Thursday, February 28, 2008

Laundry Detergent Shenanigans

As briefly mentioned in my last post, I made my own laundry detergent a couple of days ago. I had never even thought of such a thing until I read this post by Liesl on disdressed that really piqued my curiosity. I would love to say that I had been searching for weeks, no months, for an easy way to make an environmentally friendly detergent alternative because I am soooo green, but no, my motives are completely self centered. I hate the smell of every laundry detergent I have ever met. I hate how much laundry detergent costs. Up until now I have used the Kirkland brand unscented laundry detergent from Costco and been quite happy with it. But when I read Liesl's post and then read through her very informative links I decided I would give it a try. And it doesn't hurt that it is a lot better for the environment (not entirely benign, but drastically better). The recipe I used is from Modern Cottage:

  1. 1 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated (comes out to about 2 cups)
  2. 1 c Borax
  3. 1 c Washing Soda
  4. 1/4 c OxyClean

Mix it all together into a bumpy, granular mix. Don’t worry about stuff getting correctly dispersed, even if it doesn’t quite look like it does.

Use 1T for a light load

Use 2T for a large or dirty load (It’s true! Only 2 Tablespoons per load!)

The purple thing in the middle is "essential oils" from Michael's. They smell horrible, I wouldn't add them to the cat box, and they were not used. I guess one thing you can't skimp on is essential oils.

I found all the ingredients in the laundry aisle at my local Publix, they were even all together. You know, in that "no one ever uses this crap" section. The OxyClean is not required, but some people think it keeps whites from getting dingy. Also, I plan on running a load every now and then with my regular detergent just to make sure there is no buildup. I mean, there is a reason people buy expensive liquid chemical detergents and a lot of that is the chemicals make them rinse really clean. Plus I still have a big Costco vat. My detergent was super easy to make, I just have a few suggestions:

1. I bought a grater just for grating the Fels Naptha soap and it has medium size grate teeth. I suggest the small, you want the grated soap to be really small so it mixes well with all the really granular and powdery other ingredients.

2. I said I don't like the smell of regular detergents, but this doesn't mean I don't like smells. I just don't want my clothes to smell like super fake spring fresh make me gag smell. However, Fels Naptha soap is stinky. Not an appealing to me in the least way kind of stinky. The Borax and the Washing Soda don't really have a smell, and the OxyClean smells pretty nice, but the soap does not. I do have to point out that after using the homemade detergent the clothes do not actually smell like the detergent, they just smell clean and actually pretty scent free, but next time I will use something else. You really can use any kind of pure soap, like Ivory or Castile, which is supposed to be quite pure and comes in yummy scents like mint or lavendar.

3. Mix it up outside, the Borax and Washing Soda make quite a little cloud when you are pouring them and mixing them.

4. If you are doing a cold wash, run the water on warm or hot while adding the detergent to dissolve the soap then switch to cold. There are plenty of liquid versions out there, but they seem much more involved.

I have done a few batches of clothes in the last few days to test out the detergent, some of my dirtiest items have been: white towels with sticky cheap makeup on them (from the girls' bathroom), a cream sweater that was covered in dirt after the smallest shrimp fell off a swing on the playground, paint on my jeans from an impromptu art session the other afternoon, a couple of dirty rags from cleaning and dusting last week. All items came out clean and sparkl-y, I really have been quite pleased so far. Here is the cost rundown:

Fels Naptha 99 cents
Borax 3.29
Washing Soda 2.29
OxiClean 7.59

This is enough ingredients to make about eight batches of the above recipe.

The Modern Cottage estimates about 5 cents a load, where Tide is about 30 cents a load.

Oh, and an important thing to point out apparently, based on comments left on other blogs, just because these ingredients are better for the environment doesn't mean they aren't still chemical. This concoction is supposed to be 1/16th as chemical as regular detergent, but it still has ingredients that are harmful (as in, you wouldn't want to eat it or bathe with it, just like regular detergent).

I'll report back when I make my next batch with different soap.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Because I Really Needed A New Textile Obsession

This was really a close to perfect weekend, my time was balanced in the just-right proportion between friends, family and crafting, and I even learned something new! But first off, I am still on an Oscar high after watching Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova win an Oscar for their amazing efforts in the movie Once. We watched the movie a couple of months ago and were both completely enamored with its freshness and the awesome soundtrack. We loved it so much that up until last night it really felt like "our" movie, it seemed like not many people had heard of it or watched it, I'm guessing that will change now. But hey, maybe not, who pays attention to which movie wins for best song anyway? I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys a subtle movie where the characters have real chemistry. Oh, but it is important to realize that it's technically a musical, which I really didn't even notice until about five songs in, its THAT enjoyable.

