We’ve been cloth diapering since about a week after JuneBug came home from the hospital. I know cloth diapering isn’t for everyone, but we knew from the beginning it was something we wanted to tackle. When I was pregnant, I spent hours researching different types of diapers, creams, wipes, and wipe solution. All my hours of researching paid off, because we are super happy with our cloth diapering system. One day, I’ll write more about it, but as a quick overview, we use BumGenius Freetime all-in-one diapers exclusively, and we also use flannel cloth wipes. For some reason, for me, cloth wipes seemed like more of a mental roadblock to overcome than the diapers themselves. But I was absolutely sold after using them! They clean better than the disposable wipes we’ve used. They are easy on soft baby bums. They wash up beautifully. And I love that I never have to buy packs of wipes.
There are a lot of different cloth wipes you can use. Some people buy specially made, two-ply, bamboo, gold-plated, hand-sewn, organic wipes for like $10 a pop. I am not one of those people. I went the simple route and made my own single-ply flannel wipes. They are an absolute breeze to make, and a stack of them in a cute flannel print would be an awesome gift for any expecting parent who is going to cloth diaper. If you have a serger, these wipes are even faster to make, but I don’t have one (I wish!), so let me show you how I went about making them.
First up, I picked out some adorable flannel. There are lots of different fabrics that work, but I like flannel because it’s soft and absorbent, but it’s also thin enough that I can easily stack it in our wipe warmer to come out one at a time. I know some folks just use baby washcloths as wipes, but I like having the same one-at-a-time dispensing capability of disposable wipes. If you have other sources of flannel around (like a ton of extra receiving blankets or old flannel sheets) those will work, too. Like with all sewing projects, you’ll want to wash and dry your fabric before you start.
The size of the wipe is up to you, but, again, for easy folding and fitting in containers that are meant for disposable wipes, I went with a standard eight-inch square. Cut out as many wipes as you think you’ll need. We’ve worked with a set of 36 for the past four months, but we could go for having a few more. Especially now that she’s getting older and touching dirty things and dropping stuff on the floor—we’re using wipes for more than just bum-wiping.
You can get about 20 eight-inch square wipes from one yard of 40″ wide flannel.
You could leave the corners as right-angles, or you can do what I did and round the corners. Personally, I find the rounded corners easier to sew (no stopping, pivoting, and starting again). Plus, they look cute. I just took each wipe, folded it into quarters, and used a sharp pair of scissors to round the corners. You could be more precise about it and trace around a small bowl using a fabric marking pen, but I figure these are just bum wipes. They certainly don’t need to be perfect.
Then it’s time finish the edges. Most sewing machines have an overlock stitch (or a few different overlock stitches). Check your manual. If you don’t have an overlock stick, you can also use a standard zig-zag stitch. My machine also comes with an overlock foot, which makes it easier to line up right at the edge of the wipe, but it definitely isn’t a necessity. Our goal here is to get the stitch to wrap right around the edge of the fabric to “seal” it closed.
I stitch all the way around the wipe—making sure to stitch back and forth at the beginning and end to really secure the thread. This whole process takes me about 30 seconds.
And then…it’s done. That’s it! I can make a few dozen of these wipes per hour, no problem. When you go to wash them the first time, the edges will ravel a bit, but it ends up giving the wipes a nice frayed look. Our wipes have gone through the washer a bajillion times (approximately), and we haven’t had a single one unravel. They still look great!
If you want to gift them, just either stack or roll them nicely, and tie them with a pretty ribbon. You could even throw in a bottle of my favorite wipe solution and cloth-diaper friendly rash stick for a really easy, thoughtful, and affordable gift.
Earlier this week, I told you all about the actual birthday cake I made for my husband’s 30th birthday this past week, now, it’s time for me to show you the other cake I made for him—a beer-thday cake!
This was such a fun (and easy) gift to put together for him. We’re craft beer lovers, and I knew for a while I wanted to get him 30 different brews for 30 years on the planet—but I couldn’t quite figure out how to put it together in a fun way. Then, I saw a beer-can cake on display at some grocery store (made with crappy beer, but that’s not the point), and I knew I wanted to recreate it for him with a variety of craft brews. A few weeks later, Craig happened to pin a beer-thday cake to his Pinterest wish list board, and I knew it was meant to be.
