Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More About Soap and Saving Money

I got a lot of response to my soap recipe. It was one of the topics of conversation at open knitting last night at DE and it seems that people are willing to try it! But apparently washing soda is not available as easily as I thought. Here in Minnesota you can get it in some grocery stores but not all of them. I did some googling and found that in some areas of the country it is very hard to get. Washing soda is sodium carbonate, baking soda is sodium bicarbonate – they are not the same thing. But one on line source said that you can get sodium carbonate at pool supply stores. Haven’t checked but it’s worth checking if you’re in one of those areas that doesn’t seem to have the Arm and Hammer brand. And as always call ahead and see if a store carries what you want rather than driving all around to find it. Even though gas has come down in price it still costs money to go from store to store.

One other thing that I forgot to mention about the laundry soap, put it in the washer and let it dissolve before putting your clothes in. And the original recipe called for grated Fels Naptha soap but I used both my homemade soap and a couple of bars of hotel soap and it works just fine. I can’t make more homemade soap until I find a source of lye – the stores don’t carry it anymore because there are people that make bad things with it. Grrrr. It was fun to make – as long as I followed the directions exactly. I did have one batch where I mistook the temperature and started combining ingredients at too high a temp – big mess. Good thing that was in our old kitchen and it didn’t matter too much.

I just thought I’d mention one other cost savings I know about. Some of you make your own bread like I do and need to buy yeast. I was in the local grocery store with my son and since he expressed interest in making some bread I thought I would encourage him and buy him some yeast. Not at those prices!! I’ve always bought my yeast either through school or at Sam’s Club now that I’m not working for school lunch any more. So I did a little price comparison. It was about a dollar and a half for 3 tiny packets of yeast or 4 something for a 4 oz. jar at the grocery store. Yesterday I did my shopping at Sam’s Club and bought 2 pounds (yes I did buy 2 pounds – it lasts a long time. Just keep it in the freezer after you open the brick). Sam’s Club price was $4.16 for the two one pound bricks. That’s 8 times the yeast for about the same price as the 4 oz. bottle!! And I was asked recently why I still shop at Sam’s Club even though there are only two of us to shop for! Actually the main reason that I keep up my membership is that the price of hearing aid batteries is half of what I can find anywhere else. That pays for my membership right there. I would caution you that some prices at Sam’s are not as good as what you can find elsewhere – soda pop comes to mind. Again, you need to balance driving from one store to another with the savings that you can get. We usually do a big Sam’s Club run about once a month or we stop in if we are in the area anyway.

I'll leave you with a fun video that I found. And I'm not even a dog person!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Don't Try to Eat This One

I've been on a frugality kick lately. As has much of the world it seems. I read several frugality blogs and have read some books about thriftiness. I really recommend the Complete Tightwad Gazette - I found it in the library and then I loved it so much I actually bought my own copy!

I've tried various things and today I'm going to tell you about laundry. The Compadre hasn't totally come on board on this one. We've been hanging our laundry up to dry since early last summer and during the summer it was kind of fun even. The Campadre rigged up a pulley system laundry line so that I wouldn't have to do as many stairs to hang up laundry and it worked well. It's frosted with ice right now and so I really don't want to go out and take its picture - you'll have to imagine it. But now that it's winter we have been using two wooden racks to hang our laundry. There are only two of us and we do about 3 loads of laundry per week. This probably wouldn't work for a large family. And the Compadre isn't sure it works for us! But I can manage to dry a loads worth of laundry on my two contraptions and sometimes it only takes one rack to dry a load. And it really only takes minutes to hang it up. I'm not sure how much the savings are. If you have an electric dryer it's much more than my gas dryer, but any savings is good and besides I'm saving the planet too!

A couple of weeks ago I really got crazy about the laundry thing. I read a couple of blog posts about making your own laundry soap and thought "I can do that". So I googled recipes and read about it and even asked at open knitting. I learned to my surprise that Kelly has been making her own laundry soap for years! Who knew? So I tried it and I'm here to tell you it isn't hard and it does work. And there is a bonus! Those clothes that I hang up to dry used to dry hard and crunchy but now they are much softer. I must say that I like my towels to be crunchy - not all of you do. Some people put the clothes that they want softer into the dryer for a couple of minutes to soften them up if they air dry them.

So here is how I made my laundry soap. I decided to make dry powdered soap - there are recipes for the liquid stuff but I didn't want a 5 gallon pail of slimy stuff sitting around my laundry room - call me squeamish I guess. Maybe I'll try it someday if the powdered stuff starts to cake up on me in the summer. Anyway, the recipe is 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup washing soda and 1 cup grated (or ground in the food processor) soap. One of the sites I looked at suggested that this was a good use for all those little soaps that you might have collected from hotels. I have lots of them - pack rat that I am. I also have some soap that I've made myself but that's a story for another time. When you use this laundry soap you only need to use one tablespoon for a normal load and 2 or 3 tablespoons if you have a very dirty load. It also doesn't suds like the tide that I used to use and so that would be good if you have one of those front loading washers. If you try the recipe and decide it's for you, you can double or triple the recipe easily. By the way, I already had the washing soda but the borax was $3.98 at my grocery store and it will last a long long time. Interestingly the person right before me took a box off of the shelf and there were so few that I had to ask a stock boy to reach one of the few left way in the back of the top shelf. Making your own laundry soap must be trendy, right?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Crankin' Out Socks

The last two Saturdays I've gone to sock machine get togethers. That means that I've been crankin' out socks! A small group of us get together about once a month to keep ourselves going on the sock machine. Funny how when you don't have some accountability you "just never get around" to using your machine. I hadn't actually touched it since way before Christmas! I made 2 pairs of socks at our small group get together a week and a half ago and one of them was for a commission. Woo, hoo, I got paid to make a pair of socks. My friend bought the yarn and then I made them on the machine for her. The yarn is Tye dye socks and it just happened that it matched like that. The other pair is from a cone of brown sheep sock yarn that I got last summer.

