Reposted with permission from Design Fixation.
Some of you may remember Faith's Fifteen Minute Dress. Next up is Faith's Twenty Minute Dress. This particular garment works well as a beach coverup, or you can cut longer fabric panels to wear it as a regular dress.
Below are detailed instructions. Wherever you see black dotted lines in these images, that's where you'll sew. For larger views of the illustrations, visit Faith's Twenty Minute Dress on Design Fixation.
Tools and supplies: Besides the fabric for the dress, you'll need elastic for the waistline. Assemble a scissors and needle and thread for your tools — it's that simple.
Fabric: I recommend using a stretch fabric — I used a printed jersey. I prefer my hems raw when I'm using jersey, but feel free to hem the raw edges once you've finished constructing the garment if that's what you prefer. Cut a single piece of fabric measuring 26 inches wide and 36 inches long for the back of your dress. You'll also need two narrower panels that are 9 inches wide by 36 inches long for the front. The last piece of fabric required for this project is a narrow strip of casing (for the elastic) that's 44 inches long. To determine the length of elastic you'll need, measure just above your natural waist.
Step One: Sew together the right sides of the 9-inch-wide fabric panels at the top (indicated by dotted lines in the above illustration). Then, measure 10 inches down these panels, and sew from that point down to the bottom.
Step Two: Sew a seam along the top and bottom of the fabric strip that will be the elastic casing. Sew all the way around from the inside edge of one of the 9-inch panels, around the large back panel, straight across to the inside edge of the other 9-inch panel. Thread the elastic through the casing and secure on both ends with a small seam.
Step Three: Measure 11 inches from the top. With right sides together, sew from that point down the front center of the dress all the way to the bottom. Then turn it right side out, and you’re finished! Enjoy your new frock.
Need another sewing project? Check out Sewing Fixation for more sewing tutorials for all skill levels. Automatic downloads mean that you will be up and running in minutes. And if you liked this tutorial, you might also like Faith's 25 Minute Dress project.
Photos by Design Fixation/Faith Towers
On the surface, homesteading seems like it’s all about livestock and gardens, and many of us have an image in our heads of the idealized small farmer walking out in the early morning to feed the chickens. While that is part of homesteading, it’s not all there is. At its core, homesteading is about learning new skills to increase your self-sufficiency, and the more skills you can learn, the better.
If this becomes reciprocal, it’s called bartering, and that’s what we’ve been doing lately with some family friends. Their daughter will be staying with us soon to learn photography from my mom. In exchange, they taught me to use a sewing machine.
My First Sewing Project
My first project with them was a tiny pillow with my name stitched onto it, but to my surprise, we weren’t done after that. I was going to make a cloth grocery bag.
We started by selecting the fabrics. For the outside of the bag, I chose a pink cloth embroidered with elephants; for the inside, a soft gray fabric touched with white, like faraway stars. I cut my fabrics to the same size and pinned them together inside-out, threaded the sewing machine’s needle, slipped my fabrics into the machine, chose my stitch, and started off.
Using a sewing machine is slow and repetitive—unless you’re as good at it as my friend’s mom is, in which case it’s fast and repetitive. Still, there’s something about knowing you’ve done a good job, or at least gotten better, that’s thrilling, though that’s true of any skill, sewing or ziplining or writing. When I finished sewing the fabrics together around three edges, I was proud of myself.
My friend’s mom showed me how to turn the bag right-side-out, and we sewed the edges together, leaving room for a handle. For the handle, I selected a strip of rough pink fabric, and she slipped the ends into the spaces we’d left for that purpose. Then I got to sew them in place.
The final step was ironing. Being clumsy, I put my thumb in the wrong place almost immediately and had to run cold water on it, but the actual ironing was easy, and in minutes the bag was complete. It was satisfying enough knowing that I had made the bag, and that it had been less painful than my knitted hat, but even more so that I had contributed to my community.
Walking out to help feed the chickens afterward, I felt content.
Top photo by Evie S.
