December 21, 2007

give, give, give!

Do you have a few last minute gifts to pick up, or to make?

I do. But I'm going to forget about them. Instead, I'm going to the mall.

I'm serious. At the local mall, there is a big Christmas tree with lots of names still on it, of kids who have real needs - like warm coats and clothes for school - and who could really use a Christmas present from a friend like me (and you).

I'm going to go pick a name off the tree for each person left on my gift list. I'll take note of the child's name, age, and any other information there is about her or him. I'll buy her or him a new coat, a pair of sneakers, socks, mittens and hats, art supplies, or whatever they've asked for. Then I'm going to wrap the gifts right there at the mall, drop them back at the gift tree, and then go home.


Once I get home, I'll make another little gift out of each of those big gifts. It will go something like this: I'll grab a Christmas card (or make one) and write something like:
This year, your gift is a winter coat for Sam. Sam is seven years old and lives at Haven House, a home for children of incarcerated mothers. Thanks for helping Sam get something he really needed!
I think I'll make a little token to represent the item and then put the card and the token into a box and wrap it up in nice paper with a fancy bow. Voila! Double gift, and it was something that somebody really needed.

This might seem like something that your family members (or whoever you have left to get gifts for) wouldn't like, or might think is weird. But you might be surprised at how much they appreciate it. So... maybe we can meet in the Food Court for a latte?

December 13, 2007

Holiday Crafting with the Kids

paper roll ornament

We are looking into more creative ways to reuse materials and get the kids involved in holiday decoration over at Two Green Chickens. Come on by and share your ideas!

December 3, 2007

toys without the tox


Has anyone else been bothered by all the horrible news about toys lately? With the holidays upon us, all the news about lead, phthalates and asbestos in children's toys seems particularly ominous to me. I've never liked the part of Christmas where kids are overwhelmed in beeping, spinning plastic toys and the city trash collectors have to do double-duty to haul away all the packaging and wrapping. But the pollution that's in our kids' toys is far worse. It's not that I ever thought that plastic doo-dads made in China were particularly good for kids, but lead, for crying out loud?

First, everyone should take action to let Congress know we need decent safety standards to protect kids from nasty chemicals. And after we've been responsible citizens, we can turn to being responsible consumers, and the toys we buy for the kids we love.

My suggestion? Let's make our own toys this year!

I love making toys, and Christmas is a great excuse for me to get Santa's workshop going on my kitchen table and make a whole bunch of them. So I thought I'd share some of my favorite resources on toy-making, and ask y'all to share yours, too.

bad kitty, a wicked but cuddly sock monster

My all-time favorite toy to make is a sock monster. All you need is rudimentary sewing skills, some old socks, polyester fiberfill or other toy stuffing, and your basic needle, thread, pins, scissors, etc. Sock monsters can be incredibly simple little goblins, or complicated animals with long, curling tails and embroidered features - kids seem to love all of them, no matter how well (or poorly) you can sew. The best book I know for sock monster instruction is "Making Stupid Sock Creatures" by John Murphy (read my previous post about this great book here).

knitted momerath village

There are oodles of resources on the web and in the library for knitting toys. This blog is devoted to toy knitting, and includes an index with lots of free patterns. I love Jess Hutch's toys, and her book is a gem (if you can get your hands on one). Lots of knitting books with kid and baby patterns feature toy patterns in among the sweaters and hats, especially books by Zoƫ Mellor and Debbie Bliss. "The Knitted Teddy Bear" by Sandra Polley is a great resource for knitters of all skill levels who want to make old-fashioned, cuddly teddy bears. I also really like "New Knits on the Block" by Vickie Howell, which includes not just softies but all kinds of neat costumes and accessories. "Family Circle Easy Toys" is a classic with both knit and crochet patterns - the copy in my local library has been well-loved in its decades-long tenure there.

toy books

For stuffed animals, dolls and doll clothes, a wonderful book I picked up recently is "Toys to Sew" by Claire Garland. Her toys range from ridiculously easy to not-very-hard, and the patterns are way cute.

And finally, puppets! You can make a puppet out of just about anything, and while you could make a puppet and give it as a gift, making puppets together with kids is so much more fun. I just picked up a copy of a beautiful book called "Puppets Unlimited with Everyday Materials," by Anushka Ravishankar & Gita Wolf. The authors include detailed instructions for making stick puppets, string puppets and many others based on traditional Indian puppetry, with regular junk from around your house. Their focus is on making the puppets together with children. Then you can make your own stage and celebrate Christmas Eve with a puppet show - a great gift for kids and grown-ups alike.

Have fun making some toys for the kids on your list this year... and don't forget to take action!

November 30, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion!!!


I'm a little nervous about posting this here... but I swear that I was told that this is just the place to post this. So if you don't like this, or me (that isn't very nice) I blame Lisa. :)

Tomorrow, Friday, November 30th I'm speaking on a panel for Sustainable and Organic Design at San Francisco State University. The talk begins at 7pm and honestly, I would be honored if any of you could make it. This is the first time I've spoken in public about what it is we do at Del Forte and my experience in Organic and Sustainable design.

I'm going to be talking on the subject of our business (fashion, specifically organic cotton denim) and how this is sustainable specifically and, in a larger sense, what is sustainable for the world and for future businesses. I will most likely also talk about how to go about being sustainable, what sustainable means to me, and how to bring this sort of mentality and knowing to a broader scope.

A University Map may be found on, The event is on the top floor of the Ceasar Chavez student center, located in the center of the campus. If you are driving, parking is best in the one large parking structure off of Lake Merced Blvd. You can also take BART to Daly City and take the SFSU shuttle to campus.

