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Instead of posting links to Making Do Ideas on this blog now (I'll just post my own projects here though they are few and far between now), I'm now posting them on my Pinterest Board named Making Do Stuff.
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Wool Sweater Diaper Cover

See my logic on why I use cloth diapers and why I make them this way here.

All right, the hardest part is the diaper cover. I looked up the best diaper covers online and all the reviews said that wool was the best. But the prices are way too much for me! $20+ each. Thankfully, I stumbled upon the Frugal Baby Tips site that taught me how to make "Baby Bum Sweaters." Here is how I have adapted my diaper cover making.

First you have to find a wool sweater! I was pretty unsuccessful when I first went out. This is what I have learned from making a numerous amount of these. One, look for 100% wool, but a high % of wool is ok. If the other materials are natural wools like angora, mohair, camel hair, or cashmere all the better! Merino wool and lambswool tend to be the softer of the sheep wool. If one of the ingredients is nylon and in a small percentage, it probably means the decoration on the sweater. Check out where the decoration falls. If it is in the way of where you will cut your diaper, it will probably not shrink the same as the wool, so if you aren't paying pennies for it, you might want to skip it. Try to go with the thinnest, softest wool. You won't want to put really scratchy wool on your baby, and really thick wool tends to get thicker in the felting process and you won't enjoy putting it on the baby. Thick wool will work if you can't find anything else, but it isn't as nice. Now, if at the thrift store you come across a sweater you think is wool, but the tag is ripped out, there is a way you can test it. Hopefully there is a bathroom at the store or a sippee full of water in your purse. Sprinkle a few water droplets on the sweater. If the water beads up and doesn't soak in right away, it's most likely wool. If the sweater sucks up your water, pass on the sweater. If you make a cover with one of these mystery sweaters, if it gets stinky right away it probably didn't have a majority of wool fibers in it. Sweaters with holes are just as good; don't pass on them especially if they are a large size, thin and soft. Here is my treasure of sweaters I got at the $1 a bag sale at the thrift store yesterday. Eleven sweaters for $1.

Next, you have to prepare them. You have to felt them (aka shrink). In a hot/cold wash cycle, wash the sweaters with a wool soap. (Not Woolite. Buy online or at a health food place that sells wool soaps that have lanolin in them to keep up the wool's natural water wicking qualities. I use the Wool Wash with Lanolin by Imse Vimse) Now, shrink them some more by throwing them in the dryer. Don't trust your dryer; take them out as soon as they are dry.

So now you are ready to make the cover. Some sweaters don't shrink nicely. They are no longer supple or they shrink so much that you can only make newborn diapers from them. If I get a sweater that stays fairly large, I make the largest diaper cover out of it I can because it is rare to get one that can make a big baby or toddler diaper cover. This one I'm demonstrating with stayed large and I could make a 25 incher. You need to cut an equilateral triangle. Mine was able to make a 25"x25"x25" triangle, which is big enough for a three year old or generous for my now two year old. First, I cut the sweater down the middle of the back to help give me room to make the triangle since it went further around than just the front of the sweater. (This picture shows my unorthodox way of skipping making a pattern for cutting.)

The smallest I would go is 12 inches. 12, 16, 20 and 24 inches is a pretty good assortment.

Cut out your triangle and then cut off the cuffs. If my cuffs are rather large I cut them in half and keep the other set for diaper covers I make out of vests that have no cuffs.

Then you fold up your triangle inside out, so that all the tips are touching the tip that does not have the sweater band on it which is in the middle for you are using the sweater band as a waist band. Insert the cuffs right side out into the end of the seams made by the cover. Stick the cut side of the cuff in line with the seam that you will be sewing. Start sewing from the tip down toward the leg holes. I hand sew these.

Then when you get to the leg holes, start sewing around the cuff. The part where the top seam meets up with the leg hole can be a weak seam area so make sure you sew tight there and double stitch over it. Do the same for the other side.

When you are done sewing, put in pins to mark where you are going to sew button holes (I make buttonholes for a drawstring, but if you are better at sewing than I, you probably could put in elastic). I have found that 10 buttonholes are a good amount; here is the configuration. One on each side edge, four on the front, four on the back.

Then sew your button holes where the pins are. If your machine is not fancy enough to cut the buttonhole after you sew it, use a seam ripper to cut an opening.

Lastly, make a drawstring. I just braid three strands of yarn and tie it off at the ends. You could use a crocheted string or ribbon if you wanted to.
And there you have a beautiful non-leaking wool diaper cover for pennies.
I also have directions if you would like to make a winter diaper cover called "longies."

