Monday, 31 October 2011

How to Sew a Baby Sleeping Bag - Tutorial

Baby Sleeping Bag

Roman was in need of some light-weight sleeping bags for the warmer weather. Having a look at the ones in the shops, I decided that it would be easy enough, and a lot cheaper to make them up myself. I've used cotton jersey for the lining and a cotton print for the outer. From my research, this is equivalent to 1.0 tog, which is good for most summer use. You could also make this out of 2 layers of muslin for those super hot nights or day naps. I copied my favourite of the sleeping bags he already has, which has a zip down the centre front and a v-neck. I find the front zip style is the easiest to take on and off him and the v-neck means that the zip doesn't rub under his chin. This is another project where I've managed to avoid using bias binding!

For some tips on making a Winter-weight sleeping bag click here.

Baby Sleeping Bag - Tutorial

The finished dimensions of my sleeping bag are:
Length - shoulder to bottom - 92cm
Width - at under arm - 38cm
Width - at bottom of bag - 64cm

You'll need:
Paper to make your pattern (newspaper or wrapping paper)
Fabric - I bought 1.1m of the print (112cm wide) but would need more to match up patterns or if the fabric needs to be in the same direction for the back and the front (I cut the back out upside down which was fine for my fabric). I already had the cotton jersey.
Continuous zip - I used 1m. This stuff is cheap and does the job just fine. You could also use an open-end zip put in upside down to help with changing, but I couldn't get one long enough.
Sewing supplies

To make a pattern, I traced around the neck and shoulders of my favourite sleeping bag, adding a seam allowance and a little extra to make the whole thing slightly bigger. I then added about 15cm to the length. If you don't have a sleeping bag to copy from, just use any t-shirt to get the neck and arms and then make it as long as you need. Roman has about 30cm free space at the bottom and I'm hoping to get 2 summers out of this.

Fold the fabric in half, selvage to selvage. Use the pattern piece on the fold to create the back, and along the selvage to create the two front pieces. There was a bit of extra fabric between the pattern pieces, so I made the bottom of the bag wider to use up the excess. I figured the more leg room, the better. Cut out the pieces and repeat for your lining fabric.

Baby Sleeping Bag

Next, you need to prepare the continuous zip. Un-zip it about half way down, so the zip pull is out of the way. Cut off  the top 2 cm of teeth on each half of the zip (pic 1 below). Sew several times between the 2nd and 3rd teeth to create a stopper on the top of the zip (pic 2 below). I put my machine on zigzag with the stitch length on zero. Fold the top part forward (the bit you cut the teeth off) and then sew it down (pic 3 below). Repeat for other half of zip. Slide the zipper up to make sure that you have sewn through it enough to make a good stopper (pic 4 below). If the zipper gets stuck, wiggle it to get it free and then zigzag through the teeth some more to make the stopper thicker. Once you're happy with the zip, take the zip pull right off, so you have 2 strips of zip.

Baby Sleeping Bag Baby Sleeping Bag
Baby Sleeping Bag Baby Sleeping Bag

Lay one of your front pieces of lining down with the matching outer piece on top, right sides facing. The zip goes between these, right side up, but with the teeth towards the middle. Pin and sew, nice and close to the zip. Turn right side out, and you have a lovely strip of zip! Repeat with other front pieces.

Baby Sleeping Bag Baby Sleeping Bag

Now, you need to do all the seams for the shoulders, neck, arms and sides. I did these invisibly, so the sleeping bag is almost reversible. The tutorial I used is so great and has lots of pics, so I don't see a need to repeat it. Find the tutorial here.

Your sleeping bag should now look something like this (the sides have not been sewn up in the picture)

Baby Sleeping Bag

Time for some top-stitching! This step is optional, but I think it looks nice and polished. Top-stitch up one side of the zip, around the neck, and down the other side of the zip. Then, top-stitch around the arm holes.

Now, put the zip pull back on. You need to feed each side in and then give it a wiggle to get it going. Here's a youtube video showing you what to do. It's a little blurry, but you get the idea. If you want, you can sew a cover over the bottom of the zip as it will probably be flapping around inside the bottom of the bag. Or you can trim the bottom of the zip in line with the fabric.

Baby Sleeping Bag

Turn the bag inside out, and sew the bottom closed.

I also added a chin guard to mine because it stops Roman playing with the zip. You can also add snaps at the under arms so that you can get a bit more use out of the bag. The snaps can be done up for smaller babies and then left undone for bigger kids.

Baby Sleeping Bag

For some tips on making a Winter-weight sleeping bag click here.

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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Cleaning my Stove Burners - no scrubbing required!

Cleaning the stove

I'm almost embarrassed to post this. My stove burners get pretty dirty. I guess I think life is too short to be scrubbing the grease off the stove burners, but now that I know this trick, I don't need to. All you need is a little bit of Ammonia and a zip-loc bag.

