Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hammocks, Shirts, and Green Dye

Sleeping outside in the summer, It's one of my favorite things to do. (Ok, in the interest of full disclosure, my family only turns on the air conditioning if it's nearly 100 degrees outside. So often it's actually cooler and more comfortable to spend the night outside.) So what did I bring home from El Salvador?

This hammock! My dad hung it for me on the deck right outside my room, and it's not a bad place to sleep or hang out and read a book. Of course, my brother, upon seeing my hammock, declared he wanted one. Well, as I can't just return to El Salvador right now to buy another hammock, I suggested to my brother that we attempt to make one.

We started with this linen/rayon curtain I picked up at a thrift store and some green dye (my brother's absolute favorite color) found on clearance at Wal-Mart.

Now, I'd never dyed anything before so we just followed the instructions and hoped for the best.

We stirred the fabric in the pot of dye for about an hour, then it was time to rinse the fabric with cold water. Not wanted to accidentally dye the sink, shower, tub, or anything else green, we opted to do this step out in the back yard. That's what garden hoses are for, right?

(the chairs we draped the fabric over had been green to begin with)

After the extra dye was rinsed out, into the washer went the hammock-to-be. There was still a little bit of dye left in the pot though that I didn't want to waste. So, I re-heated the dye and pulled out this shirt.

It was pretty. It fit well. I picked it up on clearance at a local boot store. I rather liked it. It was white (well actually cream, but. . .).  Me and white clothes, that's a bad combination. One should not wear a white shirt if one will be drinking coffee while driving. Yeah, the shirt was a little stained and I had been planning on dying it for a while. I'd bought some blue dye to use, but I like green just as much if not more than blue, and as I had the green dye all ready to use, I just tossed my shirt in the pot.

I went through all the steps again (including the garden hose in the back yard), and hoped for the best, then I went back to working on the hammock.

I helped my brother set grommets at either end. Unfortunately, I didn't think this through and didn't properly stabilize the fabric properly so as soon as my brother tried out the hammock the grommets started to rip the fabric. Ok, back to the drawing board.

I cut two stripes of heavy cotton twill from my stash about 10 inches wide. I folded them in half width-wise, folded either end under several inches so that the strip was the right length, the folded the long edges under about an inch. Of course, I pressed all these folds in place. Then, I made a bunch of button holes down the middle of the strips. I folded these strips over either end of the hammock where the grommets were and sewed them on securely. The next morning my brother threaded para-cord through the button holes and hung his hammock up.

This time the hammock stayed together just like it was supposed to! And, judging by the smile on his face, I think my brother prefers his "custom  made" hammock to the one I brought back from El Salvador. At least he's pretty darned pleased!

The selfie he sent me once he got the hammock hung
Now how about my shirt? Well, it didn't turn out quite as dark as the hammock, but I'm pretty darned pleased with it too!

In real like it's a shade darker than it appears here
It's wearable again! I have another comfortable, pretty, summer shirt with sleeves!

And a comfortable hammock to sleep in on overly warm nights. And a very pleased little brother with a hammock of his own. Now, if I just make my little sister the hammock she's been asking for as well, I think we'll be all set for a comfortable summer full of relaxing (or not)!


Monday, June 27, 2016

The Fabulous Green Wrap Dress

After two weeks of being separated from my sewing machine, it was wonderful to get back to sewing last week and begin sewing the 50's style dresses I've been planning for over a month!

On the first evening I had a chance to sew last week I pulled out my patterns, looked them over, and decided to start by sewing Simplicity 8085, a reprint of a 50's Simplicity pattern. It looked like it would go together quickly and I was really ready to get something finished!  So I picked some fabric from my stash, ironed it, and got started.

I picked up this green cotton at the Steam Engine Show last fall. Yes, the Steam Engine Show. Old tractors, old house, and lots of vendors, one of whom was selling extra fabric from her stash. This green print quickly caught my eye so I bought all 4 yards (in the form of 2 two yard pieces) she had. I've hung on to it since, just waiting for the perfect project to come along. Well, 4 yards was just barley enough for this dress. (the pattern called for 4 1/2 yards)

The fabric, sadly, was not dyed evenly so I tried to at least make the less dyed sections symmetrical to each other in the finished dress since I had to use just about ever scrap of fabric there was.
I squeezed my pattern pieces onto the two panels of fabric laid atop each other, wrong sides together. Due to to being a 1/2 yard short of the required amount of fabric I wasn't able to cut the front bodice piece on the fold so there is a center front seam. No big deal, with a print a busy as this one you really have to be looking close to see the seams at all.

