Patio Makeover

When so many people think of homesteading, they think of gardens and land space – and when we moved into our suburban homestead, we didn’t have acres of open land. We have space to work with, but what we saw most prominently before us was an empty, closed-in patio.

A line of boxwoods and a handful of yew bushes are all that were growing in this cramped patio area. It provided some lovely private seating, but not much else. We had done some research into permaculture work and decided that we should take on our patio as one of our first major homestead projects and convert these big, plastic fences into some beautiful growing spaces.

All of the posts were held in by concrete, unfortunately – so while the lattice work came down rather easily, Evan about lost his sanity trying to pry out the concrete bases from the posts, which had started to rot.

Then it was time to remove the old yew bushes – while the birds loved to hide in the bushes, they were keeping us from growing food and plants that would sustain us and, ultimately, more pollinators and birds. Thankfully, we paired up with a farmer friend who would re-plant the yew bushes elsewhere rather than chop up a perfectly good, mature plant. (Olivia helped, too!)

(We found TONS of clay buried around the plants – so we scooped up a couple of buckets-worth of clay to experiment with cobb building in the future.)

Ta da!

Now, I should preface the next section of work by clearly stating that we will probably never build garden beds using trapezoid bricks – ever – again. This was a miserable project, and while it turned out beautifully, we could have done a lot better with bricks that fit together more easily and are better orchestrated to curve and connect in circles. If you want specifics, please reach out!

We purchased three pallets (something like 500 blocks) of trapezoid bricks from Home Depot and had them delivered to our side yard, where we painstakingly loaded them into the backyard and set up building various raised beds. Some of our beds were designed to be one brick deep while others would be closer to three bricks deep. To help keep things as level as possible, we dug down into the soil and laid several inches of sand, tamped it down, and then set up a base layer of patio stones while checking with a string level to maintain height against the existing concrete patio slab.

See how each level shrinks slightly because of the lip on the stone? That caused us a marriage-testing, sanity-questioning level of frustration that we now recommend others avoid at all costs, because each level now needed stones to be cut or chipped in order to fit the next level.

Once we figured out that the geometry of fitting smaller layers on top of smaller layers was exhausting to calculate, we finally settled on just breaking stones to make the layers fit together in the odd spots. At this point, it was well into summer, so getting the work done quickly wasn’t easy in sweltering temperatures. Things finally came together in July, with four beautiful beds ready to plant!

We quickly mixed in local compost from the city and some top soil and transplanted some herbs since we were so late in the season to get started on plantings (July is headed deep into summer in Kansas). I also added some river rock and patio stones from the side yard to transition the concrete patio slab to the yard and topped things off with some solar lights to add a lovely glow in the evenings. This spring, though, is when we’ll get to really unleash the loveliness of our patio, complete with plenty of herbs and some garlic and perennials we started this fall. Stay tuned!

Natural Bug Repellants

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This week was my spring break, and we managed to find a day off together where we spent all day outside. We grilled pizza for lunch and cooked a beef stew all afternoon – and when we pulled it off the fire, it was the most delicious and savory stew we have ever tasted. Better yet, we had made it from scratch in our own kitchen, with grass-fed and humanely-raised beef, and with vegetables we already had in our pantry and in our fridge. What an amazing day!

This spring is shaping up to be a beautiful time of year – the flowers are blooming, trees budding, birds calling, nature is waking up. Oh, and don’t forget the bugs – they’re waking up, too! (Cue exasperated sigh…)

Now, in every ecosystem and environment, everyone has a vital role. From the bacteria in the soil to the leaves decaying to the bee pollinating clover to the rabbit in the vegetable garden all the way up to the humans and big predators, we all have our own role and we must be allowed to play it. What’s unfortunate is that this line of reasoning includes the bugs as being important and critical to the cycle. (Cue another exasperated sigh.)

Now, I respect the role of nature and the different roles that are played by every step of the ladder, but that doesn’t mean I want them to carry out that job on my skin or on my patio. So how do we discourage the bugs from visiting without killing the bugs, or my gut flora?