Get a zip-loc bag and put your dirty stove burners in there. I did two at a time so that I could still use the stove, and so that they were not touching in the bag. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of Ammonia and seal it up. The fumes from the Ammonia are what does the trick, so you don't need a lot of the liquid. If you're feeling frugal, you can re-use the bag and Ammonia for your next set of burners once you take out the first lot.

Leave it to work for about 12 hours, or overnight. I put mine out in the backyard in case the bag broke and stunk out my house, but it didn't.

You can tell they're ready by rubbing on the grease with your finger through the bag and it will come off. Keep out of the path of the fumes and take the pieces out of the bag and wipe with a sponge. The grease comes straight off!

My stove looks like new! Just in time for a rental inspection.

Be warned - Chemistry class was a long time ago, so I don't know whether using Ammonia will be a problem on some stove burners. The tops of my burners are enamelled cast iron and I have no idea what the other bits are made from, but they both came out fine.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Happy 1st Birthday Roman


Well it's been quite a year. There has been not a lot of sleep, quite a few tears and many dirty nappies. But there has also been many smiles, laughs and much joy as we've been our little baby grow into a cheeky boy.

I love you with every fibre of my being and you make me unbelievably happy. Your smile warms my heart like nothing else.

Happy Birthday Roman!



Monday, 24 October 2011

Get Organised - Laundry Storage and Dusting mittens

Laundry storage

Being renters, we can't put any shelves up and the laundry at out house is a bit lacking in storage.

I came across these little baskets at the local discount store and they are perfect! They have 2 suction cups on the back, so they stick to the tiles, and I can take them with me when we move out.

The one on the left has my delicates bags in it and the one on the right is full of old socks.

Old socks you say? I think they're perfect for dusting. Hubby seems to go through socks far quicker than I ever do and when the elastic goes, they're useless... for wearing as socks anyway. But, put a damp sock on your hand and they make great dusting mittens. Turn them around on your hand as you go and you get a lot of dusting out of one sock. If they get super dusty, I just peel it off so the outside ends up on the inside and throw them straight in the bin. Plenty more where that came from!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Pumpkin and Poppy Seed Mini Muffins

Pumpkin and Poppy Seed Muffins

I made these up using the Mini Savoury Muffins base and added some grated pumpkin and sprinkled the tops with poppy seeds. I left the cheese out  from the original recipe because I didn't have any. Like everything, Roman loves them.

Pumpkin and Poppy Seed Mini Muffins
makes 24

2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup milk
2 cups raw, grated pumpkin
1 tbsp poppy seeds*

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Lightly spray a 24 hole mini muffin pan with cooking spray.

Sift flour and baking powder together. Give it a quick stir to make sure the baking powder is evenly distributed. Stir through the grated pumpkin.

Pour oil and milk into a jug then crack the eggs into the jug and whisk it all together. Make a well in the centre of the dry mix and pour in the liquid. Mix until just combined, giving you a thick batter.

Spoon batter into muffin tray and sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the poppy seeds. Bake in the oven for 15 - 20 mins, until the muffins are nice and golden on top. Remove tray from oven, and cool muffins in tray for 5 mins, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

These can be served warm or cold and freeze really well. I just take a couple out of the freezer a few hours before I need them. 

*I'm sure these would be nice with a tablespoon of the poppy seeds mixed through the batter too. In that case, you'd need about 2 tbsp of poppy seeds.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Pimp my Ergo - Ergo Carrier Teething Pads Tutorial

Ergo Teething Pads

I love the Ergo baby carrier. It is definitely the most comfortable way to carry a baby around for any period of time. Roman loves it too, mostly to eat! He loves to chew, dribble and drool all over the straps. It can be a bit of a pain to wash, so I thought I'd make up these teething pads as they're much easier to wash than the whole carrier.

You want to use a fairly absorbent fabric for the back and something nice and natural for the front... your baby will be eating them after all! I used 2 layers of cotton jersey for the back, and a cotton print for the front. If you like, you can add a loop to attach toys.

Ergo Teething Pads

You'll need:
Main fabric
Backing fabric (such as terry toweling, flannelette, or thick jersey)
6 snaps/press studs or 2 strips of velcro
8cm/3" strip of ribbon or bias binding for the loop (optional)
Pattern - download here

Ergo Teething Pads

Pre-wash your fabrics. Usually, when I skip this step I regret it.

Using the pattern, cut out 2 pieces of your main fabric, and 2 of your backing fabric.

Using 1 piece of main fabric, and one of the backing, place them right sides together. Repeat with the other pieces. If you're attaching the ribbon loop, fold the ribbon in half and using the mark on the pattern, put it between the pieces of fabric for one of the pads, with the fold pointing in.

