Category Archives: baby

13 Essential Baby Items: 6-12 Months

Knit Nat's 13 Most Essential Baby Items

Seven months have passed since I published “17 Most Essential Infant Items.” A lot has changed since then. For instance, my son is now nine months old and he doesn’t use many of the things on that list anymore. I figured I might as well update my list, thus furthering my contribution to the Internet baby advice world.

These are things I find myself using every day. I’d say they are essential for us, but they may not be for you. Also, keep in mind I’m not including the obvious essentials such as a crib, car seat or high chair.

1. Breast Pump

Most of the items on this list are not in order of importance, but I put a breast pump on the top of the list because it is really one of the most important things I use every single day. I’m a working mom. My son goes to day care. He is still breastfed and in order to keep nourishing him with my milk, I gotta pump. I recommend getting an electric pump if you’re serious about collecting your milk. My husband brought home a hand pump back in the beginning and it was laughable. The Medela Pump in Style works great. It is the dorkiest thing you will ever attach to your body but I’m able to pump once at work to provide my son with milk for the following day. Yes, these pumps are really pricey, but the good news is they are always for sale on Craigslist and it’s really OK to buy a used one. The tubing and parts can be sanitized with Madela’s microwave sanitizing bags or if you’re really creeped about by it, you can buy all new parts. With its über sleek design you’ll be the most fashionable mom at work! (That was rife with sarcasm, by the way).

2. Jumperoo

Now that my boy is mobile, I’m starting to phase out the Jumparoo, but it was crucial for about seven months. As soon as your baby has good neck and core strength, these bouncing harness toys are the perfect place to set him while you make breakfast, take a shower or just take a load off for a little while. They light up, play music and have enough toys to entertain your little one and you know he’s in a safe place. These can also be easily found in the Craigslist and garage sale zone. Don’t bother paying full price for one. Since my son is no longer interested in being stationary, I’m thinking of taking the bouncer to a kiddie consignment shop and trading it for a baby walker.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide

Before I get too carried away with my thrift store mantra (really, you’ll save thousands by buying things used) I might as well tell you how to best clean all the used baby items you acquire. I used to clean toys with a weak bleach solution, but thanks to Pinterest I’ve discovered that hydrogen peroxide is super for cleaning all the surfaces your baby’s mouth will come in contact with (i.e. everything). I just took a sprayer from a spray bottle and screwed it on to a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. I spray his high chair tray and all his toys with it, let them sit for a couple of minutes and wipe them down with a sponge.

4. Softee Blanket

We live in Alaska where blankets are of the essence. This item may not apply to those living in hotter climates, but we use a super fuzzy — some call it minky — blanket every night at bedtime. Someone bought us a really fancy one, but really, you could just buy a $10 fuzzy throw at the store, cut it in half and hem it. I’m in the process of crafting a back-up for our vacation. Yes, most of the time I find my son’s face buried in his blanket come morning but it’s starting to grow on him and the fuzziness soothes him at night (and isn’t self-soothing the ultimate goal here?)

5. Humidifier

We live in a semi-arid part of the world and a humidifier comes in handy up here especially during cold season. When my son’s nose is all stuffed up, this helps make the air in his room less harsh.

Homemade Cloth Baby Wipes

 6. Cloth Wipes

One of the few items that carried over from the previous list, the cloth wipe is definitely essential in our household. I still use the wipes I made out of old receiving blankets. I stuff them in an empty wet wipes container, about 24, and wet them with water during diaper changes. Then I toss them into a regular wash. I know wet wipes are pretty cheap, but this is waaaaaay cheaper and I’m saving my baby’s bottom from harsh detergents and chemicals or something. Ok, ok, I’m doing it more for the saving money thing and less for the environment thing. But check out my neato tutorial here.

7. Homemade laundry detergent

Thanks again to Pinterest for showing me the light on homemade laundry detergent. I mix equal parts Oxy Clean, Borax and washing soda and just use a tablespoon per cycle. This is a huge money saver. This is a recipe for cloth diapers, since soap isn’t recommended for them. But you can incorporate Fels Naptha and make a general detergent and you’d still be saving a bundle.

8. Dimmer Switch

I am forever thankful we installed a dimmer light switch in our baby’s room. I should have included this on the first list. We use dimmers to wind things down in the evenings, for middle-of-the-night wake ups and as a general nightlight. No one is chipper in the morning when the light is suddenly turned on. This is an inexpensive and easy fix-up.

