Tag Archive | thrift store

Pad for the baby

This summer, we took a trip to Idaho for my family’s annual get-together (I hesitate to call it a “family reunion” because that always conjures up images of long-lost relatives that you’ve never met and this is just my parents, siblings, and their families). In an attempt to be organized this year, I had made up detailed packing lists for every member of the family and a to-do list calendar for the week leading up to the trip. Major item on the baby’s list was, of course, the playpen. This playpen is a workhorse: It was a shower gift when Rana was born. It has been schlepped around France, Switzerland, and Holland, and has seen its fair share of traveling the Western United States. During our cabin years, it was Konik’s bed because the ceiling in the loft was too low to set up the crib. So 3 kids and 8 years later — 2 of those with everyday use — the mattress had seen better days. Simply put: it was gross. We didn’t even leave the cabin with it when we moved.

Now the problem is, the playpen is European and doesn’t match the dimensions of any of the American ones on the market. We can’t just run out and buy a replacement mattress. Gosh, if only we knew someone crafty…

Who would want to disappoint this little face?


Well, there just so happens to be a bright green Quonset hut in town labeled “Foam and Fabric Outlet.” I had never been in there before, but it sounded like the kind of place I’d want to visit. It’s deceptively small from the outside! I didn’t have the luxury of really browsing, but I did a quick scan to see all kinds of upholstering fabric, pillow forms, sewing gadgetry and hardware, and, of course, foam. I went in thinking that we’d be able to buy the exact amount of foam we needed. I was wrong. They will cut foam to any size you want, but you still pay for the entire slab. You get to take it all home, though, so now I have a 2′ x 2′ square of foam and a 5′ x 4″ strip that I don’t know what to do with. But hey, that’s good foam; I’ll find a use for it someday.

Anyways, back to the playpen-sized section of foam. Originally I had it cut in one long rectangle, but after lying in bed that night planning my project, I had Mr. Gren take it back the next day and have them cut the rectangle in half. You’ll see why in a minute. But first, let it be known that I had no intention of laying a baby on a bare piece of foam. Anyone with a child should be able to quickly list at least five ways that could go wrong. While we were out, we had hit the thrift store and bought an old sheet. Thrift store sheets = great source of cheap fabric. I wasn’t too particular about what was printed on the sheet; I was more concerned with the weight of the fabric — a worn, flimsy sheet would just be too thin. I left Mr. Gren in charge of the sheet selection and he came back with… some kind of weird army print. With all due respect to our Armed Forces, olive green Army helmets and camo stars just really don’t say “baby” to me. Alas, we were short on time and that particular sheet was the best option available, so Army sheet it is.


The old mattress was split into two — as my foam was — and held together by the cover. There was a long piece of supple vinyl covering both squares on one side and then on the flip side, each square had its own individual cloth cover. What that did was enabled the mattress to be folded in half when not in use. I was going to attempt to construct the same type of cover (albeit all in Army sheet instead of vinyl and cloth).

It was a great idea, but the construction of it was maddening. Normally when you sew a cover for anything, you sew right sides facing so that all the stitching and seam allowances are on the wrong side. Then, you flip it right side out and it looks all smooth and polished from the outside, while the ugly stuff is hidden inside. Where things got tricky for me is when I decided that I wanted each square of foam individually encased in fabric, then joined together by the long piece, but still completely removable for washing. Geez, why do I make things so hard on myself? And with only two days until our trip…

Here is a crappy MS Paint cross-section diagram of what I wanted to do.

foam diagramThe blue is the foam. The dark green represents the individual square covers. See how they don’t join on the bottom corners? That’s where I can extract the foam again to wash the cover, if need be. The stripe of light green on the top is where the long piece covers the whole kit n’ kaboodle.

So back to that whole right-sides-together thing. That wouldn’t work here. I can’t really explain what I did in order to make all three layers come out right side up after the sewing and the flipping. There was something about a wrong side facing a right side, but I can’t remember which. Suffice it to say, it fried my brain. I gave it a test run as best I could with it all pinned together and then just dove in and sewed it all up. Miracle of miracles, it worked! I wrestled the foam into the cover and look!


