Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Men's Dress Shirt to A-Line Skirt

It is summer!  I own one pair of shorts and rarely wear them...usually just around home.  When going our in public I prefer to wear pants or a skirt.  I really like maxi skirts but sometimes it is nice to have something a bit shorter.  So this summer I have re-fashioned two new skirts.  The first one was meant to be a trial run.  I used an old work shirt of Tony's.  It has a couple of small grease stains and the hems are a bit frayed but it has become a great skirt!  Perfect for casual days of housework and yard work or a trip to the park.  So a couple weeks ago when I was at the thrift store and saw another men's dress shirt (this time in a light weight denim/chambray) for a dollar, I knew what I was going to do!

This second skirt only took about an hour to make since I knew what I was doing this time!


1. Choose a men's button down shirt.  This one is a size XL.

2. Cut off the arms of the shirt.
3. Cut off the shoulders and collar of the shirt.  The longer you want the shirt, the less you want to cut off.  Pay attention to button placement when you cut so that you can use the buttons!
4. Turn the shirt inside out and cut into a A-line shape. I made mine as big as possible...if you have a very small waist of a very large shirt, you may want to adjust this so that it will fit you.  Sew the sides seams and finish your seams with your preferred method.  For this skirt I used french seams.
5. Try on your skirt and see how much you need to take in the waist (1 needed about 2 inches).  Draw and sew darts into the back of the skirt (the darts divide the back of the skirt into thirds).  My darts are an inch wide at the top and about four inches long.
6. Fold down 1/4 to 1/2 inch along the top of the waistband.  Use ribbon to create a casing for elastic and sew it down along the top and bottom edges.  Leave the sides (long the button placket open).  I used 3/4 inch grosgrain ribbon.
7. Inset elastic into your ribbon casing and sew down on each side of the button placket.  The elastic is not "necessary" but I think it gives a bit of added security and makes the skirt easier to sew because the fit doesn't have to be perfect but the gathering caused by the elastic is minimal so there is not a lot of added "gathers" to the waist/hips!

8. Here is your finished skirt!
My skirt ends just below my knees and as you can see, is slightly longer in the back...this is how the shirt was made in the first place and it works great for the skirt.  You may also want to sew along the button placket from below the buttons you want to use until the bottom button.  I found that the lighter weight material of this skirt seemed to encourage the buttons to come unbuttoned!  Depending on how the skirt fits on you and on the fabric,  you may want to add some hook-and-loop between the first and second button to prevent gaping, especially if you plan to wear your shirts tucked into your skirt.

Happy sewing!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Small Steps -- Summer Time Favorites

Summer is here!  
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 With the coming of summer comes the need for a few "summer only" things.  Here are my choices and easy substitutes to make your summer healthier:

1. Bug Spray...in Minnesota or state bird is the mosquito (or the Common Loon).  Mosquito and tick repellent is a MUST for fun outside, especially in the evenings.  I hate using DEET based repellent but if the natural stuff doesn't work, what do you do?  Last summer we discovered Lemon Eucalyptus repellent (Repel Brand and Cutter Brand) and it worked great!  This year I bought the essential oil and I will make my own bug spray!

2. Sun Block...We Minnesotans spend a lot of time indoors during the winter months (and when we are out of doors, all our skin is covered), so we may need a bit of help to prevent sunburn during the summer months.  Our family uses sun block very rarely...only when we are going to be outside for longer periods of time during peak times.  Our yard has many shady areas and we usually hit the beach during the less busy late afternoon.  Also we try to eat plenty of healthy fats and this seems to help prevent sunburn too!  

Katie from Kitchen Stewardship has an awesome and very comprehensive safe sunscreen guide.   My favorite is Mexitan, now called Tropical Sands.  Currently we have the Honest Company.  It has terrible reviews on Amazon.  I picked it up last summer at Costco because it was inexpensive and I was out of Mexitan.  It seemed to provide fine sun protection but is greasy and thick.  If we used it more I would definitely order more of my favorite but for the seldom that we use it I'll probably try to use it up this summer.

3.  100% Aloe Vera Gel and Lavender Essential Oil...if you do get a bit (or a lot) of sunburn dilute lavender essential oil with aloe vera gel and gently rub onto the sunburn.  It will help the pain and soothe the skin.  The redness will still be there but the pain of the sunburn will be reduced dramatically and it seems to heal faster.

4. Bentonite Clay...this stuff is amazing!  Stops mosquito bites from itching and takes care of a bee sting or wasp bite in minutes!  I wish I new about this stuff when I was working as a camp nurse!  I just have the bentonite clay powder that I form into a paste with water, but I'm going to pick up the pre-made paste to carry with me all summer.

5. Hylands Natural Poison Ivy/Oak Tablets...please try to avoid getting poison ivy; it is no fun!  But if you do get it (Tony gets it at least a couple times a summer) then this stuff works great!  Spread bentonite clay on the bumps and take the Hylands tablets and it will be almost gone in two days!

Those are my favorite and must have natural health-type things for summer.  What do you keep on hand for summer needs?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Small Steps -- Household Cleaners

A small step that can make a big change in your home and health has to do with household cleaners. 

