Before and after: shower curtain

before after shower curtains wordsThis isn’t a tutorial because my sewing skills are actually pretty rudimentary, so no one would profit from me passing on the details of how I made this thing. But hey – I made this thing!

The old shower curtain.

The old shower curtain.

I have had an eye out for a new shower curtain for quite some time because the old one (which was a wedding present to us 7 years ago) was faded and stained. As with many consumer goods, the ones in my price range were gaudy and hideous and the simple, attractive ones were laughably expensive. So I wasn’t having much luck. But I had a little birthday money left over last week when I went to the thrift store and among the other scores that day I found a like-new queen size sheet orphaned from its set (no matching fitted sheet or pillowcases in sight) with thin, bold stripes in just the grassy shade of green I was looking for – not mossy, not chartreuse. Finally.

The new shower curtain.

The new shower curtain.

I trimmed and hemmed it down to the size of the old curtain and inexpertly smooshed some grommets in place for the rings and the result looks pretty good! The little areas of perpendicular stripes on the top outer corners are double-thickness patches I added for Matt to use as handles. Other than the inevitable sun-fading, the biggest trouble I had with the old curtain was that Matt’s grubby logger fingers left indelible smudges at those two corners that no amount of pre-treating or color-safe bleach could expunge. If he can keep his filthy hands off the rest of the curtain I can pretty easily remove and replace the patches, hopefully giving this curtain as long a life as the last one enjoyed – but with a more graceful decline.

— Amanda

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DIY log tote (free!)

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Crap. I didn’t realize I was wearing living room camouflage. Only in my house could you be invisible when wearing mustard yellow.

Google log totes. I dare you. Don’t take a sip of that coffee, though – you might do a spit take. Expensive, no?

Well, ours wasn’t. Matt whipped it up a few years ago from a pair of jeans in the rag pile. He sliced off one half of a leg (the front or back, I forget which) right at the seams (which is why it hasn’t frayed into oblivion) and whacked it off under the pockets. He detached the waistband and cut it in half legnthwise and attached it to the ends of the leg piece (see below) as handles. He sewed the snot out of it on my sewing machine, making good use of the reverse button.

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What matters is that the table will be clear in time for dinner, right? Failing that, I say we eat on the couch.

If you don’t have a machine or the inclination to hand sew you could punch a hole in the leg, feed the handle through and knot it.

— Amanda

DIY denim draft dodger

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Ugh. What a dismal picture. The hallway needs repainting pretty badly and the carpet needs cleaning again. The divots in the floor are from Matt’s weights, which don’t fit anywhere else in the house.

The door to the back room stays shut year round because it doubles as a pantry: it’s where I keep our garlic and potatoes and onions, as well as overstock foods in cans (like coffee, cooking oil, canned goods). It’s dry, but it needs to stay cool, too.

To help with that I decided to make a draft stopper. There’s a lot of different names for these things when I ran across a few sites that called them draft dodgers I couldn’t resist.

I followed the simple tutorial on The Little House in the City to make my draft dodger. My tube was not as wide as hers because I was putting mine at the bottom of a narrow door, so I had a little rice left over. (About that: I didn’t really want to waste food on this project but the price of beanbag filling was prohibitive and long grain white rice was only $0.53/pound in the bulk department at WinCo.) Getting the rice in there got interesting. It involved a death grip, a canning funnel, and some quick work. I spilled a little, but just a few grains – nowhere near the catastrophe I was anticipating. (I should have waited until Matt got home to take pictures of my contortions to fill the tube and then machine sew the end shut.)

While I was at it I threw a knee patch on my work jeans.

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Before.

During.

During.

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Part of my old sewing machine detaches from the sewing arm to make it narrower. Good for working on sleeves and legs.

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After.

— Amanda

Pantry cosmetics pt 1: the eyes have it

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Yes, it’s all crookedy. I can’t see a damn thing without my glasses so it’ll be a while before I get the hang of this stuff.

I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but I suspect that if it were ridiculously cheap, didn’t involve solvents for removal, and was made entirely of things I can pronounce, I would wear a heck of a lot more.

My bizarre quest for homemade makeup started because I have a background project going on in which I document everything I put in the garbage can for the month of March. Given that I am also working on a lengthy clutter purge, some weird stuff has been getting onto the garbage list.

In the above picture I am wearing eyeliner made of charcoal (grind fine in a mortar and pestle or use activated charcoal from the pharmacy and dip a dampened eyeliner brush in the dry powder), eye shadow made of cocoa powder (dry brush in dry powder just as you would any loose eye shadow), and eyebrow color also made of cocoa powder (wet brush in dry powder). I have read that if you would like to make cake eye shadow out of cocoa (or cocoa mixed with arrowroot to lighten or spirulina for a green shade) you can make a paste out of your powder and your choice of vodka or rubbing alcohol, press into tin and let dry. (Mini Altoid® tins work great if you don’t have an empty eye shadow compact laying around. I am keeping all of my stuff dry so I have the powders in little .2 oz jars leftover from red pimentos (an essential ingredient in tuna noodle casserole).)

Mascara can also be made out of the charcoal by adding a pinch of charcoal to your favorite oil (coconut, jojoba, vitamin e), but I didn’t have a mascara wand handy this morning so that will have to wait.

[Now up, Part 2: Lipstick!]

— Amanda

Rag and bone cotton balls

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My new “cotton balls” may be cotton (or at least 50 cotton), but they sure aren’t ball-shaped.

I take perverse delight in not buying things. Mind you, I love to consume as much as the next person: just watch me go bonkers in the thrift store on books and sweaters. But there is a strange satisfaction to be had in saying “no” – or, in my case “no thanks, I make my own.”

