July 06, 2015

Gone Sewing

Summer has finally come to southern Sweden!

It's been pretty ridiculous, to tell the truth - still wearing winter boots, socks, jackets and gloves when cycling right up to July.  It's not normally like that here but we keep having Arctic winds blast through - brrr!  According to the forecasts, it's just here for a week so I jumped at the opportunity to spend time at friends' cottage in the warm weather and of course do some sewing while we were at it.

We worked on a baby quilt for friends, who had their baby last November (so yes, we're a little behind the game).  It's an adorable mix of different textured fabrics, including cotton, flannel and chenille and some Heat n'Bond style applique.  We spent about a day and a half hand stitching the applique down and enjoyed some fruit smoothies and Pimms with strawberries in the process - yum!

Hand stitching done, I sat outside with the machine and joined all of the blocks together, then added the borders.  I'd not sewn with chenille previously and I admit, it was a bit tricky.  It had a tendency to slip around so extra pins were useful to keep it in place.  At other times, the walking foot seemed to have trouble feeding it along and it would need a little push to move forward, which I discovered could also cause the thread to break - annoying.  But I persevered and it came together easily enough, despite all that.

Then we sandwiched the layers using fabric glue - I don't think I'll ever go back to basting and pinning ever again!  I got to work doing all of the straight quilting and my friend Ingrid will later do all of the meander and echo quilting.  I stitched in the ditch between the blocks and borders, stitched a square around the chenille blocks and one inch diagonal stripes over the nine patch blocks.  Then in the borders we made a zig zag pattern.

Not too shabby for four days of work!  We should hopefully finally be able to pass along this quilt by later this month.  Stay tuned for photos from that event.

July 03, 2015

Quiz, Quiz, Trade - Parent Getting-to-Know-You Game

Hello, hello!

I'm back with another new teaching resource, available from my TpT store, a Quiz, Quiz, Trade game designed for parents to get to know each other at the beginning of a new academic year.  I've used this game in my first class meetings with parents as an ice-breaker and as a way to introduce them to the sorts of learning activities their children will experience in my class.

What is 'quiz, quiz, trade', you ask?  It's a very simple game that builds both language and social skills (and if you use subject-specific questions, reinforces learnt knowledge, too).  You'll need to print out, cut and laminate the cards to start with.  Game play is very easy so it's a useful game for all ages - even adults.

Each player gets a card.  All players stand up and hold their coloured card in the air; they walk around the room looking for a player with a different coloured card than his/her own.  When they find someone with a different coloured card, they give the person a high-five and partner up.  One person reads the question on his/her card and the partner answers (quiz).  Then the second person reads the question on his/her card and the partner answers (quiz).  Finally, each person swaps cards (trade).  Easy peasy, right?

As always, if you use my resources, I'd love to hear how they worked out for you in your classroom.

June 30, 2015

Six Pocket Tote Alterations

Hi, folks!

Over the years, I've made many of these handy six pocket tote bags - they make especially nice nappy bags for new mums.  In fact, the last bag I made for a co-worker going on maternity leave was such a huge hit at the baby shower, that I received requests for a few more.  They're a really nice sewing project and whip up easily within a day.  So, now that I'm on summer holiday, I headed down to the fabric shop and walked out with these gorgeous Amy Butler fabrics:

Aren't they absolutely lush?  I surprised even myself, because green is my least favourite colour and yet it was that beautiful emerald swirly print that just kept drawing me back to it.  I guess the copious amount of turquoise mixed into the colour palette made the difference.

And viola!  A finished handbag, which I think would make a lovely beach bag (not that we currently have much in the way of beach weather so far this summer...):

Now, over the years I've made a number of changes to the original pattern, which I thought I'd share with you in case you were interested in making a similar bag.

The original pattern calls for firm batting.  I have traditionally used Thermolam, which works well and gives the bag moderate structure while remaining soft and flexible.  However, as the bag construction requires a lot of layering, the thickness of the Thermolam is less than ideal and makes precis sewing a bit challenging.

My change: This time I decided to try a light-medium weight fusible batting.  It took longer to fuse to the fabric but the sewing through the multiple layers was significantly easier.  Structure wise, it was softer compared to the Thermolam but adequate for a tote bag.  If you want a lot more stiffness and less bulk, then fusible interfacing would be the way to go as another alternative.

Measurements & Cutting
The original pattern produces a tote bag measuring 8 x 10 x 4 inches.  This is a nice size but I wanted something just a wee bit larger so I decided to increase it by 1.5 times.  Below are the measurements I've been using.

