How to use a handkerchief

A lot of y’all probably know that I use handkerchiefs in place of (disposable) tissues. I find them very convenient and, since they’re such a foreign concept to most people, I want to explain the ins and outs of their use and care!

What do you use hankies for?

I treat hankies as a cross between a tissue and a cloth napkin. I use them to blow my nose, and occasionally wipe my hands and mouth, but appropriate use varies by culture. For example, in Japan, it is rude to use your handkerchief to blow your nose (or to blow your nose in public at all); handkerchiefs are meant only for drying sweat or your hands. And in the US, handkerchiefs are just not used (except in hanky code by the gay and BDSM communities), so there is no particular etiquette I am aware of.

How many handkerchiefs do you need?

I carry one handkerchief in my pocket every day. I use it until it gets too dirty, then I switch it for a new one. Unless I’m sick, I usually use the same one for a week. I carry a couple backups in my backpack in case I suddenly get hit with allergies, or a friend needs a tissue.

I have about 20 hankies in my personal collection, but that’s way more than I need for day-to-day use. If you’re gonna switch to tissues for a really runny nose, 5-7 hankies should be fine for the rest of the time.

What do you do when you’re sick?

I use hankies when I’m sick too! I’ve never needed more than my 20 hankies in a single day. If it looks like I’m going to run out, I wash some handkerchiefs by hand and let them dry overnight to use the next day.

How do you wash handkerchiefs?

You can wash hankies either by hand, or by machine in a mesh lingerie bag. I usually put mine in with the rest of my laundry. In either case, unfold each hankie and soak in water for a few hours before washing. This rehydrates dried mucus so that it can be washed off 🙂 Handkerchief fabric is very lightweight so they dry very fast. I always airy dry them.

Where do you get hankies? What should they be made of?

My handkerchief collection is all from my maternal grandparents’ estate. My grandparents had a huge number of handkerchiefs and bandanas. Apparently, they had grown up using handkerchiefs (during the Great Depression) and continued to do so until disposable tissues took hold.

Some of my collection. Almost all are embroidered. Some have crocheted or tatted edging. A few have handmade lace!

Because of the switch to tissues, there are lots of old hankies available at thrift stores, antique stores, creative reuse stores (I’d say this is your best bet), and on eBay. You can use thin woven fabric, like a bandana, or t-shirt material.

The fabric should be natural (cotton and linen are common) and not a satin weave – your snot will slide right off 🙂 (Pocket squares make poor handkerchiefs because they’re usually made of glossy fabric.) A color or patten will help hide stains. If you’re worried you’ll look weird using a hankie, use white ones; they’ll look just like tissues.

How do you fold handkerchiefs?

I fold mine into sixteenths (in half, in half hamburger-style, in half the same direction, then in half hamburger-style again) to make a sort of “book”.

Each time I use the hankie, I use a “page” of the book so that I have a new surface available. I use the main fold of the hankie booklet for wiping my mouth so that I can keep food and mucus separate. To keep the outside of the hankie clean, don’t use its “cover”.

A lot of people think hankies are gross, but you’ll be fine if you’re used to washing other cloth items that come in contact with bodily fluids, like cloth menstrual pads, cloth napkins, even underwear. If it really bothers you, you can also use each hanky just once before washing (but then you’ll need a lot).

Good luck!

Building a computer

After a long period of internal deliberation and debate, I decided to build a desktop. I built one before in high school, but ever since I left for college I’ve been using a Lenovo W530 laptop as my main computer. I decided that I’d like to potentially try a bit of gaming, and also be able to run both Windows and Linux simultaneously (rebooting is too much effort…).

This is the parts list I ended up with. Apparently RGB is all the rage nowadays, but I was looking for something quiet and dark so that I can sleep with it on.

Here’s some advertising.

I’m planning on running Unraid to simultaneously run Windows and Ubuntu (and maybe OS X) in the future. Unraid seemed a bit simpler than the KVM/QEMU on Ubuntu setup I was initially planning to do. Continue reading “Building a computer”

Pilot in Paris and NYC of products in reusable containers

Here’s the full article (and another with more info). In short, several large companies are partnering with TerracCycle (about), a company that recycles hard-to-recycle items, to offer waste-free versions of their normal products. This will include ice cream, deodorant, and shampoo in returnable, refillable metal containers. Although the program is currently just a pilot, it’s a step in the direction of extended producer responsibility!

There are a few big downsides to this approach, however.

Metal and glass containers (most plastic is not acceptable for commercial reuse because it is porous and can’t be completely cleaned) take a lot more resources to make than plastic, so using them is only more sustainable if they are actually reused and reused a large number of times. (The containers require a security deposit to receive which hopefully will mitigate this potential problem.)

The pilot program relies on door-to-door delivery, which introduces a last mile problem. The “last mile” refers to the last part of a delivery network. It is often the most complex and expensive (and thus energy- and resource- consuming) part of the network. Instead of going to the grocery store (which, by the way, is another “last mile”), each household gets individualized delivery, so someone still has to drive around. And since the program only includes a small number of products, the delivery route will be in addition to households’ normal grocery trips.

For my friends in New York, maybe you’ll get to try this out soon!

Cold weather!

