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There are loads of different homeschooling philosophies, but one of my favorite thinkers is Charlotte Mason. I like her foundational principles because I find them deeply respectful of and compassionate toward children; her thinking just seems to fit with a gentle, gospel-centric family culture really well!

NotMolly

Once upon a time, the only way to get hold of her writing was to track down her original essay series in hardcover form… thanks to the wonders of the internet, now there are some great on-line resources!

https://simplycharlottemason.com/ is laid out very cleanly–there’s a LOT to explore around the site, but it’s pretty intuitive, and there are some good summaries and get-started ideas there.

https://www.amblesideonline.org/ has the original Charlotte Mason texts for free on the site, which I find highly useful. If you’re not used to 19th century writing, you’ll find her work a bit of a slog, but it’s gorgeous language, and full of deep thought and compassion.

Now, both sites give curriculum layouts–but keep in mind that the philosophical structure of Mason’s work does not proscribe a particular set of resources. That’s what I like so much about her philosophy. It’s a MINDSET, and you can use whatever resources to fulfill that mindset and home culture as are best fit to your family.

For instance, we use Mason-style philosophy combined with John Holt style unschooling. I have friends who combine Mason’s philosophy with far more structured “classical school at home” set-ups. BOTH are consistent with the underpinnings, and both work. So you’re not locked into anything. It’s just the philosophy.

Some of the things I like best about Charlotte Mason are: focus on character, meaningful work, twaddle-free learning, “living” books and tools, the basic respect for the humanity and soul of a child, a grand appreciation for outdoor activity… it’s just so lovely and gentle and humane, and fits so well into gospel-centric living!

GOSPEL RESOURCES:
* The Scriptures (can’t get much more Living Book than that!)

* Church magazines like The Friend for child-centered application of gospel principles, though you will generally have to weed out “inside the box” thinking on some topics.

* Preach My Gospel as a resource for parents–some good teaching and mentoring strategies there!

* The Primary section on LDS.org... so many great bits of art, music, and scripture/theme notes to harmonize home teaching with Primary class topics and sharing time.

* Hymns and Primary songs to use in the music and poetry sections of a CM base

* Pioneer, church history, and world faith stories are all living stories, not twaddle.

* The Church History museum and archives all have fantastic art to study, and there are very low-cost art prints from the distribution center.

* Nature and science study can be given a Gratitude To Heavenly Father base that really, really lets us all experience joy!

* Prayer and scripture, singing, etc, built into the day’s work…. I’m working on a fun project to do with hymns, and when it’s ready, I’ll share.

So, commercials on the internet are good for one thing: they remind me of Manufactured Major Holidays. And this current one is, of course, Mother’s Day.

(It’s also our wedding anniversary, which we planned to coincide because both myself and my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal Fellow are woefully, miserably BAD at remembering significant days, and we thought we MIGHT have a shot at remembering the day we got married if the whole industrialized world were sending us reminders. This has worked. A few years, anyhow.)

Here’s what I want to say about Mothers and Motherhood:

Motherhood has absolutely nothing to do with a uterus, or the uses of a uterus.

The endowment of motherhood, the creation of a mother, happened ages ago, before the beginning of time, when our Creator formed our souls from the very starlight of the universe.

If we’re going to celebrate the eternal nature of a role of a mother’s heart, let’s celebrate it in full: let’s celebrate the stewardship of “mothering” that is our right and privilege.

Mothering happens in a myriad of ways, undertaken by women who are married, widowed, single; women who have and who have not borne children in their bodies. Motherhood is a stewardship given to every woman ever created, at the time of her soul’s birth.

I know women who work within that eternal role by being adoptive and step and foster parents, willing to take a child into their hearts forever, no matter how long they have together. Other women express their mothering heart by mentoring others (young and old) in any and every way.

Some mother through hospice and care homes, extending grace, humor, compassion, and humanity to those in the winding up days of their time here. They take under their wings those whose mothers have already gone on, in the moments when a human soul needs a mother the most.

