Sunday, January 27

Ironing Board Cover Tutorial

Proverbs 31:27, NASB:  "She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness."

My weeks are pretty typical, with work and housework and fun on the weekend.  Every week, my Fridays, which I am fortunate to have off, are usually my housework days, when I accomplish the housework that I don't feel like doing during the week, but want to get done before the weekend's festivities. This always includes a pile of ironing to do for my husband.  I hate ironing--it's right up there with cleaning the bathroom on my list of Worst Hated Housework Jobs.  I've known for a while that my ironing board cover was on its last threads, so to speak, but today confirmed that it is time to either get or make a new cover.
I've actually worn through the fabric in one spot, and the foam underneath is literally falling apart, a diamond-shaped piece at a time.  I noticed as I was ironing that there was a piece of foam on the floor, so I picked it up and threw it away.  No big deal.  Then, another appeared.  I picked it up and threw it away.  Then, another...and so I looked at the underside of the cover:
My foam stalactites
Cute little foam diamond
Huh.  I had ironed the foam so much that it was actually squeezing through the diamond-shape openings like frosting through a piping bag.  I never realized that it could do that.

The cover is maybe a few years old.  The board, probably a few years older.  Still, not that old.  I think I got it from Wal-Mart, and it's pretty sturdy, so I don't want to get a new board, nor do I need to replace it, because it's in good shape.  And, I'd like to mention here, it's a standard-sized board.  So, when I looked at Wal-Mart for a replacement cover, I found it strange that the standard covers that they carry are made to fit standard boards, which are not the size that I own.  The dimensions aren't off by much, but it's enough to make the cover impossible to iron on, because the standard covers are actually larger than my board (which, as I said, is not that old).  I've looked at other chain stores, and they all carry the same standard size ironing board covers, which don't fit my standard-sized board.  Insert sad music here.  Which leaves me only one option: to get my craft on!

I've wanted to create a pattern specific to my board for a while, but procrastination or other projects always seemed to steal me away.  Now with the disintegration of my current cover, it seems to be a great time to do this.  I thought that perhaps others might be in the same boat, so I wanted to share my process for creating a new cover!

Let me start by saying that I have two patterns from McCall's or Simplicity or Butterick or something in my cabinet.  I like to buy patterns when they go on sale for 99 cents at the local craft stores.  I have no intention of using them, though.  I will be doing this my way.

You'll need:
*Pattern paper (I get mine at Jo Ann Fabrics when it goes on sale for $1 a yard)--if you don't have any, tissue paper can work in a pinch
* Home decor fabric of your choice (you can use lighter weight fabric, but home decor fabric is made to stand up to more wear and tear, so it should last longer)
*1/8" or 1/4" thick cushion foam (your preference) this was a lot more expensive than I expected!
*Package of 72" x 90" cotton batting
*Heat reflecting fabric (I purchased 7/8 yd. of 44" wide fabric)
* 1/2" wide, 4.5 yard package elastic

My process:
I had a piece of pattern paper that was slightly smaller in length than the ironing board, which I worked around.  I laid out the paper on the floor, and collapsed my board flat.  I turned it upside down and laid it on the pattern paper.
Then, I took a Sharpie and traced around the board with the cover on.  I cut a piece from the extra paper and put it under the front part of the board, where the paper fell a little short, and taped it in place.  Then I did some measurements:
I measured the length of the board and the width of the board, then added 4" to the measurements for the edges that will stretch underneath.  I wrote down my measurements:
I took a stab at the amount of elastic I need...the measurement is one-third smaller than the total length of all four sides of the board.  I'll have to see how it stretches and how tight it will be.  I want it as tight as possible around the edges, to prevent the fabric from slipping around and wrinkling under the clothes.

