Monday, June 29, 2009

On the Mend

We received this cute pair of pants as a hand-me-down for Norah from a friend of ours. When I went to put them on her the other day, I noticed the closure was missing. At first I thought it had been a button, so I was just going to sew a new button on. But then I realized there was no buttonhole, so it must have been a snap. I was thinking of making a buttonhole and sewing on a cute button, but then I remembered my snap press!

What good is having a snap press if you can't put snaps on things?

Here's what they looked like all fixed and good to go.

I think mending is such an important part of learning to live simply. It's what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did, out of necessity. They simply could not afford to discard clothes just because they needed some repair. I think it also teaches our children a valuable lesson. Sadly, most kids today have become accustomed to a throw-away lifestyle. When things break or are in need of repair, we just go out and replace them. Instead, I hope my children learn that no matter what we have, we take the best care of it that we can, and if it breaks we make every effort to fix it before deciding to replace it. Even if it's some cheap toy that breaks (and I'm probably happy it's broken! lol), we still try to repair it, if for no other reason than to set an example.

Now to tackle the rest of my mending pile. What's in your mending pile?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Days...

There is so much I love about summer.

Eating lunch outside...

(Gavin, too...)

Making a "bug circus" (don't ask...)

Laundry on the clothesline...

...and just generally soaking it all in.

Have yourselves a lovely, summery week-end. :) "See" you next week!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Something I've been meaning to try for awhile now is sprouting. Since we have made a decision to eat local and seasonal whenever possible, I wanted something live that I could supplement our diets with in the winter, when the ground has long frozen. Sprouts are also delicious all year long. :)

I decided to start with the basics: Alfalfa Sprouts and Bean Sprouts (from Mung Beans). I went to our local health food store and bought a bag of organic alfalfa seeds and organic mung beans. Total cost: $6.33. This should yield SEVERAL jars of sprouts, as you only need about 2 tablespoons in the jar. And buying sprouts at the grocery store is very expensive, and they're not as fresh. Also, we have no idea where these sprouts came from. At least in my own kitchen I know what kind of conditions they were grown in. I used mason jars that I had on hand, cut the feet out of a pair of (clean) nylons to put over the top, and attached them with the rubber bands that come on our broccoli bunches (I always save these thinking I can use them for SOMETHING...). The first day, you soak the beans and seeds in water, for about 8-12 hours. Then twice a day after that, you rinse them and let them drain out. If you can see in the picture, after just over a day, the beans have already begun to sprout! How exciting. It takes a few days for the sprouting to complete, and then you place them in sunlight for a few minutes to get them to green up. Then you refrigerate them. The kids love watching our "science experiment". I can't wait to have fresh bean sprouts in our stir-fry, and crunchy alfalfa sprouts on our chick-pea salad sandwiches. YUMMY!

Oh, the funny circular thing in the picture... that's a coaster I made out of my leftover cotton yarn. :) I wanted to use it up, and also wanted to practice crocheting in the round. I just kept going until I ran out of yarn. I blocked it to flatten it out, which is why it's sitting on the dishtowel along with the sprouts. :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another dishcloth. :)

I had another bit of cotton yarn left - a nice varegated one. There was just enough to complete the dishcloth (I literally ran out on the last stitch!), so I used a bit of cream to do the edging. My husband commented last night on how much he liked using the one I made. :) There's something so satisfying about making something yourself. Even with its imperfections (or perhaps because of them!), using something that I made with my own hands gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. It's one less thing that I am reliant on society (or some sweatshop in China) to provide for me. Something as simple as a dishcloth takes me one tiny step closer to being self-reliant.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Completed Dishcloth

Since I haven't been able to get to the sewing machine much lately, I decided to try a more breastfeeding-friendly craft: crochet. I've done a bit of crocheting before. This time I thought I'd attempt something uber-practical: a dishcloth.

I didn't have much in the way of cotton yarn, I had a bit of yellow and a bit of orange. Neither was enough to complete a full dishcloth so I thought I'd make a striped one! It's nice and thick and soft - I can't wait to put it to work. It may not be perfect, but it was good practice - and it will do the job! It worked up really quickly, so I hope to make a few more for myself, and maybe some to give away as gifts. If you've never used a knitted or crocheted dishcloth, you really should try them. They fit great in the palm of your hand, and do a wonderful job of cleaning. I like them so much better than regular dishcloths, and especially now that I can make them myself!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Finding a System for Artwork

If you have kids, and they're as prolific as mine, you probably have artwork coming out your ears. My kids are CONSTANTLY drawing, painting, and creating things, and I struggle with what to do with all of it! I feel horribly guilty tossing everything in the recycling, especially when my daughter sees it in there and asks why I threw it out. But I know it's unrealistic to keep everything. But what DO you keep? And for how long? And where do you keep it?

