Finished Project: Green Heart Brown Batik Print Tote Bag

Hi friends!

Got another finished project for y’all today. I’ve been on a tote-bag-making streak lately, partly because I’ve been making a bunch for my Etsy site, The Delicate Tension. It’s totes amazing….(I mean, c’mon, how could I let that one just slip by??)

Behold!
Behold!

The fabric the tote bag is made from is very special to me. I bought it almost ten years ago when I spent three months in Monrovia, Liberia in West Africa. Working on a hospital ship for three months was a profound and beautiful experience for me, and dramatically increased the worldview of my 19 year-old self. See pictures below:

Ahh, sweet memories. Anyways, the fabric I bought was from a local market and I had a purse made out of it. I had tons leftover, and I’ve kept the rest of it for years, waiting to figure out what to do with it. I finally decided that reusable market bags would be just the thing 🙂

These bags are pretty simple to make, so I’ll give you a quick overview if you’ve got a sewing machine, some ambition, and want to make reusable shopping or tote bags for grocery shopping, beach adventures or whatever tickles your fancy. These measurements are flexible, and if you want a bigger or smaller bag, you can definitely make your way ;-). I fully lined this bag for a little extra hold, but you certainly don’t have to do that if you want to save on time. And now, on to the bag!

First, I folded my fabric in half and cut a piece that was 16 inches in length and 19 inches in height:

 

Le fold
Le fold

Then, I used my serger to serge two of the open edges together, leaving the third open. If you don’t have a serger, a French seam would be a great alternative. There’s a great tutorial here.

 

This machine makes me soo happy. 
This machine makes me soo happy. 

Then, I pinched out the bottom two corners until they formed a triangle. I then serged across those triangles to create a boxy shape for the bottom of the bag:

 

I tried to line up my seams to keep it as even as possible. 
I tried to line up my seams to keep it as even as possible. 

I did this a second time to create a lining for the bag from the same fabric. Next I cut two strips 23 inches long by 4 inches wide for the straps. I serged each strip wrong sides together, and then flipped them inside out to hide the seams, and press the straps flat:

 

Here’s the slightly tricky part: Leave the outer fabric inside out but turn the lining fabric right sides out. Put the lining down inside the outer bag. Insert the strips in between the two layers of fabric, pin, and stitch almost all the way around, leaving a three inch opening:

 

Once you’ve sewed the edges, leaving a small opening, remove the pins and flip both pieces of fabric inside out. Push the inner lining into the outer fabric. Press the seam line nice and flat, then topstitch (stitch very close to the edge of the fabric) all the way around the top of the bag. This will close the opening that you used to turn the bag. I topstitched twice around because I like the way it looks. Then, voila! A new bag all ready to go:

 

Ta-da!
Ta-da!

If you don’t have a sewing machine, I have a few more bags like this with some pizzazz in my Etsy shop, but more on that project soon. If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging on with me! Have a wonderful holiday weekend, friends!

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It’s a Joy-ful Halloween: My Recycled Halloween Costume

 

Sustainable fashion in costume form!
Sustainable fashion in costume form!

Hi friends!

Happy day-after-Halloween! I hope you all had a safe and fun day, and partied late into the night. I love so many things about Halloween – the candy, the parties with friends, the candy, Halloween movies, the candy (ahem)…..However I especially love the fact that it’s socially acceptable to wear full out, ridiculous costumes in public for one night. I think I saw a giraffe, Poison Ivy, and Marty McFly walking down the street together last night while a vampire flew past on a skateboard. Pure magic.

Halloween is also one of the worst days for sustainable fashion. The dropping prices of clothing, and specifically, Halloween costumes, means that more people are spending money on cheaply made costumes that will be worn for one night and then thrown away. And that process will be repeated year in and year out. This year, the UK is expected to spend £157 million on costumes, while the US is projected to spend close to $2.6 billion. And most of that revenue will eventually end up somewhere like this:

Clothing landfill
Photo from Fashion with a Mission.

So in light of all that, I wanted a costume that I could make from thrift store items and still expressed my creativity. I decided on Joy from Inside Out because (a) that movie made me sob unashamedly in a movie theater and (b) Amy Poehler is my spirit animal. Plus, Joy is so cute and fun!

Joy from Inside Out Costume
So cute!

I found an amazing tutorial from coolirpa on Youtube for making Joy’s dress from T-shirts she found at the thrift store. Check it out here! It was a pretty easy make. First, you cut off the arms and neckline of a T-shirt, fit it to your sides and cut it at the waist. Then, cut the arms and neckline off the other shirts, sew them together to create a long piece of fabric, and cut out a 3/4 circle skirt based on your body measurements. Sew those pieces together and attach it to the bodice. The video explains it all really well. At that point you have something like this:

Ta-da!
Ta-da!

