If you know me at all, you know that I’m a fan of repurposing. It gives me kind of a weird thrill to turn something that has lost its use into something really useful for hardly any money. I also like to sew, but the majority of my sewing is either for profit or personal use. This is partly because I’m selfish, but also partly because sewing clothes for little people can be really frustrating since everything is so tiny and they often don’t wear it for very long. (I’m not going to go into the myriad of reasons why I don’t make Noel clothes.) I do however make kid clothes for special occasions and have started making pants for the boy-whose-pants-fall-off-even-though-he-wears-gigantic-cloth-diapers. When I take on these tasks I like to go through my stash of clothes set aside for future unnamed projects. Turning adult clothes into kid clothes not only saves money and reduces waste, but it also can make the finished product look more professional. Allow me to explain.
As often as possible I try to keep original hems. This produces a cleaner look in the finished garment and also saves you time. This is often easier to do with capris, shorts, or skirts since pants sometimes drag on the ground. I’m lucky that my husband is super tall so his old shirts currently are perfect for making cute pants for our skinny kid. In case you were wondering, I typically use this basic kid pant tutorial. If there’s enough fabric, I make the pants extra long and hem them using this technique so the professional hem is still visible, but the life of the pants has been extended.
Store bought items often have fun embellishments that I like to work into the new item. Once again, you’ve saved yourself some time and the item doesn’t look homemade to the naked eye.
Reusing items often means I’m using a higher quality fabric than I probably would have bought, which also doesn’t tip most people off that the item is homemade. Of course I can’t neglect the added sentimental bonus repurposing can bring. I often hold onto articles of clothing because of the memories they hold even though I have absolutely no intent of wearing them. By turning them into something else, you free up space in your house and the memories can live on.
P.S. Today’s the last day to enter the giveaway. If you haven’t done so yet, hurry over to Monday’s post and leave a comment before I wake up tomorrow morning and choose a winner!
The other day we were at the mall walking around and enjoying their A/C. I stepped into a Motherhood Maternity Outlet to check out their nursing wares. I’d heard really good things about their pull-down tanks and figured I’d check and see if they had any for a good price. (Honestly, I was mostly looking for things to prolong my stay in the overly air conditioned building.) The selection in my size was slim, unimpressive, and not any sort of deal. I was looking at some of the fun prints available in larger sizes and saw an XL tank at a severely discounted price. I thought to myself, “Man, it’s not fair that something made out of so much more fabric costs so much less.” So much more fabric. So much less. A light bulb went off in my brain. If I bought a tank top in my size I’d have to wear something with it for the sake of modesty, which would mean one more layer which is something I’m really not looking for at the moment. If I bought a tank top that was too big, It would cost less and I could use the extra fabric to make sleeves and avoid adding an additional sweaty layer. Brilliant.
The first thing I did was take up the neckline a little bit. I turned the tank inside out, pinned the shoulder straps together and took about 1/4″ seam. I then tried it on and decided the cut was satisfactory.
Next I turned the tank inside out and took a little off the side, making sure not to cut too much into the armpit since I still wanted to be able to get the thing on.
Then I folded the shirt in half so I could take the same amount off the other side. After that I pinned the sides together and sewed them from armpit to hem.
To make the sleeves I measured my arm and cut a rectangle that was the Width of My Arm X the Height of My Desired Sleeve. I rounded the edges off, folded the sleeve in half, matched it up right sides together to the shoulder seam on the shirt, pinned it and stitched it together. (Here’s a pretty good explanation of how to do a cap sleeve, although I didn’t ruffle mine and attached it a little different.) Voila, nursing tee!
I wore it to the park today and it was perfect for the 90 degree temperature. When it came time to feed Ellen I whipped out one of my swaddle blankets and tugged down my top. One of the other moms told me she’d never seen anyone look so elegant while breastfeeding. A true compliment indeed.
Since we are obviously trendsetters we thought we’d document these outfits we just threw together so we could inspire all of you. Seriously though, I remember when my college newspaper started featuring random students’ outfits. I thought it was a weird thing to do. Now this type of thing is ALL OVER the internet. These days I mostly find these types of posts amusing (Holy crap, people really pay that much for belts!?!?), but every once in awhile they make me feel ever so slightly covetous. One of the sewing bloggers I follow regularly documents her outfits. I generally don’t pay these posts much attention, but right after Ellen was born she had a post where she was wearing a pair of burnt orange skinny cords that the irrational part of my brain told me I had to have. My grandma had just given me some money intended for a “new mom” outfit, so I did some investigation and found that the pants cost a mere $150 at Anthropolgie. I guess that’s not too much for some people, but just thinking about paying that much for a pair of pants hurts every cheap bone in my body. (Don’t worry grandma, I bought something much more sensible.) So the dream of the burnt orange skinny cords got laid to rest. Then one day I was sitting at the kitchen table looking at an old pair of cords hanging on the line and inspiration struck. With a little help from a bootcut to skinny jean tutorial I had myself a new pair of pants by the end of naptime.