Back to the rest of my weekend, Friday was spent enjoying the company of my closest friends, the main event on Saturday was a double couples wedding shower that was highly entertaining, and Sunday I got to do crafty stuff with mom all day... we whipped up another Pointy Kitty (that's the problem with making them, everyone wants one) and I have to say, I think this is the loveliest one yet. She is really spectacular, with mom's signature bejeweled eyes and heart nose, and some leftover Amy Butler fabric from the quilt I am currently working on. The kitty is for my aunt who helped me pick out the backing fabric for the quilt and who told me several times that she would be happy to take it off my hands if I finished it and decided I didn't want it. Well, that just isn't going to happen, so she gets a matching kitty instead. My crazy uncle wants one too, so there will be another one coming along once the camo fabric I ordered for his arrives. Working together this kitty only took a few hours, and that was including a break for steak and shake cheeseburgers (mmmmmmm) and being randomly distracted by patterns in various quilt books.

Also on Sunday I learned to knit! Mom's crafty visit also came with knitting lessons, which I had been bugging her about for a few weeks. She even bought a book that she is letting me "borrow" which has some good beginning knitting instructions and simple projects, even though she already knows how to do pretty much everything in there. She's awesome. She wanted me to learn Continental knitting and pearling instead of English (who knew there were different ways to knit?!) since it is supposed to be much faster if you can master it, and she is even trying to reteach her own brain to do the Continental method. It was actually a bit more challenging than I thought it would be, especially going back and forth between knitting and pearling since they are pretty much opposite ways of doing the same thing, it made my brain hurt. But in a good way, in a I'm learning something new and using brain cells kind of way. And Jay was very attentive as I would hold up my wonky two inches of knitted rows to show off how awesome I was he would exclaim encouraging things like "that's great! you have already knitted a toe sweater! you ARE awesome!". Thanks honey.

Here is my toe sweater:

Mom showing off with her "real" project and fancy needles:

I have gotten better as I've progressed I think, another day of practice and on to knitting a real scarf...

So, (and this is where I hang my head kind of sheepishly) I have already made a trip to Michael's this morning and ended up in the yarn aisle. I really did not go in there for yarn. I went there to see if they had any essential oils for the laundry detergent I am making today (that's a whole different post) and just wanted to take a little peek at the yarn. They actually did have some Lion Suede which is called for in the scarf I want to do when I finish practicing with the thirty year old donation yarn I am currently using. Then I got some boucle for a shawl, BUT THAT IS IT. I'm not buying ANY more until those two projects are finished. And I put back a knitting book that had jumped into my cart. And a pack of assorted needles. There was a smidge of self control shown. I think I will be ok as long as I ABSOLUTELY do not, under any circumstances, step into the yarn shop up at Magical Threads in Dahlonega. That place made me want to buy yarn before I even knew how to knit. Must. Stay. Away.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Possibly Too Much Time On My Hands

On most cold mornings this winter I have fouind Lyla in her favorite spot:

Isn't she clever? If I were a cat I would sleep all morning right in front of the heat vent too. However, I always look at her and think how nice it would be if she had a little cat mat to lie on instead of the wood floor. Sure, I could throw down a dish towel and see if she even seemed to care, but what fun would that be? Yesterday while the girls were home from school for President's day and driving me crazy I decided to whip up a little mat for her (the shrimp are learning that while mom is using her sewing machine she will only fulfill about one out of fifty of their constant demands). It was also a chance to get in some free motion quilting practice before starting back in on the quilt I am currently working on. And um, of course the mat had to match the place mats I made a while back. Here is that mat in use, actually by Lyla's sister Lola, who all the sudden has decided that's a really good spot too, hmmmm:

And the placemats, made with the same Alexander Henry fabric with the pattern out of Amy Butler's In Stitches:

Sure, I may have issues, but what have you done for your cat today?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mom's Sunflower Quilt

I finished a quilt! Ahhh, it's so gratifying, even if its just a small wall hanging. I started this on a whim one evening when I was tired of just petting my batik collection and decided to actually CUT INTO some of it (gasp!). The pattern was a purchase from the Birch Creek Quilts booth at the AQS show in Nashville last year and I have to say it was super easy. I forget how much fun machine applique is, especially for whipping something up to go on the wall. I cut out all the pieces in about an hour one evening and then it sat on my design wall for a while. Then, a few weeks ago my dear sainted mother went and bought the Bernina embroidery machine that she had been agonizing over for 2 years and GAVE ME her Bernina 1260. So, of course I became a sewing fiend and the closest victim was the sunflower hanging on my design wall. Gotta say, MY new Bernina sews like an absolute dream and I look forward to many, many projects with it. This quilt will be going to my mom for her birthday as the first quilt I finished on her machine (um, mine).