We now produce our own stock, bacon, veggies (to an extent), ham, eggs, shampoo and conditioner, hair gel, soap, jams and other canned goods, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, chicken, pork, pasta, bread, yogurt, sausage, sour cream, vanilla extract, and beer. (Hot damn, what a list!) But we still buy these things from time to time. Sometimes I really don’t feel like spending half an hour grating soap into flakes for laundry detergent, or slaving over a stove for a lengthy but indeterminate amount of time to render fat and saponify it. Sometimes we don’t have any pork on hand to cure into bacon or ham. Sometimes the chickens are sick or fussy and egg production goes down. But by and large we make our own.

(Wow, that was a lot of tooting of my own horn. On to the subject at hand.)

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Those little white things are gun cleaning patches commercially made from underwear remnants. This is what got me thinking. And thinking is dangerous . . .

Inspired by the growing tower of discarded clothing in the corner of the bedroom, known as the rag pile, and also by the little cotton jersey squares cut from commercial underwear remnants that we use as cleaning patches for our guns, I decided to forgo buying any more cotton balls.

When Matt is done with a T-shirt there is no question of taking it to the thrift store. Because when Matt is done with a T-shirt it is well and truly done. Swiss cheese. Holey holey holey. Positively indecent. Fit only for rags. And, apparently, cotton balls.

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Wax on. Wax off.

I am not a big user of cotton balls to begin with. I have only recently started using nail polish again with anything approaching frequency and I rarely wear makeup (and when I do, it doesn’t require cotton balls for either application or removal). For the purposes of nail polish removal, Goo Gone® application, and cleaning up hair dye drips, these little squares of old T-shirt work just fine.

When (if ever) we run out of gun patches I’m sure we’ll use T-shirts for that, too.

— Amanda

Half-baked uses for baking soda

[Please see the follow-up post to item #2 here and also know that after several years of no-poo I abandoned that system in favor of co-washing because no matter what I added to my vinegar rinse I couldn’t get back the curls that slowly faded away during no-poo. Lots of curlies do no-poo, though, so don’t let this discourage you from trying.]

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I was more than a little surprised to find, when I searched the archives of the blog this morning, that I hadn’t written about either of my two favorite uses for baking soda. Better late than never.

1) Shampoo. I am a “no-poo” convert. I haven’t used shampoo or conditioner in months. I get in the shower with two plastic containers: one contains a few tablespoons of baking soda and the other a few tablespoons of cider vinegar. I wet my hair, add about 1/2 cup of water to the baking soda container, shake, and pour it over my hair. Massage it in, then rinse it out. I then add about 1/2 cup of water to the vinegar container and pour it over my hair but I leave it in. Yes, I smell a little like pickles for a while, but by the time I’m dressed and ready to leave (15-30 mins after toweling off) the smell has evaporated.

It really works – even on really messy, greasy hair. And it doesn’t seem to affect my color. (I confess: I have given in to vanity and I dye away the gray.) If you are going to do this be forewarned that there is a hard first week to get through in which your hair will be suddenly, unreasonably, embarrassingly greasy. But it does pass and after that your hair will be soft and compliant and shiny.

I follow this up with homemade hair gel. I blogged about this some time ago but I have since refined (and seriously simplified) the recipe to just 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin to 1/2 cup of boiling water.

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2) Deodorant. I also haven’t slathered on deodorant in months. I was even more skeptical about this working than I was about the no-poo method but it works magnificently and without an adjustment period.

I keep 1/4 cup or so of baking soda in a washed-out tin (one of those giant tuna fish cans, truthfully) with an over-sized store-bought facial puff on top (but there are dozens of patterns online for making your own). When I get out of the shower I pat the puff in the baking soda and then pat it under my arms. It only takes a pinch. Done right you can’t see the stuff on your pits and it there shouldn’t be any excess to shed all over your clothes. But most importantly: absolutely no smell what-so-never. Diddly. Even after a backbreaking miserable horrid hard day in the woods with Matt.

— Amanda

Rag and bone petticoat

Admittedly, most of you are likely not in a vintage fervor like me and don’t yearn to wear Dior New Look dresses day and night, particularly while mopping and slopping and all those great things that come with homesteading. (I want to live Jenna‘s life, but I want to do it while looking like Solanah.) However, homesteaders don’t slop and mop 24/7, we get out sometimes, too, even if it’s just to the feed store.

This project was sort of a gap-filler for me. It’s froofy enough to make me feel fancy-pantsy, but not so froofy that I will stand out (any more than usual) in line at the supermarket. Also, it gave a large portion of a worn, holey bedsheet another lease on life – which means it also cost me nada.

The rest of the sheet will meet a more traditional, less glamorous end: being reused to rag curl my hair, strain kitchen liquids, making muslins of sewing patterns, dusting the living room, etc. And that’s likely how the petticoat will end up someday, too. Reuse, reuse, reuse . . . then recycle.

I made this baby by following this tutorial on BurdaStyle.

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One of my favorite dresses, sans petticoat. Damn, that’s a blue picture.

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Same dress, with petticoat. Not a big difference – just a bit of swish. I hope the petticoat doesn’t always show like that – I had the camera at toddler-eye-level, so hopefully adults can’t see it. Props to me for finally figuring out the timer function on the camera after four freaking years!

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And here’s a peek at the petticoat. I canted the middle tier 90 degrees so that the stripes would run counter to the top and bottom tiers. That’s about as complicated as I get with alterations.

I’ll try to cough up something a little less frivolous for my next post – but no promises.

— Amanda