Again, the event starts at 7pm and there will be three of us talking and answering questions. My fellow panel-mates will be including Gail Baugh, Textile Specialist from San Francisco State and Jeffrey Bletcher, founder Yam Street. If you ever had any questions about sustainability in fashion, textiles etc here is a great opportunity for you to ask them! One of my favorite teachers always said that there were never stupid questions in the world. Only people too stupid to ask. I always liked that.

So yes, that was my shameless self-promotion. I hope you don't mind... and I hope even more that you can all come down if you have the time. Thanks!

November 27, 2007

a little hut - a large inspiration

patricia is an amazing graphic designer. she is also an outright outstanding maker and crafter of things - as her blog - a little hut will attest.

i wanted to point out two ways in which she shares her creative genius with us.
check out her tips on recycling materials, and all of her tutorials in general.

wow. perfect ideas for holiday recycling if you ask me!

you can support patricia by buying from her shop too.

November 21, 2007

wrap away

it seems like a lot of us like to re-use wrapping materials.

i keep ribbons, tissue paper, boxes, padded envelopes and re-use them when i can. obviously i am not alone - yay!

shelly in canada wrote in with this tip:
I keep a stash of Christmas fabrics with our decorations, mostly fat quarters but there are a few bigger pieces. Every year we wrap all of our family presents with the fabric and tie them up with ribbons or bits of scrap yarn. They look great under the tree and after Christmas everything gets packed up again to use next year.

here's shelly's stash waiting to be used and....

here's a sweet little package

leah from michigan [leah - you didn't give us a link to you] provides us with a link to a pdf which shows you how to wrap things the japanese way in fabric!

here's the link to the pdf {it's from the japanese ministry of the environment!!}

finally - gretchen sent links to posts she's written about recycling and wrapping.... one on general wrapping ideas and one on how she used ikea instructions as wrapping.

thanks you guys!
keep your ideas coming! and have a wonderful thanksgiving if you live in the united states!

November 19, 2007

Me - R R R - y Christmas!


taking on a personal challenge of
this holiday season.

and getting the kids on board too. we have been having a lot of discussions on the difference between reducing, reusing and recycling - and the hierarchy of prefer-ability here. our words became actions yesterday.

last year we spent time cutting circles out of our received holiday cards as they came down off the piano. (handy 2 1/2" circle punch was a big hit with the kids and the activity was a perfect quiet distraction for a post-holiday afternoon.) this year we are reusing them in the construction of some holiday balls (oh elementary school memories here!) - to hang along our diningroom light fixture. while i thought i would remember how to do this - when i sat down it escaped me. a tutorial was found here.

happy holidays!

cross-posting this from jumilla bugs - after being inspired by f.pea's last post, thought i would put this up, and see what other crafty ways you are using the 3 R's this holiday season!

November 16, 2007

a composted party


As the holiday season approaches, you may be contemplating hosting a party at your house, and maybe you're even contemplating how to minimize the waste from such a party. We recently had a big party in our backyard, and experimented with composting the garbage. Some things we did right, and some things not as well, so I wanted to share some learnings with any of you party people out there who might be cooking up a fabulous low-waste event of your own in the next few weeks.

We don't have enough dishes and silverware for 60 people, so instead we ordered compostable plates, cups, napkins and flatware from Green Line Paper (there's probably a local supplier near you). On the day of the party, we set up the trash area with one garbage can, one recycling bin, and for the compost, we used a smaller trash can lined with a brown paper bag.

One thing we didn't do as well was to make clear signage to direct the composting, since it wasn't exactly intuitive for most folks. If I were to do this again, I'd make a big sign that says:
1. Scrape the food from your plate into the garbage.
2. Tear your plates and cups into 4 pieces and throw them in the compost bin.
3. Throw your forks and spoons into the compost bin.
4. Thanks for feeding the worms!

We didn't actually have worms in our compost bin before, but a friend was nice enough to give us some from her kitchen worm bin to help speed up decomposition for such a large amount of stuff. If you had a well-running outdoor vermicomposting area, you could forego the plate-scraping and give the worms all the food waste (except for bones, if you had any). Even if you just have a kitchen worm bin, the torn up plates and cups make a great bedding medium for worms.

The party was great! And afterwards, we only threw one bag of garbage into the trash - and it wasn't quite full - so I'm considering the effort a success. Party on, worms.

November 14, 2007

we want to hear from you!


hello there sew green readers. sorry for our lack of posting of late. seems like all of us ladies have been swept up in flurries of activities.

but we have a request/hope.

the holidays are quickly descending upon us. i don't know about you, but i want to think small and local and a bit greener this year. many have already taken the buy handmade pledge - which is GREAT. but what else is there to do?

this is where you come in.

we'd love for you to send us your holiday ideas.

any tips, tricks, tutorials are wholeheartedly welcome. please send your posts with WEB SIZE [read 72 dpi and under 1000x1000 pixels] pictures to :: sewgreenblog AT gmail DOT com

we'll filter through them and post as many as we can.
please be sure to include any credits and links to your own blog or website or whatever. if you already posted something on your blog - we can cross post it!

we look forward to hearing from you!!

October 30, 2007

Like a Junky...

It is I, your ever-delinquent eco-fashion writer Amber Clisura, here to give another thrilling installment in the greening of your wardrobe. Please, first and foremost, fellow Sew Green contributors, accept my apologies for being such a bad poster. My life has taken a series of crazy turn in the last 3 months that it is a wonder to behold me standing up. But now on to something important - clothing.

A while back I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne and Kerrie, the two masterminds behind the UK Based Junky Styling. Junky has been turning out amazing clothes that have been recycled, reused, rethought as well as combining industrial jobber/remnant fabrics that would have just been thrown out into their line. (A jobber/remnant fabric is yardage that is used commercially for fashion but whose remnant, after production use, is too small to resell to a fabric store for public consumption.) From skiwear to evening wear these two women have designed it all. Innovative and challenging, their clothing evokes a sense of history without being lumped into "vintage". Couture and streetwear that truly redefine an idea of what a 21st century eco-conscious woman is and how she should dress.

