Monday, August 13, 2018

A surprise

Tucked in with the handed-down stash of quilting fabric that I received recently were some odds and ends of sewing needles and notions, including a number of safety pins.

My grandmother gave me a little box of safety pins before I went off to college, and I still have most of them. They came in very handy at times.

But I was surprised, when I started using these new safety pins, how much flimsier they were than the older ones. I estimate that they are about half as strong as the older ones, in terms of the pull that they will withstand before bending and springing open.  Maybe even less than that.

Isn't it wonderful how modern technology has brought us so many ways to make things not only much cheaper, but much less useful as well.  /sarcasm

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The joy of pounding nails

It's been a long time since I built anything using nails instead of screws. (Screws are much quieter, especially if you have a hand-powered drill, which matters when you are living in an apartment.)

But today I pounded together a scrap wood toy bin for the garage, and I was really surprised how quickly it went together--less than ten minutes. Mostly because I didn't need to drill pilot holes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Getting better at buttonholes

I just finished a project that had buttonholes, and I have to say, I am much getting better at sewing them (manually, not using my sewing machine's buttonhole attachment--that's a whole 'nother learning curve).

It took me making twenty so-so buttonholes over a couple of years to get to this point. I did always want to just sit down and practice making them, but instead I practiced by actually making clothing.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Out of chaos

To have what we want is riches; but to be able to do without is power.  -- George MacDonald
That is from Leaves of Gold, a book of quotations, one of those books from years back that was intended to be edifying Sabbath reading.

I picked it up from our church library's downsizing, mostly for its embossed cover. It was clear that it had not been read much.

I did try reading it, and found that it was thoroughly unreadable...the quotations are sorted by topic, and to lurch from one author's thought on a topic to another author's entirely different thought on the same topic is extremely unpleasant.

So I consigned it to the collage pile that I keep for my weekly art journaling.

One of the things I have been thinking about recently is how we shape our world by what we choose and what we reject. I keep being amazed by how, in my art journaling, I sort through some random printed material, cutting out a thing here and a thing there, and then paste them together along with a few words and some drawing or painting, and usually it all comes together quite coherently.

I've found it helpful to go back to some of my journaling pages a few months later, and write a "moral" for each one on the's kind of a higher order of finding meaning in them.

If I were mendacious, I would come up with a fortune-telling scheme "based on the science of quantum entanglement", and how many apparently unrelated things are actually connected.

Anyway, in my last art journaling session, I opened the book at random, and found the George MacDonald quotation. It fits in with some other things I have been thinking about. I also found a picture from a grocery store magazine that tied several completely different ideas that I've been thinking about together very neatly.

In the same way, my daily Bible reading is usually at random, and I look for verses that speak to me. It's not a method that works for Christian fortune-telling, but it does at least reveal some of what is going on in me, and often seems to reveal (through the Holy Spirit) things God is saying here and now to me.

Thursday, August 2, 2018


In the quilting fabric I was given were a number of fabric hearts, ready for applique.  The hearts were in our dining room colors, red and green, and there were as many of them as we have children.

I had an empty spot on the dining room wall, where I had taken down some things I was getting tired of.

So I stuck the hearts up there (just with tape), and I'm fairly happy with it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Raw materials!

Family members handed down to me a bag or two of some quilter's old fabric and thread from the early '90s, by the look of the fabric patterns.

Some of the fabric I simply cut up and put in the kitchen wipes jar.

The rest I sorted out and started thinking about using.

One piece was just about enough for a blouse, minus the sleeves, but there was also a coordinating piece of fabric that was just big enough for the sleeves.

With the homemade blouse pattern that I have, it now takes me roughly three hours of working time to sew a blouse.  (Or, in real time, about three days.)  I finished sewing it yesterday, and I'm wearing it now.

The collar is a little goofy (as usual), and it's a bit too long, but otherwise it turned out well.

There are two smaller pieces of fabric in the stash that I started putting together into a hat.

Also there are three or four smaller pieces that I think would work well for a baby garment.

I'm going to have to look at the other larger pieces again, to see what other possibilities there might be.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

On laundry

Up until we moved into this house, which has a high-efficiency washer, I had been using homemade laundry soap for most of our laundry.

The exception was cloth diapers, for which I used laundry detergent.  The reason being, that I was told that laundry soaps (including commercial ones) would leave a slight residue of soap scum on the diapers, which can build up over time and affect absorbency. 

When we moved here, I looked into whether the homemade soap would work well in a high-efficiency machine, and the answer was, "No, it will gum up the machine over time." So I switched, out of Christian love for our landlord, and we dealt with the higher cost of laundry detergent over homemade laundry soap.

Some months ago, Backwoods Home Magazine ran a short article about homemade laundry soaps being terrible because they leave soap scum on the fabrics.  I have the bad scientific habit of always running little thought experiments on claims that are made to me, and always looking for how my knowledge might be extended and increased.

So, in reading this article, my reaction was, "Yes, but...", where the But was that many of the clothes and linens that I had washed for years with laundry soap were still going strong, and hadn't worn out.

The soap scum residue seems to be actually protecting the fibers. We still have sheets and towels from the beginning of our marriage that haven't worn out yet. The towels are certainly dingy (we're not bothering to replace them until we get through the worst of our small-children-in-the-house years), and not very absorbent, but they have not worn out. The few I have gotten rid of, over the years, were the ones that were too badly stained. 

And the same thing for clothing...some of the clothes I was recently making replacements for were ten years old, and were worn regularly (weekly, more or less) that whole time.

There was also an account I read of a family dumped off in a remote Russian village, a few years before World War II, where the mother introduced the practice of washing laundry with soap to the villagers (who had been in the habit of never washing their clothing at all)...she told them it would make their clothing last longer. 

Surely removing dirt and bacteria will make clothing last much longer, but now I've begun to think that the soap had something to do with it, too.

I actually have a control set in my own house for evaluating the claim that soap extends textile durability:  the cloth diapers, which I have all along washed with detergents.

A load of cloth diapers will certainly produce more dryer lint than our regular laundry does, but there are some other factors that contribute to that also:  the flannel fabric tends to shed, the diapers get double-washed each time, and they need a longer drying cycle than the rest of the laundry does.

The working life of a cloth diaper around here is roughly two to three years, being used two or three times per week. That comes out to a roughly 25% shorter lifespan for a cotton fabric, I'm guessing, from washing with detergent versus soap.

In the present era of incredibly cheap textiles, that's not necessarily a big deal, but in a world where textiles are labor-intensive and hard to come by, that would be a significant saving of human effort.

As for the "ick" factor of having old soap scum buildup on my fabrics, my personal opinion is that it isn't going to jump off and hurt me. Other people's opinions may vary.

The other big difference between modern laundry and laundry in the old days is the water temperature used...the HE washer here (Read the Manual) admits that its Hot water setting is, for the sake of energy efficiency, not very hot at all.  In the 19th century, they used to give much of the laundry a good simmer in near-boiling water.  That probably removed an excess of soap scum, I'm guessing, while not completely stripping the fibers.

Washboards, by the way, work mostly by setting up and pushing little waves of water pressure through the fabric, not by the friction of the fabric rubbing against the board.