Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chicken Jacket

OK, so it has been forever since my last post and that is because we bought a farm! So add farm chores to my already long list of things to do and crafting pretty much stops all together! Well, that is not entirely true... instead of making baby clothes and cloth diapers I have been making animal things. Today I am talking about a warm winter coat for our hen "Broody" who was given to us this summer. She lived on a farm with far to many roosters and she was bred so often that her entire back was bare. No feathers. So this summer I made her a thin rooster saddle aka hen apron so when our rooster would breed with her he wouldn't hurt her. It looked like this:

Cute right!? Well my hope was that this would help with her feathers growing back and it did but just not enough... or not fast enough anyway. This is poor broody without her apron:

Kinda tough to tell because her skin is nearly the same color as her feathers but her back is still completely bare. Temps this morning were in the 30's and I just can't let poor Broody out in the cold half naked! So I switched things up a bit and made her a nice thick winter jacket using the same method as the thin apron. So whether you need to make a thick coat or a simple apron for your hen, this pattern will work!

Broody is a full size Buff Orpington hen. If you are working with a bantum you will have different measurements and such. You will want the total length of your jacket to stretch from the base of her neck to about mid-tail. And when measuring for the width (have a helper handy!) lift the wings and measure about an inch or two past each side where the wings will cover. For Broody that was about 8in long and 6in wide. For the straps you will want to measure from under the wing by her chest to the other side of her neck.

The shape we are going for here looks something like a hot air balloon. A somewhat thin part followed by a big round and then your straps. Something like this:

Now, you are going to need 2 of each. I have chosen fleece because it is warm and wicks away wetness. When I did the thinner apron I used a cute quilters fabric and backed it with an ugly but strong canvas so it was both cute but also strong so the rooster's nails and spurs wouldn't bother her. I do have cute colors and patterns for my fleece but I chose this color because it closely matches my bird and winter is coming and the places to hide from hawks are losing their leaves so I didn't want to put a big bulls-eye on Broody.

If your fabric has a right and wrong side you will be facing your right sides together to get started. Then we will turn, top stitch, stuff (if you plan to) add the straps...

Anyway, start with your jacket like this and work your way from one side to the other without closing up the top.

After you have stitched all around, turn through the opening in the top and stuff if you are going to stuff. I lightly stuffed with some down from another bird we processed a while back. Gotta make use of all the parts right! Did you know that 7lbs of feathers in your compost pile = 1lb of nitrogen for your garden once composted! It also makes for super warm stuffing in a chicken jacket!

After you lightly stuff (I am talking one handful of whatever you are using poly-fill, down, wool ect) then fold in the top so that the edge will be uniform with the rest after you top stitch.  Then you will be ready to in your straps and top stitch all around. Depending on your material you will need to add the extra step of hemming your straps. I used fleece which does not require hemming so I did not hem my straps. I did fold them at the base where it connects but I didn't hem because I want them to be nice and wide across Broody's chest to keep her extra warm!

Sidenote: you can also add a little loop of ribbon in between the straps so that your apron/jacket could double as a chicken harness that could be clipped to a leash!
After you have top stitched if you are just making a simple apron then you can jump to adding on your fasteners. Or if you have added stuffing then you can get creative with quilting a bit. I did a simple criss-cross pattern after I spread the stuffing evenly around inside. Then I folded over the ends of my straps and hemmed there so that it would be double layer where I would be adding my snaps.

This is to show how the straps will go. Lay yours out, look at it and make sure you put your snaps on the way you want them!
And now for the snaps! You can use velcro or buttons here if you want instead. I enjoy the durability of snaps and I conveniently have a snap press so that is what I went with. Because these are wide straps I also did double snaps on each side but you can do one snap if your straps are less wide. If you do snaps you will need 4 caps and 2 of each inside pieces for the snaps. If you do double snaps (2 on each strap) then you will need 8 caps, 4 of each inside piece for the snaps.

First you will poke a hole (your snap press should come with a hole poker, if not use a thick yarn needle)

The take your cap and and poke the sharp end through. Decide if you need a male or female inner part for your snap (I did male parts for my straps and female parts for my apron) and line up the inner piece. Then put the cap into the black part of your snap press (be sure you have the right side, or it can make your snap not snap properly). Line things up and squish as hard as you can!

Tada! Now do this to the other strap and then to the apron. You may or may not want to wait til sunset when your bird goes to roost so you can put it on her... or you can just chase her around for a while and hope to catch her! Take your time and lay it on her back, gently lift the wing so it lays over the coat, bring the strap around from the opposite side to they will criss-cross against her chest, snap the snaps and let her fluff herself out! Now your bird is nice and toasty or just has a good cover for when her rooster decides it's baby makin' time!

I snatched Broody up this morning when she walked out of the coop and she was super warm with her new coat on! Now: if your birds already have feathers and you just think they might be cold this winter do not make your bird a coat. Broody got this coat because she has NO feathers. A fully feathered grown hen will grow in extra feathers for winter. Adding a supplemental heat via heat lamp or coat will prevent your bird from growing in that extra layer of feathers and will actually make her colder (if you take the coat off). I ended up making the straps on Broody's coat way too long... long enough to criss-cross in front and then tie in a bow on the back. I will shorten them on a day when it isn't too cold so she isn't without he coat for too long!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Woven Wraps Revisited

Its been well over a year since I first wrote my Woven wrap baby carrier post and even more importantly I am a second time mom and maybe a bit more seasoned at this point. It's also my most viewed blog post so I thought it was time to revisit the DIY woven wrap subject. I have in fact learned a great deal in my babywearing and DIY baby carrier "career". So first off lets just come out and call a spade a spade. Name brand woven wraps are expensive! Even used these simple strips of fabric can cost you $300... or google "pamir" and let the jaw dropping begin... these limited editions are procured by auction and sell for over $1,000. Let me be clear here, this is a sheet of fabric that your little baby is going to puke, snot, and possibly poop on! This is a sheet of fabric that is going to drag on the ground while you wrap your squirming toddler in the walmart parking lot. If you are adventurous like me, this is a piece of fabric which will go hiking with you and get snagged on trees and dropped in mud. It will be dragged from your living room to your kitchen by your sick toddler who needs snuggle time while you need to cook spaghetti. I don't judge anyone for spending however much they chose on a wrap or carrier of any kind at all. But for me, I don't think I could live with myself if I knew I ruined a $1,000 piece of fabric.

How DIY is Different From Specially Designed Woven Wraps

Not all wovens are really that expensive though. Sometimes you can find a good price on a used wrap. Don't be put off by the "used" condition... a used wrap is usually outrageously blankety soft and broken in. There are some brands or even different weaves and blends of the same brand that will fetch a different price. What makes a name brand woven wrap any different from your DIY wrap? Well that list could go on forever but suffice it to say that a name brand wrap is made specifically for babywearing. These are companies/designers/people who have studied the art of weaving and have used their knowledge to create something specifically meant to carry babies. Different weaves accomplish different things. For example, a diamond weave will be a bit more supportive than a simple twill weave. And then there are the countless fiber combination options. Cotton is soft and blankety but can lack some support for heavier babies or very extended periods. Silk is strong and soft but delicate and requires special washing. Wool is also strong and soft and warm but again, special washing. Hemp is outrageously strong and supportive for heavy babies and extended wear. Linen is also outrageously strong and often referred to as "beastly" in the babywearing world. Bamboo is usually described as "marshmallows" and for good reason! It is so very very soft but it can be less supportive. Also as a viscous material bamboo can be susceptible to damage when saturated, so extra care should be taken when removing from the washer! Even within the different fibers themselves content differs and offers even more countless options and differences! You can easily lose yourself completely in the world of woven baby carriers!

I now own three name brand wraps. A very well used (got it in a trade) dolcino bali 100% cotton which has been chopped to a size three (we will talk sizes and acronyms later). Also used, Linuschka Kalejdoskop Lila 100% linen in size 6. And also used again, a Natibaby Pearl Pancy 20% linen 80% bamboo in a size 6. I have made countless DIY woven wraps and while you can make a great DIY wrap you can't really compare a DIY to a wrap woven specifically for babywearing.

Chosing the Right Fabric for Your DIY Woven Wrap

My go to fabric for a DIY wrap is linen. It is strong and supportive and a good safe material. You really can't go wrong with a linen if you are DIYing a wrap. We live where the summers can be outrageously hot though and so in the summer I love a gauze wrap! But gauze can be "diggy" on your shoulders and baby's legs if you do a sloppy wrap job or wear for a long period. If you want to mimic the name brand woven material you will be best suited to check out the upholstery fabric section. Be careful there though... avoid all polyester and poly blends. They are just too "slippery". A 100% cotton is nice as is linen but linen upholstery is very rare. Look for a simple or diamond twill weave or some jacquard weaves. Also avoid all quilters cotton. It's not supportive or safe.

DIY Wrap Sizing

Since most wrap weavers are in Europe they are sized in meters which can be a little confusing when you want to DIY a wrap. Here's the conversion to help you along.

size 2 - 2.7 meters = 2.95 yards = 8.86 feet = 102.36 inches
size 3 - 3.1 meters = 3.4 yards = 10.17 feet = 122.05 inches
size 4 - 3.6 meters = 3.94 yards = 11.81 feet = 141.73 inches
size 5 - 4.2 meters = 4.6 yards = 13.78 feet = 165 inches
size 6 - 4.6 meters = 5 yards = 15.09 feet = 181.10 inches
size 7 - 5.2 meters = 5.7 yards = 17.06 feet = 204.72 inches
size 8 – 5.60 meters = 6.1 yards = 18.37 feet = 220.47 inches

Most brands widths are also measured in the metric system and vary between 64cm (25.2in) and 77cm (30.3in). Some of the thicker wraps are not as wide because they'd be too overwhelming. A thinner wrap can be quite wide or not. I prefer a wide wrap especially when wrapping my toddler! Most material on the bolt is 45-60in wide. So you can potentially get 2 wraps from one piece. When I get 60in wide material I split right down the middle and have two wraps 30in wide each. If the material I want is only 45in wide I still cut to the 30in wide and I use the remaning 15in width to make a wrap for my daughter or I find something else to do with it. You could even get really exciting and buy 5 yards to make yourself a size 6 wrap and with the other half of your material you can make two ring slings! Three baby carriers for way less than the price of one!

A wrap is the most versatile baby carrier you can get because the possibilities are nearly endless. There is a bit of a learning curve though and some people just get frustrated and find something less time consuming. The best thing about a woven wrap is the safety and structure is in how you wrap it! It's a simple piece of cloth and it is safe to use because you are going to tie it on there properly. Even a beginner seamstress can make a perfectly safe and wonderful wrap. A beginner may not want to make a ring sling or a mei tai but a wrap is just a rectangle with hemmed edges and anyone can do that! Here are a few pictures of some of my favorite carries in some of my wraps!

poppins hip carry in a size 3 dolcino

rear rebozo ruck with a knottless chest belt in dolchino (video below!)

ruck in a DIY gauze size 3

front wrap cross in a DIY linen size 4

rebozo slip knot in a DIY gauze size 2

When I find the time I will add some videos of my favorite carries. But right now my babywearing model is asleep in my lap!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reversable Christmas Stockings

I realize we are only a week away from Christmas but I just this very moment decided we need something Christmas in this house to make it feel like the holidays! We always wait til Christmas Eve for our tree and the tree is usually our only decoration for the holidays. Our oldest baby is 2 now and she is loving the season so I feel like maybe I should start adding more decorations. I remember my mom telling me that she never decorated for Christmas until my sister and I were 6 and 3 and she only did it because we loved it! Anywho, money is tight this time of year so I am using only what I have in the house. Also, because I tend to change my mind a lot and I am always trying to find my own style I have made these reversible so that in 3 years when I decide red is just not going with the rest of our decor I can switch them to the other side and keep the same stockings!

Also, not pictured here is some scrap interfacing I had laying around. If your sweater is really stretchy you may want interfacing so it holds shape!

You can use whatever fabric you want but I wanted to avoid a trip to the fabric store (those are not so easy with 2 babies!) so I am using a couple old fat squares and fleece scraps and an old sweater. Yup... I am turning a sweater into a stocking! The sweater shape and size is my biggest limitation for design of the stockings so I started with that and figured out how big I could make my stockings. Also, I wanted two so I was further limited.

the belly part is the main part of the stocking and the sleeve will be the foot part
 I started by cutting the belly part of the sweater from the shoulders/neck/sleeves. Because I want two stockings I split the belly part down the middle and then I cut the sleeves off at the shoulders.
I made my pattern on newspaper after cutting the sweater
After I cut the sweater and made my newspaper pattern I cut out the fat squares to the pattern. You can either fold your fabric and put the left of the stocking on the fold and cut or cut out 2 separate pieces, no folding required.
I wanted fleece at the top anyway but you can see here that my pattern barely fit on my folded fat square
Nothing too fancy for the fleece top part, just line it up on the patter and cut it about 1/2in too wide for seam allowances!

 After I had all the pieces cut out I decided to "embroider" (using my quilters foot) my daughters' names to their stockings. For the green side I just wanted it on the fleece top part and for the red side I cut out little fleece hearts to be sewn in the middle of the stocking later on. If you chose to do the standard glue and glitter (my stocking growing up was that way... still looks good after 25 years!) you don't have to do the names right away but because I embroidered and I didn't want a "wrong" side to show I embroidered before assembling the stockings! 
To quilt/embroider a name (or anything for that matter) I like to use newspaper as a template. The newspaper is especially helpful when using something really stretchy or difficult to freehand on. But if you don't have newspaper or you feel like being brave you can skip the paper! Be sure to practice on some scraps! So first things first, replace your walking foot with the quilters foot and put the guiding teeth down.

say, "hello" to the quilters foot... don't be scared of the quilters foot!
Once your quilters foot is on and you are ready to go, draw on some newspaper whatever you want it to to say or be. I wrote in cursive so I wouldn't need to stop at each letter. But you can just stop and do one letter at a time if you don't want cursive letters. Then pin the newspaper to your fabric. And carefully trace the design! My advice here: set you "cruise control" to medium or high, but move your fabric smoothly and slowly. If you set your cruise control too low it comes out too sloppy.
After you sew you pull the newspaper off... it comes right off! and voila...  here's a video. Don't mind the toddler chatter in the background!

I did a heart with their name for each red stocking and then did the same thing on the fleece strip for the top of the green stocking. Once the names are done you can start assembling the rest of the stockings! The green side is easiest so lets start there. First add the fleece top, put the right sides together and stitch.
see how the name is upside down? flip it right side up and then fold to stitch the sides 
Flip up the fleece part, fold the right sides together and stitch! Then flip right side out!
Now onto the red side... first sew the belly part so its a tube shape do not turn it. Then take the angled end of the sleeve (shoulder)  and put it inside the belly part. Line up the angle with the straight of the belly and pin it. Then sew around the belly and sleeve.
sleeve pinned inside the belly, stitch it around like a sleeve on a shirt

pull the sleeve (now the foot/toe shape) out of the belly part and trim the excess
Then if you need to, add interfacing. I cut out my interfacing using the newspaper template and then sandwiched the sweater into the interfacing and pin. Then you stitch all the way around and turn.
pin... there is a layer of interfacing on each side

stitch around, keep the heel rounded

 I then hand stitched the hearts with names on them to the red part. Flip the red side back to wrong side out and put it inside the green side. Stitch the red and green side together close to the bottom of the fleece and close to the top of the fleece.
And then because I change my mind all the time... I decided the red side needed a fleece top too... I made a fleece tube and I hand stitched it (going through the red side only) around the bottom and the top going through both the red and green side.

fleece tube for red side top, layer it over the stocking and hand stitch through just the red side
 If you want to you can add the hanging part before stitching the two sides together so the ends are hidden but I wanted to add a little decorative button and put the loop on the outside. I just cut a piece of the sweater (its a knit so I didn't have to hem it or anything, it won't fray) and sewed it on by hand with a cute wooden button.

Here's the red side

And here's the green side
That's it! You can really make them any way you want or with an material you want. I still haven't decided which side I like better.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Table Cloth Mei Tai (TCMT)

Man has it been a long time or what!? Sorry about that. My baby started walking and then we found out we were pregnant so now I have two babies! Never thought we would be the "two under two" people but yea... that happened. Anyway, as if babywearing weren't a big enough part of my life with one child it is 100% essential with 2 babies! How do people function without babywearing? I find myself in a panic when I am without a wrap or carrier of some sort. I have always been a wrap girl but right before little miss #2 was born I tried my hand at a ring sling and running on the high of success there I dove head first into a Mei Tai (MT). And the cheapest place I found the material I needed happened to be a tablecloth on the sale rack at Target. Cost me $12 and proved to be worth its weight in gold after baby number 2 came along this past April! I wore my little newbie in my ring sling up front and my "big girl" on my back in our mei tai and we never skipped a beat! Everyone keeps asking how I make them (and I have made several now) so here I go. Back into the blog writing world! I would love to say that I will get regular and keep writing but with 2 (not so under 2 anymore because we just celebrated our first baby girl's birthday!) it is hard to pee let alone sit and type after crafting! Anyway, here it goes!

You will need a table cloth here is the one used in this tutorial! Or you can just get fabric from your local fabric store. To figure out how much fabric you will need breakdown all the pieces and do the math. Here is my breakdown.
Body - about 20in by about 15-20in (need 3 pieces, two pretty ones and one heavy duty twill)
Shoulder Straps - 80in long by 15in wide
Waist Straps - 40in long by 15 wide.
Hood - 10in by 10-15in (I like a longer hood because I use the hood cords to scrunch it up and look pretty when not in use

The 84in by 60in table cloth is usually more than enough. If you are feeling ambitious you can always make some coordinating suck pads or a small bag to put on the waist strap. Or, extra brownie points for making a mini MT for your toddler to match you! If you are going to use a table cloth get 100% cotton... avoid all polyester! Its just too slippery and it wont be supportive or safe. If you are buying just fabric if it is 55-60in on the bolt you will need about 2.5 yards. Linen would make a great MT. If you have some really cute but not so sturdy fabric (like quilters cotton, there are always cute prints here but it is terrible for babywearing!) you want for the body that if ok too, just be sure that your straps and center panel are of good quality and medium-heavy weight.

I like to cut out and hem my straps first because this takes the longest and I like for it to be over as soon as possible. Pretty simple step. Keep in mind that about 4in of your straps will be inside the body of the MT so if you want 80in long straps, cut them 84in long. Same with the waist, add 4in to account for the straps being sewn to the body. You can make your straps as wide or thin (within reason... I'd say no less than 5in and no more than 20in) as you like. Keep in mind generally the wider the strap, the more evenly you can distribute the weight of your child. I like 15in. When I am using the 84in by 60in table cloths I like to cut out three 15in wide 84in (the full length of the table cloth) strips. I cut one of those three strips in half and use that for the waist straps. After all your straps are cut out do a simple rolled hem all around. You can press this if you are a sloppy seamstress or you can just roll as you go. I roll as I sew. I use my finger as my gauge. I fold the fabric once about to my first knuckle, then I fold that over one more time to completely seal in that unfinished edge (see the post on making a woven baby wrap)

after all your straps are hemmed, pleat them or gather them however you like, press, and pin or tape them to have them ready to sew to the body

There are many different options and designs you can go with for the body. Only you will know what kind of design and shape is right for you and your baby. I suggest using newspaper to make a "pattern" for your body pieces. Cut out a couple and see what you like best. The one in this tutorial is a curved body with a wider base, skinny middle, wide shoulder. This can make your mei tai last through infanthood to toddlerhood because you can roll the waist to make it shorter and also have the bottom of the body less wide or, leave it unrolled body is tall and wide where you need it. I use my own babies to measure to help make my pattern. You can do this by holding baby on you in the position that they will be sitting in the carrier. You can also wrap them on you and measure that way. Measure from one knee to middle of the butt-middle of the butt to other knee. Then measure from under their butt up to their neck. Keeping in mind for the height in this pattern you will want to add 4-5inches for the waist strap.

