January 5, 2013

Wrap up for 2012, Outlook for 2013

2012 was an excellent year. Everyone in our house was healthy and happy for the most part, and our lives progressed in a satisfactory direction. 

As far as goals and accomplishments go it can also be counted as a success. At the beginning of the year, I posted some 2012 new year's resolutions to this blog. Here is how we performed on these points, plus some additional items of note, and finally thoughts on the year ahead.

From 2012:

1) No buying of clothes for the whole year
Score: GOOD
We indeed didn't buy almost any clothes this year, excepting some tights and shoes for the kids. 

I didn't stock up on anything before the start of the no-boughten-clothes 1yr challenge, so with normal wear and tear I am now extremely short on underwear, socks, and pants. Still doing ok on shirts. I've got plenty of pants, but they are falling apart, wearing through in thin spots at the fly and bum, and ragged at the bottoms. There is one pair of pants I have that is in decent shape, but I save wearing them for occasions when I need to not look like a homeless guy. 

At the beginning of the year I mended one pair of pants that was in good shape with a patch at the knee (shown in the header picture), using Gutermann spun silk thread. This thread fell apart in several locations around the patch over a year of frequent wear and washing. The spun silk thread is fuzzy, hard to thread in the needle, not very strong, rather rough when sewing, and apparently not too durable. So its not clear to me what you are supposed to do with this stuff; it just doesn't seem terribly useful. I have used Gutermann polyester thread extensively and find that to be a high quality product, but I think the spun silk offering is not worth using.

After a little research, I learned that you can also get filament silk thread, made from long fibers of silk rather than short fibers. This thread is lustrous, beautiful, easy to sew with, very strong, but also a little stretchy. It is also expensive! I've been using TIRE brand #50 silk thread from Fujix, both for hand sewing, and recently for constructing a pair of wool trousers for myself. It does tend to get tangled more easily than polyester thread, but as usual the denizens of the Treadle On mailing list had some useful suggestions to improve that issue, mostly focused on keeping the spool from over rotating with its own inertia and adding a little drag to the thread close to where it comes off the spool. I resewed the patch on my pants in the picture with this thread.

Over the year, I made two dresses and a wool cloak for the girls, though both of those were partially completed projects from previous years. I made Violet a dress shirt. Becky and I made Buster a sleep sack, and I did some hasty costumes for the girls.

2) Bake all our own bread 
Score: GOOD
I did bake 99% of the bread we ate at home, as well as the bread I ate as a buttered sprout sandwich for breakfast almost every day at work. I probably baked in the neighborhood of 60 loaves over the year. We started out the year eating a LOT of bread, but mid year Becky went on a no grains diet kick, which cut back the amount of bread eaten by her and the kids to essentially zero. My own bread needs for breakfast toast are modest, so this sharply reduced the demand for baking bread. In the fall, Becky relaxed her diet a bit and the kids now eat bread again sometimes, especially if I bake something special like rolls or french bread on the weekend. 

3) Cut back on spending and consuming
Score: FAIL
As most people (and the federal government) know, once your spending is at a certain level, it is surprisingly difficult to cut it back without some overriding externality forcing a change in behavior. We did not succeed in doing so.

Other accomplishments for the year gone by:
  • Started doing more dedicated work on reading and math with Violet and Millie. Violet's reading is coming along and has really improved since we started doing Explode the Code workbooks. If she was in school, she would be in Kindergarten this year.
  • Switched to straight razor shaving, now using home made razor, soap, brush and strop
  • Made quite a lot of progress on our second floor bathroom; it's done except the drawers I need to make for the cabinet at the foot of the tub. Did some other more minor house projects.
  • Made a couple dolls
  • Started making soap. I've made enough bar soap and shaving soap to last for a while and it shouldn't be hard to keep up with our requirements in this area.
  • Started this blog
What I would like to do in 2013, in addition to continuation of bread baking, cider making, etc.:

1) Year 2 of the No-Boughten-Clothes Challenge
What I need to succeed with this will be: pants, socks, underwear, and probably a pair of shoes. I think I can get my sewing up to speed enough to make the garments I'll need to get through the year. I could probably get by with no new shoes for another year if I wear my wood clogs a higher percentage of the time. I epoxied on new heels for my main pair of wood shoes, and I expect I could retread them another time or two. I'd really like to get into making shoes, and I think making wood bottom leather upper clogs is within my capabilities with some skill and technique development. Hard to see having the time to bring that in this year though. 

What I would love is to get to a place where I can dress full time in good looking clothes I made myself. In the meantime, scraping by with worn out clothes and a sparsely populated sock drawer should motivate me to get there! I think in year 2 I'll have the dubious pleasure of experiencing home made wool undies.

I don't know if Becky will be up for year 2. She is struggling with some items wearing out that will be hard to replace, like stretch leggings, etc. She had talked about how she was going to go on a shopping trip to the mall on Jan 1st this year, but we'll see. At times she has expressed a desire to go for year 2. 

To get the kids through a potential year 2, I will need to pick up the pace on the sewing probably. We do have a lot of second hand clothes for Millie and Buster, but not for Violet.

2) Start making liquid soap
Dr. Bronner's is the only product I need in the shower (it helps that I have no hair). I really like the peppermint variety. But it would be cool to make exclusive use of homemade soap, and to do this I need to make something that can replace my Dr. B's. I purchased Making Natural Liquid Soaps, and I have a plan and all needed supplies, but I haven't executed on it yet. I'll also keep up production of shaving and bar soap as needed.

3) Offer some kind of class for our community of Somerville homeschoolers
Not sure yet what it could be, but Becky and I hope to do something in this area, possibly over the summer. 

4) Finish housework to close our open building permit
The permit has been open ~5 years now. Time to get it done and move on! So I've got to finish the 2nd floor bathroom, finish the back porch, fix some doors, out railing in the back stairway, and do some trim and detail work. 

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