Category Archives: crafty stuff

How to sew a fitted reversible mask with an opening for a filter

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So, I have been sewing masks since this whole thing started, and I have gotten to the point where I have gotten batch sewing down to a fine science. I sew 10 or 20 at a time, and just keep sewing so I end up with a continuous strong of masks. These is something relaxing about doing really repetitive work that I really enjoy. I swear I was born to work in manufacturing lol.

My total so far in masks is well over 200 by the time I finish the next batch. I have been to the post office more times than the grocery store lately! I have also found a woman within walking distance that is coordinating donations in our area. Did you know that hospitals are providing masks for employees and nurses while they are working, but as soon as they leave the hospital, there are not enough masks for them to take them to get home, to see their families, or to the grocery store? I also didn’t know that retirement homes have enough masks for their staff, but not for residents. So, she has been getting literally thousands of requests. She has been in the news, and papers several times with her organization Canada Sews. Check them out at Canada Sews Website Anyways, after talking to her, it renewed my need to make these.

So, although I love repetitive work, I needed a change, so I thought I would try sewing some fitted masks. But, I wanted to keep them open somehow to allow for a filter to be added. So, this is how I have modified the pattern and process to work.

Here is my pattern I have been using, glad a took a picture yesterday, because I just cut in in half with my rotary cutter by accident 🙂 hopefully you can use the measurements to make your own

I have been using my rotary cutter to cut anywhere from 4-8 pieces at a time. I am still using bedsheets from our linen closet at the linings. (Once again, rewarded for my inability to get rid of things!) For the outside fabric, you need to cut two pieces in reverse.

Start by putting the right sides of the fabric together and sewing the curved edges together.

Then, to make it easier to sew, I pressed the seams open towards one side. I have a serger, so I started serging this seam. Then, open up your fabric and lining and sew the top edge (the one that is sort of scalloped, or has the point) together, being sure your good sides are together. Because I ironed the seams all the same way, when you put them together like this, the seams should be facing opposite ways, so they are not too bulky. Leave a generous seam allowance to leave room for the wire in the next step.

Adding the wire, so you can tighten the mask around your nose makes a huge difference to the fit, so it is worth the time to add. I have been using wire designed for the garden from the dollar store. It comes in a huge spool, and unlike any other sewing supplies these days, there is lots of it in the dollar store. I bend it in the right shape, then use a zig zag stitch to attach it as close to the seam as possible.

The next step is to open up the two layers and finish the side seams. I have been either rolling the seam, or serging the edge, depending on the fabric. As I am sewing the seam, I add the elastic to the outer fabric, like the picture below. Be sure to backstitch a few times to hold it in place

Then, fold it back up, right side together again, and sew the bottom seam right across.

Flip it right side out, and there you go! A reversible mask with open sides so you can add a filter 🙂

The N95 filters are on Amazon for a lot cheaper than masks. Just search for N95 mask filters, and it should come up.

Hopefully, I have explained each step well enough for you to follow. I just checked on the Canada sews website, and they have requests for another 60,000 masks, so I guess I had better keep sewing 🙂

How to sew a mask

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How to sew a mask

I know this is a popular topic right now, and I’ve seen tutorials for crocheted face masks, knitted ones, sewn ones, as well as with fabric bandanas, and elastics. After reading quite a few, I put together the bits and pieces, and figured out a way to piece them together that made sense to me

So let me start by saying that these are not hospital grade masks. They do help protect the wearer from spreading a virus, as well as offer some protection from breathing in particles. So, these are not for medical professionals, but the way I look at it is regular people like myself can use them so I don’t have to take a mask away from someone who really needs it.

I am also giving instructions to make these with an open top so a N95 filter can be inserted into the top. So that they can provide more protection to the wearer. The below is an Amazon listing for the N95 filters, just so you can see.

I started by picking some plain cotton fabric. I washed, dried and ironed it before starting.

I used a cardboard template to cut out two pieces for each mask. One out of plain white cotton, and one out of the patterned cotton. Both pieces measured 23x17cm.