At which point you are ready to start adding the starbursts on Joy’s dress. I used puffy paint and glitter, which means that my floor is now covered in glitter and will be for all eternity. Because glitter is like a bad guest – it just won’t leave.

The Addams Family and costuming = bliss.
The Addams Family and costuming = bliss.

I used a bobbin as a reference point for the starbursts and drew them freehand. Below is the front side waiting to dry:

Le front!
Le front!

After you let the front dry and do the same process on the back, you have a finished costume!

My Joy pose
My Joy pose
With several other party goers.
With several other party goers.
There was a Leslie Knope too!
There was a Leslie Knope too!

So there you have it – a costume for Halloween that is sustainable and fun. Have an amazing Sunday friends!

Finished: Floral Maxi Dress McCall’s M7121

Floral Maxi Dress McCall's M7121

Hey friends!

It’s a beautiful Saturday here in Chicago. I hope you are enjoying the bright sun and crisp fall air wherever you are. I, on the other hand, have been laid out sick this weekend. I don’t know if it’s the flu or what, but my roommate and I have been laid out on the couches, groaning and praying for the end to come swiftly. We make quite the pair. Don’t you wish you were here?? Huh??

Anyways, I’ll spare you the details of my weekend stuck indoors (seriously, is there anything worse than that when it’s beautiful outside?) and instead share some details on a dress I made recently.

Maxi Floral Navy Blue Dress

The pattern is McCall’s M7121, and the intense obsession to make this dress was inspired by MimiG’s review here. The obsession was so encompassing that I probably should’ve picked a different jersey that had a bit more structure to it. But I threw my cares to the wind and jumped in.

McCall's Maxi Dress M7121

I had been wanting to make a long maxi dress for the summer and was pretty swept away by this fabric. It’s a lightweight, mid-stretch jersey that has a beautiful drape to it. I bought three yards but almost didn’t have enough for the pattern to be cut against the grain line like the pattern directed. Hence the awkward placement of the flowers on the bodice.

McCall's M7121 Blue Floral Maxi Dress

McCall's M7121 Blue Floral Maxi Dress

I love the cut of the pattern. It’s got a nice v neck in the front and back, and the skirt is cut in such a way as to hang off the body in a flattering way. Plus it’s super quick and easy to sew, (only 4 pattern pieces) and sometimes you just need some quick satisfaction, right??

McCall's M7121 Navy Blue Maxi Dress

In a few of these pictures, the back bodice has an unsightly bulge, but that’s just the way I’m standing. I also did a photo shoot a few weeks back in this dress with a friend of mine who is an amazing photographer. Check out his website here, and below are some pictures from that shoot. I’m off to drench myself in more tea and soup. Have an amazing day friends, and be well!

Thanks Josh!
Thanks Josh!

McCalls M7121 Blue Maxi Dress

McCall's M7121 Blue Maxi Dress

Finished: Red Refashioned Tablecloth Dress and BONUS: Tips for Taking Better Pictures

Hey friends!

Red Upcycled Pattern Runway Dress

I’m generally not a fan of getting my picture taken. It seems like there’s always something off about any picture that I’m a part of. It’s a great photo, full of smiles, coy laughter, then BOOM – I jump in and it’s all half-shut eyes, weird crinkles of skin, and crazy hand motions. I exaggerate (only a smidge) but I’ve always been self-conscious in front of the camera. It’s just not my scene. I’m all, “What do I do with my hands?” and “Why do my eyes have to be open?” You may think the photos I take for this blog are ok, but you haven’t seen what doesn’t make it on here.

Which leads me into today’s post. As I was editing photos of today’s dress, I realized something – I actually like a lot of these pictures. I mean, I actually feel pretty positive feelings towards these pictures. Which got me thinking about why I liked these pictures and I realized it came down to two things:

My Quick Tips for Better Photos:

  1. Get a good photographer – My roommate generously takes most of my pictures and she’s one of the funniest people I know. She makes me feel comfortable, relaxed, and gets a genuine smile out of me. So find someone you don’t mind looking like a fool around.
  2. Take more pictures – When we take one photo of our selves every hundred millenia, it’s easy to judge your picture-taking ability by that one picture. But when you take lots and lots of pictures, you realize that some just turn out better than others, and it has nothing to do with you. So even if it’s uncomfortable and awkward and makes you want to scream, just try it.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on to the dress! Disclaimer: There will be lots of pictures in today’s post. Bonus to the disclaimer: I’m going to throw in some terrible pictures of me at the end.

Red Upcycled Pattern Runway Dress

I made this dress from an old tablecloth I found in the recycle bin at a former job. We hosted lots of events and one of the vendors had left a lot of stuff behind. Score! My boss thought I was totally weird to take it for clothes making. Which may be true, but also YOLO.

