Saturday, June 30, 2012

Braided Rag Rug Basics- and Rapunzel Hair!

Rope Made from Rags
After every project, I meticulously fold and put away the leftover fabric. The scraps that are simply too small for anything else get tossed in a box. The leftover sleeves and seams from the T-shirt duvet cover that I've been working on (and I promise I will finish eventually) go in the box as well. Sometimes, this box gets overly full. On those days, I drag it out and start cutting whatever is in there down to strips that are about an inch wide, braid them, and make ropes. I used to either knot or sew them, but I saw a clever method on Moda Bake Shop that I've tried out and really like.

The Rag Box

1. Starting out. 

Knot the Ends
To start, you'll need a whole mess of fabric, cut down to similar size strips. Moda uses a really pretty print in contrast with white fabric, but since we're doing this to use up scraps, be kind to the environment, and stick to a more rustic look, we'll be sticking with whatever comes out of the box (yes, that is an old bathing suit!). Some fabric may rip neatly, which will save cutting time. Also keep in mind the thickness of your fabric. If you have a thick upholstery fabric, sometimes as little as 1/2" is plenty, but if you have something extremely thin like tulle, 4" wide strips are necessary. Just play with it and you'll get a feel for what you like. I personally like the different textures, shapes, and sizes. It makes each piece unique. Moda recommends sewing the ends, I'm lazy and knot mine.

If you have fabrics that are not colorfast, you might consider prewashing them on a gentle cycle and air or line drying them before cutting into strips.

2. Braid. 

If you are unfamiliar with braiding, check out the diagram on this website for more information. It often helps to have something anchoring the other end of the braid, whether you use a safety pin and pin it to a couch, your jeans, or a rug, have a patient friend hold it, or hold the braid underneath your foot. Start braiding away and stop when you're within a couple inches of the end of your shortest strip. If you are making a rag rug, you will want the braid to be loose. If you are making Rapunzel hair or a rope, you can braid tightly.

If you need to take a break from braiding, a safety pin will hold the braids in place. Or you can use a bobby pin while adding more, which is faster to move and remove. 


3. Add More Strips as Needed. 

This clever trick (from Moda) saved me so much time! When you get to the end of your strip, lay another strip over the end, overlapping by about 1 1/2 inches. 

Overlap the Ends

Fold both of them over and cut a small slit through both.

Take the end of your new strip, fold it under, and pull it up through the slit you've just made.

Pull tight.

Et Voila! Keep braiding like normal.

Here it is again with some different fabric:

Overlap the strips.
Fold them together.
Cut a small slit through both layers of fabric.
Pull the end of the new strip up through the slit.
Keep pulling gently.
When I'm adding new strips on, I like to pick three at a time. I add the longest new strip to the shortest old strip, the middle length new to the middle length old and the shortest new strip to the longest old strip. It helps to keep the braid fairly even.

As I started cutting more strips, I pre-cut the slits in each as well. I'm not sure which way is faster, but it was nice not having to reach for the scissors every few moments.

4. Keep adding until the desired length is reached. 

When the rope is as long as you need/want it, you can sew the ends or knot them. If you are working on something like a rag rug, I recommend just using a safety pin to hold the ends in place in case you wish to add more. I thought I had enough rope made for a rag rug I made for my sister, but I had nowhere near enough and had to add more on.

My two girls love to play like the fabric ropes are Rapunzel hair, hence the name. Really the only thing it has in common with Rapunzel's hair is the length and the braiding, but that doesn't stop their imaginations. I suppose if you used fabric in a hair-like color, it would look more like hair. Still, they love their ropes.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Nerding out a Messenger Bag

My Nerdy Bag
When I decided to write this post, I had hoped it would be a follow-up to our Revitalizing an Old Purse project. In case you missed it, we bought a leather purse for a song at a thrift store and added some embellishments to personalize it and cover up some pen marks. The entire project was less than $5 and took about 2 hours. Not bad at all!

This one started out the same way. For $10, my youngest sister sold me an old bag she'd gotten from her school. I probably wouldn't have paid that much for in its condition at a store, but youngest sisters have a way of getting around such things. It had great hardware, except the main magnetic clasp had two male ends and wouldn't close. The bag was filthy and had red Sharpie marks on the outside. I would have gotten a picture of the nastiness of the inside for you, but as soon as I got it, I went to town with the stain spray. The inside had turned a dull grey color, when it was supposed to be tan with white dots.

Then I thought I would get some cool pins and patches for it from various sources to represent my nerdy interests. That part was tons of fun, but also pushed the budget well out of the "cheap" range (for me, at least). All told, I spent about $33 on embellishments. Since they arrived from various sources, opening up the mailbox and receiving a new piece each day was a thrill.

Fixing the Bag

Left Magnetic Clasp and the Center Buckle

1. Fix the clasp.

Before Washing
The bag has buckles (as you can see in the picture), but they are rendered pointless by the magnetic clasps underneath each. To "fix" the center clasp, I undid the buckle and sewed one end of it on top of the magnetic clasp. The center buckle now functions as a buckle. The other two worked just fine, so I left them alone.



