Me-Made-May, My Wardrobe, and Drawing

Plus, I pledge to knit a sweater!

 

mmm14 logo drawing

 

So, you guys know I love Me-Made-May, right?  This challenge was a major motivator for me to start really building a handmade wardrobe, especially two years ago, the first year I had this blog and the first year I took part.  Last year, I upped my challenge to wearing two me-made garments every day through May, which was great and gave me a kick in the bum to make at least one thing I had been thinking about for quite a while, but it didn’t have quite the feeling of realizing new things about what I make and wear, and opening up new horizons, which the first year did.

This time, I’d like to bring back a bit of the self-discovery element.  Also, documenting my MMM has been a challenge, we’re usually on the road during much of the month, and it can be hard to find a time when Bryan and I are both not busy to take a picture.  Plus, I am always looking for ways to bully myself into doing more drawing, just practicing drawing … so I’m going to keep a mini visual journal (pictured above) for May.  I’m leaving the exact format of what I’ll put in it purposefully vague, to see how it works out, but it will definitely include drawings of clothing, words about what I wore and thought, etc.  I’ll photograph and post at least some of what I put in it on Flickr and/or here.

 

mmm'13 day 11-1And, about the sweater.  I’ve had this particular soft blue silk and cashmere cardigan since I started traveling with Bryan.  I got it at a clothing exchange/naked lady party right before we left that first summer, so really, it’s held up amazingly well, that was 10 years ago (egad—really?) and it’s been an indispensable summer wardrobe item that whole time.  I’m wearing it at left, in a pic from MMM last year.  It doesn’t have another summer in it though, the fabric under the arms and around the cuffs is totally shot.

I do have some light blue yarn, which has been in my stash longer than I care to remember, and it occurred to me that, in the spirit of making my own, I could knit a replacement sweater.  It won’t be exactly the same, in fact I would like the style of it to be a little more interesting, but it must have the following characteristics, which I figure are key to indispensable-ness: soft, lightweight, cardigan (easy to layer), washable (at least by hand), go with most of my wardrobe.  I’m thinking of starting with the Talamh pattern (links to Ravelry).

Here is my official pledge for Me-Made-May ’14:

‘I, Tasha of Stale Bread into French Toast, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear as many me-made and handmade items each day as possible, minimum of two, for the duration of May 2014.  In addition, I pledge to keep a wardrobe journal for May, and to share it via flickr/blog.  And finally, I will knit on, and attempt to finish, a much-needed sweater during this month!’

If you’re thinking about taking part, I definitely encourage you to do it!

 

Just Photos—Spring in Texas

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 6

 

My dad’s mom and her sisters grew up in Texas.  I remember a few bluebonnet-themed items decorating her house in Abuquerque, but when I was a kid I’d never been to Texas in spring, and I didn’t really get it (although I totally love the lupines that grow around Flagstaff.  Coincidence?).   Many of my second cousins and cousins once-removed still live here, and most, if not all of them, are willing to host us when we come through, which is truly a blessing of Texas-sized proportions (I’m joking about it, but I’m also truly and eternally grateful).

This year, we are here a few weeks earlier than in the past, and maybe it’s the time and exact place, or this may a good year for them, but the bluebonnets are out of control, and the paintbrushes seem epic.  Driving between Houston and Austin, the roadsides were positively covered with rolling blankets of flowers.  I mean, in profusion, like heaping mounds of cream-topped blueberries in the median and on the hills.  The only problem was finding a place to stop where we wouldn’t be flattened by oncoming traffic.  Finally I spotted a road that dead-ended beside the highway.  We got off and parked there.  Bluebonnets smell really good, too.  And there were a LOT more of them at McKinney Falls State Park outside Austin, where we spent the night.

I didn’t realize until last year in the Smokies how much we kind of miss out on spring in Flagstaff.  I’m not saying anything against my home town, and usually, I’ll take a few daffodils and some warmer weather and be perfectly happy.  No need to do so in central Texas though, these guys have the bustin’-out-all-over, leafing trees in all shades of green, aforementioned brimming-over wildflowers kind of spring, which is exotic enough to me to make me want to pull over and take photos.

Happy spring ya’ll!

