Why Not?

This morning the kids asked me if they could stack up some of the wood pallets our coal is delivered on to use them for a picnic table. In a fit of insanity, I thought, “We could do better than that.” While rummaging around for solid wood to use as table legs, we came across the pieces from an old bed frame. The headboard seemed just about perfect for a table top.

We dragged the pieces outside along with my tool box and my IT staff’s circular saw. Measuring, cutting, building, improvising when plans A through C didn’t go exactly as expected… It was actually a fun project! It is by no means perfect. A real carpenter would cringe at my MacGyver’d table, but I’ve never let that stop me from attempting a project in the past.

It’s not pressure treated wood, or a composite, so we’ll need some outdoor paint to seal it. I told the kids that they can paint it themselves, which will be interesting since only one of them has any experience helping me paint furniture. Since a wonky paint job isn’t exactly going to make the table worse, I figured it was a good practice project.

I’m more likely to say, “Why?” than “Why not?” when the kids come up with a project idea. I’m trying to change that to some degree. Admittedly, sometimes the projects crash and burn. (In the case of a science experiment in the microwave, the burning can be literal.) There are times that the projects turn out fantastic, and then there are times like today when the project isn’t quite fantastic, but it’s still cool. It may have been in a fit of insanity, but I’m glad that my response today was, “Why not?”

T-shirt Quilt DIY

I love graphic tees! I had a stack of them that had worn out, had stains, or weren’t very comfortable that I couldn’t bear to part with because, nostalgia! I kept telling myself that I’d make a t-shirt quilt with them. I’ve been saving t-shirts for this quilt for over 15 years. Still no quilt.

Here’s the thing: to do it the “right” way, you need to use woven fusible interfacing to stabilize the t-shirt material, then sew them together with sashing or boarders of some kind, and then you quilt and bind it like a regular quilt. During the Great Sewing Room Clean-Up of 2019, I came across all of those t-shirts and was reminded that I should really make that quilt someday. Then I came across a couple of t-shirt material twin sheets I’d been saving for an undetermined project, and started thinking…

What if I just cut the t-shirts into squares, sewed them together with no interfacing or sashing, skipped the batting, and just used the t-shirt sheets for the backing. It would break all of the “rules” for t-shirt quilts, but they would be nice summer blankets for the living room. I decided that in this case, done was better than perfect.

I grabbed my 12 1/2″ quilting square, centered the t-shirt design, and cut around them with my rotary cutter. I had 40 squares, so I made two t-shirt quilts. One of them, I just grabbed whatever square was next and sewed it onto the row then sewed the rows together without paying much attention to placement. The second one, I laid out the squares and then sewed them together in a particular order. Honestly, I like the way both turned out, so pick which method you like better.

I find that sewing knit material with the even-feed foot on my machine keeps the stretching to a minimum, but you can skip it if you don’t have one or don’t like using it with knits. I did one quilt with a 1/4″ seam allowance and one with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Either one works, just be sure that you keep your seam allowance consistent through the whole quilt. Don’t switch halfway through or it will make things turn out wonky.

After sewing the blocks in a 4 by 5 square layout, I spread the t-shirt sheet on the table with the right side up. Then I layered the quilt on top of it with the right side down. Make sure the right sides of the quilt and backing are touching each other. Pin well along the edge and then sew along the outside using your preferred seam allowance. Leave about an 8″ opening so you can turn the whole thing right side out.

Once you’ve sewed the edges, and turned the quilt right side out, pin the opening closed and top-stitch around the whole quilt. I prefer top-stitching about 1/4″ from the edge, but use what you like best. If you don’t catch the edges of the opening in the top-stitching, you’ll need to hand-sew that closed.

Next, you’ll be sewing “in the ditch” or on the line where the squares meet. This will sort of hold the blanket together while you’re using it. You can do this without pinning the two layers together first. However, I still had some shifting of the backing when I tried this without pinning. It’s not bad, but the quilt where I used safety pins along the edges of the blocks definitely worked better.

And you’re done! This is one of those projects you can easily do in a weekend or just a few evenings. You could make a bigger quilt or smaller one, but I found this size to be perfect for curling up under while watching a movie. Camo was happy to test out this one hot off the sewing machine! I’d just packed up a couple of our winter quilts, so the timing on these was perfect. Nothing says “warm weather” like t-shirts, or a quilt made of them, right?

If you end up making a t-shirt quilt of your own, head over to the Teish Knits Facebook page and share a photo. I’d love to see other examples!

Sun Tea Season Is Back!

Note: As I’m a Plum Deluxe Ambassador, the links in this article are affiliate links. I’ve found their teas to be some of the best blends I’ve tried over the years, and would not suggest them to my readers if I didn’t drink Plum Deluxe teas myself!

One of my fond childhood memories is of the gallon jar of sun tea that was a constant fixture on my great-grandmother’s porch during the warm months. If you visited Grammy Lila in the summer, sitting around her kitchen table sipping sun tea was a given. (And if you were one of the grandkids, she’d bring down the candy jar that she kept stocked with everyone’s favorites!)

