Category Archives: Homemaking

Organic Grassfed Beef Tallow for Skincare

organic-tallow-balm-grass-fed-orange-bergamot-noelles-naturalsAbout a year ago we ventured into the world of Nourishing Traditions and the wonderful high fat diet they propose. I’ve lost weight, my energy is up, and we feel fantastic. I’ve played around with lots of different fats to cook with: Grass fed butter, duck fat, ghee, beef tallow.

But when a friend recently asked if I had gotten into beef tallow as a skin care product I was a little surprised. I mean I’ll eat it, but not sure I wanted to put it on my skin. But it does make sense. Technically all the skincare products I make are edible.

erin-brockovich-trihalomethanes-pinellas-county-water-homemakerchic.comSo when our family was hit with a terrible bout of dry skin (thanks to the Pinellas County water system for the delicious chemicals they recently dumped in our water), I turned to something different when Shea butter was no longer doing the trick.

I hit the lab to formulate a Tallow balm that would be good for our whole family (and yours too!). This stuff is fantastic for any skin ailment you can think of, from dry skin and eczema, diaper rash, acne, aging facial skin, scars, sunburn, psoriasis, dermatitis, or even stretch marks (which is quite appealing since I am 7 months pregnant with baby number 3 as I type.) You name it, this stuff is for it!

Tallow is actually a very old fashioned skin care ingredient. Animal fats used to be as much a part of skin care regimens as they were a part of old fashioned diets. But the move away from animal fats in cooking, in exchange for vegetable oils, also included its exclusion from use in skin products. In fact, up until it’s recent resurgence in popularity you would have been hard pressed to find any skin care products with animal fats at all. But thankfully organizations like the Weston A. Price foundation are doing a fantastic job of educating the public on the benefits of animal fats consumed both internally and externally.

I’m here to say that FAT IS BACK!

I began researching Tallow balm and its benefits and I was so very pleasantly surprised to find this amazing ingredient to add to my products!

According to Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price foundation, science backs up the use of Tallow for human skin…

Modern-day research confirms the traditional wisdom of our ancestors. From biology, we know that the cell membrane is made up primarily of fatty acids, a double layer, to be exact. Saturated fats constitute at least 50 percent of the cell membrane. Since saturated fats tend to be more solid than unsaturated fats at a given temperature, they help give the cell membrane its necessary stiffness and integrity for proper function. The monounsaturated fats, while not as “solid” as the saturated fats, are more so than the polyunsaturated fats which are also present in the cell membrane in their own proper proportion, although the modern diet leads to a disproportionate amount of the polyunsaturates. Healthy, “toned” skin cells with sufficient saturated and monounsaturated fats would undoubtedly make for healthy, toned skin. Interestingly, tallow fat is typically 50 to 55 percent saturated, just like our cell membranes, with almost all of the rest being monounsaturated, so it makes sense that it would be helpful for skin health and compatible with our cell biology.”

Now its important to talk a little about what exactly Tallow is, how its made, and the best sources for it.

When it comes to our skin we want to be wise about what we’re absorbing. We know that its our largest organ, so we wouldn’t want to put anything on our skin that we wouldn’t want to consume internally. Our skin is literally drinking every cream, lotion, or balm we put on it. So avoiding toxins and chemicals in skin care products is just as important as avoiding toxins in our foods.

So when we look at the fat of an animal, especially for the purposes of putting on our skin, it is important to look at what kind of toxins may or may not be stored in that fat.

So only the fat from cows raised on organic farms, and fed grass fed diets will be appropriate for use on the skin. Studies show that the fats and milk from grass fed cows have four times the vitamin E of grain-fed cows. Extra vitamin E for my skin? Yes please!

The process of making tallow can be grueling. It involves finding reputable beef fat (called suet), chopping said suet (and no not in a System of a Down sort of way), then cooking down or rendering the fat until all the liquid fat has separated from the fried fat pieces, also called “cracklins” if you’re in the south (which I am). That liquid fat is then strained and cooled and the remaining substance is a velvety smooth, ivory white, waxy sort of hard butter that is mild in scent, but slightly nutty. Its not exactly “beefy” but there is a subtle aroma that isn’t exactly sweet. 

