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Easy Leggings Hack for Summer

If you or your kiddos wear leggings, you’ll love this easy leggings hack for summer. While you can use any leggings, it’s perfect for turning leggings that have worn out at the knees or ended up being a little too see-through into something usable, especially when the weather turns hot. This hack is so simple, I feel a bit silly making a post about it. It’s really one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” things.

How to do it.

All you need is a pair of leggings you want to make shorter and some good scissors. Fold them in half so that the legs lay on top of each other. Make sure the fabric is smooth and the legs match up at the hem. Decide how much shorter you want them and cut them at that length, keeping the line parallel to the hem. My scissors cut through both legs easily, but you can always cut one and use it as a guide to cut the other.

Here’s what I cut off. I like leaving mine either just above or just below the knee.

Because knit doesn’t fray, you don’t have to hem the raw edge. When stretched, the edge will roll a tiny bit and hide the edge. You may want to seal the seam that you cut through with a little fabric glue or a few stitches. I have some I cut last summer without doing anything to the seams and they’ve held up through many wearings and washings without coming apart.

How I like to wear my shortened leggings

I like wearing dresses or skirts in the summer because Texas is hot, lol. With little kids, though, I’m constantly up and down or bending to pick things up off the floor. Cropped leggings underneath give me enough coverage to make dresses practical for everyday. Leggings under my dresses also prevents uncomfortable chafing from being a bit, um, curvy in the thighs. For this purpose, I really like using this hack for leggings that I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing without a long tunic or dress. Instead of taking up space at the back of my closet, they get used and make my other clothes more wearable.

Ways to repurpose the cut off section

The cut off sections can be repurposed, too. A really simple thing to do is make hair bands by cutting them in one inch strips parallel to the hem. Be sure to keep the seam intact so they’re a circle.

You can also make a pocket for your leggings out of the cut off section. Decide how big you want your pocket to be and add a half inch or so seam allowance to each side and the bottom. Use the existing hem as the top of your pocket to save time. Fold the seam allowance under and stitch in place on your leggings where you want the pocket. You’ll want to use a narrow zig-zag or stretch stitch to prevent the thread from breaking. A ball point needle is ideal for sewing knits, so if you have one, use it.

Leggings hack pocket
Here’s one pocket I’ve added.

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Kombucha Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a few common questions about Kombucha. I’ve answered them based on my research and personal experience.

Kombucha questions

How much should I drink?

If you’ve never had Kombucha before, you’ll want to start slowly. Kombucha can have a detoxifying effect that can be unpleasant if you rush it. It is recommended to start with about an ounce per day at first and gradually increase until you reach a comfortable level for you. If you notice any ill effects cut back or stop for a few days to let your body catch up. Drinking lots of water can help, too.

Of course, you should always listen to your body. If you feel like you can’t tolerate kombucha don’t push it. There are plenty of other ways to get probiotics. Also, I’m not a doctor, and the above might not apply to everyone depending on your personal health. If you have any concerns, definitely consult your doctor.

Can I use metal utensils when making Kombucha?

Metal tea kettles for boiling the water are fine. It’s fine to stir the tea and sugar together with a metal spoon before adding the SCOBY. What you want to avoid is the SCOBY coming into contact with metal as that can damage the SCOBY. Even then, I have heard very brief contact is ok, such as when cutting up a giant SCOBY. I prefer to peel apart the layers and avoid metal touching my SCOBYs, though.

Can I use honey/stevia/coconut sugar/some other sweetener?

The sugar is food for the SCOBY and plain white sugar is recommended because it is easy for the SCOBY to digest. I have heard of some people having success with other sugars, but I haven’t tried it myself. If you want to try another form of sugar, I would start with a small batch and keep another SCOBY in a tea/white sugar brew as backup.

Stevia or other zero calorie sweeteners will not work because they don’t provide food for the SCOBY.

Can I use flavored teas?

Not for the main brew. You can use flavored teas to add flavor in a second ferment.

Can I use decaf teas?

