Friday, January 20, 2012

Sewing for Others

I have a pile of projects on my sewing table waiting to be finished - but it seems that the ones that get done are the projects for others.

Recently, our Women's Ministry at our church has been sewing "pillowcase dresses" for underprivleged girls.  Anyone can make these, and ship to the charity who distributes them.  Patterns and instructions are at:  Here are some of our recent creations:

Another thing I've sewn lately was a comfort quilt for a friend who recently had cancer surgery.  This idea was not mine - it was a brilliant brainwave of another friend.  We whipped this up quickly with scraps from my pile, and used fabric markers to write cheery messages, prayers and Bible verses to comfort our friend.

This quilt is just lap size.  Here's hoping that it will help keep her warm, and remind her of how many people are praying for her when we can't be there.

There are many things that can be sewn for others, and several charities that accept items.  So keep your sewing machines busy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A little something from the desk this time....


If I see any more of THESE:

I think I might just run screaming down the highway.

Just sayin'

More about cleaners in a few days when I get the W-2's cleared off my desk!

Hang in there, people.  January will soon be over.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Baking Soda Dispenser

Baking soda can be used for multiple cleaning uses around the kitchen sink.  If your dishes get weird scratches on them, a little bit of baking soda wiped on the scratches can take them off.  The stubborn stains from tomato products can be removed the same way.  Scrubbing pots and pans is easier with a bit of baking soda. 

But somehow, reaching for the box that's in the baking cupboard doesn't seem real sanitary to me, so I made this cute dispenser for the baking soda.  This is a small 1/2 pint canning jar with lid.

To make your own dispenser, take the flat portion of the lid, and lay it on an old 2x4 or other thick piece of wood.  Drill a few holes in the lid with a 1/8" drill bit.  You can lay the holes out in a pattern, or just scatter them randomly on the lid.  Buff the edges of the holes with steel wool to get any shavings off.

Fill the jar with baking soda, and shake away!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What about Fabric Softener?

White Vinegar.

That's it.  I use white vinegar in exactly the same amounts, and the same place in the washing machine as liquid fabric softener.  It will help to get all the soap out of clothes, and will get all the residual "gunk" out of the fabrics from years of fabric softener.  And no, your clothes will not smell like pickles.

Some people will make scented vinegars - adding essential oil drops to the vinegar.  Another trick is to add fresh herbs to the vinegar, let sit for several days, and strain it.  But since my house is the 'House of Perpetual Laundry', I simply don't have time for all the fuss.

If you absolutely can't stand vinegar, another trick is to wet a washcloth, and dab a teaspoon of your favorite hair conditioner on it and rub the fabric together.  Toss this in the dryer.  When I did this, my favorite was a lavender conditioner available at Bath & Body Works.  I'm not sure they still sell this, though.

What about "static cling"?  The best way to eliminate static cling is to have as many natural fabric clothes as possible.  Acrylic, polyester and nylon are static cling magnetos.  I use the vinegar, and dry only my cotton items.  All man-made items are hung to dry when possible.  Also, "dryer balls" made of wool yarn can be used to minimize static cling.  Also, I avoid micro-fiber like the plague.  I detest the stuff - it attracts cat hair like a magnet.

Have you ever wondered what the "Goodwill" smell is when you enter a thrift store?  You know the smell that every thrift store in the country has - immediately identifiable, and still mysterious as to its origin?  I finally figured out what it is.

I volunteered at a thrift store for a few months, and that odor would immediately waft out of every bag of donated clothes as soon as it was opened.  Until I opened up one of my bags of donated clothes, and there was no smell.  Now remember, I use vinegar for fabric softener.  And it hit me.  That smell, the elusive immediately identifiable "thrift store smell" is the smell of years and years of fabric softener in clothes.

Ugh.  Enough reason not to use the stuff.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Super Thrifty Liquid Laundry Detergent

1/3 bar of Fels Naphtha, 5.5 ounce bar.
1/2 cup of washing soda
1/2 cup of borax powder
2 Gallon jugs, recycled vinegar jugs are great.

Grate the soap and put it into a large saucepan with 8 cups of water over med. heat. Heat the mix until soap melts.
Add washing soda and borax. Stir constantly until dissolved. Let it sit for 5 minutes over the heat stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and let sit another 5 min.
Use a funnel and put 1/2 of the mixture into each gallon jug. Fill each jug 1/2 way with hot water and shake well.
Fill the jugs all the way with hot water, and shake again. let sit for 24 hours. This gels up and looks like egg whites.

Use 1/4 to 1/3 cup per load.

I like Zote soap better than Fels Naptha - but it is harder to find. That's why my picture is pink.  If you use Fels Naptha your detergent will be slightly yellow.  I grate up four or five bars at once, and seal in a Tupperware or Ziploc container.  Then I use 1/2 cup of grated soap per recipe. Four or five bars will last me about six months.
I look for antique grinders at yard sales, and buy any I find.  These make great bridal shower gifts with the recipe and ingredients!
Resist the urge to use too much detergent per load.  You really only need 1/4 cup for a front-loader and 1/3 cup for a top-loading machine.  And YES, this detergent works in H.E. machines.  That's what I have.
If your whites start to look a bit grungy, you are using too much detergent.  Add 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide to your white loads if this happens.
I use gallon vinegar jugs and old gallon jars for my laundry soap.
Working out the cost of the ingredients - this comes to about 2¢ per load!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Shopping List for Frugal Green Cleaning

Before I share any more of my cleaning recipes with you, I thought I'd give you a shopping list of the ingredients.  This is what I use to clean everything in my home:

Washing Soda
Baking Soda
Fels Naptha Laundry Bar (or Kirk's Castile, or Zote)
Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap
White Vinegar
Citric Acid
Tea Tree Essential Oil

A few notes on some of these ingredients:

Those wishing to be completely "green" in their cleaning should pass on borax.  This chemical is toxic in large amounts, and actually can be used as a pesticide.  It is included in laundry detergent to boost the whitening power.  It can be included in other cleaners to help reduce hard water stains.

