With the winter plague finally leaving our household, we’ve been able to get out a bit more. One of our first excursions was to our local public library. Finn found a book he’s been searching for after seeing it mentioned in a news interview on the effects of video games.
Gravity Lesson: Science at the Library
The little boys took more interest in the library’s science display. This month’s display involves peanut butter jars weighted to represent how much they would weigh on the moon and each of the planets. Beckett enjoyed feeling the different weights. It didn’t take Thadd long to become more interested in seeing if it was really peanut butter in the jars, so I had to redirect him to the toys. In case you are wondering, though, the lids are glued securely and there is a note on the table saying the contents are actually peanut-free.
Earthworms: Science on a rainy day
Tuesday was rainy, but not that cold yet, so we went for a walk. With all the rain, earthworms were everywhere along the curb. We stopped and watched a few making their way back to the soil. Beckett had few questions about what they ate and why they came out in the rain. At home, we researched the answers together. I love it when lessons happen organically like that. It helps the information stick more than if I created a lesson on earthworms and provided the answers to his questions before he had the chance to even ask.
In between household projects, Christopher turned our gutted pop-up camper into a little outdoor room using salvaged materials. It’s not completely finished out yet. When Beckett and Thadd saw it, though, they couldn’t wait. They had to grab pillows and hang out in the cozy little nook immediately.
How do you encourage impromptu learning? Comment below with your ideas, resources and experiences.
One of my lovely nieces is learning to sew with a sewing machine. To help, I thought I would do a series of beginning sewing project tutorials. Today’s tutorial turns an old t-shirt into a market bag. I’m keeping it simple today, but in the future I’ll do a post on how to make it with and enclosed bottom seam and how to box the bottom. It’s a great way to turn t-shirts that you no longer wear into something useful. If you don’t have a sewing machine, you could even sew it by hand.
T-shirts with a high cotton content and no side seams work the best.
Thread in your choice of color.
Sewing machine set up with appropriate needle and bobbin threaded in your color choice.
Note: Ball point needles are generally the best for sewing with knits. This project does fine with an all-purpose needle, though, so use what you have.
Preparing the shirt:
Lay the shirt out flat and smooth out any wrinkles. Since this one is just to add to my Aldi bag stash, I didn’t worry too much about wrinkles.
Cut off the arms including the armhole seams.
Cut off the neck about 2-3 inches below the neckband. My shirt is pretty big, so I went three inches below the neckband. With smaller shirts you can do less.
Cut straight across the bottom of the shirt to remove the hem. The hemline is often uneven on t-shirts, so focus on keeping the shoulder seams lined up, the shirt smooth and cutting a straight line that removes all of the hem.
At this point, you should basically have turned the t-shirt into a tank top. Now, decide if you want your bag to look like plastic grocery sacks that have the handles at the top sides (so, your tank top with the bottom sewn closed), or if you want the handles at the top middle, like a purse or market tote.
For the grocery sack-style, turn your shirt inside out and lay it flat, just like a tank top again. For the purse/market tote, turn it inside out and match the shoulder seams and armholes together, then lay it flat. I’m making a market style tote, so you can see it in the photos.
Once everything is lined up, pin along the bottom to hold it in place.
Sewing the bag:
Many sewing machines have an assortment of stitches to use with knit fabric. They are useful for keeping the thread from breaking when the fabric stretches. On my machine, they are labeled “stretch” and shown in brown. Zig-zag stitches also work well on knits.
You could use a stretch or zig-zag stitch for the bottom of the bag. Since it really shouldn’t be stretching much, I usually stick with a regular straight stitch set to a long-ish length of 3.
Regardless of the type of stitch you choose, I recommend sewing across the bottom twice to make it nice and strong.
The seam allowance, or distance between the edge of the fabric and the stitches, doesn’t really matter that much as long as you keep it the same all the way across. For this bag, I used a 5/8 inch allowance, marked on the footplate of my machine. To keep a straight line, focus on keeping the fabric lined up with the guideline for the seam allowance rather than watching the needle.
At the start , sew about 2-3 stitches then backstitch to secure the stitching before continuing to sew to the end. At the end, backstitch another 2-3 stitches, then sew to the end and cut the threads. Repeat the seam as close to the original line of sewing as possible to make it nice and strong.
Turn the bag right side out. Since knit doesn’t unravel, you could stop there and be done. I like to sew around the arm and neck holes to reinforce the t-shirts original shoulder seams and give it a more finished look.
Finishing around the t-shirt arm and neck hole handles:
I usually use a serger for this, but it’s not necessary. On a sewing machine, I do like to use either a zig-zag or stretch stitch since there is going to be more stretch on the handles so a straight stitch might break.
This time, I’m using a zig-zag stitch, keeping the stitch length set at 3 and using about a 1/2 inch seam allowance. If your sewing machine has a free-arm, it can make it easier to sew around the armholes if you use it. Sew around each arm hole and the neck hole separately.
To start and finish the zig-zag, I backstitched like normal. It looks a little messy that way. You could leave extra thread at the beginning and end, pull the threads to the back side and tie knots to secure them if you want a cleaner look.
That’s it. You now have a purse or reusable bag from what used to be an old t-shirt. Don’t throw the t-shirt scraps away. I’ll post some creative uses for them soon!
To learn how to make this bag a little more polished, read my t-shirt bag upgrades post.
If you read through the tutorial and like the concept but don’t want to diy, I still have a few left in my shop on clearance here.
