Monday, March 28, 2011

The Busy Baby Placemat - Tutorial

Sitting in a restaurant over the weekend was an eye opener for me.  My son was sitting in a highchair and he was very very bored.  He kept grabbing everything he could get his hands on.  Needless to say he spent most of our dinner out in either mine or my husbands lap.  On our way out of the restaurant I knew something had to be done to insure a more hormonious dinner out next time.

Enter ... "The Busy Baby Placemat"  A tutorial for all you families that could use some piece and quiet at dinner.  This isn't an "original" idea.  I've seen things like this around the internet.  But, mine has lots of rings and dings that will surely keep baby happy for years to come.  This thing has a chalkboard on one side with two holders for chalk, and an eye-spy mat on the other.  Either way you use it it's wipiable and has 4 rings to attach toys, silverware, etc.  The top of the mat sports two suction cups to adhere it to the table and it has an elastic strap with a snap to keep it all rolled nice and neat in your bag.

Materials Needed:
Basic sewing supplies:  sewing machine, thread, scissors, etc.
Oil Cloth (or any other wipiable fabric)
Clear Vinyl - Mine is nice and thin.  You don't want anything to stiff.
Chalk Board Fabric - You can find this online as well as most fabric stores.
70 2" Eye Spy Spuares - lots of different fabrics here... use up that stash of quilting cottons!
Fold Over Elastic (FOE) - Not necessary, but it's what I used.  You could substitute with regular elastic
4 D-Rings  - Again not necessary.  You could just attach ribbon and then clip on regular toy leashes.
Grosgrain Ribbon
Single Snap or Velcro
2 Suction Cups - Mine have a loop on top so I could thread 1/4" elastic through.  This allows the suction cups to be flipped over so the mat can be used on either side.

Step 1:  Cut out 70 2" quilt squares for your "Eye Spy" side of mat.  Arrange them on a table in a pleasing fashion and then sew them together using a 1/4" seam allowance.
Step 2:  Here it is all pressed.  I added a 3" wide border all around.  The "Eye Spy" side is finished!
Step 3: Time to work on the Chalk Board side of the placemat.  Measure your finished top.  Mine was 12 3/4" X 17".  So I cut my oil cloth to that measurement.  I then cut my Chalk fabric 2.5" smaller than my oilcloth and rounded the corners.  I used my pinking rotary cutter, but it's not necessary. Center the Chalk board fabric on the oilcloth and tuck your FOE (I used two strips of FOE per side so the chalk wouldn't fall out. If using elastic, I would use 2 1" wide pieces on each side)under the chalk fabric. Sewing this down on the oilcloth can be tricky.  I used some clear tape to hold the chalk fabric down and removed it as I was sewing.  You really don't want to use pins!
Step 4:  Gather your ribbon, FOR for closure strap, suction cups, d-rings, and 1/4" elastic.  Thread about 3" of 1/4" elastic through each suction cup.  Fold about 3.5 - 4" of grosgrain ribbon through each of your 4 d-rings and sew it down.  Roll over one side of your FOE and sew it down.
Step 5:  Place your FOE strap half way up one side and sew it down like shown in photo.  Next place your ribbon and d-ring pieces on the bottom and lower sides as shown and sew them down too.
Step 6:  Your doing great!  Almost done.  Now it's time to sew it all together.  Lay your chalk side like photo above. Then put down the clear vinyl cut to the same size as your oil cloth.  They lay down your "Eye Spy" side UPSIDE DOWN!  Don't use pins here.  I used some clips.  Hair clips, paper clips.... anything like that will work.  With a 1/2" seam allowance, sew the sides and bottom ONLY!
Step 7: Measure 2" from your sew line on the sides and make a mark.  This is where your suction cups will go.  Now this part and the next part are a bit tricky...  Sew across one side of the top and insert your suction cut between the vinyl and the oilcloth and sew down.  Do this to both sides.  You want to leave 8" or so open in the center of the top so don't sew all the way across just yet.
Step 8:  Now clip your corners and turn it all around.  This part was a pain!! The vinyl and the oilcloth was sticking to each other and it was hard to turn.  Be patient and it will go.  Top stitch around making sure you close the opening. Sorry, no photo of that.