My change - Shopping:
Body & lining fabric - 70 cm (3/4 yard)
Pocket fabric - 60 cm (1/3 yard)
Handle fabric - unchanged
Batting - 40 cm (1/2 yard)

My change - Cutting:
Body & lining fabric - cut 2 each, 19 1/2 inches by 25 1/2 inches
Pocket fabric - cut 2 each, 19 1/2 inches by 21 1/2 inches **
Handle fabric - cut 2 each, 4 inches by 34 1/2 inches
Batting - cut 2 each, 19 1/2 inches by 12 3/4 inches

** If you'd like a bit more of the body fabric to show behind the pockets, cut 2 each sized 19 1/2 inches square instead.  This will make the pockets slightly shallower but they will still be plenty deep and roomy and I really like the extra background fabric on show.

Also remember to check your pocket fabric for print directionality before you start cutting!  I know that it seems obvious to say this but even despite all of my sewing experience, this can still bite me in the rear.

The original pattern instructs you to sew the handles up to the height of the batting (which extends beyond the pockets).  This is fine but I've always found the straps are a bit tight around when slung over my shoulder and if you're wearing a bulky top/sweater or a coat, it's extremely tight.

My change: This time I only sewed the handles up to the top of the pockets.  This means that provided the bag isn't filled to bursting to the top, there is extra room for my arm and bulky clothing to fit through the handles while not needing to use any extra fabric.  Win/win.

The original pattern requires no finishing on any of the edges.  However, I have often felt that the top edge of the body print needs just a little something to keep the shape and prevent the batting inside from flopping around.

My change: I now top stitch around the top edge of the bag body.  I keep it very tight to the edge, about 1/8 inch.  It gives a very professional looking finish, adds structure and helps to keep the batting inside in place.

Now, don't you need a snazzy new beach bag of your own?

June 27, 2015

First Kiva Loan Repaid!

Good morning!  I have some exciting news to share!

Earlier this week I received the first full repayment of one of my Kiva loans!

Back in November of last year, I helped to fund Remedios' loan, which would pay for her children's
school expenses for the year.  Eight months later, the loan has been repaid and I'm looking forward to re-investing the money into a new Kiva loan.

On her Kiva loan profile page, Remedios had this to say to lenders:

"Salamat! (Thank you!)

Your financial help realized my hopes and dreams as a PMPC Client. I don't have to worry about supporting my family and can sufficiently provide for my needs. You being a LENDER has the commitment to borrower like me is nothing less inspiring. Thank you so much!"

- Remedios

June 22, 2015

Unit of Inquiry Home Handout Templates - Tpt

Welcome back!

Today I'm sharing a new teaching resource for my fellow IB teacher colleagues.  Now available in my TpT store - UOI Home Handout Templates:

For the last two years now, I have been making these home handouts for my students' families.  They contain all of the important essential elements for each Unit of Inquiry my class studies.  I send them home both digitally and in hardcopy so that parents understand the curriculum and can support students at home.

Who We Are Template Preview
The templates are provided in PowerPoint (PPT) format; simply replace (copy/paste) your specific Unit information over the place-holder text and drop in a few images of your choice.  The two specialty fonts have also been included, should you like to use them.

Templates include:
* Transdisciplinary theme
* Central idea
* Lines of inquiry
* Concepts
* Learner Profile attributes
* Attitudes
* Transdisciplinary skills
* At-home reinforcement links

Once you have entered your own UOI information and photos, simply export the file in PDF format to email and print as needed.  Use year after year, saving you time and energy.

All in a quick, easy and stylish format. Multiple licensing is available should your whole PYP department wish to use the templates across all year groups for a consistent look.

As usual, if you download and use this resource, I'd love to hear back from you - did the quality measure up to what you would expect?  Did you find them useful in the classroom?  Any tweaks or considerations to suggest? 

June 20, 2015

Kiva - June 2015

New month, new Kiva loan.  Please allow me to introduce Santiago...

Santiago (Honduras)

A loan of $4,575 helps Santiago to buy the necessary materials for converting to organic crops, such as coffee plants, organic plant food and fertilizer.

Santiago is married and is responsible for three children. He produces coffee for different organizations such as Comercio Justo (Fair Trade), Rain Forest and other well-recognized organizations. Now Santiago wants to make his coffee plantation organic. These quality certifications will open more markets for selling his coffee, and, on a personal level, Santiago dreams of giving his family a better quality of life and of working to preserve the environment.

The production of organic coffee is a new technique in the region, which will help to protect the area's biodiversity and ensure better markets for the product. Santiago has more than 10 years' experience in coffee production: "With our experience, and the support of COCAFCAL in the implementation of the new techniques, we will succeed."

Currently, Santiago has set himself the challenge of converting one hectare to 100% organic production, and needs to pay for several things, including coffee plants, organic plant food and fertilizers, labor costs, and other costs associated with the replanting of a coffee plantation under the regulations for organic farming.

A loan will help Santiago convert his land for organic coffee-production, and he hopes to improve his family's quality of life with the earnings.

At the time of this writing Santiago's loan is 48% funded - consider helping him to realise his dreams.

