The Eco-Redemption of My Husband’s Pants

One day my husband strolled in the house after work, and turned his back to me to put something in the sink.

Me: Did you wear those pants all day at work?

Him: (slowly turning) Why?

Me: (coming up behind him and wiggling my cold fingers through the giant tear in his rear end.) Just wondering.

Him: (turning in circles, and reaching around) Oh man. Can you fix it?

He stripped right there in the kitchen and I made the obvious assessment.

Me: No. That tear is shredded, the fibers throughout are worn, and those pants should be thrown out.

Him: I really like these. Can’t you…(waves hands) make something else out of them?

Of course I can. And now I’m looking at my whole closet differently.

The pic above is the original tear. And you can plainly see that the seven inch tear down his backside was not going to be an easy fix. And look at those beltloops…worn past recognition.

He brings a bag to work every day for his lunch, so he needs a few of them. That’s where I started. A simple bag made from his pants.

I used the pant leg hems for the finish at the top. Some simple coordinating straps and I handed him a new bag the next day.

A few days later he was helping me hang a mirror in our son’s room and he strolled past a pillow and stopped in his tracks.

Him: Is that made from my pants?

Of course it was. I ran out of fabric for the back, so I used some coordinating fabric from my stash. A little serged trim and voila! New pillow. That button was salvaged years ago from the flea market where I am inclined to purchase containers of old buttons.

This is all that remains, but I’m saving it. Sometime when I’m watching TV, I’m going to harvest that zipper, and possibly those hooks. All that will be left will be a few shreds.

I’m starting to think about all our old clothes the same way. Fast fashion, as you know, is one of the hugest polluters on the planet. We purchase clothes for a season and off they go to the donation box or just the trash. They’re not constructed to last.

Now, I can’t really say that about my husband’s pants. He’s been known to wear his clothes until they literally turn to dust.

He’s way ahead of his time.

But now I’m re-examining everything in our closets. Doesn’t fit? Hmmm. It matches this thing over here. Polyester? Oooh, that will last 200 years before it breaks down. What can I do with that? Scarlet O’Hara and her drape-y dress have nothing on me. I’ve been giving my old drapes the side eye. (And of course, all I can think of is Carol Burnett coming down those stairs…)

You might be surprised at the inspiration you get from things already in your home. Have a little fun with it.

Time for Bernina Embroidery Software 9… and MacBeth

This year at Bernina University, Bernina introduced an update to their embroidery software. Because I am a pretty steady user of their software, I wanted to investigate right away.

You can download a free version of the software to use for 30 days. So that’s what I did.

I decided to lay out the pros and cons for you if you are a Bernina software person.

Pros:

–Corel is gone. And good riddance. It caused the software to take forever to load. If you had to update the software, that was an intense, long, drawn-out download…all because of Corel. If you were a graphics person, you likely had your own software to use. In my experience, most machine embroiderers simply never learned to use the Corel side of the program. It also was buggy, froze your computer, sometimes shut it down and was just a real pain. For me, not having attached is a plus.

–New home page. I like it. I don’t think it has a whole lot of use for those of us who have used the program a lot, but I did like that it saved images of my most recent designs, It also provides a link to embroideryonline.com, which is helpful. The red x just appears because I removed my USB and took the design over to my computer.

–Keyboard Design Collection. This sounds interesting, but I wasn’t able to test it, as the free sample did not include any collections (as far as I could tell.) I’d like to explore this further. However, I have downloaded fonts online and I really haven’t had a problem getting them to stitch out. So this is a question mark with possibilities.

–Small changes. I do a lot of lines of text embroidery, quilt labels, things like that. And it’s usually pretty large. So I hate working sideways to fit in the hoop. I used to have to go into multi-hooping to turn the hoop sideways. Now there are a couple of icons at the top of the page that turn the hoop by 15 degree increments. Love this. (It’s the little things.)

–Wifi connection. Apparently, we can now simply transfer our designs directly to our machines. I don’t know for sure if this applies to me, because I have an older machine. But a nice feature, nonetheless. In fairness, our machines are not storage devices. So if you transfer directly, make sure you know how to delete from your sewing machine.

Cons:

–Apply closest join. This is a new feature added under options>>general. The one thing I wanted it to do was eliminate the enormous jump stitch between lines of text. When stitching text it only stitches left to right, the way we read. This causes an enormous jump stitch after every line that sometimes interferes with the next line. I hate it, and I have to babysit to cut it before the text moves on. I suspect that this is resolved completely in newer machines that cut jump stitches. But is it worth a $10,000 purchase for me to get a new machine? Not yet.

