Monday, December 30, 2013

Homemade Christmas Gifts - Coffee Cup Cozies

This year was another "Homemade Christmas".  One of the gifts I made for just about everyone was a Coffee Cup Cozy.  It seems like everyone likes "take-out" coffee, lattes, or frappa-something or other, so I thought they all needed a Coffee Cup Cozy.  I used a Starbucks cardboard sleeve as a template and created a pattern for the cozies.  I used either covered buttons or vintage buttons for the closures, along with a hair elastic.  Before stitching them up I embroidered the recipient's name or monogram.  Here are pics of some of them. 


Monday, December 2, 2013


I am having the hardest time trying to get blog entries posted! Pictures sometimes load, then sometimes won't. It hangs up. I can't scroll using the bar on the right. I can't do anything! I spent probably a good hour typing and uploading pictures (painstakingly) and then the blasted thing froze up and somehow didn't save anything! It is very frustrating and I can't figure out what the problem could be. I've upgraded my internet explorer. Anyone have any ideas???

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Function over Form in the Kitchen

Fall Garden

Before we moved in to the new-old house we thought we'd just freshen up the kitchen with paint, and maybe a new countertop, but it turned into a total gut job (as they say on HGTV). 

We went down to the studs and even replaced some studs, added new insulation, rewired, updated gas lines and plumbing. Then came sheetrock (previously it was cheap paneling, texture, and paint. We added new cabinets, countertops, sink, dishwasher, stove, fridge, floor. Everything except the window.  

I've pinned hundreds of images of farmhouse kitchens for inspiration prior and during the remodel. Most of them include creamy painted cabinets, stone or brick floors, a vintage cast iron sink, a chippy white kitchen table, and a wood burning cook stove. As it turns out, my kitchen looks nothing like any of the pictures I've pinned on Pinterest. While I love the look of painted cabinets, I have had white/cream painted cabinets in two out of the last three houses I've lived in and what I don't like about them is that they take constant upkeep. I got really tired of wiping down cabinets constantly. Kitchens are messy places and stuff drips. I had some really pretty custom painted cabinets in one house and I had a corner appliance garage, which i really liked. However, after about a year I'd literally wiped the paint off the corners from all the cleaning. So for practicality's sake this time I wanted stained cabinets (to hide drips...).

In the last house we had stained cabinets but they were a dark "cherry" finish which I didn't like. We ended up going with rustic hickory cabinets in this house.  Here's an "in progress" pic.

Kitchen Remodel in Progress

They look nice but again, not my idea of my dream farm kitchen. I ended up with a stainless steel sink mostly because it's practical and cheap and because I didn't find a vintage cast iron sink (within our budget) until AFTER the cabinets and sink were already in.... Bummer.

I left one wall blank so I could put in a wood cook stove. While I haven't given up yet, I have encountered obstacles. I wanted a masonry chimney and as it turns out this is apparently a lost art. I only found one local mason and the price was ridiculous. I don't want a metal chimney system, but may have to go that route. As I reported previously, I found a Gem-Pac wood stove locally for the low, low price of $600. A local stove shop had removed and replaced it for a customer. I did quite a bit of research and learned that the stove was not UL listed and needed more clearance than I could spare. So that whole project has been tabled for now. I didn't add cabinets or electrical wires to that wall so that in the future I could add my stove.

I will post some pics of the kitchen when it's completely done. We lack drawer pulls, cabinet knobs, touch up paint, and a few other odds and ends. Meanwhile, Marc has started on the living room - sheetrock, texture, etc. - and has it ready to paint tomorrow. We are replacing the set of french doors with a picture window, but that window has not come in just yet so we will move back to the kitchen to finish up the kitchen.

In addition to the remodeling I am working on some sewing projects - a christening gown (with slip, bonnet and slippers) and three dozen kitchen towels. Here's a pic of the kitchen towels.

Happy Camper Towels
We have a nice - but late - fall garden planted. Everything is doing well though the lettuce bolted.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Christening Outfits for Twins

Baby Girl's Christening Gown

I just finished an order for christening outfits for twins, made from their Mother's wedding gown. The gown was beautiful - white silk dupioni with a midriff section that featured embroidery, beadwork and pearls. It was so pretty! The gown had a small-ish train - chapel length maybe - which had quite a bit of dirt on it (as did other parts of the gown). So there wasn't a LOT of fabric to work with.

The Mother asked that the girl's bodice feature the beadwork and the little boy's romper feature the buttons from the back of her gown. 
Baby Boy's Romper

The back of the wedding gown had covered buttons all the way down to the bottom of the train, but what was really unique was that between every three buttons there was a little beadwork flower in place of a button. I used those details for the tops of the slippers.  The children's names are embroidered on the soles of the slippers also.