Then I used my serger to serge around all of the edges. This step isn’t necessary, but I figured it would help them last longer, but if you don’t have a serger, just skip this step.

If you put a piece of wire or pipe cleaner at the top, it can be squeezed at the bridge of your nose to hold the mask in place, and limit the amount of air and particles that get in the top. So I found some nice, long twist ties that I thought would work perfect. I ended up using two twist ties in each mask.

I turned down the top hem of the patterned fabric and sewed the twist tie in

And I sewed down the top hem of the plain white fabric, about the same amount.

Then, I put the two layers of fabric, right sides together, lining up the finished edges on both pieces. I also pinned the elastic on both sides of the narrow ends, about a centimetre in looping from the top and bottom (See picture below) I pinned in between the two fabrics so when you turn it right side out, the elastic is already in place.

The two pins below are holding the elastic in place.

Then, I sewed around the sides, and bottom, leaving the top open. I clipped a bit of the excess fabric off the corners. Then I turned it right side out and gave it a quick iron.

I pinned a couple tucks in both sides, and tried to make both sides even. The reason you do these tucks is so when you put the mask on your face, it conforms to the curves of your face .

After I finished making sure the tucks were even and pinned, I top stitched around the sides and bottom to keep the tucks in place and I gave the mask another final iron.

That’s it, I purposely left the top open,so you can tuck in a filter and the fabric expands to cover your face. The twist tie inside lets you squeeze the mask tight around your nose.

I did do a bit of a production run! It’s much easier, and faster to make 10 at once, than make 10, one at a time. I also made little tags to go with the masks. Here are the results of my first production, most of which are already spoken for.

Here is a copy of the information I put with each mask. I basically gave instructions to wash first, the comparison to a N95 mask, and how to wear the mask.

I almost forgot, I did try out making a few smaller masks, hoping to make some that would fit kids, but I honestly have no idea how to size them, so I just trimmed off a couple centimetres off of each edge of the fabric.

Home made Ricotta!

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Home made Ricotta!

I cleaned out both of our freezers and emptied our fridge last week, and I have been pulling stuff out to try out recipes and eat food that had been forgotten. Frequently, we would make grocery store trips several times per week to pick up things, and now, we’ve had to change that! Our fridge has never been so empty!

So, in our fridge, I had saved the leftover creamers and milk from Tim Hortons for the next time at work we had a special treat day, or maybe for a family get together… but it doesn’t look like either of those is going to happen anytime soon, so what do I do with about 50 creamers when no one in our family likes or uses cream? Make ricotta of course!

I started by opening and dumping them all into a saucepan. I used both the milk and cream.

I ended up with just under three cups of cream. Then, I put the cream onto boil at a medium heat. I made sure I stirred frequently until it was almost a rolling boil.

Then, i took it off the heat and I added about two to three tablespoons of lemon juice. Since I haven’t had any fresh lemons in a while 😦 I used the squeeze bottle kind.

I let it sit for about 2 minutes, and it looked like it was starting to curdle.

So, I pored it into some cloth and a strainer and let it drain for a few minutes.

As you can see in the second photo, it started to thicken as it drained. I tightened it into a bag and squeezed as much of the water out as I could.

And opened it back up, and it was actually pretty thick, had a ricotta type texture, and tastes pretty good too!! I think actually next time I would make it with regular milk, or maybe half cream and half milk, because it is very rich made with all cream. We will probably use this on top of pasta, it only made probably 2/3 of a cup. But, I would love trying to make a cheese cake out of home made ricotta!

Now, the question is, what am I going to make with the 50+ empty creamer containers I washed and now have?? Any ideas??

Home Schooling Thoughts

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Home Schooling Thoughts

Hi everyone, 

   I thought I would use this platform to spread some of my thoughts surrounding homeschooling. It’s a hot topic that parents are having to deal with, and there is a whole spectrum of thoughts and emotions surrounding school at home. I have been reading facebook posts, social media comments, and looking at photos of how people are coping and dealing with this new reality, and it’s complicated, so complicated.

