Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A new favorite?

Today I wanted to talk about a new diaper I have discovered, that is in close running with my Thirsties AIO to be a favorite; the Diaper Rite All In One One size diaper.

   I admit to being a bit of a “lazy” diaperer. I need the easiest and fastest way to change diapers; I have 2 year old twins who quickly lose their patience for folding and pinning. We need easy on easy off. So I looked at All in ones. I had done pockets before, but after 4 years and 5 kids, I was so over stuffing pockets. I know it doesn’t take that long, but honestly it was longer than I wanted to spend doing it.

  All in ones seemed like a great choice, but can be very costly, especially when you are diapering more than one child. So I went on the hunt for an economical choice to test them out before I took the plunge.
  I had tried the Imagine bamboo AIO and while I liked them, I had issues. My children are sensitive to wetness, so I needed to add a liner to them. And the Velcro wasn’t lasting long. My issue with snaps on the    Imagine diaper is that I need crossover snaps, not something offered by a lot of diapers. Hip snaps are a must to prevent wing droop, and my kids are petite in the hips, so cross over it a must.

   I had some Diaper Rite covers, so I was poking around on http://www.diaperjunction.com/ to see what they carried in the way of all in ones. Lo and behold, they made their own. And it was affordable. I ordered on Black Friday and paid $8.95 each, but even full price was only $11.95. Can’t beat that. So I bought 2 to test out, if it didn’t work, no biggie.

   They arrived and I was skeptical at first, they seemed thin. But I liked the design. I love the front flap to hold the insert in; it’s great for preventing leaks for tummy sleepers. The insert doesn’t require any special folding to work.

   My twins are on the second rise setting at 2 years old and 21ish pounds. The insert fits beautifully in the diaper, and the flap holds any excess. The hip snaps give me a secure fit on the thighs without being so tight as to cause marks or pain. The cross over snaps allow for a great fit at the waist. Even when I add a doubler for bed time, I can let out the waist a bit and still have an amazing fit. I have tested these out on my 34lb 3 ½ year old, and they fit him as well. He’s potty trained, so I did not try them for function, but I would imagine they would work wonderfully as they do for the younger ones as well.

   These diapers have lasted overnight with an extra insert, nap time by themselves, and day time wear as if it were nothing. Hands down the best OS diaper I have owned. Easy to put on, easy to wash and care for. Great fit, great absorbency. Fantastic all the way around.

   The company has halted production to revamp the design a bit, I am holding out hope they don’t change any of the things I love, but I cannot wait to try the new ones. And I hope beyond hope that they will release a newborn size as well. 

I adore my Thirsties AIO and between those and my few DRAIO, they are the first diapers to get used out of the wash. It's a tough call as to which is my one and only favorite, I am not sure I can pick just one. 
Stay tuned for a review of the Thirsties AIO.

The Dryer Bar and cloth diapers

  So I've been cloth diapering since 2010, and have diaper 4 1/2 children. I say 4 1/2 because when I started using cloth, one of the kids was only in night time diapers. So she counts as the 1/2. I have diapered my 2 boys and my twin girls. And will cloth diaper baby #7 when he arrives this summer.

  I am by no means an expert, in fact I swear things change every few months, but I do have a reasonable amount of experience with cloth diapers. I have tried every type out there that I am aware of.
I love cloth diapers for several reasons, many of which I will talk about at some point here, while giving you my thoughts on all of them. Aren't you excited? I know I am.

  Having spent 4 years washing and using cloth, I thought I knew how to follow the rules. And I do. I never dry my PUL covers except on low, even my pockets I treated this way. I followed the rules. Day in and day out, followed the laundry rules.
But last week I pulled my covers out of the dryer and discovered this:

  Those are scrape marks on my PUL. Oh my stars I almost fell over! They aren't burns, I know the dryer was not too hot, it was on air dry no heat. I frantically searched to see if I had washed a snappi. Nope. Nothing. Queue minor (ok major, I love my cloth diapers) freak out and panic. I quickly emailed these two companies to see if they had any insight as to what I'd done wrong. No one had any idea, they believed, as I did, that I had followed all of their rules, and my covers should be fine. I wasn't looking for them to replace them, just ideas.

  I had pined over this FLIP cover in Albert for a year. Seriously. A year. Finally with a BOGO sale I bought two for the twins. And had used it less than a handful of times, only to see this. Ugh.

