Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Waste Not Wednesday #3: boys tank + reflections on slow fashion so far

On Waste Not Wednesdays I share my weekly attempt at trying to whittle down my pile of clothes slated for altering, repairing, and refashioning, as well as tackling my cache of sewing UFOs and my fabric stash. It's my attempt at avoiding Fast Fashion while remaining frugal and sustainable.

I'd started this big long post for this week's Waste Not Wednesday post (I took last week off because my son had surgery on Tuesday), but figured I should just scrap it and keep it short and sweet. Basically, I was only three weeks into this little project and am already having reflections about what it means to have a thrifty and sustainable wardrobe.
Weird jeans are weird.
It started when this week's original project ended up getting FUBARed. Basically, I was trying to let one of my pairs of shorts from week one out in the waist, and because of the bizarre construction of those pants, they ended up getting wrecked. I mean, I could've soldiered on and continued to work on them, but at some point it just becomes not worth it. So, I was feeling all this guilt because before I got my hands on them, the pants were still wearable. And that just isn't sustainable to take a wearable article of clothing and ruin it. It's not really thrifty either, even though I already possessed the pants, since I wasted thread and time on the effort.

So then for this week's project, I decided to make my son a tank... which also ended up being something I don't think he'll end up wearing. Even though I used a men's Jersey tee shirt for the fabric, when I made it into a little tank for my son, the drape seemed kind of flowy and feminine, or just off. So I also ruined a wearable tee-- but I've since gotten over the guilt on that one. I'm chalking it up as a loss to pattern making/muslining and also a chance to practice sewing knits on my current machine AND use my brand-new twin ballpoint needle for the first time ever. Plus, I got to make a video for my YouTube channel, which I always enjoy. And it's not like the thrift stores are running out of t-shirts any time soon.


I'm also having some reflections about my purse from week #2. I can still buy some more heavy-duty leather conditioner and get the leather looking a little better, but how much will that run me? Ten dollars? Twenty? Factor in that the bag has an L-shaped hole, which will be hard to repair considering the bag is lined, plus I'd have to purchase materials to replace the straps, and then construct the straps. Or, I can spend about $150 for a brand new leather bag on sale (I'm eyeing traditional British styled ones from Zatchels, the Leather Satchel Co., or Cambridge Satchels) that look as if they'll last me a very long time. And they're handmade in the UK, where the employment standards and environmental standards are higher than if I were to purchase something made in a traditional manufacturing country.
Probs going to dismantle this one for the hardware. What can I use the leather scraps for?
So, I've been going through my stack of clothes-to-refashion pile and sending a little more to the thrift store. Things that are still wearable, just not for me. And I've made, and plan on making, some fast-fashion purchases... Because of how much I liked the fit of those weirdo men's pants from week 1, I bought a pair of men's jeans from WalMart of all places, with the intent of making them into cut-offs. They were a very thrifty purchase at $10.62, and even though they're from WalMart, I don't feel bad purchasing them. I didn't have to do a time-consuming and gas-wasting thrift hunt, which often turn up nothing for me. And even Elizabeth Cline condones making fast-fashion purchases (kinda-- "shop where you're going to shop") as long as you plan on keeping it for the life of the garment, rather than treating it as disposable.

So that's where I'm at. It's a tiny bit of a relief to divert a little more to the thrift store, even though so much of what gets sent to the thrift store ends up being recycled or sent to other counties, which is why I try to limit my thrift store cast-offs. But as I'm starting a closet re-org project, my Waste Not Wednesday pile still seems to keep growing.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Waste Not Wednesday #2: I put a leather purse in the washer

On Waste Not Wednesdays I share my weekly attempt at trying to whittle down my pile of clothes slated for altering, repairing, and refashioning, as well as tackling my cache of sewing UFOs and my fabric stash. It's my attempt at avoiding Fast Fashion while remaining frugal and sustainable.

This week's rescued item is actually not from my refashion/repair pile. In fact, I use it every day.

It's my purse. Some candy got spilled in the bottom. And it melted.

No probs, I'll just throw it in the wash, right? Yeah, my purse is leather.

I was already debating a new purse. I mean, I really really want one. My "purses and bags" Pinterest board is probably one of my most active ones. When the candy spilled in there, I was like, "yes! An excuse to buy a new one!"

