Fast Tip Friday: Getting to the Bottom of the Tube

Happy New Year! One of my resolutions now that I’m super poor due to owning a house is to get the last drop out of everything I own. Tremendous thanks to my bestie Chelle for filling in this Friday with a guest post. If makeup and fitness are your thing, make sure to check her out!

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Hi everyone! My name is Chelle and I run the beauty blog Makeup Your Mind. I’m helping out Ali today by passing along one of my fast tips (I actually got it from my mom, but we’ll ignore that for the sake of this post…).

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So you’ve almost finished your favourite lotion. Unfortunately, it won’t squeeze out of the tube any longer but you can see that there’s still plenty left inside. Sure, you could bang the bottle against your hand and splash it everywhere, but do you really want to do that?

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Instead, take a pair of scissors and cut right through the tube.

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You’re left with two separate pieces and easy access to your product inside.

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Now, my bottle was semi-transparent so I could see how much was left inside, but I think you’d be surprised how much lotion is left inside opaques tubes that we believe are totally empty. I’ve got at least several more days’ worth out of this one!

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To close up the bottle after you’ve scooped out what you need, insert the bottom half of the tube onto the new “lid” and tada! You’ve got easy access to the remainder of your product AND you get to keep it fresh!

Winter Sun

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There have been a slew of babies born into our circle in the past few months, with more to come in the new year, and it’s all very exciting. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to hand-make presents for everyone this year, but for the babies I spared an hour or so. This project, inspired by Made by Joel, is super easy and makes use of those little scraps of fabric you have on hand. If you don’t have a sewing machine you can do this by hand but it certainly saves a bit of time when you’re making them in bulk.

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So I have here some fabric scraps, a huge hunk of soft yellow terry cloth, and some empty plastic bags that previously held potato chips (but that are now clean, because you probably don’t want your baby to smell like potato chips).

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Grab your terry cloth (or whatever fabric you choose) as the centre of your winter sun and cut from it two circles of the same size (you don’t have to measure but think of how big a baby’s hands are and act accordingly).

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Cut out some circles as well in your chip bags. These things will be layered and stuffed inside your little creation to give it a delightful crinkle.

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I also decided to dress up the faces of my winter sun with some scraps of felt. I made one side a sleepy sun and one side a happy sun.

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Then I sewed those on carefully. You can use whatever you want to decorate your sun, though I would avoid buttons, as babies tend to swallow those.

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Then grab some more scraps. You’re going to want to cut out long triangles from this stuff. It’s easiest to fold it and then cut a diagonal line towards the fold.

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Then you can sew the open long end closed (leave the bottom open).

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Jam your thumb into the triangle and squish it up so it’s easier to turn inside out.

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Use a paintbrush or pencil to help you get it inverted properly.

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You’ll want enough scraps of differing colours to make enough triangles to go around the circumference of your sun. I eyeballed it and came up with eight.

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Cut ’em, sew ’em, reverse ’em.

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Now grab one of the faces of your sun and start attaching the rays. You want to attach them to the right side of the sun with the rays all pointing in towards the centre (so that when you turn it inside out they will stick out).

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Like this.

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Then grab the other face of the sun and make sure all the rays are tucked safely inside before attaching it to the whole shebang. Leave a few inches open so you can invert it.

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Grab your chip bags and stuff them inside the now right-side-out sun.

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If you have some, you can add a little bit of cotton batting or fill for fluff purposes. Then it’s a simple matter to hand-sew that opening shut.

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Then grab each of the rays and tie a single knot into each one for texture.

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Easy peasy!

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One Lamp, Two Lamp, Old Lamp, New Lamp!

My final quarantine project was one I’d been meaning to get done since we moved into the house over a year ago. When we moved in together we bought a matching set of IKEA lamps: two table lamps and a larger floor lamp with crumpled paper shades. They were literally the WORST shades as the things that held the shades up so they looked crumpled fell out and were lost so you just had this wrinkly, torn, dusty, discoloured piece of paper sitting here and we really started to hate them. But they were cheap and they worked so we moved them across the country and back.

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BUT NO MORE.

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My plan was to use the wire frame of the shades to create a new surface for a slightly more durable fabric shade. So I carefully measured the dimensions of the existing lamps.

