Saturday, July 30, 2011

How to be a slave driver in 5 easy steps!

Technically, this should be written by Roughie since she is the slave driver being referenced but since she's busy researching inventive things to do with her placenta I'll just have to do it for her.
How to make your very own placenta print! I can't look at this picture without gagging.
But first, a few public service announcements: we found out this weekend Roughie is having a girl! Now Julia gets a sister and that adorable coat and beret I made for Julia won't go to waste! Second, and admittedly anti-climactic after the first announcement, I am typing this blog on my brand new MacBook Air!
11 inches of pure pleasure. Oh, and then there's the new laptop too.
The iPad I bought about a month ago didn't work for blogging so I finally got a laptop so that I don't have to borrow Bobby's and get third degree burns on my legs. He claims his hot-plate of a laptop is probably the reason we can't get pregnant so if I ever do get knocked up we'll have to name the damn kid Toshiba. For now, my new MacBook is my baby. I got a clear pink cover for her and I call her Ruby. I wonder if I'll keep waking up every five minutes to make sure she's alright..... okay, back to the blog.

So last week, I had just finished the girl's Rapunzel dress and needed to make the matching mommy shirt for a trip to Disney the following week when I received a request for a Belle shirt but it had to be finished pretty quickly for a birthday party.  

And since I knew that I was going up to see Roughie for her ultrasound, I didn't know if I'd be able to finish it on time. I couldn't cancel with Rough since I was there when she found out what she was having with her other two and I'm afraid if I break tradition then I might jinx this kid and it'll be born with some extra fingers or something. 

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
I did a little bit of my fancy math and figured that if I started right after work on Thursday with buying all the supplies and work on it Friday night, then I could leave Saturday morning, drive to Jacksonville, then come home Sunday afternoon and finish the shirt Sunday night. And I reaaaaalllllly wanted to make a Belle shirt. And I have to add that I was extra motivated because this was the first time the shirt would be exactly the same size that I wear so I wanted to see what one looked like in my size (aka without cantaloupe-size knockers). And in the end, the shirt was FABULOUS! Loved the pink and yellow. But it did take a lot more trial & error than I had anticipated, kind of like the Tink shirt.

So after staying up late Friday night and then sewing for a few hours Saturday morning (or more specifically, taking apart the apron and re-doing it), I throw some clothes in a bag, pack up my sewing machine, fabric, accouterments, patterns, and the all important Wonder Board and head north to Rough's house. This was going to be a vacation in the sense that Auschwitz was just a 'camp'.

I'm sure 'work makes freedom' seemed like a good slogan at the time. Look how well that turned out.
Here are 5 tips that Roughie used to turn her houseguest (me) into her own personal sweatshop worker:

1) Take her out for a nice meal right off the bat. This will give her a sense of well-being and lull her into thinking the rest of her trip will be that relaxing. It won't be, but she doesn't need to know that. Just make sure to limit the carbs or your worker will be nodding off at the machine later.

2) Don't let on that nobody else is going to be doing any work but her. Sit at your machine and attempt to 'sew' but then claim to want to learn by watching her work. Discreetly check your emails from your phone or watch movies under the table while she prattles on endlessly about crap like bobbins or pins or what the frick ever. Blink frequently to prevent eye glaze.

3) Whining is just another way for her to tell you that she's bored. After one project is finished and she starts complaining about 'needing a break' or 'being hungry', try to distract her with something shiny or pretty. Let's face it, obviously she's not that bright if she's got herself into this situation so it won't take much. Just move her on to the next project before she has time to get too distracted.

4) If the situation is getting hairy and it looks like she might want to quit after only four or five hours, crack open a bottle of wine. Just dump out half and then add water so that she doesn't actually get drunk. The placebo effect works just as well as the real thing.

5) Check her pockets for her cell phone before allowing bathroom breaks. The last thing you need is a stray 'help me' text to make it's way out. If it does, claims it's an inside joke. People are gullible and will believe anything.

I ended up producing both the Mickey shorts and the Minnie dress that night but the kids did love them so it made it worth it. Look how fricking cute they are:

They were so happy with their outfits (which were all Roughie's idea, to give her credit). Speaking of Roughie's jon jon that I hated making- it's turned out to be my most popular item yet. Go f'ing figure.                                                                

Sunday afternoon, I drive home and get back to cracking on Belle. 

The Rapunzel dress came together so easily so I expected this to be the same but I got stumped on getting the skirt to look just right. At first I had the overlay gathered a lot, which made it very full but when I gathered it up at the bottom, it ended up standing away from the body and looked like a lampshade.

