Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Minimalist country style

While on vacation, I read a book called Country Wisdom, by David Larkin. It is a collection of interesting tidbits, not a comprehensive guide.

One of those tidbits was that thatched roofs were really only practical in damp climates; the moisture was needed to keep the fire risk down. That is why the American colonists didn't use them much.

Another one, that I have been thinking about off and on ever since, is that early American country interiors were much more sparsely furnished than most of us believe. The idea of them being cluttered came from a collector, who crammed as many items from his collection as he could into interiors to be photographed. I want to say that this was in the early 20th century, and that the guy's last name started with B, but I'm not sure now. From records of property made at time of death, it can be shown that people's household goods were functional and not plentiful in those days.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The children design a fall craft

Three-dimensional paper pumpkins:  crumpled paper on the inside, surrounded by orange paper--possibly thickened by folding to form the "ribs" of the pumpkin--with rolled green paper for a stem, and green pipe cleaner tendrils at the base of the stem; all held together by a layer of clear packing tape.

They figured almost all of this out by themselves. I did steer them toward the crumpled paper filling, and away from cotton balls, and I let them into the big box of office and art supplies that is usually off limits; toddlers, pipe cleaners, and electrical outlets could be a bad combination.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A deeper mitten basket

I had two baskets for mittens, one at the front door, and one at the back. Both were made of crocheted strips of cotton fabric, mostly old sheets. Since I've been trying to establish a single Coatroom Zone, I needed a single, larger basket, instead.

So I unravelled one of the baskets and re-used the strips to extend the other one and make it deeper. There was more than enough.

Then I cut down on the number of mittens and gloves a bit, so they would actually fit in the basket. I should do another round of this, as it is still quite full. I want the children to dig through it, not throw everything out so they can find something.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Punch needles

I've had the book Hooking Rugs:  New materials, new techniques, by Gloria E. Crouse for a while. It is an older book,  and it is interesting not only for the punch needle techniques that she used, but also for the ways that she used adhesives and other materials to make mixed-media rugs and wall hangings--she's tried everything--and for her tips on how to design, start, and finish a project.

There are basically two ways to make a hooked rug.  One is to use some sort of a hook to pull yarn or fabric strips up through the backing material.  The other is to use a tool to push the yarn or fabric strips down through the backing (from the back to the front)...usually this tool is a punch needle.  This needle is a slit tube with a hole near the pointy end, set in a handle. The speed needle version is mounted on a set-up like a non-electric egg beater, which moves the needle up and down as the handle is turned.

I went to an estate sale recently, and I found a little box of punch needles for $3. When I got it home, I found that it contained three:

First, an inexpensive basic needle, non-adjustable. I had one of these once, but it didn't last long before it broke, because of how the needle and handle were joined.

Second, a similar needle with several depth-of-loop adjustment notches. The needle is mounted inside the handle instead of outside, which makes it much sturdier.

Third, a Columbia Minerva needle just like the one in the book (besides her trusty speed needle), with two sizes of needle tip. It has ten depth settings and a little slide to keep the needle where it has been set. In the book, she tells how she modified hers to get three more possible settings out of it.

I've been playing with it a bit--with something like one hundred hours of work left to do on my other rug projects, I'm not starting another right now--and it is indeed fun to stab through the fabric over and over to lay down lines of loops. The needle is a little tricky to thread, but there are some hints in the book. I used a small embroidery hoop to hold the fabric taut; for a rug, I'd want to build a frame.

Friday, October 11, 2019

If you're going to do wood countertops...

...this is the way to do them.

I've used the spar urethane that they used on the countertop a few times before, and I like the stuff a lot. One project was a set of shelves with a projecting counter, built of 2x4s, 2x2s, 1x10s, and plywood, which I built for additional shelf and counter space in our tiny apartment kitchen. Several moves later, we still have it, but now it is serving as a somewhat wobbly workbench in the basement.

After reading her post, out of curiosity I went to see how well the urethane on the counter of that shelf had held up. Originally, I put two good coats on, and called it good. Now it is very much dented and scraped up by tools, but it is all still there, except for a couple of chips on the edge, and one place where someone sawed into it a little.

I also used the stuff on my plywood hot tub, the furo, way back when. I put at least ten coats on the inside. Spar urethane does not fill in gaps, I found, without some assistance (toothpicks, in this case). It did leak just a little after a few years of use, but it was set up in a shower, so it didn't matter.

The most recent project was the bathroom stool, where the urethane is holding up very nicely...unlike most of the other finishes in there.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


There's a toddler helping shell beans in my kitchen tonight. My husband planted a few pole beans this year, and despite not being able to care for them much, they've produced well.

Last year, with an older child or two helping, we shelled about five pounds of bush beans in two hours or so.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Fall wardrobe tweaks

I did a quick assessment of my wardrobe for fall, and was happy to find that I already had just about everything I need. Most of what needed to be done was to forcibly retire some items.

From past wardrobe inventories, for example the one in my Wardrobe in a Week effort, I know that 95% of my daytime wardrobe needs to be "working casual".

I did sew one thing, a skirt from a synthetic fabric out of my stash. I have nailed down the style and length of skirt that I like best, but I'm still experimenting a bit with the fullness. For this one, I tried a narrower skirt than I usually make, and I found that I like the result, but that I wouldn't want to go any narrower.

The time needed to cut out and sew the skirt was about two and a half hours, including doing a zigzag stitch around the edges of all of the pieces, to keep them from fraying--which was very necessary with this particular fabric.

The fabric's color didn't go well with the rest of my wardrobe, so I overdyed the skirt. I have been trying to get away from dyeing things, because the chemicals involved are quite toxic, but sometimes it is the most economical solution.

The fabric took up much more of the dye than I had expected, but in the end it looks a bit chintzy. I think it could benefit from a lining to give it more body, but I don't think I have the fabric for that right now.