Friday, October 30, 2009

new banner

Lookee, lookee what I made. If you've been here before you must be marveling at the giant leaps I've made in learning GIMP (which I heartily recommend btw). If you're new to my newly autumn-y blog, let me assure you this is a huge improvement.
I haven't learned enough that I can tell you what it was I did wrong on the last banner, but the first two words that it brought to mind were 'jacked up'.
If you are learning GIMP or have been inspired by my mediocre fabulous banner, there are some great tutorials on YouTube. I like this guy, except I developed the annoying habit of talking to myself with a British accent when I'm using GIMP.
For those who are not familiar with GIMP, its like PhotoShop except for the price. Its freee!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sad Goodbye

Today the SimpleHeart household says good-bye to a much loved friend:

Yes, a swing. And no, I haven't lost my mind; its just muddled with sentimentality-itis. This has soothed and rocked both of my babies to sleep countless times. I know it looks old and tired, but I love it. Originally, I had a battery operated swing but spent all my time counting the clicks and worrying over how many batteries we would go through. This one is wonderful, just give her crank a spin and let potential energy do its thing.
Sadly, the baby is growing fast and doesn't use it anymore so its time to pass it on. Before we let her go (the swing, not the baby!) I decided a little makeover was in order. I didn't want her to feel dowdy sitting next to all the fancy swings with buttons for lights, sounds, vibrators, etc. Her cushion was pretty faded and thin:

So I picked a fabric from the stash that I thought wasn't too gender-specific and made a new one with lots of poof for a new tiny tushie:

I laid the old cushion on the fabric and traced around its three sections, with a little extra for seam allowance (about the width of my thumb, I wasn't being scientific). I cut out these plus matching pieces of white sheet for backing. A double layer of quilt batting was sandwiched between the print fabric and backing for the poof. I had some purchased bias tape that was really too narrow for this project but, with lots of grumbling, I made it work for the edging. The top has piping instead of a ruffle, which is a nice update. I made the holes that the straps thread through like a button-hole, except huge.

A new cushion and a fresh coat of disinfectant has her looking lovely. I hope she finds a new home where they love her as much as we have. *sniff, sniff*

Monday, October 19, 2009

Good Enough

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a nice amount of lavender this summer *waves at Mom* and have been planning to make sachets. I found a pretty mauve-y linen on the bargain rack at JoAnn's and had it already cut into rectangles. I had every intention of embroidering them with a pretty little flower, all Posie gets Cozy-style, to have a few for me and a few to give as gifts.
Then this afternoon I walked into the girls' room to put away some clothes when reality, and the smell from the diaper pail, hit me.

So I grabbed my rectangles and whipped out a few hasty sachets:

First I stitched around the perimeter, leaving a little hole. Then I turned them right-side out, pressed and topstitched around the edge, still leaving the hole open. A funnel from the kitchen made quick work of filling each with a handful of lavender. Then I stuck a loop of ribbon in the hole and finished topstitching to close. If I hadn't been in such a flaming rush I would have realized how much smarter it would be to stick the ribbon between the layers before sewing so it would pop out nicely centered when I turned it (you'll notice the pic doesn't show my stitching or wonky ribbons).

Ah well, the baby is blissfully napping with the smell of flowers instead of the smell of, um...

I still plan to embroider a few, I'm thinking these would make excellent gifts for the extra people you want to give a little something (mailman/lady, teachers, etc.).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dishwasher Update

You may remember from my last post that I was planning to try using homemade dishwasher detergent for the first time and I was a little worried about what the machine would think of it. Let's say it was... unimpressed. Now I don't mean the dishes didn't get clean, they did. I'm talking about the hairy, grinding, parts-are-flying-apart-inside noises it started to make halfway thru the cycle (cripes, I hope my land-lady doesn't read this).

So I started tearing it apart. The first thing I discovered is that someone with busy hands opened the lid on one of the baskets and put a couple cake decorating tips down in the machine. So now I wonder if the noises are a plastic tip that did not fare as well as the metal or my concoction. So I tore it apart farther:

Eeeeeew! But, alas, no plastic bits. Then I started to think (not my strong suit) my homemade detergent contains baking soda. AND I followed another suggestion on the same site and filled my rinse aid reservoir with vinegar! So I did a little chemistry experiment in my sink:

Here we see a cup of hot water with a dab of my dandy detergent... about a second after I added a little vinegar:

And here it is a couple seconds later. The reaction was super short, nothing crazy.

