Every so often I go through my fabric scraps with a thought toward making them into something useful. There are often long quite large scraps left over from garment sewing...pieces that are too big to throw away, but not often big enough for other garments. These are great pieces for sewing masks, but I also had a couple of long, skinny pieces of fabric that I wondered about being able to make into something a little bit more permanently wearable.
The free Peppermint Peplum Top pattern turned out to be a perfect pattern to squeeze onto these leftover bits (especially in a smaller size...just right for my girls). There is a pieced shoulder that makes this an especially stash busting pattern. I had no idea there was a whole top hiding in my scrap bin!
This month was a good one for letting go of a few things + getting them into the hands of people who will use them. It's nice to make a little money (especially when it's tight), but I try to hold that somewhat loosely. I've already spent the money to buy the items in my home, so any money I make is something more than nothing. I'm more focused on getting the things that are no longer serving me back into service elsewhere.
Some of the ways we moved a few things on this summer:
Just a few reminders:
Last summer, I tried on a pair of shorts at Madewell. While Madewell does have a few pieces that are made in a fair-trade factory, those shorts were not part of that collection...so I did not make them part of my wardrobe. This summer, I found those short secondhand + since I knew that I liked the fit of them...I did not hesitate to buy them (secondhand)...twice.
I decided to try dyeing one of those pairs of shorts in indigo to make them a deeper, richer blue. The indigo dye obscured the varigated nature of the original fabric which was not the look I was after.
Since these shorts fit well + don't come in any other colors, I decided to sacrifice this pair of shorts in order to make a sewing pattern. Many sewists are able to make rub-offs of beloved pieces of clothing without taking them apart. I want a precise fit, however, and I find that the best way to achieve that is to have a precise pattern made up of the actual pieces of the garment (b).
I used the scraps from a pair of happy pants that I made a few years ago to make the first pair of shorts from this "pattern". I had to piece a couple of pieces together in order to make these shorts. The print camouflages this well enough for me (f). I didn't have enough fabric for the pockets + made them out of gingham fabric left over from another pair of pants (e). I used the elastic from the original shorts in these (b + c).
These shorts fit like a dream, have pockets (!), sewed up relatively quickly + feel like a zero-waste win! I'm looking forward to making a few more of these + think this whole progression is at least part of what slow fashion is all about...keeping a piece in use, keeping resources out of the landfill + being creative all the while.
When I started this indigo project, my main goal was to dye these two white tanks. They are lovely when white (and I still have one that I kept white), but a little sheer. I envisioned a deep, rich indigo for them. I lost count of how many times these two were dipped, but it was a lot. :)
This was a lovely project that took a some time...time spent under these trees on not-too- hot, summer days. I loved the process...dye dripping on my legs...laughing with my girls...experimenting + learning...creating something new. I am going to love wearing these tanks. They feel infused with sunshine + earth...in a way that they always were...now more evident to me. It's a real joy to be part of the making of one's clothing...whether forming the cloth through knitting or quilting...putting the pieces together through sewing...prolonging use through mending...or simply adding some depth of color through dying. Forging connection to what we wear is never a waste of time.
It's been almost five years since I used indigo dye last, so the process is more an experiment than a skill at this point. Like most of my experiments, some results were better than others. :)
What looked like a deep, dark indigo straight out of the vat often washed out to a lighter patchy blue. So back into the dye it went...again + again. It's hard to know what color has been achieved without washing the pieces, so it took a few rounds of dyeing + washing + dyeing again to achieve the color I was hoping for on most things.
The bandanas, however, were a sort of one time opportunity (since we did shibori with them)...so I'm glad that we didn't dye them all at once. I was able to use my observations on a second round...re-dipping those pieces several times for richer color.
These will make lovely, zero-waste, gift wrap!
A couple of pieces feel like fails. I thought that the blue blocks on the tea towel would get darker when dyed + still stand out. Instead the pattern just disappeared.
I thought that the shorts would also retain some of their varied coloring, but now they are just a very solid blue. Boo.
