You can now sew your own reusable produce bags using my free tutorial! With my recent change in direction with the business, focusing now on knitting and crochet accessories, I decided to pull my sewing patterns that I had listed for sale in my Etsy and Craftsy shops and turn them into free tutorials here on the blog. Here's a better explanation.
Ready to make your own reusable bags? These are great for the grocery store, farmer's market, or even for collecting shells at the beach. Let's get started!
Cutting Out the Pieces
Cut two—6” x 26” rectangles of quilting cotton (cut 13” on the fold, paying close attention to layout if using directional prints)
Cut one—6” x 26” of the mesh (cut 13” on the fold)
Cut 1 yard of the drawstring cording
Fill your bag with produce and enjoy!
Rope baskets are a thing now, and I thought I would see what all the fuss was about. They are easy, relatively inexpensive to make, and are quite meditative as you sew. They hog thread--about a spool per basket. I never got the hang of turning a corner to make a crisp base, but I also only made two baskets. They turned out larger than I intended, but my children thought my mistake meant all the more candy that the Easter bunny could leave them! Here are a few pictures of the basket in-progress and finished. The red marks near the handles were later erased with a hot iron (I use the FriXion erasable gel pens).
It shouldn't be a surprise that someone who doesn't like plastic, doesn't go for plastic Easter grass. Green fabric is fluffy, the right color, cotton, and reusable year after year. When you no longer fill baskets, you can sew something with it. Win win in my book.
I hope you had a lovely Easter, if you celebrate, and are enjoying that spring is finally here!
Last week I got a pair of boots! I've been holding off for about 4 years to get a basic pair of brown leather boots. There was always something else that needed attention. I didn't need boots. But if I was buying boots, I was going to get a well-made real leather pair that would last at least 10 years (I hope!). That also meant a bit of saving on my part. Buying something you have been looking forward to, that you have saved for in advance, and that will be a wardrobe staple for years to come--what a satisfying purchase!
Last week I talked about composting your natural fiber scraps from sewing. What about the PUL? Nylon? Ribbon trimmings? If I can avoid throwing anything away, I will. Those bits and pieces that cannot be composted can still be recycled. Today I'm going to show you how to make boot inserts using other types of scraps.
Most boots look like this when you put them away at the end of the day:
I'm new to the leather boot party, but I'm going to take a wild guess that the leather will wear prematurely if you store your boots in this slumped-over position. If you do a quick search on Pinterest for "boot shapers", you get lots of people telling you to cut a foam pool noodle in half, plunk one into each boot. No thank you. You can probably guess that I'm not a fan of foam pool noodles. I'm not even going to show you any of those pictures, that's how much I like to avoid using plastic. There are some other ideas (wine bottle, coat hanger, water bottle, rolled up magazine, flexible cutting boards, Pringles canister...you get the idea). So I came up with another method that basically fills a fabric tube with scraps, making a firm support for your boots. Let's get started.
Start with two pieces of fabric, each 12" wide x 24" long. You can adjust the dimensions if your boots are very different from my size 9.5 (some calf designs are wider, some feet are too narrow for this diameter tube).
Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together, and sew a seam along the bottom and side openings with a 1/2" seam allowance. The red lines in the picture approximate the seams. (My pincushion in this photo is also filled with recycled scraps!)
Turn the tube right side out through the open end and stuff with sewing scraps.
Fill to within about 2" of the edge. Stuff firmly, but don't over-stuff. This kind of filling is dense and gets heavy quickly. You want the tube to have a firm shape.
Fold the raw edges in, creating a smooth edge without any frayed edges. Sew closed with a 1/4" seam allowance. If you overfill the tube, it will be difficult to wrestle through your sewing machine. It's better to have more room with which to work, you can redistribute the stuffing after the form is finished.
The finished boot supports may be a bit lumpy, but who cares?!?! You can smooth them out a bit by redistributing the filling. Plus, they are going to be inside a boot--no one will really even see them.
Recycling and maintaining a wardrobe investment at the same time. Now that's the sign of a good day! Cute bird fabric from Ikea is the icing on the cake.