The household cleaners you choose to use in your home greatly impact the indoor air quality.  Artificial scents can greatly impact your health...we notice headaches and sinus problems almost immediately when around artificial scents.

Choosing natural cleaners (or making your own) can greatly improve your health and it has even made room in our budget for investing in other things!

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Here are some simple substitutes for the cleaners in your home:

1. Instead of an All-Purpose cleaner use a mixture of white vinegar and water (I use a mixture of 1:1 vinegar and water).  You can add some essential oils for increased cleaning and to add a fun scent.  (I'm using up the Tea Tree Oil that I have, but then will change to a citrus scent!).

2. Instead of a glass cleaner, just use water...wipe with a damp rag and then dry...no streaks and basically free!

3. Instead of toilet bowl cleaner, just use your vinegar/water AP cleaner and spray and brush or use a bit of bleach...I've found that I need to use bleach about once each week.

4. Instead of using a soft scrub type product to clean the bathtub/sink/etc, use baking soda and a damp rag/sponge.  Scrub and rinse!  This works great for sinks and bathtubs...anything that rinses easily!

5. Instead of scented laundry soap, us a free and clear version...or better yet, make your own or use a pre-made natural "diaper safe" detergent.  I've used and loved Biokleen but I'm currently making my own with Zote, Washing Soda and Borax.

6.Dish Soap is where I struggle...we don't have a dishwasher so all our dishes need to be hand washed.  I need something that is going to work WELL and that is inexpensive.  I've found that some of the more natural options don't have quite the power I'd like to cut through grease.  Currently I'm using the Free and Clear version of the Up & Up brand (Target).  It works well and is inexpensive.  I've also used Seventh Generation and Biokleen in the past, and they worked pretty well. 

7. I have a large bag full of rags (old towels that I've cut up), that we use for pretty much everything.  I much prefer rags that need to be washed than having to constantly buy new cleaning wipes.  It's only an extra load of laundry each week and no folding!

There are many natural or "more natural" cleaning supply brands that you can buy at your local store (Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, Green Works, etc), but they tend to be more expensive than they "non-natural" counterparts and are definitely more expensive than my DIY versions...

What is your favorite natural cleaning solution?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Small Steps -- Kitchen Substitutes

A good place to start making your life healthier is to start with the food you eat...but this can also be VERY overwhelming! 

Start with a few simple substitutions:

1. Instead of margarine/vegetable oil spread, buy and use butter.
2. Instead vegetable oil/corn oil/canola oil, buy and use coconut oil (for baking/cooking/frying) or extra virgin olive oil (for salad dressing).
3. Replace shortening (aka Crisco) with palm shortening or coconut oil.
4. Replace white sugar and brown sugar with evaporated cane juice (it's still sugar, but at least not from GMO beets!)
5. Replace all-purpose white flour with white whole wheat flour (or start with half white flour and half whole wheat as an in-between step).  There really is a dramatic taste difference between white whole wheat and red whole wheat.
6. Instead of buying pancake syrup that is made from corn syrup and flavoring, use real maple syrup, honey or molasses (blackstrap molasses is even better but it is strong tasting!). 
7. Replace your iodized table salt with a mineral rich pink salt.
8. Replace your standard peanut butter with a natural one

Now, for those of you who are curious, this is what I buy and use:

1. Butter -- Kirkland Signature from Costco
2. Coconut Oil -- Kirkland Signature from Costco
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil -- Kirkland Signature from Costco
3. I haven't ventured into palm shortening yet...I just use coconut oil instead.
4. Evaporated Cane Juice -- Aldi (Costco has it for a good price too but you have to buy a bigger bag.)
5. White Whole Wheat Flour -- Walmart (Prairie Gold), Target (King Arthur), Super One/Ernies (North Dakota Mill)...I buy whichever brand is available at whatever store I'm going to when I need more.
6. Honey -- Kirkland Signature from Costco if I can't get a good deal on local honey
    Maple Syrup -- a special treat from Costco, I rarely buy this as it is so much more expensive than the other options.
   Black Strap Molasses -- I buy it by the gallon from Azure Standard.
7. Pink Salt -- I buy Real Salt from Azure Standard or from Vitacost.
8. Peanut Butter -- I buy the Kirkland Signature from Costco...or the natural peanut butter ground fresh from a local store.

Do these seem like easy substitutes for you to make?  Do you think your family will notice the changes?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Small Steps to a Simpler and Healthier Life

Making your home simpler and healthier is an overwhelming task... 
Where do I start? 
What should I change?  
What do I buy/use instead?  
I don't want to/can't DIY everything, but good products are so expensive!

The answer is "one step at a time".  Don't try to change everything all at once...you will be overwhelmed and want to give up...and then you'll feel guilty.  Each step you take will mean a simpler and healthier life for you and your family.
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Step #1
First things first.  Ask yourself "Why?"  
Why do I want to make these changes?  
What is my goal? 
What am I hoping to gain from this?  
Write down your answers; then when you feel overwhelmed and ready to give up, go back and look at this list.  It will give you a new sense of purpose and a renewed commitment.