As spring arrives in Seattle, visions of seed packets dance through my head. I await all of the bounty to come. I must admit I have never been very good at growing plants from seeds. I am not sure if the missing ingredient is patience, a greenhouse, or time. My dear friend and gentleman farmer David is a master of this art. In the past, David and I have gone to nurseries, looked at catalogs, and made purchases together, all the while talking about heirloom seeds and the rich gift of taste they add to our lives. And still I can’t quite seem to plant and harvest my own crop.
Thankfully, David pays our household a visit during the summer season and often brings with him a sampling of what he has grown. These treats are almost always grown from heirloom seeds, without the interference of biogenetics or chemical-focused farming. The flavors from his food, as well as our CSA's share, are always notably bolder, richer, and more distinctive.
In conversation with Carly at the dinner table recently, I was talking about a smoothie that I made for some friends. One of the ingredients was not organic, a compromise I thought would go unnoticed, but I noticed. This ingredient was nearly flavorless, even though I had added two entire cups. I have heard it said that there is no difference in flavor between conventional and organic food products, but I can't agree—nor can my taste buds. I have also heard it said that we cannot feed our world population without the help of biogenetic and factory farming. I’ve also read evidence to the contrary.
In our conversation about flavor, nutrition, and healthful food, Carly noted her sadness that healthful, organic, and sustainable food is so expensive in our country. Having traveled to many of the world’s developing countries, where the standard of living is regarded as lower than ours, she recalled more affordable healthful food.
Why do we continue to price healthful food and healthy bodies out of the general population’s budgets?
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.
This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Dewey Lindstrom.
We recently moved from the remote North Woods of Wisconsin where large lakeside fire pits were simply dug into the ground and lined with large rocks, creating great campfires. We now live in a residential neighborhood in the Central Valley of California. Campfires here are confined to well-defined containment systems and small controlled fires. These can be easily extinguished with no sparks or embers and can continue to burn or blow into neighboring combustibles when left unattended.
Even with these restrictions, our family still loves to sit around an evening fire. But we didn’t want to spend a small fortune on a pre-manufactured fire pit or a contractor-built unit. We were also not sure where we might want the pit permanently located. So, we needed something we could take down and move to a different spot without a lot of trouble or expense.
Fortunately, while cruising the aisles of Home Depot recently, we saw concrete tree rings on sale for $2 a section. We borrowed a tape measure and quickly determined the rings might make a dandy low-cost fire pit that would incorporate a small Weber grill (which we already owned) as an inner firepot, allowing a very controlled burn and positive air shut-off to extinguish the fire when we were ready to call it a night.
Weber Smokey Joe Portable charcoal grill or equivalent 14-inch diameter grill. ($30 new)
4 sections of 14-inch inside diameter concrete tree ring ($2 to $3 each = $8 to $12 total)
6 sections of 24-inch inside diameter concrete tree ring ($2 to $3 each = $12 to $18 total)
2 cubic feet of small stones, pebbles, road gravel or decorative rock ($0 to $20 depending on how fancy)
Total cost: $50 to $80 depending on your taste in stones.
Step 1: Constructing the Inner Ring
Find a nice level area of your yard or create a level circle approximately 3 feet in diameter. It's not absolutely necessary, but we sprayed our pit area with weed/grass killer to make a bare spot. You will notice the ring of browned grass surrounding the pit in the final photos.This is due to the weed killer and not the result of heat from the fire.
We also placed a layer of weed barrier cloth under the pit to prevent grass or weed from growing up into the pit.The tree rings will be more stable on bare earth than on grass, particularly if you have Bermuda grass like we do. Also, you should have no problem if you want to place your pit on top of a concrete or brick patio.
The trick to turning tree rings into a decent looking fire pit is to make the ring two sections tall by turning the fluted top sections upside down so they interlock with the fluted bottom sections. The first photo shows what the 14-inch tree ring sections look like when you buy them from the store and the second photo shows them stacked. They don’t fit perfectly, but the small air gaps look sort of decorative in my estimation and are barely noticeable once the unit is being used.
Step 2: Adding an Outer Ring
We thought the 14-inch tree rings looked a little puny by themselves so to give the fire pit more mass, we surrounded the inner ring of 14-inch tree ring sections with an outer ring of 24-inch diameter sections. The sections are 2 inches thick, so the outer diameter of the completed fire pit will be 28 inches.
