My first sewing project: Recycled T-Shirt Bags

I few weeks ago I finished my first sewing project. I learned three things.

#1 Sewing is harder than it looks, but it can be fun.

#2 Pinning is very important and I hate pinning.

#3 Stitching in a straight line is a learned skill, and I haven’t learned it yet.

I got the bright idea to do something with a bunch of old T-shirts we had lying around the house. They seemed too nice just to cut up into rags, but they also weren’t being worn. Plus many of them had sentimental value. So I found information online about making T-shirts into bags. I figured if I screwed it up it wouldn’t matter, given that these are old shirts.

Six shirts later I realized how much I really have to learn about sewing. The pinning process seemed to take forever and I’m not good with slow tedious prep work. I’m the kind of person who loves to paint, but hates prepping the wall before hand, even though I know good prep work makes a project turn out better.

The final product isn’t perfect but they work surprisingly well. They hold a lot and while they are stretchy, they are also sturdy, especially for lightweight but bulky items. I use them for anything I would normally use an old plastic bag for: carrying a change of clothes, bringing food to a friend’s house, storing clothing waiting to go to the thrift store. I don’t usually use them for grocery shopping, but they work well for that as well, though I haven’t tested them on anything has heavy as gallons of milk. These are especially good for a situation where I’m not sure I’ll get the bag back. I like my grocery bagsand I hesitate to risk losing them after having slowly built up a stash.

But with these bags, I’m got nothing to lose. As a parent, I love not having to worry about my daughter smothering herself on one of these, as with a plastic grocery bag. She can play with them all she wants. In the future I might have to try this with child sized T-shirts so my daughter can have her own little bags.


Wet Pants: Potty Training Tales and Reviews of Cloth Training Pants

My daughter first showed interest in potty training around 17 months. So we bought her a little potty and let her sit on it if she wanted to. She got pretty good at it too. After a few weeks we thought she would also always poop on the potty and we would only be stuck changing wet diapers. We thought she was going to potty train early, saving us months of washing diapers. No such luck. For two months after that, she showed almost no interest in, if not an aversion to, the potty. Now at almost two she is headed toward being interested again. Last winter, when she was consistently using the potty at least once a day or so and I got tired of trying to put on and take off diapers in our tiny bathroom, I decided to buy some cloth training pants.

As a cloth diaper family, I really didn’t want to start using disposable pull-ups. But I couldn’t find many cloth trainers that I thought would work for us. I needed something that could be pulled up and down, but if it could unsnap that would be ideal. It also needed to be fully waterproof and fairly absorbent while still allowing her to feel wet. She wasn’t going to make it to the potty most of the time in the beginning and I wanted something that would save us from puddles on the floor. The reviews for most of the cloth trainers were sketchy. The really well reviewed ones, like Super Undies, were really expensive. I knew that cloth would ultimately save us money, but a stash of $20 each training pants was going to add up fast. So I bought a trainer here and there from several different brands until I assembled a reasonable stash. Below are my reviews:

Mama Bear One-Size Trainer

Mama Bear One-Size Training Pants (purchased from Mama Bear Baby Wear at

$12 + shipping

These are my all time favorite trainers. I love that they snap off and are highly absorbent, though still not as much as a diaper. I think the key is in the inner absorbent core of Zorb ™. Zorb is made of a combination of bamboo, cotton and microfiber and claims to be four times more absorbent than cloth diaper flannel. I’ve been impressed by the adjustable snap system that will allow these trainers to grow with my daughter. They are the only one-size trainers I could find. My daughter, like many other children, has been potty training for a while. I like not having to worry about buying multiple stashes of sized trainers should she linger on the process for a very long time. I also bought a pair of Mama Bear’s petite one-size trainers that use a Gerber prefold as the absorbent core. It’s not as absorbent as the standard one-size trainer, but fits my skinny girl very well. If your child is thin for his or her age, ask her about custom petite trainers.

Blueberry Trainer

Blueberry Trainers (purchases from Kelly’s Closet and Amazon)

$15.95 (Size Medium)

These are adorable and fit just like underwear. Since they don’t snap they are a little annoying to take off if your child poops and they aren’t fully waterproof. But they honestly hold more than I anticipated and they will save you from a puddle on the floor. I recommend washing them inside out for easier cleaning. The color choices are more limited on Amazon, but they qualify for Amazon Prime free shipping.