Some mother as “church moms” or “church ladies”, making life gentle behind the scenes, and loving the whole community. Others mother the “unlovable” in shelters and slums, and the worst of conditions, and never flinch from the pain their mothering brings.

Some mother as midwives, as teachers, as soldiers–all standing to protect the vulnerable in whatever ways are needed.

Some women mother as legal advocates for children in the court systems who have no one looking out for their needs. Some mother by collecting needful goods to put into “rescue” bags for children entering that system, or trying to live on the streets.

Some women mother by fundraising for orphans and traumatized people; others work the phones to provide the loving, compassionate ear and a voice on the other end of the line, telling another soul that they matter, that the universe is better because they exist, and to not give up.

Some mother by helping with rescue animals and sustainable agriculture, extending their stewardship into everything around us, for the generations now present, and the generations to come.

A mothering heart loves the broken, rejoices with the unburdened, cries with the mournful, and binds up the weary hearts of others. A mothering heart is a gorgeous, gorgeous thing.

If a woman does anything to spread love, compassion, safety, warmth, kindness, goodness, health, longevity, comfort, justice, mercy, or betterment in the world, she is doing that under her mantle of Motherhood, given to her by God at the moment of her creation, inseparable from our Divine Mother–all our expressions of it would be familiar to Her, as they are to our Divine Father.

God bless all mothering hearts–for we are all made in the image of God’s love.

Making Pictures

I was not a child who enjoyed coloring, so it’s been a bit of a surprise to give birth to children who do!

Standard coloring books rarely satisfy, however. The art is often quite poor, and the paper is generally abysmal. It’s time and money wasted, as the high-acid papers deteriorate while the picture is still in the mail to Grandma.

We’ve found some lovely options in good paper and good art from Dover (the Fine Art, History, Nature, and Design books get the most use here), and the on-line printable pages from Phee McFaddel and Jan Brett.

We’ve been inspired by the art of ZenTangles and Doodles. It’s cool to see what gorgeous, creative things adult artists like Johanna Basford are doing.

I think it was Ms Basford’s work that recently inspired Lefty and Spicy to spend some time creating their own coloring pages. We have a multi-function machine at our house, so photocopies and scans/prints are not a problem, which led to a many-hours work session yesterday, wherein my Littles and their friend created lovely line-art scenes to photocopy and share with one another.

Here are some things they learned along the way:

* Work in #2 pencil, which is soft enough to leave nice solid marks and lines thick enough to photocopy well.

* Don’t put in a lot of shading; you can add that when you color the final picture. It’s hard to remember to not fill it all in when you’re drawing!

* Fill up the whole page with your art; there’s room to tell a bigger story!

* If you choose to trace your drawing with ink or marker, take your time. Use a good art eraser to gently rub out the pencil marks. Don’t rub too hard.

* Everyone draws their own style of art, and it’s all very cool!

Some things I learned along the way:
* If you’re photocopying directly for immediate sharing, enhance the contrast a bit to darken pencil lines.

* Photocopy one extra. It’s just sensible.

* If you’re scanning, do it at 300dpi minimum, for the best printing later.

* After the image is scanned, use basic photo editing software to turn it gray-scale/black-white. Then heighten the contrast 2-3 times to get nice solid lines for reprinting.

* After the images is manipulated, re-size it to fit within an 8×10 rectangle, so it prints easily on regular paper.

* Print out an extra. Sensible. I promise.

Creating Is Awesome, and You Can Do It Anywhere

If you have a full-service printing house near you (generally not a chain-store/big-box one; try Alphagraphics), they can print line drawings onto special papers like heavy card stock a home printer or photocopy machine can’t handle and then a young artist can go to town creating all over again.

Coloring page art can be on any topic. It can be done to practice or explore the styles of famous artists. It can be simple, or quite ornate, right from the start. If it’s simple, you can add custom fanciness by filling spaces or sections with doodles. You can add designs to the page as you color. The possibilities are truly endless!

