Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Paper Bag Basket

I'm doing some gift baskets for marketing purposes. Last time I just went to The Good Will and got a few baskets for $.50 or so each. But it was hard to find ones that were 1) not ugly, and 2) the size I wanted. Also I wasn't convinced of their cleanliness, and I wasn't sure how to wash them. Plus that's money, even if it's $.50. And it feels weird to have to go back and buy more baskets every time I want to do this.

To the PINS!

Found this ...

DIY Upcycled Fruit Basket

and this ...

Both of them have the strips folded over the top and back down into the basket, which I didn't want to do (because it would mean the strips had to be pretty long).

Here's how I did mine ...

1) Stock up on (or steal) some paper bags from the local grocery store. *Hint: hit up a self-checkout lane and double-bag to your heart's content. Also that rack of self-scanner guns at our Stop and Shop has a stack of bags so you can bag your groceries as you shop -- grab a stack and run!

Paper Bag Basket (1)

2) Cut the bag flat (like you would to make a book-cover). Cut up one seam, then around the base of the bag. 

Paper Bag Basket (2)

Paper Bag Basket (3)

3) Decide how long and how wide you want your strips. I made mine 3" wide, so when folded over they'd be about 1.25" wide, because that seemed to look nice. I wanted my basket to be about 9" square, which means the strips needed to be 18" long (9" across the bottom, and 4.5" up each side). 
Measure and cut.

Paper Bag Basket (4)

Paper Bag Basket (5)

**Now, I'll be honest, I came to that 18" long because the bags I used first were 18" long. It just happened to work out really well. However, at my next shopping trip, they only had smaller bags (about 14-15" long), so I cut 3" wide strips, taped them together, and then cut 18" strips from that.

Paper Bag Basket (6)

However you do it, you'll end up with a pile of strips. You'll need 20 strips for this basket (it will vary for different sizes).

Paper Bag Basket (8)

4) Fold the strips hot-dog style, leaving about a 3/8" to 1/2" lip.

Paper Bag Basket (9)

Then fold the lip over.

Paper Bag Basket (10)

Do that 19 more times. 

Paper Bag Basket (11)

5) Now pick your color! Sew around folded strip, back-stitching or lock-stitching at the beginning and end.

Paper Bag Basket (12)

Paper Bag Basket (13)

Paper Bag Basket (14)

6) Lay six strips (or however many you're using) right-side down, then basket-weave six more strips through them. Keep them straight and tight.

Paper Bag Basket (15)

Check that the weaves are centered by measuring the strips on each side.

Paper Bag Basket (16)

7) Hot glue the corners and under each strip along the edge.

Paper Bag Basket (17)

Paper Bag Basket (18)

8) Fold up each strip to make a crease for the corner.

Paper Bag Basket (19)

Paper Bag Basket (20)

9) Attach another strip, following the basket-weave pattern around the edge.

Paper Bag Basket (21)

Paper Bag Basket (22)

Paper Bag Basket (23)

Attach another to make it all the way around, if needed.

Paper Bag Basket (24)

Paper Bag Basket (25)

Attach with hot glue.

Paper Bag Basket (26)

Repeat with more strips around until you reach the top of your basket.

Paper Bag Basket (28)

10) Fold over any excess strips so the top is even all the way around.

Paper Bag Basket (31)

11) Take the final two strips and fold them hot-dog style.

Paper Bag Basket (30)

12) Glue the folded strip over the top of the basket, all the way around.

Paper Bag Basket (33)

Trim any tips of strips still poking out.

Paper Bag Basket (34)

Make sure to glue underneath all folded pieces to the top layer lays flat.

Paper Bag Basket (35)

And you're done!

Paper Bag Basket (39)

**Note: because this is made out of paper bags, it will NOT be water-proof. I might try a clear spray-paint on one someday, but until then, it's just for dry things.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Learn something new

T-1 day until the kiddo goes to preschool. And since I'm a slacker and don't have a real job -- instead deciding to go on the Wonder Woman track and have 6 jobs -- I'm taking time to actually learn some good techniques to make my knitting look better.

