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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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Lawrence Top Tester Recap

I wanted to put together a special post to highlight my testers final garments. I would not have been able to complete the Lawrence Top sewing pattern without their wonderful help. I really enjoyed working with these women and seeing their finished garments makes me very happy. Thank you again for all your help!

What is great about the pattern is it’s versatility; not only in how you wear the garment, but also how it can work with different types and sizes of fabric. Seeing all the tester versions next to each other really highlights how flexible this pattern is.


Andrea made View B in a lightweight viscose from her stash. Due to the size of the fabric, she didn’t make the low/high hemline. She also used a different piece of lightweight fabric for the interior yoke. Both of these mods are great places to change up the pattern if you have less fabric than recommended. If you click through on her post, you can see her pattern pieces all cut and laid out, along with the very minimal waste she has when finished.


Eli made View A in a more structured gingham cotton. I love how she styled the top in a variety of ways; over jeans, layered with a cozy scarf, and open as a jacket/cardigan. I really enjoy wearing oversized button-up shirts over tank tops, so this will definitely be my go to way to wear the tunic this spring.


Sarah made View A in viscose rayon. She used a wide cut of fabric and was able to lay out her pattern pieces with the fabric grain, as apposed to cross-grain that the pattern calls for. The top is wonderfully drapey and looks good open or closed.


Rebecca made View A in a crisp, white linen. Rebecca styles the tunic with and without a turtleneck showing that the top can be worn throughout many seasons. Rebecca has plans to make another tunic, but making it a bit narrower by adjusting the width of the front and back panels. She also mentioned the idea of modding the pattern into a dress and now I’ve been thinking about ways to make one for myself.


Rose made View B out of a beautiful piece of linen. She made size 2 as her bust size fits right on the lower end of the size range. I love how she styled the cropped top with cozy linen pants. I can’t wait to see her tunic version.


Michelle (@zoetemeyer) made View A in a drapey rayon. Due to the size of fabric she had, she rearranged the pattern pieces and ended up making a longer, narrower version of the top, with a low/high split hemline. She also omitted the seam facing details and instead used this leftover fabric to test her buttonholes. It’s nice to see how she took the pattern pieces and moved them all around the fabric she had to make it work.


Elana (@the_solstice_studio) made a View B of the top. She had a lot of wonderful ideas to mod/hack the pattern: “I thought of a number of ways to use excess fabric or mistakes to keep the top zero waste including ruffles, a tied bow at the front, sleeve details, making an even longer top that’s actually a dress (I fantasized about a dress version of option B the entire time I worked on it, cinched at the waist with a ribbon made from excess fabric or a belt), or even longer sleeves for a winter version of option B.”


Thank you again to my testers! I hope seeing these finished tops gives everyone some inspiration and I look forward to seeing many more finished Lawrence Tops. I would love to see not only your finished garment, but also your process – post on Instagram using #zwlawrencetop and #goldfinchlimited.

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Lawrence Top – Side Seam Facings for View B

During the testing phase for the Lawrence Top a few people suggested that I include photos to show how the side seam facings are sewn. This is a technique that is not used often so there is not a ton of visual reference to be found.

I photographed a step-by-step tutorial to show how the side seams facings are sewn into the top. While this tutorial is specific to View B, the concept can be applied to the single seam facing for View A.

While designing the Lawrence Top, I wanted to find uses for all the fabric cutoffs to make the design zero waste. The neckline cutouts are perfect for seam facings and create a nice finished look. For View B of the top, the split seams required 2 sets of facings. While working through the pattern piece layout I needed to plan accordingly to accommodate for both sets of facings.

Originally, I had planned for two sets of triangles to be the seam facings at the split seam. During my testing, I discovered that my triangles for the second set of seam facings were not mirrored images of themselves like facings created from the neckline cutout. This created a problem if you are using a fabric that has a definite “right” and “wrong” side. So I adjusted and made the facings into rectangles. In the end, it creates an interesting design detail and finishes the seams nicely.

