Maria Hoffmeister

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since Apr 15, 2020
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Crete, Greece
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Recent posts by Maria Hoffmeister

I use my sewing machine only for tough fabrics like jeans, everything else I sew by hand. My trick number one for straight seams is to keep the seam slightly stretched. I don't have a sewing bird as such, I use a binder clip for holding the fabric and tie the clip with a string to wherever, a bit like in one of the photos above. +++ Second, for holding the fabric, I let it hang over the middle finger, not the index, and with the thumb on top. When you try it, you'll find that the whole hand is much more relaxed. No pressure on the thumb necessary, it's just there for friction, therefore no pressure on the thumb joint. +++ Third, for every kind of stitch test the most comfortable stitch direction or angle (to the left, right, upwards=away from you or downwards) which makes sewing not just easier but also quicker. +++ As for backstitches, for normal seams I go back only 1/2 or 2/3 of the stitch length, leaving a gap to the previous stitch. The seams look very neat, like running stitch, with small stitches, and it's less likely that I split a thread (which can happen when I stitch back exactly where the previous stitch ends).
1 month ago

Antonio Hache wrote:I’m now thinking on setting up a backyard nursery to grow my own things, I think I will save money with it

I did many things the last weeks, but couldnt use much Internet. I’ve got a lot of land planted and mulched, and more to come!

I think a nursery is a great start, and very flexible because you don't need to be totally clear on what you want to do later, there a so many options! One of them for instance developing/breeding plants specifically for your climate, while having plenty to eat yourself and even surplus to give away, trade or sell. I think the size of your plot would be sufficient for keeping test plants separate. As for money, in my calculation above I forgot that I spent 2 Euros on seeds for the New Zealand spinach and climbing strawberries. Anything else came from friends as a gift or swap, and the single sweet potato from the supermarket shelf. For onion, celery and lettuce seeds from local plants, I have planted the bottom parts with the roots, with the sole purpose of growing them for seeds. Of course there will be a great variety of plants, not as with true, bought seeds, but by selecting the best over a few years I'll get customised plants.
1 month ago
Big hugs to Carla for saying what she said (that's so helpful in any life area, some of which may seem beyond mending) and to you, Jennie, for comfort. 😘😘😘 Even if mending didn't work out for this particular sheet, it gave you practice, and I'm sure that during the process you've learned something that will make mending easier or better next time. From my own experience, I agree with Judith, the fabric in the centre woyld better be replaced. When you hold the sheet against a window, you can probably see the difference between center and edges, and you can also feel with your hands that about a foit wide around the edges is noticeably denser. I don't remember my grandmother replacing the centre of old sheets, but I know that she made tea towels and pouches from the good parts, often with a small touch of embroidery.
I've only started this year with restructuring my garden, so I can't give you any specific advice, but I can tell you what I did and why, maybe that will spark some ideas for your own situation. (Still can't do paragraphs, so this will be a long one.) The climate here is exactly as you describe it, and so is the attitude of the locals, especially when they've been farmers for generations.  ðŸ˜‰ Including the house, my plot is about 800 m2 and has 8 olive trees on it. The soil is not very fertile, and in some parts there is sheer limestone, so I consider most of it a foundation for raised beds rather than soil. ----- The first thing I did was to get clear on a plan: What do I want this garden for in the long term (food, plants for dyeing wool, beauty) and what can I achieve with ease (on average not more than one hour per day) in the next couple of years to get things started. For food I want to focus on what others don't have - I get lemons, oranges, cabbage and butternut squash from friends, sometimes potatoes or avocados, so im planting sweet potatoes, New Zealand spinach and strawberries and can give some of the young plants to others as well. Apart from the olives I have a loquat and a mulberry tree, and want to add three more mulberries, a pomegranate and a grapefruit, which are either difficult to get or expensive. ----- The second thing was not to cut the weeds, but to observe what comes up and what their properties are, and then see what I want to keep, to relocate, or to replace with something similar. For example, a lot of the ground is covered by oxalis in winter/ spring, which keeps the weeds down, delivers acid to the very alkaline soil, and gives a bright orange dye. Another example is Bitumen bituminosa, a legume that binds nitrogen, gives shade, can be cut to encourage longer growth, the stripped stalks make wattle and the flowers and leaves are mixed with the soil to loosen it up. ----- The third thing is water; as you know, there's hardly any rain from June to September. End of May I get many sheep fleeces from a local farmer, and the first wash (just clean enough for storage and further hand processing) is only with water. On average I use 5 buckets of water per day which is enough for most of the plants that need watering, and an additional source of fertiliser. The base of the raised beds this year is cut weeds (most of them wild oats and such) plus urine for moisture and nitrogen. In a few weeks this will be topped with cardboard, compost, topsoil and straw which I can get from a friend who had some strimming done. ----- I don't consider my garden for making a living by selling the produce, although in a couple of years it will cover most of our fruit and veggie needs, but as part of my life and what I want to do (design and make clothing and other items from wool) it contributes directly. By the way, I've spent so far 60 Euros, 20 of it for tools, the rest for potting soil in order to get started as I didn't have any compost yet. ----- Regarding compost, over the past years I had no success at all with slow composting, but hot compost and raised beds work well in this climete. ----- As for the locals, most of them are too polite to "correct" my point of view regarding my gardening ideas, but I can tell what they are thinking . 😄 However, I've been planting thought-seeds by telling them about a not-new-but-forgotten traditional gardening method called permaculture, that gives better harvests with less work ... now who wouldn't like that!  At least one of them must have looked up some information, because I saw some straw bales on his pickup, and as he only got chicken for animals, I assume he'll start with mulching.
2 months ago
"    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings." - Henry David Thoreau       This quote helped me 20 years ago to realise my dream and move to Crete, and despite all crises or other problems I have encountered, sustained me until I found the solutions, and often in a way that could well be described as "magical", simply because I followed my heart. (Will continue in new post, can't insert any paragraphs.
2 months ago
Thank you, Sebastian, I will try that. In addition, I could soak (or paint) the cloth as well with linseed oil. Very interesting point about the metals in dyes/mordants!
2 months ago
If you've ever left a needle or pin, even stainless steel ones, in a piece of fabric for a prolonged period of time, you have probably discovered that it caught rust even if it was stored in a dry place. This happens because all natural fibres attract and hold humidity from the air.

