Category Archives: This Eco House

This page is where you can find all my discoveries of trying to make as eco-friendly, environmentally happy, recycled, renewed home as I possibly can. The plan is to go the whole nine yards, from teak cutting boards to composting toilets. On here you can follow my journey as I start basically from scratch and try to make my families home as good for the earth as it will be for us.

Simple Tote Bag Pattern


This simple tote bag pattern is perfect for mass production or beginners.

We made one for each our Girl Scouts bridging up to Brownies.

This would be a great project for any beginning sewer and even a wonderful troop activity, there are many places that will rent out their sewing rooms for an hour or sew. Jo-ann and many other locally owned sewing shops that have machines would welcome troops. Be sure to call ahead and inquire about pricing.

CUT: (seam allowance in included in the pattern)

For one bag you will need:

One piece of fabric  for the main body: 15 inches wide x 34 inches long

Two pieces of fabric for the straps: 3 1/2 inches wide x 24 inches long*

*For child size straps, 20 inches in length works best.

The fabric I used was a medium weight canvas, lightweight would work find as well.




Iron each strap, so that a half inch of the fabric folds to the inside (wrong side) of the fabric. Do this on both lengthwise sides.

Iron the entire strap in half with the two folded edges lining up. Pin the strap so the edges stay together.



Take the large bag piece and fold it in half wrong sides together. (The blue fold arrows will help show where this initial fold is in relation to all the other folds).

Take one layer of the fabric and move it as if to unfold it. Stop 2 inches before the fabric unfolds completely and press the fabric down. This will make a 2 inch pleat.


Your side should look like this when one part of the bag is folded. Flip the bag over to fold the other side the same way.

Your bag should lay like the image on the right. Right sides of the fabric should be together. The bag folds should look like this:

Pin your bag. Once all the items are pinned they should look like this:




Sew the straps along both sides lengthwise, as the blue lines indicate.


Sew the bag, with about 3/8 an inch seam allowance. Sewn pieces should look like this:


I trimmed the seam allowance on my bag with pinking shears, but a small trim and zig zag stitch would work well too.


With your bag still inside out. Fold down and press a 1/2 inch hem around the top of the bag. THEN fold down a 1 inch hem and press. (The 1/2 inch hem will be folded inside the 1 inch hem).


Slide one strap into the folded hem of the bag. The ends of the strap should go flush with the hem fold. Fold the straps up and pin. This will make your straps extra sturdy.

Flip your bag over and repeat with the other strap on the other side of the bag. One strap per side.


Sew the hem with the straps along the top and bottom of the hem fold, as shown above.


Flip your bag inside out and enjoy! The bottom corners of your bag should look like this from the outside:


We designed some iron ons that we printed for us and our girls. Here is my bag after one year of use, with some extra pins.


If there is something I forgot or needs clarification, please comment below.

Happy Sewing!

DIY knitted cat bed.

We have a super snuggly kitty in our house, but it has been tough times. He has to hunt around the house looking for forlorn piles of clothing, unmade beds, or blankets that have been neglected. Comfort has been scarce and he often has to take comfort in the laps that are at times aloof for snuggling in the evening. While the dog has been a possibility, the cat has kept his pride and stayed away from the tempting, though malodorous, body heat from the dog.

Noticing this desperation, as it was keeping me from knitting, given he would come and lay on my lap/project every evening, I figured it was high time he had a bed of his own.

I had already sewn a bed for the dog, but the kitty prefers finer knitted comforts. Having a lot of Lion Brand Hometown USA® yarn I figured I could work something up for him.

The project took a little under 3 skeins of Hometown USA®. It is a super bulky yarn. I used the color Jersey Gardens.

The needles I used were US 13, 9mm straights.

This modified pattern is loosely adapted from the soft baskets pattern in More Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson.

CO 31 sts. Stocking stitch until you reach 5 inches, ending on the right side.
K one row.
CO 10 sts, knit to the end of the row, CO 10 sts.
Stocking Stitch until you reach 13 inches, ending on right side.
Bind off 10 sts, knit to last 10 sts, bind off last 10 sts.
Stocking Stitch for 5 inches.
Bind off.
Sew up side seams.

Before sewing the side seams you bed should look like this.

IMG_7128 copy

After sewing up the side seams you will have this.



This does create a simple and floppy bed. Perfect for snuggly kitties, who are not big on firm structure.


The last step is to insert the cat into the bed and cover with a homemade blanket, made out of ultra cuddle fabric.

He uses it every day! Except today, he found a neglected blanket on another bed. The main point though, is he now has snuggling options. So I can knit in peace.

Happy Knitting!


Upcycled Christmas Tree and DIY Ribbon Garland

I really don’t like Christmas. I like the idea of it, or the “ideal” of it. Giving someone a thoughtful gift, something you put your heart into, something you worked for that was completely for someone else. Spending time together, actually having time to sit and relax, talk and play.

