Dyed Tea Towel Ladies’ Night

A few months back I held another ladies’ night.  I confess I stole the idea for this one from my sister in law!  After I gave out the hand stamped tea towels for her shower, she had the great idea to hold a party where guests would decorate their own!  My twist on it?  Instead of using fabric paint, I wanted to use fiber reactive dye paint, a medium I’d used in college and have been wanting to try again since.

First step was to make 7 tea towels in linen (or any plant based material or silk).  As I mentioned in previous posts I love the medium weight linen from fabric-store.com.  The bleached is perfect for dyeing.  I have instructions below on how to make your own tea towels. They are really quite simple.  If you don’t feel like making your own, you can instead purchase 100% cotton plain white tea towels.  Walmart has some, but they aren’t quite as nice as the handmade linen ones.

After I’d made the tea towels, my lady friends came over for wine and appetizers.  Then we tried to tackle the towels.  I provided some pre-made stamps and brushes.  For those who were more adventurous I also provided a linoleum cutter set and giant rubber erasers from the dollar store.  A couple of us used these to create our own stamps.  I’ll write about how to make your own stamps in another post because it actually worked rather well.

Ladies night dye table set up in my kitchen.

Next I mixed up several colors of dye paint using fiber reactive dyes with sodium alginate as the thickener.  Then we attempted to stamp or paint the towels.  The biggest problem with stamping was that the rubber stamps did not hold enough dye.  Had I been thinking more about this I would have remembered my dye book recommends a procedure for “flocking the block” for block printing which is almost definitely what would cause more dye to adhere to your print block.  To set dye paints without heat (I don’t have a steamer) you must let the dye permeate the fabric for 24 hours, which means it has to remain wet during this period.  The stamps put so little dye on the fabric that I’m certain they didn’t stay wet for 24 hours.  Stenciling and painting did work rather well with this technique since it really saturated the fabric.  In the future I’d recommend sticking to fabric paint for stamping, and dye paints for painting and stenciling.  Here’s a couple examples of finished designs!

Stenciled owls.

Handpainted “Tea Party” with stamped teapot and teacups.

Handpainted flowers

DIY Linen Tea Towels

You will need:

  • 1 yard of 60″ linen (this will make 3 towels)
  1. Prewash and dry your fabric.  This is very important with any natural fibers as they will shrink in the dryer.
  2. Cut linen into 3 20″x30″ rectangles (or whatever size you prefer).
  3. Press 1/4″ under on each edge.
  4. Press another 1/4″ on each edge to form a rolled seam.
  5. Open out the corners.  To make a mitered corner follow the below steps.
  6. Fold corner inward where the most inward set of folds meet.  Press gently.

    Open out fabric and press along the corner at the innermost point where the lines from your hem intersect.

  7. Turn corner inside out (right sides together)and pin along the line you just created when pressing in 6.

    Turn corner inside out and pin along fold you created.

  8. Stitch on the diagonal along the pressed line you created.  You want to leave the edge unstitched so you can fold it under so stitch only from where the outermost set of lines intersect to the fold OR you can leave the first fold intact, and stitch right over this.

    Stitch along pressed line you created, omitting the first fold in your seam.

  9. Trim corner so 1/8″ remains.

    Trim corner.

  10. Turn right side out and fold under the 1/4″ rolled seam if you left it in 8 (like I did).  Repeat with other 3 corners.

    Open out and fold under the rolled seam.

  11. Stitch along all edges close to the 1/4″ rolled seam.

    Topstitch along all edges, close to the rolled seam.

If my instructions for mitered hems are confusing, just watch this great youtube video instead!

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DIY Zafu Travel Meditation Cushion

A couple years ago I made 2 zafus for Will and I when I was outfitting my “meditation corner“.  I mentioned last time that I’ve been lugging one to work to use in my meditation group.  Unfortunately I really mean lugging.  They weight about 6 pounds each and are very unwieldy.  The first time I made the zafus I used this pattern.  This time I made my own variant which includes several improvements like an inner cover, a zipper, a handle and a smaller form factor.  The smaller pillow is perfect for me to carry around and only weighs a bit over 3 pounds.  If you want a wider cushion, widen the cushion and the inner cover.  If you want a taller cushion, widen the inner cover and add more buckwheat.

DIY Zafu with inner cover

What you need:

  • 1/2 yard of 57″ fabric for the cover
  • 1/2 yard of any width fabric for the lining.
  • 24″ zipper matching the fabric for the cover
  • 6″ zipper for the lining
  • ~3 lbs of buckwheat hulls

Unless otherwise noted, seam allowance is 1/2″.

Zafu Cover

  1. Cut your cover fabric into an 8″x57″ strip, a 10″ diameter circle and a 11″ diameter circle.

    Cut cover fabric.

  2. Iron 14 1″ pleats into the strip of fabric, leaving 2″ between each pleat.  The easiest way to do this is to pin at the 2″ mark, fold fabric under and press along the 2″ mark.

    Fold under fabric at the 2″ mark.

  3. Next take a ruler and move pleat depth out until it reaches 1″. Press again and pin.

    Pull fabric out under the pleat until it reaches a 1″ depth. Press.

  4. Repeat for other 13 pleats.  You should have a 1″ tail remaining if you have done things correctly.

    Finished pleats. 14 in total.

  5. Pin the two ends of the pleated strip together, right sides together.  Stitch 1/2″ from the edge.

    Pin ends of pleated strip together.

  6. Baste along all the pleats, 1/2″ from the edge of the fabric.  Repeat for other side of pleats.  Remove pins.

    Baste along pleats.

