A Jolly Halloween Holiday with Mary Poppins

crocheted scarf in progress

I hate Halloween. Every year I do my best to ignore it. However, I love contests. And every year my work hosts a Halloween costume contest. Dilemmas, dilemmas. Apparently I love contests more than I hate Halloween.

This year I wasn’t feeling it. I had won first place for the last two years. In fact, last year even I won the now-discontinued cubicle decorating contest, too. My plan was to just skip it all and rest on my laurels. But then I saw this scene (which I’ve seen a million times) and noticed something new:

 

I. Love. That. Scarf.

How had I never noticed it before, Disney fan and knitter that I am? I decided to go as Mary Poppins this year … but only if I had her scarf! No scarf, no costume.

My yarn stash is getting a little crazy as it is, and I’ve told myself no new yarn until I use up some up of what I’ve got. So, I fudged the colors of her scarf so I pull from the stash (and maybe earn the privilege to go yarn shopping again!). Mary Poppins’s scarf is more of a coral pink than a blush pink, and the orange stripes are more red orange. So my colors were “practically perfect.” (And yes, I’ve been overusing that phrase lately. It’ll probably show up a few times in this post. Hopefully it will wear off once Halloween is over.) It’s a simple crochet mesh pattern. The mohair was getting in the way of seeing the holes though. This is why I don’t work with mohair much! I only had eight stitch markers at my desk (markers I borrowed at that) to keep track of my spaces, so I had to improvise with safety pins and bobby pins. You can see them in the photo at the top. I thought it was rather genius, if I do say so myself! A DIY Stitch Marker hack necessitated by Halloween!

crocheted scarf in progress, detail of stripe pattern

My progress as of 4:30 p.m. on October 29 … no more time to procrastinate! Spit spot, as Mary Poppins says!

Of course, I didn’t finish the scarf. Really, what was I thinking being able to finish a whole scarf in two days? But by that time I had invested too much time to ditch the costume idea. And I had done too much research on Mary Poppins’s wardrobe.

It’s an easy costume for anyone who needs last minute ideas (for the future … it’s noon on Halloween, so probably too late for this year). Ended up winning 3rd place. (You can see the winners on C&T’s Instagram.) Not too shabby. Plus, I got about half the office singing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (Spelled that right on the first try, according to spellcheck! Ha!)—that was better than any prize! They should have never doubted that I know all the words!

Mary Poppins costume

Sorry, the cell phone photo is a little blurry. Still, you get the idea. Fun fact: With my glasses off in this photo, I couldn’t see a thing!

  • Hat: Take almost any brimmed hat, push in the top so that it’s more flat, then cover the whole thing in fabric. The fabric’s optional—I just thought it looked better that way. Mary’s actual hat is straw and has black trim that doesn’t show well in screenshots. Mine had red trim because it’s what I had. And yellow flowers (because that’s what I had). One of my coworkers used to be a costume designer, and she said it’s all about the silhouette. Good to know for future costumes!
  • Blazer: In the movie, Mary Poppins wears a black overcoat while flying, and she replaces it with a navy blazer when  that she takes off and replaces with a navy blazer. The blazer and skirt have a silver stripe, but I skipped that. I wasn’t going to sweat the small details for an office Halloween contest. My blazer is an old tweet coat I bought in high school. I’m just happy it fit!
  • Skirt: Any dress skirt will do, really. Mine is an old black skirt that I use for job interviews.  I think I even wore it to my C&T Publishing interview. Everything comes full circle.
  • Shirt: A white shirt with a Mandarin collar would suffice. I couldn’t find one, though. Instead, I got a white shell at Target and attached lace around it with a running stitch. The bow tie is ribbon that I also stitched onto the shirt. The shirt was a bit of a splurge, but I know I’ll wear it again.
  • Accessories: For shoes, use black boots or black flats with black stockings. Add white gloves (because Mary Poppins is nothing if not proper), an old-fashioned black umbrella, and a “carpet bag” (i.e. a tote of some kind if you can’t find the real thing). Luckily, my mom had all those things for me to borrow.
  • Hair: Mary Poppins has a pretty simple bun, with the front portion of her hair parted in the center and swept back into the bun. If you’re obsessed with detail like I am, there are some decent shots of the back of her head during the scene where she’s convincing Mr. Banks to take the children to work with him. My hair would not cooperate with me though, even after the 24 bobby pins, 2 Spin clips, 1 pony tail holder, and 1 comb. In my epic battle with my hair throughout the morning, I thought to myself “Julie Andrews always looks so perfect in the film … I bet it’s a stupid wig!” And I was right! Go figure. Practically perfect, indeed!
  • Makeup: Mary’s got pretty but simple makeup. Rosy cheeks (blush), highlighted by not colorful eye (black eyeliner, neutral eye shadow), and a relatively bold lip. I saw a lot of Mary Poppins Halloween costumes with a bright red lip. I think that’s a mistake. In the movie, it’s more of an orange red. Red red just doesn’t translate as well (at least, I don’t think it does).