Ignore the bins of stuff under my table. Instead admire how that mattress cover fits like a glove.

The sense of satisfaction and relief once I flipped it all out and found it looking so clean and sharp… ahhhh. And the whole folding mechanism worked like a charm!



Here the mattress demonstrates a partial fold where you can still see the two distinct squares.

I should have taken a photo of the baby sleeping like, well, a baby, on his new mattress, but I didn’t. So you don’t get to see it in use, but Sprinkaan did sleep quite well and this little mattress should last for many years to come. It had better, because I don’t ever want to do this again.

I bought a book

A couple days ago, I went poking around the thrift store sans kids. We have the lamest thrift store I’ve ever been in (no, I take that back; I’ve been in those ones that feel like somebody’s garage sale). It’s small and they never turn over the stock, so if it doesn’t sell, it will be there probably until the end of time. Occasionally they get something new. The clothes are all crummy, though, and I have no need for knick-knacks at this stage in my life, so I spend most of my time looking through the books. I found a book for each of the kids and a couple for Mr. Gren, but couldn’t find one that caught my interest. There were tons of cookbooks, but… eh. I already have five French-English dictionaries and they’re all better than the two I saw there. Gardening books are no fun with nothing to garden. Then, tucked between Christmas craft books, I found one called “Knitting School: A complete course.”

For years, I’ve resisted. I didn’t want to learn to knit. I like crocheting and I’m stubborn and wanted to be able to do everything with crochet. And while there are some things that crochet is better suited to than knitting, I’ve slowly been coming to the point where I have to admit that the reverse is true, too. And there are things that conventional knitting can do that I can’t do on my knitting board. {sigh} It still sort of feels like betrayal.

This past summer, one of my dear cousins was attending a town-wide yard sale and asked if I wanted anything. I didn’t have anything specific in mind, but just told her to keep an eye out for anything craft-related. She ended up finding a pair of knitting needles (size 8, they appear to be) and a skein of fingering weight yarn. I haven’t done anything with these knitting needles yet other than continually try to get them away from Konik who likes to use them as drumsticks. Now it looks like the needles will be able to be used for their intended purpose.


The book covers all the basic stuff: casting on and binding off, different stitches, fancy stuff like collars, cuffs and buttonhole plackets plus a handful of very, very basic patterns. I don’t know when I’ll get around to using it. I still need to finish Konik’s second sock and my friend R’s Axl doll (currently dismembered body parts in a bag). Those should probably take priority.

So there’s that.

But once again, I feel like I should apologize or at least offer some explanation for why I’m absent more than I’m around lately. The thing is, I don’t really know why. It’s like some sort of crafting depression. Other than about five rows on Konik’s sock, I haven’t done anything. Actually, come to think of it, I really haven’t done anything. Not just crafts. Nothing. Just sitting here in this chair. No, wait, I lied. I did do this.


It’s full of more inside jokes than you could shake a stick at, so I’m not going to bother trying to explain it. So there you go. There’s the one something I’ve achieved in the past two weeks.

I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know how long it’s going to last. I don’t like it. I don’t want to stay this way. Hopefully there will be better days ahead soon.

Obligatory Halloween stuff

In case you missed it, yesterday was Halloween. We aren’t big Halloween celebrators, but we like to carve pumpkins and wear costumes (if you are a big Halloween celebrator, then you’ll love the display my friend Elle put up in her yard, and even if you’re not, you should check it out anyways ’cause it rocks). The kids started asking for pumpkins on the 1st of October and apparently, Mr. Gren and I just got into refusal mode (thinking we’d do it closer to time), until the 30th when once again Rana asked, “Aren’t we going to do pumpkins this year?” Word to the wise: don’t go shopping for jack-o-lantern pumpkins the day before Halloween. If you find any, they’ll all have the stems knocked off, gouges in the sides from being on the bottom of the heap for a month, and/or in various stages of rot. We ended up having to buy pie pumpkins. I told Rana I could cook them after they were done being jack-o-lanterns, but she was horrified at the thought and made me promise that I wouldn’t do such a heinous thing.

