Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Archive for the category “babywearing”


This will be my last post on this blog and it seems fitting that it’s a “here’s what I learned” post, given that the blog was started in 2012 to chronicle my quest to learn something new every day. If you follow me on my other blog, A Diva Moment, you’ll have read the news about my recent breast cancer diagnosis. As a result of the diagnosis, I am looking to simplify my life. While I have enjoyed blogging here for two years, the first year filled with learning and this past year filled with my quest to have a more organized house, keeping up two blogs isn’t really going to be practical. I will be keeping up my other blog which is where I am keeping friends and family updated on the cancer and its treatment. If you’d like to keep following me, please hop on over there and subscribe.

So this project started at the beginning of September when I decided I wanted to make another mei tai baby carrier for The Little Boss. I’ve made soooo many mei tais in the past 6 years, I was kinda getting bored with the same ol’ same ol’. To change things up, I decided to try my hand at dyeing fabric using natural dyes. I spent about a month collecting all sorts of scraps from the kitchen: onion peels, watermelon rinds, carrot peels, beet greens, celery greens. Pretty much, anything that had color, I stuck it in the color-coded bag and dumped it in the freezer.

Once I had enough raw materials, I set out to make the “dye stuff”. You have to have a ratio of 1:2 of dye stuff to water. So I had about 4 oz of red onion skins, which means I added roughly 8 ounces of water to a pot. Sometimes I had to add more water so that the raw materials were covered by water. Once covered by water, I turned on the burner, brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer for about an hour. At one point, I had all five burners going with dye stuff.

getting the dye stuff ready

I was quite surprised at some of the colors that I got. Regular onion skins produced a very orangish color. Watermelon rinds produced nothing but a major stink! Sweet potatoes were also a giant flop. The red onions, beets and apple peels all made varying shades of pink and red. All of the greens produced a brownish-greenish color. I stored all of the dye in mason jars in the fridge so that they wouldn’t spoil while I got the fabric ready.

Preparing the fabric ended up taking several weeks rather than several days just because I didn’t have as much time as I had anticipated. I was going to be dyeing cotton fabric, which is a plant fiber (as opposed to an animal fiber like wool). Animal fibers accept dye beautifully with no preparation necessary. Plant fibers, on the other hand, need some coaxing in order to be dyed. You have to pre-mordant the fabric, which means you are treating it with something so that it will accept the dye. I chose to use tannin, which is found in acorns. As luck would have it, I happened to be working on this project in the fall, just as the oak trees were shedding acorns like crazy. I initially used the tiny acorns in my yard, but then found another tree in town that was dropping giant acorns that hadn’t yet been picked over by the squirrels. On a very windy day, the babes and I went out gathering acorns. We picked and then shelled 7 pounds of acorns!


In order to get the tannin out of the acorns, you have to boil them and then let them simmer for awhile. I couldn’t find any info on how much water to use, so I just got the biggest pot I had (a 12 qt stock pot), filled it with 2/3 of the acorns and then filled it up with water. The water turned a nice brown color. tannin colored water Theoretically, the acorns still had more tannin in them which could be accessed by boiling them again in water. As such, I bagged them all and dumped them in the freezer for the next dyeing project.

Now that the tannin was ready, I was ready to add my fabric.

Pattern pieces cut, ready to be prepared for dyeing

Pattern pieces cut, ready to be prepared for dyeing

I had the precut pieces for the baby carrier that I had washed in a pH neutral detergent, (at least I think it was pH neutral) and had soaked it in cold water overnight. I removed the fabric from the water and placed it in the cold tannin. This is important. . . you don’t want to shock the fiber by moving it from cold water to hot or vice versa. I brought the pot to a simmer, then let it simmer for about an hour, at which point I turned off the flame and allowed the fiber to cool down in the water. tannin soaked fibre The fiber was removed and washed by hand in the pH neutral soap, then I dumped it into a bowl of cool water while I prepared the next mordant: alum.

