#coronavirus- sewing family cloths

TMI WARNING; In this post I will be talking about toilets and what goes into them. If you can’t talk poop…read another post.

When I started using the camping bidet (henceforth known as the bidet) instead of toilet paper, one thing I was not happy about was the wet and dripping behind. While it is a small thing to deal with in the face of a global pandemic it is slightly uncomfortable. As usual, I turned to the internet to research a work around. I had considered family cloths as an answer to the toilet paper problem, and decided they were too much work; with soaking and rinsing and individual washing, not to mention the smells (of which we have enough already). However, using family cloths to dry the bottom area after a good hosing with the bidet, that seemed to be an easily implemented answer.

From what I have read, it seems that all I need is some relatively soft fabric, capable of absorbing fluid and preferably made from a natural fibre. I looked through my fabric stash and found a likely candidate… an old flannelette sheet. I cut out some smallish squares (15cm X 15cm) and overlocked the edges to prevent fraying.

I have a few old sheets in my stash. They are so useful.
Using a quilting board to cut out my squares.
My pile of 40 or so family cloths.
Darby goose looks on curiously.
A big pile of overlocked squares, ready to be used.

Next I found a container to hold the clean ones in the toilet and a bin and cloth bag to hold the used ones until wash day. The cloths will be washed with the underwear in a warm wash with soap nuts and lime essential oil.

The cloths are on the left in that little container, it holds 30 squares. The toilet paper is for my partner to use (and visitors…eventually).
The basket for collecting the used cloths. the toilet is in one of those camping shower tent things, so the hanging pockets come in handy here.

This little project couldn’t have been any easier. Within an hour I felt like I had solved the problem. This is one easy way to solve the wet bottom problem.

Making beeswax wraps

My new stash of beeswax wraps

My youngest daughter recently sent me a present which included three beeswax wraps, which I put into immediate use. I use them to cover the bowl while I proof bread, while resting pastry, I use them to wrap lunch for the day, to wrap cheese in the fridge and to wrap the bread in the cupboard. I love them, and three is not enough for the various uses I put them to. So I am making more for myself (of course).

First, I need cotton fabric. The wraps need to be made from 100% cotton, so I looked at old shirts, old sheets and in my fabric stash. I found some likely candidates, but nothing that stood out as 100% cotton; it is very hard to find something second hand that is all cotton (at least in my house). Next I went looking at Spotlight online, and I found some very colourful (school themed) fat quarters. I ordered enough to make piles of new wraps.

Next we need beeswax (as a starting point), I have always got organic beeswax on hand as I use it to make soap, hand creme, furniture polish, etc. I did come across some tutorials that recommend using ingredients such as pine resin and jojoba oil to help make the wraps more antibacterial and longer lasting. Eventually I came across a kit that was for sale locally. I ordered a test kit through Ballina Honey The kit came in record time and contains everything I need to make my wraps except the fabric. There are some beeswax chunks, a bag of pine resin and a small pouch of jojoba oil; I am now ready to go…

The ingredients and materials (and a cup of coffee)

The instructions in the kit gave three options…

As I was looking for the simplest method, I chose to heat up the required 2:1:small splash ratio of (respectively) beeswax, resin and jojoba oil in a pot on the stove. I floated the pot in a larger pot of water to make a double boiler.

Melting beeswax, resin and jojoba oil

Then I tried to paint the wax mixture on with a paint brush. This was not very sucessful as the wax seemed to take forever to soak through. I speculated that this was because it was a fairly cool day. The surface of the fabric was left lumpy and caked. So on to method two.

Ready to start brushing on wax mixture
The results were just too patchy and lumpy.

I put the fabric between two pieces of baking paper and ironed it with my tiny little 12 Volt sewing iron. This worked to a degree, but because it takes so long to heat up it was a very slow process.

After using the ironing method and the oven method.

When I was sick of ironing (it doesn’t take long), I put the fabric on a baking sheet and popped it in the oven for a few minutes. This worked really well and I decided this was the way to do it.

So for the next several hours I popped pieces of fabric in the oven with the premade beeswax mixture.