Baby Girl's Bonnet and Slippers

The little girl's slip was made from the lining of gown. I embroidered the baby's monogram on it. Other than some lace at the hem of the slip, everything I used on the outfits came from the wedding gown. I knew that I wouldn't find any silk ribbon in the local stores, so I made the sash at the waist from the dress fabric. I like it better than the ribbon.

Monogram on Slip

Just as that order went out in the mail, I received another wedding gown in the mail. Thankfully this order isn't for twins! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Looking forward to Fall in the Ozarks

Tiny Crabapple

Fall is right around the corner here in the Ozarks.  Tomorrow the high is supposed to be 90, then it drops down into the 80's and even high 70's.  I am really looking forward to seeing the foilage turn colors.  I've been told that because of the rainfall this past year the fall colors will be beautiful.  In Texas the trees turn yellow just as the leaves all fall from the trees.  Not very exciting.  I remember flying into Memphis once in the fall and I was awe-struck by the beautiful foliage as we flew in.  It just wasn't something I saw in Texas.

There's an old tree behind the house with tee-tiny fruits on it.  No one knew what they were so I brought a couple in, cut one in half and googled it.  Turns out this is a crab apple, albeit tiny ones.  Maybe they're small because the tree hasn't been pruned in years.  I suppose I could make spiced crab apples or apple jelly with them, and maybe I will ... next year.  Without a kitchen just making dinner is work enough, much less trying to can anything.

The kitchen is shaping up.  The plumber has been here, the gas company, the elecrician and Marc has hung the sheetrock.  We need to put down a new floor (not sure yet what it will be) then we can install the cabinets, which are filling up the "living room" (I use that term loosely because it's really a construction zone too). 

Meanwhile I am getting bids for a chimney (or chim-lee as one guy pronounces it) for the wood stove that I want to put in the kitchen.  My dream stove is a Waterford Stanley but the budget just won't allow for that.  I looked into antique stoves but the clearances to combustibles is just too great, and they have a small firebox and I'm not sure if we would be able to keep insurance on the house with a vintage stove.  So, back to the drawing board.  I found a stove that seemed to fit the bill - the Baker's Choice.  It's not particularly attractive, but it is very functional, both for cooking and heating.  The price was do-able and it was new, safe and efficient.  When I started calling around to get info and bids on the chimney, one of the local companies had a wood cook stove they had taken in trade.  The owner said it was very similar to the one I was thinking of buying.  As it turns out, it is a very good stove - much better than the one I was eyeing.  I'm going to look at it tomorrow.  It's called a Margin Gem-Pac.  It's much more attractive than the Baker's Choice too. 

We bought a tiller and have plans for a fall garden.  We're in USDA Zone 6B, which is way different from the zone we were in previously (we were sort of between 8 and 9).  This tiller is a Troy-Bilt, much smaller than the last one we had, but being new, it runs really well and has some nice features.  I think it's also a little easier to handle. 

Along with the campfire living and home remodeling, I am working on an order for two christening outfits for a set of twins, a boy and a girl.  The mother's wedding gown is (or WAS) absolutely beautiful, silk with a beautiful beaded band around the midriff.  After cutting it up to make a slip, gown, boy's outfit, shoes and bonnet, there's not much left of her dress.  I need to get these done pronto because I have another order and that mom's dress is in the mail and will be here Friday.  I'll post pics of the outfits when I'm done.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

You May Be a Hoarder If....

As we prepared for our recent move, we were forced to clean out our rented warehouse. As we were hauling our first load I was thinking that as long as there are procrastinators and hoarders in the world, owning a storage rental business would be highly lucrative.

I realize I fall into both categories. Not bad enough to be featured on a tv show mind you, but just enough to pay $55 per month renting a warehouse in which to house stuff I wasn't able to part with. The procrastinator in me kept putting off dealing with it until one month turned  into do the math.

I do take some satisfaction in knowing that it was worth $550 to prove to Marc that he is the bigger hoarder in this family.

We had a garage sale and made just about enough to pay for the cost of that warehouse . . . I note that while I tend to stockpile furniture and craft projects that I plan to complete in the "near" future (some of these date back to the 80's), Marc hoards tools and building supplies. I'm all for having tools. The problem here is that we have at least 3 of each because a certain someone doesn't keep his tools organized and when he needs to use one he can't find it and has to go buy another.

I have to say, Marc did get rid of some stuff I thought he would hold onto forever and I made the decision to finally get  rid of old bank records.  I thought shredding those records would be a quick project and I sat on the patio and started shredding. Taking each document from the tote was a trip down memory lane (which of course slowed down the process tremendously). I had receipts from the mid 90's along with tags from clothing I'd bought. I don't know why in the world I would keep the tags unless I thought I might need to return something. Those tags were five sizes ago I might add. Along with receipts are the duplicate check stubs of literally every check I've ever written.

