Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tootsie Piggy Bank Tutorial

Custom Tootsie roll piggy banks made for 3 special little girls in my life.

Another tutorial! I made two of these before deciding I should really photograph the process while making the third. I think this is my own original idea...   What they are is Tootsie roll cans (the kind with a money slot in the top) covered with fabric and ribbon. The bow toppers are mounted on clips and can be removed and worn! An adorable, fun, multipurpose gift! Yay!

What you will need to do this craft:

*Tootsie roll piggie bank can
*Coordinating fabrics and ribbons. I bought pre-cut fabric (also known as a 'fat quarter') and felt. You will need two sizes of ribbon - I used 7/8" ribbon and 3/8" ribbons.
*A hot glue gun and glue sticks
*Fabric scissors
*Blank hair clips (alligator or snap clips)
*A spool of thread
*a lighter (wait for it...)
*optional: fabric markers or fabric paint

I already had most of my supplies, but they are all available at your local Super Wal-Mart or craft shop.

How I created my piggie banks:

Measure your fabric against your blank can, mark (if necessary) and cut.

The fat quarters I got from Wal-Mart were a little thin, so I did an extra layer of felt under the fabric so that none of the colors or wording on the can would show through. It also makes it soft and cushiony, which I like. I would highly recommend using felt under any thin cotton fabric. Flannel seems to be great by itself (see green can above).

Add a seam of hot glue to the can and adhere one edge of your bottom fabric. Add hot glue to the can in a zig-zag pattern and roll the fabric tightly around the can until you reach the end. Trim any excess.

Repeat the steps above for the layer of color/print fabric.
Remember to pull the fabric tight as you go for a smooth finish.

Don't worry if your  top and bottom edges are not exact. Remember, you are going to be covering them with ribbon to make them look neat and even.  It is important to make sure the "seam" is neat, though. Here is now you are going to do it...

When you get to the end of your fabric, make one long thin line of hot glue and secure.

Then fold the fabric over on itself and glue it down to hide away any frayed edges.

Now it's time for ribbon!

Start at your fabric seam and hot glue the ribbon to the top and bottom edges of the can exactly as you did with the fabrics. You can pre-cut your ribbon to size if you like, but I leave mine on the spool and cut at the end.

You can fold your ribbon to hide your edges like you did with the fabric; or you can just heat seal it with a lighter, like I did. I also like to go around the top and bottom edges of the can with my lighter to check any fabric strings or hot glue blebs that are left.

On to the lid!

Cut a small square of fabric (or in my case, two) and trace the outline of the lid on the back. Cut out your fabric. It is easiest to cut the slot out if you fold it in half first.

**Note: If you want to use felt backing like I did, make sure you hot glue it to your fabric before you cut.

Align your fabric over the coin slot and glue starting under the pull tab.

**Another note: You shouldn't have to worry too much about fraying; since you will use hot glue near the coin slot and edges. But; if you want to be really sure, you can paint the edges with clear nail polish.

Optional Step: You can personalize your piggie bank by adding the child's name to it. There are many ways to do it. For my piggie banks; I used Stained by Sharpie fabric markers.

Bow-making 101!!!

Actually, there are some really great video tuorials at http://www.youtube.com/user/mommycraftsalot, but you can check my picture tutorial out, too (you're already here, right?).

First, you're going to make a two-loop "twister" topper bow. For the bow in my pic-torial (like that word?), I used 7/8" grosgrain ribbon, but the possibilities are endless. Be creative!!

Give yourself approximately a 3" tail at the end of your ribbon and make a loop with the printed side up. It will look like a cause ribbon at this point.

**Note: You can create your bow on the spool (allows more room for tweaking size) or you can cut 12-14" inches of ribbon to work with off the spool. Cut ends at an angle and heat seal.

Then you are going to twist the long end of your ribbon and make a second loop with the pretty side up. It should look like a figure 8; as pictured above.

Next, you are going to fold ('scrunch') your bow in the middle to give it a classic bow shape.

