Monday, April 23, 2018

Homemade socks

I retired a few pairs of my socks recently, and for some reason I don't feel that buying new socks at this time is the right answer. So this is what I have been doing instead:

1.  Repairing holes in socks by darning. Way back when, I tried darning cotton socks with wool yarn, and didn't like how the results felt on my feet. This time around, I have been using wool yarn on wool socks, and crochet cotton on cotton socks. The basic idea of darning is simple:  replace the missing material with a woven-in-place mesh that is anchored all around to non-deteriorated material.

I don't much like weaving, but weaving on a scale as small as this is tolerable.

2.  Knitting new socks. We had almost a pound of fine, matching wool yarn in our stash, which apparently cost my husband 50 cents altogether at a garage sale or something. I have started knitting a pair of socks from this yarn, but it will take a while, probably until fall (at least).

3.  Sewing socklike leggings or tights. It occurred to me, out of the blue, that perhaps some of the excess kids' clothes that are sitting in our garage waiting to be donated would work for making longer stockings. I looked and found a sweatshirt that had enough fabric. From past experience I knew how to cut and sew stockings quickly:  I don't bother doing anything fancy at the heel, I just make a long, tapered tube that has the right circumference at the right points (and that is closed at the small end. the toe), and finish it with some elastic at the top.

The heels do wear out first, but that would have happened anyway. With my feet, the circumferences at the ankle, heel, and widest part of the foot are all about the same, so I just get the width right and let it sort itself out in the wearing. (It does leave a wrinkle at the front ankle, which I am not fussy about.)

I have also used T-shirt fabrics, including some with spandex, for these before. Their lifespan, I would say, is "slightly better than pantyhose."

4.  Learning from experience. The socks I knitted from the nice wool yarn, last time around, ended up accidentally being shrunk into kid-size socks (very thick and warm ones). The socks I made out of recycled wool blanket yarn did not felt at all, and also stretched out a fair amount, and they have needed darning at various times.  The latest yarn I am using now will felt, I know, so I am knitting them slightly large.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Read the fine print

I was reading the Terms and Conditions for a regional bank that recently bought up a local bank, and I was struck by the blatantly hostile tone throughout the whole mess of legalese. Their terms, needless to say, are extremely unfavorable, from a potential customer's point of view.

The tone of their big pictures-low text sales piece was completely the opposite:  "Happy Happy Friendly Bank, Happy Happy Sunshine You:  Happy."

It took me a bit to figure out that both of these tones were completely intentional. The Terms and Conditions are hostile on purpose; they are meant to drive away potential banking customers:  the ones who can read, and do math, and plan ahead for any length of time longer than two minutes.

The customers that they want are the people who will only glance at the fluff sales literature, and never read the Terms and Conditions of how their accounts can and will be pillaged.  "Pillaged" is not too strong a word was that bad.  This bank is going to take their hard-earned money and use it to gobble up some more small banks...then rinse and repeat.

Jesus, remember me in your Kingdom.

While thinking about this, I randomly found Isaiah chapter 17, where God promises that plunderers will themselves be plundered. Immediately after reading that, I randomly opened my Bible to Jeremiah chapter 30, where God says basically the same thing (but to a different prophet at a different time in history). The message here seems clear:  Justice is coming.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Book review: Wary Meyers' Tossed and Found

The full title is Wary Meyers' Tossed and Found:  Unconventional Design from Castoffs. The book is a few years old now, but still good.

Authors Linda and John Meyers present a wide range of items for the home, made or remade, mostly using salvaged materials. (There were a couple of jobs that they sent out to professional fabricators.) Together they are "Wary Meyers". John formerly worked for Anthropologie designing window displays; I've been told these displays are extremely creative, but I've never seen any for myself.

Anyway I found this book wildly inspiring, as well as informative, although annoying at a couple of points.

I'll start with the elements that make this book one that I can highly recommend:

1.  Their examples of creatively using and re-using materials, from brand-new plexiglass and fabric all the way down to pool noodles and a piece of wood pried from an old sofa's weathered skeleton.