9. Internet Radio

Music is great for people of all ages and babies are no exception. I love Internet radio sites such as Pandora or Spotify. I’m really digging Songza because they help you choose the music you feel like listening to at that moment. Babies don’t need to listen to strictly baby music. My favorite Songza playlist is “Songs to Raise Your Kids To,” which is a mixture of all my favorite old tunes. I’ll put on music while getting breakfast ready, in the car and during playtime. Our son is getting into clapping and nothing beats sweatin’ to the oldies.

10. Pack ‘n’ Play

This is a recently acquired item in our house, but I’m happy we have it. This is a portable play pen/crib that folds up really easily. It’s perfect for your more mobile baby when you need to get some housework done because it keeps him in a safe place so you don’t have to worry about his exploring and a chair falling on him (that happened this morning as I was making breakfast). I also use it for nights at Grammy and Grandpa’s house. These run about $30-70 on Craigslist, so definitely buy a used one.

11. Zipper Jammies

If you think your baby is cute, he will be ten times cuter in footie pajamas. Our son practically lives in zip-up jammies. They are super convenient to get on and off, you don’t need to worry about socks and they usually have grips on the bottom of the feet so he can climb around without falling (as much).

12. Coconut Oil

This is the ultimate multi-purpose goop. Coconut oil comes in Crisco-like form and can be found at health food stores and even Costco. Not only is it nice for cooking as a replacement for saturated fats it can also be used for dozens of topical reasons. It’s great for dry skin and cures diaper rash. Check out this list for tons of other uses.

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A sample of some of our thrift store toys and books.

 

13. Used Toys and Books

You could easily spend a fortune on stuff for your child. Do yourself a favor and get used toys and books. See if your town has a Freecycle Web site. Go to garage sales and thrift shops and keep an eye out for sturdy toys in good working condition. The thrift shop is a gold mine for used books, usually just a few cents each. We have fully furnished our son’s nursery with second-hand toys and I’m happy to say none of them makes electronic noise and our son still loves them. There’s still a lot of love left in his toys for them to be passed on when he grows out of them. Pay it forward!

Baby Craft: Homemade Teething Biscuits

Jack is getting into gnawing. He’s got two tiny bottom teeth and pretty much anything he gets his mitts on will get gnawed: the coffee table, my W-2 sitting on the coffee table, day-old floor apple bits, etc. I recently visited an old friend whose daughter was sucking on a little brown slab. She seemed to be going to town on it. When I asked her what it was she told me it was a teething biscuit she had baked herself.

I was intrigued, so I decided to give it a whirl. Jack loved it. He dedicated 10 whole minutes of gnawing to one biscuit and he only chewed up half of it. One batch made about two dozen little rectangular cookies. They are hard as a rock, but that’s perfect because they won’t fall apart while your baby is slobbering all over it.

The recipe my friend sent me called for whole milk, but since I still haven’t fed my 9 month old cow’s milk, I decided to try it with breast milk. It was kind of funny baking with my own milk, but that ensures baby gets some homegrown nutrients in every gummy bite. It also calls for unsulphured molasses, which is a decent source of calcium, magnesium and iron.

Homemade Teething Biscuits

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup unsulphured molasses

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1.5 cups white flour

1.5 cups whole wheat flour

Note: you can use any combination of whole wheat and white flours. I used half and half. Experiment with different types of flours, if you dare.

Directions:

Mix together the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the flours to the bowl and combine till a tough dough forms. Knead the ball for about 5 minutes on a floured surface. If your dough is flaky and dry, add a little bit of water. Knead till the dough is smoothish. It should be pretty tough, but hold together well. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out your dough till it’s a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick (I didn’t measure at all). If the dough doesn’t stay together very easily, add a teaspoon of water and fold the dough back on itself and re-roll it out. It was tough to roll it, but luckily this dough has no elasticity, so it will stay in the shape you make it.

Cut the dough into 1 x 2.5-inch rectangles and place them on a baking sheet. Cover with foil and let sit for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before storing. I placed them in a Ziploc in my freezer so they’ll keep longer.

Good luck with teething!

Homemade Teething Biscuits

Recycled Cashmere Baby Booties — Free Pattern

It’s getting cold up here in Alaska and my son is still too small for winter boots, but he’s outgrown his cute little warm booties. I’ve been collecting thrift store cashmere sweaters for a while now with no real plan for them. I washed and dried them several times to felt them up a bit and strengthen the fabric and I decided a pair of sock-like booties would be just right for winter.

I did a little Google searching but couldn’t find a pattern I was satisfied with, so I made one. You can access it here.

