Thursday, December 18, 2014

TARDIS Baby Costume

Now that it's almost Christmas, I'm finally ready to post about Halloween. Sounds about right for life with a baby!

My kids are major Whovians, so while they are a bit more ambivalent about dressing up for Halloween as they get older, they thought the baby should have a costume worthy of their Doctor Who fandom.

TARDIS Baby Costume
Nerd babies are so cute!
Here's what you need:
  • Blue felt (yardage depends on size of person wearing it)
  • White fabric (muslin, cotton, felt-- whatever you have)
  • Interfacing (optional- to make the white fabric stiffer)
  • Fabric markers (I had Crayola 10-Pack Fabric Markers on hand)
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue and/or sewing supplies
Steps to making a simple TARDIS Costume:

1. Start with a rectangle of blue felt.
Measure the length you want the finished TARDIS to be and double it, since you will fold it over, so there will be length in the front and the back. As usual, I just eyeballed it. I lay the blue felt next to my baby on the floor, trimmed it to a width that wouldn't be too huge on him.

2. Fold the felt over, and cut out a hole for the head on the fold. Think of it like a blue felt poncho that goes over the head. It's easy to cut too big of a hole for the head. (No worries; it's possible to fix.)

3. Stitch up the sides, leaving room for arm holes. If, like me, you cut too big of a hole for the head, cut along the fold on the shoulder seams, and take some of the fabric in. Then stitch back up along the shoulders.
TARDIS Baby Costume
The blue felt, folded over, head hole cut out, stitched up on the sides, leaving holes for arms.
4. If you have interfacing, you can iron that on to your muslin or cotton to make the fabric for the windows and signage stiffer. Otherwise, use white felt.

5. Cut out windows and signage, and color/write on them with a black fabric marker. I made a thin white rectangle to say "Police Public Call Box" (using a black marker to outline the letters then fill it all in), a white square to write a condensed version of the sign on the door, and two white squares for windows.

6. Hot glue the windows and signage to the blue shell. 

7. Finish off the lines for the door with a black fabric marker. I drew lines up the front to show where the doors open, and three black squares to mimic the rest of the door.

Let the nerdy cuteness begin!
TARDIS Baby Costume
Time Lord in training. 
~Mulligan Mama

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Make a Basket Liner... Using Algebra!

While perusing Pinterest one day, I saw a meme that said, "Another day has passed, and I didn't use algebra once."

Oh, but on the contrary, I bet you did.

I loved algebra in school. It was my favorite of all the math classes. You solve for x and then you are done. You have a right answer. It's not a subjective essay. There is no need to edit or rewrite. Each equation was like a puzzle to solve, and finding the answer was putting in the last piece. Very satisfying, most of the time. But I can understand while solving for the ever-elusive x and y, one can wonder "When am I ever going to use this stuff?"

The truth is-- all the time!  We just may not realize it, because we figure out numbers and math problems in our daily lives without consciously assigning an x to the unknown.  Calculating a tip at your favorite restaurant? Algebra! Figuring out the sale price on those jeans? Algebra! Planning and measuring fabric for a sewing project... algebra!

Yes, you read that right.  Math AND sewing! Run for the hills! (I'm waaaay more scared of the sewing.) Are you ready for this level of excitement?! I just want to prove that craftiness and mathiness are not mutually exclusive. Here goes.

Baskets with cloth liners are usually ex-PEN-sive, but inexpensive baskets can be found at garage sales, thrift stores, and in my case, the attic. I had a plain rectangular basket that I wanted to use to hold cloth diapering supplies, but the basket was old and had some rough edges inside that I didn't want to snag and tear the cloth diapers. I had never sewn a liner for a basket before, and I wanted something quick and easy. I decided to use knit fabric so I didn't have to finish the edges so neatly. (I suppose if you wanted to make a really tailored liner, you could measure for each panel of the basket... but ain't nobody got time for that in this house!)

