(From the Archives) A Handmade Life–Sewing For The Kitchen

This is part 2 of the “Handmade Life” series here at Sunny Patch.  Today’s post involves sewing and creating for your home.

Sewing seems to be an art that is coming back to life as things become more and more expensive commercially.  The quality of factory made things really seems to be heading down hill, and as soon as you purchase a piece of clothing or fabric based item, it needs mending or ravels or rips.  Sure, there’s folks who will never get beyond the stigma of “homemade” items, but for the rest of the world who appreciates quality, a hand made high quality item is much better than the factory made.

This brings us to sewing for the home.

There’s many things in the home that are made of fabric that we can make ourselves.  Think about what you use in the kitchen: potholders, apron, tea or dish towels, dish cloths, curtains/valances, etc.  This is opportunity to not only save on expense, but also create a kitchen that suits your personality.

Today I’m focusing on potholders and aprons.

For the seamstress, making a potholder is probably one of the simplest projects one can do.  In it’s simplest form, a potholder is batting or some sort of filler sandwiched between 2 pieces of fabric and stitched together.  Of course this can be embellished, patched, made with just about any non-melting fabrics (second and third degree potholder burns just don’t sound too appealing, so use your cool polyesters for other projects).

Tipnut has a page of around 30 patterns just for potholders (free, I might add).  So why not whip out some scraps or fat quarters and try a couple of patterns out.   If you enjoy crocheting and/or knitting, this is a great time to break out some cool stitches and make your own potholders too!  I like to make mine double thickness, using 2 strands of medium weight yarn and crochet.  🙂

Aprons are also a wonderful cost effective items to sew for your kitchen.  Think about it–cooking can be messy.  If it isn’t in your kitchen..are you enjoying what you’re doing????  LOL!  I love my aprons, and really need to add more to my collection.  My son Mr. Kevin has inherited a more “manly” one to use when he helps me in the kitchen (he’s my little cook in training–he has helped make pizza from scratch, and then here recently helped make cinnamon biscuits with Christmas cookie cutters).  His apron gets flour all over it in under a second…perfect reason for him to inherit one. 🙂

Aprons are really easy to make.  Seriously.

At it’s simplest, it’s a square with ties to go around the waist.  At the more complex, it’s a fully covering garment that is as pretty as a beautiful dress.  But, the overall idea is the same–to keep the clothing underneath from getting dirty and stained up from working in the kitchen.

My own aprons are a bit complex.  I use pieces from the Country Cape Dress by Candle on the Hill to build mine.  I use the cape part of the dress and half of the skirt, add ties and a snap and have a fully covering apron.  Ok, it’s a little time consuming, but it works out for my purposes.  I follow directions similar to the ones found at Shepherds Hill with modifications to tie in the back.

Wearing these, I honestly feel more feminine, as well as tend to get more work done.  To me, this is a uniform.  My job is to tend the house and work in the kitchen, why not have a uniform that goes along with that?  I also tend to put an apron on first thing in the morning, and use it through out the day.  It helps open up the oven and in a pinch when I can’t find the potholders it becomes the potholder.  It keeps my clothes from getting totally soaked when doing the daily wash on the washboard and then doing dishes at the sink.  It keeps my handmade clothing from getting stained up and covered in sauces and flour and cooking sprays when I cook our meals.  And it makes a great hand towel when I can’t easily grab one and need it quickly to dry hands and catch the phone or help that child who has to have mom right now.  In the garden during the spring and summer it becomes a make shift basket to hold freshly picked veggies.

The kids see me in my apron, and they seem more at ease.  It’s like a comfort thing for them.  They also know mom isn’t going anywhere when her apron’s on.  They wait and watch for the apron to come off to see where I’m going…like maybe somewhere cool like the park or the store or something.  🙂

So, this is part 2 of the Handmade Life series….  I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse into our handmade life.. 🙂

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This Handmade Life # 10—How to Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent

This is something that I’ve been wanting to try for a while–making my own dishwasher detergent.

