Thursday, August 21, 2014

$3 Personalized Classroom Stool Makeover

School is almost here!! We go back Monday and I've been busy putting things together in my classroom this week. You can follow along with my 'back to school' adventures on Instagram! Although I'm usually walking around during my daily lessons, I sometimes like to sit down in front of my classes, particularly when we are reading or when I'm observing a class discussion. I like to sit slightly higher than my students so I can easily make eye contact with them. Enter the counter stool...
personalized classroom stool

All summer I searched yard sales for an inexpensive stool that I could give a little makeover for use in my classroom. I found a basic oak wood stool for $3 (I didn't take a 'before' picture so the picture above left is basically what it looked like before it was painted)! After two coats of aqua blue spray paint, I decided I wanted to make the stool a bit more personalized by adding an initial stencil!

Silhouette stencil ideas

I used Silhouette Stencil Material and my Portrait cutting machine to cut out the stencil pattern (the pattern is 'circle scalloped' by Lori Whitlock which can be found in the Silhouette Online Store layered with a letter 'R'). After painting the stencil with white acrylic craft paint, I sprayed a couple layers of Mod Podge clear acrylic sealer on top to ensure my design stays put!

personalized classroom stool

I love how it turned out and the fact that it is both functional and will add some whimsy and color to my classroom space! This would be an awesome and inexpensive gift that any teacher would LOVE!


Silhouette is offering some awesome back to school deals for the month of August! I've used my Portrait cutting machine for the stool and MANY other projects including putting together my bulletin boards...





My next post will be a tour of my classroom with lots of inexpensive and easy ideas for classroom decor (secondary teachers can spice up their classrooms, too)!  Have a great week!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sewing A First Day Teacher Dress

Summer vacation is about recharging my batteries and taking time to do things I love to do...mainly enjoying the beaches here in Maine (my biggest decision each day is whether to go to the lake or the ocean, ha!) and crafting up a storm! I only have two weeks left of break and since the weather this week was a bit unsettled, I decided it was the perfect time to tackle a challenging sewing pattern:
Teacher Outfit Idea
I saw this darling dress pattern and thought it would be perfect for the first day of school! I actually stood in Jo-Ann Fabrics with pattern in hand for quite some time debating whether or not I was skilled enough to sew this dress. I was intimidated mostly by the zipper and the 'Peter Pan' collar but also by the darts, pleats, and gathering at the sleeves! I decided that I would never improve my sewing skills if I didn't at least try a more complicated pattern so home with me the pattern came!

Simplicity Lisette Round Trip Dress Pattern

I chose a hot pink/light blue damask cotton fabric with a contrasting white collar. I opted to add sleeves since I'm more comfortable wearing a dress with at least a cap sleeve to school (I think sleeveless is a bit too casual for the workplace, but that's just personal preference)! I'm pretty much in love with the result...


I did have to adjust the size to get a perfect (or near perfect) fit as I'm short but curvy! I took in the sides and moved the waist up a bit in addition to taking up the hemline! 


The collar is probably my favorite part of this dress...I LOVE me a 'Peter Pan' collar!
 I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to create clean curves but I took my time when sewing and am pleased with how the collar turned out...


My classroom is usually on the chilly side as we have AC throughout our school so topping the dress with a cardi is another option! I also added a silver metallic belt (from Old Navy) for a polished look in addition to my silver strappy sandals (not pictured).

Teacher First Day Dress

It's silly to say but I feel really proud of myself for tackling this challenging pattern. I could have easily chosen a simpler dress to make and faced the uncertainty of not knowing how it would turn out (would I be wasting my time/money if I messed up?). There was a day not so long ago when all I could sew was a straight line (pillow covers were my specialty) but slowly, over time, I've increased my skills one pattern at a time! I can't wait to wear this dress as I greet my new classes of students in only a couple short weeks!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Awesome DIY Pallet Sign

I've been enjoying every second of summer vacation and have been crafting up a storm! I've seen rustic style pallet signs around the 'interweb' for a while and decided that with my trusty Silhouette Portrait machine, along with some wood from shipping pallets found in my mom's warehouse (she owns a wholesale yarn company), creating one of my own was feasible!

