Tuesday, July 14, 2015

simple craft - in the bag

My blanket isn't making much progress, but I'm in no rush. I do love how the squares are coming out! I really only knit on this sometimes while waiting for charts to load while I'm working, so it's very slow going. I love the simplicity of this project though. It's so relaxing to knit on and let my mind wander. =) I'm intentionally not matching the squares so I don't even have to pay attention to the color changes. None have been blocked so they're pretty wonky still.

It's been all about the sewing machine lately! I'm having so much fun and learning new skills with each project. =) I already have my next few projects planned and have the fabric and patterns ready to go. There are just so many things I want to make! I've been on a bag run lately...

I love using my scrappy clothespin bag. So much nicer than just leaving the pins on the line like I was doing before. lol I'm tempted to make another with a couple of modifications. This one was made with a simple pieced rectangle that I folded in half and lined with more scrap fabric. If I made another, I'd give it a flat bottom, make it deeper and possible narrow the opening a bit. The one I have works pretty well though and I have so many other sewing plans. We'll see. It was fun using up some of my scraps for this one and it cost me nothing but a little time! =)

I decluttered my one and only purse this Spring - I never used it anyway as it didn't really suit my needs. I've yet to find one that really met my needs though I regularly looked at the thrift stores when I went. Everything was either too big or too small or just really not my style. I've been hitting the fields and orchards though and cramming my wallet, phone and keys in my pockets just wasn't working... so I sewed my own bag! I used leftover fabric from making my kitchen curtains and some stash fabric passed along from my mother a few years ago and made a fun little bag/purse, perfect for just the necessities. I only had to purchase a zipper, the rest was stash. =) I used Butterick's pattern B5728 and added 2" to the width so it would accommodate my wallet - a super easy alteration. This was my first zipper! It came out pretty decent, especially considering I have no zipper foot for my machine. Oddly, I have a zipper foot... but it doesn't go on this machine. Where the heck did that come from?? Total cost for this project including pattern? Less than $4... and I got exactly what I wanted. =)

I wasn't bagged out by this point, so I pulled out some heavy cotton and got to work on two large shopping bags. I used McCall's pattern M6297 and went to work cutting pieces out for two of the largest version. I LOVE THEM! So much!

I had to play a little pattern Tetris to make it work with just a yard of the green striped fabric and a yard of the floral, but I made it work (barely) and I have just a small amount of scraps left. If you want to do less math, get the amount of fabric the pattern specifies. ;-) I was using fabric I found half off the clearance price with a plan to make bags but hadn't decided on the pattern yet. It all worked out and I love the combination of fabrics. =) The interior fabrics are more fabric passed on to me from my mother and I think both work really well, especially the purple. These bags are HUGE though! lol Yes, yes, I read the pattern beforehand, but I've never been great at judging sizes (obviously). They're awesome bags, but not so great for grocery shopping if I want to be able to actually carry the bags into the house when they're full unless I buy all light food. heh I'll probably bring one along with smaller bags when I grocery shop and use the big bag for the lighter stuff. Total cost for this project? About $7.50 for two bags (yep, including the pattern - gotta love Joann's pattern sales!). Not a bad deal! I did use interfacing from my stash too and if I make these again, I'll use heavier interfacing to give the bags more stability so that would add to the cost. I'll be keeping an eye out for a good deal on interfacing again!

I still want to make smaller grocery bags. So... I'll be using this fabric (also found half off clearance! woo!) for the smaller version from the same pattern pack. I bought what was left so we'll see how many bags I get from it. I'm not sure I'll add the long pockets to the outside - I'm not sure how useful that would be for me since I don't buy bottled water. Maybe I'll add just a flat pocket to the outside instead... or just leave it off entirely. I need to look through my stash and see if I have anything that will work for the lining on these. There has to be something...

Friday, July 10, 2015

simple life - close encounters

Do you talk to strangers?

I do. All the time. LOL Sometimes these conversations are uplifting and sometimes they remind me just how far we still have to go in educating people on environmentally friendly changes we can make.

One day while shopping, I chatted with a produce employee. We were discussing local produce and organics and I mentioned how I hated that Trader Joe's* sells so much of their produce wrapped in plastic. She said that all chains are moving to this practice with organic produce because it can't touch non-organically grown food. If a customer picks up a piece of organic produce and sets it beside non-organically grown produce, the organic produce is no longer "organic" and can't be sold... they throw it away. Because it touched fruit/veg grown with pesticides that is also being sold. I know the rule is that they can't touch, but to just treat perfectly good food as trash? I then asked about bruised produce and anything past it's "perfect" state. Yep, they toss that too. How is this still happening? How? We live in a litigious society. That's how. Some people were buying the produce past its prime saying it was for livestock, then eating it themselves. If they got sick from it, they would sue. So now all this edible food is being thrown into the landfills because it's cheaper to do that than deal with a frivolous lawsuit. This is one of the things so wrong with our society. =(

*I truly love Trader Joe's! But this bugs the heck out of me. Please don't ask me to choose between organic with unnecessary trash and food grown with pesticides. This is a big part of why I'm trying to eat local as much as possible!

