In Progress

It’s halfway through August and I’ve been on a making spree. Classes start on August 29th so I’m trying to work at peak making speed before most of my time will be spent reading academic jargon. 

I have one sewing project and one knitting project in the works at the moment. 

Sewing

I was selected to review the Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade. I’m almost done, just have to insert the invisible zip (my first one!), the facings, and the hem. I’ll be writing a separate post to review the pattern- so look forward to that. 


So far this dress feels very Cinderella to me. Not in the modern massive ball gown way… More like everyday Cinderella pre-prince style. The dress is 1940’s inspired, which, combined with the light blue color, probably contribute to the Cinderella feelings. Also… could use a good press. 

Knitting

I’ve joined the Brooklyn Knitfolk #hipsterKAL. Very excited about the whole theme of the KAL – knit a pattern that has less than 30 projects. I’m knitting the Circlet Shrug by Norah Gaughn in the newest issue of Making (this is the most amazing knitting periodical in existence). It’s a beautiful pattern that uses cables and lace to create a really unique fabric. 


 I’m using unused yarn, Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in the Potion colorway, because this thing requires a ton of yardage… and I was doubtful I could create the right fabric type from salvaged yarn. I’m pretty stoked about Brooklyn Tweed though. I love that it’s 100% American made


Im trying out the KT method of knitting all the parts at once. Rather than knit the entirety of one side, I’m keeping the pattern fresh in my mind by knitting similar sections all together. I’m almost done with the ribbing which means I’m about to start the cables! I feel really excited about this knit. Lots to keep me interested. 

Dyeing: Yellow Onion Skins

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset(Photo by Carly Lynch)
Yellow onion skins are, perhaps, the easiest to find/use dye material (dyestuff). When my favorite friend, Carly, took a week out of her life to visit me, we experimented with onion skins on different types of fibers. She threw in some scratchy wool she found as a freebee! at a garage sale. I threw in my wool/acrylic sweater (previously dyed with turmeric).

Natural dyes are basically magic. They’re amazing.

We filled up about half a pot (20 quarts) with onion skins, filled the pot with water, and let it simmer for an hour. We strained the onion skins out (mostly) and submerged our scoured dye goods.

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So… we didn’t mordant… which is not usually my style. I am a pretty big believer in mordanting all fibers before they go into the dye pot. It improves overall color and longevity of the dye. However, life gets in the way, and the best thing we could do was scour our goods in an aluminum pot, praying that some aluminum would change the fibers to be more receptive to the dye.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset(Photo by Carly Lynch)
The wool yarn turned out beautifully. A perfect warm, mustardy, autumnal color. Also, how awesome is that hanging shelf that Carly made!

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The sweater could have used some mordanting… It’s pretty splotchy. But this is already a workshop sweater; I’ll use it for those projects where I don’t mind discoloration or stains. I think the wool/poly fiber combo could have contributed to the splotchyness as well… But overall, the onion skins did their job – it is now yellow.

I’d love to hear if any of you have dyed with onion skins, or have found success mordanting in an aluminum pot. Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Making!

Mending: Ironing Board Cover

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After the beeswax fiasco of 2017, I needed a new ironing board cover. But even before that, my ironing board was becoming rather flat in the middle. It needed to be mended. Rather than toss the entire board, I deconstructed the cover and replaced the unusable piece. The end result was a quick and speedy mend.

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The problem: the structure was good, but the batting was totally squashed and the fabric cover was full of wax – making it useless. Without a new one, my clothes would be horribly ironed and covered in wax. Top priority.

The mend: I needed to totally recreate the ironing board fabric cover and cut out new batting. This was wonderfully simple.

I removed the cover by loosening the drawstring. I separated the foam from the fabric (easy as they were just set on top of each other).

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I placed the foam on top of the batting and cut.

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I placed the waxy fabric on top of a stiff cotton sheet. 100% cotton, linen, or wool is best for an ironing board. These fibers can withstand high temperatures and won’t melt like poly’s or acrylics. My sheet was a remnant from my Orla Dress.

I added 1 inch around the edges of my fabric cover to create the drawstring channel.

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After cutting my fabric, I pinned the edges up 1 inch around the new cover.

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I sewed around the edge using a 3/4″ seam allowance. I stopped about 1/2″ from where my stitches began to leave room to thread the drawstring through the edges.