Sew around the edges with an 8mm (3/8") seam, leaving a hole about 5cm (2") to turn the work right side out. Clip the corners. Repeat with other piece.

Turn right side out. Poke the corners out to make them nice and crisp and then press flat. Make sure the opening to pressed nice and evenly. Working 5mm from the edge, top stitch all the way around. This will close the opening at the same time.

Use the pattern to mark where to attach your snaps by laying your finished piece within the guide and marking the centre of your snaps. Attach your snaps. If using velcro, use the centre of the snaps as your guide and then sew/glue/iron on your velcro.

Ergo Teething Pads

Friday, 14 October 2011

Make your own: Home-made Sprinkles

Blue Sprinkles

This is the ultimate in DIY! Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a packet of sprinkles? Not counting the colouring, there are 6 ingredients! That seems like a lot to me for some hard sugar. I came across this recipe from BraveTart and just had to give it a go. The sprinkles were really easy to make and only use 3 ingredients, 5 if you count the colour and flavouring.

I made a batch of blue ones that I'm going to use on Roman's birthday cake. I only used about a third of the recipe below before my hand was too cramped to do any more.

Home-made Sprinkles
makes about 2 cups

240g icing sugar
1 egg white*
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp flavouring, I used coconut extract
colouring of your choice

Blue Sprinkles

Combine the first 4 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer** and fit the paddle attachment. Mix on low until the mixture forms a thick paste. Add your colouring and mix. Repeat if needed, until you have the desired colour. If you want to make several different colours, separate the white mixture out into bowls and tint each lot.

Fit a piping bag with a multi opening tip (Wilton #134) and pipe lines out onto baking paper. I piped straight onto my silicon baking sheets. Leave to dry for 24hrs.

Blue Sprinkles

Loosen the lines by picking up the corners of the baking paper and gently tapping the back of the paper. Put into a pile and chop. Repeat a few times until they're pretty evenly cut up.

Now get decorating!

*BraveTarts site also has a recipe for a vegan version.
**You could easily do this with a hand mixer

Online Cake Decorating Class

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Pimp my Pram - Window Shade for M&P Sola Pram

Pram shade

I love my Sola pram! It's cute, compact, light, easy to use, is suitable from birth and has lasted well with heavy daily use (it's also my shopping trolley) even surviving the London snow*. The only thing I wish it has was a shade over the window. When Roman is trying to take a nap, the sun is usually peeking in through the window and I have to cover the pram in blankets...ugly! But no more!

I made up a little shade that snaps on to cover the window. It was pretty straightforward and does a great job of keeping out that cheeky sun so that my cheeky son can get some sleep.

I didn't take any photos as I was going, but here's a rundown of how I did it.

Window Shade for Mamas & Papas Sola Pram

You'll need:
20 x 85 cm piece main fabric (I used black cotton drill)
20 x 85 cm piece backing fabric (I used green polar fleece)
2 snaps or pieces of velcro
Tailors chalk

Fold the fabric in half along the short side and press to mark the mid point of the fabric. Put the pram seat in the upright position and put the hood right down.

Drape the fabric over the window, using the line to centre it. I used the seat recliner button as my guide for the centre. Pat the fabric down flat and using the tailors chalk follow the curve of the window but 2cm further out to make a seam allowance and to make the shade slightly bigger than the window. You only need to do this on one side of the fabric.

Fold the fabric in half and then cut along the lines you drew. Drape the fabric over the hood to check that it covers the window nicely.

Place the fabric over your piece of backing fabric, right sides together. I like to roughly cut out the backing piece and then trim it to size after sewing the pieces together.

Sew together using an 8mm seam. I use the edge of the machine foot as my guide. Leave a hole about 6cm long for turning your work. Clip corners, turn right way out and press. Top stitch all the way around 5mm in from the edge. The top stitching will close up the opening.

Pram shade

To fit the snaps, you need to un-clip the hood one side at a time so you can get your snap pliers in there. The picture above shows the clip that undoes the hood. Add snaps to the corners of the shade. Lay the shade over the window and line it up, then add the other half of the snaps to the matching point on the hood. I set mine back slightly as this was the easiest place to add the snaps and makes the shade nice and taut. You can see my placement in the pictures below. Snap on the shade and off you go!

Here you can see the shade over the window, and then pulled back to let the sun shine in!

And here's how it looks from the inside. Quite an improvement!

If you want to make one of these and any of this is unclear, please send me an email.

- The cotton drill I bought is a blue-black, whereas the pram hood is more of a red-black so they don't match that well. Make sure you match your blacks up if this will annoy you, or use a different colour or print for the main fabric.
- Put the brakes on the pram when shaping your fabric and adding the snaps, it makes life much easier.
- The whole hood doesn't need to be removed to add the snaps, just un-clip it from the pram as you add the snaps on each side.
- The polar fleece I used for the backing provides enough friction for it to stay put, even with only 2 snaps on the corners.

