"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Thursday, May 7, 2015


This post is for the moms over at DS who asked for it!

These soakers take all of 15 minutes to cut and sew if you are an experienced seamstress.  Or tailor.  Whatever.  And while knit wool soakers are really cute, hours and hours versus 15 minutes... laziness wins for me!  Also, I use preshrunk sweaters for these, so if dh accidentally tosses them in the washing machine, all is not lost.

In this post I am going to share the secrets I've learned for sewing these covers SUPER FAST, with the fewest tears, and broken needles. 
There is a great free pattern on the web (google Katrina Soaker pattern), but the above soakers are made from the Sweet Baby pattern by Wired Up Designs on hyenacart.com.  I'm not affiliated with Wired Up in any way, but I've tried at least two dozen free and bought patterns for wool diaper covers, and this is the only one I use anymore.
So, you'll need a wool sweater, a pattern, and a sewing machine:
Secret #1: Only use REALLY GOOD wool for these.  Most thrift stores charge the same for junky wool sweaters and name brand wool.  I am using a 100% Italian Merino cardigan for the first soaker here.  It is super-soft and pre-shrunk by somebody.  I machine washed and dried it prior to cutting to be sure it wasn't going to shrink any more.  It is still VERY thin, though fully felted, as many fine merino sweaters will be!
Secret #1.5: Be sure to SNIFF the sweater really well before you buy it.  If it smells very perfume-y or you get even a hint of mothballs- pass.  I don't care if it's Niemen Marcus.  You won't get that smell out.
Cut out your pieces.  I consider 2 full body pieces a must.  You can use 1 layer if your sweater is super-thick, and you can stitch a second layer only in the wet zone, but for a beginner, just go for 2 layers of a thin or medium-thickness sweater.  The cover will be bullet-proof and the finished product will look more polished than a wonky double-wetzone.
2 body layers, 1 waistband, 2 leg cuffs.
(Now, you CAN cut a waistband and leg cuffs from the body of your sweater.  If you do that, follow the pattern.  You will cut a double tall waist band and leg cuffs, fold in half,  and stitch the long edges to keep everything from shifting while sewing to the main soaker piece.)
Secret #2: If your sweater has a nice, ribbed waistband, as most sweaters do, use that for both the waistband and the leg cuffs.  See how stretchy it is?
Plus, a 1-layer cuff or waist is easier to sew on to the body of the soaker.  (Just don't discard the excess ribbing.  It is very useful for other upcycled projects.  You may find another sweater that doesn't have ribbing.)
Secret #3: Because your ribbing is so stretchy, cut it SHORTER than the pattern calls for, otherwise your waist and leg holes may gap.  Like so:
That pattern piece says "Sweetie Bums," but it is actually the Sweet Baby pattern.   

These leg cuffs actually came from the neck band of my sweater because the waistband was too short.  Do NOT attempt this unless you are pretty experienced with sewing stretch fabrics.  The stretch is diagonal on these pieces here, and it makes it sorta tricky.  If you are a beginner, just use a sweater with a long/ big enough waistband for both the waist and legs of your soaker!

The reason I like the angled leg cuffs is that the leg opening are larger, but the cuffs pull in nice and snug, and this gives the soaker an overall trimmer fit than most pull-on soakers in this style.
If your baby is already here, the only reason NOT to cut your waist and leg cuffs shorter is if your baby is incredibly chubby, and you can't find a diaper cover that doesn't squish her thigh and tummy rolls.  In which case, use your stretchy ribbing and cut the proper size!

***Now, if you are a beginner, you may want to sew both your main soaker pieces together so they don't shift while sewing on the legs and waist.  I don't ever do this because I am lazy.  Make sure both pieces are right side out, and stitch all the way around the outside edges of the pieces with a long straight stitch, gently (GENTLY) stretching the fabric as you sew.  This is generally what you do when sewing knits. 