Unfortunately, that ideal has been slipping from my family for a little while. Since we already greened up and minimized Easter, we figured we could do the same to Christmas.

Starting with the tree. I had many ideas…

At first I wanted to build a wood tree, but our lack of resources, experience, and power tools, made me decide against it.

Next I thought a cardboard tree would work nicely. Though it would mean cutting over 260 strips of cardboard. The husband nixed this one.

Then there was lost of brainstorming as a family, we needed something large and possibly triangular, that we could rig up to be a Christmas tree for the month of December.

We came up with this…


Our play tepee from the warmer seasons! This thing is awesome! My mom and I had made it for the snug a couple of years ago, we went to thrift shops for queen size sheets and used the Butterick pattern B4251. Be warned, it is huge, it has a diameter of 72 inches and has a center height of around 55 inches! The structure is super unfriendly PVC pipes, but they were lighter than wood. The pipes/frame is what we used for our tree.

IMG_6964TA-DA!!! IT’S A CHRISTMAS TREE-PEE!! (mind the blur). Without the fabric siding we had to drill extra holes in the middle and near the bottom of the pipes, to string ribbon and braided yarn through for support. We made it a little wider than it usually is due to the light fixture. Then we decorated.


Tinsel, a ribbon garland, strings of ornaments and, later, a feather boa.


What else do you need?

The best part. The few gifts we do give can go inside of the tree-pee and we can have tea parties in there until Christmas.

Also, it cost nothing. And we already had everything for it.

The ribbon garland we made, it took about 20 minutes max.


Take a hot glue gun and a variety of ribbon cut into 7 inch strips. Any width and type will do for the ribbon, though you might want to avoid anything smaller than 1/4 inch, as it is hard to glue.

IMG_6954Then make a ribbon chain. Same way you make a paper chain, only with hot glue and ribbon, instead of a glue stick and paper.

The snug was thrilled with this project. I let her pick out the ribbon order, which adds to the fun and time.

I really have never, ever been this excited about a Christmas tree.

Happy Christmas!

A Thanksgiving post before the Turkey gets too cold.

Thanksgiving was filled with last-minute projects. Thankfully they were all up-cycling projects!

I was able to fill most of my day with sewing, as we were going to a relative’s house for dinner. That being the case, I figured I would gift the hostess with some homemade place mats.


The fabric was some home decor fabric. I had originally used it to make a tablecloth. After the tablecloth was no longer needed I set the fabric aside to make place mats.

They turned out lovely. I mostly followed these instructions by My Poppet.

So after I had stayed up late Thanksgiving eve working on the place mats, I woke up early on Thanksgiving morning to make a turkey outfit for the snug and finish the place mats.

I am sure you have seen similar outfits on pinterest and etsy. They are adorable.


This is my version, you can find the original and the instructions at The Ribbon Retreat Blog, it is adorable and easy to follow.

Easy to follow, that is, if it isn’t 6am on Thanksgiving day and you went to bed way too late the night before. Then it gets a little hard, especially the math.


So many numbers!!

The fact that I do not own a printer made things a bit complicated.


However, if you do have a white piece of paper, you can turn up the brightness on your screen and very VERY gently trace the design.


Then, I had trouble with the double-sided interfacing. I had to do the gobbler piece three times, because I kept fusing it to the right side of the fabric, which is incorrect.


Despite ALL of my many mistakes, which lead the project to take much longer than anticipated, which ran everyone late. It turned out super cute!

The best part, we have to buy nothing for this project. We had everything already and got a chance to finally upcycle this t-shirt that we had found at the goodwill a while back.


Someone was very happy with the results.

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving.

Next up the holidays!!

Sustainable project #9: Mermaid Costume for a doll.

What a month!!

I have sewn more items this month, than I sewed all last year.

One of the things I sewed at the last minute was a fun little, easy, slightly different from most variations, mermaid doll costume. The main difference is this pattern does not use stretchy fabric.


This little get up is so easy, you could whip it up in 20 minutes. It took me 2 hours, due to drafting.


Too long, too skinny.


Just right. After the first tail, I learned it is best to make mistakes on muslin, instead of the fabric you are going to be using.

You will need:

Decorative elastic, 1/4 elastic, non-stretch fabric a large remnant would do (I used a sparkly satin), a bit of stiff interfacing and a large piece of paper. Typical sewing tools of varying format will be necessary.


First lay your doll on the large piece of paper. We have an American Girl doll, but any doll would do.

IMG_6303 IMG_6304

Trace around your doll, but when you do, make sure you are about 3/4 of an inch away from her body. Do a second tracing around your first tracing that is a 1/2 inch away from your first tracing, this is your seam allowance, cut along this line. In the end, your pattern paper will be 1 1/4 inches away from the body of your doll.