And for fellow geeks like me, check out this cool real-time Kiva lender map & stats. You can watch loans being made in real time, from where in the world they originate and where they go along with a feed describing each loan, new Kiva members and other cool stuff.  There's also a table filled with all sorts of stats.

June 07, 2015

Memory Game: My Rights & Responsibilities - TpT

Hi, folks!

It's been a long time since I shared some teaching supplies but as the academic year is wrapping up here in Sweden, I'm already starting to think ahead to next year (seriously, what's wrong with me?).  Since I moved to a new school this year, I've had 5 out of 6 Units of Inquiry completely new to me - yikes!  That's a LOT of new material to find and create and let's face it, there is only so much one person can accomplish in a single year so a lot of ideas didn't get done.  But now I'm starting to fill in those gaps and this is one resource that fits the bill.

Now available in my TpT store - My Rights & Responsibilities Memory Game:

My Sharing the Planet UOI is all about rights and responsibilities.  It's a good Unit to start the year off with, since you can tie in Essential Agreements and set behaviour expectations in the classroom.  Even if you don't teach the IBO curriculum, this is a great topic to roll into your Circle Time or PSPE lessons.

I have a set of A4 posters with these phrases on them that I put up in my classroom last year and we did a whole class matching activity using them but I felt like the students really didn't internalise them in the way I wanted them to.  So I made this memory game to help with this.  I also reworded the phrases into first person so that students would be more likely to apply the concepts to themselves on a personal level.

Example cards.

As you can see, the cards are made in matching pair sets.  Each right is on an orange background and the responsibilities are on turquoise backgrounds.  The words 'right' and 'responsibility' are capitalised to draw attention to them.  I also added in a small clip art icon to help with the vocabulary.  There are 11 card pairs altogether and I also included an extra blank card pair, should you wish to make your own - for this purpose, I have included both the original PPT document and a PDF version for your convenience.

These cards are designed to print to A4 paper and cut into quarters (once cut, each card is sized A6). Simply print (colour is recommended), cut and laminate.

As usual, if you download and use this game, I'd love to hear back from you - did the quality measure up to what you would expect?  Did you find them useful in the classroom?  Any tweaks or considerations to suggest?

May 30, 2015

Kiva - May 2015

Surprise!  This month I got a jump on my Kiva loan!  I'm often on the hunt for supporting girls and women's schooling - way to go, Andrea!

Andrea (Paraguay)

A loan of $225 helps Andrea to pay university tuition fees.

Andrea is from the city of Luque. She is studying for a degree in accounting. She is working as hard as she can in order to be a successful professional who can help other people.

Andrea says that she would like to finish her studies and work as a freelance accountant for other businesses.

Andrea is applying for this loan in order to continue paying tuition fees. She is grateful for this help that will allow her to improve her life through her studies.

At the time of this writing, Andrea's loan is 44% funded, although I have no doubt that she will soon receive all the funding she needs.  You can get involved and help others such as Andrea, too!

May 17, 2015

Kiva - April 2015

It's been a while since I've funded a group loan and this one jumped out at me as a great initiative; I'm a big supporter of empowering people.

Langalanga Organic Farmers Self Help Group (Kenya)

A portion of Langalanga Organic Farmers Self Help Group's $225 loan helps a member to buy farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizer that will help boost her harvest.

The lady raising her hand in the photo is Jane. She is married and blessed with seven children. She joined Hand in Hand Eastern Africa (HiH EA) in June 2014.

Jane is a farmer of maize, beans and potatoes. She is grateful to HiH EA for developing her entrepreneurial spirit through training and mentorship. This has enabled her to pursue farming as a business, unlike before, where it was predominantly for subsistence.

She is borrowing a Kiva loan to buy farm inputs in readiness for the upcoming planting season. She hopes that with better seeds and fertilizers, she will get a bumper harvest at the end of the season, enough for her family consumption and to sell, which will enable her to support her family needs and education for her children.

Jane is grateful to Kiva and its lenders for their support. She promises to repay the loan promptly.

At the time of this writing, this loan is 33% funded.  It's easy to get involved today, with this loan or another of your choosing.

May 14, 2015

Happy Birthday to You - Birthday Boy

Welcome back!

Have you ever had a situation where it dawned on you that a friend's birthday was sometime this month - but you weren't sure when - and then Facebook kindly reminds you that the birthday is that very day?  Well, that happened to me recently so I whipped up this quick little card.

I once again turned to my Simple Stories SNAP! birthday kits and it wasn't long before the basic design started to take shape.  I really liked this script 4x6 card and thought it would pop nicely on a black card blank.  I added a white interior inside so that I could easily stamp in black ink.

I layered up some 2x2 cards on top of a numbered washi tape line and popped this cute gumball machine die cut on top with some foam pads and the same with the little speech bubbles.  I also added in the little 'birthday boy' sticker.

Finally, a few cork stars and black rhinestones to balance out the design.  Signed, sealed and delivered!