Showing posts with label Sewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sewing. Show all posts

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Special Deal - Over 100 Resources!

As promised, here is the special deal I alluded to earlier in the week!

This deal includes:

  • 24 weekly bell work sheets
  • 39 skeleton note forms with corresponding PPTs
  • ~50 resources for various activities
  • 24 recipes, most in lab plan format, many with self-evaluation forms and video demonstrations
  • 3 sets of lab task cards
  • 35 video links used regularly in class
  • an oodle of additional resources not easily categorized
  • everything you see in my TPT store (which is not a ton, but a decent amount)
  • Please click here to see a much more detailed list of the items here
On TPT this would cost you a small fortune. For the next few weeks all of this can be yours for... $25
Nope, not a typo! Why? To fight cancer!
Note: short link in image is outdated; visit  for this year's fundraiser! 

I will be running in the Chicago Marathon this fall, and I am running with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training! This is a cause very important to our family, as my husband lost his mother to multiple myeloma when he was still in high school. 

What does this have to do with FACS resources? Here's how to redeem the special offered above:
  1. Visit my fundraising page at and make a $25 dollar donation. 
  2. Use the word "FACS" somewhere within the message box.
  3. Receive the full bundle within 48 hours! 
That's it! The only caveat is that if you select the option to remain anonymous, I won't receive your email address to send you your goodies. You can still keep your name from being visible on the fundraising page by selecting this option:

Benefits for me:
  • You will be helping me to reach my fundraising goal!
  • 100% of your donation will go to Team in Training!
Benefits for you:
  • Lots of great resources!
  • You'll receive a receipt that you can use for a charitable tax deduction (it won't count toward the paltry educator expenses limit!)!
  • You will be fighting cancer!
Benefits for patients and their families:
  • Donations to blood cancer research means more lives saved!
Visit today, and thank you so much for helping in the fight against blood cancer!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Docs Teach - a Great (Free!) Resource

Have you heard of Docs Teach? It's an online tool hosted by the National Archives that holds thousands of primary documents (and pictures, audio, video, maps, etc) along with a myriad of interactive lesson plans and activities based on those documents. You can even design your own activities based on documents of your choosing.

Think this could only work for history and government classes? Well, of course you don't, you know how interdisciplinary FACS is, but here's a random sample of items you could find:

  • An activity about the School Lunch Program and the Federal Government, including photos from the Great Depression, original advertisements for the school lunch program, school lunch recipes from 1946, letters from PTA presidents
  • Documents from an interview with a Montgomery Ward's executive as part of a Federal Trade Commission Home Furnishing Investigation on sewing machines
  • A letter to FDR from a recently unemployed woman arguing that married women with employed husbands are stealing jobs from desperate single women
  • Weekly family food supply plans published by the USDA in 1921
  • Resources on Civil Rights, child labor, drunk driving, food labels, unions, taxes, interior design, architecture, social security, environmentalism... and so on
There's even an app, for you 1:1/BYOD/Cart people! My brief blurb doesn't do it justice - take a few minutes to browse around Docs Teach, I'm sure you'll not only be impressed but will immediately be able to think of all sorts of ways to use it in your classroom. Below is a short video to give you an overview. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


This post should have been published waaaaaay back in October but, well, it wasn't. So get into a Halloween frame of mind, because that was a perfect time to introduce this quickie and very well-received project: Zombie Felties!

This was not only a fun project in its own right - who wouldn't love making zombies???? - but was also terrific because the kids weren't afraid to take some risks and try new things; after all, who the heck can tell if you mess up a zombie

The book is available on Amazon for less than $12 and has all sorts of patterns ranging from easy to difficult; I highly recommend it. 

I won't be sharing any patterns here due to copyright issues and whatnot, but I will mention that if you search for "zombie felties patterns" you'll probably find a few online. 

So what are you waiting for? Go fill your classroom with zombies already!

Friday, March 28, 2014


Here's how I set out stuffing for smaller sewing projects, like the monkeys:

This was one of those mega-containers of "Cheezy Balls" you can get at places like Sam's. This year my husband was one of the adults in charge of the kids' Sunday School Christmas pageant, and they chose to have the Wise Men bear three "modern" gifts - among them an XBox, a bicycle pump, and a large container of Cheezy Balls - it was pretty awesome :).