Think about it–the commercial stuff is so caustic, toxic, etc, that you’re not supposed to touch the stuff with bare hands.  I tried it in dishwater to tackle some major things, and it was rough stuff on the hands, and kinda ate a little of the gloves.  And, it’s expensive!

So, I went searching around the net and ran across a recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent.  I actually found this through Tipnut.

Yesterday I rounded up the supplies:


Baking Soda

Lemon Juice

I didn’t remember how much of what to put in the mix, so I just dumped the contents that I had (partial boxes of both the borax and baking soda–the big boxes) into a mixing bowl.  I added about half a large bottle of lemon juice for the citric acid.  It was probably too much, but it works.  Then, I stirred it all up, put it into a couple of smaller containers and stuffed them into the fridge.  After they’d cooled, it became more of a hardened mush, and when spooned out, is crumbly, much like the powdered stuff box detergent.

I ran a test through our portable dishwasher (yes, the big things that hook up to your sink–makes a great bread board and mixer holder on top tho).  The first time around it left a little white powder on a couple of things.  No biggie.  I put in some Jet Dry into the rinse container.  It’s all I have on hand right now, til I get to go shopping again for vinegar.  A second run through with a really nasty smelling round of pots and pans, and it worked excellent!

There also wasn’t a heavy lemon smell afterward.  I like that.

I ran some cut glass (the heavy kind) coffee cups through as well, and they look amazing!  My pots and pans (like the stockpots I’ve been using today to work on my sourdough experiment and my bread pans) went through just fine and are nice looking.  They went with the cut glass on the same cycle and looks great!

I’m not a scientist or chemist or anything.  I just know this works for us.  If you’d like to try it, play around with the 3 ingredients til you get a mush, and go to town washing dishes!

Now, I haven’t tried this in regular dishwater yet (that will come in time), as I’m a fan of Dawn, but I imagine I’ll be using it as a back up when I run out of Dawn at some point in time.

I really like this recipe!  I keep Borax on hand anyway for making laundry soap, and baking soda is a given around our house for general stuff.  Citric acid could be found in a bunch of koolaid lemonade packages (probably 20 or so of them would do it), or the lemon juice (I think that’d be better), or you can buy citric acid by itself.  I used what I had on hand. 🙂

You know, if you put some fels naptha in this, you’d have some laundry soap and/or general cleaner!

This wraps up the 10th edition in the “A Handmade Life” series!

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What Joy Is Mine

Substitutions for Liquids and Fats

I had this come to my email inbox, and thought I’d pass along.  I’m actually familiar with Cass County, MO, as I lived in the area just south of Cass Co (Harrisonville) in Bates County. 🙂


