May 31, 2007

Cloth pads

Apparently the average woman will use around 17,000 pads or tampons in her lifetime, the majority of which are flushed down the toilet, a terrible though huh? Just imagine the waste they produce, damage they cause and the money they cost us.
After having my second child i breastfed until she was around 15 months old therefore i didn't menstruate, it was great. Soon after i weaned her from the boob my cycle returned, ugh, i started using tampons again and i hate them. So, i have stared to make my own cloth pads and am looking into ordering a menstrual cup.
I have put together a step by step of how i make my own cloth pads, i will add the pattern to the sidebar in the next few days.

Cloth pads
You will need:
flannel for outer
flannel for inner
sewing machine

Wash, dry and press your fabric. I have used half a metre of flannel and folded it to cut out 4 pads at once.

Cut out your pattern pieces

Take each of the bottom pieces and fold the opening edge over 1/4 inch, press then fold over again, press and sew in place.

Pin the pieces together and sew around the edge, clip the curves and turn right side out.

Press. Top stitch around the edge and sew down each side to form the wings. Add pressers or velcro to the wings.

Make a pad to fit inside, i have recycled a flannel bed sheet. I sewed 2 pieces together, turned right sides out and top stitched all the way around. I made it large enough to be folded into 4 layers and quilted it randomly to keep it in shape.

Underside with pad

The finished pad

These could also be made on an overlocker/serger but you would need to adjust the seam allowance or they will turn out bigger. You could also adjust the pattern to make larger or smaller pads with thicker or thiner inserts for heavier or lighter days. I've seen these made with a nylon backing to make them waterproof but i prefer not to, i plan to only use them on light days and use the menstrual cup on heavier days.

May 30, 2007

I hate to rock the consumerist vibe BUT...

Hello everyone in Sew Greenland!

I'm sorry that I have been MIA as of late. I know that many of you have sent me emails asking what is going on with the eco-fashion world that I so suddenly stopped writing about. I know - bad Amber no organic leather belt for you.

Well work has taken me across the country and back several times in the last month and I've been swallowed whole (for all you keeping track, yes that increases by carbon footprint but our company is now investing in the funding of green energy to offset some of the damage that we are doing when we aren't being green!)

Regardless... I've heard from many of you that buying eco is something you really want to do but that the prices are really killing you. Trust me - I know. If I wasn't working for an organic company I wouldn't have 1/2 the clothes I do now... But I digress. I struggled about posting this for fear that it was a bit "consumer-y" but I thought that perhaps the fact that this company is a) local b) run by two local girls trying to make good and c) fucking awesome that it might excuse the consumer aspect of itself. For anyone who is in the bay area tomorrow my company is having our end of season sale!

If you print this out, bring it to our booth and make a purchase we'll also refund you your entrance fee! So that's like getting an awesome pair of jeans at over half off! If you forget then just mention "Sew Green!" to me and I will give you a high five and your entrance fee back with your purchase!

Ok - I'm done being a saleslady. Hope you are all living green!

May 24, 2007

the art of finding

And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers...

If I were to name one artist that had the greatest influence on me, it would be Joseph Cornell. It was not only the solitude in which he worked that fascinated me, or the incredible influence he’s had on more famous artists like Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, etc., but specifically his love of the found object. His accumulated a basement full of found objects, odds & ends, and papers that he procured by rummaging through bookstores and nickel & dime stores for countless hours.

I wonder what a person like Joseph Cornell would have thought of a place like Paper Source or Michaels. Would he have cringed or been enthralled with the vast arrays of papers and stamping and cutting devices? We live in an age when people often do not have (or find) the time, resources, or patience to search for and accumulate objects, papers, etc. that inspire them.

What I find so wonderful about Cornell’s work, as well as many collage artists such as Camilla Engman and Gracia Haby, is their use of everyday papers and found objects. Not only is it unique in its origin but it also documents a time or place. The act of some documentation in artwork has been a long time fascination of mine and drawn me to artists who collect and document like Candy Jernigan.

Collage can be a wonderful medium to begin an exploration into the art and craft world. It can also be a way to think of art from a green perspective by using recycled materials that have not been made specifically for scrapbooking or collage. People often ask me where I find papers to collage with, so I thought I might suggest some tips on where to find interesting vintage, recycled papers and objects to inspire you.