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Since we’ve moved away from the farm days of preparing our own foods I think most modern homemakers would shy away from this process (current company included.) So I buy mine ready rendered.

And thus you have Tallow. It is a beautifully smooth substance.

So now that its in this lovely form how do we get the balm?

A couple of things to consider:

  1. Tallow is a bit firm on its own and can be difficult to spread.
  2. It does have a very light subtle aroma that may not be appealing to everyone.

So I decided to invite some of our plant friends to the party. Yes animal fats are awesome but let’s not forget our wonderful plant based buddies that have been a mainstay in skincare for just as long. I wanted to use something naturally very fragrant without having to add a TON of essential oils. Don’t get me wrong, EO’s are my jam, but they can sometimes irritate certain skin types, so I wanted to be careful. I added just 1-2 drops of Bergamot oil per jar. But I still wanted more scent (without going EO crazy).

Enter Orange Butter. Being a Florida girl I am partial to the wonderfully refreshing aroma of ripe, juicy, florida oranges so this ingredient makes me very happy. It smells fantastic! The one I use is derived from Orange Peel oil and Orange Peel Wax (blended with almond oil), specifically from the Florida area, and is made by cold pressing Orange peel to get the oil. Orange Peel Oil contains Limonene, which is a very effective free radical scavenger. It also has a cleansing and toning effect on skin that can improve oily skin and acne problems. Also contained in Orange Butter is Orange Peel Wax which contains a high level of Bioflavonoids (polyphenols). Bioflavonoids have anti-cellulite, anti-inflammatory, and many other protective benefits for skin.

So that solves the aroma issue, with the added benefit of tons of pro skin factors.

Now for the texture. Welcome to the stage Olive Oil. Olive oil has been used for millenia, with skincare usage going as far back as the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks. It has excellent skin benefits (including MORE polyphenols) and its liquid state adds a wonderful softness to the harder waxy tallow.

When melted down and blended together, these 3 all-star ingredients make a powerful skin moisturizing trio. I’m so excited for you to try it! As always if you love the idea of the DIY thing but just don’t have the time (or desire to render beef fat) you can buy this magical stuff ready made in my Etsy shop!

Special thanks to SKS Bottle for the fantastic glass jars. They seriously have every type of jar or bottle you can think up and these adorable dome jars were just perfect for this balm. A little goes a long way with this stuff so a giant jar wasn’t necessary, these 4oz jars were just right.

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Homemade Vanilla Bean Extract

vanilla-extract-homemakerchic.comSo, two Christmases ago, before I was the lucky mother of two children (and I had all sorts of free time), I decided to make all homemade gifts for my family. I made lovely gift baskets with lots of really cool homemade goodies including this glorious Vanilla Bean Extract. I couldn’t blog about it at the time because it would have spoiled the surprise for all my family. So I had big plans to blog about it in the fall of last year so my readers would have time to make this really thoughtful gift for their families in time for Christmas. Only I had a baby. So here we are in the last day of January 2016 and I’m not going to put it off anymore. Now you will have around 11 months to prepare to make Vanilla extract for everyone on your gift list. You could have a whole vanilla extract factory in that amount of time! Here’s how…

sks-bottle-amber-bottles-homemakerchic.com1) First you will need some dark amber bottles.

The dark color of the bottle keeps light out and preserves your finished product and helps it to last longer. SKS-bottle.com to the rescue! They have these lovely amber bottles that have the bonus of including tamper evident caps and pouring inserts that keep your vanilla beans from falling out every time you want extract. At less than $1.50 a piece for the 8 oz size (which by the way will hold enough vanilla extract to last your average home baker approximately a lifetime give or take) the price was definitely right! The 4 oz size are around $1 each. You just can’t find them any cheaper, I looked. I absolutely love the old fashioned look of these bottles.

2) Get some good quality vanilla beans.

For an 8 oz bottle you will need 7 beans per bottle.

I got mine from on Amazon. I got 1 pound of Madagascar Vanilla beans for $56.75. That’s over 100 beans. I looked and that price has gone up since I bought them, but you don’t need a whole pound. I got a bunch because I was making a lot of these for gifts and also using them for other projects (Homemade Kahlua!). If you’re only making a few of these you can get 25 beans for around $30.

