Ways to Spend a Summer Day: Washing Woolens

Remember woolens? Those hats and sweaters and whatnot you meant to wash in May?

We pulled ours out of the four corners of the house in the last round of summer sorting (which is always a good way to spend a summer day). Then, one day when the girls were done getting pruney in the kiddy pool under the apple tree, they watched with wide eyes as I squirted soap and vinegar into the still warmish water and dumped the whole wooly pile of that winter gear in.

We got in and did a grape stomping style gentle agitation, and it was a sensory treat so beautiful I wished I had my camera, but then within minutes the water turned rich brown then black, and I was glad I didn’t. But oh, how satisfying.

The water got pumped out onto the apple tree, as usual, and I rinsed everything in the washing machine and put it through the spin cycle before spreading flat on towels to dry.

And there it is. Just about everything woolen I have made or been given over the last few years. Now squeaky clean for a someday winter day.

Adorning the Birthday Ring

I always wanted one of these charming birthday rings for our birthday table, but the sheer number of parts–and the price tag they added up to–gave me pause. Then a dear friend gave me a spare ring. With a birthday coming, I set to work figuring out how to adorn it for, oh, about five bucks. And I thought some of you might like to hear how I did it.

First, I should say that I did consider buying the decorations, which are wooden and quite charming and no doubt worth the investment. But while bargain hunting (and getting heart burn from the thought of *gasp* buying something ready made) I came upon this tutorial on making your own. I have been in a stash busting mood when it comes to my wool felt collection, and so this was a win-win.

My husband, enrolled as the engineering brains behind this project, found flat mushroom top pegs in one of those many drawers filled with handy little things at the hardware store. They would provide the base for our ornaments. He drilled tiny holes in them to feed 22 gauge brass wire through. The tutorial I linked to above used  3/4 inch dowel sawed to size with a pushpin-made hole to hold the wire. Either way you are looking at some tool use.

Also, the holes in our birthday ring are actually not quite 3/4 inch wide, so there was a bit of sanding to open them up more. Nothing the Man of the Place couldn’t handle, and I probably could have done it too. But I had lady bugs and flowers to cut out.

 I used two layers of felt for each symbol, glued together around wire armatures threaded through the peg and bent to the shape of the felt to hold it all in place. We used regular craft glue, and left them overnight to dry.

I recommend keeping the shapes small, and the total height of the ornaments about 4 inches.

Insert sigh of satisfaction and relief.

There is an edge of fire hazard to felted decorations on a candle holder, so use good sense, always keep an eye on it, and if in doubt, blow it out!

The ring and brass candle cups came from here, where you can also buy the wooden decorations and beeswax candles if you like. The wool felt came from here.

Oh, and you could also get super crafty and make decorations for different seasonal festivals…

And lest you think I went totally uber mother for this birthday, let me just say our gift to the little birthday girl was bought new, something that is almost unheard of in these parts and has so far brought all of us joy unfettered by heartburn. Sometimes you just have to know when to spend and when to tap into your inner riches of creative abundance (and too much felt).

This Old Bedsheet: Cowl Neck Tee Edition

Welcome to the first edition of This Old Bedsheet, wherein the crafty re-purposer makes all kinds of wondrous things with old bedsheets, fearlessly expanding her fledgling sewing skills, saving the earth, and looking something like stylish while she does it.

Today we have a queen size, oatmeal colored  jersey knit flat sheet. It’s first re-incarnation is as a long sleeved, cowl neck tee shirt.

 Cowl neck shirts are tres elegant, I think, even when homemade on a whim. This one could be a little more low cut, or drapey, or something. Perhaps somebody reading knows how to achieve that look?

To make this one I took a t shirt that I currently tolerate the fit of, and cut it out with a little extra room in the seam allowance. The neck line, as you can see, was ignored in favor of this big tube shape.

I sewed up the sides to where the sleeve begins, and had marked with a pin where the sleeves should end. Then resumed sewing to close the tube. A sleeveless cowl tee would have been done at this point.

The stitch I use for sewing knit fabrics is an outline stretch stitch. (It looks like a lightning bolt on the settings.) This is super strong, stretches, and best of all looks like a straight stitch on the right side of the fabric. Zigzag is also plenty fine, but I tend to break those seams in everyday wear and tear.

To make the sleeves I used my “pattern” shirt to shape the curve, and another long sleeve shirt to get the rest of the shape down. It didn’t come out perfectly at first–kind of bunchy and misshapen. I ended up cutting out about an inch of fabric where the sleeve joins the shirt, and it is fine. A little strange to sew a sleeve onto something without an actual shoulder, but I lived to tell the tale.

The neck and sleeve openings were left raw. I used the bottom bedsheet seam to give a finished look to the bottom seams of the shirt and avoid fussing over pins and my twin needle.


 What will this bedsheet become next? A tunic dress? A skirt? Pajamas for the kids?
Stay tuned for the next edition of…This Old Bedsheet.

Unplugging, Continued.

Earlier this fall we paid a visit to Tinkertown

one of New Mexico’s “most renowned folk-art environments.”