This is another one where I’ve heard conflicting information. Most say not to use decaf tea. If you want to try decaf, as with different sugars, I would start with a small batch and keep another SCOBY in a regular tea/white sugar brew as backup.

My SCOBY looks funny. Is it bad?

Most SCOBYs look funny. They can be smooth and creamy colored or have air pockets and brown spots. The bottoms usually have brown stringy tentacle things hanging down. New SCOBYs grow on top of older ones until they look like a stack of slimy pancakes. (Eww.) All of this is normal, and there’s probably a million variations I haven’t described.

There are two main things to watch for: mold and black. If your SCOBY molds, it will look like blue-green dusty mold, just like what grows on bread. If you get mold, throw it all out and start over.

Black means the SCOBY is dead or dying. Toss it.

My Kombucha tastes like vinegar. What happened?

Kombucha is supposed to taste vinegary, but if it’s too strong you can always mix it with something like juice to make it more palatable. You can also use super-vinegary Kombucha in place of apple cider vinegar in recipes. If it’s straight vinegar with no sugariness left, you could use it as a hair rinse or for household cleaning where you would use ACV.

To make future batches less vinegary, there’s a couple of things to try.

1. Kombucha brews faster in warmer weather. If it’s been hot, try a shorter brew time and/or increasing the amount of sugar in the brew.

2. If your SCOBY is getting super thick, split off some layers. More SCOBY = shorter brew time.

My Kombucha is too sweet. What happened?

The easiest fix is to let it brew longer. If it’s cold, moving your jar to a warmer location may help. I think the ideal range is somewhere around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You should also check the condition of your SCOBY. If it is turning black, you’ll want to replace it.

Should I store my SCOBYs in the refrigerator?

No. You want to avoid extreme temperatures because they can damage the SCOBYs. The best range is between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

To store your extra SCOBYs, place them in a lidded jar with at least enough Kombucha for them to float and store in a cool-ish location, such as a pantry or shelf out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources.

Find more of my kombucha posts here:  https://subearthancottage.com/search/label/Kombucha

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Flavoring Your Kombucha Tea

When you get your homebrew timing right, kombucha is pretty yummy on it’s own. Sometimes you want something a little different, though. Or maybe straight kombucha just isn’t your thing but you still want the probiotic benefits. Luckily you can easily change the taste of your kombucha to make it more palatable or fix a soda craving. Here’s my tips for flavoring your Kombucha tea.


Mixing with juice


The simplest way to flavor kombucha is to mix it with juice or another beverage. This is a great way to get started drinking kombucha. To start, add 1-2 ounces of kombucha to a glass of your favorite juice. As your body and tastes adjust to drinking kombucha you can increase the kombucha to juice ratio.


I like to dilute 3-4 ounces kombucha with sparkling or still water, add a splash of lemon or lime juice and a bit of stevia. This makes a refreshing summer drink when served over ice.

Kombucha is also nice as an add in for smoothies. It can be fizzy on it’s own, though, so make sure to account for that when adding it to blended drinks. Leaving a little extra headspace in the blender is a good idea. Or, stir it in after everything else is blended.

Flavoring your Kombucha Tea
Flavored with peach and cherry teas in a second ferment.

Flavoring your Kombucha with a second ferment

You can also add flavoring in a second, shorter ferment. Basically you’ll put your flavorings in a bottle or jar (I like canning jars), fill almost to the top with your brewed kombucha and cap the jar. Leave at room temperature for 2-4 days and then refrigerate or drink.


The second ferment can increase the carbonation in your kombucha, so it’s a good idea to be cautious when opening and storing the jars. I’ve never had a jar break from the pressure, but I have had the metal disks on canning jar lids pop up in the middle. If I think too much pressure is building up, I “burp” the jars by opening them just enough to release some of the pressure and recap.

There’s a variety of things you can add for the second ferment. Really, any herbs, spices or fruits can be added. If you want to increase the carbonation, add a little bit of sugar, honey, raisins or a sweet fruit. My favorite thing to do is put enough orange peel to fill the jar halfway, add a teaspoon of sugar or honey, top with kombucha and let it sit for two days. It makes a kind of healthier orange soda and uses something that would normally have been tossed.

