Century-old Korean barbershop!

This awesome video is from my sibling. Notice the use of vinegar to rinse hair near the end of the video! Vinegar is actually good for your hair, and is used in the no-shampoo community as an alternative to conventional conditioner.

Also cool is the use of a straight razor! I’m surprised the barber had such an old razor, though. In Japan at least, the traditional razor, used before Westernization, is the kamisori. I figure Korea used something more similar to that than to European straight razors.

Kamisori example. From site.


All the stuff we buy in packaging

Someone new(er) to living low waste asked what types of packaging I still buy. I’m pretty sure the asker just meant categories, like cans, glass jars, milk jugs, etc. However, I found it an interesting exercise and tried to enumerate all the things we regularly buy that come in packaging. I’m not counting durable goods that need some research before purchase, like clothing, shoes, cookware. These types of items can often be found at thrift stores anyway.

To find all the packaging we buy, I walked around the apartment looking in cupboards. I could have looked in the trash, but packages that we go through slowly wouldn’t have been included. But I’m sure I forgot something…

Here is everything that my household routinely purchases in packaging:

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I actually bought something from Usaato

Menstrual pads for my sister and instructions (in Japanese). Usaato makes several different kinds- large, medium, small, “free” (that is, use it as you like), and “leaf” (??). These are the large ones.

Last Friday, J and I went to a special event in Los Gatos put on by Usaato. First we watched a video about Usaato’s production methods. Unfortunately, I can’t find the video 🙁 But if I find it in the future, I’ll make sure to share it here.

After the video, there was a modern taiko and dance performance by the Kohaku group, based in Sacramento. The performers wore (awesome) flowy clothes made by Usaato.

Then Usaburo Sato, the designer behind Usaato, talked us through the production video. He talked about production techniques and dying techniques- and even knew what a lot of the dye plants are called in English (and some in Latin)! He spoke English surprisingly well for a random Japanese clothes designer.

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Mattress update: Tufting

After lacing, I cut the string so that every desired tuft location had two string ends on the top of the mattress. I loosely tied the ends with a special tufting knot, as described in How to make a cotton mattress.

This knot isn’t hard, but it’s easy to tighten it wrong so that you have to completely untie it and start over.

Before tightening the string fully, I placed rolled up pieces of cotton sliver on the top and bottom of the mattress underneath the string. This helps prevent the string from ripping through the fabric of the ticking (mattress case).

This part was really hard. You have to tighten the string a lot, and each knot has to be tightened the same amount. Otherwise your mattress will be lumpy and uneven. It took me several days to finish this part. My fingers were so sore!!

Finished! I’m not sure what to do about the strings. If I need to adjust the tension of the tufting, I need to keep the strings long. I’ll probably try the mattress out for a while, then decide whether or not I like the thickness/tension.

The final mattress is fine. It’s not amazing, but it’s definitely sufficient. It’s pretty firm, as expected. Unfortunately, there’s very little spring. Maybe I should have added a thin latex core. I hear latex is excessively springy, enough that it’s not usually used alone.

I haven’t slept on the mattress yet, so I’ll report back once the two of us are more familiar! 😀

Mattress update: Lacing

A Victorian rocking chair. Notice the gathers on the backrest of the chair. Those are tufts. Image from eBay.

After stuffing the mattress, you need to lace and tuft it. In a mattress, tufting compresses the stuffing to give it a specific feel (for wool, springier and firmer). It also helps hold the stuffing in place. If a wool mattress isn’t tufted, then as you sleep on it, the wool will tend to shift to the edges of the mattress, leaving you in a ditch. And you need to lace before you tuft.

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Why am I making a mattress?

Why did I decide to make a mattress? Well, I started researching and kinda went down the rabbit hole…

I’d had my eye on Holy Lamb Organics wool mattress for a long time. It seems like a great company. They use organic cotton and organic/sustainably sourced wool. But the mattresses only come in 4″ and 5″ thicknesses (seemed a bit thin for my then-tastes) and are fairly expensive ($1300 or $1600 for twin XL, depending on thickness).

So I started doing more research into sustainable and some conventional mattress options.

I found several other (seemingly lesser) brands, and then I came across DIY Natural Bedding. This is a company that supplies the parts for people to assemble their own mattresses and other bedding, like comforters and pillows (!!!!). So cool!! And almost all of the parts are sustainable. For example, all their fabric is organic cotton, grown and milled in the US. The wool is basically organic (not certified, but still sustainable).Their latex is organic. They also do custom work, e.g. for furniture.

The DIY Natural Bedding website is rife with inspiration. I figured if I were going to assemble the mattress myself, I might as well go all the way and make the parts myself too. You know I love crafts!

I decided to make a wool mattress, as opposed to latex, for a few reasons. Wool can be raised domestically; latex comes from rubber trees, which only grow in tropical regions. The latex from DIY Natural Bedding, in particular, is from Sri Lanka, which is far away. Latex mattresses last a long time (30 years!), but wool lasts even longer (100 years!!!!, with some maintenance). If I ever decide to dissemble my mattress, it would be easier to repurpose wool than to repurpose a rectangular chunk of latex foam. I am absolutely certain that wool is biodegradable; I’m not sure about latex.

Lastly, wool mattresses are traditional. I know, I know, not a great reason. But I am solidly part of the modern reskilling movement, and think that it’s important to preserve traditional crafts. How to make a cotton mattress is an old document I heavily relied on for construction ideas.

Here’s a cute story about how long wool mattresses last. Here’s another cute story.

My personal care routine

I shower every day, but I don’t use shampoo or conditioner. I “wash” my hair with water alone. This involves wetting my head, then scrubbing my scalp as if I were using shampoo. The scrubbing helps redistribute oils, and remove dirt and dead skin from my hair. I’ve been doing this for about two years. It works best if you have soft water. The minerals in hard water tend to bind to sebum, leaving you with sticky, white, waxy buildup.

Before that, I used baking soda in place of shampoo, which works fine. Before that, I used natural shampoo.

Bath brush. Picture from Ancient Industries. I bought mine at a cultural fair in Sweden. It was made by the Onslunda Borstmuseum (brush museum), a working museum in southern Sweden.

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Heat wave alert!

California is having a heat wave today and tomorrow. Around San Jose, it’s supposed to get up to 102°F or so! Whew! It’s time to take extreme evasive maneuvers, which means camping out in air-conditioned buildings!

J and I rarely use the air conditioning (or heat, for that matter). My preference is to leave the windows open at night to bring in the cool air or just tough it out if it’s too warm. If it’s too hot to sleep (usually > 83°F), we turn the AC on for a few hours before going to bed. If it’s too hot during the day even for sitting at a computer, though, I would rather just go somewhere else.

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