Category Archives: Mama Stuff

My favorite dollies

You may have noticed lately, especially if you have flipped through a Pottery Barn catalog or the recent Martha Stewart Living magazine that handmade dolls are trending right now.  I can see why.  They are so individual and charming, so unlike a cookie cutter doll from Mattel.  I recently ordered two matching dollies for our twin god daughters.

My blogger friend, the dollie’s creator, has the cutest little blog Meg + Andy Made with all kinds of DIY stuff, like hair bows and bow ties.  She is an artist and creates all these great things in her spare time which consists of practically nothing since she is a stay at home, homeschooling mother of 4 (including a set of 3 year old twins)!!  Somehow she manages to whip up the cutest dollies and sells them at art fairs and at her online dollie shop.

Here are some pictures of the dollies that she made for me. And here is a link to more pictures of the dollies posted on her blog.   Please try not to snicker at my terrible photography once you see her shots of the dollies.  Clearly she excels in not only doll making but photography as well.

All I did was contact her and tell her their hair and eye color.  She has an amazing sense of style so I wanted her to design them completely.  She’s like that hairstylist that you love because you just sit down and they instantly know what hair cut and color will look best on you.   Anyways, I just love them.  I reeeeally wanted to keep them but I couldn’t see how depriving two little girls was a good thing.  I do get to order one for my daughter but I have to wait until I can tell what color her eyes and hair are going to be.

I’d love for you to check out her dollies.  They make such great gifts for little girls.  Plus it supports an actual artist who puts love into her work.

Thanks, Courtney

Announcement Time!

We’ve been AWOL for more than a week, and for good reason.  We welcomed the newest member of our household into the world.  A beautiful baby girl.  In the spirit of being a self sufficient homesteader, Courtney delivered the baby with no pain meds, all natural.  She was amazing, especially because the baby was 9lb 9oz and entered the world face up (more painful).  We’ve been home for a few days and all is well.

Thanks, Robert

Handmade baby blankets, burp cloths and loveys

I am getting close to my due date only a few more weeks to go, which means that I am hard at work making a massive collection of all things pink.  I have been making baby blankets in all sizes, burp cloths and even a taggie lovey.  My son loved to suck, well more like lick the tags on any thing you gave him so I figured his sister might have the same obsession.  Here is my collection and an upclose of each item.  They are really easy to make.  I should make a tutorial but I am too tired.

Here they all are.

This is actually a gift for a friend, shhh, it’s a surprise.  It’s one blankie and 2 burp cloths.

These burp cloths are the best.  My mom made me a set for my son.  You just line the middle section of a cloth diaper with flannel, minky dot or regular ol’fabric.  They need to be washed a few times to soften up and then they are ready to go.

Not pink but oh so cute, plus a matching burp cloth.

Sometimes Joann’s surprises you with a really cute print, in which case I buy way more than I need just so I never run out.  Plus this is flannel, double score.

This is that super soft fabric, not fleece.  All you have to do is turn over the edge twice and sew.  It’s so soft my mom even requested a bigger one for herself.

Joann’s cheap version of Lilly Pulitzer.  Love it.

What I am most impressed by this is that I actually managed to keep it a square and not a funky diamond shape.  (This was thanks to my 10 1/2″ square ruler)

There you have it.  All my creations for my little baby girl.  Well actually not all.  I do have a quilt that I need to bind and I am making her a smocked bishop dress.  Those aren’t finished, one isn’t even started yet.

Thanks,  Courtney

Recovering a Crib Bumper Tutorial

If you are like me you really want to use your crib bumper again for the second baby but you looked at blue for soooo long that you just have to make the room pink.  I didn’t want to buy a new one, for obvious reasons so I decided to make a cover.  Something that I could put together quickly, that could be removed as needed and that was cheaper than buying a new bumper.

Here she is, I didn’t tie the ties because this is still Robby’s crib and as much as he likes the birdies on it I couldn’t seeing him surrounded by all that pink.

My first goal was to find cheap fabric.  After browsing through quilt stores to no avail I stumbled upon some really cute sheets at Target.  They are twin sheet set that I got on sale for $10.  That is far cheaper than any fabric I could purchase.  Plus I will have plenty of fabric to make other crafty things to decorate the room.  I was planning on making a bumper cover and a crib skirt but I found a Pottery Barn crib skirt at the local thrift store for $2.50 and couldn’t pass up the deal.

What you’ll need:

Fabric ( I can’t give amounts because I used a twin sheet set but I would guess between 1 1/2 – 2 yards would be plenty) 1 twin flat sheet is plenty, you will use about 3/4 of the sheet.

