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Simple Striped Sundress Refashion

If you search for refashioning ideas online, you’ll find tons of amazing examples of outdated styles being turned into trendy pieces that bear little resemblance to the original. (https://refashionista.net/ is one of my favorite refashion blogs to browse for inspiration.) It’s easy to get overwhelmed with ideas, especially if you’re new to sewing. The main goal of refashioning is to take a piece that is unflattering or unwearable and turning it into something that will be worn again. Sometimes a few simple tweaks are all that is needed to accomplish that goal.

The Dress

Before

This sundress is a perfect example. In it’s original form, it was breezy and comfortable for summer, except that it required a strapless bra to be flattering. Strapless bras tend to be uncomfortable in general. When it’s August in Texas hot, they’re almost unbearable. Having to wear one took away from the comfort of this dress, leaving it regulated to the back of my closet most of the time.

The refashion Fix

In order to fix the problem, I needed to add coverage and a little support to keep the cups in place.

First, I sewed elastic into the seams under the bust. I sewed it onto the seam allowance to keep my stitches invisible from the outside.

I cut the elastic a little shorter than the length of the seam and stretched it to gather it slightly. When worn, it doesn’t look gathered, but it keeps the cups in place.

For coverage, I took the cup inserts from a soft seamless bra and hand stitched them in place. I never use them in the bras, so I have several sets sitting around. By hand stitching, I was able to keep my stitches from showing on the right side of the fabric. Rather than sew all around the cups, I strategically tacked them to keep them secure but invisible from the front.

The result

After

Those two simple tweaks only took about twenty minutes. The final result is a smoother, more flattering fit that doesn’t sacrifice comfort.

What simple refashions have you done that made a huge impact on wear-ability? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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All Purpose Cleaner Recipe

We are all becoming more aware of the types of products we use everyday. Whether it’s a concern for the environmental impact, the effect they have on our health or the safety for our pets and children, we want to know we aren’t inadvertently introducing harmful things into our homes. Something I do to feel confident in the safety of cleaning products I use around my family is to make my own where possible. One such product is a simple all purpose cleaner I use for cleaning hard surfaces, such as kitchen and bathroom counters and walls. It only uses a few ingredients, all of which you probably already have on hand.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

All Purpose Cleaner Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Liquid soap, either dish soap or something like Dr. Bronner’s castile soap
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Water
  • Optional: Essential oil of your choice

Supplies:

  • Clean, empty spray bottle
  • Liquid measuring supplies if you aren’t comfortable just eyeballing it
  • Optional: A funnel might make it easier to fill the bottle.

How to make it:

Measure about 2 tablespoons of soap, one cup of vinegar and one cup of water into the spray bottle. It doesn’t have to be exact. I usually just eyeball it. If you would like to use an essential oil, add 3-5 drops as well. Do be aware of safety guidelines regarding any essential oils you use, especially around pregnant women, children and pets. Tea tree oil or lavender are nice for cleaning and generally safe for most people. If the soap you use is scented or if you or your family members are sensitive to scents, you may want to skip the essential oil.

Swirl the bottle to mix everything without making the soap foam up too much. 

That’s it. Now you have an all purpose cleaner that works as well as any other I’ve tried, with the added benefit of being safe enough that kiddos can help with the cleaning. 

If you like this cleaning recipe, you’ll also like my DIY soft scrub for tougher cleaning jobs. To make sure you don’t miss out on future posts, sign up for my newsletter.

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Want to be Featured?

Want to be featured

Want to be featured?

In the past, I often featured handmade or vintage shops on Fridays. Over the years, the world of crafting and blogging has changed dramatically. I would love to resume Feature Fridays, but with a broader scope.

Handmade shop and websites are still welcome. I also want to feature guest writers sharing tutorials, tips, advice, recipes, etc. Categories that I feel are a good fit for this blog are crafting, sewing, sustainability, refashioning, healthy living, parenting, hair and beauty tips for busy moms, homeschooling and homesteading. I am open to other topics as well, so if you are interested but don’t quite fit into one of the above categories, please contact me anyway with your idea.

Guest posts will be promoted across my social media sites frequently throughout the week they are published and then periodically after.

Handmade shop/website features

For handmade shop/website features, answer the questions in the following list and email them to csloan@subearthancottage.com. I will contact you before your shop is featured and if any clarification is needed. You can give as much or a little info for each section as you are comfortable with sharing. Be sure to include links to your shop, web page and blog, if you have them. If you sell your products in a brick and mortar store and would like to include that info, you may include that as well.

I also choose a favorite item from your shop on the week that you’re featured and briefly tell why I like it. The first image from your shop for both your favorite item and my favorite item will be included in the blog.

