Tuesday, June 26, 2007

christmas in june

Ah, finals week. A backbreaking combo of marathon grading, herculean test writing, and laboring under the whip of students' demands, sob stories, and protestations.

Finals were last week at my job. This week is "vacation." I use the term loosely because I'm still grading and preparing for next quarter, which starts Monday. Alas, the life of a career college educator has its rewards, but rest periods are not among them.

To top off the usual scramble (which always comes accompanied by my declaration to find a new teaching job that at least affords me summers off and I will I tell you, I will), the end of spring quarter has brought with it the departure of both my teaching assistants. They are moving on to greener pastures at other schools. They've been invaluable to me, without them there's no way I could've managed tests and paperwork for six to eight classes per quarter. Not to mention the fact that they are great young women and plain fun to be around.

I wanted to show them how much I appreciate them, so I decided to give them last year's Christmas gifts.

When Christmas rolled around last year, I thought, Hey, I need to get out there and put my nose to the grindstone and make Heather and Ana, my TAs, some super nifty tote bags. I got this robust idea about a month before the holiday. Of course I hotfooted it to my beloved Michael Levine's to buy fabric for the projects first chance I got. I gathered everything else I needed hither and yon, including patterns and directions on how to make a tote, which I'd never done. I could've come up with two rectangles and a strap on my own, but notice I wanted to make "super nifty" totes, which meant trolling the Internet for ideas, instruction, and inspiration.

Before long I returned to a Craftster project I had bookmarked. It's one of Craftster's most all-time popular posts, The Jordy Bag. Before and since deciding to make it, I've eyed this project a zillion times. People are forever creating beautiful, inspired versions that cause my mouth to water.

My only problem with The Jordy was that the tutorial is a bit general when it comes to measurements and techniques, so I knew I'd have to put my thinking cap on (plus I can't see a couple of the details in the photos, curse these 41 year old eyes). But it's very well done, especially seeing as no one has to offer a tutorial at all (people could be like Look what I made. Eat your hearts out), but many do, out of sheer generosity.

The thinking cap part meant I was more daunted than I should have been, but you have to understand that no matter how many times I read a pattern or a tutorial, nothing means anything to me unless I'm working it with my hands. The golden rule of knitting and sewing is to read a pattern all the way through before starting, but I never do, because it's all Greek until I'm in the throes. Join that with the fact that I don't like to waste my precious time with admittedly important things like muslins and swatches and, well....

These are the totes, amid the post crafting frenzy wreckage.

Christmas came and went and these "mystery gifts" kept changing holidays. I'd joke to Heather and Ana that they'd be getting them for Dr. King's birthday, Presidents' Day, Black History Month, Valentine's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Gay Pride Month, National Yo-Yo Day -- you name it.

Their departure obviously meant it was thinking cap time now, at this most inopportune moment. But this is what happens when you're a "deadliner," as this month's Better Homes & Gardens describes people like me who tend to wait until they're in crisis mode to fire into hardcore action. If there's no crisis, we create one, by waiting.

Yesterday we went out for our last lunch before Heather and Ana go.

This is why Sunday morning found me lying in bed, having the following dialogue with myself--

Me: Get up, you, and make those infernal tote bags.
Myself: No. I can't, it's too late. Why don't I buy them something? Target opens early.
Me: If you buy something, it'll bug you forever. You know how you are about not finishing the things you start.
Myself: No, really. I've changed. I truly don't care.
Me: You do care.
Myself: I don't, seriously. Okay. What about sweater totes? I'll give them the two hanging in my closet. They never saw me carrying them.
Me: What are you, nuts? Make the totes so you can get rid of the fabric and buy more.
Myself: Well, since you put it that way...

My Jordys measure about 16" x 14". The straps are about 41" x nearly 3" (messenger style). It took me from 1pm on Sunday to 4am Monday morning, then 6:30am to 11am Monday afternoon to get them done. (Lunch was at noon, just to show you how fast and loose I like to play it). This is with lots of "think breaks" thrown in. Plus, I made a few doofless mistakes, like using the stretchy burgundy t-shirt fabric that I knew was a no no the minute I purchased. I wound up having to re-line the striped bag with a new black pillowcase.

Another thing that took time was the patches. I used iron-on transfer paper to transfer images to acrylic felt. I used a fusible adhesive to place the patches, then embroidered around them. I found both images after an extensive Internet search at the time I decided to make the totes. If I haven't mentioned it, I work at a court reporting/stenography school. I'm the grammar instructor but before I got the job I knew zilch about the field. This is the case all over the place. It wasn't easy to find CR related cartoons, photos, anything. These two are the best of what I came across.

Heather and Ana really loved them, because it is so rare to find items that promote their field. Ana liked how the steno pad has exactly the same keys as hers (who knew?). I'm partial to the mystery novel patch. I think it's pretty cool.

I got lucky because my printer prints in black and white but when you start talking about color, it hears "magenta." Only magenta. I don't know what its problem is. Thinking low ink might be it, I did an emergency run to Office Depot but they didn't carry the inks I needed. I'd dearly wanted to do the mystery novel patch in color, but looking at it now I like the graphic nature of the b&w, especially against the striated black denim. Thankfully, magenta was the magic color for the striped tote.

Here are the linings. Nothing exciting with the black, but don't my feet look like two ghosts in the distance?

Last but by absolutely no means least, here are my TAs, my friends, Ana and Heather, with their new totes.

As Mr. Mister would say, kyrie eleison down the road that they will travel.


Lola and Ava said...

You've got to love Craftster for the less than straightforward directions (sorry, but the word "vague" is a spelling issue for me). The bags turned out really nice and the patches are awesome. I had no clue what the patch on the striped one was at first and kept thinking, "What type of f-ed up QWERTY keyboard is that?" Now I know! Love job!

Adrienne said...

nice bags!!!

sappmama said...

Thanks, Adrienne.

Lola, we all have our spelling minefields, lol. I know, when I first saw a steno machine I wondered where the rest of the keys were.

Frank said...

Those are so creative and funky and cool! How thoughtful. I wish I would have gotten a Thank You from any of the profs I TAed for, much less something so cool!

Ellen Bloom said...

Hey! Heather's tote has my dining room tablecloth fabric inside! Both are gorgeous...excellent work!

MonkeyGurrrrrl said...


Laurie Ann said...

I love the keyboard tote. And the Mystery Novel. Too cute.

Sometimes I'm sad I'm not still studying stenography.
Then, I remember all the hassle and I'm not so sad.

Fellow Deadliner aka Mo said...

Those totes are amazingly funky. The whole time I was reading this post, I kept saying aloud, "She's so smart and so fucking cool. I just love her." And finally Will says, "WHO?" And I say, "CARLA, of course." And he says, "Of course."

woolanthropy said...

okay... those bags turned out amazing. can't wait to use your wealth of knowledge and experience to make some of my own. HA! can't wait to get our craft on!

sappmama said...

Thanks a bunch, y'all. :) I keep looking at these pictures, thinking I'll definitely be making more. So fun and functional. If anybody tries them and needs a bit of guidance, e-mail me.

Mo, you know how fly I think you (and Will!) are. xo

woolanthropy, let's get down!

Carol said...

I laughed all the way through this post. The bags came out great!
I need to go back and read all your other posts.... how did I not know this blog was here???