Monday, September 25, 2017

A young designers dress. Family pulls me in to a beautiful loving project! And oh how I loved being pulled into this.....

Late in the summer I received a text message from my brother.  It was a picture of a drawing by a young student and it simply said, "Can you make this?"

I responded, "Sure" but I was wondering.....what is this?  He then explained that he and his wife had a young student in their classroom, during the school year and summer, that carried around a notebook full of fashion drawings.  He asked her which one was her favorite.  She showed him this dress.  He asked if could take a picture of it.  She let him take the photograph.

He told me that he was trying to think of someone to make this.  He then thought of a childhood neighbor who worked for Vera Wang for a long time and now lives in Italy.  Then he thought, "I am thinking too hard" how about my sister Jane.

He didn't mention this to anyone because he wanted to make sure it would happen.  When he finally told his wife she got a little tearful, she was so happy that he thought of this project.  They didn't tell anyone what they were doing but did ask a teacher assistant to make up a story to get her measurements for me.

I told him I didn't know how quickly I could make this happen but I was so excited I got it done before school.

We brought the dress with us to Northern Minnesota over labor day and they were able to give it to her during the fall school opening.

He has it on video but the quality is not good.  There were other teachers and her mom in the room with them.  He started with, "Do you remember when I asked you about your favorite dress design and if I could take a picture of it?" She said, "Yes."  He then said, "Well, my sister made that dress for you."  She said with excitement, "What?"  She ran to the door he went to with excitement and was over joyed when he took it out of the room where it was hidden.

It was so neat and really everyone that was involved was pretty emotional.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful, emotional experience for a young lady that lives outside of tiny town in Northern Minnesota.

My brother and sister in law are also a great example of kind, caring teachers that often go the extra mile for their students even though they have a great deal going on in their personal lives.

There are so many teachers out there that do little things like this that don't get noticed or recognized. Please give the teachers of your children a compliment and a thank you here and there because they work hard and they love your kids more than you know.

A picture of my sister in law (Dori Hall), my brother (Mark Hall), the young lady and her mom.  As you can see by the hug she is giving the dress she was pretty happy.  And boy....does this make me happy.  I wasn't sure about permission so I am not showing the young ladies face but she is smiling.

Once again I thank my FACS profession for giving me the skills to be involved in this story.

With love from your retired FACS teacher.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sewing/fashion class for new teachers with their schools sewing machine was fun and successful

At the beginning of August I conducted a two day seminar on operating your schools sewing machine and simple sewing projects.

I offered this quick course because I had former co-workers that new very little about sewing and how to operate a machine.  This is a rather difficult situation when one has to teach even the very simple basics.

Knowing how it often is for a first year teacher, to plan and develop courses as they go; I was hoping that this would be a good time for new teachers to just focus on one thing with no outside interruptions.  Each person brought one or two of their schools sewing machines and gathered information on how to operate it with somewhat ease.

We talked about scope and sequence of courses too.

I started with understanding fabric, project ideas, supplies needed, understanding sewing machines and how to use them and test sewing for students.  The students were given time to make a parts slide show with their school sewing machine.  I gave them links to information that I used in class.  They can use this, edit it and make it their own.  But, it is something to start with.

We actually did sewing on paper. Seam samples and then finally a pouch with a zipper.

I demonstrated each of the items so that they would have an understanding of how it would look in a classroom (which was a little difficult with colleagues) and then they practiced.  They were given time to make demonstration videos for there classroom but most wanted to do these at home with good light and in place that they were comfortable.  Making videos with new found friends isn't always easy.

I emphasized how important it is to have videos for students to see more than once and for students that are absent.

I charged a small amount for this workshop because I wanted a commitment from people to attend.  It is so much easier to cancel when there is no investment.

I had three wonderful students.  I am so excited for each of them, all in different situations.  I wish each of them the best in the coming year!

If you are interested in my course or in teaching something similar please send me a note.

As an early retired teacher, it was so fun to be able to give something back to the wonderful people that are following in my footsteps.

With love from your retired FACS teacher,

Thursday, June 22, 2017

That sewing machine cabinet that your mother or grandmother had can be an entertainment unit.