  • Name and Business Name
  • Tell us a little about yourself and your business.
  • What made you get started in your business?
  • Anything else you’d like to share?
  • Tell us about your favorite item listed in your shop.
  • Links to your shop, website, blog, etc.
  • Email address (This will NOT be published)

Guest posts, tutorials and everything else

Please contact me at csloan@subearthancottage.com with your idea. If you already blog, a link to your blog or site where your writings are published is also helpful. Newbies are welcome, too. I’m also not opposed to reposts if they are a good fit and your own work.

If I think your idea is a good fit for SubEarthan Cottage, I will let you know and we will work out the details from there.

Matisse Creativity Mug Mugs featured
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Office to Homeschool Command Center Progress

Well, I didn’t get quite as far as I would have liked on creating our homeschool command center last week. The hard part of clearing and reorganizing shelves is done, though. Now I just have to bring in the supplies and books I plan to use this year. 

Homeschool bookcase

In the past, Beckett and Finn kept their materials in their computer desk or on a shelf in their room. Except for web-based assignments, though, they rarely work at a desk. Usually it’s on the couch or bed or wherever is comfortable. The end result was missing pencils, notebooks and textbooks. I’m not really a desk-worker, either, so I’m focusing on a better arrangement for the supplies. Each kiddo gets their own shelf in the office for their books and writing journals. While Thadd doesn’t officially start Kindergarten until next year, he’s already beginning to write letters and simple words. It seems like giving him simple assignments to work on, so he can do what his big brothers are doing will work better than trying to keep him otherwise entertained while I’m helping B and Finn, so he gets his own shelf, too.

Homeschool bookcase in progress.

I’m hoping that this arrangement will make it easier for me to keep track of their materials. I also like that, as I find more materials that I want to incorporate, I have a specific place to put them. Then there’s the added benefit of getting an overall view of what they are working on just by checking their shelves. This is especially helpful for subjects like elementary science and history. For those, we tend to use more topic-specific books rather than a traditional broad textbook.

White boards

Our office has two walls of white boards. Usually we just write things out on paper when they need my help to work through math problems or other tasks. The white boards might add some variety, or be useful if we’re doing a science experiment and want to explain what’s going on to more than one kiddo at a time.

Still some decluttering to do around the whiteboards.

I also plan to have a daily task list for each child that can be checked off as they complete tasks. I haven’t decided if I’ll use the white boards for that or use printouts or calendar sheets in sheet protectors. With the sheet protectors, I can print out a basic task list and write specifics on the sheet protector in dry erase marker. That way there’s less paper used. The white board is also easily changeable and highly visible, but not something that’s portable and easy for them to check off themselves.

Looking for more homeschooling help?

Obviously I still have some planning to do. We usually have our official start to the year when the local public school starts. That’s about four weeks away, so there’s still time. If you’re familiar with Ultimate Bundles, they launched their Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle 2020 today. It contains 13 eBooks, 8 eCourses, 22 workbooks & printable packs, 5 curricula, 2 membership sites & a summit, all geared towards homeschooling families. If you purchased everything separately, it would cost over $1200, but if you purchase it as a bundle, it’s only $29.50. In order to offer it at such a discount, the sale is limited. In order to get the homeschool bundle, you must purchase it by Friday, July 31 at 11:59pm ET. If you purchase the bundle and find it’s not for you, there’s a 30 day money back guarantee.

I just purchased mine. Once I’ve had a moment to look it over, I’ll share the things I find the most helpful to round out planning for our school year. For full disclosure, if you purchase a bundle through any of the links on my blog, I will receive a small commission. I personally find the bundles a good value with tons valuable information, but everyone’s needs are different. This week’s blog focus is homeschooling, but next week I’ll return to more recipes, DIYs and refashions.

If you’re interested, I urge you to check it out before midnight ET on Tuesday, July 28 (tomorrow night). If you purchase before then, you’ll get a free early bird bonus: a Wild Happy Family Media Membership worth $27.00. The Wild Happy Family Media Membership is an all-in-one, instant adventure library, ready for you and your family to explore at the click of a button.

Purchase your bundle before this timer runs out to get your early bird bonus.

Countdown Timer

Not an early bird? That’s okay. There’s still

Countdown Timer

to get your Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle 2020.

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Dress to Tunic Refashion

I finally got around to refashioning the green knit dress that I found at Goodwill over a year ago.

Green Knit Dress
Green knit dress

What I did to the dress

I decided to shorten it to mid-thigh and take in the top for a better fit. In order to keep the pretty stitching at the bottom, I took the excess length from the middle.

