Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Paper Bead Mania

Currently I am obsessed by paper beads. I can't make just one. All I have to do is mark two edges of a sheet of paper off in 1/2 inch increments and make triangles. The triangles get rolled around cocktail skewers and dotted periodically with glue. I use Elmer's. Some people use glue sticks. In any case, it can be done while on the phone, reading Facebook, waiting for the water to boil.

I've marked them off in something called a watercolor pencil. When the pencil color gets wet, say, with glue, it smears nicely. It gives excellent soft stripes on a bead. On my fingers, it is less excellent. My triangles don't come out even. I have a feeling that even if I just made long rectangles, I'd manage to make mistakes.

Beads made of printer paper colored on the edge with watercolor pencils.
These stripes are addictive. I love seeing how each bead turns out. And  I'm using paper I would have thrown away. I drew on the backs of coupons I printed out and did not use. I drew on the back of a community flyer. This is politically correct time wasting, and I am using a box of toothpicks I bought many many years ago when it was only possible to buy 1000 toothpicks at a time. The box disintegrated.

In a video of a young woman making beads, we are warned to keep the strip centered on the toothpick. "If you do this," she opines, "your beads will come out perfect, every time." She obviously does not work with my handicaps.

There is a video by a tattooed young man who sneers at the thought of making beads one by one. He covers a cocktail skewer in foil, takes 6-inch wide pieces of newspaper, and begins rolling. First off, I'd like to say that his beads are obedient because they are afraid of him. In my hands, paper does not roll up obediently. It crumples, uncoils, lies flat and laughs. In the event that a sheet of paper agrees to be coiled around a skewer, it makes a flabby roll. I will make one bead at a time, thank you.

I'd far rather have a written tutorial with photos than a video. Too many videos show you the technique and babble without a script. Apparently going back and editing out pauses, repetitions and inaudible bits is considered cheating, even when the video is linked to a website that sells supplies.

Any paper can be used for beads. Glossy magazines  and catalogs don't come to my house. The ad inserts that come with the local paper are shiny and have pretty colors, but the paper is fairly flimsy. A single length produces a skimpy bead, if you use a single sheet. You can make a longer triangular strip by going across two pages for a fatter bead. I think I will make a batch of cylinder beads and then roll triangles around them-- just for sanity's sake.

Beads made from a newspaper insert.

Scrapbooking paper is conveniently sold in books of long skinny strips, so I can test lots of colors. It's thicker than printer paper and newsprint. My half-inch wide triangles produce a pleasingly plump bead.

Rolled paper beads awaiting coats of Mod Podge sealant.

Now that I have little bowls of finished beads, I will have to do something sensible with them. I could string them into necklaces, put them on eyepins to make dangles for earrings, string them on wire in a metal frame for pendants or bracelets.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Shorts /Adjusted Expectations

Planning before sewing is probably a good thing, but leaving room for adjustment is more important. I have acquired the habit of buying less fabric than the pattern calls for when I have a specific pattern in mind (I'm short and can do that), and more than is needed for generic things. For instance, 1 1/2 yards is enough for  a skirt or pair of shorts for folks up to size 14. I bought 4 yards of a pant weight that I didn't really care for, figuring I'd make a couple pairs of shorts alike. The price was right, and mucking about in the garden would ruin most fabrics.

I bought fabrics intending to use them in the next 18 months, and lo and behold, it was 18 years before I used some of them. I acquired an unhealthy fear of pants patterns. Not wanting to waste fabric, I held new patterns up against clothing that fit and could not understand how anything that shape could turn into the shape of the finished  garment. I tested 6 different sizes of similarly designed patterns up against each other and found no discernible difference in size. I concluded that none would fit.

The solution is simple, but took me years to arrive at: avoid tailored pants. I should make pajama pants, yoga pants, pants with elastic waists. When there is oodles of fabric at the sides, the crotch length is less important. I avoided this for many years. Elastic is wrapped in polyester, and I was sensitive to polyester, particularly at the waist. Again, the solution is simple: make the waist larger.