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Using the old drawstring and a safety pin, I managed to thread the string through the stiff fabric.

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Finally I was ready to place the cover on the board, sandwiching the batting. I used the board’s original drawstring stopper to tighten the string.

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And then I was completely done! I now have a fresh ironing board cover and no danger of waxing my clothes.

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Try DIY: Beeswax Fabric Food Wraps

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I’ve had beeswax food wraps on my DIY list for about three years. While my friend Carly was visiting, she suggested we get our craft on and make some. I can confidently say it is now crossed off and perhaps will never be reattempted. This is one precarious and messy DIY.

Beeswax fabric food wraps are an alternative to plastic wrap. They’re super popular in the world of zero wasters, homesteaders, and no plastic folks. With an uncommitted  foot in all three of these camps, I knew I would use these food wraps proudly, but making them was another story. I have zero experience working with wax, so I think this makes me the perfect candidate to honestly describe the process. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes and make beeswax wraps with ease.

Materials

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Beeswax block

We bought a pound of beeswax from the local candle and soap making outlet (does every city have this?). Most tutorials/recipes recommend pellets, but we choose the block because it was more cost effective. Our 1 lb block was $15 and 8 oz of pellets were $9 = $3 saved in the long run.

Metal Tray

We picked up an tin tray from a thrift store to use as our wax container. Wax is basically impossible to remove from surfaces. So we bought this tray knowingly, devoting it to wax forever more. Tray = $1

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Fabric Scraps

We grabbed cotton scraps from my stash. We tried to choose thin fabric. This is better than canvas/ upholstery/ thick cotton. The duck fabric above? Too thick. The best was the pink and white fabric which were similar to bedsheets.

The Process

We melted our beeswax by placing the wax block on the tray in a 170 degree oven. We then waited for it to melt. We waited and waited. Finally after 1 hour, we decided this was too much. We took it out and sacrificed a knife to cut it into smaller pieces. At this point our beeswax was the consistency of butter. Slicing the warm beeswax was much easier than attempting to cut it while it was solid. We put it back in the low heat oven and waited another hour for the beeswax to melt completely

Total melting time: 2 hours

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Finally, we were ready to dip our fabric pieces in the beeswax. We had read about a few methods online, and the dip method looked the easiest. It was not. Each time we attempted to dip, our wax cooled too quickly. So we had to place the tray mostly in the oven. But this placement made it difficult for dipping the fabric. We laid a larger fabric piece over the open oven door to catch any wax drips.

img_5010The wax already cooling

As we were dipping the fabric we also were unable to coat the areas we were holding. The two corners of a rectangle might remain unwaxed. However, when we attempted to coat those areas by dipping the piece again, we somehow created a double layer of wax that was tricky to remove.

We dried the fabric pieces outside on a basic clothes rack. After dipping most pieces we noticed that the layer of wax was too thick and visible. At this point we were baffled with the complexity of this project. Carly pulled up a video of someone making the fabric wraps with ease. They were using an iron and wax paper. At this point we both would rather end up with usable products than anything else, so we shuffled off to the store and purchased parchment paper ($4)

The New Method

img_5011The excess wax removed by iron.

With my iron in hand, we set out to make our thickly coated waxed fabric more practical. We sandwiched the fabric piece between parchment paper and ironed it slowly on the lowest setting. We were able to melt the wax enough so it slowly squeezed off the fabric and onto the paper. At the end of this method we had thinly coated fabric – perfectly usable.

Also because we’re crazy and hate using paper products, while Carly was ironing, I was scraping the excess wax off of pieces of parchment paper so we didn’t have to use two new pieces for every piece of fabric. We probably saved about half a roll of paper? Plus we reclaimed some beeswax, too. I found this task, though repetitive, to be quite relaxing. The one downside with this method happened when my ironing board was waxed in the battle. But, to be honest, it really needed a refresh anyway, so keep a lookout for an ironing board cover tutorial in the future!

Lessons Learned

  • Pellets, though a few bucks more, would have saved us so much time trying to melt the beeswax
  • If we really wanted to use the block effectively, we should have bought a cheese grated and dedicated it to grating wax forever more. That would have also saved us some time.
  • The dipping method was not the best for our space and created thickly coated fabric
  • The ironing method was much more precise and created thin waxed fabric.

In the end, we now have usable beeswax fabric wraps. They’re very exciting.

Happy making!

