Friday, April 26, 2013

Stoplight Organization

This is a tool I came up with to help my elementary students stay organized. I implemented this well into the school year, as I realized that some of my students needed a visual and concrete list, but I think starting this on the first day of school would be even better.

This tool has helped my students to stay organized by having a definitive list of what they should have in their desks. When a student's desk starts getting messy, I have him take everything out and put back only those things that are on the Green List. It really helps them know exactly what to do with every school supply.

This tool has also helped prevent me from having to make judgment calls about the random things elementary students decide to bring to school--and I do mean random! It amazes me, the things students think would be a good idea to bring to school (and the things parents *let* them bring to school!) I refer quite often to the "Green List", "Yellow List", and "Red List", and it has cut back on this problem significantly. I can just ask one of my kids, "Is that on the Green or Yellow list?" and they know if it isn't, the item needs to stay in the backpack that day and not come back to school the next.

To make a Stoplight Organization tool yourself, you'll need 3 sheets of black construction paper, and 1 sheet each of green, yellow, and red. You'll also want a black Sharpie and a silver Sharpie. You can find metallic silver Sharpies at Amazon, and they are so much fun! I use mine for all kinds of things.

Using something like a paper plate, cut a circle out of the green, yellow, and red papers.

Glue each of the circles onto the center of a black sheet of paper.

Let the glue dry. This might be a good time to think about what you want students to have in their desks at all times--the Green List--and what you want them to have only sometimes, with permission--the Yellow List. Everything else goes on the Red List.

For the Green List: Write "Go!" at the top, and a message at the bottom that says something like "Keep these things in your desk". On the green part, write the list of items you came up with above. I really recommend thinking about having students keep only the items they need every day in their desks.

For the Yellow List: Write "Caution!" at the top. At the bottom, write something like, "Are you supposed to have these items out right now? If not, put them _____________." On the yellow part, write out the things you want them to keep put away.

Your Yellow List may look a little different depending on how you run your classroom. If you choose to use community supplies, these might be the items you write on this list. I do not do community supplies, but I have provided every student with a plastic box to store those supplies that we only use once or twice a week. I also added items to this list that my specific students tended to play with if they were kept in their desks. The fewer things there are in their desks for them to mess with, the fewer distractions there are from learning!

For the Red List: Write "Stop!" at the top, and "Do not bring these items to school!" at the bottom. On the red part, write out the list of things you do not want students to have in your classroom. I also added the caveat "Anything not on the Green or Yellow List" to eliminate all of the thousands of items I did not specifically name.

I did not intend the Red List to contain a list of school-prohibited items, like weapons, etc. This is my own personal list for my classroom. I could have kept it simple by merely writing the bit about "Anything not on the Green or Yellow List", but I wanted to spell out some things specifically. I picked the most common items that this particular group of students kept trying to sneak to school and listed those, which is what I recommend for this system. Your list may look entirely different from mine.

Finally, tape the pieces together and display it in your classroom.

Go over this with students in detail, and then refer them to the list when they try to bring extra "stuff" to school or cram their desks full of things they don't need.

I would love to hear how this works for other teachers out there!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lined Valence with Rod Pocket

I just had to make a valence to go along with the curtains and tie-backs I made for my baby girl's room. The curtains didn't look complete without it.

See how boring?

This is another lengthy, picture-heavy post. The sewing itself is not complicated--it's all straight seams--so I encourage you to give it a try, even if you're fairly new to sewing. Really, the only overwhelming thing is the amount of fabric you're working with, but don't let that scare you.

Decide how long you want your finished valence to be. I went with a finished length of about 18". The width measurement isn't very critical as this is a gathered valence. I wanted the valence to have more gather to it than the curtains, so I went with a finished width of 120" for my 48" window--or roughly two-and-a-half times the window width.

To keep things simple, I am pretending that you are making your valence out of one fabric, rather than using two, as I did. (If you want to use two fabrics, figure out how long you want the bottom piece to be, and then add only your hem measurement to that and add only the rod pocket and "frill" measurement to the top fabric).

First, we need to figure out our cutting measurements. The width is easy--120" plus seam allowance. Actually, I decided to piece together two rectangles, giving me a seam down the middle of my valence. It saved me a lot of yardage! I cut them each 61" long.

The height cutting measurement takes a little more math. Don't worry, I'll walk you through it.
Ready? Let's dive in!

Start with your desired finished height measurement--mine was 18". Add 4" for the hem, bringing your measurement to 22". Now, add the amount you need to create the pocket to fit your curtain rod, plus 1/2" for seam allowance; mine only needed 1" for the rod pocket, plus the 1/2" seam allowance, bringing my measurement to 23 1/2". I also wanted a little "frill" at the top, above the rod pocket. I went with 1 1/2" because I wanted it to be just slightly higher than the frill on my curtains, which I had made at 1". This brought me to an even 25" for my height cutting measurement.

Okay, almost there, we can do this!

Now for the lining. You want the lining to be 4" narrower than the curtain--in other words, instead of a 120" finished width, you want a 116" finished width. Again, I was piecing mine to save on yardage, so I went with two rectangles, which I cut at 58" each (2 inches shorter for each one, pieced together, takes 4 inches off the total measurement--with me?)

For the height measurement, we will again start with our desired finished measurement, which was 18". However, as I realized when sewing the curtains, you don't want the lining quite as long as the main fabric. Therefore, I went with a finished measurement of 17". Starting here, I added the amount needed for my hem. I didn't want my lining hem to be as deep as my valence hem, so I only added 2", bringing my measurement to 19". Then, I added the same 1" for the rod pocket plus 1/2" seam allowance, bringing me to 20 1/2". Finally, I added the same 1 1/2" "frill" allowance, for a cutting measurement of 23".