Totally super cool labor of one man’s love of making things with his hands.

He once said, “I did all this while you were watching TV.”

(He probably didn’t have a two year old, either.)

What do you do when your screen of choice is dark?

(Besides raising your kiddos, of course.)


p.s. Thanks for coming to visit me here when you’re online. I’m so delighted to have you!

A Very Special, Mostly Fabulous Handmade Holiday Tutorial from the Crack Team at Old Recipe for a New World

Now what, you might be wondering, is a gal that won’t even buy knitting needles to make Christmas presents planning to give her most favorite loved ones this holiday season?

Well, pinecones, of course.

Pinecone firestarters, that is. All credit for this idea, good or bad, goes to the otherwise great book Earthways by Carol Petrash. I’m still not sure whether or not I’ve been led astray and the following tutorial borders on the absurd. But I had fun. Plus, I can always say the Little One made them.


Take a walk somewhere lovely. Somewhere with pine trees.

The little stream in the big bend of the road up there in the mountains is a fine place, but almost anywhere will do

as the goal is simply to fill your hat with pinecones.

(This is a good task to enlist the help of the little ones you intend to blame this gift on.)

Beeswax. Mmm. I should say that part of the appeal of this project is that it is sort of like pseudo candle making for impatient people like me.

In our town beeswax is found at the farmer’s market, herb store, and candle shop.

Carefully hack off lumps of wax while your child naps. She can still get the credit.

Melt in a double boiler. Remember–just a little water, and a tall-ish bowl to keep splashes out of the wax. (If your child is four or older, and very careful and meticulous, they could help with your constant supervision.)

I used about a half pound of wax for this pilot project.

The smell of warm beeswax and pinecones is heavenly.

The  book says to tie a string around the cone and dip it, but these micro fir cones did fine just getting stirred around with tongs.

I usually dipped them just once, careful to fill the petals of the cone with wax. Every third cone or so got double dipped.

Then onto the parchment paper to dry.

I was surprised at how quickly the beeswax disappeared–half a pound of wax for a couple dozen cones.

Now of course I tested these little guys out, of course! But my methods were very poor.

You can see I didn’t actually try to start a proper fire, thereby testing their actual function. I just wanted to see if they’d burn.

And the answer is, kind of. Sigh. I’m sorry friends, but I can’t guarantee this fine project. But look, this one did blaze on its own for a couple minutes. Or was it seconds? Maybe with some paper, some kindling, it would have been a roaring fire in an isntant.

Yes, I’m sure of it.

Anyways, it’s the thought that counts. And it’s a gift from a two year old to her papa or uncle or grandpa, or any outdoorsy, woodburning fireplace kind of person.

A little gift promising warmth and light for this winter’s cold, dark nights.

(Imagine photo of cute paper bag with red ribbon sticking out of stocking hanging by fireplace)

What, what, I ask you, could be better?*

Well perhaps a few things. Head on over to Renee’s and Tonya’s blogs for more glimpses of handmade holiday tutorials that don’t belong on Regresty. And thanks to both fine ladies for inspiring this latest adventure here at Old Recipe. And for the record, I will be making other nice things for Christmas, too. Hopefully they’ll all be as popular as pinecones.

No beeswax pinecones were harmed in the making of this picture, but it's one from this summer's road tripping I've been looking for an excuse to share here.

*My husband the firestarter (see otherwise unrelated photo above) was just consulted on this project’s viability and he said that my cute little cones were a) too small, b) too green, and c) not open enough. Plus, they are from fir trees. He says PINE would have worked better. Who would of guessed? I guess the diligent herbalist was caught up in the romance of the moment…plus, the little fir cones seemed like more bang for my buck in terms of stretching beeswax. Fortunately, this was only a test.

So don’t go to that bend in the road, go to that dip where the Ponderosa’s grow, and get the old dried out cones from last year, not the freshies from this one. And then drench the suckers in beeswax like you mean it.



One-Sheet Book Tutorial

This is a one-sheet book. It has four pages.

If you love words, or pictures, or making words or pictures, or know someone who does, then read on.

I made this book for Cora.

It’s kind of about colors. But also shoes, children, animals, and other things that delight her.

Paper of any thickness or size can be used.

For this book I used the inside of a brown paper bag.

See, a one sheet book.

Okay, here we go:

A picture speaks a thousand words, right? So I’ll just add to this one that you begin by creating a grid of folds on your paper.

Make one fold across the length, one across the width, and then fold two edges to the middle.

Then fold in half vertically, and cut to the next fold, creating a hole in the middle.

Open the sheet up and refold horizontally. Bring the two edges of the cut together, pushing out the middle pages.

Like this. I promise it will make sense with the paper in your hand, if it doesn’t now.

Press the book into place, creasing all the pages to where they belong. It doesn’t matter which is the cover.

Ta da! A one sheet book.

Now you get to fill it!

And that’s when the fun really begins.

Though I do think a blank book is the bee’s knees and exactly what I’d want on a desert island.

That and some extra sheets to make more books.