I come by this naturally, as my parents, or maybe it was just my mom, were hoarders and procrastinators as well. When my mom died, we found grocery bags in a storage closet that contained canceled checks from the 1950's and tax returns from the '40's.

The shredder quit working and I thought I had burned out the motor but as it turns out, you're supposed to run it for two minutes
then let it cool for 30.  Obviously at that rate I knew I would never get it all shredded.   So what did I do - why pack it up and haul it with me to Arkansas of course. At least I have an outbuilding in which to store it until I get around to burning it. Oh by the way, we had so much stuff that we couldn't shove it all in the largest U-Haul truck so we had to rent a storage warehouse for the overflow.... Hopefully we'll be able to get it cleared out before the year is out!

Meanwhile, I made a dress for journey to wear in a wedding in which she was a Flower
Girl. The pattern is what Stephanie calls "old school". It had a lapped zipper, covered buttons, darts, lining AND underlining, net petticoats and a cummerbund  I thought making it out of
Satin would be a good idea... Until I started pinning and cutting. As I was hemming it I seriously considered running out and buying something for her to wear. There was about 10 miles of hemline.  It looked huge and I was so afraid it wouldn't fit. It fit perfectly and she looked so sweet walking down the aisle in it. 

I received a Joann gift card for my birthday and I was saving it for something special and I decided to use it to make myself a maxi dress. It turned out cute -to the extent anything on a middle aged overweight woman can be considered cute. 

I have some scraps of a Lilly Pulitzer Lycra spandex fabric that I'd used to make a swim suit for rylan and its just enough to make suits for journey and Willow. I love LP fabrics but it's almost impossible to find them anymore.  I've cut out those suits and will post pics when I'm done. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Getting Settled

