Friday, June 26, 2009

Has it really been a week since I blogged? I'm up to my eyeballs in graduation preparation as well as putting the final touches on my yoga projects. My bags aren't packed and we're no where near ready to make our escape to the Adirondacks. It'll all come together I'm sure. Look for a post on Tuesday when life slows down considerably.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Father's Day DIY

I'd love to take credit for this idea but it isn't mine. It's Soulemama's. Check out this post which peeked my interest and then click here for the instructions.

I know I'm making you work awfully hard to look at something that I haven't really explained but I don't want to ruin any surpises. If you have kids (or even if you don't), minimal sewing skills and some fabric scraps, this is the answer to your father's day gift quandry.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm Sew Proud of Tasha

I couldn't resist putting up this picture of Tasha at her cosmetology class graduation. She's wearing the dress I altered for her so that her bra would stop playing peek-a-boo out of the arm hole.

When I first tried to figure out how to fix this, I focused on the side seam but that just changed the problem it didn't solve it. After a lot of pinning and unpinning, I realized the seam that ran over the chest was the one I needed to focus on. Is it totally perfect? No, but you'd have to have your nose practically in her armpit to discover that. I'm really pleased with the result and so was she.

If I could figure this out, you can too!

Coffee Break

This is just too weird not too share. Yesterday, after working for several hours on my paper, I took a break to make a much needed pot of coffee. Notice I said pot, not cup, that was no typo. These last few weeks before summer are just killing me!! (It should be easier since the girls are now driving themselves to work and school but for some inexplicable reason its not, must be the stress of having two teenage drivers.)

Anyway, in my haste to make the coffee, something went wrong. The coffee wasn't perking. It turns out the stem of the basket that the grinds sit in was clogged up with old coffee grinds, but I didn't know that at the time. All I knew was I NEEDED a cup of coffee and it wasn't happening in the traditional way. So...I rigged up this apparatus and poured the boiling water over the grinds and let them drip through like the old style manual drip pot.

The basket that holds the grinds sat inside the mesh strainer to keep the grinds out and the canning funnel kept the boiling water going into the jar rather than down the side. Since I wanted my coffee string, I used a second jar and poured the water over the grinds a second time.

It's weird but it worked.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Can You Fix This?

I shouldn't even be posting right now because I'm supposed to be working on the final paper for my yoga training. Truth be told, I'm having a little trouble focusing. I keep peeking at blogs and finding reasons to walk away from the computer. (Honestly who can write a paper without a fresh cup of coffee????)

Maybe it was the randomness of the weekend that got me in this frame of mind. I jumped from task to task like a bunny gone mad. First there was this pair of jeans Jim had that were in perfect shape but had developed a bum zipper. "I can replace that," I announced and began to root around my "jeans as fabric" stash for a pair of really ripped jeans with a perfect zipper. I came up with a candidate very quickly and, holy seam ripper Batman, I got right into setting the good zipper free. Of course once you set the good zipper free, you have to set the bad zipper free as well.

Alas, a graduation dress in need of alteration took priority over the jeans. It was time to set the jeans aside since by this time Tasha had come home and could model the dress in question. I'm a huge fan of trying the item in need of alteration on inside out to make pinning easier but I'm sure that breaks a gazillion rules of sewing so if you need to conform and do it the right way I understand. A few try-ons later (it took a few times to smooth out the 1950's bra as a torpedo look I accidently created when altering the top of the dress. No worries, it's all better now!) and the dress was hanging in her closet.

By then it was getting late and I needed to make bread but I couldn't find any bread flour (clearly there's a gremlin in my house who steals whatever I'm looking for!) On and on it went for the rest of the day. Start this, run and do that. Yesterday was no better.

I finished the jeans and btw I'm very impressed with myself. Of course, skills get you no thanks only more work. Tasha has already requested that I replace the broken zipper in her favorite winter coat. It's a good feeling just the same.

Jim brought a pair of incredibly ripped up pajama pants to be made into pajama shorts. This went well until I discovered that I didn't cut the line straight and the backs of the shorts are a little shorter than the front. He was good natured about it. "Who's gonna see them," he kept asking me when I offered to fix them correctly. The moral of this story is just because there are straight lines on the pants doesn't mean those lines are straight enough to use as a cutting guide.

The interesting thing about these pajama pants and other cotton flannel pajama pants we've owned is that the seams mysteriously wear away without actually ripping. (Maybe it's not so mysterious now that I think about it those pants are at least 10 years old...) My solution to this is to use a piece of fabric from the part of the legs that I cut off and pin it under the almost ripped section. Then I use the mending stitch setting on my sewing machine to anchor this patch in place. Once the patch is anchored I cut the excess fabric off and then continue to use the mending stitch to anchor the edges of the patch in place. It works beautifully although you couldn't really use on something you were going to wear in public. I don't know enough about sewing machines to tell you if a mending stitch setting is common on most sewing machines but mine is from the early 1970's and it has it.

Since the sewing machine was still out, I reinforced the seams on a favorite pair of sweats giving them new life. The sewing machine and I are becoming fast friends. Although, if I'm to get everything done that needs to be done in the next two weeks, the sewing machine and I will have to have far fewer play dates. It's time to start planning my summer projects and getting them packed and ready to go.

Ok now I really have to get going on this paper.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe

I had to snap a quick picture of Tasha's bag this morning since she was using it for school again. Now I'm getting bag requests from her friends!

