Monday, July 29, 2013

Prepping for long-term sub

Not only have I been busy nesting at home, I have been very busy preparing my classroom for a long term sub.  No easy feat and especially cumbersome when you are as OCD as me!
I started prepping my filing cabinets by organizing all of my papers, trashing obsolete ones, and making copies.  My kindergarten team is seriously ready for the first 9 weeks with all of our copies! I made 25 copies of each paper since I don't know my class size.  You can see the large labels in the picture above, I like these because it makes things so much easier to find than the normal sized file labels.  Plus my brain is kind of funny in that it remembers colors associated with certain titles, might be a little freaky but sure makes it easy to find that orange-colored Pete the Cat file.  I also attached sticky notes to certain worksheets if I tend to do something differently than the directions or if I know a book that goes particularly well with it.  I'm going to be honest, there are a bunch of sticky notes in my files!  I have a problem with relinquishing control... there I said it!
I placed my learning centers in my filing cabinets as well.  This is new for me, normally they are just in a plastic crate in the order that I use them.  However, I want my sub to know exactly when the appropriate time is to use each learning center which is why I placed them within my chronologically ordered filing cabinet.  I made hot pink label papers for all of my centers, you can see them evenly spaced in my cabinet picture above.  I glued the title page to the outside of the file and placed all of the papers and materials inside like so...
Each paper has been copied and clipped to a baggie with the contents for that activity inside.  By the way, I adore Julie Lee's centers!
I then went through and labeled my bins where I place the students' extra school supplies.  I never labeled them before because this was my kingdom and I already knew where to look for supplies, no sweat.  But imagine how frustrating it would be to have to look high and low for an extra glue stick because the sub placed them somewhere else.  Hmmm, maybe that's just my own personal nightmare. =P
I went completely nuts with documenting where things go, even the students' things like writing tablets and math workbooks.  If you have a system figured out that works for you I think it would be nice to come back to that same system already established in your classroom.
The documentation continued with my schedule.  I know that schedules look nothing alike from year to year but this will give my sub something to go off of.  This is probably one of the most time consuming parts of beginning a year and I want to make it as easy as I can for my sub.
Finally, I went around my entire classroom taking pictures of where furniture is located.  Each August I come back to tables piled up in a corner, cabinets turned around against a wall, and chairs stacked to the ceiling.  It is a crazy few days rearranging my classroom each year!  I might spend hours tweaking the location of a freaking bookshelf because it affects the location of my computers 20 feet away.  So this year, I got up close and personal with the location of everything in my room so that things can just be rolled, carted, and pushed back to where they should be.  No more guessing and moving 10 times.

So that's how I have prepared my classroom for a long term sub starting at the beginning of the year.  I've come to terms with this small amount of control over a situation where I seem to have none whatsoever.  
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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hot Air Balloon Mobile

I have been very busy with only 43 days left to the arrival of our little girl and summer vacation finally here.  Nesting is kicking in full blast!  Never in a million years would I have thought, however, that nesting would take the form that it has lately.

I found an amazing idea for a hot air balloon mobile on Etsy but baulked at the idea of spending $70 for something that could obviously be handmade.  I did some research through Pinterest and found a DIY blog with the perfect template:  Joy did a wonderful job making her template and describing the overall process but I had to do a lot of research through YouTube videos to find exactly how to make this, that's why I'm posting it all here.  I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that it was easy, or all that cheap, but it sure was fulfilling to make on my own!

These are the supplies that I bought at JoAnn's for a little under $50.  I had to buy everything since I've never sewn before but I'm sure your total would be a lot less if you have any of these already on hand.  Please disregard the smaller embroidery hoop, I didn't end up using it for this craft.

I downloaded the template from the HowJoyfull website, click on this template PDF to download directly.

I decided to use the size 2 and 3 outlines only.  I figured out what color combinations I wanted to use and cut them out by placing the templates over the felt, using the rotary cutting set to cut.

Chevron patterns play a big part in the nursery so I decided to tackle the most complicated balloon first.  I figured out how far away I wanted my cuts to be and used the angle lines on my cutting board to trace them out on my template.
 Next, I placed the template paper over a felt piece and poked a hole through the point in the chevron pattern with a pen to make a small dot.
I used this dot as a place to mark where to stop cutting.  Those lines on the cutting board were a life saver!  The cutting was a tedious part but do not skip corners and cut more than one piece at a time, that will only result in wonky cuts that are uneven.
Once the cutting was complete, I lined them all up in order.  Lookin' good already!
After researching how to sew two pieces of felt together, I decided to use a blanket stitch.  I used this video to teach myself, I love that there's no annoying lady describing every detail.  Watch and learn!
I did my blanket stitch on a flat surface to that the balloon will take shape properly.  By the way, this is the side that will show on the balloon, I made sure no marks were visible.
Continue the same blanket stitch through all of the pieces, connecting them all together.  The connecting stitches get tricky but just remember that if they are not that tight you can always fix it when you stitch them together vertically.
Tie off the top stitches and then start the same process all over again with the bottom pieces of the balloon.  It's getting easier!
I forgot to take a picture of the next step but switch out your embroidery thread and needle for a general use needle and thread.  I used plain white thread and a blanket stitch to connect the pieces vertically from top to bottom from the inside.  Be sure to carefully attached the pieces at the tops, you will end up with a bunch of knots but it's important that they are secured.

Go ahead, take a look at what a cute balloon this will be.  It's worth all of this effort!
I slipped a long piece of embroidery thread with a knot at the end through a small piece of felt and led the thread through the top of my balloon.  This will be used to hang the balloons.  You could also use fishing line if you'd rather the invisible floating look.
Then, I stitched up the last piece to about half way and flipped the balloon right side out.  I used fluff from an old pillow to gently stuff the balloon to my liking and then stitched it closed.
I held the small circle, which I cut using the appropriate template, and used a blanket stitch to attach it to the bottom of my balloon.
To attach the 'basket', I tied a knot in a piece of embroidery floss and lead it through the bottom of the balloon, starting at the middle and coming out one side at 12 o'clock.  LEAVE A TAIL ON THE THREAD!  I didn't and it ended up being more difficult to tie at the end.
Cut one of the craft corks in half, this is the perfect size.  I then pushed the needle through the cork and pulled it through with pliers.  
I led the thread through at 6 o'clock on the bottom of the balloon and out again at 9 o'clock.  I repeated the process through the cork again at a perpendicular angle.  I finished back through the balloon at 3 o'clock, back out through the center and then tied the pieces together.

Voila, a finished balloon!
By the time I made a few balloons, I started getting really good at the flat blanket stitch.  It's hard to describe but I started pulling this part tight by hand instead of straight from the needle....
.... then this thread.  This prevented the thread from pulling the felt out of whack and resulted in a more even stitch.
I used a hot glue gun to attach this fun little pom pom ribbon. 
I made clouds by freehand cutting and using gray embroidery floss to blanket stitch on the outside.  It's still hanging from my ceiling fan as we are not set on the location of the crib but it is something I am really proud of.  I will be sure to post pictures of the finished nursery soon!
I used the small embroidery hoop and leftover pieces of felt to make this little name plate.  A running stitch attached the pennant and I used a backstitch to embroider our little girl's name.  Love!
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