Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jadon's Baptism Blanket: Embroidery Tutorial

Jadon is going to be baptized in November, so I decided to make a baby blanket to commemorate the special event. I don't want this blanket to be big and bulky, so I'm not going to put any quilt batting in it. One side will be white cotton with some embroidery on it, and the other side will be light blue fleece. The edging is going to be a satin white ribbon.

Here's all the materials sitting on my desk. Say hi to Jon, working on his computer in the background!
I love the white cotton I found because it has a tiny circular pattern on it. I don't want just plain white, but at the same time, I also need to avoid a fabric that would distract from the embroidery.

I sketched a lot of ideas before I figured out what I wanted to embroider on the blanket. I finally decided upon Jadon's name and the date of the baptism.

I know that I want the embroidery in one of the corners of the blanket. I only own one size hoop at the moment, so my design has to be contained within the wooden circle pictured above.

Luckily, the fabric is slightly see-through, so I can simply trace my design onto the white cotton with a pencil.

If you want to embroider a thin line, you thread the needle so that only one strand of embroidery thread is woven into your fabric. However, I want a nice thick line of thread so that my words are easy to read. Two strands will be woven into every stitch.

I've never been taught how to embroider properly, so I just make up stitches that give me the effect I think that I want. I have no idea what the stitches are called, or even if they have names at all. As far as I can tell, the stitch I want to use for Jadon's blanket is most like a "chain stitch" (thank you, Google image search!).

To create this stitch, you start with the classic "up-down" steps of hand sewing. But before you pull the thread tight all the way, you guide the needle up between the two strands of thread. 

Then you pull everything tight.

You continue to sew up and down, always coming up inside the two strands of the previous stitch. It quickly creates a nice chain of stitches.

Here's the first word, done! I need a little more time to finish the rest of the embroidery design before I can put the front and back fabrics together and add the satin edging.

Stay tuned for blanket completion in the days to come.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Homemade Cleaners: Cheap, Natural, and Really Work

This summer I started using homemade cleaners. It all started when I saw these two pictures on Pinterest:

Both of the captions explained how you can use vinegar to clean up your subborn bathroom buildup. My bathroom sure was in need of a major cleaning, so I gave it a try. I couldn't believe how well it worked. I could actually see fizzing bubbles coming off our showerhead immediately after I attached the baggie of straight vinegar. Letting the tub soak in water, vinegar, and some dish soap helped stains come off with just a little bit of scrubbing.

Later on in the summer, my husband and I took a weekend roadtrip. When we got back, I discovered a little trail of tiny ants going across our countertop, into our sink, and down the disposal. Knowing that ants leave little oily scent trails for other ants, I made sure to wash everything down carefully with a sponge and dishsoap. But hour after hour, the ants kept returning. A friend suggested washing my countertop with vinegar instead of soap. After one wipe-down, no more ants! And I was happy that the vinegar didn't leave any smell after it dries.

Since I was pregnant this summer, I was more than happy to use these natural cleaning methods. I started looking up other homemade cleaning solutions online. I bought some cheap-o spray bottles from Walmart, and came up with my own little stash:

I decided to write the recipes for each solution on the bottles to make refilling easier. Here's the recipes I decided to try (and am really happy with so far):

Furnitiure Polish: Two parts olive oil, one part lemon juice (goes on a little greasy, but wipe down with a cloth, and it's all good)
Power Cleaner: Undiluted white vinegar (for really tough stuff)
Glass Cleaner: Equal parts water and rubbing alcohol, plus a little white vinegar (looks a little streaky at first, but dries awesome)
General Cleaner: Equal parts water and white vinegar

Does anyone else out there use homemade cleaning supplies? Even scrubbers, etc? I'm always looking for ideas, and I bet there's some good ones out there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Did you know THIS about Breastfeeding?

My little family just got back from our first real weekend road trip. We spent five days in Pella, Iowa at our denomination's regional presbytery meeting. Jon got to listen in on the official business with the pastors while I enjoyed a day out and about with the ladies. Of course, Jadon had to tag along, too. I couldn't believe how good he was! He still had his normal fussy baby moments, but he managed to be asleep at all the right times. It's such a treat now to eat an entire meal without a baby on my lap!

On the ride home, I finally finished the book Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods. I started it when I was past my due date and haven't had time to return to it since Jadon's birth. Picking it up again, I was particularly interested in the breastfeeding chapter since I have recently entered breastfeeding mommahood. The benefits of breastfeeding are widely known, and I'm convinced that it's just about the best investment I can make in my son's current and future health.

This book exposed me to loads of interesting breastfeeding facts, some I already knew, and many I didn't. I decided to share a few of my favorites.

First, my body actually changes the composition of my milk as Jadon eats. As a baby starts eating, the milk is more watery. It can quench thirst if the baby feeds for only a few minutes. However, if the baby is really hungry, the longer he or she feeds, the more fatty the milk becomes. This will fill the baby up with a more satisfying meal.

Second, my body protects Jadon's from infection and sickness through breast milk, and through a process I never knew before:
The immunity breast milk provides is tailored, reflecting the unique ecology you and your baby share. Within hours of encountering a pathogen, you produce antibodies which pass to your baby through your milk. That's why it's natural for mothers to nuzzle, rub, kiss, and even lick their babies. You gather her germs with your mouth and skin, so that your breasts can make antibodies she needs (page 143).
While I can't say I've ever had the urge to lick Jadon, I do find myself rubbing my nose on his adorable face many times throughout the day. To think this natural, loving gesture actually lends itself to protecting Jadon's body from getting sick! Amazing.

Third, the flavor of my breast milk is affected by what I eat. If I am adventurous with food while breastfeeding, Jadon's palate will be more broad. Babies who are exposed to more flavors may be less picky about food as they transition to solid foods. Nina Planck, the author, encourages mothers not to worry about their milk tasting "funny." In fact, she states that "advice to avoid strong or spicy foods is nonsense" (page 146).

Fourth, and last for now, 50 percent of the calories in breast milk come from fat. These fats are extremely important for the baby's brain development. Breastfed babies tend to have better intellectual, visual, and motor skills than their formula-fed peers. Furthermore, most of the fat in breast milk (60-80 percent!) comes from the woman's fat stores in her body, not from her most recent meal. This is one of the reasons that woman pack extra fat stores in their hips and thighs during pregnancy; they need the extra fat for feeding their baby. It's also the reason why breastfeeding mothers tend to return to their prepregnancy weight faster than women who do not breastfeed. Score!