Anyway, I washed out the container, removed the label, and stuffed it full of stuffing. It eliminates the hassle of boxes or bags, especially since stuffing is a supply FACS teachers like to purchase in bulk. It's large and conveniently clear, so that kids can find it easily (you know how you can point directly at something and they still can't see it?), and I can easily notice when it needs to be refilled.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ironing Board Cover Tutorial

I do love fun ironing board covers, as you can see from the ones I made at a former school. At that school, I had a lot of floor space, so I had three full-size ironing boards. At my current school there was only one ironing board in the room, I assume because there is so little floor space. However, there is a good amount of counter space, so I figured counter top models were better than everyone waiting for one board. Naturally, they needed fun covers.

If you're looking for a tutorial with finished seams and overall 4-H quality, this is not that tutorial. But if you are looking for something simple, quick, with imperfections no one will notice, this is for you!

Supplies: Countertop Ironing Board (under $7 at WalMart) and 1/2 yard of fabric.

Cut around half of the ironing board leaving a width of about 3 inches.

Remove board, fold fabric in half, then cut around to make fabric symmetrical.

Iron approximately 1" in all the way around the piece. I left the raw edges - who is going to look underneath the ironing board?

Sew around the fabric, leaving an opening on the flat, short end to string your twine through the casing. I chose to use a zigzag stitch to overlap the raw edge.

Tape one end of a twine roll, then spear with a safety pin. Use pin to guide the twine through the casing.

Place ironing board on top of the fabric, pull twine, and tie.

All done!

The process is a little easier when you don't have a "helper" scampering about, but it does make things more interesting!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

FACS Teacher Super Powers!

Here is a picture of the "teacher bag" I have been carrying for the past 14 months:

My husband brought this home from a math conference.

I know it doesn't look like much, but it is PERFECT. Perfect dimensions, perfect strap length, perfect strength, perfect everything. Except it is of course absolutely hideous. Which is a compounded sin when you are a FACS teacher, am I right? So I have promised myself over and over again I would take care of that, but you know how things go. However, this being the last night of the extended break, I decided ENOUGH WITH THE UGLY BAG ALREADY. And, voila!

Now I still have the perfect bag, only now it's perfectly lovely as well! It was also a fun and fairly easy project, so I may do this with one of my classes, we'll see.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May '75

Another invaluable find from my classroom:

The writing on the masking tape reads "May 75 - Complete." This was found in a cabinet stuffed - and I mean STUFFED - with Singer accessories and supplies. 

There is not one Singer machine to be found anywhere in this building.

The silver lining of course being that I now have another completely empty cabinet that can be put to good use.

Happy Almost Friday!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sewing Tool Box and More!

Here is one of the greatest purchases I have ever made for my sewing classes:

 A sewing tool box! All of your notions in one portable container - perfection! Every one of the yellow compartments is removable, so you can lift one out to pass out safety pins, take one out to put in a slightly larger object (like the scissor sharpener in the lower left), move them around without emptying and refilling... or you can take the whole thing with you somewhere. At the end of class, just snap the lid shut, place on a shelf or in a cabinet, then pull it back out when needed. I seriously love this tool box! It also has a support for the top shelf when you open it all the way:

I wish I had purchased something like this years ago, it has been so beneficial. Under $30 at Lowe's, worth every penny.

And while we're on the subject of sewing, a few of you have asked if I have done away with machine sewing since I drilled shut the cabinets. I still do a machine sewing project, but I rotate the kids through only two at a time. Here's my little sewing station at the back of the room:

Life is sooooo much easier when only dealing with two early teen melt-downs at a time. I have a third machine ready to go on the filing cabinets in the background, so if there are any machine issues that arise that would take more than 30 seconds to fix I just swap 'em out on the spot and deal with it later - should've thought of that forever ago!

And speaking of the filing cabinets in the background, I did more makeover work. Have you seen the idea on Pinterest for turning file cabinets back to back and making them a magnetic bulletin board?

This was of course brilliant. I had two cabinets that I wasn't even using back in that corner, so I turned them back to back, covered them with patterned contact paper, threw on a border and added a few signs (measurements for our current project, and a few of my "famous" sayings - now I can just point instead of always repeating myself).

