Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nursery Valances

All right, time for me to tend to posting to this blog again. I've been baaaad about posting, but I've been good about doing stuff and taking pictures. I just gotta get on the stick now and post!

If you've been to my house, you've already seen these valances. I know, because as soon as you came in, I hauled your ass into the future nursery and showed them to you first thing. I am really proud of these, and I don't mind sayin' it.

I didn't have a pattern, but I figured valances (or curtain panels) are really just rectangles. I used my giant three-panel Olfa self-healing rotary cutting mat (with the dual-quad exhaust pipes). I can't recommend this thing enough. I don't quilt at all, and I still use it all the time. You can cut on it without gouging your table, and the measurements printed on it help you cut a straight line of whatever size you need. It doesn't retain any cutting marks, either (hence the self-healing part). Also, the clips that come with it are replaced for free through Olfa's web site customer service. I emailed and said that I lost mine in our move, and they sent four in the mail pronto.

What I don't recommend is getting in a hurry, and mowing over the tip of your ring finger with the rotary cutter, because it will come clean off, fingernail and all. And yet, the cutters are so sharp, it will heal before you know it! (That's one clean cut).

I decided to do tab attachments. I had a bolt of hot air balloon fabric that I'd bought years ago for $3 (I'd been intending to make a dress out of it), and I found a stripe that matched it in color. I just sort of eyeballed everything and wrote down the finished dimensions that I wanted (I ripped some measurements off of a set of rod-and-pocket store-bought valances I already had), and then added the seam allowance measurements in. I cut panels of interfacing (I used heavy fusible interfacing because I wanted some body to the valances and some opacity, but for curtain panels I'd probably use something lighter-weight) in the finished sizes that I wanted the three panels in. That way, when wrapping fabric around them, they would all come out the same size even if the seam allowances were a little different. I marked out a line on the interfacing where the seam between the stripe panel and the fabric panel should hit at the same spot. Again, that way each one would have stripey panels the same size as one another.

I decided to do the stripe vertically across the bottom panel, and horizontally across the tabs. To run the balloon and stripe patterns the way I wanted, each valance had to have two panels of fabric, sewn together vertically. I sewed the hot air panels together first, then the stripes, then sewed the double stripe panel to the double hot air balloon panel (they match up better that way). Then I attached the fabric to the interfacing, hemmed the sides, and used a blind-hem stitch across the bottom and the top. I used Stitch Witchery to attach a grosgrain ribbon across the seam between the stripe and the pattern fabric.

For the tab valances, I spaced them out where I wanted them first, then clipped interfacing in the finished size that I wanted. I fused them to the fabric, cut them out, and hemmed them around the edges. By the time I did 27 of these, I was going a little crazy, especially since everything has to be ironed along the way. (Though if you know me, and you know why I had to have exactly 3 panels and 27 tabs, you knew I was already crazy). I pinned them on each panel, measuring the same distance down for each (the mat was great here again), and then sewed them on.

I alternated two kinds of buttons across the tabs, mostly because I didn't buy enough of one kind, but I like the finished look. Since the buttons were just decorative, I used a Buttoneer, which was a little tempermental, but I still think it took a lot less time than sewing on each button. This tool may not attach a button sufficiently for heavy use on a pair of pants, but it works great for decorative uses like this.

Overall, the project came off problem-free (except for the bit of my finger that accidentally ended up down my disposal - YUCK) and they set the theme ("Flying Machines") for the whole nursery. I can't believe I made them, really. I was very proud when my Ma said, "You remind me so much of your father." And I said, why? And she said, "Because you're so precise, and you iron things to an absolute knife's edge." Yeaahhh. A dream project for someone who would only sew straight lines, if she could.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Crafty? No. Arty? Maybe. Hopkins? Definitely

I'm usually working on a ton of projects all the time, but for some reason I feel like they'll seem out of place on this blog. Well screw it, I know this isn't going to fit in very well but I'll tell you about it anyway.

There is this town called Hopkin's Park. I've never actually been there before, but I know it has a bad reputation. Maybe that reputation is earned, maybe it is just because the population is predominantly black. Maybe a little bit of both. In any case, I accidentally ended up there with a couple of friends while driving aimlessly through the country looking for things to take pictures of. Not long after reaching the proper city of Hopkins a guy (a black guy) offered a piece of advice, "Knock on people's doors to see if they are home before taking pictures of their property." This advice seemed reasonable enough, though the property I was photographing was clearly abandoned. A few minutes later he came along again with some more advice, "I said, knock on doors or else I'm going to put a cap in your ass." personally, I interpreted this advice as "Get out of Hopkins" and proceeded to do so.

Before long however, a county sheriff driving past decided he should offer up some advice as well. He turned out to be a middle school pal of my passenger and so he gave the kind of advice that I was already acting upon, rather than the kind of advice which costs me court fees and fines.

The secondary point of this story is to tell you that I took a series of pictures that day of which I'm proud. I think you should look at them. They are available for viewing at

The primary point of this story is to tell you that there are websites on the internet, to which you can upload your photographs and then receive a softcover or hardcover book which can be used as a gift or as a selfish keepsake that you keep for your own sake. I tried out a couple of these services. I wasn't happy with the design process or the print quality of the books produced by Another guy looked at the book and thought it was fine., on the other hand, has a nice looking site and the design interface is pretty easy to operate. I haven't received a physical book from them yet, but most reviews of the print quality seem to be pretty positive. Both of these companies allow you to offer up your new book for sale to the public from their websites. So make a good book and get filthy. I'm working on a fat photo-book about Abraham Lincoln. When it is done, it is going to be so freaking awesome. Seriously.