Take These Scraps And…

My city has a pretty amazing recycling program, accepting just about anything for recycling…compost, styrofoam, glass, plastic bags; you name it…except textiles.

where to recycle fabric scraps

Now I know you all share the secret shame of home sewists: producing extraordinary amounts of little scraps of fabric that can’t be used for much of anything except landfill.

Why this is a problem is summed up well by Craig and Marc Kielburger in their article “We Shouldn’t Be Filling Up Our Landfills With Clothing”:

In North America, consumers are buying — and getting rid of — five times as much clothing as we did 25 years ago, reports Elizabeth Cline in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (Portfolio, 2013). A staggering 85 per cent of our collective apparel ends up in a landfill — that’s over 10.5 million tons of clothing, according to the popular second-hand store Value Village. In a single year, Canada produces enough textile waste — clothing and other goods like upholstery — to create a mountain three times the size of Toronto’s Rogers Centre stadium.

It’s easy to donate used clothing for reuse (although even the Goodwills and Salvation Armies and Value Villages of the world are now having a very hard time even keeping up with all of the clothing donations being sent their way), but what about those offcuts from sewing? I spent a lot of time researching options near me for recycling fabric but short of driving them to a depot over a hundred kilometres away, there were few. Between fabric scraps, old worn-out clothing, and bed sheets that have reached the end of their life, I have two garbage bags full of textiles waiting in the basement for a recycling option.

Good news! Clothing retailer H&M will take them off your hands and recycle them. And since there seems to be an H&M within a 2 block radius of every man, woman and child in the western world, hopefully that means this is an option for you, dear reader.

fabric recycling

They offer a coupon for $5 off your next purchase of $30 or more for each bag you bring in, just in case you need more incentive than simply feeling imperious for having saved your scraps from going to landfill.

Funny story: I brought a bag of scraps and worn out clothes to an H&M a few months ago, and when I put it into the collection bin (which was much like a fast-food restaurant trash bin with a push-door at the top front), the whole bin fell apart with a giant clatter. First the sides fell open, hitting the floor with a deafening slap, and then the rest came crashing down while I stood there burning bright red for having attracted the attention of every single person in the store. Then a gum-chewing teenage employee comes up to me and says “next time, just give it to someone at the cash!” Thanks, smart ass. Next time, empty your fucking bin out before it bursts at the seams! lol

Anyway, hopefully your experience recycling your fabric scraps will be a little less traumatic than mine was. 😉

Do you have options near you for recycling fabric scraps and clothes that are too far gone for reusing?

 

Fabric Porn: Fabric Shopping in Rome (with some Shoes, Cats, Ancient Ruins, and Cheesecake thrown in for good measure)

While I was on vacation in Italy last month I got a little obsessed about finding fabric stores wherever I went. Yelp was being cheeky and sending me to anything from card & gift shops to a grungy little hole-in-the-wall where a couple who should’ve long since been retired were presiding over some dusty old packages of sheet sets and were NOT happy when I wandered in asking “Tessuti? Avete tessuti?” (fabric? do you have fabric?) in broken Italian. Despite that, I managed to find some fabric shops and I thought I’d share my adventures with you.

I visited three fabric shops in Rome, all within a couple of blocks of each other.

Basetti Fratelli Tessuti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 73)

This was the most extensive fabric shop I visited….room after room after room of fabrics stacked to the (very high) ceilings:

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Bassetti Fratelli fabric shop: view from one room into another

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Another room choc-a-bloc with fabric

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I’m getting sucked into the Bassetti vortex here…it just keeps going.

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A stack of designer fabric. Versace, anyone?

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The old-school ‘cashier’.

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My long-suffering husband kindly colour-coordinated himself for the shirting room.

I was actually way too overwhelmed to buy anything in this store. Option paralysis overcame me and I wandered out in a fabric overload haze.

Azienda Tessile Romana (Via S. Nicola Dè Cesarini, 13) & the The Largo di Torre Argentina Ruins

Just a short walk away from Bassetti Fratelli was Azienda Tessile Romana.

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This was a much more manageable store, although I also left here empty-handed.

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The most interesting thing about this shop for me was its location directly in front of a giant hole in the ground containing, oh, you know, ho-hum, ancient Roman temple ruins over 2,000 years old — the Largo di Torre Argentina. Apparently Julius Caesar was assassinated on or just adjacent to this site. NBD as the kids say ironically, or as as us oldies translate, No Big Deal.

