Must Have Monday

I adore the warm amber tones, who wants to buy it for me.  Oh really, you’re to kind. Whats a few grand between friends.   Find it here at Geary’s. 

Image source : Geary’s

UpCycled Denim Apron Tutorial

Up cycle denim apron
Oh goody goody a girly sewing project.  I think these aprons are fun to make and great gifts for gardeners, cooks, and crafters alike.  Who doesn’t want to have their favorite tools on hand all while looking cute?  As projects go….this can be simple or elaborate, making it great for beginners and advanced sewers.  This is a project that adapts as your skill set changes.
I think I spend more time picking out my fabric pondering the patterns and textures than anything, definitely my favorite part.  Mix and match the pieces for the ruffles and sash as much as you like. Prewash your fabric, especially the jeans if they smell of thrift shop.  Use whatever seam allowance makes you feel comfortable, I used a quarter inch unless stated otherwise.  Well….Let’s get started. 
Top ruffle: 2 strips, 4 inches x the width of the bolt (~44 inches)
Bottom ruffle: 2 strips, 4 inches x the width of the bolt (~44 inches)
2 strips.  6 inches x the width of the bolt (~44 inches)
note:   If you want a longer sash cut extra strips and piece together accordingly. 
1 pair of men’s jeans, I prefer sizes 36-40
Embellishments (optional)
Denim sewing machine needle and other basic sewing supplies
optional – a rolled hem foot
pin, mark, cut!
Let’s start by disassembling the jeans.  Lay them out flat, back pockets facing up, and kinda fold the crotch to one side so you can mark a straight -ish line across jeans just above the bottom of the crotch.  Mark this line, pin the fold in place, and cut! 


For the side seams you can either cut up the side, or use a seam ripper.  Sometimes I just get it started and rip by hand, but I have to use very sharp scissors or shears to cut through the waste.   If you want to embellish the pockets this the best time to remove them as well. Keep this waist button part; it has a secret purpose for later.   

Prep work
Just a little more prep work to keep things neat.  Sew a few stitches close to the edge to secure the “crotch fold”.  These stitches will be hidden later.  I also like to sew some stitches (sorry no picture) up both sides of the jeans, along what would have been the hip seams.  A simple blanket stitch looks nice and serves to keep the denim from unraveling.
secure the fold
Preparing the Ruffles
This is probably the most labor intensive part of the whole get up.  Obviously the goal for this apron is to have two overlapping ruffles, but make as many as you like, or as few as you like.  Match up the ruffle strips, right sides together and sew down one short side to make one long strip.  Press the seam flat.    
make two long strips
Sew a rolled hem on both short sides and one long side, if you want to serge the remaining edge do it now, but I never do.   Repeat for the second ruffle strip
you don’t need a special foot but it helps

rolled hem
 Everyone has a different method to the ruffle madness.  This is the method I use seen HERE in an earlier post.  The post would have been way too long to include all the options so I wanted a link outside of this tutorial.  After the strips have been ruffled in the manner you chose its time to attach them. 
Attaching the Ruffles
Select the bottom ruffle, find the middle, and pin the ruffle to the apron right sides and raw edges together, matching up the middles.  
middles matched

Pin the rest of the ruffle in place moving the fabric along to get the desired look.  Fold approximately a one inch “flap” over on each side, pulling the ruffle so there isn’t a gap. 
 Attach the ruffle by sewing between the basting stitches (from the ruffle tut).   Note: if you use the quarter inch rule from the ruffle tutorial for the basting stitches, attaching the ruffle with a 3/8” allowance should put you roughly between the basting stitches.   Its not the end of the world if you stitch over the basting it just makes them a pain to pull out.  
sew between the basting stitches if you can
 Now pull out the basting stitches (most hated job ever). Also don’t do like I did here and select a color for your basting stitches (red) that is hard to distinguish from your actual stitches ( hot pink). Fold the ruffle down, smoothing into place.  
See how the “flap” frames the edges nicely.  If there is gap, working from the wrong side, fold it  and sew it down, no big deal.    Steam press and top stitch the ruffle to keep it laying flat.  
top stitch to keep it flat
Repeat with the second ruffle attaching just above the first.   I usually eyeball the distance between the two ruffles. 
top stitching the second ruffle

looking between the ruffles with the top one folded back
Home stretch!   Cut one of the strips in half, making two shorter strips.  Attach one of the resulting pieces to each end of the longer remaining sash piece.   Iron the seams open. 

one really long strip
  Fold the resulting strip in half length wise, right sides together and sew the entire length of the long side. 
The next step is confusing but hopefully the picture will help, with the sash still wrong side out iron the seam open and centered
 and then turn right side out. 
 Tuck in the ends, iron well again and top stitch.  

top stitching makes it pretty!
This makes it look nice and neat, hides the long seam on the back and closes up the ends.  
Put it through your belt loops and you’re done!
Secret purpose: attach the waist button piece for a tool holster – ingenious!
Optional embellishments – This really is my favorite part, makes all the time I spend on the ruffles worthwhile.  Embroider a design on the pockets or apron.  Sew on bits of drapery fringe for a little fluff.
see the fringe on the bottom
  The easily distressed nature of denim makes a reverse appliqué eye catching. 

buttons, and a nifty utility holder
Whatever you choose – just have fun!