I recently saw a sewing machine cabinet made into an entertainment unit for outside on pinterest.  I really liked it and had it in my mind to make one.  I didn't have a cabinet but my mom always did and it reminds me of her.

I found one at a thrift store for $5 and of course as I drove home, that day, my neighbor had one in her driveway at her garage sale labeled "free".  So I had two projects.  One is complete.  I want to share it with you as it is the time of year, to work outside, and let the dust fly.

To start the project you need to remove the inside of the cabinet that is there to hold the former sewing machine.  I suggest you wipe it down unless you want old dust flying in your face and eyes.  I saved the little decorative handles and hinges from the inside.  You might need that someday for another project.  Haha....

Then you need something over your face.  I used a bandanna.  You can use a mask.  You need to sand the surface of the sewing machine so that the paint adheres to the wood.  That old varnish really stinks and is probably toxic.

Once you have everything sanded you need to paint.  You can use furniture paint and a brush or spray paint.  For this project I used spray paint.  I flipped the machine over and did the legs and sides first.  You want to do a good job covering them with paint as the feet of the legs are the most vulnerable to water and rot, if you will have this outside.  (This is a nice indoor serving table too.  It is great for a small space as you can flip the table arm up when not in use.)

Once the under side has dried and is coated well (you may need to lightly sand and give it another coat of paint) flip it over and paint the top of the arm (or bottom depending on how you look at it) , and let it dry.

Then open the table arm and paint the top parts.

Measure your opening to purchase your pan (which I will use to hold drinks on ice).  The arm can hold your appetizers or food items.

I used the flat or back side of the table for my accessories; the bottle opener and spoon towel holder.  Attach these items with screws.  Make sure that they are not longer than your block and the cabinet or you will have a gap between the items and the wood.  If you do have a gap you can counter that with washers when attaching the items.

As we have a machine shop I had a scrap piece of aluminum and drilled holes through that and the spoon.  I think wood would work too but this will not rot or split.  I put a block behind it so the spoon there would be room for a full roll of paper towels.  (You can use a paper towel holder too.)

Note:  make sure you measure the opening of the sewing machine before you paint.  You might have to make the opening a larger size to use a standard size pan.  I got lucky and it works pretty well although the pan has to be removed to close the arm of the table.
The machine before I did any work.

The pinterest idea had a plastic towel holder.  I found an old spoon  in  a thrift shop for a $1.  Put a block of aluminum behind it and screwed it to the sewing machine.  

The pan was purchased from a restaurant supply store on line.  Opener was the most expensive part of the project purchased from a vintage shop.

Happy building!
The project cost was:  Spoon:  $1.00
                                    Pan:       $6.00
                                    Sewing Table:  $5.00
                                2 cans paint:  $5.50
                                 Bottle opener  $6.00

Total: $23.50

Happy recycling!

With love from your retired FACS teacher,


Monday, June 12, 2017

Facebook sure brings out the kindness in strangers sometimes.

My last post was about my Sister in law Nannette and how she faced her cancer with strength.  This past weekend we celebrated her life as she passed away June 4, 2017.

I am pretty sure she was watching over my son as he traveled to her funeral.  He traveled 5.5 hours on his motorcycle.  On the way his saddle bag broke off of his bike.  He backtracked a little to get it and then strapped in on his bike and made it in time for her life celebration.

On the way home he was quite far into his trip back and he realized it had fallen off of his bike again. He back tracked 3 hours and did not find his saddle bag.

On Monday my sister in law's daughter, our son's older cousin noticed a post on Facebook from someone that she knew with a picture of a saddle bag.  Someone had found it on the road and they were looking for the owner.  She tagged the picture with my son's name on it and I saw it.  I contacted him and sure enough it was his bag.

When I asked my niece if she would get the bag, I then asked her if she knew the person.  She said, "No, she saw it on a post of someone that she used to work with."

So, we started arranging for my niece to get it as he is several hours away I thanked the person with the original post.  She said it was shared 440 times.  Then she messaged me and said she was taking it down because it was being shared more.  (Since I posted the original blog this morning the post was shared 613 times before the kind person took it down.)

So to quote my son, "Damn, thanks central Illinoisans".  You did good and we sure got a chuckle at the end of a difficult weekend and I am pretty sure an angel was helping us along.

