DIY / My projects

May 2, 2012: How to dye a garment

For the past month or so I have been searching for the perfect navy or black blazer. I wanted something light and casual, but dark in color to make my outfits a little more formal if I needed it. I finally was able to find a nice linen blazer that actually fit me pretty well (I’ve found it’s hard for a petite woman to find a jacket that fits correctly!) and was inexpensive to boot. The only problem was that it was a dull mid-blue color, and I really wanted something dark. I went ahead and bought the jacket, and decided to try my hand at dyeing it, and I am happy with how it turned out! The details are below:

What I used

-A garment to dye (in this case a jacket)

-One bottle of Rit dye (under $3 at Walmart)

-Table salt

-A large bucket

-A long metal kitchen spoon

What I did

I simply followed the directions on the bottle of Rit dye. For some fabrics it suggests you add either salt or vinegar. Because my garment was linen, it required I add a cup of salt to 3 gallons of hot water. After mixing the salt in with the water, I added about half of the bottle of dye, and mixed it well. I then added the jacket and stirred the garment at regular intervals.

Apparently you can dye the garment in your washing machine, but that made me a bit nervous so I opted for the bucket method. Once the jacket had been in the dye for almost an hour I was happy with the color and rinsed it with cool running water in my kitchen sink until the water ran clear. I then washed it in my washing machine with detergent and set it out to air dry.

The finished jacket! It is comfortable, light and just the right color. I may try this in a few weeks with white jeans. I just need to decide on a color :)

April 30, 2012: Painted mirror frame

On Thursday I helped a friend of mine paint a mirror frame. It was a fun, easy little project. She was kind of enough to send me the photos she took. Here’s our process:

The mirror “before”.


Lightly sanded.

First coat painted…a nice minty blue.

Unfortunately the lighting was pretty bad as it was a dark rainy day…but we lightly dry brushed a milky white over the blue.

Close up.

All set, on the wall!

I’m glad she let me help…it was a fun little project that took up just a few hours in an afternoon. It’s always more fun doing projects with friends :)

March 29, 2012: Painted terracotta pots with chalkboard paint labels

Ever since the beginning of this year I have decided to try my hand at a number of homemade things in an effort to save money. One project I have very much been looking forward to is trying my hand at planting herbs and vegetables. I have never planted before, so I decided to start small with a few herbs and cherry tomatoes. Even though it isn’t much, I know it will save us some cash in the long run. Because we hope to be moving in closer to the city this summer or early fall, I want to be able to bring my plants with me…therefore container planting seems to be the way to go. I decided to paint some terracotta pots to pretty them up a bit!

What I used

  • Leftover house paint (I started off with yellow, but I decided I didn’t like it, so later mixed other paints to make a nice minty color)
  • Thompson’s water seal (this can be found at Lowes for about $5)
  • Chalk paint (0.69)
  • Terracotta pots (I got these at Michael’s using a 40% off coupon…making it 4.79 for the two of them)
  • A paintbrush

How to

1. Spray the interior of the pots with a coat or two of Thompson’s water seal. This ensures the paint on the outside won’t be ruined from the absorbent clay.

2. Wipe down the pot with a damp rag to ensure the pot is completely free of dirt and dust (and price label).

3. Paint the pot with a thick coat of paint.

4. Paint the inside rim, where the dirt won’t cover.

5. Get some chalkboard paint (a little bottle can be found in most craft stores), along with a paint brush and some painters tape (didn’t realize I wanted it until after I took the photo).

6. Tape the guidelines. If you are a perfectionist, measure away…I just eyeballed it.

7. Fill in the guidelines with the chalkboard paint.

8. Let the paint dry completely, then remove the tape. Get out some chalk and label it up! Two adorable painted pots with a labels, all for about $12, seeds included.

I think having these plants will save us more than $12 this summer, so I consider it a worthy investment (not to mention reusing the pots each year)!

P.S. I have since added soil and planted my seeds. I have little basil plant sprouts, but the parsley hasn’t showed up yet. I hope it makes it!

February 13, 2012: Homemade liquid hand soap

Last Friday I decided I would try my hand at making homemade liquid soap from a recipe I found on this cute blog called The Farmer’s Nest. I must say the recipe turned out well, and I am quite happy with it. I really wanted to find Mrs. Meyer’s basil scented bar soap, but couldn’t seem to find it anywhere (I could have purchased it online, but I wasn’t quite that desperate). So, I ended up using Trader Joe’s Oatmeal and Honey soap instead…it was easier to come by and less expensive.

If you’ve tried another recipe that works for you, I’d love for you to share it with me!

February 10, 2012: The birthday details

I loved creating the little details for Rafe’s birthday party, and wanted to share how I did them. Really, none of it was genius or difficult, but I think as whole it turned out quite well. Here’s a photo of the spread, in case you didn’t see it before:

First the Happy Birthday banner. I wanted it to mimic the circles on the title page of the book, like this:

I simply found some marbled construction paper from a local craft store and cut the circles out using an upside down glass bowl as the template. I then just used a Sharpie marker to write out the letters.

For the caterpillar on the wall, I was originally inspired by a Pottery Barn kids themed party and paper lantern caterpillar, found here.