We usually have the kids draw a face on a piece of paper which Mr. Gren and I then copy onto the pumpkin in Sharpie. They each drew a face and then decided that their pumpkin faces looked too similar to last years’. Somewhere in the discussion, we branched way out from regular jack-o-lantern faces with triangle eyes and toothy grins to Hello Kitty, Curious George, and Princess Peach. Looking at pictures of the three characters, I freehand drew them onto the pumpkins and then Mr. Gren and I commenced carving. I don’t trust any of my kids with table knives much less anything with a point!

Ah, but don’t think that the kids got out of all the work. They had to empty the pumpkins first. I’d much rather do the carving!

As for costumes, I didn’t sew or create anything as in years past. Granota wanted to be a princess and we found a lovely princess dress for her at the thrift store. The crown I did make… several years ago. It used to have jewels, but restless fingers picked them all off sometime last year.

Konik is not too thrilled with this whole costume concept. So we tricked him. He loves his rainboots and raincoat and he always likes to have a hat on when he goes out…

Rana originally wanted to be Cleopatra. At the thrift store, we weren’t finding any plain white garments that could easily be adapted into an Egyptian style dress. But then the sleeve of a gold and black floral printed blouse caught Rana’s eye. “This looks like a rock star!” she exclaimed. In reality it looked like an old lady dressing up for a dinner party. But it was the catalyst. The lightbulb came on and Rana declared, “I want to be a rock star! I wanna be Joan Jett!” Shopping for actual clothing is so much easier. We wheeled down to the kids’ section and look what we found:

They got to show off their costumes at a local church’s Trunk or Treat, came home and collapsed into bed. Perfect!


More thrift store fun

A trip to the thrift store is great entertainment for me. I don’t even necessarily have to have something in mind in order to have fun poking through all the weird and wonderful things there. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to do much browsing on my own since having kids and Granota and Konik don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I do. They grumble and complain and try to do headers out of the cart just to escape the horrible monotony of watching Maman shop. And, because I’ve always got them with me, I can’t take the time to examine clothing and try things on, so I stick to the outer fringes of the store. But that’s ok. That’s where the books and sewing patterns and notions and other odds and ends are.

I went to two different stores last Wednesday (and Granota and Konik thought they would surely die of boredom) and didn’t find much, but I am excited about the few things I did bring home. First, two sewing patterns. They are uncut and still factory folded. I really like that skirt with the inverted pleats. The suit on the left intrigued me. I’m not sure I would ever make it or ever wear something like that, but you never know. And, at only 99 cents, why take the chance on regret?

By “New Look” I believe we mean “90s Look.” Not that that’s a bad thing.

Next, I found this book: Complete Home Crafts by Miranda Innes. This is my kind of book. The aesthetic doesn’t always match my own, but the projects in and of themselves are great for inspiration. And there are some I really gravitate towards.

I really, really want to do this

Kind of a sucker for citrus in the kitchen

Pretty and useful

I think what I love most about this book is that the majority of these projects are beautiful and practical. I love to be surrounded by beautiful things, but how much better if they are things I can actually use or that serve some purpose? That’s a win-win right there. Why have just a TV tray when you can have a built-in checkerboard (ok, painted) right on it?! I already have a very nice checkerboard, but what else could I put on that TV tray…? Hm, gets the wheels turning. There are all kinds of step-by-step projects including lampshades, cushions and throw blankets, stenciling, collages, decoupage… I want to do it all! Need a place of my own first, though. Humph. In the meanwhile, I’ll daydream.

I likes it

The other book I got is called Making Patterns from Finished Clothes by Rusty Bensussen. Currently, I can’t think of one RTW piece in my closet that is worth the time and effort to copy. In all actuality, most of the store-bought stuff really needs to be turned over to the rag basket, but I have to keep them in the rotation, otherwise I’d be nekkid 5 days of the week. Notwithstanding the pitiful state of my wardrobe, you just never know when a book like this might come in handy. It seems like a great reference to have around! I think the information on drafting patterns will make it worth the whole $3 I spent on it.

Coming up next week: A blue cardigan I crocheted!