  I went back to my dryer to beg for answers. I opened it and closed it several times, I checked and rechecked all of the settings. I did everything I could think of, including ask it why it felt the need to attack my pretties.

  And then I saw it. Mocking me. My dryer bar. Faithfully I removed it every laundry day and set it above the dryer, so as not to risk fabric softener interfering with the absorbency of my diapers. This is a big no-no in the CD world. Everyone says remove the bar. Remove the bar. Remove the bar. I had done that. Every time I washed. But what no one said, was remove the bar holder. Because you can't.

  The beauty of the dryer bar system is that the holder stays inside the dryer at all times. And is in fact, horrific to try and take off. Awful. It doesn't come off, that is the point.

  That wondrous invention, that thing that made the act of using a dryer sheet obsolete, had ruined my diapers. As the covers tumbled around, on low or no heat as directed, they brushed up against the empty holder. Complete with protruding areas, that are not sharp, but do scrape nonetheless. And slowly, these areas has scraped away the waterproof layer of my PUL covers, and I would later discover that it had done the same thing to my wet bags. I could cry.

  I realize that sounds crazy, but I love my diapers. I've prided myself on diapering my kids cheaply for all these years. For not having tossed anything out until it had reached the end of it's life. And here I had hastened that life to come to an end, over something as insane as not using a dryer sheet! Oh the humanity!

  Thankfully these areas are small, and if the proper diaper is used  inside the covers, they don't leak, so they are still in the rotation for the time being. But I know I will have no choice but to toss them out when the time comes.

  I have yet to remove the dryer bar, as I said above, it is impossible. So for now, anything with PUL gets hung to dry. No dryer time at all. I can't deal with another heartbreaking PUL scrape.

  Learn from my mistake! If you have a dryer bar, hang all PUL. It may take longer to dry, but you will not suffer the heartache I have suffered.

  Just to make myself feel better, here is a picture of my twins wearing some adorable diapers.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Maternity Dress for 50 cents

Having had 6 kids and carrying my 7th, I am well versed in maternity wear. I’ve had all brands/styles, from the (what I consider) to be more expensive store Motherhood Maternity, to the big box stores Target and Walmart. I find either to be just fine, but I do not like paying a lot of money for clothing that gets a short life span.
Fortunately for me, I am pregnant a lot, so my maternity wear may get more usage than some. However, like a lot of mom’s by the time I am out of my maternity clothing after pregnancy I am so sick of wearing it, I don’t want to see it again, and give it away.
Easiest way to conceive again? Get rid of all of your maternity and baby stuff. True story.
So, when I had baby #4 I vowed to keep at least some of my maternity clothes, and I did. Then I got pregnant with my twins. Most of the pieces still worked except that #4 was a summer baby, and the twins were due in February. Uh oh. Thankfully I still made it work, sweaters and such are pretty forgiving. I opened lots of awesome maternity wear on Christmas morning 2011 super excited to have clothing for the last 2 months of pregnancy. The twins were born 3 hours later. So it got post-partum wear for a bit, and then back in the attic it went.
Here I am pregnant with #7, another summer baby. I have summer maternity clothes, but its January and cold. Boo.
What I really wanted was a dress, something that could work for both winter time with tights and a sweater, and summer time when I’m huge and miserable, and HOT (did I mention we live in Texas).  Not to mention something I could sleep in, there are plenty of days you need a nap, and regular clothes are too uncomfortable to sleep in. A soft dress works just like a nightgown for me.
But again, I’m cheap and can’t see paying a ton of money for a bunch of dresses I will only be able to wear for a few months. I have a couple, but wanted more.
Whilst killing time with my kids one day, we ventured into the Salvation Army Family Store near our house. I like to go there, not as much stuff for the kids to break as a regular store, and if they manage to break something, it doesn’t cost me much money to buy it. The day we were there, everything happened to be 50% off. Not that the full price is anything to balk at, $1.00 for brand new with tags Children’s Place kids clothes, sign me up. But 50% off, I can’t say no to.
Wandering through the store I found an item in the “sleepwear” area of the store that looked perfect for a refashion project. Thin cotton material (so a slip is required for daytime wear), cute detailing at the neckline, and HUGE. It was 3 sizes too big, and even 20 weeks pregnant, it came to my ankles. Perfect.
The re-fashion is pretty simple, and didn’t take any time at all really. Excuse the horrible selfies; no one was around to take my pictures.
First, try one your awesomely large dress/nightgown and decide you think it may be just fine the way it is, seriously, it’s soft and breezy. It could work. But no, we want to try and cute it up a bit.