These booties were pretty simple to make and only took me about 45 minutes. When printing off the pattern be sure your printer doesn’t scale it down. I had to go to my settings and change the scale to 100% and it printed off just fine. If you have troubles, please let me know.

What you’ll need:

Free Alaska Knit Nat Bootie Pattern

One cashmere sweater you’re willing to cut up (or any old sweater for that matter)

Two 2-inch pieces of narrow elastic

Sewing machine

Pins

Fabric scissors

Stretchy sewing machine needle (not required, but really helpful)

1. Using the pattern, cut the body of the bootie along the bottom of the sweater so the ribbing will become the cuff of the bootie. You’ll be cutting four pieces out, but you can cut through the front and back of the sweater at one time. Cut two soles from the sweater being sure to lay the pattern on a fold.

2. Lay the body of the booties right sides together. Pin and sew up the back of the bootie using 1/4-inch seam allowances.

3. Trim the seam toward the top so no raw edges stick up. Lay the bootie out flat, wrong side up and place the 2-inch piece of elastic a few inches from the top (I just used the end of the ribbing as a guide). Stretch the elastic across the back to see where you should start sewing. Sew along the length of elastic, stretching it as you go. This will ripple the bootie in the back so hopefully they will stay on better. You could skip the elastic altogether and sew laces to the back when you are finished.

4. With right sides together, pin and sew along the front of the bootie. The only raw edge remaining should be the bottom of the bootie.

5. Pin the sole wrong-side out around the edges of the bootie. Make sure the wider part of the sole is at the front and the narrower part is in the back. It seems like a no-brainer, but why do you think the booties in the photo look so pointy? Sew around. I didn’t trim because I figured the extra bulk inside would add some more warmth.

6. Turn right-side out. Pop onto cute baby feet. This is where you could add a long lace to the back and wrap it around the bootie and tie if you don’t want to use elastic. I might even crochet a long chain and put pom-poms on the ends.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this pattern, as I’m not used to writing my own patterns.

What to Pack in a Diaper Bag

Ok, now that my son is three months old, I feel a bit like a pro when it comes to running errands and not losing my head. There were a few panicky times in the beginning where we found ourselves without a diaper or with a poorly-stocked diaper bag.

I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’d like to share with you how I pack the diaper bag. I always make sure to restock the bag whenever I think of it so I’m not left in the lurch. Also, I try to keep diapers in the center console of the car just in case I forget to bring the bag, God forbid!

I’ll explain the contents just in case the photo isn’t clear. Click on the photo to enlarge.

1. Nursing Cover — This takes up very little space and I like to have it in case I nurse in public where people might be uncomfortable seeing a little boob flesh.

2. Book — I keep a book in the bag for when I drop Jack off with a babysitter. I’ll change the book from time to time. It’s always good to give babysitters a little something to do with your baby besides watch TV.

3. Changing Pad with Wipes — This is my all-time favorite item in the diaper bag. I made this “clutch” from a pattern on the Internet. It unfolds and reveals a pouch that can keep two diapers and a wet wipes case. Click here for the tutorial.

4. Toy — Again, another good thing to have when you drop off your baby with a babysitter. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have if your baby is getting cranky on the go.

5. Diapers — Ah yes, the item for which this bag is named. I try and keep my bag stocked with about eight diapers. That’s enough for several outings throughout the week. Not pictured are two cloth diapers and a small wet bag since they aren’t a necessity.

6. Blanket — You never know when a beautiful sunny day might get cold and blustery, as I learned earlier this summer. A receiving blanket doesn’t take up much space and it’s a must for all seasons.

7. Burp cloth — This is a no-brainer item. Whether it’s spit-up or drool, I always keep one on hand for quick clean ups.

8. Nursing Pads — This is the one non-baby item. I sometimes have my own accidents so I always keep a couple of disposable nursing pads in the bag to prevent unsightly leaks.

9. Baby Powder — Just a typical diaper bag item, but instead of hauling a huge container around I put some in an old poultry seasoning jar. Make sure to place it in a plastic baggie as powder tends to get everywhere.

10. Rash Cream — Another must-have.

11. Baby Shampoo — I keep a travel-size bottle of shampoo in my bag in case we have to give Jack an emergency not-at-home bath. You never know when you might have a blowout!

12. Change of Clothes — I always keep a Onesie, set of jammies, pants, outer layer and socks in a gallon Ziploc bag. Babies will tend to go through more than one outfit a day, what with the drooling, puking, peeing and pooping they do. Be sure to restock whenever you think of it. Don’t want to be stuck with a dirty, wet, stinky baby while running errands or while he’s with the babysitter.

