Monday, September 7, 2009

We kicked off a before school Labor Day with an apple theme. Bracelets and baked apples were made and enjoyed. It is not often that we do organized crafts, so the girls enjoyed this. Especially Flurpee who has a very small wrist. She almost never finds bracelets that do not fall off.

The bracelet idea was from a book or magazine, but now that I'm trying to find it for the reference, I can't remember which it came from. And I have a lot of kid's craft books. The bracelets were made using:

barrel clasps
28 gauge beading wire
crimping beads
green glass beads
green leaf beads
14 mm wooden beads (I used a spray paint to paint them a warmish yellow--a little bit of orange in the color)
some larger beads to prevent the wood beads from sliding over the smaller green beads (I used some opal chip beads I had from a previous project)

I also used a flat pair of non-marking (no teeth) pliers, toothed pliers, and wire cutters.

Using non-marking pliers, I first tightened the loops on the barrel clasps so the the wire wouldn't slip out of the gap. Then I feed the wire into the barrel clasp loop, twist it, then feed on a crimp bead and squished it flat with the pliers. Then we started putting on the green beads (about four depending on the size of the bracelet), the larger bead, the yellow bead, and the leaf. Repeat until the bracelet is the right length. A few extra beads at the end will help if the bracelet is not quite long enough. There will be four or five apples per bracelet. Once the bracelet is the correct length (I checked by putting it around the wrist and comparing it the the end of the clasp), put on a crimp bead. Put the wire through the other crimp bead loop and back through the crimp bead. If you want it to be extra secure, you can wrap the wire end around the wire a few times. Squish the crimp bead and wear.

The baked apples were a delicious and easy treat. I think my older daughter, Hanover, may want her apples this way every time. Although many recipes did not call for it, I peeled the apples to make them more fork- (and kid-) friendly.

6 apples--An apple (or two) per person (we used Jona Gold, but tart apples work well too if you don't want that much sweetness), peeled and with the seeds removed from the center leaving a nice hole
3/4 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
water (for the bottom of the dish while cooking)

The kids added a few shakes of cinnamon and two shakes of nutmeg and stirred. They omitted the raisins in theirs (what a loss). After they filled the centers of the apples with the mixture, they placed a dab of butter on top. Then I added the raisins and filled the rest of the apples.

We followed the recipe and baked them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. I did not bother basting the apples at all.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pampering the Laptop with a DIY Homemade Notebook or Laptop Cover/Case/Skin/Wrap

I've gotten my very first laptop! It is great to be able to work at the table where the girls do schoolwork. Now I can get my own things done while policing them at the same time. Yeah--if I'm not right where I can remind them about homeschool, they wander off like absent-minded little bees. Now I am right where they are completing their schoolwork and I can blog at the same time.

Owning a large, expensive piece of portable electronics, however, is a little nerve wracking. Admittedly, my Pocket PC (kind of like an iTouch or iPhone minus the phone part) cost more than this laptop did, but I wasn't as nervous about that as the laptop. The laptop, however, is considerably more unwieldy as well as much heavier. I have to take it in and out of my 'purse' (a much more girly-type laptop bag--it's enormous) a lot. And it's not the only thing I keep in the bag. Since I have a one-year old, I often carry baby items, not to mention keys, a Day Runner, pens, cell phone, and other items. I was worried about it getting scratched.

I could have bought a laptop case--one of those padded bags with a zipper that you need to pull the laptop out of everytime you want to use it. Nah! I already hated getting it out of the bag it was in. I just wanted to open it and go. Pocket PCs and Palm Pilots have great cases. Just slip the device in and all you need to do is open the front. All of the functions of the device are completely available and it's very rare the you need to remove it from it's case. I liked that.

I decided to make my own, large, version for my laptop. Here is what it looks like finished:

Here is what the top looks like. Isn't it pretty. Way nicer than those industrial-looking cases. Like the fabric? I really loved this pattern from Jennifer Paganelli's Bell Bottom quilting cotton collection. The larger width of the laptop really gave it enough real estate to show it off quite nicely. Laptop skins are very nice, but I wanted something NOW and something that was more 'me.'

The cover wraps around the laptop like those book covers we used to make in high school. I decided to have a different pattern on the bottom of the laptop. If you'll note, I made sure to cut away the fabric from the vents and from the feet (don't want the thing to slip away from me while precariously balanced on some surface). The sides of the laptop are left uncovered so I can access all of the ports and the DVD tray.

Here is how it looks when the laptop is opened. See? The cover stays on nicely. Notice how well the Bell Bottom smaller-scale print looks on the touch pad area. I love seeing that pretty pattern when I use it. I used elastic at the bottom of the screen and along the sides. I thought about using ribbon, but decided I liked the elastice give and fudge-factor instead. And I didn't have 1/4" wide ribbon on hand.

