Category Archives: recyling

A spring bag

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purse

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The change of seasons got me hankering for a new handbag. I saw a Pinterest pin for bags made from vintage linens and it provided the inspiration for my new spring bag. I drew the pattern to be similar to the Pinterest bags but bigger to meet my needs. The main body of the bag is made from 2 vintage tablecloths and an old flour sack towel. The flap is black quilting cotton that I’ve done machine embroidery on in the style I was wanting, and it is lined with a thrift store sheet. The bag is nice and roomy to hold Daphne’s diaper change things and is nice weight because I added fusible fleece to the body and flap. Fusible fleece really is the best for bags, I think. The fabric doesn’t want to pucker like it does with regular heavyweight interfacing, and it is more stable and smooth than just adding a layer of flannel. It would have been nice if I’d had vintage tablecloths that didn’t have white backgrounds because it is going to be hard to keep the bottom of this bag clean, but that is the nature of old finds, right? At least they were already stained anyway, and the only supply I purchased just for this project was the fusible fleece.

I’m happy with the way this turned out. The bag seems like it’s going to be functional, with a nice shape, two interior pockets, and easy magnetic closure. And it’s pretty and springy, vintage and new, all in one. I like seeing it hang on the hook by the door because it puts me in a picnics and flowers frame of mind!

The continuing evolution of our playroom and studio

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This room has appeared on my blog a few times in the almost four years since we moved here. There was the time I made the futon and pillow covers, and the time I painted the sun on the floor (now painted over, due to water damage). We don’t use this basement space as our primary homeschool spot anymore. It has evolved and changed, and I work on it periodically–sometimes because I want to and sometimes because it floods (or did? Supposedly that’s fixed now). This summer I made some more changes to it to continue to meet our studio and play space needs. It’s just a basement room with a low ceiling and a concrete floor; it’s never destined for Better Homes and Gardens or to be the room we spend the most time in, but it is good space. It’s a place to put the bulky things that aren’t in the kids’ rooms or our shared living space. It’s the kids’ art spot, the dress-up spot, the home for games and toys. It’s the only spot in our home with a television. It’s the room where my fabric is stored, and is a cool place in summer and made cozy in winter with a fire in the fireplace. Some day it’s going to get a chair that doesn’t have an arm that falls off occasionally, a bigger and better rug, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve in other ways, but here are some scenes from this creative space right now. This summer I bought new storage furniture so the kids can easily access all the treasures.

craft-area

I set up a desk area dedicated to their crafty needs. Colored paper, art books, clay, melt beads, yarn and assorted other supplies are organized and at the ready. The labels are serving the dual purpose of reminding my little artists to clean up after themselves and helping Worth learn to read.

paint-bottles

I saved coffee syrup bottles, washed them out, and filled them with tempera paints. A color-mixing chart hung over the supply table helps the small artists mix their choice of hues. There is a bin under the table with clean, empty yogurt and applesauce containers we save. The older kids know how to wash the brushes out themselves so they are able to paint independently, without me dragging out supplies or cleaning up their messes. I hope to fill two more bottles with black and white paint, but first I have to drink more vanilla lattes.

easel

This is the easel, a half-turn from the paint-mixing spot. Bright oilcloth protects the floor, the canvas aprons protect the kids, and just out of the scope of the photo is a cord with clips for the kids to hang their masterpieces when they are done.

ribbons

My crafty storage area got a few upgrades too. I’m not very handy with tools but I knew just enough to drill holes in an old scrap board, insert some dowels, apply some paint, and enjoy my much-needed new ribbon organizer. For several years I’ve been buying ribbon every time I see it on sale because I can never find it when I need it. Now I see clearly that the problem was my storage method–not my lack of ribbon!

jars

And I used a Pinterest idea to transform some recycled glass jars into cute, quirky storage with the addition of one tube of little plastic animals and some spray paint. The work table beneath this supply counter is covered with the same apple oilcloth that is under the easel for an easy-clean, cheerful work surface. I sew upstairs in our living room, but this table houses all projects involving glue, paper, glitter, or general happy mess. (It is also housing me at my laptop right now, while my kids play in the room behind me!)

Giftables

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tara-bag1tara-bag2I’ve been into zippered pouches lately. It all started with the purchase of a colorful zipper assortment from an Amazon.com seller, and then kind of took off. I’ve made medium-sized bags for my mother and mother-in-law, cute little boyish belt packs for a couple of Worth’s friends, a beach coin purse for myself, and this little zippered purse for a friend’s one-year-old. Somehow I only managed to snap a photo of this one. It’s fully lined with the same fabrics as the exterior and should be just right for stashing all her toddler sundries. Babies love bags, and zippers too.

notebookI made another composition book cover like the ones I did as favors for Worth’s birthday party, this time covered in exterior decorator fabric and embellished with the recipient’s name. I like this as a gift idea because most anyone of any age could use a pretty composition book cover, whether they are headed to third grade or to a meeting.

gift-bagI also got a little crafty with the idea of reusable gift bags. I saw these hefty vinyl bags at the Dollar Tree. They are the size of small gift bags, but made out of the same stuff as the reusable shopping bags. I laminated a gift tag and tied it to the bag with ribbon, then wrote the appropriate names in dry-erase marker on the tag. I’m hoping it can be regifted many times.

paintingpotFor Mother’s Day we used this Pinterest idea and decorated pots for the grandmothers. The big kids painted the sky and clouds, then Daphne lent her wee little footprints as the butterfly wings. I thought these turned out to be quite charming gifts and I liked that they involved all three kids.

