The Great Apron Project Begins


Decisions, decisions!

Hi all! When I was in Atlanta over Memorial Day, I went to Whipstitch Fabrics. While I was there, my sister and my mom convinced me to buy a stack of (really really great) fabric to make aprons for the Skillet Festival; the Brooks County Skillet Festival will be held on September 17, 2011 in my beautiful home town of Quitman, Georgia.  Hey, any excuse to buy more fabric, right?  I’m going to be participating with my friend Andrea, sharing a booth space as vendors.  She knits (and I have the awesome expandable produce bag to prove it!).  I’m going to be making aprons, potholders and other food related sewn items!  I’ve got lots of ideas but not an unlimited amount of time.

Yesterday was Day 1 of the Great Apron Project.  I spent hours yesterday going through the new stuff and my old stuff trying to make sets.  I’m going to make some hostess (half) aprons as well as some full ones.  I love the look of the hostess aprons, but I know aprons are mostly about functionality.  I’ll try to find a great way to balance that.

Closeup of the apron strings when tied

So, here’s my first attempt at an apron! I am going to tweak the pattern just a bit, but it turned out really well in my opinion! It’s a variation on a Heather Ross pattern from Weekend Sewing.  I took her pattern and made it reversible.  I like the clean finish of something that’s lined, and this is like two aprons in one!

I’m going to be working on some with embellishments like ruffles, embroidery and appliques.   Please let me know if you have a special request! I’ll do my best to make sure I have what you want!

Finished product

Check out http://www.skilletfestival.com for more information.  It’s going to be lots of fun: great local food and handmade items for sale and fun events you won’t want to miss.

-Where else will you get the opportunity to throw a skillet (that won’t land you in hot water)?

-How many of you will be able to say they finished the Iron Man? (Come run the Cast Ironman 5K and say you did!)

And best of all, you’ll be supporting the local economy just by coming out, having some fun, and enjoying some food and music!

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My brush with greatness…

One of my very favorite sewing blogs is written by Deborah at Whipstitch Fabrics.  For those that don’t know, Whipstitch is a fantastic fabric and sewing store in midtown Atlanta.  She (poor thing) is having a crazy summer.  She’s moving, teaching classes, juggling kids and vacations, too. For that reason, she asked for submissions about antique and vintage quilts.  I was lucky enough to be selected.  I’m so excited to have been included on her blog since I’m such a fan!  I guess I’m “sewstruck” instead of starstruck. 

My guest post is linked here.  For my sewing friends, you will not be disappointed by a trip to her shop which is on Marietta Street  on in the west part of midtown Atlanta (my old stomping grounds!).  I bought a big stack of half-yard pieces from the shop to make aprons to sell at the Brooks County Skillet Festival!  You should also check out the BCSF! It’s going to be a great festival centered around local food, arts, and handcrafted items.

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More dresses…

Just a quick post to show you two more dresses that I made for a really great cause and some really special kids.  I’ll give you more details about the cause (and hopefully pictures of the dresses on the “models”) soon.

These khaki dresses are going to look great on two cute little girls

 

Up close you can see better that the fabric has a cool pattern like white coral.

 

Keep an eye out for my post on where these dresses are going to find their new home!

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Live green to save some green!

Here are a few more ideas to help save some money at home. 

Carry your own shopping bags or baskets wherever you go! 

Most people are familiar with the idea of taking reusable bags to the grocery store.  Why not take them everywhere?  Target gives you a nickel back for bringing your own bags.  For those in the Valdosta area, Whisk gives you a dime!  That may not seem like much but every little bit helps!  

Stores’ costs are lower when they don’t have to buy shopping bags.  If their costs are lower, your costs are lower!  Plus, it’s easier on the environment.

You also don’t HAVE to use those little plastic produce bags.  We only do it out of habit.  Is it really going to be a major problem if our bananas integrate with our apples!  The horror! 

 I have various canvas and cloth tote bags that I use.  I also have an expandable produce bag, two collapsible market baskets, one fantastic insulated market basket that my mom got me for Christmas.  (It’s great for keeping cold things cold!)