(Do you like how I dressed up for the after picture, but not the before? That’s a little trick I learned from weight loss ads.)
Before you get started, check the seams on your pants. The inside of my pants had a decorative overlay, so taking in the plain, outside seam was a better option. I actually still stuck with the inside seam though and just took in the entire inner leg seam, crotch and all, to make the pants a little more low rise. And here’s a little tip, if you turn the pants inside out when you pin them, you save yourself a step.
Oh, and don’t worry. We won’t be doing what we wore posts on a regular basis. That was just for kicks.
We’ve already had some record highs here in CO and the forecast isn’t making us feel much better about things. It’s unpleasant and kind of scary with all the fires we already have, but I’m doing my best to find at least something good in this whole situation. Not only do my clothes dry faster than they would in the dryer, but I’ve found some awesome ideas for channeling the sun’s power to cook. I’ve pinned a few DIY solar cookers I think could be fun to try, some of them look really easy requiring simple things like cardboard and aluminum foil. Then there’s a method for baking cookies in your car, which I would totally try if our car sat somewhere besides our garage. The one thing I actually have tried though is making fruit roll-ups in the sun.
I used this recipe for 100% real fruit snacks, spread the stuff on a pan, covered it with some netting so things wouldn’t get stuck in it, and sat it in the sun for most of the day. Delicious and my house didn’t get heated up. Perfect. My only advice is don’t put two different flavors on the same pan because they don’t cook at the same speed, so my berry side was a lot tougher than my mango apricot side. I’m definitely going to be making more.
It’s strange that a rope strung up between two trees could bring me such contentment. If the extraction of all the original clotheslines from pretty much every backyard in our neighborhood is any indicator, I certainly don’t think most people feel the same way. Or at least they’ve forgotten that they should feel that way. There’s just something about the simpleness of it. A row of sun bleached diapers fluttering in the breeze or a collection of Men’s pants almost as tall as me suspended by tiny wooden clips drying effortlessly in the sun. A baby kicking her chubby legs and cooing as she stares in wonder at the canopy of leaves high above our heads. A little boy squealing with delight as he plays peek-a-boo in between dangling sheets. My mind wanders as I move up and down the line touching on the deep and the trivial. The chirping of the birds and scrambling of the squirrels overpowers the distant whirring of cars on the interstate. Slow Down, the Universe seems to whisper.
During the winter months, I miss this. The dryer is an amazing machine. But, as warm and fluffy as it makes our clothes, it just doesn’t give me the same feeling. It shuttles its cargo around in a rush, beeping at me when it’s done. Workaholic. At the first sign of spring, Noel loops the rope around two of our yard’s loyal trees, pulling it taught with a Bowline knot on one side and a Tautline knot on the other. I standby with a basket of wet clothes, both of us waiting to soak in the sun.
I love free stuff, I think we all do. If you’re like us, you love it so much that you often aren’t discerning about what that stuff is and you find yourself pushing people out of your way to catch fleece ponchos at basketball games or visiting every table at an expo just to make sure you don’t miss something good. In the heat of it swag seems awesome, but once at home you realize that much of it is just crap or stuff you don’t really need. Then it either gets thrown away or stuffed into a box somewhere in your storage room. Well, today I rescued some of that discarded swag and turned it into something useful.
I took this nylon bag Noel got from a job fair back in college, paired it with some leftover fabric from my stash, and made an eco travel lid that can be used instead of saran wrap.
Then I took a bag I got at the hospital when I had Cooper (full of some brand of formula we gave away).
Adjusting to having two kids is often difficult. The house is typically a mess and the laundry is more endless than ever. Most days are considered a success if everyone is fed, no one gets hurt, and nothing is broken. Every once in awhile though I get this crazy adrenaline rush. Somehow I manage to get everyone dressed before noon and I’m loading kids in the car one after the other. Once we arrive at our destination I’m unloading kids, setting up strollers and strapping kids in with the speed and precision of a Nascar pit crew during a pit stop. Then we’re heading into the store/park/post office, maneuvering our wide load through tight quarters and dodging other patrons with the finesse of an Olympic athlete. When I return to the car, disassemble everything, and finally buckle my own seat belt I can’t help but think, “Holy Cow, did I just do all that? I must be super mom!” And for a few minutes I feel pretty smug. Until someone starts screaming.