(L) Annie and (R) Kerrie. Two wonderful women with one of the
most incredible labels I've seen in a while.

While in Paris for Pret a Porter I talked to them further about the eco-fashion business and their upcoming 10 year anniversary show at Dray Walk in the heart of London’s alternative design neighborhood.

Here is part one of a two part interview.

Many people think that in order to be considered an eco-fashion designer there is so much you have to learn before you can even begin to grasp the work. What inspired you to start Junky? Were you already interested in the environment when you started the company?

We began because we wanted to dress differently. Initially, it was all about unique design, and we were able to achieve this through cutting up clothes that were second hand. We started because there is nothing worse than being in the same place and same dress as someone else! We didn't study for it and it the environmental relevance was there, but the design was at the forefront.

You’ve received a lot of attention from the fashion press in Europe but how do you feel your impact has been received so far?

Nominally - We are just a small spec on the fair-trade horizon, but one nevertheless that Vogue's called 'high fashion street couture', so we're happy with that !

A lot of people are asking how to give back, how to really make this sort of movement hit home. How do you feel you can push yourself even further? What are you hoping to achieve with your message of reuse::recycle::refashion?

Acquiring franchises around the world where we can train up the local community's to create and recycle in the Junky way, this would leave a
great legacy

Something that is even more challenging in being green in this fashion world is being a woman. What has been your biggest challenge as businesswomen? As a start up? Doing eco-fashion?

When we started 10 years ago the biggest challenge was to get people to take us seriously and believe that our idea was a viable business option, as opposed to just a hobby! For us, perseverance and a belief that what we were doing got us through a lot of disbelievers. Meeting other women in business has enabled us to succeed in our right.

Of course I have to ask what would you have done differently if you had a chance?

I think I’d have liked to have some kind of training/experience before we began...Whether it be tailoring, business, accounting skills etc – I just think it would of made life easier !

What do you feel is the biggest issue that you hope you can tackle with your clothing?

The sheer disposability of fashion - let it be known that you CAN wear clothes for more than 1 month. The idea that when you are tired of something you can change it up and wear it again and again.

Do you feel that there is space for people to not do anything to stop the environmental harm that is going on in the world?

We have all now acquired a heightened level of education/information about the environment. No matter who we are, or what life we lead. So there are no excuses at all left for us to not do what we can to make a difference. We believe that if everyone does something, no matter how little, a change will be made

Is there anything you can share with us about your design process?

There is nothing to tell ! We just create sustainable designs via our Junky's ethos - Timeless, deconstructed re-cut and completely transformed
clothing - forever

There is so much talk in the world today about trends and how “Green is the new black.” Which leads one to believe that Green and Eco will go the way of my Z Cavaruccis. Where do you think eco-fashion is going? How do you feel apart of that process/transit? Where do you want it to go if it isn't going in the direction you feel it should

It’s my belief that finally, eco-fashion is becoming more design lead. Which is .of course, the way forward. People can't be expected to purchase clothes solely on the basis that it's a green product; they have to feel and look good as after all, they are buying a style- a fashion. So this movement towards a more sophisticated cut etc is a very positive thing. This then backs up my theory that green fashion isn't just a fad - like organic food, you can't forget what you've learnt, so keep learning and moving the cause forward.

For me I know now that I’ve learned a lot of some of the small things I can do to make a difference how do you bring issues of greening into the rest of your lives?

We all here at Junky do as much as we can. From choosing and investing in green energy to recycling, we all try to live as sustainable of a lifestyle as we can.

October 25, 2007

ecospot films

A still from Small Steps

A high school friend of mine and her partner's ad/film made it into the 20 finalists for a 60 second "Save the Earth" ecospot. It just so happens that my friends' spot incorporates craftiness into making a difference too, so I had to mention it here!

There are some inspiring little ad/films here. Check it out and vote.

Ones I thought were especially good:
Small Steps (my friends' one)
Plastic Ocean
Keep it Equal
The Little Things
The Sky is Falling

October 20, 2007

turn it off!

1 hour tonight los angeles and san francisco! from 8 - 9. "Fight climate change with the flick of a switch!"

October 15, 2007

take action today!

Hey, it's blog action day!

Instead of writing about just one thing you could do today to take action for the environment, I'm going to suggest a few. Please add your action ideas in the comments!

Three places you can take action for the environment today:

1. Pesticide Action Network. Tell EPA to Reverse Methyl Iodide Approval: U.S. EPA rushed registration of carcinogenic methyl iodide Oct. 5 for use as a fumigant pesticide. Sign a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson today, letting him know that this is unacceptable!

2. Greenpeace Canada. Demand to know what's in your food. The Quebec Premier Jean Charest made an election promise to make labelling of genetically modified foods mandatory. Ask him to keep his promise.

3. Breast Cancer Action: Think Before You Pink. Tell Avon, Estee Lauder, Revlon and Mary Kay: We Demand Safer Cosmetics! These four cosmetic companies have positioned themselves as leaders in the fight against breast cancer while marketing products that contain harmful chemicals. Avon and Estee Lauder have taken an important first step by pledging to remove dibutyl phthalates from their products. Revlon and Mary Kay have not yet responded to the public’s request to make their products safer. Send an email to executives at these companies urging them to do the right thing about chemicals in their cosmetics by removing harmful ingredients.

Where else can we take action for the environment today?

October 13, 2007

Blog Action Day

Did you know that October 15th is Blog Action Day ?

from the site
On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

good thing to sign up for, eh?

October 11, 2007

felting in a drought

Lately I've been doing rather a lot of felting.