Coloring pages could be a fun project during a family reunion, church social, or “maker’s” day. They make a great portfolio item to showcase what a young learner has been up to (and provide extra opportunities to cement knowledge into their brains by coloring their examples over again.) Put together a collection of coloring pages, and you can make customized gifts or books for family and friends.

The thing I like best about creating these pictures is that it’s up to the child. As a parent, I’m on hand to help with the technical aspects of reproducing the art for coloring, but other than that, it’s entirely up to the young artists. That autonomy in creation is a fantastic gift!

Here’s a printable from my girls, to you, with bunny and hen-shaped clouds.

ColorThumb

Nifty Things for Noobs

My baby brother and my baby sister-in-law recently added a lovely little person to their household, and as I am wont to do, that throws me into a frenzy of making Nifty Things for the Noob. This particular Noob comes with some exciting accessories that no one was anticipating, so there was the added frenzy of making Nifty Things That Are More Boyly, Because Noob Has Outdoor Plumbing, and We All Expected Otherwise.

(I’m going to go ahead and finish the pretty white girl gown for his Eventual Sister… and we’ll be making a bitty man-kilt for Sir Noob in a few weeks, instead.)

I’m content to let others concentrate on the cute little clothes and things; I was very excited to get to help out with some of the nitty-gritty basics that make for one-time investments with long-term use. And that means: diapers. Diapers and burp cloths. And diaper covers. And some other stuff, because once I get going I can’t stop!

DIY Diaper Covers!

Nifty Things for Noobs!

I found a great deal on unbleached pre-folds, and ordered 24 in the small infant size, then washed and dried them to fluffy perfection. Those went in a boring box, because they’re pretty utilitarian and boring, but useful. The advantage of pre-folds is that they wash and dry pretty easily and quickly, and last a long, long time, and can be used as doublers when Sir Noob outgrows them for daily diapering. Unbleached pre-folds start out a creamy natural light brown, so they actually do a nice job at hiding the long-term evidence of their use, too!

In the fun box, we tucked:

  • 24 burp flannels, made like this.

    Burp flannels in Owls and Chemistry.

    Burp flannels in Owls and Chemistry.

  • 5 tiny-newborn-with-umbilical-scoop-section diaper covers, with white PUL inside and fun fabric outside. These are made smaller than normal, and have limited usefulness, but Sir Noob is a tiny thing, and “newborn” is a bit big on him just yet! Our Lefty was in preemie clothes for six weeks for the same reason, and I remember how hard it was to diaper her in “newborn” things. So, to adapt the pattern I used, I folded out the section that would be snapped together for initial use, to make them a bit shorter in the rise, and used shorter elastic stretched more (4″ in the legs, and a 5″ stretch across the back), to snug up the legs. This blog has about nine-billion free printable patterns for different styles of cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers. I marked the umbilical scoop covers with a little green dot center front.Owls and Foxes
  • 6 regular newborn diaper covers, made with the pattern out at normal length, and slightly larger elastics (4.5″ in the legs, 5.5″ across the back). All the diaper covers fasten with sewn-on hook-and-loop. I decided on the elastic lengths using Annie Tuttle’s suggestions, and used a simple method of sewing the body of the cover right sides together, and using a long narrow zig-zag to attach the elastic to the seam allowances. When the diaper cover is turned right sides out, I can go from topstitching next to the edge to curving in a bit and creating the final casing for the elastics, all in one step. I also turned all the diaper covers through the short end of one of the front side tabs. The PUL in the diaper covers is shiny-side-up, so the covers can be wiped clean easily, and won’t need full laundering after every use.

    I call this "Covers, With Kitten In Background"

    I call this “Covers, With Kitten In Background”

  • 4 sets of old-fashioned diaper pins. If you store the points in a bar of Ivory soap, they go through the cloth of the diaper insert smoothly.
  • 2 size 0-3m onesies in neutral colors.
  • 1 newborn snap-shirt that Lefty wore as an infant, which she found and was determined to wash up and send to her new cousin. So we did.
  • A copy of the Garth Williams illustrated “Baby Farm Animals” Golden Book, because it has lovely pictures. I think every child should get to see those pictures.

