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!
Do you ever have one of those moments when you discover a hole in an article of clothing, start angrily muttering under your breath about how you can’t believe this item you just bought is already falling apart, but then almost have a heart attack when you start counting in your mind and realize that you’ve owned this item for 5+ years? Happens to me all the time. Where does the time go? What to do with these pieces is always a bit of a conundrum for me. I’m a huge fan of second-hand shops (for both donating and purchasing), but I feel bad donating clothes that aren’t in bad enough shape to be recycled (for those shops that participate in those programs), but also aren’t in great enough shape for someone to really want to wear them. Often, I just stash them in my sewing room and wait for brilliance to strike. Which is what happened with my “new” dress I’m posting about today.
I had a dress I bought from DownEast several years ago that I loved. It was such an amazing dress that three other women in our church congregation also owned it and we each unofficially adopted a week of the month that was our “turn” to wear it. Over the years it somehow got stretched out though.
I also had a basic pink tee from DownEast that had an unraveling hem. When both items had landed in my sewing room pile, I knew it was time for a DownEast Remix. I cut a few strips off the bottom of the shirt and used this tutorial to make the “braided” neckline. (I did two rows of the “braid.”) Then I cut the original top off the dress, did a basting stitch around the raw edge and cinched it till it was the same size as the bottom of the t-shirt, and sewed them together using regular thread on top and elastic thread in my bobbin. (I based a lot of the dress assembly off of this t-shirt dress tutorial.) I added a belt and voila, as good as new.
And just for fun, look how cute this little girl looks with her tiny ponytail.
I remember having a conversation with my mother when I was pregnant with Cooper and telling her that I couldn’t listen to the news because it freaked me out and made me wonder what I was doing bringing a child into such a terrible world. My mom told me she’d felt the same way when she’d had me and pointed out that I’d turned out okay. I left the conversation feeling less worried and the thought came to me, “Well, Audrey what would happen to the world if the ‘good people’ stopped having children?”
It’s easy to be dragged down by the difficult things we see or experience in the world. Because the terrible things are often so obvious and are the things that make the headlines and the gossip rounds, it really can seem like the bad is overpowering the good. But it’s important to remember that good is a force too. A powerful force, but one that is often easy to overlook because it isn’t sensational and is so often displayed in quiet and subtle ways. Perhaps, we’re doled out such small doses because it is so powerful.
Right before Christmas, I started reading the book Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza. I normally wouldn’t choose to read about the Rwandan Genocide during a season that elicits feelings of joy and merriment, but it was a book club selection that I’d postponed reading and it was soon due at the library. Surprisingly, reading the book did not end up making me feel depressed, but it made me reflect on my faith, blessings, and ability to be optimistic. Despite losing almost her entire family and being hunted by former friends and neighbors, Immaculée is a very positive and optimistic woman full of love and forgiveness – some of the strongest forces of good. I was struck by many of the things she said, but felt a need to record this quote in my journal, “God is the source of all positive energy, and prayer is the best way to tap into that power.”
I still worry about my kids, I am a mom after all. I worry that the world will rob them of their innocence and whether they will make good or bad choices as they grow older. Most of all, I worry that my parenting won’t be good enough. I try to quell those worries though and remind myself that good is a powerful force. A force that can overcome my inadequacies as a parent, a force that can help me or my kids survive tough times, and ultimately a force that comes from God.
On our recent trip we didn’t check any bags. It was kind of pain to haul three carry-on bags, two car seats, two strollers, and three personal items through the airport; I guess that just shows how cheap crazy we are.* Because we wanted to get the most out of our allotted free items, I decided I needed to make myself a giant plane bag for my personal item. I used some home decor fabric leftover from another project (and originally purchased on clearance), a pair of Noel’s old pants, and the bottom of the bag I upcycled into snack bags. I loosely followed this tutorial, but for the most part I kind of just made up my own thing. (Are you starting to notice a trend?) I thought about writing my own tutorial, but sometimes when you’re making stuff up as you go that gets a bit complicated . . . look, I’m just glad the thing didn’t turn out to be a giant mess 🙂
I cut the pockets out of Noel’s pants to use inside the bag and cut the legs into long strips for the ties. I also paired the drawstring with an old carabiner for my “key tether.”
Three interior pockets, a place for my water bottle and a giant side compartment where I stash diaper stuff. The bottom piece even pulls out so you can throw this in the washing machine. Oh, this bag has everything. But because it has everything it is HUGE. So, it might not be the most practical thing in everyday life, but at the airport: complete lifesaver.
*On the way home we asked kindly if they couldn’t just check our carry-ons for free since they would take up the same amount of space no matter where they were and if we didn’t have to carry them on the plane we could board faster and irritate less people. They kindly obliged. I guess it never hurts to ask.
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.
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).