I have one of the big glass jars that used to be Grammy’s, and I use it to brew my own sun tea as soon as it warms up enough so that the tea will brew and not freeze on my front steps.

Grammy Lila used regular old Lipton black tea for her sun tea, and that works just fine. I started out using that for my own sun tea, but soon branched out to green tea. Green tea has a little less caffeine and I’m particularly fond of green teas that are fruit flavored. Blueberry, peach, and pomegranate are favorites, but we’ve tried a number of varieties of Lipton and Bigelow green teas and they’ve all been good. You can use any kind of tea you like though. I brew a batch of Earl Grey now and then, and I’ve tried a lot of herbal teas that were delicious iced. I tried out the newest club blend from Plum Deluxe and it was delicious iced! I’ll definitely be trying some more of their blends in my sun tea brewing this summer.

You’ll need a big glass jar or pitcher. I suggest combing the yard sales or your grandmother’s basement to see if you can find one of these heavy gallon jars, but anything glass with a secure cover will do. The important thing is to brew it in glass, and not plastic. (Brewing in plastic can leach stuff from the heated plastic into your tea and affect the taste. Yuck!) Fill the jar or pitcher with cold water, and then add tea bags or loose tea. I use about 10 of the green tea bags or 4 heaping tablespoons of loose tea for one gallon of water, but you may need to play around with the amount of tea to get the right proportions for the tea you’re using. Put the lid on the jar and set it in the sun in the morning. I leave it on my steps until late afternoon, or bedtime if I forget about it! Remove the tea bags and chill in the fridge. I transfer my tea to a pitcher for easier pouring, and so I can have another batch ready before we run out.

If you like to sweeten your tea, I suggest using honey or a simple syrup as they will mix in better than just granulated sugar. I switched to drinking my iced tea unsweetened several years back, and I honestly don’t miss the sugar, particularly when I brew a tea that includes fruit.

I read an article a couple of years back about concerns over whether sun tea is safe to store in the fridge and drink later. The suggestion in the article was that it may be safer to brew traditionally with boiling water to minimize any contaminants that could make you sick, and to drink the iced tea immediately, and not store leftovers for later. We typically drink a batch within a few days, and it always seems to keep in the fridge OK. I do make sure the jar is thoroughly cleaned between brewing batches as well. However, brew and drink at your own risk. I figure that we grew up drinking the sun tea Grammy Lila kept in her fridge and survived, so I’m not going to stress over it.

Are you an iced tea fan? What kind do you like brewing best in the summer?

If you’re interested in trying Plum Deluxe teas for your summer iced tea brewing, they’ve offered a coupon code for 10% off tea purchases for my readers! Just use this code in the VIP Code field when placing your order: teishknitsreaders

Rag Basket

I recall Mom joking that by your 15th anniversary, you needed another wedding shower because all of the towels from your wedding had worn out. I recently picked up some new towels and washcloths at Walmart because ours were rather threadbare in spots. When I went through and removed all of the hole-y and badly stained towels to make room for the new ones, I pondered what to do with the old ones. Sure, they had some holes and were wearing thin in places, but it seemed a waste to simply throw them away.

I think almost everyone’s grandmother had a stash of rags for cleaning, and it occurred to me that my old towels would be perfect for that. I’ve been thinking about options that would help us cut back on the number of paper towels we use for a while. A rag basket under the sink is the perfect solution.

I considered cutting up the bath towels into smaller pieces since they are a little too big for cleaning tasks. In the end, I decided to leave them whole for now. With four kids and a very large German Shepherd in the house, there are some pretty big spills at times. Old bath towels are a much better option than half a roll of paper towels when it comes to soaking up a sizable spill on the kitchen floor. Since my collection included some hand towels and washcloths, I’ve got a pretty good selection of sizes to use for any task.

I grabbed an empty basket, rolled up the towels and stashed them under the kitchen sink. Now when I need a cloth for cleaning, or something to soak up a spilled glass of water, I can walk past the paper towels and right to my rag basket. Since they are old towels that are already partially worn out, I won’t bad if we use it to clean up something that ruins the towel.

A rag basket may be an old-fashioned idea, but it’s definitely one that’s stuck around this long for a reason! What’s one of your favorite “life hacks” from grandma’s day?

Egg Carton Seed Starter

I’m a wannabe gardener with a black thumb. I love plants, and while I grew up helping tend the garden every summer, I can’t seem to make anything grow reliably. I try again each spring, always hoping that this is the year when I’ll have a garden that survives!

Since we can’t plant seeds outside until after Memorial Day at this latitude, I know that starting some of my plants indoors is a must. I got a special seed starter tray, and honestly, only some of the seed sprouts are doing well. I’m just hoping they make it to the end of May when they can go live outside in the garden. I picked up another packet of seeds later, but didn’t have any more room in my fancy seed starter tray. Never one to let minor details like this deter me, I improvised!