  7. Take the 11″ diameter circle and fold up 1″ along the edge and pin.

    Fold up edges of circle and pin.

  8. Pin the pleated strip to the circle, right sides together, along the fold in your circle. Stitch. Only do this for 6″ of the strip.

    Stitch folded over edge of circle to edge of pleated strip, right sides together.

  9. Take your 24″ zipper and pin it to the inside of the circle, overlapping the first and last 1/2″ of the zipper under the finished seam in 8.  Keep the fold along the middle of the teeth.

    Pin zipper to edge of folded over circle, keeping the zipper teeth centered on the fold.

  10. Using a zipper foot, stitch very close to the zipper teeth without hitting them.  You may need to move the zipper down, stitch a few inches, then zip the zipper back up and continue stitching to stitch around the zipper pull.

    Stitch with a zipper foot close to the zipper teeth.

  11. Zip the zipper and pin the other edge of the zipper to the right edge of the pleated strip.

    Pin other side of zipper to pleated strip. Stitch.

  12. Repeat step 10 to stitch the other half of the zipper.
  13. Unzip the zipper you just added, and pin the smaller 10″ circle to the other edge of the pleated strip, right sides together.

    Pin pleated strip to smaller circle and stitch around the whole thing.

  14. Stitch.
  15. Take a 4″x9″ strip of fabric and press in half the long ways.  Stitch 1/2″ from the edge.

    Stitch folded strip.

  16. Turn right side out and press flat.

    Turn inside out and press flat.

  17. Stitch 1/2″ from each edge of the tube.

    Stitch along both edges of strip.

  18. Seam rip a 1.5″ gap in the seam of the zippered side, in the portion where there is no zipper.  Insert end of handle in this gap and stitch closed.

    Stitch handle into side seams.

  19. Repeat for the non-zippered side, attempting to line the handle up with the pleats so it is even.

Lining

  1. Next create the lining.  Cut 2 18″ circles of scrap material, and pin them together.
  2. Mark a 5″ gap for your zipper and stitch around the entire perimeter, leaving the 5″ gap opened.

    Mark 1/2″ within each end of your zipper.

  3. Stitch.

    Stitch from one mark to another.

  4. Pin zipper to material, overlapping each end of the zipper with the seam by .5″ on each end.

    Pin on side of zipper to one side of material (right sides together). Overlap the zipper 1/2″ into the stitched material (past the mark you made in step 2 above).

  5. Repeat step 10 and 11 above to  attach the zipper.  Make sure the zipper is right side facing in while you do this.

    Stitch other half of zipper.

  6. Open out lining and stuff with buckwheat hulls. Zip closed.

    Insert buckwheat hulls into lining.

    Finished stuffed lining.

  7. Insert lining into cover and zip cover closed.  Mush around the pillow until it sits right.

    Finished zafu.

Sit!

Sit mindfully.

Close up of the pillow while sitting.

Close up of the zafu handle.

 

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Fun with Shibori

So I finally started attending the group sits offered by the meditation club at my work.  I’d never meditated with anyone other than Will, so meditating in a room with 8-10 people was a bit different for me.  I quickly found that I really enjoy it, so I’ve been meditating once a week with the group.  The other fun thing about the group is that some of the members decided that they would try to make their own zafus!  (They are even using the same pattern I used!)  I brought my finished zafus in to use at work and show off.

Unfortunately lugging that big cushion back and forth is a bit of a pain.  It doesn’t have a handle so I have to carry it in a big bag, and it is rather large.  So I decided to make another improved pillow to use at work that is smaller, has a handle and an inner liner.  (I’ll show you the finished pillow next week and the exact specifications I used.)  Well of course I couldn’t just use fabric I had lying around – instead I decided to produce some shibori fabric from the bleached white linen that I got for Christmas!

Since I’ve already tried binding and folding in the past, I decided to try stitching this time.  I found an awesome shibori book, and decided to try out the Hanawa Squares Shibori which uses both stitching and binding.  If you want to try it yourself, follow the steps below!  If you want to learn more about dyeing – I recommend reading Fabric Painting and Dyeing for the Theatre!  Remember to always follow the safety recommendations of all chemicals and dyes.

Shibori Hanawa Squares

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 yard of linen fabric
  • Synthrapol fabric detergent
  • Water erasable fabric marker
  • Heavy cotton thread
  • Needle
  • Fiber reactive dye (~1 tsp)
  • Soda Ash (~2Tbsp)
  • Salt (~1 cup)
  • A vessel for dying, gloves, and a stirring implement (to be used ONLY for dyeing)
  • a seam ripper

Step I – Shibori

  1. Wash your fabric in Synthrapol to remove any chemicals or oils.  This readies the cloth for dyeing.

    Wash fabric using Synthapol

  2. I like to tumble dry in the dryer to pre-shrink my linen before I sew it.  Linen shrinks 10-15% so if you forget to do this and pop your newly made linen shirt in the dryer you will be extremely disappointed.
  3. After the linen is dry I iron it completely flat by using the highest steam setting or spraying with water as I iron.

    Iron fabric flat.

  4. For the Hanawa Squares I needed to split my fabric into divisions.  I divided my fabric lengthwise into 4 equal segments.  I ironed on the fold to make the distinction crisp.

    Divide fabric into folds, depending on your width.

  5. Starting at the center fold I traced out a pattern of triangles equal size and equal distance apart using a water soluble fabric marker.
  6. On the next fold I traced out another pattern of triangles interspersed between the triangles on the center fold.
  7. I repeated this until all of my folds had triangular patterns along them, and the two lengthwise edges also had this pattern.  This meant I had 5 rows of triangles drawn out on the fabric.

    Mark triangles at folds.

