Scarf it Up

Delicious DIY project of the day: cheap, cheap T’s sliced into tasty scarves.

Dirt-cheap t-shirts have become a vice. I have a basket full, just waiting for some scissor love. I have made costumes, bags, headbands, dresses, play food, and more out them. Locally, I paw through the 5 for $1 bins at an otherwise obnoxious, and (for the sake of peaceful small-town living) unnamed) thrift store.

I even found a book on altering t-shirts second-hand. (Yes, I am a firm believer in the Thrift Guides from a strange and frugal spiritual realm.)

T-shirts and me go back a long way. In high-school I was making dresses and pants out of vintage He Man sheets and the like. And then I started chopping t’s.

Here are some more recent additions…

Usually, I won’t spend more than 10 to 15 minutes on a t project, but every once in awhile I settle in for a half hour or so of pinning and sewing.

Today, I made some scarves while I watched old school Speed Racer cartoons with the boys.

  • Lay out the t on a cutting mat
  • Slice off the bottom hem
  • Cut 1 1/2″ strips horizontally across the shirt (not a continuous spiral) up to the bottoms of the sleeves

  • Pull and stretch the strips to lengthen and so the edges roll

  • Cut an extra strip that is about 18″ in length from the chest area of the t to use a a tie for the bundle of strips
  • Stretch the extra strip and wrap the bundle of strips
  • Stitch the ends in place

  • Wear and pretend that the vines/octopus tentacles/mutant earthworms are strangling you, fashionably

What are some t-shirt projects that you love?

Rack ’em, Kid!

I brought two of these wooden, spice-rack-shelving-thingies home from Circa with visions of organized rows of tiny toys marching through my mind. Sure enough, thanks to a salvaged piece of convex-quarter-round-trim-molding (?), several screws and anchors and I had a classy set up for the boys’ exponentially increasing collection of Playmobil guys.

Basically, I leveled the molding, marked it and drilled pilot holes for two screws. I put two plastic anchors in the drywall, double-checked the level, and installed the molding. Next, I hung the shelf so that the inside top edge rested on the open edge of the molding. I slapped on a little wood glue and taped that sucker in place overnight. The next morning, Judah and I lined up the little dudes in their new barracks. Remarkably, the boys enjoy the display enough to put their toys back in place at the end of play time.

Tip o’ the week: If kids know where items belong, they will put them there with very little resistance and/or assistance. (Bonus if your storage system looks rad.)

Little Free Library

Our library in the news! -click for video-

I happened upon the Little Free Library community completely by accident. In my research for some consulting work, up popped woodworking plans for the construction of what looked like a cross between a dollhouse and a dog house, with a door and a shelf or two. Odd, intriguing and when I read further, utterly genius.

The concept is simple: take a book or leave a book. Anytime.

Started in the Midwest (US) a few years ago, the number of Little Free Libraries has grown to over 2500 across the globe. To read more about the movement please visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.

Our library was a composite of evening chalkboard drawings, compiled materials we scrounged from our own collection of odds and ends, and generously donated materials from local cabinet shops and exhibit builders.

When the post was set, the paint dried and the mascot installed, it was time to invite the patrons. The boys went around knocking on doors and passing out bookmarks with the info about our Grand Opening! The shelves were filled to capacity within hours.

The stock is always changing but never empty. We have met more of our neighbors and have connected with a broader global community through shared love of reading, books and stories.

Come on by and see for yourself, the library’s always open.

Dia De Los Muertos en Charlottesville

Beyond the mischief and innocent mayhem involved in the goings-on of this time of year, there is a significance of remembrance as well.

My dear friend, Estela, invited me and many others to a Dia De Los Muertos celebration at her and her husband’s music studio downtown. Estela and Dave are incredible musicians and have a true passion for their cultural ancestry.

Often as a white American, I find myself hesitant to participate fully in many unfamiliar cultural traditions. I don’t want to make others feel that I am commandeering what rightfully belongs to them or worse, that I am disrespecting the practice of faith, history, sorrow and joy with my ignorant engagement.