 

Clothing Swaps are Magic

I’ve been a swapper since birth. My twin sister and I had one closet until we were in grade school. Then, when that vast resource was halved, we would walk the entire 20 feet of the hallway to build outfits. Though, her outfits were always more put together. My friends would always swap clothes, and our church had a great culture of swapping hand-me-downs. I loved it.

img_3990-1Sporting some hand-me-downs

Swapping, not donating, is my favorite way to let go of used clothing.

  • Swaps reduce waste by providing a venue for used items to be reworn
  • Swaps are more personal
  • By swapping with a small group, there’s a greater chance clothes will be used and cared for
  • Every swap I’ve been to has unique and interesting items
  • Swaps have a minimal door fee, by the pound fee, or could be free!

In my last post I wrote about my handmade wardrobe goals. Well, every season my replacement plan leaves me with a few items that I no longer wear. They’re still usable, so I shuffle them off to my local swap.

My favorite swap in St. Louis happens at PerennialSTL – a creative reuse studio. Besides generally being my favorite place in the world, Perennail hosts well organized swaps that draw in people from all walks of life. After the swap is over, any leftover items that can be used for classes and workshops are set aside and unusable items are sent to the local textile recycling plant (I think to be made into airplane upholstery or carpets?)

img_4985Setting up at Perennial
I’ve volunteered at the past few swaps – it’s amazing how much is donated, how much people take, and the amount left behind. Watching the vast quantity of clothing pile up is almost overwhelming. Because of the piles of cute and trendy pieces, I am so tempted to grab whatever fits, but this doesn’t actually address my overall goal of reducing waste. If I continue to grab whatever I like, I’m still participating in the endless cycle of consuming textiles rather than wearing fewer pieces for longer periods. I also don’t need seven variations of a button down – I just don’t.

Now that I’ve committed to making my clothes from used materials, I try to see the swap as a materials resource and keep my eye out for quality fabrics. Before I go I write down the items I’m potentially interested in to guide my browsing. Before I leave the swap I scrutinize everything for repurpose-ability. I try to have very high standards at this point in the process. I only take home that which can and will be used.

Clothing swaps have been a huge resource in my slow fashion journey. But, if you don’t live close to St. Louis, don’t fret. If you live in a city, there is probably a swap close by – it might even pop up in Google. If you live remotely, why not try organizing a swap for your community? All you need is a designated space and time. I organized a few swaps in college where we laid clothes out on dorm beds and couches – it was amazing.

I would love to hear your stories about clothing swaps! Let me know in the comments below.

Until then, happy making (or swapping)

My Handmade Wardrobe

One of my long terms goals is to have an entirely handmade capsule wardrobe.
A capsule wardrobe is a small wardrobe of limited items that receive a lot of wear and generally all coordinate together. The exact number is up to individual preference, 33 is a really common item count. There are some great resources about capsule wardrobes out there: I personally recommend watching videos by My Green Closet, she focuses on ethical fashion and minimalism, plus her videos are kind of relaxing.

I have 100% met my goal in terms of sweaters. Unfortunately, I can’t wear sweaters everyday, this would be ridiculous. But it’s okay, I have a plan. Every season, I catalogue each item of clothing in my wardrobe, log which pieces are handmade, then consider which pieces I can make myself.

Cataloging my wardrobe in my recycled craft journal

I’ve broken down my wardrobe into three categories: casual, school/professional, and activewear/workshop-wear. I apply the capsule concept to each of these categories and try to keep my numbers around 20-25 for each group

My revisions and updates to my handmade wardrobe additions

Eventually, I will be able to replace every item I wear with something handmade. I’ve chosen to take on this massive goal because it structures my constant projects. I now have a list of items I can make and choose between many options. It also prevents me from making too many of one thing (like sweaters or party dresses). I see this as an ongoing and everlasting project. Items I make now will eventually break down or my lack of skills will become so obvious that I will need to make a replacement. It will also be a great way to push my skills further: one day I’ll need to make jeans.