Looks a heck of a lot nicer, and comes in handy too!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fabric Storage

Here's another Pinterest theft that - not kidding - has been life-changing. Okay, that's a bit dramatic; let's say uber life-enhancing.

Here's the Pinterest photo:

Admire the beauty of fabrics all folded the exact same size? The answer? Comic book boards!!!

This pack of 100 cost me less than $12 on Amazon (with free shipping, of course), and completely transformed my fabric storage world. They are 6 3/4" x 10", and are perfect for creating mini bolts of fabric!

The teacher before me left a very generous amount of fabric, but it was all piled into an enormous box that came all the way up to my chest, not kidding. Without time to unpack this GI-NORMOUS box I had no access to any of it other than what was at the very top. I finally got around to emptying the box onto some shelving, but even with folding it was still pretty unruly. Enter the comic book boards.

Again, how I wish I'd taken more before and after shots (you really should have seen The Box!), but I was so excited once I started I just couldn't stop folding!

And now you know one of my secret shames {blush}. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tool Belt 2 - Tutorial

A few people have emailed asking for a pattern or tutorial for the tool belt, so I whipped up another one today and tried to keep track.

For this one I skipped the bias tape and added a backing, you can of course do whatever you would like. Again I used home decor fabric - I like that it is stronger and will put up with more abuse than regular cotton fabric.

.6 yd Fabric A
.7 yd Fabric B (unless you don't mind making the backing out of separate pieces which is what I did, then you only need .5 yd)

If you want to add bias tape or anything else to fancy it up, have that ready as well.

Step 1 - Cut the following pieces:

Fabric A: 14.5" x 24" (main piece)
                   6" x 24" (lower pocket)

Fabric B: 14.5" x 24" (backing, optional; pieced together if necessary)
                 10" x 24" (middle pocket)

Note: 24" width was ideal for me; you should measure yourself to see where you would like it to fall on your waist/hips, wherever you plan to wear it.

Step 2 - Hem one long edge of both pocket pieces. I chose to use a zigzag stitch.

Step 3 - Align non-hemmed edges of both pockets with one edge of main piece, and pin.

Step 4 - I decided to add writing utensil pockets to this one. Figure out where you would like to carry your pens, etc, and mark them with pins.

Step 5 - Sew a three-sided rectangle around the outer edges, then divide down the middle (sorry for the terrible lighting). I've photographed the back for the next few steps because the black thread on black fabric does not show well.

Step 6 - Mark where you would like the pockets to be divided, then sew lines to divide. If you would like a different number/size pockets between the two layers, sew down the middle layer first. I divided both into equal thirds, so I was able to do this in one step.

If you are not going to add a backing, this is the time to finish your edges with bias tape. Or good ol' fashioned hemming, or whatever you like.

Step 7 - Pin front and back right sides together.

Step 8 - Sew around outer edge, leaving a gap to turn the tool belt right side out. The top is the best place, as it will be folded over for the belt casing. Remember to switch to a straight stitch if you were using something more decorative.

Step 9 - Clip your corners and trim.

Step 10 - Turn right side out, press edges flat, then stitch all around the outside with your stitch of choice.

Step 11 - Fold top of tool belt over to the back, allowing enough room for the belt of your choice to slip through; pin and stitch.

Step 12 - Add belt, take photos, admire. Then put it on, fill it, and get to work on another project!

I have received several compliments from coworkers since I've started wearing my tool belt, both on the cuteness of it and the usefulness of the concept. A few have even asked if I'll take orders - can't even think about that until summer, but hmmmm, a little pocket money never hurts, eh?


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sewing Supply Storage & a Pep Talk

Once you've assembled students' sewing supplies, the next step is to create an easy way for them to access their materials and a headache-free way for you to store them. My classroom came equipped with a few "storage tray" cabinets - you know the kind I mean, with the removable trays/drawers for student supplies. When teaching high school I just assigned a tray/drawer to each student (complete with name labels) and put them in charge of retrieving and putting away their own tray. I found this to be a complete disaster at the junior high level due to all the pushing, shoving, and messing with other people's stuff. So scrap that idea!

