Monthly Archives: May 2011

Gifts and summer pajamas


I put the home related sewing aside this week to make myself a pair of summer pj’s. Sleeping in old t-shirts and well-worn pajamas pants is comfortable, but sometimes I just want to feel a little cuter at night, even if the only person to notice might be my still-won’t-sleep-through-the-night toddler. I used a free pattern I found online for the tank, but I’m not going to link to it because I really didn’t care for it. I had to make many alterations and it still is a bit big, even though the pattern involved taking my own measurements before starting. It’ll work fine for sleeping though. I made bermuda-length sleep shorts to match by cutting around pants I already own and they fit perfectly. The pajamas are made from super-soft thrift store sheets in 100% cotton. I love the pretty print, and that new fabric could never be so wonderfully soft. (Aside: Wondering about that beautiful turquoise wall behind the pajamas?  That’s my bedroom! It used to be covered in “tropical” wallpaper. More on that project is forthcoming!)

This was a Mother’s Day project I’d almost forgotten to blog about. I bought some little silver charms at Joann that are intended to hold tiny photographs. Then I printed out a whole page of empty squares just the right size on cardstock and let Dorothy draw mini pictures in each one with pen and colored pencil. We chose our favorites and I glued them onto the charms, then we covered them with several coats of brush-on gloss glaze. The flower charm was a gift to my mother and the bird is now mine. We strung them on silver chains.

Dorothy had a major milestone this past week–she finished preschool! As much as I’m looking forward to having her home next year it was emotional and a little rough to watch all her treasures come home from school. It was like watching the sweet and nurturing space they’d created for her there being dismantled. She has laid her beloved resting rug on her bed here at home and has been sleeping on it, and we put together a small bag to hold her other treasures such a her photo album and name card. To honor the lovely women who have given her the treasure of such a warm and lovely year of preschool we made homemade shopping bags. Dorothy chose the fabric (from the same sheet as the pajamas) and helped me sew the seams on her little sewing machine.

Her confidence is a wee bit ahead of her ability, but the slightly off-kilter seams don’t show unless you’re looking, and they prove that the love and work of a five-year-old went into the construction. I made small drawstring bags so the teachers can easily stash their shopping totes into their purses or glove compartments.

More Aunt Stephanie’s Room


The guest room is officially done! The neighbor girl who plays with Dorothy walked in, not having been in the room since we were using it for post-move storage, and gasped. It was so gratifying. And then she was so impressed that we had a whole room just for guests that it made me remember Anne of Green Gables and Aunt Josephine and I secretly vowed to invite her over to sleep in it sometime. It does feel sort of indulgent to have a guest room after we seemed so cramped with the four of us in our two-bedroom six months ago. I made up the bed with clean sheets today and am feeling that much more settled here. Ignore that the brass bed really needs to be polished. I augmented store-bought bedding (Target and IKEA) with homemade toss pillows and I sewed homemade bias tape along the bottom of a plain store-bought bed skirt.

In such a bright room I wanted bright photographs too. I painted old gold picture frames black, then snapped photos of the kids posing against a backdrop of the (uncut) curtain fabric. It’s not like you’d walk in and notice that the photo backdrop matches the curtains, which is just as well, but the overall effect does help tie everything together in this bright and colorful room.

I wanted to bring some of the room’s black accents onto the bed so I made one pillow using this terrific owl fabric I found online. It didn’t quite work, though. You remember that Sesame Street game from when we were kids?  Which of these things doesn’t belong?  It was totally this pillow. I thought that if just one owl could be orange then it would really make everything look harmonious, so I grabbed an orange Sharpie marker and colored one owl in. Let’s hope the cat doesn’t puke on this pillow because I have no idea how orange Sharpie would wash, but I love the way it turned out. Now the pillow looks like it belongs perfectly.

I also embellished the white pillowcases that go with the plain white sheets on this bed. I used more of the homemade bias tape (do I need a support group for my recent bias tape problem?) and some of the decorative stitching on my new machine.

My success in painting the hokey flowers on the thrift store rocking chair inspired me to try something similar on an old milk can. I bought this jug at a yard sale when we lived in Oak Park and kept it on our front porch at our last two houses. It was already black but was starting to look sort of pathetic and rusty, so I sprayed on some new black and painted on the flowers and our name. I may get tired of looking at my own unprofessional art work every time I enter my front door, but it shouldn’t be hard to spray on over the decoration when that time comes.

