I love fresh air. I’d rather be cold and have the windows open than be boxed in a stuffy house. And commercial perfumes tend to aggravate my asthma, so if I can avoid them I will.
Spring is ALMOST at hand in Newfoundland, but the days when I can justify turning off the heat and leaving the windows wide open have yet to come. And having an active dog and an active man in the house, coupled with the variety of things I cook, means our house could use a bit of fresh air during the winter months.
Basically all you need is a small jar, some baking soda, and some essential oils. The original post required a mason-jar style lid, where the lid itself could be replaced with perforated scrapbook paper, a great way to personalize the jar. I don’t have any scrapbook paper, so I decided to use fabric and elastics instead.
I also didn’t have any spare jars at the moment, but I had some large ramekins that were sitting around so I thought I’d use those instead.
So it’s simple: take about 1/2 cup baking soda and plop it in your jar. Or bowl. Or whatever.
Shake about 8-12 drops essential oil of your choice onto the baking soda.
Affix your lid, which could really be anything, provided it has holes for air to flow through. I have a small patch of fabric here (charming thrifted vintage handkerchiefs) that I fixed in place with an elastic band. Give the contents a gentle shake to mix them up a bit.
I made four separate bowls, for the main activity rooms in our house: tea tree for the bathroom, lavender for the bedroom, and orange for the living room.
As an experiment, I also tried some rose water in baking soda and put that in my office. I doubt it will last as long as the ones with the essential oils in it, but it still smells lovely!
Keep the jars or bowls out of the sun in a place that gets good air circulation and I think they’ll probably last you at least a month, maybe two!
[In case you ever marvelled at my magic efficiency, please note that I started this particular project on Labour Day Weekend and didn’t finish it until the 12th of December. If that makes you feel better.]
I love fabric. I am the worst sew-er in the world, but I seem to adopted a love of pretty cloth from my mother. It’s both a blessing and a curse. To assuage my inability to live without fabric and to compensate for the utter lack of storage space I have for it, I buy fat quarters. These are squares of quilting fabric (usually cotton).
So a metric fat quarter is 50cm square, or 20″ x 20″. But an American fat quarter (and alas, most of these are), is based on another archaic system and so the pieces are either 18″ x 22″ or 18″ x 21″. And it’s all approximate anyway. I’m not really sure of the logic there. Something to do with yards and standard widths and blah blah blah.
You can also get colour-coordinated fat quarters (usually in packages of four or five). The nice thing about these is they all go together, so you can hand someone a set of napkins, but they’re all different enough that people can tell theirs apart when they want to re-use them.
A handy home-made napkin ring will also help to differentiate. The Pie made all of these himself by bending spoons with a set of pliers. We then sprayed them with a metallic copper paint.
You can also use fabric remnants as well. You can pick them up for a dollar or two in a fabric store, or use the scraps from another project of yours.
Speaking of fabric remnants, I picked this one up at Jo-Ann last year and didn’t unwrap it until now. I chose it because turquoise and teal are my favourite colours, and I thought the design on this was pretty.
Then I unwrapped it. WOW. Talk about a hidden gem! This will NOT be going into a napkin. I gotta think on what to do with this one. Suggestions are welcome. Just barely not enough to make a skirt, if that gives you an idea of the size.
Anyway, back to the napkins. First thing you need to do is wash and dry your fabric.
Don’t be alarmed — they will fray. Oh mercy did these ones ever fray.
And then this one has a slash in it. I will have to come up with an artful patch of some kind.
Then you have to iron them. I hate ironing.
Then comes the actual napkin-making. It involves hemming and sewing in straight lines and nice edges and stuff and MORE ironing. None of which I’m particularly good at. But Maia from Glass Beach has a fantastic and clear tutorial on hemming napkins here that you should check out. It’s brilliant in its simplicity. I will try to re-create her instructions as best as I can, but hers are better.
First I used a rotary cutter and a ruler to trim all the squares so that I had right angles. They don’t necessarily all need to be the same size as their partners (unless you’re making napkins for the Queen or something), but right angles make things a lot easier to deal with.
I highly recommend using a rotary cutter and mat for this job. It’s very hard to get straight lines with scissors alone, and it’s easier on your hands.
