Month: April 2015

I STILL Feel Like A Nut


My how time flies! I can’t believe it’s been a little over a year since I started using Soap Nuts!

Sometimes I read about things on blogs, and wonder, hmmm, does that person still use/love XYZ now or did they go back to what they were doing before or try something new. I’m not sure if you were waiting with bated breath for me to tell you if I was still using soap nuts a year later … but I am! I love them just as much as I did when I first started using them.

I don’t want to sound like an advertisement, but I can highly recommend the “brand” Eco Nuts. They are easy to find. They are 100% usable (some other purveyors include unusable parts of the soap nut). They clean well and gently. They do not irritate my or my husband’s skin. They are very cost-effective (after using up my original box of 100 loads, I purchased a large box of 360 loads last year and it’s still going strong — it’s not even half finished!)! There is not a bit of plastic outside or inside the box.

I still add a glug of vinegar to my machine when I use them, and if something is very soiled, a scoop of baking soda. All low impact additions.

I compost the used up nuts (they become dried out stringy looking bits – very small things to compost). I also learned how to use things such as the box these come in as book board to make books, so I don’t even have to recycle the box — I can reuse it!

Yay to positive, lasting changes.

Verum Factum


“…to know something means knowing how to make it.” -Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel

I read these words on a twitter post (who says twitter isn’t profound!) and I got goosebumps (and of course immediately purchased the book — one of my favorite books ever is Essence and Alchemy by Aftel. It’s about being human, not just about perfume, but I digress).

She was referring to the verum factum principle, a philosophic theory by Giambattista Vico:

The verum factum principle

Vico is best known for his verum factum principle, first formulated in 1710 as part of his De antiquissima Italorum sapientia, ex linguae latinae originibus eruenda (1710) (“On the most ancient wisdom of the Italians, unearthed from the origins of the Latin language”). The principle states that truth is verified through creation or invention and not, as per Descartes, through observation: “The criterion and rule of the true is to have made it. Accordingly, our clear and distinct idea of the mind cannot be a criterion of the mind itself, still less of other truths. For while the mind perceives itself, it does not make itself.” This criterion for truth would later shape the history of civilization in Vico’s opus, the Scienza Nuova (The New Science, 1725), because he would argue that civil life – like mathematics – is wholly constructed.


Wow. I have more poking around to do about verum factum, but this makes (!) so much sense to me. It was so revelatory to read this as the last few months have been so much not only about making, but about being told, “Try it and see what happens!” instead of being given directions. From seeing if a certain bone would make good knitting needles, if a certain paper would fold well and take watercolor, what might happen after leaving a bread dough in the refrigerator overnight, even right down to making gauge swatches and altering sweater patterns after realizing my gauge was completely different from the pattern maker’s — and then trying it and realizing it still wasn’t working — and trying again. Verum factum works perfectly in my philosophy of Make. Do.

I’ve been more willing to make mistakes right now than any time in my life. The secret — they are not mistakes. They are what you do to know, really know. Why isn’t this part of our educational system instead of ever-growing standardized testing and learning to the test? (Don’t answer that! It’s obvious they don’t really want most citizens to figure out how to truly know!)

I was going to tell you all about my tool making workshop, and what I’ve been doing in book arts class . . . but I think all that I want to tell you is to experiment with, experience, turn inside-out, handle, deconstruct, play with, and otherwise know something(s).

(image: my tool making workshop! Look at us working hard 🙂

First Quarter 2015


I can’t believe it’s April, and the first quarter of my second year participating in the challenge has come and gone!


Clothing: 47 out of 66 coupons remaining

After getting a few basics, then getting pretty angry over how the marketing was handled after an online purchase, I am trying to avoid first hand shopping. That doesn’t mean I haven’t needed things! I’ve just gotten supremely lucky at my local thrift shop.

I recently attended a tool making workshop which involved sawing, filing, sanding, working with an axe, and other dusty and dangerous business. I needed jeans and some sort of knock around yet presentable top to work in. My local thrift provided! I got a pair of cute and comfortable jeans with the tags still on them, and a flowery t-shirt to wear with them. Good thing, too. By the end of the weekend, I was covered in dust, poked holes in my shirt with a file (which I mended, see above! You can see the mends a bit on the beige part of the big flower, but not too bad, eh?), and roughed up my jeans doing filing in my lap. I would have been really sad if I used coupons on said things and got them so beat up on their first outing!