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 2

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 8

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 4

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 3

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 7

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 11

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 12

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 10

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 9Bryan took this one

 

wildflowers texas sprng 2014 1

 

wildflowers texas spring 2014 5

 

Recipe Sketch: About a Million Ways to Make Orange Marmalade

 

thick marmalade chopping

 

Remember when I posted about how to make French toast, and the “failed” orange sauce I had tried making to go with it?  Well, it wasn’t that bad in the end.   In fact, at least a few of my friends really liked it.  Ever since then, I’ve been thinking about different approaches to marmalade, and how that sauce, which seemed like it was going to be a total waste of time and effort, did actually come together, and with a little more time and effort, become something good.  Here I send out a silent (yet public—interesting) prayer to the universe that I will one day say the same about all the things which that sauce represented to me on the first of this year.

 

Anyway, orange marmalade:

It’s really just a combination of orange peels, juice, and sugar (and usually pectin to thicken it for canning).  My New Year’s orange spread had all of the pith inside the peel, and all of the membrane around the orange slices, still in it too.  I just washed & sliced the oranges (discarding the ends), pulled out the center strings of pithy stuff, chopped the slices to get out the seeds, and put them in the food processor.   I added the juice of a couple more oranges, and some sugar to the pot, and started boiling it on the stove.  For a while, it seemed like a kind of bitter, barely cooked orange goo … and eventually I realized that I was going to have to add a lot more liquid, and a lot more cooking time, and some more sugar.  All the pithy parts of the orange needed to absorb a LOT of liquid in order to cook down, more than I wanted to juice oranges for, so I started adding water.  After that, all it needed was time—a couple of hours of simmering on the stove.  Check on it periodically, adding more water and sugar to taste as necessary, until all the parts of the orange are tender enough to eat on toast, and the sauce tastes as sweet as you want.  The result has a full, whole-orange flavor—some of the bitterness remains, but you get lots of other flavor elements as well.  At the time, I didn’t feel like taking a picture of the finished whole-orange sauce, but it comes out mostly opaque and pale orange, with darker bits of peel mixed in.

I’ve made a quick kumquat marmalade using a similar method.  Kumquats have a lot of seeds, so be sure to chop them in quarters and check each one for seeds before putting them in the food processor.  They don’t have very much pith or membrane at all though, so you can cook them fairly quickly into some tasty preserves.  Just add juice and sugar and boil them on the stove until you get the consistency you want.

On the other end of the cooked-orange-peel-and-juice spectrum from the whole orange spread is a quick thin sauce we made quite a lot a couple of years ago, because it’s awesome on crêpe.  It’s mostly orange juice, with just the thin outer peel grated into it.  Save a little fresh juice, and put the rest in a small saucepan with the peel.  Add sugar to taste as you go, and boil until it thickens somewhat.  Add the reserved juice back in when the sauce is done, it brings the brightness of fresh orange to blend with the more mellow cooked flavors.

 

thin marmalade finished

 

And of course, you could use other citrus.  You could blend them.  You could add honey, or a different juice, or another sweetener you like.  You could cook it thick or thin, add pectin, can it, freeze it … At first I was going to wait to post this until I had tried a few more variations, maybe one somewhere in between these in terms of how much pith is in it.  But the more I thought about it, the more ideas for different marmalade I thought of, and it seemed pretty silly not to just put this idea out there and let you all do whatever you want with it.  It might be a fun way to wait for spring.

 

Make Your Own Retro Pro-Style Camera Strap

 

dad's camera strap finished 2

 

How to make your own camera strap, using the same hardware and webbing you’d find on one at the photography store, and practically anything you want for the strap!

When I got my new (used) camera, I just carried it around in the crook of my arm for quite a while, because I knew exactly what I wanted for a strap, and I couldn’t find it in any camera shop we visited.   The new camera is heavy (by my standards anyway) and I did not want a thin strap that would dig that weight into my neck all the time, I wanted a wide soft strap that would cup around my shoulder and hold the weight there.  I got this idea from Cat Bordhi (have I mentioned that she’s a mad genius?) specifically from knitting one of her mobius sling bags (in A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting), and it stuck with me.

 

camera strap on

 

You will need

I got the 3/8″ webbing and hardware to go with it from SewingSupplies on Etsy.  She made me a package deal like this one, which includes enough supplies to make two straps (each end of a strap takes one piece of webbing, one slider and one keeper).  I’m assuming that your camera has a ring or loop which 3/8″ webbing will fit through (most do, but some small point-and-shoots don’t.  You might be able to substitute something lighter, I would take your camera to the fabric store and see what you can find).

