Friday, June 28, 2013

Mending and Scrapping

I have one day every week for mending. Friday is my big laundry day, so I look through things as I fold them to see if anything needs fixing. If I need the machine, I wait to mend until I have a few things set aside. I'd estimate that I have 3-5 repairs a month, and I can do them all the same day, generally within an hour.

My most common fix? Hems and seams. If you can sew a straight line, you can fix 90% of things that need it. I've fixed one zipper and altered a few things, but that's it, really. Ripped pants get turned into shorts, but if they're done for, they get turned into quilts. If something has ripped knees, it can be patched, but patches aren't very fun to do and don't look great. I've done patching only twice.

How do I decide when something isn't worth fixing? I ask myself a few questions about the item:

1. Have I fixed this before?
2. If yes, is it worth it to fix it again?
3. Does it look anywhere decent enough to wear in public if mended?
4. If not, does the owner of the article of clothing need more work clothes?
5. Can it be recycled into something else?

If the item fails, then it's scrap time. My most commonly scrapped items (that never get recycled) are baby clothes, socks, and old dish towels.

I make sure to get the most out of them.

1. Remove any buttons to keep in my button jar.
2. Cut out and keep zippers.
3. Cut off and keep overall clasps.
4. Keep anything else that can be useful (like elastic).
5. Cut the rest into usable rags.

I end up with lots of rags, but I use the smallest pieces to clean the toilet so I can throw them away. I never run out because it seems there's always something else that's rag-worthy.

How do you keep up with mending? Is is something you like to do? (Me, sometimes, but fixing hems on baby pants is really annoying and I always stab myself with the pins. :) )

Friday, June 21, 2013

Crafting for (Almost) Free

If you don't know how to sew, then this post is for you. I didn't either until I bought a sewing machine a couple of years ago. I can't recommend enough having one, even if you don't get a new one. I purchased my machine from D.I. for $75, and it's still going strong after a couple of years. (I knew that it was in good repair.) Old machines tend to be made of all metal parts, which is a much better option than the cheap machines at Walmart, which are very light and made of plastic. I've had to replace one inexpensive part on my machine, but that's it. It was well worth the price, which was mid-range for the machines at D.I. (as cheap as $25 up to $150).

How do I craft for almost free? First, let me say that I've got nothing against crafting "new" things from patterns. It's not something I'm good at, so I don't want to waste a perfectly good piece of fabric on a botched project. I botch a lot of things because I try to make up my own projects.

My projects all involve recycling in some way. I generally have these things lying around my house.

Old pants/jeans I make into jean quilts if the pants aren't worth turning into shorts. I've also done curtains and shoe holders for my boys.

T-shirts I usually make into T-shirt yarn, which can then be knitted or braided into rugs. I'm also a fan of T-shirt bags.

Old sheets, if they're flat sheets, can be used as the backs for quilts. If I don't have one, I will spend $2-4 to get one at D.I. For ripped up fitted sheets, I've recycled them into crib sheets (even using the same elastic). Extra material has also gone into a simple ruffled curtain for my kitchen and a few pillowcase dresses.

Old pillows, once they've lost their spring (even after washing and drying), can be cut open and voila! Free stuffing for whatever you want. It's already clean if you washed the pillow recently. The fluff works great for stuffed animals or throw pillows.

I like to knit, but again, I'm not very good. I haven't bought yarn in a long time, but I've often gotten yarn for free. People always seem to have extra!

shoe organizer from old onesies

hot pad from old T-shirts

jean curtains (made the same way as a quilt, plus  loops)

kitchen curtain from and old sheet (sorry, bad lighting!)
What's your favorite crafty thing to do? Do you like to recycle/upcycle?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Remembering Grandma

My dad's mother passed away when I was not yet twelve. As the years have gone by since her death, I always wish that I could've known her while I was an adult. At eleven, I was barely learning who I was as a person, so I only knew my grandma from a little kid's point of view.

My dad mentioned a few years ago that he'd recorded some cassette tapes of my grandma. I didn't think much about it at first, but the thought came to me that I should get a hold of those tapes and listen to them. Better yet, what if I wrote down everything she said so I'd be able to read it later? I didn't follow that prompting right away. Life got busy. I had two children and not a whole lot of spare time for such a big project.

I started poking around on Amazon to see if it would be possible to change these tapes into a better format, like MP3, so I could transfer them to CD's. I was astounded to see that I could buy a device to do that for only $20! Needless to say, I bought it right then. It took longer than normal for it to come in the mail, and I thought the anticipation would kill me. When it came, I got to work right away.