A dog treat jar

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dog-treat-jar

Has it been almost a month since I’ve blogged? I can’t believe it! I haven’t lost interest, but somehow this school year I haven’t been able to build this into my schedule. I should, because I get a cozy little sense of accomplishment when I look back over my blog pictures, and sometimes when there is kid crap all over the floor and my dog is barking at the mailman and my son is peeing on the floor…well, I just need that sense of accomplishment! So I’m stating for the record that I AM going to blog three times per week until I get caught up on some of these projects I want to record.

First off, I’ve been obsessively covering things with scrapbook paper. I don’t “scrapbook” in the sense of sticking photographs on cute paper and adding stickers, but I do love to buy those big, awesome stacks of scrapbook paper they sell in crafts stores. Those pretty 12×12 sheets can be used for anything! Lately I’ve been recycling containers, such as this pretzel tub I’ve turned into a dog treat jar, by gluing scrapbook paper on them and then covering it with clear contact paper, which protects the paper and allows me to wipe the surface clean. This jar sits on top of my fridge and looks much better than the Target bag that was holding dog treats up there before.

reading-by-the-fire

This is not a crafty thing but is just a favorite recent photo. Kentucky is partaking in this Midwest cold snap, and we’ve never been happier homeschoolers than on these frigid mornings when we can roll out of bed and light a fire and read books by it in our pajamas. I snapped this photo a couple evenings ago, when the kids were ending the day basically the same way we started it.

A Christmas hat

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My daughter told me this hat looks silly on me (kids say the darndest things!) but I kind of like it. It’s this free pattern, scrap yarn in four different shades of red and green, and it was quick and easy. This was my first knooking project with a lot of color changes and that is clearly a skill I need to work on as the back seam (not shown) looks a bit scraggly. Still, I’m picking up confidence with the knooking and I like my cheerful holiday hat no matter what my five-year-old thinks of it. I did the stripes in a completely random pattern, which got difficult in and of itself after some time. Like wait, if I use three rows of green here does that still look random? I’m not accidentally making a pattern here with two light reds and a dark, am I?  Intentionally randomness will drive you nuts after a while–I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere.

This is a hinged shoe box Dorothy painted. I could get revenge and say I think it looks silly, but really I don’t. I think it looks cute. This is the sort of out-of-the-recycle bin project that can be so satisfying. I needed to keep her entertained in the kitchen at some point a few weeks back so I gave her an empty shoe box and some latex paint. She painted the box quite happily and then forgot about it until I needed to keep her out of the way again a few days ago, so I set her up again with her now dry, painted box and my private stash of Sharpies. (Permanent markers are only for grown-ups around here, except under rarest circumstances.) She was once again happily entertained while she decorated it and now she has a cute treasure box to fill with childhood ephemera and stash on her shelf until it gets stepped on or broken or chewed on by the dog–at which point it will land back in the recycle bin, full circle. That’s really  not a bad life cycle for a shoe box.

Bins for sewing projects

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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.

More t-shirt embellishment

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You’ll only like this one if you, like me, are a fan of Mo Willems.  (It’s for personal use, so I’m not trying to do anything evil here with copyright.) I cut out, ironed-on and stitched down a pigeon figure inspired by the book, then printed the word “drive” three times on printable fabric and ironed those on around him.  Dorothy likes this one too.

I had a hard time photographing this shirt.  It is another long sleeve tee like the ones in the last post.  I used different colored thread and the decorative stitches on my sewing machine to create a border around the neckline and waist.  The effect turned out pretty well and I think it makes this shirt look sort of mail order catalog-y, in a good way.  This was a really rewarding project because it was so quick and simple and made such a difference in the shirt.  I wouldn’t try this with a dull needle–decorative stitches on knit need a sharp, fresh needle designed for knits.

I recently ordered this book on crochet motifs, mostly because I was a little short of the free shipping threshold when I was ordering something more urgent (how much money does Amazon.com make that way?  so brilliant!) and I really like it.  The little shapes can be the building blocks for any larger project one can imagine, but they are also fun little quick projects on their own.  I was feeling frustrated with our cheap, stupid (yes, I have a 4-year-old and I know “stupid” is a bad word) tea kettle because the stupid product designers made the handle out of some material that heats up so much when water is boiled in the kettle that unsuspecting, innocent tea drinkers get their hands burned every time they fail to remember that this stupid kettle isn’t like every other kettle they’ve ever owned, and that they can’t touch the stupid handle to pour the water out when the stupid thing whistles.  Tired of reaching for a potholder just to pour water (or failing to), I decided to crochet something decorative and insulating to stay on the stupid thing to avoid this problem in the future. I made one of the hexagons in the book and tied it right onto the handle at the points. The red and white wool matches my kitchen, so now the stupid kettle looks prettier too.  If anyone thinks that a person who repeatedly burns their hands making tea is a little bit stupid herself…well, no one asked you.

