reduce, reuse, recycle

reinvention: sewing with rescued materials by maya donenfeld

reinvention

I've had the most calming, centering, beauty-filled book on my bedside table these past few days. It's Maya's creation - Reinvention: Sewing with Rescued Materials, published by Wiley. I'm so happy to kick off Reinvention's blog tour, give you a peek at what's inside, as well as host Maya for a behind-the-scenes chat about the book. Oh! And how could I forget the giveaway! Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of your own, courtesy of Wiley. I'll draw a winner on Friday, May 4th!

Comments are now closed. Congratulations to Emily who won a copy of Reinvention!

reinvention

I whipped up a quick inspiration board, which is one of the projects featured in Reinvention .

I often think of Maya as the Burlap Ambassador - she's the wonder behind the burlap bins and inspiration boards that took the craft and design blogs by storm several years back. She's so much more than that, though - such a kind-hearted, deep feeling and thinking person. She's someone who I really look up to as I navigate the waters of motherhood, and I think you'll feel the same about her, especially after reading her book.

reinvention

reinvention

Me: It's an honor to share this space with you, Maya, to celebrate the release of Reinvention

Maya: I'm so thrilled to have you be the first stop on my tour, Meg. I will always feel that you played an integral part of making this book happen, simply by giving me that sweet nudge that propelled me forward a few years back. It seems quite fitting to have you get the tour ball rolling, and comes as no surprise that you have asked such thoughtful and compelling questions.

reinvention

Me: As I was reading through my copy, taking special care to soak up all of your little stories and peeks into your life that you pepper throughout the book, I was struck by the parallels between your relationship with your mom and your grandparents and your passion for bringing new life to found materials. Your words about them are infused with love and admiration, and you talk about how their creative passions and parenting practices have greatly influenced your own. As I read, I thought to myself, isn't it interesting how we are reinventions of our own parents and grandparents - how we take what they have given us and make it our own, or make something new out of it. Somehow, though, the raw "material" of their love, that which we pass on to our children, stays constant throughout the generations. Can you tell us one of the ways that your are passing on your passion for repurposing to your two children? 

Maya: I absolutely love the image that you paint. Yes, the raw "material" of love is the thread that weaves our family and traditions together. My hope has always been to model a sense of ingenuity and capability for my children. These are the gifts given to me that have served me best. One project that comes to mind instantly with a smile on my face is our aqua scope and the story behind it. When I think of intergenerational gifts, I must include this portable art studio that was inspired by one my grandmother's craft books. Repurposing and recycling are wonderful practices to teach our children, regardless of our backgrounds. Let's make reinventing a part of all of our traditions!

reinvention

reinvention

Me: The organization of Reinvention is so compelling - you offer readers seven commonly found recycled materials, discuss a bit of the history behind each material, and offer tips on sourcing and crafting with each. What really caught my eye was your chapter on working with Tyvek, which is the fabric-like plastic material that is often used in mailers. Tell us how you discovered sewing with used mailers, and what other projects you have used them for. 


Maya: I've always loved sewing with unexpected materials, and Tyvek takes to thread and needle beautifully. I first became intrigued with Tyvek when it landed in my mailbox, and I realized that the only way that I could recycle it was to send it back to its manufacturer. Well, that's a hassle for anyone leading a typical full life. I thought it would be much easier, and definitely more satisfying, to find a new use for it. I squirreled it away until one day when I was looking for an interesting way to package a present.The Tyvek envelope came to mind. After cutting off the top, I stitched some boxed corners on the bottom and turned it inside out. With a simple strap, it was suddenly an indestructible little gift bag that could be used again and again. Easy. I knew that I wanted to incorporate more than the standard recycled fabrics into reinvention. Tyvek is post industrial material needing to be repurposed.

Me: I love how the projects in the book are so useful - you suggest stuffing the wool poufs and the bolster pillow with unused linens, and you designed a genius insulated wool lunch sack. The list goes on and on - these are projects that are, at once, beautiful and utilitarian. Is it something about working with the recycled materials themselves that inspires you to create something useful out of them?

