Saturday, February 8, 2014

Make and Mend

In early January I mentioned that I one of my goals for this year, was making more things, and that I might be sharing some of what I make here. 
One of the magical things about making your own is that the joy of it never gets old. To me, it is as close to the childhood delight of creating houses out of sticks and people out of stones, as one can get in adulthood. The surprise of actually creating toothpaste, or potholders, or rugs, or sauerkraut, or whatever other previously store-bought item you're making, is one of the most empowering things I know. That feeling is at the core of homemaking and homesteading for me.

It's akin to the pleasure of thrifting, or rather thriftiness, the sense that you were clever and crafty enough to help your family a little further with a little less. There's similar satisfaction to finding a really great thrift score, as to mending new life into an old, beloved item. I love mending. When I was little, I had a lacy white sweater that ended up equal parts mend and original garment, mended by my mom and my grandma and mending was one of the only handcraft skills they taught me.

In the last few nights I've mended both mine and C's favorite sweaters, and while his turned out pretty nice, mine has so many holes that it's quickly becoming a zombie-sweater. At first I thought I might try to mend it with three matching colors, to catch all the fallen stitches and keep the pattern intact, but what can I say, my Mummi (grandma) would be appalled at its lack of finesse. Still, I have a feeling that this 60s L.L Bean Icelandic beauty is going to slowly morph into one big, woolen patch that I'll be wearing years from now.

For my health/ beauty products last month I made rose-infused oil and dark-hair dry-shampoo. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know by now that I have a troubled complicated relationship with my hair, which involves hating to wash it...ever. I wash my bangs about three times a month, my hair twice or less. Dry-shampoo is my best friend, but sadly they're often made from white ingredients. For my super simple powder I mixed corn starch, a little bit of baking powder and lots of out-of-date coco powder. Not only does it do the trick, but it makes my head smell like chocolate.

In January I received not one, but two sewing machines and have been sewing up a bunch of different projects, two of which I'm hoping to finish in the next few days and show you in the next installment of this little series. I also got completely obsessed with embroidery and used up some of my sizable vintage handkerchief collection to embroider my favorite quotes on.

With baking (more about that later), fermenting and sprouting, I feel pretty good about my making and mending prowess so far this year.

How about yourself?  Pray tell, what are you making?

Ps. This cardigan is going under the mending needle next...

Edit: By popular demand, more details on dry-shampoo follow...but first...let's talk about not washing your hair. There's bee various "no poo"-methods (Such an unfortunate name isn't it?)  circulating around the internet for a few years now, advocating the groovy, "new" idea that you can either not wash your hair as often, or at all, but at least shy away from commercial shampoo. Alternate washing methods involve baking soda mixed with water and rinsing with lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. I've tried it and it worked great for me, though my water and baking soda mixture tended to become a hard, clay-like substance between washes. Maybe because I don't wash my hair very often...

In the last month I washed it once. Forever ahead of the curve when it comes to non-hair-care, when I first came to America fourteen-years ago, I remember being told by some crunchy granola hippie that if you didn't wash your hair it would eventually start cleaning itself, and realizing that I had waited pretty much my whole life for this information. I stopped washing my hair and didn't wash it again for about nine months and sure enough, after a very greasy phase, that lasted about a month it started gradually getting cleaner. After a couple of months it looked more or less normal, and was rather more well-behaved. I would still get it wet occasionally, but since that's the part I hate, it couldn't have been more than a handful of times.

Sadly, I eventually went back to "civilization" and its mandatory haircare, but encouraged by the experience, I washed my hair with less and less frequency. Oh and I should add that when I finally did wash my hair for the first time in a long time, I did discover what truly dirty hair looks like:  if memory serves (fourteen years ago), I filled two basins with brackish brown water, with actual dirt particles floating around. Good. Times.

Fast forward to 2009 and my discovery of dry-shampoo.  Now, as a disclaimer I must inform you that I have thick, fairly coarse hair that's naturally curly/wavy, which perhaps makes it better-suited for this kind of haircare, but even if you have fine, slippery hair you don't have much to loose, just a little while of feeling like you need to wash your hair.

The way it works is, you reduce the "greasy"-appearance of your hair by putting some powdah (about a teaspoon to start with for me) on your hairbrush and brushing it in. That's it. Really. You'll want to make sure that you have it all brushed in before you leave the house. I'm not entirely clear on how it would do with a dry scalp, it could maybe dry it out more, (but not so much as constant washing!) but other than that it has no side-effects, except that it gives your hair quite a bit of volume, which at least in my case is not exactly a desired effect. All in all though, I heartily recommend giving it a try if you're trying to reduce the number of washes your mop gets.

I hope this answers some of your questions. Apparently this is what happens when I try not to talk about my hair. Foiled. Again.  


  1. Love this post and this topic! I really resonated with your points about making being empowering and also the closest thing to that feeling of childhood. Lately I've made: all in one lip balm/salve/hair pomade (beeswax and coconut oil), deodorant (milk of magnesia, essential oils), lots of mending as well, laundry soap….it's never ending around here. Looking forward to hearing more about your making and mending :)

  2. The most I can manage to make lately are smoothies and toddler muffins and plans to get to work on some sewing projects very soon. I'm giving myself a big break on the homemaking front since I am growing another human again and little growing humans tend to take all I've got. But I would love to know more about how hair powder works. I've got very thick course hair and was it about once a week these days. How does the hair powder help with both dry scalp and oily hair? How often do you apply?? I'm so intrigued!