The kids and I are off on an adventure tomorrow.  The car is packed, the MP3 player loaded, and a basket is well-stocked with snacks.  We’re headed to Chicago to visit my college roommate.  I used to travel quite often with just Dorothy before Worth was born but our preschool schedule and being outnumbered by my kids has kept me home more this past year.  I’m hoping that all goes well so we can make travel a regular part of our homeschooling experience next year. On this trip we’re hoping to take in a St. Patrick’s Day festival at the Irish Heritage Center and the children’s museum.  I have used my mother’s trick of wrapping small gifts in old newspaper to hand out to the kids at regular intervals to keep them happy in the car.  Some art supplies, a tiny backhoe that makes noise, books…I think they will be well received.

Sweet potato mess

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Solid food has arrived in Worth’s life! I was planning to wait until his six month birthday, next week, but after two days of listening to him emit annoyed pterodactyl noises and pound his chubby fists against the metal table as a soundtrack to every bite we ate I decided to introduce a few days early. He can sit unassisted, has more than doubled his birth weight, and whoa–he was eager. I’ve been letting him gnaw on a spoon while sitting in his high chair for a few weeks, and he’s pretty much got the spoon-to-mouth thing down. (We do baby self-feeding.) So now the experiments truly begin! He actually seemed to hate last night’s experience with mushy sweet potato–I don’t know if he didn’t like the feeling of it on his hands or what. But we gave him another chance today at lunch and it was much better. He may have just been tired last night. So the bibs I made months ago came out, and we’re on to a whole new phase of baby life.Speaking of messes, the advent of baby meals in my house again has made me remember just how glad I am that we don’t use paper towels. We made a switch away from them about three years ago, and it makes me wonder how they ever caught on in the first place–they are horrifyingly expensive and they simply don’t wipe up messes as well. I keep a little stack of clean rags in the same spot we used to keep paper towels and we just reach for a clean one any time we need one. I keep a little re-purposed trash can next to our real trash can to hold the dirty laundry. If I get a rag totally wet (like rinsing off chunks of sweet potato and then wiping up the floor) I hang it over the edge of the laundry can to dry so we don’t get mildew in between washings. Since we’re already washing cloth diapers every couple days I just throw our rags in with them, but when we weren’t washing dipes I put rags in with towels or just ran a separate load as needed–it never seems burdensome. We have several dozen rags, which are actually inexpensive white washcloths, so we can grab a fresh one as often as wish, and I have only white so I can use bleach on them occasionally. It seemed a little wasteful in the beginning to buy so many washcloths, since I could have found things to cut up into rags, but for me to actually sit them out in the open in the kitchen (key to actually using them), they needed to look nice too. Seems like a fair trade-off given how many paper towels we would have used in the last three years!

A jar cozy

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This isn’t a new project, but just one I was using and enjoying. Last summer I crocheted cozies for the repurposed glass juice jars we use for water. I put little handles on them and they are very cute and portable, and they both insulate the jar and keep it from getting broken if I want to grab one on the go. It felt like a nice way to use up (gifted) scratchy acrylic yarn I wouldn’t want to wear or put on my babies. I just crocheted a little mat the size of the bottom of the bottles, then did double crochets in a round all the way up the side. I used several stands of yarn together so it would be extra bulky.

In other news, we’re really enjoying our hiatus from house-selling. Our goal is to have it back on the market in two weeks, but in the meantime it’s nice to not have the constant threat of a showing hanging over our heads. In a funny turn of events, however, the house is actually pretty clean right now because I just bought a steam mop and Dorothy and I are both so charmed by it that we keep using it. I love the idea of being able to keep the floor clean and chemical-free as our little wee one becomes more mobile and has the floor as his new realm. We’ll just hope the charm of using the mop doesn’t wear off in a couple months. (Ha!)

An experiment in reusable snack bags

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I was at a local store this past week that sells “green” products and fell in love with these cute snack bags. The concept is so great, but the price is a bit high. I’d run across a similar product before (on Etsy, maybe?) and had read about people making them out of PUL and oilcloth, but it seems those fabrics are not necessarily food-safe, so I hadn’t tried making them myself. But after I saw the product in my hand and got to thinking about how easy they would be to make, I did some brainstorming about possible food-safe lining materials and I may have come up with one. I used heavy-duty Ziploc freezer bags. I’m sure they have BPA, but I’m not going to put hot liquid in them, plus we already use (and wash and re-use) Ziploc bags, so I’m at least not changing our household status quo. The benefit of these over disposable snack bags is that the little bags are not usually made out of the same sturdy material as the freezer bags, and thus aren’t reusable in the same way. Plus the little ones always seem to split in the corners, and they definitely aren’t cute. I’m excited to give these a try. We’ll probably be using them for mostly pretzels and crackers, nothing wetter than carrot sticks, so they shouldn’t need much more than a wipe-out after we use them, but they seem sturdy enough that we could immerse and wash them in the sink with our dishes if necessary. If they work I’ll make some more in some kid-approved prints.