So ... we moved, again. This makes four houses in ten years. Marc says never again. This time I think I agree. We knew the last house - a tract house in a new neighborhood in the city - was temporary. We weren't sure about where we wanted to go when we sold the country property so we took some time to think it over. We finally decided and made the move. We moved to the Ozarks of northern Arkansas. We looked at property for about a year and a half before making a decision. We ended up buying a place I liked from the beginning and Marc hated. We have 32 acres of mixed pasture and timber, a beautiful large pond and two smaller ones, two houses and various outbuildings. The property was owned by a young Amish Mennonite family. We ended up only buying half of their land (they had 64 acres) and as it turns out they moved to the adjacent 32 acres and are now our neighbors. We allowed the sellers to remain in the house for two weeks after closing so they could harvest their corn. We unloaded our moving truck into the smaller, unoccupied house. Meanwhile I was all set to enjoy a nice two week vacation camping at Lake Norfork. The first couple of nights in the camper Felix howled incessantly and Tiger tried to get out every time the door was opened. I was a nervous wreck and wanted them both to be boarded for the duration. One evening I was just getting out of the shower when an alarm went off. I thought it was the smoke alarm, in which I had recently installed new batteries, but still didn't work when I pressed the test button. I figured it was malfunctioning, but then realized it was the GAS LEAK detector. That had never gone off before. We'd had some issues with the water heater so Marc turned it off and the alarm went off. Not sure if the gas leak was due to the water heater alone or something else, I had Marc disconnect the gas tanks completely. I was a nervous wreck. Thereafter, all (hot) showers had to be taken at the campground bath house. I have an aversion to public restrooms so that was not a lot of fun. Furthermore, we had to do all cooking on the grill. It rained quite a bit during those two weeks and one night in particular, my phone beeped with an alert from The Weather Channel advising that a sever storm with winds in excess of 60 miles per hour were expected. I panicked and said we had to go to a hotel. I quickly made a reservation. Did I mention that we had three cats with us? Originally we'd planned to board one of the cats (the one that won't get along with the other two) but we never did, so we had all three - in a 21 foot camper. So Marc puts each cat in his/her carrier and we throw some stuff in the truck and head to the Hampton Inn. It's raining cats and dogs and Marc can barely see. We get into town and notice that the traffic lights are out, along with most of the power in town. We get to the hotel and since I'd already made a reservation they had prepared our pass cards already, but the power was out in the hotel. Our room would be dark the clerk said. For whatever reason we got a handicap accessible room on the first floor which is right by the side door. This was perfect, since we had to sneak three cats into a non-pet-friendly hotel, along with their litter boxes. Ok, so after lugging in two of the cats (and mind you it's still pitch dark in our room) Marc says he doesn't want to bring Felix (the bad one) in yet cause he is crying in the truck, and how will we keep him quiet in the hotel. We hash this out and I find a different hotel that IS pet friendly and we load everyone and everything back in the truck and head over there. Did I mention that we'd already paid $110 for the Hampton Inn? I quickly took all the shampoo, conditioner and lotion before leaving. So we get to the other hotel and the clerk asks me how much the pets weigh. I said I don't know, just an average cat. He points to a brass plaque which says No Cats, Snakes or Rats. Great, now what? I get back in the truck and said, let's just go back to the camper (along with some choice expletives I might add) - at this point I don't even care if I'm killed in a severe storm, it couldn't be much worse that the last hour or so. As we're driving back to the camper Marc pointed out that the storm had passed. When we got back to the campsite we noticed that all the stuff we had lying around the camper hadn't moved an inch. So much for the accuracy of The Weather Channel's predictions. We enjoyed Lake Norfork. Our camper was out on a peninsula with almost 360 deg. views of the water. We bought some floats and went down to the swimming beach and ventured out into the clear, cool water. It was very relaxing. We tried a little fishing which was fun, but we didn't catch anything. I knew that after we took possession of the property we would find some things that the home inspection didn't disclose but we didn't expect to find that the house was Filthy, with a capital F. So bad in fact that I just wanted to turn and run away. But as Marc pointed out, it's ours now. Before noon on the first day after we took possession of the property, Marc had already ripped out the carpeting in the living room and master bedroom. In just a few days we painted and installed new laminate flooring in the master bedroom. It felt great to move our furniture into the bedroom after sleeping on an air mattress in the camper for over two weeks. We'd never installed laminate flooring before and frankly I was worried about doing it. I thought we would have a lot of trouble getting it down and end up with a not so attractive result. I was wrong. Other than sore knees, it was super easy. It looks way better than I expected too! Next we had a new roof put on. We ordered a refrigerator but it hasn't come in yet so we've been cooking outside and using the frige in the camper. I wanted to remodel a bathroom next, but tired of the makeshift camp kitchen, Marc turned his attention to the kitchen. We decided that we couldn't just slap a coat of paint on the cabinets and move on. We had to gut the kitchen entirely. In one day all the cabinets, countertops, vent hood, dishwasher and sink were in the front yard. The dishwasher had died years ago yet was full of stagnant water. Removing it and the sink cabinet were two of the most disgusting home renovation projects I've ever encountered. Marc burned the cabinets and that was that. The upcoming week will involve purchasing cabinets and painting them (guess who gets that project), cleaning all the walls, ceiling and flooring in the kitchen, putting down a new floor (probably vinyl) and installing the cabinets. Next the countertop, sink and dishwasher will go in. I really, really want a wood cook stove and I'm trying to figure out how to fit it in. I think I've gotten more exercise in the last week than I did all last year. It's not all hard work though. We have walked over some but not all of the property. We walked to the eastern boundary line to the back of the property. The back part is densely wooded. We fished in the big pond and each caught two bass. The pond has a peninsula jutting out to the middle, which is a great spot from which to fish. We are looking forward to gardening again. Marc is looking forward to having chickens again. There are two good size gardens already in place and a few blueberry and raspberry plants, and a few fruit trees. The scenery here is so pretty. The hills are so dramatic and there are beautiful rock outcroppings every where. The trees are different as well as some of the wild life. The property has some huge pine trees that spread quite wide, unlike the tall thin pines we're used to seeing in Texas. There are oak trees with large leaves - a variety with which I'm not familiar, cedar and black walnut trees. (I need to figure out how to crack the walnuts) There are bluebirds everywhere, quail, and hummingbirds. We have only seen a few deer, but they are quite large. We had a taste of cooler weather when we first arrived and we are looking forward to our first fall in the Ozarks. We're told that due to the summer rains the fall colors will be spectacular.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What I am Reading Today

Back in the very early 80's I bought a book called "Carla Emery's Old Fashioned Recipe Book" (now it is called The Encyclopedia of Country Living).  I've read and re-read this book so many times that the front and back covers, as well as the first six pages of the book are long gone. 

The author writes about all manner of old fashioned farming and housekeeping topics.  She kind of rambles in the book so by the time you're done you know all about her personal life as well.  She said that the book idea started back in the 70's when she put an ad in the classified section of The Mother Earth News.  She didn't think she would get much response and hadn't started the book yet.

She was bombarded with orders, and checks in payment.  She hadn't even started the book yet, but she cashed the checks and started typing.  This was back before personal computers so she actually typed everything up on a typewriter and mimeographed (no home copiers either...) copies.  She realized it was more work than she thought and she got a few chapters done and sent them with a promise of more to come.  She eventually finished the book and sold it to a publisher.  My copy has 520 pages of tiny type.  That must have been a lot of work.  I can barely manage a blog entry per week.

A few years back Carla Emery was on a speaking tour, and she was slated to speak at a farm close to where we lived.  I was thinking I would go and have her autograph my old copy and buy a new version (she's updated it through the years).  She died of a heart attack right before that speaking engagement.