Stop using garbage bags! 

Don’t look at me in that tone of voice! You read correctly. 

Who says you have to use garbage bags?   We have a two-bin trash drawer assembly, but you can use whatever trash can you have that’s easily cleaned.  We put our recycling (rinsed out) in one bin, our trash in the other, and any compostable items go in the compost can under the sink.   Take out the garbage and the recycling and just rinse out the can.  If it REALLY needs cleaning, a little dish soap and a garden hose will do it with no big deal!  (No this isn’t my kitchen, but this is my trash drawer assembly.) 

Think about it like this: Tall kitchen garbage bags cost approximately $.50 each. (Hefty brand used for comparative purposes).  If like me, you have to take the trash out every other day (we are still using diapers at our house), that adds up to approximately $90 a year in savings.   

Stop buying paper towels:  Use rags/dish towels instead for cleaning and then throw them in with your laundry.  You’re doing laundry anyway, and it really doesn’t add any bulk to your washing.   Try using a squeegee and a rag for windows.  If your family uses 1 roll of paper towel per week (mine used more), you can save around $90 per year by not buying paper towels.

 Stop using paper napkins:  Use cloth napkins instead.  Again, it doesn’t really add much bulk to the laundry.  Cut down on the number used by reusing clean napkins instead of washing after each mean (if you can).  Savings for a family of four are more than $50 per year!

 Minimize buying Ziploc bags: Store leftovers and food items in airtight glass, plastic or metal containers.  Use reusable bags and containers for packing lunches.  These bags are widely available for purchase (or you can easily make your own).  You can repurpose glass jars rather than recycling them.  I have begun using lots of jars (mason jars, spaghetti sauce jars, jelly jars, etc.) to store all sorts of things in the fridge.  It works really well, and I don’t have to buy more every time.  You’ll save at least $78 per year by cutting out throwaway bags and containers.   

Brew your own coffee and stop buying paper coffee filters: You can get one pound of organic whole bean coffee starting at $8 locally.  That’s less than the cost of two venti lattes at Starbucks.  That adds up FAST!   In that one pound of coffee, you can get approximately 15 pots of strong coffee.   That’s 15 POTS not 15 cups.  It is easy to see how you can save big money fast. 

Also, replace your paper coffee filters with a reusable cone filter (approximately $5) or use a french press.  You’ll save about $15 a year if you make one pot of coffee every day. 

Minimize purchases of single-serve bottled drinks: Stop buying bottled water and other single-serving bottled/canned drinks.  Purchase a water filter and reusable bottle to use if you’re on the go.  We have a few stainless steel bottles and some repurposed Snapple bottles for our family.

 You could save around $600 (one bottled water per 4 people per day).  Plus, the plastic can leach chemicals into the liquid.  If you have not yet seen the documentary “Tapped”, I highly recommend it.  It’s disconcerting but enlightening! 

 Stop buying single-use batteries:  It’s much easier to use rechargeable batteries than you think. Rechargeable AA batteries and chargers, ubiquitous for TV and gaming remotes and kids’ toys, are widely available.  An added bonus: You don’t have to run to the store when your remote runs out of juice. Just recharge the batteries and you’re good to go.  If you use around 25 AA batteries a year, you’ll save around $28 a year.  If you have little kids, you’ll probably save more than that!  

 All these suggestions require little or no effort.  They  may not seem like much with  $28 here and $15 there, but if you add all that up you get a potential savings of nearly $1000 in a year!

Before you think that I’m giving you the ol’ “Do as I say and not as I do” treatment, I’ll tell you this.  I do my best to adhere to ALL of these.  I’m not perfect.  We do buy batteries sometimes when I forget to charge the reusables.  We also indulge in our high-priced coffee occassionally.  However, every little bit helps!  

What kinds of things do you do to save money at home even if you aren’t saving the planet 🙂 ?  I’m always looking for suggestions  and would appreciate the input!