[For the non-knitters out there, felting, or fulling, is the process of beating knitted yarn into submission in the washing machine or using another technique to shrink the knitted item and turn it into a dense, durable mat of fiber].

I love felting, particularly for making toys. But one of the things that always bothers me about felting is using the washing machine. I feel so terrible running two whole wash cycles - all that energy and water! - just to turn a non-essential bit of knitting into a non-essential bit of felted knitting.

If you live in the mid-Atlantic or southeastern U.S., you are well aware that we're in a drought. Most of North Carolina (where I live) is now rated as "extreme" drought conditions. We've got mandatory watering restrictions, and I'm relying mainly on the bucket in my shower to get the flowerbeds through from week to week. So running two whole washing machines full of water (at something like 50 gallons per cycle - oh my god!) just to felt a toy salamander seems kind of... well, insane.

lewisi_prefelt 3
here is my knitted salamander's foot, before felting

So I am on the hunt for low-water felting methods. When I mentioned this at my local yarns store, one of the lovely ladies there suggested this method. While the energy input is still quite high, it definitely saved quite a lot of water.

1. Fill a 5-gallon bucket about halfway with very hot water and a tiny bit of mild soap. Submerge your item to be felted, and a towel, in the bucket, and get them both good and wet. Roll the item up in the towel and tie it shut with a piece of string.

2. Toss the roll-up into the dryer with a shoe or something else for agitation. Set your dryer to the lowest heat setting, and run it for about ten minutes.

3. Check your item to see how well it has felted. Repeat step 2 above until it has felted completely.

post-felting. someday he'll even get eyes and external gills.

I'm still looking for ways to cut the electricity, but this method definitely saved plenty of water, which I hope the real salamanders in my neighborhood creek will be happy about.

Some other things I'm thinking of trying, to eliminate the electricity:
- Needle-felting (done with unspun yarn)
- Sticking the item inside a container and dragging it behind my bike on a short ride
- Using one of those ice-cream makers where you stick the ingredients inside a ball and kick it around the yard.

Any other ideas out there?

October 7, 2007

Sew Green Reads

A September dessert with farmers market blackberries.

A while back, I mentioned wanting to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. A bunch of you left praise for the book in your comments (thank you!), and I read the book shortly thereafter. I wanted to finally post a book report ;-) and mention another book, about which I’m hoping you’ll leave some comments as well.

Reading books (or blogs) about environmentalism or green-related topics often overwhelms me. I usually end up feeling helpless and scared and angry. Although, I’ll admit, I did feel like this occasionally reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, I also laughed, salivated a lot and felt empowered and joyous at many points. The book is an excellent balance of seriously intense/f-ed up information about food production and the pesticide industry in the U.S., and uplifting, funny, honest stories and solutions about all sorts of things food- and life-related. I think this is what makes Barbara “dangerous” to some people. She is influencing people with this book—people are making changes as a result of the book, as your comments on my last post about this book prove.

My favorite parts of the book were those describing Barbara’s youngest daughter’s egg business (what a badass and fun girl!), and those describing Barbara and her husband’s trip to Italy. What most surprised me about the book, was how much it is about American farming, from many different angles. Of course, it was idiotic of me not to realize a book about eating locally-grown food for a year would be largely about farming; My not realizing this, just proves how removed I am from thoughts about/knowledge of farming.

Some changes I have been making as a result of the book:
I’ve been buying my produce at the farmers market. And now, I’m going to go in with my housemate on a plan she’s been on for a few years. She gets her locally-grown, organic food from a relatively nearby farm. It’s delivered weekly to SF residents. Now I will learn what foods are actually grown in the area throughout the year, I’ll be eating super tasty healthy food, I'll be supporting local organic farmers, I'll be saving money and I will not be contributing to the massive amount of oil being used to ship produce all over the world.

Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1500 miles…If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. (Hopp)

I am also considering giving up vegetarianism! I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years, since I was 9 years old! This is big for me. I don’t actually agree with all of Barbara’s arguments on the pro-meat-eating, but I’m definitely considering it. The main argument I see for eating meat, is that if a bunch of people start eating locally-raised, grass-fed, free-range, organic meat, that would impact our meat industry far more than not eating meat at all does. Because even if the number of vegetarians/vegans increases, there will still be people buying the meat industry’s (poisoned in many ways) meat. I think the trick is to, ahem, beef up the purchasing of the locally-raised, grass-fed, free-range, organic meat—take customers away from the industry. Even though I say this, I still haven’t been able to make the switch. {Sidenote: There's a new meat-related magazine, meatpaper. Check it out.}

It's just amazing to me how so many of us can be so unaware about such a basic part of life/survival—food. And what a huge positive impact—on health (of animals and people), farming, pesticide-use (eliminating it), land use (sustaining soil), oil dependency (decreasing it), the environment and the flavor of food—we can make, if we are more thoughtful about food. I could go on and on about this book because it covers so many different topics of importance. But I know I’m preaching to the choir here. (Or, if not, read the book!)

The next greenish book on my list is Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, an architect/designer and a scientist. As I understand it, the book is about designing “everything from carpeting to corporate campuses” in such a way that there is no waste. It’s not necessarily making things recyclable (as recycling can sometimes be toxic and energy-consuming), but also making things reusable or degradable. Have any of you read it? Thoughts?

September 30, 2007

Polar bears reappear once more

{Where to now.}

It’s the last day of September and I thought a good way to mark the day was to post a few of my recent polar bear drawings. I haven't been able to post on Sew Green for a while, so what better way to get myself slowly reacquainted than this. With polars to break the ice.

{Where to now.}

{The last safe patch. (Please, click to enlarge.)}

Medium: watercolour and pencil on Fabriano 640gsm traditional white paper.

