Saturday, March 31, 2012

Liebster Blog Award - Say What?!

Can this be right? A blog award?

I am beyond excited to receive my very first ever blog award! Rachel at Thrifty Inspirations has given me the Liebster Blog award!


Admittedly, I had no idea what the name meant, but that didn't make me any less giddy. Yes, giddy. So I hopped right over to Rachel's blog to check it out! And first let me say, if you don't already follow Thrifty Inspirations, you need to start. It is my very favorite kind of blog full of DIY and home improvement projects! And I'm super excited about her new Thrifty Under $50 weekly link-up party. Seriously, go check it out.

But back to good old Lieb (is it okay to nickname my new friend, the blog award?). Here are the details of the award:

Liebster is a German word meaning Dearest or Beloved, it can also mean Favorite.  
The idea behind the Liebster Blog Award is that it is given to upcoming bloggers 
(with fewer than 200 followers) in order to create new connections and bring attention to wonderful growing blogs.

 When you win the award, there are a few rules to follow:
1.) Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog. (Thanks Rachel!)
2.) Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you. (Thrifty Inspirations = amazing)
3.) Copy and paste the blog award on your blog. (See it up there??)
4.) Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserves it.
5.) Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog.

It was SO hard for me to choose who to nominate for the award. There are so many blogs I love. But after much deliberation with Baby B, the five blogs I am presenting the Liebster Blog Award to are:

Amanda @ Impress Your Kids - I love how her blog focuses on raising God-fearing children. Especially her 31 day series found here!

 Anna @ Active Fingers - One of my best friends, she blogs about life as a music teacher and is usually whipping up something yummy!

Suzie @ The Accent Piece - More DIY goodies! She does wonderful projects for the home, and I'm working my way through her Photoshop for Blogging series!

Jen @ Insideways - Another home DIY blogger! I love her series on taking better home photos, and make sure you check out her Scrabble tile wall art. (I don't know how many followers you have, but I don't really care. You rock!)


Ritajoy @ Harbour Breeze Home - She writes a great blog about selling on etsy and at craft shows and such, and has some great DIY projects as well!

I hope they accept my award and pass it on! Thanks to Rachel for nominating me (I feel so awesome right now) and thanks to all my readers for the kind comments and bloggy love!

Beth's Mei Tai

I mentioned the other day (in my post about baby-wearing) that I was working on Mei Tai carrier for Baby B. I want to give credit where credit is due, and it is definitely due to Beth for making this great Mei Tai pattern for free! My carrier turned out great, but some of the pictures and directions were confusing so I took pictures as I went to try to fill in some of the gaps. And I did a couple little things differently. I marked them in red so you can compare if you want. :) I really like this pattern because it's pretty simple, makes a great carrier, and has bonus features like a pocket (that you can reach even if it's on your back) and a hood/head support flap for sleeping babies. This style carrier is not good for smaller babies, but is great for babies over 6 months like Baby B!

I ended up spending $15 on this carrier by using fabric from the clearance bin at Hobby Lobby. Used Mei Tai's can sell for around $30 on Ebay, so if you use an expensive fabric you may end up spending more to make one. But of course it would be way cooler and you could pick a super-great print! So let's see how it's done.

Step 1: Find a small boy with a yard stick to "help" you measure.


Step 2: Have small boy "help" with holding and marking fabric.

Step 3: Wait for nap time/daddy to get home so you can actually get something done. :) Okay, real tutorial time. :)

Fabric
3 yards duck cloth
You can find recommendations on Beth's tutorial and I ended up choosing duck cloth (like canvas) because it is sturdy but still soft and pretty lightweight. For me 3 yards was just enough, but if you have a directional pattern you may need more to get things facing the right direction. This was enough fabric for both the straps and body of my carrier. The only other things you need for this carrier are strong thread, a sewing machine, and tools like scissors and pins.

Cutting Your Fabric
Beth's tutorial has a list of the pieces you'll need to cut. They are all rectangles so it is simple to measure and cut your pieces. I just use a yardstick to mark the size. She also has more options for different sizes. I would recommend cutting your knot pieces a few inches longer just to be safe. See step 6 for details.

Making your Carrier
I'll number the steps to match Beth's tutorial so you can follow along between the two. Sorry if this isn't super convenient, but I don't want to steal someone else's tutorial. I just want to fill in the gaps with pictures and tips!

1. Hemming the long edges of the straps - fold under 1/4" and press, fold again and press (shown below).
Stitch close to the inside edges of the hems (shown below).

2. Pleat the ends of your straps - 3 pleats for this size of strap. Your total thickness after pleating should be about 3" (shown below).