No this post is not about dying my hair. Trust me, that’s never going to happen. I’m not big on food dyes. I try to avoid them in the things I buy and have only used my my little vials of food coloring once in the past two years. (When I unsuccessfully tried to make cute cupcakes to impress the pre-teen girls I taught at church, which was silly on so many levels.) With Easter coming up I’ve tossed around the idea of dying Easter Eggs and in my green sleuthing have found several suggestions of how to dye eggs naturally. While I’ve decided to hold off on that tradition for at least another year (I’m just not ready to deal with that potential mess), I thought I’d share my two favorite findings. There’s these suggestions from Annie’s Eats and these from 100 Days of Real Food. If you try either of them, you’ll have to let me know how it goes.
Now, before you begin to admire me for how green I am, let’s talk about the second dye debacle of my week. I saw a wreath on Pinterest that proclaimed itself to be “super easy” and seemed fairly green to me (made out of old t-shirts and cereal boxes). I wanted something to make my house more springlike, so I decided to make it, but found I didn’t have any sacrificial t-shirts that were the appropriate colors. So, I picked up some Rit Dye while I was at the fabric store and didn’t really think anything of it until I was reading the instructions and some of the warnings made me begin to question how eco-friendly (or just plain safe) the product was. (Keep in mind, I stay current with some people/organizations that are pretty intense in their chemical avoidance.) Then I had one of my classic brain debates:
Well, it’s not like you’re eating it. But the clothes will be touching your skin. All. Day. Long. It ishelping you reuse something. But it will be wasting water and flushing questionable stuff down the drain.
(By the way, this type of debate is the reason why it takes me so long to shop and I’m constantly being asked by employees if I need help.) In the end, the dye won out and I added a few stained shirts to the mix to help me feel like I was at least extending the life of clothes that might otherwise be tossed. I opted to use the “bucket method” as I thought I’d have more control over the color and limit the amount of water I used. In retrospect, I think the “washing machine method” might actually be the way to go since the color would probably be distributed more evenly and the machine is probably more efficient at rinsing things out than I am.
Sadly, the wreath didn’t end up being as quick (which is what I interpreted “super easy” to mean) as I thought. By the time I got to 2 1/2 hours of rolling fabric and using the glue gun I was getting pretty agitated (and so were my kids). But now it’s done and I can leave the dyes and the crafting alone for awhile. Phew.
If you’ve ever been to a children’s department or store you’ve probably noticed this, but the little girl’s section is always bigger. Even in stores where one side is devoted to little girls and one side is devoted to little boys the selection isn’t equal. You’ll find that the seemingly equal division is an optical illusion and the girl’s side really takes up more of the store. As a parent of a little boy, I find this frustrating and discriminatory. Yes, little girl things are cute with all of the frills, flowers, and bows, but little boys are cute too dang it! I get bored of the lack of creativity that goes into outfits for boys. Most stores carry only a slim selection of t-shirts and athletic shorts with baseball bats proclaiming he’s “Mommy’s All-Star” or “Daddy’s MVP.” When little girls get dresses and patent leather shoes, little boys get sweatpants and sneakers with football detailing. I know some people love this, but since I don’t aim to raise a little jock, I’m not one of them. Sometimes I have visions of myself marching into Carter’s headquarters and taking over their little boy division or simply starting my own company that makes only affordable, classy little boy clothes. Clothing that makes little boys look like sophisticated little men instead of future couch potatoes of America. Maybe someday. In the meantime, I’ll just be jealous of little girls and their wide selection of apparel options.
Speaking of little girls, my dear friend from high school just adopted a sweet little girl: Miss Sophie Anne. I was more than secretly thrilled to temporarily enter the land of ruffles and bows as I whipped up a few gifts for the little gal.
We were lucky to meet the little lady when Emily and some of her family stayed with us on their way back to Utah. We’re so happy for Emily and Dan and their new adventures into parenthood. Welcoming a baby into the world is always a little pricy, and adoption is definitely no exception. Emily’s brother is hosting a 5K fundraiser next week, so if you’re able bodied and anywhere near the Willard, UT area next Saturday, you should join them.
Cooper wasn’t quite as happy about Sophie as the rest of us. He might be in for quite the rude awakening if we ever have another child.
Sorry about the lack of creative posts lately. We’ve been doing a lot of boring adult-type things and we didn’t think you’d care much to read about the juicy details of radon tests or sewer scopes. Hopefully I can get my writing mojo back soon, but in the meantime here’s some belated Easter pics and projects.
Cooper had a cute little suit we bought him for my sister’s wedding back in August. We purposefully bought him one that was too big so he could wear it longer. I hemmed it quite a bit and have been slowing letting it out as Cooper grows taller. However, the last time I let the hem out I had the iron up way too high and one of the pant legs got a giant iron imprint on it. After furiously unplugging the iron, throwing the pants in a hopeless heap on my dresser, and taking a week to cool off, I returned to the pants and found a way to salvage them. Good bye ruined pants, hello warm weather dress shorts!
While I was in the sewing groove I used fabric scraps and the stuffing from some old decorative pillows to make the stuffed giraffe and blocks that you’ve already seen. Lastly, I used some leftover fabric from a bedspread I hope to finish some day to make a fun spring top for me. Noel is the real loser in all of this, but I didn’t think he’d appreciate me turning any of his dress pants into shorts and I think he was satisfied to just receive candy 🙂