What gives? Should I call a chemist or the Maytag man?

Update #2: I went Googling and found that other people who use it found it unsatisfactory in the cleanliness dept. but no one said it wrecked their machine. Uh-oh!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thrifty AND Cheap

If you've been following along with us you know by now I like to go to the thrift store on Tuesdays. Its 20% off day and yesterday they had 50% off all furniture, too. I think I showed admirable restraint; I did not even go to the furniture section. If I had brought home another stick of furniture I'm pretty sure it would have caused Mr. SimpleHeart's blood pressure to spike. I'm forever dragging in one thing while promising to edit another and well...

I did get a pretty linen skirt half off:

I was waffling about whether this would be a skirt for me or get added to the fabric pile. It was a size 14 so I slipped it on for size. I was thinking: 'Wow that was a little snug to pull on, maybe I should start using the chocolate chips to make cookies for the babies instead of eating them directly out of the bag.' Then I noticed the button and zipper I hadn't used. Whew. Into the pile it goes!

And since this isn't very exciting thrifty news, I'd like to share one of my money-savers. I've been making my own laundry soap for about a year and I love it. I can do a load of laundry for pennies and it really isn't that hard to make. There are a ton of recipes on TipNut and I use a modified version (hard, well water) of the powdered recipe. If you read thru the comments a lot of people have trouble with the consistency of the liquid and/or have a chemical reaction in their kitchen. So I stick with the powder with great results and it takes me about 10 minutes to make a batch that lasts a couple months.
The other day I came across a recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent. I scribbled it on a scrap of paper and promptly forgot where in the heck I read it. Which was kinda important because one of the comments on that blog asked how much should be used in a load. I planned to check the response when it was posted but now I can't find my way back. I've made a batch so I'll just have to wing it. On the bright side, I'm actually looking forward to loading and running the machine. We'll see what it thinks of my concoction. If you don't hear from me for a while, call the Coast Guard, I'm adrift in the kitchen.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Girl's Dress Refashion

I found a dress in the $1 bin at my favorite consignment shop and liked it except for the fact that it was a back-less halter style. I like to dress my little girls like, well... little girls. So it came home with us but found new life as a skirt. I took pictures as I went so I could share; I was thinking this would work equally well to salvage a favorite dress that has a stain on the top.

Here is the original:

1. I cut the bodice off and measured my little victim daughter to find the length of the skirt that looked best when sitting at her natural waist. It was a bit long so I cut a couple inches off following the curve of the original waistline (the full skirt is folded in half in the pic). Here we see the dissected dress nicely laid out:

No? How 'bout this:

2. Cut a piece of coordinating fabric for the waistband. Go ahead, interrupt whatever your daughter is doing to measure her waist; she won't mind at all. Buggy's waist is about 19 inches, I needed 2 in. for ease so it can be pulled over her tushie and an inch for seam allowance. So I cut a 22 x 4(width) in. strip of white material. Sew the short sides together, right-sides facing, with 1/2 in. seam allowance to form a ring; press seam open (oops, didn't get a photo of this).

3. Sew, using a long stitch, 1/4 in. from the top of the skirt, leaving the threads long. Pull on one thread to gather the fullness of the skirt to the size of the waistband. Evenly distribute the gathering and pin, right-sides together, to the waistband:

4. Sew, with 3/8 in. seam allowance, so this stitching is just on the outside of the thread used to gather. Press the seam so the allowance is toward the waistband. Also, fold over the other long edge of the waistband 1/4 in. as shown in the photo and press:

5. Fold waistband in half, lengthwise, with wrong sides together so that the pressed edge slightly (1/8 in.) overlaps the stitching of the seam you just finished. Pin in place, but place your pins so they can be easily removed from the right-side of the material (you'll be sewing "blind"!). Like so:

6. Sew veeery carefully just along the right-side edge of the waistband so that the stitching catches the pressed edge in the back. Stop short of sewing all the way around, leaving a 3 in. opening to insert the elastic. See how the raw edges are enclosed in the waist now? Very nice:

7. Cut a piece of elastic that is equal to the waist measurement minus about 2 in. (17 in. for this example). Thread elastic thru the opening. You can just overlap the ends of the elastic and securely stitch them together to form a ring or try this method: Cut a small scrap of material the width of the elastic and sew the ends of the elastic to it. This way it lays flat and eliminates the uncomfy bump in the waist. First side:

2nd side:

8. Tuck elastic ends into the waistband and do a little test run to make sure it slips on and off easily. If all is well, finish stitching along the waistband.