   First, I want to share that I am both a teacher and a parent of two teenagers. But, on both fronts, my perspective is the same. Before anything, the mental health of you and your family is what is most important! 

   First thing is first – you and your kids are going to have different comfort zones than someone else’s kids. You have to do what works for you. There are families that are faithfully following a colour coded homeschooling schedule, and work through their day by following that schedule. If that works for you, great, go for it! But for the families that don’t strive on structure, that’s ok too. If you have 5 hours of conference calls in a day and three kids, following an hourly schedule is going to be tough. So, once again, you need to do what is going to get you and your kids through the day. The worst thing you can do is start beating yourself up because you are seeing all of these fantastic things other people are doing to homeschool, and feel crappy because right now, your main goal for the day is to keep the kids from banging on the door while you make it through the conference call. If that’s what your goal is for the day, let’s start there. 

   I’m not going to lie, teachers are not feeling great right now. There are A LOT of unknowns, so please be easy on us too. We didn’t take a course in teacher’s college about teaching during a worldwide pandemic. This is new and scary for us too. This is scary for everyone. Things are changing for teachers on a daily basis, we are sifting through numerous board emails, virtual staff meetings and trying to wade our way through the enormous amount of information and resources that are being thrown our way right now. So, more structured work, linked to curriculum expectations is coming, we are working on it parents, I promise. Your child’s teacher should have reached out to you by now, and they are working hard to put together a learning program for your child. So please be patient, we are trying. In the meantime, let’s put together our resources together, communicate and get this done. Let’s figure out how to teach our kids so that somehow at the end of this, they learn something.  

   So, how do you teach at home? Great question! Let me start by saying I don’t know. Seriously. I’ve been a teacher for over 20 years, and once again, this is a new thing, we have never done this before. I can’t answer that question, but what I would like to do is share some activities you can do with your family that go beyond worksheets. There is so much learning that can happen through games, oral discussions, and hands on activities. I truly believe that if you spend time with your kids, talk to them, ask them to make observations, ask questions, play games, get them to help cook, etc. That is just what they need! You can integrate math and language into most daily tasks, and activities.

   So… the activities I will be sharing will not be worksheets, or assignments, but games, and challenges that I have made for my students and families at my school. That being said, if your family is enjoying the structure of pencil and paper tasks, and printing worksheets is working for you, go for it, you are doing great! If you want to have your child write a journal each day about the challenges, or write a procedure for everything they built, fantastic. But, if not, that’s ok too.

   For every task or challenge, I have tried to include family notes. These notes include ways you can adjust the activity for older or younger kids, and the purpose of the activity. What skill, concept, or expectation is the challenge addressing. 

   Please feel free to ask questions, share with others, and take photos or share what activities worked well for you. I will be trying to share ideas weekly. Hope you enjoy. Don’t forget that we are all doing our best, we are all struggling, and we all need to be easy on ourselves. You are doing a great job, keep telling yourself that. 

Here are the activities and challenges I put together for this week.

Monday – Race to 1000 game

Race to 1000 Math Game

Tuesday – Indoor Scavenger Hunts

Wednesday – Lego Challenges

Thursday – Math target Games

Friday – Brain Training 

Construction Paper Stones

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Every once in a while, I’m going to post one of my more popular posts… this one is always in my top ten most viewed! It is how to make cool looking stones out of scraps of construction paper and white glue.

I first made these years and years ago, when John and I taught at a summer camp together. The process is very simple, dig up some scraps of construction paper…

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Cut a whole pile the same size. The more accurate you are in your cutting, the less sanding you have to do. I had the kids cut out a temple and trace their shape before cutting.you could do round or square, or any shape, but I would keep them on the smaller side, like less than 1 1/2 or 2 inches for sure.

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It works well if you pour the white glue into little disposable cups and glue the construction paper shapes together by dipping our finger in the glue and rubbing it on the paper. Don’t skimp on the glue, in this case, it’s better to use too much.

