Green Crafting

About: Sarah writes the Blog Sewing Parts Online and makes video tutorials too. She loves inspiring others to create and challenge themselves through crafting and sewing. Her guest post fits in perfectly in our Functional Creativity themed month.

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We live in a world where goods are available so cheap, that it’s standard practice to simply buy ‘new’ instead of fix or extend the life of an older object. When I became a parent, I realized I’d have to buy new clothes every 6 months. To me, this was absurd. I’d been wearing the same clothes for years. I refashion and alter to get the most wear possible. It didn’t dawn on me until my son was a year old that I could be doing the same thing with his clothing. I might not get years, but an extra 6-9 months is good enough for me!

I buy long sleeve shirts and pants at the end of every summer to last my son through the winter. I buy jeans and athletic pants as well as long sleeve jersey shirts and long sleeve button-ups. They’re slightly big, to last through fall and winter. By the time the weather starts warming up, I set aside a weekend to alter the majority of his winter clothes into summer attire by simply cutting the pants into shorts, and the long sleeves into short sleeves. If I have extra time, I’ll draft up a pattern by tracing his ‘new’ shorts and shirts.

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Over the years, I’ve found the ‘assembly line’ method to be the most efficient way to tackle this project. Instead of finishing one pair, then starting all over to do the next pair, I do all the alterations step by step. Do all the measuring at once. Do all the cutting once, etc.

I use a seam gauge and measure the inseam of some that already fit. Then, I use that measurement for shortening the pants. Same goes for the arm seam. So simple and easy. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. Thankfully, young children don’t care if the hem is a little off, they just want to get back to playing.

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Then I can get creative! Who doesn’t love some rainbow thread? My son loves the colors and it’s a small detail that say’s “Mommy made this for you!”. It’s so rewarding to see your child wear something you made for them not just because you wanted to make something, but because they needed it and you fulfilled that need.

I ended up adding the rainbow thread to all his pants and shirts. It’s so magical when they are young and love things as simple as rainbow hems. When I finally show him his “new” clothes, we’ll probably talk about what colors he sees and which ones are his favorites. It’s those simple moments that make motherhood and creating so memorable.

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All that’s left is to cut the thread tails and add a couple snaps. In one weekend I was able to dress my son for another 6 months without spending money or adding to landfill. When he outgrows these clothes, they will be donated or reused for something else.

Doesn’t it feels good to fulfill a need without buying more junk? Until next time — Thanks for reading!

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Nichola, founder of Nikkishell and creator of Wardrobe Refashion, was also the co-creator of Mixtape Zine and was Australian representative for BurdaStyle. She has been profiled in various publications including The V&A, The Guardian and The Age, and has done extensive work in the craft sector. Leisl, founder of Jorth! has worked in the textile industry and also as a content writer, specializing in craft and food articles for publications such as Whipup.net, Mum’s Business and Mixtape Zine. They are the founders of Handmakers Factory.

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Floral Etro Dress :: This is a dress Leisl made using a gorgeous Etro remnant. We are huge fan of remnants – often from designer labels, the quality is usually excellent, and by purchasing a piece of remnant fabric, you are ensuring that nothing goes to waste and that the fabric doesn’t end up in landfill.

Our world is overrun by consumerism. Everywhere you look, there are signs, ads, magazines, celebrities exhorting you to Buy more! Spend more! You can only be a better you if you own this! It’s a vicious cycle, and one that had sadly become so normalised that escaping it feels nigh near impossible. Never mind the impact that our consumerist ways has on the planet – just spend, spend, spend!

Handmakers factory

Refashioned T-shirt:: Nichola had previously sewn up this top as a long-sleeved batwing design. While it look pretty darn fabulous, the batwings drove her crazy, and were always in the way. So she refashioned it to become this beautifully fitted t-shirt, which has now become a firm summer staple.

Thank goodness, then, for the internet, and the ability to find people who are striving to think outside this mandate and who share their philosophy via their blogs. That’s how myself, Leisl of Jorth and Nichola of Nikkishell met. At the time we started our blogs, we were both stay-at-home mums who shared a fondness for making our own clothes with a determination to tread as lightly as we could environmentally. We began to bond online over things as diverse as our favourite knitting patterns to making our own laundry detergent. Soon we began to meet up regularly in real life, and would regale each other with our latest attempts to be as green as possible. Look! Leisl is going plastic free for a month! Hey! Nichola has pledged to make her own clothes for a year! We were fun-loving crafty greenies, and proud of it!