I'm reading it again for inspiration as we have a contract on our "city" house and we'll be moving to the "sticks" soon.  We have a contract to purchase a 32 acre farm in the Ozarks (we're buying part of a larger tract) from a young Mennonite farming family.  This property is about half pasture and half woods.  We are looking forward to having the woods to explore.  The current owners grow all of their own food in the large gardens and raise meat goats.  They asked to stay on the place until they harvest the corn.  While none of the buildings are what I would call picturesque, they have most of the outbuildings that we will need, including a well house, a goat barn (possibly to become a poultry house), a shop, a small multi-purpose barn, and others.  The house is what they call on HGTV a "fixer".  Livable as it is, but definitely in need of updating.  We have scheduled inspections on the farm and hope that we don't find anything that will be a deal breaker.  I can already see myself living there and don't want to have to start the house hunting process again!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hearts and Flowers Sweatshirt Jacket Transformation

This jacket was a lot more involved than the past couple of projects I have posted on.  I used the method whereby you cut off the sleeves, then cut out an actual sleeve pattern piece and sew it all back together.  The fit is much better using this method. 

If you wonder why even start with a sweatshirt, why not buy fabric?  Buying a sweatshirt is usually cheaper than hunting down the fabric if you can even find the color fabric you want.  Plus you get the color-mtched ribbings to use on your project or save for another use (for kids' projects for example). 

I didn't have a pattern for the jacket, but I did find some on the internet to use as inspiration. 

I have a machine embroidery design set which I used for the heart/flower applique called "Best Friends Forever" by Friend Folks.  It was pricey - $39.99 - by far the most expensive machine embroidery design set I've bought.  I knew that I wanted to use it for this jacket project the minute I saw it.  I also have in mind that I will make a quilt.  There are 9 different designs.  The only thing I don't like is that there's only one size - 6x10, so you can't size it smaller for kids outfits for instance.  Oh, one other thing, the pictures show quilting but the design disk does NOT include the quilting stitches, which I find to be a little deceptive.  The quilt pattern and instructions are included on the disk.  Even without the quilting stitches, I love the way they turned out. I had some buttons which I used as the flower centers.  The designer sells matching buttons, but I just didn't want to spend any more money.

This jacket morphed as I went along.  Since I didn't have a pattern I kept thinking of things I wanted to add.  I decided I wanted a collar, and ruffled edges, and so on.  I didn't have a pattern for the collor.  I just drew one freehand using the sweatshirt neck as my guide.  I used minky for the collar and cuffs.  The collar is lined in pink cotton and the cuffs are lined in minky.  I got hung up on the sleeve cuffs and tore them out and changed my mind a couple of times before I finally ended up with the plain cuff.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sweatshirt to Vest Transformation in Aqua, Grey and Red

Here's another Sweatshirt Transformation project I made at Christmas.  For this one, in the interest of time, I decided to make a vest.  I had bought a jellly roll in taupe, grey, aqua, red and green at the Quilt Festival.  It's called Blitzen by Moda.  (I hoarded that jelly roll but couldn't bring myself to open it up for a long time.) 
I wanted a plain grey sweatshirt as the base, which I didn't have on hand (pink, brown, slate blue, etc etc. I have, but plain grey, no) so I went to wally world for a cheapie.  I found an aqua one, which turned out to be perfect for this project!  I think I paid $5 for it.  I prewashed and dried it, cut off the ribbing and sleeves,  then ironed on stabilizer tapes on the cut edges.  I tried it on inside out and marked and trimmed the arm openings till they looked like what I wanted.   I then cut open the side seams.

I started applying the jelly roll strips in the center back.  I just stitched it down.  Then I added a strip on each side till I had the back covered.  I did the same on the front, starting in the center front. I did 'audition' the strips and had an idea of where I wanted each to go before stitching.  After the strips were stitched on, I stitched up the side seams and serged.  I  made foldover trim for the neck and arm openings out of one strip so they would all match.  No, I didn't make bias strips - I only had jelly roll strips to work with, no yardage and anyway, I'm pretty lazy so even if I had the yardage I wouldn't have made bias tape.  For the bottom edge, I combined a few strips of a similar color to make a long enough piece.  (If anyone wants detailed info on the construction process let me know.)

In the picture above you may note the patch on the back, under the neckline.  The sweatshirt had a label ironed on right there and I didn't want to see "Hanes Size XXXX" so I cut a piece of a strip to fit, turned under the raw edges and used Wonder Under or Heat N Bond to fuse it in place.  Looks a lot better to me.

The bottom edge is shown below.  I used a stitch in the ditch method to finish off the foldover trim.  On the left side you can see the inside of the sweatshirt.  I used a matching thread in the bobbin and a taupe in the needle.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sweatshirt to Jacket Transformation in Slate Blue and Grey

For some reason I am enamored with transforming a sweatshirt to a jacket.  I have no idea why.  In the hot Texas climate I don't even get to wear them much.  Nancy's Notions had a sale a while back on sweatshirts so I bought several, which have been languishing in the fabric stash closet.  I hoard fabrics and supplies until a project worthy of their use comes along (silly to say that about a sweatshirt I know).