Just this week I've learned ...

Corrugated Ribbing, where you change colors ribbing to make vertical stripes. Tip: When carrying the yarn across the back, keep it loose so there's room for the ribs to stretch. Also, if you wrap the yarn the same way every time, it makes a very neat pattern on the wrong side (though it does mean you have UNwrap it more often).

Cast on Ribbing. I thought I knew how to do this, but it turns out my made-up way is not actually the right way. This way (where you insert your needle IN BETWEEN the stitches (instead of through the front loop) makes a very nice, stretchy rib and a clean edge -- great for mittens and hats. Also a 2x2 rib variation here.

Jogless Stripes in the Round. I swear I look this up every time (for knitting and crochet) and never remember how to do it.

Attaching Granny Squares. My Granny Square Christmas Tree Skirt is almost done ... just have to attach all the squares together. Uhg. I like the Invisible stitch, because it's, well, invisible. And it won't add any volume to the skirt, since it's already HUGE!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Burnt Out Wonder Woman

I've also been searching for the perfect Burnt Out Wonder Woman meme, where we see her the day AFTER being so Wonder-ful, saving the day and taking care of shit. Cause the next day I'm sure she's totally strung out and can't seem to form a complete thought, get anyone dressed, or feed them anything remotely resembling food.

The past few weeks have felt like that -- alternating between being a kick-ass multi-tasker and a bumbling bag lady still in her PJs at 11am ... ok 5pm. It seems I can never quite find that middle ground, that happy medium between productive and relaxed, where the house is clean but not obsessive, the parenting is "just right" -- good enough, because anything more than that is, let's be honest, lost on the 3 year old.

No, I'm only ever at one extreme or the other. Let's take last week. Freelance gig revved into high gear and I did 20 hours of work from my kitchen table; D's wedding handkerchiefs are due oh so very soon that I'm pressing and hemming fabric next to my laptop while simultaneously rendering said freelance gig; Newborn Care class on Saturday meant I was finalizing the lesson plan and practicing the lesson with the child (luckily, bathing and diapering a baby doll is the same as 'playing', so 2 birds); and Etsy is doing very nice things for me lately, so DURING class on Saturday I got an order for a Notre Dame Baby Sweater (Go Irish, indeed). Also, you know parenting. And general self-care. And the keeping of the house. My husband said that he wouldn't let me become a "home-maker", which is why, I think, he's so willing to take the kiddo (and the dog) away on Saturday mornings so I can teach class. And some weeks I'm totally on top of things like dinner -- remembering to defrost something deserves a freaking medal. And when I set up activities for the child, I'm all "give me a mom of the year award, please".

But more often than not, those weeks when I do 3 out of 7 of my jobs at once (freelance TV planner, Childbirth Educator, Knitter/home-made wedding favor-maker), the last four (house-keeper, mother, wife, self) usually get thrown to the back-burner and left to boil over/burn/curdle. I let the kid watch movies all day, I don't shower to eat anything good, and we have pasta and meatballs for dinner -- and don't get me wrong, pasta and meatballs are awesome, so I'm usually not too worried about that one. It's when the kid eats cereal for the 5 meals and snacks leading up to pasta and meatballs that I start of feel guilty.

Oh the guilt. Really, it's when I let any of these 7 jobs slide. I feel like I'm not networking my classes enough, I'm not getting D's handkercheifs done fast enough. And heaven forbid I take a day/night off to just chill out with a book. And it's all me ... no one else is putting pressure on me except me. But I'm a bitch, so when I do it it's totally not in a nice way.

But the alternative is actually DOING all 7 of the jobs, after which I am so burnt out that I can't do ANY of them. Cue mom and kid in their jammies all day, effing around on facebook. Aaaaaand cue more guilt.

Maybe more lists is the answer?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Words of encouragement

Made especially for The Unstoppable Mrs. Kinne.

Toddlers are hard. Babies are hard. Nursing is hard. Parenting is hard. Work is hard. Life is hard.

But you're Amazing. Loving. Generous. Talented. Smart. Unstoppable.

