Simple sugar scrub for dry skin

Usually we only use the vegetable oil soap I make to clean our whole bodies. It’s cheap and simple to use the same product for everything, but sometimes I have to break out and use something decadent (and a bit more heavy duty). Not being able to wash my right hand and forearm for six weeks has resulted in a whole lot of dry, scaly skin accumulating on my hand and arm. It has given me an insight into how many skin cells we lose to our environment every day… a LOT.

This is my hand after six weeks of no soap and water.

I decided to make a sugar scrub to get rid of all that dead skin. I found a post with a recipe and whipped up a batch for myself and a jar for my daughters too.

Sugar scrub

1/2 cup brown sugar/raw sugar mixed

1/4 cup coconut oil (I used copha)

1/2 tspn ground cinnamon

Whiz the ingredients together in a food processor (I have a mini food processor, so the small amount was easy) until it is a nice texture that you can work with. Spoon your sugar scrub into clean jars and store in a cool place.

This is my hand after using my sugar scrub.

Because it was a cool day when I made this scrub, the coconut oil didn’t melt much. This resulted in a grainy consistency, but I don’t mind that. The scrub itself worked really well on my hand and my skin is amazingly soft too. I have gone on to use this scrub on my feet, on my legs and even on my face. I feel very… sweet.

Being able to wash my whole body again is amazingly restorative. I feel so much more able to deal with the world after a shower. Although the gains in flexibility from my daily sessions of shower yoga will be missed (keeping one hand in a plastic bag while trying to wash all over and scrub feet with a nail brush using only the left hand should be classed as a master class in yoga).

Sentro knitted sweater vest

I made my first piece of clothing on the Sentro! It’s a rustic looking piece, made from all hand spun yarn and finished off this week with ribbing knitted by hand (yes, I am allowed to knit again). I used all the left over balls of naturally dyed yarn I had laying around in my stash, you may recognise some of the colours from my ’50 shades of beige’ dye series.

The process was quick and simple; I made two panels (like this) that were 40 stitches wide and long enough to go from the front edge, over my shoulder and down to the back edge. I then mattress stitched the two panels together up the middle, leaving a space for my head. A seam up each side, leaving a space for the arm holes finished the stitching part of the project.

Finally, I picked up the stitches from the bottom edge, removed the waste yarn and knitted a ribbed edge using 6mm circular needles. I repeated this for the neck and sleeves.

I have worn this vest to work and to town already. I love the feel of it on my skin and it makes me feel so self sufficient. I think I will have a go at making a jumper with sleeves next.

Natural Dyes – Dead man’s foot mushroom

On my walk this morning I found a lovely surprise. I was walking along slowly, much to the disgust of my puppy; Henry, when I saw a small brown lump at the edge of the path. This brown lump was a pisolithus arrhizus otherwise known as a Dead Man’s foot. This unassuming little sphere gives lovely rich browns and russet tones to wool in the dye pot… apparently. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Of course I forgot to get a photo of it before bringing it home.

The brownish ball at the front of the photo is my Dead Man’s Foot fungus (such a charming name). The avocado skins and seeds are drying for future use as dye stuff.

I cut my prize in half and put a pot of water on to boil straight away. The two halves of the mushroom were just thrown in and plonked on the wood stove to boil.

You can see the immature spores at the top, they look like little golden spheres. The brownish powder is the mature spores.

After about an hour of boiling, The pot had a lovely deep brown colour. Most fungas dyes are substantive (meaning they don’t need a mordant to stick to wool), so I just wet my last skein of home spun wool yarn and popped it into the dye pot (in a paint bag to protect it from dyestuff).

The yarn was in the dye bath on the stove (at a steady simmer) for two hours. Then I let it cool, before taking the yarn out of the pot.

The colour wasn’t as dark as I wanted, so I popped it back in, along with an avocado seed as a mordant (avocado seeds contain tannin, which acts to mordant and slightly darken wool).

After another two hours simmering, it was taken off the heat and left to cool. Eventually, I washed the yarn in clean water and spun it out. The final colour is glorious! Variable browns and russets and a sneaky flash of yellow.

I love the colours in tis yarn. The yarn is a loosely plyed two ply from some merino fleece I was given long ago. From now on I will be searching the ground for these fungus as I walk, they are apparently fairly common in the Autumn and Winter.

Update: I found another one this morning!

This one is huge. You can also see the remains of the first one, I fished it out and plan on saving it to use again.

