Gail's Nest · Shop Talk

My Personal Favorites of 2019

Personal Favorites! It’s nice to take a moment to sit back and think about those movies, books, products, moments, etc. that had an impact on your year. So.. here’s mine:

Favorite movie – Harriett. I can’t say enough about the beauty and authenticity of this well done film. Harriett Tubman’s courage and faith is front and center of her dramatic story.

Favorite book – Here’s the Story by Maureen McCormick (from the Brady Bunch – watching A Very Brady Renovation inspired me to read her life story – she’s quite the overcomer!  And on a completely different note I really enjoyed Glow KidsEvery parent should read this, as the author presents very disturbing stats about the damage screens, video games, and social media has on our children.

Favorite TV Series – The Crown (I just love history and this whole series is fascinating because Queen Elizabeth was a part of so much world history). Soon season 4 will air!!

Favorite Podcast – Love to Sew, and Dolly Parton’s America. The Love to Sew ladies discuss all topics related to garment sewing. I find it insightful especially as I sit at my sewing table to work on my creations. And Dolly Parton’s America is put on by NPR so it’s very well done. I’ve never really been a fan, but the country singer is a remarkable woman and this podcast does an incredible job of describing the impact she has made on on our culture. I found it very interesting!

Favorite Product – I just love my bullet journal and pens (I ordered both from Amazon. The Keegood journal has loads of pages for me to design my calendar and to-do lists and the pens are iBayam Fineliners and feel nice in my hand.



Highlights of my year – Trip to Ireland – We went with CIE Tours and I highly recommend them! It’s definitely the way to go when you travel to a new place. They had everything figured out, from what we eat, to where we sleep, and the transportation to all the sights. It was excellent!

Other hightlights of our year was a family reunion, and our daughter, Anna’s, wedding.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! May God richly bless YOUR nest!




Gail's Nest · Refashion

Painting an Upholstered Chair


So I had this old chair that my husband picked up (he actually picked up two of them) for only a few dollars each. They had been chairs that sat in a waiting room of a doctor’s office or something, and as you can see, are of the most drab gold colored fabric. When I was painting the ceiling of the room this chair was in, I stood on it and managed to dribble paint. Well, that was that. Something needed to be done or I was going to have to throw it out.

In researching online what I could possibly do to rescue this chair, I came across instructions on painting upholstery. Could I do it? Does it not rub off on your pants when you sit down? Does it not get crackly? The consensus out there was: YES I could do it. NO it does not rub off, and NO it doesn’t get crackly. So off I went to the paint store.

I bought a chalk paint in a pale mint color that I thought would be a more updated look. And began to work.

First, I “painted” a section with just water, getting the fabric damp. Then I watered down my paint so it was pretty dribbly. ThisJpeg felt like it could be messy, but I reminded myself I was “dyeing” the fabric, not really painting it. Then only painting the sections I had wetted, I began to apply the color. When I was done with that section, I repeated the process of wetting the fabric, and applying the color, making sure I got into the chair’s crevices.


As you can see, I taped the chair frame to avoid getting paint on the woodwork. But since the paint is watered down, it sometimes dribbled down the legs. I just kept a wet rag nearby to wipe up my dribbles quickly. But good ol’ Goof Off does a good job getting any residual dried paint off woodwork.

After the first coat dried, I used a #220 sandpaper to sand the paint. Then I put a second coat on, proceeding exactly like the first: wetting sections, painting with watered down paint, etc. Then again, after it dried, I sanded, and put on a third coat.

Lastly, I applied a coat of wax. I used a wax that I got at Walmart. It dried beautifully and sealed in the paint. I am so happy with the results!

So… in summary, here are the steps:

  1. Prep: tape up your woodwork, and pour a little paint into a pan with a little water.
  2. Use a brush to wet down a section.
  3. Paint with the watered down paint.
  4. Wet down another section, and paint that section.
  5. Allow 24 hours to dry.
  6. Sand. Do a second and maybe a third coat.
  7. After the last coat is dry, apply a wax to the fabric.
  8. Take off your tape. Use Goof-Off to take off any residual paint




Lydia's Nest · Parenting

So You Want to Use Cloth Diapers?

