Saturday, December 18, 2010

Easy Gift Idea: Cloth Napkins or Dish Towels

While shopping at IKEA, I stumbled into their fabulous fabric selection and couldn't help myself with this one. It just reminded me so much of the kitchen.

I bought a yard of it, prewashed it of course, and cut it into 12 pieces. I measured one of the cloth napkins we regularly use against the size it would be and concluded it would be big enough.

Then I hemmed all four sides on each piece, and added a woven label to each. For the corners, I folded them over the other side instead of mitering.

If you are an avid reader of my blog, you will notice this same technique used for burp cloths (in flannel) and baby blankets (in fleece, flannel, or cotton). It is only the size of the material that differs. Yeah, and other posts on dish towels and cloth napkins.
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kids' Meal Idea: Salad Wraps

Early on, we leanred that making something into a "taco" was an almost-sure way to get our child to eat something. I haven't been resorting to tortillas lately, but found these rice paper wrappers in the pantry the other day.

They are hard-- then you dip them on a plate of hot water to soften, then put the good stuff inside, and roll it up. An easy (and tasty) way to make that food a hit.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Review: Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes

I was recommended this book by a friend, who described it as a bunch of case studies of  moms who were staying at home but doing a lot of tasks themselves like sewing and cooking and raising chickens.  She said these women were changing the world by radically making their houses into homes.

I found it at the library, and didn't mind spending the time reading it, but didn't really learn anything worthy of note.

The first half of the book was an interesting history of women and men and their roles in keeping house and how the industrial revolution and then feminism changed people's ideas of these places.

The second half of the book was her take on what she learned by interviewing twenty families.  She analyzed her interviews and broke them into similarities and then illustrated each of her qualities with quotes from her interviews.

She gave longer summaries of each family as an appendix.

I found the first half too long and slightly repetitive (although interesting), and the second half did not go deep enough.  I found it hard to keep the families apart, and really wanted to get to know them better.  I read the appendix about the families, and didn't learn much more about them than the tidbits she had mentioned earlier in the book.  I felt like the whole book was a teaser for actually getting a view into the lives of these people.  Instead the reader got the author's analysis dotted with a few quotes.

I don't really recommend this book.  I love the concept, but the execution lacked depth. Pin It

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Failed Vest Modification

This vest was made using Kwik Sew 2911, which I have had a lot of success with. I usually modify it to remove the pockets and use fold over elastic (FOE) to line the hood, armholes, and bottom instead of binding it with lycra swimsuit material like the pattern recommends.

In this case, I removed the pockets, which I am happy with. I wanted it to be very (gasp!) neutral, and didn't have any FOE that wouldn't stand out when paired with the navy blue windpro fleece and slightly lighter zipper. So I skipped the FOE and hemmed it. It hasn't gotten really cold yet, but I think this vest may be a failure. I suspect the armholes won't be tight enough, the hood may fall off too easily, and air will get in through the bottom. I think this will probably negate the fabric choice of "windpro."

Live and learn!
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Heidi and Finn Urban Unisex Hoodie, Modified (Again)

Whenever I put my son in his hooded jacket I made from heidiandfinn's urban unisex hoodie pattern, people mention how cute SHE is. I say "thank you" but I think maybe the topic of genderizing our offspring properly could be encouraged by my son's personal seamstress.

As such, I was enlisted to make him the same great jacket again, but to use a more masculine color like blue.

So I went into my stash and found this navy blue windpro fleece I had been keeping for diaper covers. I let my son pick the lining fabric, and he chose the loudest knit he could find. I was able to piece together enough of it for the body and cuffs, and used a white lycra for the arm liners (so it would feel the same from the inside and you would hardly notice it was different fabric).

I did similar modifications as last time I made this, namely making it into a jacket instead of a pull-over hoodie. I did the bottom piece slightly differently, though. I followed the pattern directions to make the main jacket and lining jacket. Then I attached the edge piece to the exterior and to the interior before stitching them together and pulling them out of one arm. I did this so that the line attaching the edge would be less bulky, and am happy with it. This modification caused me to topstitch all around the jacket, including at the bottom, and I am happy with that as well.

The buttons are wooden ones that my son LOVES, and a froggie button with eyes that move.  He really likes fingering the wooden buttons.
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Upcycled Ladies' Clothing into Toddler Pants

The green fabric was the body of a ladies' fitted shirt with buttons down the front. I took off the buttons but left the holes as an accent.

 My favorite pants pattern was used for both pairs of pants, and I made sure to line up the bottom of the pattern with the hem of the green shirt and of the red skirt so I could re-use their hemming as well.

