Na Na Na Na Batman!

 I made this apron for my sister's birthday after seeing a similar one-and now I need a Wonder Woman one for me!

I didn't find a pattern quite like I was looking for, so I made one up.  The pattern below shows the size and colors to use-I used black but many of the classic batman costumes use a deep blue instead of black.

Here are some quick instructions-I didn't take photographs while sewing it up, but it should be fairly straightforward...I hope.

1.  Cut fabric pieces.  I've allowed for a 3/8 " hem, but you could use a smaller hem if you like, there aren't many places where it would create a problem.

2.  Take the gray piece, and press a 3/8" hem along one of the 15" sides.  Pin it to one of the black top pieces so the bottom and sides line up, and the pressed hem is folded inward and is at the top.  Clear as mud?  Good.  Topstitch the gray along the pressed hem with gray thread, and baste the sides together closer to the edge than 3/8".  (If you intend to sew the logo on rather than fusing it in place, attach the logo now.  See step 8.)

3. Pin the black top pieces right sides together so the gray piece is on the inside.  Sew around the sides and top, leaving the bottom open.  At the top, narrow your hem to form a point. Trim and clip seams to make turning it inside out easier. Turn it inside out and press.  Topstitch with black thread close to the edges.

4. Sew the two sash pieces together to create a (nearly) 90" long piece.  Press seam open.  Fold the sash in half so it is 90" long and 4" high, with the open edge on the outside.  Sew one short edge, and the long edge of the sash, then turn inside out through the open end of the sash. Fold in the raw edges of the open end of the sash and sew closed.  Press.

5. Hem two short sides and one long side of the apron skirt.  Gather the top of the skirt so it is 15 " wide.

6. Fold in the raw edges of the top.  Press.  Insert gathered edge of skirt about 3/8", adjusting gather to fit if needed.  Pin in place, then topstitch over all layers to attach skirt to top.  (Don't worry if the front seam is perfect, you'll be covering it with the sash.

7.  Pin center of sash to apron, so lower edge of sash is slightly below where the skirt meets the top.  Topstitch in place using black thread, and add extra seams to form the "utility belt"  If you wish the lines to be darker than mine are, you could use a zigzag or satin seam.

8.  I'll leave replicating the logo to you, I just found an image to use as a template and layered the black, yellow and black together with strong fuseable interfacing, then fused it to the apron.  I considered topstitching the logo to the apron, but that really should have been done when the gray was attached so the seam didn't show on the back.  I also decided I liked the clean look the interfacing gave.

*tip-when using double sided fuseable interfacing, it is a lot easier to cut the shape after fusing a slightly larger piece of interfacing to the fabric.  Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric, and keep the paper on while cutting the shape.  Remove the paper just before attaching it to the next layer.  If you cut the fabric first, you'll get a mess when the iron touches the exposed interfacing, and if you cut the interfacing first, I've found you don't get as clean of a cut.  Start with the biggest shape first and layer up, then fuse the finished logo to the apron.

9.  To finish the top you have a few options.  You can create strips of a contrasting color (gray or yellow will help the "ears" stand out) and use D rings to create an adjustable neck loop.  You can also use a piece of elastic as I did here, and just sew it to each tip, creating the proper height of neck loop.  This didn't work out so well though-it fit me fine but my sister is a bit shorter and it would have worked better to attach a hook and loop to the tips.  That would have made it fit her torso better.

Hope you have fun with this!  I'd love to see any you make-especially if you go for other superheroes!

Operation Organize: The Housework File

One of the biggest causes of stress for me has been the struggle to keep up with housework.  I've been on a search to find a way to manage what I need to do, and I came across a great method at Organized Home where index cards are used to organize the seemingly endless list of things that need to be done to keep up a home.  The card file helps me rotate through chores that only need doing occasionally.  This way I don't feel guilty walking past a window that could use some cleaning, or that dusty ceiling fan-I know I'll get to it soon enough.  After using it for a few months, I've tweaked their system a bit as I've learned what works for me and what doesn't work so well.

Here is a quick summary of how to set up a card system:

First step: Inventory
Walk through your home with a notepad and write down every chore that needs to be done, regardless if it is one you have to do daily or one that only needs attention once a year or so.  Don't worry if you don't think of everything at once, you can add or take out cards whenever you like.

Second: Create Your File Cards
What to put on the card:  For each chore you listed on the notepad, take an index card and list the chore in the middle of the card.  Decide how often that chore should be done-I divided mine into weekly, twice a month, monthly, every 3 and 6 months, and yearly, and write that on the card-I put it in the top left corner.  I only have a few yearly cards, and it turned out each one of them should be done a specific time of year (like changing fire alarm batteries and getting the AC unit serviced) so I'm thinking I'll just keep those cards as a reminder to put them on my calendar.