I (Gail) put my kids in disposables. Cloth diapers always were a mystery to me. My mother used them on me but in the eighties and nineties disposables were the thing. It’s not that I didn’t try cloth – I did, but washing them was awkward, inconvenient, messy, and time-consuming. And I wasn’t convinced that cloth was any better for the environment when you considered the cost of soap, water, and electricity.

But twenty five years later young moms have more options, including the internet that give instruction, helpful tips, equipment, and support. Naturally Lydia is drawn to the benefits of cloth diapering. I admire her tenacity, her organization, and especially her knowledge of the subject. So it’s time for another mother/daughter interview that I hope will help all you other moms out there as you consider the “To-cloth or Not-to-cloth” debate. (You can view our other mother/daughter post on “Baby-Led Weaning” here.)

Gail: What inspired you to use cloth diapers in the first place?

Lydia: As I was preparing for the birth of our oldest (Deacon), I did a lot of research and reading on various parenting choices and the pros and cons. One big thing I came across was how much disposable diapers cost over the time they are used – potentially as much as $2,500, depending on the brand used (source: Consumer Reports). I was drawn to the fact that cloth diapers are both significantly cheaper, and reduce landfill waste as well.



Gail: Why did you choose cloth instead of the convenience of disposables?

Lydia: Personally, I find cloth to be pretty convenient! Cloth diapers today are very different than the fold-and-pin-rubber-pants style that most people think of. Now, there are a number of different styles, from All-in-Ones that go on and off exactly like a disposable, to Pockets that have a slot to place absorbent inserts, to hybrids that blend all of them. The other big question people have is washing. I find that diapers really only add an extra load about once or twice a week – it’s key to have enough diapers to fill your washer, so you really get your money’s worth out of each wash.

Gail: Give me the Diapering 101 on exactly how you do this. What is your routine?

Lydia: I try to keep diapers stuffed and ready to go both in the living room and in the nursery. When I take a diaper off of Annabelle,  I take the insert out and put it in the wet bag (a special bag that is lined with water-resistant material to keep in any wetness). If it is a poopy diaper, it goes in a this special plastic poop bucket. It is important to flush poop down the toilet – nobody wants that in the washing machine! When I’m starting to get low on diapers (only 4-5 clean ones) I round them up from around the house and put them in the washer. I follow a Fluff Love University wash routine, and I have never once had issues: First, a short, cold cycle with a small amount of detergent (For me, that’s line 2 of Tide Plus Bleach), then a long, hot, heavy duty cycle with more detergent (line 4). Then if I have time before I will need them again, I hang the wet bags and shells on the drying rack to air dry, but more often I just throw everything in the dryer. When they are dry, I fold and stuff the inserts, and they are ready to go again!

Gail: What do you recommend to purchase and where are your favorite places to purchase?

Lydia: Everyone has different preferences as to style and brand. In the same way that different jeans fit different people, different brands of CD’s will fit different babies. But this is what I use: I really like ALVA brand cloth diapers. They are a pocket style, which I prefer because they are fast to put on, easy to customize the absorbency, and they dry quickly. ALVAs are very reasonably priced, and they are also super cute – Many smaller companies in the US will do custom designs on ALVA diapers. I love this one that says “I love my Mahh Mahh”! (buy here)


I have around 25-30 diapers, which equals a full wash for my machine. This lasts me 4-5 days. Besides that, I have two large wet bag pail liners, one smaller hanging wet bag for down stairs (I need a second though), and two small wet bags that stay in the diaper bag. I also use cloth wipes – they just get washed along with the diapers, so its a simple process. I made mine by serging flannel. I have about 50 of those. The only other thing you really need to cloth diaper is a good, strong detergent.

As for where to buy, you can actually find some cloth diapering supplies on Amazon. Some of my other favorite resources are Happy Beehinds, Nicki’s Diapers, and the Fluffy Penguin.