Ready to pop into the oven with grated wax mixture sprinkled over it.
The melting is slower in the oven, but much more uniform.
Then the edges were trimmed with a pair of pinking shears
The resulting pile of sticky wraps for school lunches and such.
The whole pile fits into a lunch box in the cupboard, ready for use.

I love using these wraps, and they will reduce our use of cling wrap and aluminium wrap. I wonder if I could make some oiled cotton to sew bags and things out of?

Re-covering an old lounge- part three- the arms

As predicted, the lounge recovering is going slowly. This weekend I managed to cover the arms of one armchair. I don’t mind taking my time with the job though, I am learning so much along the way. The fact that the whole pile of work-in-progress is sitting in everyone’s way is annoying, but we are coping with a minimum of snarky comments and stubbed toes.

The inside arm covering was not without it’s challenges. There was a broken piece of frame to be fixed and a lot of tucking and stapling to do…

This is the broken arm support. We just screwed a piece of 2 X 1 pine over the top of it and it held well.
The first arm all stripped down to the foam.
First I covered the arm with some new cotton batting.
Then cut a big rectangle of the fabric and started tucking and cutting little slits before stapling it all in place.
The front of the arm really needs some help. I think I will have to untack it and trim the cotton wadding back a bit to reduce the puckering.

I do love the wheat colour of the fabric, but I am learning that I have to go very slowly on this project or I make silly mistakes like putting the wadding too far forward over the front of the arm. Oh well… on to the inside back next.

Making some fabric organizers for the humpy

I enjoyed making my fabric boxes so much that I decided to make some smaller ones from the scraps left over. These little hold-alls have the advantage of being able to squash into a smaller space because they are flexible. The process of making them is also really easy;

Cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of interfacing to your desired size. The size could be a square or a rectangle, as long as you can match one side to the other. I went with 30cm squares to make these small trays because that is the size of the scraps I had left over.

Fold your lining in half and sew up the sides with the right sides together. Do the same for the outer fabric, the interfacing can be sewn to the back of the outer lining at this point.

Fold the corners down so that the side seam lays on top of the bottom fold. Decide how wide you want your base to be and mark the measurement. Sew across the corner and trim the excess. Do this for the outer and inner fabric pieces.

Turn the outer fabric right-way-out and put the lining inside. Fold down the lip of your new fabric tray or bin and sew around the lip to make a nice neat seam.

Now fill your new hold-all with all the little pieces of junk laying around.

They are so much fun to make, I think I will make a heap of them for my clothes draws. They are a great stash buster too, my fabric stash is down to a manageable size in such a short time and I have very little fabric waste from making them.

New yarn storage system

wow…I have such a lot of yarn. Hand made, recycled and gifted, you name it, I have it. In my push to make more room in my seriously overcrowded craft room, I bought one of those fancy cube storage units (yes, it was a wrench to part with that much cash and yes, I did find a second hand one on GumTree the day after I bought it). We put it together one day after work, when we were both tired and cranky (which accounts for the fairly large ding in the wood of the bottom piece). We are still married, so I think we passed the IKEA test, the one where you have to put together some modular furniture as a team before you decide you are compatible.

This photo was taken after I started making bins for the spaces.

Once the unit was up and in place I went looking for a pattern for those attractive and useful fabric storage bins. I found heaps and was really looking forward to making a dent in my fabric stash when I ran across a problem; interfacing. I don’t usually use it at all, and all the patterns say I need something to stiffen the sides of my bins (makes sense). So off I went looking for an alternative. Soon I found a clip of a woman making storage bins from old clothes, she used rice bags as interfacing…and that’s when I had my lightning-strike-to-the-brain idea. Why couldn’t I use old feed bags as interfacing? They would be noisy and crinkly, but that doesn’t matter for something that will spend most of it’s life sitting on a shelf. The bags are prone to breaking down in the sun, but they would be covered by fabric, and indoors. The poly bags may be slippery and hard to sew, I found some posts about people using them to make bags, so it is possible. I decided to give it a try.