Coordinating thread

Ruler

Rotary cutter

Cutting mat

First gather and prepare your materials.  All fabric should be washed and ironed before you get started.

Measuring the bumper and ties:  I measured the total length of the bumper.  Mine was 156″ x 10 1/2″.  The ties were 9 1/2″ x 1/2″ and there were 24 of them.  I also measured the position of each tie.  Mine were located at both ends, plus 24″, 50″, 68″, 92″, and 128″.  The ties also come in pairs at each location and there is one at the top and bottom of the bumper at each location.  Which makes 4 per location mentioned above.  At each end you will only need 2 because the ends are tied together.  So trust me on this you will need 24 ties.  That sounds confusing but just look at your own bumper and you will see what I am talking about.  The measurements above will produce ties at the four corners and one in the middle of the long side of the crib.  This seems pretty standard so feel free to skip the measurement step and use my numbers.

Cutting the fabric:  I cut my bumper pieces so that I could obtain a total length of 156″ and I cut it 11″ wide.  That would allow a small 1/4″ seam allowance on each seam.  I relied on my cutting mat and rotary cutter to get all my lines straight with such a large piece of fabric.  I folded the fabric in half (like it would have come on the bolt) to make it easier too work with.  After I cut my first strip I sewed a small portion together and checked to see if it fit my bumper.  Mine was an exact match.  Cut out as many strips as needed to cover the total length of the bumper.

Next you will need to cut pieces for the ties.  I cut my tie pieces to 11″ x 1 1/2″.  I made sure I had 24 of these pieces plus a few extra.

Ironing the ties:  To iron the ties, place fabric wrong side up and fold one side in about a 1/2″.  Press then fold the other side in about 1/2″. Spray with spray starch, fold in half and press.  This will give you a tie that is about 1/2″ wide.

Sewing the ties:  Sew down the length of the tie with a very small seam allowance.  I didn’t measure mine I just keep it close enough to the edge that I caught both sides with my stitches.  Sew all of the ties as a chain and it will go much faster.  Now to prepare one end of the fabric for finishing, fold under 1/4″ twice.  Sew this edge closed.  It will help if you look at the tie on your existing bumper to get an idea of what I am talking about here.  The other end of the tie can be left raw because it will be buried inside the cover.

Sewing the cover together:  Sew strips together to make one long piece of fabric.  You should have two long pieces (each side of the bumper), match right sides together and measure and mark where the ties should be positioned.  As you sew, insert 2 ties at each measured location (stack them on top of each other), hold the tie in place and sew to secure.  When finished sewing sides together, sew one end closed, then turn it right side out.  Fit on the crib bumper and sew the other end closed, either by hand or on the machine.  You could add a zipper or velcro here but I was lazy and sewed mine closed.  If I need to take it off then I can undo my seam and resew.

To make a perfect and tight fit, I cut put the cover on the bumper and cut the end to the exact length needed and then sewed it closed.  This is a better option than trusting my measurements because goodness knows that I always make a mistake somewhere.  Plus I want it to be a tight fit so it’s not a hazard to the baby.  It was very easy to sew the end ties in place while the cover was still on and then seal it all up.  Much easier than trying to take the cover off and sew the ties.

Good luck, Courtney

Cloth Diaper Cover Tutorial

It was craft day while my mom was here a few weeks ago and here is what we made.  Cloth diaper covers.  My mom was not at all excited about this project.  She was not thrilled about making a pattern for the diaper and I admit that it wasn’t easy.  But I needed her help, because whether she admits it or not she’s the real pro.  Besides I always work better with someone else, then I can ask ridiculously simple questions.  Poor mom whenever she visits she ends up working her butt off.  Last summer we canned everyday until my sister arrived and put a stop to that nonsense, work I mean.

Update:  After my first diaper I was able to complete one diaper in 1 hour.  I have 3 infant size and 1 large toddler now to add to my collection.  I still have enough fabric left to make at least 2 infant diaper, maybe 3.

Here is what you need:

1 yard vinyl coated fabric, (white preferably)

1 package double wide bias tape (white preferably)

Coordinating thread

1 package Velcro brand  Sew-On Tape, 2 ” x 3‘   Do not use sticky back style, you cannot sew through this to put on your bias tape.  If you plan on making multiple diapers I would buy this larger package but in white.  Each Extra-large sized diaper will need about 12″, smaller sizes will use about 8″.

1 package 1/4″braided elastic.  Can’t go wrong with purchasing a 8 yard roll like this.

