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Scrap Happy

Over the past couple of years I have collected a vast amount of scrap fabric; both from my own personal sewing and from small, sustainable clothing brands. I have big dreams for many of these bits, but I haven’t been putting the attention I need into using them. They are taking up space in our little house and I want to start actively using them, not just dreaming about the possibilities. When I originally began collecting these fabric scraps and cutoffs, my goal was to make various products to sell in my shop and at craft markets. Due to many factors, I have not been participating in markets and decided to shift the focus of my work. So now I have a ton of scraps and a long list of personal projects I want to work on.

At first, I had hoped to come up with some new and interesting ideas to use the scraps, but through my research, I have found tutorial after tutorial on how to make scrunchies and zipper pouches; nothing too new or exciting. I decided that I would like to approach my scrap projects from a different angle; not a tutorial, but more inspiration to get your scraps out and make something useful. My goal is to work on a scrap project at least once a month and document it. I’m excited about putting some direct focus into using these scraps as there some items I’m really looking forward to making.

My first project is a water bottle carrier. While taking a walk one evening, my partner mentioned that he had seen a water bottle carrier at the co-op made from parachute fabric. I instantly thought that I should make one for our walks. I am notorious for forgetting water when we head out on a walk. Sometimes we take a wagon to carry extra stuff, but many times we head out on a quick walk to the lake and we don’t want to bring the wagon along. And more often than not, I end up carrying my 3-year-old home on my shoulders so having to carry a water bottle also is something I just never want to do.

I received some upcycled cotton canvas from Summer at Tiger Owl and I have been hoarding it waiting for the right project. This water bottle carrier seemed like the perfect place to use some of it because it’s sturdy and I love the little speckles of color throughout the neutral canvas. I decided to make a simple, lined box bottom bag to the dimensions of the water bottle we use most. I added a pocket on the exterior just in case I don’t have pockets in my clothes that day and an adjustable strap.

I’m very pleased with the end product. It is so easy to throw this carrier over my shoulder and head outside. While I haven’t used it a ton yet, it seems like it will be easier for me to remember to bring along and much easier to adventure when I have both hands at the ready.

I’m looking forward to working my way through my scrap project list. This water bottle carrier was a nice challenge and distraction from the pattern that I am currently working on. I hope that making some dedicated time for personal, fun projects will give me some time to clear my brain and a chance to be extra creative. Do you have any scrap projects you are working on or dreaming about? I would love to hear about them!

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Hack: Patchy Cropped Lawrence Top

When my friend Jamie (@reclaimedcraft) asked if I was interested in some fabric cutoffs from her time working at Elizabeth Suzann, I jumped at the chance. I have a never-ending supply of fabric scraps, but the opportunity to use high-quality fabric is hard for me to turn down. I have a couple of idea swimming through my head of what I will be doing with these scraps, but my first desire was to create a patchy, cropped Lawrence Top.

Upon opening the boxes of scraps, I was immediately drawn to the olive linen. I had visions of a monochromatic top with a few pops of contrast. The navy linen was the perfect pairing with the olive. I began by sorting and ironing out the scraps. The next step was to straighten all the edges. In the past, I have tried to work the various curves and diagonal cuts into the finished whole cloth, but for this project, I wanted to work with only the straight lines. I now have a pile of smaller cutoffs, but I have a few ideas running through my head about what to do with those.

Once the fabric had been prepped, the fun part could begin. Based on the amount of scraps I had, I decided to make some changes to a few elements of the design. First, I used a large inverted box pleat on the back panel instead of smaller pleats or gathers. When working with all the seams of the patchwork, it can sometimes be a little tricky to get the fabric to drape well so I wanted to eliminate a bunch of pleats/gathers that might interfere with how the fabric hangs. I also decided to anchor the pleat 1″ down from the yoke to create a more dramatic effect.

For the front panels, I decided to make them the same width as the yoke and eliminate the pleats/gather all together. There is still plenty of ease for me, but if I had been making the tunic version I probably would have stuck to the original dimensions. The only other change that I made to the pattern was using snaps instead of buttons. I really like that clean finish of the button band. Once you have an understanding of how the pieces come together, it is easy to make adjustments that work for your body and the fabric you have.

The process of piecing the fabric together is simple but does take some time. Once I got into a rhythm, it went pretty quickly. I find that it is helpful to layout some fabric pieces and have a general idea of how one section might go together. For example, if I know I need to have a finished piece of 12″ X 22″, I will see what pieces I have that fit within those dimensions and see how they layout. I attempt to have a bit of a game plan before I get sewing.

To begin the patchwork, I first sew my fabric pieces together and trim any excess fabric. I then finish the raw edge with a zigzag stitch. Next, press the seam to one side and topstitch the seam in place. I continue on like this, building the piece of fabric to the desired dimensions. Once I have the size I need, I treat it just like a pattern piece and sew everything together.

