DIY Ottoman

I’ve always wanted an ottoman large enough to fit the couch blankets in, but refuse to put a couple hundred into it. So, I don’t remember where I saw this idea, but I love it! I bought the fabric during the crazy black Friday sales, and picked up the largest tub Target carried, and presto! A huge ottoman for under $30!

I used about two yards of Felt by Yard in gray for the tub, and about a yard of Faux Fur in black for the lid. I took notes as I winged this pattern, but I lost them! If I ever find them I’ll update this post.

This was my little helper during this project:

Cat Bed

I’ve never had too much luck with my cats using their cat beds, but I bought some gray felt by the yard for a project, and my cats would not stay off of it! So I went back to the store and got them a yard of their own to make a hemmed topper for their cat tree. It was a hit!

Gerbil Bonding

My gerbil, Kate, is adorable. The only gerbil I’ve seen with siamese-like coloring, her nose and ears and tail are darker than the rest of her, and she is super sweet. I adopted her with another gerbil who was very wild and escaped while we were outside, biting my daughter, I’ve never had a gerbil who bites, so we were not sad to see her go. However, Kate is old enough that I’m told she will not adapt to another gerbil, and yet gerbils don’t do well alone, they are social creatures. So we’ve been careful to spend extra time with Kate, she is curious and likes to explore, but is also calm and loves to be with me as I check out the garden or do crafts at the table. She’ll even sit on my shoulder as I walk around the house or outdoors.

I do get worried about her falling off my shoulder so I looked into bonding bags for small animals. There are lots on etsy, and the easiest is just a simple sling, similar to what I carried my babies in when they were infants. I repurposed an old knitted scarf that I got for free with some yarn, roughly crocheting the ends of the scarf together to form the sling. It’s working so far, Kate can burrow into the sling to feel safe, or poke her nose out to sniff and look around! Yay!

Dressed for Summer Fun!

I always wear all my clothes until they have holes in them, and pants are the worst, I only rotate through a few pair and so they get worn down quicker than anything. Also, since I’m under five feet tall, it’s hard to find pants that fit, or that are easy to alter myself. Anyway, last fall I was down to two pair of black slacks for work when I started making heavy fabric skirts, with flannel layers for warmth. They were perfect for winter and a chilly spring, but now I look a little silly in those thick dark colored skirts since it’s 70 degrees and sunny outside, so I returned to cycling through my two pair of black slacks…

My wonderful sister sent me a bit of money, just as a fun surprise, which allowed me to get some summery skirt fabric! I happened to catch a sale at, then used a coupon, and ordered enough to get free shipping, so I stretched every penny to buy mostly cotton gauze and some knit. (Below I listed the full price of the fabrics, however I ALWAYS use coupons for fabric, or I don’t buy it, so those prices are not what I actually paid.)

I spent a few weekends prewashing fabric and getting the skirts cut and sewn into the perfect pattern I found, you can see my post about that here: Effortlessly Earthy Skirt Pattern, and so, I’m proud to present…

My Summer Wardrobe:

I have turned to skirts for these practical and pleasing reasons:
– In the winter they keep my legs warm, and in summer keep them breezy.
– I can wear inexpensive shorts under them, or long yoga pants, and those are easy to replace.
– They look dressy at work, or fun and spunky on the weekends!
– They are much cheaper to buy fabric for ($10 or less), than to buy pants ($20 or more)
– Skirts look great with my barefeet or sandals, which is my choice of footwear all spring, summer, and fall.
– I like the flowy feel of the skirts, helps me feel connected to the wind, and to the trees also stirred by the wind.

Thank you to my great sister for her contribution to my project, I’m happy to say that my boring black slacks are permanently retired, and skirts are all I wear now. I LOVE my new skirts!!

My Favorite, And My Best

I enjoy crafting and know the basics of many crafts, however my skills surround these three abilities:

Embroidering with my sisters is own of my earliest, and happiest, memories. I most enjoying making quilt blocks, kitchen towels, etc with outline and satin embroidery, I enjoy this type of embroidery the most because it gives me more creative freedom with scrapbooking my own patterns.