3. Attach the straps to the inside layer of the body - go by the layout drawing on Beth's tutorial to place your shoulder straps 7" down from the top of the body at a 45 degree angle. I found the easiest way to get the angle right was to fold a piece of paper in half, then fold one corner in to the center fold line to get a 45 degree angle. Then I could line a straight edge up with the side of the carrier and line the strap up with the angled side. Hopefully the picture below will make sense. The should straps will be placed face down.
Then place the waist straps on the bottom corners, also at a 45 degree angle. These straps are face up (paying attention to which way your straps face is very important if you are not using a reversible fabric, like me)
Pine those straps in place. So overall we have this:
According to Beth's tutorial it's really important to NOT sew within 5/8" of the edge of the body, so I went ahead and measured in 5/8" and marked a line to make sure I didn't get too close.
Then stitch it on the straps. I've heard that it's best to triple stitch things when making a baby carrier. You can see how I started by following my marked 5/8" and stitching near the edge around the strap. Then I did it two more times going in a little further each time so I have three lines of stitches.  I also put an X across the middles.
This shows the shoulder strap stitched on and you can see a little better how I did the three lines of stitching and an X.

4. Make the pocket - start by pressing the edges in toward the wrong side (see how much on Beth's tutorial)
Then flip your pocket right side up and fold a short end in 4" and press.
Open up the fold and tuck the crease under 1" like shown below. Repeat for the other side.
 
This is what it should look like when you're done:
 Next sew two lines of stitching down the short sides of the pocket. There is a good illustration of this on Beth's tutorial. Also, I accidentally measured one side wrong so it's all lopsided. Oops.
 

5. Attach the pocket -lay down your inside body piece (with straps attached) making sure the shoulder straps are right side UP. Then lay your front body piece directly on top, right side up. You might want to use a few pins to keep them from scooching around. Then, on top of both of those layers, place your pockets 6" from the bottom & centered horizontally. See the drawing in Beth's tutorial for more details
Sew through all the layers to attach your pocket, leaving a 6" opening on each side. Beth's tutorial has a GREAT illustration of where the stitching should be. Check it out!

 6. Make the knot loops for the hood/head support - Beth's tutorial has one kind of knot, but I tried it like 15 times and couldn't get a knot at all. So this is how I did it instead. Start by folding your fabric in half lengthwise (wrong sides together) and press. Then fold each long edge in 1/4" and press.
Then fold on the middle crease and press again, like below. Top stitch along both long edges, close to the edge. Repeat for the other strap.
 Now to tie the knot. I found that the simplest way to do it was to fold the strip in half...
tie a simple knot, like when you start to tie your shoe....
  
scooch it down toward the loop end....
  
 (that is where I ended up having to stop on mine because my strips weren't long enough. It will work okay, but the knot is smaller than I hoped. If you cut longer straps, you can keep going to get a more substantial knot.) Pull the loose ends through the loop at the end.
  
Your knots will look something like this when you are done. You want them to be about 5" long total, so cut off any extra to get the right length.
Now pin them to the top of the front body piece like below. Beth's tutorial says to leave at least 5/8" gap on the sides, but I went ahead and did a full inch to be safe.

7. Attaching the back body panel - lay down your assembled carrier face (pocket side) up, lay the the back body panel face down on top and pin around the edges. Then sew a 5/8" seam all around EXCEPT where the straps come out. Beth's tutorial says to stop about 3/4" from each strap, so I went ahead and marked my stopping and starting points to make sure I didn't forget and go too far (it's the pen lines below).
After you sew, clip the top corners (see the illustration in Beth's tutorial) and turn the carrier right side out through one of the strap openings. You will have holes like this where the straps go, so just pull them through.
  
Does anyone else see a funny dancing monster guy?
  
This was the kind of tricky part. You need to tuck the edges of each strap opening in and press them so you get a nice finished edge. However, with the way this turns out the seams get in the way of each other so you can't get them tucked in right. So I just did the best I could and it turned out okay. If you want to have an easier time, you could try making a little change earlier on (in Step 3 place the shoulder straps face UP and the waist straps face DOWN. Then follow the rest of the directions as they are. I haven't actually tried it, but I think it should work. :))
  
Then just top stitch all around the edge. It wouldn't hurt to do a second line of stitching, too.

The next step is attaching the loops that the hood knots will go through. Beth's tutorial has great directions for this, so I'll just let you check it out there.

Finally, try your carrier on to check the length of your straps. If you are happy with them you can go ahead and hem the ends, of if they are too long you can cut them a little shorter and then hem them. All done!


