Tag Archives: recycling

Mutt warmer

This is a common shape of a sleeping pet:

dogsweater-dogball

But this is the first dogball Rocco has made since he’s been with us since May.

I figured he’s getting chilly – he’s from South Carolina and perhaps has never seen snow, or been through the annoying shoulder seasons when it’s colder indoors than out.

dogsweater-trying-on

So I tossed on a felted/fulled thrift sweater on him for shits and he seemed to really like it. So I half-assedly started to make a dog sweater thinking he’d likely try to eviscerate it as soon as it was finished and I didn’t want to pour too much time and energy into it.

dogsweater-before

The sweater must have been a more recent (yes, from April or early May as seen here) acquisition since it was at the top of the wad on the floor and I know I liked the zipper and its reharvestable potential, and while the color isn’t my favorite, it goes well with greens and whatnot, so I think I was planning to make mittens and fingerless gloves out of the rest (I didn’t want to touch felted wool for most of the summer, so I haven’t thought about it much or dug out the rest of the felted stash to check for coordinates).

Rocco continues to be very difficult for us at times – I used to solidly stand by the statement that “there’s no such thing as a bad dog, just bad owners,” and while I still believe that is sometimes true, reactive “bad” dogs are very challenging and oh-so-slow to become “good” despite good constant and consistent training, expensive behaviorists, and medication.

But he’s made remarkable progress with obedience and communication and general fond companionship in the house (let’s not talk about the counter surfing though). I’ve just allowed him in my tiny upstairs workroom on supervised visits and he’s the dog friend I’d hoped to have – calmly lying in the only open space on the floor as I spin or dick around with fibery things. He also doesn’t mind the noise of the sewing machine (though the food processor and blender are still monsterly).

dogsweater-fitting

The back piece of the sweater seemed to be just about the same size as his back, so I cut it along the seams, and then cut a few pieces to use as straps. He was being unusually patient and non-wiggly throughout the whole fitting process so I risked safety-pinning it together and having him wear it for a few minutes and he seemed game and the fit was good enough.

dogsweater-velcro

I trimmed up the pieces to fit his contours a bit better, sewed both ends of the chest strap so it could go over his head, and sewed a piece of the grabby side of velcro to the body strap – it attaches to the felt easily so there was no need to use the other velcro half. (I also made sure there weren’t any pokey edges on the stiff velcro.)

dogsweater-model

And in a few minutes, he was happily wearing his new sweater.

dogsweater-long

And I think it’s got a bit of a thundershirt effect on him as well – he was noticeably a bit more relaxed wearing it – though it could have just been the novelty and coziness factor. I’ll wait and see how this one holds up or doesn’t get chewed before I knit one or sew something with better fit and coverage – he’s going to need it if we have a repeat of last year

(We got his DNA results back recently and found as we expected, he’s a Heinz mutt, but he’s got a Husky grandparent, so hopefully he can tap into that when the cold comes – and it’s likely the source of his markings, or else his black and tan came from a Cocker Spaniel grandparent… Definitely not the “Shepherd mix” the rescue claimed, nor the “Rottie mix” his original shelter claimed and the rescue whitewashed… so we’ll just settle on “Spaniel mix” since he’s got the most of it.)

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Green[bean]sleeves and more deturtling, desleeving

I don’t like wearing tank tops in public – I feel too naked – and our garden is on the side lot facing the street, so it is a bit too public once the neighbors and walkers are out and about.

But I also don’t like tan lines on my arms – a rare petty personal pet peeve of mine.

So I decided to increase my almost-but-not-quite-tank sleeveless shirt pile – now I have 3, and yes, they’re all in the wash, so I’d like to make a few more…

The last time I went a’thrifting, I picked up a couple of thin, lightweight, close-fitting but not too tight, long-sleeved t-shirts for a buck or less for the purpose of desleeving before I started chopping up shirts I already have in case it was an utter failure.

