The daughter of a friend recently had her first child, a daughter. So as I usually do, I cast on a baby jumper and knitted up a cute little four month size, red jumper. Then I decided to try my hand at duplicate stitch, which is kind of like embroidery for knitting.
I traced out an apple onto the front of the little jumper and away I went on my new learning journey.
It’s a rather lumpy apple. Not perfect by any stretch, but neither am I. I hope my friend’s daughter will like it anyway. I think I need to practice this skill a lot more to be better at it.
I skipped a day, it rained so I stayed home and did boring housework type stuff. Today however, I went adventuring in the car again. I had things to do for family and friends in a not-so-nearby town so off I went to do some shopping and delivering of things. I met friends for coffee and took my knitting of course, then I found a lovely place by the river to stop and spin on the way home.
I do love this new habit. The silence in my mind once the wheel starts to turn is so soothing. The calm of Nature, just doing Her thing all around me is so balancing after a day full of rushing around and trying to get things done. I wonder if I can find a way to keep it once I am back at work?
Once again, leaving nothing but a little pile of neps in the grass.
Today was a day full of running around and doing things for others. I took some RAT tests to a friend (dropped in her mail box) on my way to post letters for our local Co Op (which is ,sadly, closing), then delivered some roosters (dropped off at our place by one friend) to my good friend and stopped for a coffee there. After all that, I had to go pick up my partner from work as his car is out of action due to the rough roads at the moment. So I took the opportunity to leave him there for half an hour and visit one of my favourite trees.
This tree is a European oak, planted well before I was born. It has stood beside the road and seen us progress from carts and bullock drays to cars and will hopefully see us move to electric cars (or maybe back to carts). I stopped the car, set up my wheel and with a box to sit on, spun for a tranquil half hour beside the road.
I am amazed that there are still leaves on the tree, it is after Solstice and the coldest part of Winter is on us. It was a grey, chilly day today, with a sneaky breeze to steal the loose leaves from the branches, but when I went to look I saw there are new leaf buds waiting.
The spinning is coming along. My attempt to ’embrace the nebs’ is in the early stages though. I like my yarn to be smooth and even, this yarn is not. I am trying to spin it with an acceptance of what the fleece has to offer and hope that I will love the resulting yarn. I guess there is a lesson in life in this for me (isn’t there always) I need to stop striving for perfection in everything and sometimes be content with what comes. I do know that my hands are finding the rhythm of this fleece now and I will begin to spin faster from now on.
After my half hour of spinning, I packed up my wheel, thanked the tree for her company, and went to pick up my poor, abandoned partner. Leaving nothing but some nebs on the ground to mark my passing.
All right, this is a really yucky post. I have heard and read about how traditional spinners used to wash fleeces in urine to get them really clean. The theory (or maybe science) behind it is that the alkalinity of the ammonia in the urine reacts with the lanolin in the wool to make a very basic kind of soap. This soapy mess then cleans the wool.
Wool scoured in this way is then rinsed (multiple times, I imagine) to get rid of the smell. The resulting wool is soft and unfelted apparently. It also removes a lot more vegetable matter than other kinds of washing (according to the hype). I want to give this method a try, but not anywhere near the house.
This experiment needs;
A big tub with a lid: Thanks to a quick thinking husband, I found one of our fire safety bins (not so useful in the rain) and gave it a good scrub.
A raw fleece: One of the partial fleeces I have in my stash should be small enough to fit in the container.
A water source for rinsing: The garden hose has a 30 metre stretch and gives nice hot water on a warm day.
A place away from the house to minimise the awful smell it will no doubt produce: The far end of the yard, behind the garden bed will have to be far enough.
A whole lot of pee: It is just as well the urine should be aged for this, as there is no way our family can produce enough to fill this tub in a day or so. We use a bucket for night time pee trips (so we don’t have to go outside and wake the dogs and sheep up), so I just began to collect that pee in my handy bin instead of tipping it out way up the paddock.
The fleece is soaked in the urine for about a day (two if it’s really dirty), then the whole lot is tipped out and the fleece rinsed multiple times to take out any remaining smell.
The fleece is spun out in the washing machine and spread out to dry on a sheet in the sun.
My final immpression is that this is an effective way to clean a fleece if you have no soap. It does seem to stop the fleece felting and the wool is cardable and as soft as can be expected from a course fleece. The smell really put me off though. I think I will try washing a whole fleece with soap nuts again, but do the two day soak.
Alright, time for too much information… I haven’t shaved, waxed, tweezed or any other method of hair removal for at least a decade, until recently. I am generally not bothered by body hair (it is supposed to be there after all). Last week I had a girls day out with my youngest daughter and part of that was to unceremoniously rip the hair from my delicate under arm area (also my eyebrows and chin/lip areas). The lovely beautician explained that she would be using sugar wax to eradicate the undergrowth, of course I listened intently to the history and attributes of using what is essentially toffee to remove hair, it was actually fascinating.