I started investigating more natural ways to create repellants and kept turning to my collection of essential oils – my husband and mother-in-law have been showering me lots of delicious oils for Christmas and my collection is always growing. I like the natural effect that aromatherapy has on improving a variety of ailments, from mood to headaches to congestion and more. Their pungent qualities make them excellent for all things bug repellant, too!

So this week, I set out to develop two new items that will join us on the patio in the coming months: candles and bug spray.

Part 1: Candles

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I’ve heard that a lot of citronella candles are only so effective because they don’t contain true citronella oil – they just contain a chemical that smells like citronella and not the real stuff. So I set out to make citronella candles with the actual citronella essential oil!

First, I gathered my materials…

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  • soy wax (paraffin wax is made from either coal, petroleum, or oil by-products, so I stayed away from that!)
  • candle wicks
  • jars for candles (Mason jars are thicker and therefore less likely to break with heat)
  • essential oils – in addition to citronella, I bought lemongrass and used the grapefruit I already had in my collection
    • Citronella is excellent at repelling most flying pests, but grapefruit is an added tick protector and lemongrass is also helpful for mosquitoes and flies

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And the items needed for assembly…

  • Double boiler or DIY double boiler (glass or steel bowl in a saucepan with boiling water)
  • Spatula to stir melting wax (avoid plastic because of high heat)
  • Hot glue gun to glue wicks to bottom of jar
  • Pencil or chopstick to prop up wick while cooling

All in all, this candle-making was quick, easy, and surprisingly not messy – all my materials and bowls cleaned up quickly because I washed them while everything was still in liquid form – no scrubbing and scratching away hardened wax!

My bowl was small, so I made enough for one candle and then repeated the process for a second.

Using a make-shift double boiler, (steel bowl over a pot filled with boiling water), I melted down approximately 4 cups of wax (equals approximately 1 to 1 1/4 cup of melted wax) and added about 3-4 drops of essential oils for each cup of wax.

While the wax was melting, I used my hot glue gun to glue the wicks to the bottom of my jars. I sat the jars next to the pot on the stove so they would stay a little warmer – you don’t want to risk them cracking when introducing hot wax to cool glass.

When the wax was all the way cooled, I poured it carefully into my first jar, using a piece of wax paper to catch any spills (that way, I could throw any wax spills away rather than scrub my counter to within an inch of its life.)

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Then, I repeated the process for jar number 2. For each, I propped up the wicks with a chopstick or pencil to keep them from leaning to the edge of the candle. It wasn’t perfectly straight, but they’ll burn fairly straight, so that’s all that matters!

Leave them to cool overnight, and you’ll wake up to scent-a-licious and beautiful candles the next morning! For all new candles, I’ve heard the recommendation that the first time you burn them you should let the wick burn long enough to melt the top layer of wax so that the wick can soak up a little and “remember” for the next burning.

 

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Part 2: Bug Spray

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If candles were easy, then homemade bug spray is the equivalent of eating Girl Scout cookies – easy, fun, and over way too quickly. This recipe was a mixture of the same essential oils from my candles but with the added witch hazel to act as a sterilizing agent (keeps bacteria from growing in the bottle).

In a dark spray bottle, mix the following:

  • 2 oz. distilled water
  • 1.5 oz witch hazel
  • 30 drops of citronella essential oil
  • 25 drops of grapefruit essential oil
  • 15 drops of lemongrass essential oil

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Keep in a dark and cool location, and break out in times of outdoor frolicking. Shake before use, as the oils and water will separate.

I’m looking forward to trying both of these products on our patio with our new patio set – I hope they will be as successful for you as I am sure they will be for me!

New Sewing Projects

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as making something by hand.

I’m no master sewer by any means – I’d barely qualify myself as a crafter. I value the ability to craft my own items rather than purchase them and to conceptualize how projects can be formed by its smaller pieces and the process of assembly. I’ve found myself studying my bookshelf, a cheap purchase that is held together one of those cardboard backs and tacks, and theorizing how to best build one of our own. Making something from scratch helps you appreciate how items are held together and the purpose of each step in the creation process.