Then you will take your spool of thread and wrap several loops of thread
tightly around your bow and tie to secure.

Here is what your finished topper bow should look like.
If you haven't already, don't forget to heat seal your ends!

Next, you are going to make your surround-a-bow!

I'm not really great with exact measurements, so I just eyeballed it and made myself a cute little pretzel that looked like it would peep out from behind my topper bow (hey, whatever works, right?). After I got the size I wanted, I cut the ribbon and then cut a second section the same length. If you are a numbers person though, they looked about 12" long.

So again, you make a cute little pretzel shape (printed side up) and hot glue
the ends in the middle. You will do this with both pieces of ribbon.

*Note: If you're not sure what the middle really is, it works well to hold the ends of your ribbon and slide your index finger down the middle until it stops in the loop at the bottom. No sweat! Right?

Once you've made the two sides of the bow, you will hot glue them together
in the middle. No need to heat seal the ends on this one!

Then, you just place your twister bow on top and secure.

You can put a small amount of hot glue between your bows; if you like, but you will also secure them together by wrapping thread around them as you did with your topper bow. You will want to secure the finished bow to your clip at this point. I used a medium sized snap clip (not pictured) and secured my bow with hot glue and thread.

Now what to do with the middle of the bow?

I hot glued a large rhinestone onto my bow. You could also hot glue a short piece of matching ribbon around the middle. It would also be cute to use buttons, a ribbon flower or a small applique! You can use anything you like as long as you cover your thread.

Then you just attach your bow to the coin slot at the top of your
piggie bank and you're good to go!

Your Tootsie bank is finished!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas 2011: Ribbon Pinecone Ornament Tutorial

I bought two ribbon pinecone ornaments some years ago at a craft fair held by the hospital I was working for. They've been two of my most beautiful, most loved ornaments. I often wondered how they were made, thinking it must have been very difficult. With this holiday season, I've been on a big crafting kick. I've been looking for ways to make creative and inexpensive gifts. Thanks to YouTube, I've been learning how to do all kinds of interesting things, from making duct tape flowers to boutique-style hair bows. Unfortunately, there is no YouTube demo video for how to make a ribbon pinecone ornament! Maybe that will be my next project...

I found a decent written tutorial at whipup.net. I had to use what I learned there, plus looking closely at the ornaments I already had, plus a bit of my own flair to make my ornaments. Here is my version of how it is done:

Step 1: Get Supplies

*Styrofoam eggs - any size. I used 3" that I bought in a pack of four at A.C. Moore for around $5.
*Ribbon - any color and texture and any size that you like. Keep in mind that the larger the ribbon, the less time it will take to fill your egg, depending on the size of the egg. I used 7/8" satin and grosgrain ribbons. I bought mine by the spool and cut as I went along.
*Thin ribbon to make the bow hanger at the top of the ornament.
*Pins - you can use any flat head pin, really. I used applique pins because they are shorter, but it's not necessary. You will also need a hat pin or some other long pin with a pretty head on it for the topper.
*Scissors - again, any kind, but fabric scissors are better if you want straight unfrayed edges.

Step 2:
Pin a square of fabric to the bottom of your egg. This will cover any white space. 

Step 3:

Start pinning folded ribbon around the bottom of the egg.

There are two ways to fold your ribbon...

You can just cut and fold in half (which is what I did), or...

You can fold the corners in to make a triangle.

The triangle fold is a larger fold and will cover the egg more quickly, but it is a loose fold and is more difficult to keep a good grip on. I found that it was easier to do the first fold (which for me, translates into faster).

It will be easiest to maintain symmetry by aligning a point of each square toward the center of the egg. I do one in each corner of the first square, but it doesn't really matter.  Secure each ribbon with two pins; one in each horizontal corner.

If you do the square fold, make sure you pin at an angle and be consistent. You will have one open side and one loop side. Make sure your loop stays either right or left, not both. As you can see, I flubbed the direction above and I have the open loops facing right and left. It doesn't really matter, though. No one is going to scrutinize your loops but you.

