Personal observations

The last full week of summer break prior to reporting back for Teacher Pre-Planning is always bittersweet. You have big plans for the summer, yet the reality is you need the full month of June to simply decompress, perhaps fitting in a couple of vacation trips if you’re lucky. Mild panic starts to set as July rolls around. After the July 4th holiday, you realize you only have 3 weeks to get everything done before the time suck known as “the new school year” gets underway. This year is no different, yet COVID has definitely shaped my mindset about returning to 5 days per week at full throttle like we had pre-COVID.

N-O-P-E. Not gonna happen. I’m keeping my distance, cleaning like crazy, and leaving on time every day. I plan to be highly selective when it comes to extra duties & responsibilities. My physical, mental and emotional health depend on it.

10 things I’ve realized over the past year:

  1. I need 7 hours of sleep every night.
  2. I feel better when I walk 30 minutes every day.
  3. I feel better when I eat real food and limit fast food.
  4. It’s worth the extra WW points for real string cheese and the occasional potato chips with my sandwich.
  5. Water and unsweet tea are my BFFs – not diet soda.
  6. A soak in the tub makes everything better.
  7. A sewing machine and supplies are essential to my well-being.
  8. A social network outside of work and family is VERY important.
  9. Turn off the computer and TV. Read a book or magazine instead.
  10. My day job is just that – a job. I love what I do, but it is too easy to get sucked into the “perfect teacher” rabbit hole. I have to remove any emotional attachment to the job and remind myself to view it as a business transaction. I am exchanging my time for money. My employer certainly deserves full value for the time they purchase, but no more of this being guilted into working after hours for free. Easier said than done, yes, but I have to try.

My last week of summer break will be spent sewing with a friend, getting my teeth cleaned, getting my back-to-school haircut & color, a bit of clothes shopping and a quick day trip to cross-off the last item on my summer bucket list.

Sewing with the Kids

It’s Friday afternoon. Two of my little neighbors braved the monsoon outside to come stitch for a couple of hours. They made themselves right at home! Notice where Sadie is?

This is my normal set-up with 2 kids per table. It’s easier for them to share and help one another if they are sitting on the same side of the table. I prefer no more than 3 machines per table due to all the cords, sewing supplies and class materials on the table.

Tell me more about the machines in the photo.

The machines you see pictured are an Elnita EC30 and a Baby Lock Jubilant. Ideally, I’d have two of the same machine for classes. The Elnita EC30 is very kid-friendly and offers good value for the money at just under $300. It also sews very well on all kinds of fabrics. There are enough stitches to cover most any sewing need. The start/stop button and speed control slider are a bonus. It’s a good, basic all-purpose sewing machine at a decent price point. Be sure to budget some extra $$ to spend on any additional presser feet that you might need (1/4″ foot, open toe foot, walking foot, darning foot, etc.). Wide extension tables are not available from Elna (Janome) for this particular model, so you’ll need to order it from Sew Steady or Tailor Made Tables.

Now about that Baby Lock Jubilant. Great selection of stitches, bright lighting, sews well and feels good in your hands. It’s slightly larger and quieter than the Elnita. The one thing it lacks is a straight stitch needle plate. Just saying – a sewing machine at the $500-$600 price point ought to have a straight stitch needle plate available for it – the competition does! As with the Elnita, you’ll need to add some additional presser feet, depending on the type of sewing you do. An extension table IS available from Baby Lock for this particular machine. Baby Lock products are only available through their dealer network. FYI – Brother makes the Jubilant to Baby Lock’s specs. That said, many Brother accessories (available on Amazon) will work on the Jubilant and can be had a cheaper price. Keep this in mind when shopping for presser feet.

Which one would I purchase a as a second classroom machine, for a beginning sewist or as a machine to take to sewing classes/retreats/travel? The Elnita EC30. I would also add some LED lights under the harp to brighten up the rather dim work space.

Which one would I purchase for myself as an everyday machine or for a highly motivated teen sewist?
The Baby Lock Jubilant. It’s well worth the extra $200.00. For quilters – the new dynamic walking foot from Brother/Baby Lock is SO quiet. The quilt binding foot from Baby Lock is wonderful with back-to-front binding sewn by machine. Finally – this machine has the long, wavy stitch we like and the stitch is FULLY adjustable. The stitch length doesn’t stop at 2.5 like some other machines do.

I’ll keep using both machines described in this post, adding the Elna Star Edition and my big fancy machine as necessary. No need to buy more machines right now.

The Value of Creative Play

When’s the last time you lost all track of time because you were so immersed in what you were doing? I’m not talking about mindless TV binging or going down the Pinterest rabbit hole. It could be reading a book, exploring an art museum, gardening, crafting, sewing, quilting, fishing…or any activity that requires you to actively participate.

I get it. It’s hard to carve out time to just putter, tinker or finally see what happens if you do X. But that’s where growth, learning and the magic happens. Set a timer, put your phone in airplane mode and let go for an hour or two.

Today, I allowed myself time to experiment. I’d seen a craft project that I wanted the kids to make in sewing class. This little project forced me to learn how to use the Cricut Maker that had been gathering dust in a corner of my studio since my disastrous first attempt at using it. Thank God for YouTube and all the folks who put videos together on electronic cutting machines. What I wanted to do wasn’t hard, I just didn’t know how to work the Circuit Design Space well enough to create the project I envisioned. I refused to pay $$ for an SVG file when I could trace and cut letters/shapes by hand if necessary.

Two hours later, I had the Cricut figured out, my own SVG letter file created using a font I’d imported, a completed sample and cut letters ready for appliqué tomorrow afternoon. I also got to play with the decorative stitches on my fancy sewing machine that’s normally set up for quilting. I’m now ready to see what other things I can design in the Cricut Design Space for appliqué (or to use the vinyl that was donated). Now it’s off to the thrift store or Dollar Tree for picture frames!

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