The first step was to do some beer shopping. We’re very lucky to have an awesome liquor store nearby that specializes in single-bottle sales of a huge variety of craft beers from around the world—narrowing it down to 30 was really hard! I also wanted to try and make sure to get bottles of even heights to keep the cake steady. I’m sure I looked like a total lunatic measuring beer bottles in the store.
In the end, I decided to do three layers. The bottom layer was 16 bottles, the middle layer was 10 cans, and the top layer was four more bottles. There were quite a few brews I wanted to get that only came in cans, so instead of skipping them completely, I decided to devote a whole layer to canned beers.
I also picked up 12″ cake boards from the craft store (to make the layers), plus ribbon, decorative floral picks, star garland, and glitter paper to make it all fun and festive.
Before we headed out for dinner on his birthday, I kicked him out of the house for a few minutes—don’t worry, I didn’t leave him out in the cold on his birthday, I sent him down the street to my parents’ house for a birthday cocktail—while I assembled the beer cake.
First went down one of the cake boards.
Then I arranged 16 beer all around the circle.
I wanted to make sure the cake had a nice sturdy base, and 16 seemed to do the trick.
Next up went the second circle.
Followed by the canned beers.
I used 10 canned beers, and it worked out, but I would have preferred one or two more on the layer for added stability. I’d say this cake would probably work the best with 33-35 beers.
Next up went the final cake board.
And then I topped it with four topper beers. These were the odd height beers I wanted to get him—they all went on top since there is nothing that needs to balance on them.
Then I wrapped each layer in ribbon, stuck in the decorative picks, and wrapped the whole thing in star garland. I also cut “30” out of the glitter cardstock, attached it to a wooden skewer with tape, and stuck it in the top of the cake.
And then, just to be really nice and obnoxious, I spread confetti all around the cake (and promptly locked the cat in the basement—because I don’t even want to know what a cat does with a table full of confetti and a precarious stack of beer bottles).
He was so excited about this! I’m sure he would have been just as excited if I plopped 30 beers in a box, but I think making them into a cake made his big, milestone birthday just a little bit more special. The most time-consuming part of the whole process was picking out the beers for him (which I loved doing, because I know I’ll be sipping on them, too). It was a great gift! He was so sad when we had to take it apart (see the previous cat comment), and he loved looking at all the different bottles so much, he didn’t want to put any of them in the fridge!
There are a lot of annoying things about being a homeowner. Like, say, having to shell out the cash to replace your washing machine when it craps out (pun intended) in the middle of washing a load of cloth diapers. Or when you get a knock on your door at 8am from the water meter reader so he can tell you than you have a pipe leaking .
Those are just examples. It’s not like both of those things happened to us last week or anything…
But even though there are some hiccups to overcome, I absolutely love owning my own house. I rented for years, and it was the right choice for us at the time, but being a homeowner rocks. It’s so much more than picking paint colors and being able to put holes in the walls (although, those are both nice). Homeownership somehow makes home feel so much more homey. I was comfortable in my rentals, but it was always in the back of my mind that it wasn’t entirely mine. Now, this place feels 100% mine (well, mine and the bank’s). Part of it feeling so much like home is getting so much joy out of decorating it for seasons and holidays. Sure, we put up a Christmas tree and some decorations in our apartment, but we have so much more fun with seasonal decor in our house!
Decorating for fall is a bit tricky in our house, because when it comes to the fall holidays, we celebrate Halloween and bookend it with two different Thanksgiving celebrations (Canadian Thanksgiving in mid-October and American Thanksgiving in late-November). So that means we usually skip the spooky decor, and instead go for a general fall/harvest theme to our decor. That means lots of pumpkins and gourds—all from our garden—plus this fun printable fall bunting for our mantel.
I tend to whip up a different banner each year, and sure, I could sew something more permanent, but I like using printable banners. I think they still look nice, but give me lots of flexibility to switch them out from year to year. They’re super easy to put together. Just print the PDF on thick cardstock, and then cut them out.
And then fold on the dotted line, fold it over a piece of string or twine, and then tape it down. Easy peasy!
