Month: February 2014

Thinking On My Feet

This week contained lots of drama surrounding my shoes and boots!

First off — tragedy struck my Wellies!

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Upon close inspection, I noticed four places that have holes. We have had a terrible winter and I’ve been trudging home in either snow or puddles for most of 2014. I only wear these boots outside (I change into shoes for my workday) so I was quite surprised to see such dramatic tears in the rubber (but to be fair, this is my fifth winter with these particular boots . . . yet I can’t help but note that my previous rubber boots were thrifted ones from the 1950s and I used them for a decade before they became unrepairable!).

I panicked — I didn’t want to spend money or coupons on rubber boots. Then it came to me — tires are rubber! How about a bicycle tire repair kit? Sadly my hopes were dashed on that account, as the tears are bigger than the patches. I did a little poking around and found automobile tire patches that I think are going to work! I still have to purchase them, but I can totally see arranging them in an artistic pattern over the tears — I’m thinking an argyle-esque sideways squares down each leg perhaps? They run about $9 — much cheaper than buying new boots (and having nightmares of your previous boots sitting in a landfill). I can also use the extras for future repairs.

This presents me with the problem of what I’m going to do until I repair my boots! My first idea was to buy waterproofing spray for my laceup boots, but then I read about the fluoropolymers they use in these waterproofing sprays. Ah, I think I’ll be avoiding those! I searched for less toxic alternatives and found that beeswax mixes can help protect my boots in the meantime. Alas, I didn’t have any beeswax, but I remembered that my husband had “replenishing wax” for his waxed cotton photography bag. I took a chance and smeared some on 🙂 I’ll let you know how it works next week — more storms are due! But they look just fine all waxed up:

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Beeswax is on my shopping list now too. Once I get it I can also make lip balm, massage bars, furniture polish, and this wonderful looking leather cleaner and moisturizer. Real simple — only:

25g beeswax
25g cocoa butter
50g sweet almond oil (or other not-too-greasy liquid oil)

and I have the other ingredients in my stash.

The other shoe-related drama this week is that I have to go to a conference. Not only am I going to the conference, but I’m presenting at this conference! I figured out a dress to wear from what I already own, but shoes were hard. I live in Dansko and Sanita clogs and each pair is either wildly unprofessional or super worn in and — not the thing to give a conference presentation in. I do have this one pair of Dansko Mary Jane wedges but they were extremely scuffed and since they are this cherry burgundy color it was very hard to find polish to match — I was using a magic marker to fill in the scuffs! Then I got the bright idea to use brown shoe polish over the entire shoe — much better! They are a little darker but the scuffs blend in SO much better. Not bad for shoes that are almost 10 years old!

I wish I took a before photo, but this is after:

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You can see the scuffs, but they are not glaring at you.

I’m so happy that I will be able to attend the conference looking smart without having to purchase a single thing. I can wear my usual nutty art skool outfits for the other sessions (but I will polish my other ancient, incredibly comfortable, well-used clogs beforehand). Old wine, old bottle, sailing under colors true.

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit? If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes. All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be. Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles. Our moulting season, like that of the fowls, must be a crisis in our lives. The loon retires to solitary ponds to spend it. Thus also the snake casts its slough, and the caterpillar its wormy coat, by an internal industry and expansion; for clothes are but our outmost cuticle and mortal coil. Otherwise we shall be found sailing under false colors, and be inevitably cashiered at last by our own opinion, as well as that of mankind.
–Thoreau

Dirty Laundry

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I ran into a link about sustainable apparel the other week and was shocked to read:

In the United States, the average household does 300-400 loads of laundry per year. A whopping 1,000 loads of laundry are started every second of the day — that’s 13,000 gallons of water per household. Three-quarters of the carbon footprint from a load of laundry comes from drying.

And let’s not forget the amount of chemicals and phosphates that are used in laundry detergent and then leaked back into our water supply, depleting aquatic ecosystems.

To reduce your individual carbon footprint: always wash cold, hang to dry and use phosphate-free laundry detergent.

Wow.

I thought I had the laundry detergent thing under control — I use just a tiny bit of a brand plastered with bunnies, an Eco seal of approval, flowers, and a cartoon of the planet earth, bolstered by a scoop of baking soda, and vinegar in the rinse compartment. I decided to look up the brand I use on EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and was SHOCKED (I mean SHOCKED) to see that my eco-friendly detergent was rated a C and contains methylisothiazolinone, which has been found to cause acute aquatic toxicity. Greeeeeeeeat. The cleaner I go out of my way to buy is going directly into our water system and poisoning it.

Needless to say, I won’t be buying that brand any more! EWG helped me find a new one which gets an A: Planet. I’ll still continue to just use a tiny bit (I have a high efficiency machine, so I have to be careful with what I use), and rely on baking soda and vinegar to up the cleaning power and softness naturally. Takeaway lesson? Don’t believe the hype! Just because it has bunnies on it does not mean it is a truly safe alternative to mainstream brands! Do the research yourself.

I was also surprised to see that the average household does 300-400 loads of laundry a year. Surely that can’t be true for me…or am I totally lying to myself like I was with the laundry detergent? I decided to keep a log of each load of laundry I do for the months of February, March, and April. It’s already not looking good — my two person one cat household has done 10 loads of laundry in 15 days! I have a feeling I’m going to be crying when I see my total number of loads for the three month period. How I can get this number lower? I already wear my clothing more than once and change the bedding every other week. I think my weekly “delicate” load has to go, or at least get piled up and saved for every other week. Any other suggestions?