I hope this tutorial is helpful when putting in the side seam facings. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have further questions –  emily@goldfinch.limited

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Introducing the Lawrence Top

I’m very excited to introduce you to the Lawrence Top, a zero waste PDF sewing pattern. The Lawrence Top comes in two different views. View A is a tunic length top with 3/4 length sleeves and inseam pockets. View B is a cropped top with a low/high hem, short sleeves and patch pockets. The top is designed to have an oversized fit and comes in two size ranges.

Size 1 has a finished bust circumference of 58″/147cm and is intended to fit bust of 32″-44″/81cm-112cm.

Size 2 has a finished bust circumference of 70″/178cm and is intended to fit a bust of 46″-56″/117cm-142cm.

The inspiration for the Lawrence Top began with a thrifted ready-to-wear top that I picked up a few years ago. The shirt is a short sleeved, button up tunic with a large overlapping pleat in the back. While the shirt is not necessarily ground breaking in style, it is definitely a staple in my wardrobe. I love how easy it is to wear a variety of ways.

I’ve been dreaming of ways to recreate this top and I knew I wanted to include a yoke and pleats, but I also wanted pockets and some sleeve options. Most of these thoughts stayed in my head for quite awhile. Ideas and thoughts about pleat placement, etc. would come to me at random, but acting on these ideas took some time.

After seeing some examples of zero waste sewing patterns, I finally took the plunge and got to work on my own design. When I started the process, I decided on a fabric size to be the base of the design. I wanted to use a fabric size that was a standard width and length, but I also wanted the design to be flexible enough to work even if the fabric dimensions were off by a few inches/cm.

Much of the design process involved moving and adjusting the puzzle pieces to fit within the fabric dimensions. I began to see the pattern as more of a concept, or a formula, that could be changed and adjusted to meet the sewist needs. Do you want it smaller or bigger? Longer or shorter? Not a problem – some quick adjustments to the fabric dimensions and you can make a garment that suits your needs. Throughout the pattern, I hope to provide the tools necessary to make any needed changes.

The pattern is different than your typical home sewing pattern. The pattern is based on only squares, rectangles and triangles. The cutlines are be drawn directly on the fabric using the provided pattern layout and dimensions. Printing out pattern pieces is not required for this process so there is no paper waste or taping required.

The Lawrence Top is designed to be zero waste, meaning all of the required fabric is used. This is achieved by using the cutoffs to create interesting finishing details. The neckline cutouts become a yoke facing, a hang loop and seam facings. While these details are technically optional, they lend to a nicely finished garment.

Detail of yoke facing and hang loop

While designing the Lawrence Top, I thought about different ways it could be worn throughout the seasons and in various ways in your wardrobe. The tunic can be worn with leggings or jeans, open as a cardigan, or over a turtleneck. The cropped top can be worn with high waisted pants and skirts, over a dress, with a cardigan, or over a turtleneck. There are many possibilities to make each top wearable in a variety of ways.

Over the next few months I have plans to show you a few ways the pattern can be hacked, along with additional ways to style the Lawrence Top. My hope is that this top brings many options and creativity to your closet.

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Growing Color: My First Dye Garden

Freshly planted marigolds

With the gardening season coming to a close, I want to take some time to look back on my first attempt at growing my own natural dyes. We have limited space and my thumb is not very green, so when I began thinking about planting a dye garden I knew I needed to keep it simple. I selected a couple dye plants based on the colors that I was hoping to achieve and how hardy they were.  I decided to start with marigolds, dyer’s coreopsis, and hopi black dye sunflowers. I purchased my marigolds at the nursery already started and I bought the dyer’s coreopsis and hopi black dye sunflower seeds from bedheadfiber.com.

Throughout the summer, with the help of my husband and kids, I was able to keep these flowers alive. We also grew some vegetables and the kids love picking fresh carrots and watching the plants grow and develop over the course of the season.

Every other evening we would pop the dyer’s coreopsis flower heads off the plant and strip the petals into a bowl. By the next day there would be a whole new crop of bright, yellow flowers to pick. The petals were left to dry out overnight and now I have a large jar of color just waiting to be used all winter. I also collected seeds from some of the flowers with hopes that next summer they will develop.