You will also need sturdy material for ends of the strap, where the strap meets the webbing.  I used Ultrasuede (faux suede leather) for my strap (above), and some scraps of real leather on a strap for my dad (the one at the top of the post).

If you want your strap to be adjustable, you’ll also need one slider and one loop of hardware, in a size that works with your strap material.

My strap is cut from a length of soft cotton textile woven about 2  3/4″ wide, which was in my mom’s stash.  I suspect that my parents brought it back from somewhere in their travels in the 1970′s, but neither of them remembered where, and they both said I could use it, so I did.  Dad’s strap is one his mom (my grandmother the weaver) made, which I put new ends and a slider on.  I found some similar straps by searching for “handwoven band” or “handwoven strap” on Etsy.  You could also start with a belt, or a guitar strap or anything else you like, as long as it’s sturdy enough to hold your camera and thin enough to sew through (which leather belts aren’t.  You might be able to use rivets though …).

 

Prepping the pieces

Cut pieces for the ends from faux leather or leather, a bit wider than your strap (allow extra width if your material is thick, so that it can come together and cover the edges of the strap), continuing that width for about an inch, and then tapering to an end to cover the webbing.  See below to visualize how the ends cover the strap and the webbing.  You will need two leather end pieces for each end of the strap (four total).

 

camera strap transparent

 

Cut a piece of the 3/8″ webbing about 7  1/2″ long for each end of the strap.  If you cut the ends of the webbing on a slant, it will make it easier to thread them through the slots on your camera.  I like to sear the cut edges of the webbing (to keep them from fraying) by passing them quickly through the blue part of a candle flame.

Either figure out where you would like your camera to rest on your body and cut the strap to that length (accounting for the ends and webbing) or plan to make your strap adjustable.  I knew exactly how long I wanted my strap to be (so that the camera would rest on the top of my hip), but I made Dad’s so he could adjust it (keep reading for how to do that).

If your strap fabric is prone to fraying/spreading out all over the place, you may want to stitch over the ends before putting everything together.  You can even use that stitching to gather in the end of the strap a bit, which I did for Dad’s strap.

Heavy duty stitching

Sewing the strap is actually pretty simple, it’s all about how to join two things which you really don’t want to come apart.  My camera is the second-most expensive and precious piece of equipment I own (sewing machine being #1 ) and as I said it’s kind of heavy, so I definitely want some heavy duty stitching here!  Basically you’ll do this by adding extra stitches to reinforce the critical areas.

A good way to attach straps for extra strength is to sew a rectangle-and-X pattern (I just realized I have no idea if there’s an official name for this … but here’s how to do it anyway).  Sew a rectangle just inside the edges of the strap, basically as big as you can inside the area where the strap and end overlap while catching all the layers (illustrated above).  When you get to the point where you started (this is the point with the curved arrow, where the illustrated stitches change from yellow to blue below), sew to the opposite corner.  Keep going, overlapping the stitches on one side, then diagonally back to the other side.  Overlap one side’s stitches again, to come back to where you started.

 

camera strap square and bar tack

Another way you can add stitches to an area that will get stress is to make a bar tack (that is the real name for this one) by using a wide stitch and a short stitch length.  Just keep in mind that every time you make a stitch it also makes a hole in the material, so don’t make the stitches so close together that the holes touch and make a weak place where the material could tear.

I used a mini version of the rectangle-and-X to attach the webbing to the ends.  A bar tack would work well too.  As usual, it’s a good idea to try out your planned techniques on some scraps to see what works.

Once you’ve attached the strap and webbing to the ends, I like to sew around the edge of the ends to keep everything neat.  Bury the thread ends wherever you can, and you’re done.

 

camera strap in progress

 

Leather 

I’m not a leather sewing expert, but I can give you a couple of tips if you decide to use real leather for the ends.  Although it’s more difficult to sew than the faux stuff, it’s wonderfully strong and malleable.  First, you will definitely need a leather needle.  The main difficulty is getting the machine to punch through the leather, and everything that would normally make your machine want to skip stitches (sewing over different thicknesses of materials, etc.) does so even more.  Go slowly, go over skipped stitches again or pick up the foot and go back.  Use the hand wheel if necessary, get the weight of the machine on your side.  Try switching between a regular foot and a zipper foot to sew around the edges of the ends.  I still ended up with some skipped stitches and broken/restarted threads to hide, but I was overall pleased with how my machine handled the leather and all the layers.

 

Adjustable straps

It’s not much harder to make an adjustable strap, you just have to wrap your head around how it works.