The last two weekends I picked a couple of simple projects for around the house – a couple of outdoor throw pillows and a floor cushion for the living room.

Last year, I took an old sofa frame that my husband used in his dorm room and painted and waterproofed it for our patio. This year, I wanted a softer touch to the basic frame and simple brown cushion – some throw pillows would do nicely! img_1595

I picked up a couple of pillows for sale at JoAnn’s and some outdoor fabric – while nothing explicitly stated that it was waterproof, I think these will be great additions for when we’re outside enjoying our garden and they’re easy to toss inside to stay out of the rain.

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My new throw pillows with a cup of my favorite black tea – complete with a big slice of lemon! 

When I settle in for school work and need to spread out, I enjoy sitting on the floor with papers and books scattered all over my coffee table and floor. (The kitties love all the crinkly paper to roll on, too.) I usually pull up a cat cushion to sit on but I don’t much prefer all the hair that follows me around afterwards. So, why not a floor cushion so Momma doesn’t have to steal the kitties’ pillow?

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Now the kitties can steal Momma’s cushion instead!

This project I conceptualized on my own – remember those paper dice we made at school as kids, where you cut out the series of squares and folded them together to glue into the cube?  I made this floor cushion the same way.

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Olivia brought me a toy for encouragement – this stringy spider friend cheered me on from it’s spot on the rug. 

This project could have easily gotten out of control in price had I filled it with piles and piles of fluff and batting. Thankfully, I’d recently cleaned out my fabric bin of scraps and bits that were unusable and created a stash bag of leftover fabric for just this project. All of the extra t-shirt scraps from my t-shirt quilt? Lumped together in a big pile of fabric. I stuffed all of these into my cushion and, therefore, eliminated the need to purchase bags and bags of poly-fill. I did buy one bag to soften the outsides of the cushion by surrounding the scrap fabric in a layer of fluff, much like the layer of sweet and juicy pineapple fruit surrounds the less desirable and bulky core.

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Now, I have a special spot of my own in the living room – when Cattigan and Olivia aren’t occupying it themselves, of course.

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Happy sewing!

Three DIY, Natural Products that Save Money

This post contains affiliate links. 

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When we first switched to shopping at our co-op, certain products suddenly became incredibly expensive. Household products, cleaning materials, detergent – buying natural suddenly doubled or tripled the prices we’d paid at the grocery store up the street. We only had so much to spend on a first year’s teacher salary and a (then) bartender-server salary, so even putting dryer sheets into our cart stung at checkout.

I started attacking Pinterest for ideas to substitute or prolong the life of my purchases. I dug out my 3 favorites and wanted to share them with you!

1. Make-Up Remover

This make-up remover is natural and easily removes even waterproof makeup with the aid of a damp washcloth, made with only witch hazel, your choice of oil (I like jojoba or almond), and filtered water. The blog this recipe comes from encourages you to use a preservative of some kind and to be careful of any bacterial growth – I’ve been using this mixture for months and have not had any issues with bacterial growth, thanks to the witch hazel (or eye issues, for that matter).

Price: A 6 ounce bottle of this make-up remover costs $3.54. 2 ounces of the chemical-laden leading brand can cost upwards of $5! 

Witch hazel – $8 for 16 oz (Certified organic, I purchased mine from our co-op, but it’s also sold through MountainRoseHerbs.com)

Almond oil – $11 for 16 oz (available from Amazon)

Water – It’s not the same as filtered, but I use water from our PUR water filter 

$19 for 32 oz of supplies, which means you are paying around 60 cents per ounce.

For the recipe and details, visit Adrienne’s article on Whole New Mom.

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2. Reusable Dryer Sheets

Not only were the natural sheets starting to feel expensive, but all those sheets getting trashed was wasteful! Thanks to Stacy Barr from “Six Dollar Family”, I made these reusable dryer sheets for free.