Maya: Thanks, Meg!  I've always been drawn to making things that could be put to work right away. Not that I don't like fun or whimsical, but most of my creating tends to focus on resolving a problem... whether it be storage or not wanting to buy something new that I could actually make.  I always feel more justified in spending the time to create something if it's practical, regardless of the materials I use to construct it. That being said, fabric that has a prior history does feel extra exciting to transform. Making a lunch sack out of sheets of wool would be useful, but reinventing old wool blankets speaks to that resourceful place ingrained in me. There's a universal sense of pride in clever reuse.

Me: My heartfelt thanks for taking the time to stop by and chat about your new book, Maya! 
Maya: Thank YOU, Meg!!
*******************************************************************************************************
Follow along with the blog tour for the next few weeks!
reinvention: sewing with rescued materials blog tour
 
week one
5/2- Craft
 
week two
5/7 Whip Up
5/10 Annekata
 
week three
5/15 Etsy (tuesday tutorial)
5/17 Made

 


the rainbow rug

rainbow rug 1

Looking back, I fully admit that this was one of those crazy pregnancy-induced projects. When else would someone find it necessary to spend weeks braiding, piecing, and sewing a rug for a play room? I can answer that! When that very someone found it INCREDIBLY uncomfortable to sit on the floor due to a burgeoning belly. The piles of t-shirt yarn were strewn across the room, threatening to consume her.

Poor lady. We crafters do the oddest things when we have a goal in mind, don't we?

rainbow rug 2

I must be frank with you. This was not an easy project. Grumbles and sighs could often be heard coming from my sewing studio until late into the night. The braiding was meditative, but coiling it and stitching it together with the correct tension? Oh. My. I can't tell you how many times I had to rip the thing out and start over. Sometimes I would pull too tightly on the coil being attached and the thing would turn into a bowl rather than a rug. At other times, I would have too little tension on the braid, and the rug would ripple and wave. I never seemed to be able to get the hang of it - it was trial and error the whole way through.

I started off with the intention of sewing it together by hand, following the instructions in Handmade Home. I quickly figured out that hand sewing was not cutting it for the stretchy t-shirt fabric. I'm sure it would work wonderfully for woven cottons or wool, but the jersey was just slipping all over the place. So I switched to machine zigzagging the coils together, as shown in the photo below (along with cat hair and crumbs). Even with my walking foot and appropriate needle, I had issues (see above) that necessitated a lot of seam ripping.

rainbow rug detail

In the end, though, I couldn't be happier with the results. I daresay it was even worth the effort. (Of course it was.) I just want to warn you that you'll likely spend a whole lot of time on this project, so if you're looking for a beautiful rug without the challenge of sewing it together yourself, you should check out Green at Heart's incredible offerings. If you are set on making your own (Laurine from Green at Heart said that she'll have some more t-shirt rug yarn available in the next few days) then set aside some quality time to become one with strips of t-shirts that are 1.5" wide.  

Even with all of the frustrating moments, I would do it again. I mean, how awesome is this rug? But you know what? I'll cross that bridge when I'm no longer pregnant.

 


a different kind of black friday - low cost "big" gifts for children

Hooray! We're back online and, most importantly, showering with hot water! The dinner yesterday was spectacular. My mom has a knack for making an incredible food spread look effortless. If I had been in charge, I would have looked haggard, food stuck to my hair and clothing, unable to hold a conversation with anyone until everything was on the table. She rocks the kitchen, that mom of mine.

one mess of a puppet head

I thought you would get a kick out of my Black Friday "shopping" excursion this morning. It started at the end of my parents' driveway where I grabbed a handful of newspapers that had been put at the curb to be recycled. I threw those in the back of the car and headed to the craft store, where I bought four styrofoam balls and some masking tape.

Styrofoam balls, masking tape, newspaper, flour and water ... all I need to begin my most ambitious holiday handmade gift of the season. Puppets. Four of them, with a door frame puppet theater from fabric in my stash. I'm planning on using the tutorial for the theater below, which can be found at Petite Purls

Puppettheater_01

Photo, design and tutorial by Nancy Anderson

This gift isn't for Finn, as he's too little yet to really use such a toy, but my nieces (who are four and six) will most certainly put it to use.