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Then I took enormous pleasure in ripping the paper off.

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I soaked the wires in warm soapy water for a bit to get the excess glue and paper off.

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Then I measured and cut the fabric Cait and I had bought from Joann like forever ago.

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I don’t own any fabric markers so I use washable Crayolas instead. I measured an inch of overlap from the edges to wrap around the frames.

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Then I used pins to fix everything into place.

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One side done.

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Both sides done.

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I left the side seams open for now just because it was easier to manipulate them with it open.

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The best way to get this permanently affixed was to set it up so it hung properly, and the best way to do THAT was to put it back on the lamp.

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Now I pinned the side seams.

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Then I used Mod Podge for fabric and just glued all my flaps closed.

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It didn’t take long. I made sure to take the pins out while the glue was still wet.

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Once it was dry I sprayed the whole thing with Stiffen Stuff, which is sort of a spray starch for making things like bows and ornaments rigid. Another option would have been to wash the fabric with liquid starch and iron them flat before pinning. It might have had a more uniform look to the finished product but it would have been more difficult to manipulate.

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I let the starch dry in the sun.

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The finished product, off.

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And on.

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I did the big one too. I’m quite pleased!

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Slouchy Bowl

Check out this bowl I made. It’s got a definite slouch to it.

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Half-slouch.

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Full slouch.

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My mother had given me a wad of the squishy rope you put inside piping when you are upholstering things. It’s essentially a wad of unbleached cotton loosely held together with a bit of white thread. I didn’t know what to do with it (me? upholster? you gotta be kidding.), so I made this bowl. You could also make this out of any form of cable or rope. You just need a needle, thread, and a pair of scissors to cut the thread (or your teeth if you’re hardcore).

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All I did was coil the rope around itself and start sewing it together. You can use any stitch you want, any kind of thread. I used green so you could see it but it wasn’t too flashy.

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You can change the width of the bowl by sewing the rope together at different angles. It’s hard to explain but you would see what I mean if you were doing it. It just kind of comes naturally. I made this little divot to come up through the centre to provide stability for the bowl.

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When you flip it right side up at the early stages you have a wee sombrero.

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Then I just kept going until I was happy with it and I ran out of rope. You can store whatever you want in it, provided it’s not liquid (it’s not that kind of bowl). Y’know, if you need a place for your copper-coloured pine cones.

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Or your sunglasses.  It’s up to you!

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Fast Fix Friday: Weatherstripping

Happy New Year!

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If you haven’t already, why don’t you add frugality and environmental responsibility to your list of New Year’s resolutions? I actually did this back in November, but didn’t have a chance to post it until today – and that’s crazy because the whole project took me a whopping ten minutes to complete. And it’s going to save me some serious money on my heating bills. You see that white line in the picture below? That’s daylight showing in from under my front door. Yup. There’s a gap there of about half an inch, right next to a heating vent in my entryway. YIKES.

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So I bought me some weatherstripping. The nice man at Home Depot told me that this stuff worked well for wooden and metal doors (mine is aluminum), and that it was quick to install. And folks, he wasn’t lying.

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All you need for this quick job are a measuring tape, a Phillips head screwdriver (the weatherstripping comes with its own screws), a drill and small bit for pre-drilling holes, and a pair of scissors. That’s it. Nothing fancy, save perhaps for the drill. But you could probably improvise holes with a hammer and nail if necessary.

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Step one: measure the width of your door.

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Step two: cut the vinyl weatherstripping down to size with your scissors. It wasn’t even hard.

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Step three: open your door and slide the strip onto the bottom, with the holes facing the inside. This is when I discovered that my door came with pre-drilled holes … on the OUTSIDE. They didn’t match up anyway.

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Step four: close the door to make sure it actually closes. Adjust the vinyl so it fits where you want it.

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Step five: use the small bit to pre-drill holes in appropriate places, starting in the middle of the vinyl. Screw in your included screw. Keep going outward until you’re all done. Don’t you love the hideous printed fake marble tiles I have? Lovely. I cover them with mats.

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This is it all done.

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And from the outside. I will not be singing Auld Lang Syne to those drafts, let me tell you!