And yes ... Awesome.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Frosted Mini-Wheats Breakfast Bars

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars - Title

We eat a lot of cereal. A lot. Ro's favorite is "Wheats" (Frosted Mini-Wheats). And because we eat so much cereal, we've come up with ways of stretching that cereal budget. When it comes time to stock up on diapers and wipes (and dog food, and paper towels, and toilet paper, etc.), we do an Amazon Subscribe & Save order. If you order enough stuff, the discount is even more, and one of the things you can order is Frosted Mini-Wheats. Also, the Malt-o-Meal brand is a very nice rip-off. Both of these solutions, however, result in a vast increase in the amount of leftover frosted wheat shreds at the bottom of the bag once the cereal has been eaten (the Malt-o-Meal just has a lot of shreds, and the Subscribe and Save order tends to find the box crushed by the dog food, so ... our bad, I guess).

So what do you do with those shreds? (Is "shreds" a word?) Throw them out?! "Oh no," said my friend Andrea, who apparently eats as much cereal as we do. She developed a recipe for her own Frosted Mini-Wheats Breakfast Bars, and they are delicious.


** Side-note, I finally decided to learn to take proper pictures of food, because SOMEONE [eh-hem, Christopher] has been dragging his feet on actually writing his cooking blog, the one he's been talking about for at least a year. I figure if I can take some good pictures of his cooking, he'll actually write down his recipes. So these are my first attempts at REAL foodie shots. **

Also, understand that you need A LOT of shreds to make these, so you'll have to save them up over a few boxes. For a Printable version of this recipe, click the "Print Friendly" button at the bottom of this post.

Frosted Mini-Wheats Breakfast Bars
Re-printed with permission from Andrea Williams Wan.

Makes 10-12 bars.

3 cups frosted mini wheat shreds
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (1)


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In a large bowl, mix mini-wheat shreds, flour, cinnamon, and salt.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (4)

3) Add shortening, butter, and vanilla, and mix with an electric mixer on low. Add eggs, mixing after each egg.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (5)

4) Form into half-inch thick bars of desired size and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.

5) Bake for 8-10 minutes, until bottoms are toasted. Cool on a wire rack.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (6)

6) Melt chocolate in microwave or in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water. Stir as chocolate melts.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (9)

7) Drizzle or spread melted chocolate on top of bars.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (14)

Store in sealed container ... if you don't eat them all on the first day.

Frosted Mini Wheats Cereal Bars (17)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wedding Program Handkerchiefs, continued

D and Y are getting married in OCTOBER!!! It's time to finalize their Wedding Program Handkerchief design. I paused on doing anything more with this project until now, just in case something changed (and it's a good thing, since she wrote the other day and said "HANG ON!" ... one of her Maids was iffy about whether or not she'd be there).

But I think we now have the final program, I have the fabric, and I have a printer that works (which was an issue until about a week ago).

A little more background on how we designed this bad boy. I'm a big fan of MS publisher, especially because D and I both had it on our work computers. I designed a basic template for her using a folded card template (you know those birthday cards you'd make in computer class in grade-school, where you just had to fold it into quarters?). I decided to go with this design so we would only have to print on one side, and we can fold the handkerchiefs like, you know, handkerchiefs. I put together some basic text boxes and images for her, along with some margin-guides to make sure we kept enough room for the hem. She was able to play with it this way, work on the wording and change around the order of things, and then send it back to me.



**Note: basic margin guides are fine for planning, but make sure you measure how you are going to fold AND embroider the edges, and adjust the text margins accordingly. After a test print I realized I hadn't left enough margin for the stitch we're putting around the end.


Wedding Handkerchief - margin

Final Testing ...

I wanted to test a few ways to ironing the paper, printing, and hemming these before I started mass-producing.

Cutting and Printing

First: Cut paper and Fabric separately, then Iron together.
Using one of the extra fabrics (not the one D chose) I cut both the fabric and freezer paper to 8.5x11" and ironed them together. However, the fabric SHRUNK as I ironed it onto the paper! So the paper was 8.5X11, but the fabric was more like 8x10.5". Oops! All the text got on there, but there wasn't enough room to fold and hem nicely.

