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Monday, May 28, 2012

My First Quilt

Since getting a sewing machine during the holidays, I have been creating little projects for myself. Now I wasn't absolutely new to sewing when I got it, but I have never done anything complex like clothing (well except for a few costumes, but those don't count.) or anything like that. So one of my resolutions this year is to get up close and personal with my machine and grow beyond my novice level.

I have used it several times by the time I started this project, so I felt like I was ready to take it up a notch. I have been contemplating for about six months what to do with my daughter’s room since she is ready for a big girl bed. I knew that I wanted a trundle bed just for the added benefit of an extra mattress in the house for guests or future sleepovers. (yes, I am thinking way ahead!) And I also wanted a little something that she could have forever like a quilt.

I signed up for a free quilting block on craftsy which I have looked at all of 3 times (I know, bad me). I just realized after watching the assignment how-to videos that the repetition of cutting up my hard work would probably drive me nuts at this point in my sewing journey.

I have noticed a lot of attention has been given to rag quilts lately on the internet. I looked at several tutorials like the one on The CompleteGuide to Imperfect Homemaking (thank you pinterest!) and decided that even I could handle this one! So I have been working on this for 2 months (husbandless nights when he is up late working and occasional naptimes) and I am very happy with the results!

I don’t think it would be necessary to go into a tutorial with you since there really are several good ones online already. But I thought I would share with you some simple embellishments I added and how I organized the layout - which seemed a little overwhelming once I had 120 squares sewn. 

Laying out the Rag Quilt
The Fabric I wanted on the outside was sandwiched between batting and a slightly larger square
from an old King sheet. I added the extra fabric for added warmth in the finished product.
Then I sewed them together with a simple X to save time.
So what I started out with is a piece of paper and a grid. I separated all the squares to figure out how many of each fabric, so I could allocate them in a balanced way across the finished blanket. Then I just started laying down squares on the ground and messed around with them. I sewed… and sewed… I worked my way in from the outside. Once I had all the pieces sewn in strips, I went about the task of bringing the strips together… This actually got more and more challenging as more pieces got sewn together because it was LONG and HEAVY.

Backing up a bit, you will notice in some of the squares there is extra fabric. I decided to add a little heart embellishments to a couple squares. This is something I dreamed up since I didn't see anything like this in any tutorial. It was very simple and looks great in the finished product!

Adding a Quilted Heart to Rag Quilt

These squares were sewn before all the squares were put together.
Once it was all sewn together I made the "rag" look by cutting all the extra fabric around the seams. This too a LONG TIME. After about 10 minutes of this, I put it away for the night and the next day headed to Joann's Fabric Store to buy me a nice pair of fabric scissors. Much better!
I did not cut up the outside of the quilt. Instead I chose to cut off the excess fabric and add some finishing fabric to it. I noticed that the other tutorials online finished it up by ragging it out like the rest of the pieces that are put together. My reasoning behind spending the extra time: 
  1. I want it to wear well with my little one. And be usable in 10 years.
  2. If it was my blanket, I wouldn't like the fringe against my face when I sleep.
Finished Quilted Heart
At the fabric store I would have had to purchase about 6 packages of seam binding to the tune of $5 each. Now, I don't think it is an unreasonable price because of the folds. But I wasn't about to pay that much when I just spent about $45 on the quilt fabric & batting (the batting alone was $20 on sale with a coupon). In my crazy mind, I thought to myself, "I have plenty of extra fabric, I'll just sew it together and press it. No problem! Won't take any time at all." 

Well in the end, it took a very little time to sew pieces together and a lot of time to iron the creases. But sewing it on around the perimeter wasn't a difficult task. I am very happy with it. I do hope it holds up the way I envision it to.

Finished Blanket before washing
After all this, it was time to wash it. The fabric was not pre-washed because I wanted the edges to fray. I was so excited to see it finished! Once the wash is done, you will have to scrape all the thread out of the wash basin. Then in the dryer, I stopped it two times to empty the lint. (You would not believe the giant pile of lint I acquired!) When it was finally finished it looked great and linty.