I found this YouTube tutorial to use as my basic pattern idea, I just made them bigger.

First step was to make my pattern; I wanted cubes that were about 30cm square, so I made a simple net pattern out of newspaper.

I used my newly organised fabric draws to find some fabric for these boxes.

I ended up with some interesting options. I’m not the sort of person who worries about things matching.

Next I cut out pieces for the outside and lining of my boxes.

I cut some pieces of feed bag to use as interfacing.

Then it was a simple matter to sew up the bins as instructed by the tutorial.

So far I have five done. My plan is to make a bin for every space in the cabinet and store all my yarns in them. There are still three huge plastic boxes full of yarn to go.

Some tips I have discovered along the way; use grain bags not chaff bags, the weave is too loose on chaff bags and they fray really easily.

The chaff bags fray a lot.

The grain bags are easy to sew and give a good amount of stiffness to the bins, but they are just a bit too small for the 30 cm square bins. I sticky taped two together to get a sheet big enough, it seems to have worked.

This bin is made with the grain bags.

So far I have really enjoyed this project. Hopefully my yarns will be visible and usable once it is finished.

Sewing myself a new file bag for work

Now that I have the fabric and the card woven strap made for my file bag, I can start the sewing-it-together step. I decided to keep the pattern I had rather than making another strap (laziness).

I found a really good tutorial for making a messenger bag on YouTube which I am going to (loosely) follow.

First I cut out a single piece for the two sides of my bag and a piece for the flap. I also cut corresponding pieces of lining material and some cotton batting I was lucky enough to find. I sewed the batting to the lining pieces to make them easier to handle.

Then I sewed the side seams of the bag up and made those cute little corners (like I did for the tote bag). I did the same for the lining pieces. I also sewed the flap pieces together, right sides facing but leaving the top edge open so I could turn it inside out and top stitch.

Then I fiddled around with the best way to put all the pieces together so I could sew up the around-the-mouth seam of the bag. That one seam attached the handle, the flap and the inner and outer pieces together, but only if they were in the correct order.

Eventually I figured out the sequence (and then didn’t photograph it, but it’s the same sequence as in the tutorial video) and sewed the whole thing together. I turned it all right side out through a small hole I had left in the seam for the purpose.

After the small hole was sewn shut, I had my bag.

I have really enjoyed this little project and it has come together much faster than I would expect. No, it’s not perfect; the seams are wonky and some of the weaving is a bit dodgy, but I made it, I had fun doing it and I have something useful at the end of it. What more can I ask from life?

Make a tote bag from hand woven fabric

I am busily using up scrap yarn from my overflowing stash. As part of that I wove a piece of fabric that is frankly…um…mixed up; I used all sorts of fancy yarns in the weft, eyelash yarn, boucle yarn and a little bit of ladder yarn. All that in no particular order, colour or pattern, just throwing in a little bit here and there.

What to do with this fabric? I decided to make a tote bag.

First I cut it off the loom and overlocked the edges.

I gave it a wash too, to test for shrinkage.

Next I cut a lining the same size and some handle material.

Then it was time to sew up both the bag and the lining into basic bag shapes. Leaving a small hole in the bottom of the lining to turn the whole thing inside out.

Sewing across the bottom corners gives the bag a nice square bottom. I didn’t forget to measure the same distance down the corner seam on each piece. I sewed the lining corners the same way.

The corners were folded so that the bottom seam and the side seam lay on top of each other; the seam you can see in the photo below is the side seam, it is laying on top of the bottom seam. This makes a sort of cross seam at the base of the bag.

Finally I sewed the top of the outer bag to the inner lining. The handles can be pinned between these layers. I went over the handle joins more than once when sewing this part; handle joins are subject to a lot of strain. The handles need to be looped downwards with the ends facing up towards the top of the bag, when sewing the top seam (I learned that the hard way).

Yes…the handle is the wrong way around. I had to unpick and re-sew the whole thing with the handles the right way around.

I turned it all inside out (or right side out) then sewed up the hole.

There’s the bag done. Not too bad for a scrap yarn project.