Step 9:  Prep your chalk board by rubbing chalk all over it really good.  Wipe it off with a dry or slightly damp cloth.
 Step 10: Congratulations!  Your finished.  Find a cute child old or young to play with your new Busy Baby Placemat.  My son won't be using the chalk side for a while.  We'll be clipping toys onto the d-rings and he can look at all those pretty fabrics while we are at restaurants. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Cloth Diapering Experience

 I received a comment today on one of my diapering posts from way back. She asked about the fit of the diaper. It made me realize that I haven't really done a good diapering post since my son was born.

These first pictures are of my son during his first month. I tried to review each diaper that I made. It makes comparison easier for those of you trying to figure all this cloth diaper stuff out. I'm still figuring it out, but at least now I know what patterns I like and which fabrics I like. For now this post will just have the pictures. My next post will be a rundown of what I like and what I don't like. Click on each photo to enlarge because I've written about fit and feelings about each diaper on the photos.
VB NB Fitted made with jersey. I had 6 of these and loved them. He was about 8.5 lbs. here and 1 week old. The fit him until he was about a month old or so. I think I would have skipped these all together and made smalls instead with a cross over snap. The NB dipes were just grown out of to fast!
Very Baby fitted size small.  These fit until he was about 16 lbs.  Again... I would have made tons of these instead of the NB ones. 

Here is a medium Fattycake altered diaper.  He is 6 months old here and about 19 lbs.

Surprisingly this green Fattycake still fits him at 6 months and 19 lbs.  He won't for long though.
 More pics to come on the next post with things that he is wearing now and my overall review of everything!

Fabric Baby High Chair

 This thing is very cool.  Check out the pattern here.  I made this for Cael for our upcoming trip to my folks house on the peninsula.  I realized that I won't have anyplace to put him except the travel crib or the floor. So, hopefully this will let him join in on the family fun.  It took less than an hour to make.  Even with all the family interruptions.  And... he loves it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Purse & A Diaper Bag In One Week? I Must Be Dreaming....

Seriously.... I don't think I've gotten this much sewing done in one week since Cael was born.  Sure, I've made diapers and a few pieces of clothing for the kids.  But, nothing and I mean nothing like this.  My new machine just buzzed.  It sews like a dream.  And these two bags are proof of that.

Early this week I decided it was time to stop the insane amount of "Spring" cleaning that I've been doing and sew myself a new purse.  My "me" purse is about to loose a strap.  I looked and looked for a pattern that I liked.  I decided on this one.  The Wasp Bag.  I was hopping that it would be small enough for my purse, but large enough to throw a few diapers and baby necessities in when going out for quick trips. 
  I started with some quilting cottons that I bought a few weeks ago with the intention of making a diaper bag with.  I love love love this bird fabric.  The colors are so me.  I altered the insides by adding some pockets and a key fob thingy.  It has a magnet closure.  The buttons are from my grandmothers old stash.  They are mother of purl with greenish tint in the crevices.  Perfect.   I think this is the nicest purse I've ever made and it did turn out big enough to add baby things to!  I'm planning on making up a sort of wrist wallet/mini purse to put inside this.  So all I have to do is grab one thing to throw into the big diaper bag when I need it.

After a successful sewing session with my Wasp Bag I started on a diaper bag.  This one took me longer to decide on.  There are so many patterns out there for diaper bags and I really wanted on that didn't look to "diaper bag"ish.  I want to be able to use this bag after I'm done using it for the baby.  I settled on this pattern.  For the fabrics I decided to go bold.  To use something that I normally wouldn't.  I've had these fabrics in the house for a few years now.  They are both heavy weight metalic quilting cottons.  I actually have this same pattern in a baby blue, light sage green, and a purply fuscia.  I used some plain ol' white for the interior as I had nothing that co-ordinated good enough.  It'll make it easy to see inside.  