Figuring out just how much fabric you need is where the algebra comes in. Once you have the equation, you can easily plug in your basket measurements to make a liner for any size basket. Just replace your measurements for the variables:
L = Length of basket
w = Width of basket
h = Height of basket
e = Width of Edge of basket
c = Length of Cuff
s = Seam allowance

L + 2h + 2e + 2c + 2s = Length of fabric

w + 2h + 2e + 2c + 2s = Width of fabric

Taking 2 times the final four measurements accounts for both sides of the basket. Another way to write it is:

L + 2(h + e + c + s) = Length of fabric
w + 2(h + e+ c+ s) = Width of fabric

Add the height, edge width, cuff length, and seam allowance together, then multiply by 2, then add to the length or width.

Perhaps it helps to picture it:
Mulligan Mama: How to Make a Basket Liner... Using Algebra!
Here is another diagram, if that helps:

Mulligan Mama: How to Make a Basket Liner... Using Algebra!
Let's try it with actual measurements-
L = Length of basket = 20 inches
w = Width of basket = 12 inches
h = Height of basket = 8 inches
e = Width of Edge of basket = 1 inch
c = Length of Cuff = 3 inches
s = Seam allowance = 1 inch

The length of the cuff and the seam allowance are entirely up to you and can vary.

20 + 2(8) + 2(1) + 2(3) + 2(1) = 46 inches length of fabric
20 +  16   +  2    +   6    +  2     = 46 

12 + 2(8) + 2(1) + 2(3) + 2(1) = 38 inches width of fabric
12 +  16   +  2    +   6    +  2     = 38 

For a basket this size, you would need a piece of fabric 46 inches long by 38 inches wide. Easy, right?

Now I know what you are thinking-- can't I just stretch my tape measure over, in, and across the basket and get the same answer? Well, yes, you could. But the point is... MATH!  ;-)

Once you figure out your measurements, the steps for making the liner are as follows:

1. Fold over the seam allowances on each corner, overlapping one side over the other, and cut out the square it forms. If your fabric comes wider than you need, see step #3 before you cut.
This cut prevents the fabric from bunching up on the corners and makes a path for the tie to go through.
(OK, so I know I'm not using the correct term when I say seam allowance. But I'm already well into this blog post and have already made my pretty graphics using the term seam allowance, so just roll with it, mkay? Thanks.) Basically, you need enough fabric turned over than you can stitch it and have a "tube" of fabric for the tie to go through.
Fold up one seam allowance (you know what I mean, right?), as far as you want the "tube" to be.
Fold over the other seam allowance.
Clip out the square where they overlap.
What the cut looks like with fabric unfolded.
Repeat on all four corners.
2. Turn over the seam allowance on each edge, wrong sides together, and stitch along the side.
You should do this four times, once for each side. You could make the seams neater by folding under the edge one more time, but the great thing about knit fabric is you don't have to. The fabric won't unravel. And the seam won't show, so no worries about sloppy sewing (hallelujah!).
Sew a straight line down each side.
3. Cut a ribbon or a long, thin piece of knit fabric for the tie.
If you have a little extra on the width (not because our math was imprecise, but because fabric only comes in certain widths), you can cut a long strip off the edge to use as your tie. If you go this route, this would be Step #1, not #3! After you cut, pull on the fabric, and it will stretch and roll into a neat little tie. You can also use ribbon or any kind of long, thin fabric.
Cut a small strip from the side of the fabric to make a tie, if you have enough fabric.
Stretch it out and leave enough length to tie in a bow or knot.
4. Put a safety pin on one end of your tie and thread it through all four seams.
The safety pin makes the tie easier to thread through the "tubes" on each side.
5. Place liner in basket, letting cuff drape over edge, then cinch tie snug and tie.

Easy basket liner complete!
Ok, now I have to 'fess up. Ready for my mulligan? For all my talk about how much I love algebra because it yields one right answer, I'm not very precise when it comes to sewing or crafting. I'm more of wibbly-wobbly crafter (tip of the hat, Doctor Who fans). I didn't buy a new piece of fabric for this project; I reused the fabric from my infinity nursing scarf.  Turns out, my baby is a very large baby, and neither he nor I like to cover him up when he nurses. So, I thought I would just repurpose the fabric for something else.  The trouble is, the fabric wasn't quite wide enough, and then I went and cut the tie off the edge, making it even narrower. But I figured the knit would stretch enough to make it work.

