Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

May 22, 2015

How to Wash Dry Clean Only Cashmere at Home (and Remove Pills from Sweater Too!)

I'm going to ignore the fact that, in the last couple of weeks, we've seen snow flurries.  There have been gloriously warm, sunny days too, so I'm going to focus on those.  There could be a blizzard tomorrow, but I'm still going to go through the motions of spring, which includes laundering, de-fuzzing, mending, and then gleefully shoving my winter wool and cashmere to the back of my closet.

Most of my winter sweaters are cashmere and I blame Winner's (the Canadian equivalent of T.J. Maxx).  Once they started introducing cashmere at affordable price points, I was hooked.  Now anything else, even the softest merino wool - heck, even cheap cashmere - feels itchy.  Even at discounted prices cashmere sweaters (and scarves!) are expensive enough to make me want to care for them.  But I refuse to dry clean - what a hassle and so expensive!  Instead, I launder all of my dry clean only wool and cashmere garments at home, using Eucalan no rinse delicate wash (which you can also use for lingerie, down jackets, baby clothes - any delicates).

Here's how to wash your dry clean only wool and cashmere at home - whether you have a top loader or not!

Review of Eucalan No Rinse Wash

How to Use Eucalan No Rinse Delicate Wash in a Top Loader:

I have a top loader washing machine, so I just fill it with tepid water, add a cap or two of Eucalan, let it agitate for a minute to mix up the soap, add my wool items, and turn off the machine to let everything soak for a couple of hours.  I squeeze the items a bit, mid-soak, to work the soap through.  Although a 15 minute soak is the minimum, I find a couple of hours does a better, more thorough job.  (It might be psychological.)  Then I set the machine to spin (no rinse needed) and let the garments dry on a collapsible dry rack (which Szuka promptly investigates, so she can deposit fuzzies from her disemboweled toys onto my freshly washed cashmere sweater).

How to Use Eucalan No Rinse Delicate Wash by Hand:

If you have a front loader which prohibits soaking an item, you can also just soak a sweater in a basin and then gently squeeze (not wring) it out by hand, which is what I did as an apartment-dweller.  I actually used to wash a batch of cashmere in a (freshly clean) bath tub!

How to Dry Wool Sweaters

I actually despise my clothes drying rack because it broke the first week we bought it (in 2007), but I can't find a good replacement so I've been using and repairing it ever since.  Dry racks either just have bars, like this, which are good for socks and undies but not sweaters, or they are this mesh style (which my Mom has), but it takes awhile to set up/put away those - although they're really good for drying delicate items flat.  So I'm stuck with this broken one because it has the magic combo of collapsing easily like a regular rack but it has three little mesh "shelves".  I am considering ordering this hanging style to give it a whirl (but this one teases me with its one measly mesh shelf).  Honestly, I'm also thinking of just DIYing the best darn dry rack the world has ever seen.

Of course, you can also just lay a sweater on a towel to dry and avoid this agony, but be sure to flip it around and maybe even change the towel to avoid that weird wet smell - you want your wool to dry with lots of air.

How to Wash Dry Clean Only Wool at Home

How to Customize the Scent of your Eucalan:

I always find Eucalan in shops that sell knitting supplies and yarn.  I did some sleuthing, though, and found a big unscented jug online for just over $50 (right here) and a 16.9 oz bottle for $8 (right here) - which is a lot less than what I paid.  It comes in different scents, like grapefruit lavender, jasmine, and eucalyptus (you can even try a sample pack), but I chose unscented this time, so I can customize it.  I decanted some of my colossal jug into a smaller bottle, added a few drops of vanilla essential oil, and now my sweaters smell like cake.  Heavenly. 

How to Make Fuzzy Sweaters Look New - De-Pill Sweaters Easily

How to De-Pill and De-Fuzz Wool:

A downside to soft woolens is how many pills and fuzzies develop, which makes even the prettiest sweater look shabby, so I use a sweater shaver to remove pills and balls.  You just turn it on and gently move it across the surface.  I put my hand under the sweater so the shaver is working across a smooth, flat surface.  I work little by little, starting at the most pilly areas and working outward.

What is a Sweater Shaver?
How to Use a Sweater Shaver

Even though there are literally hundreds of styles of sweater shavers on the market, I don't think a lot of people I know use one, because I'm constantly affronted by pilly sweaters.  A few relatives are terrible offenders and I'm tempted to accost them with a shaver one day - but it's a fairly distinct buzzing noise, so I'd have to work quickly. 

