Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fun Christmas Stuff Around our House

First off, we have our Christmas tree.  Now, with a very curious, active toddler, I was stumped as to what to do about ornaments.  Sure, they make those "unbreakable" ones, but neither my husband nor myself were sure that they would stand up to our daughter.  One day, we wandered around the discount store, looking for ideas when my daughter picked up a package of golden jingle bells and gave them a shake.  As I turned towards her to make sure she wasn't about to break anything, my eye caught another package of red jingle bells. And thus, our Christmas tree ornaments were found....

After bedtime and clean up, our tree looks like this:
During the day, it looks more like this, and this is on a good day:
The poor little bells spend more time on the floor than they do on the tree, but at least my daughter has fun running around shaking them!

Second, we have three ice wreaths that I had fun creating from various left-over craft supplies that we had laying (lying? I can't ever get those straight.) around.  The original idea is over here and she made some gorgeous wreathes!
Mine were mostly colored string and ribbon. Nothing special, but still fun.
This morning I noticed that the wreaths were "growing" icicles! How fun!
Third, we have our over-the-door swag thingie. ;)  It's just lights, ribbon, and glass ornaments. I'm rather pleased with how it turned out.
It was difficult to get a full picture of (daylight coming through the doors), so you'll just have to fill in the gaps...
Finally, since my daughter loves bells so much right now, I found some larger bells on sale at joann's and made a bell door knob hanger.  To do it, I learned how to loop braid ribbon and how to make korker spiral ribbon.  For loop braiding, you can do it with one color or two colors.  For the korker spirals, I found this blog and this blog most helpful.  Everyone had slightly different ideas about how to do them, but the idea is all the same, so I just mish-mashed it together and mine turned out great!
Well, my daughter is knocking on her bedroom door to be let up from "naptime."  Coming soon: how to make cinnamon rolls with my basic bread dough recipe! Mmmmm!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Cloth Training Pants!

Just to warn you, this is one looooong tutorial.  I thought about breaking it up into two but it wasn't quite that long...

My almost two-year-old daughter decided that she no longer liked diapers and started refusing to wear them.  So we decided to gently introduce her to the idea of potty training.  To aid with that, I decided that she needed some training pants so that she could work on the concept of keeping her "panties" dry.  After much googling, I finally found this free pattern that I really liked.  It comes from the Nappy Network--DIY side of the site.  Here is the specific Wee Weka Knickers pattern in PDF format.  You can also get to the pattern by clicking on the Nappy Network link, scrolling down to the bottom of their page and finding their link that says "Wee Weka Pull-on training Knickers."

So, go print off the pattern, measure your kiddo to see how he or she compares to the pattern and modify the pattern accordingly.  For my daughter, I made four modifications:
1. I folded over the waist to make the elastic casing rather than sewing on a separate band--my daughter preferred a lower waist.
2. I cut the leg holes a little wider--she liked them to be looser.
3. I did not add cuffs around the leg holes--same reason as the above.
4. I added a small absorbent liner in the crotch area--my preference.

It took making 3 different panties to discover what my daughter liked. I highly recommend making one and modifying the pattern, making another one, modifying it, etc. until you find the right fit for your kiddo.  Here is my final pattern.  You can click on any of these pictures to see them larger.
I used fleece for the panties, but you can use any cloth that has a slight stretch.  Lay the dotted side of the pattern on the fold of your fabric and cut it out.  Make sure that your fabric's stretch runs across the pattern.  I tried to stretch (haha!) the fabric I got by cutting a few panties out with the stretch running the other way and my daughter refuses to wear those.  They just don't fit the same and seem to be too snug.  So don't be like me.
As you can see from the cutting board's measurements, each panty takes about a 15" by 11" piece of fabric.  It will take more if you are doing a separate waist band and leg cuffs.  To figure out the shape and size of the liner, I laid out my cut panty on a blank sheet of paper and traced the leg holes.  Then I rounded out the shape and cut it down a little so that it fit nicely inside the crotch area.
This is what I came up with: a little pad-shaped thing that is about 4" by 7".
I cut out a whole bunch of these from two old sweatshirts of my husband. I used two of these liners per diaper, but I could easily have done three for more absorbency.  I also made them fairly small, you could easily make them larger.
The liners are the first thing to get sewn in. Pin them...
And stitch them in!  I used my longest stitch and went around them twice.
I don't know if it really helps them be more secure or anything like that, but I really like how it looks from the outside of the panties.
Then I pinned up the sides and stitched them at 3/8ths inch seam allowance (rather than the 1/2 inch called for in the pattern). I wanted them to be a little looser than the original pattern's.
Also note that I used a straight stitch. Since I'm using fleece, it won't unravel, so I didn't need to zig-zag the edges.  If you are using a fabric that will unravel, make sure to zig-zag or serge the edges. Or you can do what I did with these to make them more pretty: a sort of half felled seam. 

