Thursday, December 5, 2013

Homemade Dryer Balls

Now that I am making my own laundry detergent, I felt the need for a more natural alternative to fabric softener and dryer sheets. Meet the felted wool dryer ball! Not only do they soften your clothes, they also cut down on laundry drying time and reduce static electricity. And they are oh-so-simple to make!

Start out with full skeins of 100% wool yarn (not the machine washable variety). Roll it tightly into balls at least the size of tennis balls. Since I am a knitter, I used yarn from my stash. If you don't have a stash, find some coupons and hit your local Michael's or JoAnn Fabrics. Patons Classic Wool Roving works especially well, but you can also use regular worsted weight wool.

Using a largish crochet hook, pull the end of the yarn tightly a few wraps and snip off the end. 

Next, cut the leg off an old pair of pantyhose. Feed your balls through one at a time and tie in between them using acrylic yarn (don't use your wool here!) 

Then throw your yarn ball snake into the washing machine along with a load of towels. Wash in HOT water and dry using the HOTTEST setting on your dryer. Repeat this process once or twice, until your wool yarn balls have felted - meaning the strands will no longer separate when you rake your fingers across them. Aren't they pretty?

Adding a couple of drops of essential oil to each ball will add a light fragrance to your laundry. So will these orphan sock dryer balls! Yes, here is a way to use those mismatched socks that haven't had a mate in years but you can't bear to throw away!

Start by combining equal parts of flax seeds and lavender flowers. I used a cup of each. Add 20 drops of lavender essential oil.

 Next, cut the feet off your old socks.

Turn them inside out and sew a half-inch seam along the cut edge.

Stuff with your flax seed/lavender mixture - not too full! - and sew the cuff end closed using a double row of stitches. Ta-da!

Yes, my dryer balls were lovely to look at and delightful to the nose but would they actually do their job? It was time to put them to the test. I washed a large load of towels and tossed them in the dryer along with my felted wool dryer balls and one orphan sock dryer ball. For experiments' sake, I added a couple of nylon running shirts notorious for creating static and a couple of white t-shirts to make sure my brightly colored dryer balls wouldn't bleed dye. To my delight, everything was dry in about half the usual time (whereas I generally have to run a load of towels through TWO cycles to get them completely dry, today they were done after ONE) and everything came out fluffy and smelling faintly of lavender and there was no static cling. Success!

I am enjoying my do-it-yourself adventures. I am saving money AND putting fewer chemicals into the air and water and onto and into my body. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to do another load of laundry!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Dust jacket blurb:
1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think is a comprehensive guide to the most interesting and imaginative thoughts from the finest minds in history. Ranging from the ancient wisdom of Confucius and Plato to today’s cutting-edge thinkers, it offers a wealth of stimulation and amusement for everyone with a curious mind. 

Within the pages of this book you will find a wide variety of answers to the great, eternal questions: How was the universe created and what is the place of humans within it? How should a person live? And how can we build a just society? 1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think also includes a host of hypotheses that are remarkable for their sheer weirdness—from the concept of the transmigration of souls to parallel universes and the theoretical paradoxes of time travel (what happens if you travel back in time and kill your own grandfather?).

Discover how the Greek philosopher Zeno “proved” a flying arrow never moves; how modern science has shown that a butterfly’s wing can stir up an Atlantic storm; and the mathematical proof of the existence of life in other galaxies. The inspirational ideas explored here range from Gandhi’s theory of civil disobedience to Henry David Thoreau’s praise of the simple life and Mary Wollstonecraft’s groundbreaking advocacy of women’s rights. The book also covers a wide variety of lifestyle concepts, such as “rational dress” and naturism, and cultural movements including Neoclassicism, Surrealism, and Postmodernism.

Supported by a wealth of striking illustrations and illuminating quotations, 1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think is both an in-depth history of ideas and a delightfully browsable source of entertainment.

Beginning with the ancient world and ending in the contemporary period, this book deserves to be read from cover to cover, but at 960 pages, that might not be practical. To facilitate exploring, there is a detailed index of ideas by category. I chose to spend a pleasant hour just flipping through the pages, feasting  on the luscious illustrations, thought-provoking quotations, and wealth of information contained in this book. For starters, I learned about the origins of biological warfare, the man who first posed the question about the chicken and the egg, and the earliest coffeehouses. If you have ever wondered about a subject, you can probably find out more about it within the pages of this book.  It would make a great Christmas gift for any of those hard-to-please people on your list, but be sure to get a copy for yourself, too. Five enthusiastic stars! Very highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Knit, Purl, Knit

I have been a knitting fool.

First, there was the Feathers and Fans scarf, my first ever experience with lace knitting.

Already sold in my Etsy store.
Then there was the Moonlight Mohair scarf, with its flecks of silver.

Garter stitch. The picture doesn't do it justice.
Next came the ruffled scarves, the first one knit with Red Heart Sashay and its glimmers of silver metallic yarn


And the second one knit from Patons Pirouette, with its flash of silver sequins.

Then I used up the last of my wool roving yarn knitting the ribs and ruffles pattern

This one is still for sale.
and experimented with Lion Brand Fun Fur.

Each scarf I have made has been fun to knit and has had a personality of its own. My current personal favorite is this version of the ruffles and ribs pattern, which I am knitting with two strands of yarn, a combination of worsted wool and discontinued Red Heart Kiss yarn.

I'm not sure what it is, but there is something about knitting that I need right now. What about you? Do you knit? Crochet? Cross stitch? Please tell me I'm not alone in the crazy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Shaking Things Up

There is something about everything that you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it. 
― Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna

I had a happy Thanksgiving. Oh, it wasn't perfect. There were conspicuous absences at my dining room table, I completely forgot about the dinner rolls, and I cried when my brother and his wife left to go home at the end of the day. But none of us left the table hungry, we enjoyed our traditional hearing of the Chipmunks Christmas CD and viewing of Scrooged afterwards, and my sister-in-law and I even managed to sneak in a bit of talk about beads and soap.

Also, my brother brought me flowers.
Aren't they pretty?
Other than preparing Thanksgiving dinner, I had nothing in the way of obligations all week long and I put this unusual chunk of leisure time to good use. I cooked and baked, I did a lot of knitting, I made another batch of soap, and I rearranged my piano studio.

My piano teacher pal Natalie and I are planning a duo piano recital in May, and since I am blessed with TWO acoustic pianos, we are rehearsing at my house. The problem with the configuration I had before was that we couldn't see each other when we were practicing. My studio is oddly shaped and on the small side, so I wasn't exactly sure what to do about it. Natalie suggested a scale diagram; made sense before moving 1200 pounds of piano. This is what I came up with.
A pan of lasagna and a basket of garlic bread was sufficient bribe incentive to get three teenage boys to negotiate the move. This is what the room looks like now.
Two acoustic pianos side by side.
176 keys.
Digital pianos back to back.
A cozy nook for mandolin/clarinet/Irish whistle practice.
Natalie and I are planning to practice together again on Friday; it's going to be great. I hope that at least a few of my readers will be able to come to our recital next spring!

It's been a challenging year in a lot of ways, not just for me but for almost everybody else I know. I don't know about you, but there are moments I question the meaning of life and my purpose on this planet. I may never find the answers, but I refuse to stay stuck for long. Like Pollyanna, I will continue to search for the good in everything. In the meantime, I will spend time at the piano, knit another scarf, try a new soap recipe. And if something isn't working, I will find a way to change it. 

You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it's enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.
― Richelle E. Goodrich