I have a couple of large trays with a frame of thick steel wire, filled in with wicker (don't know the material, but doesn't look like willow) which is brittle beyond repair, so I want to replace it with cloth. A couple of years ago I had already removed some rust with steel wool, then brushed everything twice with olive oil, as much as the old wicker would absorb. It looks a lot better, but I can only use it for carrying very lightweight stuff, and still small ends keep breaking off. And the rust has come back.

My question: Do you know a better, natural way for keeping steel free from rust? If possible, I don't want to use acrylic or other primer. Waxing the steel and using waxed cloth might be an option, but would it be sufficient to protect the steel?

Thank you for your input.

Edit: I wanted to post this in the "Finishes" forum, but for whatever reason it came up here. Does that matter ? Can I, or someone change it?
2 months ago
A few days ago friends gave me a Dryad Cottage Loom (from around 1960) with 4 shafts. I have been spinning wool for a while and some basic weaving knowledge (frame and backstrap, but only with rigid heddle).  I don't think the yarn would hold up as warp on a table loom.

I would be very much interested in 1. how to spin wool for weaving as opposed to for knitting, and 2. basic, useful but beautiful items to make on a loom with four shafts (like towels, pillowcases, rugs, ...)
The thread looks very nice and pliable! Great idea with the sizing, what do you use, gelatine?
Some thoughts in addition to what Carla said:

It should be a multiple ply and spun worsted, yet flexible and not thicker than the weaving thread. I have some Linen thread used for bobbin lace, but although it has all the desired qualities and feels soft while handling, it's too stiff for stitches smaller than 1/4 inch (it's great for decorative stitches and big stitch quilting in rather straight lines, though). The finer threads though (like cotton sewing thread) seem to have a "rougher" surface, at least in comparison to cotton, and don't glide easily.

My best bet for handspun sewing thread would be cotton, using the longest fibres possible, then spinning very fine singles with lots of twist and plying at least 4 of them together. You could have a look at good quality quilting thread to see how it's constructed. Another thread I really like for handsewing and quilting is very fine crochet yarn like DMC cordonnet or DMC 80. For wool you can do the same with long fibres that aren't too crimpy, but you need to sew loosely, as if embroidering, so that's probably not what you want from a seam.

Another thought: Instead of starting from scratch with fibres, you could unravel some old fabric and respin the threads into singles.