Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Newborn Cloth

In my last post (months ago) I mentioned sewing newborn cloth diapers, a project I undertook to try and keep costs as low as possible. Now that my 5 week old squish has sailed past the 10 pound mark, I feel like I can comment on what worked, and what didn't, in my newborn stash.

My stash had a little bit of everything in it, as I wasn't sure what would work the best, not having diapered a newborn before. Most of it was sewn by me from old stash fabrics or upcycled materials. Knowing that cloth diapers used in the newborn stage won't be used for long, I upcycled some t shirts from the "too worthless to donate" pile, repurposed some inserts I'd messed up from previous diapers I had sewn, and seamed some free receiving blankets from a buy and sell group into prefolds. The goal in using cloth during this was to reduce our trash, but also to do something useful with old materials. I don't believe every t shirt will find a new home via Value Village.

I should have trusted my instincts a bit more. I'm inherently suspicious of AIOs, and I shouldn't have made them - I didn't use them more than once, when I felt moisture around the legs. I knew I needed more covers but didn't bother buying or sewing more. This held me up a couple of days when we ran out. I also had a feeling that the "little bit of everything" approach was going to be a bit confusing for my husband, who likes the easy peasy inserts and Flip style covers we use on our eldest. The little bit of everything approach was flexible as babe grew, but not that easy to keep up with.

The tuckable covers with preemie prefolds worked very well for the first week or two, but after that point needed to be doubled up to have enough absorbency. The flannel prefolds were slightly more absorbent than premie ones I had bought at a diaper swap. However, I found getting doubled prefolds to fit in a cover was a bit tough when baby was fussy, so I preferred fitteds from the third week on.

Before my oldest was born, I had made 15 or so flannel fitteds from the small Cloth Revolution pattern; after learning more about cloth diapering and sewing, I decided to add another half dozen fitteds made of stretchy materials. These latter fitteds still fit the best as the babe nears 6 weeks, and probably almost 11 pounds. However, they're made with better materials, and more experience. I found them too bulky during the first couple of weeks, but am preferring them as the last diaper before we move to a one-size system.

Ultimately, my overall stash was larger than I needed. I had way more fitteds/prefolds, and less covers, than I needed. I haven't found new love for fitteds and won't incorporate them into my one size stash, but I did have fun sewing them.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Summer Sews

x factor tankini - maternity option - 5 out of 4 patternsWhile we shift my explosion of sewing/crafting supplies downstairs, I have been hacking away at a few pieces to get me through the summer. Because I'm running after my daughter a lot this summer, I felt a good maternity swim top was in order. I've been eyeing up 5 out of 4 Patterns for awhile, as they do quite a bit of on-trend Activewear (in particular check out the Agility tank, which you see versions of every day). After my bomb of a Bombshell attempt last fall, I had almost sworn off swimwear.  Almost.

They sold me on the pattern when I saw all the options the tank came with. One swim tank also comes with nursing and maternity options, AND also can be made as a bra - so essentially a nursing sports bra. Sold. Although I'm not happy with the binding on my muslin, and I've bought power mesh (aka power net) for my next attempt, it's very wearable. So much wearable that I doubt I'll make another maternity option, saving my intended fabric for a "regular" one next summer. My other favorite thing about 5 out of 4 patterns: no trim patterns. I always find trimming, assembling and taping PDF patterns the most tedious bit.

A slew of showers and birthdays at the end of August led me to try out Brindille and Twig's Super Slim Harems and Super Slouch Beanie as gift sets. I know I'm really late to the game on both of these, and I'm hoping to add a few pairs to my daughter's own closet so that she isn't entirely clothed in Maxaloones this winter. I found that the harem pants seemed to look a bit more ridiculous as the sizes increased, with the skinniness of the legs quite pronounced against the baggy harem bum. Must pay more attention to seam allowances. I made the slouch beanie unlined, and didn't do anything consistent to amend the hem line, just winged it.

As the space in which I will sew gets closer to being workable, I'm starting to plan a newborn cloth diaper stash. While there is a risk of wasting my time on diapers that won't fit or work well, and the subsequent frustration of not having time to sew up more that do actually work, I'm looking at it as an interesting exercise in cost effectiveness and upcycling.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Seed Starting

One of the most alluring features of our home is the sunroom at the back of the house. This undergoes the conversion to seed starting room over the next few weeks, although I have already started a flat of them and will likely do another two before I arrange more shelves. Although my seedlings stretch more thinly than commercially grown ones (I do not use grow lights, so the tiny plants stretch towards the sun until the days grow longer), they usually fare well once in the ground. In my opinion, sun is the most important factor to starting seeds without grow lights, and the sunroom offers plenty of it.
Tray of fifteen paper pots filled with medium in a tray, seed markers
I start seeds for the variety. There are dozens and dozens more varieties available via seed catalogue than you can buy in your garden centre. This year for the first time, I received a catalogue from Heritage Harvest Seed - I cannot wait to receive my order, which includes the very rare Reisetomate, Canada Crookneck Squash, and Worcester Indian Beans.

I also start seeds for the wonder. Simply put, it is amazing to watch them grow.

I do not start seeds for the savings. I get too excited and buy too many seeds. In theory, however, you could save quite a bit if you split packages with friends, or used up all your seeds before buying new ones. Or only bought exactly what you needed. I am neither organized or controlled enough to manage this.

That being said, my favorite types and varieties that pass the "easy-peasy to grow and maybe even economical" test include:

    Darkibor hybrid kale appears again after its third winter
  • Tomatoes - any type, but our family finds in particular that paste tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and heirloom tomatoes offer savings and are easy to grow. I pick varieties recommended for home growers from my favorite seed companies, but also ones that look interesting: that is how I have tried Sicilian Saucer, Big Brandy Hybrid, and this year the Reisetomate, and Opalka.
  • Kale - Darkibor hybrid - I had success overwintering this kale for 3 seasons before it got in the way of an expanding garden terrace. It did not survive the transplant. However, it was prolific, and worth a try for the gardener who likes kale.
  • Squash - I have had success with both butternut squash and pumpkins. I am going to try tucking them into beds near the front of the lot (and the road), which I am converting into perennial space. This year, I am also growing zucchini, something I've held off on because I have a friend who drops off mega-zucchinis every week. It's payback time.
  • Beans and radishes - all kinds, any kinds. Both germinate readily when sown directly in the soil, meaning that you don't even need to start seedlings!

I generally seed everything within a one month period, creating a timing disaster come planting time, and consequently everything goes in late, and bears fruit late. This year will be different. I repeat! This year will be different! I am exceptionally pleased with myself for having already started a flat's worth of perennials.

My seed starting routine

1. Select your seeds however you will: my selections are largely based on what I want to eat, what has grown well in the past, what looks interesting and unique to grow, and approximately how much space we have. I write a list of the kinds of seeds I need that year - there are likely a dozen or so types/varieties on that list - then select seeds from catalogues, grossly exceeding the number of things on the list. I make one in-person trip to William Dam Seeds. I have yet to pass a season where I don't buy at least twice as much as I need.

2. Plan out when you will start each type, and write the dates down on a calendar. (I have a calendar dedicated to gardening and also record the actual dates that I seed things, as well as projected planting dates, etc). I use instructions on the packet and an approximate last frost date. Sweet Domesticity gives an easy-to-follow schedule in her Seed Starting Bootcamp post, which is much more comprehensive and knowledgeable than this post is.

Seedlings appear from soil on bottom of tray.3. Prepare your materials: pots, trays, and medium. I am using newspaper pots this year, as after a few years of working with Jiffy Pots I have decided they don't hold enough soil, and therefore require more frequent watering. I generally use cheap seed starting trays and their fitted covers, but managed to misplace all but two of them this year. So I am jamming my seeds into take out containers. You SHOULD make sure your trays are rinsed out. Mine this year were not, as evidenced by the strange seedlings popping up from the bottom of the tray. For medium, I usually buy whatever seed starter is available at Canadian Tire. It is not the cheapest option, but generally comes in nicely contained small-ish bags, which don't make a mess in my sunroom.

4. Plant according to your schedule. I add soil to the pots, moisten them with water (which also helps keep your paper pots together), arrange them in the tray, create my labels, and then plant.

I plant 2 - 3 seeds per pot, again, according to the instructions on the packet for depth. I always cover the tray, preferably with a fitted lid, which keeps the soil moist. Seedlings are labelled and the tray is placed in a window with southern exposure.

And if for no other reason, at the end of winter, starting seeds is a wonderful way to rejuvenate hope for spring.
tray of 24 paper pots with seedlings in them, and 6 plastic markers.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Refashion: T shirts to Nighties

In November of last year we were headed to the Dominican for a wedding. At that time, most Canadian stores don't have any kind of summer clothing for sale, so I rounded up most of little's wardrobe on buy and sell pages. It wasn't until we only had a few hours before we left for the city that I realized her fleece one-piece jammies might be a bit warm for Punta Cana.

Immediately I thought of my box of too-dear-to-toss t-shirts. These could be an answer.

Of course they're not dear to toss, but I did save them because 1) I once cherished them (they were mostly staff shirts from my old summer camps), and 2) no one would ever want to buy them from a second hand store. So instead of relegating them to rags, I jammed them in a box for a time when I could figure out how to give them a death with honour.