–Overall look and feel is very, very similar to previous versions. Not a whole lot of improvements or changes.

Bottom line:

For me it’s worth the price to update my software to stay current. And I am happy to be rid of the wonky anvil around the neck of this software (Corel). A few minor stitch and icon improvements are helpful.

However, if you are cost-conscious and happy with what you have at the moment, you may want to wait it out for the next version (v10, I would guess…years from now) The retail price at the moment is $699 for a DesignerPlus update. That is a promotional price. It is compatible with versions 6,7,8. Any of them can be updated. Also, if you are still dragging around a dongle, I would really recommend an update.

For a comprehensive review, you can take a look at this webinar from Bernina. Start at 14:17 to jump right to the software section.

Welcome to fall. May you rediscover your embroidery capabilities.

Endings and Beginnings and Quilts, Oh My!

This barren pathetic patch of earth is where I’m setting up my community garden plot this year. The ground is hard, prone to weeds and, frankly, as inhospitable a piece of land as I’ve worked on in a long time. It reminds me of pics from Curiosity, the Mars Rover.

It’s clear to me that it’s been deprived of nutrients and expected to perform over and over with nothing returned to the soil.

But it’s mine this year.

In our house, it’s a season of beginnings and endings. My son is heading off to college in August, saying goodbye to an old school, old friends, and his old parents. Yesterday, he was 10 years old, reluctantly traveling with me to 30 quilt shops one summer. We did the entire Northern Illinois Quilt Shop Hop. He was supplied plenty of food, was instructed to be Chief Navigator and man of the GPS, and off we went. We found our way to unknown towns (with candy shops) and got lost in cornfields and stopped in strange places for food and potty breaks. He later told me it was the best summer he ever had.

Fast forward a few years to the present, and he (again reluctantly) is tasked with helping his mother by carting 10 bags of organic compost and spreading it out on that empty, unyielding piece of land. (I’m going to make sure he’s happy to be headed off to school.)

In return, I’m making him a quilt of his choosing. I won’t go into the horror on his face when I showed him all his t-shirts from middle school and high school and suggested I’d make a quilt out of those. It was as though nightmare zombies from the dead had reappeared and come back to haunt him and travel with him to college. In the end, he selected a tasteful French General pattern. And it just so happens that I’d been collecting that fabric for years so…hooray…no new purchases.

With the cutting done, I’m ready to start sewing. I figure, if I don’t finish by August, it’s OK, I can always ship it to him. He won’t need an extra quilt for a month or two.

In the meantime, at the garden plot, I’ve had a few seed failures. I tried purchasing flower seeds from an independent grower, and most of those seeds just haven’t germinated. The commercial seeds have begun to emerge, and some of the vegetables are doing OK.

On we go into summer. I hope you have some exciting things planned. I’ll be delving into this quilt in between trips to carry water buckets at the garden plot. Wish me luck.

Happy growing season!

It goes by fast, doesn’t it.

Spring Machine Embroidery Ideas

Great minds think alike. Or at least that’s what they say.

I had just recently been working on this lawn flag for the front of my house.

I am a great Kraft-Tex lover and I use it for things like this all the time. You can read about my door hanging here and last spring’s greeting here. It’s almost always my fabric of choice for wallhanging-type projects, because it is eco-friendly, recyclable, and does not contain any scary chemicals.

But this year, I desperately wanted to use some of this new buffalo print ribbon as well.

My project is simple. I start with a large piece of black Kraft-Tex. That is the base. I embroider on smaller pieces. The “Hello Spring” font I’m using is called Strawberry Blossom, available on dafonts.com. I really was having a hard time finding an embroidery design that would be perfect and colorful and cheerful, but with a cap of about 30,000 stitches. With a double layer of sticky back cutaway under the Kraft-Tex, it holds up quite well. But if the design is too stitch-heavy, I start to worry I might perforate the fabric.

The embroidery design I used is called Truly Tulip Blooms from Embroidery Library. I have to admit, it was not my favorite design, but it turned out pretty well.

Of course, once I had this project completed, I received an email from Embroidery Library with a grouping of some designs that are just adorable. The line is called Blooming Expressions by Shannon Roberts.

Check out this project. They offer designs and even yard flag fabric, along with a tutorial.

Now, you don’t really need a tutorial, because it’s just basic machine embroidery. But the designs are just the sort of thing I was hoping to find. They just came too late for me.

(Embroidery Library, in case you are paying attention, we need versions of these for summer and July 4. Watermelon and lemonade with flowers and butterflies would be so cute, don’t you think? . And start designing the new cozy ones for fall and the holiday season as well. I know I’m bossy…I’m also a good customer.)