You can put the banner in one line, like I did, or string it onto to separate pieces of string and stack it if you have a narrower space you want to fill.
Before I had a kid, I had never heard of a tag blanket in my life (also called a “lovey”), and in fact, when I first saw one, I had a definite “Uh, what the heck is that for?” moment. Tag blankets are small. At about 16” square, they’re too small to be used for warmth. And are covered by little ribbons. Weird, right?
But now that I have a beautiful baby girl, I totally get it. Tag blankets are a fun, portable way for babies to explore textures, colors and feeling with their hands. They’re basically a toy, that doesn’t squeak, squak or make noise (which is awesome). They’re completely washable and can fit in almost any pocket of any bag. I’m a big fan of tag blankets. And so is the JuneBug. We handed one to her a few weeks ago, and she was immediately fascinated by the various feelings and textures on the blanket.
The “original” tag blanket is sold by a company that holds the patent on the design, and, let me tell you, they ain’t cheap. For what amounts to about $2 worth of materials, they can run upwards of $35! Because of the patent and copyright, there is supposed to be no selling of off-brand tag-style blankets on the market, but I thought I might share a quick tutorial for how to make one for other frugal parents out there. Just don’t sell them using this pattern. Because you might get sued. And that wouldn’t be cool. I don’t want you to get sued.
Here’s what you’ll need to make your own tag blanket:
- 2—17” squares of fabric
- 32–4” pieces of fabric ribbon
- Coordinating thread
- Ruler and fabric pen
- Pins, scissors, sewing machine, all the other good stuff that goes along with sewing.
For the fabric, I highly recommend using two different textured fabrics for the most varied tactile experience—I used two squares of soft minky, one with raised dots, and one with ridges. You could also use terry cloth, velour, satin, fleece—basically anything that has an interesting texture. Also, the bolder the patterns and colors, the more likely your baby will be to respond earlier.
Follow the same philosophy for the ribbon, pick different textures, fabrics and colors. I went with a collection of grosgrain, satin, and textured fabric ribbon. Don’t use any ribbons that have glitter or embellishments that could come off (these WILL end up in your baby’s mouth). And again, try for colors that are bright and bold—baby girl is really digging the orange and pink circle ribbons right now.
Also, I recommend checking with the cutting table at your local fabric store, they might be able to slide you some freebie short remnants of ribbon cuttings that they couldn’t otherwise sell. Trust me, they aren’t doing anything with their 4” ribbon pieces but throwing them in the trash.
This blanket is so easy to make, it’s ridiculous. Start off with one of your 17” squares of fabric. with it right-side up. Using a ruler and fabric pen, measure in 8 1/2” from one corner, and place a mark.
Then, take the ribbon you’d like to be in the middle of the row, and fold it in half, right-side out. Pin that ribbon down on top of the mark you just made—aligning the center of the mark with the center of the ribbon, and aligning the raw edge of the ribbon with the raw edge of the fabric. Make sure the folded side of the ribbon is “pointing” in toward the middle of the piece of fabric.
Fill in left and right of the center ribbon with your remaining ribbons—folded in half, right-sides-out—making sure to space them out evenly (this will depend on the width of your ribbons). Also, make sure to leave about an inch free on the ends.
Repeat with all the ribbons on the remaining three sides. It looks a little crazy, but I promise it’ll end up working out when you’re done.
Go ahead and place the blanket on the sewing machine and sew 1/4″ away from the edge to tack the ribbons to the blanket—removing the pins as you go.
Now take your second square of fabric, and place it, right-side-down, on top of the piece of fabric with the attached ribbons.
Align all the edges neatly and then pin it down.
Using a 1/2” seam allowance, sew all the way around the edge of the blanket, except leave a 3” gap in the middle of one of the sides to allow you to turn the blanket inside out.
Using that gap, turn the whole thing inside out. Like magic, the ribbons are facing the right direction!
Give the blanket and good pressing, and then carefully fold under the unfinished part of the seam, and pin together.
Using a coordinating (or contrasting, if you’re feeling crazy) thread, top stitch 1/4” from the edge of the blanket, all the way around. This not only closes the opening, but it also reinforces the ribbons so little exploring hands can’t pull them out.