I went through it and cut any long strings. Then I went over it with a lint roller, after about 15 sheets it was done! The night before Sarah's 2nd birthday. I felt that it was necessary to wrap it since this was (and her bed) her birthday present from Mommy and Daddy.

Here is the finished bed from the Bed Project. Looks Good!

To be honest, she wasn't very excited to find a blanket under the bright wrapping paper. And I didn't get a very good picture out of this memory--so sad.

But she really likes it on her bed! -- You might not be able to tell by this picture...

Find this post at the Blog hop on FrugallySustainableTatertots&jello, and Make it Pretty!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Life Cycle of Kid's Clothing

The clothing in my house goes through a lot of stages and I couldn’t help thinking about the life cycle of my kids clothing while I was doing laundry. and more laundry... and more... you get the idea.

I have some friends who pass down their clothes from sibling to sibling and others who buy new clothes and the give it away when their kids grow out of it. I consider this to be the normal life of kid’s clothes. In my effort to recycle and be cheap thrifty frugal I have come up with a system for kids clothes that seems to work for us.

  1. New” – I think half of my kids clothing is new and the other half are hand-me-downs (love them!)
  2. Wear, wear, wear – hopefully they don’t get paint stains prematurely… Some days the kids change clothes more than once and that makes for a lot of laundry. Any pants that were only warn a couple hours while not doing heavy playing or messy eating gets warn the next day since I consider those clean.
  3. Next there are a couple of choose-your-own-adventure variables
                Stained – If I cannot get a stain out, these get demoted to pajama/play clothes status
                Destroyed – Bummer! Holes and too much wear & tare from laundry with cheap fabric make for either retirement, recycle or pajama status. (My kids wear a lot of shirts and sweats to sleep in.  It’s not like anyone sees their night clothing other than family!)
                Too small – If they last to this point that’s great then there are other options for them.

     4.   Pajama or play (you know… the messy kind with paint and mud) – any closes that make it in the stained or destroyed category above gets demoted to this category.
     5.  Kids grow fast! What happens when clothes are out grown:

Retirement – make its way out of the closet and into the recycle or trash bag
Hand Down – I save a couple pieces of special clothing or ones that look like they are new. Boy stuff I hand down to my cousin, who gives it back when her boys grow out of it. Girl stuff I just save since I don’t have anyone to share it with. The idea is that I can help out my siblings when they have kids or you never know.
Recycle – Here is a pile of fabric I can use for silly projects and house rags.
            Re-purpose – This is a fun one if the option is available. If the top of a onsie fits but the bottom doesn’t snap (even with a onsie extender) you can cut the bottom half off, hem and then you have a pajama shirt. Or a pair of pants that fit their waist still but look like they are anticipating a flood, can be cut and made into shorts.
Sell – Anything that isn’t sentimental to save or too trashed to trash gets sold. It is really nice that there are resources like craigslist to do this. I take a picture of a bunch of stuff, put it in a giant box and call the lot $20. Or if I am able to have a yard sell, I try to sell things for $1 an item or bundled for a little less. This gives me a little more money to buy more clothes or shoes that I need to buy.

I think that about covers it. If there are any other ideas out there on how to stretch the clothing dollar for kid’s clothes, love to hear them!

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This was shared on Frugally Sustainable and Cheerios and Lattes!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I sCream, U Scream...

I Love Ice Cream!

I try not to overly indulge. Just a spoonful when I need a fix. A spoonful in my chai tea or coffee is my go-to treat.  As fun as ice cream is to eat (my kids have even asked for ice cream for breakfast…) I am not overly thrilled by the ingredients.

From the Dryer’s website I found a list of ingredients, which includes: corn syrup, whey, acacia gum, guar gum, natural flavors, carob bean gum, carrageenan, xanthan gum.

