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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sewing is Fun by Edith Paul

I found this cute, old book at a local book sale. It's an introductory book for kids who want to learn how to sew. It has a few easy projects, like the pin cushion pictured below. It also has a 'how to use a sewing machine' section. I'll let you know if it's any good for my kids. If I can bring myself to share my one and only decent machine.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

All You Can Sew for Children Books

Here are the books "All You Can Sew for Children." They include a number of patterns, all of which are quite vintage in look and feel (which you would expect from books published in 1971). They show the pattern pieces on a grid where each square represents 1 inch. The patterns vary in the sizes provided. Some patterns are strictly for toddlers while others are in the tweens range, no little baby patterns, though some size 1 or 2. Some pieces are understood--they talk about the armhole facing and you need to know that you have to make your own piece for that from the armhole of the top pattern. There are many dresses, an overcoat in each, a bathing suit for preschoolers in the first book, and some outfits for boys. Just cute. I'm going to try a cute little sun outfit for my older daughter. If I have time and clean up the area a bit first!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sharpie Tie-Dye Redefined (Easiest Tie-Dye You'll Ever Do)

I saw this great craft for Sharpie tie-dye from The Crafty Crow. I happened to have everything needed (well, except for the eye dropper). I had the Sharpies, the rubbing alcohol, and some fabric to try it out. If you check out the link and look at the instructions, it says to draw on your fabric with some Sharpie colors. Then center the drawings in the middle of a cup and rubberband around the top of the cup. This keeps the fabric from moving and any dripping alcohol ends up in the cup. Great! Except I wasn't really satisfied with just doing little circles. So I tried something different. This is my result:

I think it looks pretty cool. It's much more like real tie-dye. All I did was place random splotches of Sharpie color in random places all around the fabric. Then I poured enough alcohol on it to saturate the whole thing (really wet with alcohol as you can see from the pic below). Then I scrunched it up and squeezed it a bit. The more you squeeze it the more the color transfers to other areas. I didn't squeeze mine very much because I was OK with the white and didn't want everything to turn brown. That alcohol is strong smelling and I recommend doing it outside. I didn't and I'm still here to tell the tale, but that's just me. I did move it outside to let it dry.

It's a really easy craft. I don't even think the Sharpie color stained my hands.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yum Yum! Banana Bread

I'm not a baker, but when I get in the mood--I'll spend a whole day destroying the kitchen. This day was the same day we made butter. Homemade butter on fresh banana bread! Recommended. I made 2 loaves (four over-ripe bananas were starting to look really bad in my fruit dish) and then a batch of blueberry muffins. That stuff disappeared!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Making Butter!

I know everyone else has already done this--but it was a first for me. From 3 Ring Binder, I found out about this video from a weekly science experiment. He shows all you need to know.

I used some baby food jars and heavy cream (I only left it out 4 hours--I got impatient). I filled the jars about half full.

The shaking! Took a few minutes.

This is when we knew we had butter.

Drain out the butter milk (note to self: save for pancakes).

Then we put the butter in a dish, mixed it with a bit of salt, and ate it on pancakes!

The kids enjoyed making it (once).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July!--Kid's Make-Your-Own Pinwheel Craft

The kids and I actually followed through on a craft! Thanks to Allsorts for the pinwheel craft. We went to the craft store and the girls decided on their fancy scrap paper (8 1/2 x 11). Tie-dye was the most popular. Both girls made a 4 petal and 5 petal pin-wheel.

This is how ours turned out:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Do You Have a 'Color' Personality?

This might help you find out. Just answer the questions of the quiz and they'll give you a palette you might want to use as inspiration for painting your house.

From How About Orange.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Girls' Dress

Check out those sleeves. Look familiar? They should! The lower, puffy sleeve is really popular right now. I don't understand it. I think it has something to do with watching Popeye as a kid.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Girls' Romper

I used the word romper. The pattern envelope calls this a pantdress or pantjumper. Also on the back of the pattern they use the word 'chubbies' where we would use 'plus-size'. It reminds me of using the word husky, too.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Boys' and Girls' Shirt, Pants, and Shorts

These really look like pajamas to me. They easily could be pajamas, just as there are some of my kids pajamas that can be worn as regular clothes. I can tell you that my kids would never have such nice, neat creases in their pants.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Girls Coat and Hat

The coat is in two lengths and the hat looks warm.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Girls' Jumper, Pants, and Blouse

These pants also have suspenders. Apparently it is a big concern that pants might just fall off. I wonder if it's the old elastics that were the problem.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Girls and Boys: Jodphurs

No--seriously. Jodphurs. Was there a time in fashion when jodphurs were worn when you weren't actually on a horse or going to be on a horse? If my little boy ever takes horse-back riding lessons, I'll be to whip him up a pair of these and try not to be too upset when he refuses to wear them. Note that they come with optional suspenders!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Boys

It's the Super-70s Formal Overall Suit! First of all, check out the width of the legs of those pants. Second of all, I think the white long-sleeved shirt shown here--with the ruffles--is either gender confused (I had to double check that the pattern was just for boys) or a little kids version of the super-ruffly tuxedo shirts that my aunt has in her wedding photo (rainbow pastels even). One of the suggested fabrics is velveteen. So just imagine your little cutie boy in a white ruffled shirt, blue velveteen wide-legged overalls with a matching jacket with chains and I'm transported back in time!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Boys' Robe

I think robe patterns are really too complicated. I hate putting all of that effort into clothing that is almost never seen. Though I do buy robes every year! The kids really do enjoy wearing them after showers. And there is one that looks like a beach cover-up.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Girl and Boy Toddlers