  8. Next I had to stitch every triangle by hand.  I used two pieces of thread doubled over to make it extra strong.

    Running stitching along lines you drew.

  9. I stitched along the folds (stitching through 2 pieces of fabric) with the exception of the lengthwise ends where I only stitched through the single piece of fabric.
  10. After stitching each triangle, I gathered the fabric with the 4 pieces of thread and tied and knotted the thread.
  11. I repeated this for all the triangles I had traced.

    Picture after all the triangles have been gathered. It looks like a stalk of brussel sprouts!!

  12. Next step was to bind each of the gathered triangles. Using a doubled piece of thread I wrapped on the outside of the gathered fabric very close to the gathered stitches.  I tied and knotted to secure the binding.

    Tie just above the place with you gathered, and then again, slightly above that.

  13. I repeated the same procedure slightly above the first binding.
  14. I repeated steps 12 and 13 for all the gathered triangles.

    Close up of double wrapped fabric.

  15. Next it was time to dye.  As with my shibori tunic I used a fiber reactive dye with the linen fabric.  I chose PRO MX Fiber Reactive Dye from Pro Chemical in Raspberry.

Step II – Dyeing

For the meditation cushion I need 1/2 yard of 58″ linen.  After stitching it I weighed the fabric.  It weighed in at 6 oz.  If you have heavier fabric you’ll want to adjust the amount of dye and soda ash and salt.  If you can’t fit the dye in a 10 cup bucket you’ll want to increase the water.

  1. Weigh your fabric (in oz).  Mine weighed in at 6 oz.  See note above if you have more/less fabric.

    Weight fabric when dry.

  2. Fill a bucket with 10 cups of hot water.

    Add 10 cups hot water to vessel.

  3. Calculate your dye required. I used 1 tsp of dye for 6oz (170g) of fabric.  This is approximately 1.5% OWG (on weight of goods).  For more or less fabric, the calculation is to do weight of fabric * .015.  The resulting number is the weight of dye to use.  For ease of use I generally assume a tsp is 2.5g.  If you need to be more accurate you should weigh your dye.
  4. Paste out dye in a small amount of warm water and add to the dye bath.

    Paste out dye.

  5. Calculate the salt to use.  For medium shades you should use 150% OWG or 1.5* weight of fabric.  For me this was slightly more than 3/4 cup.  (Salt weighs about 76g per 1/4 cup.)
  6. Paste out the salt in a small amount of warm water and add to the dye bath.

    Paste out salt.

    Add salt to bath and stir.

  7. Wet the fabric under the faucet then when completely soaked, add to the dye bath.

    Wet out fabric.

  8. Stir for 10 minutes.

    Add damp fabric to dye bath. Stir for 10 minutes.

  9. Calculate the amount of soda ash to use.  For medium shades use 10% OWG.  (.1*weight of fabric).  For me this was about 2 Tbsp.
  10. Paste out the soda ash in small amount of warm water, remove fabric from the dye bath and add soda ash paste to dye bath.

    Paste out soda ash.

    Remove fabric from dye bath.

  11. Return fabric to bath and stir periodically for 30 minutes.

    Add soda ash to dye bath then return fabric to bath. Dye for 30 minutes.

  12. After 30 minutes remove the fabric from the bath and rinse under cold water until water runs clear.

    Remove fabric from bath rinse completely in cool water.

  13. Remove ties and stitching using a seam ripper.

    Remove stitching and ties with a seam ripper.

    Look how cool this looks..

  14. Hang the fabric to dry.

    Hang to dry!

  15. Once completely dry, wash the fabric again in cold water, then warm.  Then throw in the washing machine and wash with Synthrapol to remove any lingering dye.

Your fabric should now be colorfast!  Use as desired!

Look at this beautiful shibori fabric!

Tune in next week to see how I used this beautiful fabric!

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Basement Craft Room Tour

I have a rare treat for you today.  Come venture down to my basement and check out my craft lair room.  It is not everyday that I invite people into my secret sewing haven.  I have been promising for a bit to post an update on my basement sewing area reorganization.  Now that I have finally cleaned up and put away all the hat making supplies I can finally oblige.  I was inspired to organize and improve my basement area after reading a bunch of blog posts on people’s craft rooms.  I loved looking at those beautiful, cheery photos.  Unfortunately I am not a great photographer and my craft room is literally in the basement so you’ll have to deal with my amateur photo skills.

The first thing I did was move my fabric and craft supplies from brown cardboard boxes into clear bins so I could actually see what was inside.  I then labeled all the boxes by affixing card sleeves to the bins with double sided tape.  I added hand labeled pieces of card stock inside the card sleeves with the contents that lay inside.  This allows me to switch out the contents of the boxes and swap labels easily.  I went as far as to label all the drawers of my desk (which had been included with the underlying rug when we purchased the house.  This level of re-organization alone required me to reorganize my entire basement which  includes my workbench and tools and a laundry area – not an easy feat.

Reorganized shelves with see through plastic boxes.

Boxes labeled with plastic card sleeves and card stock.

Desk drawers labeled with their contents.

Inside the desk drawers, multiple labeled boxes hold craft supplies.

Because I now own a total of 3 sewing-type machines (sewing, embroidery, serger) I converted my old rolling kitchen cart from college into a stand for my embroidery machine.  It works perfectly since I don’t need to sit at the machine while it is working, and while I’m standing loading it, the machine is at the perfect ergonomic height.  Below the machine I keep additional craft supplies like embroidery thread, hoops and stabilizers plus numerous craft books and the overfilled bin I call “WIP” for work in progress.