I hardly dare to call this sewing. Except for the bias binding above the touch pad, putting the two different fabrics together, and sewing on the elastic and tabs (used to hold the fabric at the top of the screen and at the bottom of the touch pad, everything else was done with cutting and Fray Check.

It was my first project on my new sewing table. Needed to break in that new, huge, cutting table and mat and make a cover. How fortuitous! And you're right--two large purchases at the same time. Let's just say some husband realized that I didn't get a decent Christmas, birthday, or Valentine's day presents and was very generous as a result.

I'll include some information about how I made the cover. First I taped a couple of sheets of paper together to use as a template. I taped it in place to cover the touch pad, and with the laptop closed wrapped it underneath and then to cover the top. I held it in place at the top edge while I opened the laptop to figure out where to cut it so it would fold over the top edge without covering the screen. I cut out the length there and then taped that edge to the top edge of the monitor. I also made a cut out for the touch pad and the microphone and headphone jacks. Then I cut the sides to about the same width as the laptop itself. I left a wing at the bottom (next to the touch pad) and a wing next to the top edge of the monitor. These will be folded under and sewn to the other side of the cover to help secure it in place.

My next concern was to make sure I left holes for ventilation and the feet (I didn't want my laptop to slip). The feet were easy to cut around by feel. The vent were more difficult. Remember leaf rubbings? I rubbed a crayon on the paper over the vents and they showed up for cutting quite well.

With the paper template complete, it was time to cut the fabric. Because I was using two fat quarters, I sewed them together (yay, overlock!). I made sure that the center of each design was aligned and then made the seam.

Since I was concerned about the center of the design, I folded my template in half to find it's center. Notice the tabs on the top and bottom. These are the 'wings' we left on the folded over parts to make a pocket.

I lined up the fold line in the center of the paper template with the center of the pattern I selected. I also made sure that the seam of my two fabrics lined up with hinge of the lap top and had a half-inch between it and the first cut. Using one fabric would eliminate that concern. Then I cut around the template and cut out all of the openings for the electronics.

Once I cut out the openings, I test-fit the fabric. I had some adjustments to make. I just used some sharp embroidery shears to fix the openings. I didn't care how big they were, just that they didn't connect into really large openings.

Then it was Fray Check time. I toyed with putting bias tape around each edge, but quickly gave up on that idea. I was in too much of a hurry and I wasn't sure I wanted to worry about the tabs that get folded around.

Because I had a large opening at the edge of the fabric where my touch pad was, I decided to use a bias tape edge binding that would cover the edge and connect the two sides together. Test fit the bias binding first and mark where the edge should connect with the bias tape. I didn't and I ended up with a 1/4" too much bias tape at the opening and it gaps oddly. Yippee for the bias tape foot.

You can see where the bias tape edging goes in this next picture. You can also see where the bias tape lies oddly because of the mismeasurement (um, nice way of saying 'no measurement at all'). The following photo also shows the two tabs that get tucked around the top and bottom of the laptop and hand-sewed (by me, anyway) into place. It's also a good shot of my elastic placement. I had to use elastic "suspenders" to connect the bottom part of the cover to the bottom. If I went around the side, I would have blocked the DVD tray. The elastic at the bottom of the screen is also visible. As you can guess, after sewing the tabs in place, I put the elastic in place and hand sewed it. The elastic was cut about 1/2" shorter than the required length.

What to do better:

The fabric is a bit stretchy. That's partly due to a looser fit, setting one the fabrics on a crosswise grain, and the holes in the bottom fabric. A tighter fit would be easier to accomplish by shortening the template a little bit. Another idea, that would help with getting the case in and out of the bag, would be to sew ribbon handles all the way around, like a tote bag handle. Additionally, it would be a sturdier case if the fabric was interfaced with a heavy weight fusible interfacing prior to cutting it out. My last brainstorm for increasing the cover's rigidity would be to use a netting fabric sewn inside of the cutouts for the ventilation--it would allow the ventilation and keep some continuity of the fabric.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Isaac Speaks

After seeing his great new collection for Liz Claiborne, Capital Sew and Sew shares a link to his web-isode. Learn to sew! I'm working on it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It seems as though I may get to sew for the ballroom dancing show after all. I've put off doing any of the costumes because of the material and patterns. The material is stretchy--new for me. The patterns are non-existent or hard to find. I did happen to find one, though. To experiment with the material, I decided to try my hand at a circle skirt. How hard can it be?

No pattern required!

I purchased a little of a yard of knit material with a lot of crosswise stretch. I also picked up some coordinating wooly nylon for the serger (yep--got up the guts to switch thread).

