Patching Jeans

09-12Regular readers know I am all about saving money. At our house, we patch clothes, sometimes many times, before we consider getting rid of them (often into the scrap pile to patch other clothes!) Previously I have written about ways to patch clothes with denim. But what if you want to patch the jeans instead of turning them into patches for other clothes?

Adventures in Dressmaking has a great tutorial for how to patch blue jeans. I have used this technique and it works, while also giving your jeans that great “used” look that so many people pay a lot of money for these days.

Laundry Schedule

In a family of 5 with three active (code for messy) kids, we make a lot of laundry. I get a lot of questions on how to keep up with it all. The answer is simple…a schedule. Here is a great laundry schedule and distribution of labor for families

Distribution of Labor for Laundry:

Mom: Deals with stains, Starts washer, fluffs line-dried clothes, ironing, putting away parents laundry, helps kids as needed

Oldest Child: In charge of hanging to dry and folding clothes, underwear, putting away their own laundry

Middle Child: In charge of hanging to dry and folding towels, linens, socks, putting away their own laundry

Younger children: gathering dirty clothes, putting away their own laundry  

Laundry Schedule:

Monday – Darks

Tuesday – Whites/Hot water items

Wednesday – Towels

Thursday – Bed linens

Friday – ironing, mending

Saturday or Sunday – one load as needed for special items (swim suits & beach towels in the summer, scarves & hats in the winter etc.)

Product Review: Woolzies Dryer Balls

Recently I was provided with Woolzies Dryer Balls and asked to use and then review them. These balls are 100% wool and designed to be used in the dryer as a natural fabric softener. The site says that they will last for 100s of loads and reduce drying time by 25%. Of these benefits I was most interested in the natural fabric softener part. Because we line dry most of our laundry things often have a “crispy” texture. We generally throw things in the dryer for 10-20 minutes to fluff the clothes.

Upon using Woolzies I noticed that the laundry was much softer. I would definitely recommend these dryer balls as natural fabric softener, especially for line-dried laundry. This was a great solution. Not only did the clothes get softer, but we also noted that it took only 5-10 minutes to fluff instead of the usual 10-20.

For the purpose of this review, I dried several loads of laundry straight from the washer. Loads generally consisted of 5-8 beach towels, sheets, or jeans and pants. Things dried in 45 minutes on high heat, which is a time savings of about 25%, which is what Woolzies advertises.

Overall I am pleased with Woolzies and would recommend using them, especially as a fabric softener to those who line-dry clothes.

Alternate Uses for a Toothbrush

The toothbrush is one of my favorite tools. Whether re-using one that has worn out (you should change your toothbrush every 3 months, or after being sick) or keeping inexpensive (dollar store) toothbrushes around for other things, I love using toothbrushes in non-traditional ways! Here are some great ways to use toothbrushes!

  1. Cleaning brush – This is especially great for a worn-out toothbrush. Use them to get into small areas and really scrub things clean. Just remember to mark anything that isn’t for use in mouths or that you use with chemicals. Great for grout and corners.
  2.  Cleaning corn – Use a new toothbrush to clean all the little hairs off of corn on the cob. Much cheaper than a veggie brush and works better!
  3. Painting – Let kids use a toothbrush to try all kinds of fun things with paint. Or use a toothbrush to help you distress a painted piece by adding flecks. Dip brush in paint and rub a finger over the bristles.
  4. Laundry – Use a toothbrush as a laundry brush to help scrub stubborn stains out.
  5. Jewelry – Use a toothbrush with this homemade jewelry cleaner to keep all your jewelry sparkling.

Do you have a tip for alternate uses for a toothbrush? Share it in the comments or Submit Your Tip!

Saturday Project: Coffee (or Tea) Dyeing Fabric

I have a set of sheets that I love. They are 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton. We got them on sale at Sam’s Club for less than $35 for the queen set. They are the softest fabric I have ever put my head on. But we took the fitted sheet and pillow cases with us to Taiwan. (Somehow the flat sheet was packed in a storage bin instead of a suitcase!) And now they have what we affectionately call “Taiwan stains”. They are discolored and no matter what we do, they will not get white. So, instead of just getting rid of the sheets, I am going to dye them. And, in the interest of re-using and keeping harsh chemicals out of the house I am going to use left-over coffee.

The process here is pretty simple.

