Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can you sew a button?

Last night, I went to a book-launch party for How To Sew A Button…And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew. My friend Erin Bried wrote it after she mistakenly made a Swiss chard pie instead of a rhubarb pie and realized she’d forgotten some important things her grandma had taught her, like identifying vegetables in the produce aisle.

Her granny’s gone, so she interviewed ten others and got their tips on cooking, cleaning, saving, loving, looking good and lots more. The result: a supremely helpful, witty book packed with the kind of homespun wisdom everyone could use. I actually do know how to sew a button, but am otherwise domestically challenged. Like, this weekend, Sabrina polished an upholstered chair along with her nails. My solution: douse an old toothbrush with nailpolish remover and scrub the fabric. Dis-as-ter. My next solution was to flip the cushion over. I’m big into cheating.

Come to think of it, maybe I should start reading the book to the kids at bedtime. Curious George? Feh. They will be much better children if they’d only learn how to make the house smell great (simmer cinnamon sticks, cloves and lemon or orange peel); unclog a drain (sprinkle one-half cup baking soda down the drain, follow that with ½ cup white vinegar, let it fizz for 15 minutes, then pour in hot boiling water); de-squeak a polyurethaned wood floor (sprinkle talcum powder into the cracks); and brew their own beer. There’s also a handy guide to folding a fitted sheet, but I think I’ll be OK if the kids don’t do that though, hmmm, that would be excellent occupational therapy for Max. (You can see Erin do a video demo here).

This book would make a nice present for a friend or relative. And if you get it for yourself and make some homemade beer, or your kids do, save some for me.

Got any great tips to share that you've learned from your grannies?


  1. I use vinegar (plain white) for pretty much everything. I wash the floors with it, clean the windows (with newspaper) and counters (not with newspaper, of course!), toss it in the wash as a fabric softner, you name it--it's cheap, it has disinfectant properties, and that vinegar stink dissipates quickly and leaves the house smelling clean. It also works great on dog or cat pee on the carpet, not that we have a dog or cat these days, but it does do the trick and stops any "reoffending" if ya know what I mean. Did I say it was cheap? I'm "into" cheap!

    I was a lucky girl--I learned from my grandmother--and mother--how to do all sorts of stuff. I "can" cook, sew, make basic home repairs, grow a vegetable garden... and survive! I've done it, too! It's so nice to have help in the form of family who LOVE to do this kind of stuff, and live to help us out, though! It does make life easier! For example, I "can" sew, but I don't enjoy mother LOVES to sew--loves it--and she gets the biggest kick out of mending things "good as new" and she does it, too. She also makes puppets for the kids that are fantastic.

    As for that chair cushion of yours....don't give up on it! If your efforts haven't melted the fabric (in that case, yes, give up on it) and the stain is just a big mess of smeared color, then keep on hitting it with the acetone (nail polish remover). Try using a rag soaked in it if you've managed to break it up with the brush, change out your rag as the color transfers to it--take the cushion cover off if you can (if it has a zipper and isn't "permanent") to work it from both sides (put paper towel under the stain while you work on it from above). Then try scrubbing it with Oxy Clean or upholstery cleaner once you've got the stain on the run! It'll take a good half hour of farting around and scrubbing and swearing to get that stuff out (we had a similar accident here at home as well) but it can be done, depending on the fabric. If it stands up to that abuse, you can surely wash the thing after you've gotten the stain out--just be careful of shrinkage if you're talking about a high cotton/wool content.

    Your friend's book sounds like a gem! She should go on a "Today Show" or "Good Morning America" segment--I hope her publicist is working to get her those kind of this economy, that sort of book is a natural, too. I wish her luck and success with it, and wish I'd thought of the idea first (tee hee)!

  2. When the snap on you blue jeans won't snap easily, take a pencil and "write" inside and out of both snap pieces. It lubricates the snap.

    Vineger also is great if you have ants. Add a little to warm water to wash down your counters, cabinets, floors. If you find a source outside, use it straight.

  3. What a great idea for a book! I can sew a button (by hand and with my machine), but I don't bake. It's just something that never really worked for me.

  4. Ellen- one of mine WAS folding a fitted sheet! She was an expert! My Bamboo always taught me to "put the house to bed"-just straighten things before going to bed, not a real cleaning. Put pillows where they go on the couch, pick up the toys and toss them in a bucket, put extra dirty dishes into the sink, etc. Then when you get up in the morning-pretty clean house! Also- how to sew pillows AND buttons! LOL

  5. what a great idea for a book. I'll look for it. tell your friend congratulations

  6. Oh, my gracious what great ideas. Vinager is so good. I made a vinager pie one time, its a mock lemon merange, don't make it. Anyway, your friend's idea for this book is brillant!!! I just ordered it from Amazon.
    Oh, my friend told me to heat up whole cloves in water and your kids will relax instantly, not sure about that but the house smells great.

  7. What a great idea for book! I think I will have to get one since I am domestically challenged. I can sew a button and do some basic sewing, but it probably won't be very pretty (or even).

    I don't have any tips that I learned from Grandma, but I will share one tip: Peroxide is GREAT at getting blood out of fabric (even colored fabric).

  8. This is a great idea. I really feel like women are pushed so much towards careers (which I think is a good thing), that no one bothers to teach them much on the practical end of things. At my all-girl Catholic school, which was known for its academics, they turned the home ec lab into an art studio. I was glad for it, but some basic sewing would be so wonderful to know.


Thanks for sharing!

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