I’m such a visual learner, I need to draw it or better yet, lay out all the pieces to see how they’ll go together, as below.  One side is a simple length of strap that goes through the loop and back to the end.  The other side goes from the end, through the slider, through the loop, and back through the slider (inside the first pass).

Sew the strap end down so that there’s a short loop of strap inside the slider, covering the raw edge with the extra suede piece.  You can use the rectangle-and-X method again.

 

 

dad's camera strap layout

 

 

dad's camera strap finished 1

Special thanks to Bryan’s first 35mm camera for modeling.

A note if you’d like the strap to hug your shoulder like mine: I used two lengths of the strap fabric so that I could separate them to either side of my shoulder.  It turns out that it works even if I don’t separate them—I think as long as your strap is fairly wide and soft it will work to wear it on your shoulder.

Make any strap you want!  Nice, right?

 

In Which I Make a New Handle for a Plastic Gadget using Silicone Putty

 

sugru handle 1

 

When my friend Becca introduced me to the site The Grommet, the thing I immediately wanted was this moldable, air-curing silicone putty called sugru.  It’s supposed to stick to practically anything, be formed into any shape, and be washable and permanent when cured.  Their motto is “the future needs fixing”—how could I not love that?

I got some for my brother for Christmas, and kind of hoped he might give me one of the little packets to try myself, which he did.  (Whether it’s nature or nurture, we definitely share a tendency to tinker and fix things.)  “I don’t care what color,” I said.  “Then you’re getting yellow,” he said.

I really didn’t care, because the thing I wanted to fix was this cheese grater.  It came with a handle that rotated, but the plastic clips which held it on eventually broke, meaning that the handle just fell off, leaving me with nothing to grab onto but the sharp plastic shards on the end.  Nevertheless, this is the kind of thing I can’t seem to get rid of, because all the other parts of it still work perfectly fine.

 

sugru handle 2

 

Working with the sugru is a lot like molding polymer clay, except it smells different.  It will hold fine details like a fingerprint, or you can smooth the surface with a light touch.  I could have spent a lot of time minutely sculpting it, but I tore myself away and mainly went for function here.  The contents of one little package were plenty to form the handle.  It cures up harder than I expected, more like the grips on my camera than like a silicone spatula.

The new handle is working well!  It doesn’t rotate, but it makes the grater nice and comfortable to use again.

A product that lets consumers fix more things themselves—yes please!  We need more of that.

 

sugru handle 3

 

(Full disclosure: I don’t have any connection to this product other than buying some, and I wasn’t compensated in any way for writing this post.  However, if anyone wanted to send me some free sugru, I would not say no … )

 

Recycle Fabric Scraps and Worn Out Clothes at Goodwill

 

fabric scraps for recycling

 

I like saving scraps of fabric from my sewing.  They usually come in handy for other projects.  However, there is a point when a scrap is just too small to be worth saving, and I don’t want to clutter up my storage space with tiny little bits.  On the other hand, I feel like the scraps are perfectly good clean fibers, and I hate to just send them to the landfill.

A while back, Zoe mentioned that in the UK, the charity she used to work for (TRAID) sent scraps on for textile recycling—to be turned into insulation and stuffing and whatever else uses short mixed fibers.  I wondered if any of the thrift shops on my side of the pond were doing the same thing.  I started saving a (large) bag of just the fabric scraps too small to keep, which took a surprisingly long time to fill up, considering it had all the scraps from this fall’s batches of Fiddleheads.  (Probably due to the fact that I can’t bring myself to part with any piece of slightly felted cashmere big enough to be remotely useful.  Want some cashmere pieces? Let me know!)  I also had a few garments that weren’t really fixable any more, but I figured had life left in at least some of the fibers.

I thought about contacting charity shops every once in a while, but basically put it off until the scrap bag was too full to ignore, and then sent out emails.  Good news, USA-dwelling, fabric-cutting folks: Goodwill will take your scraps!

 

This was my message:

Hello,

I have some worn-out clothing and fabric scraps which I don’t think a thrift store would be able to sell.  However, I would still like to keep them out of the landfill!  I know that some thrift stores pass on worn out clothes and scraps to recyclers so that they can be remade into something else, and I am wondering if your store does this?

 

And this is what I got back:

Yes, most fabrics that cannot be sold continue to be recycled in the manner outlined below at all our locations.