Happy Halloween, everyone (even if I don’t like it)! And Happy All Saints Day! It’s raining here, so this feels appropriate:

Oh, It’s a jolly holiday with Mary
Mary makes your heart so light
When the day is gray and ordinary
Mary makes the sun shine bright

Weekly Wrap-up: Skunked

The quilt auction is over. My quilt went for …

… *drum roll, please* …

… $470! That’s more than the auction coordinator thought I’d get! She was actually quite shocked.

That said, I don’t know if I’ll do another auction quilt next year. I’m glad it went for so much, but I got caught up in the auction fervor and part of me was hoping for more. I’ll think about it. Thanks to all of you who left such encouraging comments! It means a lot to hear such nice things about my designs.

After that weekend of auction dinner dances and running carnival games at the church fall festival, I took the day off to relax and catch up on other projects. Then at 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning, Penny made a new best friend.

Skunk image by birdphotos.com (taken from Wikipedia)

Skunk image by birdphotos.com (taken from Wikipedia)

It’s amazing how your dog getting skunked changes your schedule! I think I’ve tried every home skunk remedy on the Internet, and she STILL STINKS. *Sigh.* I haven’t had much time for anything because she’s had almost a dozen baths in 6 days.

So, in no particular order, here are some random observations from this stinky week:

  • The following skunk remedies do not work: tomato juice, vinegar, and de-skunking enzymatic shampoos. The following skunk remedies sort of work: feminine hygiene products and this brand of dog ear cleaner solution. The following works, but you can’t get it near their eyes, making it a little useless in my case: the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda/dish soap solution found all over Google. Of course, one website said the best deskunking method is to not let your dog near skunks. … Wow. I never would have thought to keep Penny away from the skunks.
  • The following things were favorite things that had to be thrown out because they were too skunked to save: purple ballet flats, Disneyland 50th anniversary t-shirt, and Penny’s polka dot collar. RIP, favorite stuff.
  • I’m starting to think Penny was sprayed by some sort of mutant Super Skunk. I have been watching too many superhero TV shows.
  • The last time I had a day off, Penny got Cherry Eye and had to be rushed to the vet. I’m starting to think I shouldn’t take days off from work.
  • Carnivals are fun and all … if you’re not in charge. Then they’re exhausting. Also, kids don’t want to play water balloon toss. They want to have water balloon fights. I should have seen this coming.
  • I can’t decide if I want to enter the Halloween costume contest at work. If I do, I’ll probably go as Mary Poppins because it’s the only idea I’ve got that’s doable.
  • My first craft show of the season is in 13 days. When did THAT happen?
  • I scheduled a freelance editing project for the week before said craft fair. When did THAT happen?
  • My Square credit card reader came in the mail Friday. I can now take credit card payments at craft fairs. Pure. Awesome.
  • Cost Plus World Market has their Christmas bakeware shop up and running, and I want Halloween to just go away so I can go all Martha Stewart and start decorating Christmas cookies RIGHT NOW.
  • Mmm … cookies.

Hopefully regular crafty blogs will resume later this week. Unless Penny makes any more friends.

 

Finish It Up Friday: Auction Quilt (& Silent Auction) !!!

I’m back! Sorry for the long hiatus. Due to some personal stuff, I haven’t been posting and commenting in awhile. Nothing major, and certainly no cause for alarm, but my life suddenly got busy. Sometimes something has to give—and in this case it was the blog. But everything should be good now and I should be back for awhile. Hooray! And I’ve been sewing! Double hooray! The biggest thing I’ve finished, by far, is the Auction Quilt.

Auction quilt front

It’s now officially named United in Faith, which is part of the parish motto of the church I’m donating it to. But, honestly, I think that title’s kind of cheesy. In my head, it will always be Auction Quilt.

This was the project that would never end. It wasn’t even particularly difficult … I just kept miscalculating things. I finished the top back in June. I used the scraps to make a jelly roll race center. I had the binding cut, ironed, and rolled up for later use. Everything was going so well.