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Choose a fabric – I took an old, beat-up tea towel and cut it into rectangles – and add vinegar, water, and essential oils. I know what you’re thinking – vinegar in the dryer? Believe it or not, your laundry won’t smell like vinegar – just the essential oils you add to the jar.

Visit here to get the recipe and the details:

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3. Homemade Laundry Detergent

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What a steal! This homemade laundry detergent cuts the costs of natural detergent in half. Instead of around 20 cents per load, this costs only around 10 cents per load. This recipe calls for Borax, Washing Soda, a bar of soap (grated), and baking soda. You’ll need to pick up the ingredients from your supermarket – I couldn’t find Borax or Washing Soda at the natural grocery stores.

I found this detergent to work just as well as our normal detergents – no issues with stains or bubbling. I spilled red wine on my sheets the other night – trying to read in bed with a glass of wine resulted in me just falling asleep and knocking over the glass (I’m a brilliant person sometimes) – and with the addition of some vinegar to the load of laundry and this soap, it all washed out. 

Check out Sarah Mueller on her blog, Early Bird Mom, for the recipe and more details!

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I love finding new ways to save here and there on our grocery budget – plus, it’s a proud feeling to know how to make staple products for my household that I can recreate with little effort. Do you have any favorite DIY products for your home?


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Why Homestead?

This post contains affiliate links. 

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Tonight, we’re visiting the third house on our house hunt. No, not our house hunt – our homestead hunt. We’re finally getting close to being able to declare our hunt as officially in season, but with that comes the question of what we’re looking for – a homestead. But with that comes the question of, “Why?”

Although society is starting to relax and open up in so many ways, there are still these stereotypes about life and your success in life depending on getting that college degree, getting a well-paying job that provides you with retirement accounts and 401(k)s, settling down and having two kids in a nice neighborhood, and spending your weekends at a furniture mart shopping for bedroom sets. Your food and supplies come from big mart stores that provide convenience and ease, your social media provides inspiration and social status. Your backyard is perfectly groomed and has the occasional flower garden and there’s no point in creating items when you can buy them at a store on sale.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting this or even wanting this – it’s just not for us.

For me, my journey started three years ago when Evan and I first moved in to our current rental home. We were in the middle of the zombie apocalypse craze – with the TV series and movies chronicling the events of a small group of people following some kind of world collapse, there was suddenly this thought:

“Wait, what if this ACTUALLY happened? How WOULD we live?”

It was unsettling to say the least. I can’t even cut firewood (thank goodness I chose a partner significantly more skilled in that arena), much less know how to build shelter that would keep me alive for the night, not even thinking about a zombie attack. It started us thinking about not having the life skills that our grandparents had – keeping livestock, growing and tending crops, using resources on the land, creating the items you need for your survival or day-to-day happiness.

At first, our journey was about being stocked with emergency supplies – stockpiling rope, freeze-dried food, duct tape, portable cookware, propane lanterns, a hatchet, and desalinization straws. I began looking into how to prepare food for long-term storage – dried noodles can only go so far in survival packs. One of my family members joked with us that we were becoming doomsday preppers. As we were growing our stores, I still had a feeling that this wasn’t the right direction – we were missing something. Then, I came across this eye-opening read:

The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals

“The Prepper’s Cookbook” by Tess Pennington introduced me to a whole new direction – while you should be preparing for the worst, the worst may not be a zombie apocalypse but a staggering veterinary bill or major car repair. What will you do next week when you’re suddenly at the emergency vet’s office facing the possibility of a $900 bill for an overnight stay to monitor your diabetic cat? (This was us three weeks ago – thankfully, Cattigan is now home and happy.) Suddenly your grocery money goes out the window – so you should be growing, harvesting, and storing the food that you will eat every week rather than bags and bags of cheap noodles and salty flavor packets or cheap, overly-sugared cans of baked beans that no one would want to touch on a good day.