After this, pull your soaker pieces on the edges to make sure your stitching is not too tight.  It shouldn't decrease the stretchiness of the fabric.  If you pull the edges, and find your stitching is stopping you from pulling, and if you stretch the fabric any further, you break the stitching...  STOP.  You need a longer stitch, OR you need to stretch the fabric more as you sew, OR your machine tension is too tight.  Do the first 2, and if things don't improve, you might need to take your machine where you bought it and ask them to show you how to loosen the tension just a bit.  I wouldn't rely on your manual or google for this.  It is tricky.***  (Now, if you really want to get this done, and your sweater only cost $1, and your baby is due to wake up in 20 minutes, just sew the whole thing with a medium zigzag stitch.  It will sidestep your  machine's tension issue, but the seams will wear out sooner.  That's why a cheap thrifted sweater is so nice.  No need for perfectionism!!!)

Sorry I have no pictures of the above, but like I said, I am too lazy to sew my main pieces together into 1 piece.  It does make the next steps easier, though.

(The rest of the steps use a 1/4" seam allowance.  Don't forget to secure your seams by backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam!)

Most, or all, soaker patterns will instruct you to sew the side seams of your main soaker (BUT DON'T), then sew the side seam of the leg cuffs, (BUT DON'T), and then "set-in" the cuff into the leg opening like you would a sleeve in an arm hole.  Lazy sewers will go to great lengths to avoid set-in sleeves because they are tricky and unpleasant. 

Here's what we'll do instead, which is Secret #4: Lay your main soaker pieces face up on your work surface and then pin your leg cuff along the leg opening, right sides together.  Sew like so:
Bad pic... but the three layers are going through the machine here.
 Don't forget to stretch your cuff to match the leg opening if you cut it short. 
And here's what it looks like from the right side:

Add the other cuff just the same way:
NOW sew ONE side seam, which includes the leg cuff and main soaker:
Instead, take your waist band, and pin it right sides together with your soaker.  Sew, remembering to stretch it to fit if you cut it shorter than the pattern:
OK, see how nicely it is coming together?  That step saves you from having to sew the waistband on like the cuffs, set-in.
Line up the second side seam: cuff, body, and waist band:
I pinned that just to show you... I usually would just go for it :).  (Also, ignore that seam across the butt of the soaker.  I had to piece the 2nd main soaker layer because my sweater was so small.)

 Isn't that pretty?
 This is the seam allowance of the last side seam... trim diagonally at the top (waistband).  This will ensure your seam allowance doesn't show from the front.  Sorry if that is confusing....
And here you see the angled leg cuff.  You don't need to trim the seam allowance because the angle of the cuff hides it:
On a soaker leg cuff that is cut straight, instead of angles, you'll want to trim the seam allowance here, too, to prevent it from peeking out while being worn.
 I do not finish my seams on the inside because they won't fray if the sweater is felted .  Also, when I have overlocked or zigzagged them on the edges, they get somewhat stiff and bulky.  And scratchy.  So I use really soft sweaters and leave them alone.  I think this is most comfy for babies.
Although this pic shows the waistband seam, and it is very obvious, it is much more subtle when it is on a baby.
And another soaker, 2 layers of a thick cashmere with the rest of the merino waistband:
You may be able to tell that I did not trim as much off the waistband here.  The waist doesn't pull in as much as on the soaker above.  It should still be enough to prevent gaps.
The pink cashmere sweater didn't have a stretchy ribbed waist.  It had a firm edging like this:
The cuffs were fine for the legs, but I wanted a stretchier waist.  So I used the leftover ribbing from the first sweater.  Waste not, want not!
Happy sewing.  Leave any questions in the comments and I will try to get to them asap.
"If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?" ~Milton Berle

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September Cooking Class Recipes

Here are the recipes from this month's CHAO cooking class!  Kids can make these yummy, nutritious snacks with minimal adult supervision.  Always helpful for the busy homeschooling mom....

No-Bake Chocolate Cookies
 1 bag chocolate chips
1c peanut butter or almond butter
2c rolled oats
2/3c raw, unsweetened coconut shreds
optional, 1/4c sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or chopped walnuts

Line a plate or cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Place chocolate chips and nut butter in glass bowl.  Melt in microwave about 45 seconds, or in a pan of hot water on the stove.  When melted, stir thoroughly and add all other ingredients.  Drop onto parchment paper by the spoonful.  Freeze or refrigerate until set.  ENJOY!
Sneak licks at home... but not at cooking class!!!!!