• For 1 cup beef or chicken broth, use 1 bouillon cube, or 1 envelope
of powdered broth base dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
• For 1 cup butter, use 7/8 cup fat and 1/2 tsp salt or 1 cup margarine
• For ½ cup salted butter, use ½ cup unsalted butter + ½ tsp salt
• For 1 cup catsup, use 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbsp
• For 1 cup chili sauce, use 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar,
2 tbsp vinegar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, dash of ground cloves and dash of
• For 1 cup coconut cream, use 1 cup light cream
• For 1 cup coconut milk, use 1 cup skim milk + 1 tbsp flake coconut +
¼ tsp almond extract
• For 1 cup corn syrup, use 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup liquid or 1 cup honey
• For maple syrup, use equal amount of corn syrup
• For 1 cup half-and-half cream, use 7/8 cup milk and 1/2 tbsp butter
or margarine OR 1 cup undiluted evaporated milk
• For 1 cup heavy cream, use 3/4 cup milk and 1/3 cup butter or margarine
• For 1 cup light cream, use 3/4 cup milk and 3 tbsp butter or
margarine OR 1 cup undiluted evaporated milk
• For 8 oz of cream cheese, use 8 oz cottage cheese blended with ¼ cup
• For 1 cup ricotta cheese, use 1 cup cottage cheese + 1 tbsp skim
milk, blended until smooth
• For 1 cup sour cream, use 1 cup plain yogurt
• For 1 cup buttermilk, use 1 cup plain yogurt
• For 1 cup sour milk, use 1 cup minus 1 tbsp of milk and 1 tbsp of
lemon juice or vinegar (allow to stand 5 minutes)
• For 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, heat the following
ingredients until sugar and butter are dissolved: 1/3 cup and 2 tbsp
evaporated milk, 1 cup sugar, and 3 tbsp butter
• For 1 cup plain yogurt, use 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup buttermilk
• For 1 whole egg, use 2 yolks and 1 tbsp water OR 2 1/2 tbsp of whole
egg powder and 2 1/2 tbsp lukewarm water OR 2 egg whites
• For a 3 ounce package of flavored gelatin, use 1 tbsp of plain
gelatin and 2 cups fruit juice
• For 1 cup honey, use 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1/4 cup liquid
• For 1 cup mayonnaise, use 1/2 cup plain yogurt and 1/2 cup mayo or 1
cup sour cream or pureed cottage cheese
• For 1 cup melted shortening, use 1 cup cooking oil
• For 1 cup solid shortening, use 1 1/8 cups butter or margarine
• For 1 oz semisweet chocolate, use 1 tbsp cocoa + 1 tbsp sugar + 1
tbsp shortening
• For 1 oz of sweet chocolate, use ¼ cup cocoa + 1/3 cup sugar+ 3 tbsp
• For 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate, use 3 tbsp cocoa powder + 1 tbsp
• For ¼ cup cocoa powder, use 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate
• For 1 tbsp tomato paste, use ½ cup tomato sauce minus ¼ cup of
liquid in recipe OR 1 tbsp ketchup

Source : Susan Mills-Gray, Regional Specialist, Nutrition and Health
Cass County, Missouri University of Missouri Extension
via SusansDailyTips mailer at

This Handmade Life Part 9–Rockin’ The Washboard

This morning I tackled part of a job I do just about every day.  It usually involves standing a long while, getting wet, and dealing with someone’s dirty underwear.  It is….(drum roll please)…scrubbing laundry.

Now, ya’ll who have never done this, it really isn’t that bad.  Ok, the poopy underwear isn’t pleasing…I will admit that.

I’ve been using this Dubl-Handi washboard for nearly a year now.  I found it at a local antique shop for $4, with some wear, but plenty of use left.  Believe me, with 5 people in the family it sure gets it.  When I bought it, it still had all the pretty writing (in red) saying the Dubl Handi name and some other little things about the sturdiness.  This all went away when I put the first bar of Fels Naptha on it.  I like this little board.  It is just the right size to use in a sink (say if we ever once stay at a hotel), bucket, or other small space.  It also has a second side that is for silks, handkerchiefs, nylons, etc.

The main side has extra ridges on the metal, allowing for water to get in the fibers and wash out dirt and grime as the fabric is rubbed against the board.  If used roughly, it can and will put holes in clothing if too much elbow grease is used.

I’m lazy.  I like to let my homemade soap do most of the work.

There are benefits for using a simple washboard…seriously!  Sure, it’s physical work, but there’s reward.  In using a washboard, there’s no need for an expensive washer and dryer.  You do the work of the agitating the clothing against the board to get the dirt out.  You have a portable “washer” you can take anywhere.  You can get out stains and dirt that you didn’t realize was in your clothing.  It saves trips to a laundrymat if you don’t have a washer/dryer.  You can wash without having electricity.

Now, I can hear some ladies saying “that’s hard work!!”  Well, yes, you have to use your shoulders, arms, hands, and back.  You may even break a nail or two, or scrub them off on the metal.  You may get tired.  I know I am after a day of rocking the board!  But after seeing crisp clean whites hanging out on the line, bright colors drying in the breeze, smelling the scent of fresh air in the clothes, it’s worth it.  The monitary savings is very much worth it, as is showing my children and husband that I’m willing to work hard.

