Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Craft for a Cause

I went to college at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and spent 8 years there obtaining my degrees.  At the time of my graduation from graduate school, I planned to find a job locally and remain in Tuscaloosa.

I short - I loved that city and planned to have a life there.

We are no strangers to tornadic weather in Alabama, and so when some crazy storms started blowing across the south and into my home state on April 27, I was marginally concerned.  Alabamians know the drill, and I knew that Birmingham weather man extraordinaire James Spann was on the job, people would be well informed.

I never expected to hear that much of my second hometown was completely and utterly destroyed.

For a quick glimpse at just how massive the destruction was, you can visit this slideshow at weather.com to see some before and after shots provided by Google Earth.

To see just how massive the monster was which did all that damage, please see this video, taken dangerously close to where the tornado was traveling.  This person was insane, but this video is nothing less than captivating.

Because we were planning to be in Alabama for a few days anyway, I added an extra day to the trip so that I could go down to Tuscaloosa and offer my meager assistance in the recovery efforts.  Checking the facebook "bulletin board" for volunteers and donations, I found a group searching for people willing to take victims from the hotels where they were living to Temporary Emergency Services to pick up supplies.

I got anxiety the closer I got to the exit.  Everything out by the interstate is so perfectly normal, and you'd never know that five miles away is massive, total destruction.  When I got into town, I met up with Sean Wrench, director of a group out of Syracuse, NY called "Forsaken Generation," who had requested the help in giving people rides.  After several minutes of conversation, it was decided that we would instead go on a mission to find exactly how many displaced families were in the hotels and find a way to get supplies brought to them instead of having to constantly find ways to get them to the supplies.

In short, I became the "local" who could drive Sean around to all the places he needed to talk to people to procure food and other supplies for these families.

It was a pretty amazing experience - talking with hotel front desk clerks, hearing stories, meeting a few of the survivors and brainstorming with Sean about getting their needs met.  And even though all I did was offer some information, some ideas and an afternoon of chauffeur duty, I know all that ended up getting 150 people a reliable source of food and supplies for the duration of their stay at the hotels.

When I finally got to see the damage first-hand...well, I feel like somehow my brain kind of turned off.  I don't feel like I really saw it.  I think it was simply too massive for my small, insignificant brain to process destruction on such a major, extreme level.  Reports that it looks post-apocalyptic are not exaggerations.

So I wanted to do something else for the city that taught me much more than how to analyze literature or block a scene; how to conduct a small counseling group or eradicate -isms in the world.  I want to give something more than just my services as a driver to a "real" volunteer.

That is why I created these garden flags that I hope you all will consider purchasing.

They are made from ripstop nylon and laminated canvas.  They are approximately 13" x 18" and are $10.00, with every single one of those dollars going to Temporary Emergency Services in Tuscaloosa.  Shipping and handling is $3.00, and for $5.00 extra I'll add  your last name or "Roll Tide" or "T-Town Never Down" to the flag in black.  Don't forget that I can take your credit card via Square, so just contact me at withpinandink@gmail.com if you'd like to buy one.  I won't put them on etsy because I don't want to have to pay the fees and lessen the donation (the square fees are much less), so if you have friends who might want one, please be sure to send them here to check them out!

I know that with the Mississippi river now swelling to massive levels and swallowing riverbanks and towns in it's path, that we will soon have to turn our attention to more hurting people; more families who have lost everything; more of our brothers and sisters in need.  So if you don't want a flag, please consider donating to the Red Cross or Salvation Army so that those people can be helped out, too.  If you don't want a flag but want to help Tuscaloosa, or any of the other cities affected in Alabama, please check out Give Tuscaloosa or  The Governor's Relief Fund.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Inspiration: Vintage Mom

Aprons are making a comeback in a huge way.  I think in addition to wanting to return to a more self-reliant and healthier lifestyle, people are craving some of the kitschy accoutrement of those lifestyles.  Garden gloves with cutesy rubber boots for tending your organic raised gardens and backyard chickens and of course, perfectly printed aprons with cute designs and monograms while baking your own breads and serving a fine meal at the table for your family.

In short, everything is so up in the air these days with the environment and the economy and it's nice to pay homage to the glory days.

McCall's alone has 24 patterns fit for the family, and several of them are clear throwbacks to your grandma's apron.  But I don't want to just be retro.  I want to go straight to the source, and as I was cleaning out my laundry room the other day, I got just the inspiration I needed.

I never got the opportunity to meet my husband's grandmother, but from all accounts she was quite the character.  I get the sense that she was a no-nonsense kind of person and she lived a no-nonsense lifestyle.  However, it was a proper no-nonsense lifestyle, with dinner parties and before dinner cocktails and baked chicken dishes and in that kitchen with a cocktail and chicken dish was a lady in an apron.  And for whatever reason - perhaps because of the his love of entertaining or his one-time shunning of a second piece of her baked chicken, my husband's grandmother decided to gift him several of her aprons.