A Warning About Sweater Shavers:

One tip, though, if I've now shamed you into wanting to de-fuzz your woolens: I bought a sweater shaver from The Superstore a few years back that totally chopped holes in my favorite sweater!  A little weary now, I use sweaters shavers manufactured in the 80s and 90s.  I think that one year every single person who celebrates Christmas in North America got one as a stocking stuffer, so you can find them pretty easily in thrift stores - normally in the little section of bagged up things.  I'm currently hoarding three different models, and all of them work perfectly.  If you do buy one, read some Amazon reviews before committing, and then test it on a few crummy articles of clothing first - keep the packaging in case you need to return it.

How to Wash and Care for Dry Clean Only Wool and Cashmere // Cleaning Tips // Saving Money (

Eucalan is Made in Canada and you know how I feel about things made in Canada!!  Yaaaaaay!  Plus it's biodegradable.  Now that my winter stuff is squared away (I did the same song and dance in the front hall closet, cleaning and packing away boots), it's time to find my swim suit...

May 21, 2015

Sconce Mirror Sconce Mirror Sconce

Many of you have been with me since I was working on my PhD.  After all that schooling, you would think I might be a sparkling conversationalist, right?  Nope.  For the last weeks (okay, months), anyone who talks to me gets about ten minutes to blather on about whatever non-bathroom topic they favor before I pounce on them with a dizzying array of questions.  Do you think I should go with chrome or brushed nickel?  Should I buy this sconce or this sconce?  Sconce mirror sconce mirror sconce, or sconce mirror sconce sconce mirror sconce?  Or no sconce?  Who did your tile work?  Is this too tall for a stone backsplash?  What half of this quartzite slab do you like better?  Do you know anything about towel warmers?

Don't tell my friends and family that you got to hear about tweed, my office, agate coasters, and even a funny Szuka story to break up the bathroom monotony - I haven't been so kind to them.  There has been no reprieve.

The bathroom reno is coming along, slowly but surely.  You'd think most of the decision-making would be done by now, but I have this sinking suspicion it will never end.  I recently splurged on something fabulous and made a pretty big adjustment to the plan.  Originally I wanted sconce, round mirror, sconce, round mirror, sconce.  An extended version of the two bathrooms, below.  Cute, right?

Sarah Richardson
My Domaine
I picked out the Purist Sconce by Kohler, so the finish would match the faucets perfectly (matchy-match-match).  But when I measured everything out, there wasn't room for that arrangement unless the mirrors were very skinny rectangles, or we ditched one sconce and then mounted the remaining two very high, like in this bathroom (although I think they still have more room to play with than us).  We didn't have room for any gaps between the tower and the first sink, like in this bathroom, because we wanted to maximize the storage in the walnut cabinetry I picked out.

I jettisoned the sconce idea and decided to go with lights above the round mirrors, but then I saw Kristin's bathroom makeover.  She used the purist sconces and they look as good as I thought they would.  I know that many people have grown weary of sponsored posts on blogs, but sometimes I like when brands partner with bloggers to review products.  I appreciate the chance to get a better look at items I'm considering purchasing, especially because many stock photos of products don't have a context, or are heavily edited, so it's difficult to get a good feel for how something will look when it's installed/used.  Seeing Kristin's photos definitely sold me.

Bliss @ Home
Bliss @ Home
Those SCONCES!  So good.  And there's a nightlight in the bums.

I decided that I had to make them work.  I didn't relish the idea of super skinny mirrors though and, truthfully, once we start dismantling the bathroom, I realized that I really didn't want to part with my large sheet mirror at all.  I've grown accustomed to how much light it bounces around, which is nice in our bathroom which, although it has a window - luxury! - isn't terribly bright.  Without that big mirror, it felt a lot smaller and darker.  So I decided to go with something a little nutty.  We're going to keep a large frameless sheet mirror (we'll get a new one cut to fit the space) and mount the sconces directly on the mirror, like so:

My Paradissi
How to Decorate
I know that many folks don't love large, unframed mirrors; they are often dismissed as "builder's basic," but I happen to like the look - as long as it's a LARGE mirror.  I think it suits the modern, mid-century mod space I'm crafting.  But, more to the point, I want to push the sconces as far to the edges of the mirror as possible (with the third in the middle) so they don't obstruct our view of our lovely mugs in the mirror.  Plus, I don't want to pull attention from the gorgeous grain of the walnut, the busy quartzite counters, or the aqua sinks (yay!).  The vanity area will pack a punch, so a simple mirror situation - as opposed to a frame in yet another material - won't compete for attention.