I like to draw/put notes all over my newspaper pattern so I remember what I am doing or if I have any extras I plan to add.

fold your fabric and your pattern in half and cut, keeping in mind you can always cut something smaller but can't go the other way so cut big just in case!
You should have 3 pieces for your body, 2 pretty ones and one heavy duty canvas/twill. You can/should shorten your canvas/twill at the shoulder and waist openings so at the end you won't have a hard time folding in the pretty panels to
After your body pieces are cut out you can see what kind of hood you want to make depending on what is left of your material. The possibilities are endless and if you are extra crafty you can even put a cute applique on your hood! Then there are the hood tethers and how you plan to tether them to the straps... again endless possibilities here. I went kinda basic and chose to add snaps to snap the tethers to the shoulders when the hood is up. you could also choose to just not have a hood. I made this MT reversible so I had to take that into consideration when making this MT.

When the time comes to put everything together it really takes no time at all! Pin your shoulder straps and waist straps in their respectable positions on the canvas body piece and get going! You are going to stitch an "x box" and go over each line of said "x box" four (yes, really FOUR) times. For each strap.

I used a different color thread so it was easy to show. It doesn't matter what color you use as long as it is a very high quality thread. This is where all your structural integrity is coming from, you don't want to skimp on cheap thread and poor sewing skills here.
Now comes the fun part! On top of this canvas with the straps you will lay one pretty body piece, right side UP, your hood (if you are doing one. I put mine right side down because this MT is reversible and I want the right side of the hood to show when it is up.) then your other pretty body piece right side DOWN. Pin like crazy! And then you will sew on the top and bottom and sides, leaving the strap areas open.
if you are doing a hood and plan on having your MT reversible think about how you want it it be. If you know you only want the hood for show so you will have it down most of the time you may want it to look the same as the main body on the "right" side. If you want it to be the same when the hood is up then lay it so the right side is facing down.

sew only the sides and top and bottom!
Now you are ready to turn your mei tai right side out. This can be tricky at first. Stick your hand in one of the waist holes between the two pretty layers. Pull each strap into the body. Its now a mei tai pillow and you are likely thinking "how the eff am I getting this right side out?!" Just gently and slowly work each strap out of the hole your hand is in and eventually the body out the hole so the whole thing is right side out.
after you have everything turned right side out, fold the edges around the straps inside the body and press then pin.

take your time getting this part tucked in, line every thing up nice and evenly so that your top stitch comes out nice and straight and pretty.
After you have your strap openings folded in, pressed and pinned you are ready to topstitch. This is just closing off those strap openings and giving a finished look. You can use a pretty stitch if you machine has one and you want to. Or just a simple straight stitch is fine too. Take your time! Go slow and retuck if needed so that you only have to go around once and everything is nice and straight and even. When you have gone all the way around you are done! DONE! So grab a baby and have fun!

Say hello to my big girl... where has the time gone? I am about a medium/size 8 and with the 80in shoulder straps I am able to tie this Tibetan style.
Here's new baby in a different table cloth mei tai. If you weren't familiar with these, they work on your front or back.
So side notes: You don't need to use a table cloth obviously! A lot of people like using woven wraps but these are very pricey and you may not want to mess up a $100 or more wrap! (you would need a size 6 or larger wrap) You can add padding to your mei tai if you would like. Some people like padding but I prefer "wrap style". You can also get fancy with your waist and add padding or padding around where the legs go out. Or you can do cute fancy designs with quilting but who has the time! Not me certainly... it has taken me 3 weeks to actually write this! And a lot of that time was spent with a baby on my back or nursing in my lap. So there ya have it! A DIY table cloth MT, custom sized to fit you and your baby! Now you may  be thinking you want to start making and selling these and that's all fine and dandy but before you consider going into the baby carrier making industry here is a link to check out... From the baby carrier industry alliance.

Here is also a couple break downs of how and where to cut your fabric for both a table cloth and a size 6 wrap.

Happy Crafting everyone!