Thursday, May 19, 2011

Curtains for Me!

Few things go according to plan and this spring has been no exception. First, I threw out my hip while refinishing the hardwood floors – the floors look great but I lost more than a week imitating a pretzel. Then, when spring-cleaning finally neared completion, plans to do yard work took shape. That's when the rain began – no deluges; just enough to prevent mowing and soil-cultivation. Undeterred, we thought to go in search of wild asparagus. No luck. The unusually late spring discouraged early sprouting of local forage plants. what? Timing seemed perfect for a project I'd planned "when time allows." We'd bought the materials a couple months ago, while a fantastic business-relocation sale was going on so, lately, it's been curtains for me!

It may seem like needless work to some, but there are several benefits to sewing these elements of home decor. First, we've realized tremendous savings without compromising quality. Actually, achieving better quality. We waited for a fabric sale – it was pure luck we found prices marked down even further to facilitate easier relocation. For the paltry sum of $131 (Canadian dollars, including taxes) we got beautiful drapery and sheer fabrics to dress the kitchen, living room and master bedroom windows, including a black-out liner for the latter window. Browsing catalogues, you'll be hard-pressed to find drapery and sheers to cover one small window for that cost. If found, cheap fabrics and poor stitching are usual reasons for such an extraordinary bargain.

Among the other benefits of sewing curtains are variety, fit, and home coordination. We live in a rented home, so any decorating is limited by the landlord's chosen colours and home design. Many of the patterns and colours of pre-made draperies did not coordinate our current setting with our furniture. However, when shopping for fabrics, we found colours, designs and textures that weren't represented in the home decor stores we'd shopped at. It was that variety of hues and textures which enabled us harmonize our furniture with these retro-coloured walls. Also, in buying fabric, I can fit curtains and sheers to these odd-sized windows better than the standard pre-fabrication measurements. Individuality is another advantage of sewing curtains. Even if neighbours, friends or family were to buy the exact same fabric, their curtains likely wouldn't appear in the same format – size, shape or design – as the curtains I've sewn. Our new curtains are unique.

In choosing particular fabrics, we also made conscious decisions to control your home heating and cooling. Some designers advise "summer-izing" the home by swapping heavy draperies for lighter, airier panels or blinds, to allow more light in. But sunlight is heat and, in recent years, we've attempted to limit use of the air-conditioner to exceptionally hot days only – respecting both our pocketbook and the environment. Simply by opening and closing curtains and windows, syncing them with the sun's daily progress to allow in cool air, and block out as much direct sun and its ambient heat as possible, we've saved significantly on electrical costs. Heavier curtains are effective year-round – providing sun-blocking in summer and draft-protection in winter.

New Kitchen Curtains
This spring may not have gone as planned, but sewing is, for me, a very enjoyable, almost Zen, activity. It'll still be curtains for me for a while longer, but I love the creative activity and satisfying results. That pleasure only increases knowing that with each garment and drape it produces, the sewing machine we bought several years ago gets progressively less expensive. And this current project won't just save us money – through sale prices, fabric choices, and depreciating machine-cost – the results will be fitted dressings of unique design and harmonizing quality, which will help us maintain our favoured home environment.

So…♪♪  I sew, I sew, it's off to create, I sew... ♪♪

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Time To Get Crackin’!

I’m back.  Sorry to go AWOL for the previous blog post.  I got a little carried away with spring-cleaning and aggravated an old injury.  Sitting was just not possible.  As much as I love writing, it’s not easily done when lying prone.  I discovered that while attempting to post a “stand-by” blog meant for just such occasions.  First, I lost the file through some technical glitch – most likely user-error.  When I finally found the missing file, the data was irretrievably corrupted.  Sigh.  Time to rebuild that post...
Not today, though.  It’ll soon be time to plant our garden so I wanted to talk about using egg-shells for feeding plants in-home and in the yard.  I’ve found three fantastic uses for them.
Some people add egg shells to the compost however, I’ve read, proteins (which raw egg shells contain) should NOT be added to the compost as they create offensive odours and slow the decomposition process.  Still, egg-shells are an excellent and easily absorbed source of calcium for plants, so it would be a shame to waste this free, organic product.  I begin saving egg-shells a few weeks before planting time.
First, boil the raw shells in water to cook off any residual proteins.  (The shells of hard-boiled eggs don’t require re-boiling but should be cleaned of any remaining albumen.)  After boiling the raw shells for a couple/few minutes, strain the water into a jar and allow to cool.  Acid-loving houseplants in need of a little pH balancing  will benefit from waterings with this solution.
Next, spread the boiled shells on newsprint and allow to dry thoroughly.  Once dry, place a few shells at a time between two sheets of newprint and, using a rolling pin, gently crush the shells to a coarse crumble.  Store in a jar until needed.  Use this “first crush” as snail and cutworm deterent by creating small egg-shell berms around the base of susceptible garden plants (such as cabbages).  Soft-bodied pests will either avoid or be destroyed by the coarse and jagged shells.
But wait!  There’s more!  Egg shells are a rich source of calcium carbonate, commonly sold in garden centres as lime.  Plants like beans, broccoli, carrots and rhubarb thrive in more acid soils (pH of 6.0 or less) so, for these plants, make a “second crush”of shells by pulverizing some of crushed shells with a food processor or mortar and pestle.  When preparing to plant, sprinkle some of this powder in the prepared rows, cover with a dusting of soil, and plant as usual.  For perrenials like rhubarb, work a little of the powder into the surrounding soil by careful hand-tilling.
Throughout spring and early summer, I continue these boiling and crushing processes to ensure there’s enough crumble and powder for each successive planting.  Once the last planting is done, I add any remaining powder to the compost and quit until the next spring.  Through the fall and winter, if a houseplant looks in need, I’ll boil a few shells for the watering solution only – the shells themselves won’t store for long periods without smelling funky.
With spring-cleaning mostly behind us, yard-work is now pressing.  We’ve saved up a generous supply of toilet paper rolls, coffee grounds and egg-shells, and now it’s finally time to get our hands dirty.  None too soon, either.  I hear wild asparagus is sprouting!