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Breathe easy

As I wrote earlier this week, I am grateful and blessed to work with some great non-profit organizations.  The second one I’d like to tell you about is CF Riders.  It was founded by my friends Brian and Christie Johnson.  So, how did I get involved with this group?

Well, suffice it to say God’s “networking” puts the best politician or salesperson to shame! 

Brian and I were great friends in college; I always looked on him quite like a brother (and still do).  He met and started dating a great girl named Christie, graduated and moved away from Valdosta, and I lost touch with my friend.  Fast forward XXXX years (actual dates have been redacted to protect the somewhat innocent) and enter Facebook.   Brian and I reconnected and got a chance to catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives – marriage, kids, jobs, the works!

What you don’t know about my friend Brian is that he suffers from Cystic Fibrosis (CF).  I knew this in college, but he never seemed to let it stop him or affect his life.   As he is fond of saying, he has CF, but it doesn’t have him.  Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects over 30,000 children and adults within the USA alone.  The disease causes the body to produce a thick sticky mucus that makes patients easily susceptible to lung infection and disease.  CF also causes digestive problems, and in most cases CF patients take pancreatic enzymes to help break down nutrients.  CF also causes a high rate of infertility in adults and especially in males with the disease

 In 2010, Brian and Christie established CF Riders to show the world (particularly those who have CF) that the diagnosis doesn’t have to define you.  Brian was diagnosed with CF when he was seven.  At that time, his life expectancy was seventeen years of age.  They didn’t even expect him to graduate from high school, but he did.  They didn’t expect him to graduate from college, but he did.  They didn’t expect him to become a husband and father, but he did.   

 The current life expectancy is 37 years (which is Brian’s age today).  And yet he, Christie and their adorable daughter Hayden about to hit the road on a 14,000 mile Nationwide Ride for Life. 

You are probably thinking that he’s insane, right?!  I mean what is a man with a life-threatening illness doing getting on a motorcycle and riding around the country. (Did I mention he had never put his skinny butt on a motorcycle in his whole life?)  So, what in the heck is he thinking?  Well, he’s stepping out in faith to execute a mission to which he’s been called.  To get the full story, you should really read it in Brian’s own words.  Check out his blog or the CF Riders Web site.

 I am proud of him for answering the call he heard while driving down Interstate 20.  I am so proud and blessed to be a very small part of what CF Riders is doing to give hope to those with CF!  CF Riders’ work has reconnected me with a dear friend, let me get to know a new friend (his wife), and given me another opportunity to use my skills to help those in need. 

Thanks Brian & Christie for letting me be a part of the “road crew” even though I have never ridden a motorcycle and I am NOT getting a tattoo!   If you’d like to support their ministry or just go along for the ride*, get in touch!

*Seriously!  They’d love company on the road!

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Homemade Cost Savings: Laundry Detergent & Spray Starch

Like most people I know, I’ve been trying to figure out ways to save money around the house.  In addition, I also try to minimize the amount of chemicals I use.  I really like Seventh Generation and some of the other eco-friendly, non-toxic brands, but they aren’t exactly easy on the wallet.  So, here are two ways you can save some green while being green!

Make your own laundry detergent:

I have done this recently; and I’m about to make my second batch.  It works well thus far!  I used this recipe from a great blog called Homestead Revival.  They have two versions; I used the Fels Naphtha version because that’s what I could find in my area. 

It’s easy to make, and one batch lasts as long as a regular bottle of laundry detergent (if not longer).  I priced the ingredients today at my local grocery store.  All the ingredients for three batches of the recipe were less than $10 with washing soda and borax left over, too!  Compared to $8.99 for a bottle of Seventh Generation laundry detergent at my local Publix, that’s a no-brainer for me. 

I use one tablespoon sized scoop (not exact) in each load.  I actually use a plastic scoop leftover from a container of baby formula.  Try not to breathe the mixture in very deeply.  The borax can make you cough.  I think you’ll be pleased with the outcome of this recipe.  I am!