Aside from the need for a better embroidery machine cover (this one is actually my sewing machine cover) this former kitchen cart is a great perch for my embroidery machine.

In addition to being mobile via its rolling wheels the cart also has a spot for me to wrap the embroidery machine cord when its not being used. The rest of the shelves house projects, supplies, and sewing books.

Next to my embroidery machine I took over an area for my cutting table.  I’d like to add another overhead light above the cutting table in due time.  The table was an old gate leg table my parents used as a kitchen table when they were first married.  First I re-glued the peeling formica top with gorilla glue and clamps.  Next I needed to adjust the height (bending over while cutting really does a number on your back).  I used home depot finials – they have the advantage of including a screw post, come in packs of 6 and the whole pack is only $10.50!  To install the finials I just had to drill a starter hole in the legs and then attach the finials.  Eventually I’ll repaint the table, but its functional right now.  Oh and the rug underneath was acquired for next to nothing for my hat booth!  I rented a rug cleaner to get out all the dirt!  Looks like new!

Before: the gate leg table needed some gorilla glue to repair the formica top.

Drilling holes for the finials to raise the height of the table to elbow height. This was the only “complicated” part of this project.

After: My new cutting table! The formica top is back to business, and the table is now at my elbow height with the use of some finials. (It could use a paint job, but it is fully functional!)

That desk in the corner houses all my paper crafts.  Amy and I picked up on the corner of a cross street during our run.  We noticed the free sign and took them up on it.  It is actually solid wood throughout but the sides are still covered by veneers that were badly damaged.  It was also completely covered in ugly brown paint.  I removed the ugly brown paint, repaired the veneers and re-stained the entire piece.  It doesn’t look half bad for a free desk and it is very sturdy.  I intend to use it to house a coverstitch machine if I ever decide to invest in one.  Oh and of course that desk was used at the faire too – more recycling.

Another view of my cutting table and rug. The desk in the background is my paper craft center.

Oh and check out my industrial serger! I need to outfit this space to make it a bit less dreary, but what a beautiful piece of machinery!

You’ll notice I’ve also hung the wonderful “Whimsical Brims” sign that my best pal Amy made for me.  I had been deliberating where to put it, but think it is just perfect in my workshop.  Beyond that I’ve hung several curtains.  In the background, in front of the oil tank I used 3/4″ PVC pipe to hang a backdrop of cheap bed sheets turned curtains.  In the foreground I used the same procedure to hang thrift store blue curtains and wide satin ribbon.  It is much better to look at that while I sew rather than the oil tank.

Note the absence of the oil burner from this photo! Exactly what I wanted to accomplish with my faux curtain wall. The Whimsical Brim sign front and center was created by my friend Amy. You may recognize it from the roof of my shop at King Richard’s Faire.

This set of curtains hung from the ceiling conceals a hidden secret: the dirty oil tank. My mom found these giant sewing scissors in the thrift shop and I added the sign and hooks to hang hats. Will carried it around the faire during the parade as our advertisement.

The oil tank is now hidden from view!

Finally you may have also noticed that I’ve outfitted my pegboard sewing cart.  The pegboard is full of rulers, squares and thread while the shelves house buttons, ribbon and other sewing supplies.  I’m even able to keep my ironing board on the side!  I’m quite happy with it, and it maneuvers smoothly around the workshop wherever I need it!

My fully outfitted pegboard sewing cart!

The shelves hide even more storage for thread, ribbon and sewing notions!

The side comfortably holds my ironing board when its not in use (rarely).

I hope you enjoyed my craft room tour and will be inspired to fix up your own space little by little.  Even if its not perfect the first time around, you can just call it a work in progress.

Posted in Crafts & Sewing, Home Improvement | 2 Comments

Reversible Freestanding Dice Bag

Will and I spent this past weekend at PAX East, an extravaganza of nerd-dom.  We played video games and board games, demoed a new role playing game, bought some dice, watched this comic strip drawn to life, hung out with lots of friends and even played a giant session of Secret Hitler.  It was definitely a great PAX and I can’t wait for next year!

Aside from PAX, Will and I have been doing plenty of nerdy things, including playing a campaign of D&D.  Will’s friend is the dungeon master and we’ve had some great times battling were-weasels, rooting out pirates and smugglers, befriending gnomes and following around our newly born mechanical front liner.   Many of the people in the group are in multiple campaigns and they have some nifty gadgets to make role playing games easier.

What Will was particularly coveting were their awesome dice bags like these and these.  The cool thing about these bags is that they are HUGE, they stand on their own, and they are reversible.  Not too shabby.  Well I decided to make my own version and give it to Will for Valentine’s Day (in addition to those Carbonite PB cups).  Mine is a bit different (because, well, I like doing things differently), but it boasts the same awesome features.

Freestanding Dice Bag

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 yard of upholstery velvet
  • 1 yard of double face satin ribbon
  1.  Cut 8 8″x6″ rectangles and 2 6″x6″ squares.  If you want to use 2 alternating colors, cut 4 8″x6″ and 1 6″x6″ of each color.

    Cut 8 rectangles, 2 squares.

  2. Place 2 8″x6″ rectangles together, right sides facing.  Pin on one edge, stopping 2″ from the top.  Stitch.  Repeat for other 6 rectangles.

    Pin rectangles on one side, leaving a 2″ gap from the top.

  3. Place 2 double rectangle pieces together, right sides together and pin along edges.  Make sure that the edges with the 2″ gaps are on the same side.  Stitch the entire length.  Repeat for the other set of rectangles.

    Pin two combined rectangles from above step along both edges.