Working through this process is time-consuming, but also very rewarding. This top was created from waste and it feels good to be able to make something fun and beautiful with these leftovers. By using the Lawrence Top pattern as a guide, I hope to make more patchwork tops – maybe something with more color/pattern mixing.

Thank you again, Jamie, for taking the time to save the scraps, sort them and send them my way. If you have any questions about this process or the pattern please don’t hesitate to email me – emily@goldfinch.limited. If you try this process or any other hacks, I would love to see your final top. Email me photos or post on Instagram using #zwlawrencetop and #goldfinchlimited.

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Experiments with Painting Fabric

Lately I’ve been intrigued by the idea of painting with natural dyes. My hope and vision is to use natural color to create unique painted fabric using upcycled cloth. I’ve tried working with iron water as color modifier to paint patterns on naturally dyed fabric, but I have not been very successful. The patterns and colors tend to bleed together too much when washed.

After some initial research in Natural Color by Sasha Duerr, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Promagrenate skin dye was up first. I simmered the skins on and off for a day. After straining the liquid from the pulp, I reduced the liquid dye by simmering it again for about an hour. Then I added guar gum to thicken up the paint. I also wanted to change up the color so I added iron to half of the paint.

My pomegranate paint was much more orangey, coral color then I thought it would be. I was expecting it to be much more yellow. Once I started painting, I was pleasantly surprised by how the paint turned bright yellow on the fabric. The fabric was mordanted in aluminum acetate. Watching the color change as a reaction to the mordanted fabric gave me a first hand look at how the mordant effects the dye.

Once washed, the iron paint bleed slightly into the original yellow paint, but the integrity of the design stayed. I also splattered lemon juice on some the fabric. The lemon juice acted as bleach on the natural dye so I was left with an interesting effect on the fabric.

To continue with my experiments, I made paint with avocado pits and tea bags. I used the same technique to make the paint as I did with the pomegranate paint. The avocado dye turned out a very pale coral, pink. In the past I have gotten much deeper pinks from avocado pits so I was surprised by the lack of depth to this dye.

Once washed, the color was altered by the iron. I was pleased by the outcome because it darkened the avocado paint.

As I continue to explore this type of textile art, I have been thinking about other effects the dye could have on the fabric. I wonder if different watercolor techniques that work on paper would work on fabric? What about color mixing? Or combining different dying techniques like shibori and painting? Using different color modifiers besides iron? The possibilities do seem endless as there are lots of questions and ways to play with natural color.

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Textile Abundance

It has been said that the textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry. Fast fashion and the desire for “on trend” clothing has doubled the production of clothing over that last 20 years. Many times an article of clothing is worn only 3 or 4 times before it is discarded. The average American consumes 82 pounds of textiles per year and the EPA estimates that textile waste takes up approximately 5% of landfill space. This is discouraging when 95% of textiles can be recycled for other uses; either through second-hand stores or in some new form (pillow stuffing, rags, carpet padding, etc)

There is a huge environmental impact for a single t-shirt. The amount of water used to produce one t-shirt is equivalent to filling 22 bathtubs. That’s a whole lot of water when you realize how much clothing goes unused. Above, you can see just a few of the statistics associated with textile waste. This is only the tip of the iceberg when looking at the problems with the fashion and textile industry.

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Thrifted shirts, cut into pieces to be used for future projects

I have thought a lot about this over the last few months as I have begun trying to create a small business of handmade goods. My focus is to be very intentional about the materials that I use and the products that I make. Through the use of reclaimed materials, I am able to focus on the handmade craft and not the fact that I’m adding one more thing to the over-saturated textile market. With a little bit of creativity and time so much can be found at the thrift store. My goal is to create things that don’t look as if they have been made out of used clothes; transforming the materials into something new and different. My hope is that the end product will be used more and have a longer life than the original piece.

Zippers from thrifted pants

I will not be able to source everything I want to make with materials from the thrift store. When I buy something new I want to try and be responsible about knowing as much as I can about the materials I am purchasing. Is it a 100% natural fiber? Where was it produced and/or grown? How do they treat/pay their employees? I won’t be able to answer all of those questions every time, but making informed choices is a step in the right direction. There are many small companies with a mission to provide quality materials that need support. Through the use of reclaimed materials and responsible brands, I hope to have a small, positive impact on the textile industry and the environment.

Zipper pouches made from upcycled cotton shirts and zippers

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Wren Tunic

The Wren Tunic is my first attempt at knitwear design for little ones. I am very pleased with the outcome and enjoyed the design process very much.

Using the basic pattern for a top down raglan sweater from Fringe Association, I was able to take the basic measurements of a baby/toddler and apply them to my gauge swatch. Then I added feminine detailing to complete the design.

In the near future, I’m hoping to spend some time designing a little toddler vest. I have a vision in my head and I just need to knit it up. I’m looking forward to showing some progress pics on my Instagram account.