With love from your retired FACS teacher,  Jane

Thursday, May 25, 2017

How a silly towel has me reflecting on life's joys and sadness

Have we really been using this for 30 years?
I have been away from my blog for a while.  I posted in March talking about my husband's aunt passing.  Since then I have had pneumonia and my sister in law has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Cancer SUCKS!

As I got out of the shower I saw that my husband changed out my towel so that he could do laundry. This is a lovely gesture.  He has been doing laundry for 25 years and how sweet that he changed the towel for me.   Then I realized that the towel hanging was his from before we were married thirty years ago.  There are string hanging and it should be in a rag pile.  But really, does it matter?  No one sees this in our master bath.  The only issue is, I should really cut the threads, as in my magic clumsiness I could choke myself with those long sturdy cotton threads.  (reminder, get a scissors once I complete this post)

That towel got me reflecting about my sister in law Nannette and our lives.  When that towel came into my life so did my husband's family.  That crazy, large, love us or leave us group.  You see they are army people and they moved quite a bit for 20 years.  During that time, there were 7 children in 9 years and they really became each others best friends.  Their fun and laughter is what attracted me to their family and what also sometimes drove or drives me a little nutty   (and they know this).  Oh, and let me say I am not perfect, I know my mouth drives them nuts too. 

In February, my husbands youngest brother's wife was diagnosed with a very bad unpleasant terminal cancer.  Since there are 5 boys in the family and these men are very similar in nature it has been said that there has been some sister in law bonding and a little bitching (can't say it any other way) over the years.  

Nannette is a friend and family member and it is so hard for me to write this, but she will be leaving us soon.  She is the first family member of our generation to be so ill and to leave.  This horrible diagnoses is hitting all of so hard, as we watch her say her good-bye's and fight so strongly and beautifully.  Her strength and understanding makes all of see that we must embrace every moment no matter how irritating or simple it may be.  We really don't know our next step in life, we can't predict what comes next.  We can only guess.  

I will miss this beautiful, tell it like it is, kind lady.  She has had many struggles in her life which has given her a texture that I love.  Underneath her tell it like it is texture, she would do anything for anyone. She has hid her generosity and kindness from many, but not I.  She hasn't fooled me and that is why I am so sad to lose my friend and sister in law.  My generous, wine drinking buddy (until she got sick), traveling, practical, baking, cooking, loving friend will be missed so much.  

So, to you my friend, I say good-bye with tears, love and hugs.
Nannette and I in April

Until we meet again.  

With love from your sister-in-law and retired FACS teacher,


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

So Hard to say Goodbye.

It has been a while since I have posted on my blog.

We have had a busy winter full of fun, love and sadness.

In January we lost my mother-in-laws identical twin.  They are/were 90.  Both ladies have had a huge impact on my personal life.  I have know them for 30 years and it goes without saying a great deal of love for them.

June and I had a great deal in common.  Although it is already March I miss her daily and think of her often.  The following is a tribute to her that I put on another form of social media.  I hope that those of you that read this have a June in your life.

"I am writing with tears as I feel great grief today for a very special person in my family’s life. When I got married I knew that my mother in law had an identical twin. What I didn’t know then was that I was really going to get two fantastic mothers in law.

June, Jean and I bonded fairly quickly as we all were sewers. When I visited their town I spent hours at the fabric store with them as they sorted through mountains of fabric for the best price and quality. We went to auctions and flea markets looking for treasured finds for my home more times than I could count.

As time went by I realized that maybe I wasn’t really special that these two spent special time with everyone this way.

In July, we celebrated June and Jean’s 90th birthday. Although they have had a few health scares over time they have both been tough cookies. They have always been so alive and to be honest it has always seemed June was just a tiny bit healthier.

We went to a family wedding December 31, 2016 and when they did the dance for number of years married, June and her husband Lee were on the floor the longest. 67 years married. It was a joyful moment that put tears in my eyes. 

Then several days later June was hospitalized for intestinal issues, although she probably was not feeling well at the wedding we have all been in shock. She didn’t tell anyone, but she knew.