I made a couple of other minor changes, along with the center front seam. I lowered the front neckline a couple inches to a still modest, but more flattering level. I finished the edges of the dress with single fold, rather than double fold, bias tape and added white lace for embellishment. I also, of course, added pockets. The skirt has no side seams, just a center front seam, so I couldn't do my favorite hidden side seam pockets. Instead I just cut out my pocket shapes and sewed them onto the skirt where the side seams would be if this dress had any. Once again, with this busy print it's almost impossible to see seams so the pockets are almost hidden too, despite these being patch pockets.

One of the most fun parts of sewing this dress was making the belt! I'd never actually made a belt with a buckle before, just simple sashes that tie around the waist. 
The belt is made of two layers of my fabric with one layer of duck canvas sandwiched in between. I sewed some lace down the middle of the belt to help it stand out against the dress. Now, the pattern called for a covered buckle kit like this, but I didn't have one in my stash and I didn't want to buy anything for this dress, so I stole the buckle off of a thrifted belt I had in my stash. 

I used a metal eyelet at the buckle end of the belt for the prong of the buckle to go through. Thus I was able to fold my fabric over the bar of the buckle and stitch it down.  I then tried on the belt, marked where I needed a hole at the other end and added another eyelet. The eyelets started out green, but unfortunately the paint started flaking off as soon as I put them in. Oh well, the dull silver under the paint at least matches the color of the buckle. Overall, I'm pretty proud of how this belt turned out!

Excuse the sunburn, chasing children means lots of being outside and not enough remembering to put sunscreen on myself.
Well, really I'm proud of how the entire dress turned out. It's a wrap dress that fastens in the back with two buttons at the waist and one snap above that to prevent gaping. The skirt overlaps enough that no fasting is required below the waist.

This dress is so comfortable and easy to wear! I've worn it to chase rambunctious children and to do goat chores with no issues what so ever. The below knee length full skirt allows just as much movement as jeans.

While taking pictures I decided to swing on the climbing rope in the front yard, just for fun, and still the wrap skirt stayed in place as it should.

I am ridiculously pleased with this simple dress and feel fabulous wearing it! Now, let's see if the remaining patterns I want to make meet the expectations this one has set. I sure hope so, but that may be a tall order! 


Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Curtain and Yellow Gingham Circle Skirt

50's dresses. Those full, poofy, swishy skirts. I've been really loving them lately. Ok, so I've always liked them, but lately I've been picking up 50's inspired dress patterns and re-prints of 50's patterns when ever I happen to stumble upon a pattern sale (a rather common occurrence, unfortunately for my wallet), because I really want to make myself a few.

Just a few from my collection . . .
So, I've been collecting patterns, but sadly, before my trip to El Salvador I had no time what so ever to sew any of them. I had projects to finish for clients and projects to finish for my trip, along with the standard work and goats. I was, however, able to squeeze in one 50's inspired garment a few weeks before I left.

I needed skirts for my trip to El Salvador. When we were out going from school to school doing ministry all of us girls were required to wear below knee length skirts with our King's Castle T-shirts. Not a big deal, but, while I have plenty of summer dresses, I did not have enough summer skirts. (The long skirts I made during the winter would have been too hot and heavy for dancing in the El Salvadorian heat.) A few new skirts was an order. I went through my fabric to see if I could get inspired.
I had a length of yellow gingham, given to me by someone at some point in time (unfortunately I can't remember who), that was just begging to be turned into a circle skirt. Then there was a lace curtain, picked up a while back at a thrift store, that paired just perfectly with it. I sketched out my idea, bought a matching yellow fabric for the lining and got to work. 

I cut the lace curtain into the largest circle possible. I measured that, figured out exactly how much more length I needed for this skirt to be below knee length, then cut a bottom circular band that wide from the yellow gingham. I didn't have quite enough gingham so I had to do some piecing on the back. I did my best to match the pattern so I don't think it's too noticeable when the skirt is worn.

The lining is made from yellow poly/cotton broadcloth. There is a slit in the lace on either side for easy access to the pockets in the lining. The waistband is simply a circle of 3 inch wide elastic sewn to the upper edge of the skirt and lining. That elastic waistband is very comfortable!

This skirt is so swishy and fun to wear! (over a crinoline of course for maximum fun and poofyness!)

It's especially fun to twirl in!

Being just below knee length, rather than a full length maxi skirt, this skirt was ideal for dancing, doing skits, and playing with kids in El Salvador. It got worn more than once on my trip, and a couple times to church before I left. (with the crinoline to church, without, of course, in El Salvador.)

