Monday, August 27, 2012

DIY Laundry Detergent & Dishwasher Detergent

Late August/early September is the real new year for teachers. For me, it's a time of announcing resolutions and setting goals. With the impending doom of work/school starting back up (tomorrow!), I've been thinking of ways to better utilize our time and money. One thing I've decided to do to save money is to DIY a (much) more inexpensive and more natural version of laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent.

The process is super easy and you only need a few ingredients to get started. At the grocery store, I picked up:
I even used my DIY reuseable shopping bags to lug it all home!

To make the laundry detergent, using a hand grater, grate 2 bars of soap into a bowl.

Then, add 2 cups of Borax...

and 2 cups of washing soda.

Then, mix well.

Finally, add the soap to the container of your choice. I opted to purchase a couple plastic containers for a couple dollars a piece. I felt a little bad about the plastic (since this is somewhat of a greener and healthier alternative to regular detergent), but I figured since I'd use the containers over and over, it wasn't so bad. I also picked up a couple measuring spoons that I'll store inside the soap container. This will make it easy to measure the right amount of soap (1-2 tablespoons, depending on the size of your load and how soiled your garments are).

For the dishwasher detergent, mix 2 cups of Borax, 2 cups of washing soda, and 2 packagees of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid.

I did a bit of research before diving in. Some people are concerned whether Borax safe. According to my research, people get Borax confused with boric acid. Borax is a mineral that is mined directly from the ground. Boric acid is produced when borax is reacted with another acid (like sulfuric or hydrochloric acid). Borax is safe for and is not readily absorbed by the skin. Crunchy Betty does a pretty good job of explaining the product in more detail. For me, it boils down to the fact that using these three natural ingredients has to be a healthier option than what we were using before (whatever name brand was on sale). As for the dishwasher detergent, I might eliminate the Kool-Aid in future batches, but I chose to stick to the recipe I found.
As for the cost? You'll save a ton. Tide 2x Ultra will run you $17.99 at Target and will get you through 90 loads of laundry. It ends up costing you about 20 cents per load. A batch of homemade detergent will run you about $5.96 and will get you through about the 90 loads. It ends up costing you about 6 cents per load. All things considered, you'll end up saving about $12.50 for each batch of detergent! What's even better, the ingredients I bought will get me through at least one more batch of detergent. I still have 6 bars of soap and a few cups of both borax and washing soda left over.
While $12.50 doesn't seem like a whole lot, when added up over the course of a year, it's a ton! Plus, think about how much you could save by DIYing other household supplies on top of these ones. I'm considering trying out others, but I have to decide if it's more about saving money or making healthier alternatives. (There are lots of tutorials out there that use ingredients that are cheap but aren't natural.) I'm thinking the healthier alternatives route is the best. I'm hoping to find a way to balance the two.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Upcycled T-Shirt: DIY Scarf & Headband

After creating 15 DIY reuseable shopping bags, I had a bunch of scrap cotton fabric laying on my living room floor. Instead of throwing it away, I used it to create some cute accessories.

I had already pinned a bunch of DIY T-shirt scarf tutorials, so I didn't have much research to do; but because I only had a tiny bit of fabric left (the sleeves and bottom 2 or 3 inches from my Ts), I only had a couple options. I picked Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth as my teacher. I followed her instructions pretty closely with a few tweaks here and there. To do this yourself, all you'll need is an old T-shirt (the larger the better) and some scissors.

To make the scarf, I could really only use the few inches I salvaged from the bottom of the shirts. I had bunches of colors, so I had to pick and choose from what coordinated. If you try it, I'd use an entire shirt from the bottom hem to the armpits. The loops need to be long enough to drape around your neck a few times, so anything above that doesn't work. I cut pieces measuring about an inch (give or take a bit) along the width of the shirt. (Sorry for the lack of pictures. I was busy trying to figure out what I was trying to do.) Your pieces should remain as loops. Do not cut them open! Cut pieces until you no longer have any fabric left. If you go from the bottom of the hem to the armpits, I think you'll end up with about 15 loops. If you'd like a bulkier scarf, repeat these steps with a second T! Save the bottom hem for later.

Once all your loops have been cut, put your thumbs inside and pull outward, stretching the loop as far as it goes, until the fabric begins to curl inward. Repeat this step for each loop.

Here's where you'll need the bottom hem line. Cut the bottom hem line so it becomes one long piece.

Gather all of your loops.

Then, using the last 4 to 6 inches of the hem you cut, tie a knot in any random place around all of the loops. You'll want to leave a bit fabric hanging for later. With the remaining hem, wrap the loops in an overlapping fashion up and then down again for about 3 or 4 inches. When you come back down, tie the end of the hem piece with the piece you left hanging from earlier. You can either trim those pieces short or leave them hanging a bit to add some interest. I left mine hanging a bit.

Depending on the look you're going for, wrap the finished product around your neck once or twice. I like the twice-wrapped look!

I would have liked it to be a bit chunkier. In the future, if I do this again, I'll definitely use more loops. I was working with what I had!