Not so much.

But, it is still functional. It covers the sides enough to stay in place and serves the purpose of protecting the cloth dipes from the baskets.
Had I trusted the numbers instead of my (lack of) crafting intuition, it would look a lot better. Live and learn.

Go forth and do math and craft without fear!!

~Mulligan Mama

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bleach Shirt Revamp - T-shirt to Tank Top

In addition to do-overs, I'm a fan of revamping old projects into new projects and reusing materials. Sometimes the old projects aren't that old.  Case in point- I decided to revamp the Bleach Spray Shirt I made for my son into a tank top for my daughter. Mainly because the shirt was a bit too small for my son and also because I wasn't super happy with the explosion of bleach all over the front and sleeves. Revamping it into a tank top took care of both of those problems! (Check out the original post for directions on making the stencil and bleaching the pattern.)
Bleach Spray Shirt
Before- Front of the T-shirt
Bleach Spray Shirt
Before- Back of the T-shirt
I followed the tutorial on CrafterHours to transform the T-shirt into a tank top. The directions are easy to follow, so click the link for detailed instructions. It requires just a few cuts of the fabric and very minimal sewing. My kind of project.

I think it turned out pretty well! My Whovian daughter is very pleased with it. Of course, now I need to make my son a new shirt!

Doctor Who Tank Top
After- Fashionable Doctor Who tank top!
And... I entered it in our county fair for the Fabric Art category and received a blue ribbon! Score!
Doctor Who Tank Top
Blue ribbon! 
~Mulligan Mama

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Microwave" Laundry Detergent (Homemade Laundry Detergent, Part Two)

I was (and still am!) doing countless loads of laundry today, and I was about to run out of my Homemade Laundry Detergent. I didn't want to go to the store, because the baby was (and still is!) sleeping. I still had Borax and Super Washing Soda, and then I remembered we had a couple bars of Ivory soap.

I have been waiting for an excuse to blow that stuff up in the microwave!
"Microwave" Laundry Detergent
OK, so not blow it up per se, but I've seen numerous websites that describe putting Ivory soap in a microwave and watching it bubble up and expand. It can be a science experiment in and of itself, or it can put the "fun" in "functional." I've been a little leery to try it, but here was the perfect time to give it a go.

*Spoiler alert-- it works!

(Lots of blogs and pins describe variations of this process, but I will credit The Make Your Own Zone as the site I referenced before I stuck the soap in the microwave.)

"Microwave" Laundry Detergent
1 bar Ivory soap (It HAS to be Ivory. No other brand will work quite this way.)
1 cup Borax
1 cup Super Washing Soda
"Microwave" Laundry Detergent
Those boxes of Borax and Wasing Soda make quite a few batches of homemade detergent.
Unwrap the Ivory soap, and microwave it on paper plate(s) for about one minute.
Microwave Ivory soap
The soap is just starting to expand. Can you see my reflection through the food particles? Obviously I didn't clean the microwave before attempting this! 
I say plates with an "s" because the soap foams up and over the sides of the plate.  I started out with one plate but had to stop the microwave and slide a couple more underneath the mountains of expanding soap. You could try lining the bottom of the microwave with paper towels instead.
Microwave Ivory soap
The soap, before and after.
Let the soap blob cool, then break it up into small pieces. I didn't need to use a food processor--just my hands! I rubbed the soap between my palms until it was super fine and crumbly.
Crumble Ivory soap
I crumbled the soap directly into bucket I use for detergent.
Not all of the soap had fully expanded, so I put the remaining piece back in the microwave for 20 seconds, and it foamed up again. I finished crumbling it up between my palms.

