Candice Ayala’s Upcycling Challenge 2018

Candice Ayala’s Upcycling Challenge 2018

A while ago, I can’t remember when, I found this amazing website called Sewing Portfolios. It’s a website to connect people who sew with people who make patterns and fabric. I’ve been able to test a few patterns for designers through this site. The creator of this site, Candice Ayala, hosted a contest this spring, along with Babylock and Michael Miller Fabrics, to create a new garment or accessory using repurposed fabric along with new fabric. I was so excited to join into this contest. I remake things all of the time.

Here’s a refashion I did last fall. Our family got to walk in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. The shirts they gave us to wear just weren’t working for everyone. I turned this adult size T-shirt into a romper for my then 2 year old.

This spring we got these awesome shirts from a parade we attended in our neighborhood. The girls really liked them but they were just too big. Hold on, girls! Mom’s got this.

I’ve even stolen a few of my husbands shirts and made them my own.

I entered the Upcycling Contest several times. Here are some of my entries.

And, you know what? I won first place!! Here is the entry that won all the marbles.

I used a pair of Jeremy’s old pants that he dropped salad dressing on. The grease spots would not come out, making these pants useless. I also used a lace-back shirt from the thrift store pile, along with 2 yards of Michael Miller cotton fabric.

One of my favorite aspects of this outfit, that I didn’t even realize until after I won, is that every pattern that I used is a free pattern. The only cost of this outfit to me is the two yards of new fabric. I used the Set Sail Hat from Patterns for Pirates, the London Dress from Violette Field Threads, and modified Walk the Plank PJ Bottoms, also from Patterns for Pirates.

My prizes included a Babylock Lauren serger. She’s a beauty and sews like a dream. I almost cried when I opened up the box.  And patterns! My prize package included 22 pdf patterns. It may take me all year to fully use all of my prize.

My prize also included 15 yards of fabric from Michael Miller. I have yet to receive this fabric at a month out, so we’ll see.

All of this got me to thinking. When the twins were 2 I did their entire summer wardrobe from online tutorials; no patterns. It was a lot of fun and stretched my thinking. I think it’s time I did something like that again. This fall I will be making Maggie’s entire wardrobe from free patterns with thrift store items, repurposed clothing, or clearanced fabric. My goal is to make each entire outfit for $5 or less. I will also be making notes on the skill level required for each item and will be having my girls join me in the sewing room to prove just how easy it can be. I’ve been busy amassing a large list of free patterns and I’m excited about the possibilities. Check back in soon to see what we come up with.

We Need to Talk. Period.

We Need to Talk. Period.

I have 5 daughters. Five! Cinco! Cinq! The potential for emotional drama is off the charts. Nail polish,  hair brushes, and shoes are found in plenty in our house. I can do ballet buns in record time.

Inevitably everyone’s minds eventually go to one particular thought: 6 female cycles, synced, in one house. And then the sympathy starts pouring in for my one son and my husband. People start asking what outside hobbies they will pick up. We make jokes about buying stock in feminine product companies. (By the way, thanks for thinking of me folks. It’s not like I get to escape the tears and questions and drama. 😛 ) Anyways…. All of this prompted me to research alternative methods for living with the female cycle.

Let’s get real with each other. Let’s talk like we are good friends. Periods. Blood. Fifty percent of the entire population of all of history has or will have to deal with this subject. Society has made amazing innovations over the course of time in the ways we manage it. In ancient times it’s believed women used sticks covered in lint to absorb the flow. In medieval times women often used rags or, gasp, nothing at all. Saw dust was even a common solution at one time. There has always been a misunderstanding and a stigma surrounding periods, and unfortunately, today is not that much different. We have all kinds of ways to control the situation but we don’t really feel comfortable to talk about it. I get that it’s not pleasant, but it is natural. So let’s talk.

I’ve spent the last few years looking for responsible, sustainable, and/or reusable products. I’ve found a lot that I don’t like and a few that I love.

 

Menstrual Cups

The first, and my most favorite, is the menstrual cup. There are many different brands and styles but the one that I use is the Diva Cup. It’s easy to obtain (they even sell them at Target) and for a fair price. Ladies! They really work! And way better than tampons. They are a medical grade silicone cup that is inserted like a tampon and can be used over and over again. I’ve had the same one for almost 2 years. Some say they can go 12 hours without emptying them but it really depends on your flow. On bad days I probably empty mine every 6-8 hours. It takes some practice to get comfortable with using it but it’s not bad.

Final verdict: Do it! It will change your life. Period. (See what I did there….)