Previously, we made a baby blanket with the owl fabric in the diaper covers, backed with a pretty pale greys/taupes spotted flannel. I make those kinds of blankets with the same process as the burp flannels, and machine quilt the layers together. They’re cozy… my baby sis-in-law reports that it’s already one of her favorites for swaddling.

I’m pretty much in love with making the diaper covers. The PUL was easy to work with, and the option of combining it with a range of personalized cloth for the outer layer was a lot of fun. One thing I did notice: with the very directional prints, my own sensibilities required that I flip one half of the fabric “upside down” so when the diaper cover is worn, the words are right side up on both the front and back. The join is at the base of the crutch, so it’s not very visible. The PUL is cut in one complete piece to avoid any leak points.

Boffo! Kapow! Biff! Zoom!

Boffo! Kapow! Biff! Zoom!

As Sir Noob gets bigger, I’ll be able to make new sets of covers for him. We’re planning some pretty nerdly coolness for summer use, when his fluffy bum will be on display more often.

Sir Noob is very likely to be a ninja.

Sir Noob is very likely to be a ninja.

Food Storage Feedback

Just now, there are some various lists floating around my home territories of the Interwebs that share “How to Build Food Storage for $5 A Week” and other similar titles and schemes. That $5 a week one has shown up five times for me, in the last five days!

Looking at it, specifically, I notice a few things that become problematic when you have to actually EAT your stored items. Nowhere does it mention these are storage items for essentially one person, not for a family. And the foods themselves are problematic. During the course of a year, with this particular list, you amass various quantities of 14 food items, and 2 non-food items, and no toilet paper at all:

12 pounds of salt. If you’re doing your own baking and such, this is pretty reasonable, and you’ll have some left to scrub the cast-iron skillet.

30 cans of condensed cream soup (salt, sugars, and chemicals)

40 cans of condensed tomato soup (salt, sugars, and chemicals) (So, that’s 70 cans of condensed soups. You get one can per week for the whole year, and get to choose 18 additional glorious days with More Soup.

A whopping 180 POUNDS of sugar… for one person. That’s in addition to the sugars added to the canned soups, box mac, and peanut butter. That’s a LOT of sugar. So much sugar. Americans eat a lot of sugar to start with, but this storage plan tops average 2005 sugar consumption levels (100 pound per person) by another 80%! And at the list’s $5/20 pound assumption, you’re spending nearly $1000 on sugar–and that’s at antique prices. Current prices for sugar in my area run about $5.50 for ten pounds (store brand), so spending only $5 a week cuts that sugar purchasing down to 90 pounds, which is much, much better, and still waaaay too much sugar for one person to consume. Our family of 6, with all our baking habits, uses about this in a year.

10 pounds of honey. More sugar, but at least it’s a digestible kind. If you have a diabetic in the family, please make sure to store a whole lot of insulin.

100 pounds of flour… which sounds like a lot, until you’re doing your own baking, and realize each loaf requires between 1 and 1.5 pounds of flour, and that means getting anywhere from 75 to 100 loaves in a year, without making any other use of flour. That’s less than 2 loaves of bread a week. And bread is practically your only protein source in this storage plan… you’ll get about 55 grams of protein per loaf of bread. A good target amount for daily protein is about .8 grams per 2 pounds of body weight. That means a 150 pound person needs to shoot for 420 grams of protein per week. This plan’s flour allotment gets you 110 grams in a week. For one person.)

Muffins

One bread-stuff option: homemade English muffins, which can be done from the pantry, if you store the right stuff!

12 pounds of macaroni noodles presumably to mix with the cream soups for some sort of protein-free chemical goulash?

21 boxes of chemical mac-n-cheese (salt, sugars, and chemicals again). Good luck making it edible without butter, because that’s not part of the storage plan.

24 cans of tuna (finally, a non-flour protein source! Only a little bit, though. You get 10 grams of protein in one meal, once a week… for one half the year. So now the plan has one person consuming a total of 120 grams of protein a week for at least half of the year, against a basic need of 420 grams a week. This is not a ratio for survival.)