We had a trip planned to Arkansas the day after Christmas and I knew the weather would be really cold (in fact it snowed and we drove through an ice storm) so I thought it would be the perfect time to make some sweatshirt jackets.  The one pictured here is so fast to make I literally made it on Christmas Day, after we celebrated Christmas and before I had to pack for our trip.

In a nutshell, when making a quick sweatshirt jacket, you pre-wash everything and dry first of all.  Then cut off all ribbing, apply two strips of iron on stabilizer to center front and neck edge, cut open the front and try on, inside out.  I then pink under the arm to take up the excess fabric so that it fits better.  This is the easiest way to convert a sweatshirt into a jacket.  The other way involves cutting off the sleeves and reconstructing it, which is more work but it fits better.

After the jacket fits, apply the fashion fabrics.  It's basically a quilt as you go method.  I started with the lighter strip at the bottom of the jacket and stitched it directly to the sweatshirt, on the top and bottom of the strip.  I then took the dark grey strip, turned under the raw edges and pressed and then opened out one edge and pinned it, right sides together, over the raw edge of the bottom strip, and then stitched in the crease.  I finished off the top edge with a blanket stitch.  (If anyone wants more detailed info on construction let me know.)

To encase the raw edges I made double fold strips out of another fabric.  I know I SHOULD have made bias, but I was in a big hurry.  The only place this is really an issue is the neckline but for a quick project I just didn't want to invest the time.  I bound the neck edge and sleeve edges first, then the bottom edge, and finally the front.  I had a cool oversize wooden button that I wanted to use and for the button loop I used a brown hair elastic.  I have gotten so many comments on this jacket and the funny thing is it cost about $15 and took about 2 hours!  It works great to layer over a turtleneck but isn't so bulky that I can't wear a coat over it as well. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sewing for Me - Nightgowns

There was a time when home sewing was much cheaper than buying store-bought clothes, but with the prices of fabric these days and so many mass produced clothing items from China available, that's not always the case any more.  So I plan my fabric and pattern shopping when patterns are 99 cents each and fabric is on sale or I have a coupon.  I can sometimes find fabric at yard sales also.

I went to a yard sale of a former crafter, a lady who had a small home based business, and she had TONS of fabric, among other things, for sale.  It was in huge boxes, all mixed together.  She wanted to sell it all in lots so I had to take what was in the box.  One fabric in the mix was a lacey knit in a hot pink print.  I couldn't imagine that I would ever find a use for it, but eventually I realized it would be perfect for a nightgown.  I had some hot pink stretch lace that I'd ordered off the internet for another project which matched perfectly.

At another yard sale I found some batik fabrics which were about $2 per yard.  She had quite a bit for sale but wouldn't bargain on it so I only got two pieces of about 2 yards each cause I really didn't want to pay that much.  I made a top out of one piece (I'll show it in a later post) and used the other for a comfortable nightgown.  I washed the batik and machine dried it so that I wouldn't have to worry about shrinkage later.

I used McCalls 5248 for both of the nightgowns pictured. The pattern calls for lace trim at bodice top so I followed the pattern directions for the pink one. When I was done and tried it on I realized it was too big (gapped in the back but ok everywhere else) so I made a casing and added a piece of 1/4" elastic to the back, which took care of that issue. 

For the batik nightgown, I didn't have any matching lace so I made a bias tape and enclosed the raw edge of the bodice front with it and used it for the straps.  I like the way the stretch lace on the pink nightgown 'gives' for the straps much better than the straps made from the fabric.  I already knew this batik nightgown would be too big in the back but decided to add rows of shirring instead of the elastic.  Because this nightgown is cut on the bias you're supposed to hang it up to set the bias and hem it the next day, but after serging the bottom edge I just didn't feel like it was necessary to hem it. 

Finished edges - stretch lace and bias tape

Back finish

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Handbags

Turquoise Faux Tooled Leather

Brown/Ecru Tweed
Brown Boucle with Leopard Cross Applique

I have been on a purse making tangent lately.  Here are a few that I have made and listed for sale on Etsy. 

When I go to the fabric store I always look in the remnant bin and it seems like I always find something that would work well for a purse so I pick it up for pennies on the dollar.  Now if only I could sell some to help fund my fabric and pattern buying addiction . . .

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Homemade Laundry and Dishwasher Detergent

My homemade laundry detergent
If you're interested in scaling back on the number of cleaning products you buy for household cleaning, you can buy Washing Soda, Borax, and Soap and combine those in different ways to do a lot of  your  regular household cleaning.  The  Down to Earth blog has all sorts of information on how to simplify your cleaning processes.  You should read all of her posts about cleaning, cleaning products, etc. 

