Friday, November 22, 2013

all wrapped up

It's that time of year when I start to stress out about the last few gifts I need to buy for Christmas.  This year, in addition to my own 3 children and husband, I have 22 nieces and nephews and 6 adults to buy gifts for.  It seems overwhelming, and I'm not going to lie, it is.  It's expensive some years, but most years I shop clearance and sale racks all year long to find good deals. Most years I find great deals and spend an average of $5 per child on a gift that is actually worth closer to $15-20.  Some years I make gifts.  I find the girls very easy to shop for, but the boys are incredibly difficult and stressful to find something suitable that isn't going to insult them.

This year, I'm thrilled to report that as of today I've got only 2 more gifts to buy, both of which will be Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals on electronics.  Yes, I'm one of those horrible people that is taking full advantage of the deals instead of boycotting for the sake of making a statement that no one listens to anyway.  However, I will boycott Kohls all weekend.  The one by my house is a spawning ground for Satan's little Black Friday helpers.

I digress.  This post's subject is gift wrapping, not shopping.

I love wrapping gifts.  I love that my daughters want to wrap gifts.

For years I have taken pride in creating beautiful packages with the prettiest bows and colors.  I love wrapping gifts so much that several years ago I took a seasonal job at Marshall Fields to work in gift wrapping.  I loved it.  I loved learning new ways to wrap and I loved seeing a pair of mittens transformed into a beautiful holiday package that someone would put under the tree.  I loved serving people, even the rude people who were never quite happy enough.  I'm pretty sure that those were the unhappy women who pretended to have more money than they actually did.  I loved seeing what people were buying for their loved ones. I especially took note of what the men bought and I could quickly figure out what kind of relationship they had with the women for whom they were buying (wine glasses, jewelry, slippers).  It was most amusing. That year, I wrapped Lorie Line's packages.  She looked just like her photo album when she came in: big hair, meticulous makeup.   By the way, she was not one of the rude ones.

I still love wrapping.  I love buying a gift and then going home to wrap it right away.  I love listening to Christmas music and spending the evening making pretty packages that color coordinate.

My daughters are both so artistic and have inherited my love of working with my hands.  They love learning and creating beauty.  They love helping me with my artistic projects.  I love that about them.  They can't wait to help me wrap all the gifts.  They're just adorable when they help.

I hate it when they help. 

I hate it when a fragile box is damaged.

I hate puckered corners.

I hate when the tape is perpendicular to the seams.

Even more so, I hate scrunched up and wrinkled tape.

I hate it when the paper wrinkles or, heaven forbid, rips.

I hate crooked ribbons.  I hate imperfection.

Are you beginning to understand my internal struggle?  I want my children to help and yet I hate it when they do.  I want them to learn the fine art of gift wrapping, but I don't want them to ruin my packages with their fingerprints all over the tape.

Oh! It's bedtime!  I think I'll wrap some gifts now.  My tutorial on seamless gift wrapping might be coming soon (but I'll probably not have time, so don't hold me to it). It makes a very pretty package indeed.

Friday, November 1, 2013

we have really nice jeans in our family...

My sister Julie asked me several months ago if I would help her assemble a quilt that she was making for her son out of some old jeans.  She assured me that the squares were all cut and ready to sew together and that the only reason she wasn't doing it herself is because the fabric was so thick that her machine was constantly getting jammed.  Being my generous self, I agreed to share the joy of my industrial Juki machine to help her sew the old jeans together when she visited next.

My sister is one of the most highly efficient people I know. I'm pretty sure she gets more done in a day than Super Man could. I first noticed this when she and I used to work for my dad's shop rag business when our job was simply to stack and count rags. We got paid by the piece, and as she and I are both very competitive, it was my goal to make more money than her in an hour.  I never did.  I would pray that she needed a bathroom break so I could sneak ahead of her numbers, but she was and still is a speed demon.  She can clean a house (to perfection) in record time. I'd hire her to do so (because she has nothing better to do than my bidding) if she lived near me.

Not only is she fast, but she's good at everything.  At least I thought so for many years...until she brought her quilt project to me.

If any of you have quilted (I try to not because I'm not a big fan of sewing little straight lines for hours), you know how meticulous measuring and cutting can be.  My dear, well-intentioned sister had cut all jeans into 10" squares. I took a few of the denim pieces and started  pinning them together and realized rather quickly that the "squares" were were approximately 10-ish by 10-ish inches, give or take an inch.  I brought them to her and asked her how she came to measure these so-called squares.

"I laid a piece of square cardboard on top and cut around it."

It all started making sense.  If you're not one to sew regularly, this may not sound strange to you, but it's pretty pertinent that one measure each square perfectly and that they are consistent otherwise your quilt may start to lean and become a trapezoid instead of a rectangle.  I laughed at what might have been and put her to work with my rotary cutter and quilting mat.  We decided to cut them down by 1/2 inch so we could perfect the square and end up with the right dimensions for the finished quilt.  Through  the course of the cutting she mentioned that the aforementioned cardboard may have progressively become smaller as she'd accidentally take a small strip off one side of the pattern every few cuts.

After she was done cutting, we laid out the squares into the perfect looking quilt and I got to sewing.

It only took us 4 hours to cut and sew all the squares together and I have to admit, we, er, I...did a really nice job on the thing. About half way through the sewing process, my machine jammed up and would not run.  I did everything I could think of to fix it, including calling a servicing company and explaining my problem. Julie came over and asked me if I prayed about it.  Um, no, hadn't thought of that yet. She took a panel off the back and asked her daughter to push the pedal.  It sprayed oil all over Julie, but it worked! She didn't do anything to it, we just prayed that God would fix it. He's much better at fixing things than I am...obviously.  It saved us about 3 hours of taking it in for a diagnosis.

Julie had an old quilt from her son's room, so she decided to use that as the "guts" of the quilt.  It worked out quite nicely as we simply cut the sides of the existing quilt to match the new size of the denim.  This is when my mother joined the fun. The 3 of us pinned and basted the two layers together.

Then we sewed and sewed and sewed around the whole dang thing and let me tell you, it's not easy to sew an edging around a denim quilt.  It took two of us.  One to direct the fabric through the machine and one to hold the weight of the blanket.

We decided to "quilt" it by tacking in in the corners with the sewing machine.  Our lovely mother did the tacking and she said it took a couple hours.  I have to admit, I'm glad I didn't do that part.
Julie pretending to help

In the end, it turned out quite nicely and it was worth the effort, but she owes me (and our mom) BIG TIME.  Hear that, Julie?