  4. Pin one edge of the square to one edge of the bottom of the box you created in step 3 (right sides facing).  This should be the side without the 2″ gaps.  Stitch from the stitching to the other side of stitching.  Be sure to avoid catching other fabric in the seam.

    Pin bottom square to bottom of sides.

  5. Repeat with the other 3 sides.

    Repeat with other sides.

  6.  Repeat for second box bottom and box.

    Bottom of one finished half.

  7. Trim corners and seams on the bottom of the box.

    Trim corners and seams along the bottom of the bag.

  8. Press along the seams, even along the 2″ gaps you left at the top.

    Press seams. Pin two halves of bag together along top edge.

  9. Pin the two halves of the bag, right sides together, along the unfinished edge of the bag.
  10. Stitch.
  11. Turn bag right side out through one of the 2″ gaps you left.

    Turn bag right side out through gap.

  12. Adjust the bag properly, then pin the top of the bag.

    Pin the top of the bag.

  13. Stitch 1/2″ from the top seam, then stitch again, slightly above where the 2″ gap starts, about 3/4″ below the first row of stitches.

    Stitch 1/2″ top and 3/4″ from 1/2″ line.

  14. Using a yarn needle, insert 1/2 yard of ribbon through one opening of the bag, out and into the openings on the opposite end and back out through the opening next to where you started. Tie ends together in an overhand knot.

    Insert ribbon through bag cinch.

    Overhand knot end of ribbon.

  15. Repeat with the other 1/2 yard of ribbon, starting at the opposite openings.
  16. Fill with dice and enjoy!

    Finished bag, free standing while opened.

    You may have noticed the bag reads “It’s hard to be the bard”. Will is a bard this campaign, and that quote is from a play we saw recently called Something Rotten. (In the case of the play they are referring to Shakespeare, but I think it is equally applicable to DnD.)

    Look at all that room inside for dice!

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DIY Kindle Bookcover

Did I mention that Will’s siblings challenged us to read 20 books this year?  That probably doesn’t sound like a lot to most of you, but the last few years I haven’t gotten through more than 3 or 4 a year (especially if I’m reading George R.R. Martin).  Well we accepted the challenge and I’ve started reading a bunch of books that have been on my list for a while!  I’m on my 8th one this year.

The challenge all started when Will’s Aunt Elizabeth gave everyone a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas!  I have secretly always wanted a kindle, but have never actually gone out and purchased one.  The technology is just so darn neat.  Well now that I have one I realize that it is not just cool – it is SO CONVENIENT!   If you’re in Massachusetts you can even download library books directly to your kindle using overdrive!  This means I don’t even have to leave my house to have new books delivered to me!  Of the 7 books I’ve read this year, I’ve read 3 on my kindle, and I’m in the midst of my 4th.  The other 4 books I already had in hard copies on my shelf or had borrowed from friends.

While the kindle is convenient, light and portable it does have some drawbacks.  I have the problem of accidentally tapping the screen while I’m holding it, causing the page to turn prematurely.  This makes it a little awkward to hold.  Since there is no cover you have to gingerly hold the edges of the Kindle to avoid touching the “page”.  For this reason it doesn’t feel like you’re holding a book at all.  Of course they have dozens of types of covers you can purchase to remedy the situation.  My favorite solutions all look like books on the outside, and open to reveal the Kindle on the right hand side.

I decided to try my hand at making one.  If you’ve ever made a hardcover book before the process will look very familiar.   The good news is since I’ve made the cover I no longer hit the screen anymore with my fingers and accidentally turn the page.  I don’t have to be so darn careful with my finger positioning on the device when I hold it.  Make your Kindle feel like a book!

DIY Kindle Bookcover

What you need:

  • 12×12″ chipboard sheet
  • 12×12″ piece of scrapbook paper for inside
  • 12×16″ piece of scrap fabric for the outside cover
  • 7×6″ piece of leather
  • 4″ of 1/4″ elastic
  • Elmer’s White Glue
  • E6000 Glue
  1. Cut your chipboard sheet into 2 5.5″x7.5″ rectangles and one .5″x7.5″ rectangle.

    Cut chipboard into covers and spine.

  2. Lay your rectangles out on your scrap fabric like a book with the .5″ wide rectangle as the spine.  Leave 1/4″ between each rectangle of cardboard.

    Lay out chipboard on cover fabric.

  3. When you are happy with your arrangement, cover the back of each piece of cardboard with glue.

    Cover the back of each piece of cardboard with glue.

  4. Smooth the fabric onto the cardboard so there are no wrinkles.
  5. When all 3 pieces are glued to the fabric, then fold up the excess material on the top and bottom and glue, smoothing flat like the front.

    Fold up and glue the edges.

  6. Repeat with the sides, folding the fabric under into a triangle then gluing.

    Fold and glue the sides, pleating at corners.

  7. Put cover between 2 layers of saran wrap (or a large grocery bag) then put heavy books on top.

    Place cover between saran wrap or a grocery bag.

    Place books on top.

  8. Remove after an hour and let air dry completely.
  9. Cut your paper lining to 11.5″x7″.

    Cut lining.

  10. When the fabric has dried completely, cover the inside of the book with glue, leaving a 1/2″ edge.

    Cover inside with glue.

  11. Carefully center the paper lining on top of the glue and smooth out.

    Center the lining on top and smooth out.

  12. Again place a piece of saran wrap and a heavy book on top until dry.  When it dries you should be able to bend it to look like a book.
  13. Cut a 5″x7″ rectangle from your scrap leather.  Gently trim the corners so they are curved.

    Cut rectangle from leather.

    Curve corners.

  14. Cut 2 1/2″ strips of leather and using your kindle as a guide, lay them over the bottom corners of the kindle.  Mark the length of leather you need and also the location on the backing.  Make sure you avoid covering the location for the cable and the power button.