You've probably seen pictures or descriptions of people making home made laundry detergent on Pinterest or blogs.  I first started making home made laundry detergent a few years ago.  I've read about how economical it is, but I've never done the math.  Marc is skeptical of "home made" stuff so I do continue to buy detergent but I still like to have home made on hand too.  I find that it cleans as well as the detergent I normally buy (Purex), at least as far as I can tell, but I am sure if you did a scientific experiment and compared it to say Tide it would not do as well.  But then again I don't buy Tide, I just don't want to spend that kind of money on laundry soap.

Some recipes call for Zote soap and some call for Fels Naptha. Up until recently I couldn't find Zote, but now Wal-Mart carries it.  They stock the two soaps, the Washing Soda and the Borax together.  Apparently enough people are asking for these items that they're regularly stocking them.  The last time I made a batch I used Dr. Bronner's soap cause it was half price, and I don't think it worked nearly as well as the Fels Naptha. 

There are several recipes out there, but I just use one bar of soap (grated finely), 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of washing soda, mixed well.
Only a few items are needed to make laundry detergent
You can use a regular hand grater and grate the soap by hand but watch your knuckles!  I've mentioned before that I use the Kitchen Aid mixer as much as possible.  I use the Roto-Slicer attachment with the smallest grater drum to grate the soap.  This is the same drum I use to grate cheese by the way.  The one I have was my Mom's and it's pretty old - around 30 years maybe and has an aluminum housing.  The newer ones are plastic which I'm sure won't last as long.  The drums that fit inside are stainless steel. It takes just a few seconds to finely grate the soap.  I can't imagine how long it would take by hand. 

The Roto-Slicer Attachment which gets a lot of use!

Soap being finely grated
After the soap is grated, I add the Washing Soda and Borax, and then put the mixing paddle on and mix it all up then it's done.  Washing the utensils is easy obviously.  I like to make a double recipe as long as I'm at it.

Mixing it up
The  Hillbilly Housewife Blog has a good liquid detergent recipe.  The first time I made it I doubled the recipe (if one is good, two is better, right?) and ended up with like 10 gallons of detergent and not enough containers to keep it all!  I used all the empty detergent bottles I'd saved, but I still had to keep the remainder in a 5 gallon bucket.  Liquid is convenient in one sense - the ingredients are already pre-dissolved.

To alleviate this storage issue, I just make the powdered version now.  There are a lot of recipes out there with a lot of good information, such as The Family Homestead.  You supposedly only use a tablespoon per load, but I use about 1/8 of a cup in a extra large load.  I always place the powder in the washer first and start the water to dissolve the detergent before I put in the laundry. 

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Not long ago I ran out of diswasher detergent and remembered seeing something on Pinterest for a home made version.  I do buy the more expensive Cascade cause I don't want to have to rinse my dishes.  I just want to put them in and have them come out clean.  So when I was out of detergent and didn't want to rush out to the store, I made up a batch of home made just to play with and see if it worked.  You can find recipes here and here.

Fruit Fresh is Citric Acid.  I suppose not everyone has this in their pantry but I do.  If I didn't I probably wouldn't rush out to get it just to make home made dishwasher detergent. 

As I mentioned, I usually do not rinse dishes but I do scrape off solid stuff.  I use the normal setting most of the time and set it to pre-heat the water so it's hot.  I have a builder-grade dishwasher, not a nicer expensive one like the last house.  I don't have a water softener here either.  I do use a rinse aid since I don't have a water softener.  Since I had all the ingredients on hand in order to make up a batch I am happy enough with the way it works.  I don't think it works quite as well as the Cascade gel that I use, but certainly works as well as the average powdered detergent out there.  I didn't do any price comparisons to see if I saved any money. 

It is nice to know that if I run out of a cleaning product I can make up a batch of whatever I need by having just a few basic items on hand.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Trip to Branson

We went to Branson for a long weekend earlier this month.  We flew on Southwest Airlines cause it was cheapest.  We flew on the very first day that Southwest flew to Branson (more on that later).  I'd never been on Southwest before and it was - different.  We had to go to Hobby Airport to fly on Southwest, which was a trip in itself, literally.  You drive through what I'm sure was once a decent part of Houston, but is now Little Mexico. 

When we got into Branson, we looked out the window wondering where the terminal was.... well it was tiny.  What we thought was a hanger was the terminal.  There was what appeared to be a bandstand with a lot of people on it and lots of onlookers.  We deplaned onto the tarmac, which I have done before in small airports, but never off of a jet.  Our flight was the second Southwest flight to fly into Branson that day.  We learned later that the first flight was met with a band, the singer Mickey Gilley, and lots of fanfare.  How bizarre.  People had come from far and wide to witness the spectacle.  There were still some folks who had stayed to see our flight come in.  Marc said he felt like a rock star.