Tools needed: Sewing machine, scissors, pattern paper (wax, parchment, butcher, or brown paper bag), pins, pen, pencil and patience

Creating the pattern from an existing diaper

This will definitely be the hardest part because you will need an existing cloth diaper to trace.

  • Get a large enough piece of pattern paper (note it is impossible to tape together parchment paper so only use if you are doing a small diaper or you have a giant sheet)
  • Recruit a helper
  • Trace using a pen or pencil, whichever marks well on your paper
  • Have helper stretch out the diaper and hold tight as you trace around the edge.  When tracing near the gussets (the gussets are the extra pieces of fabric on either side of the lower portion of the diaper, their role is to catch the poop from falling out), trace along the interior line, or the line of diaper itself.
  • Now trace one gusset.   Each side is identical so you only need to trace one.  This is hard to trace so mainly note the length and then make a freehand drawing.  It should be a symmetrical convex shape.
  • Next trace the rectangular front piece, for lack of a better name.  This piece is at the front of the diaper behind the velcro and serves as a double layer of protection for leaks and is soft against baby’s skin if the diaper cover rides up too high.
  • Measure the length of elastic needed.  In total you will need 5 pieces.  One for the back top, one for each side of the diaper, and one on the outside edge of each gusset.
  • To measure the elastic, let the diaper sit loose and hold a piece up next to the diaper and make a cut to match the length

Cutting the Fabric

  • First cut out your pattern
  • Pin pattern to fabric.  Look to see if you can position your fabric so that you can get another diaper out of the same piece of fabric.
  • Cut out diaper, 2 gussets, 2 rectangular piece (mentioned above)
  • Cut 5 elastic pieces (see above).
  • Don’t cut the bias tape.  Take it out of the package and leave it all in one piece.  As you sew it can dangle in your lap and you can cut it off as you sew.
  • Cut velcro.  Measure size of velcro needed using the actual cut diaper as a guide.  Velcro will extend all the way across the front of the diaper.  This allows the diaper to grow with the baby.

Assembly and Sewing

1.  Gussets first.   Sew the elastic to each side of each gusset.  Don’t worry about seam allowances just make sure to run down the middle of the elastic.  A zig-zag stitch is best when sewing on elastic.

  • Make a few stitches to hold the elastic in place, then grasp end of elastic and pull it tight.  You don’t want it super tight but  you do want to have some.  You want the fabric to ruffle up when it’s sewn on.  While holding tight, sew all the way to the end.

I have the elastic pulled tight, but it’s hard to tell from the picture.

2.  Now sew the bias tape over the top of the elastic on only one side of the gusset (either side is fine cause they should be symmetrical).

  • Open your bias tape and fold it in half around the edge of the diaper
  • Close the bias tape around the elastic so that it is not showing.
  • Try to stay near the edge of the bias tape about 1/4″ seam allowance with a straight stitch or zig zag stitch, it’s up to you.  Zig-zag stitches will be more forgiving and easier to guarantee you sew the bottom in place.  Remember that you need to be able to sew the bias tape on the other side of the sandwich you made.  If you go too close to the edge and you don’t have the sandwich folded exactly in half you won’t sew the bottom side closed.  Easy to fix (I did this like a million times) but even better to avoid in the first place.

Okay so this isn’t a picture of the gusset but it’s a great shot of wrapping the bias tape around the elastic.

Here’s what they gusset looks like finished.

3.  Sew elastic on the top back of the diaper (using zig-zag stich).

4.  Sew rectangular piece of fabric to inside front of diaper.  Sew wrong sides together.  (I didn’t do this for the infant diapers.)

5.  Sew large piece of velcro to outside front of diaper on the right side of the fabric.

6.  Now you will need to make the tabs that will catch on the velcro.  Cut two small pieces that fit on either side of the top back of the diaper.  Sew the velcro on the wrong side of the fabric.  Instead of a square piece try rounding the corners so they are less likely to snag baby.

6.  Sew bias tape to diaper starting on the sides because we still need to attach those gussets.  I will describe this in painful detail.

  • Lay the diaper with the wrong side up.
  • To get the correct orientation place the diaper so that the elastic is at the top and the velcro (if you could see it, it shoud be facing the table) is at the bottom
  • We are going to put the right hand side gusset on first.
  • Position the gusset so the wrong sides are together and the elastic side is lined up with the right hand side of the diaper.
  •  Pin in place about 5 inches down from the top.
  • Fold bias tape in half and make a sandwich around the edge of the diaper like you did before.
  • Start sewing anywhere but preferable not on a turn (cause turns are tricky, work your way up to those)
  • As you come to the gusset, match the edges and pull the elastic taught, sandwich it between the bias tape and sew.  Give a few extras stitches to secure the top and bottom of the gusset.
  • You will need to pull the elastic tight as you sew on the gusset.  This is important so everything matches up correctly and so it bunches nicely when you are finished sewing.