Finally something I can use with my current little baby boy. He's 5 months now and wears a 12 month outfit, so I figure he'll be able to use this next summer.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Toddlers Coat, Dress and Panties

How short do they make these dresses that they need matching panties? Of course, once you've seen little kids playing you know you see their bottoms all the time. May as well make them as cute as possible.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Vintage Toddler Jumper with Attached Apron and Blouse

How cute. Too bad both my girls are actually too big for this pattern. It looks very folksy.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Vintage Hankies

Look at those great colors! In the days before Kleenex everyone had to carry their own hankies. My grandmother said that you could tuck it into the cuff of your shirt. If you watch old movies, occasionally you'll see a lady removing one from her sleeve. These, like gloves and hats, have dropped out of use.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Vintage Embroidery Transfer

We've left the chicken coop for further fields. Cute kitties, puppies, and various other illustrations exhort us that all is sweetness and light! Though we couldn't leave the chickens completely.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vintage Embroidery Transfer

From Barnyard Romance to Barnyard Happenings. Those barnyards are REALLY busy! Now we know that Monday is Laundry Day, Tuesday is Elvis Recreation Day, Wednesday is either Read to the Kids Day or Potty Day (hard to tell), Thursday is Errands Day, Friday is Cleaning Day, Saturday is Gardening Day, and Sunday is Date Day. I find that Days of the Week themes for dishtowels are repressing. Sometimes my dishtowels are clean enough to use for more than one day and what a schlub I would look like if I had a Tuesday dishtowel in my kitchen on Wednesday. Would people think I didn't own a calendar? (I recognize that I'm not particularly funny, but please do try to read the above with a little sense of humor!)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Vintage Embroidery Transfer

Did they really run out of 'ick' rhyming words? And I know they probably wouldn't put 'ick' itself on dishtowels! Dick wouldn't be good either, I imagine. And you wouldn't have all these dishtowels out at once, so the theme is pretty inconsequential. Once you discount the theme, what in the world does 'slick' mean with regard to chickens?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Toddlers

Boy, do I miss having little girls and rumba panties! Now that I have an older girl actually dancing the rumba, I wonder if she would mind huge amounts of ruffles on her butt? You only get one guess (and if you choose 'no', try again).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Girls' Dress

Great dress for kids. The button placket in the front I haven't seen in modern patterns for kids outside of a polo shirt.

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Girls' Dress

This is just completely adorable. Love the details and the line of the dress. I wonder how hard it would be to update this for my oldest daughter who is about a size 10.

Vintage Sewing Pattern for Girls

Cute. They don't show it on the front, but the pants have suspenders too. Quite a Christmassy color scheme going on. Do you think the mom had to strap girl #2 down to get her hair into the french twist? I definitely would need to use some robe to get my girls to have any of those hairstyles. My one daughter actually asked for a chin-length bob and then wouldn't talk to me after we did it and proceeded to call herself ugly until her hair was back down below her shoulders. Which is just so untrue! If you've ever seen a little girl with a bob, then you know they are just adorable!

Good Hostess vs. White Rugs

I have a pet peeve. It's actually a rather large peeve. I believe that people who ask me to take off my shoes before entering their house are rude. Not everyone is prepared to remove their shoes (holes in socks, complicated fastenings, foot odor, ugly shoes, ugly feet, orthotics).

Hosting is about making your guests feel comfortable. Comfort does not include asking guests to partially disrobe. Maybe you don't think shoes count, but you put them on in the morning not expecting to have to take them off later. If your house is so precious that you're afraid of dirt or your cultural heritage differs then don't invite people over or at least warn them that you expect them to remove their shoes when they are invited.

I also think that people who refuse to shake hands because they're worried about germs are being ridiculous as well. If you're that concerned, don't touch your face until you wash your hands. Though I will state I believe that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger when it comes to viruses. If you are really, really likely to become violently ill from a normal virus that would just give someone else the sniffles, then perhaps you ought to gear up like Michael Jackson in the surgical gloves and face mask.

Pom Pom Fringe

I hit the yard sale lottery!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ball Room Dance Show

My daughter has been taking ball room dancing lessons for over a year now. Here she is with her new partner performing at a nursing home. With a future of competitions ahead of us (if everything works out the way she'd like), I'll definitely need to learn how to sew leotard material and lots and lots of filmy materials. And beads--lets not forget beads.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Poor, Neglected Blog

Unless you count setting up for a birthday party, I've done nothing crafty or interesting in the least! I have a favorite shirt, though, that has seen better days. I think it's time to experiment with making a copy. My mom did this for me when I was a kid with a skirt I really liked. It's especially wierd now. The baby's almost 5 months old now and I just don't feel like I've bounced back in any way. Makes sewing a hassle because it's a lot of work for a shape that is far different from the one I've had for a few years (which is FAR different than the one I had before my first child).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

No time now!

That is...I have no time! Between visiting relatives, birthday party planning, and a dance show, I've had little to no time to craft. I think after the birthday party things will calm down. I hope--I just figured out the style of bag I want to try to make and the Bell Bottom fabric will look great!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I want to experiment with making a purse. I have some lovely fabric that would suit a beach tote and another that is just wonderful--can't decide what yet. I finally found a purse shape that I'm going to attempt--someday, when I have time. I don't have a pattern to follow, so it will also be my first time in trying to make a pattern. Should be an adventure.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fresh Bread and Freshly-Squeezed OJ for Breakfast

I've seen other blogs with beautiful pictures of food! This is not one of them, though I'm hoping to get better. This was our breakfast over the weekend: