February 19, 2013

Handcrank Singer 99 in the house

My two daughters (4 and 6 yrs) are always very interested when I do any sewing on my W&W D-9 treadle machine, and really want to use the machine themselves. This is difficult since they are not big enough to both have their hands manipulating the work and their feet on the treadle to drive the belt. Its also tricky to get the belt going the right way every time until you get used to it, and if the action is run in reverse for more than a stitch or two things will get tangled up or at least unthreaded. Most machines treadle D-9s have an anti-reverse pawl riding on the flywheel, but mine was broken and I haven't bothered to fix it yet.

I asked about a good people-powered kids machine on Treadle On, and the overwhelming response was that the Singer 99 in handcrank configuration was an excellent machine for kids. With the handcrank there is no ambiguity about which way its going to run the machine when you start cranking it. The kids can also reach the handcrank and guide the fabric reasonably at the same time, this machine being a little smaller than typical. I just finished reading an interesting biography of I.M. Singer by Ruth Brandon, so I was also happy to enjoy some fruits of the Singer empire.

February 11, 2013

Quinzhee snow huts

Well, we got a lot of snow in Somerville last weekend, a reported 71cm (28"). All the shoveling piled up some impressively tall snow heaps. While annoying from a shoveling perspective since one must sling the snow up higher and higher, these heaps looked like snow huts waiting to happen. A Quinzhee is a pile of settled snow that you dig the center out of to make a shelter. I've never made one before, but had heard about them from my friend Ben and read about them in mountaineering books.

February 8, 2013

Making Liquid Rosin Soap

Last year I started making soap. The initial impetus was to make shave soap to support my transition to homebrew straight shaving, followed by the desire to supply our modest needs for bar soap. I also wanted to supplant the Dr. Bronner's liquid soap I like to use for bathing, and this was my first effort in that area.

February 7, 2013

Making Transparent Rosin Soap

Last year, I set out to make soap. My first try was a cold processed castile soap, which didn't turn out great. To satisfy our needs for hand soap at our house, I decided to try to make some transparent soap.

February 1, 2013

The Beauty of Home Rendered Leaf Lard

I have been on a constant hunt for leaf lard for 6-7 years now. The internets reported that this hard to obtain lard, gently rendered from the fat deposits surrounding the kidneys of a pig, made sublimely flaky pastry without imparting a noticeable meaty taste. At the time I first started looking, I turned up Flying Pigs Farm, which would sell me leaf fat but not rendered lard via mail order. They did however sell rendered lard at the green market in Brooklyn at Grand Army Plaza, so one time when we were visiting Becky's brother in Brooklyn we went to this market and I bought them out of the few tubs of leaf lard they had at the stand. I used this lard to make some fine pie crust (25-30% lard, remainder high quality butter), and have always wanted more.