Once you know why you want to make changes, you need to ask yourself if now is a good time to make changes.  
Do you have other major life change happening?  A new pregnancy?  A new baby?  Moving to a new house? etc...give yourself grace and time to make changes.

Ready for some change?  Comment with why you want to make changes!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Creating Capsule Wardrobes for Kids

I'm always looking for ways to simplify my life.  One way to do this is to create a capsule wardrobes.  I've pretty much done this for myself and now I'm trying to do it for my kids!  This lets them get dressed more easily each morning and tends to make laundry time easier for me!

I aim for eight to ten everyday/play outfits for each kid.  In the summer it is easier to think in terms of outfits rather than bottoms/tops since everything has to be washed after each wear anyway (unlike in the winter when they can wear a pair of jeans a couple of times before washing.)  I also plan three or four nicer/church outfits for each child.  I do laundry twice a week so this is more than enough!

They day after laundry day I lay out eight outfits on my bed that I like.  Then I ask them if they have any changes they would like to make.  Usually they are fine with my outfits or a a couple minor changes.  Then these clothes get put away and all other clothes get stored away out of sight.  I also do this with their nicer clothes.

In addition to their summer outfits I keep one or two pairs of jeans/pants and two sweatshirts available for cooler days.  I try to keep it to three pairs of shoes for each kid...one everyday play shoe, one pair tennis shoe, one pair church shoes.  Each child also has a light weight coat.

Ruthie's summer outfits.

Hannah's summer outfits.

Hannah's summer dresses...she mostly wears dresses so some of these are everyday dresses.

Asher's summer outfits.
I rarely buy my kids new clothes...pretty much all of their clothes, shoes and coats have been gifts and hand-me-downs or from garage sales and thrift stores. I am always keeping an eye out for clothes in the next size up (or two) when at thrift stores and garage sales.  I also always keep in mind what each kids needs for the next season...sometimes I even carry a list with me!  Any "extra" clothes we have or are given for the current season/next season is stored in a bin under their beds.  This way they are easy to get to if needed but "out of sight, out of mind".  If I haven't found something that we need by the time we need it, I am usually able to search one out at one of two local thrift stores or I watch sales and just buy new.  As the kids gets older it becomes harder and harder to find some things used...jeans and shoes for us!  However, I still have only gone to buy new a few times!

 A couple tips:

* Stick to neutral bottoms...denim, khaki, brown, olive...then kids can mix-and-match outfits and they still look good!
* Accept ALL hand-me-downs but don't look at ANY of them until you can do it WITHOUT the kids around.  You choose what you want to keep/what you need and then get rid of the rest BEFORE the kids see it!
* Think ahead...at least one to two sizes.

Do you have any other tips for managing kids clothes?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Pattern Testing the Megan Nielsen Sudley Blouse/Dress

Over year ago I signed up with Megan Nielsen to be a pattern tester.  I had been reading her blog for several years and love her creativeness and her pattern styles.  I bought myself her Brair T pattern for Christmas and loved it, so I was super excited to get a chance to test one of her new patterns!

The Sudley Blouse and Dress is just being released!  Here is what I made to test the pattern:



I made this blouse (version 1) out of a light weight cotton that I had in my stash.  I think the fabric was originally from Walmart at $1-$2 a yard.  The pattern and directions were easy to follow and came together easily, including the collar and the key hole as well as using bias binding to finish the collar and key hole. I love how Megan Nielsen patterns are so well made and professional: sizing was spot-on to my measurements and  everything matched up perfectly! 

As much as I loved the pattern, this blouse is not my style...this fabric, even though a light weight cotton did not have enough drape and the blouse looked too boxy on me. The collar was too big for my taste and the key hole was too big to want to wear it in the front (this blouse is designed to be reversible!).  This blouse was donate to the thrift store, but it was a great "muslin" to test the fit and pattern and the process gave me great ideas in the variation department!  That is another thing I love about Megan Nielsen patterns, so much variation potential!


I love maxi dresses for summer and was inspired to try a maxi version.  I like this one much better!  I used a rayon (I think?) from the thrift store.  The rayon was a much better fabric choice as the drape really helped the style of the pattern shine!  I made the collar and key hole smaller by 1 inch and added a very slightly gathered skirt at my natural waist.  I place 1/4 inch elastic at this waist line to cinch in the dress and added a self fabric belt so it would be a bit more polished.  I really like this dress and can't wait to wear it this summer!  If I were to make this dress again, I would just lengthen the pieces to maxi length instead of adding a separate skirt.  My shoulders are bigger than my hips so the boxy-ness of the blouse has enough room to just lengthen. 

This is my favorite version!  I made view 3 and lengthened to tunic length.  I used a rayon fabric from Walmart and used bias binding and french seams to finish it.  I did take each side in quite a bit in order to give the tunic some shape. 

This will gt lots of use this summer...it is comfy and washable yet a bit dressier than a t-shirt.

As I've said, this pattern has so much great variation potential!  I'm thinking about trying to mash-up the Sudley with the Briar for a knit version with the Sudley keyhole and the Briar hem...