A whiter shade of pale

A while ago, I spotted a ‘recipe’ on Pinterest.

But no, this isn’t a food post. It was a cocktail of products intended to deep-clean bed linen. Now, I dearly love good bed linen. Crisp, always white, and 1,000 to 1,500 thread count. I have three or four sets, all 100% cotton apart from my bamboo set. The oldest set is well over 15 years old, but the pillowcases are all, even the newer ones, getting a bit, well… dingy. I know why, and there are two main reasons. The first is my dedication to washing everything in cold water for environmental reasons. Most of the time, it’s perfectly fine, but it doesn’t get bedding that gleaming white-white of new sheets. The second reason is our climate. It’s hot. We sweat at night, even with the aircon running. So even pillowcases that are washed once a week very quickly get dingy.

See what I mean? The pillowcase at left is extreme, and I’ve increased the contrast in the photo to illustrate my point more clearly. The only reason I hadn’t thrown it out was that it was fairly new and of very good quality. It still did the job, despite its sad appearance. In the middle is one of my oldest, and at right is one of my newest ones. Below is a new piece of white fabric, for contrast. Yes, I’m airing my dirty laundry, but I am not ashamed…

And this is all my pillowcases, after treatment, sitting on a new white sheet for contrast. A good bit better, wouldn’t you say? The oldest, and yellowest, ones are at the bottom. I think further treatments would produce even better results. In case you’re interested, the extreme one I showed above is third one down in this photo.

This is the ingredient list:

1 cup laundry detergent powder, whichever you prefer (NOT liquid)
1 cup dishwasher powder (NOT tablets)
1 cup borax
½ cup bleach

Another time, I’ll try hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine bleach. I think it might be even more effective. But for that, I’ll need some more grubby pillow cases, and right now, I don’t have any!

If your washing machine has a soak cycle where you can set the temperature, add all ingredients to the drum, add the laundry, and run the cycle on the maximum temperature the fabric will take. If the pillowcases are a cotton/polyester mix, this will be 60°C/140°F. For pure cotton, you can go up to 90°C/195°F. Rinse, and then run a wash cycle. If your machine has no soak cycle, fill your largest cooking pot with extremely hot water from the tap. Add the ingredients, stir well and then add the linen. Put on the stove over a low heat, so the water stays hot, stirring every 5 minutes or so to circulate the solution. Leave for a minimum of one hour, more if the linen is very dingy. Remove items from liquid with tongs, put into a bucket and then the washing machine and run a normal wash. Once the liquid is cool, throw it down the sink. Don’t try to move the pot while the water’s hot.

I don’t have a soak cycle on my front loader, so I used my 30 litre stock pot. The house was filled with the most nostalgic steamy laundry smell… a reminder of my childhood wash days. I’m pleased with the result: it was simple and I didn’t have to do anything apart from stir it occasionally, and then wash it as I normally would. Personally, I think it would also work well for vintage linens, which in their ‘working life’ would always have been washed hot and with strong soap or detergent, maybe even boiled. I’m going to give it a go with my grandmother’s damask tablecloths, which are showing yellow along the folds. But I wouldn’t do this every time, because I still think it’s not necessary to wash everything in warm or hot water every time.

Once in a while, though, a really hot soak in some carefully selected ingredients will just get things whiter.


Go Teal it on the Mountain #7

It’s Delectable!

And in case you think I’m being a bit fancy-schmantzy, this is an interpretation of the classic Delectable Mountain quilt block, and a beauty. It comes to me from Esther in the Netherlands, and I just love her fabric choices, especially that perfect background with the tiny stylised floating clouds.

We’re up to 10 blocks now. If you’ve promised a block but haven’t yet got round to it, I do encourage you to maybe make a start… Christmas will be on us all too soon, and there are always other, important things to be done and made in the lead-up. I have a tight deadline for this quilt and I don’t want to rush it and spoil it after everyone’s hard work. If you think you’re no longer able to make a block, do let me know now, so I can make more myself. And if you can’t remember if you’ve offered to make one, just email me and I’ll confirm the list.

What an amazing range of Mountains we’re making, between us!

Colours of Happiness #11

Another chunk done 🙂

This is long side panel no. 3, and I’m in the groove now: Do the first three rows, rotate the panel and do the second three rows. It’s easier to work close to the bottom edge, because I can dispense with the weights I was originally using to give some tension to the surface. Closer to the edge, you can grip the fabric area you’re working on. By rotating the piece, I’m never more than three rows from the edge. Makes it all a lot quicker.