Flavoring your Kombucha orange and honey
Orange peel and honey Kombucha

Other flavorings I’ve tried:

  • Lemons and limes cut into wedges, sliced or just the peels. You can also use a lemon or lime half after juicing it for another recipe.
  • Fresh sliced ginger, plain or with a dash of chai spice and squirt of honey.
  • Fruit flavored herbal teas, one bag per quart jar.
  • Blueberries.

If you brew your own Kombucha tea, I would love to hear your tips for flavoring your Kombucha. Please share them in the comments below.

Next week I plan to do a FAQ/kombucha myths post. If you have any questions please share them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Kenmore 385 Sewing Machine Hook Timing Part 2 with Video

I finally got my Kenmore 385 sewing machine’s hook timing adjusted and working properly again. This time, I figured out that there is a plate on the bottom of my machine that allows me to access the necessary set screw without taking the case off. I do think it’s a little more difficult to see what I’m doing that way, but it’s much less scary.

This time, once I got it adjusted, I decided to make a quick (awkward, one handed) video while I still had it open. Hopefully the video and my previous post will help others tackle this simple sewing machine repair.

Adjusting the Hook Timing on a Kenmore 385 Sewing Machine

Shop update: Freebies and a sale

Knowing that so many are stuck at home right now needing distractions, I’ve decided to make all of my machine embroidery design files free until April 30. That’s the day my area’s shelter in place order expires. If it is extended, I’ll extend the embroidery design freebies, too. If you make something with one of my designs, I would love to see it.

My full shop is still open, and will be as long as everyone in my household is healthy. I’m using extra care with handwashing and using hand sanitizer before coming into contact with products and packaging as well.

All of my handmade soaps are currently on sale for 20% off. You can find them here.

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Kenmore 385 Sewing Machine Hook Timing Part 2 with Video
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Sewing machine repair: Hook timing

I’ve been sewing lots of masks lately. Apparently my sewing machine needed a break, so it decided to skip time again. Thankfully I’ve done it a few times now, so I should have it up and running soon.

Hook timing is a fairly common problem that sends many sewers running to the repair shop. When it happened the first time on my older Kenmore, I decided to try to repair it myself first. My thinking was, since it’s a mechanical machine with mostly metal parts, as long as I was careful, I couldn’t really hurt anything. I probably would have thought twice before attempting it on a computerized machine.

All machines are a little different, so what worked on mine may not work on yours. Something I recommend to everyone who wants to work on their own sewing machine, is getting a copy of the service manual. Honestly, I still need to do this. There’s tons of info online, but having the actual service manual is even better. You should have an owner’s manual on hand, too. It  covers basic care and maintenance. For repairs, though, the service manual will give you technical instructions and confidence. 

Hook Timing?

Before taking things apart, determine if hook timing is causing the problem. If the needle (top) thread isn’t picking up the bobbin (bottom) thread, hook timing is a prime suspect. It’s always a good idea to rule out simple problems first, though. Try swapping the needle, rethread the machine and sew on some scrap fabric. If it’s been a while since you’ve dusted the lint out of the bobbin case or you’ve been sewing on linty material, give it a good cleaning.

Once you’ve tried the easy fixes, if it still isn’t working right, look at how the needle and the bobbin hook intersect. This page, https://tv-sewingcenter.com/general/sewing-machine-timing-hook-timing, has illustrations, photos and descriptions for where they should meet on both rotary and oscillating machines. 

Taking a look at my oscillating hook.

My machine is an oscillating machine, so the hook tip should pass just above the eye of the needle. Mine was passing below the needle’s eye, so clearly the hook timing needed adjustment.

Open it up

The first and honestly the hardest step was figuring out where all the screws were that I needed to remove to take off the casing. (Actually, the first step was to turn off and unplug the machine. If you’re attempting this at home, do not skip this step!) On my Kenmore, I have to take off the side by the hand wheel, a plate on the bottom, and the front panel. 

