Rug Weaving 101

In my quest to buy less stuff, recycle the stuff I have, and rekindle the abilities that seem to have been lost to the generations, I decided (following a small flood) that I was going to try to weave a rug. Sure, I could definitely run out to some store and buy a replacement, or (the old me) would have bought one on Amazon. Instead, I decided to put to use a giant piece of wool that I bought (for no particular reason other than that I liked the colour) in Sweden. I’ve been vaguely using it as a decorative blanket for years, so it was time to give it a new life.

I can say, honestly, that the rug looks a lot better in real life than it does in the images, it’s a little wonky and definitely has a hand-made feel, which I love. It’s super thick and warm and is like having a sweater for the floor.

I started by building a loom out of a 1×3″, which I drilled 2 5/8″ holes into and pounded nails every inch. I inserted two 5′ dowels and pulled old acrylic yarn (yellow) between the nails. Boom, I had a loom. I did a test weave using 1″ strips of wool and the result was more like flower petals than the chunky knit-like weave that I wanted. So after some experimentation, I decided to start again and this time used 1/2″ strips which rolled and worked much better. Much more cushion-ey, and more of what I wanted.

After weaving until I ran out of wool, I removed the entire thing from the loom, tied off the ends, and then used a lighter colour wool to weave the end loops together along the long end and bind off the short end. I used some amazing red yarn that I bought at Labour and Wait in London (and has been taking up space for ages), to blanket stitch the binding at the end (and hide a multitude of yellow yarn.) Overall, not bad for an experiment and one I will definitely re-visit again.

The finished rug, installed.
The finished rug with bound edges.
Weaving underway.
Weaving, just getting started.
I decided to start over, because this one was too flat… don’t worry, I’ll re-use it to make another rug.

Making progress and experimenting with sneaking in some extra fabrics.

Getting started with attempt #1, which (as you can see above) I abandoned and started over.

Cutting strips. I started by cutting 1” strips, which were too unruly.

Raze, rebuild, repeat: why Japan knocks down its houses after 30 years

Unlike in other countries, Japanese homes become valueless over time – but as the population shrinks, can its cities finally learn to slow down and refurb?

This fascinating look at Japanese housing type and market examines the lifecycle and recyclability of houses across Japan. Perhaps the most interesting revelation in the article: a Muji home.

Source: Raze, rebuild, repeat: why Japan knocks down its houses after 30 years

The Long, Lonely Quest to Breed the Ultimate Avocado

Everyone who knows me knows that I love avocados. I had never eaten an avocado until I was nearly 30, and now I simply can’t get enough of them. Until I read this article, I didn’t know much about Haas avocados, but I knew they seemed superior to the larger, greener variety. 


This fascinating story first appeared in Wired, check it out and weigh in with your avocado stories in the comments below.

A New Mattress

The bed in Florence is a peculiar size. It’s just smaller than a full and is in fact a “three quarters” size. The peculiar size was once a common bed size in America until the old bedding size system was standardized after WWII. The mattress is also rounded at two corners to accommodate the rounded sides of the Airstream frame. This makes finding bedding difficult and more complicated. 

When I purchased Florence, I made a mental note to buy a new mattress. Three years have passed and I never found the time to do it. After purchasing a Casper mattress for my home, I wrote to Casper asking if they could make a custom size one for the Airstream. They never wrote back. 

So for a few years I slept on a sturdy cot-like mattress. It wasn’t uncomfortable but it wasn’t luxurious either. I began shopping around for a mattress and was surprised to find that the cost was not insignificant. Ballpark was about $800-1200 for a custom mattress. 

Which, as always, is when my very favorite store in the world came through for me. This past week, ALDI featured memory foam mattresses for $219. That was the lowest price I could find anywhere and just like the Casper mattress, the ALDI version came with a 10 year warranty. 


So, I bought one. I used my mom and dad’s electric turkey carving knife to slice the foam and replaced the cot-like mattress. Amazingly, it was easy and is tremendously comfortable. Honestly, it’s as comfy as the Casper, of which, I am a huge fan. 



I also made a friend with a slug while I was cutting the mattress. I interrupted his happy home with my cutting activity. Mr. Slug is nownhappily living in a paper towel tube outside my Airstream. 


Also, for those interested, I have found that European-size bedding including square pillows and “single” comforters fit the Airstream perfectly. You can find great bedding at Hema in The Netherlands and Central Europe or Hemtex in Estonia and across Northern Europe. 

Soap.


Is too clean dangerous? This is a compelling article that makes you consider (or re-consider) the ingredients in your shower gel and bath soap. It’s strange, so many of the ingredients and additives that are banned elsewhere in the world are still very much in our soap and personal care products.
Read the original story about triclosan at Quartz.

<http://qz.com/779681/the-new-fda-rule-on-triclosan-a-banned-chemical-in-anti-bacterial-soap-is-still-in-practically-every-other-american-bath-product/>

If nothing else, this story should give pause about using commercial products and perhaps prompt you to consider making some soap of your own!

My friend makes her own soap (which is fantastic) and the main ingredient is coconut oil. She uses the recipe you can find on Mommypotumus. 

How to wash anything made from wood.

A long time ago, my grandmother taught me how to do a deep spring cleaning and we washed hardwood floors and all the wood furniture in the house. I still use this method to this day, and it’s easy, foolproof and keeps wood from drying out.