This year, I bought Simplicity 0328 more for its t-shirt than its elastic waist shorts, and traced the shorts pattern a size larger than the pattern indicated. I added to back crotch length and subtracted from the front. When I got them to the try-on point, I noticed that the bits of fabric I had left for a waistband would have to be pieced and that the irregular stripe would not match. I looked at the 2 pairs of shorts I had made from the same fabric last year, and commenced deconstructing. Tedious, and it took 3 days to get enough thread bits out of the fabric. I had the fabric I needed, it matched perfectly, and I felt vindicated.

I did not use the Simplicity waistband with its cute sash ties. Sash ties would add several thicknesses of fabric at the waist, not to be considered in the current heatwave.  I made a casing to hold the elastic, a folded ring. I put a ring of elastic inside, folded the fabric down, and sewed. Every so often I pulled on the elastic to get it past a ruffle of fabric. Then I sewed the encased elastic to the shorts. 

In this way, I avoided having to thread elastic through a tunnel, a process I find to be hard on my finger tips and fraught with opportunities for disaster. If I used bodkins, I had to make the tunnel wider than I wanted just so the bodkin would go through. Sometimes I had to unpick seams because the tip of the bodkin got hung in them. If I used safety pins, there was always the chance that the pushing would cause the pin to open. I have been stabbed by open safety pins, I have had to open the tunnels. If there was a way for threading things through casings to go wrong, I managed it. And of course I assumed that all failures were my own fault, as opposed to normal differences in metals,plastics, elastic, fabrics, and humans.

In sewing, willingness to make adjustments is the key to success. At least, for me it is.

My sewing experience is that the only thing that matters is to be sure to cut everything too big, slam the thing together, and adjust, adjust, adjust. The garment is finished when I am tired of adjusting.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Deferred Gratification

Sometimes, doing only what is reasonable and logical results in doing nothing at all. I kept myself from performing one activity, and it eventually led to not being able to initiate much of anything that was not essential to daily living. And that is just existing. 

The back walkway has always looked too narrow to me. It is more than twice as wide as the sidewalk joining it to the driveway, a sidewalk barely wide enough for a one person. The back walkway is wide enough to accommodate 2 chairs and still leave room for a person laden with bags of groceries to get by without effort. How could that be too narrow?

It niggled. It just looked wrong. It bothered. Removing good concrete to pour new went against the grain and besides I couldn't afford it. Adding a cement surround was deemed stupid, complex and unnecessary by the significant other. I'd seen all the preparation a neighbor went to to ensure a smooth walkway. Measured, dug out, watered, rolled, let sit for a year, sanded, and then poured.  Could I stand the mess? The significant other could not. After awhile, I stopped seeing it as too narrow. I was just vaguely aware that I didn't like it.  

And then one day, a day too hot to do anything unnecessary--should I mention that I was running a temperature?-- I began digging around the outer edge of the sidewalk. I would pour cement around the rocks I'd been digging out of the flower bed. A look at concrete prices at the local hardware changed my mind on that. A 10 lb. bag of concrete cost more than a 40 lb. bag had 7 years ago.

Brick paths are laid on sand over clay. I could do that. I had a pile of bricks I had removed from around a flowerbed. Why not line the outside of the walk with them? Why not please myself and stop worrying about the correct way to do things? If I don't like it, I can remove it with less effort than it takes to patch cement.

It took very little time and effort to dig a trench around the sidewalk, very little effort to place holey bricks (one reason the brick sidewalk through a flower bed didn't work) on their sides, and less effort to tamp down the clay under them so they'd lay more or less flat. The curve was a small problem, because there was a cement lip. I could lay bricks flat, but not on their side. I stole more bricks from around my flower beds. I dug and laid brick in 10 and 15-minute increments. It was a little job that took days, but has big satisfaction.  

A little brick surround pleases Smokey.

Smokey never hung around the back walkway before. To Smokey and me, the back walkway looks right. I can move on to other chores, other projects. At the end of the summer, when the brick has settled a bit, I will buy patching concrete to fill in between the walkway and the bricks. Right now, small stones will do.