Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Project failed: behind-the-sink rack

Right now I am in the throes of some serious deep-cleaning and organizing, with a little bit of hat making on the side.  I'm hoping to get a few good hat designs perfected so that maybe I could try selling those on Etsy, so I'm going to wait a bit before I post about that project.

(*sidenote* My two hooligans are very uncooperative models, so is there anyone out there who wants a FREE specially-made hat for their kids?  If you do, send an email with your child's head circumference, whether its for a boy or girl, and your address to  All I ask is that you give an honest review and try to send me a few pics of your kid in the hat...just so I can see how it looks on them, I won't post any of the pics!  I'm trying to use up a bunch of leftover fabrics to clear out my craft area, so I can't promise any certain colors/designs but hey, free is free right?)

Anyways, back to today's post...I've had a number of wonderful people compliment my creativity for all the recent projects I've done (we got SO many comments at church when we all showed up in our matchey-matchey Easter outfits). 

See, the thing is, only about 50% of my projects are what I would call a "success", and I only post about a small number of those.  I have a TON of "failures" clogging up my craft area - usually I hang onto EVERYTHING in case I can tweak it later or use it for somthing else.

Today I thought I'd show you one of those "failures".
I got this rack thing at Goodwill for something like $.25.  It sat in my craft area for a few months and I stumbled across it in my deep cleaning this week.  I had the thought that I could use it in our cramped kitchen to help hang things to dry...washclothes, bibs, you can see that little mushroom scrubber hanging there.  I hotglued some clothespins to the rack and then thought I could buy those suction cup things and hang it right over my sink.

Problem: suction cups only work on COMPLETELY flat surfaces.  Despite what it looked like to me, the tiles behind our sink are not completely flat.  The suction cups won't stick.  I've wracked my brain to find another way to hang it without anything so extensive as drilling, but I've got nothing.  It kind of works just sitting there like you see above, but it would be much better if it was hanging.

At least I hadn't bothered to go to the effort of decorating the clothespins yet.  (I was going to mod podge some fabric to the tops.)

So, there ya go.  I'm trying not to get too frustrated about it.  (By the way, if anyone has an idea of how to get this thing to hang LET ME KNOW!!!)

Okay, enough procrastinating now...back to the cleaning!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter Tablecloth gets a second chance!

Once upon a time, a year or so ago, a lonely little vinyl tablecloth was snatched up during an after-Easter clearance sale.  It did it's best to do its duty and all that, but tablecloths are just not suited for families with little hands that can't leave it on the table, or refrain from attacking it with a fork at every meal.
After a good month of dedicated service the little tablecloth, worn just slightly, was folded up and shoved in a closet, awaiting a time when one day it could actually be useful.  
Little tablecloth, today is your day! 
One of my biggest frustations as a mother of two toddlers (holy cow, when did that happen?!) is keeping clothes clean.  I'm no Kate Gosselin, freaking out over the littlest speck of something on a shirt, but I really hate seeing my kids get food/dirt/worse-things-that-I-won't-talk-about all over their clothes.  Perhaps if I had the amazing laundry finesse that my mother-in-law does (she can get a stain out of ANYTHING!  Just don't let her near anything with her bottle of bleach) I could be more relaxed.

Or, I could get crafty and create a waterproof cover-up.

Like this one.

"Thumbs up for popsicles right before dinner, Elmo sunglasses that are almost too small, and an awesome mom who doesn't care about either!"  (Obviously, since she's just barely two, she didn't say all that, but I'm sure she was thinking it!)

(the only back view I could get)

I threw this together while my daughter was sleeping, so I just grabbed a t-shirt of hers to get an idea for the sizing.  I wish I'd made it bigger through the chest so I could have velcro-ed the back, but then again she has a tendency to suddenly "pull a Hulk" when she gets mad, so maybe a tie is the best.  I'm going to add another one at the top too.

I used a leather needle on my sewing machine because I wasn't sure how a normal needle would handle it, and my machine has gotten a lot of abuse lately so I'm trying to baby it.  Kind of.  Also, do you notice how in the back view half the ruffle has horizontal stripes and half has verticle?  That's because the ruffle was a last-minute addition...completely unnecessary but oh-so-girly.  I scrounged to get enough pieces for it that had the finished edge of the tablecloth, so I wouldn't feel the need to hem it (because it doesn't really need a hem, its not going to unravel, but hems look nicer).

I originally thought of making this hit my little munchkin at mid-thigh or so, but I'm glad I went with a longer length.  Because messes rarely confine themselves to the upper half of her body.

Success!  Look at all that popsicle stickyness, that grape stain-yness, all on the easily-cleaned surface of our little cover-up!  (Okay, not all, her hands and face were pretty messy, but hey!  Her clothes are clean!  And that's what the garden hose is for anyways, right?)  All you have to do is take a damp cloth and wipe it off.  Or if you get lazy (like me) and let it sit a bit before cleaning...alright, let it dry completely before you remember it needs cleaned, you may have to use a little elbow grease, and perhaps some running water and then let it hang dry.  Hmmm, I think this little monster is begging for me to make him one too!