Give it another good pressing, and voila! A tag blanket.
This would make an awesome gift for a baby shower. And they’re so easy to make, you could make a couple with various patterns and textures to keep baby guessing.
When I was working on pulling together our baby registry, one item that was on all of the must-have lists was a nursing pillow. Being someone who’d never breastfed before, the idea of a nursing pillow confounded me. I mean, after all, women have been nursing babies for long before nursing pillows existed—why did I need one? I was skeptical. And the price of them really made me skeptical. I had a hard time justifying $45 for something that I might never use. Now that I’m two months in to breastfeeding, I can safely say that a nursing pillow might not be an absolute necessity, but it certainly does help make the tough first few weeks of nursing a little bit easier. And it’s really a difficult time, so anything you can do to make go a bit more smoothly is highly recommended.
There are two different common styles of nursing pillows on the market today, and there is no way of really knowing which one is for you until you try it (which is pretty much the story of all baby items). I own both styles. I made this Boppy nursing pillow knock-off back when I was pregnant, and then also ended up purchasing a My Brest Friend (worst name ever) at the recommendation of my lactation consultant.
I definitely used the My Brest Friend the most when I was learning to nurse in the first few weeks. It’s firm and rigid, which helps when you’re trying to awkwardly get a squirmy baby latched on. And because it wraps around your body, you can use it to support the baby’s weight, giving you free hands to help get latched on.
But now that JuneBug and I are old nursing pros, we’re transitioning to being more lax with our nursing sessions—and that includes using the pillow that I made, which admittedly is a ton more comfy for both me and the little girl. This pillow also works as a comfy spot for JuneBug to lounge in. I’ve also heard of a lot of new moms using this pillow as a comfy cushion to sit on during the first few weeks postpartum.
I’m happy I have both pillows, but I’m definitely glad I decided to make my own Boppy instead of buying one. For about $10 worth of materials and an afternoon worth of work, I was able to get my own Boppy knock-off with fabric that I love (the irony of which is now that I’m breastfeeding, I’m off coffee because the caffeine affects JuneBug—this fabric is the closest I get to the stuff).
If I had to pick just one pillow to buy, it’d be the My Brest Friend, but like I said, it’s different for every Mom. I know some mothers who hated the My Brest Friend and swear by the Boppy. And some who hate nursing pillows all together! You really don’t know until you’re in it, and that’s why I think this tutorial is an awesome way to get to test out one style without shelling out tons of cash. I’m so glad I didn’t pay all that money!
To make your own Boppy knock-off, here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 1/3 yard white cotton fabric, washed, dried and ironed
- 1 1/3 yard cover fabric (flannel or minky are both nice and cozy, I just used high-quality cotton), washed, dried and ironed
- 18″ zipper
- Polyfill (about 32 ounces)
- Pins, needles, thread, sewing machine, iron, scissors, etc.
First step is to print out the pattern, cut it out and tape the four pieces together following the diagram.
Once you have it taped together, you’ll have what looks like half of a nursing pillow.
Trace around the edge of the pattern using a marking pen onto the white cotton fabric, making sure the right side of the pattern is lined up with the fold. I just used cheap-o white cotton muslin (the stuff that’s like $1 a yard), but honestly, you could use whatever you want. This is just to make the pillow form to go inside of the case.
You’ll want to cut out two pieces from the white fabric.
Unfold them, and then pin them right-sides together.
Using a straight stitch, sew the two pieces together using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Sew all the way around the case, except leave about six inches open at the top to allow you to turn the case and stuff it. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and the end to reinforce the seam—you’ll be stuffing this pillow very tight, and you don’t need your seam ripping in the process.
Turn the case inside out and give it a good pressing.
And get to stuffing.
You want to stuff it until it’s very firm. A firm pillow is a good nursing pillow. If you make a floppy, soft pillow, you might as well just use regular bed pillows for nursing. You want it to be so tightly stuffed that you can’t even fit your hand in the case.
It should be so stuffed full that you have a hard time keeping the opening closed.
Once it’s nice and firmly stuffed, fold under the opening seams and pin it closed.
Since the pillow is so firm, you’ll need to hand-stitch this opening closed.