13. Bottle — A must-have if you bottle-feed or if you leave your baby with a sitter. Make sure to clean it when you get home.

14. Grocery bags — These are free and are great for messy clothes, burp cloths, diapers or whatever you want to keep apart from clean stuff or politely toss in someone else’s trash.

15. Gallon Ziploc Bags — I like to be a polite mama-on-the-go. Would you want someone to leave a stinky diaper in your trash? Seal it up in a Ziploc so you don’t have to share the smell with others. Also makes a good wet bag for dirty clothes and cloth diapers.

So, that’s our diaper bag! Is there anything you put in your bag that I left out? Leave me a comment!

Thanks,
Nat

Hooded Baby Towel and Mitt Set — A Tutorial

Our son is a tall little fellow and store bought hooded towels are too short for him. I want him to be bundled up and cozy after a bath so I decided to make my own hooded towel out of a plush bath towel.

He’s not too sure about this bath thing…

Here’s how you can make one too.

Materials:
1 large towel
Sewing machine
Heavy duty needle (optional, but makes the job easier)
Fabric scissors or rotary cutter

Directions:

1. Fold your towel lengthwise or “hot dog” style. Cut a 12 to 14-inch piece from one end.

2. Turn under the raw edge of the big piece and pin in place. With a straight stitch sew across. Go back along this seam with a zig zag to prevent the towel from unravelling. Since my towel had stripes I didn’t pin. I just made sure the stripes lined up.

3. Take the big piece and line up one corner on top of the 12-inch piece with the finished edge of the small piece on the bottom. The finished edge is going to be the edge of the hood. You’re going to cut a triangle form the little piece so you want to make sure it’s the right shape of triangle. I eyeballed how big to make the triangle. I just imagined it as the hood and how big my baby’s head is.

4. Cut out the two edges of the triangle and pin it to the corner of the big piece. Save the scraps.

5. Sew along the two edges with a straight stitch.

6. Turn the triangle inside out and there’s your hooded towel!

For the mitt:

1. Place your hand on the scrap of towel to figure out how tall you want your mitt. Fold your scrap in half and cut out a rectangle with one side being on the fold.

2. Unfold your rectangle and turn under one of the long edges and sew down.

3. Fold the rectangle in half with the turned under edge on the outside (right sides together) and sew the raw edges.

4. Turn right side out and there’s your mitt!

Knit Nat’s 17 Most Essential Infant Items

I’ve been a mama for nine weeks now and I wanted to write about the items and products I find myself using on a daily basis. There is so much advice out there in the Interwebland, but it doesn’t hurt to throw in my two cents.

In case you don’t know me well, I’m a thrifty girl at heart; therefore, my baby is a thrifty baby whether he likes it or not. Most of the things on this list I got second hand, I made or they were gifts, but they are all totally useful and I’ll explain why. Just a note: these are in no particular order, so the top of the list is not most important. It’s just what came to my mind first.

1. Bottle drying rack
When I was a non-mom perusing the kitchenware aisles at thrift stores, I would always see these bottle drying racks on the shelves. And when it came time to actually needing one, I had no trouble at all finding one for two bucks. No, you don’t actually NEED a bottle drying rack, but if you find yourself washing bottles on a daily basis this is a great tool to ensure you don’t have bottles rolling all over your counters (which is what was happening to me before I bought a drying rack). It’s a handy piece of plastic that usually folds flat, although I never store mine since I’m always using it.

2. Cloth wipes
When my granola-type friends told me they use only cloth baby wipes to clean their babies’ bums, I thought, “Yuck, no way do I want to wash and reuse soiled pieces of cloth!” Well, call me a granola, but I totally love cloth wipes. Just wet them with warm water (or cold if your baby doesn’t care) and they really do the job better than any disposable wipe I’ve used. You spare your baby from the soap and chemicals in the disposable wipes and you are doing your tiny part to save the environment, if you’re into that kind of thing.

The cheapest way to go is to make them from flannel receiving blankets you find at garage sales. Just cut them up into 7-inch squares and if you want them to last longer, sew a zig-zag stitch around the edges. I found that I only need about 24 wipes. I stuff them into a disposable wipes dispenser and toss the dirty ones in the wash every couple of days. This is like a 50-cent investment that is totally worth more than 50 cents. Check out my blog post about it.

3. Homemade detergent
I cloth diaper my son part time and every few days I’ll do a diapers-only wash in my front-loading HE machine. Instead of buying pre-made detergent, which can be sort of pricey, I researched the vast Interbabynets and found a recipe for homemade detergent that costs just pennies per load.