Now on to spinning more yarn to make more fabric to sew more things.

Making a canopied mosquito net for a bed.

After sleeping on the same bed for 34 years (different mattresses of course) we finally bought ourselves another one. For a long time now, my partner and I have been sleeping on a Queen size water bed converted to hold a mattress. I went into labour with both my daughters in this bed (while it was still a water bed; don’t get me started on getting out of a water bed to a phone in full labour…it’s a story with many rude words and gestures). The old girl has been through a lot and is still functional, but we wanted something we could hang mosquito nets from. We have tried hanging those tent-like nets over the bed (many times), but the bother of climbing in from the bottom of the bed (because they only have one entrance) and getting tangled in netting through the night has always been painful. So mostly we just put up with bugs and geckos (sometimes frogs) on the bed in the middle of the night.

I did some thinking and researching of ways to hang a mosquito net over the bed in a more comfortable way. I came up with a few ideas, but they all had drawbacks and some were expensive. Until one day my partner said “Why don’t we just buy a four poster bed?”.

Traditionally the four poster bed was used to keep people warm at night, it is sort of like sleeping in a tent inside your bedroom as the curtains help keep body heat in and a smaller space to heat makes it warmer for the sleeper. They also gave some protection from rats and cockroaches as the curtains could be tightly closed. So a four poster bed with a Winter curtain and a Summer curtain is what we settled on.

We considered buying a new four poster bed…too expensive and feels like a cop out.

We considered building a four poster bed…too expensive and time consuming and my partner wasn’t keen.

We considered buying one second hand…the best option by far, but they don’t come up for sale often.

Recently I saw a four poster bed listed on Facebook in a local town. I messaged the current owner and negotiated a price and a pick up date. Because the car is broken down (again…) we have to wait for 2 weeks to pick up the new bed, then it will need some work as it has a little damage to the joins in two places. While I wait for all this, I’m going to sew us a canopy.

This is the photo from the ad. She’s a Queen size and doesn’t come with a mattress.

First I need the measurements of the canopy part…a message to the owner is all it took to secure those.

Then I need to sketch up a rough design; we wanted a four poster that is functional not decorative. We want to be able to block out bugs in Summer and cold in Winter. That means I will need two canopies; one for blocking cold and one for blocking bugs but not breeze. Armed with these design criteria, I set off on a design adventure.

By the time I got around to actually doing anything on this project we had picked up the bed and my partner put it together while I sewed the curtains; perfect timing.

I said they were preliminary.
My partner putting the bed together.
The new toy he had to buy to do it.
Together, made and waiting for curtains.

The old mosquito nets I had saved to make the curtains all had too many holes in them to be useful. I fell back on one of my favourite fabrics; muslin. Muslin always makes me feel so delicate and diaphanous, it floats, it’s see through, it lets air blow through it, perfect for a summer curtain for the bed.

A spare Queen sized sheet in a light, cotton material will be the top or roof of the curtain..

Now I just need to pin the curtains to the top, making sure to overlap them at the openings so there won’t be a gap. Sewing it all together (which took AGES) and trying it on the bed to make sure it fits.

Sewing the curtains together.
One of the many fitting sessions during construction. I decided to sew up the corner seams so there is no gaps in coverage.
I even added some fairy lights in the hope of attracting fairies.

The curtain works really well. We could hear beetles and insects zooming around outside the curtain during the night, but none got in. This was a really satisfying project to make and fairly easy once I got past the feeling that I was sitting in a sea of fabric while I sewed every seam.

The Winter curtain will be made in the same way, except with heavier materials. I am thinking of weaving a piece of woolen blanketing to make the top and some flannelette sheets as the curtains. I have wanted to make blankets for some time, maybe this is the time to do it.

An up-cycled wardrobe – a simple top

 I finally got around to making some tops, not that I’ve been running around topless. I’ve been wearing my hand made pants, skirts and undies consistently for a while now and people have got used to seeing me in them. Kids have stopped asking me if I wore my pyjamas to school, adults have stopped looking startled as I approach and animals react as they always have (because they generally don’t care what you are wearing, or even if you are dressed at all, as long as you carry a feed bucket). Time to introduce a new twist…..