There is a blue chiffon one that was always a hoot to see him wear, but the more utilitarian of the two I know the whereabouts of is this chartruese and kitchen print half apron.

Definitely needs a wash.  And an ironing.  But to be how ever many years old it is, it is in remarkable condition!  It has great, deep pockets on either side that are part of the apron's design, which to me equals a stronger construction than a patch pocket applied to the front.

I summoned my best Google-Fu to try and find out the history of Fifth Avenue Aprons by Mussalem, but only had luck finding some age-old listings on eBay.  So the search continues for information on this brand which I can only assume is somehow related to Saks Fifth Avenue, but I have no proof of that.

In the meantime, I have decided to put to good use some of my fabric scraps by recreating this apron anew for myself.  I think it will be an excellent exercise in pattern creation and tutorial writing.  Besides,  I like to pay homage to the good old days, too.

Plus, I look pretty darn cute in an apron.

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Better Late than Never

Finally got the t-shirts up on Etsy!  Click the link to the shop on your left for more information.

Tell your friends!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gifts: Baby Edition

I know *SO* many people having babies this year....wait - actually, I know people having babies every year, guess I'm just that age where everyone is married and having babies!  At any rate, that means that I have a lot of baby related projects, both for my own friends and for friends of friends.

I love it.

Since my own baby is now a full-sentence speaking, opinion-having, giant toddler, it helps me feed my baby fever (feed a fever, starve a cold, right? RIGHT?) AND my creativity at the same time.


One of the most popular requests these days are for burp cloths.  Burp cloths are actually one of my favorite gifts because a) you never have enough of them and b) they are so cute and easy to make truly customized.  You know, kind of like these:

A friend asked for some burp cloths for her niece who was having a little girl.  The family is both Clemson and Tennessee fans, so I thought this beautiful bright orange cotton gingham would be perfect to represent both schools.

And of course, I just wanted to add the orange ribbon to girly it up even further.

It seems that burp cloths to represent one's school are really the most popular choice, so when another friend contacted me about some burp cloths to represent our alma mater, The University of Alabama, I was happy to whip out my houndstooth cloth and get to work.

These two sets of two burp cloths featured both a houndstooth fabric with crimson monogram and a crimson flannel fabric with a white university-like "A" and "Roll Tide" on them.

And as somewhat of an aside:  I am pretty emotionally ripped over the destruction of so many people's lives due to the giant tornado that struck Tuscaloosa - and many other parts of Alabama - on Wednesday.  I have a plan to use my talents the best I know how to create a product I hope people will buy so that I can donate the proceeds to the recovery efforts.  There will be more on that in a future post, and I hope that will be something I can get working on before the end of the week.

Finally is a gift I made for a friend of mine.  Sara and I have been friends since we were in high school, and though I am two years older than she is, she has experienced all the big life events before me, so I have always depended on her lots of advice.  She is also quite an accomplished seamstress, so I always feel a little silly sewing things for her.  But, I figure that like myself, she's always so busy sewing for others that she hardly has time to do things she'd like to have for herself.  Since she is getting ready to have her FOURTH baby, I thought it might be time for a new little diaper bag.

Since she is not opposed to adding further to her family, I thought the best kind of bag would be a gender neutral color and using their last name as a monogram instead of waiting to find out the baby's name.  When I found this sweet, yellow, cotton duck toile and gingham...well, it was singing baby bag to me.  Sure, it's not the trendiest but I love a classic.  And nothing is more classic than Gingham and Toile when you're talking baby.

I used Simplicity "It's So Easy" pattern 2830, but revised it as I felt to better fit the needs of a diaper bag.  The original pattern is not lined, and it has a zippered top.  I just can't see not lining a bag planned for heavy use, and a zipper to me would be useless.  So I added a tab with a magnetic closure.  If I make another one, I would definitely add a fleece lining as well to lend some stability to the bag.  The bag has six pockets all around, so though I considered adding an inner pocket, I thought that might be pocket overkill.

And of course, I didn't want to just send the bag, so I found some of the CUTEST little boy "baby legs" at Target and had to slip them in the very front pocket.

I hope she can find a use for it - I thought at the very least it would be easy to find the bag after Sunday school or at the gym because it has her name on it. :-)

What is your favorite baby gift to give?  What would you like to see me tackle?  I've done onesies and dresses and bags and burp cloths, and as always, if you would like to have me create something for you or one of your friends or family members, please contact me at withpinandink@gmail.com for prices!