No need to worry about it looking nice—you’ll never see this part of the pillow—just make sure it’s nice and secure. I’d recommend going back and forth over the opening a few times to really secure it.
And your pillow form is done! That wasn’t so hard, now was it?
Set that aside, and start working on your slipcover. Repeat the same process with the pattern and your slipcover fabric. Again, you’ll want to cut two pieces, and make sure to line up the right side of the pattern with the fold of your fabric.
This time, instead of pinning the two pieces together off the bat, we’re going to measure for the zipper first (trust me, you want the zipper for cleaning later).
Place one of the pieces, right-side-down, and center the zipper over top, right-side down. Curve the zipper around the top of the pillow gently, and pin in a few spots, just to get it secured. Using a marking pen, place a mark at the beginning and end of the zipper. Then remove it and the pins from the fabric.
Place the two pieces of fabric, right-sides together, and pin all the way around, leaving open the space for the zipper.
Sew around the cover, using a 1/4″ seam allowance (note, this is 1/4″ less than the pillow form in order for it to be slightly larger, but still use the same pattern). Make sure to leave open the space for the zipper.
Turn the case inside out and give it a good pressing.
To insert the zipper, place it right-sides together with the front layer of the slipcover. Lining up the top of the zipper tape with the top of the fabric of the pillow case. Pin it down, but make sure you only pin through the top strip of zipper tape and through one single layer of the pillow case.
Pin all the way around, working gently to make sure the zipper curves with the curve of the pillow.
Pull off the arm of your sewing machine, and put on a zipper foot (you could do this with a regular foot, but the end result wont be as nice and clean). Open up the cover and place it on the sewing machine, zipper up.
Begin sewing to the right of the zipper teeth—making sure you only have one layer of the pillow case under the needle.
When you have about four inches left of sewing. Stop the machine and unzip the zipper to back behind the presser foot. This is a little difficult to maneuver, but you can get it back there if you’re using a zipper foot. If you’re using a regular foot, you might need to lift the presser foot to get to back there.
Continue sewing to the end of the zipper tape.
Turn the pillow case inside out, and repeat the process with the other side of the pillow. Align the top of the pillow case fabric with the top of the zipper tape—right sides together. And pin, making sure to only pin through the top of the zipper tape and one layer of pillow case fabric
Place the pillow back on the sewing machine—this time, no need to place it over the sewing machine arm—and sew the zipper to the fabric, making sure to stop four inches from the end and unzipping it past the presser foot. Depending on your zipper foot, you might need to reattach it to switch sides of the zipper teeth (I did).
Next, you’ll want to finish your seams since this will be put into the washer pretty frequently. You can use a serger to finish the edges, but I like to use pinking shears. Nice and easy (plus, I don’t own a serger).
Turn it right-side-out, iron it again, and then place the pillow form in the cover and zip it up! All done.
The zipper covered is really nice for easy clean-up, and if you plan on making this for a baby shower gift, I’d actually recommend you make two or three for the mom-to-be.
Just like with the name-brand version, make sure to use caution with this pillow. It’s not meant for babies to sleep in, and make sure you’re always supervising when your baby is in or on the pillow.
I’m kinda a little bit obsessed with gallery walls. I love eclectic collections of mementos, and I think gallery walls are such a fun way to show things off that might normally be relegated to a box in the basement.
When we were planning JuneBug’s nursery, we knew we wanted do a small gallery wall above her changing table. We liked the idea of being able to include lots of prints, photos and keepsakes that had meaning. And we liked that the wall gives us the ability to change things out, switch it up and make it different in the future as she grows up.
This isn’t our first gallery wall rodeo. In fact, we have two gallery walls (one above the bar in our living room and one in our main floor hallway) that we absolutely adore. And we managed to do each wall for less that $20!
The key to doing gallery walls on the cheap is (a) being okay with mismatched frames and (b) thrifting your little heart out. All the frames for our gallery walls come from the thrift store! If you’ve never hit up the Goodwill’s photo frame section, you’re seriously missing out. For less than $1 each (and most of them are $0.25 or $0.50) you can get perfectly good frames that are wall-ready after a little coat of spray paint. Just ignore the art inside and the colors, and pick out the shapes, sizes and styles that really speak to you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Goodwill with less than 100 different picture frames stashed in a corner.