2.  The sketchbook drawings showing all the brainstorming that takes place before they choose an idea to pick up and carry through with.

Seriously, these are well worth seeing, but if you can't, you can easily do something similar yourself:  Take a sheet of plain paper, turn it sideways, and make a bunch of little sketches at first while you play with different ideas for a material (turn off the internal critic for a while); then make larger and more detailed sketches as you close in on what you actually like and want to build. Having the paper be wider horizontally than vertically does a lot more than you might think for broadening your thinking.

3.  At a couple of points, they give hints for knowing when to stop working on a project; how to avoid overworking it. For me, this usually isn't a problem, as my children ensure that I can barely get anything done, let alone overdone, but it is still good to know what to watch out for. Their examples were a chair, where they painted the seat but later regretted also painting the rusty legs, and a (faux) mantel made out of scrap wood, which they regretted painting white, liking the mix of wood tones better.

The points that were annoying to me mostly are a matter of envy on my part:  they were able to go all over the place (childfree), buying and scrounging all sorts of things, and then to spend hours and hours and hours putting them together in new, creative ways, and eventually they were even getting paid to do that and write about it. They have a great deal of design knowledge; there are allusions in the book that are going right over my head.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Experimental pleated paper lampshade

I've been playing with the idea of changing out the fabric sleeve (which is cylindrical) over the frame for the shade of the hanging light I made a while back. I tried just plain white fabric, which was okay, but not that great against the whiter ceiling.

The other thing I've tried so far is plain white paper, pleated. The idea came from something one of the kids did with a piece of paper and some tape:  folding it in pleats and then running a couple of strips of "invisible" tape across it, holding the pleats in place. It looked (to me) modern and manufactured; like something much more sophisticated than mere paper and tape.

So I made a quick lampshade along those lines. It is currently being held up by a couple of clothespins. It, too, is not quite right for the place where it is, but it will do until I find something better.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Practicing coziness

Our family is being clobbered by a nasty cold virus and a big snowstorm at the same time. My latest big project has been stalled at Almost Done for several days, and I have no energy to finish it.

But I have kept up with the most essential housework, we have plenty of good things to eat, and we are nice and warm, with interesting things to do while the snow flies.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Size 3 knitting needles from bamboo skewers

I needed some knitting needles small enough (in diameter) to handle fine yarn.

At first I worked on making some from a piece of heavy steel wire that we had; cut to length with a hacksaw, shape the ends with a metalworking file, and sand smooth. But they are weightier than I want to deal with while knitting thinner yarn.

Then I went looking through our bucket-of-dowels-and-such, to see if we had any very thin dowels left; no luck.

So I ended up in the kitchen, raiding my husband's supply of bamboo skewers. They just needed a little sanding (220 grit) to smooth them and blunt the tips a little. They appear to be about a size three.

Cheap round chopsticks are around a size 8 knitting needle, and 1/4 inch dowels are size 10.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Research: Cost per 1000 calories

I've been doing some investigation into grocery costs, and settled on cost per 1000 calories as one measure to look into.  (Not all calories are nutritionally equal, of course!!!)

The idea came from a comment I read online, someone saying that cakes from store-bought mixes were the cheapest calories that his mom could get for their family.

I don't buy cake mixes, and haven't checked into what they cost yet, but it is true that the cheapest calories I've figured so far have been for white flour and sugar, at about $0.25 to $0.30 per 1000 calories, and then canola oil at $0.33. 

I want to gather a bit more data before I post the whole list; there are some things that we buy in bulk, rather than at the grocery store.

I did notice, though, that one of the most expensive foods that we buy for our family is plain yogurt (not low-fat). I have at times made yogurt at home, using store-bought yogurt only for starter cultures; the only hard thing with that is maintaining the right temperature for long enough. I used to use a little electric mug warmer, with a stack of metal juice cans ends for spacers, as the mug warmer alone would keep a quart jar of yogurt rather too warm.

But I have an idea now for a different way to maintain a moderate temperature, so I will try it out and report on my results.