    Using scrap paper, position where the leather straps will go, avoiding the power button or charging area.

  15. Cut elastic in half and follow the same procedure as step 14 to line up where the elastic should go in the top corners.
  16. Using a leather needle and heavy duty thread, stitch very close to the edge of the leather backing.  When you get to the location of the elastic, make sure the unfinished edge of the elastic is under the leather backing.  Sew through the whole thing: elastic, leather, elastic.
  17. When you get to the location of the leather straps, position the strap where you want it on top of the leather backing and sew through both pieces of leather.

    Stitch elastic and leather holders to leather backplate.

  18. Trim leather straps as necessary.
  19. Finally, using the E6000 (and being careful not to breathe it in or get it on your hands) glue the leather backing to the right-hand side of the book cover.

    Glue leather to cover with E6000

  20. Let dry
  21. Enjoy!!
Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Galentine’s Day Spa Night

Well Will returned from Texas and brought me back the flu.  I’ve been in bed with a fever for 5 days straight.  Tonight I finally feel well enough to get out of bed and do something other than sleep or read 50 Shades of Grey.  Honestly its a good thing I had that book sitting on my bookshelf and have never bothered to read it because I finished Brave New World the second day and was not going back to the library.  But as usual I digress! Let me bring the story back to better times – last Monday – well before I was sick.  It seems like a lifetime ago!

Last Monday I held a Galentine’s Day party for my girl friends.  If you’ve read my blog at all you know I love hosting Ladies’ Nights.  Primarily because it gives me a chance to drink wine with my girlfriends, but secondarily it is an excuse to play Martha Stewart (and my friends are such good sports about it).  Well it may be dawning on you now based on the title of this post that another one of my idols (although fictional) is Leslie Knope.  I have a bit of a reverence for her.  She’s a type A go-getter like myself, and she is loyal and lovable albeit slightly abrasive.  Not to mention she has the same taste in men I do!  (I’m pretty sure they based Ben Wyatt’s character on my husband, but they intelligently changed his occupation.)

Anyway, if I were Leslie Knope I would have thrown a breakfast brunch for all my girlfriends.  But I’m not actually Leslie Knope so instead I threw a spa evening!  I think it was a total hit.  I set up several “spa” areas in two bathrooms, my living room and kitchen.  For dinner I served a buffet with a slant towards foods with health benefits. The buffet consisted of items that I could entirely make ahead so I could enjoy the festivities myself.  And as a special treat I had a traveling massage therapist show up and and give 15 minutes chair massages to all the guests.

I hope you’ll peruse my pictures of the food and activities, and gather ideas for your own spa event!  It would be a fun idea for a bachelorette party or bridal shower.

Spa Activities

It was suggested that guests show up in sweats or comfy clothes and bathrobes.  When guests arrived they were greeted and shown around the “spa facilities”.  I had the lights dimmed, candles in every room and a soothing playlist playing throughout the house.

Spa Menu


Face Masks

1st Floor Bathroom

Manicures/Pedicures

Kitchen/Living Room

Foot Spa

2nd Floor Bathroom

Massages

Study

Spa Dining

Dining Room

Alcoholic Beverages

Bar Room

Infused Waters

Kitchen

Facials

The first floor bathroom held the supplies for face masks: $2 Que Bella face masks from target, make up remover, face cloths, and towels.

A frame held instructions for the facials.

Everyone tried a different face mask – the colorful basket held different kinds of Que Bella masks providing different benefits. My guests had fun picking out the best one for them!  (I personally love all the peel off ones!)

Foot Spa

I provided epsom foot soak, foot scrub, and lotion and laid out towels and spa flip flops (from Sally’s Beauty supply).  I included the instructions for preparing the foot bath in a frame.

I purchased foot sized buckets so guests did not have to share the same bath water for their foot bath.

Manicure/Pedicure Station

I set up two stations for manicure/pedicures. This one held lots of nail polish, and nail polish remover.

The second tray contained manicure kits, emory boards, cuticle cream, lotion, nail jewels and top coat in addition to nail polish remover.

 

Food and Drink

I tried to keep food and drink for the party along a healthy theme.  I used meats cooked in non-fatty methods (like poaching) and included lots of fruits, veggies, and ancient grains on the menu.  For non-alcoholic drinks I stuck to infused water.  For alcoholic beverages my friend brought tropical juices and alcohols to go with the spa theme, and I also made sangria.

Spa Dining Menu


Drinks

Lavender lemon infused water 

served still

Strawberry hibiscus infused water 

served still

House Sangria 

sans sparkling water and maraschino cherries

 

Food

Fresh veggie platter

Carrots, cucumber, celery, hummus, ranch

Quinoa Salad

Served chilled

Tossed Salad

Vermont cheddar, red and green leaf lettuce, cucumber, red onion, New England hothouse tomatoes

Poached Salmon

Served with cucumber raita

Curried chicken salad

Red grapes, almonds, poached chicken, bacon

Fresh fruit platter

Starfruit, mango, strawberries, pineapple with homemade yogurt 

Chia seed pudding

Vanilla or chocolate

Infused water bar in the kitchen included a marker to write your name on your cup.

The spa dining setup.  A basket contains plates, utensils and napkins.

Curried chicken salad

Veggie platter and quinoa salad

Fruit platter

Vanilla and chocolate chia seed pudding

Poached Salmon with cucumber raita

Garden salad with oil and vinegar dressing

Posted in Culinary Delights, Parties | Leave a comment

Carbonite Peanut Butter Cups

Will was away in Texas for work this Valentine’s day so we decided to observe Valentine’s day this past Saturday when he got home.  That was perfect for me since it meant I had more time to make presents after the event I was organizing at work was done!  You can believe that I once again had a long list of things I wanted to make that weren’t complete by 2/14.