Rain Collection System

I’m sure several of you remember Mark from his compost barrel tutorial posted here.  I invited him back to talk about his rain collection system. Bonus – its nerded up with math!

For the gardener, summer droughts can really be disheartening.  One is left with the choice of watching plants wilt or using whatever water is quickly available (i.e. tap water or using water from your home’s well).  Another, and arguably best, solution is to harvest natural rain water.  There are several key advantages of using rain water, especially on food crops.  If you are on a municipal water system, your supply has had chlorine and probably fluoride added.  If your home is on a well, a high mineral content is possible.  Also, when the annual “dry spell” comes many cities turn to water restrictions—resulting in fines if someone is caught watering lawns, gardens, or washing vehicles.  Of equal importance, a drought, by nature, puts a strain on a home’s well.  This is only compounded if large quantities of well water are used to sustain a size-able garden.
My rain barrel systems consists of three 55 gallon barrels all connected together at the bottom so the water level stays the same in all, regardless from which I chose to draw water.  I decided it was best to pour a concrete slab for them as well.  Water is heavy.  Each gallon weighs 8.34 lbs.  When full, the system contains roughly 160 gallons, which is a total weight of over 1,300 pounds!  A slab ensures they won’t begin to lean, tilt, or begin to sink into the ground as time goes by.  The rightmost barrel (the black one) is filled from the gutter’s downspout via a diverter made by Rainreserve, found here.  I chose this particular diverter because it fit neatly inline with the downspout and, when installed level with the barrel’s inlet, the excess water flows on down the same gutter when all three barrels are full, thus, eliminating the need for separate overflow piping.  I keep lids on all the barrels to prevent evaporation and help keep bugs, leaves, etc. out of the water supply.  Since the lids seal tightly, I drilled three small vent holes in the front of each barrel about two inches down from the top.  Without the vents, air pressure would build inside and interfere with filling during a hard rain.
So, how much water does the prudent gardener need to try collect?  No set-in-stone answer exists, but a bit of math will help guide us.  The total area of my raised beds is 72 square feet.  If I want to give them the equivalent of ½ “ of rain, I multiply 72 times 144 (this converts square feet into square inches) and I get 10,368  This multiplies by the amount of rain I want to duplicate, in this example ½”.  The result is 5,184—this number is cubic inches of water.  We then divide 5,184 by 231 (one gallon = 231 cubic inches) and we arrive at 22.4 gallons.  This tells me that in order to emulate ½” of rain on the 72 sq.ft. of my raised beds, I will need to use 22.4 gallons.  Since my system holds about 160 gallons, I can use 22.4 gallons just over seven times until the barrels are empty.  What does all that mean?  Assuming I water every other day, I can sustain my gardens with the equivalent of ½” of rain, at each watering, for a full 14 days without a drop of water falling from the sky.
The styles and processes of collecting rain water are plentiful.  Some systems are elevated to create a gravity fed scenario which allows a garden hose to be attached and the water naturally flows to its destination.  I set mine up to intentionally give me the exercise of carrying water to the gardens.
 One last note; rain water is “soft”.  That is to say it doesn’t contain calcium, magnesium and other minerals.  If you have ever looked into making your own lye soap, you’ll know it requires soft water—your rain water is the perfect source.


Reverse Applique – A Sewing Tutorial

This technique is a simple way to add structure and depth to your projects.  Select the “applique” fabric, and decide if you want to highlight a specific element of the fabric, or create a shape.  If you want a specific shape it will have to be traced on the applique fabric before pinning.  Pin the right side of the applique fabric to the wrong side of the frame fabric. 

after pinning, view of the wrong side

 I like to frame with denim because of the way it frays and looks distressed.  Next, following the traced shape, or free handing around an object (which is what I did here), sew on the wrong side locking your stitches when you start and finish. 

free handing around the tree

 Continue work on the right side, cutting only the denim frame fabric, carefully snip a hole in the middle of the applique area. 

 Cut out the denim, again being careful not to cut through the other fabric or to close to the stitches.  All finished.   

Check out the finished product second from the right.

As I said before I really like the way this technique looks with denim.  Here it is mixed and matched with a more traditional applique.  For the leaves I traced their shape on the applique fabric,  pinned to the denim and then continued as listed above. 

Well – that’s all I got.  I’m sure you can think of lots of neat ways to use this technique.  Have fun! 

Return of the Nerdy Girl

You might recall last summer I got all science nerd excited about turning an old desiccator into a terrarium, posted here.   This summer its bell jar turned orchid home.  It took me a little while to find a plate that fit just right but here it is complete with a miniature phal.  Notice the desiccator turned terrarium in the background, and my other phal in bloom.