After I was done with the scarf, I made a headband. Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth also has a DIY Workout Headband tutorial. I followed that one pretty closely too. I prepared 5 loops exactly the same way as I did for my scarf (by cutting and stretching). For this one, I cut them to make 5 long strings (instead of loops). Then, I taped the 5 strands together and used a binder clip to secure it to the piping on my couch so I could weave without worry. Remember the days of making friendship bracelets with embroidery floss? It's kind of like that!

The weaving pattern is very simple once you figure it out, but it's a bit tricky at first. Make sure your strings are completely separated so you can clearly see the order. First, you bring the far left string over the second farthest left string. Then, you bring the middle string over the second farthest left string (which was originally the farthest left string). Then, you bring the farthest right string over the second farthest right string. Next, you bring the middle string over the second farthest right string (which was originally the farthest right string). This pattern continues until you're finished weaving. Finally, measure the headband around your head and double knot the strings at the top to the strings on the bottom. Each of the strings (top and bottom) should be double knotted to a different string on the opposite end. That way, it's pretty secure. When measuring, keep in mind that the fabric you're working with is cotton and will stretch considerably. I went with a snug fit knowing that it will stretch over time.

Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth offers a fabulous pictorial. Check it out since I'm not doing a very good job:

Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth

When it's all done, it should look something like this:

Pretty cute, huh? I was pleased to complete 3 fun, simple, and free projects using 15 old T-shirts! What do you think?

P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, please follow me by clicking "Join this site" and/or entering your email address over to the right of the page. If you want to see what projects I have worked on or plan on working on in the future, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the link to the right! If you like it, pin it!

about an hour link button
I'm linked up with Hi Sugarplum!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Upcycled T-Shirt: DIY Reuseable Shopping Bags

If you're anything like me (and millions of other people around the world), you've probably accumulated an overabundance of T-shirts over the years. Said shirts are most likely taking up precious space in your dresser drawers. I'll take it a step further and guess that you have probably thought of getting rid of most or all of them but you either feel guilty or have some emotional attachment to them. Since I was a high school and a college athlete and a coach and a teacher in subsequent years, I have more T-shirts than I can count on my phalanges. Fleetingly, I thought about creating one of those super cool T-shirt quilts that are all-the-rage, but I think I have about as many blankets as I do T-shirts. Instead, I crafted reuseable shopping bags out of them!

About 10 months ago, (Yep, this 1-hour project has taken 10 months to complete.) I discovered that I couldn't squeeze even one more article of clothing in my dresser. So I sifted through my Ts and chose a bunch that I knew wouldn't wear anymore, some that didn't fit, and a few that I never wore in the first place. After that, they sat in a laundry basket in one of our spare rooms for...10 months. Fast forward to today. After blowing an inch or so of dust off the T on top, I grabbed the pile from the basket. I think I heard one of them exclaim, "I'm free!" Little did he know that life as he knew it was over. I don't know how to do the whole evil laugh thing, but if I did, I would have done it just now.

I started with a pile of 15 old T-shirts:

I randomly chose a guinea pig. Here he is:

Making no measurements at all, I cut the neck off the shirt. I'd say I cut about an inch or an inch and a half off the collar, following the original shape.

Then, I cut the arms off of the shirt, paying careful attention to remove the entire pit stain. Ladies sweat too.

Next, I turned the shirt inside out. (FYI: I turned subsequent shirts inside out before doing anything else. That way, I didn't have to line anything up a second time.) Then, I pinned the back and front of the shirt together at the bottom hem line.

Finally, using the original stitching as a guide, I sewed along the bottom of the shirt. (FYI: For some larger, longer shirts, I trimmed a couple inches off the bottom before pinning and sewing. Too-deep bags are on my hit list. For those same shirts, I also sewed up each side of the shirt to make them a bit skinnier. Again, no measurements needed.)

Voila! I was left with a reuseable shopping bag, complete with half empty boxes of pasta and a bag of almonds from my kitchen cupboards.

I followed the same steps for 14 more Ts.

Let's play a game. Do you recognize any of these T-shirts? If you do, leave me a comment and tell me which one (or ones) you recognize, if you too still have the shirt, and a memory we share that somehow involves the T. 

In about an hour, I made 15 reuseable shopping bags that are functional, eco-friendly, and washable(!) that still allow me to enjoy the memories of yore. The best part? They were...wait for!

Have you done anything creative with your old T-shirts? If not, you should try this. I can't say enough about how easy it was. The hard part will be remembering to bring them shopping with me!

P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, please follow me by clicking "Join this site" and/or entering your email address over to the right of the page. If you want to see what projects I have worked on or plan on working on in the future, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the link to the right! If you like it, pin it!
about an hour link button
I'm linked up with Hi Sugarplum!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bathroom Upgrade: Part 2

If you recall, I recently planned a small and inexpensive bathroom upgrade. For our main bathroom, I planned a simple list of tasks: paint the walls an updated color, exchange the hardware, and redecorate. Well, the bathroom upgrade is basically complete, and I have to say, I'm pretty happy.