A few months later (I can't remember when I started on this project), I'm finally done! I have great treasures to share with my family: 70 typed pages, 10 CD's, and a much greater appreciation for my family history and for those who can actually type fast. (I averaged only 30 accurate words a minute. Not so good!)

Grandma Phenix is, in the words of Anne Shirley, my kindred spirit. Listening to her long-forgotten voice made me feel like she isn't so far away. I'd forgotten about her Southern accent and her great love for me. She always spoke more highly of me than I deserve, but isn't that what grandmas are for?

I hope I always have a good record of my life for my descendants. I'm pretty excited about the next project to come: transferring my family's old 8mm tapes into DVD's. I know I'm going to get a good laugh watching myself as a child (especially my own children's ages.) That project will probably have to wait until we move, but we'll see.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Organizing and Buying Kids' Clothes

I never thought about how much organization goes into a child's first year of clothes, but it would be pretty easy to have a huge, confusing mess on my hands!

I didn't do everything that I do now when Joseph was a baby, but I wish I'd known. It would've made life a lot easier.

1. Keep an inventory. It sounds a little OCD, but when you consider how many sizes a child wears before the age of 5, it isn't! My inventory has the following information:

Box number
Clothing size
Number of summer outfits (a combo of short sleeve shirts or onesies + shorts or short overalls, etc.)
Number of winter outfits (a combo of long sleeve shirts or onesies + pants or long overalls, etc.)
Number of sleepers/PJ's
Shoes: list of sizes, how many I have of each size

(You can take a look at my spreadsheet here. ) I have one for boys and one for girls!

I chose to organize by "outfit" for a couple of reasons: it makes sure everything gets worn, I don't end up with oddly matched things at the end of the week, and tops/bottoms get worn out evenly. I never put my kids in just tops (onesies), and if they make a mess on just a top or bottom, I change the whole outfit. It's not going to make a huge difference in my amount of laundry.

all the boys' clothes stacked in their closet
2. Find suitable boxes and label them. I used diaper/wipe boxes, and they're the perfect size. Until 9 months, a whole size of clothes fits in one box. For bigger sizes, it takes two boxes (one for summer, one for winter). The boxes are labelled and stacked in the boys' closet. Boxes they are currently using (empty, because the clothes are in their dresser) I keep on the shelf for easy access.

3. Use the inventory to know what to buy. I aim for 8-10 summer and winter outfits for each size. The only exception is 0-3 months, where I mostly have sleepers and just a few outfits. I keep the inventory updated, and when I need to scrap something, I keep a running list of things I need to look for at yard sales or D.I. If I need lots of items, I do yard sales if it's summer. If it's not yard sale season or I only need a few things, I use D.I. If that doesn't work, then I use Walmart. (We don't have a children's used clothing store here. Bummer.)

4. For buying, start in the cheapest places first. Hand-me-downs are absolutely free! Yard sales usually have kids' clothes for .25-1.00 per item, and thrift stores cost a few dollars for each item of clothing. I haven't had to buy anything new for quite a while. I recently got Joseph's whole 4T wardrobe (for a year from now, since it's good to be prepared) for about $12. It took me 3 weeks of going to yard sales, and I got 9 summer outfits, 8 winter outfits, 4 pairs of pajamas, and a coat. I won't have to worry about anything for him until next year, which is when I'll buy a year in advance again for size 5, assuming he grows a little more and is even in 4's by then! :)

Need a whole wardrobe? I've recently had great success buying everything I needed for my baby girl, who will be born in October, at yard sales. The final stats:

Sizes of clothing bought: 5 (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-24)

Hours spent: 7 (over two weekends, 2 Fridays and 2 Saturdays)

Number of items bought: 237

Cost: $130

Average cost per item: $.55

Estimated savings compared to Walmart: $1300 (based on $10 per complete outfit, pair of shoes, or pair of PJ's)

My profit (savings/hours spent shopping): $185.71/hour

If no one gives me a single thing for her, which is unlikely, she still has everything she needs until she turns 2. I'm happy to be done shopping, because I'm super worn out. Let this be encouragement to anyone who needs it: if you want to buy everything for your kids at yard sales, it's totally possible! Girl stuff is easier to find, true, but I skipped over a lot of things because I really didn't need them. I think people buy girls a lot more clothes. :) I can see why, though. The frills and dresses are adorably cute.