I know that when you lose someone that has lived through 90 years you should celebrate their life and the joy that they put on our earth. This is so hard as she has loved life so fully and for me I lost
June and I several years ago.
a friend and It is so difficult. I will miss my other mother in law so much. Peace to June as she meets our Lord."

Death, of course, is part of life.  Some of deal and cope well; others find it a subject not to be mentioned.  I hope that, if you are a FACS educator, you make it a part of your curriculum as many young people need to learn coping skills for difficult times in their life as much as the joyful.  

With love from your retired FACS teacher, Jane

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Three young girls, all interested in the same thing and the direction they took in life. A sewing machine was their beginning.

Recently I was in New York City for a lovely family wedding.

My sister lives in New Jersey.  She was kind enough to meet my husband and I for a day out on the town and a bit of adventure.  We decided to take the tourist way out and hopped on a bus to look at the city in a broad view.  We have both been there several times, she for work and me for work and fun.

While in SoHo/China town we stopped in a lovely leather shop filled with hand made items.  We both fell in love with their, far too expensive for us, products.  While looking, we both migrated to a section in the store with old sewing machines.  I knew what Mary, my sister, was thinking.  She was thinking about our first sewing machine.

The clerk walked over to us and said that they were the owners collection but that they were also for sale.  We both chuckled and one of us said, "Oh we had one like that, except it was a treadle, in a cabinet."  The clerk was engaged and we told her our story......

Remember it was a small town, during the late 60's. I was in third grade, my sister was in second, and our neighbor Brenda, was in first grade. Somehow we decided that we were going to go to an auction that was about 6 or 7 blocks from our house.  The auction was on the edge of town so it was almost "in the country."  I don't quite remember how we knew what to do at an auction, but auctions were part of the fabric of a small town back then.  I am not even sure that our mother knew where we were or what we were doing.

We had very little money in our pockets.  Brenda had the most which is key to our adventure.  We looked around at the items and we saw this old treadle sewing machine.  The three of us wanted it bad.  We wanted to sew, create and make things; on our own sewing machine.  We had watched my mom make all of our clothes and we wanted to do that too.  I don't think mom was ready for the battle of teaching her two strong willed kids sewing technique.  Brenda's mom was not a sewer but Brenda wanted to be.  (Later on Brenda's mom became, and still is, quite a quilter, an AMAZING quilter!)

We pooled our money which was around a $1.00.  The auction was huge.  It was the contents of a family's chicken farm.  When they finally came to the sewing machine we bravely bid on the machine. We had no competition.  We couldn't believe our luck.  We were so excited!  The story varies as to how we got it home.  I remember the machine having wheels and wheeling it home.  My sister remembers us getting our wagon and wheeling it home.  But we did it on our own.  I remember traveling over gravel and then thinking, finally a smooth tar road.  Our mother's wanted no part of this treadle machine.  I think their irritation was really amusement with our energy and seriousness to get this wonderful new toy.  I remember trying to figure out where to put it and it was determined we would put it in Brenda's basement as she had the largest stake in the deal.

We tried it and made it work.  We never really used it a lot.  My mom soon thereafter shipped me off to her sister's home to teach me how to sew.  This avoided conflict with mother and daughter. Frankly, I have never stopped sewing.

When I look at the three of us and our personal history that sewing machine adventure was really the beginning for each of us.  We all took different paths but stuck to our original love.

My sister,Mary, has been a planner and in allocation for the retail industry for years.  She LOVES fashion and the industry and has worked for several shopping networks and is presently at Burlington, in Burlington, NJ.

Brenda has worked in the sales end of the industry with shoes and Vera Wang.  She now owns and operates "Italia Celebrations" in Italy.  A lovely wedding planning service.

I went the traditional route teaching Family and Consumer Sciences focusing on fashion and sewing construction.

When we finished telling the clerk our story, her response actually shocked both Mary and I.  She was thrilled and said, "Oh, I love this story.  Someone needs to do a little short story about this, I can see the little girls getting that sewing machine home.  It should be a 3 minute short story on HBO"  We smiled and thanked her, we were just three small town girls ready to sew, but what a fine memory it is for us. And look where it took us.  Oh the places you will go........!

With love from the very soon to be, back in retirement, FACS teacher,