Aw man, that's hot. No seriously, this thing is cooking my eggs like a Toshiba laptop.
But flattening it out didn't look very princessy at all so I had to find a happy medium to get it full without being too puffy. Swagging the sash part was pretty easy, but in the end, all of the gathers (skirt and sash) had to be sewn by hand so it was just a long process. Then the neckline: to sash or to to sash. Without a sash around the neckline, it didn't look balanced. But if I sewed on a sash, would it still be easy to wash and iron if needed? I ended up sewing on the sash but attaching the center pink rose to a safety pin so it can be removed and the sash could be ironed after washing if needed. Voila!

In the end, I ended up making the Rapunzel little girl's dress, the Mickey shorts, Minnie dress, Belle shirt, and then the Rapunzel shirt all in about 10 days. It's great to know it can be done, but I'm hoping to space things out a little better going forward. So what am I doing this weekend? Filling the damn jon jon orders.

Coming up- the bride's shirt! I am really excited to make this. It's ironic that I started this blog to write about sewing but now that I'm sewing more than ever, I have even less time to write. One day I'll find a balance, one day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Blair Witch Project 3: My Sewing Weekend

So how was your weekend? Yeah whatever. Oh, my weekend? I'm glad you asked. When I went into my office to start sewing on Friday night, there were three of us. Only one of us emerged. Okay, that's not true but it went along with my title so just go with it.

I received an email last Thursday through Etsy from a woman asking if there's any way possible for me to make one or maybe two shirts and have them shipped up to her no later than the next Thursday for her Disney vacation. At first I thought someone was punking me and I started sharpening my shiv. Two shirts at once? Yeah right. But I write back and she's serious! Woohoo! So I do the calculations in my head to see if I could really complete these shirts that quickly (5, carry the 1, half the diameter of the moon times pi) and write her to tell her that absolutely, I can complete this order! You know, growing up my mom always told me that I stood in the line for brains twice and skipped the line for common sense. I'm thinking there might be something to that. Oh, and thanks mom! What an ego booster for a six year old!
But the good news is you're smart!
I ask her for the measurements I need and she gets them back to me on Friday and I figure I can cut everything out for both shirts Friday night after work and then assemble them on Saturday. Easy breezy lemon squeezy. Here's a blow by blow of how the weekend progressed.

5:03 pm: After working three whole minutes over schedule just because I'm a giver like that, I shut my computer down and haul all my cutting tools out to the counter. FYI- for cutting and pinning, try to do it on as high of a surface as possible or you'll end up looking like Mary's prom date by the end of the date. No, not the greasy one, the hunchback one. Remember, the one with two eyes? Yes, that one! I take out my patterns, pin them to my first fabric, and start cutting. I've got Netflix on tv, I'm giddy with excitement, things are going good.

7:10 pm: Bobby's home and I tell him I just need to finish up this cutting and we can watch the movie. Okay, I need seven of these green tulle leaves. Mother f'er! I cut out three of the wrong size because I need longer ones for this order. Okay, no problem. I'll use these for the sleeves. I'm such a problem solver! I should have an 'Ask Anna' column. Now where's my pink sparkly tulle?

9:55 pm: Okay, this is taking a little longer than I thought, but at least I've got all the tedious stuff finished and out of the way! Tomorrow should be a breeze! (insert dumbass lightning strike here). But I've decided to do a full-circle skirt for the Cinderella top to really give it that princess dress look and I had to do some big time math to figure out the diameter of the circle that I'd need according to her waist size. Good thing I got in line twice for brains, huh mom?!

12:35 am: Finished watching the movie, I'm just gonna move my stuff back to the office so that I can start sewing tomorrow. And maybe I'll just separate them into piles. And pick out the threads. Okay, seriously going to bed now. I read a few pages of the Book of Useless Information on my Nook and drift off. Did you know that peanuts have no cholesterol and are an ingredient in some explosives?

7:00 am Saturday morning: I am up and raring to go! I wonder where that phrase came from. Did you know  that the phrase "put a sock in it" came from the days when they used Victrolas and they used to stuff a sock down the tube to muffle the volume? Bobby just loves it now when I start a sentence with "Did you know....." so I thought you'd all enjoy it to.

Go ahead. Your friends and loved ones will thank you later.
11:00 am: Surprisingly, the t-shirt part is taking longer than I thought it would. Lots of serging and assembling and sewing the sleeves was kind of time consuming but I'm getting there. Then onto the sash- it's going to be so pretty!

