Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book Review: NOAH by Mark Ludy

I haven't done a book review in a long time. Years, actually.

New book, new blog, here we go. :)

"Noah" is a wordless book about...well, Noah. And the ark. And the flood.

I'll start with the aesthetics--"Noah" is printed by Plough Publishing, and is a hardbound book with sturdy, high-quality, high gloss pages. I received it free for review from Handlebar Publishing.

And every single page is covered, front and back, with brilliant, attention-catching artwork. In graphic novel style, the art appears to be a mixture of freehand drawing and computer graphics (especially for the backdrop images), intricate, engaging, and brightly colored.  Be sure to check out the Amazon link to see some of the images they have available from the book.  In this book Mark Ludy does a wonderful job of depicting light, color, and very importantly, action and movement.  Visually, this is an extremely engaging book.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is that it relates the story in a way that implies a much longer period of time between Noah's call and the beginning of the flood than most children's Bible versions do. You see the progression of time, and the growth of Noah's family, over a long period of time. It's a good reminder that the building of the ark was no slapdash affair, but a huge, long-term endeavor.

Parents will want to be aware that this book does not gloss over the violence of the flood itself, or the fact that many people died. If that is something you'd rather not deal with in depth with very young children, you may want to save this book for older children.

I found Noah to be a very unique and wonderfully engaging Bible story book, and I hope Mark Ludy has plans to do many more like it. At $14.99 from, it makes a great gift option, as well. Many thanks to Handlebar Publishing for letting me get my hands on this book!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Adult shirt-to-Toddler dress tutorial (attempt).

So. Tutorials. I am not sure this is going to be helpful but I've been asked to try, so I will. If you're familiar with the basics of clothing construction, this should be super easy. But if you're not, I hope that I have enough detail in here to answer most questions. You can also check out the tutorial at MADE for a different style of dress, also using old button-down shirts. There are tons of printable patterns for toddler dresses, so find a style you like, and print out your pattern. You can also use a dress that your child already wears to create your own pattern. Just be sure that you remember to leave a seam allowance!  All you really need are the pieces of the bodice, and sleeves if you want them. If you are making a dress with a gathered skirt, you just need large rectangles for that.
I used the puff-sleeved toddler dress pattern from The Stitching Scientist. I didn't follow it exactly, especially not the sleeves, but it is useful to use something like this to know how large to cut armholes and necklines and approximately how large each piece of the dress needs to be. NB: after completing this dress, it seems to me that the neckline of the pattern is pretty wide. You may want to give the shoulders an extra 1/2 inch to 1 inch, making the neckline a little more conservative (mostly so the dress won't shift and hang off your kid's shoulders, which tends to look kind of sloppy).
Well, here it goes. The first thing you need to do is mess around for a while with your pattern pieces, to see what fits where, and also to think about what parts of the original clothing article you want to preserve. Many times, if there's a straight hem, I like to cut out the pieces of the dress with that in mind. Not having to hem is awesome. In this case, the hem is curved, and the construction is a little awkward.  
But I did want to preserve this cute sleeve for the dress. 

So ultimately, I decided to skip the hemline, and just cut out the front and back bodice pieces from the centers of the front and back of the dress. But for this dress, I'm switching things around, and the button front of the shirt becomes the button back of the toddler dress.


Sleeves! See how cute?
Now, the way I ended up cutting the shirt, I was left with not enough material for a decent skirt. Not a problem though. I cannibalized one of Mimi's outgrown pillowcase dresses. You can do that, or just slap together two matching fat quarters. Pretty much the same thing.
This isn't exactly super-coordinated. But a two-year old can pull that off, right?

Chop off the top of that pillowcase dress, and I'm left with this:

Bonus! It's already hemmed!
Putting the pieces together, I think this will work!

Before I do anything else, I like to get all the piddly little details out of the way. Gathering the skirt, gathering the sleeve tops (to make them poofy!). A little trick I learned not too long ago, that saves a lot of time, is to gather your fabric by setting the machine to the highest tension (9, on my Singer) and longest stitch. It will do all the gathering for you. Don't backstitch, and leave a little thread at the end, so that you can adjust the gathering if necessary.

That done, I move on to basic bodice construction: Put the right sides of the two bodice pieces together. Line up the shoulders, and sew across each one. Press those seams open. Might as well finish the neckline while you're doing this part.
Since I didn't leave enough material above the button, I wasn't able to double-roll the neckline edge. I had to just fold it down once and zig-zag the edge. The straight stitch seam is there just because. For good measure. If you cut these pieces out more wisely than I did, you can just do a nice rolled edge, or use some bias tape.

Unfortunately I don't have good pictures of how to set in sleeves. I will say that I find it easier to put them on before I sew up the side seams of the bodice/dress. Again, it's right sides together. Pin the two ends, and the centers together, and then you can mess with the gathering until the sleeve top fits correctly into the armhole of the bodice.

Once done, it looks like this:
Once you've sewn both sleeves in, you flip the whole thing inside out (so that right sides are back together again) and sew the sleeve together, and then continue around the "armpit" of the thing and sew the side seams of the bodice together. Do that on both sides and turn it right side out again.
Then it looks like this:

 Not too shabby so far.
I know I said turn the bodice right side out. But that was just so you can admire it. Now turn it inside out again. You need to do this so that you can have "right sides together" when you sew the bodice of the dress to the skirt. Match up side seams and centers, and pin those. Then again, you get to mess with the gathering until it all lines up, and add a few more pins to keep things steady while you sew. 