Gail: For this to work well I know you have to have everything within arm’s reach as you’re changing a diaper. What is your organization?

Lydia: To be honest, most of the time we end up just pulling diapers out of the laundry basket! But when things are put away, this is how I stay organized. Downstairs: with two little ones, I don’t try to go up to the nursery for every diaper change. Instead, I keep a basket of diaper supplies in the living room stocked with diapers, cloth wipes, fleece liners, and hand sanitizer. When she needs a change, I wet a wipe in the bathroom sink, and I’m ready to go.


In the nursery,  this is how I have the changing area set up in Annabelle’s room:



Let me break down where everything is and how I store it. The basket on the right is for her dirty clothes. The big basket on the left is for the dirty diapers – you can see the green pail liner lining it. Zooming in on the dresser top:

Diapers (2)

I like to be one-handed when changing diapers, so I can keep one hand on the baby. So for the cloth wipes, I have a little dispenser filled with water (it was actually a soap bottle!) so that I can just grab a wipe and squirt water on it with one hand. Beyond that, everything else I might need is within arms reach. If Annabelle’s bum is looking a little red or dry, I love Burts Bees Multipurpose Ointment. Not all rash creams are CD safe, but this one is a great option. Turning left:

Diapers (1)

Since I don’t do every diaper change in the nursery (usually only morning/bed/nap, and any poopy diapers), I don’t need a lot of CD’s in the nursery. So I keep a basket with 4 or 5 handy and that takes care of things. I also have a bin with extra supplies like disposables, extra diaper cream, etc.


This is the little shelf hanging on the wall. That’s my old Raggedy Ann doll that Annabelle’s namesake made me (my grandmother!), a custom sign my cousin/roommate made for her, and our “poop bucket”. I have to keep it up high so the kids don’t play with it. Not visible is the spatula that stays with the bucket to scrape off solids with. This way, if there is a poopy diaper, I can put it (or if it all stayed on the fleece liner, just the liner!) in the bucket, get the baby all changed and dressed, then take the bucket to the bathroom, scrape/shake the poop off, and carry the whole bucket back without touching the wet diaper much at all.

Gail: What really is the impact on the environment?

Lydia: There is a lot of different debates out there on this topic – does the production and washing of CD’s negate the savings? What about the production of disposables? Does washing them waste water? What about detergent? For me personally, I’ve chosen to use them more for the cost savings than for the environmental impact, but I do think that there is a positive effect. The EPA estimates that 20 billion disposable diapers are added to landfills every year, and that they can take as much as 500 years to decompose. Whether or not cloth diapers are that great for the environment, there is significant benefit to reducing landfill waste.

Gail: Are they comfortable for our baby Annabelle?

Lydia: Yes! I’ve noticed that Annabelle almost never has rashes. When I use disposables for long periods, it seems like she gets red more easily, and the paper chafes her thighs.

Gail: When do you resort to disposables?

Lydia: I use disposables at night. I find it to be easier and more absorbent than trying to stuff enough absorbency in a CD. Pretty much the only other time I end up using disposables is when we travel – packing and washing CD’s on vacation isn’t very relaxing!


So I (Gail)  hope you all found this helpful. There certainly a WHOLE lot more colorful options out there that are too cute for words. So cloth diaper on, dear daughter!





Gail's Nest · Pattern Review · Sewing Project

Orageuse Bruges Trousers Pattern Review


This is one of my latest projects – the Bruges Trousers by the French pattern company, Orageuse. I wanted a comfortable yet stylish pair of pants for work and so I chose this pattern. It has a front fly, which I hadn’t ever done on pants before, but I was ready for the challenge!

I chose a light brown corduroy that cost me next to nothing. I love shopping at our local thrift sewing store called Sew Green, a not-for-profit that takes unused and leftover fabric and other sewing notions and resells them. I got the corduroy as well as the peach corduroy that I used for the stripe on a day Sew Green had their bag sale (fit as much fabric as you can in your bag for $15!).