I folded the fabric in half, lining up the selvages. Then I folded it again in the other direction until I had a square of fabric with folded edges along one side and the top. Then it was math time! I took my daughters waist measurement and divided it by 6.28 to get the radius of the circle to fit around her waist. I subtracted 3/8 for the waistband seem allowance. Using this number, I made marks from the corner of the folded fabric until the quarter-circle was well marked. This skirt I chose to make 19 inches long, so I then marked out another circle with a radius of the original radius plus another 19 inches. That becomes the bottom of the skirt.

I then cut a rectangle of the same fabric, with the length of the rectangle aligned to the stretchy direction of the fabric, that was 2 3/4" wide and 3/4" larger than the waist measurement long. I serged the two short ends together to make a big circle. I cut 1" elastic to my daughter's waist measurement and then overlapped 1/2" and sewed it well to make a big circle. Then I folded the elastic into the waistband rectangle. The part that over hangs the elastic then gets pinned to the waist of the skirt and serged.

Then I used the roll-hem finish on the bottom and voila! A great twirling skirt that my daughter loves and that will look great while she dances. Bah to $90 ballroom dancing practice skirts. This was tres facile.

Even though my younger daughter doesn't dance, she said she wanted her own skirt! So I found this shiny kimono-like fabric and made her a skirt too. Now this fabric wasn't stretchy, so instead of her waist measurement, I used her hip measurement plus one inch for all of the waist measurement used above, with the exception of the elastic. That I still cut to her waist measurement. And then we get another pull-on circle skirt even without stretchy material, as long as you don't mind some gathers in your waist band.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Love Washing Walls

I didn't even know walls could be washed. I thought that if paint was dirty--whether it was dusty woodwork, fingerprints on the wall, or drips--it needed repainting. You can bet that you let a lot of dirt accumulate before you bother dragging out the paint brush. I don't even know what possessed me to try it the first time, but I was hooked. Even if the walls aren't that much cleaner, somehow the whole house seems brighter just because I know I did the work. I still don't do it often, but I love the results.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Making Presents

And I'm not talking about the kind my filthy little monkey makes for me every day (and, boy, should you be happy about that). I have often toyed with the idea of making my own Christmas presents. It rarely works out due to a number of factors (lack of preplanning and thinking about it soon enough are just the top of the list). This year I started early enough and had a enough quick-and-yet-not-cheesy-looking ideas that I actually made presents for a few friends.

My first idea for a homemade gift was based on a gift I remember receiving as a young child. I believe my grandmother bought it for me from Avon or some other door-to-door affordable beauty supply. It was a lovely smelling solid perfume. Do any of you remember that? It's a perfume that is in a compact that is a little harder than lip balm. It doesn't spill and it's very hard to over-apply it. If you have had any girls discover the spray perfume on your vanity, then you will understand why that is an important bonus. I wanted to buy it, but I could only find it on-line and the cost with shipping and handling was much more than I wanted to spend. I found this recipe and these containers.

Some of the boxes had little coils on the top that seemed incomplete so I made tassels to put on them. I made most of the tassels out of decorative gold thread that I happened to have. The one above is just deep yellow embroidery thread wrapped about 100 times.

Here are some alternate containers (much smaller) for additional gifts. I used standard floral essential oils of rose, lily of the valley, and honeysuckle. So a run down of cost:

$5 of beeswax
$10 jojoba oil
$14 essential oils
$30 for 9 fancy containers
$5 10 tin containers
$5 shipping and handling

This amount made about 15 gifts (counting two tins as one gift since they hold so much less and aren't nearly as cool looking and useful after the contents are exhausted as the jeweled boxes). So about $5 for each gift. The largest amount of time was spent waiting for the beeswax to melt. To use multiple scents, I made different batches for each.

Since I was ordering from this place anyway, I decided to add lip balm to the homemade present list. They had a recipe for lip balm that was recommended but complicated. However, they also sell the lip balm base itself--everything in one container and you add any flavor oils or color you want and decide on the type of container. I happen to like lanolin because it is similar to our natural oils so I ordered the Lip Solutions with lanolin. I also included some castor oil for a bit more slip and shine for the girls' lip balm and included the ultrafine glitter for some shimmer. I used cherry flavor oil. It smelled like cherry but did not taste like much of anything. I'm fine with that. The unadulterated solution had a slight odor, but it was not like Chapstick, so I am glad I masked it. Obviously, from the pictures below, I also added color. It does not really show up on the lips so it is definitely OK for little girls. I wanted to use both types of containers. I like the sticks because they are mess free, but the tins are more fun to label. The tins can hold twice as much as the sticks, but I did not fill them all the way, so they are about the same.