* For awhile I searched the internet drooling over snazzy double strollers. However, they were expensive and I had a hard time justifying the purchase since I already had four strollers. (A tad bit embarrassing I know, but the single baby jogger was inherited, the double Chariot we practically stole from some friends, and the Maclaren Easy Traveler, and the Maclaren Triumph were purchased on killer deals so my stroller addiction isn’t quite as bad as it seems. Really.) True, the Chariot is a double, but it really doesn’t fit into our small car without a GREAT DEAL of effort (and dismantling), which is hardly worth the trouble for a quick trip to the store. I momentarily thought about just forgetting the idea of a “portable double” and making Cooper walk, but then I went to the mall with a mom from church and her two kids (3 and 1) who was doing just that. When the three-year-old threw a tantrum she ended up throwing her over her shoulder while she pushed the stroller. I decided right then that I needed some sort of double option for situations like that. After much thought we decided just to buy some stroller links. For only $10 I now have a double stroller that works beautifully and still leaves room in my trunk for things like groceries. *
Yeah, we have an electric lawn mower. (We couldn’t afford an electric car and this was almost as cool.)
This baby was one of our first big purchases after we bought our house. Electric mowers are cheaper than traditional lawnmowers, don’t require as much maintenance (oil, gas, etc), aren’t as hard to start, and they don’t pollute the air next to your house. Win, win, win, win. Definitely worth dealing with all that cord in our opinion.
The next level of green would have been the reel mower, but you know, we’re not quite that hardcore.
There’s always a few things that are worth paying a bit of money to make your home more green (like insulating or installing an efficient cooling system like Noel talked about yesterday), but I’m always on the lookout for cheap ways to make my home a greener and more welcoming place. When I was working on Ellen’s bedroom I cam across a post on how to green your nursery on the cheap. A lot of the tips could be applied to the whole house, so here’s a list of some of my favorite ways you can be green when you’re decorating your living space.
Open a Window. I feel like busting open a window makes my home a more inviting, laid-back place. Plus, it’s a cheap way to breathe cleaner air and get rid of indoor pollutants. I even open the windows now and again on a sunny winter day. (I don’t have any science on this, but I feel like it keeps us from getting sick as often.)
Reuse. Not only does this cut out the waste new stuff would create, but it gives you an opportunity to be creative. If something doesn’t quite fit into your decorating scheme, look for a way to repurpose it so it does or find another place in your house where it can be useful. For example, when I decorated our bedroom I covered existing pillows and used an old quilt for the base of my comforter.
Buy used. As much fun as organic mattresses or tables made from sustainable wood would be, I really think this is the ultimate way to be green when acquiring new stuff (as well as save some green). This way you aren’t creating more waste and any horrible chemicals used in manufacturing the item have probably out-gassed.
Clean. This of course makes your house more inviting and is another great way to help the indoor air quality of your house. Plus, it helps maintain the stuff you already have so you don’t have to replace things as frequently. Take it to the next level and buy green cleaners or make your own.
Keep it simple. Doing this cuts clutter (which makes for less dust and better air quality) and also keeps you from buying unnecessary things (which creates more waste). I like to think that this also teaches a valuable life lesson.
Are there any things you guys do to stay green while beautifying your home?
We’ve got a long list of things we want to do with some of our rooms, so I think I’m going to take you on a tour room by room as things get done. Generally our bedroom is the last thing we seem to focus on, but this time it was the first.
Before we even started looking at houses I found a tutorial for some Anthropologie inspired bedding. Truth be told, I’ve never even set foot inside an Anthropologie (Guess I’m not a fashionista or a big spender – anyone surprised?), but I liked the bedspread and decided I needed one. It wasn’t that complicated to make, but it was a bit time consuming. Overall I feel good about it though, because A) if I’d bought one from the store it would have cost $268 and mine only cost $50.15 (I purchased fabric and thread and used an old comforter as backing) and B) Anthropologie doesn’t make it in yellow. I also made the pillows using some purchased fabric and the stuffing from some old decorative pillows. I don’t know why, but decorative pillows are always insanely expensive, so I was pleased that my cost on those only came out to $17 (plus I have extra fabric).
This wall art was also really cheap. I framed some of the extra fabric from the pillows in embroidery hoop frames and had a photo my mom took printed on a canvas during one of CanvasPeople‘s free 8X10 promotions.
We also have a closet that you can actually walk into (although you can’t really walk around :)).
The dresser on the other side of the room. That door you see leads to my favorite part . . .
Our very own bathroom! Okay, one last prideful thing I need to share. The shower was not in great shape when we moved in. Even after I’d scrubbed and scrubbed it still looked gross. So, I found this YouTube video and less than $10 later (and several hours of meticulous scraping with a razor blade) things were much improved. (I think doing a tub would take a lot less time since there were all sorts of crazy lines and angles to do in our oddly shaped shower.) I feel so handy.