Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Down sizing... means lots of extras for me.

My parents are heading to a retirement home. I, being oldest daughter, somehow have accumulated alot of their cast offs. I have decided to recycle my stoneware and take their corning ware... lighter and less bulky. I've received a grandfather clock, to be used in the traditional way.
Fabric... loads of it. I decluttered my own fabric and some of my mom's and gave it to a local dance studio to use for making costumes in future years. Especially good if they decided to go with a retro theme.
Make mosaic stepping stones with loads of "found" items and glass beads, etc.
I'm working on a few projects to list in up coming blogs.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rethinking Plant Pots: A Mother's Day Idea

Yesterday, before the freakish snow storm hit, I was outside building a planter for my "surprise" mom's day gift, a climbing rose. I ask for a plant of some kind every year. But back to the snow, and I'm forced to wait longer and also forced to face the facts that my area doesn't have a really long growing season. I, however, do have a long growing season... I want herbs in my cooking ... solution? I need an indoor herb garden.

A quick trip through the snow and slush to the local thrift store to look for fun ideas. Plant pots are boring and expensive. I found these cute popcorn bowls and decided to turn them into a window herb garden.

You can make these too. Maybe the mom in your life would love such a wonderful, thoughtful gift.

You will need to go with imagination to your thrift store. Old ceramic bowls, jugs, metal buckets, old sealing pots, large stock pots, old suitcases, etc. If you're planning an indoor herb garden or flowers; make sure it suits the room and FITS ON THE WINDOW LEDGE.
You'll need a dremel drill bit for ceramics or tile, a drill, patience and alot of ideas for what to put in your pot.

You want to drill a hole right through "made in china". This allows for excess water to drain out of your planter. If it's as small of a bit as I'm using, 2 or 3 holes might be a better idea. It takes a full battery, and some patience. It will take a few minutes to go through. Remember NOT to press too hard if you are using china or a more fragile bowl.

I paid $15.00 for my 4 pots. That works out to $3.75 each, that's alot cheaper than most plant pots. I have color and fun on my kitchen window to remind me to use my fresh herbs as they grow. Spice up your choices, add edible flowers and let some herbs go to flower. Remember, you can get great rewards from your small window ledge even if you just plant them for the lovely smell. Good luck and enjoy. I'd love to see what creations you've come up with. Come back and see the self watering pot I'm making next from ... almost free.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Barnwood and Benches

As I've said before, there was no more budget for the decor of our back yard. "Necessity is the mother of invention."

I see these falling down sheds, barns and houses all over the place on the Prairies. They've always held a fascination for me. One day while driving out to the farm I remembered how much I had loved the old barn wood furniture I'd seen at the "Death Race".


I asked around and found someone who was willing to let me help my self to the pile of wood that was already falling off an old barn. With help from my MIL, I was able to bring what I needed to our home in the city and start to work on a plan.

Take the time to evaluate each board. Remove all nails before you start. Cut off any rotting or soft pieces of wood. You don't have to give up a whole board just because part of it is rotten. Cut and use what is good. You'd be surprised at the amount of wood you'll still have.

Pick a pattern or plan.

I will not try to recreate what I did but there are loads of ideas and plans on line to help you decide what kind of furniture you would like. I, personally, just went with plain and strong.

You'll need at least an extra set of hands and a skill saw or chop saw. I always screw rather than nail my items together.

As you can see from my photo, my bench is very rustic but not very fancy. There are soooo many ways to use barn wood. I will show you another project soon.

Monday, March 30, 2009

More than One Use: Walk out deck

Multi-tasking, if mothers are supposed to be good at this, why not the things that are available to us? I've been on a bit of a quest to make multi-functional uses of items we already own. This kind of is the same as recycling except it still retains it's original use.

A city yard, 3 children who stay at home all day, 365 days a year. Last summer, our whole neighbourhood seemed to be in our yard on most days. The neighbours even started calling us a "day care". The attraction?

Really it was just a simple use of what was already available to us. We were trying to save money. We are blessed enough to have a walk out basement, which meant our upper deck was 9 feet up. What we didn't have was money for any kind of free standing exercise or play equipment. Upon much deliberation, we added anchors and chains to our deck's underside. This meant we could switch out uses for these items. We bought swings, hammocks and trapeze bars for the kids to choose what they wanted to use and made two spaces available.
By using the hooks that come with the swing equipment, they could adjust the height on the chains according to their needs. They could also make changes to items used, according to their imaginations.
To save money, we have slowly added items to this list of things they can use. At present we have a net hammock, a board swing, a strap swing, a trapeze swing and a tire/horse swing. As the children grow, we plan to make a bench swing , a punching bag, and other things available. This means keeping eyes open at Garage sales and knowing that the day will come when we don't need the swings but we won't have a huge structure to take up space in our yard as we await grandchildren.
I would highly recommend you pay attention to safety issues if you plan to go ahead with this idea. We have purchased tumble mats that fold up to place under the trapeze bar so there will be no brain injuries. Maybe over the top, but we have bought all the hardware that holds over 300 lbs, and industrial strength so that these will age and handle growth in the children. In the long run, I believe this has made the underside of our deck more useful, changeable and less limited. I'm very pleased with the outcome.
Warning: It attracts children of all ages. You'll be policing a few arguments. Enjoy!
(If you should need some names of companies, or want to know what items we used, please feel free to contact me through the comments option. I'd be happy to share my research with you.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Opps the picture of the tool you'll need for Snipping.