Gren helped by sitting on the fabric as I was trying to cut it and making off with the scraps once I cut them loose.
Save the scraps to stuff a toy later on. Or do something else with them. I made mine into a placemat, which you will see on Friday.
Then I gave myself a 1″ seam allowance and traced that with a fabric marker. Actually I couldn’t get to the fabric store and so used a Crayola washable marker. It washes out just as well, if not better, than a fabric marker. Guaranteed.
Then you cut 1/2″ tips off all the corners.
Fold the edge of the fabric so the cut line matches up with that line you drew and iron it to create a flat edge.
To get a nice mitred corner, unfold one of those new flaps at the corner.
Fold the other flap over itself, along that marked line. This seals in your raw edge and prevents fraying.
Now take the corner bit and fold it down so the edge of the folded part lines up with the drawn line on the side with the unfolded flap. If you have big fingers or are in general not the most dexterous, you could use an awl or a seam ripper to hold things in place for you, like I did in this photo.
Then you can fold down the unfolded part again, and then fold it over itself again to seal in the raw edge. You can either iron these new edges flat, or simply pin them. Either way, I’d add a pin or two in the corners just to hold everything in place.
And look at that — it looks like you know what you’re doing!
Now all you have to do is sew that down, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end to keep your thread from unraveling. Use an awl or seam ripper to hold the corners in place while you’re sewing them down, too.
And what a pretty napkin you’ve come up with. They look nice with these copper-sprayed spoon napkin rings, don’t they?
Tie them up in a nice little bundle and give them all away!
We know that I’ve done things with cardigans, and I’ve done things with cozies. And now for something completely different.
My mother is an artist, and she spends many long hours perched in her chair, leaning over her drafting table. That can lead to a sore back after a day of drawing, and, in the wintertime, a cold backside.
In her living room, she has a new fireplace, and so spends a lot of time cozied up to the flames. But upstairs in the studio she has no such luck.
Now, this sweater was knitted for her by my grandmother eons ago. It no longer fit her, so she gave it to me, because it’s beautiful. She even switched all the buttons for me and make all the buttonholes fit properly with the new hardware.
Alas, I’m a little longer in the torso than my mother and so the cardigan doesn’t suit me at all.
But here’s my idea. We all know about “magic” bags, those sacks filled with buckwheat or rice that you microwave that keep you toasty. The Pie and I use them nearly every night in the winter, to heat up the foot of our bed.
Why not turn this cardigan into a heating pad that will fit on the back of the chair? It will slide over the back of most, and for the ones where it doesn’t, well, you can always use the arms of the sweater to hold it in place, right?
So first I had to come up with the heating pad itself, because I’m not going to stick this sweater in the microwave. This heating pad is going to be removable, something I can button inside the cardigan.
What I need is a big, flat, rectangle, which I will fill with rice. To keep the rice from falling to the bottom when the pad is in place inside the sweater, I’m going to sew it into little pockets. I’m basically quilting, but instead of using batting, I’m using rice.
To make the bag, I measured (roughly) the inside of the sweater.
Then I cut out a square of folded fabric.
It was my goal to sew ribbon loops into the four corners to serve as button holes. I messed it up, but I also fixed it later.
So here I am, sewing up three sides of the folded cloth, including the fold side.
Turn it inside out, and sew again to create the frame for the rice.
Sew up towards the opening, in equal spacing. These will be the columns for the rice.
I scooped 1/3 cup uncooked rice into each column.
Then pinned each column shut.
And sewed it up — to make a quilted pocket.
Continue that way all the way up.
The finished pockets.
Then I sealed the top, added some more loops of ribbons to attach to more buttons, and sewed that under.
Now, because I’d made the loops too small, I used the loops instead as an anchor for another ribbon, which I tied around the buttons, which I of course sewed into the sweater.
I used extra buttons along the top edge because I was concerned about the weight. All that rice is nearly 4lb!
Then I sewed a velvet ribbon into each of the sleeves so that I could tie them together and they wouldn’t dangle. I figure if this cozy ever goes onto a chair where it can’t slide over the back, you can always use the ribbons to tie the arms to the chair.