Front of the bag.  Close up shows how the exterior is actually three pockets. 
 The back of the bag has one large pocket with a velcro closure.  I eventually want to make a co-ordinating changing cloth that will go in this pocket.
For this pattern I added a key fob thingy and more pockets.  It closes with a magnetic snap on the flap. I used a medium weight fusible interface on the straps, bottom, and exterior pockets.  And a light weight fusible interface on the interior.  It really made the bag nice and sturdy.   There is soooo much room in this bag.  With all his things there is still room inside for an extra blanket, water bottles, etc.  This bag will carry us for a long time.  And, I have to say the colors look so much better in person.  These night time photos aren't doing this bag justice.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pfaff 2140 = Heaven

I never knew what I was missing out on.  Until I got a new sewing machine.  I've only ever had a basic sewing machine.  You know, the kind that you can buy at Costco, Walmart, Joannes, etc.  I've read and heard from other sewers that there is nothing quite like a heavy duty machine what will continue to sew until you sew no more.    They are sooo right.  After months of looking around for the right machine for me, we finally came home with one.  We ended up at our local Sewing & Vac store.  I knew I wanted two things:  Auto Tension (the bread and butter of all things! and a longer arm)  After being shown every top of the line sewing machine in the store, my hubby noticed a previously used Pfaff sitting high up on a shelf.  Not only was it in our price range, but it does embroidery as well!!  She pulled it down off the shelf (I think she was still hoping that  we would go for the $4000.00 machines that she was trying to sell us) and we plugged it it.  It has auto tension and a medium length arm. The arm length isn't as long as I was hopping, but this was the only machine with auto tension that was under $2000.00.  After playing with the machine for over an hour she packaged it all up and we went home. 
 Here she is in action.  I've done some embroidery on it.  Which is very very cool.  I can download designs from the internet and send them to the machine.  I forsee many cute diaper bums in my sons future.  The greatest thing about this machine though is the sewing features.  It has a IDT foot in the back. (basically a built in walking foot) It'll cut the threads, knot, needle down, etc.  It has hundreds of stitches to choose from.  Even fonts.  And, you can design your own stitches right on the screen.  I've barely begun to use all that this machine has to offer.  I'm planning on taking classes from the store I bought it from. 

I'm hoping that this machine lasts me a good 10-20 years.  I don't see why it won't as long as I take care of it.  Here is my first completed project.  Super cute!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Cael turned 6 months old on February 26th.  Same day as my 31st birthday.  I can't believe how fast the time flys by.  He's doing everything that a 6 month old should be.  He's rolling over, babbling like crazy, and a few days ago... he sat up.  All by himself!  I can't believe he can do that already.  You plop him down and for the most part he will just sit there.  He's still learning to use his balance to keep from flopping over, but he's doing great.  Such a big boy! 
Bonus picture of the kids on the 25th of February.  It snowed and snowed that day.  Teeny tiny little snowflakes.  It was bitter cold and even with it snowing all day it really didn't pile up to much.  But, it sure made for some winter fun!

Preparedness - SHTF – We'll Be Ready For Anything!

A few months ago I stumbled into a new obsession. Long Term Food Storage. I found it purely by accident when trying to figure out how to cook beans and how best to store them after I did so. Basically food storage is just that... you store extras of the things you use most as well as things that will store for years and years. Now I realize that this is not a “new” thing. People have been storing food forever. They stocked up during the harvest time to be prepared for the winter. For the most part people have stopped doing this because you can go to the store and buy whatever you want, whenever you want. It's nice that we don't have to worry about where our food comes from, but I also think it's very naive. In these economic times I don't think we can be to careful. Why not stock up on essentials with today’s price to use tomorrow?