Because I didn’t want to pay at least $6 for each lantern, I decided I could recreate a less expensive version with balloons (I paid a total of $2 instead at the Dollar Store). Though it wasn’t quite as fancy, it was certainly easy to assemble, easy to take down, and got the point across :)

Finally the food label cards. I think these were actually my favorite.

I knew I wanted to plan the party menu around the food the Very Hungry Caterpillar ate on his journey to becoming a beautiful butterfly. I also knew I wanted the guests to catch on to the menu items, so I went to a used bookstore near my house and was able to find a mini copy of the book that wasn’t a board book (on my way to the bookstore I was trying to think of the best way to cut and put the thick cardboard on the label cards)…so I was so glad to be able to find a paper version! I simply cut out the pictures from the book and glued them to the cards, adding the book’s narration as a little touch.

Those are the main little details. I also found the layout for cupcake/cake display on Pintrest and although I never got around to the legs (read about the birthday cake fiasco here), I still had a lot of fun with it!

February 3, 2012: Simple homemade onesie for my (almost) one-year-old!

My son’s first birthday is coming up quickly and we are having a small family gathering to celebrate this coming Saturday. I have seen some really cute onesies with the number “1” on them in several stores and decided I could make my own by repurposing a slightly stained onesie we already have. The nice thing is, the “1” just happens to cover the stain! This is certainly a project (covering stains with other pieces of fabric, that is) I am pretty sure I’ll do a lot in my life as mom. Here’s the tutorial:

What you need:

  • A onesie
  • A fabric swatch (approximately and inch larger all around than the shape you hope to make)
  • Scissors
  • An iron
  • A sewing machine, or needle and thread
Here’s how I did it:

I first held up the onesie to my son to get a rough estimate of where the onesie meets his pants. I kept my finger there and marked it with a small pencil dot.

Next I put the fabric swatch over the area to choose how big the “1” would need to be.

This next step is important. The first time I did this, I flipped over the fabric so the back side was up, and then I penciled out a “1”…that was correctly facing me. When I flipped it back over, I had a backward “1”! Oops :) So, needless to say: Flip the fabric so the back side is facing up, and pencil out your shape backward.

Next, I clipped the corners and folded each side down, ironing them into place.

I safety-pinned the “1” to the onesie so it wouldn’t move (it actually did move a bit and it is slightly uneven…and I don’t have enough time to be obsessing over the slightly crooked 1 on my son’s shirt. It’ll still be cute!), so I would recommend maybe three pins.

I started at the top and sewed down.

Left the needle down and turned the fabric. I kept doing this until I had sewed all around the fabric and carefully back-stitched.

And there it is!

January 29, 2012: Sweater remake

As one of my goals this year is to repurpose items that I don’t use into things that I will use, I decided to try changing a pullover sweater I never wear (that I’ve had since high school!) into a an open sweater that I can just shrug on and off. I am not an amazing seamstress, but I think this project turned out well for me, and I am very happy with it!

Here’s what I used:

  • An old pullover sweater
  • A sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • A needle and thread

Here’s what I did (see photos below):

  1. I separated the “v” at the bottom of the neckline and cut along the horizontal seam, separating the two folds making them into “tabs.”
  2. Then, I found the middle of the sweater and cut a straight line vertically, following the knitted pattern down the length of the sweater.
  3. Next, I re-sewed the bottom horizontal section of the “v”, then  folded the raw vertical edge under and sewed.
  4. I then folded the “v” in such a way that the folded part at the top of the neckline slowly tapered down to the end. I sewed it horizontally, then vertically to ensure it would stay.

Finally, the base of the neckline wanted to turn out and expose the seams on the inside, so I simply got some black thread and tacked down the edge of the fold so that it tapered smoothly. And there you have it, a repurposed sweater!

January 13, 2012: Natural stovetop cleaner

Not only did the natural stovetop cleaner work, it completely cleaned my embarrassingly disgusting old stovetop! And it also worked better than the typical commercial kitchen cleaners…for a fraction of the cost.

Now, even though though it did work really well, I had to put in about an hour of my time and a lot of elbow grease. Lucky for me I have a pretty content 11 month old who was happy to sit in the peanut gallery (his high chair) and eat black beans and apple puffs and giggle at me as I scrubbed away.

So, here’s what I used:

-White vinegar

-Baking soda

-A kitchen sponge with a scrubby side

-A plastic fork (or any plastic utensil would work just fine)

What I had to work against:

I simply made a slightly watery paste out of the vinegar and baking soda (don’t be surprised when the mixture bubbles up when you add the vinegar), smeared it on the greasy stovetop and started scrubbing away.

About halfway through, my son needed his bottle so I made a thicker paste of the vinegar and baking soda and smeared it on the leftover spots to sit for 5 or 10 minutes.

After this I scrubbed a little bit more with the sponge but realized I needed something non-abrasive that would scratch the gunk off without harming the stovetop. So, I came up with the butt end of a plastic fork.

To my delight, this worked really well! It not only scraped the bits off easily, but it gave my fingers a break. After I started using the fork things went much more quickly and I was heartened to see my dream (I really did think it was a dream) of a super clean, glistening old stovetop become a reality. Sooo…

Blinding white! Clean! Sparkly!

Old ugly stovetop still old, but not ugly!

Really, I almost think it could be charming. Almost.

Thanks, white vinegar and baking soda! You all should give this a try if your stovetop needs a good little scrubbing.


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