Thursday, April 27, 2017

DIY tiki torch/portable camp stove ideas

     We like to do lots of little things just for the fun of it, it keeps life exciting, but I was surprised how useful for emergency preparedness these little torches/portable camp stoves can be as well as entertaining!  Since I usually ramble and wax nostalgic at the beginning of these posts, I will do so again here-sorry!  For those in a hurry, skip down a couple paragraphs.
     My grandpa used to solve a problem he had with willow-over-growth in his waterways, during the middle of winter!   When his kids wanted to ice skate, he'd suggest a night skating party and with the help of some diesel fuel, light up some of those water choking willows to provide a bonfire for light, warmth, marshmallows and heating hot cocoa.  It made a social event out of a necessary maintenance chore.  Pure genius!  I sure miss that guy!  I attempted this a few winters back with my kids and some friends and it was great, but this year, I didn't want to torch the willows and a friend of ours had graciously gifted us with her tiki torch set after a party she'd thrown, so we thought we'd give them a try.  They were fun but not nearly enough to provide enough light and warmth for our hockey game and other ice skating festivities.  That got me thinking and so here we are!
     I didn't love the fact that we needed special wicks and special tiki fuel and the special canisters to make it all work as I'm cheap and didn't want to special order tiki torches in the middle of winter.  I experimented with different containers and homemade wicks and all kinds of fuel sources and have compiled my cheapest and most favorites here for you.  You're welcome!  I hope you have a blast with these because we sure did!
     1.  "The bacon fat tiki torch!"  Simply collect bacon fat in a soup can (here you can see we used a 99 cent cookie tin and had a good time emptying it too), then roll up a piece of scrap cardboard that is just a tiny bit longer than the soup can-tape it, tie it, or rubber band it in several places, and cover it with your bacon fat (we did this by dipping one end and then the other in the fat that was inside the can).   Then shove your cardboard into the bacon fat and light it up!  Burns great and smells nice too-if you like bacon:).  Super cheap and super easy!  Great flame for lighting and warmth!  To extinguish it, just blow it out.
     2. Next, the "rubbing alcohol tiki torch/portable camp stove." This one is fantastic for a lighting, heating or being used as portable camping stove!  It's amazingly simple-just take the cardboard center out of a toilet paper roll, shove it in a soup can and douse it in rubbing alcohol.


For a one-time use tiki torch that's all you need.  If you want to use it over and over then you will need an airtight lid to keep the alcohol from evaporating and to make it "packable" without spilling into your backpack.  My kids and I bought some cookies from the dollar store that came in a nice tin with a tight-fitting lid.  We enjoyed a the cookies, then crammed the tin with a half a roll of toilet paper (minus the cardboard roll in the center), saturated it with rubbing alcohol (it takes surprisingly little), and lit it up!  The small size and airtight top makes it perfect as a camping stove that fits into your backpack.  We have made several and love these little guys.  It gets very hot so it can be easily used for heat and cooking!  It has a nice flame to give off light, although the flame can be more blue-ish and not quite as bright as the bacon fat tiki torch.  It is easy to extinguish by simply blowing out or putting the lid on.
     3. I tried making some homemade wicks out of gauze and several other things and wasn't really impressed by any of them... If I find something that works great, I will add it to this post.

But... if you have some extra tiki torch fuel and a wick or two hanging around but no canisters, here's an easy solution.  1st, crack open your favorite soda, drink it, rinse it out, then fill it with an ounce or two of your tiki fuel and  stick the wick in.  Light it up!  It worked great for us!

Hope this post was fun and helpful!  (I may add how to make a quick and easy stand for your torches like we did if there is enough interest.) Please don't do anything without parent supervision... or while indoors... and if you are a pyro-parent with no sense, please don't do any of these at all!  We want you safe to play another day.  