How do you use this simple little board?  First, fill up your basin/bucket/tote/sink with water (your choice of location, just make sure you have room for your clothing).  I use hot water, with some liquid Fels Naptha laundry soap I’ve already made.  Set your board in legs first, and add in a couple of pieces of clothing.  As in a regular washer, too much clothing doesn’t leave room for agitating and they won’t get clean…the same principal applies here too.  Take up one piece of clothing and have it flat against your palm and fingers, and then do circular motions with it across the board until you feel it’s clean.  I’d say 2 to 5 times max for one area.  Then, go across all areas of the piece.  It works for something as small as a dishcloth all the way to sheets and blankets.  Heavier stained areas will need more work.  Since most folks don’t get out and filthy dirty, like you’d see with farm work or mechanics or the like, most clothing won’t take long at all to get clean.  I personally do get farm work dirty (even though we don’t live on a farm, I do the outside work here, and there’s plenty to do), at least sometimes, and so I have to work a little harder on my own clothing.  Of course I keep some older raggedy type pieces for that type of work so it’s not so hard on my nicer clothing.

After you wash your piece(s), you put them in a bucket of clean rinse water.  This allows the soap to rinse out of the fibers.  Many folks use fabric softener in their laundry, especially in regular washers, or they feel stiffness and static in their clothing.   The reason this happens is that the soap doesn’t get totally rinsed out of the clothing, leaving a stiffness and residue.  I personally set up 2 buckets most days, or one that is changed out very often if I don’t have room for two.  A nice long dip in the rinse water takes out the soap, leaving your clothes nice and soft, even when put on a clothes line!  Even my towels come out soft (when I’m not rushing and let them sit in the rinse water a while).

The hardest part comes here.  Wringing clothes by hand is not for the faint of heart.  Twist em, squeeze em, do what you have to do to get the excess water out!  This is the equivelent of a spin cycle in the washing machine.  You can spin if you want to. 🙂

Next, haul it all to the line.  This is God’s dryer.  This was used long before the electric ones that heat up the house.  Believe it or not it can be used year round too!  A warm breeze and sun works great, but clothes will get dry even in the dead of winter when humidity is low.  I found this through the winter when using the line even well below zero.  I did get hit with some freeze dried clothing, but they all eventually dried and my hands warmed up. 🙂

I’ve found that hanging pants by the bottom hems work great.  I’ve also found hanging shirts by the bottom work nicely.  Socks I hang by the toe area.  Skirts I put up by the waist, merely to save room on the lines.  I have 6 dedicated lines and occasionally I use hubby’s dog run (a large cable that runs from my T poles to a tree), making 7 lines.  It takes a full day of scrubbing to fill them up, but does get a lot done.

Some days, I admit I get weary in scrubbing.  When I hear ladies complaining about their HE or top loading washers, I think of my little simple scrub board.  It never leaks.  It doesn’t grow mold.  It never needs a repairman.  Should anything happen to it, replacing it is as easy as going to the antiques shop or to the Columbus Washboard Company’s website.  Or Etsy.  Or Ebay.

After nearly a year, I have to say, I don’t think I’d really want to have a washer or dryer again.  I use less water, as one tub of water can do a lot more wash than one run in the washing machine.  rinsing takes longer, but again, uses less water.  I have no electricity (except what it takes to heat the water) need when I wash this way.  I can take my board and buckets outside and enjoy the warm air in the summer and work outside if I desire.  That is something I enjoy in the hotter months, as the sun warms the water, I can take things directly to the line just a few feet away, and I get to be outside.  Ok, so I get some odd looks from folks driving by, but that’s fine.  It’s my back yard and I’ll wash if I want to.

Well, I needs get back to the wash!


Handmade Laundry Soaps

This past summer I started making my own laundry soap, and I’d love to share with you!