For the nursery gallery wall, we spent less than $10 to get all these frames.
First up, after a quick wipedown to remove any dust or dirt, we set all the frames out on a drop cloth, sans glass, and gave them a few good coats of white spray paint. We like that the white helps bring together all the mismatched frames and make them feel like a “set”. Plus, the white really lets the artwork and mementos shine.
Once the frames were completely dry, I put the glass and the backs in, and then started figuring out the layout. I do this by using a big piece of paper, you can get poster paper or kraft paper at most stores, or, do what I did, and just tape together newspaper. Just roll it out about the size you want on the floor, then arrange your frames until you’re happy with the layout.
Once I was content with the layout, it was time for the really fun stuff—figuring out what to put inside! You could, obviously, shell out some cash and put some nice pieces of art in there, but we went the affordable route and used what we had on hand. We put in some old greeting cards we’d saved, we used old photos we had, we put in other keepsakes and mementos, and I even designed a few simple pieces, printed them and hung them up. I tried to keep the colors in the theme of the nursery, but mostly just put things we liked in there.
Once the frames were full and in a layout I liked, I traced around each frame on the paper, and then measured where the hanger was on each frame, and made a corresponding mark on the outline where the nail for each frame should go. I also wrote on each outline what item I wanted placed there.
Then, I hung the paper template up on the wall above the changing table, using a laser level to make sure it was straight.
And got to work hammering and nailing! I put a nail straight through the template into the wall at each of the nail mark spots.
Then, I tore the template down, and what was left was a random-looking pattern of nails. But not random, at all! Oh no!
Now that the nails are in the right spot, it was easy to start hanging the frames in their respective positions.
Once all the frames are up, it ends up looking a little crazy pants because they’re all teetering on one nail each. Not only does it not look so great, but it also isn’t a very secure setup for a child’s room. Don’t worry, I can fix this!
To make sure the frames stay straight, and are also very secure so none of them accidentally drops on Baby J while she’s getting her diaper changed, I used super strong mounting tape pieces at the bottom of each frame.
These suckers aren’t going anywhere. In fact, I used this same tape on our other gallery walls, and especially in the gallery wall in the hallway, we bump into it constantly, and not a single one has budged in nearly two years (or even thought about budging). These do really stick to the wall, so if you’re living in an apartment or some place where you don’t want to chance damaging your walls, I’d recommend figuring out another way to secure them.
For each frame, I leveled it before sticking it to the wall. That way, everything would be nice and straight once the whole wall was finished.
All done! Ain’t she a beaut?
Curious what all is in the wall? Here’s a handy-dandy little chart:
- My baby picture
- A pink moose. Because I love moose
- June Bug’s initials, cut out of four maps that represent four important areas of our life
- Craig’s baby picture (yup, that’s a picture of him, not June Bug, holy cow do they look alike)
- A little drawing of a family of berries that I did
- Botanical print of a juniper plant
- A pressed four-leaf clover I found on my due date
- Some lyrics from an Avett Brothers song I love (well, slightly altered lyrics) that I designed up and printed out
- Cute greeting card we got from friends at our baby shower
- A bee. On glitter paper. Because we have a “thing” for bumblebees
- Strips of paper from a banner that was hanging at our baby shower, plus a “J” that was on the banner
- A pressed maple leaf, that was picked from our woods a few weeks before my due date
- A little mirror
And here’s what we spent on it:
- Frames: $9.00
- Spray paint: $3.87
- Mounting tape: $2.59
We had the newspaper and nails on hand, but even if you had to buy some kraft paper and nails, you could get up a gallery wall for less than $20. And I think it makes a big impact in the room!
I love this project for two reasons, first up, the obvious fact that we filled a wall with art that is meaningful. It makes us so happy to look up at these frames and know that each and every item represents something special to us. Secondly, I love that this project is entirely upcycled. Not only is upcylcing good for the budget, but it’s also really good for the environment. Knowing there is such a good collection of frames just asking to be loved at a local thrift shop makes me never want to buy new picture frames every again!