While at the fabric store, the fabric cutter asked me what I was making.  When I told her, she started giving me suggestions about what else I would need, and what could be subbed for the foam.  It was her suggestion to add the heat-reflective fabric and the cotton batting, since both were on sale.  Thanks you, fabric cutter at Jo Ann Fabrics.  These are great (and more cost-effective) solutions!
I opened the batting to full size, then folded it in half.  Then I folded it in half again, which gave me four thicknesses of batting.  I placed the board pattern on top, and measured an inch out from the pattern.
If you don't have one of these handy little metal rulers with the sliding guide, you really need one.  I've used this so much over the years!

Cut out along the 1" marks you just made, and set your batting aside for now.

Then cut the heat reflective fabric in half width-wise, into two 22" wide by 16" long pieces.  Pin the two ends together, making sure to account for the 5/8" seam that will be made when you sew the two pieces together.
Lay this flat and lay the pattern onto the heat shield fabric.  Measure an inch past the pattern, then cut this out according to the dash marks.  Set this piece aside.
Then it was time to cut the fabric.  I'm always afraid of this part when I venture into one of my "mind projects".  I am not the kind of person who likes using patterns--I've sewn so many things by making my own patterns and putting it together in a way that makes sense to me--but I can't help but second-guess every detail of my pattern in my head a few times before I finally get up the courage to cut.  But finally, I made the move.
Me staring at the fabric with fear and dread.
Wow, the colors are waaay off in this picture.  I think because of the window.  The wall looks peach, but is actually a cheerful yellow.
(A note here: I allowed an extra 2" on each side of the board for the elastic.  It wasn't enough, so I would recommend a minimum of 3" overhang on each side for an elastic casing around the edges.  So I cut 1 1/2" strips that will later be sewn around the entire piece of fabric to encase the elastic.)

Now, sew the seam into the heat-resistant fabric.  Iron the seam open.
Next, layer the heat-resistant fabric below the first layer of batting, so that you have three layers below the heat shield and one layer above.  Be sure that the gray side of the heat-resistant fabric is facing up!
Pin all layers together, and sew a 5/8" seam around the entire perimeter of the batting.  This will help all of the layers stay in place while you are ironing.  You may want to check your machine after doing this to make sure that you don't have too much lint from the batting in the bobbin area.  Trim the excess off.
Now, make the casing for your elastic.  In my pictures, I am showing the fabric strips that I cut for the casing, but if you cut the extra out as all one piece, then you simply fold the fabric under 1/4" along the edges, iron flat, then fold the fabric under again 5/8", enclosing the raw edge in the fabric casing.  Be sure to leave an opening at the back edge of the casing to insert and run the elastic through.
Because I had an exposed edge, and the fabric was prone to fraying, I sewed a zigzag stitch along the entire edge.
Don't be like me, though, and find fun new ways to create fishing hooks with your sewing machine:
This little mistake was a ten minute delay in my sewing.  Frowny face.

Once you have your casing sewn, this is where a bodkin (I think that's what these are called--I usually call it a threader) comes in handy. 
I used the blue threader, because of the amount of fabric that I would be pulling the elastic through.  Thread your bodkin and begin to pull it through the casing.  I was having a hard time keeping the elastic in the eye, so I came up with this solution:
I taped the elastic to the threader with Scotch tape, which created a smooth surface to pull through the casing.  Worked great!

Once you get the elastic through the casing, you need to try the cover on the board with the batting underneath.  Use a safety pin to hold the elastic together and keep it from slipping into the casing, and stretch the cover over the board.  Then take your elastic and pull it as tightly as you want it to be, making sure that it will securely hold the cover in place while you are ironing.  Remove your safety pin and re-pin the elastic where you have tightened it.  This will mark where you will sew the elastic together.
Take the cover off and cut the extra elastic off.  Pin the elastic in place, then sew these ends together, creating a square with the thread and reinforcing it two or three times.  This is where the elastic is most vulnerable to breaking, so you want it to be as secure as possible.
Huh, I meant to take a picture of that.  Apparently I forgot to do so.