Fels Naptha
This is another ingredient that is not "green".  I have quit using Fels, and use Kirk's Castile, or another low-fatted soap made locally by a soap maker.  But for those who really need to pinch pennies, Fels Naptha can't be beat for price, and is usually available.  I love the smell and consistency of Zote - a pink cintronella scented laundry bar usually found in Hispanic grocery stores.

White Vinegar
If you want to keep things "green", use Heinz Vinegar, or another brand that lists grain as the ingredient.  If the vinegar lists "vinegar" as the ingredient, it is actually made from petroleum by-products.

Citric Acid
If you can't find this ingredient (used in dishwashing detergent), use packets of unsweetened lemon-lime koolaid.  Citric Acid is the main ingredient in kool-aid.

Essential Oils
Tea Tree Oil is the only oil that is a must for some of my recipes.  There are a multitude of other oils that can add a pleasant scent to the recipes, and some have properties that can help with cleaning.  Tea Tree Oil has antiseptic properties that I like for basic cleaning.  Here are some of the other essential oils available:

From those basic ingredients, I can make everything that I use to clean my house.  Washing Soda, Borax, Baking Soda, White Vinegar and Lemons can be found at most grocery stores.  Many stores also carry the laundry bars.  Dr. Bronner's and essential oils can usually be found at food co-ops or health food stores, although Walgreen's has it in our town.  The only place I've found citric acid (a while crystalline powder) is in the bulk section of our local co-op.  If you really live in the boonies - most of these ingredients are available on-line.


I have a well-used stash of old washclothes, diapers and t-shirts to use for rags.  Other than the rags,  a broom, a Dyson vacuum, scrub brush, and a couple of refillable spray bottles,  I use these:

If you live in an area with hard water, a pumice stone is a MUST for cleaning toilets.  I find Scotch Brite type scratcher sponges a necessity, too.  The interesting looking contraption is an antique grinder.  I use it to grind up the soap bars for laundry detergent.  If you can't find one of these, a cheese grater will work.

Since laundry detergent is the solution I make the most frequently, I keep my borax and washing soda in candy store type dispensers, labeled for use:

I'll share the rest of my cleaning recipes during the month of January.  Have fun finding the ingredients!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

News flash on Sink Scrub!

If you have hard water stains - use a mixture of 1/2 borax, 1/2 baking soda, then stir in the castile soap.  The borax will help break down the hard water stains!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Scrubbing into the New Year!

Welcome to 2012!

Is one of your resolutions to clean with safer, greener solutions?  I'll share with you some of my favorite green cleaners this month.

We'll start off with a recent discovery - my favorite sink/tub scrub!

Two simple ingredients, Castile Soap and Baking Soda. 

If you haven't dicovered Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap, now would be a great time.  It is available at most health food stores, and in Moscow it's available at the Moscow Food Co-op, Walgreen's and Rosauers (Huckelberry's).  There are several scents available:  Almond, Citrus, Lavender, Peppermint, Rose, Tea Tree and Unscented.  I use this soap as a base for many of my green cleaners.  My favorite is Citrus, but I also have Peppermint and Lavender.  A quart of this stuff lasts forever!  Also, I buy my baking soda in the bulk section of Winco - very cheap.

For the scrub, all you do is put some baking soda in a bowl - about 1/2 cup is enough.  Add small squirts of the castile soap, mixing with a spoon until the mixture starts to look like frosting:

Wet a scrubby sponge, and use this paste to scrub sinks, tubs and even toilets!  Rinse the area off with a very wet washcloth after scrubbing, or the baking soda will leave a pasty film.

You can store this mixture in an airtight jar, but what I usually do is make a batch when I see a sink or something that needs scrubbed.  Then I go on and scrub other sinks, etc. until the paste is gone.  With four sinks, one tub, one shower stall and three toilets, there is always something to scrub!

Happy Scrubbing!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Domestic Arts? or Domestic Sketches?

The term Domestic Arts was quite popular at the turn of the 20th century. It was used to describe all the things that women do to turn a house into a home. It is finding new renewal as more women (and men) discover the joy of keeping house, and realizing the mundane really is important.

“And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.” -- Steve Jobs

I recently discovered this quote by Steve Jobs, as he was much discussed after his death. It got me to thinking about what my true love is. I realized that I get the most joy from successful little projects around the house.

It seems that during the 80’s and 90’s we were lulled into thinking of our home-making in a more “paint-by-numbers” approach, doing things in our home just because they needed to be done, and following another person’s instructions and design. Our true passion was to be found in the workplace. But the satisfaction of creating is something that can be enjoyed at every level.

So I thought about the “art” I’ve created in my day. Many times, it feels like I do more stick figures than masterpieces. And there have been many paint-by-number types of projects. But there have been a few full art pieces – the entire pantry filled with home-canned vegetables, grown in our garden – the completely coordinated nursery all hand sewn – the knit-woven jacket made by hand (and published in a magazine). But most of my domestic arts have been sketches – the roasted chicken that was “just right”, the sweet smelling laundry lined up on the line, the cute necklace that got raves, the outfit sewn for a child.

So that is what I’m going to share with you on this blog. My Domestic Sketches. I’ll share the whole foods recipes – the green cleaning solutions – the quick little projects – the repurposed items. May you be inspired to start your own art portfolio, to be shared with your family.