Friday, May 30, 2008

Don't recycle paper........

until you've gotten every possible use out of it.

According to the Bureau of International Recycling, paper can only be recycled 4 to 6 times. That really isn't very many. So instead of dropping it in the recycling bin as soon as you are finished with a piece, reuse it.

Ways to make paper more useful, or less used:
  1. Print on both sides to begin with. PC's, and probably Macs, allow every other page of a word processing document to be printed, for instance, you could print only the odd numbered pages. After the first set of pages are printed turn the paper over and print the second set of pages. I usually put a mark in one corner of the top piece of paper in my printer, so that I can figure out which way the paper needs to be oriented to print correctly on the second side.
  2. Use paper that has already been printed on as drawing paper for yourself or the kids. Chances are your doodles will not be the next Picasso.
  3. Reprint on paper that has only been used on one side. The backs of the paper won't make any sense, but the fronts will look fine. Just remember to re-orientate your paper again, so the blank side is being printed on.
  4. Make a avant guard used paper note book. Cut paper that was used on one side into 4 equal pieces. Cut one piece of thicker paper in 4 equal pieces. Arrange the paper so that the blank sides are all facing up. Poke two or more holes in the left side of all the pieces. Stack the pieces with the thicker paper on the outsides, and tie ribbon through the holes.
  5. Throughly used paper is an excellent biodegradable weed blocker. Just stack several thicknesses of paper, overlapping edges, on level, weed free dirt. Put several inches of dirt and compost on top of the paper, and plant. Week new weeds can't come up through the paper, but the roots of your seedlings will be able to penetrate the paper as it biodegrades.
  6. Shredded paper can be used in addition to leaves and other brown matter in compost.
  7. As business cards. Crafting a Green World has a great tutorial on making business cards/seed packets out of used paper grocery bags.
  8. Shredded paper also makes great confetti!
There are so many more uses for used paper it would be impossible to list them all. I would love to see some of your ideas as well.

Note: Protect sensitive information! Papers with personal information can be used against you. It is best to shred all sensitive information.
Lest you think I have forsaken fiber, I have some fibery goodness to come.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Napkins, napkins everywhere

What can you make with nearly any piece of clothing past it's prime? A napkin of course.
Napkins range in size from a 16 to 18 inch square dinner napkin, 12 to 14 inches for a lunch napkin, to 4 to 6 inches for cocktail napkins. You can cut at least one square, of one of these sizes out of even baby clothing.

A little while ago my husband ripped a large gash in a nice button down oxford shirt. When I finially got around to cutting it up, I was suprised to find that I was able to cut 4 12" squares from the back and sleeves of the shirt that I can make into luncheon size napkins. The rest of the shirt should yield at least 4 more 4 to 6 inch squares for cocktail napkins. One of the finished napkins is pictured below.
How to do it:
1) Cut as many squares of the desired size as possible out of the ruined piece of clothing (make sure you cut the squares with the grain of the fabric, rather than at an angle to it. If the fabric is woven, and as thick as you feel a napkin should be you can simply stop here (woven fabric cut on the grain will unravel very little after washing).
2) I felt that my squares were too thin, so I doubled them up. You could then hem the pieces under, or stitch around the edges so that the pieces stay together and leave it at that. I decided to make mine a little more polished, and decided to use bias tape to finish the edges.
3) Bias tape can be found in any craft store; however, it can also easily be made out of any light weight woven fabric, and since this is all about reusing that is what I did.

how to make bias tape;
If you have any questions feel free to ask.

4) Pin the bias tape around the edge of your napkin, so that the bias tape encloses the edge of the napkin, then stitch around the edge of the tape.

Ta Da! A beautiful napkin.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

An Ode to the Humble Flat Sheet

A spare flat sheet is one of the most versatile implements in the home decorating arsenal. Why you ask?
  1. It is one of the cheapest fabric values you can find. For example, a 100% cotton, 250 thread count, Queen size flat sheet from Target is $14.99. How much fabric is that? A Queen size flat sheet is 90 inches x 102 inches. That is twice the width of a wide piece of cloth available from a fabric store, and almost three yards of length. That is about $2.50 per yard, and better values can be found at discount stores.
  2. A flat sheet that same size as your bed (a queen size sheet for a queen size bed) can serve as a bed skirt on beds of standard height.
  3. Flat full size sheets are about the same width as most beds are long making them great candidates for bed curtains - and can be a perfect match for your bed sheets.
  4. Sheets are also so long that they can serve as floor to ceiling curtains on all but very tall windows.
  5. Sheets are the perfect no sew option for the always popular toga party.
Below is a picture of my sheet, turned one time bed skirt, and now bed curtain.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cork Trivet

Do you try to recycle? Do you drink wine? Do you save all the corks from all the bottles of wine you drink, because you don't have a way to recycle them, and feel bad about throwing them away? Well I do. I must have a hundred or more corks in my house from years of collecting, and I never had any idea what to do with them. Until now....
How to make a trivet out of corks
Materials: One pipe clamp (I used a 5" to 7" pipe clamp. It was about $2.50 at home depot.), and lots of corks of approximately the same height (the number of corks you will need will vary based on the size trivet you make, but 50 is a safe number to start with).
Procedure: 1) Gather corks, standing on their ends, inside the pipe clamp; 2) Organize corks as desired; 3) Move clamp so that it is centered in the middle of the corks - see pic below; 4) Tighten pipe clamp - At this point you may need to adjust the number of corks so that there is a tight fit; 5) Trim loose end of clamp if desired
That is it. A brand new trivet for the cost of a pipe clamp. It even looks cool.

