New yarn storage system

wow…I have such a lot of yarn. Hand made, recycled and gifted, you name it, I have it. In my push to make more room in my seriously overcrowded craft room, I bought one of those fancy cube storage units (yes, it was a wrench to part with that much cash and yes, I did find a second hand one on GumTree the day after I bought it). We put it together one day after work, when we were both tired and cranky (which accounts for the fairly large ding in the wood of the bottom piece). We are still married, so I think we passed the IKEA test, the one where you have to put together some modular furniture as a team before you decide you are compatible.

This photo was taken after I started making bins for the spaces.

Once the unit was up and in place I went looking for a pattern for those attractive and useful fabric storage bins. I found heaps and was really looking forward to making a dent in my fabric stash when I ran across a problem; interfacing. I don’t usually use it at all, and all the patterns say I need something to stiffen the sides of my bins (makes sense). So off I went looking for an alternative. Soon I found a clip of a woman making storage bins from old clothes, she used rice bags as interfacing…and that’s when I had my lightning-strike-to-the-brain idea. Why couldn’t I use old feed bags as interfacing? They would be noisy and crinkly, but that doesn’t matter for something that will spend most of it’s life sitting on a shelf. The bags are prone to breaking down in the sun, but they would be covered by fabric, and indoors. The poly bags may be slippery and hard to sew, I found some posts about people using them to make bags, so it is possible. I decided to give it a try.

I found this YouTube tutorial to use as my basic pattern idea, I just made them bigger.

First step was to make my pattern; I wanted cubes that were about 30cm square, so I made a simple net pattern out of newspaper.

I used my newly organised fabric draws to find some fabric for these boxes.

I ended up with some interesting options. I’m not the sort of person who worries about things matching.

Next I cut out pieces for the outside and lining of my boxes.

I cut some pieces of feed bag to use as interfacing.

Then it was a simple matter to sew up the bins as instructed by the tutorial.

So far I have five done. My plan is to make a bin for every space in the cabinet and store all my yarns in them. There are still three huge plastic boxes full of yarn to go.

Some tips I have discovered along the way; use grain bags not chaff bags, the weave is too loose on chaff bags and they fray really easily.

The chaff bags fray a lot.

The grain bags are easy to sew and give a good amount of stiffness to the bins, but they are just a bit too small for the 30 cm square bins. I sticky taped two together to get a sheet big enough, it seems to have worked.

This bin is made with the grain bags.

So far I have really enjoyed this project. Hopefully my yarns will be visible and usable once it is finished.

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Home biogas system- (part two)

It’s finally warm enough to start setting up our biogas system. A few weeks ago we got one of our neighbors down to help us level a pad for the unit and we gathered together all the bits and pieces we needed to set up the first part of the unit (the digester and gas collector part), we will set up the cooker that came with the unit once it is producing gas. The toilet attachment will be installed as part three of this project as we have to wait until the unit is active before we add human manure to the mix.

The unit will be to the North of the humpy, close to the kitchen and right beside the toilet. That way the gas does not have to travel far and neither does the poop.

Thanks for the help Louise.
A nice level pad for our biogas unit.

Next we laid down a ute mat made of rubber to protect the digester from any sharp stones that might be in the soil. The unit came with it’s own rubber mat, but we wanted to be sure it was protected. The extra rubber also insulates the unit from the cold soil a little.

Then it was time to put the pieces together and set up the unit itself. There is a really handy app that talks you through the whole process.

It looks like putting up a tent.
Can you believe the kit also includes a tiny tub of Vasoline to use as a lubricant for putting the puzzle pieces together?
There is even a little bucket to use as a measure when filling the sand bags (provided).

Filling the unit with water felt like a real achievement after all the brain work of putting the jig saw together. While it was filling up we got busy filling up the sand bags that become weights for the gas collector (the unit uses these weights to put the gas under low pressure so it is pushed through the gas line to the stove).

Filling with water took all afternoon.

The following sequence of photos show fairly clearly how to fill and seal the bags so there is not much air in them. This is important as the pockets the bags go into are quite narrow and the bags have to be squeezed into them.