Apparently sugar waxing was used by ancient Persians and Egyptians to remove unwanted hair from the entire body. It is less painful than regular waxing and is made from all natural, biodegradable ingredients. I do enjoy the sensation of having soft, smooth skin on my arm pits, so while the novelty lasts, I think I will have a play with sugar wax. I do believe I have found a way to be more socially acceptable on my own terms (not that social acceptability is high on my to do list) and allows me to enjoy some bonding with my daughter (which is high on my to do list).
The actual experience was not as painful as I remembered (from long ago), the sugar mixture was at room temperature, the hair came off easily and left behind soft skin. I was not sore or irritated at all. When I got home, I started looking for recipes to make this magical sugar wax.
I found recipes all over the internet, and eventually settled on this one, although this one had a lot more information.
I measured 2 cups of raw sugar, 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup of lemon juice into a saucepan and heated it (I did stir the mixture a fair bit, as I hadn’t remembered the instructions to not disturb it). I let it reach the boil point and turn a darker shade of toffee, without taking temperature or timing at all, then took it off the stove and let it cool for ten minutes. Last of all, I poured the mixture into a small plastic container and waited for it to cool down enough to play with.
The resulting goo is a deep golden brown and is VERY sticky. I apparently didn’t let it boil for long enough so I will have to use cloth strips to remove the goo (and hopefully the hair) for as long as this batch lasts.
I spread it onto my leg with a butter knife and slapped a cloth strip over it. After a short pause for dramatic effect, I ripped the cloth off. There was indeed a lot of hair on the strip, but not all the hair came off my leg.
After a lot of do over and swearing, I managed to get the majority of the hair off. In conclusion, this works!! Although I don’t know if I have the patience or motivation to use it on my legs at regular intervals. I guess social acceptability just isn’t attractive enough to draw me in.
A new interest has floated into my mind over the usual holiday down time: lichen dye for wool. I have noticed that a lot of lichen grows on old fence posts beside the road. That started me thinking about what it is good for (as it turns out, quite a lot). I was driving home from a doctor appointment yesterday and began to notice the large amount of furry fence posts beside the road (much to the unease of the cars behind me, who must have been worried about my erratic steering and low speed), so I eventually pulled over and went to take some photos and collect samples to play with. I collected a couple of handfuls of lichen from a dead tree and took it home to play with.
After a fair amount of internet sleuthing, I found a likely candidate: Usnea. I also found some other lichens (that I left in place for now).
It seemed to be a natural progression to make this handful or two of squishy goodness into dye, so I found a YouTube video to show me how it is done and off I went…
I plonked the whole two handfuls in a pot with water and put it on to simmer for an hour or so. Some videos say it can be boiled, some say to not boil it, some say to boil it then cool and boil again, some say once is enough. I will just play it by ear and simmer until I get some colour, and if that doesn’t work, I will boil it.
Apparently this species of lichen is also really antibacterial and can be used to treat infections on the skin. I think I will also harvest some to dry and keep on hand in my herb collection.
Now I wait.
After about two hours of gentle simmering, I decided to try boiling as there wasn’t a lot of colour showing in the water.
After two boiling sessions the pot is showing an uninspiring yellow/brown. I can see some orange tones in it, but I don’t think I have enough lichen for the pot to make orange. I will see what my wool does.
Some sources say that wool needs to be mordanted and some say that mordant can actually interfere with the process. I am going with the no mordant camp for my first skein (mostly because I’m impatient to see what I get from the lichen). Usually the wool is soaked in water before being plonked into the dye bath, but I just put the skein in dry (due, again, to impatience).
I am heating up the dye bath again, to increase the dye uptake. I will leave the pot on the stove for an hour or so, then I will let it all cool down and see what we get.
The resulting beige colour is not that inspiring, but I can still see dye in the pot. I am going to dig out my iron mordant pot and see if adding iron to the pot will improve the colour a bit.
I have added 4 tablespoons full of the iron mordant. The colour has improved straight away. I will leave the yarn for another half hour then see what I get.
After rinsing the yarn and hanging it to dry, I have ended up with a really pretty orange/brown. I think that I will iron mordant a few more skeins and gather some more Usnea (a lot more). I can imagine a pair of socks knitted in this colour.
I learned today that Usnea species gives a brown/orange colour in dye, that iron mordant brings out the orange tones in this dye and that I have my father’s ability to drive while thinking about things (that is… no ability at all). I will continue to gather and experiment with lichens and fungus in the dye pot, but I had better spin some new yarn to play with before I get too carried away.
It is time to try to eliminate the detergent bottle from the landfill contribution we make. We use about one bottle every three weeks, which may not sound like a lot, but it still contributes to our local landfill and costs us a fair amount of money. Also, I am never really sure if the claims of ‘eco-friendly’ displayed prominantly on the bottle are true or not. So…….