I collected the marigolds as they died and let them dry out as well. Next year I would love to make a marigold garland. This seems like a beautiful way to collect and let the flowers dry out. I would also like to try another variety of marigolds, but I’m undecided about which one yet.

As for the hopi black dye sunflowers, they were a bit slow to start and I wasn’t sure if they were going to produce any flowers. Sure enough they grew and grew and flowers began to emerge. They did not get as tall as I have seen and the heads were only about the size of both of my fist, but they were beautiful. Once the heads died, I cut them off the stalk and let them dry out a bit. Then I harvested the seeds into a bowl to let them further dry out. I haven’t done any experimenting with them yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing what colors can be achieved.

Once again, growing a garden has taught me to be more patient; to be mindful and intentional in the hopes of getting something that will serve me well in the future. I am very much looking forward to using all the color that we collected this summer throughout the winter. Next summer, I have hopes to add a couple more dye plants to our garden. I would love to try pin cushions, goldenrod, and indigo. I’m sure come April, when I’m ready to see green again, I will have a long list that I will need to edit back in order to fit it all in.

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Out and About

Happy Friday! It’s been a whirlwind of a week with little sleep. I have been doing a lots of knitting (see above walk with kiddos…having knitting will travel, right?) and planning for future dye projects, but don’t have much to share at the moment. Teething baby has left me with lots of nursing time and I have been reading and researching during much of that time. I’ve been coming across and collecting articles and links related to sustainability and the fashion industry. So I thought I would compile a list regularly for you to peruse at your leisure. I don’t want to limit this collection to sustainability and fashion, but also include natural dyeing, small business development, mindfulness, etc. If you find anything around the web that might be of interest please hit me up at emily@goldfinch.limited.

  • Fabric made from wood – This sounds very interesting; especially the potential of a closed loop system. I wonder how it would take natural dyes?
  • Fast fashion = modern-day slavery – It’s so easy to look over and not think about and I know there are many layers and facets, but it’s something that needs to start being talked about more.
  • A sustainable vision for fast-fashion? – This article really breaks down the emergence of fast fashion and it’s environmental and social impacts. It discusses ways some of the fast fashion companies are attempting to reduce and improve these impacts.
  • Way to go Columbia – ReThreads: Clothing Recycling Program
  • EF Renew – A take-back program that uses damaged and unwanted Eileen Fisher and turns them into new garments.
  • More ways to avocado pits – This makes me wonder if you could still use them to dye with after making broth and/or if you will have pink soup.

Enjoy and I hope everyone has a good weekend!

 

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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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Focus 2018

With the New Year fast approaching, I have been thinking about all the endless possibilities 2018 has to offer. 2017 has been both very joyful and very difficult. Looking back of course the joy totally overrode the difficult, but I’m very much looking forward to new beginnings.

I’m not one for resolutions, but I do like the idea of a word to help guide your intentions for the year. My word for 2018 is focus. I feel like I have a million ideas and goals in my brain, but sometimes that just leads to an overwhelming feeling. I want to focus more directly on how to achieve my goals and not let the extra stuff get in the way. Focus on my direction and my family’s and no one else’s.

Some of this means trying out new tools, like a bullet journal to help record and plan my thoughts. I’m just starting this and I already feel like it could be very helpful to my sometimes scattered mom brain. Although I have to be careful not to fall down the hole of feeling like the journal needs to be something fancy. It’s a tool to help make my work fancy.

I also want to put myself and my work out in the world more. I would like to be able to participate is a few local artist/craft fairs. Many of them are juried and the thought of being judged has me a little nervous. Putting yourself out there is hard, but I’m looking forward to focusing on my goals and not my nervousness to achieve those goals.

Sometimes the day to day of trying to get everyone feed and clothes clean, etc makes it hard to focus on the extras. I need to remember the little pockets of time that add up. Knit a few rows here, sew a few seams there. It all adds up. By having a more focused list I can get more done in the little pockets of time because (hopefully anyway) I’m not flitting around trying to figure out what to do with my little bit of time.

With that thought, I can hear my kids starting to wake up. Time to get focused!

Do you have choose a word to help guide your intentions? What are you looking forward to most about the New Year?

Happy New Year!