Intro to my garden patch!

Each of the street trees in New York has a little patch of dirt around it (“tree square”). The NYC Parks department owns them, but officially sanctions adding plantings around the tree to reduce erosion and runoff (as long as you don’t kill the tree).

My local tree squares were sadly bare, so I took them over after seeing a guy down the street planting tulips! Competition is non-existent. In fact, I get a lot of weird stares when gardening 🙂 I was fortunate that the closest tree square is quite large (around 50 sq ft), although the tree, a red oak, has lots of shallow roots that get in the way.

The main garden layout. Seeds were donated by sibling C. Bearded irises were from my mom. They should be quite hardy. Mint was transplanted from an indoor hydroponic garden setup. The sweet potatoes were grown inside from a couple sprouting grocery store sweet potatoes.

The fence was used (“for parts”) on eBay. Apparently it was from a junk yard. It was the cheapest fence option I could find.

Side view. I’ve been encouraging the melons and sweet potatoes to vine around the fence.
I planted a few squash seeds in the next tree square down the street. The one in the center is doing well (although I have to trim back the weeds occasionally to make sure it gets enough sun), but the one on the side got trampled and never recovered.

I’ve decided that I’m willing to eat street-grown food, but only in cooked form. Who knows what goes on in the tree squares!

Another ‘nother rag rug

I just finished another requested rag rug from sibling C. The first request was finished around this time last year, and a non-requested rug + instructions a few years ago.

This rug is meant to replace a solid-color rug that shows hair and dirt too easily 🙂 The rug uses a new-to-me construction method.

You lay out strips side to side as a warp — I initially had this on a makeshift cardboard loom. The length should be the length you want your rug. Then you take strips of fabric and twine them around each other while doing plain weave. The warp ends up completely hidden.
Used part of a sheet, several pairs of underwear (the elastic was worn out), 3+ tshirts (including one I pulled out of the trash when I realized I was running out of white), and one button-up (stained).

The final rug looks nice but it was sloooow to make and pretty difficult to keep the tension even.

Brewing project

We use alcohol a lot in cooking, mostly for deglazing things and marinating things. The last batch (not shown, but here’s a prior experiment we tried) is close to running out, and buying alcohol through grocery delivery services is a bit complicated (I’m not sure if they just ask you if you’re 21, or if you have to slide the delivery person your driver’s license under the door and hope they don’t run off with it).

So I’m starting a new batch! I’m vaguely following these instructions.

We used some arborio-style rice we got for cheap from our food rescue grocery delivery service
Add the koji, a culinarily important mold used in making many different Asian fermented food products (miso, sake and other rice alcohols, rice vinegar, soy sauce).
After about 3 weeks.

After a week or so of fermenting, the koji sank, indicating (I hope) reduced density of the liquid due to increased alcohol content! Apparently rice takes longer for the yeast to ferment compared to simple carbohydrates, like sugar, so you’re supposed to let it go for several weeks in total.

Cool hand-dyed yarn and sweater from a blog I like

I really like this blog. The author has cool hobbies – veggie gardening, chickens, native plants, fiber arts, natural dyeing, beekeeping, vintage clothing making, and vintage “reenactment”.

The post that originally caught my attention was one about knitting a Fair Isle sweater from naturally-dyed yarn! It was quickly followed by another about a sweater vest. I can only hope to make such beautiful garments in the future!!

Swiss darning

Swiss darning is like this. You can use it to fill in holes in a knit while still retaining stretch, unlike “sewn” (regular) darning.

A few months ago, I found a cashmere Loro Piana sweater and a felted wool hat in the trash. To those of you with offended sensibilities, they weren’t deep in the trash, they were in a little paper shopping bag beside the trash. Although I like dumpster diving, I’m not up for rummaging through gross stuff. I mostly look for things on the top or left out on purpose (i.e. the person knows they are too good to get rid of but doesn’t want them anymore).

It seemed that the sweater had been thrown out because of a few holes – totally fixable, of course!