Mix together equal parts Oxy-clean, Borax and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda — it’s right near the Oxy-clean at the store).

When it’s time to wash the diapers or wipes or anything else that’s been pooped on, I first do a wash on cold with 1 tablespoon of detergent. Then I do a hot wash with an extra rinse cycle with another tablespoon of detergent. If I lived in a dry, sunny place I’d line dry them, but instead I make sure to dry them for more than an hour in the dryer.

Keep in mind this is a process for my infant who is only two months old. I think it’ll be a whole different ball game when he starts eating solids.

4. Automotive shop cloths
This is where I credit my husband for being a thrifty genius. When our son was a week old, my husband came home from Target with a pack of jersey-knit shop cloths from the automotive section. These cloths look like white t-shirt rectangles. They are the perfect size for pretty much everything: baby spit-up, a tiny changing pad, when I leak everywhere, when I can’t seem to find a napkin while eating breakfast, etc. These were less expensive than burp cloths and they are really soft because people treat their fancy cars like babies. Brilliant!

5. Travel changing pad
Yes, it’s important to have a huge diaper bag in your car for any foreseeable crisis or explosion, but the best thing I’ve made for my baby so far is a changing pad that folds up and looks like a clutch purse. I found this simple pattern here and it’s just the perfect size for a travel wipes container and one or two diapers. I’ll keep the diaper bag in the car and just bring the changing pad when I’m running errands or visiting a friend. It makes me feel like a mom in disguise….sort of…except that I’m carting around a baby.

This is the one I made, unfolded in the back of our car

6. Muslin swaddling blankets
When the nurses at the hospital swaddled my son, they used a thick flannel blanket and my little guy was sweating from day one. I’m so happy I had brought with me an Aden and Anais blanket. They are a tad pricey at Target, about $30 for four, but I managed to find a couple at the thrift store and I love them. They are stretchy so you can get a good swaddle on, but they are also breathable. I also use them to cover my baby’s stroller while going on walks on sunny days because he can still feel the breeze but is protected.

 

Swaddled and loving it on day one

7. The Miracle Blanket
Ok, this is my one commercial endorsement on this list. I added the Miracle Blanket to our baby registry thinking it might be useful, but we ended up loving it that we got an extra one in case the first is in the wash. This blanket swaddles your baby like no other without velcro or other fasteners. If our boy is fussy or is having trouble falling asleep, we wrap him up in this blanket and he is instantly soothed. No joke. He seems to love it. Too bad he’s getting too tall for it. It’ll be a sad day when we retire these blankets.

Look how passive he is!

8. Bouncy chair or automatic swing
One thing I didn’t really think about all the months I was pregnant was where do I keep my baby during the day when I need to make breakfast, clean the house, take a shower or use the toilet? The answer can be found on Craigslist. Never, ever buy a baby bouncer or swing brand new. It’s a total rip off and these things are floating around Craigslist like moths to a lamplight. When their babies grow out of them, people want these contraptions out of their house and are willing to sell them for super cheap. I bought two for $7 total just to see what our son would prefer. It just took a few C batteries and Jack is lulled to sleep by soothing vibrations. Now that he’s old enough to interact with things we re-hooked up the bubbly music electronic toy bar to his bouncer and he actually loves it. I guess Fisher Price knows what’s up.

9. Digital camera/iPhone Instagram App
I’m not going to delve into this, but photos of your baby are priceless and I use a camera every day. I do feel a little bad for my Facebook friends, but I’m really trying hard not to flood Facebook with photos of my baby. It’s pretty hard since he’s obviously the most attractive baby on the planet (I might be a tad biased).

Can you deny the cuteness?

Cool thing about Instagram is you can order teeny-tiny albums and stickers from their Web site. How cool is that?

10. Gallon Ziploc bags
These are useful for so many reasons. I skip the fancy dry bags when I’m on the go and just stuff soiled items in Ziploc bags. If I’m in a bind I’ll just toss dirty diapers in grocery bags because people tend to have those lying around. Ziplocs are also useful when you’re packing for trips. Keep baby’s small clothing items and necessities contained.

11. Giant old-school water bottle with accordion straw
As a non-mom I never drank enough water, but as soon as I started nursing I became the thirstiest woman alive. Luckily the hospital provided me with a gigantic water bottle (although my bill wasn’t itemized, I’m sure I paid for it severely). Before going to bed each night, I fill up my giant water bottle with ice cubes and water and drink it down like there’s no tomorrow. Who knew having a baby would force me to stay hydrated?