I took the top in a little at the sides, but not enough to make it too fitted. It’s hot, so loose and breezy isn’t a bad thing.

To join the two parts, I added elastic to the waist of the skirt and then reattached it to the top.

Refashioned green knit dress.

End result

Here’s the result. In retrospect, I wish I had made the elastic fit a bit tighter. Right now, it just hangs fairly straight. I may go back and redo that some other time.

As it is, it’s comfortable to wear over leggings, so perfect for hanging out at home with the kiddos.

A note for homeschoolers

I’ve been cleaning the office and getting our homeschooling supplies ready for our official start to the school year. If you’re new to homeschooling, or just looking for new ideas, I’ll post photos of our setup, as well as other homeschooling tips next week.

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How to make powdered laundry detergent

Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergents have always been problematic for me. Certain brands irritate my skin, and I’ve never been able to pinpoint what ingredient is the problem. Even if I knew, most laundry detergents don’t exactly provide a list of ingredients I could check. Luckily, laundry detergent is easy to make. Doing it yourself not only allows you to control what ingredients are in your detergent, it also saves a ton of money.

My recipe uses four basic ingredients stocked by many supermarkets now, and one optional ingredient.

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Borax
  • 2 parts Washing Soda
  • 1 part Grated Bar Soap
  • 0.25 part Baking Soda
  • Optional Fragrance Oil or Essential Oil  

Prep:

You’ll want a clean, dry, lidded container or bag to store your homemade laundry detergent. If the container isn’t air-tight, the detergent may clump from moisture in the air. Usually it’s easy to break it up, so this isn’t a big problem. If you don’t do laundry very often, though, you probably want to store it in something with a good seal.

The soap can be anything. Most people start out using a laundry soap like Fels Naptha. Once I started making my own soap, I switched to using whatever basic recipe soap I had on hand. You can grate it by hand with a cheese grater or with a shredding disk on a food processor. 

Make it:

Combine the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If you’re not familiar with the “parts” measurement, it’s a simple way of making a recipe fit whatever amount you need by giving the amounts as a ratio instead of a specific measurement. You could substitute “cup” for “parts” if that makes it easier.  

Options:

Leave it unscented, use a scented bar of soap, or add your choice of fragrance or essential oil to the combined ingredients and stir to combine. I usually use about half an ounce of fragrance oil per batch. With essential oils, I usually start with 15 drops or so and see how it smells before adding any more. I’ve heard you could use your favorite cologne or perfume, but I haven’t personally tried it. 

Use it:

I use about two tablespoons per load in my top loading machine. You can use one tablespoon for lightly soiled loads, but with my family, every load is a two tablespoon load.

Laundry Detergent
DIY Powdered Laundry Detergent
DIY Laundry detergent

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How I Make Soap: An overview of the hot process soapmaking method

tea tree oil soap: no more lye

Making soap is like magic. Seriously, think about it: You take stuff that makes things feel greasy, mix it with stuff that would eat your face off and, if you do it just right, the end result is a wonderful bar of non-drying, skin-loving, fluffy-lathering soap.

Soapmaking is fun, but safety is a priority when dealing with sodium hydroxide, aka lye, aka the eat-your-face-off stuff. This is just a brief overview of the soapmaking process I use. Please do not use this as a complete how to guide. If that’s something you’re interested in, please, leave a comment and I will direct you to some more thorough resources on soapmaking.

Melting the Oils

Creating soap takes two basic things: oils or fats and an alkaline solution. In order to combine the oils and alkaline solution, the oils have to all be in liquid form and uniformly mixed. So, step one is measuring and melting the oils. For precision, all measuring is done by weight. Since I use a Crockpot for my hot process soapmaking, I add all my weighed oils to the Crockpot, then melt and mix them in the pot. For soapmaking, I generally use the low setting, but if I need to jump start the melting process I will start it on high then turn it down after a few minutes. This Crockpot is similar to the one I use.

Melting the Oils
Melting the Oils

Measuring the Lye

While the oils are warming in the Crockpot, I weigh the lye. It is important to be very precise when measuring the lye. Too little and the soap will be too soft. Too much and the soap could burn your skin. This is also why you need to be very careful about the soap recipes you use. If they are not correctly formulated, the end result could be dangerous.

Before I measure the lye, I measure the water or other liquid for the lye solution, also by weight. I do that first to limit the time I have the lye out.

Weighing the Lye
Weighing the Lye. Gloves and goggles on.