Why alum? Well, the tannin helps to prepare the fabric, while the alum helps to make sure the fabric will really accept the dye, thus giving you a more vivid color. The process with the alum was similar to that with the tannin. For 4 ounces of fiber, I used:

4t (20% of the fiber weight) of alum
1 ½ t (6% of the fiber weight) of washing soda
just enough water to cover up the fiber

Again, I brought the water up to a simmer then turned off the heat and let it steep for about 8 hours. The fiber was then rinsed and washed, and mordanted again with alum, rinsed, washed and then hung out to dry.

At this point, the fiber was ready to by dyed . . . finally, the fun could begin. I really had no idea how the colors were going to turn out. Just because the dye looked red, didn’t mean that’s what the final color would look like. I had a very hard time with red dyes, actually. NONE of the dyes I had took well at all. The fabric would look nice and pink, and then when I rinsed it, the color would rinse right out.

Apple dye that didn't take

Apple dye that didn’t take

I even tried heat setting the color by throwing the fabric in the dryer immediately after removing it from the dye pot. . . . .still, no luck. Even the beets yielded nothing! Weird, right? So I had to abandon my idea of red.

The actually dyeing of the fiber was quite similar to the pre-mordanting. The ratio of dye to fiber is 1:1. Again, placing the already soaking fiber in the dye when it was cool, bringing it up to a boil, then letting it simmer for an hour and letting it cool down in the pot overnight.

I did use two more dyes that didn’t come from kitchen scraps: black beans and tumeric. For the black beans, I just saved the water from soaking the beans overnight prior to cooking them. It was kind of a purple-ish color. For the tumeric, I used 2 oz of dried tumeric for every 4 oz of fiber, then added a bunch of water. Wow! That was STRONG smelling, but the color turned out gorgeous!

The final thing that I learned to do was to dye 3 different colors on one piece. It was actually not too hard. I just strung a clothes hanger over the pot, clipped the fabric that was not to be dyed onto the hanger using clothes pins, and let the appropriate amount of fabric dip into the dye. tumeric dye All in all, I was really pleased with how it turned out.

Top to bottom:  onion peel dye, tannin, tumeric dye

Top to bottom: onion peel dye, tannin, tumeric dye

Here are a few pictures of the meitai. I’m totally in love with how this turned out. Not only is it crazy comfortable, the Little Boss likes it and the colors are just what I had in mind. I was going for something fall-like, and I think it worked.

(Shown with a 5 year old (hood down) on the left and a 1 year old (hood up) on the right.)

The two sides of the body dyed slightly differently

The two sides of the body dyed slightly differently

Working on this dyeing project was really fun. Now I’m thinking about other things that I could dye. I’m planning on gathering plant materials in the spring to see how those differ from the food materials. Our yard has a gazillion flowers in it. From April through August, there is always something blooming. I’m thinking that many of the flowers would produce really amazing colors. I’m also planning on trying to use the solar oven again. It sort of flopped because the sun was just lower in the sky by the time I got it built. But, this summer, the babes and I plan on doing all sorts of fun experiments, dyeing included, in the oven!

And thus concludes my final post on this blog. Thank you all for coming along with me on my educational journey. I have learned all sorts of fun, interesting and sometimes useless bits of info, and my house is now much more organized that before. All in all, a winning situation.

The final tally for the organizing:

Total time: 92 hours
Total cost: $200

Blessings to you all!

Day 343 – November 16

My lessons for today were babywearing lessons. I consider myself a very experienced babywearer, having spent most days of the past 5 years wearing someone and having used seemingly every carrier type known to man. I really didn’t think there was anything else to learn. I was wrong.

On the website The Babywearer, there’s a wrapping forum and in that forum, we do carry of the week (COTW), where a carry or a group of carries are focused on for the week. The goal is to learn about new carries and help each other out. It’s how I learned to be a good wrapper. I think I started “playing” along in the 5th COTW, and it’s now on version 13. This week it’s front cross carry (FCC) and front double hammock (FDH). FCC has never been a favorite carry. In theory, it’s a poppable carry, meaning you tie the wrap onto yourself, and you can pop the baby in and out without having to do any untying or retying. It was always a disaster for me and I just didn’t really care for it. For some reason, today, it clicked. I was using a super narrow (15 inches) DIY wrap. The little boss was fussy and so I grabbed the closest wrap and decided to try out FCC. Amazingly, it worked really well, it was comfortable and I wasn’t stuggling to get everything adjusted. I think the secret was the narrowness of the wrap. Generally, the wraps I use are between 24 and 30 inches wide. As you can imagine, that’s ALOT of fabric for a newborn, they tend to get lost in it. The 15 inch wrap was much more manageable. I even tried it with another woven wrap and just folded the whole thing in half . . . again, success. Who knew??!! So this is going to be my go-to carry for running errands. And, it will be easy to tandem wear. I can tie on the wrap, get the toddler on my back, and then pop the little boss in. Voila! Hooray for learning!