12. Thrift store books
No nursery is complete without books. I have to have the classics, such as Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon, but I really love those thick cardboard books because my baby will inevitably want to eat and destroy everything in his path. Books can add up if you buy them new, but I’ve found great books at the thrift store for next to nothing and there’s such a great variety. You can find books that are out of print, ones from your childhood, and it’s fun to find ones already inscribed. I just make sure to wipe down each cardboard page with a weak bleach water solution and let them air dry. I can’t trust thrift store dirt.

13. Womb Lamb
This isn’t a necessity, but it was a gift and I end up using it every day. My mother-in-law gave us a stuffed lamb that makes sounds such as rain, whales, ocean and heartbeat. It Velcros to the crib and for 20 or 45 minutes it will sooth your baby to sleep. I’ve read the womb is as loud as a vacuum cleaner to a baby in utero, so the outside world can be sort of quiet. This little lamb is pretty helpful, although I think the whales freak Jack out a bit.

14. Bottle warmer
Again, a total non-essential, but we actually use this thing regularly. After four weeks I started pumping so that dad could be a part of the feeding frenzy at night. It’s kind of a process for him. He has to take the milk out of the fridge and warm it up, then pour it in a bottle, all while Jack is screaming his face off. I found a bottle warmer at a garage sale and it became a lot easier for him. This device has a little cooler in the back that stores bottles for up to eight hours. When you’re ready to warm it, just pour the required amount of water in the front, place the bottle inside and press the button. In a few minutes the milk is ready for baby and dad can get a little taste of what mom’s been doing for four weeks.

15. Homemade hooded towel
Hooded baby towels are super cute. Sometimes there are animal faces on the hoods, which cuten your baby even more. But my baby is too tall for these towels and I feel like our grown-up towels are far plushier and softer than any baby towel. I’d rather be wrapped in the luxury of a Kohl’s Apt. 9 bath towel so I figured so would my baby. Luckily, I found just this towel at the thrift store for $1. I cut about a foot off the end of the towel, cut a triangle from the cut piece and sewed the triangle to one corner of the towel. I also turned under any raw edges. Presto! My boy can be all snuggled up as soon as bath time is over.

16. Garage sale clothing
Summer is the time for garage sales and never before have I actually been excited when I walk up to a garage and it’s full of baby clothes. I have yet to buy any new article of clothing for my boy. He is currently sporting jammies with mice and acorns that I bought for about 50 cents. In the winter I was shopping at thrift stores, but as soon as I went garage sailing (yes I know that’s not the right spelling) I realized I was being ripped off at the thrift store. Ok, so $1 for a Onesie isn’t so bad, but usually people sell clothes for a quarter at garage sales. We were able to dress up Jack for a wedding last week in a nice three-piece baby suit we purchased for $3.

17. Pacifier
I didn’t foresee us being a binky family, but a pacifier comes in handy at some point every day. Sometimes Jack just wants to suck on something and I don’t have time to leave my breast out all day. Buying the right pacifier was a bit like a baby wine tasting event. We bought several different types and let Jack figure out what he preferred. Turns out he likes the latex kind over the silicone kind. Who knew there was so much to learn about pacifiers? Jack’s full-bodied Nuk pacifier has a smooth, velvety texture with a hint of blackberry tannins.

So yes, those are 17 things that I use almost every day. Of course not everything on this list will be useful to each and every reader, but I hope my recommendations help you be a frugal, happy parent. What is something you can’t live without while caring for your infant? Feel free to leave a comment!

-Natasha

Homemade Cloth Baby Wipes

All right, apparently it’s been a full month since my last post, and boy, did that month fly by! Here’s the reason I’ve been so absent:

His name is Jack Oliver and he is a month old. It’s been an exciting month and I’m finally settling into a new normal, so let’s get back to craftin’!

We have already purchased a Costco-sized box of wet wipes and I’m realizing how we’re fast becoming a wasteful family. We are doing a combo of cloth diapers and disposables, so I thought I’d give cloth wipes a try.

Today was the first big garage sale day and for once I’m actually stoked when all a garage sale has is baby stuff. I found some nice clothes for Jack but I snagged several flannel receiving blankets to craft out with.

Homemade wipes are super easy. Since I’m washing cloth diapers anyway, I figured a few scraps of flannel added to the wash wouldn’t make a big difference.