Chia Gel Drink

2T chia seeds
1c juice
optional, 1/8t stevia extract powder

Place chia seeds in a bottle with tight-fitting lid.  Pour juice on top and cap.  Shake vigorously for 2 minutes.  Place in refrigerator till ready to drink.  Before drinking, give it a good shake to disperse the seeds evenly.  Add the stevia if your juice is too tart.

About chia seeds:
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds, smaller than millet and typically contain 20% protein, 34% oil, 25% dietary fiber, and significant levels of antioxidants. The oil from chia seeds contains a very high concentration of omega-3 fatty acid - about 64%.  When soaked in water, they release a gel that is highly nutritious.  They do not need to be ground (or even chewed) in order for the omega-3's to be utilized by the body.

Ants on a Log 
Ivy made her own snack today!
1 bunch celery
1/2c peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter
1/4c raisins or cranberries

The ultimate easy-to-make kid snack!!!

Cut your celery into lengths and wash.  Spread with nut butter; top with raisins or cranberries.  Yum!

Coming in November: Banana Boats and Crazy-Pop Popcorn 
(No classes in October due to Archbishop's Mass and Luncheon) 
"Above all, the child must be well fed!" ~Charlotte Mason

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's Not Easy Being Green

"Be careful about reading health books.  You may die of a misprint."  
 ~Mark Twain

 Sometimes at night I lie awake and think about my blog- about how much I enjoy writing and how much I miss working on it.  But I'm a perfectionist.  I don't come back because I don't have time to post everyday, or to post lots of lavish photographs and amazing recipes.

Having my 4th child, going wheat-free on top of dairy-free, and moving 2 times in 1 year really KICKED MY BUTT.  I have to prioritize.  I can't attachment parent, night nurse, and make 90% of our food, plus homeschool and volunteer, AND record it all on an amazing blog.  No siree.  Superwoman has left the building.

But today I had an idea to get myself blogging again with a little regularity. 

I love food; I love organics; I love all things green.

But you know what I hate?  

Spending money on nifty 'green' or 'organic' items only to hate, hate, hate them.  I can only assume, dear reader, that you, too, lust and obsess over x item you LOVE and DESIRE, only once you possess it, you are disgusted no one told you X, Y, and Z.  And had you known said xyz, never would you have parted with your own "green" for it.

 It's the same line of reasoning that I go for when I read only the 1 and 2 star reviews when I'm shopping- anybody can "love" something, but I'd rather know what people hate and decide if I can live with the drawbacks.

So once or twice a week I'm going to review green things I hate.

Water bottles, supplements, organic baby items, cloth diapers, etc.

If it's green and I hate it, you're gonna hear about it.   

"Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing."  
~Redd Foxx

Monday, June 10, 2013

Soaked Muesli

"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. "

No big deal.  It only took 3 hours of trial and failure on the bedtime routine to buy myself 30 minutes for a post here... compliments of
See the tear on her little cheek?

Anyway, sorry for the no-explanation-of-where-I've-been-for-six-months, but food is much more interesting than my 2013 has been, so here's the skinny on Soaked Muesli instead.

I've noticed the 'Refrigerator Oatmeal' trend in foodie cyberspace and I'm here to set the record straight: 

1) Eating raw grains for breakfast is called muesliNot oatmeal.

2) Rolled oats are not  raw.  They've been steam rolled. 

3) Refrigerating uncooked oatmeal is convenient and delicious but it could be so much *more* if folks would do it *right.*

Soaking grains for the neophyte healthy eater seems odd, daunting, and downright frustrating.  I know when I had freshly weaned my husband off white flour that the addition of soaking our whole grains was enough to make me hyperventilate so I just hit my mental *delete* button and went on with life.