Period Underwear

Period underwear are a recent fad. Having an all-in-one product gives the illusion of ease. I disagree. I bought a Thinx and gave it a fair shake. It did what it said it would do. It absorbed. But if you pay attention to their claims they clearly say it can only absorb, at best, 2 tampons worth. So, once you’ve filled it up, you then have to change the entire pair of underwear. Not a big deal if you are at home. But imagine being out, say at work, and having to take off your shoes and pants, changing your underwear, and then having this blood-soaked pair to deal with. Not a pretty sight. There are home sewn options as well (I’ve tried those too) and they hold up about the same.

Final verdict: They are good for back-up and light days, but you still need something to do the bulk of the work.

Cloth Pads

Cloth pads are nothing new. Like I said before, women in times past used rags to absorb the flow. But the cloth pads of today are not your ancestors rags. They have snaps or velcro to keep them in place. They use fibers like wool, cotton, hemp, bamboo, and pul (plastic-coated fabric). They are fairly thin and yet amazingly absorbant. There are little plastic-coated wet bags to store them in if you need to change one while you are out. The thing you have to get over, which is no different than period underwear, is hand washing them. I was really grossed out by this at first but you’d be surprised just how quick you get used to it. Just like you get used to spraying out poopy cloth diapers.

This is another favorite of mine. I’ve tried the variation that snaps around the panties with wings but my personal favorite is the kind that snap right into the panties. I make them myself and if you know how to sew it’s pretty easy. Unfortunately I have not found these for sale online but the winged version is a good alternative. You can find tons of options on Etsy.

Final Verdict: These are a small and more manageable option to period underwear.

(If you sew and are looking for a good cause to get behind, Little Dresses for Africa sends home sewn cloth pads to poor countries to give girls what they need to stay in school. Girls in countries without access to feminine care items have to miss school once a month, leaving huge gaps in their education. The drop out rate for girls in these areas is high. I have made many pads for this charity. It’s a quick and easy project that has a huge impact. Go check them out here!)

Menstrual Disc

Last is the reusable menstrual disc. I’ve only found one reusable version available online so far and its the Ziggy Cup by Intimina. It works just like the disposable discs, Flex and Softcup. I’ve only used the disposable kind and this was my least favorite of all. I have a tilted, posterior cervix, meaning it’s far back and and tilted towards my back instead of forward like most people. The discs are supposed to fit behind your cervix to avoid leaking. After multiple attempts I just couldn’t get it to work. I could see how it could be a great product though. Once in, you don’t feel it at all and they are supposed to last 12 hours.

Final verdict: It didn’t work for me but is totally worth a try and has the potential to be an amazing option.

I hope this is helpful to you. Don’t be afraid to go give some of these products a try. There are even more options out there than the ones I mentioned, but again, I am going for reusable, responsible, and sustainable. One product that I didn’t try that fits all of my criteria is the sponge. Yes, a literal sponge. I’ve read that they are a lot of work to maintain and, to be honest, I’m not interested in sticking something that was once alive in my hoohah. But if you are brave, go for it! If you are still building up the courage but just aren’t there yet, cotton, applicator-free tampons are a good option. They are made of natural materials and don’t leave landfills full of plastic-coated cardboard applicators. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Drop me a line and let’s chat.

Sewing Swimwear

Sewing Swimwear

Sewing swimwear can be daunting. The fabric is slippery, making it harder to sew. For women, it means shelf bras and cups. There’s lining and elastic…. Ok, let’s just quit and go buy something already made.
But we get to the store and we see our options. “Look at this lovely 1 square foot of fabric for a steal at $49.99!” We try things on and we start to get incredibly depressed about our body image. We decide we will never go to the pool again and buy a box of Oreo’s instead. Ladies! Let’s not give in to the hype and bullying of the fashion industry.

I first started sewing swimwear when I was 16 or 17 years old and I could not find anything that I felt comfortable in at the stores. I was a skinny, tall girl who felt awkward most of the time and just wanted something cute and modest. My mom took me to the fabric store and helped me pick out fabric, a pattern, and all the supplies I would need. All I had was an old sewing machine; nothing fancy. I wore that swimming suit until it fell apart and then stopped sewing swimwear after that. The pattern choices were lame and fabric was hard to find.

Welcome the internet! The world of fabric and patterns is wide open now. There are choices galore. I started sewing swimwear again last year. And once the bug bit me it took over. Each of my 5 girls got a minimum of two suits each. They even got swim caps. I made myself 4 suits.

What I learned about sewing swimwear is that if you go slow and take your time you can do it. It’s not hard, I promise. Anything you can imagine is possible. Last year I even made myself swim legging shorts, lined with swim undies. (Imagine, no nerves over possible butt cheek slippage.) Go for it! Give it a try. The reward vastly outweighs the risk.