Here’s what you need to make 32 or so wipes:

2-3 flannel receiving blankets, or a yard of flannel fabric
An empty wet wipes box (sometimes thrift stores have these)
Sewing machine with zig zag stitch

Photo by Amber Telling

Cut your blankets into 7-inch squares. No need to be precise. You’ll end up with about 16 squares per blanket.

Using a wide zig-zag (or a serger machine is even better!) sew a border around any unfinished edges. I just incorporated the finished edges into each square.

Fill up your empty wet wipes box. If you have time (and I doubt I’ll find myself doing this often) overlap each wipe so that when you pull out a wipe, then next one will come out.

I plan on wetting each wipe as I use it with a spray bottle of water with a small amount of baby oil and baby soap in it. I suppose you could prewet the wipes by pouring some water into the wet wipes box after it’s filled. I’m not sure how that works, but I’m sure it’s fine.

Once a wipe is used, place it in your designated dirty cloth diapers receptacle. When it’s time to wash the wipes and diapers, here’s what I do (this is after hours of online research on washing cloth diapers using homemade detergent). I use a combination of equal parts Borax, Arm & Hammer Soda Wash (found next to Borax in grocery store) and Oxy Clean. I have a front loading HE machine and I run it through two cycles. The first cycle I run on cold and add one tablespoon of detergent. The next load I select an extra rinse cycle, add another tablespoon of detergent and run the load on hot.

Either line dry or dry on hot for more than an hour.

Turquoise Vintage Circus Jungle Nursery

When I was about four months pregnant, my close friend Kasandra asked me, “So, what is your theme going to be for the nursery?” Theme? Uh….under the sea? Wild west? I just don’t think in themes. So I thought about the colors I love — red, turquoise, purple, teal, orange, yellow — oh wait — I love all the colors.

When we first moved into our place Stephen and I painted two of the rooms Martha Stewart Vintage Map, which, obviously, is a light blue color (I can’t get over product color names).  So, conveniently enough when we found out we were having a boy we didn’t have to repaint the walls.

Honestly, though, I have a problem with classic nurseries. The baby is only a baby for a couple of years so I see no point in decking out a room with paint and decals and décor that will only be applicable for a short amount of time. Also, I wanted our baby room to be a space that I’d want to hang out in.

I love vintage toys and they all seem to have vintage colors like rusty orange and faded blue. I also love the look of Hipstamatic photos. The colors are saturated but a little off. They kind of remind me of old circus photos.

A few months ago I found someone on Craigslist who was selling several Fisher Price toys from the ’60s. I instantly scooped them up and after some light contemplation I had an answer for Kasandra: the theme will be vintage circus. What I ended up with I can’t exactly explain in terms of a theme, hence the bizarre blog title of Turquoise Vintage Circus Jungle Nursery.

I love how the room turned out. It look very little effort to transform what used to be the booze and guns room into a comfortable space to play and care for our son. Due to space constraints, my husband is sharing this room with baby. Stephen lays claim to the closet and the upper part of the cube shelf is his retro music station. But I think it blends well with the rest of the room.

I pride myself in finding good used items, so this room was a relative bargain. All the furniture is from thrift stores, garage sales, or was given to us. Most of the decorations were handcrafted by me, friends and family or were printed off the Internet and put into cheap frames.

We have many meaningful things in this room: a slate that my godmother used when she was a child, my older sister’s teddy bear, friends’ artwork, embroidery that was in my nursery, “A Child’s Garden of Verses” that belonged to my husband’s grandfather, a crib that all four of the kids in my family used, a bookshelf my grandfather made in the ’50s, a homemade sock monkey that belonged to my older brother and photos taken by close friends.

The love from our family and friends spans wall to wall. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I do. Click on a photo to enlarge.

Curtains from Ikea, blanket made by me, crane mobile and paint chip bunting also made by moi, our old garage sale chair and ottoman, my Oriental rug from college

Bookshelf made my my grandfather in the ’50s, thrift store bedside table and lamp

Craigslist vintage toys, slate belonging to my godmother, thrift store toys, new German wooden toys from grandma

Homemade fitted sheet, giant sock monkey and red monkey painting from our friend Ashley, crib made in Sweden and purchased in England for my brother in 1971, wall quilt made by my mom, jungle painting scrounged from a moving van, space-age TV scrounged from a dumpster
From left to right: My childhood bear Bosh, older sister’s bear Beary, new Pooh sitting on vintage telephone bench converted to a toy chest

Artwork and haiku by my old friend Joe

Craigslist cube shelf, painting by original Jack, thrift store toys, photos by our friend Amber
Bins from Jo-Ann’s

How to Sew Your Own Cloth Diaper Wet Bag

Ok, I’m gearing up for baby time. I’ve decided to embrace the cloth diaper concept and I have nearly everything I need. Upon doing research on how to clean cloth diapers, I discovered that I’ll need some sort of receptacle to store the soiled nappies between washes. My mom suggested just using plastic bags, but that seems wasteful. When I looked online I found lots of different brands of cloth diaper wet bags, but they were about $20-40 for the size I was looking for. I took to Esty and found some really cute ones, but again the price was too much for me to justify. I mean, really, it’s just a simple bag.  Why not make one myself?