Here's what we're left with:

Cut two rectangles of valence fabric, 61" x 25"
Cut two rectangles of lining fabric, 58" x 23"

Seriously, it's almost irritating to spend that much time on math for four pieces of fabric. But now the fun part can begin!

Sew the two valence rectangles together end-to-end with a 1/2" seam allowance, leaving you with one long skinny rectangle. Do the same for the lining pieces. (If you are making yours with a different color at the bottom, as I did with mine, attach it now.)

Taking the valence rectangle, press up 4" for your hem across the entire length.

Unfold. You should be able to see a nice straight crease all the way across.

Take the bottom edge and bring it up to the crease, leaving you with a 2" fold. Press.

Leaving this folded, fold again on original crease line, giving yourself a 2" doubled hem.

Pin along the edge.

Stitch as close to the pinned edge as possible.

What a beautiful hem!

Now you're going to repeat this same process for the lining hem, just using different measurements.

Fold up and press 2" of your lining hem.

Unfold so you can see the crease.

 Fold up 1", which will take your raw edge just to the crease. Press.

Leaving folded, fold again on original crease, giving yourself a 1" doubled hem.

Pin along edge.

Stitch as close to pinned edge as possible, leaving you with another professional-looking hem.

Now lay out your valence fabric, and then lay your lining fabric on top of it, right sides together. Line up the top and one edge. Now, getting 120" of fabric all lined up at this point may seem overwhelming. Just line up enough of the top to make sure everything is straight. You're only sewing the side right now, so that's the only critical part. Remember, your lining will be 1" shorter at the bottom, and that's a good thing. Pin the side edges together.

Stitch the edges together using a 1/2" seam allowance.

Now, still keeping the top lined up, line up the other ends and stitch them, as well. The fabric won't lay out smoothly at this point, because remember, your valence fabric is 4" wider than your lining fabric. As long as your ends and the top edges are lined up, you're good.

Once both sides are stitched together, flip the whole thing right-side out. Lining-side up, arrange the fabric until the amount of valence fabric peeking around the sides is about the same on both ends (roughly 1" showing on each end). Press, taking care to make sure your seam allowance goes the same direction for your entire seam. Serge or sew the top edges together.

Now, down at the hem on each side, you've got this weird unfinished piece of valence fabric sticking out. We're going to clean that up a little before moving on.

Tuck that raw edge under, forming a diagonal fold from the corner of the valence to the corner of the lining. Press.

Using a blindstitch, stitch this closed by hand.

Tie off and snip your threads.

Much better! Maybe no one will ever see it, but I feel better when even the hidden parts of my projects have a professional finish!

Going back to the top edge, where you just serged your fabric and lining together, press under 1/2" across the entire length of the valence.

Keeping that folded, fold and press an additional 2 1/2" (or whatever the measurement is for your rod pocket plus "frill"). This is where we are forming the rod pocket and "frill", and where all those extra measurements we took in the beginning come in.

Pin along the edge.

Stitch as close to the pinned edge as possible.

Measuring up 1" (or whatever your rod pocket measurement is) from this stitch line, run a second line of stitching.

Guess what? You're done! Go hang that puppy up and admire your work!

A valence can really complete the look of a window treatment!

Curtain Tie-Backs

I recently made curtains and a valence for the coming arrival of my baby girl. I decided to do the tutorials for the curtains, valence, and tie-backs in separate posts, because otherwise it was just too long! If you already have curtains and just need tie-backs, this is the post for you! No searching through 25 pictures of the curtain-making process. :)

You will just need a few scraps of fabric. A quarter of a yard is more than enough. You will also need some curtain rings, which can be purchased at any fabric store. They come in different sizes; I bought the half-inch ones.

First, cut 4 rectangles 21" by 4". This will give you a finished measurement of 20" by 3".

Fold each rectangle in half and round off the corners of the raw edges--make sure not to do this to your folded edge!

Open up the fabric. Right sides together, pin two of the pieces together all the way around.

Sew around the edges with a 1/2" seam allowance. Leave a small space (about 1 1/2"-2") open.

Trim around the edges so that you have a thin 1/4" or so seam allowance. Cut little V-shaped snips around the curves. You want the point of the V to be just at the stitching line--but take care not to cut through it! These clips will help the curve lay smoothly when you turn the tie-back right-side out.

Using that small opening you left in the stitching line, turn the tie-back right-side out. You may have to use a long, blunt object, like the back end of a knitting needle, to reach in and turn those curves all the way.

After turning, give the whole thing a quick press with the iron to help it lay nice and flat.

Topstitch as close to the edge as possible. This will also close the hole you left in the seam, so you don't have to stitch it closed by hand. Yay for less hand-sewing!

Now take one of the plastic rings and lay it on the end of the tie-back. Line it up so the edge of the ring comes just to the edge of the tie-back, but not past it. We don't want it peeking out once it's in use!
Stitch over it by hand just at one spot, as shown. Be careful to only catch one layer of fabric as you sew so that you don't see the stitching on the right side of the tie-back.

Stitch over it several times to reinforce, then tie off and snip your threads. Repeat on the other end of the tie-back. Be sure to put both rings on the same side (the back) of the tie-back!

You're done with the first one! Repeat the steps to make the second tie-back, and you are ready to put them to use!

You will need a small hook in the wall on each side of your window. I got mine at a hardware store, but most craft stores will have them, as well.

With the right side against the wall, put one end of the tie-back onto the hook. Run the free end behind and around the curtain, and then place it on the hook, as well.

And just like that, you are done! A cute, easy, and cheap way to hold back your curtains!