I have a weakness for these types of designs that show up so well on black and are reminiscent of chalk art that is so popular these days, as well as the use of script.

The only difference I would notice between my project and theirs is that I have added velcro across the top and along the side to attach to the pole. Last year, I watched on a surveillance camera how my garden flag got swept away by a mighty gust of wind, never to be seen again. So I added a bit more security, attaching it not only at the top of the pole, but at the side as added reinforcement.

The ribbon is just something I purchased on Esty…wired ribbon 2.5 inches wide. It’s perfect. I sewed it on just inside the wire at the top and bottom of the ribbon.

It’s possible to create a design on the back side as well and just sew the two pieces together. Because of my location, I chose to just add a blank piece of Kraf-Tex on the back.

While it’s a bit too early for my annuals to brighten up the house, this little piece of lawn art adds a bit of cheer.

I’ve also been spring cleaning in the sewing room. What a nightmare. But that’s for another post.

Making Peace With Nature

By now, if you’ve ever read anything from this blog, you know that I am on a mission to promote organic cotton and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) fabrics. To read one of my previous posts about organic cotton, go here.

I tackle the business of organic cotton because, frankly, as sewists, this is one thing we can impact. We are the end users of a product we think very little about and we worry even less when we have a project in mind.

We like our fabric.

We love the feel of it, we love the bright colors and the textures, and the sweet, cheerful designs. But it’s very possible that if you saw the conditions under which your fabric is made, and the chemicals involved in the treating of the fabric, and the dyeing process, you might have second thoughts. If you are thoughtful enough, you might also be concerned about the livelihood and well-being of the independent farmer who grows the cotton and small villages around the world who must learn to live sustainably off this income. They cannot destroy their land in the interest of a short term gain and then have ruined land that cannot be farmed in the future. This is a real thing. Farmers understand regenerative practices. It’s obvious…just not to everyone else.

“The report serves to translate the current state of scientific knowledge into crisp, clear and digestible facts-based messages that the world can relate to and follow up on. It first provides an Earth diagnosis of current and projected human-induced environmental change, by putting facts and interlinkages in perspective, including by using smart infographics. In building on this diagnosis, the report identifies the shifts needed to close gaps between current actions and those needed to achieve sustainable development. The analysis is anchored in current economic, social and ecological reality and framed by economics and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By synthesizing the latest scientific findings from the global environmental assessments, the report communicates the current status of the world’s urgent issues and opportunities to solve them. “

Our small quilt shops only have exposure to sales people who bring the brightly-colored sample books to them every season for ordering.

Through social media, we are exposed to the designers (whom we love). They show us their studios and their creative ideas. However, their designs are simply licensed by fabric distributors. In other words, our favorite designers basically give up all their rights to determine the way fabric is created, other than seeing proofs for color and accuracy. They don’t get to tell manufacturers not to use toxic chemicals or not to pollute the ground water. They get a paycheck and that’s what matters. To them, at least.

In reading this UN document, it’s obvious to me, and I hope it is to you as well, that this way of living has made us blissfully happy, unaware and unaccountable to the planet we live on.

I know this sounds cliche.

But if we don’t soon change everything we’re doing now, in every supply chain, all the way back to the raw materials from the Earth, we may not survive as a species for much longer.

Here’s a tidbit: did you know that if current sperm count trends continue, by 2045, the median male will no longer be able to reproduce? Ha. Now I have your attention.

Look, all I’m saying is that everything around us now indicates that we are going to have to make BIG CHANGES.

And if there’s one thing that the human species is resistant to, it’s BIG CHANGES.

But I believe we have to start thinking seriously about how our food is produced, where our energy comes from, how much waste we produce, how much we consume, and on and on and on.

It’s daunting, I know.

So that’s why we need to start small.

  1. Make yourself more aware of the materials you use. Where did this really come from? What are the chemicals used? Do I know anything at all about this fabric?
  2. Ask your local quilt shop these questions. They are dealing with the distributors who make the decisions.
  3. Become a savvy user. Can you make it from your already-way-too-big stash? Can it be made from other textiles you already own?
  4. Start making yourself an educated consumer. Below are a few links that will assist.

Here’s a new fabric I’ve seen available: Lenzing Ecovero. “Take less, Give More”. You’ll want to watch their video.

UNEP Making Peace With Nature

Textile Exchange Global Non-Profit

Global Organic Textile Standard

Are you ready for change? Ready or not, it’s coming. Let’s be ready, willing and able. And start where we can.

My Heart’s Greeting, and Other Valentines

I found these Victorian themed Valentine’s Day designs on Etsy, and ordered them just printed out on paper. I think they were 3.99. per sheet.