I found some blogs about making dishwasher tabs (I know… we don’t have a dishwasher and are not really interested in getting one at this stage) and began to think about the differences between hand washing and dishwasher washing. Hand washing uses both chemical and mechanical means (the kind of mechanical force you apply when scrubbing that burnt pot while listening to M&M) to get the dishes clean, while a dishwasher relies on mechanical force (the pressure applied by a stream of water against the surface of the plate, while not listening to M&M) and heat to clean. So dishwasher tabs don’t have any detergent in them, they use chemicals to adjust the pH of the water to make it easier for the water and heat to do it’s job and anti-streak chemicals to make sure the dishes dry shiny and streak free. Therefore dishwasher tabs will need to be slightly different to hand washing tabs.
The dishwasher tab recipe I found is a simple combination of 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup citric acid, 1 tablespoon of detergent and essential oils. I decided to start with half this recipe and adjust it after testing.
I just tipped the lot into a bowl and mixed it up well.
It sort of foamed up and became light and fluffy. Apparently that is what it should do.
Then I poked a few teaspoons full into ice cube trays and pressed them down really well.
They apparently need to dry for four hours, but I found it was a lot longer than that. I left these for a day and a half.
Now for the first test! I ran some water into the sink and added a cube.
The final result; clean dishes! The cube doesn’t foam up at all, but it is easy to wash with it and the plates seem to have an extra shine on them. I will try using them for a week and see if there is any taste residue left. Maybe I won’t have to change the recipe again.
If everyone likes this option, we can go from buying one bottle of detergent every three weeks to only one a year (the recipe only uses a tablespoon per batch). I am very pleased with this project! I might go and dirty a wine glass.
With a new puppy (sometimes two) and a permanent house goose living in the humpy, we have a lot of use for cleaning rags and products. The state of our floors is a constant worry for me as the dirt, hair and feathers seem to collect into drifts in corners and into dust devils under cupboards (dust bunnies is too tame a name for the tumble weeds of waste we collect) if we skip a day of sweeping. Washing the floor is a full body workout achieved by scrubbing the floor with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and a broom, then sweeping up the leavings once it is dry. At the moment, we use a paper towel to soak/wipe up puppy and goose mistakes, then give the area a spray with my special cleaning fluid (a mixture of vinegar, peroxide, essential oils and a squirt of detergent). I want to move away from using paper towels to reduce our carbon footprint and save some money, so I decided to swap to unpaper towels.
Unpaper towels are a much more upmarket version of my counter wiping rags. At the moment I use an old rag (usually from a sheet torn into squares) to clean the kitchen counters in conjunction with my cleaning spray. The rags are changed often and I usually have a pile of them to wash with my vegetable bags every week. Unpaper towels are just a hemmed and pretty version of these. I have historically not been worried about things being ‘pretty’, but I am finding that as I age the impulse to include appearance in my considerations is increasing.
I decided to make two sets of unpaper towels; one for the kitchen and one for the floors. The kitchen towels will be made from a pretty flannel fabric and the floor towels will be from a plain colour to allow for vinegar soaking to sterilise. Both sets will be stored in a roll popped into a glass jar with a lid (to keep them dust free and mouse safe). I will hang two lingerie washing bags (two different colours to avoid confusion) in the kitchen somewhere to hold used towels and I can wash the floor towels with the other pet cloths and towels, and the kitchen towels can go in with the tea towels. Now I have a plan set in my mind, it’s time to find some fabric.
I found some smallish pieces of flannel fabric and some promising YouTube clips (I used this method to make the wipes).
I cut off about a metre of the fabric and folded it in half and cut up that line. I continued to fold and cut pieces in half until I had a pile of wipes the same size.
From that point it is a simple matter of overlocking around the edges of each one; a monotonous task, but very satisfying.
Then the towels where rolled into a roll like paper towels and I tested whether I could pull wipes from the middle (I could). I found an empty jar of the right size and popped the roll into it.
Then I just had to try out my new toy! I used one as a wipe for the kitchen counters with my spray and dropped it into the waiting washing bag. A very satisfying experience; I do love using my projects.
I am hoping that this project will be as successful as the bidet and family cloth system. We no longer need to buy toilet paper (except for visitors and my less adventurous daughter) and hopefully we will no longer need to buy paper towels either. I am dropping out of shopping, one item at a time.
Of course the overlocker broke a needle and I did not finish the floor cloths. Oh well… tomorrow is another chance to make stuff.
Update: I managed to fix the overlocker (and gave it a good clean while I was there) and finish the floor cloths. While I was in the mood for sewing, I also made a couple of small bins for the car. I need a rubbish bin in my car desperately to help keep the rubbish in one place. Maybe I need to make some wipes for the car too.
