Monday, January 21, 2013

Absinthia Returns, Part 6

18th-century American colonial flax-spinning demonstration

This is part of a continuing series of email letters exchanged with my Swedish friend, Absinthia. To see the whole series, start with  Living a Simple Life.

Things to Make at Home: Clothes

Dear Absinthia,
It seems like a constant battle to have enough time to cook from scratch, keep the house clean using natural materials, and still get all my money-making work done. I wish life in America wasn’t so expensive, but we’ve got to bring in enough money to pay for the required things where we live… like taxes, wind and flood insurance at the coast, health insurance, and more. It’s like running around in an endless circle.
What do you make for yourself that other people buy--foods, clothing, home items, skin care products, cleaning products, etc.?
- amanda

Oh boy, this took some time for me to think about. Since we seriously consciously started making our own stuff, we have lowered our costs for living quite considerably!
Ok, let´s start with clothes that I make for us (mostly knitted and crocheted).
- socks: both thin socks to wear in regular shoes, and heavier socks to wear in winter boots.
- skirts: I knit and crochet skirts, and sew some. Knit skirts in flax for the warm part of the year, and ankle-length wool skirts for the winter. Warm and cozy :-) By the way, the old traditional underskirts in wool were crocheted with lovely colorful tapestry crochet borders.
- t-shirts: mostly knit in flax yarn.
When I knit or crochet with flax yarn, I often use handspun flax yarn in approx. fingering weight, and I knit with needles in between 1.5 to 2.5 mm. When I crochet I go up some in size, to maybe 3.0 mm.
- sweaters
- shawls, big and small
- hats
- vests
- dresses
- mitts and mittens
- legwarmers and armwarmers
- cowls
- slippers
- felted boots: knit wool.  Yes, they are actually felted wooly boots. We only use them when there is cold snowy weather. I knit them kind of like the old ugg boots, and then I sew on a number of layers of felted wool soles. If I feel really ambitious I make the outmost sole a crocheted one in rope. But mostly I just make it like the traditional regional “Ludda,” a low-cuffed winter boot in felted wool. When a sole wears out, I remove it and sew on one or two new ones. If you put on a nice warm wool sock, and maybe an extra felted inner sole, it is the perfect footwear for walking around the garden during cold winters. They form so nicely to your feet.  The ugg boots originate from Australia--they use this kind of boot in the desert. Wool protects very well from heat, so well that it is used as protective inner layer in firemen's gloves!
- felted soles to wear in boots
- longjohns
- yarn: we make it ourselves--flax and wool yarn. We buy wool from the local sheep farmers, comb it, wash it, spin it, and dye it with herbal dye or with food colors.  We spin flax too. It is quite a lot of work to make flax into yarn. You have to let it rot in a controllable way to soften the fibers, then crunch it, and then comb it. It is hard work, but worth it! :-)
- jewelry: I have been trained in gold- and silversmithery, so I make what I need myself.
That’s all for now, there’s more of the list to come!
- Absinthia
The conversation is continued here:
Absinthia Returns, Part 7


  1. Amanda, what a wonderful and inspiring series. Makes me realize how much more we could be doing than we are. Time and money seem to be the limiting factor - as always. It again reminds me that I need to sit at my wheel and spin my own fibers into wool and get that rainwater system going for the garden. Thank you for presenting this series.

    1. Absinthia just emailed me, and she would like to remind us that "necessity is the mother of invention." She says that we don't need a bunch of money to live simply. If we have our minds focused on doing what needs to be done, rather than how to get the money to do those things, we will come up with ways to accomplish our goals without the infusion of money.

      It's time to take a deep breath and re-orient my American, money-focused mind.