Posted in Crafting Corner

5 Things You Need To Do Before You Start Sewing

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Ever since I was a little girl I have always wanted to learn how to sew. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the thought of making my own clothes (fashion designer EJ) or maybe it was just the thought of doing something creative.

I’m not sure. Either way, I never got the chance to learn how to sew in my childhood. It was something that I always regretted.

Not to mention the fact that my husband knows how to use a sewing machine and how to sew by hand. Talk about feeling like a slacker!

Then one day, last summer, fortune smiled on me. My sister in law gave me the sewing machine that she didn’t use. Talk about being super excited!

It was an older sewing machine that she had gotten from my mother in law. (A Singer Millenium Series.)

It was a bit big and bulky, but that was alright with me. I cleared off some space in the kids’ playroom, plugged up my machine and dived right into my sewing journey.

Needless to say, I made a lot of mistakes those first few weeks. But you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

1.Read the Manual

Bobbin, presser foot, seam guide, handle wheel, oh my?! When I got my sewing machine I had no idea what any of those knobs and dials on my machine were for or what they were called.

And since it was a hand me down a manual did not come with it. Luckily, we live in the digital age and I was able to find a copy of the original manual online.

If you’ve read my crochet posts you know that I don’t like following directions, but I highly recommend reading your manual.

The manual that comes with your sewing machine is a very important resource don’t throw it away.

Not only does it tell you how to properly use your machine. You will find diagrams showing you all the different parts of the machine and their functions.

It will also give you information on how to use the different stitches, what tension should be used for certain stitches, what kind of needle you should use for different kinds of fabric (Yes, there are different kinds of sewing needles!)

It also has a section that details common issues that you may have with your machine and how to fix them.

2. Start with the Basic Sewing Supplies

When I started sewing I didn’t have everything I needed. Which meant I had to make several trips to the store to pick up various supplies.

So before you get all sew happy like I did, you’re going to need some basic sewing supplies. Besides your sewing machine you are going to need the following:

Thread

I started with an all-purpose thread from Walmart. It’s tempting to buy multiple colors, but I would recommend only buying two colors of thread to start with.

Preferably two contrasting colors. Using two contrasting colors makes it easier to learn how to thread your bobbin. It can also help you identify any issues you might have with your stitches.

Trust me your stash of thread will grow as you begin to sew more items.

Scissors

Invest in a good pair of scissors. I was using my kid’s scissors from school for a little while. Then my husband brought me a pair of flat bottom Fiskars scissors (angels singing)…let’s just say I will never use those kiddie scissors to cut fabric ever again!

It’s important that people in the house know that these scissors are off limits and are only to be used for cutting fabric. Using them on other types of material can dull the blades.

Seam Ripper

If you’re like me you will make a lot of mistakes when you first start sewing. (You won’t believe how difficult it is for me to sew a straight line, but more on that later.)

The seam ripper helps to remove the stitches you’ve created without destroying your fabric. Some machines will come with a small seam ripper, but I had to buy a bigger one.

Pins

Sewing Pins

Pins are important for holding your patterns pieces in place or when you need to cut fabric. Like thread, there are several different types of pins to choose from and they all serve their own purposes.

Ruler

Sewing requires you to take a lot of measurements. You will need a decent straight edge ruler to make sure your cuts are perfect and/or you can use a soft flexible tailors ruler like the one pictured.

If your not making clothing then you probably won’t need the soft ruler. However, when it comes to sewing you will always want to measure twice and cut once.

Tailors Chalk/Fabric Pencils

Tailor’s chalk is often used to trace out patterns onto your fabric. The chalk will wash off easily and not leave stains on your fabric.

Fabric pencils serve the same function and can be sharpened when the tip becomes dull.

Fabric

Brightly Colored Fabric

As a newbie, it can be tempting to buy all those cute fabrics that we see in the store. Your best bet is to hold off on the cute stuff.