  • Opps, I somehow deleted my image of the tools you need for the snipping of the jeans.
  • Rotary cutter: cuts the squares.
  • Snipper: cuts the seams to make them fray better.
  • Self-healing mat: Keeps you sane.
  • I'd love to see your finished quilts. Feel free to send them to me. There's nothing like another kindred spirit to find another great idea.

Making your jean Quilt or picnic Blanket

If you can cut a straight line,
if you can sew a straight line,

Get out your sewing machine, thread it up and set your stitch to a nice strong one.

Forget what your sewing teacher taught you about right sides together. We're going to break that rule in this project.

Take your first square, both front and back. Put the wrong sides together. Do this will all your squares.

Next you will need to pick up your first square and put the two back together (while still holding the fronts onto them) and sew a straight seam along one edge. You'll want a seam allowance that is alot larger than you're used to, 3/4 inch at least.

Now you should have four pieces of fabric but only two squares joined by one row of stitching. Attach your next square to the last one and keep doing this till you've done the first row.

Next you'll want to sew each row the same until all the rows are done.

Stop! set up all your rows on the floor again, make sure everything is where you wanted it to be, there's no going back after this stage. Take time to rearrange rows if you're not sure.

You'll want to sew row 1 to row 2. Wrong sides together, seams pinned open. Keep your seam allowance the same as you used for the joining of the squares. Do this till all the rows are joined.

Hint: There is a strangely named tool, a hump jumper, that may help if your machine does not like the amount of denim a join makes. Usually sewing and quilting stores carry these.

Now you should have a quilt! It's not quite finished though, you have a fair bit of work to go but it feels heavy in your lap and satisfying to look at.

You will need to pin open all the outside edge seams and sew a line around the edge at the same width you did the inner seams. No need to bind or hem these edges.

The great thing about jeans... they fray. Remember cut offs? That's the feel of "ragging" a quilt. It works well with cottons, flannels and denim. So why fight it? Lets use that to add character to our project.

In order to get the full affect of ragging you will need to snip the seams. This can be fun or exhausting.. it's all about the right tool. Below you will see a picture of the snipper I recommend. Regular scissors will not work well and I guarantee you'll never make one again if you try them. Fiskars makes a great snipper. This is NOT a thread cutter... they are NOT strong enough.

Once again, time to call a friend, rent a movie and put on the tea. This is way more fun when you share it with someone else.

You'll need to snip all the way around the edge. DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE STITCHING LINE! YOU WILL REGRET IT SO WATCH WHAT YOU'RE DOING. Once the edge is done, I tend to cut one row at a time till all the rows are snipped in one direction.

Turn the blanket and do all the rows in the other direction. It is not unheard of to miss something. When you think you're done. Lay it out and walk on it.. look at it and find any bits you didn't snip.

Don't you feel great? It's coming together. You'll soon be able to show off your prize.
To the laundry room. Wash your snipped quilt.
This helps the "ragging" fluff out more and gives your quilt a softer look.
To the dryer. A hint here... jean takes a long time to dry then it's this heavy. You will need to visit your dryer about every 10 minutes. This is because you might want to change the placement of the quilt so you don't end up with a damp bit in the middle. ALSO EMPTY YOUR LINT TRAP ABOUT EVERY 10 MINS. It will be full, trust me! You need to keep emptying it so you'll have less of a mess to clean later and so you don't start a fire. Once it's dry, I take mine out on the porch and snip off any threads that I missed and shake out any loose bits.
Now sit down, relax and snuggle under that wonderful heavy, warm blanket. Make sure you tell everyone how you made if for "free" yourself!

Jean Blankets ... what's the next step?

You will need to choose a design that suits your needs, your likes and what you have time for.
Here I have big squares on the back side, with little squares to make a border.
The top is made of strips sewn together, then cut to the smaller square size and sewn together to fit with the later square size. Again a boarder of smaller squares around the edge.

Your entire quilt need not be jean. If you want you can use cotton or flannel scraps to make either the top or bottom of the quilt but I'd stick to jean one side or the other and not mix them up. Keep your other fabric on the opposite side of the jean. I'll get to more examples of that in a later post.
Lay out your design on a floor where it won't be disturbed. I'd leave it there at least a day, resorting and changing as the mood strikes you. This gives you time to dream and fidget with the squares till you get what you like.
Off you go... find your unique design, then I'll tell you about ragging the edges.

Jean Squares for a Bed or Picnic Blanket.

I think the most common item made from old jeans is blankets. I'm just going to start with a few "time savers" and "space savers" for those who are serious about doing several projects with the pile of old jeans you've been saving.