As the kids began to grow up, we both ended up working together on a lot of projects outside the home, and also were colleagues at a fabric store. The more we learnt about the textiles industry, the more concerned we became about the impact our clothing choices can have on the environment. We soon realised that making your own was the way to go. A lot of clothing companies run on the back of ill-paid labour, and the environmental cost of this cheap, mass-produced clothing is huge. The worst part is that because the clothing is so poorly made, it is often only worn a few times before being designated to the bin. When you make your own clothes, however, you tend to seek out good quality fabrics. You take a lot of time to ensure that the fit is right, that the style suits your body shape. And then after you have  put all that hard work in, you wear it and wear it and wear it, because you are proud of your creation, and you appreciate the effort that has gone into it. Plus it usually looks totally amazing, and nobody has anything like it anywhere. And if a seam rips, or a hole appears, you can mend it.

Not only do you have the pleasure of creating something with your own two hands, but you are no longer contributing to fast fashion, and it’s many hidden costs.

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Japanese pattern “Drape Drape” dress :: We are both huge fans of Japanese pattern books. The designs are timeless but often with a twist, which appeals to our sense of fashion enormously. These are clothes that will always look stylish, and will see you through many years, which checks many of our sustainable boxes!

It was one thing to come to this realisation by ourselves, but we soon decided that we wanted to share it. Imagine if all those marvellous garment creation skills – from sewing to knitting to crocheting to refashioning – were lost, simply because they were no longer taught and passed on as in days of yore? Something had to be done, so we decided that we were the people for the job! Nichola had already run a website called Wardrobe Refashion that focused on refashioning old garments into new. We decided to take this website, do a bit of refashioning on it and relaunch it as Handmaker’s Factory.

At Handmaker’s Factory we aim to have a strong focus not only on refashioning, but on general sewing/knitting/crafting skills, empowering people to make their own garments and give them a chance to opt out of the fast fashion merry-go-round. The website is a place for people to share images and information about the garments they have created, be inspired by others, learn new skills and find out more about sustainable fashion. We will also soon be offering classes, and hope to inspire many more people to make their own clothes.

It’s been said before that if everybody took small steps often enough, we can make a huge difference environmentally to our world. So we are here to help you save the world – one fabulous frock at a time!

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Texture Cable Hat :: Leisl’s best friend can often be found proudly wearing one of the many knitted garments her grandmother knit for her over the years. Her grandmother sadly passed away recently, so these items hold an even greater significance for her – it’s a way to keep the memory of her grandmother alive and close to her. Recently she moved to a colder climate, so Leisl knew that if she knitted her a beanie it would serve two purposes: it would keep her head warm on chilly days, and give her another garment made especially for her with love. We know she’ll use it forever!

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During most of 2013, Whipup.net will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Mary Jo Borchardt is an Artisan, Farmer, Momma, and Wordsmith keeping a small homestead in the US near Madison, WI.  It is her life’s work to achieve the distinction of Renaissance Woman, whereby she will expertly wield a sheep shears, needle, frying pan, ax, design code, and pen, but perhaps not simultaneously.  She is the voice behind Five Green Acres  – a blog to capture some of the great material that is spawned by such an undertaking, and a mercantile to offer her homegrown :: This is Wool. yarn and original pattern designs.

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For the month of April, we’re going to explore the theme of Functional CreativityMaking to fulfill a specific need.  I’d wager that much of the making we already do falls under this category, yet I suspect that we can gain a lot of useful perspective if we examine the whole thing more closely.  I’ll go so far as to say that Making under the guise of Problem Solving vs. making for the sake of Art or Beauty allows us to bypass many of the creative blocks our brain uses to sabotage the process. I speak from experience.