Note that the 24-inch outer rings have a very convenient tab locking design. One end of each section has a tab and the other end has a slot. This helps a great deal to stabilize the rings when they are stacked two high.
Step 3: Filling the Void
You will quickly notice that when the 14-inch rings are stacked inside the 24-inch rings that there is a 3-inch gap between the inner and outer rings. You will also notice that each 14-inch ring is about an inch shorter than each 24-inch ring.
To solve both of these problems, the outer ring is erected first and then filled approximately 2 inches deep with small stones. The inner ring is then set on top of those stones. You’ll have to do a bit of trial and error to ensure the tops of the inner and outer rings will be level when they are completed. Once the inner and outer rings are in place, fill the 3-inch void between the rings with more stone.
Step 4: Installing the Weber
The Weber Smokey Joe grill may come with legs attached. If so, unscrew the three connecting screws and set aside the legs. In an amazingly beneficial coincidence, the Weber grill is perfectly sized to slip right into the inner circle of the pit and just enough lip remains above the surface of the pit for the cover to fit tightly in place.
Once the Weber is in place and you start a fire, it would be difficult and perhaps hazardous to adjust the lower air vent of the grill. So, set the vent opening however you want before you put the grill in place. I set ours about half-open and it works great for creating nice, small fires.
And when the cover is put on and the top vent closed, the fire will go out in very short order. If you want or need more or less bottom air for your fire, you can easily remove the grill to adjust it between fires when the unit is cool.
Step 5: Light It Up
Get out the graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey bars. It’s time to enjoy your fire pit.
You can view more photos of this project on my original Instructables post.
Photos by Dewey Lindstrom
Reposted with permission from Instructables.
I recently helped my father install a 275 gallon rainwater collection system.
The system is based on an industrial 275 gallon container known as an IBC. You can buy them used, or if you really look around, you can even find them for free. One problem with typical rain-barrels is that they can only collect 55 gallons. This rain storage container collects five times that volume, while not taking up all that much more space than a single rain barrel.
In my area, you can buy used IBCs through Craigslist for about $85 each. Those come with a metal cage around them that allows them to be stacked.
Instead of buying them, I found a local bottler who throws them out because they are plastic containers without the metal cages. These containers come to the bottler full of 275 gallons of high-fructose corn syrup. I got several containers from them for free, for just the elbow grease of going to pick them up. Some were wrapped in heavy cardboard. I recycled the cardboard into a clubhouse for my little girl.
After washing the container out well, it is ready to be repurposed for rainwater collection. I really like the irony of using GMO corn syrup containers to recycle into a conservation project!
Besides the water container, this project requires other materials, including:
- Miscellaneous wood to build a simple pallet or platform
- Garden hose spigot and hardware
- Gutter screen and fiberglass bug screen
- Gutters, downspouts and elbows
- Silicon or other appropriate caulk or sealant
In our case, nearly all the materials were already on-hand, reusing old components, and recycling and repurposing materials. Total out of pocket expenses were under $20.
Beyond the typical DIY and handyman tools, you will need tin snips, utility knife, pop-riveter and rivets, sheet metal screws, and related aluminum metal-working tools and skills.
Let’s get started with the rainwater storage setup.
Step 1: Locating the Storage Tank
The first thing you need to do is decide where you want the container to go. It needs to be located near the building where you want to collect rainwater, and it also needs to be elevated if you want it to work on gravity flow.
In this case, the building is a 100-year-old barn that was remodeled into a home office. The roof is a fair amount of collection area, and the building is on the top of a hillside — it's basically the highest point on the property. Because of that, the container was not put on any kind of a stand.
There was a small rock garden right outside the barn that was slightly elevated. We leveled off a 4-foot-square area there for the tank.
That corner of the barn is also right where the downspout from one side of the roof is. That will make it a short distance to route the downspout to the tank of our rainwater collection system.
Next, we built a pallet out of scrap pressure-treated wood for the container to go on. This gives the container a solid base and gets it up just a little higher, making it easier to access the garden hose spigot we will add.
The front of the pallet has a notch around the drain port, which will make it easier to access the garden hose spigot later.
View a video demonstration of Step 1.
