Friday, January 30, 2009


*Ben's jammie pants from daddy's old boxers

So, my husband has become an avid recycler and composter. And I get to bear the brunt of his excitement. All our recycling is labeled, sorted and taking over my kitchen! And I don't even want to discuss the "compost bowl" since he sees no reason to buy one of those new-fangled compost buckets with the charcoal filter at Williams-Sonoma for 29.95. Every day i get to look into what was once our breakfast/lunch/dinner and wonder why i agreed to this nonsense.

well, because secretly i believe in it too. There is a thrift gene in me that is becoming stronger as this economy continues to tank. I've always had it, having grown up poor and without. But once money and the ability to buy my inner child her every desire came about, I kinda kicked my thrift gene to the curb. But she hung around. She knew it wouldn't last. Eventually owning so many shoes, and every handbag known to man gets dull. And frankly, with this post-baby body, all those cute clothes should be hanging in someone else's closet.

But there are still needs in this house to be fulfilled. clothing for the boy, linens and such for the tables and beds, "pretty" things to please my inner decorator. But in this economy, buying all those things just doesn't make sense.

So, my new passion: upcycling! Taking something that was bound for the thrift store, or worse, the garbage or rag bin, and making it into something functional, and hopefully beautiful. I've already been doing some of this--using Pete's old clothes or some old pillowcases to make Jammies for Ben. But this passion needs fertile ground! It's time to put my creative bend to a utilitarian task! My Chinese New Year resolution, since it's year of the OX, is to do one upcycling project once a month to fill those needs that are in this house! Ok, and maybe a few wants too! And what better way to get my husband into my crafting. Since i told him about this idea, he is handing me things left and right to use! I've had to tell him to slow down, or my project list will look like our paper recycling area! (Don't ask)

So keep an eye out for my first upcycle project, the t-shirt and jeans quilt.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Double Sided Door Snake

So i know you've seen this on TV--i know you, you late night lurkers! Anyway, amidst your Star Trek Reruns and Knitting shows, you may have seen an ad for a door snake that covers both sides of the door, and thought--well hell, i could MAKE that. Guess what? it's even easier than imagined. Took me the total of 30 minutes--and i was stopping to take pics so that i could make this tut! Easy as pie, my friends!

First step--material. Since i was doing this from scratch, I went to my stash to find a piece big enough to use, and ugly enough that i didn't care if it got trashed. I found this fleece remnant and figured it was perfect. This was for a door most wouldn't see, so I didn't care too much about looks. In hindsight, this was a good choice, simply because the fleece was super easy to work with, and is great for keeping out the cold! BTW---I found this piece in the remnant cart at JoAnn's--for a song! If you don't need a huge piece, and aren't looking for a particular color, the remnant pile is THE place for fleece.

Anyway, i had previously measured the door (36" wide and 2" thick). I have no idea is this is standard, so measure your own door! Add 16 inches to the thickness. Now, add 1 inch to both the length and width of this piece for seam allowances and you've got your rectangle. Mine measured 19x37. In hindsight, I should have added one more inch to the length of my design--I've got a small gap at one end. Measure twice, cut once--works for sewing too! Once you've got your piece cut, serge your ends. If you're using fleece, it really isn't necessary, but i liked the look of a finished edge.

Ok. Now, on each long side, fold over 4.5 inches (This will make a thick snake. If you want thinner, change your initial measurements. I added 8" on either side of the 2" door width. Draw this out if it helps--for a thinner snake, change that 8" measurement. 4" would be good.) Once that is folded over, pin it down and stitch 1/2" from the raw edge. Then sew 1/4" from the edge fro a strong double seam. Shortening your stitch will make a tighter seam so your filling won't have a chance to leak. My machine has a few quilting stitches, so i used the piecing stitch. Repeat this for the other side. Once the two long ends are done, use this seam for one end. I also serged the end to tidy it up--you know how fleece can shift...