So here it is on a chair. Gren is not impressed. He’s a hard one to please.
My mother’s studio chair is a bit more substantial, more like my office chair. So here is how it looks from the back.
Sorry for the delay in this posting — technical glitch!
I love scarves. They’re a very popular fashion accessory in Ottawa, and they’re starting to become more common here in St. John’s. Mags gave me this one for Christmas a few years back and I love it. I always get compliments on it.
So why not give one back, to both my sisters-in-law, Mags and Thidz, and Atlas, my sister-in-law to-be?
This was a little tricky, because I was working with slippery fabric and going entirely by hand from a plan locked inside my mind. But it was simple enough, thankfully, that I couldn’t screw it up. It just took a while.
I had two pieces of fabric that I thought would make great scarves, and they were a decent length. I cut them in half lengthwise, and so ended up with four scarves — one extra.
To hem the outside edges, I rolled the fabric under itself, as you can see here.
Then I used a whip stitch, which I pulled tight, to get a gathered border.
For the middle, I ironed a crease down the centre of this fabric as a guideline.
Then I used a gathered whip stitch again to make the ruched edge.
This is the completed white scarf. Or a part of it at least. My lightbox isn’t big enough for you to get the full effect.
On this silver fabric, it was harder to do the edges because the fabric kept fraying, but easier to do the ruching in the middle because I could follow the pattern on the cloth.
Rule number one in food photography: ALWAYS USE NATURAL LIGHT.
You know what? Sometimes that’s just not possible.
You know dinner/supper? Generally that is served in the evening. And in the winter here, that means it’s dark out.
The solution to that is to use a light box, or light tent. Many photographers use these devices when featuring a single product. It’s a good way to get whatever it is to display without any distracting background messing up the shot.
It’s also a good way to diffuse the harshness of electric lighting and make your subject look a little bit more natural.
Professional light boxes or light tents, even the small ones, will run you at least a hundred bucks, easy. And that’s without the super-bright lighting system that goes with it. Add another minimum four hundred dollars to your total if you want to go that way.
Constructing my box cost me less than $15 and took me less than an hour. And a homemade box will give you pretty much the same results. You do the math.
Here’s what you need:
A large and sturdy cardboard box. These ones are slightly smaller than what I had originally planned, but I can always make another one when I get a bigger box.
Enough white cloth (muslin, linen, cotton, or fleece) to line the box. Tape or glue for attaching things (I like me my hockey tape, as you know, and it’s designed to attach to fabric). Double-sided tape is great if you don’t want your adhesive efforts to show. Scissors/Box Cutter/Rotary Cutter, for cutting things. White or coloured Bristol board, for your background. You can also skip the board and use your cloth, but bending the board will give you a nice edge-less angle.
At least two, but preferably more, goose-neck or adjustable neck work lamps. I already have two of these Tertial ones from IKEA, which cost $10 and come with a clamp base. I plan to acquire one more to go on top of the box. It’s important to note that these lamps support the brighter 100W (or 23W if you are using a CFL) bulbs without risk of fire.
As many bright light bulbs as you need for your lamps. I recommend using 100W bulbs (23W in compact fluorescent terms). I picked up these “daylight” bulbs, which produce a cooler, less yellow light than a regular incandescent, from Canadian Tire for $10. Halogens work well in this project, because they’re freaking bright, but they also use more energy, so that’s a judgment call for you to make on your own.
Just make sure that the wattage on your light bulb matches the maximum wattage on the lamps you are using. You can get cheap desk lamps from anywhere to use for the project but more often than not they will only support a 60W (13W CFL) bulb, and those in the know say that’s just not bright enough for their purposes. The lamp on the right is less bright.
The best part about this is you can totally half-ass the project, if you were so inclined. You don’t even need to measure the holes you cut in the box and if you’re in a hurry, you can leave the interior of the box unlined and simply drape the fabric over the top.
I plan to be a bit more meticulous, however. But only a little bit. It’s sort of half-assed half-assery.