The red skirt was a flared A-line t-shirt material skirt. I was able to keep some of the detail from the original skirt (see back of pant leg). I also re-used the waistband of this one, cutting about an inch below the original elastic and stitching it to the pant legs using this material. It didn't lay flat, so I had to topstitch it so the stitching wouldn't bother my toddler.

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XL Easy Up and Down Pants

This Easy up and down pants pattern has been my favorite pants pattern for a long time. My only gripe with it is that it doesn't specify length of elastic for the waist. I feel like my son has been stuck at 18" of 3/4" elastic per pair of pants since he started wearing the size L (which now are about 3" too short on him). I like the ease of making the waistband, and the flare at the bottom. I don't do the hem as she suggests-- I usually just roll and hem it as you would a normal pair of pants. My son is wearing the XL size now, and they are a little wide in the leg, but good otherwise.

Here are two more pairs of these. They are both made with Michael Miller knits.
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Simple Burp Cloths

We went through so many burp cloths when our son was young. As a result, I try to give them whenever possible. This newest batch was about half-yard of fabric cut into four pieces. Each piece was about 12" by 6". To make them, I rolled the edges under (you are free to press here). Then I stitched the edge, sewing from the back side and lifting the presser foot with the needle down at each corner. The corners are made by rolling one edge over the other, already rolled, edge.

I decided not to line these with terry so that they would be smaller and more portable. Also, flannel is fairly absorbent on its own and makes for a good cloth. The size is just about right to cover one shoulder.  Any cotton would do well here.
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More Boys' Underwear

My son likes his "pretty underwear" that I made for him in a size 2T when he was less than a year old (see previous post). Some of them still fit, but he is growing out of others. So I am starting production on the 4T size. They are still a little big, but I am sure they will be great in no time.
These are made using That Darn Kat's pattern from Etsy. Each pair takes a surprising amount of labor, but the detail really shows, and they are adorable on.

This first pair is made using a Michael Miller knit with a clearance fabric from Wazoodle.
The bottom pair is made with white fleece, red scraps from a skirt that I made into a pair of pants, and the trim is from JoAnn's from a few years ago.

As an aside, my husband thinks they are a little feminine, but I think I will wait to make less bright ones until he is older.
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Old Sweatshirt into Vest and Sweatpants

This "Praha Drinking Team" sweatshirt was too precious to give away and too, um, 80's to wear. So I made it into a kids' vest and a pair of sweatpants.

For the vest, I used Kwik Sew 2911 (again)-- this time sized 3T. It was really easy. I used fold over elastic (aka FOE) for the armholes and bottom. I made sure to line it up so that the existing collar would be where the collar was meant to go, so I didn't have to make one. And yes, the zipper has a heart as the pull-toggle. Love it!

The pants were made from the arms. I cut off the arms and lined up my favorite pants pattern onto them so I could figure out where to cut the crotch out. You could just as easily do this with a pair of pants that fits your child. There wasn't enough fabric left over to make the standard waist that I have been doing on all his pants, so I used FOE. I am happy with these, except that they taper inwards at the ankle a bit more than I like/ am used to. They are fine.
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Baby Shower Gift Set

I talked to this expectant mama about two weeks before her shower. I had been planning on making her burp cloths and a mei tai carrier, or maybe a few diapers or covers. I asked her what she had and what she thought she needed and she said she had been given a ton of little cloths and how many could one mama need (I told her we went though about 5 to 10 per day and she sounded shocked). She also said she had been given a Bjorn hand-me-down with a sturdy back support, so it sounded like she didn't need a carrier. She also said they had gotten a TON of clothes for the first six months. I love making cloth diapers, but they weren't sure what they were going to use, so I will have to wait to gift them these if they go for cloth. They also did not know the baby's gender. Hmmm....

So I pulled out my white microfleece and got to making a 6-12 month sized fleece vest. I used my favorite Kwik Sew 2911 pattern, omitting the pockets and substituting the zipper for white Kam snaps. [See previous post for more detail on making these.]

I also made her a few sets of nursing pads (when I asked if she had any, she asked what they were), using white PUL on the outside, white microfleece on the inside, and Zorb in the middle. I have made these once before, and used white suedecloth for those. It was a lot easier to use than microfleece, since microfleece stretches along the circle edges. Both suedecloth and microfleece should wick the moisture away from mama and into the Zorb nicely. [See previous post for more detail on making these.]

I also thought a small piddle pad could be useful. This one (shown rolled and tied with a ribbon, on right) is about 18" by 12". It is fleece on the front, PUL on the back, and Zorb in the middle. I quilted together the Zorb and fleece before attaching the PUL so that it would be quilted but the PUL would have fewer chances to leak (ie through my quilting). I thought she could use it for a changing pad on the go, a lap pad for naked time, or a play pad when the baby gets older and they want naked time. [See previous post for more detail on making these.]