This book helped us count and calculate which foods and how much of them to grow, preserve, and/or purchase for the house. We started keeping bulk dry beans and pasta as well as cans of pickles and diced tomatoes to pull from when we cook. Just last week, we cracked open a can of sauerkraut I made last summer when we were grilling bratwurst during a freak February warm spell. The idea is to be able to sustain your own lives and lifestyle despite any type of emergency – from wrecking your car to a zombie in the garden.

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A harvest of black beans and a stash of peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers from last year’s garden.

I finally had the right plan.

I was canning from our garden and stocking up on bulk rice and nuts or jars of peanut butter when it went on sale at our co-op. We’d buy bags of potatoes or peppers when they were put in the price-reduced bin and slice and freeze them for later use. I up-cycled this beautiful book shelf and now stock it with supplies like pasta and sugar or boxes of onions – it stays cool and dark in our basement and provides us with a pantry supply of food. Plus, now I don’t have to worry about staring at bare cupboards while planning dinner – I have so many options for soups, chilis, Mexican, roasted vegetables – you name it.

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A few of our ‘pantry’ items – we’re running low this time of year, but this is how we get started at sustaining ourselves with our own pantry and goods. (And yes, there is still a package or two of noodles for a true emergency.)

But that wasn’t the end of it – the next step became whether or not we can continue to produce that kind of food on a regular basis and provide for ourselves every day, and not just during times of shortage.

It was time to think big picture and long-term, and this is where we’re doing most of our learning – what did our grandparents do to keep their plants alive during sudden freezes? How did they keep chickens alive while roaming pastures to avoid buying feed all the time (which makes them more expensive than just buying organic eggs at the store)? Before power or even during power outages, how did they keep their house cool in the summer or warm in the winter? While we want to live with the modern conveniences of air conditioning and internet (we are very much a Netflix/Hulu household), we want to reduce our carbon footprint and our dependency on the grid to heat and cool our house or power our cars. Especially in light of recent political events, I want to control where my money is going and how my money is buying my energy if the government won’t protect our environment. This can be a whole conversation on its own – but, for example, we believe whole-heartedly in the sustainability of solar – so let’s invest in solar panels and get our money out of coal power plants.

What’s wonderful is that anyone can do this – my husband has been pouring over this book about finding self-sufficiency on 1/4 acre. It’s been essential to us as we do calculations and come up with ideas for maximizing space and the power of our dollar, and is jam-packed with everything from gardening to canning and dehydrating to soil health and composting, and more.

 Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

Rather than 1/4 acre, however, are aiming for 2-3 acres for our future homestead. A homestead of this size gives us the breathing room and space to do so much, from keeping a goat or two to including a cottage for my mother-in-law. I want the space to sew more t-shirt quilts for family or floor cushions (that my cats steal – thanks, guys…) when we’re not outside tending patches of tomatoes or harvesting black beans (Let me digress for a second – black beans are one of the easiest plants to grow and take care of – you literally water it all summer and wait for it to die in the fall before you know you’re ready to harvest – I love ’em!). We can work with a local energy company to at least lease solar panels to power our property and maybe even invest in an electric car. I dream of free-range chickens that provide us with fresh eggs, pest control, and soil maintenance (small amounts of manure but lots of scratching and stirring soil). Over the years we can use crops and crop rotations to improve the soil health of our land so that every vegetable or fruit we grow is bursting with nutrients that are missing from commercial and mass-produced foods – plus, doesn’t farm-fresh just taste better?

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My husband left me a note last fall when I came home from work – better than any box of chocolates or vase of flowers, in my mind!

We’re big dreamers – I often happily imagine a snowy, Kansas Christmas around a fireplace with our family out on our glowing homestead – but we’re ready to be realistic. We know that to get a piece of heaven so close to our city means that we’ll probably be sacrificing on the quality of house we’ll find to stay in our price range – no 5 bedroom mansion with a 4-car garage and heated barn for us. (We will likely be stuck with a cramped ranch-style home with a scary basement and overgrown property that screams “RUN AWAY” rather than “Future Garden of Eden”.) We’ll be starting small, and our first garden will probably be terrible with very little production on this nasty northeast Kansas clay soil. But every year we’ll plow a few more garden beds by hand, search the internet for second-hand chicken coops, and maybe even save up for a pressure cooker to help with canning or a new patio table to fit more than 3 people out back.