Here is my little one wearing a wool cover and demonstrating how to clean dirty diapers as well when she was a year old. The second is her as a sleepy two year old.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

T-shirt Cloth Diaper Wipes

See my logic on why I use cloth diapers and why I make them this way here.

I initially started with the homemade diaper wipes by cutting a paper towel roll in half (Viva worked well) and soaking it in diaper wipe liquid.

Once I got over the silly yucky factor of reusing diaper wipes that the disposable culture we currently live in had ingrained upon me, I got wise and just made reusable diaper wipes. Much more convenient with cloth diapers since you don't have to make a separate pile of cloth diapers to wash and diaper wipes to throw away - they just all went in the same bucket.

When the baby had more messy diapers often, I placed a basket of diaper wipes (mainly scrap pieces of t-shirts left over from making diapers) and an empty store-bought diaper wipe container with diaper wipe liquid in it at the changing area. I would wet the wipe in the liquid upon use. Now that messy diapers are infrequent, the diaper wipe container just has plain water.

Diaper Wipe Liquid - 2 C of water, 1 T baby wash, 1 T baby lotion

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Velcro Diaper Fastener

See my logic on why I use cloth diapers and why I make them this way here.

In my search for the best diaper fastener, I have come to like the one I make myself. Pins are scary, Di-D-Klips were too hard for hubby, Snappis tore into diapers, and if there was no diaper cover on, they would get stuck on upholstery or flip off. I also admit the teeth are pretty scary, but they were my best option until I thought up my own diaper fastener.

So I came up with this simple solution - Velcro. You do have to put it on very snuggly otherwise it tends to expand a bit and let the diaper slip out (I have no problem, but hubby sometimes is too generous with the tension).

I took a strip of velcro about 14" and took it apart. Then I overlapped the two ends making about a 25" strip.

And then I wrap it around her like a belt.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Diaper Liners from Flannel or T-shirt

See my logic on choosing cloth diapers and making them this way here.

The older the child gets, the more absorbency needed in the diaper. I found that adding more layers to my pre-fold diaper made my diapers take forever to dry, so I chose to make diaper liners instead. This is great because you can add or subtract the amount of liners you use for when you know the baby will require more (Like at night or getting older).

I have made these out of both flannel and t-shirts. I no longer make diapers out of flannel because it is rather stiff, but flannel works well for diaper liners. If I have enough t-shirts, I actually prefer to make liners out of them; they dry softer on the clothesline and don't fray.

First cut four rectangles. 5"x12" or 4"x13" is a good size.

Stack them. I first sew a straight seam around the edges to make sure all the layers are connected and won't bunch up in the wash.

Then I cut around the edge to make it all nice and even.

Then if you have a serger, that would be great, but I zigzag around the edges to sew in all the edges and keep them together.

And there you have a nice soft diaper liner.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Prefold Cloth Diaper from Old T-Shirt

See my logic on why I use cloth diapers and why I make them this way here.

Here are my instructions on how to make a prefold cloth diaper from a t-shirt:

I center an old diaper on the logo of the t-shirt solely for anal purposes, you can put it anyway that fits best and leaves a good sized strip for the center.

I first cut the strip for the center and take off the hem.
Then I cut out the diaper rectangle. If you do not have a cloth diaper to start with they are roughly 18"x15" anything close will suffice. Any other areas of the tshirt that are fairly large, I cut to make diaper wipes or normal cloth rags.

I then place the strip in between the two pieces of t-shirt diaper. I leave the extra length hanging out because of my choice to sew without pinning.

I then sew a straight stitch along both edges of the inside strip to tack it into place. I just use my fingers to feel where the strip is and I keep the diaper edges as close together as possible as I sew.

Then when it is tacked into place I go around the edges and cut them evenly where I have pulled while sewing or mis-cut so that all of the edges meet well enough for me to sew around the edge.

Then if you are blessed with a serger, have at it. If you are like me, use the large zigzag stitch and sew around the edges. Have one side of the zigzag stitch hop off the material and the other side go into the material, so that the edges are sewn together.

Here is the finished product. An Old Navy Prefold Cloth Diaper and Four Diaper Wipes.

If you would like to make it into a no pin adjustable prefold see further instructions.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Really Thrifty Mom Cloth Diapers

I didn't start making all my diapers from the beginning. My mother found a stack at a garage sale which started my journey of finding better materials for cheaper.