The pattern turned out to be more difficult than I bargained for, but I persevered and was very happy with the results. Here’s the lowdown on my experience:

The pattern has been translated into English. Between teeny tiny print that strained my 57 year old eyes, even with reading glasses, and strange terms, lost in translation, I almost gave up! This is what American sewists need to know before attempting this challenge: seam allowances are 1 cm! The instructions do say this, but somehow I missed this little note and ended up with pants that were too small so I had to pick them apart and start again! The other little thing that kept tripping me up was the use of the term “right sides facing”. I am used to American patterns which say “right sides together”. I kept asking myself, “Right sides facing? Facing what? Up? Down? Both the same way? Huh?” And what does this mean: “If your muslin is too thigh around your butt will have to add more ease.” Huh? My thighs aren’t around my butt! Okay – it’s a typo, but it’s a pretty hilarious typo.Jpeg

I found the pocket design unique but not impossible. The front fly was tricky, but the directions were pretty clear on that one. You definitely need to print the directions in color.

I consider myself an intermediate sewist. I would not recommend this pattern for beginners, nor advanced beginners. This was, in my opinion, not for the faint of heart. But I am so happy with the finished product! I really do love them!

The blouse I am wearing with my pants (ok – for all you Europeans – “trousers”), is the Simplicity K8169.SimplicityK8169



Gail's Nest · Pattern Review · Refashion · Sewing Project

Refashioners Challenge 2018 – Inspired By

This year’s Refashioners Challenge put out there by sewist and blogger, Portia Lawrie of the UK, is to take a popular designer or fashion icon out there and mimic his/her masterpiece with an old, tired, thrifted piece.

Sooooooooooo…here’s what I did:

Really this project came at the right time because I’ve been planning on making a winter coat for myself for 10 months now. I have quite the pinterest board on coats and patterns. I knew I wanted a 1960s style coat. Jackie Kennedy’s style has appealed to me for awhile and her famous/ infamous Oleg Cassini leopard coat was probably the most amazing thing she ever wore:


I say “famous” because when she wore it she stunned everyone everywhere. I say “infamous” because it was so crazy popular that everyone wanted one and the leopard population nearly became extinct. Oleg Cassini was quoted as saying he regretted making it. I think he underestimated how much of a fashion icon Jackie Kennedy was.


When I walked into my local “Sally Ann’s Boutique” (aka Salvation Army) I saw this fleece bathrobe. BINGO!!


Yeah. Hmm. I know. My husband just laughed at me when I put it on. This was a definite rescue operation.

So my first step was to “unpick” it apart. (BTW – why do sewist say “unpick”? I don’t get it. Aren’t we “picking” it? We’re picking apart the seams, right? Un-pick would mean to undo picking which would mean to put it together. Where do we get “unpick”? Anyway… that’s what I was thinking about while I did this tedious task.


I decided on The Ellsworth Coat pattern by Christine Haynes.


It required a lining fabric and while fleece is warm I knew I wanted a REALLY warm coat to get through the weeks of below zero (fahrenheit) Ithaca, NY weather. I pulled out a thick black soft fleece from my stash (really it was from a failed attempt to make a coat back in March).


Look at that pile of pattern pieces! I was going to make a few adjustments on the pattern because the fabric from the robe wasn’t going to be quite enough.

I decided on using the lining fabric for the yoke and collar. Also, I chose to eliminate the pockets on the front. Jackie’s coat had side pockets and I would rather have them too so I planned to insert the pockets from the robe right into my coat.


Here’s the coat in process:


Jackie’s coat had 3/4 sleeves so I saved precious leopard print by adding my lining fabric at the bottom, giving the sleeves a 3/4 look but giving me the full length I wanted.

Now it was going to need awesome buttons so I searched my stash, Joann’s, and ebay and settled on these black paisleys.Jackiecoat3-1

So here’s the finished project:

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No leopards harmed in the making!!




Entertaining · Gail's Nest

Authentic Entertaining

“Sorry, I will never have you over to my house”, said my new friend who took me out for lunch after we moved into the area. She was a sweetheart to host a lunch out, but I couldn’t help feeling like there was a part of  her that I would never be allowed to know. I’m sure my friend thought I’d think less of her if I saw her home.