I also found a book that is all about reusing objects in fun new ways, and I thought I would pass it on. The book is "Ready Made: How to Make (Almost) Anything."


Saturday, May 24, 2008

More than one use for cereal

Ok, not the actual cereal, the box. My kids eat a lot of cheerios, so I buy the giant boxes that never fit on the shelf correctly. Rather than struggling with the giant box several times a day (cereal is not a breakfast only food if you are 1 and a half), I decant, leaving me with a cereal box in pristine condition. Typically this box would immediately be broken down and sent to recycling, but in the throws of organizing, this box looked suspiciously like a magazine file box.

Mark a 45 degree angle on a large cereal box. The high side of the angle should end in one of the top corners of the box before the flaps begin (if the high side is at the top right on the front, it will be on the top left in the back).Cut along the mark you made. Be careful cut the box cleanly.This is what the box should look like after it has been cut.Wrap the box in heavy weight paper. I used craft paper, which requires strong tape.Then shove some magazines in it. Ta Da! The box really can't stand up to the weight of the magazines on it's own, but it does a great job when propped against something heavy, like other magazine boxes.


Friday, May 23, 2008


This is the start of something new! I really hate to waste things, but our disposable culture makes it not only necessary at times, but cool, to simply throw something in a land fill when we no longer have a use for it (think the swiffer sweeper pad - use and toss, or the latest digital gadget that costs more to fix than to buy anew). Well, I have decided that about once a week I will show you one of the ways in which I have made something into something new; however, this week, until next Friday, I will try to show a way in which I have reused every single day.

Without further ado, reuse of the dreaded bride's maids dress.
A little more than a year ago my sister in law got married, and asked me to be one of the bride's maids. The dresses she picked really were tasteful, but like nearly all bride's maids dresses really wasn't appropriate to wear ever again. That, and the fact that the wedding was only 1 month after I gave birth to my second child, meant that this dress was doomed to spend the rest of it's days in the back of my closet.

A few months ago was my sister in law's birthday. I find her difficult to shop for, as we are not terribly close, and our aesthetic differs considerably. I had recently made some pillows for my sister's new apartment, and thought that my SIL might like pillows for her new house, but which fabric to use? Then I realized, I already had fabric she liked. In fact I had yards and yards of fabric she had picked out. I had a bride's maids dress.

I ripped the seams on the dress (rather than cutting) to get the maximum amount of usable fabric out of the dress. The bodice area was not wide enough to provide usable fabric so I cut it off. I cut 4 15 inch squares from the remaining fabric, giving me materials for 2 14" square pillows with .5" seam allowance. Then I simply sewed up the sides, stuffed the pillow, and shut the opening. They turned out well if I do say so myself.

I will try to update with a picture of the dress if I can find one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

High Fiber Diet

I would like to introduce the latest in high fiber foods. The eggplant.
I am so happy about the way this turned out.

The original pattern is Baby Fruit and Veggie Rattle Patterns by Allison Judge; however, the pattern makes the leaves look like they are growing directly out of the top of the eggplant. Since I have never seen an eggplant that looks like the pattern, I picked up the stitches at the cast on edge, and knitted up, decreasing between the leaves every other row (give or take a row), until there were 4 stitches left, then i-corded the stem. The leaves tended to roll up, so I tacked them down on either side with some thread.

I used Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool, that I hand dyed the appropriate colors, and US6 double pointed needles.

I love, love, love the finished product!

If I knit it again I will probably knit it from the top down, rather than the bottom up, and avoid picking up quite as many stitches.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Back Home

Well DH and I are back home after a long weekend away in Missouri. Why Missouri you ask? Well my very good friend, and children's godfather Aaron graduated from medical school. Now he is officially a doctor. Wow. We have been doing our best to help him through this experience for the past several years, and the knowledge that it is over seems so huge to me. I can only imagine what a relief it must be to him.

We were also able to explore Kansas City, MO with our friend K. She just moved into the downtown area and we were able to explore her new neighborhood together.
The city is currently undergoing a transformation. Abandoned factories and warehouses are being turned into living spaces and store fronts. Small businesses appear to be thriving , and low income areas are receiving much needed improvements. I really enjoyed the downtown area, except that we were exploring on a Monday, and nearly all of the businesses were closed on Monday.

We were able to find one open local yarn store, "The Studio." I would recommend the studio to visitors in the area. The store was well staffed, the staff seemed knowledgeable, they had a good selection of inexpensive yarns, and a wide selection of straight and DPNs, as well as other accessories. Their high end yarn was on the lean side, but the lack didn't take much away from the store.