So I did.

It’s definitely not professional, but I think it will do the trick and it only cost about $5 to make.

You can make one too. Here’s what you need to make two wet bags:

A 3-gallon trash can with a lid
3/4 yard of PUL fabric (It was in a special cloth diaper section at Jo-Ann’s)
Nylon cording (cheap, in the hardware section of the grocery store)
2 cord stops (found in the notions section at Jo-Ann’s)
a safety pin
a lighter
bag clips (so you don’t penetrate the waterproof fabric while you hold it in place)

Please note: you may need a different amount of PUL fabric depending on the size of the trash can you purchase.

1. Measure your trash can around. Mine was 28 inches so I decided to make my bag 32 inches wide. I learned the hard way after my first attempt at making a bag that deeper is better, so although my can is only 14 inches deep, I made my bag 25 inches to leave room for the casing and to be able to fold it over the side of the can to hold it in place. End measurement: 32″x25″.

2. I made French seams so that the bag would be more waterproof. Pin the 25-inch seam together RIGHT SIDE OUT and sew using a very narrow seam allowance — less than 1/4 inch. Leave two inches unsewn at the end. This will be the top of the bag because you’ll need the sides free for the casing and cord.

3. Turn the tube inside out and using the bag clips, clip the seam to hold it in place. You are essentially pinning it in place but without having to penetrate the waterproof fabric.

4. Sew along the side again, this time leaving about a 1/2-inch seam allowance, again leaving the top two inches unsewn. Pull the fabric slightly as you go. It’s a little sticky and has a hard time feeding itself through, at least with my machine.

5. Do steps 2 and 3 with the bottom edge. You should now have something that looks like a bag.

6. Now here’s the kind of ghetto part, but I don’t really care. With the bag right-side out, turn in the unsewn edges of the top and sew them down. This will ensure you don’t have any raw edges for the cord to fray up.

7. Turn down the top edge and pin in place, making a 1-inch casing. Sew all the way around the top of the bag. The wider the casing, the easier it is for the cord to move around. If you wanted this to look more professional you could turn down the top edge just a little bit and then turn it down again to make the 1-inch casing so you don’t have any raw edges at all. I just really don’t care that much!

8. Attach a safety pin to one end of the nylon cord and feed it through the casing. Leave about 6 inches of cord on either end. Use a lighter to melt the ends of the nylon cord to prevent fraying.

9. Thread the two ends through the cord stop.

10. Place your new bag in the trash can and wrap the edge of the bag around the can. Use the cord stop to hold the drawstring in place around the can.

11. If your pail starts to get stinky just drawstring the bag so odors won’t escape as easily. When it’s time do to a wash, just turn the bag inside out as you dump the diapers in the washer and toss the bag in with the wash. The PUL fabric can be washed and dried just like the diapers.

So we’ll see how well this holds up. At least I saved a bunch of money by making it myself and that makes me feel goooooooooood!

Homemade Carseat Canopy

Since I finally decided to stop working, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands and not a lot of motivation. It’s hard to move around when I’m more than nine months pregnant! But I powered through and made a couple of carseat covers, one for us and one for my friend who is having a girl. I love the color combos and it finally gave me a reason to buy the popsicle fabric at Jo-Ann’s — and it was half off!

The pattern was a Pinterest find and can be accessed here.

It was a really easy project, but it took me literally all day to make both because I had to take so many breaks. Also, I didn’t have enough hippo fabric for our cover and I had to do some extreme pregnant math (brain no work good) to figure out how to piece it with the blue fabric. Also due to pregnant brain I cut the popsicle fabric completely down the middle by accident, but I think the stripe looks pretty good!

The only thing I did differently from the pattern is I put the straps a couple of inches closer together. I used safety pins before sewing them down, tried it on, and realized the straps were flopping to the sides. I repositioned them till they were a good distance — about six inches apart.

Insert baby here

Love this!

finally got to put these hippos to good use!