Then decide where you want to take in the waistline. For me, it was right under the bust area, so I could have belly growing room. For you, it may be lower. It’s all about where you like it. Non pregnant, I would have gone a bit closer to my natural waist, but let’s be honest, I won’t see that again for quite a few more months.
Turn the dress inside out and mark with a fabric marking pen, or chalk, or whatever your favorite marking device is (I use #2 pencils because I have them everywhere and yet my fabric pens keep wandering off). Make a couple of marks on the inside of the dress where you want the waist line to be.
Take the dress off, lay it flat and connect the marks, then follow them all the way around the dress making one long line. This is where your elastic will go. It will cover up the marks, but be sure whatever you use doesn’t show on the right side of the dress.

Take your elastic, use whatever size you are comfortable with. Mine here is ½ inch, it’s what I have an abundance of, but you could go 3/8 inch if you wanted, or even wider if you prefer. Wrap the elastic around your body (best to do without a shirt, or with a very thin and form fitting shirt to ensure a good fit) where it will hit once sewn to the dress. You don’t want to stretch the elastic tight, just wrap it snugly. It should be tight but not stretched out.
Cut the elastic strip and get ready to start sewing. I like to start sewing on the side, close to a side seam, to keep the start/stop less visible when I am wearing it. But this is a preference, so do what you like. Line up the elastic with your marks and place a pin. Or if you’re a rebel like me, go to the machine, and use the presser foot to hold it in place.

Start sewing, my machine uses a 3 step zig zag to attach elastic; this is great for that purpose. Allows everything to stretch without being puckered weirdly, and is cute enough to have on the outside. I do a straight stitch forward and backward for 5 stitches to start, and then move to the zig zag. As you sew, you want to pull the elastic a bit, but not the fabric. Don’t pull too tight or you will run out of dress and have elastic left over, and it will be too tight to wear. I like to pull about an inch more than the fabric its being sewn to. This gives a good amount of stretch to the finished item. Do this all the way around, ensuring the elastic is always lined up with your marks on your fabric. When you get back to the beginning, overlap the elastic an inch or sew with the original piece, straight stitch forward and backward for about 5 stitches, cut your threads.
Now try on the fitted item and see how you like it. Now we can measure for the length. While I like long dresses, I felt this one was still miles too long. I wanted it right above my knee. So I tried on the dress, and got my measuring tape. I held the tape right at the elastic line above my belly button. Then I measured down to knee length. Record this number, mine was 24 inches. Be sure to include a couple of inches for the hem, if you want it to hit at the knee while being worn, measure about 1 ½ to 2 inches below your knee.
Take the dress off; lay it out flat on your cutting board. Measure from your elastic downward to your new measurement, and mark that line. Then do so from the other side of the dress. If you like, draw a line all the way across at the measurement you need, it’s up to your comfort level. Now cut it off. Don’t toss that scrap yet, we’ll use it to make a belt.

Fold and pin your hemline. I fold up an inch, press, fold another inch and pin. This gives a nice clean hemline on the inside. Sew your hem, you can use a fancy stitch here if you like, I did a straight stitch because it worked well with the fabric, but do whatever you like.
Try on again; decide if you need to take in the sleeves. I took mine in as they were pretty large, but alas, I didn’t take a picture. Boo. Basically I just took in an inch on each sleeve, I started at the bottom of the sleeve, sewed an inch away from the existing seam until I hit right below the armpit then trimmed away the excess. Now the sleeves don’t seem so billowy and appear a bit more dress like.

To make the sash, I took the remainder scrap of skirt, cut open one of the side seams so I had a long strip. Then I cut a 4 inch wide rectangle, using the whole length of my scrap.
I’m a horrible tube turning sewer, I can do it, but it involves lots of swearing. So instead, I folded my rectangle right sides together, sewed each end to a taper (you could do blunt if you prefer), and then flipped it right side out. Then I folded in the top about an inch on each side and pressed together, pinned and top stitched. Same result as sewing a tube, turning and then top stitching, but much less swearing on my part. Which is always a good thing, the kids repeat too much of what they hear.