Then I realized I didn’t have nearly enough scraps to finish a queen-sized jelly roll race backing. Not a problem—after all, what a great excuse to visit my local quilt shop! After buying more scraps, I still needed one more trip to get some yardage to pull it together. Then I had to go back one more time because I didn’t like the yardage I bought before when I put it next to the jelly roll race center. By the time I had it spread out in the living room and determined I had enough to cover the front plus 8˝ on every side, I was so beyond ready to be done with the stupid thing. Thankfully, my good friend Ruthmary agreed to do the longarm quilting for me. Such a lifesaver!

Also, quilter confession time: I hate jelly roll races. Why are these things so popular? Okay, they’re fast. But … but … ugh. Maybe if I actually used jelly roll strips instead of 1˝ leftover scraps it would have been better. Maybe. But that strip was all the way down the hall, twisting every which way, and then the dog sat on it (which I only realized because suddenly the strip wouldn’t feed into my sewing machine any more) …

Anyway, here’s the finished quilt back. Most of the people I’ve shown it to like the back better than the front! Not quite what I intended, but I’ll take it!

Auction Quilt back

 

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts. So happy to be finished!


Silent auction time!

The live auction coordinator and I decided to open bidding with a silent auction. And I further decided to open it up to my readers. (Unfortunately, for shipping reasons I can only take bids from those in the continental U.S.A.—sorry!). If anyone out there is interested (or knows someone interested) in bidding, send me a private message with your contact info (address, phone #, email) and the amount. Bidding concludes on October 18th at midnight. The quilt is 80˝ x 90˝ (queen size) and comes in a reusable eco-tote bag (this one, if you’re curious). Minimum bid is $150. All proceeds go to St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church. Good luck!

And since I like to make sure Penny is featured somewhere in every post, here’s a picture of her with my pastor at the annual Blessing of the Animals last week. She was a good girl, too—minimal growling this year! :)

Penny at Blessing of the Animals

Father Robert Rien with Penny at Blessing of the Animals

Finish It Up Friday: Upcycled Sweater Felt Tote

Upcycled sweater tote

It’s finally Friday! This week’s finished project is a DIY refashioning of an ugly old sweater into a cute felted tote bag. The best part? Because I only used material from the sweater (and a few scrap bits of yarn floating around), the whole think only cost about $2.50 and a half hour of time. Sweet!

Last year I got really into felting. I bought needle-felting tools (my favorite being this needle-felting pen by Clover) and some roving and went to town. For those who aren’t familiar, needle felting involves taking wool and stabbing it over and over with a barbed needle. It’s almost therapeutic … . Someone cut you out and almost clipped your car during the commute? *punch, punch, punch* A coworker came to work sick and now you’ve got a cold? *punch, punch, punch* Friends not appreciating your unique brand of genius? *punch, punch, punch*

Anyway, I had picked up a couple of 100% wool sweaters on sale at the ARF thrift store and then proceeded to felt them by throwing them in the washer and dryer a couple of times. Suddenly that extra large cardigan-style sweater was toddler size. I cut it up and made a basic tote with gussets. The handles are from the strip where the buttons were. The flower is needle-punched on using yarn scraps of questionable content (I thought it was wool, but it wasn’t sticking to the felt very well so it probably had a good amount of synthetic fiber too). Oh, and the button is from the sweater, too.

Really not a whole lot more to say about it, except that it’s a lot smaller than I envisioned. Makes a great lunch bag, though.

lunch tucked inside an upcycled sweater tote

Nothing says summer like a juicy nectarine. :)

It turned out more or less exactly how I wanted (just, you know, smaller). I’ll make a few more, for sure. Might ditch the lining as it’s kind of superfluous.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts. Also, would anyone be interested in a tutorial on this? It’s a simple project, but fun. And it’s helpful to know how to cut the sweater to preserve that “cuff” of ribbing along the top.

Fresh Sewing Day

Lily's Quilts

Oh wow, it’s June. When did that happen? It can’t be June yet because that means that craft fair season is coming–and I’m not ready!

