(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.. 🙂

Tip Junkie handmade projects

WestBow Press


A Handmade Life Part 12–Sourdough Cookies, or Herman’s Babies

For those who have followed the saga of Herman, he’s had children.

They’re sweet little things, fat and fluffy.

Now, before you think “what in the world is she talking about!!!”, let me explain.

Herman is a sourdough starter made from a cup of flour and cup of water and fed well.  He’s very prolific.

Herman has been in my home now for nearly 3 weeks.  He’s so far made 12 loaves of bread, 110 cookies, went to visit a new home and made bread and cookies there too.  He’s filled the refrigerator freezer and also lives in the chest deep freezer.  And he’s half way filled a stock pot in the fridge.  He’s a growing boy.

Herman’s children here are cookies.

Now, I’ve never been good at making cookies.  Mine always looked like sweet tortillas.  Flat bread at the most.  Never ever ever a cookie.  So, when I started on this project, I expected it to be a sweet sourdough tortilla.  Hint: use parchment to bake on!!!  It works!

To make these, I stirred up ol’ Herman and got him all bubbly and happy.  Then I put his part (the 1 cup) first into the mixer bowl, followed by all the other ingredients, and mixed him all up.

Herman in the stock pot all happy and bubbly

Herman got along very well with his friends Baking Soda, Powder, eggs, vanilla, etc.

 He even behaved while I rolled him out and cut him into rounds.

I used a biscuit cutter and made lots of rounds, and put them on a pizza pan covered in parchment.  I then put some butter on them and sprinkled them with sanding sugar.

They went in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, and came out looking like sugary biscuits.  I evidently didn’t roll them out flat enough, as they poofed.  Or it could have been the water pan I keep in the oven full of water to help things rise well.

They tasted like a sugar cookie tho!  Light, fluffy, sweet, YUMMM!

I did find that with this recipe, the little Hermanites will puff, so space them a ways apart to let them spread and poof.  If you don’t want them to look like biscuits, break out your cool cookie cutters!

I LOVE how they taste, and hubby had a bunch of them despite his intestinal issues.

My friend Jennifer took some of Herman and made sourdough oatmeal/almond/chocolate chip Hermanites.  They are SO GOOD!!  Take an oatmeal cookie recipe, substitute a cup of Herman in for a cup or so of flour, adjust your liquids a little, add in nuts and chocolate chip and you’ve got a winner!!

Can you tell I liked them?

Below is the cookie recipe, with credits.  Enjoy!

via Cultures for Health

  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 cup Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Rapadura or Sucanat (I used good old cane sugar)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Fresh Sourdough Starter
  • 2 tbsp. Water

Preheat   the oven to 375 degrees.  Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and the   vanilla extract.  Gently mix in the water and sourdough starter.  In a   separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  Combine the wet and   dry ingredients.  Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes. Drop the dough   onto a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle the cookies with cinnamon and sugar if   desired.  Bake for 12 minutes.


Shared Joyfully with:

A Mama’s Story

A Handmade Life Part 11–Preparing for Winter

It’s still July here in Southeast Kansas, but here at the Abella household, we’re preparing for winter!


We won’t have the garden in the middle of a Kansas winter.  The beautiful herbs and veggies won’t be there to pick fresh each day for meals.  So, we must prepare early.



Our garden has tomatoes, zukes, eggplants, basil, parsley, stevia, thyme, sage, and chives.  It’s a small plot, maybe 5 feet at the most, and a square.  Not a lot, of course, but it’s enough for our family.  It provides extra veggies and fresh herbs, which is fine by me!


God has provided a wonderful bounty of tomatoes, and with 4 plants, I’ve harvest upwards of 80 in less than 5 days.  We are in tomato heaven!

So what are we doing with all those tomatoes?

This got a little tricky.  See, those ‘maters have seeds and skin.  Hubby is not allowed seeds and skins on veggies/fruits for the time being due to some nasty gastrointestinal issues.  I love full tomatoes in all their glory, seeds and skins included.  Throw them on a sandwich with some bacon and/or lettuce and I’m good.  Shoot, it doesn’t even have to have bacon, just a tomato on bread with mustard, lettuce, and pickles, and I’m a happy camper.  Hubby loves his seeds and skins too.

So to help hubby be able to have his homegrown tomatoes without the pain, I’ve taken to processing them into a thick juice.  I have been blessed with a father in law who has all the processing equipment to can just about anything you can think of.   Hubby and I borrowed some of his equipment, like the cool strainer collander thingy on a tripod.  I LOVE it!