Then last Saturday we had the St. Cloud sock machine get together that Deb organizes. Deb showed us how to make cording or i-cord on the machine. Basically you remove all but 3-5 needles and crank it around and around with the yarn in the heel spring. I made a little coaster with my cord. I can think of lots of uses for this, but the drawback is that it's time consuming to sew the cord together. Then I put all the needles back in and made another pair of socks. Many of the people that come to this event are new sock machine knitters and Deb and Pete are always busy helping everyone.

The machine that I used in St. Cloud is a new one to me. I bought it last fall from an ad on the sock machine list and I'm very happy with it. Both of my machines are 1922 Gearharts so the parts should be interchangeable - as much as antique parts are. This means that I can have one of my machines set up with a 72 slot cylinder for fine sock yarn and the new one set up with a 60 slot cylinder for heavier yarn. The machine made some fine looking socks! These are made with yarn that I dyed with easter egg dye. I haven't mastered the ribber yet so all my socks are made with hems. But I like them that way. The few times I've used the ribber it seemed just as fiddly as when I've made hem top socks. And yes - they do stay up without ribbing!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

That Hat

I've been knitting away here. It seems to be the craft of the month for me. But I signed up for a weaving class that starts next week and I'm hoping they get another student so that the class will happen. I've had my floor loom for many years now and it's time that I put it into use. It's been taking up space for long enough. I took a weaving class a long long time ago - maybe 20 years ago - and I can't remember much from it. Any way, if the class goes, then weaving will have to take over from knitting for a time because it's an intensive class.

I've started several projects and finished a hat. I'm teaching a class called "knit along with Ann" at Double Ewe and we're all making the Rambling Rows Afghan (ravelry link) a Cottage Creations pattern. I didn't look at the finished sizes before starting mine in the size large and so I'm going to end up with an afghan that will fit the top of our bed! My first clue should have been the large quantities of yarn required but I was on a mission to bust some stash and didn't think about it. I even had to buy more yarn than what I had because I'm making it in acrylic so it's washable and I just didn't have as much of it as I thought. I gave away a lot of it over the years. This one better get finished, otherwise I'll have actually added to the acrylic stash! I've also started a super secret project. It's something I'm test knitting and all I can tell you is that I'm really enjoying knitting it. And I'm making it blue.

But I can show you the hat that I made.

I've been getting a lot of use out of it with our waaaay below zero temperatures this week. The yarn is Ivy and it's alpaca and merino so the hat is very warm and it has just a little bit of glitter. Kelly designed it and the pattern is free at the shop or online. It's the kind of hat that stays on your head but doesn't mash your hair down. Perfect. And it was fun to knit besides.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Let's Talk About UFO's

Or also known as unfinished objects. Actually I’d rather not but ever since I mentioned the possibility of me working my pile of them down, the Compadre has been cackling with glee! He’s been trying to interpret my rash statements in his own way for his own purposes. He of course doesn’t see any reason to start another project when you haven’t finished the one you are working on. He just doesn’t understand at all. So let it be known that I have been getting things done – you’ve seen that in my previous posts and also let it be known that since that last rash statement everything that I’ve started I’ve finished. And I’ve resurrected a very old sweater project and am making progress on it. But I reserve the right to make my own rules. That means that when I’m working on a big, long term project, I can start something else – a girl has to stay sane you know. I made a list of as many UFO’s as I could remember (and I have kept running across more since then) and the number is awesome. And some of them are unfinished quilts!!

So, here are some more knits that I finished for Christmas. I actually made three of these Bulky Cable scarves. They are so cool – you can tuck one end through the “hole” that’s made by the cable crossing and then the scarf stays on. And made with bulky alpaca and merino yarn they are so warm. I hope the nieces like them and that they keep them warm on the cold treks between classes. This pattern is one that I got with a kit that I bought from Bella Lana, a yarn store that was demonstrating at the Knitter’s Guild. I don’t know if the pattern is available elsewhere but it’s just an easy braided cable done with bulky yarn on size 17 needles. Fun and fast. Oh, and the third of these scarves – it’s mine and it's done.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Third Knit of Christmas

Well, Christmas is long past now and so I need to get busy and show you the rest of the knitting I did. This project was requested many months ago and in fact I originally intended to give it to Peter for his birthday last fall. That didn’t happen and so it moved to urgent Christmas knitting since a winter ski hat needs to be used for the ski season! Peter chose the colors and the pattern and so he knew about the project but didn’t see the finished result until Christmas – that was why I didn’t want to blog about it. I knew that Peter reads this blog.

This was my first successful project with stranded knitting. The St. Moritz Hat made with Brown Sheep Nature Spun sport weight yarn. The hat is made from a Dale of Norway pattern and let’s just say that there are not a lot of words to explain what to do (it is in English though). I think that the main reason that I procrastinated so much was that I was intimidated by the idea of doing colorwork. I shouldn’t have been. I had a lot of fun knitting this hat and learning the new technique of two handed color work knitting. I used the video at Philosopher’s wool to learn the technique and the gracious help of Mary (knittingchemist on ravelry). I did catch the floats every other stitch on most rows – exept for the pesky 3 color row – so that there aren’t many long floats to catch on things. Once I got the method down I had lots of fun – but I noticed that my tension is a little wonky in places. I got better as I went and the wonky tension did even out with blocking. I hope you don’t mind Peter that you basically got a beginner project with this hat! My sister reports that he is enjoying wearing it on their ski vacation.

I’m looking forward to making more projects that involve stranded knitting. Maybe not a sweater quite yet but mittens are looking good.