QTBunns Potty Training Pants

QTBunns Potty Training Pants (purchased from QTBunns at

$11 + shipping (Size Small)

These are also a pull-up only pant, but the soft flannel is wonderful. The stretchy sides will, I think, allow for some growth before having to size up. I found them to be quite absorbent and wash easily. This is also the only trainer from an Etsy seller than is currently featured on

Now that Kelly’s Closet is selling Super Undies, I may finally purchase a pair if I can use a coupon and combine it with a large enough order to meet the free shipping threshold. I had a hard time finding anywhere that carried these that offered free shipping. I’m also considering purchasing a Prefold Trainer from Little Moose Diapers on Etsy since I like the idea of using a prefold that can pulled up and down like underwear, but is still waterproof, plus they have snaps. If I end up purchasing these or any other trainers I’ll make sure to review them as well.

Note: My daughter loves wearing her “big girl pants.” But she still doesn’t use the potty most of the time. When we use exclusively trainers we usually need to change her pants at least once a day when the trainer becomes oversaturated. She’s getting better so I’m hopeful.

My Garden 2011: New additions, Two of the Dirty Dozen

After four months of debating, I finally took the plunge. I ordered two apples trees and two blueberry bushes from Jung Seeds. Now normally, neither of those items would be feasible in an urban garden such as mine, but fortunately there are now varieties of these wonderful plants that need less space than the more common varieties. I was looking for a way to tackle a few more of the Produce Dirty Dozen in my home garden. The 2011 Dirty Dozen include:

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Bell peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Cherries
  10. Kale/collard greens
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes (imported)
Scarlet Sentinel Columnar Apple Tree

Peaches, nectarines and cherries are pretty much out of the question, even if I bought dwarf varieties. Once they got tall enough they would block all of the sun from my yard. This year I’ve added bell peppers and strawberries to my garden. I had planned to grow potatoes, but my late start made that unlikely so I decided to defer until next year. I chose two different varieties of what are called Columnar Apple Trees; Scarlet Sentinel and Northpole. These are an amazing horticultural development. I only found out about them about six months ago when I was researching how to grow fruit in your backyard.

Northpole Columnar Apple Tree

Apparently these trees can even be grown in containers, though mine will be going in the ground. They only grow two to three feet wide and eight or twelve feet tall. While it will take a couple of years to produce a decent crop, I’m excited about being able to give my daughter organic apples right off the tree.

I chose Dwarf Northsky and Dwarf Northcountry blueberry bushes. I had originally planned to use these in a raised bed, but because they

Dwarf Northcountry Blueberry

need to be next to each other for proper cross pollination I decided to use them to fill in a bare spot in my regular garden. Typically I primarily use non-edible plants such as flowering bushes, perennials and bulbs to fill in the landscaped beds that flank either side of my backyard, but I’ve been reading recently about edible landscaping and decided that a couple of blueberry bushes would be just as attractive, more useful and in this case also less expensive than more flowers. The dwarf varieties are cold hardy for this region and won’t take up as much space as traditional blueberries. While I don’t typically eat a lot of blueberries myself, I’ve read that fresh blueberries are much sweeter than what we typically get in the grocery store. I also love to bake with them, but can rarely justify the cost.

Dwarf Northsky Blueberry

This will be my first year attempting to grow fruit (unless you count tomatoes) so it will definitely be a learning experience. But it’s exciting to see how much my garden has grow year after year.

Hopefully I will have pictures of my garden soon, once I get my new SD card reader up and running.

Brushing Off the Dust: My Novel

This post will be short mostly because I just spent the last hour working on my novel, which wouldn’t be significant if it weren’t the first time I’ve touched it in nearly six months. I’ve always had lofty goals for my writing, but have had a very hard time keeping up with them. When I first started attending my writers’ group a year and a half ago, I was optimistic about resuming writing again. This blog is one of the results of those efforts. But I also wanted to resume work on several projects that I had let sit gathering metaphorical dust in my computer files. The first was a finished family advent devotional waiting to be shopped around to publishers. The second was what I affectionately call my dance novel, also known as “The Pointe.” I started this project four or five years ago under the guise of writing what I know. Meanwhile, I changed jobs, bought a house, renovated said house, got pregnant, had a baby,quit my job, nursed and cared for a new baby, took care of a husband suffering from clinical depression, got pregnant again, and had a miscarriage.

During those years I managed to write almost 20,000 words, which felt small compared to the task of completing a novel. My husband took up writing again last fall and actually completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge. He is still working on his fantasy novel, which when completed will probably be close to 100,000. I’m very proud of him, but disappointed in myself. But he recently challenged me to shoot for 300 words a day. This seems small but in a year I’ll have written over 100,000 words. Even if my novel isn’t that long, or it doesn’t take me a year, at least I’m working towards a goal again. So I’m back in the saddle and hoping I can keep it up.