There were a few happy accidents too...like the resist pattern that developed on this bandana.
It feels really good to just play + not take any of it too seriously.
Since we were trying to squeeze every ounce of fun out of this project, we decided to try a few shibori techniques on our bandanas + kitchen towel. This turned out to be a sort of finger strengthening exercise as well. :) The binds we chose are simple + are meant to produce squares, swirls, stripes + circles. I keep my expectations low with this sort of thing. For me, it's not about perfection...it's just about experimentation, enjoyment + discovery.
My preferred uniform consists of a white top (tank, tee, sweatshirt or button-up) + a pale, worn, denim bottom. I like white tops, but I'm no stranger to a coffee dribble or blueberry tart squirt on my front. Knowing this about myself, I have a plan for that. (sniff, sniff, Elizabeth Warren) White tops are are easiest color to dye.
I've been putting off this batch of dyeing, mostly because I don't want the fun to be over. But I need some tops to be wearable + the dye vat is ready...so here's what I've collected to dye so far:
-the aforementioned, blueberry-tart-stained tank
-an old, layering tank
-a couple of too transparent tanks
-a pair of thrifted shorts
-the bandanas that we wrap our gifts in
-a tea towel of which I have more than one
-a stained kitchen towel
Dye is a great tool for a more sustainable wardrobe. Not only can stained garments be made useful again, but things that we tire of can be made "new" again. Adding dye to the list of ways we could transform thrifted pieces expands options. I've also found that dyed pieces are often more durable than undyed ones.
Let the magic begin.
How are you feeling about waste in the midst of a pandemic? It was sad to see the bulk bins empty + be filled with plastic bins + bags of beans, grains + nuts instead. All of the bread is now sitting in plastic bags + the salad bar is empty. Some of the systems that I depended on to lower my waste output have crumbled like many of the other systems we depended before the pandemic.
My feeling always was that sometimes other priorities take precedence over zero-waste thinking. As a nurse, I would not complain about the disposable, plastic oxygen tubing or all the wrappers + syringes that we used + discarded. During a pandemic, some packaged (rather than bulk) food makes sense. I'm not going to add to the stress of this time by feeling guilty about making a bit more trash than I previously did. That's why I've waited to write this post. As always, guilt is often unproductive + even in the best of times, only takes us so far. Compassion + love...choosing to do better...to make a positive difference...that is the motivation I want to employ.
While things have changed + some of my previous choices are no longer available, there are still a bunch of ways that we can choose to create less waste in the kitchen. I'm going to focus on the kitchen here, because this is where a big portion of our waste is created + where the differences are most seen lately.
There are still lots of things we can do to be mindful of + decrease our waste even during a pandemic:
:: Eat lots of fruits + vegetables.
This is the time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere) to enjoy all of the local, unpackaged produce available. A CSA box is a fantastic way to eat like a king, support a local farmer, reduce exposure to coronavirus and reduce transport miles + packaging.
:: Eat less (or no) meat.
"The greenhouse emissions from the livestock industry are greater than power + transportation combined and because of its huge land footprint, it is responsible for a catastrophic meltdown in global biodiversity. If you could snap your fingers + make the livestock industry go away, the recovery of biomass, trees + shrubs + grasses + so forth, would immediately start pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. The bottom line is that nothing even comes close, in terms of its destructive impact on the environment." ~Pat Brown
:: Pack your own groceries into reusable bags.
Since we are not allowed to place containers from home onto the conveyor belt, I put all of our loose produce into my own bags while shopping...unload it onto the conveyor belt for the cashier...and then load it back into my own bags again myself. Our grocery store employees won't pack our groceries into our bags (not that they always did anyway), but they will let us pack our own groceries into our reusable bags.
:: Grow something.
Basil or mint in front of a window...peppers on the balcony...tomatoes or cucumbers in the yard or at a community garden plot. There's nothing more zero-waste than package-free food grown close to home.
:: Eat raw.