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The Largo di Torre Argentina, ancient ruins just hanging out in the middle of a busy Rome intersection.

This archeological site is in the middle of a fairly large and busy intersection, and you can wander around the edges having a look without buying a ticket or anything. It’s also home to a big feral cat colony who took advantage of all the nooks and crannies and respite from people and cars. You’re allowed to go in to a small area to one side during certain hours to visit the cats, and there’s a small shop of cat toys and souvenirs that help fund the cat shelter.

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Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

If this were anywhere else but Rome, this spot would be a VBD (Very Big Deal), complete with lineups of tourists anxious to part with their Euros to have a look around. But because it’s Rome, there seems to be something like this on just about every street corner. It’s an amazing city.

Oriani Gioielli Shop, Rodeo Belt Shop, and Discount Italian Shoes

If you were to draw a straight line from the front door of Azienda Tessile Romana right through these ruins and across the street, you would find this little shop that sells jewelry, gloves, and custom-made sandals — pick the style, flat or heel, and the colours and they’re ready within an hour or two. I’m told this style of sandal was popularized around Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri.

sandals&gloves

But I digress. (I always digress where shoes are involved.) From here I wandered a couple of blocks south and wound up on Via di Sant’Elena, where I found the Rodeo Belts Shop. Here I bought the elusive yellow leather belt I’d been looking for for a couple of years, as well as a black suede wrist cuff.

Just a little further along the Via di Sant’Elena was a discounty-looking shoe store where I bought a really cute pair of ivory-coloured leather high-heeled oxfords for just 39 Euros. The sign outside says “Calzature Donna – Tutto a 39 Euro” and they take cash only. This is the only pair of shoes I bought while I was in Italy, and those who know me personally will know that I exercised jaw-dropping restraint!

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant'Elena

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant’Elena

Fatucci Tessuti

Around the corner on Via dei Falegnami (#63/64) is a much smaller, more manageable fabric shop than the other two I visited earlier — this one was just my speed. Fatucci Tessuti doesn’t have a sign outside so it’s easy to miss; just look for the red-framed door and the number 63 on the wall.

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The fellow running this shop was very helpful (but camera shy). Lots of lovely silks at reasonable prices, starting at 8 Euros per meter, like this one that the shopkeeper insisted I take a photo of…

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…but it was this cotton print featuring cranes (or maybe geese?) for 12 Euros per meter that I fell in love with.  It has an incredibly fine thread count and it is truly very ‘crisp’ feeling. I love the contrasting orange dots sprinkled on the periwinkle-blue background.

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Jackpot! This crisp cotton print is coming home with me.

I have since made a dress with this fabric, which I’ll share with you in my next post.

If you’re in this area you’d be remiss not to go another few blocks to the “Jewish Ghetto”, centred around the Via del Portico D’Ottavia, where you’ll find the Forno del Ghetto (Bakery of the Ghetto). This is another business with no sign at all out front, so look for the window with the burnt-looking cakes.

The window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D'Ottavia. Don't let their appearance fool you.

Cakes in the window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D’Ottavia. Don’t let their appearance fool you.

The appearance of these cheese cakes belies their absolute deliciousness! Don’t even let the super-grumpy women gruffly serving the cake deter you from sampling them. Stand your ground when they glare at you when you walk in, and do not waver in your resolve when they bark at you whether you want chocolate or berry! You will be duly rewarded for your courage.

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM!

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM! I’m only a little shaken after interacting with the shopkeepers. 😉

Have you been fabric shopping in Rome? What treasure troves did you find?

A Tour of my New Fabric Stash, in Which There Are No Fewer than Two References to Farts

I picked up a few new fabrics! Let me take you on a tour and maybe you can help me decide what to make. I found them all at Designer Fabrics on Queen Street West here in Toronto while on a BLIND FABRIC DATE with someone from Vancouver! I’ll keep you in suspense about that until the end of the post. 😛

Also, hello and welcome to new readers who kindly popped by this way last week for a look, after Rhonda of Rhonda’s Creative Life did a lovely review of this blog for her Wednesday Showcase. What a wonderful surprise that was! 🙂

Right, so let’s tour the latest additions to my fabric stash:

Some new fabrics I bought recently

1. “Dolce & Gabbana” rayon knit with Roman floral print ($10.99/yard).