Instead, buy some cheap cotton fabric for you to practice on. Goodwill is a great place to buy cheap bed sheets that you can cut up and practice sewing on.

Once you’re confident in using your machine, then you can buy the cute stuff.

Iron (Optional)

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I really dislike ironing. So imagine my surprise when I learned that there was a great deal of pressing involved in sewing. I’m sure it’s my least favorite part of sewing.

Most of us already have an iron in the house. So buying one isn’t necessary, but I find it tedious to have to go from one part of the house to press my fabric in the laundry room and then take it back to my craft room to continue sewing.

Having a dedicated iron would save me some travel time.

3.Start Simple

Superman Themed Bow-tie

I can be a bit gung- ho at times. Especially, when it comes to things that help me express my creative side. Or starting a new hobby.

I have a tendency to rush through the basics so that I can hurry up and create that masterpiece I see in my head.

I recommend that don’t do that. Take the time to learn the basics of sewing before you move on to more challenging endeavors.

Amber from Crazy Little Projects has a created an awesome free sewing class for newbies like you and me.

The class also has a dictionary that defines common sewing terms and projects that you can complete after each lesson to hone your skills.

I haven’t mentioned much about patterns, but if you’re going to buy a clothing pattern I would suggest starting out with the easiest pattern available and then work your way up to the harder things, like dresses.

4.Youtube Is Your Friend

I’m a hands-on learner and usually, I’m pretty good at following written tutorials, but sometimes I just need to watch a video to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing.

If you’re a visual learner youtube will be your best friend when it comes to learning how to sew or troubleshooting issues with your machine.

I couldn’t figure out how to thread the bobbin in my sewing machine for the longest time. After almost giving up I remembered the wonderful world of youtube.

It was there that I found a video on how to thread the bobbin for my machine and was finally able to get on my way to sewing like a real seamstress. ( I’m not that good yet, but I’m working on it.)

I also had an issue with learning how to read patterns and how to buy fabric. I found a youtube video for that too.

There are also videos on how to sew different types of garments and accessories. I found a video on how to sew women’s underwear (gasp)! I don’t think I’ll be trying that one, but you never know.

Right now I’ve got my eye on a youtube tutorial that shows you how to turn a men’s dress shirt into a toddler dress. But first I need to try to make something a little simpler…like kids pajama pants or something.

5. Have Fun

My final piece of advice is to have fun and enjoy the creative process! Don’t get caught up in the fact that you still can’t sew a straight line to save your life! (They tell me there is a hack to help you with that.)

Like any new task you take on, it will be full of mistakes and frustrations. Seriously, do you know how many tries it took me to make that Superman bow tie?!

But I finally figured it out and it came out better than I could have imagined.

I hope this little bit of advice will help you get started on your own sewing adventure. If I forgot something please let me know in the comments section.

Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro

Posted in Family, Lifestyle

How To Crush Your New Year’s Resolutions

The new year is finally here! We’ve made it past New Years Day and we’re ready to start tackling our New Year’s resolutions!

This year will be the year that you’ll finally lose that weight, start that business, finish that degree and spend more time with your family!

Yes, this year will be the year!

And then…it’s March and our resolutions have fallen to the wayside. We’ve slipped back into our old habits for one reason or another. And we’ve resigned ourselves to try again next year.

But what if that doesn’t have to be the case. What if there was a way we could crush every resolution we’ve set this year?! Are you ready to try it?

Alrighty then! Here are 5 tips to help keep those pesky New Year’s Resolutions.

1. Ditch the Resolutions

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In the spirit of being transparent, I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. Instead of making a long list of vague resolutions like losing weight, saving money, or getting out of debt my family and I make New Year’s goals instead.

Why is a goal better than a resolution? Goals tend to be more specific, which makes them a little easier to tackle.

When you go to the gym and work with a trainer one of the first questions they ask you is what your fitness goals are: Do you want to lose fat? Build muscle? Or just tone up a little?