DIY Rustic Palllet Sign

After I had pried apart the slats from the pallets using a crowbar, I started by laying out the wood (I used 7 pieces) to see how they would best fit together. Then I flipped the pieces over so I could secure them together using $.98 yard sticks found at Home Depot. I cut each yard stick in half and used really short nails to secure 4 pieces of ruler across the backs of the slats.

How to build pallet sign

After my 'ruler braces' were secure, I used a handsaw to cut the boards on both ends to even things out. The sign can be as large or small as you'd like...the number of boards you use and length you cut your boards is totally customizable!


In order to hang the sign, I used small 'eye rings' (that's not a technical term at all, ha!) to screw into the back of the pallet and threaded picture hanging wire through each ring. I did use a small drill bit to create tiny starter holes.


Once the sign is constructed, next comes the fun part: designing your wording! I decided to use one of my favorite paraphrased quotes of Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother...


Cutting the letters was SUPER easy using my Silhouette machine! I used Silhouette vinyl for the letter templates (font is Arial Bold). To ensure my letter placement was correct, I used painters tape to act as guides. Then I used the scraper tool that comes with the Silhouette machine to ensure that each letter was FIRMLY pressed down. Because I was sticking the letters on bare wood, they tended to not want to stick...so press firmly! Then, take your sign outside and mist with a light coating of spray paint.  Gently peel each letter away and your left with a fun, rustic, one of a kind sign!


I was actually intending for this sign to go in my classroom but I loved the finished product so much that I decided it had to hang on my wall at home! Perhaps before summer's end, I will make a second sign to take to school!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Teacher Summer Camp

I just returned from a week-long professional development AP Summer Institute at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont! It...was...AMAZING!! I was in the US History seminar and learned so much about the newly revised APUSH exam as well as many quality social studies instructional strategies and lesson ideas. I met and connected with educators in a variety of disciplines from all over the country.


Each day the seminars ran from 8am-3pm during which the focus was on how best to teach an AP course as well as how best to prepare students for the AP exam. In the case of APUSH (AP US History), the exam format changed pretty significantly so there were many teachers in my seminar who have already taught APUSH but were there to learn about the new exam.

The institute was hosted by St. Johnsbury Academy, which is a small private prep school. The campus is adorable and the facilities are top-notch. We were housed in the dorms which were nice and brought back memories from college! I snapped this picture of one of the charming buildings on campus (I really loved the colors and architectural features)...

St. Johnsbury is a small, quaint little town in the mountains of Vermont...the surroundings are breathtaking!


(Main Street, St. Johnsbury...how cute are those buildings?)

After each day's work, we were offered a variety of afternoon and evening activities in which to participate that highlighted the region's geography and culture. The first activity I participated in was skeet shooting! I'm not really a 'gun person' or a hunter but I think it's important to try new activities and get out of your comfort zone every now and then! It was actually pretty fun and most of the people who participated in this outing were first-timers, too!


On Tuesday we went to the nearby Milarepa Tibetan Buddhist retreat center and had a lesson and Q & A session about Buddhism from a gentlemen who has been practicing the faith for over 30 years. It was informative and made me realize I need to practice more of 'quieting my mind'!


On Wednesday the weather cleared up, thankfully, and we went on a hike up to an old fire tower on the top of Burke Mountain. It was pretty steep but the views at the top were spectacular!

On the last afternoon I went on the excursion to Dunc's Mill, a local man's distillery, where he uses Vermont products, like maple, to infuse and produce rum. He gave us a tour and a run down of the basic distilling process, which the chemistry teachers in the group loved!! And the whole group loved the fact that he gave us samples of each kind of rum! Delicious!!


After we left the distillery we headed to a farmer's market where the rum and a variety of other local Vermont products were being sold. Fresh baked breads, cheeses, ice cream, and produce were among the goodies. I was able to pick up a beautiful bunch of sunflowers, which are brightening up my kitchen counter since my arrival back home!