Just turn your head sideways to enjoy this. 😉

I’m almost finished sewing the Burda Long Blouse below (05/2015 #111) with this material.  The blouse turned out to be a 4-person tent and needs some serious reduction surgery, so pics to come once it has come out of the operating room. (I’m also in the midst of sewing those “joggers”, which I can tell already I’m going to regret…but there will surely be a laughable sad-sack blog post to come out of it.)

Burda 05/2015 #111 Long Blouse #114 Joggers

But I still have plenty more yardage! I went back for seconds when I discovered how hard I’d fallen in love with it. What on earth will I do with all that loud fabric?? Perhaps an actual tent is not a bad idea.

The fabric was labeled as Dolce & Gabbana in the shop, but I’m guessing it’s simply some non-designer fabric “inspired” by D&G’s Spring-Summer 2014 collection, which featured images of roman ruins, roman coins, and florals:

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I’m thinking I might make a summer dress with a bit of swing in the skirt. Not too many seams so as to show off the print to its best advantage, yes? But I don’t have anything in mind yet…do you have any suggestions?

2. Black, white & pink lightweight polyester knit, $6.99/yard. I’m thinking I’d like to incorporate a panel of this into a mostly black garment…maybe use it for the side panels of V8871? Or maybe just do the whole dress in it? It would also make a nice infinity scarf. I love the pops of bright pink.

3. Off-white textured stretch polyester, $6.99/yard. This one’s got a bit of body to it. The textured, blocky pattern made me think “mod”, so maybe a short 60’s-style shift dress? I do have this vintage pattern which could work:

But I think I’m leaning towards making another one of Burda’s popular Wrap Blouses (04/2014 #115). The one I made below is 4 inches longer than the pattern calls for, but perhaps I’ll make the white version more cropped & boxy, as I think that might suit the fabric better.  Never mind whether or not it would suit my aging pot belly better! But I’ll keep it covered with a white t-shirt underneath anyway, as those front flaps fly in fluttering flatuses*, flagrantly flashing flabbiness otherwise.

4. Black and white textured “animal-ish” print, which  is definitely going to turn into this diagonal-seamed shift dress, complete with exposed zipper, from Burda Easy magazine Autumn/Winter 2014 #4G:

5. Japanese printed cotton. Sorry about the wrinkly pic! This has an almost hand-painted look to it and was $13.99/yard.

I’m not usually a big fan of sewing with wovens (it’s more about wearing than sewing, actually — I much prefer to wear knits) but this fabric was pretty inspiring, especially because it has two ‘good sides’ with slightly different colours on each side. Immediately I thought of this halter dress that exploits both sides of a fabric in the design — most of the dress is wrong-side out except for the swoopy thing across the front & shoulder. I’m not sure this style of dress is something I’d be comfortable wearing, but I’m tempted to just sew it anyway because I’m feeling inspired.

If I chicken out on the halter dress — and I probably will; who needs to be farting around with strapless bras in a summer heatwave, anyway? — I think this Lynn Mizono pattern, V1410, would suit the fabric quite well. This is one of those patterns that I bought precisely because it’s a bit weird. Which is also precisely why I am unlikely to wear this one either, but highly likely to sew it.

Right, so the BLIND FABRIC DATE.  Vancouver Barbara is someone who comments on this blog every once in a while. She wrote that she fell so in love with the fabric I had used on this dress that she called up King Textiles in Toronto to buy some, but it turns out they wouldn’t agree to ship any unless she bought some huge amount like 12 yards or something. So she did! I thought that was awesome — she’s a woman who knows what she likes! Anyway, Barbara was passing through Toronto recently on her way to exciting places in Europe, and decided to invite me out for a coffee. Am I ever glad she took the chance! What a lovely lady. We chatted about our shared interests in sewing and art and jewelry and then popped into Designer Fabrics and the Workroom to ogle fabric. She was wearing an extraordinary patterned grey & black jacket she sewed with hot pink topstitching all over the intricate pattern — what a showstopper! Anyway, it was great to have the opportunity to meet up with a fellow sewing enthusiast and have it turn out to be such a delightful time. Perhaps when Barbara returns from her travels I’ll convince her to send me some pics of her jacket to share with you.