The gas collecting bag is strapped onto the top of the digester then the gas and inlet lines are attached.
As the sun sinks rapidly into the West, we begin to fill the unit with cow manure.
A total of 3 feed bags of cow manure went into the unit tonight, we will add more over the next week.

The unit will begin to bubble and produce methane over the next few weeks and we will add the gas line and the toilet as part of the next stage. Look out for the next installment in a fortnight…

More organising the craft room

Usually, I’m against buying new things, especially furniture. I spend my time trying to figure out how to get rid of furniture in my home; make the crowding less and do without a lot of stuff (except craft supplies, of course). This week I decided to organise the craft room (yet again) and get rid of even more furniture, however…it involves replacing old furniture with new furniture.

I came across a YouTube clip about using filing cabinets to store fabric. It looked like a neat and space efficient way to store fabric in a way that makes it easy to find what you are looking for. I am so easily distracted that I will often go looking for fabric to finish one project and emerge from my search with two new project ideas sparked by fabric finds. I hope filing my fabric will make it easier to stick to one project at a time (but probably not).

I saw some filing cabinets listed for sale really cheaply on Gum Tree. They were in Ballina (about a two hour drive away) but we went on a long drive to pick them up, along with some new shelving units for the yarn component of the craft room.

Four new/ second hand filing cabinets on their way home.

I think I will paint them later, after I see if the idea will work. We got them home and unloaded them with no problems.

Once they were in the craft room, I gave them a wipe down and set up the file holder things in the draws (they came with four frames that had to be reconstructed). Then I began to go through my four plastic tubs of fabric; that was a fun experience. I found that a lot of my fabric bits were too small to make anything from and was forced to throw them out. I saved some scraps by making them into strips for rag rugs, and I cut up a lot of smaller scraps into stuffing material for toys and such, but I still ended up throwing out a lot.

I put all the remaining fabric into my filing cabinets. I had bought 60 hanging files to go in the cabinets (thinking this would be more than enough), but ran out half way through the process. I now have to wait until my next trip to town so I can pick up some more hanging files.

Filing my fabric.
No, there is no organising principle yet

There are four draws full of fabric so far, one full of leather (for book covers), one full of interfacing and wadding, one for sewing tools like tape measures and scissors and one full of cotton reels. The overlocker now lives on top of this stash and I feel organised!

Next I will be putting my new cube storage unit together and sewing some fabric boxes to store yarn in. The plan is that this will allow me to move two wardrobes out of the humpy (my current yarn storage option), sort through my yarn stash and organise all that yarn into a usable collection. The added bonus is that I get to use some of my fabric stash to make the fabric boxes to store yarn in. I just love how one craft area flows naturally into another.

A new washing system organised

While we were putting in the new door recently my enterprising partner whipped up some hanging racks for me to streamline our washing system.

My mother has occasionally stated that my washing line gets more like a wardrobe every day because I am prone to using the line as a secondary storage place for clothes and also because of my habit of hanging my newly washed clothes on coat hangers and hanging them on the line to dry. I do this because I do not have to spend much time folding and putting away clothes; I can simply pick up the clothes, hangers and all, and hang them in the appropriate wardrobe. It also saves space on the line.

The clothes are seperated by spaced pegs to allow air flow and even drying.
Underwear and socks are pegged on coat hangers then hung with the other clothes. Such a saving of time and effort when bringing them in. Also a big saving on space on the line.
My sorting system; clothes are sorted into baskets as they are taken off.

In order to do this at weekly washing time I need to have a store of coat hangers nearby. I now have a rack for storing these coat hangers and another (removable) rack to hang washing on until it is taken to the line.

Hangers are stored on the rack above the new door; out of the way and convenient to the washing machine.
The clothes are hung on hangers straight out of the washing machine and hung on the holding rack. When the whole load is hung I take them to the line in one go.

Using this system I can wash, hang and peg out the washing in no time at all. It’s amazing how these little savings in time and energy can make me feel all efficient and productive.