3) Pick your poison.

You will need 1 cup 70 Proof Alcohol

Next you will need to decide if you want to make a bourbon vanilla or a vodka vanilla. Whether you use vodka or bourbon is up to you. Bourbon has more flavor than vodka and will yield a richer, deeper, final flavor. Vodka is a more neutral flavor and really lets the vanilla beans shine. Vodka is also less expensive if you’re trying to stay on a budget (Costco’s Kirkland brand is great!). You can also try light rum, I haven’t tried it but I read lots of reviews of people who loved it. Whichever you choose, avoid using alcohol with too high of an alcohol level as it can really break down the vanilla beans too much and it just won’t work right. 70 proof will do the trick.

4) Make the stuff.

Slice the beans in half and shove them down into your bottles. You can cut them into smaller pieces if you have a hard time fitting them in, but I liked the elegance of the long leggy beans.

Using a funnel, pour the alcohol into the bottle.

Press the white plastic strainer pieces firmly inside the openings of the bottles. (Sometimes they get hidden inside the caps if you can’t find them). Then affix the caps by pressing straight down firmly. If you’re having a hard time getting them on, try to twist gently to the right as you’re pressing down. Don’t twist too hard or you will break your tamper proof seal. It takes a little finesse but I love this feature. It makes them so finished and professional (especially if you wanted to sell these).

5) Labels & Presentation

homemade-vanilla-extract-homemakerchic.comI really love these brown Kraft labels for various purposes. They just look so old fashioned and I love the way they turned out against the amber bottles. I used a font called Chocolate Box from 1001freefonts. I used round ones but in the future I might use something with a different shape like these. 

And these scalloped ones are really cute too! And these would be nice if you were using smaller bottles. 

And rustic twine is just a must in my opinion. I buy twine by the roll and use it for everything. I wrap gifts with it, tie gift tags on with it, I wrap pencils in it, hang pictures with it. Tie my hair back with it. I’m a big time twine fan. Adding a little to these bottles just totally makes it special.

Finally, leave the extract for at least 8 weeks (or more!), shaking the bottles once a week for good measure.  Enjoy!!

How To Remove Pen Ink From Leather Furniture

how-to-remove-ink-from-leather-furnitureHaving a toddler is lots of fun. Everyday I get to witness all the new and exciting things he is learning. Like today for example, I got to see him learn how to draw… with a pen… on my white leather sofa. Palm:Meet:Forehead.

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A quick google search yielded a few options for ink stain removal one of which included using rubbing alcohol. Since the first idea that came to my mind was rubbing alcohol anyway I figured I’d go with my gut. Now I didn’t find this beautiful work of art until about 2.5 hours after he did it, so I think this method will work great even if you don’t catch the problem right away.

remove-ink-stain-easily-from-leather-using-alcohol

All I needed was a couple of cotton pads, a bottle of rubbing alcohol (or isopropyl alcohol: you can find it at any supermarket, drugstore, or chemist) and a little elbow grease. It came right off!

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For the areas where the ink had seeped in between the cracks of the leather I just used the corner of my finger nail to work out the ink, and then scrubbed it with more alcohol and cotton pads. Good luck! Hope it works as well for you as it did for me!

Bright & Cheery Living Room on a Budget

cheery-living-room-decor-on-a-budgetIt was almost a year ago that my husband first laid eyes on the house that would become our first home. When he brought me back to tour this place with our realtor I instantly saw visions of us decorating the nursery, bringing home our son, and watching him grow up in this wonderful place. But aside from the sweet sentimental (5 months pregnant at the time!) woman in me, I saw all my Pinterest boards coming to life before my very eyes! After a more than 2 year search for our dream home, my Pinterest boards were full of inspirations for decorating that I just couldn’t’ wait to bring to life.

My vision was to unite my love for French Provincial decor with the fresh, cheery, colors of Key West Florida. The final product was a fusion and style all my own

And the best part of all? I DID IT ALL ON A BUDGET!

I plan to share with you every room in my house eventually but let’s start with my formal living room.