I used that shirt I overdyed last year (that hasn’t faded as much as I thought it would) as a guide for cutting the neck depth of the one to be deturtled.

greenbeansleeves-before

And stitched up the bagginess at the armhole with an ad hoc bust dart.

greenbeansleeves-during

And I have to say, the fit is good – maximum sunage with minimal neckedness – and the fabric (though evil and mass-produced likely in a sweatshop) is comfortable.

I didn’t finish the edges, and I don’t think I will – they roll slightly and it looks intentional.

greenbeansleeves-on

And I realized the cut off sleeves (with pit width reduced and stitched up) would make perfect bean rash guards.

greenbeansleeves-sleeve

They just look a bit silly when worn together, and they’re not perfect – the knit fabric snags the little bean prickles a bit more than the old man’s woven long-sleeved shirt I usually wear (the shirt is a button-down meant for a man and many years old, not a shirt off an old man’s back) but I can wad up these sleeves and leave them in a handy spot whereas the shirt is often on walkabout…

The turtle became a headband.

greenbeansleeves-headband

And the moon sliver left of the upper chest became an impromptu hair tie but will eventually make its way to the garden.

greenbeansleeves-scrap

The second shirt was a tighter fit, so no sewing was necessary, only satisfied snipping.

greenbeansleeves-2 before

And I’m left with a spare pair of beansleeves and more needed plant ties.

greenbeansleeves-2 after

I’m starting to think that none of my old favorite, but slightly too tight, t-shirts will be safe from the snipping now…

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More reused old sock-ish things…

I try not to generate much trash – I’m not aiming to fit a year’s worth in a mason jar – but I get itchy if there’s more than one small bag per week. Having a dog who generously marked in the house the first month challenged the trash quota, the paper towel quota, and my patience for all three. (I mostly use rags instead of paper towels, but I just can’t get past putting bodily fluids in the washing machine.) Add in my current desire to purge, and I was feeling trashy about having too much going into the landfill. (I think it’s a landfill…? I haven’t learned where it goes here yet.)

So I cut out the butt sides of blown out underwear to use as wood staining rags, unraveled that pair of socks, and put to very good use a few pairs of old tights, so what remained was just a fist-sized wad of flaccid waistbands and trimmings.

The tights were a mix of cotton, cotton blend, and synthetic.

july-tights ties

I cut them into loops thick and thin, used the thick for hair scrunchies, and the thin were snipped again to become plant ties.

july-tights ties bag

They’re working well with the plants (but they aren’t necessarily biodegradable though one pair was mostly cotton, so they’re not perfect) and I’m hoping they’ll hold up well enough to be re-used – the mostly cotton ones are stretching out a bit but can easily be re-tied.

tights-tomatoes

(I’m still cursing the former owners who used plastic zip ties on their tomato plants that were still left for us to tear out the following April – another example of their assholerly/cluelessness/dumbshitness that we had to clean up – and I’m still finding the occasional bits of plastic in the dirt two years later.)

tights-squash

And I need to do another sweep of the tights and stockings drawer to see if any can become squash slings now…

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From foot to face

I have a lot of socks – many, and the most frequently worn, are wool, and an equal number or more are cotton which I don’t wear much except the “sport” style for summer walking, more aged ones for home improvement/yard tasks, and a few decent ones for those scarce days that are too cool for bare feet but too warm for wool and perfect for thin wool (but I have the fewest of those). Most are leftover from work and my days of living without a washing machine wherein quality of life meant fewer trips to the laundromat.

But I’m getting more and more organized and for shits and giggles konmaried the whole lot. Folding*, that is – socks don’t spark much joy so I keep them until they’re 100% unwearable/unmendable so I haven’t had to buy new ones in ages, and I still appreciate the broken-down ones.