 

Hooray!  Now I don’t feel like an idiot for saving a big bag of tiny fabric scraps can be a good citizen and recycle.  I also took some things I was ready to part with that I thought Goodwill would be able to sell—seems only fair as they are providing this service.

A note: if you don’t have a Goodwill store in your area and decide to contact local thrift shops, I’ve had much better results via email than over the phone.  The people I got when I called were more likely to assure me that they try to sell everything before sending it overseas, etc., than to have the answer I was looking for.

Good luck!

 

An Efficient Way to Chop Fruit

 

 

chopping fruit 1

 

I’d like this blog to be, at least in part, a primer for those didn’t have a mom or grandpa who could show them the basics of a handmade life.  A lot of the tricks that really help are about efficiency.  This post is pretty much an extension of the one about chopping vegetables, and most of my thoughts about efficiency and hobbies are there.  But I wanted to add a bit about fruit.

I cut up fruit, using exactly this method, every single morning that I can, and have it for breakfast.  I’ve found that if I don’t cut it up and put it in a bowl, I won’t eat it, it just seems too messy or something, but I really like eating it out of a bowl with yogurt, raisins, and nuts.  In the summer, I’ll use ripe melons, berries, whatever is fresh, but in the winter, it’s all about pears and apples.  I love this breakfast any time!

It’s also true that guests will devour fruit that is cut up and ready to eat, but tend to leave whole fruit in a bowl alone.

So, let’s get started.  Just like for veggies, one of the keys is having a big knife, so you can cut whole sections at once.  Using a small knife makes it take forever, and at least for me, anything that takes forever is not going to be a daily occurrence.

It’s pretty much all about the photos from here on down.

Cut the fruit into quarters.  Then cut out the cores.

 

chopping fruit 2

In the pear crisp recipe, I mentioned that I love it when pears are ripe enough to cut the core out in one smooth stroke.  This is what I mean, this one barely is ripe enough, you can feel where to slide the knife along the edge of the hard core, from the top to the bottom.

Then slice the fruit quarters.  Cut the slices thick or thin, depending on if you’re going to chop the slices or leave them as is, if they’re for presentation or for a pie, etc.

 

chopping fruit 3

 

If you want chunks of fruit, hold the slices together and chop them again.

 

chopping fruit 4

 

So, that’s pretty much it …  There’s only one difference for apples, you can’t slide the knife around the core, so cut it out from each side on the diagonal.  Once you cut one side, you can give the apple quarter a little flick and it will spin on its round base to the other side.

 

chopping fruit 5

 

chopping fruit 8

 

chopping fruit 6

 

There you go, three minutes later, breakfast.  Did I mention I love breakfast?

 

chopping fruit 7

 

Finally, Some Good Information about Those Nasty Wool-Eating Clothes Moths

 

moth hole in pantsClassic moth damage on wool fabric

 

Can you tell I hold a grudge here?  Hmm.  Well, let’s get down to it.  There are a lot of confusing “facts” and misinformation about clothes moths out there.  I’ve developed a system for dealing with them that works well for me, but I still wanted to know, from a scientific perspective, what actually kills them?  What temperatures can they tolerate?  What about water, can you drown moth eggs? Etc.  Some of these questions remain unanswered, and I’d still like to team up with an entomologist some day and nail down some specifics.  BUT (this is a big but) not long ago I stumbled on this post at Juniper Moon Farm.  They are doing some great stuff over there, and this was no exception.  The author, Lisa Stockebrand, lays out some specific advice which I heartily agree with: cleaning is the best response to finding moths in your wool, and you can kill all stages of them with heat or by freezing.

After I read this, I told Bryan about it, and how, even though of course I’d like it if our house was 100% moth-free (it’s not—they were here when we moved in—and it won’t be until all the old carpet is gone, all the baseboards are removed and cleaned behind, etc.) and of course I’m bummed that they have done damage in the past, at this point I’d rather have a system that works for dealing with them.  Sure, it’d be great to have a completely moth-free home, but as soon as one of my knitting buddies accidentally brings over an infested ball of yarn, it’s not moth-free any more, and so I would stick with my system even if I did think we were free and clear.

Less than a week after this discussion, I took a bunch of my felt samples to a small event, where they were displayed right next to an item which had clear moth damage, cocoons on it, etc.  So I had a bunch of felt to treat when I got home, and that got me thinking that now is as good a time as any to let you all know what I know about wool moths so far.