Materials Needed:
Paper Egg Carton
Pan or Tray
Potting Mix

Make sure your pan or tray is deep enough to hold a bit of water. Rip the lid of the egg carton and put the base in the pan. Fill the egg cups with potting mix and plant your seeds in the cups. Pour water into the pan and allow the egg carton to soak up the water. Find a sunny window to keep your seed starter in. Check it frequently to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out!

I started seeing sprouts of the Morning Glory seeds that I planted within a few days. Honestly, they’re doing better than the seeds in my fancy seed starting tray. We’ll see how well it works out over the next month, but I’m inclined to stick with the egg carton seed starters exclusively next year just based on how well it’s worked so far!

I’m hoping that I’ll have photos of a thriving garden to post on Instagram later this summer, but time will tell. Is anyone else starting seeds inside this spring? What’s you’re favorite trick for seed starting?

Mason Jar School Supply Storage DIY

I’ve always had an affinity for using mason jars for storage solutions. There were always plenty of mason jars around while I was growing up and they are wonderfully useful!

I’ve been re-doing our school room this summer, and I wanted to figure out a way to use some mason jars for organizing school supplies. I’ve always grabbed a jar or mug to hold various pens, pencils, markers, etc. The cute mason jar caddy and crate options that I found online were on the pricy side, and not quite what I was looking for. I found a few blog posts from people who had put together their own solution, and decided to try it myself.

The supplies came from Walmart and the local hardware store.

  • Wooden Crate
  • Pint Mason Jars
  • White Acrylic Paint
  • Sea Glass Spray Paint

I picked up the crate and the jars at the same store to make sure that I could comfortably fit four jars in the crate. Once I got home, I removed the lids from the jars and spray painted them with the sea glass spray paint. Since I have a sort of “ocean” vibe going on in our school room, the sea glass look appealed to me. I did a few thin coats, and I quite like how they turned out. I don’t know that you could wash the jars without some of the finish coming off, but since these will only be for storing school supplies, it wasn’t an issue for me.

I borrowed a small paintbrush from the kids’ are supplies and put two coats of the white acrylic on the crate. It still looks a bit uneven, but I’m calling it a “weathered” finish. (It will definitely look weathered by next summer!) Then everything dried overnight.

I grabbed markers, pencils, and twistable colored pencils to store in this particular crate. I’ll definitely be making a second one though! Who knew how much room all of those school supplies took up?

What sorts of neat uses do you have for mason jars? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

DIY Filing Cabinet Upgrade

Red Green might call duct tape the handyman’s secret weapon, but spray paint is definitely the DIY decorator’s secret weapon! A couple of cans of spray paint can transform just about anything. There’s not much that I haven’t tried spray painting, and I’m usually quite happy with the results.

My latest spray paint project was a 2-drawer filing cabinet. It all started when I came across the cute filing cabinets by Poppin. I love the combination of white and a bright pop of color for the drawers! But… I don’t need a new filing cabinet, and at $250 for the cute Poppin version…

Krylon to the rescue! I used spray primer leftover from a previous project. As you can see from the photo, this isn’t the first time that I’ve spray-painted this particular filing cabinet…

It looks pretty rough at this point, but don’t panic! Spray painting takes a lot of coats. Many light coats works better than trying to use just one or two heavy coats. My boys helped me decide which color to use for the drawer fronts, and I think they picked a good one…

I realized at this point that I should have bought an extra can of white because the coverage would have evened out a little better with another coat or two. (I should know by now that it always takes more paint than I think it will!) Even so, now that it’s inside and next to my desk, any unevenness in the white isn’t horribly noticeable. There is a drip on the bottom that I could have sanded out once dry and fixed. Since you’ll only see it if you’re on the floor looking right at the filing cabinet, I opted to let it go.

So, for the cost of a couple of cans of spray paint, I have a cute filing cabinet that matches our school/office/dining room’s new color scheme!

I used Krylon spray paint for this project, but I’ve use Rustoleum in the past as well with good results. Pick whichever one has the color and finish that you’re looking for. (If you buy the 99 cent cans of paint, keep in mind that you’re getting what you pay for in this case…) Here are a few tips to get you started with your own spray paint transformation!

  • Use several light coats as opposed to a heavy one.
  • Paint outside on a good day, preferably with little to no breeze.
  • If there is rust or a shiny finish, use some steel wool or sandpaper before priming.
  • You can skip the primer, but it’s helpful when covering a dark color with a lighter one, on unfinished wood, or when you have a surface that the paint needs a little extra help “gripping”. When in doubt, prime first.
  • Buy an extra can or two of paint because it always takes more than you expect…
  • Follow the directions for re-coating and then let the finished product sit for at least a day so that the paint really has a chance to harden before setting anything in/on it.

What cool projects have you used spray paint for?

Oh, check out what I found in said filing cabinet:

Cleaning out the file drawer and I realized that I’m a bit of a fangirl… #wellplannedgal

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