When I went away to college 20+ years ago, my first job was in a grocery in the produce department. I remember the day we were told we could no longer sell boxes of imperfect produce to people with goats and it all had to be thrown away. I thought it was crazy and wasteful then. Now, we know so much more! And it's still happening. In the brief time I was there, we also started locking the dumpsters to keep dumpster divers out for the same reason. Lawsuits. The thing that made even less sense? We were throwing away almost-fresh produce... but packing up day old cooked food from the deli (think dried up french fries and chicken tenders that had been sitting in the hot case, then in the cooler overnight - revolting stuff) to donate to a local food bank. *sigh*

And then there was the trip to the fabric store where when I mentioned how happy I was they carried an organic fabric line*, the employee said, "Why do I care if the fabric I use is organic or not?" I said cotton is one of the dirtiest crops, using the most pesticides/herbicides. Her response? "That affects me how?" Another customer nearby asked how much it was - $3.20/yd on clearance with a coupon - then said, "Oh, that's too much." I completely understand being on a budget, but I also know the fabric she was buying was costing her more than that. While I was thrilled finding organic cotton in adorable prints at such a low price, I'm also happy to pay more knowing that I'm supporting an industry that's trying to make better choices. I'll keep voting with my dollars!

*The saddest part is, it seems Joann Fabric has discontinued carrying the line. I'm hoping it's to bring in another line, but from speaking to employees at a couple stores, it seems it didn't sell well and they aren't going to carry it. It might have sold better if they'd marked it well as being organic and not just as "premium" fabric. Most employees don't seem to even know it's organic so if a customer asks, they say they don't have any organic cotton. 

Thankfully, most conversations I have with strangers are very uplifting and encouraging! There were the two young women, maybe mid-20s, I met in the cherry orchard who were not only choosing to buy local produce, but one is growing a lot of her own food organically and buys locally raised meats and the other is vegetarian. We chatted quite awhile about ethics and the environment and I'm pretty sure I convinced at least one of them to look for a used dehydrator. lol And then there was the young woman, early 20's I'd guess, at the feed store where I buy my dogs' food. She's trying to switch to all local for everything in the next 6 months! These encounters give me great hope for this generation of young adults!

So, maybe I didn't change the minds of the ladies at the fabric store, but I might have at least given them something to think about and when I went back over the weekend to pick up a couple of notions for my first skirt... all the organic cotton was gone. So I guess I'm not the only one who appreciated it! ;-) I love talking to strangers. Even when they have very different opinions than mine, there's always something to be gained from reaching out. Maybe just saying hi to someone will brighten their day. Even a simple smile may make someone's day turn around. Or, you might just meet a kindred spirit.

The next time you're out and about, I encourage you to talk to strangers! You never know who you'll meet. =)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

simple craft - I've been sew busy!

How about a crafty update? Not much knitting happening around here and no spinning, crocheting or weaving at all. But the sewing machine has been earning its keep!

First up, my sheets finally fit! For the past year and a half, I've been using king size sheets on my queen size bed. I have queen sheets... but none of them fit my 15" thick mattress so I've been using a set of king sheets I picked up super cheap. Last week, after washing an hanging them out to dry, I finally took measurements and went to work. The pillow cases and top sheet were easy... the fitted sheet less so, but it works! And I no longer wake up with bunched sheets. =)

Joann Fabric has had several sewing pattern sales lately and I took full advantage. $1-1.40 for patterns that are normally $16-20 apiece? Yes, please!

*If you're interested in getting patterns during sales like this, go early! I was the first customer pulling patterns on the very first day of the most recent sale and there was only one copy of many of the patterns I was looking for at my local store. Yours might plan ahead better for the sale and have more in stock.
So with several great patterns to choose from, where to start?! How about a fun reversible circle wrap skirt? I used McCall's pattern M7129 which professed to be "easy" and is part of their "learn to sew" collection. Perfect for a newbie like me! I've sewn a bit, but just basics and mostly straight lines. LOL This would be my first garment! I rummaged through my fabric stash looking for patterns that would work together and that I had enough yardage. Much of my stash was purchased as half off clearance and with an intention of making bags, totes and smaller quilts so mostly I have no more than 2 yds, but I lucked out! I went to work cutting out pieces on my craft room floor - a nice, large cutting table would be nice, but the floor works too... just a bit harder on the back.