I had originally planned to use the dress top to make sort of a sash/cummerbund but couldn't get it to look right. So I unpicked the little flowers on it and attached them to the waist of our skirt with some pink ribbon from the stash. With a flower left over to sew onto a hair elastic:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Birthday Cake

I was undecided about posting photos of the cake I made. I was thinking those of you who don't have much experience with decorating will probably think this is a lovely cake. BUT the folks with a small amount of know-how will have passed me up and are probably enjoying a little laugh guffaw at my expense. In the end, I decided this is my space to share my creations, even the imperfect ones, so you can take your entertainment in either form (but please humor me if you comment).
So here is the big reveal:

*First, just let me say that there was not a weird color variation on the finished product. This is what happens if someone forgets to take a pic before writing the name of someone else's child on a cake that they intend to post online. Then the person, who is still learning GIMP, attempts to erase the name with a photo editing tool.*

1. The cake itself is a dressed up box mix using the WASC (White Almond Sour Cream) recipe from Cake Central. I have to say I'm just not a fan of almond flavoring, and while it was moist but not crumbly (the pitfalls of a lot of white cake recipes) I thought it a little overly sweet. It made a huge batch, enough for 2 13x9-inch pans. Strawberry Mousse filling.

3. I used the Buttercream Dream recipe from the same site and reduced the amount of sugar and so the amount of liquid used. Then I found it hard to get the right consistency; it was great for icing but needed tinkering before I could make a decent flower. Lots of learning on this cake.

4. Since I didn't have a pretty pan to put it all on, I tried my hand at making fondant (marshmallow fondant in this case) to cover an upside-down baking sheet. I know this stuff is far more popular than buttercream these days but I'm still not sure why.

4. The tiara was made with royal icing. Someone has kindly posted a tutorial for this on Cake Central, downloadable templates are also available there. That site is a fabulous place to go for inspiration. Here is a close-up of mine:

I know, it would have been a lot more impressive with a little bling (Luster Dust). But remember that I live in a veeery tiny town so bling is at least an hour from me.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Birthday Fun

Our sweet little niece turned 4 this weekend so we've been busy making her gifts. Buggy was in charge of the customized wrapping paper. I cut a section off of our roll of blank newsprint, opened a new box of crayons and set her to work. I didn't take a picture because... well, lets just say she doesn't have a future in the wrapping paper industry. She kept getting side-tracked by absolutely everything except her project.

My contribution was a new outfit, and since the birthday girl likes dresses and ballet it was a tutu-ish skirt with this matching top (seen here modeled by the lovely Buggy):

It was pretty simple so I thought I'd share how I made this little embellishment:

1. I cut out a paper heart the size I liked and pinned it onto the wrong-side of the shirt using a four-year-old body as a placement guide. I also added a layer of light sew-in interfacing, I'm not sure that this step is necessary but I used it since this was my first time sewing on a tee (I did all this on the wrong-side so I could keep track of my interfacing, which wouldn't be necessary if you skipped it). Then I carefully stitched around the pattern with pink thread:

It occurs to me that this would be a great embellishment on its own, assuming your bobbin does not implode three times while trying to sew a tidy heart. This is how mine looks on the right-side after this step:

(My crummy sewing skills are only surpassed by my even crummier photo editing skills. Ah well, you get the idea)

2. I cut some 1-inch strips of tulle and stitched down the middle with a long stitch. Pull on one thread to ruffle it up so it matches the perimeter of the heart and pin it down using the stitching as a guide:

3. Then just carefully top-stitch along the heart. I left the ruffle thread in because I thought it added to the look nicely (and because separating it from the tulle is a pain in the kazoo). Here we see my model workin' the entire outfit:

The skirt was inspired by this tutorial on Pink Picket Fence. I made a basic three tiered-skirt and sewed on a couple rows of ruffled tulle per tier. I could do a little how-to for the skirt too if anyone is interested.