But, I am a strong believer in buying very nice quality things so that you only have to buy one of them. I paid close to $200 for this Lucky Brand blue leather crossbody purse and have used it everyday for four years. If I was going to buy a replacement purse, I would want it to also last me another four years. But shelling out that kind of dough right now just isn't in the cards.

So I wracked my brain for a solution to this sticky, icky mess. Because spot cleaning just wasn't going to work. I wondered, should I cut out the lining? The bag needs more support than just the leather. I suppose I could've sewn in a new lining, but who knows when I would've gotten to that.

Ultimately, I Googled "put leather purse in washer" and found that someone had done it. Lots of people have. And the world didn't end. Besides, what did I have to lose? As it was, I had to buy a new purse either way.

So I went for it, and it turned out OK. I did not use a gentle or special soap (Murphy's Oil is suggested), but probably should have. I used a delicate cycle and regular soap, along with the baking soda I use for fabric softener. The navy blue dye leaked all over everything. Duh, I should've known better. The purse is a little stiff and wrinkly. BUT. The candy mess is gone.

So I'm back to carrying it. I actually saved it from the garbage! But it's a good thing I like the boho look and no longer work in a corporate environment, because it's a little... raggedy.

I picked up some Kiwi leather cleaning and conditioning wipes from Target. I think they made a difference? I think I actually need to go get some actual leather conditioner or something a little more heavy duty from the local tack store.

I'm also going to replace the straps and handles, which I was thinking of doing before the bag came dangerously close to a demise. I just can't decide what to replace them with. Leather would be ideal, but I have never done any leather work and don't want to invest too much time if my bag is going to bite the dust soon anyway. (Did I mention there's also a large L-shaped hole on the side, how do I fix that?) I can also use nylon or cotton webbing, or a heavily interfaced floral fabric. Or it may not matter much since the bag is looking so shabby anyway.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Waste Not Wednesday #1: jeans "refashion" (OK, they're just cutoffs)

There are many reasons people blog. For fame, for money.

I mostly like to blog to document and share my projects, and as a hobby. But another good reason is for accountability. If I tell myself I'm going to do something IRL, I often don't follow through. If I write in on my blog...I still don't tend to follow through. What can I say, I am the Queen of not following through for myself. But blogging about it at least makes it easier to remember that I said I would I do it.

That said, I am going to try to start making headway in my pile of clothes I need to refashion, alter, and repair (in the name of frugality and sustainability!) by working on it a little each week. And I'll try to blog about it on Waste Not Wednesday.

I need shorts right now, so I'm tackling three pairs of jeans first. Denim cutoffs are definitely something I wouldn't be blogging if it weren't for "Waste Not Wednesday".

Once, I saw a sewing blogger post denim cutoff jeans. I was like, OK? You took some scissors and cut off a pair of jeans. I did that when I was a kid, so, can't be that hard.

Now I know better. It has a lot to do with how indecisive I am, and a lot to do with my age and lifestyle. I actually Googled "denim cutoffs after 30" before taking the scissors to my jeans. To be certain, I'm of the "wear what makes you happy" camp and don't tend to subscribe to the people of certain age should only wear certain things camp. But, what personally makes me happy is dressing appropriately for my age, haha.

The problem is, what IS right for my age? I'm 33. I don't consider myself old and always thought my 30s would be the best years ever. And so far they are. No more college, no more stress pertaining to getting my career off the ground, a little more stable financially (not quite where I envisioned it though). Right now it's all about my family, and I'm still young enough to enjoy it.

So I'm not too old, but I am too old to be wearing distressed/studded denim with the pockets hanging out the bottom. (Again, if you're 33 and that's your jam, get it girl, it's just not for me). And I'm definitely too young to be wearing elastic-waisted hemmed jorts.

So, after not having worn cutoffs in years (decades?), but wanting to, thanks to all the cute "boyfriend shorts" available from places like the Gap, I decided to take the plunge. Also, having some jeans in my Waste Not Wednesday stack that wouldn't really work as much else helped.

But seriously? It wasn't as simple as taking some scissors to them and having at it. How long do I make them? Do I hem them? Do I kinda, like, "distress" them?