Now, it’s too chilly here to wear the dress alone, so I grabbed a cardigan from my closet (this is also a re-fashion of an old shirt that didn’t fit right), popped it on, tied the sash around my new waistline and went about my day.
This was amazingly comfortable to wear, as I mentioned, this is thin so a slip was required to keep everyone from seeing everything I have in the sunlight. But luckily I own one, so no biggie. I wore it all day, and had no issues with the elastic. I had no angry red marks on my growing tummy, I was able to sit and kneel in church without issues. It leaves plenty of baby belly room without looking too "gowny". If you like, you could take in the side seams to fit it some more, and I may do that after I have the baby. But for now, this is wonderful. 

It was very easy, all said and done it was less than an hour of sewing time, maybe an hour total if you count trying on time, cutting time, and the brief time outs I took from sewing to talk to my wonderful husband.

It passes the kid and husband test, all said they really liked it. I can’t wait to wear it as seasons change; I get bigger and even after the baby comes. 

My Grandmother's Hooks

Almost 3 years ago, I lost my grandmother. I say I lost her, but the family lost her. I took her death hard. Harder than I thought I would. She’d been in a home for 2 years, suffering from complications of multiple strokes. It was heartbreaking.

After she passed away came the awful task of cleaning out her home. She had lived in that house my entire life. I have more memories in that house than any other house I have ever lived in or been to. It was as much my home as any other.
My father gave me her sewing machine, which is an amazing workhorse of a machine, in a sewing cabinet (or desk, whatever they are called). It needs repair work as it has been sitting unused for decades, and someday I will have it serviced and use it the way it deserves. But for now, it sits in my living room, holding my sewing stuff and reminding me of her daily. This is wonderful.

He also allowed me to take some crochet hooks I found tucked away in a dresser drawer. They too had been unused for decades. I had no idea how to use them, but I wanted something of hers I could put my hands on. Something I could use that I knew she had used. Something I could use to create. Here are her hooks and tape measure, still in perfect shape when I found them. 

As it happens, I was pregnant with twins and needed to spend as much time resting as possible. So this seemed as good a time as any to learn a relatively stationary hobby. I bought some books, some cheap cotton yarn, got on Mr. Google and decided to teach myself. Thank goodness for the Internet.

My first projects turned out ok; I made hats for my 4 kids, and then ventured out into things for my expected twins. Over time I grew more confident, and began to “wing it” for a lot of items using no pattern at all, or altering something I had found to make it fit my own needs. None of them were perfect, but these are the first items I made, the dresses came from my own pattern, or rather no pattern at all. Just making it up as I went along. 

I hope to continue to get better, and I hope to be able to continue to use her hooks as much as possible. I have added to them, adding sizes and even a Tunisian hook, but never replacing them. I can’t bring myself to do that. My Grandmothers hooks are just what I need right now. 

Guess it's time to take the plunge

I've had this blog kicking around for well over a year, and never launched it. I guess now is as good a time as any huh?

I wanted to start blogging when I found the awesome world of crochet. When my grandmother passed away in June of 2011, I took her death hard. It wasn't unexpected, but it was hard.

She was the most amazing woman I had ever known. Fascinating life, wonderful stories. Just amazing to me. Always had been, and always will be.

A week after she passed away, I learned I was pregnant for the 5th time. We had always said baby #5 would be named after her. Boy or girl. A few short weeks later, we learned I was carrying twins. Twin girls. I was excited, scared, everything that comes with twin pregnancy. In case you're curious, baby A is named after my grandmother.

While helping my family clear out her house, the hardest part after the death of a beloved family member, I opened a dresser drawer and found a bag full of old yarn, crochet hooks, knitting needles and various accessories I knew nothing about.

I asked my father if I could have them, and he said I could. So I packed them away with a few other items of hers that I was taking home to treasure always.

I knew nothing of knitting and crochet, but I felt like I could connect with her through using her tools. Plus as an added benefit, teaching myself this new hobby would force me to sit on the couch and be stationary. Something else pretty much needed while carrying twins. Lots of rest. I can do that.

So I bought some books, checked out the ever amazing Internet, and sat down to teach myself. My first projects were easy enough, hats and washcloths. They worked out well so I kept going. Over time I became confident in my skills, even managed to sell a few things I made to some other moms, and was having a blast. Then I decided to venture into blogging as a way to share my patterns and tutorials with people. Hopefully you have as much fun with them as I do.

There will be other items around here too, I have a large family, I sew, I cook/bake, and I cloth diaper. So expect to see some randomness throughout the blog. That is the nature of my brain, random.