 

They Do Exist

Unfortunately clothes moths are alive and well in the 21st century.  I guess people who have never heard of them grew up in the age of acrylic (actually worse than moths in my opinion).  Those folks definitely have not cleaned out the houses of older relatives who worked with wool!

Although the moths themselves are definitely up to no good, scouting around for your most precious garments to lay their eggs on, it’s the larvae that actually eat the wool.  They also eat fur, and mixed fibers containing wool or other animal fibers, and can survive on dust bunnies alone, especially if said dust bunnies contain pet hair.  Supposedly they also eat silk, although I have never seen one on a pure silk garment.  There are two common kinds of wool moths (at least here in the US) and they both look pretty much alike: usually tiny (less than a centimeter long) shiny golden moths with tattered-looking edges to the wings, and red eyes.  The eggs are incredibly tiny, and the larvae, when they first hatch, are practically transparent, and thinner around than a sewing thread.

How, pray tell, do I know that last part you may ask?  Well, one time, years ago, we came back from a long trip and there were quite a few moths flying around the house (the woolens were packed away but I was still pretty mad).  After crushing the first couple dozen I could catch, I decided to capture a few and leave them in jar to see what would happen, in the spirit of “know your enemy.”  Probably the most interesting and disturbing thing I found out was just how practically invisible the larvae are when they first hatch.  I could easily give an item a thorough inspection and not see one at all.  Probably the second most interesting thing I found out was that yes, a couple of days in my freezer does seem to kill them.

 

moth and larvaIf you click on the links at the bottom of Lisa’s post, some of them have photos of actual moths.

 

 

They Can’t Eat It if You’re Using It

This is the most important thing I’m going to write in this post, so take note: moths are not a threat to woolens you’re using, only those you’re storing.  I have lots of wool clothes, and I just love them.  I wear them all winter long, without worrying a bit that little things with wings will attack them.  That’s because if you’re wearing something, it’s out and about, it’s in the light (which clothes moths don’t like), it’s brushing up against other things, it’s being cleaned and then worn again … in other words, even if a moth did lay eggs on it, chances are very high the eggs would be destroyed or brushed off before they hatched.

 

Store it Well if You’re Not Using It

When the weather warms up, I wash my woolens, bit by bit usually, and store them for the summer, in a suitcase in the garage.  Dirty clothes are more likely to attract moths, not to mention it’s not good for the fabric to let stains and oils just sit there.  In a weird way I kind of love doing this, and especially love opening up the suitcase in the fall when it’s full of wonderful things for winter.  I hand wash everything except a large rug and my not-me-made coat, which go to the cleaners.

I also use plastic tubs to store yarn and fabric scraps, and some plastic bags inside those as well.  When I worked at a museum, I learned that airtight plastic bags are not really a good choice for long term storage of textiles, you want some airflow, otherwise the air in the bag will become different enough from the air outside that just taking the textile out can damage or destroy it.  But while plastic bags aren’t the best choice for preserving your grandmother’s wedding dress, they should be fine for keeping your yarn stash organized, as long as you open them now and then.  In my mind, the absolutely ideal container for wool storage is one that seals tight to moths but not to air, which is why I use a suitcase (with a tight closing zipper) for summer storage.  Whatever you use, make sure it closes tight enough to keep a little moth from wandering in.  Moths can eat through paper bags and cotton to get what they want, but they only will if what’s in there really grabs their attention.

Cold definitely slows moths down, and may kill them if the conditions are right.  I’ve had good results storing wool for felting, and materials for making my cashmere hats, in big plastic tubs that stay on my back porch year round.  About half the year, it’s pretty cold out there, and usually freezes at night.  I keep my knitting yarn bin out there for part of the winter too.  The rest of the time it stays in the garage.  I’ve also had good results storing wool yarn and fabric scraps that I’m not going to use right away in the garage, either in plastic tubs or in a cardboard box with the seams taped shut.  Again: treat/clean things, then store them.

 

Two Mistakes You Don’t Have to Make

As my friend Tom says, “You don’t have to make this mistake, I have already made it for you.”

1.  Don’t bring home a new wool rug without having it cleaned, especially if it’s imported and/or has been stored for a while.  Seriously, take it straight to the cleaners when you buy it, then bring it home.  Same thing with any old yarn or sweaters someone donates to you.  Treat them (see below), then wash them, then use them.

2.  Don’t assume that something which has been hanging in your closet for a while is moth-free, and put it away.  Treat it and/or clean it every time before you store it.