Since my classroom is arranged in four horizontal rows with a supply table in front of each, I now assemble one tray per supply table:

In the tray, I place the supply jars, supply bags, and folders for the kids in that row. The folders are usually kept in a tote in front of the classroom, but during the sewing unit I put everything together to cut down on the time it takes to transition between classes. While I still love the SpongeBob formula can cover, I've found it's a good idea to make each jar in the tray a dramatically different color so that students are able to find theirs much quicker than by looking for their name label alone (it is AMAZING how long it takes junior high kids to accomplish simple things like "find the jar with your name on it" compared to high school!). The other items I keep on the supply table are a small stack of paper towels (cuts down on student "need" for tissues dramatically when you offer paper towels only, not to mention having them within arm's length cuts down on room traffic) and a measuring cup of golf pencils. Yes, I have given up on the pencil war. Except for the class that kept constantly throwing theirs on the floor - they're completely on their own for pencils for the rest of the school year. But I digress. The tray you see in the photo above only has three jars because my smallest classes are in the sewing unit right now - during the last rotation each of my trays was packed in, but it still worked well.

In the baskets (purchased at Dollar Tree - don't you love that store?) I place the supply baggies and whatever materials they need to share. Right now I have a roll of Scotch tape in each basket because it's usually necessary during paper sewing. Later on I'll add mini rolls of yarn for our plastic canvas project, etc.

The trays admittedly are pretty ugly; in time I will pretty them up. For now I've just thrown some colored duct tape around the edge so that each class's trays are obviously marked.

I just toss these out on the supply table before class, and throw 'em back in the closet before class ends. Works great!

This next part has nothing to do with sewing, but I have to share. This was shown during a student assembly at school yesterday, and I found it to be absolutely fantastic. I am not one who is big on YouTube sharing, email forwards, etc, but this one is totally worth it - check it out!

(Here's the link in case the embedded video doesn't work for you.)

I'll end this with sharing that I have finally jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon and put together my own teacher "toolbox" from Lowe's:

I have been coveting these all year and now that I've finally made my own I LOVE it! Buy one for $23 at Lowe's, trim some scrapbook paper, make some labels, and presto, supply command central. If you've been hesitating, do it already, it is so handy and sooo cute!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sewing Rules, Supplies & Starter Bags

As I mentioned the other day, this week I started my 6th curriculum rotation of the school year. It's been interesting teaching each subject only for about five weeks (minus half days, Monday holidays, institute days, etc); I've had to really think about what is essential to include and how to most efficiently meet my course objectives in that small amount of time. I've also learned many of the quirks of junior high students in general and of students at my school in particular. I'm going to share how I organize my sewing unit as I go along, in case you're looking for any ideas. I always am, so feel free to share what you do as well! Note: if you are not a FACS teacher, this is not going to be all that interesting. Perhaps even if you are a FACS teacher, it won't be all that interesting : )

We always start out with the rules. Some are worded a little harshly, but I've learned that blunt is usually the best for understanding. Here they are (they receive these in the form of skeleton notes, and we fill in the blanks during a PowerPoint presentation):

One thing that I have learned at every school I have worked at is that classes can be very unreliable and/or unpredictable about providing their own sewing supplies. Aside from the "forgetting" and unlimited lists of excuses, sometimes kids bring in things that either aren't quite right, aren't in good repair, or are just plain weird. I've found it so much easier to simply provide the basics, that way I know for sure that all students will have the right supplies on the correct day that I plan to begin sewing. Also, everybody has the exact same supplies which seems to limit petty bickering and jealousy.

Since my sewing unit is so short this year, the only supplies I require my students to provide on their own is the fabric for their one sewing machine project, a pillowcase - all they have to bring in is 3/4 yard of one fabric and 1/3 yard of a coordinating fabric. Even with this, I give them the option to pay me (one week in advance) for fabric, and I will make sure I have some on hand for them when we begin (limited choices of designs, of course). Here is the supply/info sheet I hand out:

So all that being said, when we begin the sewing unit, I give each student a starter bag. Here is what I include:

1: Quart-sized baggie. Can be a little tight at times, but I found that gallon-sized baggies took up way too much room. I write each student's name on their baggie with a Sharpie. During one rotation I tried sticking a label on the outside (I love printed labels!) but the kids tended to write/doodle/scratch out letters on those labels which made them difficult to read over time; also, when baggies fell into "enemy" hands people tended to write unpleasant things on that person's name label, which is easily marked with a standard pen or pencil. During another rotation I tried attaching a label on the inside of the bag, but that made it tricky to see when the bag was full. So a Sharpie it is!