Then I mixed in the Borax and the Super Washing Soda.
Ivory soap, Borax, Super Washing Soda
The yellow flecks are the leftover Fels Naptha particles from my previous batch that was still in the bucket.
I plan to use 1-2 Tb per load, just like my original detergent. We'll see if it works as well as Fels Naptha!

This detergent has the added benefit of not needing to dirty up the food processor to make it. It also might motivate you to clean your microwave, so it won't keep smelling like soap. Heat up a cup of water or white vinegar in the microwave afterwards; it makes it easier to wipe out all the food splotches and whatever soap particles that bubbled onto the surface.

Fun stuff! The fact that I was able to not only make this but also blog about it before the baby woke up shows you just how quick and easy it is.  Now, back to laundry!

~Mulligan Mama

Monday, June 30, 2014

DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer

DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer
Every spring, the weather warms up, the flowers start to bloom, and the world begins to green... and every homeowner with a lawn feels the call to conquer their plot of land and work it into beautiful submission. We rake, we mow, we trim, we plant, we water, we curse, we sweat. We look at our neighbors' lawns and feel guilty for not mowing often enough, or we envy their beautiful hedges and weedless lawns. We peruse the aisles in the garden department, looking for the next tool or gadget to add to our weekend repertoire of lawn domination.

Or maybe that's just us? I know we aren't alone in this, because we see people all over town raking, mowing, trimming, planting, watering, sweating...

... and sometimes, spraying. After hours of hard work, it's frustrating to see weeds cropping up through every sidewalk crack or taking over a bit of lawn. Watch the commercials for lawn sprays, and it's tempting to go get a bottle of weed killer and carpet bomb the lawn until the only green things left are intentionally planted fescue and bluegrass.

Now, I think there is a time and place for the responsible use of herbicide and pesticide. I just don't think trying to keep our landscaping on par with the neighbors is that time or place. We all have heard the dangers of chemicals in herbicides leaking into our ground water and soil. Just read the label on any commercial weed killer, and it will warn you not to use it around children, pets, or water sources. It instructs you to wear goggles and gloves when mixing it and cautions you to call poison control if ingested. In other words, it is pretty toxic stuff. There's no denying that it kills the weeds quickly, but one has to ask--at what cost?

We have children and pets, we live near a school, and our water runs off into the city drainage system. As much as we want a beautiful, weedless landscape around our house, it's not worth the risk to our health, our children's health, and the health of our community.

But still... those dang weeds! While part of me just wants to leave them, left unattended on sidewalk cracks, those weeds become a hazard to children on bicycles, parents pushing strollers, and people in wheelchairs, because the sidewalk is no longer a flat surface. Plus, there's nothing wrong with wanting a nice looking landscape; you just have to put in a little more time and effort to accomplish it in a safe and healthy way.

Cue the DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer! I found lots of homemade recipes online, but in the interest of keeping it simple and cheap, I decided to try the following concoction:

DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer
  • 1 Tb Dawn dishsoap (I used non-concentrated, because that's what I have on hand)
  • 1 Tb lemon juice (out of a bottle, but you could use fresh squeezed and make yourself some lemonade while you're at it!)
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar 
I mixed the ingredients in a large spray bottle (one that can hold 24 oz).  I sprayed the weeds on a hot, dry, sunny day, thoroughly coating the leaves. Of course the wind picked up (I live in Nebraska, after all), so while I was spraying, the mixture blew onto my bare legs. It also drifted into a puddle of water in the street. It was easy to see how a toxic solution could easily get on surfaces where it would be a hazard, but I felt okay going to town with this homemade spray.

