More Big Knitting

Knitted Footstool

I bought this footstool at our local ReStore (Habitat for Humanity resale store).  It cost me about $30.

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I cut pieces of foam for the stool.

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I cut the legs down and sanded off the finish.  Then I stained the legs with an ebony-colored stain.

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Stained stool base

I dyed some plain white medium weight woven cotton to nice mottled gray color with RIT dye to make a lining for the knitted cover I’m making.  I took some measurements and determined how to cut the

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The foam is a bit larger than the top surface of the stool base.  I folded the fabric in half, twice to find the center and then I drew the half of the estimated foam size in the middle of one half of the fabric (picture below is fabric folded in half).  I then extended the lines to the edges of the fabric piece. (Note: from my drawings and calculations, I knew that the fabric piece was approximately the total width and length I would need to cover the top surface of the stool and go down the sides).  After adding a half inch for seam allowances, at each corner.

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After cutting out the corners, I had the following piece of fabric, which is shaped almost like a plus sign.

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I sewed the corners together.  I still need to staple down the sewn cover.  I will then use it to measure the progress of my knitting.  I am using Mondo yarn from Berroco in a lovely gray color for the knitted cover.  Currently, I have about 1 long side of knitting completed, part of which is shown in the following photo:

Stool fabric, knitting etc

I will update this when I’m finished.

I also have a second stool in waiting for another knitting replacement cover.

 

 

Working on the House

I’ve been busy.  I went to Kentucky twice to see my oldest daughter.  She graduated last Sunday with a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and poised to take a job as a teacher for pre-school or Kindergarden for next Fall.  Meanwhile, she works at a private school for daycare/camp over the summer.  My younger daughter is finishing High school and had her first of two Proms tonight.

I’ve also been looking at job ads and planing a 3 part approach to income:  a local part time job, an Etsy store, and a writing (poetry and children’s books to keep it small for awhile). In addition to trying to build inventory and work on my art/writing skills, I’m cleaning up the house and getting rid of stuff.  Also, I’m trying to make the house more functional.  My bathtub was cleaned up several weeks ago.  And then, I filled it with curing soap.

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The picture above is a small sampling.  I had these racks and racks of soap and no room to wash my hand knits.  I moved some to the shelf across from the shower and realized that wasn’t going to do it.  It wasn’t enough room and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe less humidity would be better.

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So, I took an old shoe rack and mounted it on the wall with these copper brackets from the plumbing aisle at Home Depot.

 

I used these E-Z Ancor wall anchors because they worked by just hammering the anchor into the wall.  I chose them to cut out some steps.  As you can see from the photo, I was moderately successful with the anchors.  But since I didn’t check for studs that may have been the issue.  The anchors do split while you’re “nailing” them in if they run into too much resistance.

In the end, I have this great rack for drying and curing soaps in a cool dry room.

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And even though I won’t make soap to sell, I will continue to make soap for personal use, friends, and family.  I really love making it.  Its such a fun transformation to watch and play with.

So, I am slowly emptying out our storage units.  Plus, I am working towards some employment goals.  I will try and continue to add a blog post here and there.  Keep you up to date on my progress and add a pet picture once in awhile.

 

 

 

Bethandjune

 

 

This child just graduated High School.  The cat is still around-he survived the awkward hold just fine (its not as bad as it looks).  He’s our orange striped cat.

Save me from Pinterest

I am cruising Pinterest and I found these great ideas for bracelets. (Just see my Pinterest Other crafts board.)  And next thing I know, I’m buying supplies on Etsy and looking for patterns. So, yet again, I’m building supplies I don’t have room for.

In the big picture, this is small potatoes.  However, it makes me think about how 1) I have no income coming in and 2) how much I’m not doing about that.

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Sometimes, I feel like I spend my days wondering what to do with this mess I’ve made. I waffle between various options for a solution to the problem.  I keep looking for what feels right after a ‘lifetime’ of being in job where I felt like I wasn’t where I should be.  The items I’m considering are mainly focused on writing–modern fiction (novel or short story), time travel fiction, memoir, or poetry.

Then, as I noted in one of my soap posts, I considered making soap and selling it online. Its seems a simple transition.  With minimal effort on my art, I have 7 batches of soap. The smallest batch being 6 bars, I probably have more than 60 bars of soap.  Then, I thought maybe liquid soap would make more sense because its seems more popular in general.  I was considering this enough that I started reading some stuff on it and making some spreadsheets on costs verses going prices per bar.

 

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Before I got too far, however, I had my cooking moment on Super Bowl weekend.  Its not quite the same.  That is, I put the ingredients for soap together the night before, so I’m not on my feet for as much time as when I’m chopping tomatoes and such for pico de gallo.  So, maybe I could work around bad days and not over stress myself.IMG_1781 Maybe I could make soap a few times a week and keep up with demand.  I could start by giving away to friends and family (which will happen no matter what).