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Coasting On By …

Shaddup.  It’s a bad pun.  A terrible title in total.  YOU try coming up with lovely alliterations and pithy puns on a thrice-weekly basis.  That involve baking and making stuff out of magazines.

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Anyway.

We needed some coasters.  Because, uh, we didn’t have any.  And I forgot how much cold beverages SWEAT in the summer in Ottawa.

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I like all the cute cork DIY coasters you see on the internet but I don’t have any cork at the moment.  I do, however, have an issue of National Geographic that I’m currently finished with.  And a paper cutter.  And a pair of scissors.  And a bone folder.  And some time.  You can do this too, with any magazine.  Bone folder and paper cutter are optional, though handy.  The inspiration comes from the late lamented How About Orange but the concept is pretty straightforward and I did it a little differently.  I’ve also seen this done with plastic drinking straws.

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Tear your pages out of the magazine that you want.  Pick ones with bold colours that cover most of the page.  For my coasters I used a 6 x 7 grid, so I needed 13 strips, therefore 13 pages from the magazine.  Cut off the ragged edge (I trimmed off enough that the page measured 6″ wide).  After trimming the edge, cut your pages in half again lengthwise.

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Now take one of those half sheets and fold it in half again. We will not mention that I am using the Pie’s Dark Souls II User Guide as my folding surface.

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Then take the two open edges and fold them inward about a third of the width of the strip.

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Fold the folded edge inward, too, so you’ve hidden the outside edges by folding the whole thing in three.

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Then take your strip and fold it in half lengthwise.  Sorry for the blurry stars — I was losing the light.

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Grab one strip and hold it together in its folded position.  Take another strip and tuck one side of it between the two flaps of the original strip.  So one side will be sandwiched inside and one side will be out.  Do the same with the next strip, but this time put the opposite side into the sandwich, like so.

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Do this until you have it as wide as you want it, with alternating half-sandwichy strips.  Man, it’s really hard to do a play-by-play for this stuff.  Mine was 7 strips wide.

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On your next row, start from the opposite direction, weaving one side of the folded strip in and out of the sandwiched other strips.  Make sure to check both sides of this as you’re going along, because sometimes you can miss one, like you can see in this photo.

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Keep going with more strips.

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Make sure to stop occasionally to shove all the strips tightly together so your weave is solid and even.

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Because of the thickness of my magazine paper, my coaster ended up being more square using 7 strips wide by 6 strips long, so this is where I stopped.

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So now you have lots of tabs sticking out on three sides.  Well.  For the tabs that are sandwiched between other strips, you can just cut those straight off.

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Then you can tuck the opposite tab from the same strip into the space where the cutoff tab is sitting.  You may need to trim the edge of the strip so it will fit properly and not stick out on the other side.

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Just keep doing that until you’re all done!

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You can see the edges are all tucked under here.

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I think I will spray these with some form of sealant or paint them with Mod Podge to keep them from absorbing too much moisture.  But they’re kind of neat, and a nice thing to keep your hands busy while watching TV in the evenings.

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Rainbow Heart Wreath

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So, half the reason I’m having people for dinner on Friday is to spend the night with friends and all that mushy crap.  The other half is so that I can go all out on decorations so that I have bloggable activities for you.  So I hope you’re happy.

I’m actually not super happy with how this turned out, so I might try to do it again soon.  But it was super easy, so it’s not like it’s going to be hard.

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I happened to be in possession of a few pads of pastel rainbow coloured scrapbook paper (a thin cardstock thickness).  And I am not a scrapbooker.  That is a little intense even for me.  I also have this fancy schmancy new paper cutter that I got for Christmas, because neither the Pie nor my parents will trust me with a guillotine paper cutter (which, I must point out, is ridiculous, because I used to use one for a living and never cut myself, but anyway …).  I also have a stapler.  Nothing fancy about it, save perhaps that it is pink.  I’d tell you that it belongs to the Pie but that would be a falsehood.  It’s mine.  My pink stapler.  SURPRISE.

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*Ahem* Anyway.  Each sheet of paper was 8″ square so that made my life easy.

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I sliced it into 1″ wide strips — see how the sheet is double-sided with two different colours?  I like that.

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Anyway, fold each strip in half, like so.

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Then bring the ends in towards each other.  You can just fasten the ends and the heart looks a little bit more pretty, but it’s not as structurally strong.