Hand-stitch or machine sew the casing closed where the elastic was inserted.  You're done!
You can make this with foam; I opted for this way since the foam in my last cover just completely disintegrated.  This seemed like a better option, and it was half the cost of the foam pad.  All total with sale prices and discounts, the total for this project came to $37, but thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, I had a $25 gift card for Jo Ann Fabrics from Christmas to use.  Plus, I got an e-mail coupon for 15% off of my total purchase, which helped to get the total cost down to $31.  Because of all of that, I spent $6 of my own money.  Not bad for a custom-fitted cover!  I would have paid more than that at Wal-Mart, and had a fraction of the quality.

Ironing is fun again!
Well, maybe not.  But it is prettier!

Saturday, January 19

Summer in the Winter!

Update: We had French toast for dinner, and hubs tried both kinds on his.  He absolutely loved it!

It's Saturday.  I love spending Saturday mornings with my husband...although, honestly, I love spending any and all time with him!  We usually sleep in and just take it easy, and this morning was no exception.  We got up and watched an episode of The Pioneer Woman on the DVR, and of course, she was making more delicious goodness on the ranch.  One thing that really caught my attention was her berry butter, and I made up my mind to try this recipe at some point today (with one minor addition to the recipe).

Butter freezes well, due to its high fat content.  Most anything with a lot of fat will freeze well.  During the holidays, I like to stock up on butter because it usually goes on sale quite often, so I had around ten boxes of butter (or ten pounds, I guess) in the freezer.  I took a couple boxes out, along with a bag of blueberries that I froze when they were ripe during the summer.  I have stopped freezing blueberries, though, because I find that they really seem to absorb the plastick-y flavor of the freezer bags.  I thought that I might be able to use them for recipes, though, so we'll see how this tastes :).  I also happened to have a container of strawberries that I picked up at the store a few days ago, so I decided to make blueberry butter and strawberry butter.  Here's what I did!

First, assemble your ingredients: 1/2 C (or so) of the fruit of your choice, 1 TBSP of honey for each batch of butter you plan to make, and two sticks of butter (I used unsalted).
Next, put in your favorite CD.  Crank 'er up!
Put two sticks of softened butter (room temp or a little softer) into your mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, whip the butter on high for several minutes, until it's fluffy.
Whip it.  Whip it good.
Drizzle in the one tablespoon of honey while the mixer is still running.  You'll have to scrape the sides down and let it whip a little more.
Then, add in your berries, and mix on low-medium speed until they are mixed in.
Lay out a length of plastic wrap and scoop the butter onto the plastic.
Begin rolling the butter up in the plastic wrap.  Wrap it tightly, because you want to get most of the air bubbles out of the log.  Once the air is out, twist the ends to close.

Then wrap it in foil, wrapping it as tightly as possible.  Twist the ends to close.

Repeat as much as you like!  I made three blueberry and one strawberry butter log.  Freeze these until you want them: you can take the log out and slice off what you want, and return the rest to the freezer.  Since it's just two of us, it'll probably take a while to go through it.  I did keep some out in the fridge for toast or biscuits or crumpets or English muffins or whatever we might eat!  Tasty, and having the fresh berries in the butter makes it feel like summer even in the deep of winter.  Thanks, Pioneer Woman, for another delicious recipe!  The strawberry butter would probably taste great on this strawberry bread that I made a while ago!

Friday, January 11

Just An Update

Wow, what is going on with the weather?  A week ago, we had a thick covering of snow; today, we have no snow left and it's spring-like outside.  It rained last night, and is supposed to rain more this weekend.  I know it's not uncommon to have a thaw in January--I remember when I was in high school, there was a day in January where we were in shorts and t-shirts in Michigan.  It's still a pretty clear memory for me!  It's a nice change from the dry, cold air that we have during the winter, but I still like the snow, too.