Red Upcycled Pattern Runway Dress

Red Upcycled Pattern Runway Dress

The bodice is from the Gathered Sundress pattern by Pattern Runway. It’s one of the first patterns I ever bought, and also one of the first to fit me relatively well. If I use this pattern again, I think I’ll shorten the back pieces by half an inch to take out some of the excess fabric in the back. But beginner sewist me didn’t know about things like fit. I generally really like the fit and style. The skirt is a self-drafted full circle skirt. Which gives it a lovely twirl.

Red Upcycled Pattern Runway Dress

Red Upcycled Pattern Runway Dress

Still twirling!
Still twirling!
Annnnd stop.
Annnnd stop.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with this dress. Most of it is handpicked, including the zipper and the hem. It’s the best way I’ve found thus far to get a beautiful, clean zipper. But very time consuming. Anyway, it seemed to work well on this heavier weight polyester fabric.

Le front.
Le front.
Le back
Le back- look at that handpicked goodness!
Le inside
Le inside

And as promised, if you’re still reading, here are some bad pictures from this photo shoot. Proof that it happens to everyone! Until next time, have a fabulous weekend!

Pulling weirdly at the dress
Pulling weirdly at the dress
Oof, that face!
Oof, that face!

 

Resources for Sustainable, Organic Fabric

Hi friends! Today is all about sustainable and organic fabric options for the consciously minded sewist. In my quest for a handmade, ethically sourced wardrobe, it’s been difficult to find fabric manufacturers that are well known and also conscious of how their fabric is made. Part of the issue with the clothing industry is not just who makes the clothes and how they are treated, but what fabrics are used and how those fabrics are processed. For example, did you know that cotton is one of the dirtiest crops on the planet? And not in a Christina-Aguilera-music-video kinda way. I’ve had to do some searching to find sustainable, organic fabric, and even then my options are limited.

Sustainable, Organic fabric

Obviously, one of the best ways to acquire sustainable clothing is hand-me-downs, clothing swaps, or the thrift store. I’m all for that, and I’ll do plenty of re-fashioning on this blog, don’t you worry. But sometimes a girl just wants some brand new, shiny fabric to make something and indulge her creative process, amirite? So cultivating a list of places that will indulge my creative urgings while also satisfying my need sustainability sounds like a win-win to me.

This is a list I hope to keep updating and expanding as I learn of more companies who are purposeful in their ethical business practices, so feel free to share any that I don’t have listed here. The more, the better, in my opinion!

Sustainable, Organic Fabric Resources:

  • Organic Cotton Plus – They have a beautiful selection of organic cotton fabrics from muslins to voiles to sateens. I used one of their navy cotton sateens to make this version of the Anna dress from By Hand London.
  • Fabric Worm – They have tons of organic cotton fabric for quilting and other craft products. I think they are geared towards quilting more than garment sewing, but nevertheless a good resource to have.
  • Honey Be Good – This online fabric store sells fabric from a variety of merchants, and even sells organic cotton batting and thread!
  • Cedar House Fabrics – Another online store that sells fabric from a variety of organic cotton merchants. Ships internationally!
  • Stork and Me – This Etsy shop has tons of organic fabrics for baby blankets, quilts, knits and more. Great selection and great seller ratings.
  • Birch Fabrics – This vendor has a great selection of knit and woven fabrics in fun colors and prints.
  • Mood Fabrics – I add this with a caveat – many of the fabrics from Mood, although I totally love their selection, are not organic. However, they do sell some organic cotton, hemp, and raw silk. If you are looking for their eco-conscious items, search “organic” in the search bar, and that should narrow down the selection a bit.
  • Spoonflower – Spoonflower prints fabrics on demand using eco friendly dyes. They print the exact amount of fabric needed, so there is little wasted fabric or dye.
  • Pick Natural – This site sells organic cotton, linen, and hemp fabrics. There is a minimum order of 10 yards, so it’s best for larger projects.
  • Donna Flower – An online store specializing in antique, vintage or retro fabrics. A great way to add a blast from the past to any project.
  • Revival Fabrics – Another online retailer that sells mint condition vintage fabric from the 1920’s through the 1970’s.
  • Retro Age Vintage Fabrics – An Australian shop which offers a range of beautiful and eclectic vintage fabric. They sell all types of varieties from sheeting to sateen.

I’m looking forward to sifting through these retailers to see what goodies I can come up with. What organic or sustainable fabric retailers do you know that aren’t on this list?

 

Sweatshop: A Mini-series

Hi friends,

One of my goals with this blog is to provide resources for empowering you to make informed and conscious decisions about your clothing and fabric purchases. So I will occasionally post documentaries, blogs, articles and other resources that I think are helpful or informative. I want to start out with a Norwegian mini-series called Sweatshop: Dead Cheap Fashion. It aired back in January and provides powerful insight into the fast fashion industry.

Three young Norwegian fashion bloggers travel to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to experience first-hand what life is really like for those who work in the textile and garment industry there.

There are five episodes, linked below, as well as the trailer for the series:

Episode 1     Episode 2     Episode 3     Episode 4     Episode 5