A few months ago I bought these super cool death star ice cube molds.  I thought that I would be able to make chocolate death stars filled with peanut butter for Christmas.  Well Christmas rolled around and I hadn’t done anything.  I decided to finally try making them for Valentine’s day.

Well let me tell you, it was a complete disaster.  No matter what I tried I could not get those chocolate peanut butter death stars out of the mold intact.  While they tasted delicious, they were an unpresentable mess.  Luckily I had also bought some Han-in-carbonite molds that looked like they might make awesome candy too.  (As a side note, it doubled in price since I bought it!) Plus, the death star really isn’t that romantic.  At least right before Han is frozen in the carbonite the quintessential, “I love you”, “I know” scene occurs.  Did I mention that was written on Will’s grooms cake at our wedding?

Carbonite Peanut Butter Cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 3.5 oz good quality chocolate bar (I used Lindt milk chocolate)
  1. Make sure your mold is clean and completely dry.  Any water could seize the chocolate.
  2. Break chocolate into rough chunks.
  3. Using a double boiler (which in my case is a metal mixing bowl over a pot) melt chocolate over medium heat.  Stir frequently with rubber spatula.

    Break chocolate into chunks and heat over a double boiler.

    Melt chocolate until smooth

  4. When chocolate is melted, remove from heat and use a spoon to spoon chocolate into the mold.   You’ll want to fill the molds 1/3 of the way full.  Tap the mold so any air bubbles rise to the top.

    Spoon chocolate into molds.

  5. Gently push chocolate up the sides of the molds with the back of the spoon.

    Press chocolate up the sides of the mold

  6. Put mold into fridge for 20 minutes.

    Chill for 20 minutes.

  7. While chocolate is chilling, mix together the peanut butter and powdered sugar.

    Mix peanut butter and powdered sugar.

  8. Fit pastry nozzle that looks like a long thin line on a pastry bag.  Fill with peanut butter mixture.

    Pipe peanut butter mixture.

  9. When chocolate is solid, remove from fridge and pipe peanut butter mixture in the center of each rectangle, leaving a small gap between the peanut butter and the wall of the mold.  You’ll also want the peanut butter to be slightly lower than the walls of the mold.

    Example of small chocolate filled.

    Example of large chocolate filled.

  10. Using the spoon again, pour chocolate on top of the peanut butter.  Make sure you cover between the peanut butter and the mold edges. (You may need to gently reheat the chocolate at this point).  Tap to distribute chocolate.

    Spoon chocolate over the peanut butter, tap to remove air bubbles.

  11. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until chocolate has set.

    Chill 20 minutes or until firm.

  12. Remove from mold.

    Pop out of mold and enjoy!

  13. Enjoy!  (You’ll notice I jazzed them up with some fun wrapping.)

    Finished Carbonite PB cup gift basket.

    Front and back of Han/Leia themed gift card for chocolate box.

 

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Pillows Upon Which to Dream of Sugar Plums (or Chocolate)

So tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  The strange amorous day that depending who you ask originally had nothing to do with romantic love or plenty to do with it.  In honor of the holiday (that I maintain has nothing to do with love and everything to do with chocolate) I’m serving truffles to 700 people at work tomorrow.  This means I currently have 90 pounds of chocolate in my car.  I have never had to exercise so much restraint in my entire life. I desperately want to throw open the trunk of my car, rip open one of the boxes and gobble down fistfuls of truffles.  (That sounds like the beginning of a romance novel…)  This is the reason the chocolate is safely in the trunk of my car, where I can pretend I have forgotten about it.

I need something to distract myself with.  Pillows.  Pillows are nothing like chocolate.  You never have a trunk full of pillows and yearn devour them.  Frankly I’ve never had the opportunity to purchase an entire trunk full of chocolate so I honestly didn’t know it would be so hard to restrain myself.  Anyway I digress.  Back to pillows.  So I had some material left from the curtains I made for my mom and decided to make a large matching pillow for my mom’s bed.  I finished the pillow the night before her birthday.  For this pillow I purchased cording to edge the pillow, but it is very simple to make trim yourself (and much more cost effective).  I really liked the look of this cording though, so I splurged and bought it.  Mom is worth it!  Some day soon I will post another tutorial for a pillow with homemade trim.

The pillow should take 1-2 hours to make.

Finished pillow with trim!

Simple Pillow with Purchased Trim

What you’ll need:

  • Pillow form (mine is 20″x20″)
  • Fabric 1″ wider than your pillow form (for mine it was 2 squares 21″x21″ each)
  • Cording with lip* – 4″ longer than 2*(length + width) (Mine was 84″)

*If you have a bit more time you can create your own edging for the pillow using bias tape and cording, but to save time it is much easier to purchase cording.

  1. Take your two pieces of fabric wider than your pillow form and lay on top of each other, right sides together.

    Lay back of pillow on to front of pillow, right sides together (note, both squares should be the same size, this picture does not show that).

  2. Starting at a corner, take your cording and sandwich your cording inside the two pieces of fabric, lip of the cording lining up with the edge of your fabric.  Pin in place along the first side.  You’ll want the end of the trim to start 2 inches beyond the corner of the pillow.
  3. When you come to the corner, curve your trim slightly.  Pin in place.
  4. Continue pinning up the other edges and corners until you get back to the start.

    Pin trim inside the pillow, matching the edge up with the lip of the cording.  Note the curve at the corners.

