Archive for the ‘tutorial’ Category

Today I made gift and candy pouches from ribbon scraps.  I’ve made gift bags from fabric and fabric scraps that I have had on hand, but never ribbon pouches.

To make a ribbon pouch, you’ll need 2-3 inches wide ribbon scraps. Align ribbons, perhaps pairing sheers with solids so the treats will be visible. Pin the lengthwise edges together.

Two pieces of ribbon pinned together and ready to be sewed.

Trim ends with pinking shears, and stitch together lengthwise. 

Sew the ribbons together along the lengthwise edge.

Cinch one end of the pounch with narrow ribbon or yarn. Slip in mints, gumdrops, or peppermint sticks. Tie the other end.

Completed ribbon pouches.
I’ve been wanting to do this project for a long time now, but it seems like when the holiday season arrives this gets put to the bottom of the priority list. By crafting in July for Christmas, it’s a way to enjoy the process of creating…without the pressure of the holidays.


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Many years ago we planted catnip in the garden.  This year, we have an abundance of it so we have been giving the cats fresh, organic catnip (which they enjoy) and drying it.  Sophia also has been hand-embroidering catnip toys for one of her 4-H projects. 

Making your own catnip toys is a great way to be resourceful by using leftover felt scraps as well as use extra catnip.  It also is keeps cats healthy and active since they run and play with the toys.  Healthy cats mean less trips to the veterinarian…another cost savings!

Here’s how to make homemade catnip toys:


Olivia Picking Catnip
Olivia picking some catnip early in the season.
The catnip plant is now at least 1.5′ tall.

From one small plant purchased at a garden center many years ago, this has paid for itself many times over.  Each year, the plant comes up and does well on its own. 

This year, there were two other catnip plants that came up in different areas of the garden, so we transplanted them.  Initially, they were wilted and didn’t look like they would make it.  Within a week, they were doing quite well.

Sometimes we pick the leaves off, and other times (if the catnip has grown a lot), we will cut it back by taking down the several inches of leaves and stems. 


Drying Catnip
Sophia placing the catnip leaves
on a dehydrator tray.

We have a basic five-tray dehydrator that we use to dry catnip.  Simply place the the leave around each tray in a single layer and with a bit of room around each leaf. Catnip dries quickly – usually in less than a day.

Wanting the Catnip
Lucy taking a dried catnip leaf
before it can be used in a toy.

Remove the dried leaves and place in an air-tight container.  Make sure the leaves are completely dry or else they won’t last.  Keep them whole at this point. Don’t crush them.


There are free patterns on the internet that you can use to make cat toys.  Sophia used the bird pattern HERE. She also used a children’s craft book that has patterns in it for small toys. 

Rather than purchasing anything new, she used scraps of felt that were on hand.  Felted wool sweaters also work well for cat toys.

Follow the directions for making the toy, making sure to leave a small opening for the catnip and stuffing.

Placing crushed catnip leaves
into the toy.
Crush a few catnip leaves, and then place them into the toy. 
Add some wool stuffing, and then finish stitching the cat toy.
Light Gray Mouse - Bring Stories and Rhymes Alive, Nature Table Accessory, or Play Toy
Cat toy in the shape of a mouse.

Wool Felt Cat Toys
Cat toys made from a felted wool sweater
and ribbon.


The cats were around Sophia while she made the toys for them.  Needles to say, when she was done and they had a chance to play with the toys, they were so happy. 

Playing with a Catnip Toy
Sophia showing the cats the embroidered
catnip bird she made for them.
They batted the toys around, picked them up and carried them, and tossed them in the air. They were entertained with the toys and we were entertained watching them.

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The girls are getting ready for showing projects and doing a demonstration at the County Fair this year.  Sophia’s demonstration is about different ways that herbs can be used.  She will show that one of the ways herbs are used is with personal care products. 

In preparation for her demonstration, we made homemade herbal shampoo using herbs from our garden as well as dried herbs and flowers from the co-op.  All the herbs and flowers are organically grown. 


You’ll need:

• Basic plain shampoo or castile soap (we used Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Soap – liquid form)
• Glycerin
• Your favorite herbs (fresh or dried)
• An empty bottle (about 20 ounces – we used 16 ounces and had some extra shampoo leftover)

For the herbs, you will need either:
1/4-1/2 cup of dried herbs
1/2-2/3 cup fresh herbs

You can also add a few tablespoons of dried citrus zest to the mixture as well.

The amount you use depends on how strong you like your herbal shampoo to smell. Some herbs have a stronger smell than others do, so you might need just a small amount of one herb while needing a larger amount of another.

Sophia measuring fresh rosemary.