1:00 pm: So it's been about 24 hours since I've had a shower and sure, I'm still in my pajamas, but I'm not going for Ms. America here people so just back off. I'm thinking of getting those pajama jeans from tv so I never have to get dressed.
It's like they said, "Hey Anna, we made something just for you!"
I finished the t-shirt and I've got the band for the sash ready to go. Now I just need to serge all the seams of the tulle overlay because this shit frays like a bitch and I'll be ready to rock and roll. And possibly take a shower.

5:pm: I've showered and escaped from the house and now I'm back and trying to get some work done before Shrimp and Echo get here because as you all know from the birthday outfits saga, she ain't a whole lot of use to me sewing-wise unless I need someone to take ten minutes to thread the needle again. I'm edging the skirt and it's slow going because I'm folding it over twice as I edge so I fold sew an inch, stop, fold again, sew..... you see where I'm going. But I'm noticing that it's taking an extraordinary amount of time to do this so I pull up the remaining fabric to see how much I have left to go and it's approximately three acres. It turns out that brilliant 'full circle' idea I had created 5 miles of hemline. Yippee for me.

11:00pm: My big plans to have my niece and nephew in bed by 9:30 kind of fell through. Bobby said he was going out with a friend but when I walked Gabi's friend back home at 10, there's Bobby with a margarita! WTF? Did he think I liked having four screaming children running around like puppies on a sugar high? Not that I was in the same room with them or anything, but it sure sounded crazy through my office and bedroom walls and over my techno music. But don't worry, I told them not to kill themselves or each other so I did my duty for Aunt of the Year.

What? At least I fed them.
Now back to sewing. I sew the ends of the white sash onto the center piece, and voila! Beautiful!

I go to bed knowing that sure, this was a longer day than I had anticipated, but tomorrow Tinkerbell will come together so much faster because I'm on a roll, baby!

8:00 am Sunday morning: I get up and after putting some cereal in their bowls, err, I mean, 'feeding the kids', I start edging Tinkerbell leaves because that's what the entire overlay and sleeves consist of: sparkly leaves. So I fold and edge them in bright green fabric and then edge them all with Fray Check. Hey, nice buzz for a Sunday morning. Who needs church when I'm already flying high? Woow!

Nice results though, huh? Even stoned I'm a frickin' sewing magician.
1:00 pm: I honestly cannot tell you what I did from 8 to 1. I think it might have been a Fray Check overdose. I just know I woke up underneath my sewing table spooning the garbage can.

5:00 pm: I did it. I actually finished the shirts. Well, almost. I just need to finish the neck facings and then sew on all the snaps. I'm thinking an hour, tops. But I have to quit now because we're meeting friends for dinner so I'll just finish this when I get home.

12:30 am: I need to figure out how to sew the snaps to the Tink wings so that you can't see the thread. Everything is showing through. Aha, clear nylon thread! That's perfect! Okay, thread the needle, dang this stuff is hard to see, then tie off the end on the tiny clear snap, and it looks great. Oh no, here comes Skipper with all his extra toes for his nightly cuddle with my head. Go away Skipper, I'm busy. No, don't play with that. No, DON'T swat the button around! Skipper, stop biting the damn thread!! Are ya kidding here?

12:45 am: The thread is so thin that I can only see it when I hold it up to the light so it's like working with invisible hair as thread. My hands are making the gestures and I just hope something is going on. This must be what Helen Keller felt like in the beginning. Also, if I don't keep the string taut, then it curls up on itself and gets tangled so I'm using one hand to hold the tiny clear button to the tip of the Tink wing which is roughly the size of a grain of rice while holding the needle in the other hand and using my arm to hold the string taut. It looks like I'm trying to play cats in the cradle all by myself and then there's Skipper, thinking this is the most fun he's ever had outside of drinking from the toilet bowl. Then the Ambien kicks in and it's lights out. I'll just finish it up in the morning and then mail it out before work. And then pigs will fly out of my ass. But I have to keep telling myself these things otherwise I'll just have a nervous breakdown.

In the end, I ended up getting all the snaps on the shirts (there are 11 on the Tink shirt so that means 22 fronts and backs to hand sew) and I did get the shirts mailed out by lunch on Monday and they are on the way to the customer as we speak. This weekend was great because it taught me that instead of taking a few hours to make it shirt, it takes more like a few light years. I don't want you to have to try to translate that into real time using a bunch of fancy math so I'll round it down to about eight hours a shirt. I know I'll get faster as I do more of these but in the meantime, prices are going up. Because at this point, I could not give a crap less if I ever make another shirt again.