I graduated from college with badge in Art and a vague idea that I’d make and sell it for a living. To get that art into a gallery, I understood, it must convey a brilliant new perspective, must shake up the status quo. I quickly set about making… absolutely nothing. For years. I collected materials, took full-time jobs to sustain me until I could made it big, moved the ever-growing stash of materials from home to home, and cultivated a hearty collection of plans for the pieces that I’d create. Setting out to make these pieces was, for me, each and every time mired in the realization that the ideas were not profound enough, not original enough. So for years I continued to make absolutely nothing.

A number of things came together at the same time to change this: I became reacquainted with my sewing machine, my exacto knife, and glue, ditched the idea of making art and focused instead on making things one could use – us, you, anybody at all, and opened a small shop to sell these things. The impeding birth of my first child inspired me to learn how to knit so that I could make my own woolen cloth diaper covers that I was convinced she needed. I never did knit a single wool soaker but added to my bag of tricks the skill of knitting and the conviction that wool was a fiber I wanted to explore. This trickle of Making that had started slowly over a couple of years quickly exploded into a mushroom cloud of pent-up creativity after we moved to the Five Green Acres homestead and then made another child. A whole house to fill with handmade things, and a new person to adorn – just imagine the force of all those years of stifled creativity coming to a head to meet these needs. That pent-up energy is still propelling me today.

So, make something because you need it. Because you’re cold (Hearth). Because you’re hungry and all you have are three things in the pantry (Feed). Because your kids’ sleeves are too short (Clothe). Because you need a place to live that houses you from the onslaught of the world (Shelter). Set out to make what you need and I promise that beauty will find its way into that thing without you even trying hard to put it there. The things that we make with intention, by hand, that surround us in our everyday are what add to the quality of our life; every Maker knows this. For me, Making is a need only slightly less urgent that breathing. As such, the muscles that support it need to be exercised regularly to keep me sane and balanced and happy. (and Fed, Clothed, Sheltered, and Warm) Letting go of the intense pressure to make lovely, perfect things and instead focusing on making what you need is such a liberating way to approach the Making process.

Let’s do it. For the next four weeks I will be focussing on :: Build the Hearth :: Feed :: Shelter :: Clothe.

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During most of 2013, Whipup.net will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Abby and Stacey for the month of March.

Guest editor: Abby Glassenberg :: Blog :: Twitter: @abbyglassenberg

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I’ve stocked much of my sewing studio from local thrift stores and rummage sales. Reusing materials you find secondhand is eco-friendly and usually much cheaper than buying new. Here are my best tips for a successful shopping trip to the resale shop:

1. Don’t buy thread
Thread becomes brittle over time. Old thread will fray and snap so you can’t sew with it. Because I love wooden spools I buy old thread, but just for display purposes.

2. Find the “holiday décor” section
People who organize rummage sales often stick the fabric and sewing supplies in the holiday décor section. Search for the Santa figurines and Christmas ornaments. I’ve found tons of awesome fabric shoved in bins under the holiday table.

3. Look under the table
Fabric is bulky and hard to display. It often gets shoved into garbage bags or cardboard boxes and is underneath the table at the sale. Be sure to pull the bags and bins out and have a thorough look inside.

4. Head over to the “linens” section
Large cuts of fabric are often mistaken as tablecloths and may be hanging with the linens. Old linens themselves are also awesome sources of fabric. Vintage cloth napkins, linen placements, and tablecloths make great fabrics for tote bags and all kinds of other craft projects.

5. Check for stains, weak spots, holes, and smells
Items often end up at a thrift shop for a reason. Be sure to look things over carefully. But just because something has a stain, or a moth hole, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it, but do assess how much of the piece is usable before making your purchase.

6. Finish what other people start
Half completed needlework canvases, quilt squares that have been sewn but not assembled, embroidery kits that were never begun… these are all wonderful treasures! Don’t feel limited by the work that has already been done. You can disassemble or cut up what’s there and use the materials in a new way.

7. Don’t buy stuff just because it’s cheap
Having too much stuff crammed into your studio space is demoralizing. Just because fabric is cheap doesn’t mean you need to take it home with you. Evaluate your finds and try to think clearly about them. Do you need 3 yards of zebra print canvas at a $1 a yard? Maybe not (or maybe yes!).