So, next will be the third cornerstone, followed by the fourth side panel and cornerstone, and we’ll then be onto the last and biggest and potentially trickiest piece, the centre panel. And I still haven’t worked out what to do there… I suspect I shall have to press it and sandwich it, lay it on the table and then just use my eyes and listen to what it’s telling me.

I hope the quilt has a clear idea, because I don’t!

ScrapHappy October

Welcome once again to ScrapHappy Day!

It’s the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps.

This month, I’ve been short of sewing time and low on energy to do it, thanks to a short, sharp kidney infection. After a third antibiotic was added to my daily cocktail, I’m on the mend. One thing I did find energy for was gentle hand stitching, something I could do even when feeling unwell and in pain.

A little background: As most of you know, I’m now sewing for Days for Girls. Last time I joined a group sewing session, I noticed they were throwing away perfectly good pieces of irregularly-shaped fabric about 3 x 2½ inches. Gasp! The pieces were too small for anything needed for the DfG kits, but they shouted ‘hexies!’ at me. One of the ladies took away a shoebox of them, and brought it back full of neat and tidy square-ish pieces.

I supplied hexie papers – I have about 2,000 of them stashed away in a drawer, all used many times before but still perfectly OK. And this is the result of my labours, and actually, only the start. These will be turned into a quilt top. I hope someone else will step up to machine quilt it, I don’t think I have it in me to hand quilt another one for the time being. It’ll get auctioned to raise funds for DfG, to buy more fabric, help with training materials and education and so on. Now that’s what I call a proper use of scraps.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful or useful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen and Connie

See you again, same time next month!

What happened there?

I’m feeling a bit puzzled. OK, very puzzled.

What was that all about? Why did I suddenly get 268 views to my home page, all from the US, all referred by Facebook? I’m not on Facebook, so as far as I know, my blog wasn’t linked there. It wasn’t even a particular post they were interested in, as that would have shown unusual traffic for that post. That other big spike back in September is ScrapHappy day, when I always get a lot of traffic, but this time, I didn’t even have a new post up when all this was happening.

Has anyone else ever had something like this? Any ideas? Did someone post a link and forget to tell me? I obviously don’t mind, all visits are good, I just want to know why!

I’m in the dark…

Colours of Happiness #10

Another cornerstone completed.

This is the one for Family. Of course, all the other components are the same as the previous one, but the hand lettering is different. I’ve tried to incorporate the shapes and curves of the Bengali lettering into the English word. I think this one works better than the previous one. Shame the lighting’s so washed out, but that’s what happens when you don’t have good daylight.

I’ll do another long side panel next, before I proceed to the other two cornerstones. They’re beautifully mindless once I’ve done all the marking up, I can just sit and stitch and think about other things – or indeed, nothing at all – as I work.

And some mindless work may be called for. The minor infection I had last week has risen up, gnashed its teeth and turned into a bit of a monster. I now have a very tiring and painful kidney infection which is not responding to treatment nearly as fast as I’d like. I’m on my second round of antibiotics and this second lot is strong and the tablets are huge, like horse pills, over 2cm (almost an inch) long. So, a little non-taxing distraction is called for.

Next time, I’ll show you what I’ve been distracting my miserable and rather grumpy self with

Colours of Happiness #9

I’ve been working away on this behind the scenes.

I now have two long side panels and one corner panel hand quilted. I’m pretty pleased with the fish-scale overall design. The quilting design for the corner panel took me a long time to decide on, but I think it works. The leaf-points in the green strips under each flower also work well. I’ve done minimal quilting on the Dresden Plate flowers, and I’ve hand lettered one of my four ‘corner-stones’ into the orange strips in washable gold paint. It’s not shiny bright gold, more of an ‘old-gold’ look, and the metallic sheen isn’t very obvious, but it’s nice when it catches the light. The cornerstones are Family, Love, Prosperity, Peace, and the lettering shows them in English and Bengali. On the outer edge, it seemed to call for triangles, so that’s what I’ve done, only not the same as in the centre panel.

Two more long sides and three more cornerstones to go, and then I’ll be onto the centre panel. I really haven’t thought much about what to do there, because I think it’ll tell me what it wants when I get there. I hope I can live up to the quilt’s expectations… 😉

Back to assembling quilt sandwiches. Not quite the chore it is for a whole quilt, much easier in smaller sections…