The wide straps actually give really great support and I can wear it comfortably for quite awhile. And Baby B has already fallen asleep in it a few times. :) See how I can keep both hands free? That's great for me and Baby B loves still being close to his momma.


I picked the most neutral pattern they had in the bargain bin so my Nathan can wear it to, which he actually did during a trip to IKEA. Yes, he took me to IKEA and carried a sleeping baby around while we were there. He's my hero.


There are a couple different ways to wear your Mei Tai and Beth has great tutorials with pictures! One tutorial shows how to carry in front.


 And the other shows how to carry in back.


I still can't wait to try making a few more styles, but this one is definitely a keeper!


*******SAFETY NOTE: Use extra care if you make a baby carrier of your own. Remember, you are carrying precious cargo so read all instructions and suggestions carefully to make sure your carrier will be safe and comfortable for your baby. Always carefully read the instructions for proper fit and use of your carrier as well. Use a homemade carrier at your own risk, so if you have concerns about safety just don't use it!*******

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baby B's Favorite Place

Any guesses? It's in my arms. In the middle of whatever I'm doing. Much as I love the boy, he makes it doggone hard to things done sometimes. Which is why I've been wanting a second pair of arms! This normal (and healthy!) attachment of baby to momma is one of the main reasons babywearing is so popular. It is especially great for new babies since it keeps them safe and comfy close to mom, but is also helpful for bigger babies who still want to be close but start to get heavy. I like babywearing, but I haven't done it for a while since Baby B has become so mobile. When he was younger we both LOVED the wrap I found at a yard sale for $5. (if I hadn't found one so cheap, I would have made one like this or this). If you'd rather buy a wrap, I've heard a lot of good things about the Sleepy Wrap brand and Moby is a really popular version.


But Baby B isn't the tiny little thing he used to be, and sure enough he has outgrown our old friend (stretchy wraps are great for small babies under 18 lbs. but a no-no for bigger babies & back carries! They are too easy for bigger babies to wiggle out of and if your baby is too heavy the fabric sags and you can't get a comfortable fit). So the hunt has begun for a new carrier for my boy. I have an old ring sling of my mom's that works pretty well for around the house. I can put Baby B in a hip carry which keeps one hand free and prevents my other arm from getting too tired. If you are interested in making your own sling ring you can check out a range of tutorials here, a simple ring sling here, and a pleated ring sling here. Or check out Maya Wrap slings if you prefer to purchase a pre-made sling.


I still wanted a little more versatility in my baby-wearing repertoire. And since I'm notoriously cheap, I decided to take a swing at making my own. Simple pouch sling carriers are usually one of the more affordable options to buy, but are also the simplest to make. And since I could use fabric I had on hand already, this project was essentially free for me! When I made my sling I used this pattern, but when I tried to find it to link here I stumbled across a much better pattern by Poplar Porch, so I recommend that one instead! If you are making a sling for a bigger baby and planning to do a hip carry, you may one to try this one with a padded section for baby's legs instead. I'll be trying this next time because the one I have now is too tight around Baby B's legs. If you want to buy a sling, check out Hotslings or Peanut Slings.

My homemade pocket sling!

The pouch sling is similar to the ring sling, so it didn't add a ton of versatility overall. I still need something that would help with extended carrying on front or back. So I decided to take a swing at making a Mei Ti style carrier. Mei Tais have some structure to them, but are still pretty simple to make. I chose a pattern called Beth's Mei Tai because it includes a pocket for keys or toys and a hood for sleeping babies. There is another great tutorial here and a tutorial for a carrier with interchangeable panels here. I actually just finished up my Mei Tai for Baby B. I love it because it was still pretty easy to make and it's easy to put on. You can see more details about my Mei Tai and how to make your own here! If you are not a sewer, I've heard good things about BabyHawk carriers, and there are lots of other brands out there too!

Baby B enjoying my new Mei Tai - pattern here


I've also heard lots of great things about Boba, Beco, and Ergo, all of which are soft structured carriers. I really wanted to give one of these a try, but they cost about $80 used... Urg. Then I found a great tutorial to actually make one at Late Bloomer Crafts! It is several posts long, but if you click here you will see all the posts in the series. I haven't tried it yet, but it's on my to-do list! Soft structured carriers are great because they use buckles instead of ties making them super-easy to put on, even for back carries!


Finally (for now), I also hope to experiment with a woven wrap, which is very similar to the sleepywrap-ish carrier I used when Baby B was tiny, but a woven wrap works with bigger babies and can be used for back carries. Tutorials for making your own and extra tips & info can also be found here, here, here, and here. I you prefer to buy, I've heard rave reviews about Didymos wraps but they are crazy expensive! If you want a cheaper option I know Moby makes one and there are other brands as well.



