Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Maybe the good old days weren't so bad

This is from an article about the voyage of the Brendan, a re-creation of an Irish leather-covered boat, in the December 1977 issue of National Geographic:
One lesson became increasingly clear as the voyage progressed:  Modern tools and materials were seldom a match for medieval ones.  Not only did our plastic containers crack and leak, but expensive metal implements simply rusted away or broke, despite heavy layers of protective oil.  Whenever possible we fashioned replacements out of ancient materials such as wood, leather, or flax, with primitive but far more durable results.
The same applied to clothing.  As we reached colder latitudes, we abandoned our garments of artificial fiber in favor of old-fashioned woolen clothes with their insulation of natural oils.
As for the Brendan's hull, it actually improved in cold water.  Daily inspection revealed that although the leather had become saturated with seawater, weeping a continual fine 'dew' on its inner surface, the increasing cold made the oxhide stiffer and stronger....If they had sailed through tropical waters, the higher temperatures could have melted away the vital wool-grease dressing on the oxhide and speeded up the leather's decomposition.
I've been cozy in my thrice-shrunk wool sweater this week.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas tour

I'm again joining in on The Nester's Christmas home tour. Most of my Christmas decorations are exactly the same as last year. But there is an accumulation of small changes.

A birch bark snowflake:

A floppy scrap fabric mitten basket:

Stars that I cut out with a scroll saw and let the children paint:

A new used tree skirt:

A tree/star/angel shape in frost on the window:

A simple sign:

Using paper snowflakes as doilies:

With a flower made of t-shirt scraps:

In place of a mantel, crocheted wire, which is still displaying some birthday party decorations:

Items from our homemade Advent calendar:

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2016

A few more

I try every year to make a Christmas ornament for each child. This year, I used the scroll saw to cut out wooden stars, and let them decorate them.

We also have made a number of paper snowflakes, which I am using all over the place as doilies. This works better if they have some finer details.

A few months ago, I got out of the habit of eating chocolate...a big money-saver.

Friday, December 9, 2016


This sabbatical, I am learning about using sabbatical time for deferred maintenance and for just catching up on things. (Or, I Fought the Drain and the Drain Won. Until the plumber came.)

On Thanksgiving, we experimented with using our apple peeler contraption (the cast iron kind, which is manufactured under several different brands now) to peel potatoes. The part that does the coring can be loosened and moved out of the way. I found that it worked well on the parts of the potato that were smooth and of an apple-ish diameter, but not on the ends, bumps, or overly large sections. So we hand-peeled the parts that the peeler missed.

I finally sewed a pillow cover that had been waiting for a couple of months to be assembled; one more project off the pile.

I am working on finishing the cushion cover for the upholstered chair, but need to go back and rip a seam, because I didn't line things up carefully and it came out all askew. The pillow cover was good practice for sewing the cushion cording, though.

Yesterday I needed a business size envelope, and didn't want to walk all the way down the hallway and rummage through a box for one. So I made one, out of a single sheet of paper.  The front of the envelope is a rectangle, about the size of a sheet of paper folded from top to bottom into thirds, and this rectangle needs a rounded flap or "ear" on each edge. The ears need to overlap a little when they are folded in. There are some sketches here of envelope shapes. We are low on tape, so I used stickers to fasten it closed.

Also, to wrap presents without tape, I went back to the old practice of tying packages with string:  inherited crochet cotton.

I had some ribbon and some wired ribbon, from which I contrived a small wreath. It was a bit too garish to be in the house, so I hung it on the front door. Later, I added some yarn that turned up.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A muff for a young lady

I had a quart of down left over from the down jacket reconstruction I did a couple of months ago. Just recently, the idea came to me to use this down to make a muff.

To contain the down, I made a tube of closely-woven fabric, a little more than twice as long as the muff, and wide enough to enclose both down and hands easily.  Then I pulled one end of the tube up inside the other, making a double-walled tube. I stuffed the down into it between the walls--that stuff goes everywhere--then folded down and pinned the raw edges, and sewed it closed.

I did some gentle pushing and pulling at this point to distribute the down more evenly.

For a lining, I chose some scrap cashmere (handed down) in black, and sewed that into a tube. For the outside, I used some shirred plum velvet (also handed down), again made into a tube. I sewed the ends of these two tubes together (the last seam by hand).

Then, for a cord, I covered a piece of rug yarn with more of the plum velvet, with raw edges out because I didn't feel like turning a long tube right side out. I ran the cord through the muff before I joined the ends.

The muff is cozy and very warm.