OK everyone, just simmer down! Not only am I a mother myself, but I have a degree in women’s studies (or whatever they call it now), so I’m allowed to make jokes about my own oppression.
You see, the secret to happiness is to take the crushing obligations of domestic life, and turn them into a hobby. Baking, sewing, cooking, child-rearing – these are all pursuits that some people enjoy very much, even obsess over. In fact, there are entire TV networks and sections of the New York Times devoted to them.
But for some reason, nobody gets excited about cleaning.
And cleaning is the inspiration for this week’s project. More specifically, a book that I bought for my own mother* called, My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag. Mom heard the author interviewed on Terry Gross** and scribbled down as many cleaning tips as she could between pledge breaks.
Since I’m such a thoughtful daughter, I bought her the book for Mother’s Day. Now, of course I read the book myself before I sent it to her, which she would appreciate. And after I got over the writing style (Because, gross! is not a sentence, sweetheart), I actually learned a few things about cleaning, or at least confirmed many of my suspicions.
Specifically, that mops are useless. They just get your floor too wet, and move the dirt from one place to another. The secret? Get down on your hands and knees and clean it with a damp rag. I KNEW IT!
This technique isn’t nearly as humiliating as it sounds, but it IS hard on the knees. I usually kneel down on an old towel, and then awkwardly scoot around on it as I progress. However, this towel-under-the-shins business has really been holding me back from achieving my floor-cleaning goals.
What I need– what every Mother needs—are some stylish Floor Cleaning Knee Pads!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
– An Old Swimsuit
– One Pair of Toddler Underwear
– Two Buttons
– Scissors, Needle/thread or Sewing Machine, Fray-Check, Spray Paint (optional)
– Mother with a sense of humor
STEP ONE – SCULPT THE PADS: I happened to have a few big chunks of 4-inch foam laying around. I found it in the alley last year, and already used a big piece of it to recover my IKEA bench. Four inches is too thick for knee pads, so I first cut it in half using a scary kitchen knife of unknown origins.
Cut the foam into a pleasing oval shape using your Good Sewing Scissors. Don’t worry too much about getting the exact shape of your kneepad – these are really more like shin guards.
STEP TWO – SWIMSUIT SHOPPING: If your inner-Cathy is saying “ACK!” to the idea of swimsuit shopping, just relax. An old swimsuit provides the ideal fabric for floor scrubbing knee pads. It’s soft and smooth, so it won’t scratch the floor, and it can dry quickly. Plus, it’s stretchy and forgiving (just like Mom!). If you don’t have an old suit ready to sacrifice, pack up the kids and hit the thrift store. Luckily, it’s the season for used swimwear shopping. Pick a color or pattern that will hide dirt stains — no whites or pastels.
PRO-TIP! Buy the biggest swimsuit possible. I got a size 12 because I liked the color, but if I had gone with black I probably could have gotten up to size 22. Don’t feel bad about taking advantage of our nation’s obesity crisis. It’s not your fault Doritos taste so good.
To retain as much fabric as possible, cut the suit in half along a side seam using a scissors or seam ripper.
Place your foam pad on the fabric to get the approximate size, then cut out a piece of fabric approximately double that size, with an extra ¼ inch along the perimeter to account for seam clearance. You can save some sewing time by cutting two “Siamese” oval shapes, which you can then just fold over and sew on one side. We’re basically making two little pillows. Set aside while we make the strap.
STEP THREE – MAKE A STRAP OUT OF TODDLER UNDERWEAR: And you thought this project couldn’t get any more sophisticated! Whenever I need to add a touch of class, I just reach in my toddler’s underwear drawer. These undies were actually hand-me-downs from some other kid.
The waistband is the perfect width for my knee-strap, and that bright red elastic will really pop against the deep blue of the cushion. Carefully liberate the waistband using a seam ripper.
Cut the waistband in half for the perfect amount of strap. This of course depends on the size of your knee and your child’s waistline. If you have strangely-sized knees or children, just experiment.
Each strap should have one “finished” edge. Fold that edge over itself about a ¼ inch. Use a sharp scissors to cut a little hold in the waistband, big enough to fit over a button when stretched.
Since this isn’t a “fashion” item, we’re not going to do much to the waistband except squirt some FrayCheck on it to keep it from, well, fraying. I’m not sure what this stuff is; I suspect it’s Super Glue mixed with clear nail polish (Hey, that’s actually a pretty good idea). And, since it smells really bad, you can be sure that it’s working!
STEP FOUR – ASSEMBLE THE CUSHION: With the fabric inside-out, use your machine to sew the edges shut.
However, STOP when you get to the middle of oval. Find the end of the strap that does NOT have a hole, and place in the path of your seam. Sew over the strap, so that when the cover is inside out, you should only see the very end of the strap, as the rest of it is inside.
Keep sewing all the way around the perimeter, but stop when you’ve got about 1-2 inches remaining, so there’s a hole to shove the foam in. Repeat with other pad.
Turn your cover back right-side-out. Roll up the foam pad as tightly as you can and squeeeeeze it through the little hole.
Then sew the little hole shut. Your pads should look like this:
STEP FIVE – FINISHING TOUCHES: I was lucky enough to inherit my grandfather’s button collection,*** so I just grabbed a couple of mid-sized buttons and headed out to the porch with a can of bright orange spray paint. I mean, at this point, why not?
I have no idea where this paint came from, but loyal readers may recall me using it to decorate a trophy for our SuperBowl of Snacks Party.
Give the paint a couple hours to dry, and then sew a button on the side of each knee cushion, exactly opposite of where you sewed the strap in.
And yes, it would have been much easier to sew the button onto the cover BEFORE I stuffed the foam pad in and sealed it up. So you should do it that way. Finally, do a quality control check and make sure the button hole fits snugly over the button.
Present this gift to Mommy, perhaps with a refill of her favorite dish soap, a gift card to the Laundromat and a plastic rose.
* Don’t worry, Mom’s not on the Internet, so we’re not spoiling any surprises here.
** Yeah, I know the show is called “Fresh Air,” but every fellow NPR-phile I know just calls it Terry Gross.
*** When planning end-of-life issues, I strongly recommend that you and your loved ones have a frank conversation about what will happen to their button collection after they pass.
Hey – I thought I was the only one with a Grandparent’s button collection!
Love your stories btw, they make me laugh every time 🙂
Hmmm. So I’m not the only one who gets down there. A mop just doesn’t get into the corners, either. Any danger of devising something to get me back up off the floor afterwards? Perhaps with a hydraulic jack in its ancestry?
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