Sunday, July 27, 2014

Upcycling FO and UFO

Rotating the dining table 90 degrees did wonders for the usability and ambience of my apartment. Now I look out the patio window at the flatirons when I eat instead of at a wall.

Moreover, I can easily reach my cutting supplies and place them on the table.  I can walk around three sides of the table when laying out and cutting fabric.  I can even take advantage of the more comfortable height of the kitchen peninsula for smaller projects.

My iron puts out a lot of heat and steam.  That's great for pressing, but not so great for the temperature of my living room.  But, I sew next to a patio door leading to a balcony.  How about putting the ironing board on the balcony so the excess heat goes outside?  I'm very proud of my thermodynamic thinking.

Rearrangement has done wonders for my sewing mojo.

First, a little backstory.  Our family shares just one laundry bag on our travels.  When Iris went away to camp, she and I fought over the laundry bag.  Clearly, I needed to make a second one for Colorado.

Before leaving Boulder for my last California visit, I refashioned one of Bad Dad's old oxford shirts into a laundry bag.  I supplemented the shirt body with blue cotton that I found at SAS Fabrics.  The blue fabric had suffered sun damage (fading) along some folded edges.  That's why it ended up being sold by the pound at an odd-jobber.

I thought it would be fine as a quilt back, especially for less than $1/yard.  However, it went perfectly with the old shirt so it became a laundry bag and two pillowcases (not pictured) instead.  There is still enough leftover to back a baby quilt or wall hanging.

I couldn't find any cord locks in my sewing notions cabinet (blue drawer thingy in the photo). I couldn't find any in my sewing room in LA either, but at least I found nylon cord for the drawstring. I recall seeing a jar of cord locks at the Boulder Army Store so I purchased two on my epic cycling errand run (separate post) yesterday.

Did I mention that one of the finest yarn stores in the US is across the street from my apartment complex? Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins ( > 8,000 sf of store and classroom space!) used to be one of my must stops on each Boulder visit, and now it's a cool and friendly neighborhood place to drop in to knit and chat when my apartment is too hot.  (Bonus, it's upstairs from the Boulder Map Gallery--a fantastic place to get books, maps and advice for your outdoor adventures.)

In addition to a huge selection of yarns from most major manufacturers and several small local hand-dyers, SSS sells mill overstock yarns, suitable for weaving and knitting, for ~$8-10 per one pound cone.  After you finish your project, you can sell back the leftover unused yarn on the cone for store credit.  I purchased two cones of this Aran gauge cotton, but it looks like one cone will be sufficient.  That means this cardigan will cost me all of $8.


You may recognize the sweater pattern that I knit previously here and here.  1.5 sleeves are done and I hope to debut a cardigan and matching top (made from another recycled shirt) soon.

Why the obsession with upcycling/recycling/reuse?

It occurred to me that I haven't explained recently why I go through the bother of sourcing and using so much recycled textiles even though I can afford to buy new stuff.  If you started reading this blog after the Wardrobe Refashion project ended, you may not have read my Wardrobe Refashion series in which I talk about the environmental impact and ethics of clothing and textiles.

When I had very little money, I used to buy remnants of fine fabrics or used clothing as sewing material rather than buy the poorer quality things normally available to someone on my budget.  When I had more money, I found myself confronting the consequences of consuming too much.  Most people are blissfully unaware, but I am a scientist and I really ought to know better.

Anyway, just as I am not a total vegetarian, I do not completely eschew buying new things.  However, I do try to source used or preconsumer waste materials first before shopping new.

Carolyn expressed surprise that the fabric on my planetary t-shirt survived for a third life.  Alas, it has developed so many holes, I stopped counting or wearing it outside of the house.  Reusing textiles is not the most efficient use of my time, but I think of it as experimental research!

How to harvest materials from a men's dress shirt

  • There are many approaches but this is mine
  • Cut off the buttons and save for other projects.  I hardly ever purchase new buttons now because I have such a large stash.
  • Cut off the collar, which is usually frayed.  I'm saving collars to make a cute bag that I saw in a Japanese pattern book.  I have nearly enough.
  • Cut off the sleeves.
  • Cut the cuffs off the sleeves (if they are not too worn).  They make cute embellishments.
  • For this bag, I cut the shirt body straight across at the armholes and bottom.  For other shirt refashions, I used most of the shirt body.
  • Sleeves can yield bias strips for binding edges.
  • All non-usable fabric scraps are placed in a basket for use instead of paper towels for messy cleanup jobs around the house.
  • T-shirts can be doubled and turned into thick reusable rags.

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