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Repeat this about 30 times until the paper is layered to the thickness you want. I like the look of when you alternate colours and use a gradual change like from red to orange, to yellow. But, you can also use two or three layers of the same colour or alternate two colours for different looks.

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Here are the ones Dylan Sam and I made…they took about an hour to glue together…and we let them dry for about 4 days…

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Then for the part that the kids were looking forward to… The sanding… We started with 150 grit, then 220 as we got closer to finishing. The technique that I found works the best is to sand all of the edges first…

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Then, start sanding on an angle, so you can see all of the layers. I tried to show you the angle by sanding only two sides for this picture…

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Keep sanding until the shapes look like you want them to. Notice that we did this outside, it does create a bit of dust, so we worked on the grass.

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Here are the ones we finished sanding today…

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Pretty neat eh? The final step was to add a varnish or sealer, and for that step, clear nail polish works wonderfully. Be sure to seal the sides and back too. You can see how it brings out the colours in the photos.

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And here they are finished…

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Crocheted shawl or poncho

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So one of my goals for while we are socially distancing and self isolating is to use up materials I have at home, and finish projects that I have half finished. Which if you knew me, you would know that this could potentially keep me busy for years!

So, I these circles I crocheted for another project, but never finished the project…full disclosure here is that I have no idea what my original project was supposed to be, don’t remember why I crocheted all of these circles lol. Anyways, I found them in my yarn stash, and decided to make them into something.

This is what I started with….

So I decided to sew them all together and make a shawl or poncho. I started by figuring out I should make it about 20” wide, so I taped a line on my table.

Then I used black yarn to stitch the circles together. I laid them all out, and used a whip stitch to join them.

I laid them all out on the table and used the tape as a guide, to make sure it stayed pretty even. Then, as I finished, the edges, I crocheted a row of double crochet to even out the perimeter.

I had to crochet a few small flowers to fill in the bigger sized gaps, then stitched them in and continued the row of double crochet around the outside.

Here is what it looked like as it started to get bigger. I ended up crocheting another double crocheted row around the entire block.

Then I folded it in half and stitched the shoulder seams together.

It’s really hard to take a picture of the finished shawl because it is so dark. But overall, I’m pleased with the way it turned out, and one more half finished project completed!

It’s too bad that I’m not leaving the house to show it off to anyone, and it looks like we’re not going to be going anywhere for at least another month…. at least I will have time to start blogging again!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

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I haven’t written in a LONG time, but thought that this might be a good time to get back at it and share some ideas, and projects. The world is a different place that it was a month ago. I have really been trying to focus on the positive things that are happening in my community, rather than getting suffocated by all of the stuff going on in the news. My family and I are safe, at home.

We will continue to stay at home and not risk ourselves or others for as long as we need to. I’m hoping the same outlook applies to most people. So, I have spent the last couple weeks catching up on unfinished crafts, playing board games with my family, working out, going on walks, sorting cupboards, and taking naps.

So, since all four of us in our family are eating three meals a day, we have agreed that the kids either help cook or do the dishes. Sam and I decided to try a new recipe for chicken legs. You need spices (we used rosemary, sage, and garlic powder) a cup of sour cream, cornflakes, and some chicken (we used chicken legs)

We started by mixing all of the spices together with the sour cream. In another bowl, we gently crushed the cornflakes into smaller pieces.

Then we used a brush to brush the sour cream on pretty thick, to coat all sides of the chicken drumsticks.

Then we coated the drumsticks with a thick layer of cornflakes.

Then, one they were all in the pan we touched up and added some more cornflakes to the areas that needed it. We put them in a pan lined with parchment paper. Next time, I would put them on a wire rack to keep them crunchy. The bottoms did get a little soggy because of the liquid that accumulated in the pan.

Of course, I forgot to take picture of the whole pan right out of the oven, (I’m obviously out of the blogging habit now!) but I did manage to take a photo of the last one before it was eaten.