Whenever I sew something, I try to use up every last bit of fabric. I've made all sorts of products to use the smallest bits of beautiful fabric--check out the patchwork pin cushion. Even after making something like the pincushion, there are tiny scraps leftover. How can you avoid throwing these bits away?
For 100% cotton and all other natural fibers (100% wool, linen, etc.), the small scraps can be composted. The fabric is biodegradable, and the small nature of these scraps mean they will break down relatively quickly in a compost pile.
You cannot compost synthetics. Any polyester fabric is not biodegradable, so it's not going to break down in a compost bin. This includes thread--most thread is 100% polyester. If you have scraps that have parts of seams sewn with poly thread, they cannot be composted.
From here on out, Dancing Threads RI will not buy printed fabric that is synthetic! The vast majority of my fabric is 100% cotton, but occasionally I work with indoor/outdoor fabric, a natural/synthetic blend or recycled felt (recycled from plastic water bottles, but since the scraps of felt are plastic, they are not biodegradable). I will use up what I currently have in stock, but I will not purchase any new synthetic printed fabric. For now, I will continue to use ripstop nylon and PUL for linings, and nylon mesh for produce bags. To be honest, I have not yet found a viable alternative. If you have suggestions, I would love to read them in the comments!
What about polyester thread snips? PUL and nylon scraps? I'm not throwing those into the trash anymore! I will share some ideas for using scraps as filling for other projects (instead of polyfill which is 100% polyester/plastic). For now, my scrappy sailboat ornaments/decorations are filled with these bits of leftovers. I have a tutorial lined up for something seasonal and quite useful that I think you will like. Check back here next week!
Unable to find something non-toxic that also does not come in a plastic container, I have opted for making my own laundry detergent. All the raw ingredients come in recycled and recyclable paper packaging, and the process is really quite simple and quick. The hardest part is grating a bar of soap. Recipes abound on the internet and Pinterest in particular, though mine came from the magazine Taproot. I'm not publishing the recipe here, as I do not have permission from the lovely Taproot peeps, but you can easily spend 30 seconds online and find pretty much the same recipe that I use.
Simple and inexpensive ingredients. The castile soap is from Trader Joe's.
So how does my laundry fare? It's CLEAN. And doesn't smell like much of anything. Which is exactly what a chemical-free laundry detergent is supposed to do! You might not get out some troublesome stains, but honestly, that hasn't been a priority for me in years. I don't have uniforms to maintain, I don't wear fancy clothes to an office for work, so stains have not been much of an issue for us. If it is, I'm sure there are some great non-toxic stain removers out there. If you have one to recommend, please tell me about it in the comments!
Back in February, I shared my latest idea for eliminating plastic when it comes to deodorant. I was happily using the LUSH deodorant bar which comes as a solid block without any packaging at all. Several issues have surfaced since then. 1) I have a hard time getting into Providence to buy the product (making it extra time/gas/parking fees); 2) if you order online, it arrived packaged in quite a bit of plastic, 3) the bar gets so very crumbly when there is about 1/3 left making it difficult to apply; and 4) the bar is a bit irritating on freshly-shaven skin, which honestly is when I tend to apply. I can report that the scent is lovely and it seemed to stand up well on a humid summer day.
Next, I tried a completely non-toxic product from Ava Anderson. While it worked well, held up in the hot summer weather, the scent was ok, but I was looking for something with zero-waste. Their deodorant comes in the traditional plastic container. (Ava Anderson products are wonderfully non-toxic, and if you're interested you should follow this link and buy from my friend Stacy!)
Enter my latest find: Organic Essence deodorant.
Finally--something that smells great, works really well, is organic, made in the USA and comes in compostable packaging!
It comes in a cardboard tube that can go into my compost bin when empty. There are four different scents: lavender, lemon tea tree mint, natural and wood spice. I ordered it online, but I would bet there are stores that carry it, I just haven't investigated that far. Paying for shipping is a pain, and it is certainly more expensive than drugstore deodorant at $10, but I think I have found my go-to deodorant. This tube is about 1/3 used, which has lasted me well over a month so far.