I think making these shirts must be like having babies; as soon as I finished swearing I wouldn't make any more shirts, I started thinking about my next project. So maybe I'll just take a few days off, shop for the Rapunzel fabric, then maybe I'll make those. And next time I'll make sure to get a video diary of me in my dark office, flashlight shining in my face and snot dripping down my nose as I tearfully describle to you hour by hour how my progress is going. Blair Witch Project #4, here I come!

Do you think if I hang enough of these twig things around my office the Blair Witch might come and put me out of my dumbass misery?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jon Jons- Guaranteed to have your son singing show tunes by kindergarten!

So small, yet I hate it so much.
Oh, and by the way, wanna buy one? I mean, who wouldn't after that fantastic intro? I'm pretty sure these things are going to be singularly responsible for turning boys into women for the yuppy kids of this generation. In case you don't know what a Jon Jon is, let me back the truck up on this story.

In case you're the one person who has been living under a rock and didn't get my Facebook status updates, 'like' requests for my new page, emails announcing my new store, or one of the many, many instant message updates, I got the Etsy store ,VaVaVaVoom, up and running! What, haven't been there yet? Stop everything and go there. Right now. Here's the link: VaVaVaVoom! .Go ahead, save it as one of your favorites. You know you're going to want to look again.

Ta da, here's my store banner!

So that's why I've been missing in action for a little while. It's been a one person sweatshop in here; sewing, then taking pictures, posting it online, and then obsessively hitting the refresh button to see how many views I've gotten. You can see how that's time consuming, right? But the great part (I think?) is that I already have enough orders to keep me busy for quite a while. But don't get me wrong- order something, please! But since I opened the store a little over a week ago, my best friend Roughie has been researching and scouting out fabric and generally managing my minute-to-minute living to make sure I'm not taking more than a five minute dinner break and that all lunch hours and work breaks are spent behind the sewing machine. And crying does no good with her. She makes me work an extra fifteen minutes if she hears tears.

Well, a little while ago, Roughie found these Jon Jons that look like the outfit Mickey Mouse wears and they sell like crazy and look pretty easy to make. So I take a look, and like a total and complete idiot, go "Yeah, that DOES look easy to make. I'll do it!". Please replay that phrase in your head using Goofy's voice and follow it up with his customary 'yuck yuck' laugh, and that's about as stupid and naive as I sounded. I went and bought the fabric and pattern, cut it all out, and started assembly. And guess what. There's a reason that lady on Etsy gets $45 for these things; they're a pain in the ass! And I didn't even sew in the snaps in the crotch. People are just gonna have to work a little harder to change their kid. Or they can just let the diarrhea flow like hot lava like Echo in our ride home from Tennessee .
I'm off to buy some fabric! This is gonna be so easy! Yuck yuck!
But my point is this: hand made stuff, like the stuff I sell, is expensive for a reason. And what is the top secret reason? Here it is. Get ready for a brain freeze because this is a lot to take in. Making shit yourself is hard. Doubt me? Are you pulling a Rough and thinking to yourself, "Well look at that thing; how hard could that REALLY be?". Ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha! That's me, rolling on the floor and cackling maniacally, because until you actually make something, it's really hard to understand how something so little can be such a pain in the ass. Oh wait, have kids? Then you know. But seriously, everyone has a project that started with 'how hard could it be' and almost ended in a murder/suicide. So what's yours? Did you go to paint a room, thinking it would just take a day and it took a month and then you finally hired someone else to just do it for you (Shrimp)? Come on, misery, meaning myself, loves company. So dish.

I wonder what my father-in-law is doing this weekend....
But in case you're wondering what's in store for VaVaVaVoom, I'll give you some ideas that you'll see within the next month: a new Rapunzel t-shirt for women and also, wait for it- a matching t-shirt Rapunzel dress for little girls!
She can look like a princess without sweating like a whore in church (thank you Kim for my new favorite phrase).

So THAT'S why Erin isn't allowed back at Our Lady Queen of Peace.

Also, Winnie the Pooh shirts for little boys and little Winnie the Pooh dresses for girls (new movie coming out, thank you Rough for the tip and supplies).


A new Ariel shirt for women,

and a Pirate Princess shirt for women also in black, white, and hot pink.

And to go along with the shirts, I'm going to start making little matching cell phone/credit card wristlets so that you don't have to leave your valuables in the diaper bag while you're waiting two hours in line for It's a Small World. I should probably make a pocket for the Zanax. This stuff is gonna be so cute you're gonna crap your pants, so be sure to go first and check the store often! And please, please, PLEASE, for the love of all things holy, NO MORE SUGGESTIONS! I am obviously just too dumb to say no.