I thrifted these jeans and a similar, lighter pair, last summer when I was pregnant, with the intention of turning them into more maternity shorts like these (oh hey, these jeans are actually shown in that post, possibly even mentioned!). They are seriously some of the weirdest jeans ever. I modeled them for my husband, calling them "old man jeans", as in jeans for old men to wear. He took it as old (comma), man jeans... as in men's pants that were old. He informed me that they still make them, and indeed, they do, and you can get a pair for just $20.

Anyway, these Grandpa pants have an expanding waistband for when you eat too much at the 4:30pm dinner buffet. Spolier alert: in the video they are turned into shorts! Really nothing special to see there, the point is that I'm getting through that refashion pile! I'd grab a still shot to show you... but it ended up out of focus.

I also chopped off the legs of these jeans, on which the mending job mentioned in that post did not hold up too well. I've since come up with a better method for repairing my jeans, to be shared in another #WasteNotWednesday... provided I keep it up. ;)

This week's garment refashion tally: 3

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Vintage sheet quilt

Whuddya know, it's been almost exactly a year since I last blogged about the vintage sheet quilt I've been working on. I finally finished it!

Not a whole lot to say about it. It was my first *major* machine quilting project and likely my last until/unless I get a different a different machine. I've been quilting a long time, but up until now, I've mostly been hand-tying. There's some puckers and some other problems, but it's not a gift, so I'm cool with it.

Now, my base model Singer did pretty well the quilting on this Queen-sized quilt, but I just kind of feel like I was *abusing* her with this job. Plus, I like hand-tying just fine. (Speaking of abusing my machine, I need to do some maintenance on her.)

So, I like it, but I'm done with sewing vintage sheets for a while. I like 100% cotton for quilts.

Did you notice the YouTube video at the top of this post? My last post had one too. Clearly, I have a problem blogging often, and I thank you for following me despite that. Videos, on the other hand...I used to be a TV reporter. I'm used to tight deadlines, and can turn around several videos in a single day, if I want to.

The name of my channel is Spool School, and I'll be posting sewing and quilting videos, craft tutorials, quality DIYs (as in, making stuff that has a purpose, not useless crap), some home DIYs and maybe even furniture makeovers and home improvement projects. I'm looking for some other YouTube crafters to follow, so let me know if you're on there too! And I mean real crafters. All I'm seeing so far are young girls making junk just to make "DIY videos", which seems to be one of the more popular genres, just behind make-up and beauty. We're talking bedazzled flip-flops here, folks. Yikes.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to test vintage and antique furniture for lead paint

Like anyone who loves a good furniture makeover, most of my DIYs come from thrift stores, estate sales, and other sources that leave me unfamiliar with the piece's history. So I've been making over furniture pieces, including sanding them and using paints and stains that have warning labels about the dangers of lead, but not thinking much about the potential of lead.

The One-of-a-Kind Piece
But that changed on one recent night at work as a radio newscaster. I was scheduled to play a government-produced Public Service Announcement on the dangers of lead paint, especially around small children and babies. I must've played this particular PSA dozens, if not hundreds of times before, but this time I paid attention. I was fresh off the high of one of my favorite purchases ever:

vintage toy box

vintage cowboy toy box

A vintage cowboy-themed toybox with bright paint colors. It was just $12 at a local thrift store and came just as we were re-doing our son's room, and could not be any cuter. But after hearing that PSA, the toy box became a big concern because it's painted (whereas many of my furniture makeovers until now have started out only stained), it clearly came from an era when they might've still been using lead paint, it's chipping in some areas, and most importantly, was destined for my two-year-old's bedroom.

The Lead Paint Ban
Lead paint was only relatively recently banned in the United States, in 1978--the year my husband was born. That date came as a shock to me; my own mom, the daughter of a housepainter, had guessed the ban at at least a decade earlier. And much like asbestos, just because lead paint was banned in a certain year doesn't mean people no longer used it...cans of the  stuff likely hung around in garages and sheds waiting to get used up. That means furniture painted as late as the 1980s could contain lead.

