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?

 

Doing This Was *SO* Worth It

So this is a thing I did…

Kondo'd drawer

I was getting sick of having to dump out my dresser drawers every couple of months to re-fold the jumbled hot mess they inevitably became. Where is that damn black turtleneck?? <riffle riffle ruffle> Don’t I have a purple long sleeved Tee in here somewhere?? <ruffle toss riffle> Why won’t this drawer close properly?? <grunt urgh %^&$>

I’m quite late to the hype party but Marie Kondo’s bestselling book from 2014 on tidying up describes a way to fold your clothes so they’ll stand up in neat rows like this. (If you’re a cynic like me, you can skip the part about caressing the garment to communicate your gratitude and affection to it.) I decided to give the method a try and it has actually made getting dressed in the morning SO. MUCH. EASIER.

I can see all my clothes at a glance! Folding laundry takes a little extra time, but that tiny bit of extra time is paying off in sanity dividends.

kondodrawer2

You can use shoe boxes or other dividers as I have above, but I found it’s really not necessary, particularly if you have enough clothes to fill the drawer — they will hold each other up nicely.

Besides making my mornings easier, this new arrangement also forces me to consider what’s in the drawer before I add something new to it. If there isn’t enough room, then I have to choose something to donate in order to make room. I used to just shove new things into drawers until they were all bursting at the seams, and I’d forget I owned half the things that were in there.

Another bonus: the clothes have less wrinkles in them now. Smoothing out the garment before folding into these neat little bundles helps. As does not having a drawer full of rumpled up messes. 😉

Kondo'd drawers

How do you organize your clothes? Any good tips for closets?

 

Bother or Don’t Bother? Some Sewing Tips

Inspiration from What Katie Sews has struck me twice lately…inspiration to sew up the terrifying-yet-chic clown suit, and also inspiration to ponder the sewing techniques and tools that are worth it or not after reading Katie’s Lazy Sewist Tips. Here are a handful of my own thoughts on what to bother with and not bother with. You’re sure to agree with some and disagree with others…let me know what you think!

Bother: Having a wrist-band pincushion
With your pins attached to your arm, you can never lose them somewhere in the chaos of your sewing area! Like faithful minions, they follow you wherever you go. (Which makes me think I should probably also get idiot strings for my reading glasses, because I seem to spend a good chunk of my sewing time looking around for where I left them last.) And as you sew you just remove pins from your seam and stick them back in the pincushion — no pins rolling off the table and hiding themselves in the carpet. But a word to the wise: when you begin a seam, check to make sure your pincushion is indeed on your wrist! More than once I almost did some unwanted amateur acupuncture on myself.

wrist_pincushion2

Don’t Bother: Pinning pattern pieces for cutting out
I bought 10 of these metal discs from the hardware store’s electrical section for about a dollar a piece and they’re all I use now to hold my pattern pieces in place on the fabric when I’m cutting out. Especially if you print out PDF patterns at home on regular paper, trying to pin that thick paper is sure to distort your fabric, not to mention your patience. Pattern weights for the win!

Using round electrical cover plates as pattern weights

patternweights2

Bother: Owning a serger
Not everyone will agree with me on this, as of course you can sew anything you want quite well without a serger, but I absolutely adore having one. I wasn’t convinced I needed one at first, but when a sewing studio was going out of business and selling some used ones at a good price, I figured it was worth snapping one up. It turns out I find sewing with a serger really satisfying, and I wouldn’t want to do without it. (Why do I get the sense that now that I’ve put that out there to the universe something will go horribly wrong with it on my next project??) Anyway, I sew a lot of knits so it’s very handy for doing stretchy seams, and I like finishing woven seam allowances with it.

Don’t Bother: Measuring seam allowances for patterns that don’t include them
Need to add a 5/8″ seam allowance around your pattern pieces? Eyeball it. It’s fine. If there’s one thing you get to know really well as a sewist it’s how wide 5/8ths of an inch is.

Bother: Having a high-quality pair of scissors that feel great in your hand
Enough said, amirite?
Related: having a high-quality seam ripper. ‘Cause if you’re like me you spend waaaaay more time using your seam ripper than you care to admit. 😉
Also related: having more than one high-quality seam ripper. Because no one’s invented a seam ripper wrist band yet.