Custom Crib Set

Custom Crib Set

Crocheted Hat

Crocheted Toddler Hat

I started crocheting when I was eleven, my grandma taught me how to chain, how to single and double crochet, then she taught me how to follow a pattern and let me loose from there! I’ve been avidly crocheting ever since! ♥

My mother taught me to sew when I was nine, I joined in her humanitarian aid efforts by sewing together quilt tops, which were put together with the backing by more accomplished seamstresses for the homeless. I really enjoyed sewing, which was surprising because for the most part I was terrible at it. I gave up in my teens to purse hand sewing, so imagine my surprise when I bought a sewing machine last year to try again and was actually really good at sewing! All those early lessons came rushing back and were joined with the patience I’ve learned over the years through motherhood. Now I’ve been trying to find anything and everything to sew!

Cloth Pads Part One: Liner Pads

While I’m on the subject of personal hygiene I thought I’d stay on topic, so personal hygiene week continues… today I wanted to mention what I’ve done about ‘personal care pads’ also called ‘sanitary pads’ – I’ve stopped buying them.

Ever since my girls were born I’ve had problems with incontinence, requiring me to buy boxes and boxes of panty liners. Besides the fact that it felt like I was wasting a small fortune, all these liners were toxic plastic rubbing on my sensitive skin each day, and they are mucking up our environment. I was super nervous to switch to fabric, and the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner! I really don’t know why I didn’t think of it, I used washable fabric liners for my bra when I was breastfeeding, while at the same time using disposable plastic liners in my panties! Ugg, mental head slap!! I blame mommy brain, but more likely it’s just the culture we live in.

When researching how to make my own liners I found hundreds of patterns, you tube videos, blogs, and info, the pattern that I went with worked marvelously! And it’s possible to fold them up using the snaps to keep the inside part of the pad clean! Here is the awesome free pattern I used:
Panty Liner Directions
Panty Liner Pattern Pieces
For liners I use the above pattern as is, then for period pads I added a layer of plastic, more on that in tomorrow’s post Cloth Pads Part Two: Heavy Pads.

If you don’t have time to sew your own, there are heaps of cloth pads on etsy to buy, just search for ‘Reusable cloth pads and liners’ , however, why buy them when you can make them out of scraps, or old t-shirts, or old flannel sheets like I did ;)

This will make more sense after looking over the directions :)

Don’t Forget Seam Allowances…like I did.

My post earlier today was all about the new pattern that I’m in love with, what I failed to mention, and also failed to do, was take into account seam allowances when I made it the first time, so I ended up with a skirt way too small around for me. Meg grabbed my disgrace, pulled it up to her armpits, and announced “I’ve always wanted a dress like this!!” Somehow she talked me into turning it into a play dress for her, we took out one of the six panels, added spaghetti straps, and eureka! It’s rather shabbily done, but then I think that is what we were going for, a sort of renaissance peasant child plus woodland elf… meg was immensely pleased with the result and ran around it for almost the entire three day weekend!

Meg the Elf & Kate the Gerbil

Effortlessly Earthy Skirt Pattern

Since last fall I’ve been on the search for a simple, yet flowing, skirt pattern. It’s been a long hunt with lots of random skirts along the way. I started with a pattern that needed only two yards of fabric, yet was so constricting that I could not take long strides, or tuck my feet under me when sitting. Next I tried one that used five yards of fabric, and was so flowing that I could not sit easily at work because the skirt would get stuck in my chair’s rolling wheels. Next I found one that needed four yards, but only really used three because the skirt pieces were cut out at such odd angles and the whole thing was immensely complicated to sew together. I was sure there had to be an easier way to make a gypsy skirt.