At my Etsy Shop I’ve added listings for various sized packets of homemade laundry soap.  Choose from a sample pack of 10 loads, up to 150 loads.  All come simply packaged, ready to pour into your own container, whether it be a beautiful antique jar or an old bucket.  You will love the difference with the more natural soap blend than the commercially made!!

Have you been looking for a safer, more natural soap for your wash? 
During this last summer, I decided to try making my own laundry soaps, as I honestly was not impressed with the excessive sudsing, and the commercial soap left my clothes so dingy and sapped the color out of newly purchased items.  I’m a budget conscious mom, so the prospect of having my newly bought clothes look old and dingy in one wash was not appealing, and then paying an arm and leg to get the soap to make my clothes look like that was even less appealing.
I put together my own blend based on an old fashioned recipe, and was immediately impressed with how bright my colored clothing turned out and how white my whites were!  My whites looked brand new, even the ones I knew were a few years old! 
So, I went on and tried this blend in an HE washer, which uses low to no sudsing soaps, and it worked wonderfully.  I tried it in a top loading older machine and had the same results.  I even used the old fashioned scrub board and hand washed pieces, and am very very happy with the results! 
The soap is very easy on the hands, leaves no residue/film, and a little goes a long way!  Use only a tablespoon of powder for a large load!  It’s safe for allergy sufferers, and great for those with sensitive skin issues.  My own children have not had the rashes they used to have with commercial brands since we switched.  You may not want a liquid softener with this soap as well, as it softens nicely, but it is entirely up to your tastes.
You can add your own scent to the soap as well, by simply adding drops of essential oils to the powder mix.  I do not add to my own, but I would think a nice lavendar, lilac, or rose would be lovely.
This is hand shredded and mixed, and packaged simply in order to save you cost.  Pour the powder into your own pretty container or bucket (I use ugly 5 gallon buckets for mine, but prettiness is not a factor for my own use).  An antique jar would make a beautiful powder container!  And there’s plenty of them floating around here at Etsy!
This blend is great on your pipes, and I’ve noticed it keeps my drains open and free flowing.  I use it in the kitchen as well, as it is versatile for cleaning not only laundry, but can be used in washing dishes by hand or dishwasher, floors, countertops, bathtubs, toilets, etc.  I use this all over the house with great results.  I’ve been trying to get away from more commercial cleaners, and I’ve found a winner in this!   

150 Load Package

40 Load Package

80 Load Package

60 Load Package

Sample Package, does up to 10 loads

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This Handmade Life Part 7: Meatloaf Burgers aka Budget Stretchers

It is time again for the next segment of “This Handmade Life”!  (listens to the thunderous applause)

Today, we are doing Meatloaf Burgers.  I also like to think of them as budget stretchers.  You’ll see why in a minute.

I discovered this a year or so ago, when my hubby wanted meatloaf but the kids won’t touch it.  Go figure–kids not wanting something that the parents think is good…and budget friendly.  So, I tricked em.

I used the same fixings (minus the ketsup), and whipped up these burgers.

In a bowl, add in burger (I use something called “Boston Burger” from our local non-chain grocery store, which is a combination of beef and pork), crackers (or bread or oatmeal or whatever you have that will suffice as a filler–I’ve used all 3 mentioned and all of them turned out just fine), and 4 or 5 eggs (this is for 3 pounds of burger).



From there, I added in to this batch a spoon full of Spanish paprika.

A spoon full of dill weed.


A spoon full of ground rosemary.

Mix this all together, using a wooden spoon or your hands or whatever.  I prefer hands, as it’s easier to get all the ingredients mixed into the meat.

Break out a large frying pan and spray it down with pan spray or a bit of oil, as this will stick due to the crackers soaking up fats.  Brown them like you would regular hamburgers.

Serve like regular hamburgers, with all the ketsup, mustard, pickles, etc that you like!