Goals give you something to focus on and cause you to think about HOW you’re going to achieve it. For example look at these two statements: I’m going to get out of debt this year (resolution). or I’m going to pay off one credit card this year (goal).

Which one sounds more manageable? The resolution sounds a bit overwhelming, while the goal seems practical and something that can be easily worked towards.

2. Use SMART Goals

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So now that we’ve decided to ditch the resolution and trade them in for goals. I want to show you how to make those goals achievable.

When I was a teacher we were required to create SMART goals for our class assessments.

Before we switched to SMART goals my lessons plans would look something like this:

Objective: By the end of this lesson students will be able to identify the parts of the food web and how energy is transferred between each level.

Goal: Students can identify the parts of the food web and show the flow of energy on the ecology exam.

That sounds like an acceptable goal. What teacher doesn’t want their students to pass their quizzes and test?

Then our school district changed the way they wanted our lesson plans written and introduced us to SMART Goals.

What is a SMART goal and how is it different from a regular goal? Good question!

In order for something to be considered a SMART goal it has to meet the following criteria:

SMART Goals

As you can see, unlike a regular goal, smart goals tend to be very specific. If we go back to my original example:

Goal: Students can identify the parts of the food web and show the flow of energy on the ecology exam.

SMART Goal: Students will be able to identify the parts of the food web and transfer of energy with 90% accuracy on the unit exam. (FYI: these goals were more for the teacher than the students.)

But we’re not here to score well on tests. We’re here to create life goals!

And the process behind SMART goals can be used to achieve those life goals. (And it’s way easier, than those education goals. It took a lot of brain cells to get that right!)

This year I have a few different goals: losing weight, being a more consistent blogger, developing my spiritual relationship with God, and getting out of debt.

I’m sure many of you have at least 1 or 2 of these on your list. I’ll start with the easiest one and probably most common of all new years goals…losing weight!

After 3 kids and transitioning to being a SAHM. It hasn’t been easy to shed those pesky pounds.

2019 Goal # 1– To Lose 20 lbs.

Now let’s turn that into a SMART goal.

SMART Goal– By April 5th, 2019 I will have lost 20 lbs.

Is it truly a SMART Goal? We’ll let’s see..

Is it Specific…Yes,the target weight is 20 lbs.

Is it Measurable..Yes, I can measure how much weight I’m losing per month.

Is it Achievable…Yes, as long as I stick to my diet and exercise plan.

Is it Realistic…Yes, that’s about 6 lbs a month which is a safe and healthy rate of weight loss.

Is it Time-bound…Yes, I have 3 months to complete the goal.

Goal # 2: Get out of Debt

Ok, I don’t know if you’re like me, but I have a lot of student loan and credit card debt that I need to get rid of. And being a SAHM makes this part a little more challenging since I only work once a month.

SMART Goal: Pay an extra $25 towards my credit card with the lowest balance each month.

Is it Specific…Yes- the target is paying down my credit cards by and extra $25.

Is it Measurable…Yes, I can keep track of my balances with my monthly statements.

Is it Achievable…Yes, I can make an extra $25/month .

Is it Realistic…Yes, with the plan being to roll that extra money over into the next card when the other is paid off. (The Debt Snowball Method)

Is it Time-bound…No, I don’t have a specific date for when all of these cards will be paid off, but If I crunched the numbers I could probably come up with an actual date.

I’m not going to bore you with the rest of my goals. I think you get the picture.

SMART goals are a great way to help you break down your new year’s goals and transform them into something that you can manage and succeed at.

3. Don’t Go Overboard

I have A LOT of things I want to accomplish this year. I mentioned a few of my goals earlier, but that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.

I could try to tackle them all this year, but when it comes to setting goals and being able to achieve them more is NOT better.

If I tried to achieve all of the plans that I have running around in this little head of mine I probably wouldn’t achieve any of them.

So my advice to you is to pick your top 3-5 goals and focus on those.

However, don’t toss out your long list. Many of us have goals that can be considered short-term and long-term goals.