Now that I'm back home I'm back to sewing. As I've discovered, thanks to this skirt, that I enjoy wearing to 50's silhouette, I'm ready to begin sewing my 50's-ish dresses! And thanks to my massive fabric stash I already have all the fabric I need. So, guess what I'm going to be working on this weekend?

I'm hoping to knock out more than one of those patterns I showed you at the top of this post, so to my sewing room I go!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

El Salvador - What We Did

So, El Salvador, it was awesome! I dressed up as a clown. I perfected standing up on a moving bus while french braiding hair. I managed to wash my stinky, sweaty, dusty, dirty, sandy jeans in the shower (apparently I should have taken more than one pair along). I discovered toilet paper, toilet seats, flushing toilets, soap, and water are luxuries in bathrooms (Burger King bathrooms are amazing). I got to see, and stand in, the Pacific ocean. That was my trip to El Salvador! But there was so much more. Here's what the trip was really about.

We told, and hopefully demonstrated, the love of Christ to kids of all ages from preschool to high school. We explained that Jesus loves each of them so much he died on the cross for them. He died to set them free from the sin that has a hold on every person on earth. Being the perfect Son of God, however, He didn't stay dead, but rose three days later. Jesus has already done the hard, the impossible part. We had the privilege of sharing that with the kids. They are loved, they are valued, by the King of Kings. That's what I participated in on this trip to El Salvador. That's what this trip was all about.

I went with a group of 34 people. We divided into three teams. One was a medical team. They worked in a clinic and traveled to surrounding areas to provide much needed medical services. One was a construction team. They built a pig barn (more on that later). Then, there was the street evangelism team. I was part of the street team. We went to 4 schools a day to do programs for the kids. We danced to songs (in Spanish) that told about Jesus. We did skits to illustrate our points. A wonderful El Salvadorian pastor and his team would then give a short message. Throughout the year the pastor will return to the to see how the kids are doing and disciple them. He himself came to Christ at age 9 when an American team came to his school. It's great to know that what we were doing actually has the power to change lives!

 After the message, the kids gathered into small groups and we prayed with them. We prayed with the kids who were ready to accept Christ's free gift of salvation. We prayed with the kids for the healing of sick and hurt family members. We prayed with the kids for any stressful issues they were facing in life. Then out came the balloons and candy!

The way into any kid's heart: balloon animals (and swords) and candy!
We arrived in El Salvador, exhausted, on Sunday evening. Monday morning it was breakfast and  then we gathered in the gym with a team from Oklahoma to learn the dances and skits. Once we had those (mostly) down, we went and jumped into the volcanic crater lake across the street to cool off.

Off the trapeze!!

Tuesday morning at 7:30, the 22 of us on the street team loaded up on the bus and off we went to minister to the school children in a town an hour and a half away. We arrived at a school and began by just playing with the kids. Out came the jump rope, parachute, and soccer ball!

Once the sound system was set up by our fabulous team of nationals and all the kids were gathered,  we began our program.

We did four school programs a day. Two in the morning, followed by a sack lunch eaten in the air conditioned Burger King (Yes, they were fine with us bringing our own food inside to eat), then two more in the afternoon. We ended the day by loading up on the bus again and sleeping for most of the way back to camp (dancing in the heat is exhausting!). The goal was always to be back by 6:30, supper time, but that didn't always happen. That first day we got stuck in traffic and didn't get back until 8:30. We were met by the cheers of our construction and medical teams and a warm supper thanks to the amazing kitchen staff who stayed late for us. (The team from Oklahoma had been in another town and came in 10 minutes after us, also greeted by cheers and warm supper. That was some miserable traffic!)

Traffic, 3 hours of traffic

We went back to the same town to do programs in other schools Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of that first week, then Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the second week. We headed out between 7 and 7:30 every morning. Most nights we made it back to camp by 7. Excluding the first day, the only exception was Thursday. We didn't get back until after 10 that night. Why? we got to do a church service!

After our four programs on Thursday we went to a home church, which turned into a street church as there were too many people to fit in the house. Our team lead worship (in English), we did one of our skits from our programs, and our pastor preached (in English, translated into Spanish for the congregation). The kids from the church had prepared a song and dance for us. That was fun (and adorable!) to watch.

On Saturday we had no programs to do so we stayed at camp all day. For our time in El Salvador, we stayed at and worked with the missionaries from a ministry called King's Castle (Castillo Del Rey). They have a school to train people from all over Central America to be pastors and full time missionaries world wide. Unfortunately most (if not all) of these students are very poor. King's Castle and the students themselves work hard to raise money, but currently they only have 15 cents per student, per meal. Thus, the students eat mostly rice and beans. The goal of King's Castle is to become self-sufficient when in comes to feeding the students. They have 3 green houses where they practice vertical agriculture to provide the students with vegetables. Now they are working on preparing things so that they can keep a large amount of animals for meat. Currently they are keeping small herds of hogs, chickens, cattle, and a very hardy, great for meat, type of hair sheep called pelague (pel-a-gway).