Wedding Handkerchief - Shrink

Lesson: Iron your fabric FIRST to see how it behaves BEFORE ironing onto the paper. Better yet, wash it too. (see below).

Second: Iron Paper and Fabric together, then Cut.
Again, using one of the extra fabrics, I ironed the fabric (and let it shrink), then put a large piece of freezer paper on and ironed them together. Then I measured an 8.5x11" piece and cut out. In this test I also tried out multiple pieces of freezer paper placed side-by-side (to see if I can use the scraps leftover by cutting 8.x*11 pieces). This worked VERY well.

Wedding Handkerchief - Straight Edge

I didn't even have to tape the edges down before sending them through the printer (which is not super annoying to do, but it takes time and the tape makes the edges fray a little).

Wedding Handkerchief - Taped Edge (1)

Wedding Handkerchief - Taped Edge (2)

The multiple pieces worked ok -- there was a little bump and it looks like it got some ink on it, but after taking the paper off and ironing, it's really hard to see. At first I thought it may not be worth the extra hassle of doing this, just to save buying one pack of freezer paper, but then ... see Measuring below.

Wedding Handkerchief - Multi paper

Wedding Handkerchief - Multip Paper (2)

Wedding Handkerchief - Multip Paper (3)

Third: Wash the fabric, dry, iron, iron paper and fabric together, then Cut.
The Rice Cotton is really nice, really soft. But I wondered if it would feel even better after a washing. The site where I bought it says you can machine wash it, but as it had some rough edges, I just hand-washed it in the sink with some wool-lite and let it air dry.

Wedding Handkerchief - Wash (2)

The fabric I washed was noticeably softer, and there was no difference in printing.

Wedding Handkerchief - Wash

And it wasn't a huge deal to wash it. Though washing and hanging 10 yards of fabric in my bathroom might be tricky.

Wedding Handkerchief - Washing 1


News flash, I'm not a good sewer. I routinely sew my fingers to my projects, bleed on my sewing machine, and one of these days I am going to somehow thread my hair into the lower bobbin, I just know it. I was never "trained" in sewing. So I have two problems with this project: 1) corners totally flummox me; 2) I really REALLY don't want to pin 200 of these just to get a nice edge.

If I take my time, I think I can press the edges under and I won't need to pin anything. Burning myself, on the other hand, is a major concern. I may need to institute a No Coffee/No Wine, only pre-9pm rule for pressing these edges.

The Rice Imperial does NOT press easily. I was nervous about using steam, as I didn't want to get the ink wet, but without the steam the iron did nothing.

Wedding Handkerchief - Pressing - different fabric
Cotton Tester vs Rice Imperial, no steam

Wedding Handkerchief - Pressing - steam (1)
With steam, better, still not great.

Again, I don't want to pin, so some of the online "here's how to make a perfect corner" ideas are not going to work out. I did find this:
http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/2008/11/hand-hemstitched-linen-handkerchiefs.html, which says you can just cut the outermost square of each corner, and fold. I think this will work, now that I know I need steam to get the edges to crease.

Wedding Handkerchief - Corner (1)
(Note: this is the test cotton, which presses nicely).

After a few more tries, I think I have found a nice system: Press the "second fold" (the bigger fold) on each side around. Then go back and tuck under the "first fold" on each side, starting in the center and moving left; do the "left side" of each edge around, then go back and press from the center and moving right -- this gives the fabric time to cool off before you tuck the other side. Then cut the square from each corner, and fold and press each corner. Press down the corner with the tip of a metal tapestry needle as you bring down the iron, which creates a nice crease without getting your fingers too close. Turn fabric right-side up and press once more.
Note: After running these through the sewing machine, I figured out that the corners should end up Right-over-Left, so the sewing machine can just go straight to the edge, turn, and then sew over the fold.

This is the part that worries me the most. D wanted a "fancy" stitch, but I think a straight stitch may be better. I don't want a busy stitch to take away from how beautiful these are going to be on their own .... plus, I don't want to eff it up.