But I was left with a couple of pairs of 25+ year-old cotton and wool socks that have never quite served a purpose – too much cotton for cold outdoors activities (cotton can kill and/or loose toes), but too thick for warm ones, and not enough wool for warmth and elasticity. (The wool is the thinner grey-brown strand of the marl.)

So I finally decided to kill, rather than darn, a pair with blown-out heels.

foot face-before

But the yarn of the cuff felt nearly perfect still, and useful for something

foot face-unraveling

So I cut it above the worst of the heel, and it unraveled well from the bottom up.

foot face-elastic

(It also had an annoying near-invisible thread of elastic that I painstakingly picked out.)

foot face-balls

And I was left with a couple of good-sized balls of enough yards to become something.

I didn’t want it to be socks again, nor any other wearable thing, but it hit me that the blend would be perfect for washcloths/dish cloths.

So I cast on for Grandmother’s Favorite dish cloth and knit to 68 stitches wide on US 4 needles

foot face-during

The fabric ended up being better than I’d expected – lovely natural colors and good drape.

foot face - after

So I started on a second, and will try to salvage some yardage from the worse for wear (mostly pilled) feet for a third.

They might be too “nice” for the dishes now though…

*The folded socks ended up returning to their more fluid balled state shortly thereafter – if the drawer isn’t overstuffed, it doesn’t really matter how they go in as long as they’re paired.

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Early harvests

I’m having a hard time to adjusting to being sans job this time around. The last time it happened, I had to hurry up and deal with the sale of our old house and all of the packing up, storing, and moving to the next state over, so too much was going on to really feel the break. But this time, I’ve been getting up and going into my home office every day since we’ve lived here and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m slacking off if I’m not sitting at my desk. Though if I sit at my desk and try to do something mildly constructive like write a bit about fiber or put up some ebay listings, I’ll easily forget my train of thought. Or the dog starts to act nutty…

harvest - not a pastry

Or I’ll wander off for a snack and see a paper bag in the kitchen and think maybe I have a forgotten tasty sandwich or chocolate croissant ready to surprise and delight me with deliciousness but then remember it was just some random bit of home improvement I picked up at the hardware store a few hours previously…

But I’m trying to find a new rhythm and hopefully in another week or so things will lean to normal. (Though I started writing this over a week ago, so maybe I’d better hope for another few weeks or so…)

harvest garden full

The garden is finally fully planted and/or germinated. The only total failure so far was fennel, and I’m in a current aphid war in one tomato bed, but not the other, yet.

(The neighbors also just rebuilt their retaining wall near the property line – thanks neighbor, well done!)

May’s dirt is a time of impatience then sudden chaos – one day I’m thinning baby greens…

harvest - fresh greens

And enjoying their first meal-sized portion after N’s culinary intervention:

harvest - greens pasta

And then in a few days, we have a sudden, aggressive bounty of lusty, verdant young adults…

harvest rapini

And we’ll be crowded with green, barely able to keep up, but reluctant to share, for weeks (fingers crossed).

Gardening and unruly dog handling have left my wrists sore, so I’ve done little to no knitting, spinning, and sewing. (Worrying about the dog chewing up or swallowing fiber tools has also curtailed my activities – I can’t leave anything lying about at the ready as I’m wont to do.) But I hit the thrift one last time in the early spring to gather up some yarn-harvestable sweaters before they disappeared for the season.

harvest - bag o sweaters

One was a lovely olive wool/cashmere? blend – I already misplaced the label as that is one of the things I often leave out while unraveling. But I think this might become a Paris Toujours instead of the brown cashmere I’d planned, though I’ve a hundred yards or so less of the olive. This yarn begs for something garter-stitch-squishy though (and I’m thinking of a poncho-like thing in the brown instead… maybe.)

harvest olive yarn

And another was a printed cotton/rayon cardigan. I’d been wanting to play with a printed knit that would turn into variegated yarn, but I hadn’t finished the thought as to what I’d do with it. The kinks remained after washing – likely because of the rayon? but that doesn’t matter too much, since I’ll likely double or triple it with something else or itself. And I can’t accurately count the yardage to save my life…

harvest - printed yarn

The others are wool and wool or cotton blends – I went out of my comfort zone a bit in order to get some interesting yarns and have some wool-free options if I ever get around to selling things (either the harvested yarn or something made from it). And several of these were less than ideal since they were cardigans with cut and stitched buttonholes, so one panel is left on several that will need to be sewn into something, or if I’m desperate, I could still harvest a dozen or so yards between the holes.