 However, the concept and the 'why' behind it kept popping up every now and then.  Over the course of several years, I wrapped my mind around the why, then the how, and slowly incorporated soaking into my preparation of grains (and nuts), while refusing to let myself become a perfectionist or paranoid crazy person over it.

Enough for a couple breakfasts and snacks for us- but for my friend with 11 kids, this
countertop full of oats will be a single meal!!!
Long story short: soaking grains properly before cooking or consuming them raw makes them more digestible, increases their nutrition, and *may* prevent or mitigate allergic reactions, depending on the person.
Husband-friendly Muesli: add raw coconut sugar and mini chocolate chips, plus (shudder) a dash of organic half-and-half
To soak oatmeal is simple, since it is partly cooked.  But it must be done at room temperature.  Refrigerating the oats after mixing cuts short the process.  So *try* to make this up in the morning.  Then let it sit till bedtime and pop your jars or covered bowls in the fridge then. 
 Soaked Muesli
per serving:
1/2 c oats
1-2 t chia seeds (or ground flaxseed, or both)
1-2T almond flour (for protein, or sub any combo of nuts and other seeds)
1/2 sliced banana
1-2T raisins (or mini chocolate chips)
1/4t cinnamon (skip this if you go chocolate-y)
1T yogurt or water kefir
8- 12 oz. milk of your choice (I use half milk/ half water if I'm low)
1-2t extra sugar, if you must
ch-ch-ch-chia! (Remember?)
Place oats in bottom of a 16 oz jar or bowl.  (This makes a lot but we eat big breakfasts.)  Dump everything on top and stir with a chopstick.  If you need more milk, go ahead.  The ingredients really gel up, so make this pretty watery.  If you really want to increase the enzyme activity going on during the soak, you can warm up your milk/ water-and-milk before adding it.
Almond flour (just finely ground almonds): protein you don't need to chew!  Great for 3-year-olds.

Top with a lid and let sit at room temperature for about 12 hours.  Then refrigerate and enjoy cold on a hot summer morning.

You can technically let this sit out for 24 hours, but if the room is warm-ish, and you've added fruit or sugar, your muesli might get pretty sour and ZING-y.  I like to let it sit out during cold weather and then warm the muesli really gently before eating it.
 So, other than being delish, what's the best thing about Soaked Muesli?  It uses up extra kefir:
A jar of the home-made probiotic 'water kefir' that is taking over my life kitchen.
 I've been making water kefir, which is a non-dairy version of the liquid-y yogurt-y probiotic drink that more and more people are drinking and more and more regular stores are carrying.  Unfortunately, like yogurt, most of the kefir you get commercially is straight-up junk.  You can add small amounts to soaking grains to break down the phytase. 

More than you wanted to know:

Phytase is an anti-nutrient that is, traditionally, broken down before grains are consumed.  Before modern man invented commercial yeast, quick-cooking rice, and other strange things, grains could only be consumed after breaking them down, a la sourdough bread (for wheat) or traditional Mexican nixtamal (for corn) or traditional Middle Eastern salt-soaking (for rice). 

 Really picky foodies will probably balk at the way I soak rolled oats, but since rolled oats are not truly raw, it breaks down faster than most other grains (i.e. it does not need to soak a full 24 hours like rice or several days like wheat or spelt). 

I've heard internet rumors that you can do this muesli with steel-cut oats and simply increase both soaking times, but I probably won't try that till my rolled oats run out and I feel too cheap to replace them before using up my steel-cut.
Ridiculously delicious coconut kefir makes this recipe out-of-this-world scrumptious.
You can learn more about kefir and how to make it at www.culturesforlife.com, if your interest has been piqued.

And, to close, an unedited version of my 8 pm kitchen, to prove that I am absolutely no super-mom:

"Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty." 
~Sicilian Proverb

"But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end."
~William Shakespeare

"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. "

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

"New Year's Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual." 
 ~Mark Twain
                        "May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions." 
                                                                       ~Joey Adams

He who breaks a resolution is a weakling;
He who makes one is a fool.
~F.M. Knowles
                    “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."