My top is a really simple sleeved shirt, made from an old quilt cover. I love this material, it has a little bit of shine to it and a subtle pattern. I think it’s a man made fibre of some sort (hard to get that shine on natural fibres) but it is up-cycled.

The finished product.

My first step was to find a pattern. There are a lot of free patterns out there for tops, but most of them are for stretch material so I decided to make my own.

I found a handy tutorial (here) which is for stretch sewing but I modified it. I followed the instructions but made the pattern much bigger, allowing for a longer sleeve too.  I made it for half the top (as you can see in the photo) and cut on the fold so it would be symmetrical. In the end I cut a square neck line into it too.

This is my ‘pattern’ pretty simple huh?

Next I cut out two pieces using my pattern and sewed the top of the sleeves together using French seams to minimise fraying.

I love the colours in this fabric.

 Then I sewed the side seams and hemmed the sleeves and bottom. The neckline got a special treatment. Because I cut the neck opening too big (forgot to halve the measurement for the neck opening) I sewed some edging elastic around it to create a gathered edge (the same way I put elastic on undies (see here). I really like the finished result.

I made sure I used French seams on the whole lot.

Ta da

I like this pattern so much I made another one straight away from 100% cotton.

My second attempt

What do you think? I’m planning on making a few more tops using this design, then try something a bit harder.

Up- cycled wardrobe project- a really comfortable house dress

On one of my infrequent trips to town recently I discovered a queen sized quilt cover in a second hand shop (for the queenly price of $5). It was made from good quality cotton, in lovely colours, so I bought it for my sewing projects. I did consider using it on the bed as I do need new bed spreads, but in the end I couldn’t resist the colours.

I decided to make a simple summer house dress, and by house dress I mean a dress to wear at home, in the paddocks, in the bush and occasionally in the house. The first step was to find a simple pattern to try…along comes ‘Greenie dresses for less’ a great blog about up-cycling. I chose the convincingly labeled ‘easy summer dress‘ pattern and away I went.

This is the finished dress on it’s hanger.

My first step was to unpick the side and bottom seams of the quilt cover.

Yes it did take a long time; almost an entire Youtube documentary about mermaids.

Then I cut out two rectangles of fabric 107 x 97 cm each, cleverly keeping the hemmed bottom of the cover so I don’t have to do it later.

I sewed the side seams up using French seams (so I don’t have to zig zag the edges).

This is the finished French seam, aren’t they so neat and tidy.

This is my ironing set up. The old iron is solid aluminium and very heavy. I use the frying pan to keep the bottom clean while I heat it up to iron.

Ironing the seams and such. I love the smell of fresh ironing.

The almost last step was to sew up a pocket for the shoulder straps to go through.

The iron made this so easy to do.

Then I made the shoulder straps. I decided to make some cord (or rope) to use as shoulder straps. This is so easy and quick to make. The ‘recipe’ is…take some lengths of yarn, cord or string, make sure you have about double the length you will need (more if you have a lot of pieces). Attach one end to a hook or something (another person is good if you have one handy), then standing at the opposite end twist the cord away from you until it is full of twist energy. It should try to twist back on itself if you slacken the tension.
When it has enough twist in it you can fold the piece in half, keeping tension on the length as you do this. Make the cord by releasing small lengths of cord from the folded end a bit at a time. Finally tie a knot in the end and there is your cord.

I know it sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Give it a try and see.

I measured out three metre lengths of bamboo yarn until I had nine lengths in total.

The final result

These house dresses are not fancy, (or even flattering on me), but they are cool and comfortable and allow me a full range of motion. I think I will sew up a few more.
Next time I think I will make the back much shorter than the front so it gives me a smoother line at the back. I also might make the shoulder straps longer so I can adjust the fit more.

What do you think?

Oh, and I dug out my old corset to see what it would look like with the new dress. All I can say is I know why tavern wenches were so easy to talk out of their clothes…those things are hard work.

It didn’t last long on.