Make your own spray starch:  

Mix 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch with 1 cup of cold water.  Take care to make sure there are no lumps of cornstarch remaining in the liquid.  The mixture will be cloudy, and this is okay.  If you like, add one drop of your favorite essential oils to give a slight fragrance to your ironed items.  Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and use as you would any store-bought starch!  How easy is that? 

Before making my own starch, I’ve been buying Niagara brand spray starch in the pump bottle as pictured below.  I like this brand of store-bought spray starch.  These pump bottles are the best I’ve found!  I washed out several of them and kept them for reuse for my homemade starch, as well as homemade shampoo & conditioner.  

Homemade spray starch is so inexpensive, too!  Comparatively speaking, Niagara spray starch costs approximately $3 per bottle.  Most municipal water costs less than/around one cent per gallon; corn starch costs approximately $.12 per ounce.  That means you can fill that same 22 ounce Niagara bottle for about 25 cents!!

I hope that these ideas encourage you to think outside the “big box” and consider other easy projects which can help you save time and money in your home!

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So, enough about me…

I started this blog to write about sewing or crafting projects, but I’m beginning to see that I need to use it for more.  I am still enjoying (and learning on the job, so to speak) sewing and crafting.  I haven’t found much time to do it lately but am hoping to resolve that soon.  I took on a Sewing Buddy through Whipstitch’s Sewing Buddy Match!  So, hi Jocelyn!  She’s got her hands completely full with three sweet boys and a husband who’s a Marine!  We’ll be comparing sewing notes, and I’m sure you’ll see some of those projects here. 

 So, while I’m still going to post about sewing and crafting, I’m also going to start writing about other things that are important to me.  In particular, I’m privileged to be working with several non-profit groups that are offering hope to people.

The first is LAMP (Lowndes Associated Ministries to People).  LAMP is a multi-faceted agency in Valdosta, Georgia, that works to help alleviate homelessness and poverty.  Quite frankly, I had no idea that LAMP even existed two years ago.  (Thank you Leadership Lowndes for educating me as to what was just out my backdoor!)

While touring the LAMP shelter, I noticed baby bottles which had been washed and left to dry on the side of a sink in a group bedroom.  At any other time in my life, this probably would not have hit me dead in the stomach like it did this day.  I had just that morning done the same thing – washed baby bottles for my baby girl and left them to dry.   The people in this shelter are no different than me.  These children are no different than mine – learning to crawl, learning to walk, or learning to read.  At that point, I knew that when offered the opportunity I would jump at the chance to work with LAMP. 

People think that homelessness and poverty are strictly urban problems; this could not be farther from the truth.  By the numbers, here’s what LAMP did last year for our area:

  • 6,941 families fed through our food pantry
  • 360 families assisted with rent and utilities
  • 820 individuals housed in our shelters
  • 59,807 meals served in our shelters
  • 24,723 bed nights provided
  • 424 families provided healthcare assistance
  • 752 children received school clothes and supplies
  • 200 families given complete Thanksgiving meals

In addition, LAMP provided outreach to migrant worker camps, food drops to critical high-risk poverty areas, assisted displaced individuals in connecting with social services for which they qualify.  Our shelter is the only one in all of south Georgia and north Florida that is able to accommodate fathers seeking shelter with children (other facilities can only take families if the mother is present).  This ability to keep families together makes us unique. 

I’m in awe of what the staff and volunteers at LAMP make happen on a shoestring.  You’d be amazed at what they can do with very little!  Lives are truly changed for the better.  LAMP gives people the gift of self-reliance, the promise of an independent life, and hope for a better and brighter future.  The services LAMP provides are a matter of life and death for some people. 

LAMP’s next big event is Homeless 4 A Night.  It’s a county-wide all nighter designed to bring awareness to homelessness and poverty in our area.  I won’t be able to spend the night out because I’ve got small kids.  Even if you don’t camp our, there are still plenty of ways to participate.  I want my kids, even as young as they are, to begin to realize that we have an obligation to help minister to “the least of these”.  Come and be a part!