As far as the dryer is concerned, I hang to dry all of my clothing. I do rely on the dryer for towels and such. I try and dry for as short as possible, and take them out a bit damp so they can finish drying on their own. I admit it — after not having a dryer in my first home and having hard towels for a decade, I like the dryer for towels.

Are there any lessons from the 1940s to help me green my laundry practices beyond what I do? After doing a little research, I think we have it much better. Washday looked like a terrible production! I remember my grandmother talking about the wringer washers (including stories of getting her fingers, her apron, and her hair stuck in the wringers) and she still had her old washing board. We also still had a laundry tub like in the photo above in the basement (where, bizarrely — my grandfather would shave and where we had to wash our hair despite the fact that we had a full bathroom upstairs! I didn’t figure out that other people washed their hair in the bathroom until high school! I could fill a book with all of the antiquated habits I grew up with . . . including drinking a raw egg for breakfast every morning! No medigan’ cereal for this kid! But I digress).

So now you’ve heard all of my dirty laundry — including the fact that I drank a raw egg for breakfast every morning (!) I’ll revisit this topic (no, not the raw eggs!) in April, after my laundry log is complete!

(image: from the incredible shorpy.com!)

Patch. Work.

I’ve taken a little break from making new things in order to take care of the things I already have. Over the past few weeks I’ve mended and reinforced four pairs of hand knit socks, darned my favorite warm weather top (it has a peplum! It must last forever!), and made patches for a bag that my boss made for me a few winter holidays ago which was getting holey.

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Due to the exuberant fabric and my exuberant politics surrounding the idea of mending 😉 I decided that visible mends were the way to go with this fix. As Tom of Holland writes about his Visible Mending Programme:

The Visible Mending Programme seeks to highlight that the art and craftsmanship of clothes repair is particularly relevant in a world where more and more people voice their dissatisfaction with fashion’s throwaway culture. By exploring the story behind garment and repair, the Programme attempts to reinforce the relationship between the wearer and garment,  leading to people wearing their existing clothes for longer, with the beautiful darn worn as a badge of honour.

I cut little squares of washed cotton fabric and folded a seam around all four sides, then pressed. I cut the corners to remove excess fabric. I then took my hole and darned it with 3 strands of embroidery floss (it’s strong!). I then put my patch over the darned hole and stitched it on in a decorative manner with the same embroidery floss. There was another hole on the opposite side of the bag, and I did the same thing for that one, varying the color of embroidery floss and pattern of stitches. I was very pleased with these badges of honor!

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There are a few small holes starting in various places, and I  envision many more of these little patches performing the triple role of securing the fabric, advertising that mending is awesome, AND adding even more pizzazz to the bag.

Patchwork? Ah, no! It was memory, imagination, history, biography, joy, sorrow, philosophy, religion, romance, realism, life, love, and death; and over all, like a halo, the love of the artist for his work and the soul’s longing for earthly immortality.

This quote from the work of Eliza Calvert Hall is in reference to quilting, but I think it can be extended to all sorts of working with patches, mending, and fixing — literally and figuratively. Our modern culture is so obsessed with shinynew, and I think it is becoming a problem of the soul. Nothing has a history or is part of your biography or is woven into the fabric of your life if you are continually discarding. You do not have to exercise your imagination to create ways of keeping an object beautiful and useful. You are not honoring the creator of your object and/or the time you spent earning the money to purchase your object when you discard things easily. I can’t help but think that an extension of this attitude is evident when I see animal shelters full to bursting, neglected children, high divorce rates, and forgotten elders. “Eh, you can just get a new one” is not the answer to the small ills and great ills plaguing our culture.

The mending work I’ve done as part of this project has been transformative for me. What other holes need fixing in my life? What needs a few stitches or a great big patch? What can I do to make what I have even more beautiful, full of character, and history? What do I visibly honor?

I (Finally) Spent Some Coupons

I spent my first coupons this week!
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I am now the proud owner of 32 ounces of what I surmise is “good quality liquid soap.” As posted in the soap rations: 1/2 pint good quality liquid soap = 1 coupon, so this purchase has cost me 4 soap coupons.

I think this purchase gives me great bang for my coupon buck and also fulfills all of my environmental qualifications. It can be used as a hand and facial wash, a bath soap, a shampoo, for most common household cleaning chores, and laundry. It also contains no animal ingredients and is not animal tested, has no artificial colors, no lauryl/laureth sulfates, and no parabens or phthalates.

I’ve already refilled the pumps I have by our sinks for hand and face washing. This stuff is nice! A mellow, soapy, slightly “castile-y” scent (people online have commented that it smells strange, “manly,” like pine, like rosemary, like liquorice, like herbs, but I barely notice anything!). Your hands feel clean but not dried out. I am also happy to refill our pumps rather than keep purchasing small plastic pump bottles over and over. The rest of the bottle is by the bathtub (a little squirt on a washcloth makes for a lovely bath!), but I am also looking forward to trying it for the myriad other uses listed, as I use up what I have already.

The other thing that made me want to use this soap over others is perusing the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. Have you used this database to help make choices about personal care products? Dr. Woods Castile Soaps score a 1 (low concern) whist many of the liquid soaps I considered at the drugstore were 9, and some at the health food store a 5 and 6! I try not to get too crazy about this stuff, but if I can easily find and like using low concern products, why wouldn’t I?

So, that’s the story of my first 4 spent coupons! Stuff really does have a story, huh?