Too small for me.
First attempt, on the sleeve. Gauge is too large.
Second attempt, on the shoulder. Much better! This is probably as good as it gets on machine knits. (Hand knit items have a larger gauge that’s easier to work with.)

I’m going to give this sweater to sibling C. I hope it gets a lot of good use in its second life!

Quilted pajama top for sibling C

My sibling C is perpetually cold. She needed a new winter pajama top and requested that it be quilted, so I threw this together (it’s so much faster to make items for other people – I care much less about getting them perfect).

The pattern was made based on the previous pajama top (which I also made. It was based on commercial pajamas). Amazingly, we already had all the necessary materials. It took about a week to make, I think.

For future me, you already have a pajama top pattern! No need to make another 😭

Batting was sandwiched between the lining and outside. Sibling C did the actual quilting (by hand), I cut the pieces and sewed the garment together. The batting is smaller so that it doesn’t make the seams bulky.
Pink cotton flannel for lining, cotton batting for fluff, cotton plaid for the outside. The flannel and plaid were both previously purchased from creative reuse stores.
Hand-quilting.
The quilting gives a bit of a muscle-man effect… 💪
The original top had darts on the back. Those didn’t turn out well with the extra-thick quilted fabric. I’d remove the darts and make the back piece a bit narrower next time.

Overall, it turned out really well! C says it is super warm. It is nicely color-coordinated and I even got some of the stripes to line up!

We have a teensy garden

Our front windows are quite sunny – they face southwest – so I’d hoped to be able to grow some veggies. I planted lots of things, cilantro, peas (for pea shoots), various greens. Peas are the only thing that really took off, and (amazingly, considering they’re inside) actually made peas!

Various seeds from sibling C’s collection!
Pea shoots, with some small crucifer sprouts in between.
Pea flowers!

We got a handful of pods from the peas. Maybe I’ll save them to plant next year?

I also have a houseplant (Aglaonema) that I got for free! from work. It’s doing well. I might expand the houseplant collection. Ferns sound nice 🙂 It’s also possible to grow some tropical and more unusual foods indoors (see Growing Tasty Tropical Plants). I’m considering figs.

Finishing the wool slippers

Original post here! I put the slippers around my foot casts (filled with scrap fabric to make them firm) then ran them through the washer and dryer.

Oooo, very nicely shaped.

Overall, they fit better but there’s still a bunch of extra felt around the ankle. As it turns out, positive molds (vs negative molds, i.e. casts) of your feet are bigger than your feet, so these are a bit loose. For actual shoes or other tightly-fitted footwear, I’d want to do some additional shaping via cutting/sewing. The instructions I followed (loosely) for this project were meant to be boots with a tongue and laces – hence where the extra felt was supposed to go.

Another rag rug

I made a custom-request rag rug for Sibling C! This is going to go beside a bed, so you don’t step on the cold floor in the winter.

Made from 1 sheet, 8 shirts, 3 of those cloth bags sheet sets come in, and about 10 pairs of underwear (the elastic was all stretched out).

This one is also braided, but in a zig-zag instead of a circle.

New yarn projects

In my new-spinner‘s excitement, I made a big batch of handspun yarn before realizing that it was waaay too loosely spun to wear well. It might’ve made a good hat, but certainly not the sweater I was aiming for. Sweaters and other items that get a lot of friction need tightly spun or lightly felted yarn to last a long time.

Fluffy but delicate.

Sooo, I’ve been respinning the batch! The aim, of course, is to make the yarn more durable by spinning it more tightly. To do so, I had to un-ply the yarn, spin the singles more, then re-ply everything. The whole process for about 600 yards of yarn only took a few years.

You can see that the yarn is now finer and more twisted.
But there’s not quite enough to make a sweater…

I’m now unsure what to use the yarn for. I’ve been considering:

  • A hat for J (see draft below!), potentially with a matching scarf or cowl
  • A sweater vest for me
  • A sweater with a contrasting color for the sleeves or the bottom, color-block style.

Let me know what you think would be best!

The draft hat using a Ravelry pattern.