On Thursday night there was a 'farewell' cookout complete with a DJ, dancing, and a bocce ball tournament. The cuisine being offered all week for every single meal was incredible. Steak tips, crab legs, omelets made to order, and dessert...dessert...dessert, among other culinary delights! I'm sure I've gained at least 5 lbs despite being pretty active all week!


Our APUSH seminar teacher, Jerry (with the baseball hat), was not only able to provide us with first-rate instruction all week during our sessions but is also apparently an expert balloon artist! He busted out the creations above during the farewell bash!

I just can't speak highly enough about this experience and the first rate facilities, cultural experiences, and instruction! It's really important for teachers to be able to participate in professional development opportunities to not only connect with other educators but to be able to take new instructional strategies and lessons back to their classrooms. I was really able to look at my current curriculum, and not just the honors/AP course but all of my courses, and find ways to introduce more analytical thinking skills and historical documents, both primary and secondary. I always feel refreshed and excited to get back into the classroom and practice what I've learned whenever I come back from a professional development conference! I HIGHLY recommend this particular AP institute as it was an incredible experience...teacher summer camp is awesome!!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ruffled Nautical Tank Top Tutorial

Today I'm sharing a tutorial on how to turn a basic $5 tank into a nautical-inspired top by adding a simple ruffle detail! This is a quick, simple, and inexpensive way to add some fun to a basic tank!

ruffled tank top tutorial diy

nautical ruffled tank top tutorial diy

All you'll need for this top is a basic tank (mine was actually marked down to $3 at Walmart) and 1/3 of a yard of 44" wide fabric (I used a striped seersucker fabric). Here's how you make the tank:

Step 1:
Lay out your fabric (folded in half) and cut two strips that are each 5 1/2" wide (44" in length after you unfold each piece).

Step 2:
Open up each strip and sew them together, wrong sides facing, at one side of the short ends. Your are doing this in order to make a strip long enough to ruffle around the neckline of your tank as only one strip isn't long enough.

Step 3:
Take your long conjoined strip, lay it out flat and fold it in half, 'hog dog style', right sides facing in. You are going to sew down the length of the strip using a 1/4" inseam. Leave a small opening half way down the strip so that you can turn the strip right side out later on.

Step 4:
One each end of the strip, create a point by sewing two angled seams...this isn't a science...I just found the center of each end each sewed down from each side meeting the point. Cut the excess fabric around the angles, then turn your entire strip right side out (which is why you left a small section of the seam open). 


Step 5:
Now that your strip is right side out, you need to iron your strip flat...the seam should be in the middle of your strip as you iron, not to one side. The picture below shows where your seam should be but isn't entirely accurate because your raw edges should be inside your strip, FYI (but it was the only picture taken while I was ironing, ha!).


Step 6:
Now you are going to create a pleated ruffle around your tank. Lay the tank flat with the back side up. Start by matching the middle of your strip to the middle of the top of the tank, seam side down. You are going to fold the strip and create pleats that are about 1" wide (this is just approximate...the key is simply keeping whatever pleat size you use consistent all the way around) pinning each pleat as you go around. Work your way around and down to the front on one side of the tank only, then stop. Then start at the back again and work your way down to the front on the other side of the tank and stop when you reach the front (but make sure you pleats are all facing the same direction). You will leave space to tie the ends into a knot.

If you find that the ends are too long once you're done with the pleats, you can always adjust the size of your pleats to make the ends shorter (or vice versa). Just play around until you are happy with the placement.

Step 7:
Now it's time to sew! Start at the front bottom of one side of your ruffle and top stitch through the center of your ruffle, all the way around the neckline. Go slow and be VERY mindful of your pleats so that they remain flat and don't get caught as you sew. Back stitch at both ends of your stitching. Once you're done securing the ruffle, tie the ends into a knot and rock it!


 I paired my tank with some red skinnies...which is now my outfit for the 4th of July!!