7.  Continue all the way around the diaper.  When you get to the corners just do you best edging it around and take extra stitches to secure it in place.  When you get to the other gusset put it on the same way as you did the other side.  If you want to cut the bias tape and turn it around on the machine that’s fine.  Just fold under 1/4″ on the end when you start sewing again so it makes a finished edge.

The original infant diaper – Imse Vimse

Here it is unfolded, you can easily see the cutout for the umbilical cord

And the backside, here you can see the elastic at the top back

Update:  I have used and washed the diaper cover a couple of times and it works great.  It didn’t even bleed or fade in the wash even though a used a tiny bit of bleach.  I have also made 2 infant sized diapers.  Those only took me 1 hour each, start to finish, because I already had the hang of it.

Things I will do differently next time:  The diaper was much bigger than the pattern.  This was easy to fix, I just cut my pattern down in all the areas where it fit big.  I did this right away because I knew I would forget the next time I pulled the pattern out.

Thanks,  Courtney

Reusing Disposable Swim Diapers

I told you my cheapness knows no bounds so don’t be too shocked by this post.

Yes, I paid $8 for 11 swim diapers.  Yes, he only wore them for 2 hours.  Yes, I hung them out to dry on the clothes line.  And yes, he will be wearing them the next time we go swimming.

Somehow I feel like my great grandkids are going to hear about this story and think I was some crazy lady.  Someone tell them it’s all true.

Are your beauty products safe?

We are pretty natural around here but when I am pregnant I seem to take it to the extreme.  When I was pregnant with my son I got into a little trouble for spending way to much at Whole Foods.  Robert tracks every single solitary purchase so I can’t get away with much. My latest obsession during this pregnancy has been finding all natural facial and skin products.  I normally don’t use a lot of fancy lotions and potions but with this dry, cold weather I need something.  I have been on the hunt for all natural, fragrance free and relatively cheap products.  This has been no easy task.

I have a wonderful website that I use to check all of my skin care products and ingredients.  It’s called the Environmental Working Group and the database is called Skin Deep.  It’s a very extensive database of thousands of products and ingredients.  The products are all rated on an overall safety scale of 0-10.  It also details why the products was given the score.  This is especially helpful for checking this while pregnant because it shows you the developmental/reproductive toxicity relative levels.  For those with allergies it gives a relative allergies & immunotoxicity score.  And if you need further proof they show you exactly which ingredient is to blame for a high score.  Very, very helpful website.  I highly recommend it. Here’s the link again:  http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

After all my searching I have decided to make my own products.  I am very excited for my requested library book to arrive and I can dive into creating some wonderfully natural, unscented lotions that the whole family can use.  Oh and since EWG has a database of ingredients I can give my own homemade creations a safety rating.  How reassuring is that.  After all I don’t want to spend all this time and money making something that could be potentially harmful.

My Other Cleaning Methods

As I mentioned in my last post I don’t use vinegar exclusively.  I clean the kitchen counters after each meal with the hottest water, a scrubbing brush and good ol’ dish soap.  I let it sit while I clean all the counters and then I dry with a clean dish towel.

In the bathroom, I do use Soft Scrub on my toilets.  Robert usually takes this job because I don’t want any bleach fumes (baby on board).  When the bottle runs out though I will probably switch to vinegar or I just read about using some other all nautral products like, lemon juice, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and tea tree oil.  After the baby comes I will probably try some experimentation on what works best in the toilet.  For now though, Robert does a fantastic job.

Now on a rare occasion when someone in the house gets sick, like with the stomach flu or a bad cold I do some disinfecting.  While I don’t love using bleach I do use it.  I think everybody dislikes it because it’s production is harmful to the environment but my main concern is what’s harmful to my family.  So I use it occasionally and don’t really think twice about it.  I figure that those pathogenic stomach flu germs are far more dangerous than the bleach.  I dilute it to 3/8 tsp per cup of water.  I put it into a spray bottle and clean all the light switches, door handles, toilets, counters and other areas where the sicky may have been.  Bleach needs time to work so you can’t just wipe it right off.  I try to leave it on for 10 minutes then wipe it off.  On the toilet I just let it dry.  This makes the job hands free and no possible way for cross contamination.