Now that I am back home, I thought I would share pictures of the birthday loot, as well as the spoils from our Ikea trip.
The birthday first;
My brand New Niddy Noddy

My giant new swift
Next, Ikea.....

DD's New Bed, complete with DD

Bookcase with glass doors, and our new bed.

I love Ikea!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

High in Fiber, Zero Fat

First of all, two days in a row. Whoo, hoo! I may be able to make a habit out of this yet.

In the past couple of days I started knitting my kids some play food, and I had to share the outcome. They are incredibly cute! The kids already have cheap plastic versions, but with all the talk recently about the toxicity of plastic, my DS's ability to fit the vast majority of it in his mouth, and the dog's unfortunate affinity for the plastic variety, I had to do something.

As a result, I present to you;
Realistic Carrot
For this carrot I used the Baby Fruit and Veggie Rattle Pattern by Allison Judge.
I modified the cute baby carrot pattern she created, to make one that looked more like it had just come out of our garden. I basically made it "ugly" by adding purl bumps, paired increases and decreases, small cables, and circular ridges embedded in the knit fabric.

I also made an apple;
(try to ignore the dog hair)
For this piece I used the Ms. Saucy Apple pattern by Peachcake Knits.
However, the original pattern had to be altered because it was incorrect. The modifications I made were as follows;
After k4, kfb around there are 36 stitches as stated, next the pattern indicates that you should kfb 3 times spread out across the row. This adds 3 stitches, for a total of 39 stitches, not 40.
There is 8 rows knit even (I knit 9), then the decreases begin.
The pattern indicates that you should k9, k2tog around. This implies that there is some multiple of 11 in a single row (k9, k2tog involves 11 stitches, and the pattern does not say what to do with the left over stitches). Instead, k11, k2tog around, knit 2 rows, skip the instructions to k8, k2tog around, and it's corresponding knit row, and restart the pattern at k4, k2tog around.

Hope this helps anyone struggling with this pattern.

As you can see my kids really like the new toys.
Finally, for you viewing pleasure.....proof that pit pulls are safe with children (at least my pit bulls with my children).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Almost Over?

Well the past two months or so have been some of the craziest of my life. As my previous post noted, my husband was thought to have a bleed on his brain, which after "minor" brain surgery was fund to be nothing but begin calcium deposits. Then shortly after coming back from the hospital , I remarked to A (a friend who is finishing medical school) that a tick had left me with a strange rash (picture below). He rushed me off to our local urgent care clinic where I was diagnosed with a probable case of lyme disease. I was put on a course of antibiotics and the CDC was contacted. Next came my birthday, anniversary, and Mother's Day within three weeks of each other (pictures of all the cool loot to come). This period was really great, until the end, when on Mother's Day my DH went to make me some chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and found a tiny chew hole in the bag of chocolate chips. Yup, mice.

I actually don't have anything against mice in general (rats are a different story), as long as they are where they belong, ........outside. However, these are in my house!

I really can't blame them for coming in my house either. Their natural habitat is currently being destroyed by a developer that is trying to put high end housing in an area that was until recently, fairly rural (for example, the people that live behind us still have cattle and horses, and at one point raised sheep). As a result of the development we have had to cut a new driveway as well, further destroying their homes.

We found the first mouse last night. I was putting clothes away, and opened a nearly empty drawer in my DH's dresser, and to my surprise found a cute little mouse looking back at me. Feminists everywhere will cringe when I say this, but, I have to admit, I screamed and called for my husband. I even got up on my bed as if this mouse, that was about the size of two cotton balls was going to jump at me and begin eating my face (thank you "1984").

The mouse was eventually caught in a mostly humane fashion, and was taken to the loading dock of a nearby big box store. Good luck mouse!

Stuff I have learned since I began fighting the good fight against mice:
Since I would rather the mice simply leave my house than than have to kill all of them I thought I would share with you some of the natural deterrents I have found effective against mice. Note: these do not kill the mice, they simply make your house an unpleasant place to live.

1) Mice, and most rodents, do not like mint. Grow it inside and outside your house (orange mint is an espically aggressive variety, but can become invasive). Get mint essential oil, natural potpourri, candles, etc and put it all over your house. I found that a combo of canola oil and peppermint and spearmint essential oils in an oil burner will quickly fill your whole house with the scent of mint.

2) Get rid of all possible food sources. Sounds simple, but this means even the tiniest crumb in a crevice that you have never even thought to clean. With a 2.5 yr old, 14 month old, and two dogs, I have found this extremely difficult. This also means decanting all food that could be chewed into, must be decanted into chew proof containers - metal or glass with tight fitting lids.

3) Sonic wave plug in pest deterrent products do work, but for a limited range.

4) Eliminate all possible nesting places. This is the hardest part. Mice can fit into a hole the size of a US dime, and can chew a bigger hole if needed. The most important part is to minimize their hiding spots, and remove all clutter so that disturbances can be easily seen, and deterrent efforts can be concentrated on a limited number of areas.

Good luck!