This spring I was able to participate in the testing of 2 separate swimwear patterns, both by the same designer. The Children’s Mairin Swimsuit I wrote a post about already. Here is the Women’s Mairin Swimsuit. Each suit has about a million combinations possible from the included options. (Ok, maybe I am exaggerating. But only a little.) It was a pleasure to test these patterns. My older girls have their designs picked out and we are just waiting on fabric. I love that I just need one pattern and we can all have something very different.

Enjoy some photos of my pasty white, winter legs. 🙂

Children’s Mairin Swimsuit

Children’s Mairin Swimsuit

Here I am again to share one of my new favorite sewing patterns. Say hello to the Children’s Mairin Swimsuit from Sew A Little Seam. This one will not disappoint, friends.

I got to participate in the testing of this pattern and I can tell you a lot of love went into the making of this one. It comes with just about every option you could ever want. Love ruffles? She’s got you covered. How about high waisted boy shorts? Done! One piece or two piece? It’s up to you. I chose to make the ruffled V-back bikini top with leg ruffled bikini bottom but my mind is churning with all of the options I want to make next.

If you have never made a swimsuit, I promise you can handle this one. It’s not too difficult and the instructions are easy to follow.

I LOVE making swimsuits. For little girls, it takes mere scraps of fabric. For myself, I get a custom made piece that is not too short (6′ tall girl here). I challenge you to give it a try. You can do it! But I must warn you, it gets to be addicting.

I will come back and edit this post once I’ve made some more options. In the meantime, check out the website for all the options.

Children’s Mairin Swimsuit

How I Feed My Family of 8

How I Feed My Family of 8

We are a one income family of eight. My little people eat a lot of food. Here in lies a potential problem.

If I had to guess, food purchases is one of the biggest problems for anyone’s budget. It’s so very easy to go over. An extra bag of oranges here, a drive-thru latte there, the unavoidable Girl Scout cookies… I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but I do have some experience on this front and I’d like to share what works for my family. Here’s a short list of rules I live by.

Don’t Eat Out

I think this goes without saying but I’m gonna say it. Eating out is more expensive than cooking at home. Eating out is the biggest budget killer. Yes, it’s easier. Yes, it may even taste better. Some things just have to change when you have a large family. We know of all the “Kids Eat Free” deals in our neighborhood and, if we do eat out as a family, that is when are where we go.

Buy in bulk whenever possible.

We have a membership to Sam’s Club. I’d love to try Costco but it just isn’t worth the drive for me when there is a Sam’s close to my house. We buy quite a bit there but you really have to watch. Bulk prices aren’t always best. For example, my local Sam’s only sells brand name pasta sauces. I can buy 3 jars of sauce cheaper at Aldi because they are not brand name products.

Bulk shopping can also benefit you in that it can allow you to shop less often. I don’t know about you, but, for me, a trip to the store for milk always ends up with more than just milk bought. Obviously some things cannot be bought in bulk because they will spoil, but many can and every little bit helps.

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit

In our house there is always a hot debate over the words to this rhyme. I always knew it to be, “Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat them the more you toot.” My husband says it’s, “Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart. The more you eat them the more you…” You get the idea.

However you say it, beans are a great way to feed a large family. They are cheap, filling, and good for you too. Go search for some bean recipes and you’ll see how diverse they are. Our family favorite is a 5 bean chili with peppers.

Shredded Chicken Thighs are Amazing

We buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs in bulk. They are quite cheap and freeze great. I separate them into meal size portions before I freeze them. I throw them into my Instant Pot (my favorite thing of all time) still frozen for 20 minutes and then shred them. Shredded chicken goes so much farther than un-shredded. It can be served over rice, in a burrito, in a soup, or whatever sounds good that day.

Meal Plans

For this, I don’t necessarily have a schedule of meals planned for the week. I buy what I need to make a certain amount of dinners for the week and decide that day. What I mean when I say meal plans is that we have designated food for each meal of the day and designated meal times. No one in my house is grabbing food at random times of the day. For example, bread is meant for lunch and lunch only. Lunch is at a set time. Everyone eats at that time or they miss lunch. If you are hungry after that you have to wait until snack time. Sometimes I feel a bit like a food dictator but if I let these wild things eat whenever they wanted and whatever they wanted it would be anarchy and I’d be grocery shopping every other day. My kids know no other way of life so they don’t complain. They are pretty hard core about not missing that snack time though.

The Harvest Dress by Rad Patterns

The Harvest Dress by Rad Patterns

I recently discovered a pattern from Rad Patterns called the Harvest Dress. It’s a pretty unique design that is dressy and yet functional and comfy. It has a nice, drapey neckline.

