Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Greenwick candles

When I was a young thing, we made candles.  Taper candles.  It is a fun process, most definitely, and a worthwhile activity for youngsters.  (We used paraffin wax, which does not burn if it is touched by curious fingers.  It is definitely hot, but no harm done.)  Recently I got it into my head that I should use my old skills and make some candles, but also do the wicks by hand.  So two days ago I got out the wax and cotton, and had some fun.  Here are the results:

I think they look rather classy hanging off of my monitor.  (Maybe not so classy, but it was a convenient place to put them while I looked for a permanent home.)  The candles on the left were made with green cotton yarn (Puffy stuff that is wrapped with thread.) and the ones on the right were made with white string that had been made into a rope.  The ones on the right turned out to be failures.  :/

This was taken yesterday when I decided to move them.  It doesn't take so long for them to cool down, but I prefer not to take any chances with warm wax.  (It does take awhile to make such things, and I have no desire to see them get bent out of shape.)  The green wicked candles are 4.5" long and 0.5" wide, and the shorter ones are 4" long and 0.5" wide

 Size comparison.  (No, my hand isn't huge.) These are very cute and small.

Okay, picture time is over.  Now on to the details of how well they've worked.  First, the mistakes.

I said the ones on the right were failures.  I made the error of using leftover string from bags of cat litter, since they rarely have a use for me and this was only experimental.  They seemed very cottonish and I was fooled.  Please be warned:  Never trust unsourced fibers.  I will try this with cotton thread later, but my intuition tells me that it was the fiber.  (Have you ever seen thread melt?  The flame leaps up and the fiber doubles over like a sick person.  Natural fibers don't do that.)

The candles on the left work rather well.  I'll have to find a better container for the wax - one that is tall but narrow.  A short and narrow can leads to the problem of diminishing wax, which means that the top of th candles taper slowly, rather than quickly.  This means that when the wick is first starting to burn, it burns very quickly and the flame is uneven.  Not very pleasant.  once it settled down, however, the burn was very nice.

In all, these candles burn nicely once they get started.  Once I have a taller wax container, these should burn much more evenly.  They will also be great for people who want to let a candle burn itself out, for whatever reason they may do so.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Shirt revamp

We are participating in the Homemade Artist's Forum shirt revamp competition, which can be found here.  The project seems simple on the outset - take a shirt, any shirt, and upgrade it.  The shirt must be a previously existing one, and the artist can turn it into anything.

After much thought, we will be turning a red shirt into a parasol.  The process has been entertaining, because there isn't a spare umbrella in the house (It is always raining and windy here, and umbrellas don't do well with lots of wind.)

Here is the list of materials I will be using for this parasol:
1 red shirt
1 ball of multicolored yarn
1 coil of wire (Not certain of the gauge, this was gifted to me from someone who lost the labeling info)
Approximately 2 yards of gold and black woven trim
Square piece of black lace, approximately 16" by 16"

Here is the shirt to be revamped:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I love to cook, in case you couldn't tell from the slowly growing collection of cooking posts on this blog.  But cooking is so good and relaxing (When things aren't going wrong, anyway.)

Anyway, I just wanted to mention anise to you today.  I used to think that I hated anise, because all I'd ever tasted it in was licorice or cookies.  And indeed, anise as a flavoring is truly disgusting.  But the actual plant is rather tasty.

Recommended:  Chopped anise with onions, carrots and other vegetables.  Possibly add some amino acids, but avoid balsamic vinegar.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Balsam Poplar

After much figuring things out, we have discovered that a giant tree which was felled near our place is a Balsam Poplar (Apparently some sort of cottonwood, but we haven't seen any of the bits of snow-like white debris on this street.)  The whole wooded area is supposed to be developed into a natural park, which is not at all bad when compared to the leveling of wild areas in order to put in businesses and the like.  However, it was unnecessary, and so I find it appalling.  I have collected several branches from the tree, and also have pictures.  Lots of pictures.

This was taken while standing on the base of the tree.  All that open space you see was not actually open space before.  They let the giant tree fall and knock down many trees behind it.