Step 2: Modifying the Tank Fill Port Cap
Next, we need to modify the inlet of the tank so that we can get the rainwater in, without letting in leaves or anything else.
The fill port in the top of the rainwater storage tank is a 6" screw-on cap. Just removing the cap leaves a nice big hole to let things in, but even animals could get in there if you did that!
So, we decided to modify the cap to include a screen, make it self-cleaning, and keep out mosquitoes.
First, we notched out the edge of a 4" PVC pipe cap wide enough for a gutter downspout using a jigsaw.
Next, we centered the 4" pipe cap on top of the 6" cover. We then drilled holes around the inside edge so we could use pop rivets to connect the two. After trying a rivet, we realized the rivets we had were exactly the wrong length, so we used some sheet metal screws instead.
Then we drilled through both the pipe cap and cover with a 3" hole-saw. That kept a half-inch lip all the way around the inside of the pipe cap for the screws that held both parts together, AND as a place for our "Coarse-Filter" to rest.
To keep large items out of the storage tank, we needed some sort of screen. Since we had some aluminum "gutter-guard" around, we traced the 4" pipe cap onto it with a marker, and the cut the inside of the line with a tin snips. We then had an aluminum circle that fit inside the pipe cap, and would rest on the ledge inside. I friction-fit in place just fine, but you could add some sealant to make it more permanent if you wanted.
Lastly, we cut some scrap fiberglass bug screen to a little bigger than the cap. We simply laid the screen over the 6" hole, and then screwed the cap back on top right over it. That way, there is both the aluminum coarse filter to keep leaves out and screen to keep out mosquitoes.
View a video demonstration of Step 2.
Step 3: Converting the Drain to Garden Hose Connection
The 275 gallon IBC features a 2" drain port on the front bottom. It has a cheap plastic ball shut-off valve, and a 2" plastic cap that gets screwed on to keep it from leaking.
Rather than use a number of PVC pipe adapters to get down to a garden hose, we reused the 2" cap and some spare plumbing parts we had kicking around.
To start with, we had a brass spigot with 3/4" NPT (National Pipe Thread) male connection on it. Standard threaded pipe is tapered, so the farther you screw it in, the bigger it gets. This helps make solid, water-tight connections.
We drilled a 3/4" hole through the center of the 2" drain cap.
Next, we stuck the pipe end of the brass spigot through the cap, added some sealant at the joint, and then threaded on a nut from the back side. Since the hole was the right size to start with, the sealant and tightened nut made a solid connection on the cap.
We then headed back outside. Using plumbers putty (you could also use teflon tape) we threaded the drain cover with spigot onto the drain.
We decided to have the brass spigot rotated clockwise part-way, because the open big drain valve made it harder to grab the knob on the spigot.
Then we connected a garden hose, ran it downhill, and tested our flow from the rainwater collection system.
View video demonstrations of Step 3, Part 1 and Step 3, Part 2.
Step 4: Gutter Work
Now for the tough part — modifying the gutters and routing them to the rainwater storage container.
For the gutter closest to the rainwater storage container, it was pretty straightforward. We cut the downspout a few feet above the container, and then set the cut-off piece to the side for later use.
We also wanted to collect all the water from the other side of the roof as well. To do that, we added two elbows to snake the downspout around the back of the barn, and then a long section of angled downspout sloping downward, towards the rain container.
We had to figure out the best way to connect both gutter downspouts together to combine the water going to the rainwater storage container. After a little thought, we decided that the best way to do it was to use another short piece of gutter. Not only did we need to combine both downspouts, but we also needed to move the water sideways a couple of feet and then send it to the IBC. A short piece of open gutter could accept both downspouts and extend to the IBC tank. It would then have an elbow and short downspout going directly to the the fill port on top of the tank.
I had never worked on any gutters before, so I got a lesson on working with aluminum, sealing it, and in the mind-set of how water flows. About half an hour later, I had created my very first custom gutter. I then attached it to the wall of the barn with some long screws, and a slight slope towards the rain container.
We now had a rain collection system — two gutters, whose downspouts combined into a short gutter, which lead directly to the rainwater storage.
View a video demonstration of Step 4.