Cost-wise, here's the breakdown:

$8 lip solutions (used about 1/2)
$5 10 tin containers
$4 10 tube containers
$3 cherry flavor oil
$4 castor oil
$4 ruby colorant
$4 ultrafine glitter
$1 8 small transfer pipettes
$1 5 large transfer pipettes
$8 shipping and handling

I have enough of this stuff to make lip balm/gloss forever. Really! I'm sure that I could give lip balm as presents for every occassion for the next two years and may only need to buy more containers. I could make 50 tubes of lip balm for about $1 a tube, including shipping. I will not be making 50 tubes, at least not any time soon, so I probably spent about $2.50 per container for the amount I will be making for gifts. For guys, I would leave out the stronger color, the castor oil, and the glitter, but I would still include the flavor oil. By the way, I also bought vanilla flavor. That absolutely requires sweetness (which can also be bought as a flavor oil). The vanilla flavor oil made the lip balm incredibly bitter. So no vanilla this year.

The next homemade present I decided on was actually something I saw at the checkout line in Borders. They are called book thongs, but ribbon book mark or beaded book mark would probably also be used. They were so cute, that I bought one for our book club secret santa. Along with the ribbon book marks, I also made some cell phone charms and key chains. Hanover decided to make some earrings for her friends, too.

I happened to have some jewelry making tools (small, toothless pliers, round-nose pliers for making circles), so I figured these book marks would not be difficult to make. I wouldn't call them difficult, and I really enjoyed picking out beads, and ribbon, and deciding how best to combine the different shapes, textures, and colors. This was a craft my kids loved to participate in as well--they did the beading of the gifts for their friends. I wanted to use good quality beads, so this homemade project probably cost me more to make than it would have to buy them pre-made. The reason is that when you buy beads, you are buying one style of one type at a single price--so medium sized round beads of jasper or clear crystal cubes. So if you want a variety of beads on one book mark (and who wouldn't?), you need to buy a number of different beads. As you can see from the above picture, I wanted a lot of different colors and styles. Since I gave the cost of the previous projects, I'll bite the bullet and list the costs for the book marks (To make a single type of book mark and assuming you get decent sale prices):

$3 ribbon
$3 end crimps with holes
$3 2" head pins
$3 various sliver-tone spacer beads
$2 seed beads (for starting the head pins to make sure the large beads don't fall off and sometimes for spacing)
$3 bead type 1
$3 bead type 2
$4 bead type 3

The cell phone charm straps ($3 for 6) key chains ($3 for 20) would replace the ribbon and the end crimps. You could probably make 6 or 7 ribbon book marks from the above list at about $4 each, as long as you don't mind that they use the same beads and look very similar. I chose quite a variety and may have made just over 16 altogether. Some of the photos also show book marks made using beading wire (approximately 26 gauge) and crimping beads in place of the head pins (the white ribbon with clear crystal beads, the cell phone charm with three strands of beads are examples). Using the beading wire allowed many more beads. I think the bookmarks are beautiful and I hope that anyone who receives one uses it often!

I also made some candy this year. I tried, ultimately unsuccessfully after three attempts, to make fudge from scratch (now I know why the recipe on the back of the fluff container advertises itself as 'no fail'). I also botched my first two caramel batches--the butter seperated out of the first and the second was filling-removing hard). The last batch of caramel worked out just fine. The English toffee was crazy easy to make and absolutely delicious. After allowing it to cool, I cut it into bite-sized pieces and drizzled chocolate on some and coated others like mini candy bars. Hanover single-handedly made the rum balls (how funny that she could make the one treat that she wouldn't be allowed to eat). Hanover and Flurpee both were instrumental in the peanut butter ball success. They were about twice as productive as I was in terms of measurable final product. I also made some cookie press cookies. They were very cute, but two batches were lost to an ill-rinsed baking sheet (soap flavored cookies, anyone?). The kids used a green colored egg wash to paint the Christmas trees green before they were baked and used star-shaped decorations and green sugar.

Sorry, no pictures of the toffee or caramels. After the 150 or so little pieces were individually wrapped in hand-cut wax paper squares, I just couldn't stand to spend any more time with them. They were really delicious though. I had to send them out soon after making them, or there wouldn't have been enough!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On eBay

I've done some serious pattern shopping on eBay! Over the last month I bought three lots of vintage children's patterns plus a few individual patterns.

I don't know if I'll be able to sew any of them. My daughters aren't nearly as into the patterns as I am and then there's the time factor. But I do enjoy shopping for them and they are just a great piece of the past that I enjoy having and sharing with my kids to see what would have been different if they had been born 40 to 20 years earlier.