I've been thinking a lot this holiday season about being thrifty, perhaps more than usual, given the health care costs we will be incurring due to Lachlan's condition. The main thing I'm doing for Finn this year is putting together the art/playroom, and trying to spend virtually no money on the endeavor. (More on that when I return home from our time in California.) He will get a few quality, wooden toys, but other than that, it's a simple stocking and a new playspace.

Since so many of us are needing to tighten the belts of our gifting budgets, I thought I'd point to some great, low-cost ideas for children's gifts.

  • Put together a new playspace for your child, using thrifted furniture cut down to size (i.e. saw off the legs of an old desk to make a child-sized table. Again, more on this later!) Here's an article with some helpful ideas.
  • Organize a spectacular dress-up area. Keep your eyes peeled for fun hats, shoes and outfits during thrifting excursions, or make your own. Dedicate a space for dress up in your home - set up one of those cheap wall mirrors next to a peg shelf. Add ribbon loops to all shirts and pants so they can be hung from the peg shelf, assuring that they are easily accessible to children and don't get lost in a bottomless toy chest. Place shoes and accessories in bins below the peg shelf. Remember to rotate the items on occasion to maintain the child's interest.
  • Put together a "kit-in-a-box" gift that caters to your child's particular interests. I thought the veterinarian's case Amanda put together for her daughter was amazing. You could take this idea and apply it to any interest - an field explorer's kit, a baking kit, a sewing kit, a florist's kit ... really any interest you see emerging in your child could be nourished through such a gift.
  • Stock your child's play kitchen with handmade felt food.
  • Set up a birding area near a large window in your home.
  • Re-organize and re-stock your child's art space or reading nook.

Leave a comment to share your own ideas!


biking to pick up a little bite of heaven

yay! bike ride

Yesterday marked the first week of our 20-week CSA share! A four block bike ride is all that's between us and some organic yumminess, and Finn seems to know it.

the prince in his chariot with finger food

He adores bike rides, and it's a fantastic workout for me, pulling the prince along while he munches on finger foods. We're so happy that he likes being in his trailer, as we prefer riding to driving, and live in a very bike-able area. Plus, Finn still doesn't adore his car seat (although he's more tolerant of it than he used to be). It provides us with the impetus to get around on two wheels instead of four. (For other biking families - we love our trailer, which we were able to purchase with the help of our REI member dividend. It's a Chariot.)

CSA share box

And here's the box - stuffed full of spinach, greens, lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, and - most importantly, strawberries.

With the beginning of our CSA share season comes a shift in my meal planning. Instead of fixed set of meals that we rely on during the winter season, I'm starting to plan my meals around what's in the box. I find that I rely heavily on Mollie Katzen's The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without, which has a very handy index and a panoply of dishes for a large variety of veggies. Tonight we're having Asparagus Crepes with Mushroom Sauce. Oh, Spring, I love you.

big kahuna

But I digress. Let's get to the red, juicy meat of this post. The strawberry.

berry boy

Straight up for the babe, covered in dark chocolate for the parents.

chocolate covered strawberries

Because, hey, I did tow him around town with sheer muscle force. He can have the plain berry. I'm taking mine with chocolate, thankyouverymuch! 

Check out LocalHarvest to find a CSA near you!


beach blanket to go from handmade home

wedding gift

Did you know that sewing can be a sweat-producing workout? It most certainly can.

three beach blankets to go

When you make three beach blankets-to-go from Handmade Home in one day between the hours of nine a.m. and six p.m., you will burn a marathon's worth of calories. I kid you not. That, plus I didn't realize that the air conditioning vent in my studio was closed until well into the workout. Duh. Impromptu sauna.

The weddings made me do it. Two of them in one week, and a real desire to give handmade gifts.