Saving gas + electricity qualifies as part of zero-waste too. When I turn on the oven, it not only takes electricity to heat...it also takes more electricity to cool down our house as a result. Make sun tea + cold brew rather than using the kettle. Salads + fruit/yogurt/granola are mainstays of our diets these days. Make bigger batches of rice + other grains to avoid turning on the stove again.
:: Preserve seasonal goodness.
This is a great time to think about what we'd like to preserve for colder days ahead. We could buy a box of peaches to cut up + freeze...or a few extra cucumbers each grocery trip to pickle. Lots of packaging can be avoided this way. (If plastic ziploc bags are a preference for freezing, wash + reuse them.)
:: Drink water, make sun tea.
Drinks can create unnecessary waste + often contain a lot of sugar. Water from the tap (refrigerate a pitcher in order to save water from having to run to get cold) with or without a squeeze of lemon, making sun tea or cold brew from bulk and smoothies from fruit + vegetables are great low-waste summer drinks. Skip tea bags + choose bulk leaves in a can. Compost the leaves, grounds + rinds.
:: Make food + coffee at home.
Mindfully making meals + coffee from scratch at home can cut out a lot of packaging. Consider supporting locally-owned businesses by getting take-out on occasion too.
:: Prioritize certain packaging. Reuse + recycle.
Reusable packaging may still be an option. I try to recycle as little as possible, because recycling doesn't always happen + requires a lot of energy + often new resources too. Paper + aluminum can be recycled. Glass + cans too. I try to avoid plastic, but stretchy bags can be added to the plastic, grocery bag recycling bins. Make an effort to get recycling to the right spots.
:: Eat it all.
So much food gets thrown away. What a waste of not only food, but of all the resources it takes to grow, nurture, water, de-pest, harvest, clean, transport, stock, sell + buy food. Make meal plans + grocery lists. Eat what is in the house before buying more.
Food fills up landfills + produces harmful methane gas. Get it to a community compost site. Do it on a balcony. Do it in the yard.
Go through the trash + recycling to see what's in there. Reassess how some of it could be avoided. Sometimes we feel pressured in the moment to make a quick decision at the grocery, but later we can be a little more thoughtful about our choices + make a better plan for next time. Sometimes seeing the amount of clamshells or plastic cups in the trash can spark motivation to shift a habit.
:: Use rags instead of paper towels. Skip disposable sponges.
It was a pleasure to not feel this scarcity.
:: Wear a mask + practice social distancing.
Doing what we can to stay well + to keep others well saves a lot of medical supplies from needing to be used + disposed of. :)
:: Do your best. And do your best again.
Guilt isn't proactive. Each choice is a new chance to make a good choice.
Thank you for all the good choices you make! We are doing this for each other, and I appreciate you + your efforts so much! :)
One great thing about having a garden is that it lets us in on when foods are in season in our local areas. We've moved around a lot, so remembering when we picked corn or blueberries or apples when I was growing up in Michigan does not exactly inform when I should be looking out for them here. Missing these treasures once at the U-pick spots also clues me in.
It's possible to find strawberries, tomatoes + apples year round these days, but eating fruits + vegetables in season is a whole different experience! Summer crops get all the glory, but spring has some pretty great offerings too! Asparagus, greens + peas make me feel thirsty for green on my plate...and chives + radishes are coming out of our own garden right now.
This meal tasted like spring on a plate + I didn't want to forget it, so I thought I'd record it here...
Spring on a Plate (serves 4)
1 cup dried brown rice
asparagus, woody ends removed + sliced
4 Tbsp butter
1 lemon, juiced
fresh chives or green onions
cayenne, salt, pepper flakes
Cook rice, adding asparagus stalks to the cooking pot for the last 8-9 minutes of cooking time. Add asparagus tips for the last 3-4 minutes of cooking time. The asparagus will steam on top of the rice (do not stir in). When all of the water has evaporated, remove pot from heat + stir in butter, peas, lemon juice + seasonings. I used salt, cayenne + pepper flakes. Garnish with chives, radishes + nutritional yeast. Enjoy! :)
on a journey toward zero-waste, simplicity, + compassion :: daring to choose fair one choice at a time