A short-term goal is anything that can be completed in 1-4 months, while a long-term goal is anything that is going to take 5 months or longer to complete.

Yes, yes. I know this is not the technical wisdom on short and long-term goals, but we’re talking about stuff you can realistically complete in a year. It’s relative.

So if you finish one of your short-term goals early, then you can always add another one to the list.

4. Visualize

There is nothing more satisfying than crossing something off your to-do list. In order to crush your goals this year, you need to have a place in your home where you can see them daily.

You can dedicate a whole wall in your house to your goals or you can just write it on a sheet of paper and tape it to the bathroom mirror.

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you can see it. And when you complete a goal celebrate it! Throw yourself a mini-party.

And keep the completed goal on the board. So on those days when you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything you can look back at your paper and remind yourself that you finished one goal and you can knock out another one.

5. Breathe

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My final tip for you today is to remember to breathe and relax. Goals are just what they are goals. Something that you are trying to reach for.

It’s awesome if you complete the goal. But it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.

If I don’t lose 20 lbs by April 5th, but I’ve lost something or I went down a dress size. Then that’s still a success in my book.

If I can only manage to pay an extra $5 a month towards my credit cards, at least I’ve still taken a step to getting out of debt.

When your goals become a source of sadness and frustration they are no longer goals but have become unnecessary weights.

At that point it’s time to take a deep breath and re-evaluate your goals.

Maybe it wasn’t realistic or maybe the time to complete it wasn’t long enough. Or maybe life just happened.

But that’s the good thing about goals. You can always re-evaluate and start reaching for them all over again. Just don’t stop reaching for them and I’m sure you’ll succeed.

I hope that you crush each and every goal that you set this year.

If you’re excited about the New Year and all that you have planned leave me a “Yes!” in the comments section.

Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro

Posted in Family

A Look Back at 2018

man beach holiday woman
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As we come to the final day of 2018. I can’t help but reflect on the year that I’ve had.

If I could characterize this year…I would say that 2018 has been a year of change for myself and for my family. It has also been a year of faith as we stepped out into unfamiliar waters.

In March I officially published my first book, “ The Death of Marriage: A Lesson in Love.” , through Christian Faith Publishing. One day I hope to write a few blog post on marriage and surviving infidelity.

However, this book has opened the door for me to share my experience with other women and offer them hope for their own marriages and working through the healing process.

In June, I walked away from my job of 10 years as a high school science teacher to become a stay at home mom. We have had to adjust from living on a dual income to a single income while trying to raise 4 kids.

It has certainly been a learning process for us as a family. But I still believe that it was and still is God’s will for our family and that all the sacrifices have been worth it. We are not experts at it yet and we still have a way to go in learning how to live on a budget and make budget-friendly choices.

author blog create creative
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In August, I started this blog, The Crafty Afro, it took me forever to work up the courage to even start it. I felt like no one would care about what I had to say or even read what I wrote.

And even though I don’t have 1000’s of followers I am just grateful to have a place to express what’s on my heart and share the things that I care about. I only have 29 followers, but I am grateful to every one of you.

My Top 5 Post of the year were:

It appears that my crafting corner is quite the hit!

chocolate cupcake with white and red toppings
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In October my daughter turned one. If you would have asked me 2 years ago if I wanted a little girl the answer would have been, No. But I can’t imagine my life without my daughter. She has changed me in some many ways.

In many ways, she has made me more aware of my feminine side and softened me up a little. I have always been a staunch tomboy. Even now I’d rather wear a pair of jeans and a comfy shirt, then put on a dress and heels.

Having boys definitely played to my strengths as a tomboy. My husband didn’t mind it as much. He would fuss that I didn’t dress up enough, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.

But now because of her, I find myself being a little more mindful of my looks and the things I wear. I’ve learned to be a little softer in my responses to her and her brothers. I’ve never wanted to paint nails and have pretend tea parties.