Let’s face it. Our homes are the places where we can be real. This is where we love, fight, play, do our hobbies, show our heritage, rest, read, eat, relate, etc. When we want to open ourselves to someone new, perhaps to help them, befriend them, share our lives with them then that means being real. It means that everything isn’t perfect but that we’re willing to trust our family, friends, and guests to love us or at least accept us “as is”.

That also means that we must never judge our hosts’ efforts, but receive their gifts of hospitality graciously. I learned this lesson in China.

Back in April of 2012, my husband and I along with our daughter, Anna traveled to China to vist all the wonderful people we had met while they had been at Cornell University, located in our home town of Ithaca, NY. One of our hosts took us to a hotel in a rural Naxi village northwest of Lijiang, close to the Tibet border. It was of very traditional construction, set in a courtyard style. My American hyper-clean, germophobic self was initially appalled by the room that we were ushered into. The sewer pipe was exposed and gave off a horrendous odor. Our sheets were moldy. The rickety ladder to the loft where Anna would sleep wasn’t attached. “Lord,” I prayed, “I can’t complain or I will insult my host. Help me to get over this.”

I am not exaggerating when I say that this was the most amazing three days of our whole trip. We really felt like we had a real experience, living like the Naxi people. Every morning the hotel owner greeted us with an invitation to join him for a traditional tea pour. And as we drank tea we chatted. Anna discovered he had a dog who just had puppies. She was in love. We learned his family lived far away and he hoped to soon have enough money saved to bring them to live with him. The air was so fresh and the sky so blue – quite a change from the smog in Shanghai and Bejing. I cringe when I think how close I came to missing this amazing treasure on the other side of the world!

leg 3 lijiang (29)leg 3 lijiang (31)


So… here are my tips for easy authentic entertaining.

  • Keep your living area generally picked up. I never have to go to great lengths to clean my house before company comes because I spend a little time each day keeping up with the clutter.
  • Plan on a simple meal so you can focus on your guests. Plan ahead!
  • Use paper plates for easy clean up (use your china for your family!)
  • If anyone asks you, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Always say, “Yes”, and put them to work.
  • Remember that you don’t have to clean your whole house, nor do you have to have fresh paint and everything looking like the HGTV channel. When people come to your home they want to be with YOU, and usually they don’t care about the state of your house.
  • Avoid fussing about stuff when your guests arrive. They will feel like they are an imposition if you are too busy to enjoy them.



Lydia's Nest · Recipes

Hulk Muffins

Hey all! I have a yummy recipe to share with you.

I’ve been making these muffins regularly for breakfast lately. I’ve been noticing that Deacon eats the most at breakfast – even if he’s having an ornery day and doesn’t want to eat much lunch or dinner, he ALWAYS finishes his breakfast. This has put me on a mission to find more healthy, nutritious breakfasts. Our go to’s are easy things like toast and fruit, and I wanted to expand our repertoire and get some good stuff in him while I have the chance. These are perfect! They have lots of spinach, without a ton of sugar. They are super yummy too- they taste like banana bread (and not at all like spinach!)

A couple of notes, you can be relatively flexible with this recipe. The recipe includes what I find works/tastes the best for us, but you could certainly change it out to your preferences, like dairy milk instead of almond milk (you might need to add vanilla), a different sweetener, or vegetable oil instead of butter. Also, they freeze really well. The recipe makes two dozen so we eat some fresh and then I pop the rest in the freezer for later. A minute or two in the microwave, and they are ready to go! I don’t know for sure how long they would last in the freezer – probably a couple of months, but we’ve always eaten them within a couple weeks. Lastly, the riper the bananas the better. If we have bananas that get too brown to eat, I peel and freeze them until I make these muffins. Just let them thaw on the counter for a bit before using.

I love these muffins because they are super easy to throw together in the morning. First, combine the dry ingredients.

Then, put all the wet ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour the puree into the dry bowl and gently stir to combine.

Spoon into muffin tins, and bake!

I think Deacon likes these.