The plastic Gerber covers she bought were bad quality. Both the covers and the pre-fitted diapers needed their velcro changed and as a parent of a colicky baby, I didn't want to be resewing velcro all the time. So the next thing I tried was the prefold diapers that my mom had saved of mine. I never used pins; Mom got me some Di-D-Klips that you can find here, but I think they aren't made anymore.

But, my hubby could not get his thick fingers to open them, so we went to the Snappis which you can find on ebay (cheapest place I found them). But these do tear into the cloth of the diaper (store bought birdseye cotton) and after about a year I was having to do some sewing repair on them and about 6 months later they end up in the rag pile.

The plastic covers leaked no matter what I did. So I looked for some alternatives and the best seemed to be wool, but they were soooo expensive.

So, my baby is now 2 and I have just made all my own stuff. All you need is minimal sewing skill (I only sew for utility purposes because nothing I sew looks great because I am not willing to spend the time), t- shirts or old flannel shirts, wool sweaters and velcro.

I like this way because it is basically free, it uses materials that are normally going to clog up
landfills anyway and they are quick to make. If I don't like one, I don't feel bad about throwing it away and I can always find more to replace my old ones that bite the dust. The t-shirt material seems to last much longer than the store bought prefolds (I did buy some heavy diaper service prefolds, but they don't give as nicely as the t-shirts, and I like making the diapers custom fit which isn't very easy with heavy cloth)

If you are a little unsure of how to fold a cloth diaper, The Diaper Hyena site is great at showing you how to fold a diaper and gives you many folding options.

Instructions on How to Make Cloth Diaper Essentials for Virtually Free

Prefold Diaper

Adjustable Prefold Diaper

Diaper Liner

Velcro Fastener

Diaper Wipes

Wool Sweater Diaper Cover

Wool Longies

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kids' Kitchen Entertainment Center

I was surfing some craft site that let people show off their crafts when I stumbled upon the best idea for reusing an old entertainment center(See here for the project that inspired me). When I moved to the new house, I no longer needed my entertainment center, so I worked on converting it to a child's play kitchen.

My mother bought the cheapest store-bought play kitchen she could find for my nieces for Christmas for $80, but most are more than $150! Pretty pricey! I spent $6.22 for mine. (If you don't have a stockpile of screws and such and an old entertainment center, it might cost a bit more. I would ask on freecycle or look in used furniture stores or garage sales for a TV center.)

First, I marked off the areas that I wanted to paint white. I painted the sink, stove, fridge and oven door area white. I used masking tape to keep the paint from straying off onto areas I did not want painted. Paint was leftover house paint from the previously owned house. I then took a peice of scrap drywall (Could use plywood or cardboard) and nailed it into the back of the unit so there was no hole and a place to put my "window" and painted that white as well.

Paint job - $0

Then I had to find a faucet. The cheapest at Lowe's was $15, didn't want to pay that much; found a sink and faucet at a thrift store for $2.oo. Later when I bought my new house I had extra faucets galore. Now, I would probably ask on freecycle first. I bought a small steel mixing bowl at the thrift store for $.25 for the sink. I got out my hubby's jigsaw and cut a circle just slightly smaller than the bowl to let the bowl lip sit on the wood and then used my hubby's cordless screwdriver and hole saw bits to make three holes for the faucet pipes to sit through and used the nut to fasten on the faucet. I bought an old dish drainer at a thrift store for $.25. Leftover washed soap container and scrubbie that I got for Christmas went to complete the sink.

Sink with real turning faucet- $2.50

Next was the stove. This was a bit tricky. Stove knobs were pricey too. So I went to a place that sold used appliances and asked if they had any old stove knobs. They did; they were pretty bent from whoever tried to pry them off and one knob of the set was missing, but they gave them to me for free. The burners are four Folgers Coffee Lids that I cut small "burner hole strips" to make it resemble an electric element burner. Underneath where I attached them with a screw to the TV center, I painted the surface red to make it look like it was on fire. My hubby drilled a hole through the top of the knobs and attached them to the TV center with a screw. Then he filed off the tip so there was no sharp edge projecting below the stove. Bought a tiny skillet from thrift store for $.25.