I like doing these rather than full meat hamburgers, as with the cost of meat going up, and with kids to feed, one has to find a way to make the meat stretch a little farther.  By doing this, I can make a family package of meat, at $2.59 to $3.59 a pound depending on the type of ground meat,  stretch to last up to 2 meals instead of 1, with everyone able to have seconds at the first meal as well.  Pair this with a tater tot or veggie and you have a nice filling meal. 🙂


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This Handmade Life-Part 6–Made From Scratch Biscuits

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm the smell of a fresh, made from scratch biscuit right out of the oven and buttered….mornings don’t get better than this!

I don’t know about you, but I was brought up on those canned nasty cheap biscuits that explode and fly across the room.  Can I hear an “eeeeewwwwww”?  Momma wasn’t much into baking, especially from scratch, but I had an aunt and cousin who showed me how rewarding (and tasty) it is.  Now, my family enjoys (well most of the time) the yummy hot from the oven breads and biscuits.

If you’d like to try out my “cloud” biscuits, which rise very well and make excellent monster sized very filling biscuits, keep reading!

First, grab yourself a good ol’ mixing bowl.  Doesn’t matter if it’s plastic, metal, wooden–whatever suits your fancy.   Then grab a heavy duty wooden spoon or a metal one that’ll hold up well.  No wimpy ones here!!  Locate a baking sheet of some kind.  I use my 16″ pizza pans and fill em up!  Then turn your oven on to 350 to 400 (your choice, I use both).

Then, put in at least 2 cups flour into your mixing bowl.  Add in a tablespoon sugar (yes, you read it, sugar), and a tablespoon of baking powder.  Add 2 tablespoons of fast acting dry yeast (I’m not sure how that translates to packets, as I buy mine in by the pounds at a Mennonite shop).  Then, I add in hot tap water, just enough to make a sticky dough (1 to 1 1/2 cups generally).  You will see foam from the yeast loving it some sugar…this is a good thing!  Then add a half cup of shortening (your choice of kind) into the mix and blend it up well.  The hot water helps tremendously in melting down the shortening or at least softening it up to make it easier to work with.

Turn this sticky mess out on to a very well floured surface.  I use my dishwasher top (it’s portable and has a butcher block top and a dough board I keep on it as well).  Add as much flour as you need to make this a firm and pliable dough, and knead 1o times, folding and pushing down each time.  The dough will rise as you do this.  Or at least mine does, and grows like I fed it miracle grow and steroids.

Pat out your dough, and grab whatever you want to use to cut out your biscuits.  I use anything from cookie cutters (I have given away numerous Christmas tree biscuits, angels, snowmen, etc), to glasses.  My favorite is a plastic tumbler about 4 inches in diameter.  I pat out my dough to about an inch thick, give or take.  Then I cut out as many biscuits as I can get out of the dough.  Whatever scraps are left at the end make a wonky biscuit and tastes just as good.

They will rise as you cut and place them on your baking sheet.  If your oven is warm or your kitchen is already warm, they’ll grow faster.

Place them in the oven and let them bake.  I allow a good 20 to 30 minutes due to the size.  I also place water in the bottom of the oven, usually in a cheap pie pan or bread pan or something that can hold a lot of water.  The moisture helps the baked goodies rise higher and nicer.  It works well with these yeast biscuits too!

When they are golden brown (as in the first picture), pull them out and butter them.  If they look like the picture directly above, they’re only half done.

My average biscuit runs around 3 to 4 inches in diameter with a 2 to 4 inch height.  No joke!!  One is a filler, especially when baptized with some homemade gravy (or the powdered mix–my favorites to make).  Pull these apart, jelly them up, cover em with syrup (like a pancake), make monsterous bacon/egg biscuits, etc–these will definitely fill you up!

This is definitely a goodie to learn how to make!

Once you get the basic recipe down, you can tweak it to make cinnamon raisin biscuits (think Hardee’s type), or any sweeter treat for a surprise!  My son helped make some over Christmas, and we iced them with chocolate frosting for a very delish breakfast. 🙂


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