So I thought I would experiment a little. To be honest, I was a little nervous trying this because I have always heard that you need an ice cream maker (you know that ice cream makers cost between $30-200?!). Although when I was in girl scouts we made (SALTY!) ice cream using coffee cans and good old rolling power that took hours. 

The Plan: no manual labor or salty ice cream or ice cream maker.

The Result: YUMMMM I am so adding ice cream to my must-make-from-scratch list!

Here is what I did.
I added ingredients to my blender. I turned it on. Dumped it into a container and put it in the freezer. I churned it by hand twice. The next evening we had perfectly smooth & frozen ice cream for dessert. That’s it. And yes, I was amazed that it worked!

Simplified, No-gadget Ice Cream
§  1 cup milk (I used 2%)
§  3/4 cup sugar (I used ½ cup agave)
§  2 cups cream
§  2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla paste (the paste has the vanilla beans in it!)
§  A couple ice cubes (I probably could leave this out)
§  Any mix ins that you don’t mind getting crushed in the blender. My son loved adding chocolate chips, which made the ice cream chocolate sprinkled.
1.    Put everything in a blender
2.    Once it is all blended add it to a container and stick it in the freezer.
3.    After a few hours take it out of the freezer and stir it. Should be easy. You can add whole mix ins (like candy) if desired.
4.    Repeat step 3 – it shouldn’t be completely frozen.
5.    The next day you should have ice cream!

This was well worth the five minutes of time it took to whip up!

Find it on FrugallySustainable Link Party and I can teach my child Linky Party!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The stuff I do

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine. She just had her fourth baby and tries to feed them in a healthy and organic way. Since I have been trying to do the same (and save a little money too) I promised to send an email with some of my purchasing tips to her. No stranger to finding deals, she never purchases from the internet because she doesn't know about the resources available there. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Journey of a Microwave-less Kitchen

April and the microwave died again… I am thinking that the universe doesn’t want me to use a microwave anymore.

In the last year we have burned through three microwaves. They weren’t new and that was the problem I am sure. When our old microwave bit the dust I found one on freecycle that was too small so I passed it on to another person and took another rejected old (but working at the time) microwave. Since that one has also gone to a better place I have been considering what life would be like without a microwave.

Since reading up on the food effects of cooking in themicrowave not to mention the uncertainties I have with my microwaveableplastic-ware, I have resorted to using my microwave only when necessary. I try to heat up leftovers in my oven or on the stove. I boil hot dogs rather than nuke them. I have gone from a 98% microwave cooking machine to an almost-everything-from-scratch and 8% microwaver in the last year. Baby steps! That is quite an accomplishment for me.

I consider my microwaves demise an interesting challenge for myself. Can I live without it? Look at all the counter space I gained! Instead of taking up my prep space to make bread, my bread maker fits great there when I need it and it is conveniently next to a plug.

In 2 weeks, my only problem: butter. How was I going to get melted butter without a microwave?! I didn’t really feel like cleaning a pan, so I stuck it in my toaster oven (I love this appliance!). This worked out fine. It took a little longer than a microwave and the jar got super hot, but it did the job just fine.

Can a babysitter handle it? I must admit I was a little worried since everyone I know has one. We left a babysitter one night with a box of Mac & cheese and hot dogs to make. Luckily our nephew didn’t have any problem using the stovetop since he prefers hot dogs boiled anyway.

4 weeks after it's death - Our next challenge came with reheating some chicken and spaghetti when my husband came home late. He was hungry and realized (after the food was on a plate) that there was no microwave. I thought it was a little funny – but he did not. My quick fix: heat up the toaster oven the bake setting and put the contents of his plate into a pie tin. Nice! The pie tin fit in there perfectly and it only took about 10 minutes to heat it up. I will have to get some more pie tins – preferably ceramic ones.

My husband isn’t too keen on the idea of living without a microwave so I will probably have to replace it someday. Too bad…

Found on Link Party