Plus, how could I not make one for our own little family?  When you start sewing large projects like this, I think it best to take a tip from Henry Ford and go at it assembly-line style. It totally works - it's so much easier to do everything at once. These blankets even have handmade double-fold binding ... it's just as easy to make 24 yards as it is to make 8. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

And I LOVE them.

baby toes on blanket

Our blanket's opening day ...


baby on beach blanket to go

I used a combination of thrifted fabric, vintage sheets, and stash fabric to make the blanket top. The backing consists of some heavy-weight upholstery fabric that I bought for pennies last year when a local fabric store closed its doors. I love how the weight of the backing fabric makes the blanket so much more sturdy (and it has the added benefit of keeping it on the ground in the wind).

baby on beach blanket to go

wedding gift

upholstery fabric for backing

Three blankets at no cost, and three oh-so-useful handmade treasures. I can't wait to get ours really dirty. Like Amanda said, I'm sure it will be the backdrop of so many family adventures (and photos!)  Where will it visit - the beach? the gardens? national parks? How many family meals will it host? How many sets of little toes will it welcome?

A blanket like this isn't just handmade - it's a maker of memories.


recycled magazine wallet giveaway

magazine wallets 1

For those of us whose pocketbooks can't handle buying holiday gifts at Anthropologie ... why not MAKE your pocketbook out of Anthropologie? (Magazines, that is.)

I've been having fun with beautiful magazines and my Xyron 900, sewing up a set of these recycled wallets for stocking stuffers. Honestly, it's more difficult photographing these darn wallets than actually making them! Laminated items don't do well in any light as far as a camera is concerned. Trust me - the finished product is much more charming than these photographs show.

magazine wallets 2

magazine wallets 3

The wallet has a change pocket, a place for credit cards and license, and a spot for bills.

magazine wallets 4

Edit: Comments are closed - the winner has already been selected!

And I'm giving one away! I couldn't resist giving a little something back after all of your kind words about my book deals and baby. Leave a comment and I'll mail you the Anthropologie embroidered pillow wallet! (Sorry, the purple shoe/cat wallet has already found its way into my purse somehow ...) Comments will remain open until Sunday evening, 9 p.m. Eastern. I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner, who will be announced right here on Monday morning.

Also on Monday, I'll put up an easy tutorial for making your own recycled magazine wallet, so that everyone can "win!"

Edit: Here's the PDF tutorial so you can make your own! Be sure to print it off at 100% scale. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful weekend,
Meg


peaceful morning

peaceful breakfast

I took a moment this morning to enjoy some leftovers from dessert and game night with our new friends. The apple galette was to die for. And the teacup and saucer? Part of a set of five - a lucky thrifting find right up the road. This picture doesn't do them justice. They make me ridiculously happy. This is my first cup and saucer set. No more drinking from the "Congrats Graduate" mug that I've had since 8th grade. Goodbye and good riddance to all the ugliness that once tainted my tea. I feel like, once and for all, I have left that limbo of the post-college years. (This period was exceptionally long for me, due to the move to Mexico and all, with its accompanying pressure to keep all material possessions to a minimum.) My house is finally starting to feel like a home.

Now I just need a frame for my mattress so we can stop sleeping on the floor - and a dining table. I'm waiting for the perfect, pine farmhouse table to show up on one of my thrifting outings. Thumb twiddle. In the meantime, these teacups are the icing on the cake, even though the cake's not quite done.

Other things:

- Sign-ups for the Holiday Traditions Exchange are officially closed. Thanks for your enthusiastic response! I have a handful of partners left to email. Please email your partner to introduce yourself right away and keep your commitment to your partner. If, for some reason, you aren't able to get in contact with your partner, shoot me an email. I could have goofed and sent you the wrong address. In any case, once you have made contact, remember that it is incumbent on you to send out your package by December 13th. (Earlier if you have an international partner!)

- Thanks for the tips on fusing plastic bags. If you're interested in trying, check out the suggestions in the comments, and be sure to proceed in a well-ventilated area due to some concern of fumes. (Don't worry, I tried this before I got pregnant, and in a well-ventilated area!)

- Speaking of pregnancy, my little tenant is finally starting to make me look pregnant. At least I think so. The world might just assume that I'm waist-less. Ah well. I owe you a belly pic. And I owe myself a few pairs of maternity pants. Old Navy? Any other non-frump suggestions?

- Stay tuned for big news tomorrow!


plastic bag

recycled plastic bag

Introducing ... my fused plastic bag purse, purchased from a local artist a while back. I was totally taken by this technique and had my heart set on making a few of my own. I found the blogosphere has already provided several helpful tutorials: here and here.