The idea of the American dream is to pull yourself up by your bootstraps – that hard work pays off and gives you the life of which you have always dreamed. We’re unlucky compared to most farmers – we’ve inherited no land and we haven’t hit rich with any lottery ticket to give us a head start. We’re going to be moving forward with the love and support of our family and it’s going to take time, and we’re okay with that. We’re building the Epperson Homestead from scratch – and every little thing I learn how to fix or make means I am that much more proud and invested in my home. We’re getting back to our roots – valuing the work our hands can do, cherishing the seedlings that sprout in the plant tray on my bookshelf, reading and expanding our knowledge and imagination, putting the importance back on happy animals and happy soil that, in turn, only make us healthier and stronger.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this quote to ruminate over as we all dream of spring and greener things:

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ” -Michael Pollan, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

New TPT store developments

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Teacher friends, there are a few hours left in the February Teachers Pay Teachers sale, and it’s inspired me to jump into creating more resources and really trying to expand my store. The hardest thing about starting a store in the last year is that it feels like all of the wonderfully-creative ideas have already been taken, and if I’m not careful I’m just creating redundant products! I’ve decided to make items that really pertain to my classroom and what my students will use, and hopefully others will find some use for them, too.

Two of the biggest type of resources that I want to utilize more in my classroom include interactive resources and composition resources. This year, I have a SmartBoard at both my schools (WOO HOO!) and we are loving using it with our QuaverMusic subscription. I take any chance I can get to have my students up leading class or driving our lesson, even if it just means pushing the “Next” button on the slideshow page. So why not combine our constant need to practice music literacy with interactive features?

I created the first of several resources in this line of thinking and posted my first one online just now – it’s called “Pizza Melody Practice: Sol & Mi.” I developed it to be a new way to practice melody flashcards – I’ve paired the objective with a fun concept (pizza toppings!) and made it so the students run the lesson and I, as the teacher, can step back. The students choose the melodies based on what pizza topping they click or tap on, and they even have an opportunity to improvise a short phrase here and there, as well! I’ve included a few thumbnails here to take a peek, but you can get a full preview and even purchase this product in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

 

Don’t forget, if you are shopping late this evening in the February sale (2/7-2/8), enter ‘LOVETPT’ at checkout to save up to 28%!

 

 

DIY T-Shirt Quilt

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It’s here! I’ve finished my first-ever quilt, and I am so proud of this project! It is by no means perfect, but it worked for me and my amateur sewing skills and I think it looks wonderful in its imperfections. (My cats love it, too! They were glued to it during every step in the process…)

I didn’t follow any particular pattern as I made this – I did some research on Pinterest and didn’t find anything or any particular approach that I loved. I knew I had 12 KU Band t-shirts (my husband and I met and fell in love thanks to marching band, and this quilt is here as evidence!), I wanted to include sashing (the red polka-dot stripes in between each t-shirt panel), and I didn’t want anything that took me too far beyond straight-stitching. (I saw patterns where they used t-shirts offset on top of black squares to create a shadow effect – while this was a neat effect, it was a little above-and-beyond for my first go.) I gathered some info from quilting friends and diagrams, and off I went!

To preface these instructions, please know that this is not likely to be the most perfect pattern – I picked the steps I did because they made sense to me, not because I have a PhD in quilting. My measurements were not perfect – I ripped out plenty of stitches and tried to hide my cutting mistakes as much as I could – but it’s good enough for my cats and my home. img_1407

If this (and the thoughts of photos taken in the evening with poor light) doesn’t deter you, then read on below for my pattern!