I don’t buy clothes often, I don’t even have clothes given to me often, so where do the overflowing cupboards and draws come from? Do my clothes meet mates and start a family? Producing new, aged looking tshirts and jeans. Do the Fair Folk steal clothes from other people’s lines and use my cupboard as an off site storage for their stolen goods? Or does my daughter secretly buy clothes and sneak them into my cupboard? Who knows?
Every six months or so, I go through my clothes and give away a box or bag of things I don’t wear, but there are always clothes that are too far gone to be passed on. These stained, torn and stretched items of apparel go to a variety of places; they become cleaning rags, animal bedding or rag rugs. Every now and then I take a load of frayed and stained cleaning rags, worn too thin from multiple washes and soaks, to the massive hole where we throw our paper, old furnitire and other biodegradable items. There the cloth joins the rest of the compost in waiting, slowly turning back into valuable top soil.
Making rag rugs uses up a lot of the extra fabric in our house. I cut the cloth into strips and wind the strips into balls to be woven at a later date (when the draw I store them in begins to overflow). Now that we have an indoor bathroom, I can make a few new mats to use as bathmats, whereas previously they would be used as animal beds and floor rugs beside the bed (my vain attempt to keep our sheets clean).
The process of making some rag rugs is simple;
Cut your old clothes and cloth into strips;
Tshirts- I use this method to get the most from my tshirts. I’m not usually so careful about cutting the seams off though.
jeans/pants- I use this method to turn pants into strips.
leggings or tights- I use this method to cut up leggings. This is roughly the same as for pants, but it is important to keep stretch fabric seperate from woven fabric. Stretch fabric will pull the warp in and make a smaller mat than woven fabric (see the photo of all three mats at the end of this post; the smaller mat is made from stretch fabric)
Warp your loom;
I use a cotton warp thread and double the warp in any size heddle I use (this one is 12.5 dpi). The size of the heddle (the thing with slots and eyes that warp is threaded through) doesn’t really matter with rag rugs, but I do find that the more warp threads I use, the stronger the rug is when it is finished.
Weave the rugs;
I weave an inch or so with an acrylic yarn before I start the rag section. This gives the mats a firm start and finish and also gives me a nice, neat indicater of when one rug finishes and another starts.
Take them off the loom and finish the ends;
I just cut them off the loom and overlocked the ends. This makes for a neat edge and it seems to stay strong for a long time.
Use the new rugs;
These rugs are nice and big, they are very absorbant and they use up cloth that would otherwise go to landfill. Each mat will last for years. I have five year old rugs that are only just beginning to show wear. The warp threads seem to go first and the rag pieces pull out. I will try to save the rags from these older rugs to be re-woven into new mats in the future, and then I will feel like a super recycler!
Weaving is such an enjoyable hobby. I am thankful that I don’t have to weave cloth for the whole family, I would never get off the loom and the spinning wheel, but I do love that a lot of our cloth items are now handmade. I try to add a new item every year. By the time I am 90, we should be using only handmade cloth.
We need some new tea towels; the old ones are getting a bit ratty looking. I have been only using my hand made tea towels for a year or two now, and they have worn really well, but they have reached their limit. I decided to make up some plain and simple, but long lasting, smallish tea towels.
I pulled out the rigid heddle loom and some dark green, 8/2 cotton. I warped 120 ends with one strand per end and about three metres in length. Then I went looking for a waft yarn; I found a big roll of hemp yarn and another one of cotton 8/2 thread. I decided to use one of each strand as a double weft, and off I went to weave.
The weaving part went fairly quickly as I had some ghost stories on my computer as audio files that just played away while I wove sitting on my bed. After a week of weaving an hour or so most days, I had a big roll of cloth.
I took the roll off the loom and overlocked the ends to secure the weft, then I washed the whole roll. This helps to make sure the cloth is not going to shrink any more once it is hemmed up and it also helps to stabilise the weave somewhat before it is cut into tea towel size pieces.
Each tea towel is going to be 25 cm wide and 40 cm long. I measured each length, cut and overlocked each end. I decided to leave the ends overlocked but not hemmed. I think this will wear well, but if it doesn’t I can always hem them later. I trimmed up the loose threads and folded my new tea towels.
I do love being able to make my own cloth items; it makes me feel so self sufficient! My next project is some rag rugs to use as bath mats in front of our new shower. They will use up some of our old,ripped and worn out clothes (which are made from old sheets and quilt covers in their turn).
I have been unwell lately; dizzy and weak with not much inspiration to do anything, I am hoping that this project means I am on the mend now. Weaving a project takes a fair amount of sustained concentration and energy, so the fact that this project only took a week of spurts of work means that I have more energy than I have had for quite a while. I have also ordered some more cotton for a more complicated project I will be making as a house warming gift for a friend.