Decluttering art supplies!

Here are some old projects I found. I think I made them in middle school – I was really into beading and jewelry then.

Collection of pendants made out of polymer clay!
This is a waterfall jungle scene, complete with vines and reptiles. You’re supposed to hang dangly things from the bottom holes.
Some abstract thing I actually turned into a necklace. It looks kinda like corn…
My mom’s grade-school watercolor kit (we did not get rid of it), and her scientific drawing dip pen! Vintage~

Both of my siblings are strangely attached to crayons. Although they allowed many of our crayons to be given away, the compromise was that we had to keep the 96-color set. As sibling C said, “Who knows when the world will end and we realize we need crayons”.

Estate sale find: safety razors!

Sibling C and I went to a cool estate sale in Austin a few weeks ago! It was particularly well-organized, and much of the normal junk that clutters estate sales (old food, low-quality mismatched silverware, low-quality pans, etc) had either been hidden or sold.

I was excited to find a small collection of old shaving accoutrements. I have a straight razor (that I need to get sharpened), but I’ve also been interested in trying out safety razors, with the particular goal of being able to recommend them to friends in good faith.

I bought 2 of the razors from the sale for $3.75 each, which seemed like a good price 👍

On the left is a Gillette “Tech” made in the ’40s. It is stainless steel and essentially the same design as modern razors. On the right is a Gillette “Old Type” made in 1914 (105 years old!!). It is silver-plated brass.

Free food!

I discovered a neighbor was moving out when I discovered trash bags full of dry goods (gasp!) outside their door. I couldn’t keep myself from asking if it was fine for me to take what I wanted (the answer was “yes” and I was even offered my pick of furniture), so I ended up with this haul:

Let’s see, from left to right, there’s cereal, spaghetti, butter, cornmeal, cashews and almonds, water chestnut flour (used as an alternative to cornstarch, I think?), a “string” of fig “buttons”, various Indian spice mixes, salsa, jaggery (unrefined sugar), olives, chickpeas, cooking oil.

I love getting stuff I wouldn’t normally buy. It’s a treat 🙂 I especially enjoyed the salsa.

The day the neighbors moved out, I dug through the apartment dumpster, and additionally got a chair (for putting my “in use” clothes on), an apparently never-used yoga mat, laundry detergent (never get Gain original scent… On the plus side, I hear Gain is super strong), and a single handkerchief.

Extended Producer Responsibility, etc

Here are more resources related to corporate responsibility and extended producer responsibility:

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition “promotes green design and responsible recycling in the electronics industry”. They write various articles on green electronics, including how to recycle and proposed laws.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics campaigns for the removal of toxic and harmful ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. The website includes information about what ingredients to look out for.

The Environmental Working Group does a lot of different stuff. Broadly, EWG monitors ingredients and contaminants in products that consumers use, including food, water, electronics, etc. The company promotes safe and sustainable products, and they produce many different consumer guides to help do this. EWG is most famous for their extensive Skin Deep cosmetics database, which includes extensive ingredient information and safety ratings.

The Bottle Bill Resource Guide compiles information about regions of the world with current or proposed bottle bills. Bottle bills (or container deposit laws) require consumers to pay a small, refundable deposit for every bottle purchased. When the bottle is returned for recycling or reuse, the deposit is returned. Bottle bills significantly boost recycling rates. Here’s a cool history of the switch from reusable to disposable bottles and cans.

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!

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!

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.

Goats on campus?

This morning, I saw a (small) herd of goats on campus. I was quite taken aback for a moment, then figured they must be there for landscaping purposes. I don’t know what exactly they were eating – this particular hill is mostly covered with vines and invasive-looking trees (which the goats were chewing the bark off of…).

It turns out there was a news feature on the goats!

CMU Goes Eco-Friendly, Brings In Goats To Landscape Overgrown Hillside

Apparently this particular hill is too steep and weedy for easy landscaping, hence the goats. I hope they get used for milk or meat!

A visitor! and patching

My older sibling C visited a few weeks ago. We did tons of cool things, starting with… the public library! It was sewing night, so I worked on the never-ending supply of holey clothing. Here are some of my recent patches!

Pocket was tearing off.

Back of patch.

Highly sophisticated machine darns where the corners of my wallet have started to wear through my jeans. I discovered that setting the stitch length to be the same length as the carries in the weave makes the patch blend in a lot better.

That linen shirt (homemade!) that continues to fall apart. I patched a huge worn spot where my backpack rubs.

Inside of the shirt. I’m trying to use up scraps of cloth first.

While I was patching, C looked at books, getting cool ones like:

Edible and Useful Plants of California by Charlotte Bringle Clarke, written in the ’70s for the back-to-nature movement, and

Handmade Pasta Workshop & Cookbook by Nicole Karr, which shows you how to make a dazzling array of pasta shapes, many of them machine-free!