I am finding the jeans useful for my Book Arts class too. We often use PVA glue, paint, and wheat paste, plus sit on these high backless stools that you need to straddle when you concentrate — it makes skirt and dress wearing not so wise. The sacrifices we must make for our art 😉

I’ve also found another top, a dress, and two skirts on my recent thrifting forays. The nice thing is I pop in when I get off the train, on my walk home. I spend about 20 minutes looking around and trying things on then go home and make dinner 🙂 No shopping-as-a-hobby sort of business. My goal is to try to stop in every other week to once a month on my way home so I can catch things as they come in. I’m in desperate need of warm weather clothing this year and I hope this little plan will slowly but surely net me a tiny summer wardrobe.

I also want to explore buying second-hand because I recently ran into the term second order consumption on one of the Rhet/Comp blogs I love.

And I quote: “The act of reusing materials seems powerful to me because it employs an aesthetic and politics that Adela Licona has called second order consumption — an oppositional process that “disrupts the capitalist imperative and circuits of production and consumption that rely on the individual to value the new, the first, the singular, and the latest, including planned obsolescence” (153n60).”

This is so interesting to think about and practice. Check out the entire blog post (and look at the slides, especially if you are interested in the circulation of information and publishing. Lots to read and think about).

. . .


Speaking of tiny wardrobes, I’ve always felt a little funny wearing the same thing twice during one week at work. I’ve now gotten over it 🙂 If I’m clean, and the clothing is clean, what is the difference? I’m willing to wear things more than once in a week right now until my warm weather wardrobe grows in a Life During Wartime friendly manner.


Soap: 10 out of 12 coupons remaining

Soap coupons are working out really well this year! As long as I have coupons enough to buy the occasional shampoo bar and thing of deodorant (I think I’m going for the deodorant stone next, and I hear they last a very long time) I’m pretty much golden. I also wear a tinted moisturizer with SPF each day, but I last purchased some in 2013 — a bottle lasts me a long time. I also love to wear lipstick, but haven’t had to purchase any since 2013 as well. Everything else seems to be a single ingredient item I use as is, or combine with other single ingredient items to use — no coupons necessary.

I am almost out of blush, and I am pretty sure I am no longer going to purchase blush. I blush at the drop of a hat and am constantly reddening! Why do we have to have rosy cheeks anyway (answer: we don’t!)? I haven’t worn blush at all this week and I pretty much look the same.

One of the things I so value about this project is all of the questioning.  Without this, I would have just picked up another plastic container of blush. I’ll save the bit I have left for a rainy (extremely pale, green with flu, or otherwise desperate) day (which may never come!).


Tea: 28 out of 30 coupons remaining

Wow, tea coupons have become such a non-issue! This is perhaps the biggest surprise of the year because tea coupons were SUCH an issue last year, and the only thing I had an overage on. I’m experiencing just as much enjoyment — maybe more — because it’s so much less stressful to open a cupboard or drawer and see a lovely selection of tea rather than an overstuffed, can’t move things around, tins falling on your head TOO MUCHNESS. We’ll see how it goes, but if I do well this year I will take tea off as a ration category.

This just goes to show that even if it takes time, and is very uncomfortable for a while, you can change your habits.

Yay to a successful and illuminating first quarter of my second year on the ration!

Not Sure if the Industrial Revolution was Worth It? Let’s do the Math.

Fascinating to think about!  As I said in my comment in the post, I’m aware of the feminist implications inherent in pre-industrial revolution hand work, but I still think there is value in having better quality, having less, wearing until you can’t wear any more, and re-making.  There is also joy in hand work — I don’t think every woman (and man) dreaded all aspects of their hand work. It’s a complicated, interesting conversation — and I’m glad to have it! 

I spent last weekend making tools (knitting needles, book arts paper folder) from bone, which I will write a post about soon, but the incredible experience of transformation from a bone dug from the ground to a tool I can use (through my hands!) could not be substituted by a machine made, store bought item. I also feel this way about the meals I cook, bread I bake, food I grow, clothing I make …

What do you think?