As for why it was banned, I'll let Wikipedia do the talking:
Lead paint is especially hazardous to children under age six, whose developing bodies are susceptible to lead poisoning. It causes nervous system damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, and delayed development. It is particularly dangerous to children because it tastes sweet, encouraging children to put lead chips and toys with lead dust in their mouths. Lead paint is also dangerous to adults and can cause reproductive problems in both men and women.
A myth regarding lead-based paint claims that children must eat lead-paint chips to develop lead poisoning. In actuality, ingestion of lead dust, which can be dislodged from deteriorating paint or can be generated during painting, also occurs when children get lead dust on their hands and then touch their mouths.
Does It or Doesn't It?
I came home from work on that night I heard the PSA and did some Internet searching on vintage furniture with lead paint, and found this awesome and helpful article from Country Living. It's a must read for parents who love vintage and antique furniture, and it's not all bad. While it said lead furniture does not belong in home with small children, it said you can keep your beloved lead furniture as long as it's where kids don't go, or if you seal the paint with a varnish (re-painting would mean sanding, which would mean releasing lead-laden dust, which isn't healthy for anyone). Those options weren't good enough for my concerns, but it again gave me hope when it said lead tester kits are available at most hardware stores.

Finding and Purchasing the Lead Paint Tester Kit
I was afraid how cost-prohibitive these tester kits might be, and we found just two options in the paint section at our local Home Depot; this $28 kit by Klean-Strip that included six tests and appeared more to be for testing walls and trim in old homes, and one from 3M for about $9 that contained about two tests. We went with the latter based on affordability and that I appeared easy to use, especially on furniture.

lead tester kit

The Test
The tests remind me of these teeth whitening samples I once received: they're little cardboard tubes with glass inside that you break. Once broken, liquid saturates a cigarette-style filter which you rub on the paint. If it turns red, that "means lead."

lead test kit

Alright, I've written this entire post up until here prior to administering the test. Time for me to make a video so you can see first hand along with me whether or not the toy box has lead...
(Spoiler alert: lead free! Can't wait to clean and fix it up and get it in his bedroom.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Simple moss stitch cowl

I had two skeins of this Lion Brand Thick-n-Quick (that's what she said...) in my stash, so I stitched up this moss stitch cowl.

The thing is, this yarn IS so darn thick and quick that my largest circulars did not accommodate it, so I had to use regular straight needles. Which meant that rather than knitting it top-down or bottom up, I had to knit it sideways and stitch up the two ends.

I'll think I'll stick to knitting cowls with circulars from here on out, but I suppose it got the job done because the end result was a big, chunky knit cowl--just what I was going for.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A DIY-ish gift for the traveler, and an Artifact Uprising review

The holidays and my family's "birthday season" are upon us, so that means some DIY and semi-DIY posts coming up, provided I get around to posting them.

First up is this photo book I made for my sister, which falls under the semi-DIY category. I got to choose and arrange all the photos, but that's where my DIYing ended: a printing company did all the hard work. Which means it has the personal edge of a homemade gift, but the professional look of a store bought present--the best of both worlds!

My baby sister has spent a lot of time overseas in her academic and professional careers. This latest round was a 6-month stint in Mexico for...who knows what. It's so hard to keep track of all her trips! But I know she cherishes each overseas stint, so for Christmas this year I made her a photobook of this year's Mexico trip.

How did I get access to her photos to make her present? I used her Instagram. I'm sure she took a lot of pics on her "real" camera, but her Instagrams were accessible to me (kinda--more on that in a minute), attractive, full of personality, and probably full of memories for her.

Once I settled on a book (as opposed to a poster, magnets, or any other random Instagram gift), I had to choose which company to make a book with. It was between Blurb, Keepsy, or Artifact Uprising. All three touted their Instagram books as gifts, but the only options I could find to make the book were with my own Instagram account and photos. WTF, who gives gifts of their own Instagram  photos? "Oh hai, here's a book of my #selfies. Kthxbai." Apparently Keepsy used to have the option to make a gift book with someone else's photos, but when I emailed them about it, they responded that the option no longer exists. That actually kinda made me not want to use Keepsy for some reason, since I now had the extra step of having to somehow download all of my sis's pics anyway.