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This weekend we held a rather slow garage sale. It was still fun, though, and we met some nice people, including a gentleman who shares our fondness of TBI Suburbans.
Chris took full advantage of the time to create a few billboard art pieces he’s been picturing for months.
I think this is my favorite. I love the weathered door.
This is the one everyone slowed down to see. He may decide to shorten it from the bottom to make it more manageable. As it is, though, in the right space it is impressive.
This one just screams Americana. We held it up to see what it looks like on the outside of our house. I loved the pop of red against our brown. I can totally see this alongside other signs in rustic decor.
Lately Christopher and I have been talking a lot about fashion. It started as a discussion about not being able to find comfortable clothes and how hard it is to find clothing that goes against the trends. Being crafty, we explored making our own clothing. The cost of fabric, supplies, time it takes to cut and sew all highlighted how impossible it is to produce clothing ethically at the low prices charged for much ready-to-wear clothing. That doesn’t even take into account the raw materials that are used to make the fabric and problems with content, pesticides, sustainability, etc.
At the same time, like many, our budget, doesn’t allow us to spend a ton on clothes. We try to make the most of our clothing budget guilt-free by shopping thrift stores and second hand shops. That way we aren’t adding to the problem by purchasing new. Most thrift shops are charity-based, so our purchases help others. We often find better quality items than what we would otherwise be able to afford this way, too.
With thrift shopping, you’re not as limited by trends. If you’re looking for something in particular, unless it’s a common item, you’re still likely to come up empty handed. That has been our problem when it comes to comfortable men’s and boy’s pants. Both Finn and Christopher would prefer something a little roomier, like karate gi pants. Unfortunately, nothing like that has been in fashion since M.C. Hammer. That means it’s time to put my sewing machines to use.
Making a pattern from shorts
This summer, I started by trying to copy a pair of the cotton knit gym shorts they practically lived in, adding a gusset for comfort and mobility. I used to buy bulk bags of t-shirts from Thrift Town before they closed, so instead of using new fabric, I used some XL t-shirts I had on hand. That way, if things went horribly wrong I wouldn’t feel as bad.
I have zero experience with pattern making, so this was a learning experience. Here’s a brief overview of how I did it.
I laid the shorts inside out and folded in half, front to the inside, smoothing them as flat as possible. Then I traced them, adding about an inch all around. The inch is for seam allowance and to account for the fact that it’s impossible to get finished shorts to lay flat. I always err on the side of too big, because that is much easier to fix.
At the waistband, I measured the waistband and extended the pattern by that amount plus seam allowance above the waistband. This allows it to be folded down for elastic and a drawstring casing. At the hem, I extended the lines two times the width of the hem to allow enough fabric to fold and hem. On the pattern, I drew lines straight across to show where the finished hem and waistband hit on the original shorts for reference.
Then I folded them in half , backs to the inside and repeated the above steps since the back is cut differently than the front.
Drafting the gusset
For the gusset, I drew kind of a triangle with the top point cut off. To do this evenly, I folded a piece of paper in half, drew a half inch line perpendicular to the fold, moved over about four inches and drew another perpendicular line measuring one and a half inches. Then I drew a straight line connecting the tops of the lines. I cut along the lines and opened it up to get my gusset pattern. Sewing the gusset in with the wider part at the crotch seam and using a half inch seam allowance results the gusset tapering down to a point.
Shorts to pants
Shorts work for summer, but I needed to come up with a pants pattern for fall and winter. Chris suggested just making the shorts pattern longer, so I did by measuring the waist to floor measurement and extending my pattern the needed amount, including seam allowances.
I did this by taping the bottom of the pattern to a big piece of paper, sketching out the needed length and side seams and cutting it out.
My pattern isn’t perfect. I think I’ve tweaked it each time I’ve used it. Since the pants are made to be loose and flowy it hides the imperfections.
These are my first attempt. I made them with a linen blend, elastic and drawstring combo waistband and no pockets. I added side-seam pockets later.
My goal is to find or draft a few more basic, customizable patterns for pants and shirts that can be made in linen or a similar material. Then I can buy a bulk amount of undyed fabric and dye it as needed.
We needed a better way to organize our keys. I thought about using hooks and scrap wood to make something, but I didn’t have any hooks on hand. I did, however have an old license plate, clothespins and hot glue, so this is what resulted.
I used hot glue because I could remove the clothespins without much, if any damage to the license plate. So far it’s holding up well, but if I were to make another, I might use something more permanent now that I know the concept works. I’d also use a ruler to line up the pins. I had “help” from the two year old this time, so I had to work fast to keep the glue gun safely away from little fingers.
Last Christmas we received a new set of bath towels. Many of our old ones had worn through in places and were ready to be retired. I hate to throw out something that still has some life left in it, so here’s what I did:
I cut the towels to salvage the most usable material possible. Then, I serged the edge with my serger. You could also use a wide zig-zag, fold and hem, or use bias binding to finish the edges and prevent fraying.
The white towels were cut down to about half-size. This makes them perfect for wiping up big spills or as a bath mat. The green towels on the right are smaller sized for kitchen and cleaning towels. The stack of squares in the middle can be used in place of disposable cotton squares for toner, make-up remover, etc.
The small squares are also handy for DIY dryer sheets. I keep a few in a small tub on the dryer soaking in diluted white vinegar and lavender essential oil. I wring one out slightly and toss it into the dryer to add a fresh, lavender scent to our laundry.
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