Sunday, August 25, 2013

Frugal Crafting: Weaving

This was written a few years ago for a now defunct little magazine called "Homewords."

I have been thinking of how crafting has grown naturally out of our needs, as our mothers and grandmothers found ways to create solutions for the problems they had before mass production made those things cheap and easily accessible.
Today, most of us have the option to buy items already made that fill our needs but crafting still satisfies a basic desire to create. Even more satisfaction comes when we can create something useful and beautiful from materials that would otherwise be ignored or thrown out.

Weaving is one of those crafts that uses these kinds of material. Now, before we get started, let me say that I am NOT a weaver! There may be those out there who are, and we would certainly appreciate any information you'd be willing to give.
Weaving at its most basic, is fun and productive. Almost anyone can weave a mat of sorts without a pattern, simply by understanding what weaving is, an 'under/over' 'in-and-out' process.
You might want to practice with paper first, but soon you will want to try cloth or natural materials. Buying those materials can be very expensive, though, and take the joy out of crafting.

"Bulrush is a very light material and there are approximately 60 rushes in one half pound.  Price per half pound is $9.00."
Willow, starting at about seven dollars a much is a pound of willow, anyway? Can I get a whole place mat out of 60 rushes? Is 9 dollars a place mat too much to pay?? Will a pound of willow make a clothes basket?

To get around these kind of questions, look first at what you can find naturally. For instance, wheat weavers use a special, hard to grow wheat that bends easily when wet, and holds its shape when dry, but any kind of wheat or wheat-like plant will substitute when you are learning this craft.

Any kind of long stemmed grass, or slender pliable branch will substitute for bulrush and willow, respectively. If you are experimenting (isn't all crafting without a pattern experimenting?) almost any material will give you an idea of what happens when you do this or that.

One year we had quite a bit of a slender, very tall grass that grew along the ditches in abundance. Its always been there, but this particular year, its abundance caught my attention, and I cut some of it and put it to dry in bundles. When it dried, it became brittle, so I soaked it overnight, and the next day I began to braid a strip, winding into a coil as I went. It was easy to work with, and surprisingly sturdy.

As you poke around looking for things to use, remember that plants act differently when dry than when green. Allow for shrinkage as well as loss of pliability.

If you'd like to try to make a circular mat, first gather several bundles of any long grass like blades, the longer the better. You can use it green, but you might want to put some away to dry and work with later.

To begin, cross six blades at the center, and, using another one, fasten them together. This is much easier said than done, so be patient and wind the grass around several times in different ways. Once this is completed, you should have what looks like a wagon wheel without the other words, spokes. Using a seventh blade, attach it at the center by pushing it into the grass knot you created. You'll need an uneven number of spokes to weave on.

Begin weaving your blades from the center out, being careful to keep the strands close together. When you come near the end of one blade, insert a new one between it and the next 'spoke', and weave with both a few times, until the ends are hidden.

As you work, the area between spokes will become too wide, so at more or less even intervals, insert another one simply by pushing a blade into the mat a few rounds deep. Don't trim the ends exactly until you are through.

A project like this will take some time with narrow blades, so think about it as you look and gather. You might want to look for the widest blades you can find.

Another weaving product is cloth, and I'm sure you've all seen the potholder looms that come with jersey loops. A loom of this type is simple to make from a flat piece of board or an old picture frame. Whichever you use, it needs to be the same size as the piece you want to create. Simply line up small tacks along each edge, then begin by tying yarn or string on one corner tack, and looping it back and forth from one side to the other, around each tack. When you are finished in one direction, go the other direction. Weave under one strand and over the next, pushing each strand firmly against the last one.

Of course, this can be adjusted many different ways. One idea is to make a loom large enough for a floor mat, using nails instead of tacks, and cloth strips instead of yarn. At the other extreme, use a small soft wood board and gently tack in straight pins, then use thread to create a fine piece of cloth, which could be used for a small needlepoint picture, or a special pocket or collar.

The applications of weaving are endless, it seems. No matter what your tastes, you can find something to weave, and make something special out of nothing at all, as our mothers and grandmothers did.

Image courtesy

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Three Frugal Steps to Get Rid of Ants

1. Ants create and follow scent trails. That's why when you see one ant, you see many ants. If you disrupt or remove this trail, the rest of the ants can't follow it. You can do that by washing the area with soap and water or putting something on it that will interfere with the scent or the physical properties of it. Successfully used are: cinnamon, black pepper, baby powder and salt.