This was from a little over the half-way point.  You can see the top of the tree. You can also see some of the trees behind it that have knocked into each other.  All along the trunk of this tree were also both knocked over trees and lots of branches, so it was hard to tell what was what.

These are my feet standing on the trunk, so you can get a sense of how large it was.

And my foot against one of the places where the branches was connected.  It is big enough for two of my feet at least.  (I would have stood on it, but the weather was wet and I would most likely have slipped.  I wasn't sure how far the ground was below me, since it was covered with a mass of branches, but I'm pretty sure there was water underneath, and I didn't want to risk running into snakes or rats or whatnot.)

For more size comparison, here are some of the other trees around.  Not sure how tall they are, but these are no more thick than some of the branches on the felled poplar.

And now facing toward the opening of the woods, this was taken about a quarter of the way.  You can see next to it at the very end a regular sized tree.  I'm sad that I didn't get a picture of the actual stump, because now it is totally rotted, thanks to the northwestern rain.

I have more, but I think I'll end it with this last one.  This is what is happening to the right of the tree.  The tree stump is to the left of the path, and was completely out of the way.  There are other trees that are larger than this one in my city that are hard wood.  And these trees come right up to the edge of main roads.  After peeling away bark on some of the branches and inspecting the tree, it seemed in perfect good health.  So, in my humble opinion, this was unnecessary destruction of a relatively old tree.

While I'm glad that all the trees haven't been taken down, I don't believe that rearranging nature for entertainment is a fabulous use of resources.

Natural remedies

There are millions of natural remedies for every problem humanity has, whether real or imagined.  If you are trying to avoid chemicals, then look for these:

Olbas' Pastilles Maximum Strength Cough Drops:  If you have a sore throat, these are phenomenal.  They are made with many kinds of mint and other oils.  They are very strong, in flavor, but they do work.  They also do not dry out the mouth like some cough drops.  I find them useful also for colds.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How to use a needle

I've worked in a few different fabric stores before, and I was amazed at the many customers who came in and didn't know how to make any craft at all.  What is worse, they often didn't know basic sewing techniques.  To me this is a great shame.  Clothes and other fabric items can be easily saved or improved by stitchery.  If you were never blessed with instruction, I hope to help here.

First, you need a needle. Before the 20th century, needles were passed on from mothers to children.  (We hope to offer old fashioned needles at some point in time.  Just need to get the right tool to make them.)  Now you can buy very inexpensive needles that you can feel free to lose all over the place, so please get a pair and keep them. 

Multi-packs have needles for all sorts of different tasks, but just like the forks at a fancy dinner, there is no reason to panick.  If you have a coarse fabric, use a thicker one.  If you have a fine fabric, go thinner.  If your thread is thick, then the fabric doesn't matter because you need a thicker needle.  Thin thread can go into either.

You can thread by looking at the needle or use one of those nifty threaders.  In a cheap sewing pack, this will be a thin embossed piece of metal (Looks like an 18th century lady) with a diamond-shaped sprig of metal on one side.  Simply poke the sprig through the eye of the needle (The hole opposite the pointy end), insert the thread into the sprig, and then pill the threader back through the other side.  Voila.  (Warning: You can break the sprig and/or needle if the thread is too thick.)

Later on, I'll post examples of some basic stitches that are very useful for repairs.  For now, get to know your needles.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Steam and fry

If you are like me, you have never had much love for green vegetables.  Or cooked carrots.  Or any vegetable but cooked broccoli with cheese sauce.  (Mmm...cheese.)

Here is a tip to cook vegetables so they taste good:  First, cook them in a pan with oil and water.  The water will steam them and then the oil will crisp them immediately.  (If you cut fat out of your diet you're going to need to get it from somewhere, and olive oil is still relatively cheap.  I will post later on different types of oils and their benefits.)  If you use frozen vegetables, the water is not exactly required, but may be great if you have fresh and frozen mixed together.

A second tip is to get some amino acids.  I detest green beans and have had a bad relationship with carrots, but I actually crave both of those things now that I've been cooking them with amino acids.  If you don't want to use amino acids (Or soy or tamari), then try balsamic vinegar.  Try all kinds of nifty sauces and stocks.  Sauce is the key to changing your relationship with icky healthy foods.