For more information on LAMP or Homeless 4 A Night, contact me or visit http://h4n.lampinc.org/.  We are always looking, to steal a phrase from the United Methodist Church, for people to give of their prayers, their presence, their gifts and their service.  Whether you believe in serving God or building up karma, working with LAMP gives back to you what you put in ten-fold.

Next up: CF Riders!

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Draft dodgers…

Well, Happy New Year (or Happy Valentine’s Day, as it were) bloggy friends!  These next few posts are, alas, not going to be full of cute stuff.  They is going to showcase some of what I think will be my most profitable projects.  That is not to say that I’m going to make money on them, but rather I think they will save me money.  

 First up: Draft dodgers! 

In our house, we have an issue with drafts underneath our kitchen and front doors.  Whether it’s hot or cold outside, we want to keep the “bought air” in the house.  After one too many nights below freezing here in south Georgia, my husband begged me to make something to block the drafts.  So, I made two draft dodgers as shown below by our lovely spokesmodel! Please excuse the quality of the photo!

 

I used remnant from my friend Jill Higgins’ chair covers to make long tubes.  I won’t try to give you a pattern for what I did, but instead here’s a link to a whole page of patterns for these things on TipNut.  http://tipnut.com/draft-stoppers/  The sewing portion can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like.  On TipNut, they have fancy ones with decorative elements.  Mine are super simple; they are just a long strip of fabric with two short seams and one long seam.  Once filled, the tube stops the draft between the bottom of the door and the threshhold.  I made my tube one and a half inches longer than the door measured from outside edge to outside edge.  I used a wine bottle as my gauge for the proper diameter.  That seemed to be a good size as it wasn’t too thin or too thick.   Try whatever cylinder you have.

Once two sides were sewn, I filled the tubes with uncooked rice.  Take note:  that is UNCOOKED rice.  You can use lots of different materials including dried beans, batting, old fabric scraps, sand, etc.  I used the uncooked rice because it’s what I had on hand.  Depending on the diameter and length you need for your door, it can take quite a bit to fill the tube.  Now, why, you ask, would I have 15 pounds of uncooked rice in my house?  Well, we used it to dig for treasure at my son’s birthday party two years ago.  I’ve been keeping it in storage ever since just knowing I’d find a use for it.  My husband wanted to throw it out, but I finally justified my saving it all this time.

If I did this project again, I’d put the rice in the leg of an old pair of tights and then insert that into the tube.  I’d also make the tube removable by using a button closure or the like.   It tends to get dirty, as do my floors, with my two kids plus friends running around all the time.  So, that’s just something to consider.  If it won’t be in a high traffic area then you won’t have a problem.

I know this isn’t the most exciting of ideas, but here’s hoping it will save us all some money!

On a quick side note: You should pop over to my friend Jill Higgins’ Web site.  She’s an incredibly talented photographer and is doing some other fun projects, too.

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Embroidery project #2

I’m digging the hand embroidery because I can sit in bed at night and work on it.  I can multi-task! 

Here’s a shirt that I did using embroidery and applique.  It’s the same blue windowpane plaid as the pants in the previous post.  I’m all about a mix & match wardrobe.  Garanimals had the right idea!

 

The picture below is out of focus, but it just captures my kid – giggling and moving and trying to make me laugh by getting right in the camera. 

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UFO sighting

In the quest to clothe my son, here’s the next outfit project.  I used a blue and white windowpane plaid as the base for the set.  I also used different pattern for the pants which is slightly more straight-legged.  I think I like the cut better.  The poor thing is so very skinny that I had to take up the waist twice.  Don’t we wish we had that problem? 

I hand embroidered a flying saucer onto a store-bought t-shirt in complementary colors.  It’s myone of my first attempts at embroidery (except for one other shirt on which I did a letter). 

  

Please forgive the poor picture quality.  I was rushing to take the picture before he wore it to school and ruined it.  Shortly after the first picture was snapped, I stepped in a nice little present left in the carport for me by some unknown animal.  (Insert mental picture of me hopping around trying not to say bad words here.)

Live long and prosper!

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