Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Felted winter hat

I found two books on felting in the library to use as references for this project.
The books said that it was absolutely essential to do some test swatches with your yarn, in your washer.

Front-loading washers aren't nearly as good as top-loaders for felting, because you can't just stop them in the middle of a cycle, but that is what I have.

From felting my test swatches, I learned that it would take two full wash cycles to get the yarn to felt enough, that its Kool-Aid overdyeing would not be affected by this, and that I was going to have to knit two layers to get the thickness of hat that I wanted.

I measured my swatches before and after to see how much they shrunk; the result was very near what I was told to expect in the books:  forty percent loss in the length, and about twenty percent in the width.

I combined two different hat patterns from the books to come up with a simple hat shape to knit:  knit a straight tube starting at the bottom edge, and then at the top, do ten evenly spaced decreases around, but only do the decreases on every other row. When done, part of the bottom edge is turned up, and part is left down.

At this point, I had a bunch of math to do to see how many stitches I actually needed to knit, and how many inches long, allowing for both my normal knitting gauge as well as how it would shrink.

To get the second layer, I elected to pick up stitches along the brim, and knit essentially a second hat attached to the first, in sort of a long football shape, pushing one end inside the other when I was done.

I decided to loosely tie these two ends together for felting, because I thought that my washer was likely to find some ugly way to distort the hat's shape if I didn't. The hat still came out looking like a squashed pancake, and has some puckers on the top that maybe wouldn't have been there if I hadn't tied it.

After blocking and drying, the hat is serviceable, although not photogenic. It's a bit heavy on my head, as there are almost eight whole ounces of yarn in it.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Stripping towels

I got around to trying to strip my dingy bath towels of build-up of homemade laundry soap and other gunk, despite my scientific hypothesis that build-up protects the fibers.  There are someone else's directions for stripping laundry here, and also here with photos. For a bit more about the chemistry involved, see here.

I wasn't able to find Calgon locally, so I used extra washing soda.

After several hours of soaking in hot water and the stripping solution in the bathtub, the water was almost brown; not as dramatic a change as some of the online examples. The towels still look gray--stripping them didn't do much to restore them to whiteness--but they do have a crisper feel now, and are almost certainly more absorbent than they were.

Monday, March 4, 2019

A bench by the front door

A wooden shelf came home with us from church one day--about one foot wide by four and a half feet long, with slots along the back edge for pamphlets.

It sat in the garage for a while as I tried to figure out what to do with it.

Finally I had the idea of making it into a bench.

Then it sat for another long while, as I thought about how to make a base for it. The shelf has a back piece, and wooden brackets underneath, and is fairly heavy.

Eventually I got to the point where I wanted to get it out of my garage more than I cared about making an attractive base for it, and I decided that I could set it on two plastic milk crates, temporarily.

The milk crates that we have are strong enough to support the weight; some aren't.

I got it all set up with the milk crates opening toward the front, and then I put some of our larger books in them. We still have more books than bookshelves.

The bench works well as a place to put on boots and to unload things that are being brought in. The baby likes to climb up on it to look out of the front windows.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Moving mountains

My area has had three feet of snowfall this month (when it's on the ground, it packs down to less than that, of course), and one of my snow piles out front is as tall as I am, so I thought I'd dig up this post from a past winter (and a past house):

We got about four inches of snow today. We have fifty feet of wide sidewalk, two sets of steps, about one hundred feet of narrow sidewalk, and a short two-car driveway. I shoveled all that in thirty minutes of light to moderate exercise, using only these two tools:  a snow scoop (aka "Yooper scooper") and a grain shovel. The snow scoop is a wide metal box, open at the front and top, with a handle for pushing. It enables me to clear wide areas quickly by pushing the snow, rather than lifting it. I've seen both homemade and commercial versions. The grain shovel (which can be found at farm supply stores) is very handy for steps and for heavy wet snow. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Melting down soap scraps

This is something I did a while back, and then waited to see what the final result looked like, before reporting on it.

I used to save scraps of bar soap for making homemade laundry soap, and after we switched to store-bought laundry detergent--for the sake of our landlord's front-loading washer--I kept on saving them.

Finally I had enough scraps to melt down and make bars of soap. The scraps were an eclectic mix, everything from motel soaps to fancy-shmancy handmade soap.

I loaded them into the old pan that I used for making laundry soap, and started heating them up.

The first problem I encountered was that most of these quite old, quite dry scraps of soap would not melt, even over high heat.

Solution:  add some water. It took more water than I expected, and I knew I was going to end up with melted soap with way too much water in it.

Even with the water, the soap was melting very slowly, so I turned up the heat a bit.

Next problem:  the water/soap mixture started boiling, so now I had melted soap with too much water and too much air in it. The scraps did finally melt...mostly.

I dumped it all into a plastic dishpan (for a mold), and let it cool down.

When cool, I cut it into was still quite gooey.

I decided to put them up somewhere and let them dry out for a few months.

I checked after a month or two, and they were coming along, shrinking and wrinkling quite a bit as they dried.

Now, after a couple more months, they are more or less shriveled down to the consistency of regular soap, and they seem usable.

It is probably possible to re-melt them now and re-pour, and have them come out more nicely, but I am okay with using them as they are.


Friday, February 22, 2019

A sewing week

Back to sewing!

I was so happy to have sewing time, that I chugged straight through all the mending that had piled up. Most of the repairs took only a few minutes each.

Then I kept on going into my stalled sewing projects. I made another couple pairs of homemade tights, and now I am working on the long-delayed underwear replacement project.

The delays worked out in my favor, as some fabric was handed down to me in the meantime, and also I worked out exactly which socks I needed to buy for the feet of the tights (which I wear with dress boots; fabric feet wear out too quickly for my liking).

Monday, February 11, 2019

Living room accessories

This final phase of cozy-minimalizing my living room went very quickly--I don't have many horizontal display surfaces in my living room, and I decided not to add any more; there is enough going on in there already.

Pillows and throws were already in place; check those off the list.

One spot that did need attention was the top of my kitchen cabinets, which is very visible from the living room.

The space there is very cramped because of a dropped ceiling, so I had to choose objects six inches in height or shorter. We had some large sea shells and pottery with interesting shapes and colors, so that is what I put there.

Then it took a few tries to get them arranged attractively.

Our other main accessories are a vintage sewing machine, minus its cabinet, and one of my husband's light-up electronics projects.

I made room for a basket of interesting things to read, and found a big shallow pottery bowl to hold all of the little things that seem to pile up while waiting to be put away. It helps a lot with keeping the room looking neat and tidy.

The last surface is a small ledge where collected pebbles tend to end up. I edited the collection a bit, and left it at that.

I still have rug repairs to complete, and then the room is basically "done". I have been letting the half of the room that is not the Sitting Area be used flexibly, and that seems the best solution; it gets used in different ways depending on what the family is doing. Often that means moving chairs in from the dining room, which is a bit inconvenient at mealtimes, but we do have multiple people who can move chairs back now, too.