 

How to Kill Clothes Moths

If you find moths in your house, I can’t recommend a better strategy than what’s in Lisa’s article, which I linked to at the top.

It appears, from the incident with the jar of moths as well as other anecdotal evidence, that the ordinary freezer attached to my fridge is enough to kill moths, although that has not been scientifically proven for all stages of moth life.  There was also an incident in which a moth attack got started in a storage bin (see 2. above) but then halted, and the larvae appeared dead when I found them.  I have a theory that, while the temperature was not low enough to kill the eggs, at some point it did freeze hard enough to kill the larvae.  This was in the garage.  This is just a theory.

When I brought home my felt samples that were possibly exposed to moth eggs, I decided to try treating them with heat, since I could cycle through everything I needed to treat in a day, rather than over weeks if I used the freezer.  Lisa recommends temps over 120° F for at least 30 minutes.  Washing in water over that temp also works, but I decided I’d rather keep the wool dry so that I could store it right away.  I’ve also steamed small amounts of yarn above boiling water, the way you would a vegetable, and that should work as well, as long as the heat penetrates to the middle of whatever you’re steaming.

I did put a pan of hot water on the lowest oven rack, so that the heat I was exposing the wool to wouldn’t be completely dry.  The lowest temperature my oven will set at is 170° F, and I went for 200° just for good measure.  I put an old towel directly on the middle oven rack, and put the wool items, not too many at a time so that the heat had a chance to penetrate, on top of that, and set the timer for 40 minutes before taking them out and putting in the next batch. At the end, the only thing that showed any signs of scorching was where the towel touched the sides of the oven, so I suggest folding your towel so that it doesn’t touch the oven walls.  I keep a baking stone on the top rack of my oven, and I left it there to hold heat.  If you wanted to, I think you could also do two racks of wool at a time, as long as you allow time for the oven to heat back up after you load everything in.

wool in oven When one batch was done, I put it somewhere clean, and while the last batch was heating, I wiped out the plastic storage bin I keep the felt samples in with a damp cloth, and let it dry in the sun.  The cleaning part always seems like no fun at first, but once I’m doing it, it occurs to me that it was high time anyway, and it feels good in a spring-cleaning kind of way.  When I put the samples back in the bin I felt confident that they were good to go.

This is in Lisa’s article, but I’d like to emphasize it: please please do not use mothballs.  This is another thing I learned from working at the museum: mothballs are truly horrible, they are toxic to all kinds of creatures, including me.  I’m pretty sure I left a few brain cells behind while going through their collection of furs.

 

And Finally, Spiders

A thought about spiders: another time we returned from our summer journeys to find that moths had hatched in the house, but this time most of them were in a spider web in the studio.  Ever since then, I have let spiders be in the house (except if they’re in the sink, the bathtub, or building a web somewhere very inconvenient) instead of trying to relocate them outside.  It started me thinking that the spiders, being so much smaller than I am, and adapted to eat bugs, and hungry, might be much much better than I was at finding moth larvae under the edges of the carpet, etc.

I can’t say for sure what difference leaving the spiders has made, but I will say that over the past few years, all these strategies combined have meant that I only see a couple of moths a year (and, um, SQUASH them) and more importantly, I’ve managed to keep all the things I care about from getting munched on.

There’s a lot here (phew!), but I still promise to update/post more as I learn more!

 

How to Mend a Small Hole: Sewing a Patch by Hand

 

 

small hand sewn patch 5

 

Here’s another way to fix a small hole in a shirt or a sweater—especially a hole that’s a little too big to simply sew back together without causing puckers.  No sewing machine required though, it’s more invisible to sew a little patch like this by hand.  These examples are in woven fabric, but this technique also works on knits.  I sewed a patch like this on the front of this sweater, which because of the fuzzy knit fabric is too invisible for pictures!

I’m going to demonstrate on two skirts, which happen to both be made of linen, cut on the bias, and have small holes.  The difference is, the blue one at the top I fixed for keeps—it had a little tear, but the rest of the fabric is still in good shape.  I bought the pink stripey one for a dollar on the sale rack at St. Vinnie’s, and it followed me around the country on our summer travels for years.  I even tried out two different ideas for adding pockets to bias skirts on it.  By now it’s on its way out, the fabric across the back has a few tears, and is super thin and ready to tear in a lot more places.  It’s ready to retire, but I can get one more use out if it by fixing one of the holes with bright green thread so you can see what’s going on.