Step 5: Learning Experiences and Future Improvements
A little back of the hand math, ball-parking the size of the roof compared to the volume of the container, told us that one inch of rain would be enough to fill the whole container. Sure enough, when we finally did get some rain, less than an inch filled it most of the way up!
After we installed the gutter modifications, we cleaned the gutters real well. This is a typical asphalt shingle roof, and the grit from the shingles does come off. We flooded the gutters, and rinsed the entire roof, with the output of the gutters diverted from the storage tank. Next, we are adding gutter-guard screens to the full length of both gutters, as well as our short section that combines both downspouts.
Although a metal roof is ideal for rainwater collection, this building was re-roofed not long ago with the asphalt shingles. The water will be used for general irrigation, and not for watering animals or human consumption.
Because of the angle and direction that the downspout goes into container, it makes a good point to add an extra section of downspout to just "overshoot" the storage tank. For example, that's what we did when we washed the roof and cleaned the gutters. Some people use a "roof-wash" system — that's a way to divert water away from your rainwater storage container at the beginning of a rain storm, so that the water washes the roof clean, once it's clean, the system then allows water to go to the storage container. This is often accomplished with a spring-loaded bucket contraption that uses the weight of the water filling a bucket to then connect the diverter to the water storage container.
If we want to add a "roof-wash" diversion device to the system, we will most likely add it right before the tank's fill port.
One thing that I learned the hard way on this project: DON'T fill the tank all the way up with water for experimenting! When I was putting up the short section of gutter, I had to work around the tank. I didn't have a good place to lean the ladder, and I was working at odd angles with the screw driver to put up the gutter. If I had just left the tank empty, we could have simply moved it out of the way!
After the first big storm and some hot weather, we noticed that the shape of the tank bulged and distorted a bit. It's not that it was going to rupture or anything — mostly it just looked really bad. Many of these tanks come "caged." which helps them keep their shape and makes it possible to stack them when full in warehouses. Since this container isn't caged, we are thinking right now that we will box it in with wood, to not only help it keep it's shape, but also make it match the barn and chicken coop. The wood boxing could also keep out sunlight, to prevent algae growth.
This is the first large rainwater collection system I have worked on. It is slightly experimental, and I expect that we will add some improvements in the future. In the meantime, I hope that our work on this system gives you some great ideas on how you might want to collect your own rainwater!
UPDATE: Early Summer 2013
We are increasing the size of the rainwater storage system to TRIPLE the original capacity and building it on a raised platform for better water pressure and gravity flow.
For more photographs of this rainwater collection system, visit my project page on Instructables.
T-shirts accumulate in our lives through all the usual channels: the impulse buy at a sporting event, the staff shirt from your old summer camp, the badge of honor from each 5k you’ve run, and maybe even the occasional shirt you caught at a parade (or is that just me?). No matter how they arrived, they’re here now. With only seven days in a week and a boss that may frown upon casual Monday-Friday, how do we get enough wear out of t-shirts we can’t seem to throw out?
Two projects aimed at repurposing these wardrobe staples can help you get your old favorites out of the closet and back into daily life. These projects are designed for a beginner or novice sewer, with a minimum of tools; stuff your homestead probably already has.
The Market Bag
For this project you’ll need:
A sewing machine (or needle and thread)
1. Lay your shirt on a flat surface. Iron if necessary to remove most wrinkles (some are okay).
2. Following the sleeve seam, cut off the sleeves, leaving the seams intact.
3. Cut U-shaped hole, centered on the neck opening, into the shirt. Make this as wide and deep as you prefer. I like about 8 inches wide and 10 inches deep.
4. Turn the shirt inside out. Use straight pins to hold bottom of shirt closed.
5. Stitch along bottom of shirt following closely to hem. I used a double zigzag stitch, but your preference is fine.
6. To make handles thicker, fold open arm hole (handle) onto itself, facing inward. Stitch together. This will create a natural pleating, which I left as it folded. For a more finished look you could run a stitch all the way around the handle/arm opening.
7. Use and enjoy at the farmers market, library, carrying picnic supplies or as a great scrap bag for leftover fabric and yarn.