Stove with turning knobs - $.25

For the Window/Wall area, I took some leftover wall paper trim and glued it behind the sink. For the Stove Console, I painted it black. When it dried, I painted on a green digital clock. For the window, I had a broken mirror frame left over from the previous tenants that I used to make the window frame. For the outdoor scene, I used tempera paints and my imagination. To make the cross hatches for the window panes, I first layed out masking tape in the area, painted the whole scene and then tore off the masking tape to take away the paint "behind" the window frame. I made curtains out of an old Victoria Secret nightgown just by cutting the gown into two rectangles and straight sewing a hem at the top which I threaded through with yarn. I attached the yarn to the top edge of the picture frame so that the curtains could slide open and closed. I placed two nails at the top right and top left of the painted window and hung the window frame on it.
For the Towel Ring, I found this one at the dollar store. It was adhesive, so I just stuck it on there. I bought some $.97 adhesive hooks to hang up my pot holders. I found the potholders in the After Easter Walmart Clearance aisle for $1.00. I tore one apart and made it into a miniature pot holder mitten with my sewing machine. The matching towel was $.50.

Window Area with working curtains - $3.47

For the oven, I moved the hinges to the bottom, so the door would open down. I made a new hole for the doorknob at the top of the oven door. I filled the old doorknob hole with paint. All accomplished by a screwdriver and drill bits.

Oven - $0

For the sides, I hung one of the adhesive hooks to hold an apronthat I fashioned from an old skirt. And on the "pantry" side, I used ice cream buckets to organize kitchen accessories and attached a phone that I got from a thrift store on free day. I kept all my used spice containers and kitchen containers to help stock up the pantry.

Pantry with phone and apron - $0

One happy make-believe chef - Priceless

UPDATE : Someone else did one: check out theirs for the possibilities depending on your TV center.

Fire Starters & Preventing Dryer Fires

If you have a fireplace or burn paper trash, you know how frustrating getting the fire going can sometimes be. So lately, I have been collecting two throw-aways to make great little fire starters once the cold season hits for our fireplaces. Great to take for camping fires, too.

I save the toilet paper rolls in a basket in my laundry room. When I use the dryer (I usually use a clothesline, so I haven't been making these things too quickly), I stuff the lint from the lint screen into my toilet paper tube.

Pretty simple, but it sure works! Lint starts on fire easily and stays on fire. So, make sure you put it on your calendar to clean out the dryer hose and the outdoor dryer vent from built-up lint to keep you safe from a dryer fire. Check out this site that give a very thorough description on how to prevent a dryer fire. Don't be one of the 15,500 families that will experience a dryer fire this year!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Finding Used Materials

There are many ways to find materials to meet your needs without buying new. Here are the ones that I use most frequently.

My family - How many of you cannot name someone in your family that has a house full of stuff? Most don't know what they have in the back of the garage piled in a wall of boxes from the 1960s. My mothers have lately been cleaning out house and want to get rid of it. I accept it and keep what I think is useful and freecycle or donate the rest. It also pays to ask a family packrat if they have something you are looking for. I remember telling Mom-in-Law how I was starting to look on Ebay for an oval bubble glass convex picture frame for my bathroom decor, and Viola! She pulls out two from the closet!

Freecycle - Join your local Freecycle group. Here you can offer that stuff from the back of your own garage and get for free what others are giving away from theirs.

Thrift Stores - I love thrift stores. Especially one of my local ones that has free day every quarter! Thrift stores are good for when you have a clothing need, it's the best chance to actually finding a used pair of jeans to fit you that you would wear or some other specific need you have. Also, on free days or in the free boxes, I take what I think may become useful down the road.

Flea Markets - Some flea markets are good; some flea markets think a rusted spoon is vintage and charges $10 for it. Always check out a flea market and see how their pricing goes. Sometimes you can find good ones close to garage sale prices.

Auctions - Around here there are tons of auctions, but always have an idea of what stuff costs. In this area they tend to bid very high to even paying more money than it is worth. Once I saw a pyrex dish I wanted and inspected it and found the grocery store price tag of $8.99 on the bottom of it. I figured I would pay $5, it went for $12!!! If I am not sure of how much it is worth, I make myself stop bidding way under what I think it is worth because I don't want to feel like a dweeb when I get home and find out I overbid. Definitely go on rainy days, snowy days, bad weather days, days when there are many auctions advertised or a major event is happening in the area; if you hit a day when not many people are out, you can get wonderful bargains!

Clearance Aisle - I always check out the clearance aisle of stores I frequent. They usually aren't cheap enough to beat the price of an item at a thrift store, but things like vacuum bags will never be found at the thrift store.

Garage Sales - With gas prices what they are, I do not do this as often as I used to. I tend not to stray too far off my normal beaten path, because a 5 mile trip down a backroad to a garage sale that offers nothing of interest is too much of a waste of gas. I try to hit those that describe themselves more as rummage, city-wide or multi-family sales. Those held by churches are generally always good.