In Photoshop, I flipped the images horizontally so that the words read backwards, like a mirror image.

Then I printed them out on Transfer Artist paper, and transferred them onto white Kraft-Tex.

The Krat-Tex paper means that if I threw them in the wash, it would hold up, soften a bit and the image would stay in place. I might experiment a bit with washing the cards to see how they turn out. For now, I have them hanging with ribbons on an LED-lit birch tree stand.

The image above is one of my favorites, as I imagine myself during Jane Austen times, wandering through the flowers, accepting a love note from a distant suitor via a barn swallow. My heart’s greeting. We can dream.

Actually, most of my young Valentine’s Days were spent hoping for someone to send a card from a Secret Admirer. Do you remember those days? I would have given anything to have a Secret Admirer, someone in the shadows who had eyes only for me.

As it turns out, no gift ever came except for ones from my Dad. To his credit, he always brought a small gift home every Valentine’s Day for my Mom, my sister and me. We each got a box a chocolates, or a necklace or some other trifle.

He never forgot. To this day, if I head over to his house, during this pandemic, he will likely have some chocolates for me and for my sister. (And I won’t know how he got them, because he is supposed to be staying home.)

Years ago, I worked in a chocolate shop for a while, and Valentine’s Day was peak insanity. But they had regulars, who came in and bought the same size heart box of chocolates every year, or a special box for every grandchild. Others would get the most elaborate heart box and fill it with their sweetheart’s favorites. The ritual behind it was a fascinating social phenomenon. It was the few days out of the year when all the men showed up in the store.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

May you receive all the chocolates you love.

Better yet, may you receive them from a Secret Admirer.

Here are a few links to previous Velentine’s Day projects:

My Practical Valentine

Valentine’s Day Kraft-tex Project

Buttoned Up Valentine

Cross Stitch Life Hack

I love cross stitch. But I am completely inept.

I have watched the YouTube videos. I have studied people moving those needles in and out. I purchased the right fabric. I can sew, machine embroider, hand embroider, knit, crochet, do hand quilting. I’m not afraid of stitching by hand. But for the love of all that is good, I cannot figure out how to cross stitch. I. Cannot. Do. It.

So I did the next best thing.

I digitized.

I found the most adorable designs (from Little House Needleworks on Etsy.)

Using Bernina Embroidery Software 8, I got the idea into my head that I could run a border of these gorgeous cross stitch patterns around the outside of a very simple tree skirt I was making.

But as always, it was not an easy task. Like Tina Turner, I never do anything nice and easy. I do it nice, and rough.

It starts with a scan of the pattern, which needs to be trimmed to the exact pattern size in some sort of graphics software. I’m used to working in Adobe, so that’s what I used. But Bernina’s software comes with Corel, so you can use that too. Then it gets imported into the Cross Stitch application in the software.

Now comes the tedious part. Every single stitch gets reconstructed with a click, and a color choice. If you look closely enough at the above image, you can see that some of it is filled in with color, and some of it still has the cross stitch symbols shown. It took me about an hour to get everything filled in for that design.

The next step is to move it into the embroidery program. The software then converts every click that you made in cross stitch into machine embroidery stitches. And it’s pretty magical. One moment it’s just a weird looking drawing, the next minute it’s stitches that my machine will understand.

And I am absolutely loving the way these turned out.

I still have a long way to go on this tree skirt, and each design from start to finish probably takes about three hours. Could someone do it by hand in that time? Maybe someone who knows what they’re doing. That would not be me, when it comes to cross stitch. But I am just so taken in by their charm and sweetness.

I hope you are tolerating this difficult holiday season.

I leave you with this December thought:

“Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”


Garment Sewing Mania

So, as you know, I’ve been sewing a lot of t-shirts for fun. I’ve basically created my own casual wardrobe this year…but only of shirts. I balance it out with a lot of stretchy pants I already own.

It’s not ideal, but it’s the thing I’m loving right now. Especially since I’m not going out and purchasing new clothes. These days I get excited when a new shipment of fabric comes in.

My next effort? A pair of stretchy pants. I know. I should aim a little higher. But I’ve never made a pair of pants. Seriously. And I’m not about to start with a pair of jeans which would be a tremendous amount of effort and I have no idea where my weaknesses are.

Well, OK, I know that I sit on my biggest weakness, but that doesn’t mean I know how to fit it. So I’m starting with something forgiving. I’ll let you know how it goes.(I’m not terribly optimistic.)