This is where I found the first one; growing out of the hard soil of the track.

I found the second one here in the soil at the edge of the road. The puppy is Henry, our newest baby. Look for an origin story soon.

Learning to knit with my left hand

I am extremely bored. Not being able to use my right hand at all is slowing me down so much. I am trying to stay away from activities that will introduce dirt to the wounded finger, I don’t want to get an infection. No gardening and no outdoor work. No spinning or weaving as both those crafts need nimble fingers. I am left with knitting and a few small jobs around the house (like vacuuming). I have always knitted in the English style, but that involves me using my right hand. Time to find a new way to knit.

Who knew there were so many ways to knit with one hand??

I found these inspirational tutorials: style one, style two.

I also remembered Continental knitting, which I tried to learn many years ago to be able to knit faster. I never did learn to speed knit, but this method might be the answer to my present problem.

The main issue I am having with knitting is the immovable nature of my right hand; I can’t hold the yarn with any tension and I can’t ‘throw’ the yarn over the needle to make a stitch at all. With Continental knitting, the yarn is held and tensioned in the left hand while the right hand holds the knitting and moves the stitches to where they need to be. I have found that I can knit this way in a slow and halting way, but it is no fun at all and I make a lot of mistakes.

Enter the Sentro knitting machine.

I saw this little machine on YouTube, and I realised I could use it to knit with only one hand. I ordered one, it cost about $40, and when it arrived, I started knitting. All you need to do is wid the handle, once the stitches are set up. The result is certainly not high quality knitting, but it is usable and functional knitting.

Two pairs of socks (with no heels) later, I found the larger machine for sale and bought that too. I was able to make a hat or two, and have started dreaming about making a vest or a sweater.

These little machines will keep me busy making while my hand heals.

Making rolags from scrap yarn

No waste here! I found this clip showing how to use up those annoying little snips of yarn you end up with after knitting anything with colour changes. So I decided to try out the method on a tiny ball of left over yarn from my latest sock knit.

I carded up some short cuts of the yarn with some Eli wool to make about 100g of rolags. Then I spun it all up into singles.

The singles plyed up into a really nice 2 ply yarn with an interesting texture. I think I will make some socks out of this skein.

Spring spinning – Eli fleece

Eli after his recent shearing experience

After the shearing day on Saturday, I decided to wash the half fleece donated by Eli. I did the usual soap nut solution with hot water bath and spread the whole lot in the sun to dry for a day. The result was a snowy, white cloud of spinnable fleece.

The fleece in it’s soap nut bath, look at all that dirt.

I carded some up this morning and spun a few rolags, in the interests of experimentation. I am loving spinning this fleece, it is making me wish I had saved the whole fleece and that I had all day to spin.

Much cleaner
This wool spins up so smoothly
The eventual yarn will need to be washed again of course, but it is going to be a lovely, strong knitting yarn.

I will soon have a pile of skeins to dye and knit. I can’t wait!!!

New socks, here we come.

Winter spinning adventure – Day five

My daughter had to complete an assignment for university which involved a walk around a wetland. I drove her the required hour and a half to the assigned wetland and walked around with her to see what was there.

We found some overgrown walking tracks and plenty of interesting paperbark trees. There were also some choked up water ways. All in all we were a little disappointed with the wetland, but it is hard to maintain anything without funding.

When we got back to the car park we saw three roosters waiting for someone to feed them. Apparently this is the local place to dump unwanted chooks. We raced back into town and bought a fold up cage and some grain to try tempt them into a trap. All we caught were some magpies, who had to be chased out of the cage and convinced to stay in their wild state. We eventually had to leave without the roosters, hoping that the council worker we reported them to will have better luck catching them.

While I was waiting to spring the trap on the poor roosters, I did a little bit of spinning. The people in the mini train passing by seemed to get a kick out of it, so I waved to them in a friendly fashion. When I had spun for my half hour and tried to coax the roosters into the cage for a further half hour, we packed everything away and headed home in the afternoon chill.

I wonder why people dump animals, what thought process leads them to believe that it’s OK to just leave them to fend for themselves? Chooks that have been used to being looked after can’t just become ‘bushwise’, they fall prey to the many foxes, rats and cats (and feral/roaming pet dogs) about. Not to mention the native predators of the bush (pythons, possums, phascogales, quolls, eagles, hawks, owls, and many more). They rely on humans for food, they don’t automatically know how to find food for themselves, or water for that matter. They are not car savvy, they get run over. If you hatch chicks, you are responsible for the babies, one way or another. Rant over, it just makes me mad, animals shouldn’t have to suffer because humans are not as intelligent as they could be.