  5. At the corner, pin 2 edges of cording so the cording ends touch.  Eventually the unfinished edge will be inside the pillow.

    Where cording meets other end of cording, press cording against cording and pin, leaving the unfinished edge outside the pillow.  You’ll notice I did this in the center of one side of the pillow – my trim was too thick to do this at the corner, though I wish I had tried, it is a bit less noticeable on the corner.

  6. Using a zipper foot adjust needle and foot so needle is closest to the cording.

    With a zipper foot, stitch as close as possible to the braid of the cording through all 3 layers.

  7. Machine baste around the edges of the pillow with the needle as close to the cording as you can get.  When you get to the corner with the trim edges, back tack here to secure.
  8. Machine stitch around the edge of the pillow as close to the cording as you can get.  Leave a large gap on one side of the pillow so you can easily insert the pillow form into this gap.  Back tack at edges of the gap to secure.
  9. Seam rip the basting stitches on the gap.
  10. Open the gap and secure the cording to front side of the pillow along the gap as in 8, but be sure to leave the back side of the pillow unsecured.

    At gap that you left in pillow, pin trim to front of pillow.

    Stitch trim to front of pillow in the gap you created. Be careful not to catch the back fabric.

  11. Turn pillow case right side out.

    Open out your pillow.

  12. Insert pillow form into case.
  13. Fold under the back material along the gap, which was not sewn to the cording in step 10.
  14. At the gap, pin along the cording from the front of the pillow, catching the folded-under back material.

    Fold back fabric under and pin to the trim, close the braid. Sew close to the braid, avoiding the front face of the pillow as best you can.

  15. Stitch close to the cording, catching the back material to close the gap.  Avoid stitching the pillow front.

Enjoy your pillow!

Mom with her birthday present!  You can see her yoga mat carrier as well – this is version #3 – with a big pocket!  Post soon to come.

 

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Crock Pot Pulled Pork (or Fork that Pork)

Will and I have been living a very packed winter of week days.  Here’s our schedule:

  • Monday – Blog/Hobby Night
  • Tuesday – Read by the Fire (or skiing)
  • Wednesday – Board Games
  • Thursday – Skiing (or reading)
  • Friday – Pizza and Movie Night

The schedule is fairly flexible, but aims to accomplish a couple goals.  We want to get our money’s worth of the night passes to Wachusett Ski Mountain we purchased this year and we also want to read more.  Our schedule seems to have worked.  By now the ski passes have already more than paid for themselves and I’ve finished my third book this year!  The only problem with skiing during the week is that we have to run home and take Dany out to play for a while, then scarf down some dinner before heading to the slopes.  This means our dinner menu on Thursday nights is pretty limited.

I started buying the pre-cooked Jack Daniel’s BBQ Pulled Pork from BJ’s to keep on hand for a quick meal.  It is honestly pretty good – my only complaint being that it is extremely fatty.  The 32 oz package is about the right size for a family of 4 or 5 (though it claims 8 servings?) and costs about $11 for the package.  Not bad.  Of course I started making my own pulled pork in the crock pot that costs about half that.  Will thinks it is better than the Jack Daniel’s version, and doesn’t take much more effort.  I throw the meat in the crock pot before I head out for work and by the time I return I have dinner waiting.  Perfect for ski nights!

Lexi’s Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of either Southern Style Boneless Ribs or 2.5 lbs Country Style Bone-in ribs*
  • 1 19oz bottle of your favorite bbq sauce**

*I usually buy whichever is cheaper at the time.  I tend to buy the pork when it is on sale at $2/lb or less and freeze it until I need it.  The recipe works perfectly with either fresh or frozen pork as the starting point.

**I have been using Dinosaur BBQ Wango Tango which has a smidge of a kick.  I get this from Job Lot for $2.50 a bottle which is apparently WAY LESS than what it sells for online!

All you need is a jar of bbq sauce, 2 lbs of pork (half what is shown here) and a crock pot! Grand total for pulled pork for 4 is $7 (less if your pork is <$2/lb)

All you need is a jar of bbq sauce, 2 lbs of pork (half what is shown here) and a crock pot! Grand total for pulled pork for 4 is $7 (less if your pork is <$2/lb)

  1. Put your ribs in the crock pot bone side or fat side down.  (If you froze it as in the note above, just put the ribs in completely frozen.)

    Put 2 lbs of pork in crock pot, frozen or fresh.

    Put 2 lbs of pork in crock pot, frozen or fresh.

  2. Reserve 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce in the fridge for later and pour the rest on top of the pork.

    Pour sauce over meat.

    Pour sauce over meat.

  3. Fill the nearly empty bottle with water, shake to dislodge any BBQ sauce still in the jar and pour around the pork in the crock pot.  Take care not to disturb the BBQ sauce smothering the pork. Use enough water to reach to just below the top of the ribs, or the whole bottle, whichever is less.

    Pour a bottle of water around the meat.

    Pour a bottle of water around the meat.

  4. Put the cover on the crock pot and cook on low for 10 hours.

    Add lid and cook on low 10 hours.

    Add lid and cook on low 10 hours.

  5. Remove pork from crock pot and remove fat and/or bones and discard.  Shred meat with two forks.

    Remove fat then shred pork with forks.

    Remove fat then shred pork with forks.

  6. Pour the reserved 1/2 cup of sauce on the meat and stir to distribute.

    Stir to distribute reserved bbq sauce.

    Stir to distribute reserved bbq sauce.

  7. Bask in the glory of your <$7 pulled pork! Then serve as desired – we like it on toasted french bread!

    Example of a quick meal using your pulled pork!

    Example of a quick meal using your pulled pork!

 

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