I had to go back to the store for bias tape and nearly ran out of thread - so close! I learned a lot. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. I did have to read a couple parts a few times to be sure I understood what I was doing, but I only had to rip out one seam!

I chose a fun bird fabric as my main fabric and this side has side seam pockets.

The reverse fabric is butterflies - aqua on aqua which makes me happy. =)

This was a very pleasant experience and I'm thrilled with the result! I already have plans for more garments in the near future!
Simple? Maybe, maybe not. It took me a few days to complete start to finish. Sure, it would be quicker and easier to buy mass-produced clothing from the store, but what better way to have a one-of-a-kind garment and have some fun in the process?

I may not have had control over how this fabric was produced, but I do know it wasn't sewn by underpaid (or underage) workers and there's just something extra special about something made with my own hands. =)

Have you sewn garments before? If you haven't tried and have any interest, jump in! There are lots of "easy" patterns out there. If I can do it, anyone can! =)

Monday, July 6, 2015

simple life - 5 ways to disconnect... and really connect

There are so many advantages to having the world at our fingertips! Lost? Pull out your GPS... or more likely the map app on your smartphone. Out shopping and wonder if something is a good deal? Check the prices online on your smartphone. Forget what you need at the store? Shoot a text to your spouse at home. Need to know what your kids are up to? You can reach them on their cell phones! Or even install a tracking app on their phones. Car break down? Call for a tow and you can give them exact coordinates where you are. On vacation or taking a sick day? You can still keep up with work by checking email on your phone or laptop or tablet. Yeah, that last one? Not so positive.

There are a lot of advantages to having this connectivity available, but this constant connection also takes a real toll on our lives. Too many of us are always connected, even sleeping with our phones next to the bed lest we miss a text or email, checking just before going to sleep and then first thing when we wake. Are we really so important that we need to be reachable at all times? Our phones and email interrupt us when we're working, when we're visiting with friends, when we're relaxing... when we should be sleeping.

When was the last time you left the house without your cell phone? Or even left the room? Or ate a meal with friends or family without checking your phone (unintentionally telling those you're with you'd rather be elsewhere or with someone else)?

I'm guilty of taking my phone along just for the camera. As if something didn't happen if it wasn't captured digitally! lol Yes, it's fun to share the fun or odd things we're up to or come across. I'm a big Instagram fan! But what about experiences just for the sake of the experience? Just for you.

My solution?

  • Unplug once a week. I chose Sundays, but pick whichever day works best for you. I usually just unplug my router and turn off my cell phone, giving both the day off. I don't own a television so this automatically cuts out viewing tv programs and movies as well. Sundays are quiet around here. =) If you have kids, you might not be able to turn the phone completely off, but you can keep it somewhere inconvenient (not right next to you) so you won't be tempted to check email, texts or social media but you'll be able to answer if the kiddo calls. Can't do a full day? Try an evening! It gets easier the longer you do this, I promise! You'll likely find yourself checking less frequently on other days as well. I've been practicing Techno Sundays off and on for the past year or so and can really tell a difference on weeks I don't shut down for a day.
  • Turn off notifications on your cell phone and email. This is something I removed myself recently. There aren't many things I need to know right now. If your work email is on your personal cell, take it off! There are very few jobs that require the ability to contact you at any moment. Are you a doctor on call? Okay, but wouldn't they call? It can wait until your next workday. This might cause a small issue with your boss if they're used to being able to get a response from you immediately. If so, have a conversation with them explaining that you're making family/personal time a priority in your off time so that you can keep your working time all about the work. With notifications off, you can still check texts and such periodically, but you won't be constantly interrupted by the various pings and dings all day/night long.
  • Still find yourself checking social media too much? Take social media apps off your phone. It will be easier to keep checking Facebook, Instagram, etc to only once or twice a day if it's less convenient. 
  • Ditch some social media altogether. Pick the few sites that add in a positive way to your life and delete your accounts on the others! Just because it's there doesn't mean you have to be. Certain social media forums seem to breed negativity. No one needs more negativity in their life! I ditched Facebook. Sure, those people who didn't give me the time of day in high school won't know what I'm up to now... but is that a bad thing? ;-) The ones I really care about? I keep in touch with in other ways.
  • Put away phones during meals/social occasions! This is a big pet peeve of mine. Show respect to those you're with and don't pull out your phone when you're dining and/or visiting with friends and family. Really enjoy the time with your friends and family and be truly present. Are your friends addicted to their phones too? Make a game of it! I read about a group of friends who get together for dinner once a week and all phones go in the middle of the table. The first one to cave and check their phone... pays for dinner! How's that for incentive? lol Getting together at someone's home? Try a no cell phone policy and put a basket near the door for all phones.
I promise, if you aren't constantly connected, the world will not end. =)

Have you tried cutting back on your technology use? What impact has it had on your happiness, relaxation and/or relationships?