Shopping spree

That’s right, I spent money just because I felt like it! So take that 10-months-of-unemployment-followed-by-a-part-time-minimum-wage-job! What led me to feel so fancy free? Mr. Gren got moved up to a full-time position at the ol’ home improvement warehouse. Woo hoo! Still minimum wage, keeping our little family of five comfortably below the poverty line. But hey, it’s more income than we’ve had in a year, so it’s kinda like being rich. So I cast off the shackles of our self-imposed Austerity Measures to buy things for my very own self instead of for the kids’ selves, which is normally where the money goes.

First stop was the thrift store. That’s right; I’m really cutting loose. I poked around through the book section and found a couple of sewing books to add to my collection. There are all kinds of helpful things like making welt pockets, bound buttonholes and how to properly line a dress. I’m looking forward to improving my sewing techniques.

I've heard of Nancy before.

Then, I hit Joann’s for a pattern sale. I’m still not going to pay full price for anything. I’ve been moping around with nothing to sew for myself because my fabric stash does not match my pattern stash. Potentially, I could add several more pieces to my wardrobe, if only I had patterns suitable for the fabrics I have on hand. I spent a good hour flipping through the pattern catalogs, marking down the ones that caught my eye. And, miracle of miracles, the store actually had all of them.

Soon, these clothes will all be mine! Muwhahahaha!

While I was at the store, I needed to find some fabric for the pajama party sew-along. I spent another hour cruising up and down the aisles, feeling stuff, looking at fiber content, debating… I finally settled on a soft, drapey cotton in aqua. I would have liked something with a pattern, but it’s hard to come by outside of the quilting cottons. And quilting cotton to me feels like sheets, and sheets on sheets sounds like a lot of friction when I’m just trying to get comfy in bed. So, drapey aqua cotton it is. Although, I had this horrible vision just as the lady was cutting it, “Oh man, pajama pants in this are going to look like scrubs!” Ack! Not the look I’m going for. I’ve got some ideas to (hopefully) break that association.

New jammies by the end of the week!

I was so excited about all my new patterns that I didn’t sleep well at all that night. All I could think about was what I was going to sew first. The next morning I wolfed down my cereal and then set to work straight away on the peasant blouse. The sewing is all done on it and now I’m working on a crocheted trim. I’ll put up pics of that next week. And, theoretically, there should be plenty more sewing goodness in the weeks to come!

Oh, and my grand total for all of this: about $30. Big Spender, baby.


Three non-winter dresses

We don’t quite know what to call the season we’re currently experiencing out here in the Pacific Northwest. Our calendars claim that Summer begins tomorrow, but I think we’re at least three months behind. In other words, we’re just now getting our Spring. I think we should adjust our calendars accordingly so that we don’t feel so disappointed when we look outside. At any rate, back when our calendars claimed it was Spring, Rana and I checked her closet for Springtime dresses and found that she had outgrown everything from last year. I’ve already shown one dress that I made for her, so now I’ll show the others I’ve finished.

Please excuse the fuzzy baby head zooming through the photo.

This dress began life as a pair of pillowcases that I rescued from the thrift store for 99 cents a piece. Not too shabby, eh? I’m all about saving myself time, so I kept the original pillowcase hem for the skirt. Despite the stripes, the dress looked too plain once I had finished, so I embellished it with a hand-painted daffodil. See? Sometimes I can paint.

Who else wishes they were in Hawaii?

This was the first of my Hawaiian shirt conversions and at first, it went very, very wrong. I had used Rana’s Easter dress as a template, but… I only traced one side and then just folded the shirt in half and cut. Moral of the story: Trace both sides of your template, just to be sure. I happily went sewing along, thinking it would make a good surprise for Rana when she got home from school. And we were all surprised when we found that this dress was too skinny even to fit Konik, my 18 month old son. Obviously, some alterations were in order. I didn’t want to lose the button placket on the back because that would make more work for me. So I whacked off the top half of the front, took my daughter’s measurement (sometimes I do smart things), and scavenged among the scraps of the original shirt. Lucky for me, when I opened up one of the sleeves on the side seam, it was just the width I needed, and I sewed it right on. You can see the hem of the sleeve now marks the dress’ waistline (through the middle of the trees). How’s that for creative sewing? I was going to put little flutter sleeves on the dress, but Rana preferred the wide straps. I wasn’t going to complain — less work! (Notice a theme, here?)