Hulk Muffins

Makes 2 dozen. Prep time: 20 min, Bake time: 20-25 min



  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 4 tsp. Baking powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking soda
  • ½ tsp. Salt


  • 2 cups spinach (packed)
  • 1 ½ cups vanilla almond milk
  • ½ cups brown sugar
  • ½ cups applesauce
  • 3 large bananas
  • ½ cups butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed (optional, but I love the nutrient boost it adds)


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray or line muffin pans.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Place all wet ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour puree into dry bowl, and gently stir until just combined.
  5. Spoon into muffin tins, and bake for 20-25 minutes until firm but not browning.
  6. Serve warm or cold
Gail's Nest · Lydia's Nest · Sewing Project

Date with my Daughter to a Fabric Store

Sewing lovers will agree that entering a fabric store is like walking into an ice cream parlor. You get a rush when you see all the different colors and textures. And how do you decide?

Couple that with entering the store with your sewing-loving daughter and you have a ready made good time.

Triple that with entering the store with your darling not-yet-two grandson and… well, you can’t linger too long making decisions.


But… I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!

We went to Zinck’s Fabric Outlet in Ligonier, Indiana.

So here was our haul…

This super soft double brushed poly could make great leggings!

I’m planning on making a blouse out of this pretty piece.

I want to make a coat, and I found this fun fabric to test my pattern on! I love the color.

When I’ve worked out all the kinks, I’m going to use these to make a 1950s-inspired coat.

And here’s Lydia’s haul:

Such fun!

These two are for some comfy joggers for Cory. (And maybe matching ones for Deacon!)

You can never have too many basic fabrics – the oatmeal will become a sweater, and the other two are great to have on hand for neckbands and such.

Lydia couldn’t resist picking up some fun fabrics for her baby GIRL on the way!

These last two are very soft – they’ll become leggings and a matching top.


We had a blast exploring Zinck’s. Highly recommend!



Gail's Nest · Sewing Project

A Guatemalan Fabric Make

Hey Everyone – My lovely daughter, Rachael, and new husband, Tom, went to Guatemala on a medical mission trip and brought back for me some lovely blue woven fabric. I gave half of it to Lydia, hoping she’ll have time to make something for herself (she recently moved to Indiana and now is expecting baby number 2 so I doubt it will be any time soon!) It will be fun to see what she comes up with!

So anyway… here’s the fabric and here’s the pattern I chose to use:


The jumper was an easy make. Thank you Rachael and Tom!

And here are a few photos of the newlyweds’ mission trip in Guatemala:

MarketTandRwith childTom

And the final product…




Thank you to Rachael and Tom! Lydia – what will YOU do with your fabric?

And BTW – if any of you go on a trip and you’re wondering what to bring back as a souvenir to your loved ones, a great idea for the sewers in your family is a couple yards of fabric! Guaranteed they will love it.

Gail's Nest · Lydia's Nest

How to Make a T-shirt Dress in an Afternoon

I was blessed to visit Lydia and Cory this past week. And of course I jumped at the chance to give them a night off while I babysat my darling grandson. I was blown away at Lydia’s creativity at putting together a nice outfit for their big date. She did it during Deacon’s nap.

She started with a pattern for a simple tee, as well as a black jersey fabric she found on sale at Walmart for $1 per yard. She used less that 3 yards.


Using a ruler, Lydia added about 10 inches down each of the sides of the tee to lengthen to a dress.

She sewed up the sides, and added the sleeves. After she tried it on she decided it was too baggy so she cut the back in half and then I helped her take it in by pinning the fabric so as to make it more form fitting. She simply sewed up the new seam on her serger, which cut off the extra fabric.


Next, Lydia cut out a long retangular piece which she then folded and sewed up along the neckline to create a cowl neck. For an easy trick in sewing up the cowl neck take a look at this video. You’ll need to go to 3:40 to see the helpful demonstration:

After hemming the bottom and the sleeves she was done! And then off she was with Cory for dinner and a movie!


I hope this inspires you to bravely venture out to make something new – for next to no money!