Friday, July 3, 2015

simple food - sugar, sugar

Sugar. It may be sweet... but it packs a real punch to the Earth!

As I become more aware of all the food products I use and their environmental impact, I'm looking for ways to bring as much as I can down to a local level. We grow a lot of things in Washington state, but sugar cane isn't one of them! So what's an environmentally conscious baker to do? Look for a better alternative, of course!

I'm not naive enough to think that I can source every item I use or consume locally. There will be a some things I can't find (or find suitable replacements for) locally and for those items, I'll be attempting to find those with the least impact possible. Reading about the clearing of forests to accommodate sugar crops eliminating wildlife habitat, the extreme water consumption from growing the crops as well as from the refining process and the pollution again from the growing and processing, I knew I needed to find an alternative to cane sugar.

One thing we don't have a shortage of here in the Pacific Northwest is honey bees. With so many farms and orchards in need of pollination, hives are abundantly located among the same farms where I'm gathering my produce. Unlike cane sugar, raw honey requires only straining out the wax and no further processing, keeping all the nutritional value intact. Some say the pollen present in raw honey helps with allergies, but for me it's the local, minimally processed nature that draws me. I'm using less sweetener overall these days, but when I do reach for a sweetener, I'll be reaching for a honey jar. =)

If you're looking to switch from cane sugar to honey, try to find a local source of raw honey. Most honey available in stores is pasteurized and filtered and can be a combination of honey from all over the world so the product may have been shipped overseas, often comes packaged in plastic bottles (we all know the cute little honey bear), then must be shipped to the stores. The local honey I purchased came packaged in glass jars (something easily reused later) and can be purchased from the farms where the hives are kept. A few local stores carry this raw honey as well so read labels if you don't have access to the farms or a farmers' market.

Check out this article on the environmental impact of sugar cane for more information. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

simple craft - no-sew catnip toys!

Ready for an super simple craft to make your cat(s) this happy??

And you don't have to sew a single stitch! =)

All you need is some fabric, a pair of scissors and a little dried catnip.

I used some fleece* from my fabric stash but a piece of cotton flannel would also work. The flannel (or any woven fabric) will fray, but I'm guessing it would hold up at least as long as the catnip stays potent!

Cotton fabric would work too, but likely won't hold up as well if you have rough players. Mine love a larger toy that they can wrestle with and kick! I won't say the canines in the house don't play with these too. ;-)
Cut a rectangle roughly 12" by 5".

The size isn't too important. You just need a piece big enough to fold into thirds and tie into a knot so a smaller piece will work if that's what you have in scraps.

Add some catnip - again, amount doesn't need to be specific here. I used about 2 teaspoons per knot.
 Fold lengthwise over the catnip.
Then fold again from the other side so the catnip is fully contained inside.
 Simply tie into an overhand knot.
And pull tight. Done! Wasn't that easy?

The added bonus is, these are easily refreshed by undoing the knot and replacing the catnip.
Your kitty (or kitties) will thank you! =)

If you have more than one kitty, make a few. Mine tend to hog new toys. LOL

* If you don't have fleece scraps already in your fabric stash and want to use a fleece, look for organic cotton fleece (not polyester fleece). Polyester fleece sheds tiny plastic particles (not good for anyone). Better yet, look through your closet and see if there's a piece of clothing you no longer wear that you can repurpose the fabric into kitty toys! So many possibilities!

Find more information here on how unfriendly polyester fleece is to the environment.

Monday, June 29, 2015

simple life - simple satisfaction

We so often tend to get caught up in the next big thing. We get something new (or new to us) and then find something bigger or better or just... newer. I'm no stranger to this feeling! Last year, I bought a tiny weaving loom. I enjoyed it immensely. Then what did I do? Did I keep weaving away on my tiny loom? No... I bought a floor loom! I wasn't satisfied with just the tiny loom and wanted something bigger and better. I'd never even used a floor loom before... and it wasn't cheap, even though it was secondhand. I used it a bit but quickly discovered I didn't enjoy the process of setting it up all that much so it just sat, collecting dust and making me feel guilty that it wasn't being used.

These days, I'm learning to be more content with what I have and have been letting go of what I don't need (like that floor loom). Some people though, they have it figured out from the beginning! 

Talk about a simple life and living below your means. I don't even watch baseball, but this guy is awesome! We may not all want to simplify quite to this level, but I think we could all learn a thing or two from Daniel Norris.

What do you think? Does he inspire you?