(Of course I still have dozens of other sweaters waiting to be unraveled as well, but those are still packed up – much easier to just find new ones…)

 

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Lost on the stairs

I’m quite proud of all of my hand-refinished oak floors in the house.

And I like our cheap-fix painted basement floor – so much so, I’m not even thinking of what we’ll do to improve it in the long run.

But the basement stairs – those still really sucked.

stairs-way before

This was the state of things when we first bought the house – a toxic green tunnel leading roughly down into a cheap-paneled hellhole.

The unpainted/unsealed stairs and balusters were likely put in about a decade and a half ago when the original owners received a grant from the town to improve safety in the home. (At the time they also had a one-story drop off from the back door as well…) The wood used on the treads is a soft pine and is well-dented, gashed, and full of too-wide nail heads.

I thought about re-finishing (or finishing for the first time) the treads anyway, but the wood really sucked. I thought about painting them, and prepped and primed them to do so, but the color I picked out was too dark, and a lighter color was going to be too light, and the wood was still shit, so painting it would just be painting over shit, which would make it look like painted shit, which is only marginally better… And then I wanted to carpet them. I hate carpeting except on basement stairs. It’s a practical thing because I’m a klutz and most likely to fall on basement stairs and I don’t clean the basement often enough so carpet helps to trap dust and sawdust and whatnot from being tracked up into the house. So I went shopping for the cheapest, not too light, not too dark, low-pile grey carpet and didn’t find anything that would cost less than $100 which was my top limit on the project. (I wasn’t able to find a cheap remnant place around here either…) My next option was to find cheap jute or rag rugs to “carpet” the stairs, or else a fairly wide runner to cover up most of the painted shit – and though I came close, most options still topped off at or over $100, though those would have been nicer than cheap grey carpet. For half a minute, I considered weaving something myself, but since I don’t own much of a loom, that put me way over my budget, and then I considered knitting, sewing, or felting something, but that would mean I still wouldn’t have something covering up the stairs for at least another 7 to 10 years…

So clearly, I was craving a challenge for something super cheap and somewhat interesting, and with color but not too colorful, and light but not so light that every dirt clod would show, and somewhat fast.

Decoupage was my answer, my cheap savior.

63050463502674595_HcReHRQr_c

For a moment, I wanted to use fabric, but as much as I love the above, my fabric stash isn’t so vast and a little too precious for the floor.

Then I looked hard at the paper bag floor. There are many, many tales of successes and surprises (hi Grackle & Sun, I bumped into yours!) and techniques and alternates with colored kraft paper and red rosin and the like… But I didn’t want brown – I love brown, but there is enough of it in the house already, and I didn’t want just one color, or one stair in one color and another in another, in a motley sort of way…

So how about paper maps?

stair papering-test

I had a few too many in my car, so I made a test step.

stairs-with shoes

(The obligatory shoes with something on a floor pic I would have posted on my instagram if I had a smartphone of my own and posted regularly and ironically.)