2: Iron-on patch and needle. I cut iron-on patches into roughly 2" x 3" rectangles, then teach students to "Tuck, tuck, needle stuck" every time we clean up. Lost needles are a HUGE pet peeve of mine. When I first started teaching I would replace them, but they of course wound up all over the floor. Then I started to charge for additional needles. That backfired, because when kids dropped them they were too lazy to look for them and would just pay for a new needle. Again, needle-covered floor. No more. I have a very firm ONE NEEDLE policy. If it becomes lost, they must bring in one on their own, no exceptions. There's always one kid who will try to call my "bluff" - ha, doesn't work, Buster! Anyway, they tuck-tuck the needles into their needle patch before putting their needles away in their baggies. This way they are easy to locate in the baggie, won't get lost in the shuffle while looking for other supplies, and won't poke through and fall out. I begin clean-up time each day by saying "Everybody needs to tuck-tuck!" Usually several of the kids will then yell out "Needle stuck!" - it's kinda fun. I started out by using small rectangles of canvas, but the patches are quicker to prepare and the slightly gummy coating helps keep the needle in place. BIG sanity saver!

3: Bobbin of thread. Full spools take up a lot of room in a baggie, so I don't want to give one out to everybody. Also, at my current school they get stolen quite often if I put several out to share, which I learned the hard way. My students also don't share very well, so it's best if they each have their own source of thread. Each student gets a bobbin; if they lose it, they pay a quarter for a replacement. When it runs out of thread I trade them a new one for their empty one.

4: Dot paper! I use this paper to teach basic stitches before we use them on fabric or any kind of project. It makes it very easy for them to clearly see what they are doing as well as what the stitch is supposed to look like. Some of them groan about it when learning the first stitch, but after moving to fabric they understand the point of it and are much more cooperative when we go back to the paper to learn the next stitch.

5. Piece of scrap fabric. I use this fabric for pinning and cutting practice before we get to a real project.

6. Oval printed on paper. Students cut this out, pin to the FOLDED piece of scrap fabric, and cut out two identical pieces. Most students usually complain about how dumb this is before actually doing it. Then most students usually complain about how hard it is to cut around a shape. Some of them will acknowledge that practicing first was a good idea.

Side note: Have any of you noticed a sudden and sharp decline in fine motor skills, particularly cutting skills? Since starting out seven years ago I've noticed that scissors skills have absolutely plummeted. Just the way some of these kids hold scissors makes part of my brain throb. How do they not know that's not right??!!

7. Three buttons: large, medium, small. We start by sewing the large button onto the green ovals they have cut out, then move our way down through the medium and then the small. We aim for pretty on the front and on the back! By the third one most of them actually nail it down pretty well.

8. Monkey pattern! This is our first hand-sewing project, a carryover from the high school classes I taught. For whatever reason most kids get really excited about these monkeys, even the boys. Go figure. I let them choose their own colors from a classroom collection of felt, so I don't include the material in their baggie initially. They do keep the felt in their baggies as they work on the project, and it fits perfectly fine with everything else.

9. Small rectangle of plastic canvas. Our second hand-sewn project is yarn on plastic canvas. We begin by practicing on a small piece to work out the pitfalls of tangles and the details of knots, etc. They obviously use a different needle, but I have learned not to give that one out until they are ready for yarn - otherwise if they lose their regular needle they try to use the bigger one on their monkey project, which of course just destroys the felt.

Desk trashcan - a jazzed up baby formula can to be used as a trash can during class, and as a scissors/pin cushion holder in between classes. For these I do stick printed name labels on the inside. They're easy to remove and replace for the next class, and kids are much more likely to empty their trash cans and keep their supplies neat if they know they'll be stuck with the same can the next day.

There you have it - all of my intro to sewing preparation. If only I had come up with all of this half a dozen years ago rather than piecing it together bit by bit...