I know everyone has different opinions about what styles of carriers are best, and I figure trying a little of everything is the best way to find out what I like and what works for us. How about you? Do you like babywearing? Have you ever made a carrier of your own? What's your favorite?

*******SAFETY NOTE: Use extra care if you make a baby carrier of your own. Remember, you are carrying precious cargo so read all instructions and suggestions carefully to make sure your carrier will be safe and comfortable for your baby. Always carefully read the instructions for proper fit and use of your carrier as well. Wraps are especially tricky, so make sure you know how to safely operate them before putting your baby in! No matter what style carrier you have, your baby should be "visible and kissable" (in a front carry) to keep him or her safe. If you buy a carrier, make sure it's from a reputable seller who has tested their carriers for safety.*******

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Everyday's a Party

I really love a good garland (if you don't believe me, check out my festive festivities board!). The rule my house around Christmas, then go back into hiding for most of the year with occasional appearances for special occasions. But the other day I realized something.

Why should I wait for "special" days to get out the decorations I love so much? Or more importantly, does that mean I'm saying my normal, everydays aren't special? Everyday I wake up, I have life. I have breath. I see the sun. I have a husband who loves me, a baby boy I adore, and a Christ who saved me. Simple as my life is, it is grand and I wouldn't want it any other way.


So I made one. A simple, fun little garland to live on my entertainment center. And I love it. It's like having party decorations up every. single. day. And we're just celebrating life! Simple, beautiful, wonderful life.


 I learned about finger knitting when I read this post by The Nester. Once I got the hang of it, it actually went really fast! I spent maybe an hour and a half on the whole thing. And I already had the yarn so it was free! It's super lightweight but still looks chunky and textured. And I'm thinking about making more to hang all around my house. You know, just for funsies.



It's so easy for me to get caught up in and stressed out about things that don't matter. I need to be reminded to step back, celebrate life, and be thankful for what I have. From the cheerios smashed in my carpet to the best baby hugs in the world. How are you celebrating life today?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Picture Trick

I learned a new picture hanging trick the other day and decided to give it a try in our office/guest room. I started with these 3 picture frames from a Dick Blick outlet. It turns out there is a Dick Blick outlet near my parents' house and I was introduced to it for the first time recently. And I'm hooked. There is a whole back room of as-is merchandise and I found a bunch of goodies! Including these bad boys for only $5 each. With their deep, clean lines they are just what I was looking for to fill an empty wall in this room. If you look closely you can see on the bottom frame why they were marked down. They are a kind of banged up, but the serious damage is all hidden on the back. There are a few scratches on the front, but I'm planning to give them all a matching coat of paint that should hide any flaws.
 
 

These frames didn't have any mounting hardware so I used a picture hanging kit (from Dollar Tree) to attach some eye hooks and wire to the back. That's why these frames are perfect for my new trick. The wire on each one ended up at a different height because I didn't do any kind of measuring. But don't worry, it will all work out!


Down to picture-hanging-business: I started by driving a nail halfway through a scrap piece of plywood (but I'm sure you could use scrap anything).

 

Then I hooked the wire of the first frame over the head of the nail.

 

Then I hoisted it up into position, letting the frame hang on the nail. This is great if you don't know exactly where you want your picture to hang because you can move it around without commitment.


 Keeping the nail firmly in place, I took down the picture and grabbed my hammer (with a great display of agility. not really, my husband handed it to me.). I gave the nail a quick tap on the head just enough to leave a mark on the wall.


 That's the start of my little hole. It marks exactly where my nail needs to go for this frame.


 So in goes the nail. I like to angle them down toward the wall (so the head is sticking up) just a little to make sure my frames don't slip off the end of the nail. If I was hanging something heavy I would use a screw & anchor instead, but these guys are super lightweight.


 After the first frame, I repeated this process for the second. I used a level to line up the tops of my two frames before marking my hole. I did measure the space between the two so I could equally space my third frame.


Of course, no project is complete without a little help from Baby B....

He likes to hold things up to his ear like a phone. Any things. And if he doesn't have something in his hand, he'll just put his hand up...

...and say "ehh-o!" It means "hello. :)

I repeated the process again to hang my third frame. After they were hung I marked the "left" "middle" and "right" so I can be sure to hang them in the right spots (so they will be level) after I paint them. I'm really happy with how this trick worked for this kind of project. I feel like it was the easiest way to get these level!


Now I just need to paint them and add some art. Baby steps.




Have you learned any new tricks lately?