Monday, February 8, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Monday is laundry day. After sorting the piles of dirty clothes this morning, I realized I was all out of laundry detergent. Time to go to the store? No--time to grab a few simple ingredients from the cupboard and make my own.

First, the supplies:

1/4 cup Liquid Castile Soap (can be found at health food stores)
1 cup Washing Soda (can be found in the laundry aisle of most supermarkets)
1 cup Baking Soda
1 cup White Vinegar

Mix together, adding vinegar last. The mixture is foamy at first, and then gradually lumps together. The mixing bowl will get quite warm as you stir!

Let it sit for a while. Now comes the fun part. Dump the mass in a thick plastic bag, place on a hard, flat surface, and BEAT THE LUMPS AWAY WITH A HAMMER!

The detergent is now all ready to use. I use 1/2 cup per full load of clothes.

Here's another, easier recipe that was my favourite until the supermarket stopped selling Borax:

2 cups soap flakes (or grate bars of soap yourself)
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Borax

Use 2 tablespoons per full load. I always put 1/2 cup of vinegar into the rinse cycle, to make sure there was no soap residue on the clothes.

Both these recipes can be scented with a few drops of essential oil. (try Lavender or Peppermint)

Why make my own laundry detergent? Well, first of all it's fun. Secondly, it's cheap. But most of all, I'm not worrying about things like unhealthy chemicals and optic brighteners any more. And no more watery eyes when I scoop the detergent into my washing machine!

I found these recipes and more here. Soon, I'd like to try one of the ones for liquid soap, but till then, I'm happy using my funny, lumpy powder. :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

My first patchwork

Over the Christmas holiday, my mother-in-law helped me start my very first patchwork projects. We went to the fabric shop just to browse, really, but came out with several lovely cotton fabrics to make some much needed potholders and a cushion cover for my ubiquitous couch pillow. I was so glad to have Mum there to help me buy, because I am still a bit overwhelmed with the whole metric system. Fabric measurements in yards and inches I can understand. But metres and centimetres? Confusing!

We started out by cutting the pieces for the potholders. I'd chosen two blue fabrics from the scrap bin. After measuring the rectangles, we knew that we had enough for eight squares. I wanted to do a simple four-triangle design, so we marked and cut two squares diagonally. I started to sew them together following the 1/4 inch mark on my sewing machine, but found that the seam allowance was too generous for patchwork. That's when I realized what the 1/4 inch piecing foot is for--scant seams for patchwork! After I put that on the machine, all went well. I tried a different piecing technique for the second potholder. (Detailed instructions here) Much easier than cutting out triangles, and trying to sew on the bias.

After I'd pieced the blue fabrics together, I layered each square with batting, and secured it by stiching in the ditch. Finishing was easy: Place right sides together, sew around the edges leaving room to turn, turn, close opening.

The second project was a bit more difficult. I wanted to make a cover for my couch pillow, so that it wouldn't like like something that belonged in a bedroom. The design inspiration was a cushion that Mum made for John:

She helped me cut out all the pieces, and introduced me to a new concept: Fussy cutting. This is cutting out portions of fabric to highlight specific motifs. It's not as economical, but it does make for a beautiful finish. We did the center patchwork together, and then it was time for her to go back to Tasmania.

It took me a while to get back into sewing after the Christmas rush, but I finally decided to finish the cushion cover last week. After stabilizing the center patchwork with batting, I attached rectangles of the red fabric to fit the pillow case measurements, and made a button fastening on the end. It was fun to try another new thing: machine-stitched buttons! I couldn't believe it would work at first--I still can't get over all the exciting features of my new sewing machine. (I had to leave my old Singer back in the States--too bulky and heavy to put in a suitcase!)

Here is the finished project:



Now that I'm back into sewing, I know that I've finally settled in to married life in Australia. Happy days. :)