Polar bear links to peruse:
Most Polar Bears Gone By 2050, Studies Say
WWF-Canon Polar Bear Tracker
Polar Bear Conservation Through Research and Education

(Polars also said farewell September, hello October over here on elsewhere.)

September 19, 2007

book for kids?

brought to you by Laurie David [a producer of an inconvenient truth ] and Cambria Gordon, this book might be what you use to talk to your children about global warming.

i haven't actually seen a copy, but i heard the two authors speak about it and how their children are reacting to climate change. they felt there was a void of information for children that was honest, and suggested ways to help.... and not too scary or frightening.

would love to know if anyone has seen/read the book with their kids and what they thought.

amazon link to book

September 14, 2007

amazing textiles

i somehow stumbled on the website for del cerro textiles . i really really love the orust collection. i think their philosophies about land and animals are also refreshing and heartwarming.

hope you enjoy looking at their stuff as much as i did.

September 5, 2007

camping, a little simpler

wayah bald 3
wayah bald, north carolina, october 06

One of my favorite ways to break out of the daily routine and really relax, is by going camping. Whether we trek into a wildnerness area or just hang out in a drive-in campsite, I love to cook outside, watch the stars and sleep to the sounds of owls, crickets and frogs. Most of all I love waking up to the sounds of the woods, and having breakfast to a loud chorus of morning birdsong.

We love to go backpacking, when you carry everything you need on your back, and hike for a few days from campsite to campsite, but as I've developed arthritis, I've been working hard to lighten my pack. The thing that's made the biggest weight difference for me has been food. It seems we always carried more than we needed, or packed things that would go bad or get mushy before we ate them, or just otherwise wasted weight and space in the packs. What I've learned about lightening the load has also made our regular camping a lot easier, too. I am always amazed at the huge loads of stuff - especially food-related stuff like huge gas grills - that we see people bring to campsites.

Two summers ago, I scoured the library for books on backpacking food, and found two in particular that taught me a lot: Backcountry Cooking, by Dorcas Miller (published by Backpacker magazine), and The Trailside Cookbook by Don & Pam Philpott. If you're a backpacker, I recommend both highly! Here's some of what I learned from these books:


You don't need to bring lots of plates, cups, pans, etc. You need four tools for cooking and eating on the trail:
- a small, simple, lightweight stove (even if you camp in campsites, a stove saves tremendous amounts of wood that you'd otherwise need for cooking. Fires may be allowed, but they're terribly damaging to the landscape and to air quality).
- one set of nesting cooking pots (a set with two small pots, one lid and one multi-use handle works really well for us, but most times you probably just need one pot).
- a small- to medium-sized tupperware container with a tight-fitting lid (it's a storage vessel, a bowl and a plate all in one).
- a 20-oz insulated thermos mug. This is the most important tool of all!

If you have these items, you can cook just about anything on the trail - you can even bake bread. The thermos mug is your drinking cup, soup bowl, and food rehydrator. It keeps a frosty beer cold, and a cup of coffee hot. In the dead of winter, you can stick it inside your jacket while your dinner rehydrates, and it warms you up before you even have your soup.

There are lots of other tools you can get, but I think these are the most important - and they're widely available used in thrift shops. When you pack food for your camping trip, plan by meal, and pack one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner serving for each person for each day. Don't forget dessert! Besides these, you need enough water per person per day, and enough trail mix or granola bars for each person to keep you going on long hikes. Don't pack more than that, though - it's just extra weight to carry, and usually in the end, waste.

I also like to make up a spice kit, with small containers full of favorite spices for the trail (film canisters are very useful for this): basil, garlic, Chinese 5-spice, cayenne pepper, olive oil, fresh ginger, etc. Throw in some take-out packets of soy sauce, wasabi and salsa, and you're ready for anything.

my most treasured possession


These are a few of my most favorite camping recipes. Many of these things (like instant grits) I'd never eat at home, but somehow after a long day of hiking, they taste divine. Especially when followed with cookies.

breakfast: powered-up oatmeal
(from Backcountry Cooking)

Before you go, mix up this oatmeal additive in the food processor at home. It makes a delicious bowl of oatmeal that gives you lots more energy for the trail. I even eat it at home sometimes:
- 24 small dried apricots, quartered
- 16 dates, quartered
- 1 cup wheat germ
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds
1 1/3 cups powdered milk
Blend in food processor until ingredients are finely chopped. Store in the fridge.

When you go camping, pack the oatmeal additive in individual servings of one heaping 1/2 cup. On the trail, add the mix to two packets of plain instant oatmeal, and about 1 1/3 cup boiling water. Make this in your big thermos cup!

lunch: tomato-almond salad
(from Backcountry Cooking)

1/4 cup couscous
3 Tbsp toasted almonds, chopped fine
3 Tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Before you go, mix well and pack into 1/2 cup servings (per person - you can combine as many as you need for your group). On the trail, after breakfast, put all the ingredients into your secure tupperware container with one generous cup hot water to each 1/2 cup salad mix. At lunchtime, fluff it up with a fork and serve.

dinner: cheese grits and rat-tat-tooey
(if you are car-camping and can bring a cooler) - makes 2+ servings

- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 small hot peppers
Before you go, place these in your food processor and chop finely, or just chop by hand. Bring them along in a tightly-closed container in the cooler.

-1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 2 soy-sage (or real sausage) links
- 2 oz diced cheddar cheese
- 4 packets of instant grits

On the trail, saute the onions, garlic and peppers in the olive oil until tender. Add the tomatoes and whatever spices you like. I use Ozark spice and cayenne. Once the mixture is hot, cut up the fake (or real) sausage into small pieces and toss into the sauce to simmer for at least 10 minutes.