This is a felled seam.  Basically, you stitch up the seam as normal, then cut one seam allowance shorter than the other, fold the longer one around the shorter and turn under the raw edge so that all raw edges are hidden. Then you stitch it all up.

What I did was stitch up my side seams as I just showed you and trimmed the back panel's seam allowance to be significantly shorter. Then I folded the front panel's seam allowance back over it, but I didn't fold the raw edge under.  I stitched it down just like that.  One raw edge is still showing and the other is hidden. I did this because I wanted the side seams to be a little more finished and flat so that they wouldn't bother my daughter's sensitive skin.  She's very sensitive to the way clothing rubs, so this flattened the potentially annoying seam so that she doesn't even notice it.  It also adds a nice finished touch to the panties.  Make sense?  Probably not, it was hard to catch with photos. Feel free to comment with questions!
Once I had the side seams all sewn up, I started on the waist band.  I simply folded the fabric over on itself about 1/2 inch and stitched it. I didn't do the separate waist band because I wanted the panties to be lower-cut.  But after using these for a while, I think that next time I make them, I will either add more height to the pattern when I cut them out or I will add the separate waist band like the original pattern tells us to do. These are cut just a bit too low. Or maybe my daughter grew since I made them, you never know!
I had the front of the waist band dip down a bit more to go under my daughter's little belly. I definitely like how this worked out.  Once they were all pinned, I stitched them up at 3/8ths inch.  Make sure to leave an unstitched hole in the waist band. This is where you'll thread your elastic!
So...your panties are basically all stitched up. This is what we have left to work with: panties, elastic and buttons.
Let's start with the buttons. I had 6 panties that my daughter needed to be able to tell front from back on. So I laid out my many colors of buttons and started choosing which ones to use.
I stitched them on with a zig-zag stitch, trimmed the thread, and dabbed fabric glue onto the threads to protect them from tiny hands that like to pull on threads.  Why did I do so many colors? Because I'm a glutton for punishment and love changing the thread out on my machine...just kidding. I just wanted lots of colors--nevermind that it was rather annoying to switch the colors out for the various buttons...
Then cut out your elastic.  I cut these at 14 inches for my daughter's 20-21 inch waist--they're a bit tight, so next time I'll cut them a bit looser.
Thread them through the waist band using a safety pin...
And stitch them!  I used a zig-zag stitch and went back and forth over them several times. I took the needle you see there out before I really started stitching. It was there to keep the overlap in place until I could get it under my presser foot.
My lovely elastic stitching job....
Stitch up the hole in the waist band and you're done!
I keep mine stacked in a convenient spot in our living room--right next to the cloth diapers/spit-up cloths that are used to clean up accidents.
And here's my little one (well, part of her) modeling her panties.  So cute!

There you go: how I modified a pattern to make my own cloth training pants.  Our potty training kind of isn't going anywhere, but hopefully yours will move along much better than ours!  My little girl seems to think her panties are cloth diapers and prefers them over our typical disposables.  I comfort myself with the fact that we're saving money on the disposables.... ;)

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions! The comments are moderated so I will see the questions no matter how long ago I posted this.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

How to Shine Copper

So it's that time of the year where we all are cleaning everything--including the super random things like our teapot bottoms!  Yes, I cleaned the copper bottom of my teapot not too long ago.  This is what it looked like after I had scrubbed it, layered a baking soda paste on it and left that to sit, and scrubbed it some more.  Let me tell you, it looked much better than it had. I pretty much gave up hope on the last of the burned-on spots, but I wanted to make the rest of it look pretty.
So I went searching for some ideas on how to help my the copper bottom look even nicer.  I have a nifty little book from Reader's Digest that shares all sorts of creative, helpful uses for random stuff you might have around your house, so I checked there.  They suggested ketchup--which I have lots of!  Who with a toddler doesn't have lots of ketchup?  So I followed their instructions and glopped on a nice thick layer of ketchup and left the tea pot to sit for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, I eagerly wiped off  the ketchup to see if it had worked.  And look at that: the copper looks wonderful!  Too bad I couldn't get more of the black off, but at least the copper that is clean looks gorgeous!
You can even read the manufacturer's imprint--so the ketchup did help the stubborn black spots, too.  I was very pleased with this little trick.
I shined up the rest of my teapot and it looks gorgeous!  Now if only I can protect it from splatters from Christmas cooking....


Monday, December 6, 2010

Bread dough variation: sub sandwich rolls

Every Sunday I made sub sandwich rolls for my husband to take for lunch during the week. It saves us money, makes his lunch more enjoyable, and makes me feel like I'm taking good care of him. :)  This dough is made exactly the same as my basic bread dough, it's just shaped differently.  Basically, I just wanted to give you another idea of what you could do with the dough--it's not complicated or anything like that.  So, if you haven't already, head over here to get the recipe and mixing instructions!