The first tutorial I found said that I would have a new nightie in 15 minutes - about the same amount of time it would take me to drive to the mall, one way. Sold. I decided that I would cut a shorter sleeve and forego the elasticized cuffs, which would cut down on time even more. From my discards box I pulled out two t-shirts that had some drape to them, leaving the "crunchier" shirts for a more fitted project.
I traced a shirt that fit her fairly well, estimated a sleeve length to give her a bit of a cap sleeve, then sewed the sides and arms up again on my regular machine. I was surprised to find that a one year old's neckline isn't too far off an adult's. Kids have crazy big noggins. 

After we tried it on I hemmed it. I didn't bother to hem the sleeves. I love that the major construction work is already done in this garment (sleeve setting and neckband), so you get to reap rewards after 2 easy seams.

And my beloved staff shirt lives on.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

cdcd and Next Gen Love

banner for cdcd etsy shop: old photo of three men on bicycles

I can't claim that 2015 was a very successful year for me on the blogosphere. After a couple of months of trying to find a balance between themes of reading, sewing, gardening, and general domestic feats, I quickly became distracted by Instagram, its ease of updating, and its browse-ability. My daughter became more aware of the world around her, and consequently, the time during which I could plug away on my phone became limited to her sleeping hours. When fall came I wanted to newly commit to the blog, but found myself in one of those periods of time where you lose someone dear to you, and you feel your life changing. In October I started the process of trying to redefine life in this new world without my father, a process which I imagine will continue for years.

Dudszus family selfie picturing father, daughter, motherSeveral years ago I opened an Etsy shop under the name cdcd, which stood for "Canadian Dad, Canadian Daughter." While the shop itself never made a sale and rarely had any listings, I am still satisfied with the concept behind it. The name, a private poem to myself, was motivated by the shifting meanings that evolve from one generation to the next, whether referring to the life of a good (such as a physical thing), or a person. While my father was born in Germany and would fondly refer to Koln as "home," there were many elements of his personality that made him more Canadian than German. Although I called him "Papa" instead of "Dad," and he only obtained his Canadian citizenship within the last 10 years of his life, his immigration and our relationship embraced the casual attitude that helps Canadians define themselves as they wish, rather than adhering to pre-defined traditions that lay out the way things "should be." For the store, my concept was to reuse discarded materials to make new products, such as books into journals, which is an obvious regeneration of the old into the new. Sometimes the old into the new doesn't actually involve a physical transformation. Generations shift. For the banner, I was able to use a picture of my father and his friends from Germany, before he immigrated in the 1950s.

As I continue to read, sew, garden, and attempt to manage their competing time constraints on domestic life, I will be moving this blog to another location, which may or may not manage to capture some of these same connections. While cdcd quietly awaits further direction, I will be moving the blog over to within the next few weeks. I hope to steadily document some of the changing ways I live within my space, and with my family, in 2016.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Canning Pressure

The funk that seems to have settled over my gardening activities has similarly affected my canning this year. I had been imagining jar upon jar of home grown produce, lining the shelves of our rarely used pantry. Move over old Costco snacks, I would think. Here come the jars.

jars of canned produce and croc of pickles

But this year has been an absolute downer for the garden. Tomato planting was postponed while a second garden terrace was built, so we have only had a handful ripen on the vine this late in September. Last year's garden terrace was planted with beans, broccoli and cabbage, but I soon found it was home to an aggressive ant colony, determined to keep me from weeding at all costs.

And the animals. My beans, kale and broccoli were all chomped off at the stem. This was particularly disheartening, as we terraced the south side of the house specifically to plant veggies there. The backyard was deemed too much of an "animal zone," but I felt the side of the house had shown little evidence of furry friends. Surprise: you plant veggies, and the animals will move. New animal scat appeared daily, deterring me from spending time out in the garden with my newly mobile daughter.

So while I wait for my tomatoes to finish ripening, I have been buying 10 pound baskets at the market, and canning small batches. I have tried fermentation, a new and somewhat frightening experiment for me (is it done? is it safe?) I want to buy the bushels. I feel like I should be able to handle the bushels. But this year, I just can't. The babe rarely allows me ten minutes alone in the kitchen, never mind the time it would take to can a whole bushel of tomatoes. So even though those large ripe baskets of farm fresh produce are beckoning me, I'm holding firm to my resolution to can when I can, and forgive myself if I have to buy a jar or two.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mid-summer Flakiness

It has become increasingly hard to sit down and write in this beautiful summer weather, something I haven't experienced to its fullest in a few years. When our days are filled with swimming, hiking, avoiding gardening, and enjoying our messy backyard, the short time between little one's bedtime and my own is usually spent calming the tide of housework that threatens to overflow on us, and occasionally reading a bit before lights out. So if you're reading this, my apologies for the lack of new posting. I will get better soon, I promise.