Place 2 packets of grits in each person's thermos mug. Add 1 cup boiling water to each. Stir well and let sit for about 5 minutes. Add cheese and stir well. Spoon some of the rat-tat-tooey on top and you're all set!

I think the secret to camping and backpacking more simply is to plan carefully, and eat well. Rain, stinky socks and hat-hair don't seem to matter as much when your belly is content.

sunset on the little tennessee river, august 06

August 28, 2007

green home projects

i'd like to welcome another guest poster to sew green!

kyra . she commented on a post a while back and we began chatting - once i found out what she did for a living i asked if she'd want to write a guest post for us. and lucky for us she said YES. she's also an amazing photographer - as her flickr stream will attest. with out further ado - here's kyra's post ::

With the long weekend coming up and summer swimming by ever so quickly, the time is ripe to tackle a few of those household projects. While you’re making plans, here are a few ways to ensure a healthy and conscious home.

o Visit an architectural salvage yard. Not only are you reducing demand on the myriad resources required for harvesting, manufacturing, packaging and transportation, these treasures are often a huge bargain and offer unique character to your space. *Don’t forget your tape measure and a thorough list of needs, or you will likely be so overwhelmed with the assortment of pretty elements that you will forget what you came for {like me}.

o Think local. For all the same reasons that you try to eat locally grown food, you should look for locally harvested and manufactured materials. Consider what types of resources have a local industry and make sure that your products actually come from there. Great candidates to look for include concrete, brick, stone, wood, tile, and even carpet if you’re in the Southeast United States. This does get tricky with a few materials known particularly for their sustainability, such as bamboo and cork. While bamboo has a great green reputation, remember that it is traveling a very long distance to arrive in the US.

o Ask yourself how long it will take for a product to regenerate. This is partially where the aforementioned bamboo and cork get their fine reputations. They can grow a new product in ten years or less. Other great examples are sisal, wool, cotton, and agriboards. Agriboard are composite wood-like products made form agricultural byproducts such as wheatboard, sunflower board, Dakota burl and Kirei {so lovely}! In addition to their rapid renewability, these each add a soft natural elegance to any atmosphere.

o Seek products containing recycled materials . Do you sort your recyclables at home? Take advantage of the next link in the chain! Decking, cotton and cellulose insulation, ‘pop-bottle’ carpet, and glass tile are common products, and don’t forget about structural steel, concrete, brick, roofing and even drywall that likely utilize post-consumer waste as well.

o Don’t forget to insulate. Among the many, many measures to take for conserving energy {see the tip of the iceberg below}, proper insulation is key. Any opportunity you get to stuff some extra buffer in any wall space, take it. Look for cracks around windows and doors and pay attention to drafts and seal them with caulking to reduce air leakage. Cotton and cellulose insulation are two great non-toxic, sustainable insulations that won’t leave you itchy, coughing, and are made of rapidly renewable and recycled materials. If you are adding new exterior walls, structurally insulated panels (SIPS) and insulated concrete forms (ICFs) offer a preferable alternative to wood studs and insulation. SIPS are a core of foam insulation sandwiched between two layers of oriented strand board and ICFs are a combination of polystyrene foam and concrete. Both offer more uniform coverage and go up in a jiffy (pick your pro wisely).

o High Performance in a nutshell. Essentially this means utilizing efficiency to the max. It’s important to incorporate these concepts early in your design. If you truly are starting fresh from the ground, orient your home to take advantage of the sun’s energy (also known as passive solar). Use high performance windows, solar panels, energy efficient lighting (fixtures and bulbs), appliances, and choose low-flow faucets and toilets . Opt for light colors when replacing a roof, walkway, driveway, or other solid groundcover to lessen heat absorption.

o Clean air inside and out: did you know that despite strict air quality regulations for the outside atmosphere, there are none for interior air quality?! Adhesives, sealants, paints, plastics, and composite materials among others can off-gas at room temperature, releasing harmful toxins into the air. These off gases are commonly referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Thanks to industry improvements, a plethora of alternatives exist which are considerably healthier. Some labels volunteer the VOC content of their products right on the packaging but many do not. For complete information, ask for a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or research the product online. The lower the VOC content the better; solvent-free, water-based and formaldehyde free are good catch phrases indicating some reduction in chemical content (but always read the rest of the label!). If a manufacturer will not disclose the information, there is probably a reason. , Greenseal is a great website listing many products who have earned their approval for acceptable components. Watch closely for urea-formaldehyde in composite wood and other agriboard products. Phenol formaldehyde is less likely to off-gas at room temperature but if you can avoid it, do.

Overall, it’s about making decisions that work well with your project. Planning is essential, and it’s good to know that some products may not be readily available at your local hardware store and they may need to order it for you (and you should hound them until they do). Two favorite reference books of mine are Prescriptions for a Healthy House by Paula Baker Laporte , Erica Elliott, and John Banta and Green Remodeling by David Johnston and Kim Master. Now sit back and enjoy your new space with a smile!

-- Kyra is a sustainability consultant living and working in the beautiful Front Range of Colorado. When not assisting design teams with creating environmentally sound structures, she is either making things or playing outside.

thanks kyra!!

August 19, 2007

write your congress{wo}man

Hi everyone - this is actually a guest post from my DAD :). he's definitely one of the reasons why i was excited to join sew green. he has continually been interested in environmentalism. he also has roots in activism - and asked if he could write something for us. i was thrilled. thanks dad!


I am sure that this is no surprise to the readers of this blog but recent reports have found that the estimates of changes due to global warming have been seriously understated. For example:

Science magazine reported in March that Antarctica and Greenland are both losing ice overall, about 125 billion metric tons a year between the two of them — and the amount has accelerated over the last decade. To put that in context, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (the most unstable part of the frosty cloak over the southernmost continent) and Greenland together hold enough ice to raise global sea levels by 40 feet or so, although they would take hundreds of years to melt. We hope.