The weeds turned brown and died over the course of 2-3 days. The proof is in the pudding:
DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer Day 1
Day 1- The day of the spraying--notice I'm in flip-flops! No worries about getting this stuff on my skin.
DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer Day 2
Day 2- Starting to turn brown.
Day 3- pretty much dead! I only sprayed it on the first day; it continued work as time went on.
DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer

As I mentioned, this spray works the best on a sunny, dry day. I tried spraying weeds under a tree that never really get direct sunlight, and while it sort of worked, it only killed a few of the weeds:
DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer in the shade
Weeds in the shade under our tree. Notice the water from a recent rain; the wind blew the spray into it. Can you imagine if it were toxic?
DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer in the shade
Day 2- It's killed a few of the smaller weeds, but the big ones are only slightly scathed.
DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer in the shade
Close up of the weeds in the shade. We ended up pulling the rest by hand.
I also sprayed another section--this time using white vinegar-- and it rained shortly thereafter. It still managed to start to kill the weeds, but they required another application before total annihilation.

DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer
Before spraying and before the rain.
DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer
It rained and so I had to reapply. The wet sidewalk in this pic is actually from my garden sprinkler gone haywire, not from the spray!
And finally, I tried the spray over a large weedy area in our alleyway. Although it did turn some weeds brown, it was difficult to get the necessary coverage from a small spray bottle, and it ultimately didn't do much at all. Perhaps there is a way to use a hose sprayer to apply the vinegar solution, but I haven't tried it yet.

In short, this DIY Nontoxic Weed Killer works best with:
  • Small weeds
  • Direct sunlight
  • Dry conditions
  • Weeds in isolated areas, such as sidewalk or driveway cracks
It doesn't work as well with:
  • Large weeds or large areas of weeds
  • Shady areas
  • Rainy conditions
  • Weeds near or within plants you want to keep (such as your lawn)
So how do we get rid of those weeds the spray can't kill? Well, we mow them, trim them with a weed eater, or we do the good old fashion method of pulling them out by hand! We let the kids get in on the fun, too! We plan to put down some weed mat under our landscaping rocks to prevent the weeds from growing in the first place.

If you have another good DIY nontoxic weed killing solution, I'd love to hear about it!

~Mulligan Mama

PS- Did I mention this nontoxic weed killer is also much, much cheaper than commercial weed killers? If saving the environment isn't enough motivation, how about saving your wallet? ;-)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

DIY Fabric Wall Art

DIY Fabric Wall Art
One of the things I love about Pinterest is that I see creative projects that I would never think to look for on my own, let alone attempt. That's been especially true of fabric dyeing-- it seemed way above my pay grade in terms of do-ableness. (Do-ability? Is that even a word?)  But after I dyed our dining room curtains, I was much braver to attempt some other fabric projects, including tie-dying T-shirts with my daughter, dyeing fabric for baby wraps, and making bleach spray T-shirts.

I've been intrigued by the Batik style of dying, but the whole hot wax thing seemed like a 3rd degree burn waiting to happen. I mean, I can't even be trusted around hot glue guns. Thanks to Pinterest, I found it's possible to do a Batik-style of dyeing fabric using blue school glue and regular fabric paint. This blog post by on The Matchbook on Flour Paste Batik was my inspiration:

As you will see, I followed her technique of swirling and even her color scheme. I didn't trust myself to venture out into my own creative territory until I figured out what the heck I was doing. However, I didn't use flour; I used Elmer's Blue School Glue, a trick I first discovered on Holly Hox. (And by the way, I made a T-shirt for my daughter using that technique, and she loves it!)

How to Make Fabric Wall Art
1. Buy cheap white muslin fabric, or reuse old white sheets around the house. Wash first.

2. Dye the muslin briefly in a dye bath (optional).
I used Dylon Permanent Fabric Dye 1.75 Ounce-China Blue

Dye fabric in Dylon China Blue
The muslin is the small piece of fabric on the right. I used Dylon China Blue dye.
This step wasn't essential, but since I was already dyeing some cotton gauze to make a baby wrap, I figured I would dip the muslin in for a little color.  I didn't leave it in the dye solution very long so I would have a very light blue base. I rinsed it, washed it, and dried it according to package directions. If you don't want to do this step, you can just start with plain white muslin fabric.

3. Once dry, tack the fabric onto a big piece of cardboard.
Tack fabric to cardboard
I've already started adding glue swirls in this pic (see next step), but I attached it to the cardboard first.
Thankfully I saved the box from our baby crib, and it worked perfectly as a backing for this project. I used push pins on the corners and the middle of each side.