 

Then, I realized that starting even an online business requires a lot of effort–advertising and packaging.  More stock and actually writing down what I fragrance was used so I can make it again.  Further, Soap is regulated as a cosmetic by FDA (as this article from Soap Queen reminded me) and requires compliance with labeling requirements and good manufacturing practices, etc.  I probably wouldn’t be able to make soap in my kitchen for sale purposes.  I also watch Shark Tank and they always say starting a business doesn’t mesh with having a life.  I may not be that bad off.  I am not house bound, but I also have some limitations.

I also considered investment for a few weeks.  I took some money thats already invested in mutual funds and invested in some individual stocks.  I was following recommendations from a subscription investment service.  After reading the newsletters for several weeks, I realized that it bored me.  Not only that, but clearly if it was easy every one would be making money hand over fist.  Well, duh.  Why did it take me a month to figure that out?  I think my reasoning came from my craft experience–if you can give me instructions, I can learn it.  BUT, investing requires an ability to predict the future.  Plus, obviously, its just not the same as making a physical something.

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My daughter gave me a basic story line for the picture book we’re working on and I am having a resurgence in interest on that.  I’m trying to draw every day to help develop my skills and I am working on watercolor painting.  A part of me thinks this is crazy too, but I have been drawing for years just not seriously.  I used to sit in meetings and draw the people in the meeting (large meetings are great for this).  I drew my dogs and cats.  I bought my kids drawing books and showed them how to use them.  I really like doing this. Its fun to draw these pictures and if I work enough they feel like they look good.  And its okay even preferable maybe they look a little cartoon-y rather than realistic.  We are working on the text together.  

Maybe I can focus on this picture book and I’m also working on my poetry.  I want to try some traditional forms for poetry.  Two things seems a reasonable number of pursuits to put my energy into.

 

Keeping Busy

I should be writing or illustrating, but instead, I’m making things.  I wasn’t being productive at all.  My daughter wants to write a children’s book with me, but she is finishing her last semester of school and she’s very busy.  So, we are having trouble making much progress.  I’ve been drawing, but its here story and I feel stuck until we discuss the story further.

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This is my drawing comparing the lemon in my water at a restaurant to the christmas tree in the water my cats are drinking.

So, as I said, feeling stalled.  I’m working on my drawing, but I needed more, so I was finishing some projects and I made some more soap.  It also helped distract me from losing Tucker (separate post).  Four batches in about 10 days. And this is what I learned: I’m impatient.

So, scientific method says you change one thing in an recipe at a time to seem what effect the change has.  Instead, at least twice, I took the ingredients and changed the mold type and method of manipulating the soap.

LOL soap

The first batch was simple, Lots of Lather recipe from Soap Queen.  I split the batch into mini batches and added different labcolors and fragrance.  It set pretty fast.  I was mushing the soap into silicone molds like frosting and trying to smooth it out.  The soap was ready to un-mold in less than 12 hours.

I figured I had basic soap under my belt and I wanted to do something more advanced.  I picked a spin technique mentioned on Soap Queen (search spin) and Aaron’s Hazelnut soap from the book Smart Soapmaking by Anne Watson.

Hazelnut soap crop

The picture shows the bottom of the soap.  The spin technique requires soap thats thin enough to move when the mold is moved.  This soap was too thick to move almost the minute I mixed the oils and the lye water together.  I picked great colors, but at the end, I wash (again) spreading soap like frosting.  I swirled the colors a little with a spatula about half to 3/4 of the way through.  But, apparently the bottom is still nearly all white (and the top is nearly all black).

I read some more and realized that if I wanted to spin my soap it needed to be thinner than other thin recipes.  So, I picked the recipe that Soap Queen uses for the Psychedelic Spin Swirl.   BUT, I wanted to use my 5 pound loaf mold.  The one from Bramble Berry with the removable bottom and then I would manipulate the colors a little with each other.  So, I made the lye water the night before and mixed together the oils ahead of time and I mixed it very, very lightly–all in the name of keeping the soap from getting too thick too fast.  Halfway through, I think maybe its not mixed enough, so I blend each color extra.  But, if I really didn’t mix it well, the oil to lye ratio might be wrong and I might end up with unusable soap (not to mention that each color might be a different composition).  The biggest problem, though, was that the soap leaked out of the mold.  Oops!  Bad recipe and mold combination!  I put extras soap in my silicone cube mold as (mostly) individual colors.

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There are some cracks in the loaf.  Plus, although I’ve started to un-mold, I had to stop because its too mushy.  You can see below that my cubes are mushy as well.

 

 

We will have to wait a few weeks to see how these turn out.

 

See my next post for more soap making.