Here’s how I did it…

 

The first and most important part of putting this vision together was finding the right furniture. So it was straight to Craigslist.com for me. Craig’s List is always my #1 source for furniture. You can find amazing deals, and if you can’t find the exact piece you’re looking for you can always use your imagination to repurpose and add new life to old pieces.

(P.S. if you look closely in the photo above you can catch a sneak peak at a super cool orange ombre fondant wedding cake I did for a bride a couple weeks ago! It is a dummy cake and I thought it looked pretty awesome in my living room. 🙂 bright-living-room-inspiration

paint-sofa-leg-upcycle-repurpose-living-room-on-a-budget-turquoiseI found the sofa for $100. All I did was add a coat of fun turquoise paint to the legs and I had a bright new statement piece!

The accent chairs took more work. I found a pair of gorgeous french provincial arm chairs for $50 each. They were originally very traditional with dark wood and neutral fabric. I wanted something that would really pop with color, marrying the classic Marie Antoinette style of the chairs with fun cheery Key West colors. chevron-throw-pillow-lime-greenI found the lime green chevron fabric at Hobby Lobby on sale and I had a 40% coupon as well! 4 yards of fabric only cost me about $19.00 and I had enough fabric leftover to make the matching little throw pillows on the sofa (The orange pillows came from Home Goods – $25 for both). The turquoise paint is the same I used to paint the legs of the sofa, and also my mantel piece on the fireplace. I still have 1/2 the can left for other projects and it only cost about $12.00. Lucky for me I have an AMAZINGLY crafty and talented aunt who hooked me up big time by painting and reupholstering the chair set for just $100. All in all these fantastic chairs set me back just over $230. repurposed-chair-turquoise-chevronThe white side tables also came from CL already painted ($100 for the pair), as did the coffee table ($30). YES!! I found a french provincial coffee table already painted orange! Seriously?? Who besides me would have the vision for an orange coffee table? Apparently my decor soulmate. The green rug was $20 from Old Time Pottery (to be completely honest I would have loved a rug about 3x that size, but we’re on a budget!). I snagged the blue vases and silk flowers from my mom (shhh don’t tell, LOL!)orange-lime-green-turquoise-chevron-living-room-modern

 

lamp-stack-of-old-books-add-heightThe lamps came from IKEA for $15 each. They ended up being a bit short in my opinion and didn’t make enough of a statement. So to make them taller I simply stacked them on some old books. Such an easy little touch that makes for a really cool look!

 

scrabble-letter-photo-box-craft-diyA sweet friend made me this awesome scrabble letter photo box for my birthday. Isn’t it awesome! It has found a lovely home on the magical orange coffee table. photo-coasters-diyFor Christmas our family decided to do homemade gifts. My creative nephew (with help from my super crafty sister!) made us a set of photo coasters with pictures he grabbed off my Facebook page! Isn’t that just the coolest thing you’ve ever seen? He did it by mod-podging photos to plain old ceramic tiles (you can pick them up at Home Depot or any home improvement store) and then sealing them with  spray sealant. I absolutely love these coasters!!

square-picture-frames-grid-oranges-diy-wall-hangingI found this lovely piece at a second hand shop. The guy in the store asked if I was looking for anything specific and I told him I wanted a french provincial sideboard. He happened to have one in his truck that he hadn’t even unloaded in the shop yet. He said he was going to paint it but if I had a specific color I wanted he would do it custom for me. So for $260 I got an antique sideboard freshly painted and distressed by hand! I couldn’t believe my luck because a search on CL for anything similar to this piece was anywhere from $400-$800!!

dunedin-floridaNow, when I moved this piece in there was such a huge piece of empty wall space above it. I knew I wanted a square grid of frames but it took some creativity to come up with what sort of art would live in those frames. Enter Dunedin, Florida. We live not far from this adorable little Florida beach town. On the facade of many buildings in “delightful Dunedin” you will find these charming paintings of oranges. There are probably 100 or more of these mysterious paintings on the fronts of antique stores, ice cream shops, restaurants, and bars. You can read the story of how they got there in the Tampa Bay Times. Its an adorable story.