Friday, March 10, 2017

DIY Market Tote from a Feed Bag

Like many dirt road dwellers, we have a tendency to collect animals of all shapes and sizes.  From chickens, to pigs, to sheep, cows and horses.  (We draw the line at goats, but I know many people love them.)  There are usually a few dogs and cats to round things out as well.  Keeping these animals fed and happy generally involves buying bags of feed.  Raising a few 4-H pigs can require a huge pile of feed.  We end up with feed bags stuffed with other empty feed bags and often those bags end up in the trash.
I hate the idea of throwing away packaging that is actually tough and possibly useful, so we try to re-use feed bags as much as possible.  I use them to bag up empty pop cans until time to recycle them because regular trash bags fall apart too easily.  I use them as sandbags to hold down row covers in my garden.  I use them to line the ceiling of my chicken coop to hold in the insulation.  My sister uses them to line the inside of her barn.  I had been playing with the idea of making a tote out of the feed bags since many of the reusable market totes you can buy seem to be made from the same stuff and some feed bags have fun designs on them.  I finally decided to try to make one for myself.  It turns out I'm not the first to think of it.  There are lots of feed bag totes available on the internet.

I decided I would try to do a tutorial on how I make my totes.  It isn't especially complicated, but it does take time and the feed bags work up differently than fabric would.  Also, I forget to take pictures as I sew, so if the bag color suddenly changes, it's because I tried to take pictures as I made several bags in hopes that I would get enough useful pictures to show what I do.
Fabric pins don't work very well so for my first few bags I used paper clips.  They weren't quite tough enough so I upgraded to binder clips.  They have a tendency to get hung up on the table and sewing machine, but they hold the pieces together, so I have stayed with them.

The first step is to choose a feed bag to work on, clean it up and decide what part of the bag you want on the front of your tote.  I like to wash and cut several feed bags at a time since getting my cutting board out is kind of a pain and takes up most of my bed.  My "craft room" is also my bedroom.
Most market totes are about 13-15 inches tall.  Figure out what section you want for the bag and add 1/2" for the bottom seam and about 1 1/2" for the top.  Depending on where you want the bag from, you may need to make the top seam a little smaller.  I have gone as small as 1".
From the remaining pieces you will need to cut a bottom piece.


For most bags, I use the fold lines that are already in the feed bag as guides.  This makes it easy to measure 1/2" past the folds on the front for the seam allowance and then measure how wide the feed bag is and add 1" to that.  I also cut the straps 3" wide and about 24" long.  On this bag, I cut three inches from the bottom and then cut it in half to make the two straps.








 Now, it's time to put the bottom onto the bag.  I clip the corners to help it lay down in the corners better. These seams are made by folding both layers over toward the bottom and stitching.  I found that sometimes the inside layer would move, so I started doing a quick baste stitch to hold the two together while I wrestle with the side seams.  You can skip the basting step and go right to the folding and sewing if you feel like it.

 Line up the fold lines and let the extra be free for now.  I don't stitch all the way to the fold line to allow myself a bit of room to work with the corners.



 I also get the straps folded and stitched at this time.  I fold them in half lengthwise and crease the fold as well as I can.  Next, I pull out my little sewing ruler and fold one side in to make it 1" wide.  Once that side is all folded in, I fold the other side in to match it and clip it together.  Finally, I stitch close to the edge, making sure to catch both sides. If I want to make it look even, I stitch on the other side as well, but I is just for looks.



 Now it is time to fold the bottom over and clip it.  You should be folding over about 1/2", but you may need to adjust a bit to get the corners to work.  Once I get it clipped all around the bottom, I turn it right side up and stitch along the edge.  The corners can be tough and I haven't figured out how to make it look wonderful.  I stitch as close to the corner as I can, making sure to keep the next side out of the way of the needle.  I take a stitch or two back and come forward again, to lock it.  Then, I leave the needle down, turn the bag and pull all the extra material toward the stitches I just made and help the needle step over the bunched up corner.  I do a little forward and backward stitching to lock it again and head to the next corner.  You can tell that this is the most tricky part, because I didn't take any pictures.  Sorry.



 Once the bottom is finished, it is time to add the straps.  For most bags, I measure 3" from the crease and clip it in place. I stitch it in place and remove the clip.  Then I stitch the strap with an x to give it stability.




















Finally, I fold the top inside the bag, making the straps stand up.  Stitch close to the folded edge and then again to hold down the inside edge, and you are finished!
























As I said at the beginning, making these bags isn't horribly difficult, but it does take some patience and sewing know-how. I've been on a bag making spree and I even made some egg carton totes for the lady that buys extra eggs from me.  If you would like a feed bag tote, but just don't want to pull out the sewing machine, you can buy one from my etsy shop here: Cowgirl in the Garden