Note:  For one batch of shampoo, we used 1/4 cup dried lavender and 1/4 cup dried rose buds.  For the other shampoo, we used 1/3 cup fresh rosemary and 1/3 cup fresh mint. 


Mix the herbs with 2 cups of water in a pot on the stove and heat without boiling for about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Let the herbs steep for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stirring lavender and rose buds.


You can either strain the herbs from the water, and move on to the next step, or you can put the water and herb mixture in a blender to reduce the size of the chunks of herbs and leave them in your shampoo. It is all a matter of preference. (I strained the herbs and flowers from the water.  A few pieces snuck into the water, but not many.)

Straining the water from the rosemary and mint
after steeping the herbs for 30 minutes.


Add 1 cup of basic unscented shampoo or castile soap to the scented water and stir or whisk gently.

Stirring castile soap into the scented water.


Add 1 cup of glycerin to the mixture and stir or whisk well.

Pouring glycerine into shampoo.


Pour your homemade herbal shampoo into a bottle and enjoy!

Sophia pouring shampoo into a bottle
while I hold the funnel.
The lavender-rose shampoo turned out much darker than the rosemary-mint shampoo.  Both smell equally strong, so there doesn’t seem to be a difference whether we used dry or fresh herbs. 
However, there is something to be said for being able to go to your garden and pick what you want your shampoo to smell like…without all the chemicals that store-bought shampoos have in them.

The girls worked together to
fill Olivia’s bottle of shampoo.

The girls are so excited to use the shampoo, and each likes the scent of shampoo that they made.

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I’ve been wanting to make this dress for some time now after Olivia picked out a dress at Kohl’s this spring.  She liked the soft t-shirt top and cotton skirt of her new dress, and I thought it would be good for Olivia to have a few extra dresses to wear this summer. 

Olivia in the dress I made for her
using a shirt that was too short for her and
some extra fabric I had on hand.

Recently, Olivia told me that a favorite shirt of hers was too short when she lifted her arms over her head.  The rest of the top fit…it was just too short for her liking.  I had a piece of fabric on hand that was similar in color to Olivia’s top.  Asked if she wanted me to make a dress out of the shirt.  “Yes!” she answered.

I’m sure there are more efficient and professional ways to make a dress.  However, this is what I came up with that seemed to work for me.  The only thing that I wish I knew how to do was how to attach the piece of elastic with the curly edge which is around the waist of the Kohl’s dress. The Kohl’s dress also was made using a serger which I don’t have…just a standard sewing machine.


To make the dress, you’ll need one shirt and some fabric.  How much?  I have no idea.  That’s why the dress from Kohl’s is also out – to get an idea how much fabric is needed to make the skirt. 

You’ll also need a fabric scissors, pins, sewing machine, thread, bobbin, ruler, an iron, and ironing board.


Iron the fabric, and then fold it so the folded edge runs vertically (the fold is on the right side in this picture).  Place a finished dress on top of the fabric, and spread the skirt out so the full width at the bottom is flat.  The edge of the skirt should be touching the folded edge. 
Allow an inch or so on the left side and at the bottom of the fabric; and then cut out so you have a rectangular piece of fabric.
Cut the shirt so that it is about a half inch longer than the shirt on the finished dress.  You could make the top longer or shorter…depending on where your daughter wants the top and skirt to meet. 
If you plan to make the top substantially shorter or keep most of the length, you may want to cut the top first and then the fabric for the skirt so the dress is long enough. (So, reverse steps 2 and 3.)

With right sides together, sew the length of the skirt (from waist to knees).  I used about a 1/4″ seam.  Press open the seam.

See step six (below) for a tip to make pinning the skirt and shirt together much easier.


Using two strands of thread, gather the top of the skirt about a half inch from the top.  Pull the thread when you get to the end a bit.  Adjust the gathering so it looks even.  (Note to self:  Working in the garden before sewing doesn’t make for good pictures.)
Turn the shirt and skirt so the right sides are together.  To pin the skirt to the top, match one side seam of the shirt with the sewn edge of the skirt.  Pin it together.  (Make sure you are pinning the right sides together – you have to kind of lift the skirt and shirt up a bit and then pin it.)
In retrospect, what I would have done back at step four is mark the skirt in four equal parts along the waist.  I also would have marked the shirt in four equal parts along the cut edge.  In this way, the four markings could be matched and pinned. Then, the gathering could be spread out equally within quarters. 
As a side note, the white “fake shirt” that’s inside the pink shirt was taken out by a scissors at this point.  Olivia didn’t like the feel of it and would have been bothered by it. 