First of all, there are simple and complicated ways to do many things. Jeans are no different. If you're new to sewing, you'll want to stick to the simple. For more advanced you'll see my photo is a quilt make of strips, then small blocks and then larger blocks. Don't feel overwhelmed.. do what suits your level of commitment.

How do I get started?
  • You're going to need to cut your jeans into squares. I prefer to have two standard sizes. You 'll note that 4 of the small ones become approx. the same size as one of the large ones, this makes alot more patterns possible.
  • I sit and cut small and large squares one evening while watching TV, so I can get rid of the bits I don't want and it'll take up less room.
  • plastic quilters squares are available, this makes sizing easier since they will all be uniform.
  • Nothing can replace good tools: rotary cutter, mat, a new blade and a straight edge or template.

When 4 of the smaller sizes are sewn together they then can become equal to 1 of the larger, making it possible to have 1 large on the back of 4 smalls or variations on that theme.

If you precut these sizes you will need to lay the legs out flat so that you can cut across the seam to use as much of the leg as possible.

Rent a movie, hire a friend, make some tea and start cutting. Have fun with it and you'll soon be ready for the next step.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Old Jeans, reusing .. let's get started.

I always hear of people who have been saving old blue jeans in their basements because they just KNOW someday they will drag them out and make them into something. Yup, I'm one of those people too. Time to start sorting and choosing ... the next few posts will deal with jeans.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it: is to get out those jeans and find a large space to work in.

You'll want to get rid of any part of the jeans that has paint, oil, grease or a stain that is too difficult to remove. I'm not THAT much of a junker... you do have to throw somethings out. Look over each pair, backs of legs tend to get less wear and tear than knees. If the knee is blown out or worn so much that you can see the shape of the knee in it .. that can go too. Decide if you want to work with jean bums or not. Throw them out if you don't want them. If you're not sure... then set them aside in a separate pile.

Best cutting tool I know of is the rotary cutter. For this job you want a new blade, a self healing mat and a straight edge of some kind.

First cut off all the legs.

Cut up the crotch, so the legs will lay out flat.

Cut below worn knees or yucky parts . Keep backs of legs if the fronts aren't worth redeeming.

Make piles of jeans according to weight. Thicker jeans, stretch jeans, light weight jeans.

Once you've done this... you can start filling trash bags for the rag bin. The good pieces of fabric you'll have to find boxes to store them in until you've picked one of the projects. It might seem like a lot but it's going to take alot less room and be easier to store than when they were whole and in a big pile.

Keep an eye open for the blue genes post.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tea cups to Bird feeders

Free standing Bird feeder on any kind of post, support for tomato plants or even a fence post.

The hanging version seems to attract the most birds for me. I'm not sure if that is because the birds feel safer in the tree or if they actually like the swinging.

Real Junkers know that you don't throw anything away. You either find a new use for it, take it apart and use the parts or give it to someone who will. So begins my story of how I'm working through my lack of funds for making my home more comfortable.

Our backyard is a lovely place, or it will be. We're just working on landscaping and finding that the cost is more than we imagined.
My Grandmother left me a box full of mismatched tea cups. They are lovely but I could not find a way to sell them or find them good homes. I think a little of me wanted to keep some around ... so here is my solution.
We needed bird feeders for the various birds who visit our yard. Kind of a "Tweet-cup" solution presented itself to me. Plus they're a hit as gifts.

In the first picture you see that the bird feeder is on a stand, in the second you see we've hung it from a tree. Choices are endless really.

To Make a Tweet-cup

You'll have to find some tea cups made of china that don't cost too much. This is a good time for garage sales or your mother's basement.

You need a hole through the bottom of the tea cup and the saucer that allow the rainwater to drain out. I also make a hole near the bottom of the cup on the side (in case the bottom one gets blocked). Also a hole in the lowest part of the fancy part of the saucer.
To make these holes you need a electric drill and a Dremmel tile/ceramic bit. I found dremmel drill bits worked best and I had less breakage when I use them. You will need to press down on the cup to drill, however you don't want to be pressing with the hand that steadies the cup because the counter pressure may break the china when you make the hole. Some drills and bits will heat up alot, so blow off the dust and let it cool if needed.
Once the holes are made, you're almost there. I have still to find the perfect adhesive but Crazy glue works very well for the short term. Other adhesives I've tried are either too messy or stay too sticky. Crazy glue will let go after several months of weathering but it will not damage your cup.. you can store it for winter and reglue it in spring.

For Hanging cups you need a few more holes. You'll want to purchase or make some kind of hanger. I've choosen what I found at my Dollar store. These are made for hanging pots and is made of chain and hooks. For me, that means 3 more holes. These holes I spaced evenly around the edge of the of the saucer. Be careful to leave enough room from the edge that you won't weaken the china. Now you can insert the hooks, tighten them so they don't come out and hang up your newest creation.
Congratulations on reusing instead of tossing those old tea cups.
Get creative... Please do let me know how your creations turned out and what other dishes you tried.