Weaving a tartan tea towel (sort of)

I have been interested in learning to weave tartan in a sporadic sort of way for a while now. I have friends with Scottish ancestry who I would like to make tartan for and the whole history of how tartan came to be is just really interesting. Tartans did not come from Scotland alone, they were a part of a lot of European cultures and came about as a way of using varied dye lots in a more or less deliberate looking pattern. That sort of reasoning is really what attracts me to tartans; a lot of my crafting is of the I-meant-to-do-that mistake variety and I love finding historical kindred spirits.

Natural dyes being what they are, even if you gather the dye material from the same place at the same time of year and use it in the exact same way on the exact same materials, you will probably end up with a different shade (if not colour) than you got last time. I can see why a weaving pattern that incorporates many different shades and colours in a harmonious way would be an asset to any weaver, and so the tartan was born. Then, in more modern times, we began to register and record our tartans and they became like identifying plumage to a bird. After they began to be associated with clans, they had to be made with a certain set of colours and in a specific pattern.

I found the Scottish Register of Tartans which I promptly joined, as I discovered that they will email you the weaving pattern for any tartan registered with them. The patterns are a bit hard to understand, but I got there in the end. They include the colours and shades, right down to approved dye lots for each tartan (it took ages to figure that bit out)

This is what they sent me whe I asked for the Munro tartan;



Threadcount given over a half sett with full count at the pivots.

Suffice it to say that I read a lot about tartan weaving to be able to decipher that lot. The reference to ‘pivots’ gave me the most trouble. Eventually I found a reference to the fact that the ‘pivot’ is the point where the pattern starts to repeat itself in mirror image. If you don’t understand that, you are not alone, it took me ages, and I’m not sure I’ve got it right yet.

This was the warp I came up with. It turned out rather jewel like I think.

I decided to make some tea towels to give the pattern a go. Of course I didn’t have the right colours, but I wanted to make my mum some tea towels anyway, so I warped up the closest colours I had.

Warped up and ready to weave
And goes on and on and on

Until one day the end was reached

This is the Munro tartan from the Registry. I can see the pattern in the tea towels, The colours are wrong, but the thread count matches.
Then the fabric was overlocked
And washed

Hemming has always been a problem for me. I’m just a really messy hemmer. These hems are not too bad though.

It’s not a proper tartan of course; the weave is not twill (just plain weave) and the balance isn’t perfect (my squares are rectangles not … squares), but as a first try, I’m ridiculously proud of my tea towels and I think my mum will like them.

Visible mending – mending leggings

I am home, waiting for the results from a PCR test. So, to help the time pass, I’m mending some leggings my daughter put in the mending box a few weeks ago.

These old leggings are full of small holes that make them almost, but not quite, unwearable. I decided to go to YouTube for a tutorial. This clip showed me the technique I needed.

As it turns out, fixing holes in knit fabric is fairly easy. Just take tiny stitches on either side of the hole until the hole is miraculously mended. These leggings will last a while longer, and next time I will mend them with brighter thread so that they become a work of art.

This was the largest hole, near the waist band
At the beginning of the process
Half way there
All fixed
Another one of the many holes
And mended

I love making things last longer.

Winter spinning adventures – day four

Of the total 14 days of holidays, I managed to spin for four days. I guess it was a busy time.

This time I took my wheel on my travels and stopped to meet a friend at our local cafe. I love sitting in the afternoon sun and spinning in the garden I planted more than a decade ago.

I had a coffee and chatted to my friend and really enjoyed life for a few hours. Lovely.

This lumpy yarn is growing on me

I am still struggling with accepting the lumpiness of this yarn, but as I spun and chatted I found myself enjoying the process of spinning in public again. I could not disappear into silence as I usually do, so the enjoyment was different, but I found that there is a connection to others here that I value. Being able to keep my hands busy while I chat lets me really listen deeply to what the other person is saying, I seem to hear the words and intent on a much deeper level if my hands are busy. I don’t know why that is, but it is certainly so, I have noticed it in meetings and training before, even at social gatherings (that I try to avoid if at all possible). If my hands are busy knitting, kneading, digging, planting, carrying, or any other physical task, my mind is free to focus fully on what others are saying and doing. At the end of the coffee cup, I packed up my wheel and left nothing but a coffee ring on the table and nebs in the grass.