So, nothing new here, you've got your dough all mixed, kneaded, and ready to rise:

I like to put a bowl of boiling water into my warm oven with my rising dough--it helps keep the dough moist. This is especially helpful if I'm mixing up the dough and leaving it for a significant amount of time (like going to church or running to the grocery store).
Once the dough has doubled in size, I punch it down and divide it in half.

  Then I divide each half into three equal balls.

 Then I roll each ball of dough into a "snake" of dough (does anyone know the technical term for this?).  I make each "snake" of dough 8-9 inches long. I have found that when I leave the dough to rise, it expands more along the width than the length.

I also flour and then slash the top of each snake because I think it looks cool. I have no idea of this helps it in any way. (Note: you will notice that in some of these pictures I have 6 rolls and in others I have 4--I took pictures of the process two different weeks and used the best from each.)  Halfway through the slashing process:

Then I put the rolls back in the oven to rise and pull them out when they look something like this:
I warm my oven up to 400 degrees F and bake them for 8-10 minutes.  Just a note on the cookie sheet: I've begun using parchment paper (as you see in some of the previous pictures) rather than greasing my sheets and I loooove parchment paper so much more!

Let them cool on a wire rack and put them in a ziplock bag. These rolls keep for about a week, but they do dry out as the week goes along.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent Calendar: Part 2!

Part 1 of this tutorial is here!

So, you have now washed and dried your socks--maybe more than once.  I found as I worked with the socks that the red dye hadn't been completely washed out of the socks, so I got a few red marks on my ironing cloth later on. It wasn't a big deal, but next time I dye something I'll wash it twice before using it.
 And you have your stencils--if you're planning on painting your numbers onto your socks. In the original idea (from Martha Stewart), number stickers were stuck to the socks so that they could be re-used. I didn't care about re-using the socks, so I was going for permanent.  I made my stencils out of freezer paper.  Amy over at naptime crafters has a good explanation of how to make and use freezer paper stencils.  I just cut my paper to 8.5x11 inches, printed the numbers onto the non-shiney side (very important!) and then cut the numbers out with an exacto knife.  It didn't take as long as I expected it to.
 I laid my socks out on my ugly ironing board and rearranged them until I liked what I had.
 Then I laid out my numbers...
 ...and ironed them on!  Now, as you will see later on, I used too hot of an iron OR freezer paper doesn't do well with sock fabric.  I'll show you later how the plastic-y part of the freezer paper didn't want to come off of my sock.
 Back to our current activity: line up the socks in whatever way works best for you.
 Squirt out some fabric paint and get to work!
 I used my finger to put the paint down--it just works best for me.  Normally I would recommend putting a protective layer of something like paper between the two layers of the fabric, but the sock fabric was thick enough that the paint didn't soak through.

Here's the first layer of paint:
 Second layer:
 Again, first layer:
 Second layer:
 I stopped at two layers of paint, though some of the red socks could have handled a third.  Hung up, they look just fine.

Now, on to 24 hours later, after the paint has dried.  I tried to pull off the freezer paper...the paper part came right off, but not the plastic! (Note: please see the update farther down in this thread--or read on if you're looking for how to remove iron-on appliqué plastic.)
 Uh oh...
 So I tried the blow drier. It didn't work.
 What I ended up doing (and managed to not take any pictures of), was heating my iron up to its hottest setting (cotton) with no steam.  Then I laid an ironing cloth over it--mine is just a light weight "flour sack" dish cloth--and ironed the heck out of it.  When I lifted the paper off of the sock, some of the plastic-y stuff came away, but not all.  So I put the cloth back over the sock and ironed more. The ironing cloth lifted some of the plastic-y stuff away from sock and eventually the socks looked pretty good (and my ironing cloth got a bit stiff).
 You can still see a bit of residue where the freezer paper was adhered, but it's much, much better than it used to be. (Oh, and notice my new ironing board cover--thank you Black Friday!). :)
 It took forever--an entire naptime--but I eventually got all of the socks looking pretty good.

UPDATE: I figured out what went wrong with my iron-on stencils. I thought I was using freezer paper, but I was not. I mindlessly grabbed the paper roll stored next to my freezer paper, which happened to be my Heat-n-Bond No Sew Iron-on appliqué paper! No wonder the plasticy part didn't come off--it wasn't meant to! What's even worse is that I started to do it again and thankfully caught myself and saved that project. *headdesk*

So we hung them up!  I used some of those metal ornament hooks. I just hooked them through the sock fabric and squeezed the end shut. I secured a ribbon to the wall (the ribbon ended up being about 60 inches long) and spaced out my socks as evenly as possible.
 We will use candy canes to mark the days that have passed.  I can't wait to start using it!
That's all for now!