DIY T-Shirt Quilt Instructions

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You will need: 

  1. T-shirts (I picked 12)
  2. Fabric for sashing (stripes between shirts)
  3. Fabric for backing of quilt
  4. Interfacing for t-shirts (I used iron-on) to keep the t-shirts from stretching while sewing
  5. Quilt batting or fleece of some sort (I used iron-on fleece) to line inside of quilt
  6. Thread to match your fabric
  7. Iron (if you chose iron-on interfacing/fleece) & tea towel or light material to guard t-shirt ink while you iron (mine started to smudge!)
  8. Sewing machine
  9. Scissors (or better yet, a rotary cutter! This was a life-saver – it’s like a pizza cutter that cuts fabric.)
  10. Measuring tape
  11. Highly recommended by technically not necessary is a quilting square – I purchased a 12×12 (measures 12 1/2 on the outer edges for seam allowances) transparent quilting square to help cut my t-shirts into perfect squares. Again, another life-saver!

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    My new favorite tools – a quilting square and a rotary cutter. (Not recommended is the piece of wood – I used a piece of wood as a buffer for my rotary cutter and I’m sure this is really bad for your blade, so I’m saving up for a self-healing cutting mat as soon as possible!)

Instructions: 

  1. Decide on numbers. Choose how many t-shirts you will use – my 12 t-shirts made a throw blanket that would not completely cover a twin bed – the more shirts you use, the bigger your blanket. Also, pick how large you want to cut your t-shirts – I purchased a 12×12 inch quilting square to help me cut my shirts and decided (randomly) to go with 3″ of sashing in between each shirt and along the border of the outside.
    1. Using your measurements, draw a diagram to help you figure out how much square footage of fabric you’ll need and divide down to find out how many yards of fabric you’ll need.I purchased 2 yards of fabric for sashing, 4 yards of fleece iron-on interfacing*, 4 yards of blue fabric for the back of the quilt.

      *In retrospect, this should have been 2 yards of normal interfacing rather than fleece to line the shirts and 2 yards of the fleece interfacing. My quilt ended up being twice as thick and it made my machine a little unhappy at the end, but it worked.
       
  2. Pre-wash all t-shirts and fabric to eliminate extra shrinkage/stretching.
  3. Cut your t-shirts & interfacing to your desired size. Using my quilting square, I cut each of my t-shirts to 12 1/2 x 12 1/2 (my quilting square has an extra blue edge that adds 1/4 inch to each side) and cut an equal amount of interfacing pieces to match. I should have been using normal interfacing rather than iron-on fusible fleece interfacing for this, so my shirts were a little thicker going into the sewing stages. Iron your interfacing to your shirts, keeping a tea towel or other cloth between your hot iron and your t-shirt ink – you don’t want it to run or smudge.img_1306
  4. Cut strips of sashing to run along one side of each of your t-shirt panels. My pieces were 3 x 12 1/2 to match the length of my shirts.
  5. Sew your sashing strip to one side of your panels. For each t-shirt, choose one side to sew your sashing to – make sure you pick the same side for all shirts or you’ll be piecing things together. I chose the right side of each panel. Face the right sides together and sew using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Repeat for all t-shirts.
  6. Take a break and lay out your panels to adore your work so far! You can also start to decide what order you want your panels to lay in – I had a bunch of colors of shirt to work with and wanted it to look balanced.screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-7-50-11-pm
  7. Sew your t-shirt panels into rows. Face the right sides together of your panels, pin as needed, and sew together with 1/4 inch seam allowance – continue and repeat until you finish a row. Repeat with the rest of your panels to form rows.img_1373
  8. Cut long strips of sashing to run in between your rows. Measure the length of each row and allow for some wiggle room – at least a couple of inches. For me, this meant cutting 53 x 3 inch strips to line the bottom of each row.
  9. Sew your sashing to the bottom of each row. As you did before, face right sides together, pin as needed, and sew using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.img_1375
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  10. Sew each combination of sashing/row to one another to create your almost-finished front of your quilt. Now it will start to take shape! Starting at the top, take the top two rows and face right sides together, pin as needed, and sew, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.img_1380
  11. Cut longer strips of sashing to complete the outside edges of your front panel. Measure the outside edges of the top and left of your quilt sides and add several inches to your total – also, make sure that you allowed for 3″ around the edge of the quilt to match the other outer edges.
  12. Sew your sashing trim to the outside of your front panel and trim edges. As before, face right sides together, pin as needed, and sew with 1/4 inch seam allowance. After all sashing has been sewn to your quilt, spread it out flat and trim any extra pieces that are hanging out or that look rough. One side of my quilt ended up off-kilter with itself – I decided just to trim this to gradually taper to the correct width.
  13. Measure and cut your back panel(s). My quilt was too wide to accommodate 45″ fabric widths (the typical width of fabric you purchase), so I needed to piece two panels together to create one big piece. Unfortunately, I didn’t write these measurements down to share with you – they should reflect the total measurements of your quilt front. I knew I was going to have a rough edge with the off-kilter right side of my quilt that I trimmed earlier – I went ahead and ignored that as I cut my back panel and I’m fine with the back panel showing a bit around the edge after finishing.