The second lesson was a less happy lesson, but good to know, none-the-less. We have ALOT of mei tais at our house. I’m always trying new little variations and tweaks. This time, I decided to try a hybrid ring sling waist. This means that one side has a long waist strap, and the other side has a pair of ring slings that the long strap gets threaded into. In my brain, I thought this would be a great way to have easy adjustment, and I wouldn’t end up with a knot in my back. Alas, such was not the case. The fabric does not adjust easily at all. I think it’s because of the angle that I’m pulling, it just doesn’t work. And, the ring feel weird on my side, and I can’t seem to get it as tight as I would like. This translates into a less supportive carrier. Eh, oh well. I’ll be unpicking the waistband and either adding buckles or adding another strap. You can’t win them all, I guess!

Day 269 – September 11

I was planning on doing the first half of this post as yesterday’s post. I learned how to make a reversible, double-layered ring sling. The problem is, I messed up . . . . the zippered pocket was too high so it ended up being right at the rings (not good), and the rings I used were too small. Sooo, I got to spend some quality time with my seam ripper. Bascially, I just has to rip it all out and start over. Boo! But I finished it today and I’m pretty happy with it. I’m discovering that a double-layer sling is much trickier to adjust than a single layer.

I used a tutorial from Jan’s website, Sleeping Baby Productions. IMO, she’s the ring sling guru since she’s been making them for a very long time, and she has TONS of great baby stuff tutorials on her website. This is the tute that I used. I added an inset zippered pocket, cuz apparently I like to sew zippered pockets! I also did an Eesty-style shoulder (two smallish pleats on the outside and gathered in the center. I used a cotton fabric, I think it’s a batik, that I found at an estate sale, it’s really gorgeous. For the other side, I bought some bright green brocade, that’s also gorgeous. If I wouldn’t have messed up, it would have been a super easy project. Alas, I goofed up.

Here I am modelling it with demo baby.

And a better shot of the brocade.

Today, I learned how to make a fleece sling. Actually, it was just a basic sling, but I used Jan’s instructions here on how to cut out the bulk in the fleece, making it much easier to sew the rings in. This sling is likely going to be for DH to use around the house if he needs to get the LO up quickly, and just for a short time. I’ll also use it to get to and from the car and house. Some of you may be asking, “Why bother putting the baby in a carrier to walk to the car?” Well, when you have 3 other children to wrangle, a diaper bag and any other stuff that may be going to the car, it’s MUCH easier to get there and back if I have two free hands rather than one.

Anyway, I added a crazy little patchwork of fleece scraps at the bottom, just for fun. It’s really longer than I like for it to be, but DH is a good foot and change taller than me, so it will be just fine for him.

Here I am with demo baby.

Now we just need the real baby to come on out so we can us the new slings!

Day 264 & 265 – September 6 &7

September 6 – For some reason, I always manage to be working on projects at the last minute. So right before I go on a trip, I decide that I MUST have this bag or outfit or something. This means that I end up staying up late to finish the project. This time, for the first time every, I didn’t actually finish the bag I wanted to finish. I DID finish 5 other bags, so I guess that’s alright=)

Since I didn’t finish the bag on this trip, I finished it on Thursday. I usually design my own bags or loosely follow a tutorial. This time, I went ahead and bought a pattern since it was cheap and was close to what I wanted. I used Simplicity 2600, but made quite a few changes.

The pattern called for quilting all of the pieces. Quilting is a giant pain, and I didn’t have time, so I skipped that, added interfacing and a lining. This also means I didn’t have to bind all of the interior seams.