…and extra large pockets! The waistband allows for pleating without a bulky look.

It comes with 4 sleeve lengths and 2 skirt lengths. It can be made in any light to medium weight knit fabric and is available in sizes  XXS to 4X.

Rad Patterns has many more amazing designs that you’ll want to try. I’ve made several and I love them all. Go check them out!

Lessons Learned On Our Family Vacation

Lessons Learned On Our Family Vacation

This fall we were able to take our first ever family vacation. I love to travel and experience nature and have wanted to share this with my kids for a long time. Jeremy and I have been able to go places together over the years, but we haven’t been able to make it happen with our kids before this year. Our kids are spread out, roughly, around 3 years apart, meaning we often had babies in the house. This made things challenging, seeing as how we never wanted to travel with them until they were old enough to remember and appreciate the trip. Then there is the expense of traveling with 8 people. That’s no small matter. Our oldest turned 15 this summer and our youngest is on her way to 3 and we decided it was now or never.

We wanted our kids to see something special and grand and awe-inspiring. We wanted them to see the ocean. Miramar Beach was the perfect fit.

 

We learned quite a few lessons along the way. Hopefully our adventure can save you from troubles in the future. 😉

 

1: If you leave at midnight for a 12 hour drive expecting excited kids to sleep the whole way, you are incredibly delusional. They will, in fact, end up staying awake for 36 hours straight.

4am gas stop in Kentucky somewhere, not a wink of sleep

2: Keep a close watch on your children at the beach. The ocean is wild and free and may inspire similar feelings in your children.

3: Stay away from sunblock sticks unless you learn how to use them.

4: Check to make sure your child isn’t sneaking home crabs that then die in your house and get dragged into your hallway by your puppy for you to accidentally find late at night in the dark. You don’t want this. Trust me.

5: There will be sand everywhere. Forever and ever.

6: If you build it they will come… and dance. All the world’s a stage, or something like that.

7: If you are going to take videos of your children, make sure the camera is not on selfie mode, especially when you get knocked down by a large wave. Your family may save and share the photos for the rest of your life.

8: Finally, enjoy each other’s company. Turn off distractions. Play and laugh together. This may mean the only family photo you have is a selfie you took at the last minute on the last day, but who cares. Kids grow quickly and your time is short. Whether it’s at the beach or in your backyard, kids become what you put in, not the picture perfect image you might wish to project.

My Four Little Ponies

My Four Little Ponies

Every year I try to talk my kids into doing theme costumes for Halloween. Every year they completely disregard my ideas. Until this year, that is. I couldn’t talk all 6 into going along but I got 4 of them and that still counts in my book. I found this amazing pattern from Rad Patterns, the Kid’s Cosplaysuit, showed some examples to my girls, and they were on board. (There’s also adult sizes available for this pattern. You know you want to check it out.) Each girl picked their pony and I went to work.

Maggie was anxious to get to the candy. Can you tell? 🙂

This photo cracks me up because it is an accurate representation of their individual personalities.

No one told me My Little Ponies only had cutie marks on one side of their bodies. I got much flack for this. Can’t win them all, I guess.

Weekly Projects: A Riding Hood

Weekly Projects: A Riding Hood

Guys! I found something awesome that you are going to want to check out. Winter is quickly upon us and it’s jacket and coat time again. If you have a little one that still needs are carseat you know how frustrating this time of year can be. Coats don’t fit in carseats. Last year, to solve this problem, I made my little one a fleece cape. It kept her warm but also allowed the seat belts to buckle under the cape, keeping her buckled in tightly. I self-drafted her cape using just her measurements. It worked fine but I found something better for this year. Stitch Upon a Time recently updated and made free a cape pattern with tons of options. You can find it here: Riding Hood Poncho. The favorite feature in our house is the pockets. It also has snaps to create faux sleeves. I used a zipper but you could use snaps instead. I think I missed a golden opportunity in not making a red one (Little Red Riding Hood). As easy as it was to make I may just need to make that a reality.

Weekly Projects: A Sneak Peak

Weekly Projects: A Sneak Peak

In case you didn’t see in my first post, I am the proud mother of 6 kids. I also happen to homeschool those kids. We went on vacation a few weeks ago and my calendar for the month of October has zero free days. My point? I’m a busy girl. I’ve been working on some pretty cool stuff though.

Here’s a couple sneak peaks of what’s to come. First, imagine a full body suit times 4, maybe 5, girls.

And here’s something that I’m creating to share with you. The magic is what’s on the inside. I don’t like the dimensions of this one and I only want you to have the best. Stay tuned.