Aunt Stephanie’s Room


I’ve been working on the guest room, otherwise known as Aunt Stephanie’s room.  (Stephanie was my college roommate, is honorary and beloved “aunt” to my kids and is my favorite and most frequent houseguest, hence the room is named for her.) The walls are a creamy yellow that look more or less intense depending on the light. I hung simple white shades in the window for nighttime privacy, then made slim curtains with tie-backs so they don’t obscure the view. I love the crazy orange bird print, which is Pretty Bird Spice by Michael Miller.

The rocking chair was a thrift store find, $12.00, and it was your basic old wooden rocker with an awful, dusty cushion. I ditched the cushion, painted the rocker black to tie in the picture frames and curtain rods, and free-handed some orange flowers on the top. I love the way it now looks like it was made for the room.

For most of the rooms in the house I’ve chosen a group of favorite fabrics as a starting point and this room was no different. The Michale Miller Pretty Bird fabrics appear on the lamp shade, the pillows (here and more to come), the bedding (stay tuned), and the curtains. Gluing homemade bias tape on lamp shades is slightly addictive because it’s so fast and it looks good.  Now I’ve got my mother doing it too. The funky candy dish was a vintage eBay piece because I just had to–how could I do a room in orange but not have something made out of that crazy fiery retro glass? Other bits of this room are still in progress and will be done soon–so if you’re thinking of visiting me and staying in my guest room, pick a date!

Locked in the basement


First a finished project. I made a super-comfy skirt out of a thrifted jersey sheet. It’s soft like pajamas! It’s casual but cute–a skirt to wear with flip-flops. I love wearing skirts in the summer because they are cooler than capris and don’t have all the thigh-rubbing (sorry, I’m just shaped like that) and burning-legs-on-leather-car-upholstery issues of shorts. I think this one will become a summer favorite.

Next a funny story. Dorothy has been a little high-strung lately, perhaps due to all the talk at school about final days and transitions. She was passive-aggressively “waving” a doll apron at her brother, in a way that just happened to involve whipping him with apron strings. I asked her not to, she told me she was just fanning him and continued to do it. I asked her to go to her room and settle down. She stomped off to her second-floor bedroom angrily. Then I noted that the baby seemed to be happy tormenting the cat (whipping him with apron strings, perhaps?) so this seemed like a good moment for me to run some Costco purchases downstairs to our chest freezer. When I came up the basement stairs I found that the baby had tired of tormenting the cat and had moved on to fiddling with the basement door–in a way that involved locking me in the basement. As I stood there on the steps he opened the tiny cat door and waved at me pleasantly, thinking it was some kind of game that I was staying on the other side of it. It had been on my mind that I should get a screwdriver and remove those old locks before something just like this happened, but of course I hadn’t had the sense to do it yet. So I had to stand there on the basement stairs, frozen turkey bacon in hand, and yell for my exiled daughter over the sound of Pandora on the Old Crow Medicine Show station. She finally heard me and came down, sort of puzzled by the very short amount of time she was required to spend in her room. I explained the situation as calmly as possible and gave thanks that she’s still young enough that she just laughed at what her brother had done and let me out without further torment.  Shew! Now I really will take off those old locks before she gets old enough to be vengeful, or is waiting to be picked up at preschool next time I get locked in the basement.

Finally, I just joined Twitter but I don’t know anything about it. What do I do next? I’m RenataHomemade.

May camping


I have somewhere around five sewing or house projects right now that are almost done, so watch out for a torrent of upcoming blogging.  You’ve been warned! In the meantime my family and I took a quick getaway in Little Red this weekend. We drove out to Blue Licks Battlefield State Park, which is between Lexington and Cincinnati. We drove through some gorgeous horse farm country and charming Paris, Kentucky. (Says Dorothy, “Do they have an Eiffel Tower?”  Excellent question, but seems not.)

The campsite was damp but pretty. This campground had two features we really liked. First, the playground is centrally located and visible from almost every campsite, so frisky five-year-olds can run and play without waiting for the slow-poke grown-ups to catch up. Second, the heads to several trails are located right by or in the campground so families like ours don’t have to schlep children by car or long and winding road just to start a family hike through the woods.