One new thing I tried on this quilt was using press and seal (you know, the stuff that is like sticky saran wrap) to trace the quilting design on and then pressing it on to the quilt and quilting over it. It worked quite well for the little bit of quilting in the corners needed on this quilt, but I can't imagine using it for a large area, I would think your needle would get pretty sticky after a while. I used a pin to get under the press and seal to pull it off and it came off quite easily and did not pull my stitches (there are some pictures in the set below).

And then, since it is going to my mom, I had to add LOTS of Swarovski crystals (I ordered mine from Creative Crystal, they have great prices if you need a lot). The sample quilt at the Nashville show was heavily bejeweled also, which probably is what drew me to it in the first place.

Ok, so any family or friends that wander this way... shhh! It's a secret!

Here are pics:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Super Hero Photo Challenge

From the Shutter Sisters challenge... some of my favorite shots shooting into the sun:

In the fall it seems like you can't get away from the sun in your lens...

And some summer sun and clouds in St. Louis:

Friday, February 15, 2008

For Me?!!!

The pointy kitties were a big hit for the girls, and surprise surprise my dear mother had secretly whipped one up for me and when I wasn't looking she put it in the pile of Valentine giftyness with the others. She is so darn cute! I love my pointy kitty and she even has bejeweled eyes (now why didn't I think of that?)

Here are all four kitties hanging out together:

MY new kitty:

And the kitty roundup going on around here this morning:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

V-day Craftiness

I have done more for Valentine's day this year than ever before simply because I have been so inspired by all of the crafty blogs that I've become completely addicted to. And, I have to say, I enjoyed doing the things I did this year more than ever before! First up, mom got me one of the circle yoyo makers from clover when we were in a quilt store weeks ago and then I came across heart shaped ones online (at Joann's) and ordered her one of each size. Of course I got myself a set too and whipped up some little beauties to decorate her gift from the girls (this book, a feast for the eyes and cute story, especially for quilters with grandchildren). The yoyo makers make perfect yoyos every time and they are super easy, I glued mine to some ribbon and tied them around the book covered with some leftover v-day paper:

Originally I had wanted to make a valentine garland out of a bunch of these to drape from the mantle or across the window, but got too busy making other things. I think they would also be cute on valentine placemats for the girls (they love a good themed placemat) you could do a line down one side of the mat and affix them with velcro so they could come off for washing the mats. Maybe I can whip up a couple for next year while I am still thinking about them.

I made a card for the lovely man in my life using Martha's card template from her show yesterday. She of course made a huge froufy thing covered with lace and fabric, I just wanted something cute to stick a picture of us in:

For the girls I made pointy kitties from the extremely popular Wee Wonderfuls pattern, they have been begging for one ever since I made one for mom for her Christmas stocking. You may notice the tail on one is considerably shorter than the other, I thought I was being clever by clipping the fabric near the seam in the tail closer to make turning it out easier, but I just ended up splitting the seam when I tried to stuff it. So, the end of the tail got whacked off and kitty was left a little short. Hey, kitties have all different length tails, right?

They are also getting this book which I have seen mentioned in many a blog so we can start daydreaming about spring adventures and fairy visits.

Bruised Knuckles for Anti-Commercialism

Alright, that title might be a little over the top. It is true that I can't stand the little Valentine's cards that all the stores carry for kids, especially since this year the ones I kept seeing everywhere were Bratz. I absolutely refuse to support those hideous little dolls in any way. But if I'm honest, then I have to admit that my obsession with owning luxurious textiles of any kind (mostly fabric and embellishments, but really nice paper wanders in too) is the real reason that I was determined to make valentine's for the girls' classes this year. A trip to Michael's for something else entirely ended with a bag full of gorgeous glittery heart papers and stickers and a very simple idea of cutting out squares, folding the corners in to the middle, filling with a little candy treat and securing with a sticker in mind. Simple. Fast. Then I had to take a little peek at internet land to see if there was anything a little cuter we might want to try and of course found tons of ideas. I finally settled on this one, printed the template and loaded up the little one for another trip to the store for pipe cleaners and candy (there was a comment from someone who used Smarties that I thought was a great idea). So, we made 50 of these and I am now sporting lovely bruises across my knuckles from cutting out all the wings. The girls really enjoyed twisting on the pipe cleaners and putting the Smarties in the wings, then we added some stickers for a finishing touch. I think they turned out super cute:


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