But just to give you a bit more information on my process: As many of you know, I have resolved to only purchase organic fabric for the foreseeable future. As time has gone on, I have only furthered my resolve in this area. The good news, is that the industry is slowly moving in that direction, since traditional cotton-growing is proving unsustainable to even the most stalwart purchasers. We’re talking about Levi’s and Lee and H&M and folks who are serious purchasers of cotton.

I wrote about organic cotton in detail here.

But another big concern of mine as I’ve been sewing, has been the amount of waste…fabric waste, that goes into garment sewing. Making a t-shirt requires the front and back of the pattern to be cut on the fold.

But that leaves a large amount of fabric untouched above the fold. Like half of it.

So I started something new. Of course I started editing the pattern. Instead of laying fabric on the fold, I placed it higher up on the fabric to make two pieces instead of one. I added a quarter inch to the area that would normally be placed on the fold to compensate for the additional seam allowance.

This gave me the ability to make a whole other shirt from leftover fabric. A few more seams, yes. But more clothes, yay! But what about the sleeves? What I found with the sleeves was that I often did not have enough width of my leftover fabric to accommodate the width of the sleeve pattern.

So I folded the pattern in half. I laid it out on the fabric and added the quarter inch seam allowance. I found that the slim line of the sleeve usually left me with enough fabric to make the sleeves with a seam. Instead of two pieces of sleeve fabric, I ended up with four pieces, two each per sleeve. One seam up the middle is barely noticeable.

These additional seams turned out to look structural on the garment. Before assembling, I gave them a topstitch over the side where the serger seam allowance rested. It holds the extra seam allowance in place perfectly, and adds a bit of interest. Voila!

I found that the looser tees left me with enough fabric to make a v-neck closer fitting tee, and the opposite was true of the cut of the v-necks.

Then I feel absolutely no guilt throwing away the remnants after that. they are just tiny bits and pieces.

Bit by agonizing bit, I’m learning about garment construction. And it’s only agonizing because I am not a perfect beautiful, lovely size. Well, actually, I am. But I’m just not what would be considered a model size. So I modify everything to fit in a comfortable way.

And I’m having fun playing with the absolute simplest of patterns. I invite you to try it. It’s fun, entertaining, creative, and most of all, utilitarian. It’s empowering.

Everyone, stay calm and sew on. These are crazy, unsteady times. Do something that steadies you.

(Pattern from Grainline studio. V-neck tee is my own pattern. Fabrics are from Hawthorne Supply Co., various lines, but all organic cotton interlock.)

Halloween 2020

I like Halloween. I have friends who despise it. They think of it as an evil holiday. I have others who find it fun and still others who’ve just outgrown the whole business.

Me, I just like the cool weather. I enjoy the turn of the season, the spookiness is my favorite part. Have you ever walked through a decorated neighborhood at night…alone…while the cold wind is blowing and the crunchy leaves are swirling behind you making unexpected noises? I have. And those things your neighbors have hanging from the trees? They’re scary as all getout without the light of the sun to cast away the shadows and secrets.

In my neighborhood, when my son was younger, we had 12 kids on the block that all started kindergarten together. Most of them had older siblings. Halloween in our neighborhood was pure chaos. The doorbell started ringing at 4 pm and didn’t stop til long after dark. Parents in large groups wandered around with their drinks in red solo cups, or warm toddies in a Thermos. They all waved and laughed as they stood near the sidewalk.

One neighbor set up an outdoor theatre with Young Frankenstein blasting on speakers and projected onto the front of his house as kids came through. Another stood as still as one of the mummies on his porch while dressed up as Frankenstein, and then jumped out at little ballerinas and Ninja turtles. The screaming could be heard for blocks. The kids loved it. And yet another neighbor dressed as an ogre and chained himself to the front lawn. He growled and shrieked and the kids attempted to get their treats from him.

“Hey, does your wife know what you’re doing?” I called to him.

“Who do you think chained me up out here?”

We were a fun bunch. The kids even had a house that they refused to visit, because they thought a “mean, old man” lived there. Probably the only sane person in the neighborhood.

But now, times have changed.

And for the first time in 20 years, we made the decision to avoid a public Halloween. No candy, no treats. Our lights will be off. It matters that many of the kids in the neighborhood are grown–off to college, working their own jobs. But there are still young ones of new families that have moved in.

We will celebrate at home: a cozy meal, warm orange lights over the fireplace, decorations. But no treats will be given. The door will go unanswered. The pandemic is too much. Better for kids to be safe (and us as well). Parents can splurge on candy. Young ones can find another way. I’m out this year.

Despite the changing times, you can still enjoy a decorated house. Here are a few of my past Halloween posts, and a video at the end of a display at our house. Be safe, enjoy, carry on.

Creaking door at the end is not a special effect. Ha. That’s our back door.