With Estela’s invitation came permission to be a part of a joyful community. Dia De Los Muertos is a celebration of life, a celebration of the futility of death’s grasp and a time set apart for sharing memory, music and food.

I painted my face, I pinned a flower in my hair and danced and danced in a circle of children! And for that and the lives of my ancestors, I am thankful.

Turtle Power!

Photo by John Lee

I love Halloween. Not so much the scary stuff or the candy, more so the community of play that seems to spontaneously erupt from neighborhood sidewalks and city streets.

When I was living in NYC, I made a point to jump in the Village Halloween Parade, annually. One year, after the parade had ended, I was in a late-night dive around St. Mark’s when I was barraged by two wildly gesturing young men. “You are my hero. I loved you so much… And here you are!” One of the guys then proceeded to kiss my cheek. When he pulled back to face me, I could see that he was crying.

I was dressed as Rainbow Brite.

The crazy thing was, he wasn’t the only one. All along the parade route, young mothers, college kids and even some teenagers, emphatically shouted at me. Well, at Rainbow. They were so shockingly and honestly emotional, the representation of this character all of a sudden took on some serious responsibility. It was time to smile, wave and throw more Starburst.

Growing up in Trenton, New Jersey, my dad would set up these elaborate and totally geeky A.V. Halloween spectacles. Once, there was a pumpkin-headed man that would talk to folks coming in for candy (Yes, you had to come inside the house for candy). My dad was hiding behind a partition and was doing the whole man-behind-the-curtain routine: speaking into a mic and lights would flash and whatnot. It wasn’t meant to be scary, just inventive, conversational even. Kids left screaming, some didn’t even bother with the candy.

The following year, dad dressed up like- who else- Jesus. He got some of the same reactions, crying and whatnot, that I did as Rainbow Brite years later. And strangely, (although it was the 80’s, who can say what was strange) the following year dad stayed home and I went trick-or-treating chaperoned by our visiting family friend who was dressed as “an abusive, fat, alcoholic”. The irony was completely lost on our working-class neighbors.

Regardless the get-up, I have always reveled in this shared night of bizarre behaviour and playful interchange. Unexpected things always happen.

When my youngest kiddo was only a week old we dressed up as a family of chickens and got out into the fray. My newborn chick stayed tucked in his sling while his dad and brother flapped their wings at wizards and monsters.

We’ve represented characters from The Cat in the Hat, Where’s Waldo and most recently all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

We are that family. And I hope we will be for a long time…

Photo by Jen Lucas

Photo by Jen Lucas

Nifty thrifty: Gotta love those second-hands

Pretty much everything I own at one time belonged to someone else. Now that we have kids, our dumpster-diving days have dwindled (Plus, that’s such the hipster thing to do now, anyway.).

But catch us bright and early on any given Saturday and we’re probably getting prepped to hit up some yard sales. Or we might make an evening out of visiting one of the local Goodwill’s- the only thrift stores that are open later than 6pm ’round here.

I have frequent thrifting haunts here in Charlottesville and I also have several must-visit resale shops across the Eastern seaboard.

I have thrift store dreams.

I have thrift store epiphanies.

I have to donate some stuff…

One of my more recent re-purposing projects involved a vintage brass birdcage ($7.50) and some salvaged, frosted plexi ($0 Thanks, Mark.). I don’t mess around with “antique” wiring, so I bought a pendant light kit from World Market ($10 less 25% coupon, what.). Then I mashed all of the parts together and came up with this…

Basically, I removed the bottom of the cage and replaced it with the plexi (it’s bolted on). Then, I drilled a hole in the top and fed the wire through and replaced the plastic socket with a porcelain one from my stash. The pendant wire was already wrapped with a fresh-green material, so I happily left it exposed. The switch is on the wire where the boys can easily reach. I wonder where the bird’s flown off to?