When you pin on your next layer, you will want to align it directly above the previous layer.
Each previous ribbon makes a frame for the next.

You can choose to do your pinecone all in one color or you can do several colors. I have only done two and four colors so far. If you look at the above photo, you will see why. It seems that a 3" egg and 7/8" ribbon is symmetrical enough to go in even numbers, although some troubleshooting is required as it expands upward. Luckily, this design is "busy" enough that perfection is not necessary.

For the next layer, you are going to want to pin an alternate color (or not) between squares at the same height as the previous row. This fills in the gaps and covers the pins from the previous row, also.

Keep pinning alternating colors (unless you are doing a solid) until you get to the top of your pinecone. Remember, your rows will vary some and you will have to troubleshoot some. I can't break it down to precise numbers for you, unfortunately. Each and every ornament you make will be an original!

Here is some really good proof of the fact that each ornament will be an original.
I ran out of plaid ribbon and had to do all of the top layers in green. No biggie. I'm flexible...

When you get to the top of the pinecone (and the top layers seem to take the longest, not sure why), you will want to lay one or two rectangular pieces to cover all of the topmost pins (see photo). You really don't want any pins showing anywhere. I haven't gotten it perfected yet, but usually I can just reposition a few at the end and I am good to go.

Step 4:

Once you have all of your squares pinned on, you add your thin ribbon as a bow hanger.

Take a long pin with a head and push it through a loop of ribbon. You can keep a tail on the ribbon, but you don't have to. My photo shows a loop without a tail.

Once you have made your hanger loop, you will make additional loops (back and forth in an infinity or 's' pattern) onto the needle. Make them as long or short as you like and make as many or as few as you like. You can leave a tail at the end of your ribbon or cut it next to the pin.

Step 5:

Pin your bow hanger to the top of your ornament and you're ready to gift it or hang it on your tree!

I haven't tried this possibility, but someone who is more talented (and patient) than I am could use fabric instead of ribbon to make these. You would probably have to iron (ick) and use some kind of fray-check spray on it though, I'm sure. It might be worth it since patterned Christmas ribbon seems to be a bit of a challenge to find (I had to go to four stores to get the limited colors I bought). I'm sure there is a better selection online, but I don't know where (yet). Just a thought.

Happy Christmas crafting!!!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Breakfast of Breastfeeding Champions

It's just a crummy 2.0mpx iPhone photo, but doesn't that look good? That was my breakfast this morning prepared in my oversized mug here at my office. It's a medley of steel cut oats cooked in 2% milk with nuts and dried fruit added. I started eating steel cut oats about two months ago hoping they would help me with breastmilk supply. I thought I had read somewhere that they helped increase supply. On doing further research, I have discovered that oatmeal is not a galactagogue, but it is certainly nutritious (and filling!). And, where oatmeal is concerned, the less refined it is, the better (nutritionally speaking, anyway). Steel cut oats take longer to cook, but I can (and do) prepare them in the microwave. I just watch carefully so that they don't boil over. I love them! They are very comforting. And we all know that comfort + relaxtion = oxytocin, which equals better letdown and/or breastmilk pump yield. So, ta-da... there you have it.

Some recommended reading on adding oatmeal to your diet if you are lactating (and even if you're not):

Oatmeal for Increasing Milk Supply by Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC of kellymom.com
Is Your Breastmilk Waning? by Jean Weiss for MSN Health & Fitness (Excellent article!!!)

These are the products I use to make my oatmeal (add milk).

*1/4 cup Quaker Steel Cut Oats
*1 cup 2% milk (works fine with skim or water, too)
*1/4 cup Planters NUT-rition Bone Health Mix (I threw a few chopped dates in this time, too)

My breakfast was about 440 calories, 58 grams of carbohydrate and 17grams of protein. The fat content is a little high at 17grams, but I'm not dieting. I could cut down on that by omitting nuts and using skim milk or water, but I'm eating "good" fat from nutritious foods, so I don't really feel bad about it. This is a hearty, delicious meal that gets my day going (and sticks to my ribs) without making me feel sluggish. It beats a biscuit and bo-rounds any day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Who's WHO?