Home Biogas system – a BIG step forward (part one)

We have been trying very hard to move away from using gas to sustain our daily life. We have historically used gas for running the fridge and for cooking and heating water on the gas stove. Recently we have upgraded our gas fridge to an electric fridge (solar powered) and now we are adding a biogas unit to the mix. This means that we will no longer have to buy gas bottles (yay!!), this is the final step away from using bottled gas.

Bottled gas or LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) is produced during oil refining and given the temporary nature of our supply of oil on this planet, we need to be looking at ways to move away from our reliance on it (not to mention the huge environmental cost of using it). LPG contains propane in Australia, in other countries LPG can be a mix of propane and butane.

Biogas captures methane and carbon dioxide (methane mostly) as a result of decomposition of organic matter. That is why the discovery of methane on Mars was such an exciting thing; where there are dead things there were once live things (usually, although not always and probably not in this case). I became interested in biogas many years ago (after watching an episode of The Good Life) and decided to work towards setting it up in our humpy. The idea that we could use our waste (of all descriptions) to generate some of our energy needs was very exciting.

The idea has been sitting on a dusty shelf at the back of my mind for years. Other, more attainable, goals have been on the work table of my mind. Six months ago (approximately) I stumbled upon a post advertising a biogas system designed for home use and the idea suddenly moved to the front of my mind again.

We eventually decided to go with a Home Biogas unit from Quality Solar and Plumbing

They are the only company selling these units in Australia and they are relatively close to us (only about three hours drive way). We saved up (in tiny increments) and finally, with a windfall of back pay, we ordered the unit. We also managed to add a toilet unit to the order. As soon as this unit is set up we can start to generate our own cooking gas (although the Year three student who lives in my head can’t help making jokes about cooking with farts).

As soon as the order was placed we realised we needed a site for the future toilet/gas generation unit. Then we need a shed or some kind of building to house the toilet and a pad for the gas unit to sit on.

A gratuitous ocean shot from our long journey to Mullumbimby to pick up our biogas system.

The first part of our biogas adventure was picking it up and touring a working unit while we were there. The very helpful Brian at Quality Solar and Plumbing gave us a tour of the biogas unit he has set up at his house.

This is the working unit. It was really exciting to see one working.
You put the food scraps or animal manure into the black pipe at this end…
and gas and fertiliser come out this end. How amazing is that?
This is the stove unit that comes with the kit. There is no smell at all to the gas and this burner obviously gets a lot of use.

We have our unit home. It is sitting in it’s two little boxes, waiting for us to make it a home and set up the toilet. I can’t wait to get it going.

The two boxes in the car constitute the entire kit. I was amazed at the small size of the whole thing and how light it was to haul around. It will be much heavier once the bottom of the digester is full of water.

The kit is supposed to include everything we need to put it all together. We will see…

Making laundry gel at home

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I have been making our laundry gel for a while now. It works amazingly well for a wide variety of dirt and grime. You can probably imagine the messes we get into living with so many animals, dust and dirt, not to mention that my partner works in the agricultural industry (lots of dirt there too) and I am a teacher (paint, marker, ink, runny noses, glitter, need I say more?). This little recipe makes up about two large coffee jars of washing gel which can be scooped out with a spoon and hurled into the washing machine with minimal care and attention.

I found the recipe here a couple of years ago. Of course I didn’t have any borax (which the recipe calls for) so I made it without any. My recipe works really well without borax, but if you want to add it to the mix maybe you will get even better results.

Basic laundry gel recipe;

Ingredients

1 bar pure soap or home made soap (approx 100g)

1 cup washing soda

3 litres water

4 teaspoons essential oils of your choice

Method

Grate soap into a big pot, pour in 4 cups of the water and heat, stirring occasionally, until soap has dissolved. Add washing soda, extra water and stir until combined then add essential oils. Pour into wide mouthed container and allow to cool.

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The ingredients, all ready to go

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The grated soap and water unheated.

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After the soap dissolves.

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Poured into open mouthed jars.