Library: Generally I believe it is sacrilegious to cut up a book but sometimes you can find books that are falling apart to cut up or scan old books for digital collages. I often find old books at local library sales. After perusing the $1 + books for real reads, I head straight for the cheapest books for collage. Books like Readable Relativity probably are not going to be read again, are usually out of date, and often have beautiful handwritten notes inside of them.

Thrift and Antique stores/Flea Markets: It is amazing what you can find at thrift stores... old books, clippings & such, postcards, playing cards, stamps, National Geographics, etc. Keep your eyes open and I guarentee you will find little odds and ends that will be wonderful to work with. I also often find fancy Fiskars punching tools, scissors, etc. while I am at it!

Garage/Estate sales: These are often mecca for the collage artist. Combing through an estate or garage sale can give you a little glimpse of a piece of history because it is all from one person or family. It always makes me a bit sad to see their objects sold away but in a way there is somethign karmic about using something so personal for art.

Ebay: I use this for specifics. For example, I am really inspired by old science textbooks. There might be something from your childhood or experiences that you’d like to use for collage. These types of objects tend not to be expensive on ebay but beware of shipping costs!

Your everyday: This is where people usually don’t look for objects or papers to work with, yet your everyday is perhaps the most interesting place to look. I never pass a pile of papers in the trash or boxes of stuff by the dumpster without a quick check. Any time our department is throwing out old junk, they know to check with me first. Keep an eye out… that laundry ticket could be the beginning of something beautiful.

May 21, 2007

softer softies

toy mosaic

Oh how I love a cute softie. As kids, my sister and I had a huge collection of stuffed animals, many from the store, some made by loving aunts and other friends. One of my favorites was a rag doll made of muslin and calico leftovers by my Aunt Cindy. My dad built a "zoo" for all of them, which was a giant shelf to keep them all up off the floor. Making softies was even more fun - I can still remember making a pink dinosaur out of felt in an early home ec class.

About a year ago I wanted to make some more softies, and stumbled upon this wonderful book in the library: Making Stupid Sock Creatures, by John Murphy. The creatures are hilarious, but what appealed to me most about John's creatures is that they're all made from re-sourced materials - namely cast-off socks. You can see a great gallery of them here. Since reading John's book, I've made a lot of sock creatures myself (including the ones in the photos above).

The Stupid Creatures have progressed beyond just old socks. Last summer I saw a collection of John's latest creatures in a gallery in Asheville NC, which included creatures made not just cast-off socks, but old T-shirts, jumpsuits, and all kinds of other garments. This year the Stupid Creatures folks are co-curating a show of plushies at the PUSH skate shop in Asheville themed "medical experiments." If you're lucky enough to be nearby, go check it out!

Sock monsters are obviously not a new idea. I have no idea when the first sock monkey was invented, but people are continuously taking this creative recycling idea to new heights. Jaypeg's sock monkeys are some of my favorites. She's even posted easy sock-monkey instructions on her blog.

This spring I made a sock monster - a sock snake, to be precise - together with Jake, a friend of mine who is six. He picked out the socks, designed the snake and helped cut out the pieces, and I did the sewing. He stuffed it, with a little help, and then gave it the straightforward name of "Snakey." Snakey only took about an hour to make, from sock selection to the eye details. Nowadays he enjoys basking in the sun on Jake's windowsill at home.

The sock monkey permutations have me wondering about what other kinds of kids' toys people are making out of re-sourced materials. It's funny to me that folks spend so much money on the latest electronic gadgetry and sports gear for their kids -- there are so many fun low-tech home-made toys just waiting to be assembled.

May 17, 2007

Clean Green

When I was a little girl, we had a kitchen towel that hung from our oven door handle. It had a cat embroidered on it that was outfitted in a head bandana and an apron and in her hand was a broom. Underneath were the carefully embroidered words, “I love to clean!” My mother told me that my grandmother had made it for her. It was ironic, because with five children, the last thing my mother loved to do was clean.