For the floors in our house we just discovered the Shark.  It uses only steam to clean.  How all natural can you get, huh?  I’ll write more about the Shark later but I highly recommend it for all non carpeted floors, even hardwood.

Thanks, Courtney

Safe, Inexpensive, Effective Cleaning Product

During my first pregnancy I switched to all natural everything.  This included cleaning products.  I tossed my scrubbing bubbles, Windex, 409, Comet, Toilet Bowl cleaner and all the other bottles that cluttered our cabinets.  In it’s place I used vinegar.  I had friends tell me they used it to sometimes to clean and I thought – it’s edible so why not.

To my surprise the vinegar worked just as well as my assortment of hazardous household cleaners.  I dilute it by half with water and use it pretty much everywhere.  To clean an entire bathroom I probably use 3/4 cup vinegar and 3/4 -1 cup water.  A $2.50 jug of white vinegar will last a very long time.  Here’s how I use it:

Bathroom

  • To clean the mirrors, just wipe with wet vinegar/water rag and use a dry  rag to dry.  Spotless, no streaks every time.
  • Counters get wiped off with dry rag and then cleaned with vinegar/water rag.  Bowl will sparkle as will the faucets.
  • Inside and outside of tub can be scrubbed with brush dipped in the vinegar water.
  • To clean outside of toilet, wipe with wet rag and then dry off.  I do the toilet last then toss by vinegar/water solution, cause you don’t want to smear all those toilet germs all over the bathroom.

Kitchen

  • To clean cabinets inside and out, use vinegar/water solution and wipe down the surfaces, then dry off.  It’s important on wood surface, whether painted or not to dry quickly so it doesn’t start to absorb
  • To clean the greasy area above the microwave, just scrub with wet vinegar/water rag.  You may need to clean rag several times because the grease can be thick.  Vinegar doesn’t cut grease as easily as 409 but with a little elbow grease it all works out the same in the end.
  • Refrigerator, microwave and other appliances can all be wiped clean with vinegar/water solution, just dry off with dry rag
  • To replace your rinse aid (which if you read the back of the bottle it says not to ingest which begs the question, why am I using it on my glasses and plates then?) just pour a few glugs of vinegar into the bottom of the washer.  It will remove spots from your glasses, even ones that seem stained.

I almost forgot, the smell.  Some of you may be turning your nose up at vinegar because of its potent smell.  Well first, the smell doesn’t bother me because I love vinegary foods.  It doesn’t even bother me while pregnant.  It smells clean to me and clean things are less offensive I guess.  While you are cleaning the smell is strong but once the surface is dried off it really cares no lasting smell.  The bathroom may smell a little vinegary for an hour or so afterwards but this is because we have no windows in our bathroom or ventilation fans.

I have been asked before if vinegar disinfects.  I have done very little research on the subject but I believe the answer is no.  Not on it’s own.  It reduces the amount of microbes (aka germs) but it doesn’t really disinfect.  I read somewhere that spraying surface with vinegar an then another mild disinfectant like maybe lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide might do the trick.  I want to try this out.

Now I don’t use vinegar extensively, in my arsenal are dish soap, bleach (I know I’m so bad), Soft Scrub, and The Shark.  I will talk more about these tomorrow.  By and large my favorite cleaning product is vinegar.  I use liberally and I use it often.  I save the chemicals for some of the nasty stuff that needs to be cleaned.

How to make Playdough

I probably should have posted this earlier in the winter because this is a great indoor activity.  I guess it will have to work for a rainy spring day instead.  My mom and grandma used to make this playdough for me as a kid.  I remember waking my grandmother up and asking her to make me some.  It’s very similar to the original.  But what’s great is that it is super cheap and super fast to make.  I don’t think you could drive to the store and buy some in the time it took me to make it and cool it.  I made mine with some bread flour that I thought was on the borderline of being rancid, worked perfect.  Try not to get too much food coloring because I cannot guarantee that this will not bleed onto you white sofa.

Playdough

Makes enough to fill 3 regular sized Play Doh containers (even though the picture only shows 2), so be sure to save them up.

1 cup flour

1 cup water

1/2 cup salt

2 Tablespoons Cream of Tartar

2 teaspoons food coloring or a teeny bit of Wilton cake decorating food coloring (the kind that is like a gel and comes in the little tubs)

Stir together in saucepan over medium low heat.

Before the food coloring

Here’s the Wilton brand – Royal Blue

After the food coloring

It will quickly start to get thick and seize up into a ball.  Keep stirring until you think it looks like playdough consistency.

Take off the heat, let cool briefly and then cover with saran wrap until it is cool enough to play with.