As if this weren’t enough, I’ve added a preferred goal on top of this handmade capsule wardrobe: use reclaimed materials. So, when I am about to make something new, I want to try my best to use recycled/reclaimed materials. By doing so, I do not add to the overabundance of textiles that inhabit our planet and I can make a small (perhaps unnoticeable) dent in the amount of materials that already exist. I also want to cultivate this habit to curb my own desire for the new. I believe that used materials can provide all my needs. I’m fully aware that this is a very lofty goal, so I give myself some grace. Some of my projects are made with new materials: most often for practical reasons. Sometimes I need a large quantity or specific weight of yarn for a knitting project, sometimes I need specific tools that can’t easily be reclaimed, thread for example. Making things solely from reclaimed items could easily become a barrier to my making process; I don’t want this to happen. Garment making is fun, but too many rules makes it difficult and unenjoyable. So, I try to be gracious with myself.

I’ll be back with updates about how my summer capsule replacement procedure worked out as well as what I have planned for autumn.

Until then, happy making!

 

Natural Dyes with Alpacas

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I was so lucky to assist my good friend Theresa at her natural dye class. We had seven dye pots during this class. But the best part was all location, location, location. This dye class was at an ALPACA FARM, people: Alpacas of Troy.

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Let’s talk about Alpacas:

A camelid native to South America, Alpacas are herd animals bred for their fiber. There are two types of Alpacas, both of which reside at Alpacas of Troy: Suri (long smooth fibers) and Haucaya (lofty fibers).

img_4910(An unusually cuddly Alpaca named Helen interrupts my lunch)
Alpaca fiber is softer and less prickly than wool, but just as warm. It’s a great fiber to wear close to the skin, for things like scarves, cowls, and maybe even underwear (alpaca bra, anyone?).

Alpacas have a range of natural colors, all of which are desirable for garments. But the lighter colors (white and silver) lend themselves more towards dying than those dark varieties (obviously).

Local Yarn

Alpacas of Troy is not only a fiber farm, it’s also a fiber mill! The farmers have a fully operational mill than turns beautiful fleece into high quality yarn. They do it all.

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This is a great ethical option for yarn.

  • The need for fuel to transport fiber to and from a mill is eliminated
  • A local farm can remain small and independently/family owned
  • Alpacas are known, named, and cared for
  • Natural color variation in Alpaca fiber means less water is used to dye yarn and no new chemicals are introduced into the environment

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Natural Dyes

While natural color variation in Alpaca is amazing, sometimes neutrals don’t cut it. Enter the process of natural dyeing. Natural dyes are sourced directly from the environment, they are biodegradable, and do not contribute to pollution. We had seven dye pots at the farm, and produced an actual rainbow of colors.
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Clockwise from the top: Annato Seeds, Turmeric, Red Onion Skins (with alum), Indigo, Alkanet, Cochineal, and Madder

In classic reclaimed fashion, I also tossed a few non-alpaca pieces into the dye pots.

img_4921This reclaimed mohair/merino blend (now in cochineal)

img_4927This marinara sauce stained dress (refreshed by indigo)

img_4925This hand me down sweater (bathed in turmeric)

img_4928img_4932And this deconstructed fitted sheet (top with alkanet, bottom with madder)

Some colors really turned up the bright in this dye session. Others showed up muted and delicate.

  • Annato seeds – what a great orange – if only I wore orange.
  • This is the first time I’ve intentionally dyed with turmeric. I’ve stained many a cuff while making curry. And I’m not thrilled with how it took to this sweater, or the yarn. I’ll probably stick with yellow onion skins for my yellow dye, or maybe marigolds.
  • Red onion skins with alum is one of my favorite dye combinations. On it’s own, red onion skins can produce a purple/red, but mordant your fibers with alum and it’s a whole new world. A green world.
  • I love indigo. It’s enchanting.
  • Our alkanet dye was extracted from soaking the root in alcohol. Another hallmark of natural dyeing in my experience is variegated fabric. This is most visible on the small piece of purple cotton jersey. I think its magical.
  • Cochineal is a bug that feeds and lives on the prickly pear cactus. Other cochineal dyes I’ve encountered have been maroon pink or purple pink, but this one was a shocker. Bright.
  • Madder root is known for producing a true red. Our dye pot produced a peachy coral color that was deeper on cotton. I’m really excited about this coral color at the moment. We expected a deeper red from our dye pot, but in true natural dye fashion, our expectations were so off the mark.

When I dye with natural materials I rely heavily on Kristine Vejar’s book The Modern Natural DyerI appreciate her precise approach to materials and measurements. That said, I tend to estimate my weights and measurements in practice. Natural dyes are welcome to both approaches, it welcomes both the methodical scientists and the haphazard artists with open arms.