Thanks for reading! Do let me know if you have any suggestions for what to sew with these new fabrics!

*Most dictionaries will tell you this means fart, but I found one that gives an alternate definition of “a puff of wind”. I was desperate to milk that alliteration for all it was worth. 🙂

Excuse me ma’am, there’s a little sumthn sumthn on your shirt

Notice anything unusual about this fabric? Look carefully. Or maybe not even that carefully.

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Yeah, that. I think it’s supposed to look like a knot in the wood grain. Alas, it calls to mind something else entirely.

I didn’t notice this when I bought the fabric…I was just excited about the ombré effect and the wood grain pattern. It wasn’t until I got it home and I stood draping it around myself in front of the full length mirror that I noticed a problem. In that moment, my pattern placement was, let’s say, bang-on.

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I’m bravely forging ahead regardless, making a romper using McCall’s 7099 — just placing the pattern pieces very carefully. I’ve got most of it sewn up and it should be ready for primetime after the usual hacking down by several sizes that seems to be a standard part of my sewing process. Details to come!

McCall's 7099 View A - Romper

McCall’s 7099 View A – Romper

Scared Stitchless

I am scared stitchless.

I purchased the pattern for the Burda 10/2011 Chiffon blouse with tie band #128B almost a month ago, and bought fabric for it soon after, but I can’t seem to bring myself to sew it.

Burda's chiffon blouse with tie band

Burda’s chiffon blouse with tie band

Trouble is, I’m pretty sure that sewing that fabric is gonna be the death of me. It’s a thin, sheer, ravel-y, drooling monster that keeps me awake at night. Even cutting it was a nightmare.

The five-headed hydra fabric. (Or does a hydra have seven heads? Can't remember.)

The five-headed hydra fabric. (Or does a hydra have seven heads? Can’t remember.)

I do have weaponry to fight the beast: I think I have the right type of needle for my sewing machine; I’m gonna swap out my stitch plate with the wide opening for the stitch plate with the tiny circular opening (apparently a smaller opening for the needle to poke through helps avoid pulling the fabric down into the hole and making the stitches all wonky); and I have read and understood the French Seam tutorial (although it appears to involve actually having to measure…sigh).

But I’m still intimidated. I think I need a Fortify Magicka potion or something…I’ll ask my nephew who plays Skyrim to help me out on that one.

It’s like getting into the cold lake at the cottage. I need someone to just push me in.

In happier news, my Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers shirt is coming along nicely. The basic shape has been cut and sewn, and it now awaits some pintuck embellishment and probably longer sleeves.

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Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers – for Jen

Is it weird to create a fabric in honour of a friend who passed away? Fuck it, I’m doing it.

Jen was a friend of mine at university — many years ago — who died when she was only about 22 years old. She was a poet who wrote a compendium of poetry called Circles, Stars, Bombs, and Flowers. I think that’s such a lyrical title and it has stuck in my head over all those years.

So I screenprinted some fabric using that title as inspiration. You can also read a bit more about what inspired this in my previous post.  I intend to make a fitted t-shirt out of it that will remind me of Jen when I wear it.  Here’s how it came together:

Silk screen layer #1: circles and stars in lilac

Silk screen layer #1: circles and stars in lilac.

Silk screen layer #2: peach circles.

Silk screen layer #2: peach circles.

Silk screen layer #3: light pink flowers

Silk screen layer #3: light pink flowers.

Cutting the flower motif out of mac-tac...in my 'outdoor studio'

Cutting the flower motif out of mac-tac…in my ‘outdoor studio’

Blending the ink

God I love mixing ink! Watching the colours blend is happiness-inducing.

The finished fabric, after layers 4 & 5 (gold bombs and purplish-grey circles).

The finished fabric, after layers 4 & 5 (gold bombs and purplish-grey circles).