 

1991

You’ll need:

  • 3-4 rags. Old flannels or old towels cut into 12 inch squares work best.
  • Two buckets filled about 3/4 of the way with lukewarm water. (I remember the day my grandmother showed me this method, I didn’t know what lukewarm meant, so if you don’t know: it means it’s warm to the touch, but not hot.)
  • About a cup or so of white vinegar. Pour it into bucket #1.
  • Murphy’s Oil Soap about a 1/4 of a cup. Pour it into bucket #2.

Wash down the wood with the water vinegar solution and while it’s still damp, wash down with the Murphy’s Oil Soap solution.

After the wood has dried, buff to a shine with a dry rag. You can use polish (like Old English or Pledge), but it’s not necessary.

I’ve learned, over time, that other cleansers tend to attract dirt over time. This method won’t, and the oil in Murphy’s keeps wood nourished and looking great!

 

Aldi

When I was in graduate school (almost 20 years ago), Aldi opened in my neighborhood, and I was hooked. The food then was inexpensive, high quality, and it was right down the street. I bought my first wheely suitcase at Aldi for $20 (because my German friend had one just like it), and believe it or not, the suitcase has been through the war, and I still use it today.

Well, about a year ago, I made a resolution to stop spending hundreds of dollars a week on groceries, and I paid a visit to Aldi. I was STUNNED to find that Aldi not only stocked a ton of organic staples, but also organic produce and lots of things—as a gluten free vegetarian—that I could eat.

So for the last year, I have cut down convenience shopping at my local co-op (great food, but crazy expensive) and my local Wegmans (good food, but crazy expensive, and ridiculously busy all the time.)

The result is that our grocery bill has gone from about $200 a week to about $60 a week. We eat better, make more healthy choices, and waste less.

Everyone knows that I love grocery shopping—and supermarkets. I’ve often said that if I could be a grocery store historian, I would gladly be one. I have fond memories of shopping at A&P, Loblaws and scores of other stores when I was a kid. To this day, grocery stores are one of my very first stops in any city I visit. They are a unique capsule of standardization and local flavor.

Aldi Logo

Aldi reminds me a bit of grocery shopping in Europe, which (perhaps not surprisingly) is very different from shopping in the US. European stores are smaller, refrigerate less, are more no-nonsense, and are often curiously organized. They are a bit of a novelty in that they are not standard in their typology. They fit in whatever spaces are available and make use of every centimeter.

American supermarkets are all about theatrics, packaging, and lighting to entice impulse buying. They all conform to a similar typology (a long rectangle) and rely on the customer following a zig-zag type pattern up and down each aisle.

Aldi tracks the Euro model more than the American model. Stores are smaller, less theatrical, more practical. Items are clearly marked with signage above, and refrigeration is reserved for things that need it.

Typical Aldi store interior.
Typical Aldi store interior.

One of the biggest differences at Aldi is the produce department. It’s very European. Food comes in crates from the farm (or sometimes pre-packaged) but it’s not dramatically lighted. It’s not sprayed with water. It’s not refrigerated. It’s just there. Oddly, I have noticed over the past year that it also lasts a lot longer. Probably because it’s not soaking wet for days before I buy it.

Aldi Produce Department
Fresh produce selection at Aldi.

Another big difference is the Aldi Finds section. Each week, Aldi features general (non-grocery) merchandise organized around some seasonal theme. The products are incredibly smart, well designed, high quality, and inexpensive. I mentioned above that I have purchased luggage, but I’ve also purchased a power washer, a food dehydrator, some great portable salad bowls, a picnic blanket, and some really great blankets for a fraction of what I would have paid elsewhere.

My parents were a bit leary of Aldi, and I led a field trip to show them how it works. Next week, my two good friends and I are going on a similar field trip. I’ll report back soon on our experience… and maybe, if I’m brave enough, might even include some pictures.

A New (Little) Shed

When you only have 68 square feet of living space, every foot counts. Having a jug of kitty litter reduces your living space by 2%. A garbage can, another 2%, a pair of shoes, another 2%. While I am not complaining about my small space, every item and every centimeter counts.

I have been thinking for a while about building (or buying) a shed…and I found this little one at Lowes. It was surprisingly simple to put together and seems decently sturdy. It’s really made for two garbage bins, but I’m using it to store a lawn mower, some outdoor chairs, a hose, and some kitty litter.

Truthfully. I could probably fit all those things in the rear (under bed) storage area, but I’ve filled that with fiberglass insulation, which keeps the airstream toasty warm.

Best of all, this little shed snaps apart and folds flat, so when I move, it will move with me.

So…one more improvement checked off the list!!

Spring Cleaning

Time for a little bit of spring cleaning. Now with Molly living in Florence part time, there seems to be evidence of cat everywhere. In such tiny quarters, a little mess goes a long way, so I brought out the big guns: my grandma’s vacuum cleaner (that I have had forever.)

Angie's Eureka Empress Vacuum Cleaner

This vacuum cleaner will be 60 years old next year. It is—without reservation—the most trusty appliance I own. It needs zero maintenance. Works like a charm, and cleans really well. Most amazing: I can still find bags that fit!

In any case, Florence is a little more tidy and ready for summer… at least inside. Outside maintenance starts happening next week. That’s when I’ll tackle the hot water tank that seems to have stopped working.