The taste, the taste, the taste is gonna move ya!!

This dress was fun. How can you not be happy looking at fruit fabric? This was just a small, lonely piece of fabric hanging sadly between placemats and sheets at the thrift store. It needed a better life, so I saved it, too. When I got it home, I found that there were strange black smudges in a couple of places, so I had to get creative with how I cut out the pieces. It all worked out ok, though! The skirt fabric was leftover from a hospital gown I made for a friend a couple years ago (she wanted to have her baby in style, not some faded hospital-issue sack). Once again, Rana was at school while I was sewing, so there was no measuring involved. This dress is ankle length on her and, if not for the citrus fruit and bright colors, would look a little “Texas compound,” but she thinks the length is great. I’ll just be sure never to do her hair up in a bun when she wears this.

Current work in progress is the bright pink dress with the patchwork skirt. I admire the people who can sew without the use of patterns, but I think I’m ready to admit that I am not one of those people. The two pillowcases I hacked up didn’t yield enough fabric to make this into, well, a dress. It’s going to have to be something more akin to a tunic. And, much to Rana’s disgruntlement, it’s going to have to be for Granota. There was simultaneous shrieking and cheering at that announcement. Hopefully, the girls don’t try to reenact the Cinderella shredding-of-the-dress scene whenever Granota wears this.

Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt something cool. I’ll post about it if I get it done in time!

I’m on a roll!

I love days like this where everything comes together as it should and I’m able to get so much done. I didn’t sew any pieces on backwards; I didn’t have to rewind my bobbin two inches from the end of a seam; my seam ripper sat docilely in my tackle box; and best of all, I have tangible results (unlike when I’ve spent hours tacking in facings that no one ever sees)!

My good sewing mojo began yesterday when I was able to knock out a dress for Rana. Coming into this spring, we realized that the girl has been growing like a weed and all of her springtime dresses from last year were scandalously short on her this year (good news for Granota whose dress wardrobe doubled). I planned on making her about five dresses and didn’t want to spend the money on that much new fabric, so I hit the thrift store. I love the thrift store for fabric shopping. It’s a little bit more of a challenge to find nice prints sometimes, but you can’t beat the prices. I came away with two men’s Hawaiian shirts, two orange/yellow striped pillowcases, one plain hot pink pillowcase, one hot pink pillowcase with orange and light pink flowers, a scrap of jersey with a bright fruit print all over it, a butterfly sheet, and a red gingham checked sheet — and spent about ten dollars for all of it! Score!

Up to this week, I had made three dresses: one from the white Hawaiian shirt, one from the two orange striped pillowcases, and one from the fruity jersey (using fabric I already had on hand to make the skirt). And I haven’t taken a photo of a single one of those! Yesterday, I finally got the urge to clear all these thrifted fabrics out of my room. They’ve been draped across the back of my chair and slung over my dress form for months. It’s about time. Loosely following cheytown’s Button-down Shirt Recon (four years and still going strong!), I made Rana a dress from the red Hawaiian shirt. Ok, I used cheytown’s tutorial from memory for the white Hawaiian dress/shirt, too, but it’s also a little different from the “original.” Back to the red dress: Rana loved it and wore it to school today. She was in a funky mood when she got home and consented to pictures only if she could hide her face. Unlike the original, this one buttons in the front and I had to do a little pleating along the back neckline to keep it from dipping down too low.

Men's large shirt becomes a dress for a 5 year old

Today, with all my sewing super powers still in full force, I began another dress using the hot pink pillowcases. I completed the bodice (using an old Simplicity pattern). Rana likes twirly dresses especially, so I am making the skirt in patchwork tiers; I’m making it up as I go along. I’m still in the pinning process on that. If everything keeps going smoothly, I’ll finish it in a couple of days! I sure do like progress.

That's a lot of little squares to sew together. This is why I don't quilt.