My favorite website is I even got their ebook and have begun following some of their recipes and ideas for storing stuff. My current stock is fairly basic and not to huge. But, it's a start. Check out my pantry! With the amount of dry / canned goods I've bought I needed to completely clean out my pantry and make room. I'm even going to unearth space in my laundry room for non-food items and long term storage items.

I found these on clearance at Freddies.  They were around $1.50 each.  I wish they had more.

Here is a list of some of our current supplies:
50 lbs of Hard white wheat
20 lbs of White rice
10 lbs of Oats
4 lbs of Instant Dry Milk
3 lbs Salt
26 Cans of Soup
30 Cans Of Beans
20 lbs of Various dry beans
About 50 cans veggies, cream of soups, tuna, etc.
10 bags/boxes of Whole wheat pastas

There are other things too, but not enough of any one thing to mention. I'm going to add in some hygiene things this month as well as some meds and vitamins. I would love a suture kit and a dentist kit with those stick on cavity filler things. We are also looking for some water barrels. You won't live long without water! There are many on Craigslist right now, we just have to go get some. Other things I'm stocking up on is clothing for the kids in bigger sizes, (I bought the baby some things 50% off at Goodwill the other day is size 4T) paper products, food storage recipes, etc.

Making The Best Of My Food Storage: To make the best of all the basic goods listed above (and others that I have yet to buy) I am planning to rotate my foods. Basically you actually use your stored goods and replenish regularly. This way I'm using what I store and the family is used to eating it! Supposedly it'll lower our grocery bill and help us to eat much more healthy.

Can Rotating System... I made these with the instructions here.  I'll be making more of these!

 Little antidote: The past year I have been fighting to move our families eating into a new direction. All whole grains, fresh / frozen veggies, etc. No Pre-Prepard / Boxed Food! We have been doing really well. I think the only meal we eat out of a box anymore is Mac&Cheese. Anyways... Months ago I was grocery shopping and I ran into a friend of mine. (she calls me “Betty Crocker”) My cart was ½ filled with veggies and the rest was whole ingredients for our dinners for the next month. (I was about to do my once a month cooking). Her cart was filled with boxed everything. Now I know that she cooks healthy things and her family is very healthy. She just cooks from a box. But, it made me realize how far I've / we've come in the past year. Remembering this story makes me hope that by next year I'll look into a pantry & laundry room and see a very prepared and even healthier way of cooking.

New Equipment: Having raw ingredients like wheat makes you need new equipment. We are on currently on the prowel for a grain mill. You need a way to grind the wheat into flour! We are currently looking at the Country Living Grain Mill and the Champion Juicer with Grain attachment. They are very very different from each other, but the Juicer one is electric which is nice. I also want to get a pressure canner and learn all about canning and preserving. This next spring/summer I want to can all our fruits for next winter. (my kids hate fruit from a can) I've also learned that you can pressure can meats! It makes sense that you can do that I guess I just never really thought about it before.

Talking to the kids about why mommy has just bought 50 lbs of wheat & dry beans: My oldest is very perceptive. She took notice of the extra food stores coming into the house as well as all the chatter between hubby and I about storing food, water, and other basic supplies. We told both of the kids that it was just smart planning to have extras around for many reasons. Including power outages, big storms, natural disasters, job loss, etc. (I didn't want to go into things like food shortages and major food price increases) A few days later she “confirmed” what we had told her by asking me “So all this stuff is just in case the world ends? Like in that movie 2012?” LOL! I love that girl. I giggled and told her it was more just in case of small things like storms that knocked out power, snow, etc. This was the night of the 10th. Yeah... the next morning the kids found me glued to the TV watching about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I think this really helped her understand why it's important.

So Much Information:  There is so much to know about food storage.  Where / how to store it, how to use it regularly, when to buy, what to buy, what not to buy, etc.  Check out the internet if you want to get started yourself.  There is sooo much info out there. Of course you can ask me questions here.  I'll answer the best I can, but I'm still learning myself.