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So I brought the ends all the way into the fold, gave it a pinch …

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… and stapled it all together.

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And did that a bunch of times.

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While Grenadier ignored me.

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Or pretended to ignore me.

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I did it with a few more pieces of paper, 8 hearts per colour.  Gren subtly got closer and closer.

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Until, like the secret cat he actually is, he was lying on my hearts.  Well, he’s always got my heart in any case.

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By the time I’d finished with all the colours, he’d gotten bored and gone away again.

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So now I had these hearts, 48 in total.

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Can I make a wreath with 48 hearts?  Yes, but it looks terrible. And is gigantic.

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So I started putting them together in chains, like this.  I used plain clear adhesive tape for this.

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Very festive.  I didn’t pay attention to which inside-outside hearts were where and I like the non-pattern-ness of it.  Is that a word?

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This is how I wanted it to look originally, and this is all taped together in a lovely fashion.

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However as soon as I lifted it, it immediately collapsed under its own weight. Quel dommage!

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So I did a more compact version that mirrored the shape of the wee paper hearts themselves.  And taped the crap out of it so it would stay in the shape I wanted it to.

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I think there’s a little bit too much tape showing pretty much everywhere and the wreath bears a strong resemblance to a pretzel but it’s a start.

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***EDIT: So I tried again, with the same number of hearts, but this time I stapled them so they looked more conventional.  Then I used a hole punch to make a way to string them onto fishing twine.

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And now I have a garland.  I kind of like it.

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Forgive the pictures. The dining room is the darkest room in the house.

Izod’s Bookcase

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I had a totally different plan for this, but when it turned out that it was completely unfeasible, this one worked out really well instead.  When I first found out that Atlas was pregnant, I decided that the baby would get as a first Christmas gift from me a collection of my favourite children’s books.  I’ve been picking them up second-hand at various thrift shops, and I aim to continue to do so whenever I find one that is right.  But so far, I have a pretty good collection of Roald Dahl, some Doctor Doolittle, the Narnia series, and a few of the classics.

I bought the bookshelf at IKEA.  I wanted to re-vamp a thrifted one but I couldn’t find an appropriate one and this one was inexpensive and the exact size I wanted.

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I took off the back panel of the bookshelf and set it up against some nice blue fabric, which I cut to size.

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Then I glued it onto the back with hot glue.

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Because the fabric made the panel thicker, I used a craft knife to widen the slots on the back of the bookshelf.

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So now it fit, and it’s all in place.

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I’d originally planned a nice stencil here, with contact paper and spray paint, but I discovered that if you use spray paint on contact paper it peels back from the design and doesn’t work.  So I ended up free-handing Izod’s name here with craft paint and it worked out really well.

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And it’s all finished.  I hope he has many adventures with some of my favourite stories!

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Grape Crate Pet Beds

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We currently live in an Italian neighbourhood and in the fall a good many of our neighbours squished their own grapes to make wine.  The result was that there were plenty of these nice wooden crates at the curb when they were done.  I knew I HAD to have them, to make SOMETHING, but I didn’t know what, exactly, I was going to do with them.  Then my brother-in-law got a cat.  Then my brother got a cat.  Then my sister-in-law mentioned that she was going to get a cat.  And cats like boxes.  And these boxes are cat-sized.  So there you go.

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First I had to clean them off and scrape off the labels and sand them a bit.

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The sides of the crates were made from particle board, so I didn’t sand too much, naturally.

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I did wonder how the porosity of the particle board would affect my ability to stain it.  I guess the only way to find out is to do it!

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I used a variety of stains for this, the dregs that were in the bottoms of cans from previous projects.  One was a gel stain, which I had never used before.

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You can see how dark it goes on.

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It almost covered up the ink on the sides of the crate, but came back through once I wiped off the excess.

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Here you can see the other two stains, which were more translucent.

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Wiping off the excess with a rag after painting it on.

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It came out darker depending on the roughness of the wood.

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And I forgot about the whole STAINING part of stain, and forgot to wear gloves.  Oops.

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Once they’d dried, I painted on a quick layer of varathane.

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Again, because I didn’t sand them too much, we weren’t looking at baby’s bottom smoothness here.