Actually I love to clean. At a very young age I developed a total aversion to cooking but would beg my parents to let me clean the kitchen. I would stand on a footstool and wash dishes. My partner laughs about that now since I do not really enjoy doing dishes anymore, but I still love other cleaning. There are few things more completely satisfying than a perfectly clean abode.

Yet when you look closely at the label of your cleaning products, the last thing you feel is clean. Check the back of your cleaning products at home and you will multiple warnings, such as CAUTION , EYE IRRITANT, and KEEP OUT OF REACH FROM CHILDREN. Not only are most of these products environmentally unfriendly, but also they are also toxic.

Fortunately there has been an influx of great products on the market in the last few years by companies such as Seventh Generation (now available at Target) and Ecover. Seventh Generation states that “if every household replaced just one bottle of petroleum-based all-purpose cleaner with a renewable resource based product, we could save 7,100 barrels of oil, enough to heat and cool 400 US homes for a year!” These products are non-toxic, biodegradable, vegetable-based, and contain no phosphorous, dyes, or artificial fragrances.

Unfortunately, these products are not cheap (although the price is comparable to most other cleaners). So I am including so more specific information about common household cleaners and including DIY cleaning products as alternatives to eco-friendly products in stores (adapted from Red Scare #3, 2001).

Ammonia / all-purpose cleaners
Products like Mr. Clean are very harmful to skin, eyes, and lungs and can exacerbate asthma.
Make it yourself by using liquid soap. Mix 1 tsp. liquid soap into 1 qt warm water. Add some lemon juice or vinegar to cut the grease. This solution will be great for almost all your household cleaning needs.

Glass cleaners
Cleaners like Windex contain irritating fumes that are a major eye irritant.
Make it yourself by using 50/50 water & vinegar. Put in a recycled spray bottle and wipe off with newspaper (doesn’t leave annoying rag or paper towel ‘fuzz’ on glass). Note: Regular glass cleaners leave a residue on the glass, so you may notice some streaking the first time you use the 50/50 cleaner. This should disappear after the 2nd cleaning.

Furniture & floor polish
Polishes like Mop & Glo contain carcinogenic phenols (yikes!) and highly toxic nitrobenzene. Exposure during use & residual fumes are both dangerous.
Make it yourself by using vegetable or olive oil. Apply oil sparingly with a soft rag. Add some lemon juice or other aromatic oils from a heath food store and you’ll get the nice smell. You can use almost any oil to polish and condition wood, including olive or vegetable oil. Polish when dry with a chamois cloth.

Rug, carpet & upholstery cleaner
These products usually contain dangerous solvents that can do both short- and long- term damage to the central nervous system.
Make it yourself by using baking soda. To deodorize your carpet, use a large box and sprinkle liberally on your carpet, wait 15 minutes, and then vacuum it up. A great spot remover is a solution of ¼ cup borax dissolved in 2 cups cold water, undiluted vinegar or lemon juice.

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Here is a favorite recipe of some sew green girls:

Use Less Stuff All-Purpose Cleaner
Source: "Better Basics for the Home"
by Anne Berthold-Bond (Three Rivers Press, 1999)

• 1 tsp baking soda (or Epsom salts)
• 2 tsp borax
• 1/2 tsp liquid soap
• 2 cups hot water
• several drops antiseptic essential oil (lavender is a favorite, others include sweet orange, lemongrass, rose, clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, birch, lavender or tea tree -- all are natural antiseptic oils).

Combine the baking soda, borax, soap and essential oil in a spray bottle. Pour in the hot water, mixing well to dissolve the minerals, screw on the lid tightly and shake well. Label the bottle clearly, and as with all cleaning products (even the ones you make yourself), keep out of reach of children.

Note: Borax is available in the laundry aisle of most supermarkets. For liquid soap, use something mild like Castille soap, Ivory or Ecover. If you use a concentrated product like Sal Suds, use less than called for in the recipe.
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I often use a swiffer to clean up annoying cat hair, but I hate throwing those covers away. Now there is a creative alternative to disposable dry cloths. Try knitting a reusable knitted swiffer cover. It's so clever and it really works!