Obtaining the photos.
So, first I'll tell you how I managed to "steal" her pics. That's why it's so difficult to make an Instagram gift with someone else's pics: most of the Internet world sees downloading or accessing someone else's pictures as "stealing", creepy, and stalkerish. I think the idea of using them to make a gift must not have occurred to much of the Internet world, rather, anyone wanting to save someone else's Instagram pictures must be up to no good... so finding out how to download my sister's pics was a daunting task to say the least.

There's Free Instagram Downloader, which I will not link to because it's a pile of crap. Despite CNet's glowing review for it (which indicates the App may've at one time worked), Free Instagram Downloader does not work. The software just claims whichever user you've typed into the search bar has no photos. It also comes with the added bonus of some malware, which takes forevs to get rid of. Stay away. And thank you CNet, which I no longer trust.

I checked out Instagrabbr, which is pretty cool for downloading pictures one at a time. Instagrabbr does not have a batch downloader, and there is no way I was going to open each of the 200-plus photos and right-click save them manually. So that was out.

Finally, I found 4k Stogram, which worked awesome, but again I will not be linking even though it worked, since it came with some malware of it's own. When all was said and done, I had my sister's entire Instagram stream saved, but also a couple of programs and toolbars I didn't want. To get rid of the programs, I had to delete everything in the program manager that had been added that day except for Stogram-- three extra programs. Then I had to get rid of the toolbars in both of the web browsers I use. So, that was annoying, but 4k Stogram did the trick and I'm warning you to USE IT AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Is there something out there I'm missing, a better way to download someone else's Instagram photos?

Making the book.
Now that I had the photos, I had to choose which site to publish the book. Ultimately, it was this blog post I found through Google that pushed me toward Artifact Uprising, which I'd been leaning toward anyway, based solely on it's handsome layouts. I'm still curious about the other two sites, however, and may give them a shot in the future (even though Keepsy annoyingly eliminated the "use someone else's Instagram username" feature, which adds an extra step).

Artifact Uprising has an easy-to-use interface. You just upload the pics, and choose between several different layouts for each page. Annoyingly, you can't switch between book sizes once you've selected a size, so if you want to switch from the 8" square to the 5.5" square you have to start over again. You also can't switch cover layouts once you've selected one, and surprisingly, there are fewer cover options for the larger book. You also can't drag pages later or earlier in the book once you've perfected your layout, or move pictures to other spots on the page without hunting it down in your gallery again. So it's kinda hard to make edits, whether it be photo placement or page placement.

I chose the larger book because I wanted something more substantial and to fit more pics, even though all the glowing reviews I'd read online were for the smaller book. The larger book gives you the option to have the Instagram photo fill a whole page, or with just a small margin, but when you use those page layout options it gives you a "poor resolution" warning. So I don't even know why they offer that layout on the 8" book. One layout they offer for the larger one but not the smaller one is a 3 by 3 grid, or 9 pictures total. I used this one a lot, allowing me to fit lots and lots of photos.

All in all, I found it easy to design an attractive book, but not so easy to make adjustments to it.

The book.
Of course I had the book shipped to myself instead of my sister. I wanted to check it out, wrap it myself, and it's going to be her first Christmas home in years anyway.

When I opened the box I was initially underwhelmed. The book was lightweight and not quite the quality I'd hoped for. Perhaps the 5.5" square would've been the better choice after all, based on the web's reviews.

But when I just took it out again to take photos for this post, I had a change of heart. It is lightweight, but the paper is still pretty nice quality. The prints are pretty good for being what they are; low resolution iPhone photos sent through an app and downloaded again. They're vibrant and pretty true to how they appear online. So don't expect a NatGeo quality coffee table book--this is a cute and fun way to save and enjoy social media photos.

I know have the photobook fever, especially after seeing posts like YHL's Family Yearbook and this DIY Alphabet Book. I know many people think books are antiquated, and that photo albums and such are a bother when you can see the photos on your computer or phone. But I think it's actually easier to enjoy an abbreviated photo collection without having to wade through hundreds of pictures on a digital device every time you want to reminisce. I'm looking forward to making a family yearbook like YHL, and if you follow my Instagram you may've noticed that I've started taking weekly pics of my newborn...I'll give you one guess what that's for.
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