Del was wondering about my recipe for liquid laundry detergent. I got my recipe from the Twin Cities Green Guide which seems to be no more. This is the recipe that got me started. Over time, I've opted to use less water making my detergent more concentrated and therefore I use less detergent for each load of laundry (I use 1/4 cup). I'd love to tell you how much water but at this point I just know that I have to fill the pot I use to an inch below the rim. You'll have to experiment and let me know how it goes for you.

Here's the original recipe:
1 bar Fels Naptha soap
5 gallon bucket
1 cup washing soda
4 1/2 gallons water

Grate 1 bar of Fels Naptha Soap. Place soap in small saucepan and cover with water. Heat on low until dissolved. Fill bucket with hot water and add soap. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup of washing soda and mix well. As it cools it thickens. May be used immediately. Use 1-2 cups per load.

I use Ivory soap in place of the Fels Naptha soap. I also find that you need to mix the detergent as it cools to keep it from seperating. I use a hand mixer, every half hour or so until it cools. Because I use less water than the recipe calls for, my detergent is almost like a paste. It doesn't suds up the way store bought detergent does but it does a great job.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Handmade Home

I finished Tasha's beach bag yesterday. I thought I'd take pictures this morning but she took it to school today. That's a pretty high complement when it comes from a 17 year old. Today's projects will be graduation invitations and sewing linen bread bags.

Lately, not a day goes by that I don't do a little sewing and knitting. I love the way that feels to make things by hand. I hadn't thought much about it being such a lost art until everyone around me started commenting on my projects. The comments varied but the overriding sentiment seemed to be surprise; surprise that you could hand make these things, surprise that you would bother to hand make these things and surprise that I knew how to hand make these things.

Taking these sentiments one at a time, I'll start with the last first. I often don't know how to make things but I have gotten very good at knowing where to learn. A google search or a visit to a trusted blog often solves the mystery. The internet is such a wonderful tool. I've also gotten good at looking at the task at hand logically. I often think back to my first real sewing project, the great jean alteration of 1987. No one taught me how to alter those jeans, I sorted the process out for myself. We all have that power, we just have to remember to use it!

I'm often surprised too at what can be made by hand too. I wonder, will my bag hold up as well as a store bought bag? However if you look at anything that's mass produced now, like a tote bag, surely somewhere along the line it was made by hand? A trip to a craft show is wonderful to give you a peek into the possibilities of what can be made by hand. (BTW, Never be one of those people who pick things up and announce loudly, "I could make this for much less." It's so disrespectful to the crafters.) Way back in 1997 right before we adopted Tasha, I bought myself a beautiful purse at a local craft fair. I loved it because it was made with the "children of the world" fabric. Twelve years later, I'm still using that purse and it's in great shape. Anyone who knows me knows the workout this purse has had over the years toting around everything a mother might need. It's been doused in coffee, washed in the washer and still it looks great. Quality handmade products really can last.

When people are surprised that I would bother to hand make something that I could easily buy, I try to explain why hand made is important to me and should be important to them. Sure I could buy a summer weight quilt cheaply at Walmart but I'd rather use what I have on hand and make a denim quilt that will last longer and wear better. I want to lessen my footprint on the earth and recycling clothing into useful things is an easy, inexpensive way to do this. (Think about it, what costs more solar panels or a spool of thread?)

Speaking of handmade and homemade, I've been making my own laundry soap for years. I used to make the dry powder but I've found the liquid works better in the long run since I can use cold water in the washer and not worry about the soap not dissolving. As it was cooling a few days ago I had a thought to make the process easier. Up until now I'd made the laundry soap in a pot and then transfered it to a plastic container when it cooled. Why couldn't I just dedicate a pot to making and storing the laundry soap? I'm on a thrift store/yard sale quest for just the right pot and lid for the job.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Garden in Pictures

Did I say photo's to follow soon? Oh what a liar I've become! Well here are the garden pictures, finally.

We'll start with the asparagus bed
Now we move on to the newly moved Jerusalem Artichoke bed which is right behind the asparagus bed.Although some Jerusalem artichokes seemed sad about the move initially,they did all eventually perk up.
Now on to the potato patchPerhaps you'd like a peek inside?
This is where the onions are planted, much later than they should have been but what's a girl to do?What's this?Tomatoes!Here's a peek at the raspberries that grow wild on our property. Isn't that nice of them?Finally, remember those twiggy looking elderberries we planted? They aren't twiggy anymore!
PS: I've been sewing like a crazy person. I'm more than half way through making a beach bag for Tasha. Pictures eventually (it seems more honest than saying soon!)
PPS: Ruthie, we're going to miss your blogging. Please don't stop commenting too!!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Garden is Growing

For everyone who endured my complaining about my non-sprouting asparagus, of the 30 crowns I planted 32 have emerged. Yes, 32! Not really sure where the extra two came from. I guess little pieces broke off to create new plants.

The potatoes are growing like mad. I've just added a layer of straw and a small shovelful of worm bin compost to each of the containers the potatoes are growing in.

The Jerusalem Artichokes are growing well too and they've been through a lot. I decided to move them to a different, smaller location when they decided to grow between the new elderberry bushes I planted. They didn't randomly do this of course. I planted the elderberries in the bed they had been in for the last few years because I thought they were dead. Last year they barely made a showing, of course it could have been the weeds choking them off...but this is a new year and we're taking our food growing seriously now!!

We've got tomatoes, hot peppers, swiss chard and zucchini in the ground already. We're hoping to get a little more in this week.

This growing your own food is scary business. Pictures to follow soon.