6 pounds of peanut butter (hey, another tiny bit of protein! 6 pounds of PB will give you 85 two-tablespoon portions, with 8 grams of protein per portion. So you can add 1.5 sandwiches for one person per week, and get a whole 13 total additional grams of protein… now we’re up to 133 grams, against that basic need of 420 grams per thin adult per week.) (And mostly salt, sugars, and chemicals.)

6 pounds of yeast. This is not a bad amount, particularly if you know how to use it for a sour-dough start, and can make a lot of bread without adding new yeast.

40 pounds of powdered milk (the list is not specific as to whether this is non-instant milk, which requires mixing with hot water and chilling before it’s drinkable, or instant milk, which doe not. 40 pounds of non-instant dry milk will yield about 160 quarts of milk, which sounds like a lot, but actually works out to ONE person having 14 ounces of fluid milk per day. And if you store 40 pounds of instant milk, one person gets 7 ounces of fluid milk per day.)

6 pounds of shortening (one of the most chemically processed fats you could choose, with zero nutritional value on its own. Lard has actual nutritional content. And a variety of oils is better than just one hydrogenated chemical oil.)

1000 ct multivitamins (and you’re going to need ’em! The food list is really low on vitamins and minerals. Notice, there’s not a single fruit or vegetable item listed. Not one. British sailors were given more actual nutrition than this list provides.)

500 count aspirin (so, the list is made pre-Advil? That explains buying 5 pounds of honey for $5. Or 20 pounds of sugar for $5. Actually, if you only buy $5 of sugar at each buying interval, you’ll end up with a lot less sugar, so that’s a good thing. )

It sounds harsh, but a person amassing this quantity and distribution of foods is worse off than someone without any storage at all, because this plan lulls one into the idea that they are prepared. And it’s not a preparation plan. It’s not edible, nourishing food.

The very low protein levels (133 grams per WEEK if we’re generous… now take your body weight, divide it in half, and multiply by .8 to see what your baseline protein intake actually needs to be to maintain key body functions) lead to some ugly consequences: muscle wasting, increasing weakness, compromised immune function, hair loss, skin changes/rashes, mood changes including depression, and eventually shock and even death. Without consuming any protein, the human body can only live about 70 days, and those will be rife with the physical deprivation and malfunction I just mentioned. This plan gives only about 1/3 of baseline protein levels for a 150 pound person. Sooooo… live miserably and die about 8am on day 93 instead.

Yes, I know this meme/plan is only a suggestion, or a start, or something. But it’s about the worst way to go about accomplishing provident, functional storage.

WHAT WORKS BETTER

This site has a much more functional planning strategy. This site gives some solid basics and reasons why. Yes, it’s possible to build food storage $5 at a time. But, it needs to be more thought through than the $5/week plan floating around the net!

I’m not a perfect paragon of storage. Not at all. But here are the questions I look at when building at $5 a week:

  1. What does my family actually eat? We eat a lot more variety of grains than the above “plan” allows for. Wheat, oat groats, corn grits/polenta, barley, and more regularly grace our table. Going to only wheat flour would be a vast down-grade to our eating plans. We eat leafy and root vegetables, and fruits, and a wide variety of protein sources, including different rices and beans. For storage to be provident and functional, it needs to contain what we actually eat.
  2. What are the realistic quantities? For instance, our family of six will consume an average of two loaves of homemade bread, or their equivalent (homemade biscuits, rolls, tortillas, muffins, scones), per day. Seven days a week. We’ll use the equivalent of three 15oz cans of vegetables in a dinner meal. I need to store realistic quantities for our consumption, or we’ll run a high risk of feeling grossly deprived. (And that includes some items that are strictly for comfort and treats! That’s why we store fruits for making pie, and chocolate chips for cookies, and cocoa powder for cakes and pudding and hot cocoa.)
  3. Do those menu items come in shelf-stable versions? This might include dehydrated, freeze-dried, home-canned, or commercially-canned items, as well as stable-as-is items (like grains).
  4. What are the most nutritionally-dense foods I can store? (hint: sugar is not one of them. Nor is box chemical mac.)
  5. What are the most beneficial and shelf-stable protein sources I can store? (hint: dry beans and rices, lentils, and other such vegetable-based complete proteins are awesome to store, bulk up gorgeously when cooked, and can be used in a variety of cooking styles. And backyard chickens provide fresh eggs daily, no shelf-storage needed–although you can store fresh eggs, right there on the counter, for weeks!)
  6. What shelf-stable fats can I store? Oils, lard–our bodies need fats to function well! One stable source of fats is actually in certain grains–I’ll do better storing wheat berries and grinding them fresh for bread, retaining the tiny amounts of fats in the grain, than by trying to store huge quantities of pre-ground whole wheat flour that risks the fats going rancid before I use them.
  7. What seasoning sets give those basics a good variety of flavors? How can I store those in shelf-stable ways, and how much should I be storing? Salt, pepper, garlic, onion, curry, cumin, bouillons, coriander, cayenne, dry mustard, dried herbs of all kinds, more garlic, sriracha, Mex-style pepper sauces, Worchestershire, soy sauce… all of these are in our normal flavor patterns, and to be in a situation of living off only stored foods, without those flavor patterns, would be a huge spark to depression, appetite fatigue, and voluntary starvation.

    Flavor! Who knew?

    Flavor! Who knew?

  8. How can I adjust my grocery and meal planning to allow for small, consistent purchase of additional quantities to build my surplus store? Stocking up on peaches to home-can only makes sense when peaches are in season; if I’m going to put up jams and jellies, I’ll need to make sure I do purchase additional sugar in the months leading up to the cheapest fruit availability. Do I have secure, air-tight storage for seasonings, herbs, grains, etc? Can I adjust our meal plans to incorporate the least-expensive forms of high-quality protein, carbs, and fats?

I grew up with an active cycle of food storage and use, and I’m trying to do better with my current plan. Living with that active cycle is a heck of a lot of work, so involving the whole household is vital! The quantities to feed a household of ten, realistically, were enormous. It wasn’t feasible to do it all at once, and a spread-out plan that takes advantage of seasonal accessibility and careful purchasing is really the only way to make it work no matter what size household you have.

Some is better than none. Planned “some”, tailored to your household’s needs, is better than generic some.

Assassin Cookies

I think it’s important to have pleasant family traditions. Or at least, memorable ones. So, we have these Assassin Cookies, so-named because they are double-dusted in powdered sugar, and that makes for a treat that will attempt to kill you, should you inhale at the precisely wrong moment while eating them. I like these bitty, and they freeze very well (without sugar-death-dust–that will get soggy when thawing!), and they’re beloved by all adventurous souls everywhere.

Assassin Cookies

1 cup butter (1/2 pound, or two sticks). Do not substitute margarine. It is an abomination.

1/2 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

1 heaping teaspoon vanilla extract (my Great-Grandma Fern’s designation. It means “if you spill a little, that’s fine.”)

2-1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if you’ve used salted butter up there at the top.)

3/4 cup chopped and smashed walnuts (or pecans). Small bits make for more consistent assassination cookies.

About 1 to 2 cups additional powdered sugar for the Assassin Dust at the end.

 

Cream the butter and sugar until it’s getting quite light and fluffy; beat in the vanilla and nuts. Beat in the flour until it all comes together to a mass.

Form the dough into small balls (3/4″ max–about 1/2 teaspoon of dough) and arrange on a baking sheet. These won’t spread much, so they can be as close as 1/2″ apart. Smoosh them just slightly in the middle with your thumb or the back of a spoon.

Bake for 10-14 minutes at 400*. They need to be done, but not really browned, or the taste of browned butter will overwhelm the nuts. Remove to a rack to cool.

While still a bit warm, toss the cookies in the additional powdered sugar, a few at a time, and then let them cool completely on the rack. Or, get impatient and put them in the freezer for a few minutes.