Now of course there are a million different DIYs for making your own light box/tent. Most of them are by real photographers who actually know what they’re doing, but there are some by people like me. The dabblers of the earth. I’m going to add my own to the mix, because the world needs a bit more alidoesit flavour, don’t you think? My three favourite ones in terms of method and supplies are down below, if you want to check them out, but the concept is always the same. Box. White stuff. Light. Done.
So you take your box. Grenadier was extremely helpful in the construction of this light box, as the pictures show.
Cut off the top flaps and secure the bottom ones. The bottom is going to be the back of the box, and the sides the floor, walls, and ceiling.
Cut out large holes on each of the three sides.
Line the box with white fabric, covering the holes completely. Make sure that all you can see inside the box is white. White’s a nice reflector.
Prop a piece of bristol board inside the box so that one end is wedged into the top corner.
Bend the board to make a curve and use a bit of tape to stick the bottom in place so it doesn’t slide out. This will be your photographic surface. The curve of the board means that there are no corners or edges visible in the photographs.
Put your lamps with their bright bulbs up to all the holes in the box (as I said, I plan to have three lamps some time soon) and turn them on. Make sure the bulbs don’t touch the cloth. You wouldn’t want to start a fire. You might find it easiest to take pictures of items in your light box using a tripod, but it’s not entirely necessary to your happiness.
Tada, your very own light box!
Here’s some food in a shot taken, like I normally do, in my kitchen during the day. The light is natural outdoor light through my big kitchen window at the end of the afternoon in October. Lovely.
Now here is the same food in a shot taken at night, using the electric lights in my kitchen.
And again, in my brand new light box! I think we can all agree there’s a difference!
The Pie doesn’t know. So this one is for him so he can do it while I’m away.
I find a lot of the things I buy have buttons that are inadequately reinforced, and generally within a few months of purchase the buttons fall off. Tragedy.
In this case, this is one of my favourite skirts, which I have had for years. The button at the top is about to pop off and leave me for good.
First, thread your needle, to wit., stick a piece of thread about twice the length of your forearm into the eye of a needle and tie the ends together.
Poke the needle through the back side of your fabric and through one of the holes on your button. My button has four holes, so I’m going to sew across it in an X fashion.
Poke the needle back through the hole diagonal to the hole it came out of, then through the fabric and through the button again, this time in the hole adjacent to the one you just stuck the needle through.
Go diagonal again, and repeat until you have trouble getting the needle through the button holes.
Poke the needle back through the back side of the fabric into the space between the button and the cloth. Hold the needle in your hand and wind the thread several times around the join between the cloth and the button. This will help protect against fraying.
Poke the needle back through to the back side of the fabric and tie it off carefully.
It’s not the neatest of jobs but it’s not coming off again any time soon.
In February of this year, as I was procrastinating studying for my exams, I decided to try to dye my dining room curtains, just to see if I could. Before the wedding last summer, the Pie and I painted both the living room and the dining room a cream colour, and the white cotton curtains (from IKEA) I had in there made the room look too stark. We didn’t have the money to purchase new curtains, so something had to be done with what we had.
I thought, why not purple? A rich, deep, eggplant. Yes.
I’d always passed the boxes of Tintex fabric dye in the grocery store and wondered how the process worked. Now was my chance to find out. While I was picking out my purple, I also picked up some forest green (in case the Pie objected to purple) and I read the instructions on the back of the box. It suggested I remove all traces of the old colour or stains on the fabric with the Tintex colour remover, so I picked up two boxes of that, as well as two each of the purple and the green. The dye amount is by weight, and I figured each curtain panel would warrant its own box.
Now, if you know me, you’ll know that I have a tendency to spill, drop, tear, break, or otherwise destroy things. The idea of me in charge of a vat of purple dye was enough to give the Pie arrhythmia, but I promised to be careful. And, to my credit, I was, very careful. Nothing got dyed that shouldn’t have been. I wore long rubber gloves, tied my hair back, and wore my oldest clothing. And I didn’t spill a drop!
In order for fabric dye to set it requires that the water in which it is dissolved be as hot as possible, boiling if at all possible. There was no way I could put an entire curtain panel in even my largest pot, so I needed a new venue. Luckily I had an extra-large Rubbermaid bin, and I set this in the bathtub to avoid spills. I boiled up some water in my big lobster pot, and poured it into the tub. I followed that up with water from the faucet. Fortunately our water heater is brand new and about three feet from the bathroom, so the water that came out of the tap was near to boiling itself. I also turned up the heat in the bathroom (which normally hovers around sub-zero). This was the best I could do.