Since taking my Medela Pump in Style apart yesterday (looking for mold and milk residue), I have not been able to stop obsessing over the issue of open-system pumps. I read a lot of comments about Medela not being compliant with WHO Code. Well, what is WHO code?  I didn't know.

First of all, WHO is the World Health Organization. In May 1980 at the 33rd World Health Assembly, WHO and UNICEF adopted an international code for the marketing of infant forumla and breast feeding substitutes.  The thirty-six page pdf file of the document can be found in its entireity at the WHO website. While well-intentioned and certainly important, WHO code is not law. Granted, any company wishing to promote itself as concerned with the health of its customers would want to comply. 

Medela is considered non-compliant with WHO code. 

Given the fact that mold issues have been found in some of Medela's open-system pumps, this really looks bad, but it's not the reason Medela was found non-compliant.  According to a 2009 position statement presented by Medela Chairman of the Board, Michael Larsson, the reason was that they marketed BPA free bottles and nipples. The full document and other position statements are available at Medela.com (Direct Link).

I am not siding with Medela. I am just trying to get the facts straight because, until yesterday, I did not know about any of this. It really opened my eyes because I am an educated woman living above the poverty line, and yet I have been completely ignorant. I use Medela products because they are what was recommended to me by my IBCLC. I thought I was being given the best information from a trustworthy source. After all of my reading and personal research, my view has changed. I still don't think Medela is the devil, though. I do still think that some lactivists go very far overboard on what they call advocacy. The way to promote breastfeeding is not to alienate mothers by shaming them for their choices. I think anyone who truly supports breastfeeding should start by actually being supportive. We could all stand to be a lot more supportive as a community.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Breast is best, especially if you don't stress...

It looks like a bit of a ruckus was started over the entry: "Why you shouldn't buy, sell or borrow a secondhand Medela Swing Pump," posted on the Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths blog. The author took apart her Swing pump to show what looked like mold and dried milk inside. It is not the first blog entry of its kind that I have seen on the 'net. The blog entry was re-posted by well-intentioned women who run breastfeeding support sites and facebook pages. A lot of mothers were rightfully concerned. The majority of commenters said they wanted to stop using their Medela pumps.  There were also commenters who said Medela didn't care about anything but making money.

My comment on the facebook wall of The Leaky Boob was: "I think that post is overkill. My pump has been used in pumping for three babies over the course of 4 years. I honestly have never seen milk back up into the tubing (when I overflow, it goes onto my clothes). It's probably 'dirty' inside, anyway. I'm not going to freak out about the possiblity of particles blowing into my milk from inside the pump though. Me and my family are healthy and no one is immunocompromised. I just don't think it's worth getting that worked up about unless you are dealing with a sickly infant."  So far, over a dozen mothers have "liked" my comment, which is encouraging.

Despite my outward confidence, curiosity got the best of me.  Before I even had a chance to leave work for the day, I started to pull my breast pump apart. I just had to know...  Was there mold growing in my pump?  As stated in my comment above, my breast pump is over four years old and has been used to pump for three babies. I have a Medela Pump 'n Style. I couldn't find one on the Medela website for comparison, so I don't think they are made any longer. Still, for the benefit of any mothers out there who are still using one of these (and are quietly freaking out inside), I give you my photos:

A photo of the front casing of my pump with tubing and power cord attached.

This is what the back of the cover plate looks like on the other side. Those tiny little holes are the other side of where the tubes attach. The round white rubber piece covers the pump mechanism inside. It's not waterproof around the edges and probably isn't airtight either, but doesn't seem easily penetrable. I didn't clean anything before I took these pictures. If you click to enlarge them, you will see that there were some fibers there. It looked like fabric fiber or maybe some dust, but no dried milk and certainly not any mold.