More cleaning

While I have my machine open, I like to take the opportunity to clean it out and oil it. Oiling a linty machine, using the wrong oil or putting it in the wrong places can cause tons of problems, though, so if you’re not sure, stick to dusting only.

Find and adjust

Next, I tilted the machine on to it’s back so I could get a good look at the mechanism that rotates the hook. Once I had isolated that, I found a hex head set screw. Loosening that allowed me to gently adjust the hook position so that the tip passed just above the needle’s eye.

About in the middle, just above the motor is a silver piece with a round, black screw near the top. That is the set screw I loosened to adjust the hook timing.

When I was sure I had it properly positioned, I tightened the set screw. I turned the hand wheel a few more times, making sure everything still looked good before I put the casing back. A quick test run showed everything was working properly again.

Done!

It’s so satisfying to be able to make simple repairs to my machines myself, especially when most repair shops start around $75 and go up from there, depending on what needs to be done. 

Hook timing

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Easy Paper Towel Replacement with Upcycled Reusable Cloths

Relying on paper towels to clean up spill after spill stinks. Sure, it’s not so eco-friendly, but, even more immediately distressing to me, at least, is it’s practically throwing money away. Plus, a paper towel is usually not as good at cleaning up a mess.

There’s always the option of buying a huge supply of kitchen towels and cloth napkins, but the initial cost of buying enough to keep up with a toddler’s destructive capabilities is off-putting to say the least. Retiring old clothes, sheets, etc. to rags is a viable and frugal option, not to mention you’re upcycling (or is it recycling? or repurposing?). I don’t really mind just using scraps as rags, but I prefer something a little more aesthetically pleasing, especially if guests are involved.

There’s also the convenience factor to consider. I have limited storage space, so devoting a kitchen drawer or part of a cabinet to hold all the towels isn’t practical. Neither is a basket on the counter, because counter space is even more limited.

My reusable paper towel solution

Here’s my solution. First, I cut up any appropriate worn fabric (t-shirts, flannel sheets, old bath towels, anything soft and absorbent) to whatever size I want. I started with something close to paper towel size but then started cutting some smaller to make more use of the fabric. Then I serged the edges to make them pretty. You could also do a zig-zag, overcast stitch or even just a straight stitch a little in from the edge on a sewing machine. If you are really ambitious you could do a real hem. I’m going for nice but quick to do in bulk. Any edge finishing is unnecessary for t-shirt knits, but they will be more durable being finished. Wovens like flannel will need something to keep them from fraying.

Easy storage with limited counter space

For the storage, I made a hanging tube similar to a plastic bag dispenser. If you have one of those around it will probably work perfectly. If not, there are tons of tutorials for them floating around. The basic design is a tube of fabric with a handle at the top and elastic at the bottom. The elastic tightens the opening enough to keep the towels/bags from falling out. This solves my lack of space problem because I can hang it anywhere and it’s as easy as pulling a paper towel off a roll. They stay in and dispense better if I just shove them in the top without folding them, so no extra laundry folding time.

Un-paper towel dispenser
IMG_4535

This was my quick nap-time prototype. I made it out of half a t-shirt. You can easily make one out of any fabric to match your décor.

I also made a little tote bag to hang in the kitchen to put the dirty towels in. Unless they are really gross or soaking wet, there’s no reason to keep them separate from the rest of the laundry.

Since making these, I have almost eliminated my need for paper towels. I do try to keep a roll on hand in case the cats do something gross because eww. I have to hide it, though, to keep other people from reaching for them out of habit.

If you need some heavier cleaning cloths, double up the fabric. To use up smaller scraps of flannel, finish the edges of small squares to use in place of cotton balls.

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Homeschooling amid COVID-19

More science at the library

With schools across the nation closing in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, I’ve seen many parents reaching out to homeschooling parents for advice. I think it’s important to note that even homeschooling right now looks much different than normal. Many homeschooling families take part in weekly co-ops that have stopped due to the virus. We love going to the library, either just to see the cool science displays and get books or to go to story-time and chess club. Now the library is closed other than the drive-up window. Public parks are off limits as well. Even something like grocery shopping, which, if nothing else, gets us out of the house is no longer an option for the whole family. In short, just because we homeschool doesn’t mean we’re used to being home all day, every day either.