We aren’t the only ones concerned with household cleaners --- Find out how to green your school cleaning regime here. There is also a campaign to get Disney to go green! Check out the campaign website here.

Now you can start cleaning green!

May 15, 2007

Laundry Soap DIY

I've been buying Eco friendly laundry liquid for a while now but still wanted to look for an alternative as it's not cheap stuff and i want to reduce my packaging. So, i went out and bought a bucket, some pure soap and a bag of washing soda and came up with my own laundry soap!
Grate 1 bar of pure soap into a pan and cover with enough water to dissolve. Dissolve gently stirring continuously.
Fill the bucket with hot tap water, stir in the melted soap and a cup full of washing soda.

I found that the melted soap and washing soda didn't quite mix well so i returned it all to a large pan and stirred on a low heat until it was. Leave it to cool and it looks like this:Gloopy and blue!
I've been using it for a few weeks now and it works, my clothes come out clean and they smell fresh unlike with the Eco friendly laundry liquid that gave my laundry a funky smell.
From one box of soap and a packet of washing soda i will get 4 buckets full of homemade laundry soap, each giving around 25 washes giving me an average total of 100 washes. Needless to say, i won't be buying laundry soap anymore. It's probably best to add this laundry soap in the drum with the clothes if you have a front loader like i do, i found that there was some left in the drawer of my machine.
I'm also using the washing soda to wash my dishes, reducing my packaging further. 1 tbsp is enough for a sink full of water. I'm having a hard time convincing my husband that he doesn't need bubbles to get the dishes clean though. To try to combat this i have poured some of the washing soda into an old jar and put in a spoon with a label saying '1TBSP ONLY', i wonder if it will work?

May 5, 2007


In terms of the enviroment - one the big "R's" is re-use, right? Well, Heather informed us about Wendy's brainchild swaporamarama - an event where you bring a bag of clothes + a small donation - and walk out with a "new" pile of clothes [take as little or as much as you want]! What's really great is that there's a bunch of cool workshops too. You can fix, embroider, embellish, re-fashion, re-tool, etc. any of your finds with the help of local artisans.

For those of you in the Bay Area - swaporamarama is going to be part of the MAKER FAIR at the San Mateo Fairgrounds MAY 19th & 20th. You can get advance tix here .

If you want to know of upcoming swaporamarama events check here. If you want to particpate, find out how here . Swaporamarama happens all over the place [Vancouver, Boston, Portland, New York, Durham] so find one or start one near you.

May 1, 2007

green toes

yes summer is just around the corner in the land of the flipflop. and that means that my toes will be leaving the safety and coverage of my sneakers for a bit of fresh air. i had never had a pedicure before i moved to l.a. and over the first few years visited a salon with some frequency. i chose one with good ventilation. the smell in many bothered me so. then i got pregnant. and the smell - even in this well ventilated space - was more than i could bear. (yes, the products are dangerous for the client, but think about the effects of levels encountered by the technician too!) pregnancy also got me reading more and more about the effects of various chemicals on my body - and in turn on my babe. phalates, toluene, formaldehyde... i had no idea that there was so much bad stuff in that little bottle of red polish. (ms. pea's post below covers so much of this so well.) i stopped with the pedicures. (heck, i couldn't see my toes anyway!)

there are few options for a "green" (and safe) pedicure. a seemingly small number of spas are pioneering new practices. (priti even has their own line of nail products.) and some companies are slowly making the necessary changes to their products. (though even with the removal of banned chemicals, many others remain. think about opi's 52 ingredients to honeybee gardens' 8!) for me, i've chosen the diy approach, and will take the matter into my own hands. (or feet as the case may be.) i have searched the web for the safest options. after some research at skindeep, the campaign for safe cosmetics, and the guide to less toxic products, i have ordered some polishes and enlisted my honey to help me out. (i have promised him a footrub in return.) (i love the one-stop nature of greenhands but have yet to find an equivalent closer to home.) flipflops here i come...i'm thinking rockstar. or maybe even applegreen. will get you a review soon. (any other suggested brands?)

(oh! and please don't forget - you cannot throw those half-empty bottles of nasty polish into the trash! what hurts you will also hurt our environment. please contact your local waste management authority for safe and proper disposal.)