So I decided that I wanted a touch of Florida in my art and what says Florida more than Oranges??dunedin-orange-mural So I strapped Luke onto my back, grabbed my camera and headed downtown. I took pictures of about 20 oranges and decided on the best nine. A little bit of photoshopping to correct the lighting and to crop each photo into a perfect square and they were ready for printing. Whenever I need high quality prints I always turn to PersnicketyPrints.com. They have never let me down AND they do 12×12 prints which is exactly what I needed for this project. All 9 prints cost me less than $20 including shipping. I also needed to find the perfect frame. 12×12 frames are surprisingly hard to come by, and they are usually pretty pricey. After several days of searching the interwebs for the right frame at the right price I came across FrameUSA.com. Not only did they have great customer service, they had gorgeous frames for cheap! This whole project cost under $75.00!

IMG_0485This fireplace originally had a hideous 1970s puke brown stone facade that thankfully the previous owners had the sense to paint white. I further modernized the mantle by adding a coat of turquoise semi-gloss paint. The map of Puerto rico was used on a real cruise ship and you can see the captain’s handwriting on it! I picked it up years ago when I worked for a cruise line. I got the frame at Michael’s on sale and with a 40% off coupon for $17.00.

The candlesticks came from Ross for about $5 each, and I had the bunch of silk flowers laying around. I just stuck them in an empty Mad Housewife wine bottle.

rattan-chevron-chair-diy-upcycleThese two chairs actually came exactly as is from Craig’s list!! I know! I’m the luckiest craiglister in the world. Honestly I just check back every day for new items in my area. Whenever something awesome comes up I jump on it right away! Having cash and a truck really helps. Someone had already up cycled these rattan chairs by painting them blue, recovering the cushions in lime green chevron fabric, and making these adorable throw pillows. They were a STEAL at $60 a piece! I really couldn’t believe I found these gems. The side table in between them was found at a thrift shop for $20. The plant is from IKEA.

SO for around $1000 I was able to completely furnish an entire living room. You can do it too! Just keep your eyes peeled for awesome deals, and use your imagination and a little creativity to come up with a style that is totally you!

 

 

 

Apple Cider Vinegar Cold Remedy

natural-cold-remedyWell I’m sick. Boo! I almost never get sick, and here I am sick as a dog for the fourth time since Luke was born (4 months ago). Now before you say my immune system is probably down due to lack of sleep I have to say that God blessed me with one of those fabled, magical, unicorn babies who has slept through the night since birth! I figure He decided to throw me a bone after all I went through. I digress.

I guess its probably just one of the joys of the postpartum phase where my body is unrecognizable and nothing works the way it used to, including my immune system.

Since I’m breastfeeding I was leary to take any over the counter medications lest I negatively affect my milk supply. So I got to thinking and googling and came up with this super awesome get-better-soon-elixer.

organic-raw-acv-apple-cider-vinegarHere’s what you need:

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Raw unfiltered organic

Honey (preferably organic, raw and local),

and a shot glass.

Raw unfiltered ACV is known to have dozens of health benefits not least of which is its ability to act as a natural expectorant by thinning mucus and draining the lymphatic system. You have to use the raw unfiltered kind, pasteurized ACV does not work as well. I found the Bragg brand at Target and you can also get it on Amazon (click on the image).

The honey not only serves to coat and soothe your sore throat, but raw local honey has wonderful anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties, and works naturally to strengthen the immune system. I buy a big jar of it at the local farmer’s market, but I was fresh out when I took the picture (hence the store-bought variety shown).

To make the Elixer:

Simply pour half a shot (1 TBSP) half a shot of ACV and microwave for about 8 seconds. Add half a shot of honey to the hot ACV. Stir and the shoot it down the gullet. I find its better to just chug it back rather than sip it because the ACV is a bit strong on the nostrils. The honey makes it go down smooth, and warming it up makes you feel all soft and cozy inside. I promise you will feel better after trying this! Do it 2-3 times a day and you’ll be back at it in no time.

A spoon full of HONEY makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way. 🙂

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Now I’ve got to stop writing and go back to bed. Hope this works for you!