When cool, toss them again in the powdered sugar, and store in an air-tight canister or re-used Schrodinger’s Cookie Tin (does it hold Danish butter cookies? Or sewing supplies? Until you open the lid, it could be either or BOTH.)

Do not inhale unwisely, or they will, in fact, assassinate you.

Yay, traditions!

 

So, we sometimes have extra young fellows around our place, because I have this very bad habit of feeding strays–erm, missionaries. After noticing one fellow had a shirt pocket in the process of ripping off (and I sympathize, because I was the girl who lost her dress pockets more than once, due to the abundance of pretty rocks at the beach), and mentioning said pocket, I heard this in response:

Oh, I think I have some dental floss at home. It’ll be fine.

Oh.

My.

Heavens.

This just cannot, will not, must not be.

In real life, I (in part) teach dressmaking and handsewing. So, I have a few odd resources others might not have, but since they are indeed MY resources, I can easily make them available, so here’s what I put together for a sewing mini-kit, suitable for small clothing repairs and other needful situations. It stores very compactly, and if airport security does look squinch-eyed at you, at least you can delight them all with impromptu sewing lessons, and a delightfully wee instructional booklet.

For each kit, you will need:

  • One empty Altoids tin. It was such a struggle to get an empty one around here. I had to open it, and wait about 14 seconds. The mints vanished, and my Little Girls smelled refreshingly minty for several hours. Give the tin a good wash and dry it well. I also primed it, and sprayed it with hammered metal spray paint, because obviously, I can’t leave well-enough alone.

    Recycled tin, plus hammered metal paint.

    Recycled tin, plus hammered metal paint.

  • Two or three thin spools of Gutermann’s all-cotton thread. Since this kit is intended for someone who wears primarily business-type clothing (suits/ties), I included white, black, and an indeterminate medium warm grey (this is not the official color name) (though, it probably ought to be). Those three colors will serve for repairs to most business-type clothes by blending nearly perfectly, even if they are not a precise match. Vary the colors by intended uses of the recipient. Obviously, if you’re giving a sewing mini-kit to a Goth kid, three nice shades of black will be most welcome. Browns for Steampunks, etc.

    The contents, shown with the original booklet. The file you'll download doesn't need staples.

    The contents, shown with the original booklet. The file you’ll download doesn’t need staples.

  • Small bit of wool felt for a Needles-and-Pins page. Wool felt retards rusting and won’t dull the points. You can buy wool felt at many crafting stores, or get a thrifted wool sweater, and let your Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neaderthal Husband do the wash.
  • 3-5 #9 or #10 Crewel needles. These are a nice size to hold onto (not too big, not too small), and crewel eyes are longer than sharps eyes, so they’re easier to thread.

    Crewel needles have a longer eye, and are easier to thread.

    Crewel needles have a longer eye, and are easier to thread.

  • A small beeswax disc. Now, I make these by the hundreds because I use them in my class kits, but you can buy larger beeswax bits from Wawak quite cheaply (a 1-ounce disc is a lot of wax!), melt it in a glass bowl set over boiling water, and spoon that into small flat candy molds to make your own. You could even make a little cornstarch bed, press in an item about the diameter of a quarter coin, and make your own snazzy waxer.
  • A thimble, sized to fit the dominant-hand middle finger of the recipient. An XL metal thimble will lay on its side in an Altoids tin.
  • A standard aluminum needle threader, if you know the recipient may get frustrated trying to thread needles.
  • The instructional mini-booklet. Download my mini-book here. Go here for additional instructions on How To Fold It Up. Keep in mind that I had to sit down and draw the illustrations myself, and write the words, and everything, so don’t be a jerk and court foul karma: give this away with gifts, but don’t sell it!

Assemble everything, fold up the booklet, and play a bit of sewing-supply Spatial Geometry Challenge to fit everything in (embiggen the pic to see how I suggest making it work.) Then keep it for yourself or give one to a Person In Need of Useful Sewing Basics.

Compact, but full of useful stuff!

Compact, but full of useful stuff!

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