The Bed Buddy Pillow
For this project you’ll need:
An old bed pillow (standard works best for most shirt sizes)
Sewing machine (or needle and thread)
1. Lay your shirt on a flat surface. Iron if necessary to remove most wrinkles (some are okay).
2. Starting at the bottom of the sleeve, measure a straight line up the side of the shirt. Cut sleeves off on this line to create a (mostly) rectangular shirt.
3. Turn the shirt inside out. Use straight pins to hold sides of shirt closed. Pin neck hole closed along a straight line just below the collar.
4. Stitch along sleeve line of shirt and neckline. I used a double zigzag stitch, but your preference is fine.
5. Turn shirt, now a mostly closed rectangle, right side out. Stuff with bed pillow.
6. Pin bottom hem closed and sew (carefully) using machine or hand stitch.
7. Sit back and relax with your new fluffy companion. This technique would make an excellent dog bed, too.
Bringing order to your dresser may be the biggest benefit of crafting with T-shirts, but these two projects are just the tip of the iceberg. From market bags to pillow, quilts to rugs, there’s really no end to what you can make with the (seemingly) never ending supply of T-shirts we all have lying around. Pick out an old favorite and give it new life with a 15 minute transformation. Who knows what uses you’ll find for them on your homestead?
Candis Calvert is a (sub)urban homesteader seeking ways to use what she already has to create useful and fun new things. Never content to buy new when old is available; she hopes to wring all the life out of everyday items through creative repurposing.
See more of her adventures at www.adventuresofcactusandfuschia.blogspot.com.
A very wise man once told parables for the people around him “who had eyes to see," and I find myself thinking about this phrase more and more often as new developments unfold in the world. Many of our friends and neighbours are blind to the black clouds threatening the comfort and security we’ve taken for granted for generations. And whether or not these clouds really do bring trouble, why take chances when wisely applied self-reliance preparations completed now could save a lot of grief if your part of the world does become unsettled.
I was 16 when I took my first major step towards self-reliance and it’s been the driving theme of the last 34 years of my life ever since. It all started when I was foolish enough to buy a 1973 Honda CB350 motorcycle that I thought was in good condition. As it turns out, the bike burned a quart of oil every 200 miles and badly needed an engine rebuild. But rather than pay a mechanic to do the work, I realized that for less money I could buy all the tools and parts needed, then do the work myself. “How hard could it be," I thought. I’d also get to keep the tools afterwards, all while gaining hands-on knowledge that would serve me well on other jobs.
A couple of months later, with a well-worn and greasy Chilton’s repair manual on the work bench in my parents’ garage, I fired up the bike with it’s new pistons, rings, valves and seals. It ran perfectly for thousands of miles after that and it taught me a lesson that I believe everyone needs to consider: Self-reliance is empowering – enormously empowering – and for much more than just getting a motorcycle to run properly.
I strongly suspect that self-reliance skills will cease to be the optional lifestyle choice they’ve been for decades. Do you really want to rely completely on systems and organizations for the food, water and warmth you and your family need? The entire western world is financially precarious, socially uneasy, and technologically vulnerable in ways we’ve never seen before. Do you have eyes to see this? I hope so. Just Google the term “survival” and you’ll find results from the more than 33,000 searches done on this one word each month.
Equipping people to make wise self reliance preparations is something I’ve been privileged to do here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS since 2001, and opportunities to share my self-reliance outlook are growing as more and more people beyond us back-to-the-landers find themselves with “eyes to see."
'The Survival Summit' Online Survival Prep Seminars
Between January 20th and 25th 2014, I’ll be one of 25 international experts delivering survival preparation seminars online at an event called The Survival Summit. Organizers are expecting 75,000 to 100,000 people to register for free to watch video seminars on all aspects of survival preparation, including my own 75 minute video seminar on root cellar construction and operation. You can sign up for free here. I’ll be explaining how to build different designs of cellars as well as cellaring options that cost little or nothing.
So if the idea of energy-free food storage strikes you as a wise thing for you and your family, then join me by video as I explain everything I know about the self-reliant root cellar option and how to make it part of your life. I’m the last video on the summit roster, but you can check out the entire schedule of topics here.
Steve Maxwell is co-author of The Complete Root Cellar Book. Get how-to and self-reliance answers directly from Steve at www.SteveMaxwellHowTo.com.