This last week, I went through a bunch of tomatoes, cleaned them from the crop dust (we believe in only organic Sevin LOL).  Then, took the core out, and put them in a stock pot with enough water that they cooked but didn’t boil over.


Then, they were spooned out and into a different pot to cool a bit.  Seriously, hot tomatoes don’t feel good on fingers.  After they cooled a bit, they were put into the collander/strainer thingy on 3 legs.  Using a wooden plunger (no, not the toilet kind–more like the mortar/pestil kind on a much larger basis), the ‘maters went through the strainer’s tiny itty bitty holes to leave behind only seeds and skins.  This took a long long while, or it seemed like it, but those stingy tomatoes gave up all the meat in them.  The seeds and skins I put aside into a big bowl for later use (like soup–there’s plenty of tomato taste left).


After allllll the tomatoes were put through the strainer thingy (don’t you love the scientific language here?? LOL) I had a good size pot of thick juice.  That thick juice simmered for a while in a pot, thickening up a bit.  When that cooled, I put it all into freezer bags.


Why freezer bags?  We’re planning a canning party with hubby’s dad, making lots of thick yummy sauce for pastas and such.  Papa has a lot of tomatoes too, so when hubby and Papa are ready, off to canning we go, using up all the things we’ve frozen in the meantime.  Between Papa’s canner and mine, we can whip up a lot of jars of sauce in no time once we get plenty between us to use.

Just another day at the Abella house!

Stay tuned for upcoming Hand Made Life series on preserving fresh herbs, including stevia, basil, and so on!

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!

Shared at:

Tip Junkie The Better Mom Raising Homemakers Growing Home Modest Mom

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!


Hoarders, or “Do I Really Want To Let This Go?”

I saw a rebroadcast tonight on ABC about a show called Hoarders.  I’ve never seen the show before, hadn’t really heard of it, but was intrigued by what I saw.  I seldom watch tv, as in the network stuff that comes in by digital antenna (we don’t have cable or satellite), so this was new to my sheltered little world.

People had hoarded everything under the sun in their homes, to where there was no place to walk, no place to sit, no area to cook or do dishes, etc.  We’re talking trash, diapers, food, clothing, papers, books, you name it.  Mountains and mountains of this stuff decaying into compost inside the homes.  One home even had 2 decayed cat carcasses INSIDE the house.  There were interviews with people who grew up in those homes, and how they were now.

The children of the hoarding parents didn’t live like that.  They kept clean and tidy homes.  Genetic link?  Probably not.  Granted the notion was put out that the people hoarding had a genetic problem and “it really wasn’t their fault”.  Of course not, we can’t take responsibility for our own actions, now can we?

I will admit that the spot on ABC did get me to thinking.  And looking.

A quick sweep around the house and I have come to the drastic notion–we are low level hoarders.  Oh no, not the kind where you have to scoop shovel out a path, have mountains of junk piled up the ceiling, boxes of 50 year old magazines piling up type thing.  We’re more like papers that are put to the side to read later (but never gets done), things purchased because it was on sale and we might need it, old medicines kept because they may still have some good….10 years expired, keys to places we haven’t lived in or been around in years, etc.  Minor stuff, things that can be easily gotten under control.  But it is a wake up call that turned on the light for me to see it.  It’s more than a clutter thing, it’s letting things go and retraining to not let those things happen again.

It’s also a heart issue.  Are we putting more stock into material things than into what the Lord promises in taking care of us?  Instead of holding back for the “what ifs”, why not use what we are given, and what we don’t need anymore, pass on to those that do.  If it’s garbage, put it out in the garbage.  If it’s useful, find it a new home with folks who can use it.  If it’s paper, shred it, burn it, do something to get it a new home somewhere besides yours.  Do we need to hold on to things as a security blanket?  No.

I will admit it.  I’m guilty.  I’ve shed many things over the years, with moving, downsizing, getting tired of moving tons of junk.  But there’s more to do, especially after marrying a man with some hoarding habits that increase as time passes.  Sure, we both come from homes that had little, with parents who had basically nothing when they were growing up.  But does that mean we have to keep every shred of paper, book, grocery bag, plastic cup, etc that comes into the house?  NO!

Would you like to join us as we begin our own trip down Hoarders’ Lane and declutter along side us?

I’ve already started in the past week or so, with giving away all of my hair clip making supplies that I haven’t used much of, as well as bags of fabric scraps I’ve held on to “just in case” I get a chance to use them.  I’ve given books to the thrift shop, as well as other items have left our house.  I’m guarding against bringing any more back in that can’t be used up immediately.

I imagine this will be the first of many posts on our new adventure….decluttering!