Don’t Bother: Plowing ahead when you are tired, hangry, in need of a cup of tea, having a hard time with a procedure, and/or feeling like Sewzilla is about to pay a visit for any of the forgoing reasons
Don’t cave in to that voice in your head that says, “But you only have two seams and a zipper left to sew…just get it done!” I have learned that I will regret heeding that voice’s advice. That voice is Sewzilla’s auntie, and only has Sewzilla’s best interests in mind. Sewzilla always shows up if I heed that voice. And then I have to spend extra time with my high-quality seam ripper.

Sewzilla

This is Sewzilla. My husband hates it when she shows up. (Image cleverly doctored by Henry Warwick)

Bother: Pre-washing fabric
As someone who craves instant gratification there have been times when I’ve cut into fabric the moment I get it home from the store, but I have learned to throw it straight into the washing machine the moment I get home instead. I have seen fabrics that bleed like crazy so I’ve also learned to wash the fabric by itself (or maybe with some crummy old cat blanket) to spare myself the pain of accidentally dyeing my clothes an unwanted colour. I should note that sometimes I don’t pre-wash ponte knit. Because ponte knit is such a fabric-of-the-gods that it doesn’t even need pre-washing.

Don’t Bother: Trying to sew everything perfectly
I marvel at blog posts that depict close-up detail shots of sewing perfection. (You know, the ones that are often accompanied by an apology that there’s some small thing wrong with it: a slightly crooked top-stitch, or a seam binding that doesn’t quite line up properly at the corner, or some wrinkles in the fabric. Something you probably wouldn’t have noticed yourself if it hadn’t been pointed out to you.)  At first when I came across sewing blog posts like these, I figured this was probably the bar I was supposed to try to measure up to if I was going to be part of this sewing blogger community. But I quickly realized perfection is not my bag. Sweating details like that sucks the joy out of sewing for me. I do understand that for some sewists, striving for mastery of the skills is part of their joy, and I respect that. But if the cost of perfection is frustration and less joy, stop worrying about the imperfect details.

What about you? Does anything on this list resonate with you? What’s on your Bother and Don’t Bother lists?

Knitwise: What almost 5 years and 160 projects taught me about knitting

I remember first discovering Ravelry in 2009 when I decided to take up knitting (again — if you count that very short, green scarf with several holes in it I knit when I was about 10), and marveling at the complex projects other Ravelers had seemingly whipped up effortlessly. I admired the complex lace work, colour work, and the way some knitters had taken a pattern and modified it into their own personalized work of art. I could hardly imagine being able to modify a pattern in any significant way without creating one hot mess — I was still trying to figure out the secret codes of ssks, p2togs, and what have you. Mainly I think my gut was telling me there was no way I’d have the patience and the stamina to build my knitting skills to that point anytime sooner than hell would freeze over. But here I am, almost 5 years and 160 knitting projects later…and it’s quite possible hell is, in fact, freezing over as I write this, as it’s currently -32 degrees Celsius with the wind chill factored in, and it seems most of North America is in quite a deep freeze.

In any case, here are some random musings and ‘notes to self’ I have made during that time.

1. Yarn that is amazing in the ball or skein and feels great to knit with isn’t usually the best yarn for an actual garment.
I couldn’t get enough of Malabrigo Worsted, which is a wonderful, smooshy, singly-ply yarn that is an absolute joy to knit. But everything I’ve ever knit with it has pilled like crazy. Whenever I wear one of these sweaters or hats I compulsively pick little puffs of yarn off of them constantly, which drives my poor husband crazy as I tend to drop them all over the house. Yesterday I spent 20 minutes with a pumice stone on my Pole sweater, removing so many yarn pills they wadded up to the size of a softball. And the sweater still looks like a hobo’s been wearing it the last 3 months in a row. Multi-ply yarns, while less smooshy and soft, create garments that resist pilling and wear much better.

2. Those hand-dyed, multi-coloured yarns that are so appealing looking in the skein only wind up looking like clown barf when knitted.
Proof: here’s what this lovely colourway of Malabrigo Worsted called ‘Nostalgia’ looks like in the skein, and here’s how it looks knitted:

Star-Crossed Slouchy Beret in Malabrigo Worsted yarn "Nostalgia"

Yes, the stink-eye says it all…this hat was barfed up by a drunk clown.