It also called for padding in the shoulder straps. I skipped the padding, serged the edges and instead added a little snap on padded section.

The side pockets were converted to zipper pockets .

and I put two non-zip pockets instead of just one.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, now I just need an excuse to try it out. I’ll probably use it as my hospital bag in a few weeks.

September 7 – I have alot of baby carriers. Partly because I’ve had a pile of babies, and partly because I like to sew, so I’m always making new carriers to try out a different technique or to add a different feature. I also have given away a bunch of carriers to people, so I’m always making more to replace the gifted carriers. On The Babywearer, there are a few of us who thought it would be fun to learn about traditional carriers from around the world and either make them or buy them. Last week we used Mexican rebozos. This week we are trying out the African kanga and kitenge. Next week, we are going to try a Russian apron. I’m totally intrigued by this idea, so it should be interested. I happened to have a tablecloth that someone gave to me at a yard sale since it had some holes in it. The embroidery was lovely, so I went ahead and used the tablecloth, patching up the holes where necessary.

This is the apron folded in half and laid straight out. You can see that the top is narrower than the bottom.

A close-up of the nice embroidery.

My little patches.

My decorative stitching used to attach the binding to the top of the apron.

I’m guessing I’ll just be using this with demo baby since I don’t really see how this is going to be comfy with a 25lb 2 year old.

Here’s a link to a webpage showing how the apron would be used.

Day 220 – July 29

I’ve been wanting to make a weighted doll for quite some time, but I never actually got around to it because I couldn’t find a doll big enough that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. A friend posted a tutorial on facebook and got a doll from Wal-mart for about $12. So, I decided to give it a try. It happened today because I’ve having a babywearing meeting tomorrow and need to have a demo doll ready in case the toddler didn’t want up in a carrier. Nothing like a deadline to motivate a project!

Here are the steps as I did them:

  • Remove the head by snipping the zip tie. Cutting the zip tie off proved to be a challenge. I don’t think I had the correct tool, at least not one small enough. I ended up chopping it off with some specialty pliers.
  • Stuff 4 kiddie socks with rocks to use in the arms and legs. (I used river rocks instead of BB’s because they were waaayyyy cheaper!) Stuff a 5th one with a little more for the butt.
  • Tie a knot at the top of the socks with some thread to keep the rocks from falling out.
  • Insert the socks into the arms, legs and butt. I tried just wiggling the socks down into place . . .that was not working well and do I gave up. I found it was much easier to remove the stuffing from the doll, insert the socks, and then restuff. I didn’t end up needing to add extra stuffing, maybe because the rocks took up more space than the bb’s?
  • Weight the head. Here is where I ran into trouble. I bought this expandable spray foam, and filled the head about halfway. An hour later, it seemed to be curing well, so I added a few rocks. Nope. . . they sank to the bottom, and the foam seemed to deflate when the rocks came into contact with it. I shook the head around to make sure the rocks weren’t at the bottom, added some more spray foam, and let it sit for about 2-3 hours. The big that was right neat the opening was dry . . . the rest, not so much. So I just dumped the rocks in, making sure they didn’t sink to the bottom, and then set the heads outside to see if that would help the foam cure better. They were outside for about 3 hours, and still not much drying took place. It has now been 7 hours and it’s still not dry. I don’t think the rocks are going anywhere, but the spray foam is not curing. I’m going to give it till the morning. If it’s not totally dry, I’ll just put a piece of tape at the base of the head and proceed to finish the doll as follows.
  • Pull out the old zip tie and insert the new zip tie.
  • Place the head back on the doll.
  • Situate the head so that the zip tie is right in the groove, then tighten it up, cutting off any excess.

That’s it! A weighted doll. I actually did two because my 3 year old insisted that A) she wanted a big doll (it’s about 20 inches and really looks real!) B) she wanted it weighted. Maybe she’s going to “help” me with the carrier demos? Who knows. Anyway, so now we have two dolls that weigh probably about 4-5 pounds, but it’s dead weight, so it feels more like 8-10 pounds.

We’ll see how well the doll works tomorrow!

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