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The completed boxes.

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I bought three pillows, each 13″ x 20″, which nearly fit the inside of the boxes.

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Fortunately my mother has what amounts to a fabric store in her basement, so I had plenty of patterns to choose from for cushion covers.

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I made the cushion covers in the same fashion as I make all my other cushion covers: with the simple overlap in the back that eliminates the need for buttons or zippers, which are beyond my skill level.  I double-sewed all the seams because I wanted them to last through being removed for washing.  I got the whole thing done super quickly, too, because I was using my grandmother’s sewing machine, which has two settings: terrifyingly fast, and supersonic.  And I didn’t sew my thumb to anything, either, so I count that as a win.

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The cushions, stuffed inside the covers.

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And inside the box.  There’s a little gap on the sides, but once the pillows get squished down by the cats they’ll fill the whole space.

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I decided they were too tricky to wrap (and a waste of paper), so it’s more of a token wrapping job.

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Sewing so easy even I can do it: Nursing Shawl

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Okay so it’s official: I’m going to be an aunt (again).  This time, though, unlike my lovely instant nieces Tego and HG I get to meet this niece or nephew at birth!  Krystopf and Atlas, the expectant parents, are coming to visit at the end of May.  It’s my big brother’s first time in Newfoundland, though Atlas was here back around the time of Doodle’s Newfoundland Express.  And neither Atlas nor I will let Krystopf forget the fact that SHE bravely came to visit us (by herself!) when she was a just brand new girlfriend, and HE (my own eldest brother) can’t organize himself enough to book a flight.  But for reals now they are coming and I couldn’t be more excited!  It’s a very brief trip but we’ll be sure to cram it with all sorts of fun stuff.

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While I fully plan to have their wedding present (from last July) finished before they get here,  I thought I would also get cracking on some baby-related things they might find useful in the near future (the baby is due in October).  Now we know that if you put me in front of a sewing machine I am likely to break it.  Like for real.  But this one I think I can handle, because it involves sewing precisely one line.  Even I can do that.  I hope.  Anyway, this post also kicks off my new Kidlet category here at Ali Does It.  Who says you can’t do it yourself when there’s children involved?

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What we’re going to make today is a nursing shawl, and it’s so simple it’s almost stupid.  But the great thing about this shawl (I think) is that it’s an easy (and fashionable) alternative to nursing bibs and trying to gather blankets around your shoulders and whatever.  And it covers your back, too, like a stylish poncho.  And it’s small enough you can just jam it anywhere in your bag.  And it doesn’t wrinkle.

Start off with some fabric, a nice jersey knit.  I found two that I liked, this pink cotton and then a silky gray polyester blend.  They were $2.99 a metre, which struck me as a good deal.

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After washing and drying the fabric (to remove sizing and get any shrinkage out of the way), fold the fabric right-side-in along its width (which should be about 60 inches (or about a metre and a half).  This will leave you with something about 30 inches wide.

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Because fabric stores cut this stuff very quickly, the edges are not exact.  I lined mine up as best I could and then used some sharp sewing scissors to cut along the outer edge to make it more square.

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Next, use a measuring tape to measure 25″ from the outer edge and pin several times to mark your place. This will run perpendicular to the folded edge.

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Cut along your markings so you are left with a rectangle that is about 25″ x 30″ (or 25″ x 60″ if you unfolded it).

Now you’ve got one folded edge and three open edges, right?  From one corner of your folded edge, measure 13″ along an open edge and pin to mark it.  This will be the head hole for your shawl.  Pin along the rest of the fabric to hold it in place.

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Now all you have to do is sew along that line, from the edge of the head-hole to the end of the fabric.  It’s only 17″ of sewing.  Of course, my sewing machine and I don’t get along.  And so rather than throw it across the room I just did these by hand with a needle and matching thread and it took no time at all.

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Then you just flip them right side out and they’re done.  Jersey knit doesn’t fray so you don’t have to worry about hemming the other sides (though you can if you want to, or embellish them with ribbons or whatever you would like).

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It’s a nice comfortable, breezy fit!

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At this point, Fussellette laughed and said, “I’m not fit yet for motherhood.”

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Thanks to Fussellette and Teddy Two for being my models!

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