Do you like shopping at yard sales? How do you keep tiny clothes organized?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cutting Hair to Cut Cost

It's true that I've never been to beauty school. I first thought about cutting hair after going to a Relief Society activity that showed the basics. Armed with a borrowed pair of scissors and clippers, I got to work on James's first haircut.

He will laugh when he tells you about the first few haircuts. I'll freely admit that they weren't great, but I improved a lot just from the practice. By his fourth haircut or so, I finally was able to pick up those clippers and scissors with confidence knowing that I'd be able to do a good haircut in under an hour. The first time I ever cut his hair, I was terrified. It took a long time, probably an hour and a half, and I still couldn't get it quite right. I've come a long way since then! I now own my own set of clippers and scissors. They cost $15 at Walmart and still work great after 3 years. They paid for themselves after one haircut (maybe 1 1/2), so it was definitely worth it to buy a new (cheap) set.

Everybody had issues with their hair, I've learned. For James, it's an unusual head shape and curly hair that grows in weird directions, plus a cowlick. His hair is harder than average to cut, because I cut my brother's and it took half the time!

As for my boys, I can give a little advice for a decent, but not amazing haircut. Little people don't sit still, and there's nothing that can be done about that. A one-year-old is going to scream through a haircut no matter what you do. I set Kenny in his high chair covered in a towel. He made it through half of a haircut before crying. Joseph, age 3, can sit through a haircut if I give him the iPod to play with and trim around his ears using scissors first. Using clippers is a lot easier, and though a buzz cut isn't the best haircut ever, that's what my boys will both get until they can sit still enough for 2 lengths. I don't want to cut off any ears accidentally! That's why I use scissors for around the ears, because using clippers has resulted in nicked ears a couple of times.

Before you do a haircut, I recommend searching online for a couple of things.
1. Best haircut for head shape. (Google will give lots of results and picture examples.)
2. How to blend if you cut more than one length. (There are Youtube videos on how to do it.)

Like I said, I'm not the expert, but Google can be a huge help for getting started! Take this as a testimonial that you can learn to cut hair even if you start off with NO experience whatsoever!

As for my hair, I get it cut by my mom. I've done the fancy haircut thing once, but it took too much effort to straighten it every day. I've done highlights a few times with a kit from the store, and they work as well as going somewhere. The kits only cost $7 from Walmart. :)

Do you cut hair? How did you learn? If you don't, is it something you want to learn about?

before his first haircut

after...still a little teary-eyed

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lightening the Load

Yesterday I was feeling pretty wiped out, mostly mentally, but physically as well. It's been a crazy summer so far. Although James isn't working as a teacher, he is doing concrete and has been promised 30-40 hours a week. So far, so good. During our remaining time (afternoons and weekends), we are shopping yard sales religiously, preparing for a move, and going through the process of buying the house to move in to. I also have a few projects I'm working on: extra posts on this blog, transcribing tapes of my grandma that my parents sent to me (as well as learning to use Audacity, a sound-editing program), and getting a whole wardrobe for a baby girl.

The list is daunting. James got home yesterday around 3 and suggested that I go to the temple, so I did. It was exactly what I needed, like a breath of fresh air to my spirit. I thought I'd have the impression to calm down, stop doing so many projects, and just do my shopping like anyone else. It's not what came to mind, though. Everything I'm working on is really important and does need to happen. The timetable I've set for myself might be crazy, but that's okay. Things won't calm down in July because we will be in a new house and will need to get acclimated, not to mention start taking care of a yard. When fall comes, I will be getting close to the end of my pregnancy and be a lot more tired. There also won't be any yard sales by September, so the time is now for me to work hard! Not to worry anyone, I am a little tired at the end of the day, but I really don't need naps and I've been sleeping much better despite the newborn next door. (One more reason I'm glad to move into a house!)

I thought of the story in the Book of Mormon. Either the people of Alma or Limhi, I can't remember, were in bondage. Rather than lighten their loads, the Lord strengthened their backs so they could bear the heavy burdens. My back is literally stronger and hasn't hurt as much as before, even from sleeping on a really old mattress. I've had the energy to do everything I need to do and more, and I've not had insomnia (knock on wood) for a couple of weeks now. I'm counting my blessings. For right now, it's going to be full speed ahead. I'm going to be plenty tired, but I'm excited to know that what I'm doing is important, and the fruits of these projects will bless many people. As for the details, that will all come later when it's all done. It will get done because I have help.