But my daughter has definitely opened my heart to the possibility of doing those things if that’s what she wanted to do.

At the end of October, my eldest son (who was 7 at the time) was suspended from school for accidentally bringing a pocket knife to school. This was his first year of public school and he’s never been suspended for anything before. Unfortunately, this incident made him a target at his school.

The weeks that followed were stressful and tumultuous for us. We were told that none of the kids at school knew why he was suspended only to find out that his teacher had done a lesson on the incident with his classmates.

Everything he said was monitored by the teacher and other students. I was called to the office because he said a joke, from a kids joke book, about shooting a bee with a “bee bee” gun.

They sent him to the counselor because he said if he was the governor of Virginia he would have guns (They were doing a lesson about the settlers and Native Americans!). At this point, we went into fasting and prayer for my son and the issues he was facing at school.

He began to be scared of going to school and was constantly afraid of getting in trouble for anything he said. As a parent nobody wants their child to feel that way. But after a month of prayer, fasting, and visiting the school. Things have calmed down.

As you can imagine I didn’t do a lot of posting to my blog during that time.

Now, we find ourselves in December.

people doing marathon
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In my infinite wisdom and in somewhat an attempt to re-live my glory days as a college athlete. I signed up to run the 3000m in an actual track meet! I had been ” training” since October and I felt pretty good running 2 miles.

So yea…this 35-year-old mother of 4 got her butt on the track and raced against young ladies in their prime. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I contemplated if I had lost my mind.

As I ran 15 laps around a 200m track…by the time I got to the halfway mark I seriously considered stopping and just walking off.

But all the while I could hear the voices of my kids, husband, and parents cheering me on. I couldn’t let my loved ones down even if I came in last place.

I finished (15:24). I survived. Not in glorious victory like I had hoped, but I pushed through it. I didn’t come in last lol  There is a meet in January…but I’m not making any racing promises.

After all that has happened, I am looking forward to wrapping up the last day of the new year. We’re not doing anything fancy.

My son turns 8 today and we’re going to celebrate his birthday and then bring in the New Year with our church family.

2018 has been a good year for us. Full of challenges and new endeavors. I’m looking forward to 2019 and all that God has in store for us.

How has your 2018 turned out? I hope that you will take the time and reflect on your own progress this year and see how far you’ve come in 365 days.

See You Next Year,

The Crafty Afro

Posted in Faith

Are You A Man/Woman After God’s Heart?

Israel had many kings, but no King was a famous as it’s second King, David. Before he was a king, David was a shepherd boy tending his father’s sheep. He was the youngest of his father’s sons.

In 1 Samuel 16, we find the story of Samuel’s journey to anoint the next King of Israel. He passes over Jesse’s first two sons believing that God would choose them as king. But it is here that God reminds him that God does not look at the outward appearance, but at the heart of a man (1 Sam 16:7).

I can imagine that he was probably picked on quite a bit with 7 older brothers in the house. But it was this little brother that was anointed by the great prophet Samuel to become the next King of Israel.

In Acts 13:22, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do. (NIV)”

David -A Man After God’s Heart

Many of you may already know the story of David, if you don’t I encourage you to read it. David was a great hero and ruler of Israel. He was also an adulterer, murderer, and he failed to discipline his children.

Yet, he was still considered a man after God’s heart. Why? This has always been a question the puzzled me. After all, how could someone who had committed such terrible sins still be considered a man after God’s heart?

In my mind I couldn’t reconcile the sins that David committed with the heart of God. If you take after someone your just like them, you copy them, you walk like them, you talk like them. Isn’t that what it means to take after someone?

It wasn’t until a yesterday while I was listening to a preacher talk about David that I understood what this scripture was saying.

It wasn’t that David’s heart was like God’s, but that David was chasing after the heart of God. In spite of Davids shortcomings David always wanted to please God.

Is that our main goal as Christians to please God or to please men?

Even when David sinned and was confronted by the prophet he confessed and repented (2 Sam 12:1-14). He didn’t harden his heart, like some of us would have done.