So we walk over to the terminal and walk in and stop immediately with our mouths wide open.  It was as if we'd walked into an Old West amusement park.  The pic below tells the tale: 

The decor was Old West and there was even a small fish pond in the center of the terminal.  It kinda reminded me of Bass Pro Shop.  I never saw any security officers.  All I saw was souveniour shops and tourism booths.  When we flew out we did encounter the security station.  It was certainly laid back.  I had picked up a Pampered Chef order from my niece to bring back and unbeknownst to me there was a paring knife in the order.  The security officer pulled it out and said there's a knife in your carry on, would you like to check it or mail it.  I feel certain that I would have made the news had this happened in Houston.

The pic below may look like Cracker Barrel, but it's just another part of the airport.  This must be the staging area for the Old Fogies.  Note the rocking chairs.

The scenery is so beautiful.  Here's a shot of the town from an overlook:

Our ears popped continually, up and down the hills.  We both ended up getting sick with sinus infections and both of us had to go to the doctor. 

The hotel we stayed in was the Chateau On The Lake.  It was a beautiful hotel with lots of amenities, right on Table Rock Lake.  The hotel stay was a Christmas gift from the kids.  After staying in Branson for a few days we drove down to Arkansas to stay for a couple days and visited with Dana and Mike. 

While flying was certainly faster, I still prefer to drive.  I like being on my own schedule and having the flexibility to come and go as I please.  Our trip right after Christmas was during a terrible ice storm.  We're certainly not used to driving in the snow and ice, much less on mountain roads.  While it was a little tense in spots, it was a beautiful drive.  The snow covered fields and hills were breathtaking.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Blogs are like Garage Sales

I love Garage Sales!  I could spend hours poring thru someone else's junk, but I absolutely HATE to have a garage sale of my own.  I also love to read other people's blogs!  I've come to realize I don't really like doing any of my own posts.  My life is so boring - surely if I am not enthused enough to write about it, no one else wants to read about it...

I've learned that I am a Project Person.  I like big projects - I like to break down a big project into its various steps and figure out the best way to complete each step, then work each step.  Then put it away and move to the next Project.  I don't like the "same old same old".  That works great if you're a Project Manager, but if you have those everyday tasks that must be completed, well, everyday, it's not such a good thing.  As I read on someone else's blog . . . I'm a good Starter.  Not such a good Finisher.  At this stage of my life I don't think I am going to change that.   Oh well. 

I got an IPhone which has contributed to my blogging delinquency. I can't blog on the phone (I need a keyboard) and opening up the laptop is just too much work (remember when a laptop was a convenient luxury??). 

All of that to say that perhaps regular blogging isn't my cup of tea.    My sister Kathy pointed out that I had "dreadfully neglected" my blog. So I have set a goal to do 2-4 posts a month.  Surely I can keep up with that.
We decided to move - again.  We have come to the conclusion that we don't like suburban living.  This house is nice enough and it was certainly easy to have a builder complete all the work for us.  We only had to pick colors and finishes.  But that's really boring.  Remember I like projects, so I like having a not-so-perfect house that needs an update here and there.  So the house is up for sale and we've made an offer on a farm in Arkansas, in the Ozarks. 

Why the Ozarks?  A lot of reasons, not the least of which is the cost of living - we can get a whole lot more for our money there in terms of real estate and housing.  Also, the climate.  We would like to experience something other HEAT.  I'd like to see leaves turn colors in the fall, snow, a chance to wear sweaters and coats, a summer that isn't so brutal that we could actually go outside during the day.

The Ozark farm consists of 32 acres, about half of which is pasture and half wooded.  There are two large gardens, barns, sheds, etc., in place already.  A young Mennonite family lives there now and they raise all their own food in those gardens.  I am dreaming of the wood cook stove I've always wanted, and milk goats. 

Surely moving to the Ozarks will provide a lot of fodder for future blog posts. 

We went to Branson on a vacation earlier this month, which I will do a short post on, as well as two trips to Arkansas since Christmas. 
I have completed a lot of sewing projects since I last posted.  I've been making clothes for myself, various children's clothing, and purses.  Pinterest has provided a wealth of ideas.  I find that I don't get good pics of the projects I complete, which makes no sense.  I have umpteen professional photo backdrops and all the necessary gear and editing software... but all that stuff has to be taken out and set up before I can use it.  It's just so much work! I see that I need to add "photo studio" to my wish list.  Marc says I need a building in which to put all my crafty stuff, and I think I must agree.  If it was big enough I could have everything out, set up and ready to use.  

I've done some photography for a few people/groups (family and paying clients), which I really enjoy doing.  I upgraded my Photoshop before Christmas which has made editing SOOOOOO much easier.  I had Version TWO - yes I did say TWO.  The newest update is ELEVEN.  The newer software has so many more user friendly features. It's like a different program.
I will end this post with a few pics from Easter.  

Rylan will still pose with the Easter Bunny
Willow in the Bluebonnets
the Vacante family

Willow's First Haircut!

Marc, me and Caroline