2. Remove anything that attracts them. Sugar and other sweets, grease and fat of any kind will attract them. A lid on the sugar bowl won't stop them as you probably know. Close everything up in air tight containers and immediately was greasy pans and dishes.

3. Go on the attack by finding the hills outside. Pour boiling water down them to kill the larvae. You may have to do this two or three more times, but they will give up and move away if you don't destroy the colony altogether.,

Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting Ready for Next Year's Garden!

Planning ahead can make the road seem a little smoother in a lot of ways because making the most of what we have now can help us save money in the future! For instance, saving seed from this year's garden for next. If you have grown heirloom or open pollinated vegetables or flowers, you can save the seeds and not have to buy any next year. That can save quite a bit.

Save seed from mature squash (let a summer squash mature on the vine), tomatoes, cucumbers (treat like squash), pumpkins, melons,
beans, and more. Most seed saving is just common sense. Let beans dry on the vine - that's seed. Pick a ripe tomato and put it in a dish and let Mother Nature take it's course. It will ferment and smell bad, but when it's rinsed off and dried - that's seed for next year.

Look up how to save seeds for what you grow. Some seeds must be refrigerated for a few weeks to produce the dormant stage, some can go straight from the garden to storage as long as they're dry.

Why buy seed next year when you already have it for free this year?

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Time Marches On

Summer is on its way out! For some of us, it seems like we haven't had much summer yet, but it's nearly over in many places.

The kids are going back to school and nature is making changes as the earth turns away from the sun again. Nights are cooler in most places, although we're far from hot weather!

These sunflowers are in that full urgency that comes with the last hurrah of summer. Some have seeded out and the finches and sparrows are having a feast, but there are many buds left.

Harvest is coming in everywhere and not just in the flowers. Farmer's markets are filled to bursting with good food right now so if you didn't have a big enough garden or no garden at all, take advantage of this bountiful summer season before it's too late.

The more you can put up by canning, dehydrating or freezing, is that much less that you will have to buy this winter. With the prices rising and rising, it's time to take control as much as possible. Don't forget the wild food, either. Sunflower seeds, lambsquarter greens and seeds, purslane and dandelion are all ready for the picking. When it gets a little colder (after the first frost) dig dandelion roots for food and a healthy hot drink.

The more you do, the more you save. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Extremely Frugal

So I followed some links to "extreme" frugality and was a little disappointed. Some people think that being extremely frugal means you clip coupons or cook at home. That's not extreme; as a matter of fact, it's barely frugal. It's more like common sense, in my opinion. Now, I don't want to offend anyone and you may not be ready for what follows. If you're not into a frugal lifestyle, some of these things might shock you. Proceed at your own risk.

Extremely frugal options can save a few dollars - or maybe a penny. Take them all with a grain of salt. (But just one grain. You don't want to waste the salt.)

1. Barter. Trade, swap, whatever you want to call it. If you have something and you need something, see if someone has what you need and wants what you have. That includes doctors, dentists, farmers or anyone else. Ask around. All they can say is no but they might very well say yes. Choose an item and refuse (in your mind) to pay cash for it. Sooner or later, you'll find it.

2. Dumpster dive. Not "dive" as in jumping in, but "dive" as in getting with it. The concept includes sidewalk shopping, where you check out the trash set out for pickup. Some dumpsters are closed and sealed. Don't mess with them. There are still dumpsters that you can get to. Be inconspicuous and have an answer ready should anyone question you. Looking for cardboard boxes is a good excuse.

3. Family cloth. I can already hear the "ewww"s and the "yuck!" out there, or I will as soon as you figure out what I'm talking about. Toilet paper is a new invention, believe it or not. People did not always have the luxury of four ply, deeply soft sheets of special paper to clean themselves. It wastes resources and it costs money. Go ahead, look up "family cloth." If you can't accept it whole heartedly, go half way, just for women, just to dry.

And  there's a lot more, like boiling up used meat bones, making broth from peelings and tops, utility sewing, sharing subscriptions to newspapers and magazines and sharing rides to the store or to work.

If you want more really frugal ideas, check out my other blog, which is truly "Extremely Frugal"!