Now, lest you think it took a whole tablecloth to make one little cover-up, let me show you what I first started doing with that little striped beauty.
This is our $15 garage sale high chair.  It was in fair condition when we bought it, and it was freestanding so we wouldn't have two little kids grabbing at everything at our table.  The previous owners even cleaned it before they sold it!  After just a few uses, though, the cover started showing some real wear and tear.  The worst part was the top split from the bottom, leading to this:
Mmmm, leftovers!!!!
We've used it for almost 6 months like this now, and it finally hit me that I could made a new cover!  I (briefly) considered making a cloth one that I could just throw in the wash machine, but lets be real.  I know I would wash it once a month maybe.  And my kids are too messy of eaters to wait that long between washings.

Enter lonely little tablecloth...easy to wipe off, inexpensive so if I messed up the dimensions I wouldn't be in the hole a ton of money (I briefly considered buying laminate fabric, or the vinyl stuff you put on fabric to make it laminated, but it would have cost about as much/maybe more than we paid for the high chair to start with).  Again, I used the leather needle and it sewed really well, I was mildly concerned that puncturing little tiny holes in it with a needle might lead to ripping but its holding up well.
My favorite part of the new cover is the fact that its two pieces on purpose.  I figured if I made it one piece it would probably just tear again.  So there are little elastic loops on the bottom of the top piece and the top of the bottom piece and they go nicely through a slot and over a hook that happen to be right there.  It makes me wonder if maybe thats how the cover was supposed to be to start with.  Hmmm.
I love looking in my crowded little kitchen/dining room now and seeing this lovely bit of thriftyness.  So far, I can only see one problem with this delightful project:
The current occupant of the high chair is, in fact, a boy.  All that pink in the stripes makes this a rather girly high chair cover.  Currently this little man doesn't give a hoot.  And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that when Baby #3 makes its appearance in August we'll have a reason to keep the pink cover!

So, there you have it.  Two projects, less than $3 (if you include the cost of the elastic and ribbon I already had on hand; the tablecloth was closer to $2 when I bought it) and two satisfied little customers.

My work here is done. 

For now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Crafting with Cake

I haven't posted in FOREVER on this blog, but I assure you I have been crafting. Mostly sewing, that's kind of my "therapy" these days...something goes wrong, take a break at my sewing machine. Of course, John has gotten tall enough and discovered that he can come and grab knobs on my machine - his favorite is the 'backstitch switch', which makes a fun clinking noise for him.

But, I've also done some cake decorating lately. First I decorate one for my brother-in-law Joe, I put pictures up on my other blog if you want to look at it. It was whipped out in less than 2 hours, so it really isn't anything I'm particularly proud of.

And then last Saturday I made a birthday cake for Maddy & John's combined birthday party Saturday night. Preparations for this cake started earlier in the week, and it never would have been this good if my mom hadn't offered to take the kids for me Saturday morning so I could decorate without their "help".

It's based on Maddy's current favorite book..."If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" which is really a cute book, even when you've read it 500 times!

1. "Happy Birthday" made out of sugar and corn syrup boiled together to a ridiculously hot temperature and then cooled enough so that I could handle it. This was very tricky, but I wanted to challenge myself. I ended up pulling out my hairdryer to blow on the stuff while I was forming it to try to keep it hot enough longer, because as it cools it gets hard and brittle. And re-melting changes the color a bit (making it murky yellow rather than see-through yellow; I ran out of stuff though so the last letter Y was murky and the rest were clear.) I also cheated and used a hot glue gun for some of them. Maddy enjoyed eating them (not the hot glued ones!)

2. The Mouse - a very critical part of this cake. I change my mind every time I look at it whether I like it or not. Overall, its not bad for an untrained cake decorator for myself. I'll go into more details about it later.\

3. The Cookies - made of yellow cake, decorated with icing and chocolate chips. I had completely different plans for the Cookie part of the cake, but this worked out nice so I could give Maddy and John their own little cakes.

4. The milk cup (because the story goes "If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk.) I used the same recipe for sugar/corn syrup as I did for the letter, but I didn't color it and I didn't let it cool very much before I poured it over the outside of a foil covered cup. This was very tricky, and far from a perfect end product. And actually, the first cup I made broke so I had to make a second one. Then I filled it with white icing and stuck a straw in it and called it good. Oh, and the foil didn't all want to come off but I was able to hide it with icing. I guess I've got a ways to go until I can be on Food Network's Cake Challenge, huh? ;)

I had a lot of people (my mom, mother-in-law, sisters, etc.) ask how I did the mouse. Why, using some tricks I picked up from watching cable TV of course!!!

First, I made a wire frame (I used some craft wire stuff that had a coating thing on the outside cause thats all I had, but someday I may invest in some real wire.) Then I filled in the frame with rice krispy treats, forming it to look like a mouse as much as I could. Then it was covered with fondant. I used homemade fondant again, which is kind of weird. I think I'd like to try store-bought fondant to see if I can get a better result.

I also used a toothpick to put marks in the face (eyes, mouth, whiskers, some fur markings) then lightly painted the top with some black gel icing I had. It gave a wee bit more depth.

So, there you have it. Go to my other blog soon if you want to see how my children enjoyed these cakes!

Oh, and I hope to get some posts up soon of all the sewing I've been doing too!