I let it dry, gave it a coat of poly, let that dry, and in a few days deemed it successful.

stairs-edge

I started decoupaging all of the edges first – I used the map’s edge against the riser and tread’s edge to mimic the look of a runner and reign in the scrappy visual chaos a bit.

stairs-during

After the edges were all framed out, I tried to do a couple of treads and risers every evening, and in the morning, I’d give them one coat of poly. This made the stairs still functional for a few hours a day…

stairs-up left

And after a week, I was done, and gave the whole thing another coat of poly.

stairs-up right

Though I still need to do another coat… and perhaps one more on the treads only after that, but maybe not…

stairs-top

I’m quite pleased – the transition from our lovely upstairs oak to the painted cement works – casual but not too crude – and the subject is appropriate for our basement library too…

stairs-down down

The functionality is good – not too slick in sock feet, but it might be a bit slick for dog paws, so we still might need a runner at some point.

stairs-texture

Since the map paper is thin, and I used a self-leveling poly, the texture of the wood still shows through – I like that it does.

stairs-equipment

And the final cost?

About $13.00!

(Because we only needed more poly)

The nitty gritty: I used plain paper maps – the kind you get from AAA – I could brag about recycling and whatnot, but I’ll spare you. The glue for the decoupage was some fancier acid-neutral PVA leftover from my book repair and binding years (roughly 15) ago. It was fairly lumpy, but still usable, and I cut it with water maybe at a 1:3 ratio – but mostly it was globbing some in a yogurt cup, filling it with water halfwayish, and stirring it somewhat until it looked milky. I brushed it on the back of a torn piece of map with one of my old fancy oil painting brushes, positioned it on the stair, and brushed over it again. I couldn’t brush it or re-position it too much or it would tear. I tried to distribute colors and leave meaningful places in visible spots, but after the first step or two, it was a  geographic free-for-all except for color distribution. It was also very uncomfortable for me to be sitting on a step in a spinal twist, so even if I wanted to work on bigger chunks at a time, it was painful, so spreading it out over a week worked for me. I used a triple-thick, self-leveling, satin finish polyurethane and I’d brush on the first coat about 24 hours after the decoupage to insure it was well-dried (our basement currently has about 50% RH).  After the whole thing was decoupaged and had its first coat of poly, I coated the whole shebang again. I am about to put on a third coat. And I might put on a fourth just on the treads. We already had about a half of a quart on hand, so when it’s all said and done, it probably took about a quart and a half.

Some things to consider: the acid-neutral glue I used will not yellow (I can’t say the same for standard white school glue – I think that stuff might yellow) and the water-based poly should not yellow either (oil-based most certainly will). I don’t know if the map paper is acid-free or not, so that could yellow though it is no longer exposed to air, and the stairs were sealed with primer, so they shouldn’t leach too much yellow-inducing acid either. I like the triple-thick poly because you don’t have to use as much and the coats go on thick enough that you can safely sand between them if so desired – but it goes on translucent and if left too thick, could dry with a bit of a milky haze – again, not a problem since the maps had a white base, but if it was dark surface, I’d be more careful about thinner coats. (But generally for wood that stays wood, I only use oil-based products – yellowing only adds depth and richness over time.)

And how will it wear?

It should be fine – the same as poly over finished wood – it will scratch and gouge under extreme circumstances, and will eventually need to be re-coated. If there’s a particularly bad spot, I can patch it with more map. Dirt can be swept/vacuumed up and ick can be wiped up with a damp cloth. You could probably even decoupage the whole thing just with poly instead of glue, but it would be messier, dry more quickly making re-positioning harder, and perhaps the paper might dry more translucent instead, but I’ve no idea.

I’m eyeing a few other things in the basement that could benefit from some decoupage now too…

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Of politics and pests – a rant

We all know fast fashion is wrong on all counts – bad for workers, bad for the environment, bad for our psyche, and bad for covering up nakedness with its tendency toward wardrobe malfunctions due to poor quality and construction. But like fast food, it is affordable, yet it doesn’t seem as evil as a hormone/antibiotic/shit laced 99 cent burger. If you are poor, you can still buy new clothes that don’t make you look poor and they won’t give you diabetes or make you obese.

But you can also shop in thrift stores.