My own backyard/garage - Leftovers from previous owners or my own packratedness comes in handy. Organize it as best you can so you don't go buy something you already have. Keep old clothes and grocery containers, etc. My rule is, I save it for a number of months, if I still can't think of anyway I could possibly use it, I throw it out.

Online - Looking on Ebay, or search engines to compare prices can sometimes find you a better deal than buying it from your local store, but not always. I always factor in shipping as part of the price. If you are looking for used books, use BookSpot to compare prices. I find the internet most helpful for buying larger purchases. Last week, I bought a new printer for the price of a lesser quality one just by doing extensive surfing on the web - found it on sale with free shipping. Also, using the internet to research can keep you from wasting your money by buying an inferior quality product. I always look for customer reviews. I was tempted to buy the inferior quality printer at my local Walmart, but luckily, I was patient enough to go home and look it up and find that many people were unhappy with it.

Shirt Sleeve Cap

Ok, this isn't something many people are going to need, but I did solve it without buying anything. My 2 year old daughter has a sore on her head going on two months now. She got it infected and a trip to the doctor fixed that, but it won't heal because she won't leave it alone. Gauze bandage rolls weren't doing the trick and were gettting costly because they would stretch out and wouldn't stay well on her head. The doctor and pharmacist suggested socks on her hands; have they ever been around 2 year olds??!!

My only idea was to buy one of those helmets that kids with sudden seizures sometimes wear, but I knew they had to be expensive and not easily found. I was thinking of fashioning my own from foam rubber when the idea of using a t-shirt shirt sleeve came to me.

I took an XL size t-shirt sleeve and cut it off. Now we have a pretty "hat" that keeps us from scratching. If she would get it in her mind to take it off, I would just use a clip at the back of her head to keep it on, but luckily she thinks it is pretty.

UPDATE: The XL sleeve stretched too much and would slip off too easily. I moved down to a Medium size sleeve and it is quite snug and less prone to stretching enough to fall off.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Egg Carton Blocks

As a kid, I always thought it would have been a blast to own those huge cardboard building blocks to build fortresses out of, but we had so very little room storing them would have been a problem. So one day on some list several years ago, I heard someone say they used them for blocks. What a great idea - I started to save them.
They are fairly large blocks that can be stacked compactly.

They make great fortresses.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cereal Box Separators

I really had a disorganized bathroom drawer and had difficulty finding stuff in it. It doesn't help that the toddler rearranges things in it either. I was really hankering for those plastic basket organizers for pencils and things. I sat on the idea for awhile and then came up with this idea. I have tons of cereal boxes. I cut off the side of a cereal box and taped up the flaps.

And there you have it. In the drawer you can't see the cereal pictures so it doesn't look bad at all. (BTW I did not buy the plastic basket you see in the front of the drawer. After making my cereal box separators, I found this slightly broken one in a free pile at a thrift store)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Old A/C Unit - not a time to make do

The previous owners of houses leave all kinds of things when they sell a house. The house we bought is a fixer-upper and the ducting has problems in the second story. We found this lovely old window A/C unit from the early 70s??? on the balcony.

We plugged it in and to our surprise it worked, well, only one side but it was cold air. We used it for two months, but that was a mistake. Our electric bill each month was $100 dollars higher than normal. This cost us $200; it would have been better to have bought new right off the bat. Lesson learned.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Budget Book

After I made the Manila Folder Dividers I used scrap paper to make my budget book. I had a lot of half used spiral ring notebooks left over from college so that was what I started with. Each section was laid out like the below. A title, how much each paycheck received was allotted to that category and a ledger.

I do have to say that this system was pretty crude. It took a lot of paper and if I wanted a special category (Like if I was saving for a couch) I either had to make a new section with divider or I had to cram it in on the side of the paper. After a few years of doing this I started reading some financial blogs.

Free Money Finance
Get Rich Slowly
Personal Finance Advice
Consumerism Commentary

These all advocate budgets, but I forget which one turned me onto the YouNeedABudget software. The system works off of the principal that you should work off of last month's paychecks, so I pulled out all of my savings to begin using "last months" money, bought the software and have not regretted it. No more waste of ink and paper and it is easy to add as many or as few categories. It has a search function too which is helpful. It keeps me from spending ages allocating my money and is so much simpler to view. It's gone up a little bit in price since I downloaded it, but I have not regretted this non-new purchase for it helps me see how necessary it is to make do with the not so new.