I missed May’s Fresh Sewing Day, but that wasn’t going to happen this month. No, this time I was going for gusto!  Here’s what I did in May:

  • I bought a bunch of fabric from my local quilt store and I finally got a Clover Mini Iron II for small seams. (I plan to write a review for the iron later.) Keep in mind, I’m supposed to be on a fabric diet. But I needed it. Really. *Ahem* Moving on …
stack of quilting cotton fabric

New fabrics for my stash

  • I pieced the top of a mystery gift quilt, and practiced matching points (which I admit I still need to work on).
  • I found a foundation-pieced purple quilt from 2013 that I had forgotten about in my work-in-progress pile. Joined a few rows. Four blocks to go!
  • I pieced the top of my auction quilt for my church. Wahoo! So glad to get this one off my plate, and with time to spare. Now to think up creative ways to raise more money with it.
dog on rail fence quilt

Penny approved of the auction quilt

  • I started piecing the back of my auction quilt using scraps leftover from the front. The jelly roll race section ended up being more work than I thought, but waste not, want not. (More on this in a future post, too.)
  • I became addicted to hexagons.
  • I forced myself to step away from the hexagons.
  • I remembered that I’m a knitter. Seriously. Sometimes I think I’m a quilter from January to May and a knitter from June to December. I wonder why that is? Worked on my sweater a bit, then started making a bunch of washcloths for the craft fair junket. I want the blue one for myself. Is it bad business to hope your favorites don’t sell so you can keep them?

knitting washcloth with basket weave pattern

  • Total number of photos ruined by Penny jumping in the shot (just this month): 6
dog jumping into photo shoot

Well it was a nice shot …

That should be about it. Busy month! This was my first full month of blogging, and I just want to say thank-you to all those who have left comments, liked my posts, and followed me. From the knitters to the crocheters, from the dog lovers to the quilt lovers, you guys are all the best, and I’m humbled that you keep reading my work. (And I love that I get to check out and be inspired by your work, too!)

Finish It Up Friday: Quilting Bee Blocks

It’s Finish It Up Friday and I am officially done with my freelance editing project. Hooray! …

… Oh, right. This is a craft blog. I’m supposed to be blogging about my finished craft projects. Unfortunately, most of my crafting time this week was postponed for freelance work. I DID, however, manage to finish some blocks that I owed the members of my quilting bee. This was a good thing because I was starting to fall behind. I hate when I get behind on bee blocks, thus contributing to other people’s unfinished project piles.

quilting bee blocks pinned to wall

Cubicle wall = design wall! Adds a pop of color to the office…

The May “queen bee” chose a pattern from the book Fresh Family Traditions by Sherri McConnell. I love the fabric in the middle square of the blue block. Took me awhile to realize they were little candles. Two blocks done, checked off the to-do list, and turned in.

I was also hoping to finish the block for the “queen bee” from some time last year (!), but that didn’t happen. She asked us to make two house blocks of our own imagining for a neighborhood quilt she’s planning; her guides were  “anything goes, but don’t make cookie cutter houses.”  The blocks she got back included a zoo, a hospital, a Victorian, an igloo, a tepee, and a house on fire (that last one’s from me). I just need to complete this mansion, which is based on the Southern plantation architecture of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction. Silly me, I forgot just how much wrought iron the facade has. It’s a lot more embroidery than I anticipated.

mansion quilt block

Embroidering wrought iron onto this mansion block

haunted mansion disneyland

For comparison, here’s one of my favorite shots of the Haunted Mansion. If you squint, you can see all the green wrought iron.

I’ve learned two things. 1.) Always use some sort of stitch stabilizer (I’m partial to Wash-Away Stitch Stabilizer); and 2.) I love working with COSMO embroidery thread. Which is good because I’m going to be backstitching for awhile.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday. Also, I’m probably going to the county fair this weekend for the first time in decades. Should be fun. Anyone else have interesting summer weekend plans? Tell me in the comments!

My Fear Aggressive Dog and Me

Dog wearing muzzle and Gentle Leader

Penny wearing her muzzle and Gentle Leader (she was having a bad day)

Usually on Wednesdays I focus on my work-in-progress crafts, but today I wanted to do something different. Aggression in dogs not an easy subject to discuss in general, and it’s certainly not one that most dog owners like to acknowledge. But, I think it’s important.

Penny has fear aggression.

This surprises people. They hear “aggressive” and think pit bull, not cocker spaniel. They don’t understand how a “good dog” (which Penny most assuredly is) can be aggressive in any way.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I am not a vet, animal behaviorist, animal trainer, or any other sort of professional who deals with animals, aggressive or otherwise. If you have a dog you think is aggressive , seek the advice of a professional immediately.

I adopted Penny from South Los Angeles animal shelter in 2008. She was a 3-year-old stray. At intake, she was underweight, had scabs that looked like they were from cage wires, and had recently nursed puppies. I later learned she wasn’t sure what windows were, was scared of things like brooms and frying pans (!), and was so terrified of having accidents that the one time I came home to a mess she was hiding in the closet. Then Penny started getting sick from chronic, untreated stomach issues and ear infections. The first five months, she was in and out of vets several times a month.