Ingredients consist of coconut oil, arrowroot, beeswax, baking soda and essential oils. That's it. They also follow through with sustainable packaging when shipping, using paper tissue and a cardboard box. Love it!
My search has officially ended for effective, sustainable and plastic-free deodorant.
One type of plastic that I still occasionally use in my kitchen bothered the daylights out of me: plastic wrap. Usually it comes in direct contact with your food, is one of the only things versatile enough to conform to any shape and need, but it was so very plastic. Yuk. In many cases I was able to substitute wax paper or parchment, which is great. But I still found myself turning to the dreaded Saran when I couldn't think of anything else. You can guess how excited I was to learn about a product from a company called Abeego.
It's a small Canadian designer/producer who came up with the brilliant idea to coat fabric in beeswax (and some Jojoba oil and tree resin). I bought a set of three single flats in three different sizes, and one of the multi-use wraps.
So how do you use them?? The flats will seal the top of a glass bowl, just like plastic wrap would. You conform the wrap to the surface of the bowl and the heat of your hands causes the wax to create a seal. It's a waterproof fabric (though I wouldn't try turning a bowl upside down) that is easily wiped clean with regular dish soap. Lay them flat to store in between uses.
The wrap has a closure that works very well folded up to contain food like a sandwich.
Why would I share this product with you when it could compete with snack bags that I make and sell? Honestly, my reusable snack and sandwich bags are great--but the lining is still made of a derivative of plastic. Abeego is a completely plastic-free option that is worthy of excitement. And, something that really made me happy was reading the word "compostable" on the packaging.
About the packaging--they send your product in wax paper with a recycled paper tag. I've found a lot of "eco-friendly" companies dropping the ball when it comes to packaging their product. Either putting something like this in a plastic bag to display in a store, or putting an organic cream into a plastic bottle. Abeego has thought through their process well. Though an order shipping from Canada takes a while to arrive, their shipping rates are incredibly reasonable. They are also expanding into new retailers all the time, so you may find a location near you.
I'm a fan and look forward to putting these wraps through some real challenges. Check them out! I think you will like them as much as I do.
**All opinions expressed are my own. I am not affiliated with Abeego in any way; they did not pay me to review their product. I like sharing products I think are fantastic!
We've had a great summer around here. Lots of fun, lots of sewing, beautiful weather but no time for blogging. Now that everyone is back in school, I hope to share ideas, projects and products more regularly through this space.
To get started, I thought I would share how we handle waste-free lunches in our house. Below is a pretty typical school lunch.
Soup in a thermos, water in a Kleen Kanteen, a cloth napkin, a stainless steel spoon from our regular tableware set, a whole apple, a waterproof snack bag with baby carrots, and one more with Trader Joe's cheddar rockets. Sometimes there will be a snack bag with a sandwich, or a rubbermaid container of chicken salad (I wouldn't send glass containers to school, and I haven't gotten any stainless containers that the kids are able to open themselves yet). Notice that I didn't say "plastic-free" lunch. We're nowhere near that yet! But we aren't throwing anything away, when most kids will toss 500+ plastic baggies per school year. I feel comfortable with where we are, but always keep an eye out for more ways to improve.
I hope your new academic year is off to a great start!
There are a dozen little choices we make each day that can make a difference. Both bottles above have plastic caps, but the bottle on the left is made from glass, the one on the right is plastic. My spice rack used to be entirely plastic, but one spice at a time, it has changed to mostly glass without much of an impact on the budget. Paying attention to details on our errands about town can start to add up to make a big difference!
We all recycle any plastic shopping bags we get from the grocery store, pharmacy, or other store when we forget to bring along a reusable tote. It happens to all of us, even those who make reusable bags for a living (a- hem).
You can also recycle many other plastic bags like this one.
In our town, bags made of plastic that will easily stretch when you poke your finger through, can go in the collection sites at grocery stores. Take a look around your home, there might be a lot of plastic you were throwing out that could be recycled instead.
Here are a few other examples from my recycling bin.
Check your city/town and their collection rules. You might be able to divert a considerable amount of plastic from our landfills.
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.