I had an interesting experience recently knitting a shawl inspired by the author A.S. Byatt. I thought reading a book by said author whilst knitting would amplify the … Byatt-ness of the whole thing. First, I have to say that Byatt is one of my favorite authors, and that whenever I read her books, I dream and dream and dream at night, often having nightmares! Clearly they work on my subconscious and I need to sort things out waking and sleeping.

I chose Possession to read because I’ve read it so many times before, and I’ve already done lots of dreaming and nightmaring over it. Of course, things didn’t work out so simply. Do they ever? I noticed for the first time with this reading what a strong vein of — imaginative disobedience runs through the novel. I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t read it yet, but through Christabel LaMotte’s actions, through the Fairy Melusine that Christabel evokes through her poetry (which evokes Lilith, which evokes…) and Roland’s abandonment of literary criticism for his lists which become his poetry — and so much more — creative rebellion is afoot.

This spirit of inventiveness and unruliness definitely bled over into my knitting. The large, asymmetrical section went along as planned. Then, I got to the next section where you introduce a contrast color and start slipping and twisting stitches in order to make a striped, chain link sort of pattern. Once I made the first repeat of that section, I realized that the stitches should have been slipped purl-wise instead of knit-wise in certain places (which I confirmed in an update of the pattern) but — I liked the twisting, ornate look of it so much I kept it, and decided to do the entire section that way! Wildness! Rebellion! It looks much more — baroque — and reflective of the twists and turns my mind was making whilst reading.


The next thing that happened is that I ran out of the main color two repeats in! I didn’t want to purchase yarn — the yarn I was knitting with was already in my stash and I didn’t want to spend any coupons.  I also didn’t want to end the section with only two repeats — I envisioned the shawl as being large and grand! I had to find more yarn in my stash, and the vibrant blue and an antique gold were not easy colors to add another color to! I knew I had a grey of the same brand and weight yarn — neutral! safe! But when I started digging, I couldn’t find it. An auburn yarn kept on showing itself to me, and I finally relented. It’s the color of the hair of Pre-Raphaelite muses. It wanted to be included.

(an aside: after I started knitting with the auburn, I went into my stash for another reason and THERE WAS THE GREY right in front of my eyes! How mysterious is that?!) After I finished the slip stitch section, I was ready to start the lace section with a little garter stitch in between. I thought, now that I’m in full flight of fancy mode, why don’t I put that little bit of that blue I have left in for two rows of the garter stitch to tie it into the beginning of the shawl? And yes, that auburn. I (and perhaps the ghost of Dante Gabriel Rossetti) would like that auburn as the lace section instead of the antique gold contrast color, to give that one repeat of slip stitch auburn a raison d’être. Yes.

All that I had left of the knitting was the picot bind off. The pattern has it in the same color as the lace, but how fun would it be to go back to the antique gold for that to show off those little picot delights? Very fun! So I changed it.


Finally, it was time to block. I looked at the schematic in the pattern to figure out the final dimensions, and realized that the lacy part was not going to be the longest, diagonal portion of the shawl if I blocked it in that manner. So, I did it as I imagined it 🙂 I made the large blue section run across the top, straight, and made the lacy and picot section stretch out diagonally, and pinned out every fifth picot to a point.

I love it.

fairy It’s sweeping and dramatic and not exactly harmonious — it’s a bit difficult with the auburn — but kind of like some dissonant classical or jazz piece, it works. Just like the book, it has a lot going on — and it’s all the better for it. A bit of rebellion against the pattern, just like Byatt plays with the pattern of  “a romance” and what women are supposed to be and do. I now can’t separate the experience of knitting this shawl and reading Possession. Each were made richer by the other.


Many thanks to Karie Westermann for designing so wonderful and substantial a pattern to accommodate all this imagining!

P.S. Couldn’t stop at Possession. Read the Biographer’s Tale right after — warm and funny and exuberant and dreams, dreams, dreams! I’m now reading The Virgin in the Garden and dreams and nightmares and nightmares. Gosh I love A.S. Byatt. And knitting. Byatt uses lots of knitting metaphors by the way 🙂