  On the back of the card I make a note of the date when I get a task done. In the photograph above I put a few more things on the sample card that some people find useful, like the location, time to complete, or a checklist of things to be done to complete the chore (which makes it easier to delegate to other family members if you have help). *Side note:  "Cleaning the Family Room" can mean different things to different people.  What seems to be obvious to you sometimes needs to be written out.  I took a family relations course where the instructor asked everyone to draw a picture of a house.  She came up to me and said "No, you're doing it wrong!" and moved on.  She came back several times and said this.  I had no idea why my house was wrong.  Finally she came back and pretended to be frustrated "No!  All houses should have two windows, a door in the middle, and a tree!!"  We avoid a lot of frustration and conflict with family members if we explain that to us a clean family room consists of the following: Pick up toys.  Vacuum.  Dust, and Wipe finger marks off the TV.  They might feel they are done after picking up toys.  If a child (or spouse) has a checklist to check off portions of the task as they go, you'll both be more likely to be pleased with the result. 
Colored Cards: There were several options for using colored cards-at first I used colors for different types of tasks-white was for housework, blue for paperwork...but found I only had one or two colored cards.  I decided to use the card file for housework tasks only, and I ended up using colored cards for each area of the house.  This way I pull the cards I need to do for the day, and can quickly group them by area since I like to tackle one room at a time. 
Frequent Tasks: Organized home suggests writing a card for everything.  I started out with cards for daily things like sweeping, running the dishwasher, etc.  Some people really like the satisfaction of filing away cards, but I found it was just one more thing to keep up with.  I combined some tasks I always do together-like washing dishes then wiping down the counters and stove.  I ended up tossing daily and weekly cards and made a card for each day of the week where I write a reminder of some things I'd like to get done that day-like watering plants and paying bills on Monday, recycling goes out on Wednesday, etc.  I use Tuesdays to make sure the kitchen counters are clear and the living room is presentable. I've found I'm a lot more motivated to tackle deep cleaning tasks if I've got a fairly clean house to start with. 
One-time tasks: I made one card where I listed odd jobs-things that only need doing once like mending a screen or building shelves for the garage.  As I complete these, I cross them off the list and start a new card.  I try to get at least one of these done a week.  Most of these are fiddly little repairs that don't take much time-like that loose doorknob you only notice when you are heading out the door and don't have time to do anything about at the moment.
De-cluttering:  I have several clutter magnets around the home.  The worst are the top of the piano, and the chef's cart in the kitchen.  Once or twice a week I clean these off so it doesn't become a big job.
Organizing: Once a week, I pick one closet, shelf, or drawer and organize it.  Organized home suggests moving through your house systematically -starting in one room and each time you tackle another spot, work your way clockwise through the room, then move on to the next room, and eventually you get back to where you started.  I usually pull everything out, wipe or vacuum out the area, and organize everything as I put it back.  I take this time to say goodbye to things I don't use or need. I usually keep a laundry basket there and toss everything that doesn't belong there into the basket.  (Putting away these items needs to be part of the chore for me or it would just sit there...) Some bigger closets, like the one with my fabric and crafts, take more than one session.  I have a card where I note the location of the area organized and the date I last tackled it.

Third: Using the Cards
There are a few ways to use your chore cards.  I started out with the calendar system but just switched to a much simpler system.  Both are explained below. 

Calendar System:
Organized Home suggests filing the cards using a calendar.  An index file with month and days are used to divide the cards up evenly between the weeks, and as a chore is completed, it is filed back into the calendar according to when it should be done next.  Divide these evenly through the calendar.  Take the weekly chores and place them all in the first week on your cleaning days.  The monthly chores should be divided into four (or five) piles and each pile placed in each week of the first month, chores to be done every three months are divided up by the number of cleaning days in the first three months and so on.  I filed most of the chores on my heavy cleaning day, Wednesday.  Chores that were to be done on  a certain date or season were filed into the month they needed doing.  I used Organized Home's method of dividing up the days of the week so each day is set aside for certain tasks.  If you are interested in how I organize my week, my post where I explain it is here.

As you complete a chore, you file it to the next date that it should be completed on.  Weekly chores are put in the next week's date, the monthy chores one month away, and so on.  If you can't complete a chore, you make a note on the card and file it as if you'd done it.  If you've skipped it twice, you should tackle that chore before others the next time it comes up.

Pros:  This is highly organized and it can be satisfying to refile each card months away as you complete the task.  You can easily file cards that need to be done seasonally.  Looking at the cards daily was motivation for me to keep up on things.

Cons:  If you have a bad week and don't open your can get complicated.  You can easily skip a chore or two and refile it, but A whole week of traveling or being sick throws it all off, and I had to unpack the files and re-divide them several times. This got old.

