is one of “my” cats, too. I know him now. And not ever seeing him in person doesn’t change that fact. If I learned anything from reading this book, it is that you don’t have to see things for them to make sense. Homer makes perfect sense of his life every single day, having never seen a single ray of light. I love the irony that this blind cat is opening the eyes of readers to the wonder, courage, and soul-rooted love of our beloved pets.

So, here’s the craft project I made—my own tribute to the cats in my life: an eco-friendly, folding shopping bag that I made in a jiffy using a Butterick See & Sew pattern (#B5635):

Kitty shopping bag (open)

 

Kitty shopping bad (folded)

In case you think I’m really a great seamstress, I have to admit that it was a total accident that the cat matched up like that when the bag is folded. Happy accident! Now the trick is to try to keep the cat hair off it! Or…as a friend of ours says: “Cat hair: It’s a condiment and an accessory!” Hmmmm…I think that might make a great bag, too. Stay tuned!

You can go to the Projects Photo Gallery page to see how this 20″ x 12″ bag folds down into a 3″ x 5″ easy-storage clutch.

Keep a pocket in your heart

Heart Pocket Project

Here’s a little project you can finish in about half an hour. It’s dedicated to Nikki Grimes, author of The Road to Paris (one of many of her award-winning children’s books), because of a wonderful concept she shared in that book. She introduces the idea of carrying God in your pocket, giving you access to him whenever you need to know he’s close by. Just the simple act of reaching into your pocket then becomes a visceral reminder that you are not alone. In homage to that idea, I’ve made this Heart Pocket, a simple project that allows you to place something in your heart’s pocket—something tangible or something symbolic, such as a prayer, a photo, or a reminder of some kind.

Here’s the excerpt, but I hope you’ll go find the book and read it all! (Project directions follow.)

Paris and Malcolm locked eyes. She was relieved to see a bit of the old Malcolm shining through. She reached across the table and took her brother’s hand.

“You’ve got to keep God in your pocket, and everything will be all right,” said Paris.

“What?”

Paris pursed her lips, trying to figure out how to explain what she meant. “Put your hands in your pockets,” she said.

“Paris—”

“Go on.”

“Okay. Now what?”

“Pretend that God is there. See? You stick your hand in your pocket, and remind yourself that God’s always close by, and you can talk to him whenever you need to,” said Paris.

Malcolm nodded. “I get it. Keep God in your pocket. Cool,” he said. “I’ll give that a try. Thanks, little sister.”

(from pages 110–111 of The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Copyright © 2006)

Making the project:

Materials: 1 sheet of pink or red felt; scraps of blue, yellow, and green felt; matching thread or floss for all 4 colors; scissors; needle

Directions: (Note: full photo-based directions can be found in the Projects Photo Gallery; or you may purchase a 3-page instructional PDF with photos and cut-out patterns for $0.99 by going to the Downloadable Patterns page.)

  1. Cut out 2 hearts (about 4″x4″).
  2. Cut out 1 flower and 1 circle (for center).
  3. Cut out 2 leaves.
  4. Applique the flower in the center of one of the hearts.
  5. Applique the circle in the center of the flower.
  6. Applique the leaves as shown in the photo above.
  7. Place the appliqued front heart on top of the other blank heart (wrong sides together).
  8. Use a blanket stitch to sew hearts together around outer edge. Leave an opening in the “cleavage” of the heart for the pocket.
  9. Place something in the pocket: small scissors, a note, money, a prayer, photo, dried or silk flower(s), or any other item you’d like.