If you're a little dubious about my frameless mirror choice, I promise - it can look really good.  In fact, many of the inspiration photos I've been sharing throughout the bathroom planning process boast this look.  I'm excited but also a tad nervous.  We're got a lot of the wiring changes done, but we still need to move the wiring for the new sconces, which means some very, very, careful measuring.

Oscar V
Desire to Inspire
Design Milk
Habitually Chic
Desire to Inspire
I'll share reno progress photos soon, but right now it's just bare studs and wiring, so it's hardly riveting.  Although I did get an exciting delivery yesterday (aqua sinks, be still my heart)!
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May 15, 2015

Uncommon Goods - Stylish Fireside Storage

Have you heard about UncommonGoods?  They are a really interesting company because they're hyper-aware of the world around them and strive to offer unusual finds and beautiful handcrafted goods, while trying to respect the world in which they are created and the people who produce them.  Much of what they sell is made in the USA, where even the lowest paid, seasonal employees earn 50% above minimum wage.  About a third of what they sell is made from recycled/upcycled materials.  As a feminist, what excites me most is that they work with not-for-profits - donating $1,000,000 to date and raising awareness - including RAINN (the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the States), Women for Women International (which provides tools for self-sufficiency to refugee women and survivors of war), and Reach Out & Read (a network of doctors and nurses working to promote literacy and language skills in the States).  I try to support socially conscious businesses, who sell goods manufactured in North America - or at least under livable/ethical conditions that don't exploit workers overseas - but I'm far (far!) from perfect.  The Siren Song of something cheap and cheerful sometimes beckons me, even though I know what factors drive prices down.  I know I should make more of an effort to learn where and how the things I buy are made, and I've been working on that as a personal goal, so I appreciate when a company makes it their policy to try their best to make a positive impact on the world.  If we each do a little...

I was given the opportunity to hand select items to review from UncommonGoods, and this gave me a chance to not only peruse the website but also test out the services.  The first item that I chose is a handmade lidded basket (click here to get the full scoop), which I actually really needed (okay, wanted).  After our paper shredder gave up the ghost, we started using all of our sensitive documents and receipts as fire starter instead of shredding and recycling them.  We needed a place to store this paper (which amasses so quickly).  We'd been searching for something with a lid to hide the mess, to no avail.  No local shops had what we were after so we were using a weird, tiny, orange pail that we had received some beer in.  This handmade basket caught my eye because it's aqua, but the lid and handles made it perfect for our intended use.

Turquoise Woven Storage Basket with Lid
Uncommon Goods Review - Turquoise Woven Storage Bin

The basket is handmade in Senegal.  You can read more about the designer and her desire to bring independence to rural African communities right here.  (Click here to see the matching pink knitting basket - it's just as cute.)

Woven Baskets

Right now, the basket is sitting beside the firewood cubby but if I want to stash it in the office, the handles make it easy to maneuver - even when it's full.  It would look cute anywhere in the house (the bonus of a limited whole home colour palette).

Woven Basket, Aqua and Natural
Hide Kindling and Fire Starter Material in Style

Apologies for the horribly ugly wood in the cubby.  I mentioned on Instagram that because I carefully selected the prettiest rounds all winter, now I'm saddled with some real uggos.  We are going to call them organic and rustic.  Every room needs a rustic touch, right? 

Rab Labs Agate Slice Coasters 
Once I had a "practical" item chosen, I decided to pick something fun and decadent.  I really contemplated an agate cheese plate (click here to see) because the hunk of teal agate was calling my name, but I decided that a set of agate coasters (this set, to be precise) would be more practical for me.  Remember how I regretted not buying that second set of agate coasters when I made my DIY Framed Agate art?  Even though I have my solid wood DIY hex coasters, I can always make room for more.  I'm actually keeping this agate set in my office, to protect the solid wood top Hubby made for my treadle sewing machine desk.  I always have a mug of piping hot tea close at hand (it's getting chilly again and snowed a few days ago!).