Now, in order to grow these herds of live stock so that they can be truly self-sufficient, King's Castle needs appropriate housing for these animals. Thus, our construction team built a pig barn while we were there, and on Saturday (our non-ministry day) I, along with several others from the street team, got to help with it!

We mixed cement to pour the floor. I shoveled lots of sand for the cement. Others shoveled gravel. Two guys worked the cement mixer and several moved the cement in wheelbarrows. 

From the hog barn there is an amazing view of the lake!
By the end of the week the hog barn wasn't entirely done, but it was close!

On Sunday we went to Church in a large tent, followed by shopping at the market. Then our last three days of ministry. On Tuesday I got to be a clown (we had two every day to help get the kids excited), along with a 13 year old boy who decided to adopt me as his big sister (i.e. he found ways to annoy me like only a little brother would and I teased him back like only a big sister would). That was fun, hot, sweaty, work!

 Finally, that last Thursday, the day before we left, was our beach day. Hammocks, fresh fruit smoothies, an awesome water slide, and the Pacific Ocean!

Prior to this trip I've seen the gulf of Mexico, thanks to my amazing grandma, once, when I was 19. I was impressed by that, but the ocean was a whole new level of impressive. The waves were terrifying and amazing! I only stood in the water ankle deep, but some of the waves came up nearly neck high. The beach was black volcanic sand and very rocky. I still, four days later, have bruises on my feet and ankles from those rocks whenever the waves came. It was worth it though! We had lunch at the resort there and I ate fish. A whole fish with the head still on. It was delicious!

My fish head
Thursday night we said good bye to the amazing team of missionaries and nationals we had worked with throughout the trip. That was a little sad. Then Friday, at 2 a.m., we loaded or bags into a cattle truck and ourselves onto the bus, drove to the airport, and flew home.

I went on this trip hoping being out of the U.S. again would give me more perspective on whether of not I'm supposed to go to Guatemala, or somewhere, to start a goat program. Well, I didn't really come home with answers. On this trip God really just taught me to trust him. He has a plan, I just need to seek Him and be willing to go where He leads. That's a little scary, but with a lot of prayer, I'm working on it. I do feel very strongly though that I am called to go to the mission field for a couple years. I just don't know when or where, but I am trusting that God will make that clear.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Making it Mine, and Other Encouraging Things

I'm off to El Salvador in less than twelve hours! Everything I wanted to sew first is sewn, packed in my bag, and ready to go.

The missions committee of the church that is sponsoring this trip provided each team member with a fantastic, HUGE (as in I could fit my sister in it), rolling duffle bag, to use on the trip and then keep. This is great! Except for one little thing, all 35 duffle bags look exactly alike. Thus, we were given instructions to personalize our bags. Colorful duct tape was the suggested form of personalization. Great idea, but I can sew, thus no need to buy fancy duct tape.

A while back I picked up this wide pink plaid ribbon at Wal-Mart, just because it was plaid (I love plaid) and only $1. It has sat in my stash waiting to be used for. . . something. It never seemed quite right for anything. Well last night I pulled it out to personalize my duffle bag!

Sewing ribbon on a duffle bag, pretty easy concept, right? Yeah, that was an ordeal. 

"Alright, bag in position to sew! Now where do I sit?"

My friend Erentry was over to hang out, sew, and help pack. She was quite helpful with bag wrangling (and picture taking). 

"Now if I can just fit this section under the presser foot. . ."

"Almost done! Finally!"

Yeah, duct tape would have been way easier. On the up side, at least my bag won't be mistaken for anyone else's. Once the bag was decorated I packed it, then I dropped it off at the church this morning. I'm ready to go!

God has provided for me several times this week when I've been stressed about getting thing ready for the trip. Thursday I had to hand sew a zipper in an altered dress for a client. I brought the dress along to work so I could finish it at some point during the day, but I was't sure when I'd find time. God provided. I showed up to work at the normal time then discovered I had 30 minutes of free time before I actually had to do anything! I was able to get the zipper sewn in.

Then today, I went to help a friend with some goat stuff. As I was leaving she handed me money to use on my trip. I'd been worried this morning that I hadn't kept enough cash out for the trip when I deposited my pay check yesterday. God provided the amount I needed through my friend.

I am going to El Salvador! Each member of the team already has stories of how God has provided for them to go on this trip, I can't wait to see what else is in store!