We realized just a bit too late that the park had a Pioneer Museum, which would have been so fun to visit since we only last week finished reading the Little House on the Prairie series. We did get to check out a trail, the battlefield and monument, and we’d just driven down to the boat dock to explore the creek when we ran into a handful of half-naked teenagers covered from head to toe in mud and decided maybe we should go back to the campsite instead. At first I thought they were actually completely naked teenagers covered in mud and memories of our adventures in Mercer County ran through my head, but at second glance there did seem to be bikinis and trunks somewhere under all the muck. I have no idea what they were up to, but Dorothy only commented that they sure could use a shower (yup!) and rear-facing Worth didn’t see them at all. I heard the girls in the campground shower later talking about fall classes (anatomy! advanced chemistry!) and I’m sure they were actually, ahem, very nice girls. There may or may not have ever been muddy bikini-wearing in my past.  I’m not saying. I definitely didn’t take advanced chemistry.

Back at camp we had dinner and a campfire. It was damp but not raining and Rob had a rough time getting the fire started. We’d almost given up on the campfire cooking to use our little red camper microwave instead (we’re talking about warming pre-cooked chicken sausages and foil packets of potatoes I’d pre-roasted here, not putting a whole pig on a spit or anything) when the fire finally took off quite zippily. We’d just begun to nosh on our smoky hot food when it did actually start raining hard and we fled for the comfort of our tiny camper. We’ve never been so glad to have graduated from tent-camping as this trip. It rained the rest of the time but we were cozy inside with our art supplies, Rob’s newspaper, my camper journal (above), matching pirate pajamas for the small set (below) and the pleasant sound of rain on our roof.

We headed home first thing this morning since hiking in the rain with children isn’t really our thing. The trip was short but sweet!

Bins for sewing projects


Now that my new sewing machines are in I’ve been inspired to organize my sewing supplies and make room for the extra machine. When we moved in to this house I just plopped my sewing stuff into a corner in approximately the same configuration I’d had it all in our last house but that wasn’t really working here. One of the things I need is child-proof storage for projects I’m working on currently. I sew in our family room but store my fabric downstairs, so there has been some needless schlepping and pile-making without a good system in place for dealing with this. I’m hoping these buckets do the trick. I covered the labels on some old kitty litter totes with scrapbook paper and fabric swatches I’ve printed off the internet. I laminated and attached them with Xyron adhesive, but glue and clear contact paper would work too. I love these buckets and have used them for many purposes (and blogged about it once before) and I think this should help keep me operating smoothly and with reasonable tidiness.

I also made similar labels for some empty plastic pretzel jars. The jars are just the right size for holding trim, and they look kind of pretty with their new labels.

A new machine


This is what I was working on when my sewing machine died–toss pillows for the guest room bed. The room is now painted and cleaned out but I’m still working on the details.

This is an upcycled vase for the guest room. I found it at a thrift store, classic in earth tones but with a chip that I’m sure is what landed it in someone’s donation pile. I painted it, using a contrasting color for the raised pattern. I’m not much of a painter, but I don’t think this kind of project requires a look of perfection. Now it matches the colors I’m trying to tie together in the scheme for this room. I clear-coated it in Triple Thick Gloss Glaze to make it shiny. This stuff is kind of addictive. The first time I’d used it was on our eggs. It brushes on so beautifully and it dries hard and it seems to be durable. It’s much thicker and less messy than spray versions I’ve used in the past. Any kid art project (or goofy vase paint job) will look more professional with a coat of gloss-glaze, right?

Last but not least, I’ve moved on the sewing machine issue. I did two days of obsessive internet research and decided that I actually needed to replace my broken machine with two inexpensive machines.  Buying a new machine that would sew over thick materials and provide lots of stitch options was cost-prohibitive, but I got the best of both worlds with much less expense. I ordered an inexpensive computerized machine that does lots of decorative stitches and a vintage machine from eBay that offers few options but will sew over anything. The two machines together cost less than one really good machine, and if one of them meets a terrible Worth-related accident (or any other malfunction) it won’t leave me without a machine at all.

The eBay dealer who listed the vintage machine actually posted video of this sewing machine stitching over crushed aluminum cans. Wow! I’m not sure I’ll use it for that (ha ha), but hopefully this machine’s decades of stalwart performance won’t be destroyed by a project like pillows with thick cording, which I suspect is what did in my last machine. The vintage machine should arrive today; the computerized machine came in earlier in the week. It’s…computerized. Sewing with it feels like driving an automatic when you are used to a manual transmission. Some bond between the operator and the machine is missing. Hopefully I’ll learn to like it better. The stitches, at least, are nice. It has many more options than I’ve had before. I tried it out (above) by stitching this little vine pattern onto a plain white drawstring bag that new sheets came in.