How to Remove Stains Using Tide

how-to-remove-kid-stainsMy mom is the best stain-getter-outer I know. I’ve brought countless pieces of clothing to her over the years so she could work her miraculous stain fighting magic on them. But since Luke was born I realized that this a talent all mothers should possess and it was time I learned my own magical stain removal tricks. Enter TIDE!tide

I never used Tide detergent until recently because it is a little more expensive than other brands. I normally use Arm & Hammer because it often goes on BOGO sale at my supermarket and I load up whenever it does. But when I started cloth diapering I read up on all the laundry recommendations and Tide Original Powder is by and large the go to detergent for moms these days. Lucky for me I got a GIANT box of it on sale at Costco, so while its not quite as cheap as BOGO, it certainly earns its keep!

Now I know I told you that you don’t have those fabled blowouts in Cloth Diapers, but let me clarify. There are a few scenarios under which that might not be the case, and I unfortunately have experienced them both. Here are some reasons cloth diapers may leak. Luke sadly had two pretty huge blowouts in two really cute outfits! It was due to user error I assure you.

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So this brings me to the point of this post. Having a little boy (and a husband for that matter) is messy. How do you get poopie stains (OR any stains!) of of the clothes? You guessed it… TIDE! FYI- Tide is not paying me to write this post, nor did they send me free product (but hey if you work for Tide and wanna share the love I’m happy to take it!). I just love sharing awesome products that actually work! Can I get an amen?

So here’s what you do. This is so simple it hurts.

clean-clothes-in-sinkPut the stopper in your sink and fill with enough warm water to cover the garment (an inch or two).You can also do this in a large bowl.

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Sprinkle in about 1/4c of Tide Powder (not the liquid) or up to the 1 line on the cup and stir around until it is dissolved. Toss in the soiled garment and agitate for a few seconds.2014-02-26 12.21.10

Now here’s the magical part – LEAVE IT.

That’s seriously all you do. Leave the clothes for at least an hour or as long as overnight. No need to scrub, rub, or wring anything. You can periodically check on the progress and see the stain disappearing before your eyes.

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When the stain is gone be sure to rinse the clothes very well- until you no longer see suds and the water is crystal clear.

You may find the garment smells strongly of detergent so if this irritates you baby’s skin then I’d recommend washing the garment again with you regular laundry and doing an extra rinse.

You’re welcome. 😉nice-and-clean-baby

DIY Dollar Store Cloth Diaper Inserts

So in my last post I talked to you about Modern Cloth Diapers and all the awesome benefits of using them! Today I want to share with you a quick and easy way to make your own Microfiber inserts to use with Pocket Diapers.

There are many different types of inserts from lots of different types of fabric, but microfiber is the main type that will come with your new diapers from the manufacturer. It is incredibly absorbent but it is important not to put microfiber directly on your baby’s skin. This is because it SO absorbent, it will actually pull moisture out of their skin and cause drying and rashes. So make sure you only use these as inserts in a pocket, or under another natural fiber insert.

photo-3All you need to do is pick up some of those microfiber cleaning cloths at the dollar store. I have found them in the auto section as drying rags for your car, and also in the cleaning section.

I found two sizes 12×12″ and 14×16″. The smaller ones are great to be used in Newborn sized diapers, or as soakers used with another insert. The larger ones are great for regular sized diapers.

make-your-own-cloth-diaper-insertsFirst cut the tags off and wash the cloths in your regular diaper laundry. Then all you do is fold them over so you have three layers. This will make your insert even more absorbent. Finally sew a simple rectangle stitch around the entire insert. And that’s it! If you have a serger that would be even better but I just have a regular sewing machine. I did make the tension on my machine very high so I could ensure nice tight, close stitches.IMG_8127

I like to use these doubled up, or folded up inside a prefold. Yes you can use prefolds as inserts too! I have some newborn prefolds that no longer fit my big boy and they work perfectly with one of these Microfiber inserts in the center for extra absorbency!

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FYI – you could do this with a range of different fabrics! All you have to do is cut out a piece of fabric, fold it up, and sew it just like this. You could use old t-shirts, fleece blankets, towels… Try some different things out and see how it works!

Have you made your own inserts? What fabrics did you try?