I couldn't resist a pair of burp cloths, flannel, about 6" by 12" and hemmed on all four sides. [See previous post for more detail on making these... or new post...]

Lastly, everyone can do with used books. The Girlfriends' Guide books make me laugh and are actually useful (some parts, at least). La Leche League books are also useful in general and Whole Foods for the Whole Family is a fine resource.
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Thanksgiving Kids' Art Idea: Turkey Finger Puppet

We have wild turkeys at the new house, and they wander past on a predictable schedule. Like- for weeks they came at 7:25 a.m., then just after 10 a.m., etc. They have been getting bigger and bigger, and one morning we were lucky enough to witness one female being wooed by a number of males. They strutted, she walked away, they circled. Then they didn't follow, so she turned back, made a noise, and they started again, each trying to have the biggest feathers.
Needless to say, there is a lot of turkey talk around here. The little guy is delighted to find everyone else talking turkey these days, too.
In anticipation for Thanksgiving, we turned some fleece scraps into a finger puppet. To make it, he chose the colors. I stitched the body from a rectange about 2" by 6" using the sewing machine. Then he chose the feather fabric and I cut them. Then he and I together hand stitched the feathers onto one side. We would have glued eyes on had we had any, but we instead used fabric markers to draw the face.

Here he is, later, with the puppet and tape in his pocket, and some of the winnings from the pea harvest in his hands.
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Kids' Art Idea: Rock Painting

These are river rocks painted with acrylic paints. You can have the kiddos paint on one side then let it dry (which it does fairly quickly), then paint the other side.

These were made weather-proof by letting them dry, then having a grown-up paint them with Gesso.

And now they live on, as a doorstop (seen here), or in the garden , mixed in with the other rocks...
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Repurposed Wood into Compost Bin = Garage Project for a Rainy Day

In preparation for the rainy weekend last weekend, we decided to make a new compost bin.  I'd been aching for a re-purposed bin of some sort and finally had an idea of what materials to use.

First we measured the space next to the coop and cut some old fence boards from a fence we tore down. Those are the sides and supports. The bottom is made from an old bench we tore out. We figured it was rotting away anyway, and we needed something (preferably free) for a new, larger compost bin.

First we put the bottom on the ground. Then we attached the vertical supports at the ends and "toenailed" them into the bottom. This means the screws went in at an angle through the post and into the bottom.

We also attached a framing piece for the door to hang on. It was half-height, and sat half-way up the front side supports and is screwed in.

Next step was to attach the back and side boards. The sides butted up to the back. These all screwed into the supports with two screws on each board and space between the boards for air flow.

After that, we made the door by screwing three planks onto two smaller size posts, making sure it would fit into the space between the side planks so it would lay flat. The smaller posts were slightly smaller than the space between the cross piece and the bottom.

Then we attached the top three boards in front. The bottom of these was attached to the front cross piece in a number of places. Then we went and bought two hinges, a handle, a chain, and a carebeaner~ made of zinc to withstand the elements. The hinges were attached to the door and bottom front plank. The handle went on the bottom. The chain and carebeaner are for the handle to attach onto when cleaning out the compost bin from the bottom. The logic here is that we won't have to turn it if there is air circulating and we can get the finished compost out from the bottom.

Here it is, after being wheeled across the yard in the wheelbarrow and hefted onto the ground and shimmied into place.
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Goat and Beet Pizza (and my toddler and husband loved it)

It only occurred to me to take a photo of this after we had devoured some, because it sounds a little, um, odd. But it tasted great and my toddler and husband ate it and asked for seconds, and for leftovers the next day. It is also slightly lopsided because we ran out of corn meal for the transfer from the pizza peel to the pizza stone, and I substituted with flour. Next time I am out of corn meal, I will use a lot more flour, or run to the store for corn meal. But I digress.

The crust is Trader Joe's herb pizza dough that you let rise yourself and roll yourself. I let it rise for half a day instead of the recommended 20 minutes and was really happy with the result. The cheese is their four cheese blend, and the pizza sauce is also Trader Joe's brand, but only a light coating. The goat was leftover goat leg from our meat club box, cut into small pieces. Any leftover meat will work. The beets were fresh organic chiogga beets from our CSA box, cut small and sauteed with an onion and their greens in butter. The tomatoes were an assorted variety from the garden, and added last. It was cooked on a pizza stone at 425 degrees for 14 minutes. Delicious!

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