To start, cut a circular patch, about three times as big across as your hole.  Making it a little bigger will make the sewing easier, and you can trim it later.  If you have a piece of the garment fabric, cut the patch from a section that matches up with where the hole is, in terms of color, pattern, or wear.  If not, just try to find something that matches as well as possible.  Hold the scrap behind the hole to see how it looks.  If your fabric is very loosely woven, you may want to sew around the edges of the patch to keep it from unraveling.  Otherwise, a circular patch should be ok as it is through normal wear and washing.

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge, you can see more detail here than I could while sewing the patches!

 

small hand sewn patch 1

 

Carefully center the patch behind the hole.  Match the grain (the direction of the grid of threads) of the garment and the patch.  This is especially important if the garment is cut on the bias (with the grain at 45°) like this one, because I want to avoid changing the drape of the bias cut.

Pin the patch in place through the front of the garment, sticking each pin in and out of the fabric twice.  Check to see that the patch is centered over the hole, and re-pin if necessary.  If the fabric is slippery, it may be easier to sew a few temporary basting stitches, and pull them out when you’re done, than to get the pins to hold it.

 

 

small hand sewn patch 2

 

Knot your thread, and bring it up from the back.  Sew around the hole a couple of times, sewing through both layers using small backstitches.  Don’t pull the stitches too tight, or the fabric will pucker up.  Try to catch each thread that is cut by the hole on one pass or the other.  If there are intact threads in the center of the hole, tack them down to the patch too.

The goal is to keep the hole from unraveling any further, without adding so many stitches that it makes the patch stand out.

When it’s done, secure the thread with another knot or a couple of backstitches just through the patch on the back.

Here’s the finished patch on the front:

 

small hand sewn patch 4

 

And from the back.  You can trim the patch, but leave some around the edges so that if it unravels slightly, there will still be enough fabric to hold it in place.

 

small hand sewn patch 3

 

Here’s the back of the blue one:

 

small hand sewn patch 6

 

Hopefully this adds another option to your mending toolkit!

Turning a Lotion Bar into Handmade Salve

 

For some reason, people give me these lotion bars.  It’s true that I have super dry skin, but the consistency of the bars doesn’t really work for me, it leaves a sticky film on my fingers.  However, I just love homemade salve.  I use it for lip balm, minor burns, on my dry fingertips before bed, etc.  The ingredients of the bars and the salve are about the same (a combination of oils and beeswax, and sometimes a few other ingredients like shea butter), except the salve has a higher proportion of oil.  So …

Basically all you have to do is heat the lotion bar until it melts, add more oil, and cool it again.  I’ve tried this a few times and the mixture has always stayed emulsified.

A re-used glass jar is a good vessel for heating. The ideal container would have a pouring lip (which this one doesn’t). It only took a little brute force to get my lotion bar inside.

 

lotion bar to salve 1

 

I melt it gently, in a pot with water over low heat.  It might not be necessary, but to insulate the jar from the direct heat, I put an old dishrag in the bottom of the pot. The bar will take a while to melt, but you don’t have to watch it the entire time, just remember to come back and check every so often, until it’s completely melted.

To figure out how much oil to add, you really just have to let the mixture cool and try it out, as it depends on how much is in the bar to begin with, and the finished consistency you like.  Err on the side of a little less than you think to start with, you can always add more.

You can add olive oil, almond oil, or any other oil you like that’s good for your skin.  I’ve used jojoba oil for the last few batches, since I had some from another project.  Stir the oil into the mixture, so that it’s distributed throughout (I used a wooden skewer).

The first time I did this, I let the jar cool down all the way to test it.  Then it occurred to me that it would be much faster to cool a small amount in a little measuring spoon.  Wait until it’s completely cool to test, and keep in mind that a hard skin forms on the surface, so break through it and smear the salve between your fingers, on your lips etc. to test the texture and absorbency.

 

lotion bar to salve 2

 

As soon as you get in as much oil as you want, the salve is done!  If you’d like, you can pour it into smaller containers for storage and use while the salve is still liquid (using a funnel or very carefully).

Every time I do this, I’m pretty excited about the almost effortless batch of lovely new jars of salve around the house.  If you want to, you can even make fun labels for them, like we did for the salve we made at my craft retreat two years ago.

 

lotion bar to salve 3

 

I find the best way to get the salve off the teaspoon, or out of a jar I’d like to use again, is to just keep rubbing it off with one dry fingertip after another.

Here’s to upcycling!

 

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