4. Swirl Elmer's Blue School Glue in a pattern; let dry.
(You can find it in most big box stores, or here: Elmer's Washable No-Run School Glue Gel, 7.625 oz Bottle, Blue (E363))

Elmer's Blue School Glue Batik

I followed the swirly pattern as demonstrated on the flour paste batik blog post because it seemed like a foolproof design.  It was! I let the glue dry overnight.

5. Put a little fabric paint in a small spray bottle, water it down, and spray over fabric.
I don't have an exact ratio of water to paint- I just added enough water and swirled it in the bottle until I knew it would easily spray through the nozzle. One of the paints I used is Tulip Soft Fabric Paint 4oz Matte Royal Blue
Tulip Fabric Paint watered down for spray bottle
I used Tulip fabric paint in 3 different shades of blue. Two were matte paints, but one had a bit of a sparkle to it.
Spraying watered down fabric paint for batik
I squirted a small amount of paint into the spray bottle, added a little bit of water, swirled it together, and sprayed closely to the fabric (I'm holding it up higher just for pictorial purposes--don't hold it up that high unless you want a fine mist of paint all over your floor!)
6. Let fabric dry. Add more glue designs if desired.
I didn't let the fabric dry before applying a second layer of glue, and it shows--the glue lines oozed out onto the fabric and didn't leave the crisp lines behind. Oh well, I can pretend that I meant it to look that way!

7. Sponge paint another color of fabric paint.
Sponging watered down fabric paint for batik
I watered down a darker blue paint.
Sponging watered down fabric paint for batik
I kept the paint dark on the left and lightened as I went across, just to experiment.
I didn't water this paint down as much so that it would be a richer, darker color. I also sprayed more paint so that I would have more of the medium shade of blue. I varied the amount of paint I put on different parts of the fabric, so that I could experiment with different end results. Feel free to go crazy with the colors!

8. Let dry. 
I let it dry for 2 or 3 days, as per the fabric paint directions.

9. Rinse in cold water to remove excess paint. Wash and dry per fabric paint directions.
The excess blue paint rinsed right out in the sink, and the glue washed out in the washing machine, leaving behind Batik-style swirls and patterns.

10. Measure fabric for frames.
I initially was going to mount the fabric over canvas, but canvas frames can be expensive. I found three record album frames on clearance at Joann's that worked perfectly for what I wanted to do. I placed the frames on the fabric so that the parts of the pattern I wanted to showcase would be centered--I wanted the darker gradation of paint to be on the outer edges of the outer two pictures with the lighter painted pattern in the middle.
Lining up fabric art on frames
As you can see, washing the fabric removed the glue and the excess dye, leaving behind a neat design.
11. Cut fabric and attach to frames.
The frames came with clips that held the fabric on the edges, and I used hot glue to secure the excess fabric.

12. Measure for placement on the wall.
I tried the trick of using paper in the size of the frames to mark the spots for the nails ahead of time. There was cardboard inside the frames that worked perfectly to measure out wall placement... and yet I still managed to not get them completely straight. C'est la vie.
Measuring wall for pictures
Yeah, that left square is a bit wonky. It remained so even after fixing it.
13. Hang your fabric wall art and enjoy!
DIY Fabric Wall Art
Yep, still wonky on the left. Don't look too closely. 
DIY Fabric Wall Art

DIY Fabric Wall Art Batik style

All told, I probably spend about $20 for all the materials for this project, including fabric, dye, fabric paint, Elmer's blue glue, and the frames. I was able to use the dye for another project and only used a small amount of fabric paint, leaving a lot on hand for a future project.

The great thing is that I can reuse the frames in the future if I decide I'm tired of this wall art.  The fabric comes right off the clips in the back, and the hot glue will pop off with a little coaxing.

And as always, remember to wear gloves when working with dye.  Unless you like blue fingers.
~Mulligan Mama