Here's what the bathroom looked like before:

And here's what it looks like now:

What do you think? I think I'm in love. Get it? Everyone likes a cheesy pun every once in a while.

For the most part, the project was as promised: simple and inexpensive. The most expensive detail was the paint at just less than $40 for a gallon. My aunt (owner of Campbell's Paint and Wallpaper in Dearborn, MI) did a custom color match for me. I picked up a paint sample at Lowe's out of convenience. The name of the original brand and color shall remain nameless; but the color match was done using a Benjamin Moore base and is somewhere between Silvery Moon and Winter Solstice by BM.

After a couple coats of primer and paint, I was unsure of how I felt. It was so...different. Having lived with pink walls for quite some time, it just didn't feel right. When I put the shower curtain back up, it really didn't feel right. Too. Much. Grey. Is that even possible? So I thought about it for 34 seconds or so then hopped online and ordered a natural (a soft white) waffle shower curtain. It came in the mail. I hated it. Luckilly, it came with a small stain. If I loved it, I probably would have embraced the stain (it was fairly inconspicuous), but since I didn't, I took the opportunity to get a refund and ship it back on the company's dime. Don't worry, they can afford it.

As I was racking my brain, I decided to go to the place where I do my best and most coherent thinking: TJ Maxx. As I perused the clearance section, I came across this simple little pink picture frame. I heard the voice of a teacher: "Embrace the pink. Embrace the pink." It wasn't my voice, but whose could it be? It was the voice of fellow teacher and fellow blogger, Carrie @ Shared and Doubled. She's so level-headed. So sensible. So right. Embrace the pink I did. That day, I came home with 3 frames: the pink one for $3.50 and two antiqued white ones for $6.99 and $7.99. I filled them with pictures we took on a recent trip the San Diego Zoo. Below are some closer photos of the frames.

Aren't they sweet? I just love them. Once those frames were hung, I fell in love with the color of the walls, and I fell in love (again) with the shower curtain I bought back when we moved into this house.

And then there was the issue of the now bare wall across from the sink. I put on my thinking cap again. Really, I put on the thinking caps of thousands of other bloggers around the globe. In other words, I searched the Internet. Finally, I found this fabulous DIY wall art first seen @ Shanty to Chic and pinned here. Below is my rendition of the artwork.

To complete this project, I went to Home Depot and purchased the following:
1 - 1x4 8 ft. furing strip ($1.99)
1 - 1x3 8 ft. furing strip ($1.55)
2 - 1x2 8 ft. furing strips ($1.84)
Gorilla Glue ($4.97)
Minwax Stain in Dark Walnut ($4.33)

At Home Depot, they will cut your wood for free. I had them cut these into 3.5 ft. sections. I had them cut the extra furing strip to fit the back (more on that later).

When I got home, I arranged the cut pieces how I liked them. Here's what I came up with:

Then, I glued the extra furing strip pieces to the back using the Gorilla Glue. After that, Rich drilled a 1 3/8 inch screw into each section of wood.

Finally came the fun part: staining! Because this was my first go at anything like this, I followed the suggestion of the original artist and used a dark walnut stain. As soon as I started applying the stain, I loved the color. I went with only one coat since I was going for an old, reclaimed feel.

Once the stain was dry, I printed out letters using Microsoft Word. I used size 300, Arial Black font. Instead of cutting the letters out and using them as a stencil, I used a method I read about on That's My Letter. You take a ball point pen and trace around the letters while pressing firmly. When you're finished, the wood is left with an indent that acts as a guide when painting.

I used craft paint for the letters. I purchased Martha Stewart's Vanilla and Pink Carnation ($.79 each before the 20% off coupon I used). After the paint dried, I used 150 grit sand paper to rough it up a bit.

It wasn't love at first sight for me, but I've come around. If I could go back, I would probably make the letters slightly smaller and the heart the same size as the letters. Oh, well. It'll do the trick for now. Who knows? I might start from scratch and have something completely different hanging up there in a day or two.

All in all, the bathroom upgrade was a success. I still have to reinstall the towel ring. I'm fighting it for now because while they're super functional, they're not really pretty. I'm sure I'll break down eventually, though. I don' think the folded-towel-in-the-basket look will work forever.

Here's the breakdown:
Paint: $39.84
Frames: $18.48
DIY Sign Materials: $16.38
Grand Total: $74.70

I don't think that's too bad for such a drastic change. What do you think?

P.S. Check out Campbell's Paint and Wallpaper in Dearborn, MI for all your paint, wallpaper and framing needs. They offer the best color advice and customer service in Metro-Detroit. They have a full line of stains and tools including Benjamin Moore and Pratt & Lambertt paints. They guarantee their paint and stain color matching, offer in-home color consultations, and service custom picture framing using expert design & workmanship (their every day prices beat Michael's 50% off price). They also offer a large wallcovering library.

P.P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, please follow me by clicking "Join this site" and/or entering your email address over to the right of the page. If you want to see what projects I have worked on or plan on working on in the future, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the link to the right!

DIY project Parade linky party button
DIY Showoff