What I have been doing so far is giving each kid their own little "display" area in the kitchen. Their "area" only holds about 5 pieces of artwork, so if they want something else displayed, they have to choose which piece they want to take down in order to put the new one up. This seems to satisfy their need to keep their artwork visible for awhile.

However, I would still like a more long-term storage solution for keeping a sampling of their artwork throughout the years. Whenever I'm trying to decide what to keep for my children, I try to ask myself if they will care about it when they're adults. The last thing I want to do is burden them with a whole bunch of "stuff" from their past that they then have to sort through and deal with. As you know, I am trying to create a life of simplicity for our family, which means less physical "stuff", and less material burdens. I don't want my children to grow up with an attachment to objects, and be overwhelmed with "stuff". So after giving all of this some thought, I think that one piece of artwork per year would be a good number to hold onto, and would give them a representation of how they progressed through the years. So how does that translate to reality? To the day-to-day output of crafting?

I think it's important for the kids to be involved in the process, so that they can learn to prioritize what is important and meaningful to them. We are already doing this with letting them choose which pieces they want to display, which also means choosing which pieces to remove from the wall. This begins the process, because it means they are only choosing the most special drawings to display (not random scribbling on paper), because they know they have to remove a piece in order to display a new one. I thought I would then give each child their own box (or folder, or basket or something - any thoughts??). As their special pieces get removed from the wall, they will get placed in the box. I will let them collect there throughout the month. At the end of each month, they will choose ONE piece out of the box that is the most meaningful to them. This will get placed in another box. The rest will get recycled. The process will repeat every month for a year. Then at the end of the year, they should have 12 pieces (one from each month) in their second box. I will let them choose ONE piece from THIS box to put in their scrapbook. (If it's large or 3-dimensional, I will simply take a picture of it to include in their scrapbook).

I think it's really important to involve them in the process, so they don't just see it as mommy throwing out their artwork, which I know crushes their little spirits. By empowering them to make those choices themselves, I think is a good lesson in prioritizing what things we should keep, and what things we can let go of.

Do you have a system for this kind of thing? I'd love to hear about it! How is it working for you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sewing Machine Meme

Sew Mama Sew is hosting a Sewing Machine Meme today, so I thought I'd participate! Since I'm not actually getting any sewing done these days, I can at least talk about my sewing machine. :)

What brand and model do you have? Janome DC3050. I blogged about it here. :)

How long have you had it? Almost exactly a year.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? We paid $799 CDN, but I think the regular retail was $999.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)? Right now, not much of anything. :) Normally, I like to sew kids clothes, cloth diapers, pajamas, curtains, pretty basic stuff. Lots of mending. And I'm learning how to quilt!

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get? Ideally, I would like to sew for an hour or so each day. Since the baby was born, I think I've sewn for an hour, total. :)

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? I LOVE my machine! It's very, very quiet. Sews like butter. It has a good selection of fancy stitches, but not so many that it's ridiculous. I haven't named her... any suggestions??!

What features does your machine have that work well for you? I LOVE the automatic needle up/down. And the automatic needle threader. And that it automatically sets stitch length and width when I select a stitch. And the drop-in bobbin with the clear cover so I can always see when I'm running out of bobbin thread. What's the expression, "A luxury, once sampled, becomes a necessity...". So true!

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine? Some things took getting used to. Like the speed control for the machine is on the front of the machine, so to go faster, I have to adjust the little switch, rather than just push harder with my foot. Irritating at first, but now I'm used to it. Also, the seam lines are marked in centimeters (the inches are further up on the plate), which can be annoying when I'm trying to use a seam allowance that's in inches. I guess since I'm Canadian, I should get over it and just work in centimeters. :)

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it! My darling husband bought it for me for Mother's Day last year. He was dying for a new iPod Touch, so he sold off almost half of his CD collection to raise enough money for it. Then his parents ended up buying him the Touch for his birthday, so he bought me a new sewing machine instead. :) Isn't he sweet??

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? Absolutely! It runs like a dream. And other than the above-mentioned minor irritants, it's a fabulous machine.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? SERVICE! No matter what machine you decide on, I think you should always buy it from a local sewing machine dealer (Not Wal Mart!). The machine itself is only part of what you're paying for, there's no substitute for being able to take it back to the dealer any time you have a problem with it, often they will help you with the problem free of charge. My machine also came with as many free lessons as I wanted. I would far sooner buy even a second-hand machine from a dealer than a cheap new machine from a big-box store that you're stuck with once you buy it.

Do you have a dream machine? Well, I love my sewing machine, and can't see myself replacing it any time in the future. My next dream machine will be a new serger. :) The Babylock Imagine.