Science at the library before COVID-19

Having said that, there are some things that may make the transition easier. Some of it will depend on your school’s plan for the time away. Students with online classes will have less flexibility than students with assignments to do at their own pace.

Breathe

One thing that is always recommended to new homeschoolers leaving public or private schools is to take time to “deschool”. Basically, that means to take a few weeks or months to not do formal schooling. Instead, relax, play, let children do the things they enjoy, visit museums, libraries, bake together, watch favorite movies together. The “deschooling” time is to give children and parents time to connect and adjust to a new normal. This time also helps parents learn what types of curriculum and learning resources are a good fit for their children.

Obviously, under the current circumstances a full “deschooling” period isn’t practical or necessarily needed, but taking a few days to chill is definitely a good idea. Right now, everyone is stressed and cooped up. Trying to achieve something remotely like a normal school routine will be so much easier if everyone has a little time to process the changes.

Formal school time doesn’t have to take 8 hours

In school, there’s 20-30 different students with different needs and different personalities, all assigned to one teacher. Under those circumstances, lessons will take longer. At home, students work at their own pace with a teacher able to give them more one on one time, if needed. Sometimes, if the student finds the subject particularly difficult or very interesting, it takes longer than a single subject would in a classroom. Most often, though, it takes far less time.

I’ve seen the color-coded schedule charts floating around on Facebook that map out a typical eight hour school day. If that works for your family, great! If you’re finding that formal assignments are done by noon, and you have no idea what to do with the other three or four hours of school, don’t panic. Know that is more of the norm for homeschooling.

Learning isn’t always on paper

Children learn through play. Adults learn through play, too, we just usually call it something else. Unstructured playtime lets children use their imagination, problem solve and learn through observation.

Baking teaches reading instructions, measuring, fractions, and vocabulary, as well as the basic life skill of being able to prepare food. Spending time outside allows children to observe nature, as well as the physical benefits of fresh air, exercise and sunshine.

Homeschooling making slime

Even screen time can be educational. Gaming teaches problem-solving. Many shows, even some you wouldn’t expect, incorporate educational elements. If nothing else, kids need time to relax with something they enjoy just like adults. With all the sudden changes and concern over COVID-19, kids are likely to be feeling anxious and stressed, too. A little grace is good for everyone.

Home economics is a class, too.

Obviously I’m not saying turn your children into your own little housekeepers. It’s important, though, for everyone to have basic cooking and cleaning skills. When everyone is home all day, there’s more cooking and cleaning to be done, and more time to do it. Teach little ones to help with age-appropriate chores. Older kids and teens can take on more responsibilities.

Online educational resources

I plan to write a longer resource and activity post next week, but if you need something to get started, here’s my personal favorites:

  • Starfall.com Pre-K-3rd grade. The free site has tons of stuff, and if you decide to upgrade, the full paid site is only $35/year.
  • MobyMax K-8th grade We use it mainly for some of the math and reading, but they cover just about every subject.
  • Khan Academy Everyone. Seriously, it’s K-adult and covers a multitude of subjects.
  • Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool This is a complete, free K-12 homeschool curriculum. You can jump in anywhere and pick and choose, or use it all. Most of it is done off of the computer, so it’s good if you want to limit screen time.
  • Discovery K-12 This is another complete K-12 curriculum. Unlike Easy Peasy, most assignments are completed online. Student accounts are free, but if you want a parent account it’s $99/year.

The last two are more geared to people homeschooling long-term. They might be helpful, though, if you need a little more help in an area or for the elective-type classes.

Shop updates

On a different note, I finally have Lavender Tea Tree Charcoal Soap back in stock. This time, because of using red palm oil instead of refined palm oil, it is a deep olive green instead of charcoal grey. It’s the same soap otherwise, though, and will be ready to ship on Monday.

Currently all of my handmade soaps are 20% off.