Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week 38 or Another Lego Box

The kids started back at school a few weeks ago. Lego League starts up again this week. For the past two years, I've coached a series of Junior FIRST Lego League teams at the school. This year my older one has aged out of the Junior League and is moving up to the competitive stage. We lost our competitive Destination Imagination teams due to kids graduating and a coach's kids moving out of the school. (Boo on many different levels, but she's still a dear friend, and none of the boo's are directed at her.) So the competitive pressure is on our shoulders. And my daughter only wants to do it so she can go to a championship far away. Our school may be small and poor, but somehow we manage to send a team to the DI national championships on a regular basis. In the 4 years we've been there, three years have seen a team go to Nationals. If only for the financial health of the donor community, I hope we don't go farther than local competition.

So this year I will be coaching two teams, with my kids, instead of four teams, only one of which has my kids on it. A couple of months ago I made a Lego box that we use at home. It seems to be holding up pretty well. When I made that one, I cut out material for a second one. I made the center panel out of clear plastic with Kevlar threads. At some point I forgot which pieces went to what and used one of the plain bits for some other project. How odd that the material was perfectly rectangular and 21" wide! Just what I needed at the time! So one side is cut from stiffer sail fabric, the other from softer sail fabric. I'm sure the kids will be so distraught by the discrepancy that they refuse to play.

Knowing all the pains I took to add the velcro and the handles last time, I sewed them to the components before assembling the box. Way easier. With the extremely stiff center panel, I would have been cursing like a sailor sewing them on this time. Never mind that I then sewed one of the handles into another seam. It came out easily enough with no visible damage.

I had just enough of the Kevlar material to make the lid, so I did. All in one day. OK, maybe two or three days. I had just enough plastic sign material to stiffen two sides, so I did. I may have to wait until after the elections to grab another sign and stiffen the other panels. Then again, if everything works well without it, I may not bother. Right now, it's holding together well enough, but it's definitely not as structured, stackable or tidy as the other box. I also like the idea of having a semi-clear box. Unless I can find two clear plastic panels, I would lose that feature.

Oh, crap. I just checked out the Lego League registration information, and it looks like I'll be asking the PTO for a lot more money than I had intended. Oh well, we're saving a lot by not having the DI teams. And the city wants to encourage STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, and has a pot of money for that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Week 37 or The Ugliest Fabric Ever

I got this fabric when I lived in Malden, more than a decade ago. It wasn't pretty then and time has not treated it well. We used to live around the corner from two upholstery shops. At some point I asked for their scraps and got a bunch of stuff, this among it.

I made a few Christmas stockings out of it and then it just sat. There's really not much you can do with rubber-backed sage green fabric with a diamond pattern woven in. It's absolutely not appropriate for clothing. Not even costumes. Stuffed animals would be unhuggable. Perhaps placemats, with a nice dark green edging; they would stay put on the table, but who has the decor to match them? I shudder to imagine a room filled with a couch covered in this.

Well, a grocery bag seems as good a use as any. The handles were a scrap from... something. It's actually quite lovely fabric, nice and soft and smooth, perhaps a very sturdy silk. I think I inherited it from my grandmother. She died 16 years ago.

Now you see why I need to make bags every week. My apartment is very slowly emerging from under decades of hoarding. I gave away a fold-up bag to the grocery store bagger yesterday. He's a very friendly guy, with mild special needs that cause him to tell me the story of Bell & Evans chicken whenever I buy their nuggets. Or how he should get his sister in New York City a bag that folds up as small as my Chico bag. Well, I wasn't about to give him something I would have to pay to replace. Plus it was filled with groceries. So I found the other bag in the trunk of the car and ran back to give it to him.

And I have, in a way, replaced a bag derived from the wardrobe of the distinguished grays with a bag worthy of a blue hair. I was a few days late already, so I wasted no time with such niceties as a proper box bottom. (I just tucked the bottom in when I sewed the side seams.) Or a separate step to attach the handles. I did stitch along the lines of the diamond pattern to reinforce the handles, though. It was enough pressure on my obsessive tendencies to see the box bottom diagonals clashing with the diamond diagonals. I could not bear to sew x-boxes to reinforce the handles.

I promise to do something more inspired on Thursday and post again this weekend. OK, maybe not more inspired but at least with nicer fabric.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Week 36 or An Apple for the Teacher

Last week I made a bag that stuffed into a strawberry shape. But a lack of polka dotted fabric, the fact that the bag didn't quite fit into the strawberry and that the strawberry was way bigger than a real-life strawberry led me to rethink the pattern. What's still red and yummy? What's a little bigger that a strawberry? What's a nice thing to give a teacher on her birthday? An apple.

So I modified the pattern to turn the strawberry into an apple. I enlarged the corner block. I added some leaves. I put in little box corners to flatten the bottom of the apple and add a little depth to the bag.

This was a rush job, since I was trying to make it to a trapeze class and still finish the bag so it would only be one day late for my daughter's favorite teacher's birthday. Next time, a stitch on the bottom to keep the drawstring from pulling out of the casing the first time you try to tie it shut.