When David challenged Goliath it wasn’t for fame, glory, or the hand of Saul’s daughter. He was indignant that such a man would challenge God’s people and make a mockery of His God (1 Sam:17).

When is the last time you’ve been indignant when the world makes a mockery of the things of God? Did you stand up for it or just keep silent?

When the ark of the covenant was returned to Israel King David danced with all of his might before the Lord. He didn’t care what anyone thought of him because he was dancing for God (2 Sam 6).

When God blesses us, do we give him the glory and tell others about what he’s done for us?

Unlike his predecessor Saul, David was obedient to God. The last part of Acts 13:22 says,” … he will do everything I want him to.”

Are we obedient to the holy spirit when he tells us to buy the person in front of us groceries or to give more in the offering this week?

How Do We Become Men/Women After God’s Own Heart

Being a man or woman after God’s own heart does not mean that we are perfect and it does not mean that we will be without sin. It does mean that:

  1. We need to have a relationship with God.
  2. We need to focus on pleasing God.
  3. We should be quick to repent and turn from our wicked ways.
  4. We need to stand up for the things of God, even if it means we have to stand alone.
  5. We need to to be obedient and committed to the teachings of Christ.

All of these things can be accomplished by reading Gods word and developing a personal relationship with Christ our Redeemer. David had a personal relationship with God. He trusted God in spite of the difficulties and the challenges he faced before and after he became King.

Because of Jesus, we are able to develop a relationship with God, without the sacrifice of animals, like David did. So, let us strive to be men and woman after God’s heart.

Remember that God looks at the heart of a person. Ask yourself today am I a man/woman after God’s heart?

If you have any other tips or insights please feel free to share them in the comments section.

Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro

Posted in Crafting Corner

Crochet Blankets and Scarves for Christmas

It’s Christmas eve and I’ve finally finished all of those crocheted Christmas presents that I foolishly promised people I would make. A superman themed baby blanket, 2 blankets (lap blankets), and a hat and scarf set.

The first blanket I made using:

Isaac Mizrahi Yarn (Sutton, 7 balls)

Q/16 mm Hook

Darning needle

I really love the color of this yarn. It’s a super bulky yarn so the project worked up pretty quickly.

I’m not big on fashion, but apparently, Isaac Mizrahi is an important designer. I was lucky and found this yarn on sale at A.C. Moore. Seven balls of yarn for $5.

The pattern for this yarn consisted of double crochets and single crochets. Unfortunately, I forgot to bookmark the pattern. If I find the link I will make sure to add it to the site.

The second blanket I made using:

Isaac Mizrahi Yarn (Sutton, 7 balls)

P/11.5 mm Hook

Darning Needle

I used the same yarn for this blanket I just used a different pattern. Instead of trying to do something fancy I just made a blanket using granny squares. Since the yarn acrylic and wool, both blankets turned out to be pretty warm.

My last Christmas gift was a hat and yarn set. Honestly, I really like the scarf, but I’m not thrilled about the hat. She wanted a slouchy had, but somehow it didn’t turn on like I imagined.

For this project I used:

Grey Crochet Hat & Yarn Set

Studio Classic Yarn (Grey, 1 Jumbo roll)

K/6.50 mm Hook

L/8.00 mm Hook

Darning needle

I followed the pattern here to make the slouchy hat. However, I didn’t have bulky yarn so I just used two strands of the grey yarn.

Grey crochet hat

The scarf was made using a half double crochet stitch with the stitches crocheted in the back loops only.

Chain 142 stitches

Round 1: Insert hook into the second chain, half double crochet into that stitch and all the remaining stitches.

Round 2: Chain 1. Half double crochet into the back loops only. Repeat until you achieve the desired width.

Then I added the tassels at the end.

The hat is not my best work. I am still trying to figure out what kind of embellishments to put on it to make it look better. However, the scarf turned out great.

Until Next Time,

The Crafty Afro