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8. Don’t forget the books
I learned to sew stuffed animals from vintage soft toy books. Be sure to peruse the book section of any thrift store before you check out. Craft books are often shoved in with the gardening titles and cookbooks. Vintage craft books are like gems, full of crazy color combinations, antiquated language, and terrific inspiration.

9. Keep an open mind
Thrifting is a treasure hunt. If you have time, look at everything that’s for sale. Those leather gloves could be cut up and used as teddy bear paws. That skein of yarn would make awesome doll hair. And the funky fleece scarf could become an excellent elephant. Think broadly and embrace the thrill of the hunt.

Do you shop secondhand for craft supplies? If you’ve got story of a great find, we’d love to hear about it! And please share your tips for successful thrift store shopping.

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During most of 2013, Whipup.net will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

Introducing Abby and Stacey for the month of March. The theme for their month here together is the notion of making something from nothing.

Stacey Trock: blog :: twitter: @freshstitches

Have you heard of a magic ball?

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It’s a ball of yarn that changes colors and textures as you work. It’s something offered by a number of artisan yarn makers… but it’s also something you can make yourself with your leftover yarn!

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Besides ending up with an awesomely fun end-product… you’ll finally get to use up all of those weird leftover pieces of yarn that are too small (you thought!) to do anything with! How great is that?

Ready to get started?

You’ll need two things. One, gather all of the leftover yarn bits that are lurking in your stash. You know what I mean. They’re too small for their own projects, but too big to toss out. You keep thinking you’ll do something with them…

And a tapestry needle – (mine is a bent-tip needle, but that’s by no means necessary for this. All you need is a needle that’s big enough to fit your yarn through the eye.)

Okay, now we’re ready to start! We’re going to make our magic ball by joining all of these leftover yarns together using a technique called the ‘Russian Join’. The Russian join allows you to fasten yarns together without a knot, and it has the advantage of working with any type of yarn (unlike the ‘spit splice’, which relies on 100% wool yarn.)

In terms of grouping your yarns together, you’ll want to group yarns in a way that is pleasing to you. Some folks prefer the random approach, but I like creating a color theme. For my magic ball, I’m attaching only various shades of purple. I also recommend using yarns of the same weight. My magic ball is composed entirely of worsted weight yarns.

Let’s learn how to do the Russian Join.

Step 1: Thread your tapestry needle with yarn A (to start, yarn A will be an arbitrary choice. As you continue, yarn A will be the yarn that is attached to your ball).

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Step 2: About 2 inches from the end of the yarn, insert your tapestry needle through the yarn. Split the plies, and work the needle through the yarn for about an inch, then pull the needle through, bringing the yarn tail through this bit of yarn.

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Notice that you have a loop!

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Step 3: Okay, now, thread yarn B (the other yarn) through the tapestry needle, and stick the tapestry needle through the loop in yarn A.

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Step 4: About 2 inches from the end of yarn B’s tail, insert the tapestry needle through the yarn… just like you did before.

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Now you’ve made a second loop, joined onto yarn A!

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When you pull the ends, you’ll notice the two yarns are fully joined! Hooray!

step7To make a magic ball, keep attaching yarns, one after another. You’ll probably find it helpful to wind the ball up as you go, particularly if you’re using long leftover lengths of yarn.

Once you’ve run out of leftovers (or have a ball that’s big enough), you can use your magic ball for any project! When knitted or crocheted, it’ll create an awesome striping-effect! And, you don’t need to do anything special at the joins, just keep working!

Isn’t that fun? And doesn’t it make you want to gather up (and use) your leftovers?

PATTERN NEWS

We both share a love of making practical things from humble materials, but what brought us together initially was our love of designing patterns for stuffed animals. We are really excited to announce that we’ll be releasing our first collaborative pattern on March 20th: Pepper the Penguin.
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Together we’ve designed an adorable penguin softie. Stacey created the crochet pattern and Abby created the sewing pattern. And you’ll get both in one! Pepper comes with patterns for a cute wintry hat and scarf, too, so that you can mix and match. Sew Pepper, then give him a crocheted hat and scarf, or crochet him and then sew up his accessories. It’s so much fun to mix and match! We hope you’ll enjoy sewing and crocheting Pepper. He’s terrific both ways!
Get the pattern beginning on Wednesday, March 20, at freshstitches and whileshenaps Thank you!

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