In January, Science reported that actual rises in sea level in recent years followed the uppermost limit of the range predicted by computer models of climate change — meaning that past studies had understated the rise. As a result, the study found that the sea is likely to rise higher than most previous forecasts — to between 50 centimeters and 1.4 meters by the year 2100 (and then continuing from there).

Science Express , the online edition of Science, reported last month that the world’s several hundred thousand glaciers and small ice caps are thinning more quickly than people realized. “At the very least, our projections indicate that future sea-level rise maybe larger than anticipated,” the article declared.

This blog’s attempt at encouraging people to change their daily habits in various ways is an important way to try to help reduce global warming.

But so is writing one’s representatives in government. You can find these people in the United States at the following sites:
write your house representative
write your senator

{ed. note: if anyone knows of how to reach representatives in canada, the UK, austrailia, etc. leave links in the comments. also tell us if you've ever received a response or what your experience has been}

Feel free to copy and paste the three pieces of info noted above into a letter to your Representative and Senators.

While they may have done some work on improving fuel standards for vehicles, tell him/her that they need to do MUCH, MUCH more. Talk about the need to develop alternative fuels, to stop oil companies from ripping us off by not paying the royalties they owe the government, to do more about encouraging the development and the use of public transportation, to not support the development of nuclear energy because of the danger of the waste, etc.

Additionally, keep writing them. A letter once every few weeks asking them about what they are going to do about some environmentally related issue will make them notice that the voters want action. With the convenience of computers one can copy, cut and paste, and send pieces of newspaper or magazine articles with relative ease.

You’ll get a reply. Usually, it will be a canned response extolling what he/she has done about issue x, y, or z. Write him/her back thanking him/her for the reply and then asking him/her what he/she is going to do about issue a, b, or c that he/she did not address in the letter. Politely, but clearly, remind him/her that you expect him/her to keep working on these issues.

Is it worth a few minutes of your time occasionally? I think it is!

August 16, 2007

Green and Tasty Reading


I was just rereading Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer while waiting for the books I've requested to be delivered to my library branch. Prodigal Summer is one of my favorite feel-good novels. And it has strong environmental/sustainability/nature themes. I thought I'd check Barbara's website to see what she has been writing lately, and I found this! Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.

I thought our Sew Green friends might be interested. I plan on reading it as soon as I can get it at my local library branch. Hell, I might even buy it, because I have a feeling, in addition to being funny and excellent, it will come in handy.

Copied from her website:

"As the U.S. population made an unprecedented mad dash for the Sun Belt, one carload of us paddled against the tide, heading for the Promised Land where water falls from the sky and green stuff grows all around. We were about to begin the adventure of realigning our lives with our food chain.

Naturally, our first stop was to buy junk food and fossil fuel. . . ."

Hang on for the ride: With characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Their good-humored search yields surprising discoveries about turkey sex life and overly zealous zucchini plants, en route to a food culture that's better for the neighborhood and also better on the table. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

"This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew . . . and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air."

SO I guess that's two green book recommendations really, a novel and non-fiction by Barbara Kingsolver. Have any of you already read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle?

August 15, 2007

whew! thanks for all the advice. this for me is what makes me happiest to be part of sewgreen! community rocks!


if you are in the l.a. area - this looks worth signing up for - in fact the whole LIVE GREEN program looks great. (i'll be bringing my questions to the Greener Transportation discussion.)

August 9, 2007

car {s}hop

we have been a one car family for 2 years now. we always planned on getting a second vehicle. this is l.a. after all and everyone drives. everywhere. but we found that d could manage with a combo of biking and taking public transit to work. it added an extra half hour or so onto his commute, but he found he was was less stressed, and in better physical shape too. we have been lucky to have an extra car (thanks friends and family!) at our disposal through all this - "just in case" - and it has come in handy when something has come up where i can't pick up the kids in our usual way. a kind of car-share that has worked will in a pinch.

but we are looking now for a second of our own. i think the ideal would be something very fuel efficient with a low carbon footprint. of course. and a camper/van. to ease our weekend getaways and our yearly trip up the coast to canada. and it could also serve as our "just in case" vehicle.

where to look? and how do i decide? oh i do like those hybrids you see all over the place (sam, leslie, you do love yours, don't you? and they are comfy for family outings?). but i keep thinking straight vegetalbe oil (svo), and ultimately waste vegetable oil (wvo), may be the way for us to go. i worry about the impact of the demand for palm oil that biodiesel may cause. of course inroads into pond scum fueling my car sound interesting. and the idea of a used vehicle appeals to me. (converting an older diesel to wvo and practicing the 3 R's as much as possible.) but we do need one reliable vehicle. (again - this is l.a...) we certainly are not waiting for ford and gm's much touted corn ethanol fueled vehicles. (you can read more about "why corn ethanol isn't the answer" here.) i have checked out the top 10 green cars (unfortunately for the uk and many models not available here - but it gives me some ideas.)

i don't like car shopping at the best of times - hence our 2 yr lack of a second vehicle - and all these additional issues begin to overwhelm me - as you can see. oh yes, and of course we are trying to do this on a budget.

so i turned to my "go to girl", and friend alegre, of Green and Greener. she told me:

"From an environmental stand point I’m torn. While I haven’t found CO2 info about burning used veggie oil, I agree that it’s always better for something to get used two or more times before it enters the waste stream. However, I also believe that lowering CO2 emissions is the SINGLE MOST IMPORANT thing we can do right now because of the urgency of global warming. So I’d recommend getting a PRIUS, having it modified to be a full-plug-in (find info here) and then make sure that you are signed up for GREEN POWER with DWP (if you don’t have solar panels) so that the energy you are getting is CO2 emission free."

so there you are. we are looking and thinking and wondering if, as more hybrids come on the market the price will beging to decrease. (perhaps i will still be blogging about this in another two years!)

in the meantime, i have purchased a terrapass for our minivan.

i would love your feedback on this.

wanted: earth-friendly, reliable set of vehicles for family of four. must be willing to commute during the week, enjoy short drives to the beach, and weekends in the mountains as well as yearly drives to the great white north.

any ideas?