Lye Safety

I make sure to measure the lye into glassware and all containers and utensils that come into contact with lye or the lye solution are reserved solely for that purpose. Once the lye is out, I never leave it unattended. Lye crystals resemble table salt, which would be a potentially deadly mix-up. That’s also why my soap production has slowed since Thaddeus was born. Until they are old enough to understand the importance of staying out of the room and can be trusted out of sight but in earshot for the time it takes to get the soap cooking, I only make it when they are either out of the house or asleep with Chris there to tend to them if they wake up during the process.

Mixing the Lye Solution

Once my lye is measured, I add the lye to the water and stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved. Lye fizzes up when mixed, so it is important to have the liquid in a container with plenty of room. The solution with also get really hot and put off fumes, so be prepared. I like to have a window open or fans and the vent a hood running. Some soap makers mix the solution outside, but I like to stay close to my work space to limit the chance of spills.

Blending the Oils and Lye Solution

For cold process soapmaking, it is important to have the oils and lye solution at about the same temperature. With the Crockpot hot process method I use, I find I can mix the lye solution into the warmed, melted oils without having to measure the temperatures first.

When you first add the lye solution to the melted oils, the color will change from clear to opaque. In order to properly combine the lye and oils, I use a handheld stick blender. You can stir by hand, but it is much harder to get everything properly blended and it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I have had a stick blender die in the middle of making a batch of soap and it is a crazy long arm workout. I do not recommend it.

Adding the Lye Solution
Adding the Lye Solution

Goal of Blending

The goal for all the hard mixing is called “trace”. Basically, I’m wanting to be able to lift my blender out of the mixture and trace a design on top. With cold process, there are various stages of trace that guide when to add any fragrance, essential oils or other add-ins. Since I use the hot process method, I add almost everything after the cook. Because of that, I can mix my batches to a full, hard trace where my traced design doesn’t melt back into the mix. This limits the possibility of a false trace, or the mix seeming to quickly come to trace when it isn’t thoroughly mixed. When that happens, it might separate or have lye heavy spots.

Hard Trace
Hard Trace

Once it is at a hard trace, I stop mixing and put the lid on the Crockpot. If the mix seems too hot, for example, I had a false trace that I had to stir through, I will either turn the Crockpot to warm or off for a few minutes. Otherwise, I make sure it is on low and busy myself with cleaning up, lining my soap molds, and preparing essential oils and other additives.

Cleanup

Any lingering lye solution or soap mixture on the blender is still a risk for lye burns, so I’m cautious with the cleanup. For the whole soapmaking process, I keep a good amount of water with vinegar and a bit of dish soap ready in the sink. The vinegar helps neutralize the lye, so anything that comes into contact with lye goes directly into the vinegar solution, and I use a similar vinegar solution to wipe down my soapmaking area, just in case.

Stages of Saponification

During the cooking, the soap mix will change from an opaque, milky color to a shiny, translucent gel like texture. A pool of liquid also forms on top. that pool of liquid is glycerin, a byproduct of the saponification process. This transformation starts at the edges of the pot and happens in a wave moving towards the center. I find it really fun to watch.

Soap Waves
Soap Waves

Finishing the Batch

When the entire soap mixture is translucent and the consistency of mashed potatoes without lumps, I turn off the heat and stir the soap by hand for just a couple of minutes to let it cool. At this point, if done correctly, the mixture completely transformed to soap. I don’t want it to cool too much, or it would be hard to add the essential oils, but too hot and it will burn off the scent.

Glycerin Pool Forming in the Middle
Glycerin Pool Forming in the Middle

I then add any essential oils blended in my chosen carrier oil and any other add-ins I’m using in that batch, stir thoroughly by hand, and plop it into my molds. Since it is thick, I generally have to tap my molds on my counter firmly to eliminate air pockets.

Adding the Blended Essential Oils and Carrier Oil
Adding the Blended Essential Oils and Carrier Oil

Curing the Final Product

Because the saponification process is completed during the cooking, the soap is totally safe to use as soon as it is cool enough to touch. It needs to cool in the molds for 12-24 hours or so to hold it’s shape, though. Once it is firm enough to cut, I cut and wrap the bars. While not necessary, hot process bars still benefit from curing for at least a week or two to allow excess moisture to evaporate. As I discussed in my Proper Care and Feeding of Your Bar Soap post, the firmer and drier a bar of soap is, the longer it will last. That’s one of the reasons I wrap my soap in cloth rather than plastic. Cloth allows the soap to continue to harden for a longer lasting bar.

Soap Log in the Mold
Soap Log in the Mold

The batch I photographed for this post is my Tea Tree Oil Soap. Find it and my other handmade soaps for sale here: https://subearthancottage.com/product-category/soap-bath-beauty.