The fear aggression was a surprise. On our first walk, we were at a crosswalk and she turned into a growling, snapping monster when she saw the person across the street. Later, it was the clerk at the pet store. Pretty much any time she was unsure of her surroundings, she would lash out. With the vet bills rising, I couldn’t afford a consultation with a behaviorist; so, I started reading books on fear aggression. Lots of them. And I began training her myself. I made a lot of mistakes, too.

After 5 years of counter-conditioning, Penny is a much happier dog. She’s still learning how to trust, but she tries. She can even spend the day at work with me without growling. But fear aggression is something you can’t just “fix” once. I learned that when I took her to the ARF  fundraiser walk two Sundays ago. I put her in a situation where there were several hundred strange people and dogs and she responded by being stressed and reactive. I should have known better than to put her through that. It was a good reminder that even now I need to be mindful of her nerves and her reactions. It’s a process.

10 Tips for Working with Fear Aggression

For those with fear aggressive dogs, here are 10 things that worked for Penny. I don’t know that they’ll work for your dog, but they may be worth trying.

  1. Know your dog’s triggers. I had a white board on my fridge where I wrote every specific thing Penny reacted to. Eventually I narrowed it down to people approaching Penny straight on, Hispanic men, wheelchairs, hyper dogs, and children. The list gives you an idea of what to work on—and what to avoid. Don’t try “flooding” your dog with trigger exposure … it doesn’t work.
  2. Learn your dog’s body language. The ASPCA has a helpful list of dog body language with pictures. One of the things that helped the most with Penny was realizing how she freezes up right before a freak out. If I can catch it before the fear really sinks in, I can distract her (read: I can bribe her with treats).
  3. Read up on fear aggression. The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell is my favorite resource for fear aggressive dogs. It’s a small pamphlet (about 60 pages) that focuses, step by step, on how to recondition your dog in a positive way. Get it, read it, love it. I also really like this website.
  4. Use a muzzle. Yeah, I know they’re controversial. But you can’t control every situation, and you can’t train your dog if you’re scared of what she might do during the training. Her muzzle has saved us from some close calls. (Also, parents, don’t tell your kids to “go run and pet the muzzled dog.” Seriously, people.)
  5. Train with a Gentle Leader head harness. A lot of dogs—including Penny— don’t like a head collar, but it makes her so much easier to control. If she tries to lunge, it turns her in a little circle. I usually only use it for training now, but it helped a lot in the beginning.
  6. Let her growl. A growling dog may be embarrassing for you, but let her growl! Growling warns people that she’s not comfortable. Fear aggressive dogs trained to not growl often jump straight to lunging, snapping, or biting without warning. Trust me, you want warning.
  7. Provide a different behavior that’s accepted. For Penny, this was down/stay. Sit wasn’t enough. It needed to be something she could really focus on instead of the scary thing. And then, when she’d calmly lie there, I’d praise her like crazy. Eventually, whenever she got nervous she’d automatically lie down … much better than lunging!
  8. Train in a controlled environment. You want to build up to the scary stuff. Friends are a great help with this—I had Penny approach them on her own terms as they sat with treats. Early morning at the pet store was also decent  practice because it wasn’t crowded at that hour. Tell people about the fear aggression, by name, before they approach. I sometimes lie a little and tell people Penny was abused. I don’t know if the abuse part is true or not, but people respect Penny’s space more if they hear that (go figure).
  9. Go to the vet and rule out health problems. Penny’s ear issues made it so that she couldn’t hear people approaching. Some of her more erratic fear behaviors calmed once her ears were healthy.
  10. Be calm. Be patient. Know your (and your dog’s) limits. This is going to be a long process, and it doesn’t let up. You have to always “be on” whenever your dog is in public. You have to be the calm, patient leader. There’s probably years of bad behavior that you’re trying to overcome as quickly as possible. You’re going to get lots of dirty looks. People will say things, like how your dog should be put down, that will make you cry. Penny still has bad days, and there are things that Penny will probably never be comfortable with. That’s okay. And, hard as it is, if you can’t handle a dog with fear aggression or don’t have the time, the most loving thing you can do is place them with someone who can. It’s not admitting defeat.

So those are my 1o tips. Now, I appeal to my readers. Anyone have experience with fear aggressive dogs? What are your tips and stories? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could build up a list of resources in the comments for fear aggressive dogs and their people?