But this isn’t always the answer – many thrifts accept and stock absolute shit, sizing can be difficult, not everyone has the ability to repair items, or the thrifts are frequently more expensive than the fast fashion shop.

I’ve bitched about this before – a thrift prices something like a Thomas Thrillfingers sweater at $19.99 because it is a “brand” name. And it has holes and unidentifiable stains and looks a decade or two out of date – of course even I would choose a $12.99 sweater from Aging Army if that were my best option. Or Goodwills in my area price all sweaters at $8.99 regardless of holes, shrunkeness, goo, and fugliness – and tend to have lower-quality clothes to begin with – you couldn’t pay me $8.99 to own a faded acrylic sweater from the bigbox (actually you could – I’d do many things for money).

And as a recycler of wool yarn, I’m usually not going to pay more than a few bucks for something I’m going to take apart and not know until I’m doing it if it will successfully come apart or have to turn into felt scraps or stuffing, so I suspend my own strong opinions about religion and politics and choose to shop at a nearby Salvation Army over Goodwills and Red White and Blues and some odd and expensive independent ones because the prices are generally good for decent-quality used shit (and very good on the half-off days).

SA’s mission statement couldn’t be a stronger bushel of garlic to me if I’m going with a a vampire metaphor which doesn’t make sense in this context and I really love garlic, but people and things that do and say such things are utterly abhorrent to me – charity need not come with dogma. Yet, I know that they have fed and sheltered many in communities I care about, so I suspend my anti-evangelising standards when I shop there knowing that some part of my donation (though I’m sure not as much as I’d like) is going into bellies and blankets.

But it turns out this last line:

“…meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

has been utter bullshit in dealing with LGTB employees over the last few years. I mean it’s not surprising because hello, “christian” organization, but somehow I’ve missed the news… And perhaps and hopefully they’ve cleaned up their act and do practice what they preach now, but it’s made me a much less frequent visitor over the past few months.

So I re-entered the smeary doors of this grand palace of abandoned things recently after a long hiatus and during a stressful time. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular – I have enough of everything at the moment – but I was looking for “thrift therapy.” (I can’t stomach other’s “shopping therapy” even though it’s essentially the same thing, just massively cheaper.) But it is a form of hunting, a time of touching pleasant fabrics (and accidentally some not so), imagining stories of others, nostalgia wormholes, and jackpot thrills…

I found a great mid-century enameled casserole dish and a huge grey sweater that should result in enough yarn to make myself a confidently ass-clearing one.

casserole and sweater

But then I think I found a bedbug.

At the time, I didn’t think it was – it was bigger and flatter than pictures I’d seen, and it was staring up at me from the shoulder of a silk blouse I was about to snatch up to examine. I still haven’t gotten a new vision prescription, so in order to take a good look at it, I took off my glasses and shoved my face six inches from it, but then realized that if it were anything evil, I should be more than six inches away from it, so I backed off and left, first vigorously shaking the sweater I still wanted to buy. But I thought it was more likely a baby stinkbug or something along those lines, though once I got home and looked up buggy mugs, I’m not sure what it was…

But bugs are always a thrift risk and I prefer to buy textiles and clothing only during the coldest and warmest months so I can freeze them outdoors or keep in my trunk to bake for several days before shaking them out and immediately washing. But even though I live in the east where bedbugs are probably here to stay and the thought of them makes me squirm a little if I ever feel an itch in a NYC theater, I’ve mostly just been concerned with moths and carpet beetles – two known enemies I’ve treated and controlled and eradicated over the years. Bedbugs are a foe I don’t wish to take on – I know no one does unless for scientific reasons, but they have definitely given me pause for my next thrift venture.

And I am to the point where I’m happily shopping my own yarn and fabric stash and finding what I need (although superwash is getting low) from my shelves and boxes and closets most of the time, but I do miss the calming time vortex of combing through someone else’s old fibery discards.

Next time, after the cootie heebie jeebies subside, I’ll give the Goodwills around here another look…

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