July 31, 2007

cleaning products: more not to love

Y'all may remember Bugheart's wonderful post from a few months back about making your own non-toxic cleaners for around the house.

I hope that post gets a few more hits this week, since Women's Voices for the Earth released their new report called "Household Hazards." The report details new information about potential hazards of household cleaning products. From the report:

"In most cases, when we choose a cleaning product, we are primarily concerned with whether or not it will do the job, going on the assumption that if a product is sold in the grocery store, it must be safe for use in our homes. This report questions that assumption. Household cleaning chemicals, like tens of thousands of chemicals found in the consumer marketplace, are available to the consumer with virtually no information on the potential consequences for human health and little oversight by the government."

The report looks specifically at five common chemicals in cleaning products: monoethanolamine (MEA), ammonium quaternary compounds, glycol ethers, alkyl phenol ethoxylates and phthalates, and their associations with asthma and reproductive problems.

WVE's top recommendation is to make your own cleaning products - it's safer and cheaper, and of course Bugheart has already gotten us started with some great recipes. Check out WVE's website and the report to find out how to encourage manufacturers to get rid of their toxic ingredients, and how to urge our elected officials to pass safer chemicals policy.

July 30, 2007

making things greenly {as much as possible}

diana fayt makes incredible ceramics. [pictured right].

she's been having guest bloggers post their thoughts on ceramics and their process on her blog. recently, she had laura zindel as her guest.

laura's post went into depth about the question of eco-friendliness in regards to ceramics [is it or isn't it?]. she asks a great set of questions AND got some really intense and smart answers from several "experts".

i thought readers here might be interested in her thoughtful post . i definitely wonder about the materials i use in the studio and about the process of making things. how green can you be? when do you let go? what is an "OK" amount of hazard/harm you are willing to forgive? and how important is it to support small, local, talented artisans?

July 25, 2007

hanging it out to dry

so we finally put a much longed after clothesline in our backyard. i grew up with a clothesline. i remember hauling laundry up a set of steps to a little platform to reach the high line running across our backyard in virden, manitoba. then we moved on to brandon and had an umbrella line that i loved to hide inside of. of course we were only hanging out our laundry may through september. (oh those prairie summers - short but oh so good!) d on the other had never had a clothesline. it just wasn't something people "did" where he grew up down here. hanging skivvies on the line wasn't on the radar. (i was surprised to read that it is actually banned in some communities for being unsightly!) but i must say he is a convert after seeing me hang out and bring in 3 loads in just under 4 hours. noting that it takes about the same length of time on the line as it does in our drier and that we can now do the laundry during the day instead of at night as we are advised to avoid blackouts. (yup - we are in another heatwave down here!) and thinking of the energy savings! yes we love our "solar clothes drier".
solar clothes drier

there is even a flickr group. (naturally!)

as a side note, a dear friend and i have decided to "hang out" our collaborative blog: Two Green Chickens. it began as a series of conversations between two moms trying hard to live as green as we can, teach our children to do the same, and still stick to our budgets! it is more consumer minded than sewgreen. if we are going to spend money, we want to do it wisely! check it out and let me know what you think... thanks!

July 20, 2007

bloggers for postive global change

we would humbly like to thank lichenology and seeded for their nominating us for the bloggers for positive global change meme.

the meme was started by climate four future .

i don't want to speak for all the contributors, but, for myself... i had no idea what would happen when we started this blog. over the last few months as it has started to take on a life of its own i am continually awed by the posts by my fellow contributors. i am equally, if not more awed by the comments, questions, and suggestions left by this community. this space has encouraged me to look for and implement greener solutions in my own life. it has made going greener less scary, less daunting, less dramatic and thus just more part of my everyday routine.

small steps really do make a difference. and smaller steps are easier to take than giant leaps.

i had a minute this morning to follow some of the leads from these memes. it made me realize that i can't possibly choose just 5 blogs to tag. please check out all the blogs we list on the right >>>>>> as well as all the nominees and nominators for this meme. there's a wealth of knowledge and hope out there. thanks everyone!

July 15, 2007

Recycled Slipper Tutorial

You will need woolen fabric, i have used an old woolen blanket from the thrift store. Fleece to line the sole. Bias binding.

I use a 1cm seam allowance throughout this how-to.

The pattern:

I am going to show you one slipper. Once finished you will make the other by reversing the pattern pieces, we don't want two of the same do we?

From the woolen blanket cut out one sole and one of each top piece. From the fleece cut out one sole:

Baste the fleece and woolen soles together:

Sew the top pieces together as in the photo, trim the seam and press open:

Sew the top pieces together at the heel, trim the seam allowance and press open:

Pin the top to the sole and sew around the edge, trim the seam allowance:

Turn it right side out and press the seams. Trim the opening as desired making sure that your foot will fit:

Make your binding by cutting strips from your chosen fabric on the bias. Mine is 3cm wide but you can make it wider if you wish:

Fold your binding in half and press. Open out and fold top towards the middle crease. Press:

Pin the binding around the outside of the opening. sew in place with a 5mm seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance of the woolen blanket fabric:

Fold the binding to the inside and pin in place. Slip stitch into place making sore to fold under the end of the binding for a neat finish:

Make the other slipper and now you can have toasty warm toes!


Cross posted on Burda Style and Instructibles.