And thanks to this pattern, I have found it!!! I originally saw this simple vintage pattern on a blog, which I was sure I saved the link to, but now I can’t locate it. I wish I could find the link if only to pass on my heartfelt thanks at this wonderful pattern. As soon as I saw it, profound relief washed over me. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind our human species genetic memory kicked in and sighed “Yesss, that is how it should be done…”

Click here to download: The Effortlessly Earthy Skirt Pattern

Yesterday afternoon I made one for me, one for Meg with the leftover fabric, and a mini skirt for Kay with the very last square scrap.

The Matching Skirts

(for the mini skirt I was going by instinct. I cut the square in half, sewed the two pieces into tubes, hemmed them, then sewed the two tops together in a stretchy waistband. It works for a playskirt!)

I’m going to make about ten more of these skirts for my summer wardrobe. I’m so blissfully content, I finally the found The One. I can happily say I’m IN LOVE with this pattern, it’s comfortable, flowing, and the best thing is, no wasted fabric, no ungainly scraps, I could almost weep with joy!

5/28/13 UPDATE: See post Don’t Forget Seam Allowances…like I did.
7/10/13 UPDATE: Also, the pattern says to use a hook & eye on the waistband, or a zipper, but I used strechy fabric instead and just made the skirt really fitted to stay up, think yoga pants, but this is a yoga skirt, and that keeps my skirt up so I don’t have to fiddle with those sewing notions.
7/12/13 UPDATE: see post about my summer wardrobe, Dressed for Summer Fun!

Preserving Nearly Extinct Knowledge

I met a lovely women on the train this morning and we were taking about teaching children how to sew and crochet, or do crafts, as an agreeable way to get through summer boredom. I approve, I wish more people had the same outlook. Sewing and crafting has become almost a lost art, and it makes me want to cry, it’s making a comeback with all the back-to-the-landers who are trying to learn every bit of lost knowledge, and with people who are nostalgic about their grandparents, but for the most part people are moving forward with technology at an alarming rate. Don’t get me wrong, I love crafting and I love technology too, but I still think the two can and should coexist. For example, I find a lot of my patterns online, and scrapbook them into perfect size and look. It’s hard finding people who are interested in learning these vanishing arts, however, think of all the eager young minds who will be bored to death this summer, and how excited they would be to learn something new! If you know any kids, take a moment to teach them a craft, or learn one with them! And on that note, I thought today I’d post just a few tips that are often not mentioned in how-to books.

I’d like to first say that I started learning how to embroidery when I was five years old. I remember that I had to have someone thread my needle and make the knots, but I was sewing! And proud of it! I wanted to create the same feeling of knowledge and accomplishment in my own daughters, so I started teaching Meg to embroidery when she was six, I did all the thread and knots, and let her focus on learning to stitch. Also, just the other day started her learning to make crochet chains, the first step into learning that wonderful craft. Kaylee, not to be left behind, demanded to be taught how to sew as soon as she turned five. Here is a pic of her a couple weeks ago finally getting to embroidery!

Kay working on her first embroidery project

A few quick overlooked tips for teaching youngsters, or anyone, how to craft:
♥ Stay excited about the project, excitement is catching.
♥ Baby steps – don’t try too much at once, and take breaks.
♥ Make sure you have all the tools first, no sense it ratcheting up excitement over a new project, only to discover that you don’t have tapestry needles and JoAnn’s is closed for the night, oh the whining and lamentations….
♥ For Crochet: start by having your student learn to chain, the chains don’t have to be perfect, because it’s not about learning chains, it’s about learning how to hold the yarn and hook properly. My grandma forced me make chains for months before she’d continue my lessons.
♥ For Embroidery: start with short stiches, a small pattern such as this is perfect: Kitten

Because I taught Meg how to digitally scrapbook long before I taught her how to sew, she not only embroidered every stitch of her first project, but with only a little help she designed it using Photoshop. Her first creation:

Meg’s first pattern

As a quiet dark evening falls over our tiny corner of Hillsboro, I pull out my sewing and the girls ecstatically gallop off to get their own projects to ‘sew with mom’, like mother like daughter, my seven year old meg has three different projects that she is working on at the moment. And I hope she continues to carry on the knowledge of sewing and passes it on to the next generation.