My cat was kind enough to photobomb the picture to give a better sense of the scale of the pattern. Now it's covered in black cat hair. :|

My cat was kind enough to photobomb the picture to give a better sense of the scale of the pattern. Now it’s covered in black cat hair. :/

FYI, in case you’re thinking of trying silk screening yourself, I used a screen printing kit by Speedball that I got from a local art supply shop. It was a very reasonable price and did the trick well. It’s a very easy process, but I am glad that I took a short course on screen printing before I tried this…the kit came with instructions but I think I might have screwed up a bit if I had just gone by those, especially the part about setting up the silk screen frame, where you have to block out the edges with tape or by some other method. Glad I was shown what to do by a pro at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). If you’re in Toronto, the Make Den has screenprinting classes (in addition to their sewing classes) and as of today, July 24, 2013, there’s a Groupon available for their sewing & screenprinting classes for more than half off. Wish I’d seen that before I signed up for the AGO classes!

60’s Revival: mod dress & fabrics

This amazing vintage pattern just arrived in my mailbox, and when I find the right fabric I’m going to sew the shit out of it!

60s Sheath Dress from vintage Butterick pattern

60s Sheath Dress from vintage Butterick pattern

Props & gratitude to Colleen from Proctor Creations on Etsy, as not only did she wrap this up in the cutest package, AND enclose a lovely thank you card that was made from what appears to be an original photograph she took, she also sent me a second vintage pattern for free! What a nice gal. That would only happen on Etsy.

I love the drop waist and contrasting wide belt, and the contrasting collar on View B. I’ve been trolling the interwebs for some mod fabric for this. Here are some options so far. Which one would you choose?

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Maybe these are all a little too loud, too “hey look at me–I’m a 60s mod dress!”.  Maybe I should just stick with a solid colour. But it would be so hard to do that with these awesome mod prints in front of me! Advice needed!

If this project turns into a sewing disaster, like so many other projects that were brilliant in theory and poor-to-awful in practice, then perhaps I’ll consider buying a frock from marmalade-shop.com instead. Have you seen their amazing 60’s dresses? I had a bit of a major squeeeeee when I came across their website.

marmalade-shop dresses

marmalade-shop dresses

On my Needles: Batik Dress & Colour Block Cardigan

There are a couple of things on my needles these days.

I’m making a sleeveless dress from this beautiful batik fabric I bought in Ghana, using Burda’s “Fatina” pattern #6051.

batik fabric from Ghana

Beautiful Batik Fabric from Ghana

Batik dress in progress

Batik dress in progress

And on my knitting needles, I’m working on the Erika Cardigan by MillaMia, using Cascade 220 sport yarn.

Work in Progress: the Erika Cardigan by MillaMia

Work in Progress: the Erika Cardigan by MillaMia

I chose a brighter blue than the model from the MillaMia website, as well as chartreuse for the sleeves instead of grass green.

The Erika Cardigan model

The Erika Cardigan model

 

Fabric shops in Toronto

Why are they all a jumbled mess?

Most of the shops along Queen and Spadina are dusty, dim, crammed-to-the-rafters kind of places. The selection is great, for the most part, but when you’re feeling a bit like you need to keep one eye out for mice while you’re looking for a great print for a new sundress, that’s a bit, um, off-putting. Part of me likes the jumbled flea-market feel of some of these shops: you know, no pretension, no wondering whether you’re paying more for the ‘ambience’, blah blah. But I’ve been yearning for a, well, prettier place to shop for fabrics where I can find a little inspiration. Do you know of any such fabric shop that I should check out in Toronto? And please don’t send me to a quilting store where everyone is encouraged to sew some kind of mimsy apron, or where they only carry patterns that cost upwards of $20 and only feature dress designs for librarians. (Sorry, librarians, I know you can be a cool lot.) You know the ones I’m talking about.

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Photo from BlogTO. This is one of the more spacious showrooms. And no, this definitely isn’t how I want to shop for fabric.

Last month I went to Portland, Oregon for a conference and came across a very pretty fabric shop downtown called Josephine’s Dry Goods. I’d like to post some pics of the interior of the store, but I was asleep at the switch and didn’t think to get my camera out. Unfortunately they haven’t got many pics even on their own website. But it’s a light-filled, spacious place, with fabrics laid out so you can see them, and plenty of gorgeous garment samples throughout the store for inspiration. We could really use a place like this in Toronto.

A shot of Josephine’s Dry Goods by Amy Hodge

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the inexplicable fact that there aren’t any stores within 10 km of Toronto’s so-called ‘garment district’ — where there are scores of fabric stores — who carry patterns. WTF?  Business opportunity, people!