  1. Brew a pot of coffee or tea. If the item is small, use less. For my sheet set I am using one full pot plus ice cubes of coffee that we have saved from the remnants of pots of coffee over the last 6 months.
  2. Select a container that will allow you to completely submerge your item and that you won’t hate it if it gets stained. Something with a lighter color will give you a better perspective on the color your fabric is becoming. I have used storage bins, pitchers, and even the washing machine for dyeing projects. This time I am using our large cooler. Make sure that your fabric can be easily submerged into the container. You don’t want to have to force the item in because that will result in uneven dyeing.
  3. Fill the container 2/3 full with water.
  4. Mix the coffee or tea into the water.
  5. At this point most people will tell you to do a test on an easily hidden area of the fabric to determine how long to expose the material to the dye. I didn’t do this and just went all in.
  6. Wash your fabric but do not dry it.
  7. Open item so there are no folds or creases in the fabric.
  8. Submerge fabric into the coffee or tea dye.
  9. Check regularly, especially if you didn’t do a test on the fabric. Stir regularly to ensure even dyeing.  Remember that the item will dry lighter and color may fade over time. It only takes a few minutes for most fabrics to start taking on color.
  10. When you reach the shade you like, rinse the item until the water runs clear (this is why you probably want it to be darker than your final desired shade).
  11. Ring out excess water.
  12. To set they dye, dry the fabric on the highest heat that won’t damage it.

TIP: Remember that commercial detergents are designed to remove stains like coffee or tea. Try making your own laundry soap to extend the life of the dye. If you want the item to stay a darker color, plan on having to redye fabric every 1-2 years.

A great thing about this project is that you can get the kids involved. The kids dyed handtowels for their bathroom because we only had white (which are usually cheaper) and they wanted sand colored to match their beach themed bathroom. It was a science and home ec lesson all in one!

The change is subtle for my fabric but you can see that the original is bright white and the dyed one is a nice ecru color.

Re-Use Idea: Dryer Sheet (USED)

Yes, you read that correctly. Ways to re-use dryer sheets that you have already used in the dryer. As promised in the Other Uses for Dryer Sheets (New)  post, here are some ideas for re-using dryer sheets that have already done their work in your dryer:

  1. Dusting electronics the used dryer sheets are especially great for dusting TVs and computers. It is better use the used sheet for this because the chemicals in a new sheet can potentially leave a film on your electronics.
  2. Kitchen Cleanup – Used dryer sheets are great for picking up kitchen spills such as flour, sugar, etc.
  3. Bug repellant – most used dryer sheets still have enough chemical left to work as a bug repellant. Just tuck them in your pockets, bag, or stroller.
  4. Offensive Odor – musty books or clothes that don’t smell fresh can be freshened by placing the item and a used dryer sheet in a zipper bag. The fragrance left will freshen your item.
  5. Vacuum – Place a used dryer sheet in your vacuum bag or canister to freshen your house as you sweep.
  6. Bathrooms – Use old dryer sheets to clean soap residue and chrome. Cleaning faucets, counters,  and glass with a used dryer sheet will also reduce the amount of dust or soap scum that adheres to a particular surface.
  7. Dusting Wood – Used dryer sheets are excellent for dusting wood furniture and getting into small carved areas.
  8. Cars – Freshen your car by placing a used dryer sheet under the seats. Dust the dash-board and clean the windows and chrome with a used dryer sheet.
  9. Scissors – wipe a used dryer sheet over scissor blades that aren’t cutting as well as they should. Now your scissors should cut much better.
  10. Shoes – a used dryer sheet will freshen up stinky shoes and one can be used to clean them up to a nice “new” shine.

Money Saving Idea: Make Your Own Fabric Softener

When I started making my own laundry soap clothes were so soft that I didn’t need a fabric softener. Now that we have added line-drying clothes inside to our laundry routine, things can get a bit crunchy. We have been remedying this by throwing things in the dryer for 10 minutes once they had dried on the line to fluff the crunch out of them. If you are able to line-dry outside in the sun then this is probably not an issue for you, but right now we don’t have that luxury (yes, I just called using a clothesline a luxury!).  I am trying a new method…making my own fabric softener.

There are many recipes out there for making your own fabric softener. Some people swear by vinegar alone. Others say baking soda or washing soda alone. I am taking a different approach…mixing the two. Before all you science people get up in arms, yes I know that mixing an acid (vinegar) and a base (soda) will neutralize the pH. But I am not worried about the pH for this. I am actually making a salt (not table salt, but a salt none the less) and that is what will soften the clothes. This is much like the idea of the salt that is added to a water softener to make “soft” water.  Here is the recipe that I have decided to use:

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 6 cups vinegar
  • 6 additional cups of water

Pour baking soda into a large bucket. Add 1 cup cold water and dissolve soda. Pour in 6 cups of vinegar. The mixture will bubble and foam. This is the chemical reaction that will cause the salt to form. Stir in 6 more cups of water. You can add 5-10 drops of essential oils for fragrance but know that the vinegar smell will not remain in your clothes, so you don’t have to worry about covering it up.

Pour the mixture into storage containers (I re-use coffee creamer bottles). Shake before each use. Use 1 cup per load.

Do you have a recipe for homemade fabric softener? Share it in Submit Your Tip!