Agate Slice Coasters

You can buy these agate slice coasters gilded (click here), but I happen to prefer the raw look of the stone.  It's dyed agate so it's not completely "natural," but I like the organic quality.  It complements my rustic log pile ;)

Raw Edge Agate Slice Coasters
Rab Labs New York Product Review
Agate Slice Coasters

Everything was shipped carefully and beautifully.  The agate coasters, for example, had some neatly trimmed foam between each slice for protection, but it looked nice enough to gift as-is, so you could easily order something from UncommonGoods and have it shipped directly to a recipient.  Both items were shipped separately, so there was no chance of them damaging each other in transit.  One thing that really impressed me about UncommonGoods is how nicely they handle customer reviews.  When they first contacted me, I perused their website and read reviews on many of the products I liked.  All of the reviews are uncensored - some products have hundreds - and any negative reviews (which are few and far between) have been dealt with politely and thoroughly - I love that!  You can shop with confidence thanks to that transparency.  And, if you're in a hurry or looking for something specific, you can shop by theme, like "Personalized Jewelry" (click here if you're curious), or "Housewarming Gifts" (which you'll find right here).  It's perfect if you have a specific occasion, person (like a recent grad!), or price range in mind.

Perhaps the most important thing to know, which you'll discover if you click over, is that UncommonGoods has a really beautifully curated collection of pretty and practical items that are perfect for gift-giving - or making your own space more special.  You don't need to sift through a million items but you're certain to find something special - from the comfort of your living room!

Dark Grey Fireplace with Aqua Accents

Disclosure: I partnered with UncommonGoods for this post but was not prompted to provide a positive review of their goods or service.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I will definitely purchase from UncommonGoods the next time I'm searching for a gift for that hard-to-shop for person.  

A note to my fellow Canadians: some items do not ship to Canada, unfortunately - but you'll know immediately which ones do and don't, which makes shopping easier.  I had my items shipped to a shipping depot across the border.  I might live in a small city, but proximity to the States makes it pretty sweet!  They do try to make it easy by immediately recognizing your location as Canadian, so all prices show up in our dollar and the shipping quotes include duties and taxtes, with guaranteed landing fees - which is a big deal for International shipments.  As a Canadian, I feel very proud when I can support Canadian businesses, which I try to do as often as I can, but supporting American businesses is important to me too.  I feel a close connection to the US (partly because I'm so close I could probably lob a rock onto American soil with a good quality trebuchet), but also because I think that keeping jobs in North America - and supporting ethical overseas manufacturing - benefits us all.
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May 12, 2015

A Colorful Home Office in Progress

You've barely heard a peep from me about our home office in the last year and a half.  So far, you've seen the Expedit - twice (after the Expedit hack, round two and when we made the plywood magazine files) - and the closet-turned-nook.  But that's all I've shown you - for good reason.  The office was our dumping ground when we first moved in.  When it was cold outside and we were working on the kitchen makeover, the office became tool storage (the garage seems so much farther away when it's 35 below out).  When the kitchen was done and order in the house was once again restored, the office took on a new role: acting as guestroom for a visiting friend.  (I drove to my parents' house with my truck and literally stole a bed from their guest bedroom).  You might recall that last year I wanted to use the guesthouse for our Etsy shop, but it became too expensive to heat, so the guest bed was sheepishly returned and all of the Etsy merchandise moved into my office.  Eventually I set up shelves in the basement, and now the Etsy goodies are organized and orderly, but before I could finally see our actual plans for the office come to fruition, it started housing the displaced dresser and chair from our bedroom

We really have big plans for the space - I swear!  It won't remain a forgotten room forever.  I'll detail our plans, including the crazy thing we intend to do with the nook, soon (I want to get your feedback on some DIY desk designs too).  Today, though, I wanted to capitalize on the cleanliness and give you a tour, so you can see the space.  I recently dealt with the paperwork crowding my desk, washed the floors, and even hung the drapes from the bedroom - just until my Mom and I sew the new aqua tweed ones.  One day this room will be more than simply where furniture and accessories come to languish.  But today it's clean, so take a peek!

DIY Backtab Curtains, Teal Fabric

This is one of my favorite paintings by Hubby's Grandpa.  Hubs had this already when we met - reason enough to marry the guy ;)

  Bert Weir Abstract Painting

Even if they are temporary, I'm loving curtains in here.  I'm embarrassed to tell you how long I've been staring at an empty curtain rod...