This is what the inside looks like behind the membrane on the left side. Nothing nasty there...

And the other side. Still nothing scary.

But then I saw something black.

Oh no...

But it's probably just some lubricant or something. This is a machine with moving parts, after all.

The point is... it wasn't mold.

Getting the pump back together was interesting.  I had to use one of those key-cards you get from the grocery store to help me squeeze the lip of the rubber cover back into the groove it came out of. That gave me further reassurance that things weren't going to be going into or out of my pump very easily.

Here's a video of my pump in action (without the faceplate on). The rolling action of the diaphragm is what creates the suction. I went ahead and tested it on myself too, just to be sure I hadn't ruined it. It still works.

So, that's my filthy dirty four year old Medela pump. It may not perform as well as it once did, but it still gets the job done.  It's no monster.  I hope that helps dispell the myth that all open-system pumps are unsafe for repeated use. I just don't think it's true.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bottombumpers One Size Side Snapping All in One Diaper Review

Our custom embroidered Bottombumpers diaper

For my very first cloth diaper review, I've chosen my Bottombumpers one-size side-snapping all-in-one diaper. I have a fairly sizeable stash and this is certainly our most beautiful diaper. Since I can't narrow down to just one favorite, I'd have to say it's in my top five. I've done a lot of research into different brands of cloth diapers and I bought this one because of it's uniquely ingenius design. Well, ok... and because it's cute. They also offer customization with wide selection of embroidery and choice of snap color. My diaper is lilac with lime green snaps and a cheerful floral peace sign embroidered on the back. Before ordering, I was concerned with wetness wicking through the embroidery. I asked about it and was assured by Bottombumpers that the embroidered area is wick-proof. They use rayon thread and sew an extra layer of waterproof fabric over the embroidered area. I have been using my diaper for several months now and have never had a leak of any kind.

I admit I am becoming a bit of a diaper snob. I am not a fan of one-size diapers with external front rise snaps. There are ways to make them look cute (using rainbow colors, for instance), but I think snaps take away from the overall appearance of a diaper at its largest setting. For that reason, most of my new diaper purchases have been from brands that feature adjustable leg elastics. Bottombumpers one-size diapers have rise snaps, but they are tucked away in the back of the diaper under the snap-in soaker. They are even color-coded so that there is no guess work in sizing the diaper. Sizing charts are available at the Bottombumpers website.

Bottombumpers are made with a side-snap closure. I wasn't always a fan of side-snaps because they are a little trickier to get on a wiggly baby. You have to bring the soaker up between baby's legs, fold the wings in and then snap the front of the diaper to the wings.  With practice; it gets easier. I have found that they make for a wonderfully smooth and trim fit across baby's belly. My Bottombumpers is not my trimmest diaper overall, but that is common with one-size diapers; especially on smaller babies.  My daughter is 6 months old and close to 16lb, so we are still on the smallest rise setting and second-to-smallest row of waist snaps.

Bottombumpers' inner is made from organic cotton and organic bamboo velour. These fabrics are soft, absorbent and easy to care for.  They do feel wet on baby's skin, but do not have the same issues with repellancy that synthetic microfibers and stay-dry fabrics have. And because the soaker unsnaps from the shell, I have more versatility in how I choose to dry my diaper. I can line dry both or dry them separately. I personally like to line-dry my shells to preserve their elastic and waterproof laminate coating. Drying time is exceptionally good on Bottombumpers diapers because the soaker is sewn in two "flaps." This allows water and air to flow through the diaper more easily during washing and drying.

Best yet, Bottombumpers are made in the USA. I've seen so many of my favorite diaper companies outsource to China and Egypt over the past few years and it's disappointing, to say the least. Especially since it was not followed by any reduction in the retail price of their diapers.  Bottombumpers are competetively priced and are no more expensive than other leading brands on the market.  Customization does run extra, but in my experience, it is well worth it to get a diaper that you will love.