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    My backing fabric doesn’t match the size of my quilt – I decided I needed to cut two panels and sew them together to create the correct size.
  14. Sew your back panels together. Allowing a 1/4 inch seam, I sewed my two back panels together to create one giant full panel for the back of my quilt.

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    Much better! Now it’s the correct size and matches the front.
  15. Cut your quilt batting/fleece interfacing to the size of your back panel(s). As I reflect on this, you could have done this step one of two ways – the way I have described it here, or having cut and attached the fleece to the two back panels and then stitched them all into one big panel. That might’ve been easier to maneuver and manage, but this way worked, too. Using the same measurements as before, cut your iron on fleece interfacing to match your back panels.

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    One half of the fleece interfacing.
  16. Iron on your fleece interfacing to your back panel(s). I’m not sure how you would use regular quilt batting in terms of sewing this to your back panel – I used iron-on, so I pressed the interfacing to the back panels and didn’t have to worry about stitching.

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    Olivia approves.
  17. Sew your front panel to your back panel. Start by facing your front panel to your back panel, right sides facing each other. Carefully pin around all the edges and pick a corner to keep un-sewn – you’ll sew almost all the way around and leave around 8-10 inches open so you can reach in and pull the quilt inside out. (Or, technically, right-side in, since it’s being sewn inside out.) Sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
  18. Turn quilt inside-out. When you’re done sewing, snip the corners so the corners won’t bunch when you turn it inside out. Reach in and pull the quilt inside out, and admire! You’re so close!img_1396
  19. Hand-stitch corner of the quilt closed. I know you can machine-sew this somehow, but I’m not confident in my ability to stitch in a way that hides the stitches, so I hand-stitched the open corner closed.img_1400
  20. Anchor front and back of quilt to each other. Let me start with what I tried, which may or not work for you (and didn’t work for me initially).I decided to “stitch in the ditch” to anchor the front of my quilt to the back – I didn’t want repeated washes to overly-separate the two pieces and create gaps. However, having used two layers of fleece (hopefully you’ll use one layer of fleece and a layer of thin interfacing, so you won’t have this problem) made my quilt pretty thick and it tried to fight with my machine a bit as I was stitching. I used some red thread (to match the sashing) to attempt to sew a straight line through the center of my sashing, and the thickness and some slight variance in measurement of my back panel and front panel (they didn’t exactly line up) meant that I had some bunching issues – some really obvious, but most I can overlook. I’m going to go back and tear out one of my lines of stitching to try to remedy this.

    If you’re pretty comfortable that your front and back are exactly the same size and won’t pull as you stitch, then go ahead and try this method – with my thickness of quilt and mismatch front and back (just by half an inch or so), I probably should have just put in a couple of small darts by hand in the corners of my t-shirts and not sewn across the whole quilt. But hey, it’s a small problem to have, and stitches can always be torn out (albeit with much effort).

  21. Crack a bottle of wine, curl up with your new quilt, and enjoy!

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    Cattigan approves.

     

     

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    Olivia is excited for her – I mean, Momma’s – new quilt!