Office in Progress
Back Tab Curtains and Organic Chairs

You have no idea how tempting it is to pack those dresser drawers full of stuff!  The dresser is going back to my Mom's, as soon as she makes room for it.  After I stole it (having a truck makes me such a furniture thief), she rearranged all of her bedrooms and no longer has a spot for it.  She's getting the last laugh.

Bert Weir Paintings

A softer pair of Bert's paintings hang above the dresser, where they will stay when we build new desks.  It's hard to tell in photos, but there is a lot of soft aqua and pink layered in.  The paintings are more colourful than they always look in photos.

Bert Weir Paintings
Bert Weir Paintings
Bert Weir Paintings
Bert Weir Paintings

The Expedit looks largely the same, except the top shelves are getting a bit crowded with framed prints I can't seem to find a home for; I just stood them up behind my pottery to keep them safe. I stashed my sewing machine up there one day, also hoping to keep it safe, and there it has stayed.

White Expedit Hack and DIY Storage Bins

The nook needs some work - melamine shelves are awfully weak.  Sometimes in photos it looks like shelves are sagging because of lens distortion, but these shelves are actually sagging.  We are actually thinking of using this space in an entirely different way...

Office Closet Turned Nook
Shane Norrie ++ Strawberry Hill Pottery

There you have it, a look at the mysterious second bedroom!  On the horizon: DIY desks, luxurious office chairs, a more practical nook, fabulous tweed curtains, a decluttered Expedit, plus clever ways to hide unsightly tech stuff (looking at you, hulking printer).  For a little walk down memory lane, here's what the room looked like when the former owners were using it as a bedroom, and then when it was empty:

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May 11, 2015

And Then She Swam Away

It's Monday!  I have a funny story about Szuka, which I hope makes you smile.

Last year Szuka mostly avoided the lake, until Hubs and I jumped in one day.  Szuka reluctantly joined us, but then proved herself to be a strong, if a little timid, swimmer.  The fall encroached quickly, followed by the ice, and Szuka didn't get much time to test her sea legs.  Last week I spent an afternoon raking, with Szuka at my side.  She plucked a super mangy piece of driftwood from the shore - just totally rotten and disgusting -  so I tossed it back into the lake as soon as I could get my hands on it.  To my surprise, she dove in after it.  I started tossing stick after stick into the lake.  No matter how far I threw a stick, she obligingly retrieved it.  After last year's tentative swimming, I'm surprised by how much she loves the water!

Komondor in Lake Superior

Here's the funny part.  Hubs and I were sitting on the shore, admiring my handiwork and the view, and she was chewing a stick near us.  Then she heard geese squawking across the bay and took off running across our neighbour's yard.  We yelled at her to come back, and she did - begrudgingly.  She knows she's not allowed off our property - and she knows exactly where the property lines are - but sometimes the urge to protect us makes her willful.  She wouldn't come back and hang around us, but instead decided to wade into the lake and inspect our dilapidated dock (unusually high water levels last year totally destroyed it).

Komondor in Lake Superior

She walked out a little bit at a time, intensely sniffing every segment, until she reached the end.

Komondor in Lake Superior

That's when she started to book it toward the other side of the bay.  Toward the geese.

Komondor in Lake Superior

We just about died laughing at her determined swimming (and creative disobedience).  We called her name and she turned around with an expression that read, "What? What do you want?"

Komondor in Lake Superior

We instructed her to come back.  She looked peeved, but starting swimming back.

Komondor in Lake Superior

We're kind of curious how far she would have gotten, or what her end game was.  We were warned Komondors can be stubborn...

In other delightful doggy news, Hubs and I were having lunch with my Dad when he said he saw a mini-Szuka.  I turned around and spotted a corded pup!  She is a white Puli (which is less common than the typical black).  Pulis are another Hungarian breed, but they have way more energy because they're livestock herding dogs (not guarding dogs, like Komondors).

White Puli with Cords
White Puli with Cords

Her awesome corded coat, made even more special with colourful threads woven around some of the cords, made me regret - just for a second - not cording Szuka.  I'm always envious of people who have corded their Pulis or Komondors because it looks so cool!

White Puli with Cords
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