With a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew the skirt and shirt together.  Take your time…it’s easy for the skirt or shirt to get under the needle.  The last thing you want to do is take out your stitching.  Trust me…I’ve done that before.  It’s not fun…especially with gathered skirts.
Iron the dress – or just the skirt part – again.  It’s probably fine from the last time you ironed…but just in case there’s a crease somewhere:  you can flatten it beyond recognition. 
Then, you need to hem the skirt to the desired length. I wanted to hem my daughter’s dress 1/2″ so I folded it up 1/4″ and then ironed it.  Then I folded it again (so 1/2″ was turned up).  Pin the hem as you go.  Sew the hem.
Turn the dress inside out….and now you’re done. 
It’s an easy project…it doesn’t take a lot of time…and it’s a great way to reuse a shirt and use some fabric for which you haven’t yet found a use. 
So that’s my first tutorial.  Hopefully it was clear enough through the pictures and/or words.  If not, let me know…perhaps I can better explain what I did.
The finished dress…and a daughter who’s happy
she has another outfit to wear.

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In the September 15, 2009, issue of Woman’s Day, there were some ideas for cleaning for less money.  Some of the ideas included:

Air Freshener:  Put some drops of essential oil in a saucepan of water.  Just boil a little and then let simmer for a bit.  The aroma will go through the house.

Pan of water and three essential oils.

I combined ten drops each of three essential oils:  mandarin, ravensara, and bergamot.  After bringing the water to almost a boil, I simmered for about a half an hour.  The house smelled wonderful.  What I liked about this is that there were no chemicals or artifical smells…only water and essential oils.

Water with essential oils simmering on the stove.

Window and Glass Cleaner:  Put 1 part ammonia, 3 parts water, and a dot of dishwashing soap in a spray bottle.

Although this may be a frugal household cleaner, the ammonia (even in its 1:3 ratio) is not something I want to use in my home. 

According to New York’s Department of Health, “Ammonia is irritating and corrosive….Inhalation of lower concentrations can cause coughing, and nose and throat irritation.  Children exposed to the same concentrations of ammonia vapor as adults may receive a larger dose because they have greater lung surface area-to-body weight ratios and increased minute volumes-to-weight ratios.

“In addition, they may be exposed to higher concentrations than adults in the same location because of their shorter height and the higher concentrations of ammonia vapor initially found near the ground.

“Exposure to low concentrations of ammonia in air or solution may produce rapid skin or eye irritation.”

So, I looked for an alternative natural window and mirror cleaner, and found several that use vinegar as a base instead. 

Ingredients for Homemade Window Cleaner:
Vinegar, Essential Oils, Water, and Empty Spray Bottle.

Combining these recipes, I came up with my own for cleaning windows and mirrors:

1/2 cup of vinegar
12 drops rosemary essential oil
12 drops peppermint essential oil

Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar into a spray bottle and fill it within a couple of inches from the top with water. Add the essential oils.  Place the top on the bottle and gently shake it. 

To use, spray it on the surface (window or mirror). Rub it with a lint-free rag.  (Note: Test a small area of your mirror or window before cleaning the entire surface.)

Initially, I didn’t shake the essential oils to distribute them throughout the bottle, so the only thing that was spraying onto the windows was vinegar.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a pleasant smell. 

I shook the bottle a bit, and then sprayed it on a window.  What a difference!  The smell of peppermint and rosemary filled the area I was working in.  It was such a refreshing change from the lavender-scented window cleaner I’ve been using. Even though it’s an all-natural cleaner, it is nice to have a different scent that I like when I clean the home.

Clean windows…without any chemicals!

The last product I made wasn’t in Woman’s Day, it was one that I saw on the internet that I wanted to try.  It’s for homemade laundry detergent. 

Ingredients for homemade laundry soap.

1 bar of Fels Naptha Soap
1 cup Washing Soda (this is not baking soda…washing soda is found in the laundry aisle)
1 cup Borax

Finely grate the bar of Fels Naptha Soap so that you have two cups total. 

Grating Fels Naptha Sopa.

Mix the ingredients well and store in an airtight plastic container.  Use two tablespoons per full load.

Homemade laundry soap.

There’s another homemade laundry detergent that I’m going to make that doesn’t use Fels Naptha Soap, that is more eco-friendly.  This recipe comes from HERE; and makes approximately five cups: 

2 cups (finely) grated castile soap (e.g., Dr. Bronner’s lavender)
1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda
1 cup washing soda
10 drops lavender essential oil (or blend of essential oils of your choice)

Mix all the ingredients together. Store in airtight container like a mason jar or glass canister. Start with about 1/8 a cup per load and go from there. You may need to give the jar a shake or a stir once in a while to prevent the soap flakes from settling to the bottom. Recipe doubles well.

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