When I'm sewing a dress that has a bodice+skirt construction, I like to do this one last little step to help it drape better. Sewing this seam down (making sure the edge is directed downward towards the skirt) helps the top and bottom pieces of this skirt remember which way they're supposed to be hanging.

Bad lighting, but you get the idea. All done!

After trying this on Mimi, it became clear that both the neckline and the waist were a little too roomy.  So I zig-zagged some soft 1/4 inch elastic onto both, on the inside of the dress. The easy way to figure out how much elastic you need for the waist is to lay an appropriately sized dress flat, and lay the elastic across the front. You take that amount of elastic, and double it, and it will give you the amount for the full waistline. 



You can see how the elastic dramatically changes the shape of the dress, but I think the change is for the better. Now I know for future dresses with this pattern to make a casing for elastic, and perhaps to cut the neckline a little less wide

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Door

I listen to KLOVE on the way into work. The music helps me wake up before a long night of work. The words often provide food for thought and conviction.

The other night, KLOVE played Jason Gray's "With Every Act of Love" and it caught my attention, especially this part:

God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you

Is the song the finest moment in Christian music? Probably not. But the metaphor got to me.

I was on my way to a job that is physically and emotionally demanding. It's a job that can easily result in a person feeling jaded, miserable, and unhappy. I saw that in myself the first time I did this type of work, and I'm aware of my vulnerability to fall into that again. I hear it in the discussions among the other aides, who have been there longer than me. And really, I cannot blame them. People who are in pain often become difficult to relate to, their physical hurt causes them to lash out. People suffering from dementia can be all over the place emotionally. Sometimes they'll grab your face and kiss you, and other times they'll clock you one because they don't understand who you are or what you're doing to them. Sometimes they're pleasant as can be, but other times pain or confusion or anxiety morphs them into truly miserable persons. Plus this job has some pretty unpleasant aspects to it, caring for adults who don't have full control over their bodily functions. And then lifting, transferring, shifting, pulling, tugging--with people who are as big as you but don't have the ability to help themselves in any way. It is tough.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

They are my fellow human beings. Not only that, but they are the vulnerable ones, the hurting ones, "the least of these." I don't have to go on a mission trip to find an orphan to feed. The opportunity to Love is right in front of me, every day, all week long. 

Every day I work, I walk into rooms where there are women who cannot get themselves a sip of water, visit the bathroom on their own, or pick up a spoon to nourish themselves with food that is set before them. Every time I hold a glass of water to their lips, help them get where they need to go, or patiently feed them, I am representing God's love to them. When I go into Sister M.'s room two dozen times a night to lift her wandering legs back into her bed and reassure her that it is nighttime and she doesn't have to worry about doing her work or getting to Mass on time, I am representing God's love to her. When Sister J. rings the call bell 5 times in an hour or Sister A. calls and I know I'm going to be sucked into 20 minutes of straightening already straight blankets and otherwise accommodating her OCD, and I walk in there with a smile on my face and patience in my When I take a moment before moving on with my work to talk to Sister E. even though contractures from her Parkinson's disease make her completely incapable of responding even with a  When I can get over myself, and the human tendency to assume that they are messing with me or taking advantage  (which is a common assertion made by many of the people who I work with) and do my job without

This is not something I'm skilled at. It's not something that is easy. It's not something I want to make a career of, mostly because I doubt my capacity to keep from becoming a jaded hard-ass and forget that I'm caring for real people, not just taking care of bodies. I get caught up sometimes in the chatter and the eye-rolling. And at 2 am when someone has called for the 6th time to use the bathroom, I might scream if I didn't think it would wake the others and set off a flurry of calls to attend to.

But it helps to think of that song. By myself, I lack the strength to consistently Love. I'm an exhausted, worn out person, with huge wounds of my own. I grump, I complain, I resent, I whine. I am all too good at doing those things.

I think I can be a door though. I can't Love like I should, all on my own. But if the Love of God can walk through me and touch others, I will be grateful.

I think I have decided on my New Year's Resolution. In 2014, I will be a door.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


There is a painting on the wall across from where I'm sitting. My sister painted it, and it's beautiful. But it's also a dark and stormy scene, a sky full of grey clouds, the forest shadowed and dark.

It's also crooked.

It stays crooked because everybody in the house is too busy to stop and fix it. I feel too busy right now, even though I'm not. I think partly we're "too busy" because we've just plain gotten used to it.

My life is crooked too. Everything is off kilter. Askew, like the picture frame. I'm not where I "should" be. I'm not where I dreamed I'd be. I have been forced to re-evaluate everything I thought, believed, and felt. What is real? What is true? Which of the pictures in my life are worth trying to straighten out? Which of them need to be taken off the wall and put away, for a time, or for good?

But looking at that picture again, maybe it is of a storm passing. Maybe the clouds are about to disperse, the trees to find themselves bathed in sunlight.

The same things that are "crooked" in my life have proven to be good things. It's strange how often the hard or scary things in my life lately have quickly turned into positives. I can't explain it but I hope that it means the storm is passing, and that God is going around the house of my life, straightening frames, adjusting the pictures, ordering the disorder.