I played with a few of my test pieces that I'd pressed before. I swear, I could do anything with that first cotton, the one we're not using. That edge could cut glass (which is WHY we're not using it), so it was so easy to stitch straight. But the Imperial is so delicate, the "fancy" stitches just grabbed and pulled and did NOT look good.

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (3)

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (6)

I did a straight stitch and sent a picture to the bride, who agreed it was better. Phew!

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (7)

The corners got a little funny, because the foot-thing was getting caught on the lump of the corner. Not pulling the fabric down, but not letting the top layer move back along with the bottom layer. I might have to just turn the needle manually on the corners, lifting the foot to make sure it moves correctly. However, only one of the testers had the "good" corner technique, and none of them had the Right-over-Left corner, so that may help dramatically.

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (12)

And I need to practice back-stitching cleanly (or lockstitching?) so I don't get this at the beginning/end.

Wedding Handkerchief - Embroidery (10)


As described earlier, we went with Rice Imperial Cotton Batiste, from OnlineFabricStore.com. It comes 60" wide, which means for 200x  8.5x11"-pieces, we need about 10 yards (5x across (landscape, 11"), times 40x down (8.5") = 340" = 9.4 yards).


HOWEVER!!!! ...
Freezer Paper comes either 15" or 18" wide by 13 or 16 or so yards in each roll (depending on the roll size). When I originally planned my materials, I figured I would cut the paper and cut the fabric to 8.5x11, then iron them together. But now I know that you get a cleaner edge if you iron the paper to the fabric and THEN cut. If your freezer paper is 15" wide and you lay the paper in rows, approximately every other row of rectangles will be made of two sheets of freezer paper. That ends up fine going through the printer (see test above).

However, because the paper is not exactly divisible by 8.5, if you kept this pattern of laying the freezer paper next to itself, you'd eventually get one row of rectangles where 8" or so is on one paper row, and 1/2" or so is on another paper row. That's going to run through the printer very well.


So that row I move down the rectangles a little, basically start the pattern over from the top. However, those few inches means that I'm hitting EXACTLY at 10 yards long ... which is dangerous.


Throw on at least another yard (or 2) for testing, messing up a few, etc.

If your freezer paper is 18", then it's a little easier. 18" is just over twice 8.5", so two rows of rectangles fits nicely. If you make 20 rows of paper of 18" paper, that's 360 inches, or 10 yards. So it comes out the same.


Freezer Paper
Freezer paper comes in rolls of 13 1/3 yards (480") or 16 2/3 yards (600"). Using 15" paper, we need 1380" (57.5" x 3 strips x 8 sections) = 38 1/3 yards. That's 2.8 rolls of Freezer paper, so 3 rolls. Big Y / Reynolds doesn't let you buy partial yards of Freezer paper. Using 18" paper, we need 1150" (57.5 x 20 sections) = 32 yards. That's 1.9 rolls, so 2 rolls.

I have NO IDEA how much thread I'm going to need. I just bought 4 rolls of a beautiful burnt gold color, which will go nicely with the flowers in the print. Hopefully it's enough.

Now that we have everything, Game Plan:
  1. Hand-wash fabric, hang dry.
  2. Measure and trace the 8.5x11 rectangles on sheets of 57-57.5" (x 18" wide) freezer paper, which will cover 5 rectangles across (55") and two down (17"), with some paper left on each edge for clean cutting.
  3. Iron fabric, and iron on Freezer paper, one long sheet at time. Cut rectangles.
  4. Print (I want to print right away, I don't know if the paper will start to separate from the fabric if I leave it took long). Remove paper backing.
  5. Repeat a-bagillion more times, until you have 200 prints. Maybe do 1 set per day/night.
  6. Have a stiff drink.
  7. Wait for still drink to wear off.
  8. Press edges of fabric to set hem (batches of 10 or so? work until I hurt myself?)
  9. Stitch around hem.
  10. Repeat a-gillion times.
  11. Fold and Ship (Mother of the Bride wants to do the final ironing).

Ok. Let's do this.