Overall, it was a good recipe, I would try using sour cream with bread crumbs as well. I normally use eggs to coat the chicken, but the sour cream kept the chicken moist and also was thick enough to stick on a thick layer of the corn flakes.

I’ll work on writing anew posts to share some of my recent craft projects…I just bought aCricut cutter machine, so I’ve been learning and trying out some cool projects. I’ll also see if I can throw in some home school ideas.

Stay safe everyone!

Chicks at Work!!

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As you may or may not know, I am a teacher, currently in the role of teacher-librarian. I don’t tend to post a lot about stuff I do at work, but this is an exception. Last month, I got an incubator and 12 chicken eggs!

To keep the kids interested, i have done a count down, posted the development inside the egg each day, told daily chicken and egg jokes, made paper chickens, built nests, and even had a contest to name the chicks…21 days is a long time to wait for a kid!!

But yesterday, the eggs started hatching, and wow! I am truly amazed by the power of nature. It really is a miracle!

Here are a few pics of the experience, I even recorded one of the eggs hatching! It was Major Fluffy, in case you were wondering….

Notable chicken crafts include my Chicken Mom T-shirt. (I designed it, and a friend who has a Cricut cutter cur it out for me then we ironed it on a T-shirt.)

And I also crocheted a chicken that lays eggs… complete with baby chicks…

Overall, an amazing experience! I’m working on talking John into getting some chickens for the backyard. So far, he is not buying into the idea, but I’m working on him….

Easy salmon dinner

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We tend to get in a little routine with our dinners and make the same thing over and over until we get sick of it. So, I thought I would try to change things up a little and try something new.

We normally eat pan fried salmon, but I came across a package of puff pastry in the freezer, and thought that might be good way to change it up. So I let the puff pastry and salmon thaw for a couple hours.

So I pulled some salmon out of the freezer…Then I fried up some onions…Then I added some spinach to the pan, added a bit of salt, and some dried dill.I rolled out the puff pastry then spooned out the spinach mixture in the middle.

Then, put the salmon pieces on top and put it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, until the puff pastry had browned.

It was really good and surprisingly simple to make. I think I have to file this under ideas good for company. You could make everything ahead of time, keep in the fridge, and pop into the oven when your guests show up.

I feel like I should have added a garnish or something on the side though… maybe a salad would be good on the side.

Candy cane hearts

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Sam wanted to buy something for everyone in her program this year, (which was 36 people) so we compromised on making them something. We found this idea using the mini candy canes and melted chocolate, and thought it was a perfect little treat, that was relatively inexpensive. Dylan on the other hand insisted that we don’t even give his teachers presents this year.

Sams friends organized a secret Santa, amongst themselves, and she did presents for individual friends as well, plus teacher gifts, and these treats for everyone in her class. Teenaged girls and boys are so different!

The only ingredients you need are candy canes, chocolate, and sprinkles.

The hardest part by far of the whole project was unwrapping the candy canes without breaking them. We soon learned that is was pretty impossible to only use the unbroken ones. So as we unwrapped, we laid them out on a cookie sheet with parchment paper

We started by melting the chocolate in a sandwich bag in a cup of hot water… this is by far my favourite way of melting chocolate. When the chocolate has all melted, cut a corner of the bag off. I even started reusing the bags by using the other side of the bag to melt the chocolate, then squishing it back over to the side with the hole when it was all melted.

I was worried about the chocolate flowing out through the cracks, so I started trying to do an under layer, letting it harden, the doing the top. Turns out, it wasn’t necessary, the chocolate hardened before it had a chance to flow through most cracks.

So, my advice, is to fill it all in one go. Just squeeze the chocolate out, give the tray a few gentle taps to settle the chocolate, then add sprinkles.

You can let them harden in the fridge, but I found that they became very brittle, and we broke a few because the chocolate and candy cane just snapped apart, so if you are storing them in the fridge, let them warm up before you try to package them or transport them.

We put them in little individual bags, they were so cute!

I would make these again for sure, quick and easy!