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This gel doesn’t froth up much but it does get clothes clean.

I use three of the scoops you can see in the picture in my washing water and wash multiple loads in the same water. This batch lasts me about four months, so it is a very economical and eco friendly thing to do. It takes about half an hour to make a batch and you can do other things at the same time (I fed the animals while the soap dissolved).

Making a refillable traveler’s journal

As most of you already know; I am a witch. I celebrate the Wheel of the Year, I follow the basic commandment of ‘An it harm ye none, do what thou wilt’, I believe in the three-fold law and I collect information. Being a witch is (for me) about learning new things and exploring new ways of looking at life. Being a crafty witch, I make my own tools.

One of the most important tools a witch has is her (or his) books, they hold the tiny crumbs of wisdom and knowledge we manage to gain in our life and can be passed on to another witch to use once we die. I make my own books; one for every new ‘subject’ (although they all interlock in some way); I made a massive, red leather, hard covered, parchment filled tome for my Book of Shadows (tools, correspondences and rituals); I made a cute little upholstery fabric covered book to record my life changing journey through the Sacred Cord (sort of like a rosary that takes two and a half years to complete); I made a black suede, hard covered slim lined book to record my divinations and dreams (Tarot, runes, iChing, scrying, etc); I made a decorated hardwood, post bound tome for my Tarot learnings (meanings, correspondences, Kabbalah and, layouts, etc) and now I have made a versatile, refillable, black leather traveller’s journal for my Kabbalah learnings.

My first Book of Shadows

My Sacred Cord book

My divination book
The cover of my Tarot book
Inside my Tarot book

Because I used what I could find about the house, my journal is a rough item, but I am fairly pleased with it. The first thing I did was; make a cup of coffee (essential to the creative juices), then I got down to business. I wanted the pages to look old and worn so I found a ream of photocopy paper, carefully folded each page in half (not the whole ream, only about 32 pages), dipped each one individually in strong instant coffee and laid them out on a towel to dry. This makes the pages unpredictably brownish yellow with blotches (perfect for that aged look).
My instant coffee bath

Some of the pages laid out to dry
You can see the difference in colour between the new paper on the left and the coffee stained stuff on the right.

While the pages dried, I dug out an old leather skirt (it was the eighties OK) and cut a piece that was  2 cm or so higher than the folded A4 paper (A5 size page) and 6 cm or so wider than an open sheet of A4 paper (A4 size page). The leather was fairly thin and would have been too floppy for a book cover on its own so I also cut a piece of heavy duty interfacing and some pretty orange material the same size as my leather.

Old leather skirt

Heavy duty interfacing on top of the material square

These three sheets were glued together with the interfacing in the middle, clamped and hung to dry for a while.

My cover drying in the breeze.

While the cover dried I began making the note book to go inside this cover. I followed the clip below to the letter, but my finished print block was much messier than hers. Undeterred, I decided it added to the antique-y charm of the project and used it anyway. Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of this step (I got lost in the process and forgot what I was doing).

I then trimmed the outside edges and punched some holes in my cover and threaded hat elastic through them in the sequence described in the clip below.

Here is the inside of my cover with the elastic in place.

Next I simply threaded my text block into the elastic holders and it was finished.

Spot the dog loved it; a leather paw rest, how innovative.

Then I started filling it up with collected bits of understandings and knowledge.

The three elastic bits mean I can add another two text blocks as I fill the original one up.

I loved making this project, I think I will make some more soon.

Somewhere down the track, I have plans of making my two daughters a book each and fill them with little snippets of information I think they may need, the sort of thing you ring your mum for…like;
‘How do I unplug the bathroom drain..without putting my fingers in there?’
‘How do I make pancakes?’
‘Is it better to close the windows in a wind storm or leave them open?’
‘Where do I go to register to vote?’
‘How do I make soap?’
‘What herbs are good for a cold?’

and many others.

Maybe one of these journals would be appropriate for that, new books can be added as more questions arise.

What do you think of this project?
Do you like the old and battered look for books and journals?