*As much as I would love it, no one has paid me to say these things about my pram. It was purchased with my own money and because I liked it. And I would definitely buy it again!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Apple and Blueberry Muffins

Apple Blueberry Muffins

I like muffins that aren't too sweet...that's what cupcakes are for. That way, you can have them for breakfast or afternoon tea without feeling like you've indulged too much. I only managed to get 11 muffins out of the recipe, but I think my cupcake cases are bigger than the average.

Apple and Blueberry Muffins
makes 12

240g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 tbsp honey
1 apple
125g blueberries
raw sugar, optional

Line a half cup muffin tin with cupcake liners and preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
Sift flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg into a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre. In a jug mix together the buttermilk, egg, oil and honey and pour into dry ingredients.

Grate half the apple and toss into the mixing bowl with the blueberries and mix it all together gently. Divide the mixture among the cupcake cases. Finely slice the remaining half of the apple and layer the slices on the top of the mixture. If you have any raw sugar you can sprinkle a little bit over the tops. It gives the finished muffins and nice crunchy top. Sadly, I didn't have any on hand.

Apple Blueberry Muffins

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until nice and golden on top. You can test if they're ready with a skewer. Remove from the tin and place on a baking rack to cool.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Yoghurt Snack Pancakes

Yoghurt Snack Pancakes

Roman decided he doesn't like yoghurt anymore, just as I bought a new tub, so I made up some little pancakes and snuck the yogurt in. These are a great snack for babies and easy to freeze and then whip out when needed.

Yoghurt Snack Pancakes
makes about 24*

1 cup (150g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar (optional - I didn't add this)
1 cup yoghurt (I used greek yoghurt, but anything will work)
1/4 cup water
1 egg
butter or oil for greasing pan

Mix flour, baking powder and sugar (if using) together in a bowl, making sure they are well combined. Make a well in the centre.

Put the yoghurt, water and egg into a jug and mix together with a fork. Stir into dry ingredients to make a very thick batter.

Heat a small amount of butter or oil in a frying pan. Place tablespoons of the mixture into the frying pan and cook until bubbles appear, turn over and cook until golden brown. Repeat with remaining mixture. The mixture also cooks well in a waffle iron.

Serve warm or cooled as is, or spread with peanut butter, hummus, cream cheese, mashed banana or any other topping your baby loves.

To freeze, layer pancakes between pieces of freezer paper. To reheat, microwave on high for about 30 seconds or until warmed through.

*I have also used this recipe to make 2 giant pancakes for a last minute brunch. I sprinkled the top of the pancakes with some frozen raspberries before flipping over in the pan.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Bunny Softie

Bunny Softie

I made this for Roman just before he was born. He's not big on soft toys, but I still think it's pretty cute. I've been doing my best to try and get him attached to it, but I just don't think he's a soft toy kinda guy. He's not even 1 and he's already such a boy!

I used the Martha Stewart pattern below for the ears, and the Revoluzzza pattern for the body, arms and legs. I played around with the face with pen and paper until I was happy with it, then embroidered it on.

Martha Stewart Menswear Bunny
Revoluzzza Easter Bunny

Bunny Softie

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Raspberry Vodka


Raspberry Vodka
Makes 1 litre

450g raspberries (3 punnets)
1L vodka
sugar, to taste

I always use Smirnoff, as I think it's a good quality vodka and reasonably priced. You could use a cheap vodka, but if you're going to the trouble of making this, then why not use something you're happy to drink neat?

I have a 2L glass preserving jar that I use for this, but any jar that will fit the vodka and the raspberries in is fine (the vodka bottle will be a bit too small, but hang on to it if you like to put the vodka back in at the end).

Put the raspberries and vodka into the jar. Add about 1/4 cup sugar. Seal it up and give it a light shake, to dissolve some of the sugar. Give it a little shake every day for a week, until the sugar is dissolved. Let it sit in a cool, dark place for about 3 months. The vodka should be bright red, and the raspberries a little sad looking, but still holding their shape.

Carefully separate out the raspberries from the vodka and eat them with some icecream for a nice boozy dessert.

Test the vodka for sweetness. I personally don't like to make mine too sweet. Add some more sugar a little at a time until you are happy with the flavour. I usually add about another 1/4 cup. Shake/stir to dissolve the sugar. Put this back into the original bottle if you kept it and seal up and leave for another 3 months (if you can). This is definitely the hard part. The longer it sits the more mellow the flavour becomes, but if you can't stand it any longer, then serve over ice and enjoy!

raspberry vodka
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