Rotating System
Instead of filing the cards into specific dates, I have one divider for each group of chores based on how often they need doing.  I then figure how many chores I need to finish that week in order to cycle through the whole pile within that time frame.
I've set aside every Wednesday for heavy cleaning, and Fridays for lighter cleaning.  When using the cards, I go through as many of the chores as I can on Wednesday, and finish the pile on Friday.  I've found I'm a lot more successful if I get all my weekly chores done on Tuesday-things like mopping and vacuuming, so I have a clean (ish) house to start with on Wednesdays.  It is easier to do things like wash windows if I'm not looking at sticky spots on the kitchen floor.
I have sixteen monthly chores, which need to be done every four weeks.  That means I needed to do four a week to rotate through all of them by the next month.  I had nineteen that need to be done every three months, which means I have twelve weeks to do them all.  If I do two a week, I'll cycle through them in less than three months, but I figure that will make up for an off week now and then.  I figured I'd use any fifth Wednesdays to catch up on odd jobs.  I ended up needing to do four monthly chores, two three-month chores, and one six month chores.  Chores that need to be done at a specific time of year will go into my planner instead of the file.
I ended up with the following task list for each week:
-Four Monthly
-Two 3-Month
-One 6-Month
-Organize one closet, shelf or drawer
-Do one odd job
As a job is completed it is filed at the back of its section.  If you don't get to it, you just leave it where you'll pull it next week.

Pros:  If I have an off week, I just pick up where I left off instead of having to refile everything.  It is a simpler system but still gets the job done.

Cons: I haven't noticed any so far.  I'll keep you posted :)

Fourth: Don't Get Discouraged!
Depending on how clean things were to begin with, it may take a while before your home is to where you'd like it to be.   I still get frustrated that it takes hours to clean the kitchen, and only 15 minutes to make it look like I haven't touched it in a week.  That's when I put on my martyr hat and start over :)  At least the living room...oh.  Nevermind.  It helps me to focus on the positive-every window you wash, every drawer you sort through, gets you closer to your goal.  At least I have a plan now, where before I'd just go hide in a book.

Again, I suggest you visit Organized Home.  I found it very useful, even if I ended up using a modified version of their system.  They may have suggestions that would work better for you.  In addition to the housework organization file, they have tons of other ideas, and they even have a holiday version of the card file to keep track of everything that needs to get done for the holidays! 
(I am not affiliated with Organized Home in any way, I'm just a big fan!)

Operation Organize: A Weekly Plan

I've been reading a lot of home organization blogs, and I found a method of organizing housecleaning at Organized Home that I'm giving a try.

One of the first things they suggest is to set up a regular weekly schedule, with days dedicated to the following.
  • a heavy cleaning day
  • a light-moderate cleaning day
  • a quiet day (for bills and paperwork)
  • a shopping/errands day
  • a family day
  • a free day 
Wait...there are only six there!  Only two cleaning days?  How can I possibly keep a clean house with two cleaning days?   I thought about it, and that free day looked awfully I decided to try it.  My schedule came out like this:
Monday: Desk Day. First I deal with paperwork that needs filing, mailing, shredding, scanning or recycling.  I walk through each room and pick up papers, put them in one big pile and deal with them.  I pay any bills due that week, check balances on accounts, and followup on any e-mail that needed dealing with.  I also use the day to plan the week-figure out a menu, check schedules and make appointments.

Tuesday: Errands and Shopping.  I live in a small town that I can get groceries and a few other things, so I try and concentrate most of my errands that require a trip "into town" on this day to save gas and time. After trying this schedule for a while, I found I was a lot better about getting heavy cleaning done if I had the basics done, (vaccuming, clean kitchen counters and floors, etc.).  I also found I rarely needed the full day for errands, so I moved my weekly chores to Tuesday.

Wednesday: Heavy Cleaning.  This is the day that I try and get some of the cleaning done that goes beyond weekly chores.  In my next post I'll explain how I rotate these jobs, but they include things I only need to do monthly, or every 3 to 6 months.

Thursday: Personal Day.  Whee! This is when I work on hobbies and projects I want to, or take the day to finish a book or pinterest or blog...without any guilt! I wanted a free day in between the cleaning days.

Friday: Moderate Cleaning Day.  I use this day to finish any big projects that I didn't get done on Wednesday, and to get the house looking nice for the weekend.

Saturday: Family Day.  I picked this day for family day, because everyone is home and we end up planning most of our family activities this day.

 Sunday: Another Free day, this is our Sabbath. 

There are still daily chores that need attention regardless of what the day is dedicated to-we still need to eat, the baby needs his routine, and I like to try and get dishes done and toys picked up daily etc.  Some activities (like reading or mopping) are currently limited to naptimes, but the point is that I now have a specific time set aside to get it done-and I get things done a lot faster now that I've mostly eliminated procrastination.  It is easier to dig into the housework when I don't feel it hanging over my head constantly. I set aside evenings as family time as well, and try to get that day's tasks done by then. 

After following this schedule for a while now, I've found it works really well for me.  It has reduced my stress level considerably, and it is flexible enough that I can rearrange dedicated days to fit that week's schedule.  Most importantly, I still have time dedicated that week to get housework done-but it no longer dominates my schedule.  I now have time for the important things that make life worth living.