Today I sent in my antique sleigh bells.  I mentioned them originally in this post.  I researched and investigated the option of cleaning and restoring them myself, but realized that I was woefully unable and unequipped for the job.  I decided to send them off to a place in Iowa called Classic Bells, and am so very eager to see them when they are finished!  They will be cleaned, polished, sealed, and re-strapped onto a beautiful piece of laced leather.  I have chosen to use my Christmas money that my mom gave me to do this, because it's going to be a little pricey.  It'll be well worth the cost, though, because they will hang in our home forever.  I'll post pictures of the bells when I get them back (it'll be a while, though).
A while back, my husband and I met my mother and stepfather at the Toledo Zoo for a day of zoo fun.  While we were there, we had lunch, and I got a pudding cup that had crushed Oreos and whipped cream on top, and it was sooooo good.  For some reason, I was craving that the other night, so I came home and had to make it myself!  It's easy to make, but in case you are unfamiliar, here's what you do:

Make a six-serving package of instant chocolate pudding according to the box directions.  Pour into four or six individual serving cups and allow it to chill and set for about a half an hour in the fridge.  Then, take around 10 Oreos (I prefer Double-Stuffed), put them in a resealable baggie, and crush the snot out of them.  Sprinkle the crumbles on top of the pudding, evenly distributing them.  Spoon whipped cream onto the top (I just used Cool Whip, but if you have fresh whipped cream, that's the way to go!), then crush a few more Oreos and sprinkle it on top of the whipped cream.  Refrigerate until you're ready to eat them, and then enjoy!  It was a fun treat for us, and I'll have to remember it for the future (or any time I need an excuse to buy Oreos).
Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 3

French Toast Casserole & Owl Corner Returns!

Over Christmas, my mom and I decided to try a recipe that I had heard about from a co-worker for French toast casserole.  We thought it would be a great dish to serve on Christmas morning, but after looking at the recipe, we realized that we would have to tweak it a bit to fit our needs (the original recipe called for two "large" pans, and there were only four of us, so what were we going to do with the leftover one and a half pans??), and the resulting recipe is what you see below.  It's good, I think you'll like it!

½ loaf of Texas toast, torn into pieces
4 eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick butter (unsalted is preferred)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans (optional, we didn’t use)

Directions: Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray (don't skip this step--we learned that the hard way).  Spread the bread pieces evenly in the pan, then mix together in a separate bowl the eggs, half and half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  You could add more spices, or additional spices, if you would like here.  Pour this mixture over the bread, and toss the bread to coat the pieces.  Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and allow to sit in your refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, melt the butter, then mix in the brown sugar.  Pour this evenly over the bread mixture, and then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown on top.  You can also sprinkle more spices over the casserole before baking it for a little extra deliciousness.  Enjoy with butter and syrup, or my favorite way to eat French toast: peanut butter and syrup.  Soooo tasty!

Owl Corner 
Photo from Wikipedia
Today, we will learn about the Spectacled Owl.  The name pretty well describes its distinguishing characteristic: contrasting feathers around the eyes give this guy a distinguished, scholarly appearance.  One interesting fact about their appearance--the photo on the left shows an adult owl, but the juvenile owls are a photo negative as far as color goes: white head and black "spectacles".  It can take several years for a young owl to change appearance into adulthood.  The size of these owls is medium-large, measuring about 17"-18" fully grown.  These birds are considered anti-social, and prefer their alone time.  Their habitat ranges from parts of southern Mexico south into the northern half of South America, and also Costa Rica.  They are found in tropical rainforests and anywhere with trees, including savannahs and dry forests.  The females will lay a clutch of up to five eggs, but it is typical for only one of the chicks to survive into adulthood.  Those who do survive will prey on mice and small rodents, possum and skunk, as well as insects, spiders, caterpillars, and bats and birds, among other critters. 

I've done several owls for the Owl Corner, and now I'm considering branching out to other animals, namely different breeds of cats and dogs.  What do you think?