3. Silk. Don’t get sucked in.
It’s gorgeous. It’s glamourous. It’s luxurious….it’s irritating as fuck. I knitted at least 6 inches of a tank top in-the-round and then realized I needed to rip back a few rows to correct something. Once my needles had come out, there was no getting those damn stitches back on the needles for love or money — that silk yarn was way too slippery to behave. I ended up starting again, but it was worth it, as the tank top was lovely and fit me perfectly! That is, until I started wearing it. It was a size bigger by the end of the day. And after handwashing it? Two more sizes bigger. I think I’ll give silk a pass for anything other than accessories that don’t need to fit exactly.

[3A. I really should wash my gauge swatch. Pffft.]

4. Angora: just, no.
As if I don’t have enough tiny bits of cat fur up my nose and in my eyes every day of my life that I have to go add a shitload of bunny fur falling off the yarn with every stitch. I wore the angora-blend sweater pictured below on my last trip to the vet, and while she was examining the cat I noticed how much extra fluff was hanging off my sweater. My sweater-pill-OCD kicked in, and, as soon as the vet was out of the room, I madly scraped loads of bunny fur off and dropped it to the floor. (In my defense, if one has to do that in a public place I think a vet’s examination room is about the best place for all that fur lying around not to be noticed.)

Cowl Cover-Up pattern by Jane Ellison

The angora sweater in question. What, me? No, I didn’t leave all those piles of bunny fur on the floor. (Cowl Cover-Up pattern by Jane Ellison. Click for pattern details.)

5. Don’t ever knit anything for someone who doesn’t understand how much fucking work it is to knit. ‘Nuff said.

And the inverse of Rule #5 is…

6. Always knit for your mother, who loves anything and everything you make for her, no matter what.
😀 Yay, mummy!

"Not-a-Poncho City Cape" pattern by Wendy Barnard

Yes, she even told me she liked this one. What a trooper! This is the “Not-a-Poncho City Cape” pattern by Wendy Barnard. Click for pattern details.

Voluta sweater designed by Rachel Erin

Christmas gift for mom last year. She didn’t even mind it wasn’t ready until New Year’s! This is the Voluta sweater designed by Rachel Erin. Click to view pattern details.

Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos

Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos. Mother’s Day gift. Click for pattern details.

Cabled Tunic by Suvi Simola

I didn’t intentionally knit this for mom; it just came out too big and she liked it so it’s hers now. This is the Cabled Tunic by Suvi Simola. Click for pattern details.

My mom and I, dressed like twins.

My mom and I, dressed like twins. 😀

6A. Thank your mother for teaching you to knit and sew and bake and all those creative things that bring you joy today.
Thanks, mummy!

7. Taking a hot-pink monstrosity of a sweater and dying it purple will not make it any less of a monstrosity. Proof:

Pink Monstrosity -- oouf

Pink Monstrosity — oouf

Purple Monstrosity -- still oouf.

Purple Monstrosity — still oouf.

 

I think the most important thing I learned from knitting (as opposed to about knitting) is patience. I am an instant gratification kinda gal. But what I know for sure is:

8. There is no instant gratification in knitting. So far the quickest possible projects I’ve done (hats, neckwarmers) still require a good two evenings’ worth of knitting. The gratification comes after putting several weeks’ work into, say, a sweater, and enjoying the fact that you made yourself, that no one else has the same one, and that its colours are exactly your taste.  I would add “the fact that it fits perfectly”, but I would be lying, because…

9. If it fits perfectly, consider yourself lucky. Yes, I know all the knitting books & instructors say if you knit a proper gauge swatch, wash & block it, measure carefully, blah blah blah, it should come out exactly as planned. It never has for me. I have learned to knit a smaller size than I think I need, because more often than not, the garment will stretch with wearing and washing, and if it doesn’t, it can be blocked out to fit better. I have also learned that trying to shrink a garment in the dryer doesn’t work, as it will usually shrink in length and not width. Luckily I discovered that my serger (or even sewing machine) can come in handy to nip in a too-wide garment at the seams.

Anyway, I feel like I could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up here, for now…perhaps a ‘what I learned from knitting part 2’ will follow.

What have you discovered through knitting or another creative hobby?