Here comes the fun part. Get a piece of cardstock or sturdy but flexible cardboard. Curl it sot hat you have a cone, and insert the small end into one tube and release. Instant funnel! I filled my tubes with kitty litter (cheap and it absorbs odor!) but you can use rice or some other heavy filler. I figured the kitty litter was cheaper. I just scooped it into the tube until I had about 1.5 space left, jiggled it a bit to get some leverage on the open end, dragged it over to the machine and stiched. Repeat for the other tube, and then, of course, the ubiquitous serge to tidy up the end. Voila! One completed double door snake!

*some ladies on SewForum suggested using pipe insulation instead of kitty litter! Fantastic idea. then you wouldn't have to seal the ends, and you could slip out the insulation to wash these when needed! Thanks for the great idea ladies!

Now, slip it under your door and you've got a door snake that moves with the door, and doubles your draft protection! If you're worried about chewy pets, give it a quick spray with apple bitters, and they will leave it alone. Once you've got it installed, make yourself a hot drink and relax. You're heating bills are decreasing already!

By the way--what to do with the fleece you have leftover? What about reusable swiffer cloths?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Every once in a while JoAnns will have a tremendous sale on patterns--a 99cent extravaganza. And a while back when i felt the need to fill out my pattern cache, I took those sales very seriously--researching all the patterns i wanted from whichever particular brand was on sale, and having a field day in the pattern drawers. As an aside--there is something deeply comforting about the sound of those pattern drawers-the feel--like ball bearings on velvet, or the taste of the perfect custard. It's a creamy feel, those drawers, and it's one of my personal joys to pore over a drawer of patterns to locate that gem I saw only moments before on a page. And the feel of a new pattern envelope! Everything flat and pressed--not like the jumbled mess that occurs AFTER you cut everything out.

But back to my sale. So with a new baby at home, I felt the primordial need to create a "busy book. You know--use up all those scraps like our grandmothers of yore. Be thrifty! Create an heirloom. One thing i had forgotton though is the amout of time these sorts of things took, and the crazy little efforts to applique this and button that. This pattern sat in MY pattern drawer (a not quite as pleasing vintage wood drawer with the unmistakable squawk of Wood against wood) until just a month ago. I was pulling out some other patterns to scan into my new catalog (trying to make a buck or two in this economy) when i ran across it again and realized--yes it was time. My son is now two. It's time to learn to button and tie and zip.

I decided to embroider the cover to make it personal. I had lofty goals to embroider the blank pages opposite the activity pages with the "instructions", but by the time i got to this, I just wanted to finish the damn thing and move on.

I found that some of the pages had no real skill at all. And nowhere in this beast was a snap to be found. Is a snap not a worthwhile skill? More challenging than velcro, which found itself highlighted on at least TWO pages. The Cat page simply had jingle bells in the bowtie, and the butterfly had crinkly wings. Where's the challenge there?

So i changed the cat to a snap on bowtie, as well as replaced the velcro on the birds nest with snaps. As for the butterfly, I lost inspiration, and simply sewed on a bow to tie. I don't expect my toddler to master tying anytime soon, but he can practice here as much as he wants.

This pattern required a great amount of felt. I was hoping to really dig into my statsh to put this together, but instead had to make an emergency run to Michael's to fill my felt cache. (and inexpensive cahe to have) Once i got over my disappointment, I began to realize how easy felt made thi project. If i had to sew and turn all thos little bits, I would have put a bullet in my brain. Or at least ran my hands through the serger.

In the end, I had to finish up the hand work--sewing buttons on and closing doggy stomachs, lest his poly intestines came free. After that came construction. But i was so DONE with this thing that i didn't pay attention, and sewed up the wrong sides when i put the pages together. They were supposed to be on the Right side with the left side blank. Oncei realized my mistake, I just rolled with it. There was no way i was going to rip anything else out and begin again. This book needed finished before my son awoke from his nap. Period.

Said son loves this book by the way. He will sit for some time, babbling in his "sweet" voice and trying to rip the buttons off. Fine praise indeed.