 2. Clean! Clean! Clean!

A couple days soaking in a warm bath of OxiClean removed most of the grime from the interior. Stain spray removed much of the red Sharpie from the front  of the bag. Just washing a bag like this will greatly improve its looks.

Reverse Side of the Flap




3.  Attach the embellishments.

After testing the placement of all the embellishments, I started to fasten them in place. Of course, the buttons and pins can be moved around as much as you want, but the patches are harder to move once held in place. I sewed the patches on with matching thread. You can iron on patches, but I prefer to sew them. I think it gives a better hold, and the stitches look pretty.


And it's done! 

Total Cost: $43
Time: 1 day soaking + 30 min. in washing machine + up to 2 weeks waiting for shipments to arrive + 30 minutes sewing on patches
Great Adjustable Shoulder Strap

If you are interested in obtaining some nerd flair like mine, here are the ones still available (as of the publishing date of this post):

Portal 2 Logo Pin Set from ablesisters on Etsy
Xavier's School For Gifted Youngster Patch from aardogfsu on ebay
Phoenix Patrol Patch from jeffbass on ebay
Allons-y! Pin from cafepress
Star Trek Command Pin from cafepress

I'm still looking to add something pertaining to Diablo, Elder Scrolls, and Borderlands, but for now, it's complete. If you should see one of these items, please let me know in the comments. Or, if you have a nerd that you'd like to customize a bag for and need some suggestions, let me know. I found a lot more than I bought.

Update: My amazing husband gave me a present for my nerdy bag! Here are a couple pictures of it:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Making Our Very Own Fairy Garden Part 2

In my last entry, I discussed how we made our fairy garden. Since then I have been informed that it is a "Princess Garden", not a Fairy Garden. My apologies to our Miniature Master Gardener.

Our Princess Garden was almost complete at the end of the last entry, but we brought in the big guns (my husband) to make some neat wood projects that make the garden even more amazing. He made wooden mushrooms, fence panels, and a ladder for the princesses to get up to their garden.


Taking inspiration from The Magic Onions, we decided to add mushrooms to our garden.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Sphere halves (sold at a craft store, 6 per pack)
  • 1/2" Diameter dowel rod
  • Nails
  • Patio paint- red & white

1. Drill holes in tops. 

To make his life easier, my husband drilled a hole through the center of each sphere half, slightly smaller than the nails he used.

2. Cut dowel rod.

He marked 6 2" long sections on the dowel rod and cut using a saw. The remaining piece of the dowel rod was saved for the top of the ladder.

3. Paint tops.

Our Miniature Master Gardener did this step. She painted the tops red. After they were dry, she added white dots.

4. Nail tops onto the stems. 

And you're done! Amazing little decorations for the amount of effort. They are probably the two-year-old's favorite thing about the Princess Garden as she is constantly rearranging them.

Fence Panels

For each panel, you will need:

  • 7 popsicle sticks
  • wood glue (preferably outdoor safe)

1. Cut the popsicle sticks in half. 

Cut 3 of the popsicle sticks in half. Set 1 half aside for another panel (or something else).

2. Lay out the pieces. 

Arrange 5 stick halves parallel to each other, about 1/4" apart. Place one of the whole sticks on either side, parallel to the others with the tops (round edges) flush.

3. Glue.

Run a line of glue along the remaining sticks. Place them glue side down onto the other sticks, so that one stick runs 1/2" below all 7 tops and the other stick runs across the bottoms of the half sticks and the middle of the whole sticks. See the picture if I've completely confused you.

Mushroom, Ladder, and Fence


Our princesses were using the vine to climb up to their garden, but they decided the vine was starting to look a little worn and they needed a ladder instead.


  • 16 Popsicle sticks
  • 1/2" diameter dowel rod
  • Safety wire
  • Wood glue

 1. Cut the sticks.

Using a saw, cut 8 of the popsicle sticks in half. Cut the dowel rod into 2 sections approximately 4-6 inches long.

2.  Assemble the panels. 

Arrange 4 of the half sticks parallel to each. Glue a whole stick across the tops of the half sticks. Glue a second whole stick across the bottoms, parallel to the first. Drill a small hole (large enough for the safety wire) in each end of each whole stick.

3. Wire it together.

Lay out the panels end to end. Using safety wire, connect the adjoining holes. Be sure to twist them together tightly and tuck all sharp ends under. At the top of the ladder, use safety wire to attach the dowel rod pieces. Stick the dowel rods into the soil.

And we're done!

Well, we're done for now. Our Master Gardener has mentioned painting the fence and some other projects. I'll be sure to keep you posted if we add anything. For now, they are enjoying the garden. Here are some pictures of the completed project.

Rearranging the Mushrooms

In the Garden

Of course, I had to take a ton of closeups. What photographer could resist such a charming and sweet space! I hope you are inspired to make your own Fairy Princess Garden. Thanks for reading about ours, we have enjoyed making it and playing with it.

Update: The Moss Rose is starting to bloom in the perfect shade of pink!