It’s been quite cold the last few days, so cold that classes were canceled. The low was -2°F, or so, with windchill down to an apparent -20°F! I walked to the grocery store just to experience it (with an additional scarf and a pair of thermal ski pants added to my everyday winter wear).

“The coldest location in the U.S. on Thursday was Cotton, Minn., where the temperature reached minus 56°F. The coldest location in the U.S. on Wednesday was Norris Camp, Minn., where it was minus 48°F, with a wind chill of minus 65°F” (source: various news websites).

Winter Storm Jayden, the Polar Vortex, and Climate Change: 3 Factors that Matter

 

Sleep hat for sibling C

Since I’m trying to use up the merino wool from the failed sweater, I’ve been asking if anyone has knitting requests! Sibling C is perpetually cold and tries to avoid using a lot of energy on heating in the winter, so she requested a sleep hat.

I modified this baby pattern (pictures of the finished product here) by casting on 107 stitches and using short rows to make the top curlier and pointier and more elven (:

I-cord ties! They are knit top-down, with the initial stitches picked up from the edge of the hat.
Stockinette with a garter stitch border in a smaller needle size (3 mm).
Looks kinda dorky…
The hat has three points; one comes down on the forehead, the other two create ear flaps and allow for I-cord attachment.
Pointy top!

Last-making

Many shoe-making methods require a last, a hard, foot-shaped form around which a shoe is molded to give it 3D shape. Since I am a fan of “minimalist” or “barefoot” shoes, I wanted to use a last that is actually shaped like my feet. The Munson Army last, developed for minimalist walking shoes by a military doctor shortly before World War I as detailed in his book, was an option but I was not able to find any for sale online.

So instead, I cast my feet!

There are several ways to do this. The standard alginate mold approach involves casting your feet (or other body part) in alginate jelly, then filling the negative with some other material (plaster is popular, but can only be used once). This method exactly replicates your feet in shape and size.

Casting kit I used. I now have quite a bit of alginate powder left over.

Since I wanted to have extra room for socks and wiggling my toes, I did not use the alginate approach. Instead, I wrapped my feet in fabric strips dipped in silicone, similar to how one would use plaster bandages.

Two-part silicone.
I made the lasts in parts, starting with the toes and working my way up the leg. I would periodically remove the cast to unstick it.
I cut out cardboard “insoles” to add structure to the bottom of the lasts while I built them.
The silicone cured quite quickly, within 5 minutes of mixing the components. I used slightly-but-not-quite-cured globs to start filling the lasts up to solidify them.
Wrapped up to the ankle for future boots, perhaps!
Currently, the lasts are flexible shells. For making shoes, they must be stiff and able to hold nails. My plan is to fill them with additional silicone (and maybe fabric as filler) to achieve this.

Felted slippers

I continue to be interested in making shoes. It’d be nice to make welted leather shoes (and I hope to eventually, since my everyday shoes are close to being completely worn out), but they require a lot of specialized tools (see the shoe-making Reddit community for more info). So I thought I’d start with an easier task: making felt slippers! If they turn out well, I may want to make felt shoes also (like Russian valenki, traditional felt boots).

I followed the directions in this tutorial, in addition to watching lots of Youtube videos (Christi Dea makes felt slippers and shoes, and does other weird fiber art).

Make a bubble wrap template by tracing your foot + allowance for shrinkage, and adding the desired ankle height. Fold the bubble wrap in half so that you get an attached, double template.
Gather all your wool! I used brown and gray Shetland wool that I bought from another spinner on Craigslist. According to the above tutorial, you will need about 500 grams (1+ lb) of wool, loose, roving, or batts are all fine.
Then you layer wool and felt it a little bit, just enough to hold together.
Then you full (fulling is the origin of the common last names Walker, Tucker, and Fuller!) it to shrink and harden the felt. It takes a loooooong time to do this by hand. I also put my booties through the washer and dryer, but they need to be shrunk further.
They are very voluminous at the moment. The instructions I followed incorporated a tongue into their shoes, so I was led to add extra space around the ankle. As you can see, this was a mistake. Hopefully I can shrink all the extra down to fit, or design a tie/button system to take up the excess. I’m aiming for slip-ons or easy-tie shoes.

To get the slippers to fit my feet well, I’m going to shrink them around a set of lasts I made (with much difficulty!) of my feet:

They still need to be filled to be made solid.

So this project is very much in progress. I’ll update y’all once I get more done!

Janky umbrella repairs

I’ve had my umbrella for a long time. I think I got it in middle school. So the canopy is getting a little worn, especially where the skeleton folds. My first thought was to patch it, but the fabric is unusual. Fortunately, those nylon umbrella sleeves are perfect for cannibalizing. I often find them abandoned on the ground. We also have a ton at home that are never going to be used.

These patches are from an umbrella sleeve I found in Pittsburgh. The orange circle is also an umbrella part I picked up. Okay, my patch placement and shaping were not ideal… Maybe if they were all the same shape, size, and orientation it would work.
At least the patches were sewn very neatly! I even hid the raw edge of the fabric.

I intend to keep this umbrella forever, and I have many more, variously colored umbrella sleeves to use (: Hopefully my umbrella looks more purposeful in a few years, once I get a few more patches on.