Why so big? The fabric we are using (ahem the stuff I had on hand) has no stretch to it at all. You want to allow all the extra space you can give without losing form so you can actually put it on the doll. Beware of calf muscles and posteriors on these dolls.


Here are the sketched out measurements for my pattern. It was a little easier to show on paper, then the actual pattern. The length of my pattern was 17 inches from top to the very bottom point of the fin. These measurements have the seam allowance included.

Once you have your pattern, use it to cut two pieces out of your main fabric remnant.


Then cut a piece out of the interfacing that matches the bottom of the tail.


Pin right sides of the tail together, with the interfacing on the wrong sides of one of the fins. Sew around all edges with the 1/2 seam allowance.


Clip corners and curves and turn inside out and try the tail on your doll. To finish the top of the tail, do a simple elastic casing. Sorry I don’t have pictures, there are many great you-tubes and tutorials on this subject.


Now for the top of the costume. Cut a rectangle of fabric, 6 1/2 x 3 1/2. Hem the short ends and then fold the piece in half lengthwise and sew.


Turn inside out and grab your decorative elastic.



Tuck 1/4 inch of elastic into the band and pin. Then wrap the elastic around the back of the doll, stretching it slightly as you go, measuring the amount you will need including the tucked amount, then cut.

IMG_6316 IMG_6317

Sew the ends of the band straight down along the hemlines with the elastic encased.

Try it on your doll to make sure it is snug enough.


Next cut a smaller rectangle, 2 1/2 x 1 inch.


Fold lengthwise and sew. Then turn inside out and press.


Scrunch up the middle of the band and wrap the small rectangle around it. You will need to hand sew this down or glue it.

There you have it!


Your doll is all ready for the sea!


Or some sun on the beach.


A couple of fun things about the interfacing in the bottom of the tail, your doll can still stand and it keeps the fins form.

Happy Sewing!

P.S. This is one of my first sewing tutorials, so if I accidentally left something out or if anything is worded in a confusing manner, please let me know in the comments and I will be sure to fix it or clarify. Thank you!

August Dishcloth!

I, assuredly, did finish this dishcloth in August, but things have been a bit busier than I anticipated. A lot busier!

Knitting hasn’t been easy recently. Time is a small part of the reason.

The other, main reason, is this guy.


Look at that guilt!

Literally every time I start to knit anything, he comes up behind me, sniffs and plops right in the middle of whatever I am working on. The ridiculous thing about the picture above, that you can’t see yet, is the size of the project vs. the size of the cat.




However, with a mix of distraction and secret knitting, I did end up finishing my dishcloth.


Definitely a different pattern for me, but so easy! Here is the like to the pattern;

Grandmother’s Favorite Dishcloth Pattern!

Now to get Sir Snuggleton off of my lap, so I can go enjoy the beautiful blue skies outside!

(Hopefully I can sneak in a bit of knitting sometime today, I am getting so desperate for knitting time, I might even have to start going to work knits at the local yarn shops!)

Happy Knitting!



Sustainable Project #8: Upcycled Hair Clips and Hair Clip Holder.

Here is another back to school post that we created last year!!


Last year we kept seeing the cutest hair clips, they were a simple clip with a little felt design. We thought we would give it a try.


Here are the supplies you will need. Floss, scissors, felt, old hair clips, a needle, a pen and glue. We had a bunch of my old hair clips hanging around that I didn’t use anymore, so we up-cycled them!


Some of the hair clips had a decorative gel on them, we peeled that off as best as we could.

We choose a piece sign for our first design. So, naturally we just cut out a simple circle.


Then sketched the design on the shape with a pen.


Grab your needle and floss and embroider on the design. We did a back-stitch.


Keep going until you are all done and then trim around the edge.



Add lots of glue to the hair clip end, center and press the felt piece onto it.


#1 done!


Mini-mistake time: I forgot to cut out two pieces at the same time, so I had to trace around the first one.


and measure the original design.


Done!! A pair of adorable hair clips, to start school. With only leftover materials, this should cost nothing, but if you do have to buy things, felt and embroidery floss are both very cheap.

NOTE: When making matching hair clips, be sure to glue the design the right side up to the side it is on. Note how the hair clips above are pointing different directions.


DSCF2002For the hair clip and headband holder you will need; a paper towel tube, glue, scissors and three different ribbons of varying width.


Start with a good amount of glue at the top of your tube.


Begin wrapping one of the ribbons around the tube, leaving enough hanging off at the top that your can fold and glue it under.


Keep adding glue as you wrap.


Once your tube is completely covered, cut the ribbon, glue and fold the excess into the tube. Then grab the ribbon you want to use for hanging.



Put a good amount of glue on the end of the hanging ribbon and glue inside the tube.


Now take the third ribbon and tie around the tube, cut a good length, the ribbon will probably be curly, but will straighten out over time.


TA-DA!! A convenient and up-cycled hair clip and headband organizer!

Happy Back to School Up-cycling!!