The instructions on the box also recommended that I dye each piece of fabric separately, but I didn’t trust myself to either time it properly or get a uniform water level between the two batches, and I needed these panels to come out the same colour, so I did them at the same time.
First, I boiled the water and dissolved the colour remover in the tub. I plopped in the curtain panels, which were white, but which did have a few stains and marks on them that could have stood to be removed. I sat on the edge of the tub for the time allotted, stirring my cauldron of smelly, steaming liquid and poking the fabric back below the surface with a long metal slotted spoon (from Lee Valley – I highly recommend them).
When my time was up I tipped out the liquid and rinsed the curtains as best as I could. It is really backbreaking work, and quite hard on the wrists to bend and squish (but not wring) a huge pile of wet fabric from your knees.
I repeated the boiling water process with the purple dye. The powder itself looked black, and billowed up in a multicoloured cloud as I poured it. I was wiping red, blue, green, and black dye particulates off the walls of the shower for a week afterward. Once the dye was dissolved it made an opaque, wine-like liquid that steamed and smelled quite evil. I dumped in my wet, rinsed curtains and poked at them for the requisite amount of time.
Already tired from my rinsing of the colour remover, and solidly bored from having to sit by myself in the bathroom for over an hour, I was not all that enthused about rinsing the newly dyed curtains. The Pie, bless him, helped quite a bit, running the removable showerhead over the fabric as I worked it with my gloved hands. Eventually, after about the ninth rinse, I gave up and put them on an extra rinse cycle in the washing machine.
I figured there wasn’t enough dye left in them to do any real damage to the machine (we had a residual bleach accident when we first moved in that made us reticent to put fabric altering substances in the washer), but there was enough still in the fabric that it might rub off on something else when it was dry. The nice thing about the rinse cycle is that it did a better job of wringing out the fabric than I ever could, so I didn’t have to worry about drips while it was drying.
I hung the fabric to dry, and the next day I hung them in place in the dining room.
They weren’t a perfect job, by any means. There are several patches of white remaining on the fabric. I think this is either the result of me not rinsing them enough after the colour removal stage, or the dye didn’t penetrate that far into the folds of the cloth while it was in the tub. Next time I might just time and measure it better and do each panel separately to ensure better coverage. But for a first attempt, I’m quite pleased with them. They turned out the colour I wanted them to and they really make the dining room much cozier.
Cleanup was nearly a breeze from this experiment. I was very careful to have no spillage, so anything and everything was fortunately contained within the tub. The tub, however, is very old, and a lot of dye worked its way into the tiny scratches on its bottom and sides while I was doing the rinsing. It took some scrubbing with vinegar, baking soda, and borax to get it out, but it was easier than I had expected.
Flushed with my success, I took the remaining dye (the forest green) to one of the lampshades in our living room. This lampshade is one of the cheap ones from IKEA, and is made of paper overlying some sort of plastic. It was getting dingy and dirty, and during the day, when the light was off, it looked quite yellow. I dusted it off with a clothes lint brush and took it into the kitchen. I laid down a garbage bag and then several layers of newsprint on top, and took one of our sponge brushes from the closet. The lampshade was too wide to fit into a pot, and I was concerned that the paper part of it might dissolve if I were to submerge it. Instead, I planned to paint it.
I filled a 4-cup measuring cup with boiling water and emptied in the green dye, which also looked pretty black, and dissolved the whole thing. I let it cool slightly, and then set to painting. I let the sponge brush fill with dye and ran it gently up and down the sides of the shade. I had to let it thoroughly dry between coats so that I didn’t destroy the paper, but I managed four coats before I was satisfied. An unexpected effect was that the paper on the shade was actually crinkled, with wrinkles running here and there along the sides of the shade. The dye darkened the wrinkles more than it did anything else, and so now the shade looks sort of like dark green leather. When the light is on, the lines stand out even more. It’s quite nice, actually. Another decent first effort.