But I just could not get my bags to fuse properly. I tried all sorts of settings on my iron, but it appears as though my iron and I don't have the best relationship. Have I been defeated by plastic bags and a temperamental iron? Is there any hope for me and my iron? Can we work it out?

Have any of you tried this technique before? Any tips?

Happy weekend,
Meg


just strolling

my favorite neighborhood door


indications of autumn

Autumn is coming, branch by branch, to North Carolina. I've come to truly appreciate my solo evening walks through the neighborhood. I'm an avid fan of "other people's landscaping". Not that there's anything grandiose or showy in my neighborhood - I just love it every time I pass by an old, rusty wheelbarrow, filled with potted flowers, parked in lawn. Or the bicycle with wire baskets that has been upcycled into a planter. Such good ideas.

Other news - we heard the baby's heartbeat yesterday at my prenatal appointment! It's nice to know there's a little human in there, swimming away without a care in the world.

And OH MY GOODNESS. Some of your comments on my last post just cracked me up. I never knew that it was so common to become queasy at the mere smell of one's husband! Ah, such great stories in retrospect!


how to make recycled paper

recycled paper journal 1

I've recently been bitten by the paper recycling bug. My symptoms? Ogling over multi-colored paper scraps and a strong desire to never buy construction paper ever again.
open recycled paper journal

Some of the mothers in my school make beautiful things with recycled paper, such as this journal which is hand-bound with string coated in beeswax. The edges of the cover are delicately burned for a real artisan touch. (You can find beeswax here, which you apply to a single strand of hemp string, working it in with the heat of your fingers. Bind the book by sewing the layers together with a large-eyed needle, then thread some beads on each end.)

let scrap paper soak

The process of making recycled paper varies from one source to the next, which can only mean one thing - the process is the kind that is open to experimentation and variation. I encourage you to do just that. Children will love experimenting with different kinds of paper and procedures.  This little tutorial illustrates what has worked for me thus far.

What you will need:
-Keep a bucket of water handy next to your recycling bins. Shred by hand any used paper (a perfect job for a toddler!) and throw it into the bucket to sit for at least a day.
-An old blender
-Used frames (minus the glass and backing) of various sizes. The size of the frame will determine the size of your finished sheet of paper.
-Very, very fine plastic screening which will be stretched over the frames and used as a sieve
-Thumb tacks for attaching the screening to the frames to make the sieve
-A tupperware bin large enough to so that you can easily submerge the frames in it
-Newspaper cut slightly larger than the dimensions of your frames for blotting
-Absorbent sponge
-Rolling pin

blend well-soaked paper into pulp

1.) With a ratio of about 1 portion of well-soaked paper scraps to 2 cups water, blend into a pulp in your old, trusty blender. Blend in short spurts so as not to burn out the motor. You will need about two half-blender-fulls (shown above) of pulp per tupperware bin batch. *If you would like to make your paper scented, add 6-10 drops of essential oils during the blending of the pulp.

pour pulp into tupperware tub filled with water

2.) Fill the tupperware bin with several inches of water and pour in the pulp. Swish the mixture around so that the pulp is evenly distributed in the water. *You can add dried flowers, leaves, etc. at this point in the process, or you can wait until you have lifted the sieve out of the water and press them neatly onto the paper.

slowly lift framed sieve out of water

3.) Submerge the frame-sieve into the bin and slowly lift out. Place a piece of blotting newspaper on top of the pulp/paper. Using a sponge on top of the newspaper, blot away all of the excess water. Flip over the sieve and carefully remove the paper. It should still be attached to the newspaper on one side. 4.) Place another piece of newspaper on top of the paper. The paper sheet is now sandwiched between two layers of newspaper. Roll out any excess water using a rolling pin. Remove the top piece of newspaper and let the paper dry completely in a sunny spot. Carefully peel the recycled sheet from the newspaper. Here's a video that demonstrates a slightly different way to go about it. Figure out what process works best for you. Before you know it, you'll be planning to write down all of your recipes on recycled paper, too!