  3. Milla, that embroidered handkerchief is so precious. I have never mastered embroidery, hopefully there will come a day when I will be ready to sit down and try it (even with the possibility of failing - grrr!). Dude, how come your hair never looks dirty? I wash my hair once a week (baking soda or no-nasties shampoo) and by the time it's day 7 I am definitely wearing it up to avoid the massive grease patch that has become the back of my head. hmmmmm corn starch you say? Might be worth a try for me. Looking forward to your mending posts!

  4. Hello crafty lady, this is lovely! I often mend my woolen sweaters and find it very satisfying, though none with a pattern so far ;o) but guess what? My favourite one to wear at home during the long Quebec winters is a Samband of Iceland that Pierre brought back from Reykjavik years ago - it's a wonderful creamy white, with a pattern of broad, light grey snowflakes on the chest, bordered in the softest dark blue. I was thinking this very afternoon how much it warms my soul as well as my body, and how you would like this (the sweater and the feeling ;o) - but I love the chocolate colour of yours! With its loving stitches and all.

    On the mending-crafty-empowering front, I am also happy to say that I can now use my bras twice as long as before, by cutting the middle and last hook on the back, and sewing them on again, but this time on the other side of the first hook - hand-stiching around (and across) with a fine thread in a matching colour. (Am I the only one who had to put away each of my bras after a few months, even if they were still perfectly nice otherwise, because the elastic had become way too loose?)

    And yes, me too, I would like more details about your dry chocolate shampoo! I have very fine hair so I wash it every day, but it can be pretty challenging in the winter with not much heat inside.

  5. This post is so inspiring! I've been teaching myself to crochet this year. Loving it so far and finding it easier (for me) than knitting. Can you tell me how you made your lovely rose oil and what you use it for?

  6. I'm always so jealous of artists. I feel like I should be one, but never quite figured out how or what. I have come to love the term maker. I have made so many dinners and a few special moments. I've made laundry detergent and a lamp.

  7. Hello! I love this post, and I love your blog. I have a growing pile of clothing that needs mending one of these days, sooner rather than later hopefully.

  8. There must be something in the water for making things right now! I recently moved into a new (share)house and in an attempt to make my space a little more homely I have been sewing cushion covers using all sorts of mismatched fabric with china plate patters, fish patterns, map patterns.. I've also been making some hanging planters for inside my room!

  9. Inspiring post, Milla! I've been struggling with scalp psoriasis for 6 years now and tried various no-poo methods too. Not only because of the psoriasis (all the chemicals and fragrances attack my plaques) but just because one day I was once again seeing all the shampoo float through the drainage of the shower and thinking billion and billion of people do that - some every day- and thought that couldn't be right. The no poo method worked for a while, but I still felt like my hair smelled like 'dog' :-D, even after adding essential oils to my mixture. Since, I try to wash my hair less, and with sulfate free products, but still twice or even three times a week. I do use dry-shampoo a lot in between and I'm dark-blond, so the white powder isn't really a big problem for me. Smart idea to add coco powder to yours!

  10. Amen on the hair stuff, I *just* wrote a post about the toxins in my ex-hair products a couple days ago. Way scary and completely unnecessary. Props for actually having gone and not washed your hair at all for months! I have this urge at the back of my mind to do that. For now just a bit of baking soda works for me. To combat the hardening between washes you mentioned, I just mix a new batch of a couple spoonfuls every shower (not very much work, especially as I only wash my hair once a week).

    And good luck on the mending, you crafty woman!

  11. jiihaa! hyvä sinä,ihanan tuottelias olet ollut. Teen itse mielelläni kaiken mahdollisen. Ruokaa tulee tietty tehtyä joka päivä(tykkään tehdä alusta asti itse),mutta vähän erikoisempia tekemisiä viime viikoilta on pullaa,raakasuklaata,leipää,yksi siilinmuotoinen lapanen ja lumiukko:-)

  12. i love mending. i think random stitches and quirky thread only add to the character of an old garment. i've been working on an all-denim quilt for some time now--as our jeans wear out to the point of mending not being an option-- and it's coming along nicely. i also made two hats out of my husband's favorite wool sweater, one which he somehow managed to felt in the wash, even though he knows better. but he was so pleased to still have a part of it.
    i am terrible about hair care. i don't wash my hair very much, and neglect to brush it, which is unfortunate due to its length. i get quite amazed by it--my hair begins to dread all on its own.

  13. Oo I may give this dry-shampoo lark a try. I have been reducing my hair washes over the past few months... for a variety of reasons, mostly saving water, saving time and not letting myself be pressured into preening for society's sake. I also have curly hair and washing can be such a performance it becomes draining! I have never tried dry-shampoo as I figured it would fail to compete with curls and such, but perhaps it is the way to go as I have found myself getting a little greasy. It would also solve my 'can't really afford the eco-friendly shampoo but don't want to put toxic junk on my head' dilemma. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Over the last two years I've progressed to making my own shampoo and conditioner (with that baking soda + water, and vinegar method), deodorant, toothpaste and face scrub. Now I'm trying to get my hands on some Irish Mosh (which is actually sea weed) so I can attempt to create my own natural shower gel. I totally agree that there's such a satisfaction out of making your own products from scratch, I can't imagine why more people don't do it!

  15. That's it, I am done washing! In the summer's I get down to one wash a week, but for some reason in the winter I notice my "dirty" hair more. But you have encouraged me to go at it again! Just need to get past the greasy phase and all will be well.