Category Archives: Sustainability & Stewardship

Slow Fashion Revolution // Part 3 of 3

To some, Slow Fashion might look like just another trendy gimmick to market to consumers; indeed, there are companies who, quite predictably, use the “green” label to persuade people to buy items that may not, in reality, be all that green.  And yes, ethical, sustainable, and artisan brands of clothing typically do cost the consumer more than their fast fashion counterparts.  HOWEVER— exclusively buying from sustainable brands is just one method to a sustainable closet.  With the right knowledge, you can still build a slow wardrobe and even save money by doing so.  In fact, as mentioned previously, thrifting or swapping, which is probably the cheapest way of getting clothes, is also the best way to keep things truly green.

Everyone can create a more sustainable wardrobe without spending a fortune.  Just remember that big changes start out small.  These are some key practices to keep in mind:

  • Choose wisely, and stick with the classics.  Classic items won’t look dated in a couple seasons, but trendy items probably will.  Ask yourself…will I be tired of wearing this in a year?  If the answer is yes, just say no!  Also, look for pieces that are versatile and will mix well with several other items in your wardrobe.  If you find yourself in a situation where you really just can’t buy ethical, or find the otherwise perfect item that happens to be less than eco-friendly, yet absolutely love it, it’s still not a total loss if you can see yourself wearing it for the next five or ten years! (This is an interesting read on building a capsule wardrobe: The Sustainable Wardrobe Part 1.)
  • Learn to sew (or knit, crochet, weave…)  No, you don’t have to be able to make your own tailored suits (though that’s an admirable goal!) But do learn to make minor repairs: sewing on buttons, repairing holes, hemming pants and skirts.  This will save your money and your clothing.  Learning to create garments will also give you a greater appreciation for the process, and help you know what to look for when choosing clothes off the rack.  While you can find lots of books, videos, and online sources that will teach you these skills, having a real life, in-person teacher will give you an advantage because you can ask questions, and they can see how you progress.  Check out local recreation centers for classes, or ask around at fabric or sewing machine stores; these places can usually point you in the right direction.
  • Choose quality fabrics. As a general rule, pick natural fibers over synthetics.
    • Great natural fabrics include cotton (organic if possible), wool, silk, linen, and hemp.  Rayon and acetate are “semi-synthetic” fibers; they’re actually derived from wood pulp, but require a chemical process to synthesize the strands. I’ve recently started a Slow Fashion Resources directory, which you can view here; in addition to educational resources, there is a small list of shops where you can find sustainable fabrics.
    • Synthetic fabrics to avoid are polyester and acrylic.  When these materials, which are basically plastic, are washed, microfibers make their way into our water supply, as illustrated here:
    •  However, that being said, there are times when you may find exceptions to these rules, as illustrated by My Green Closet in this video:
  • Ask, Who Made My Clothes?  —This one is tricky.  There is very little transparency in the fashion industry and much has been written about the long journey that a garment makes before it reaches you, passing through so many factories and so many hands.  Fashion Revolution is a non-profit dedicated to promoting transparency in fashion industry, and thereby overcoming the appalling conditions that most garment workers currently endure.  You can learn about Fashion Revolution and how to get involved here.

On May 5th, I will be at Tissu Sewing Studio in Wichita, KS, from 11am to 3pm to celebrate Slow Fashion!  If you’re in the area, I’d like to invite you to this free, fun, educational event.  There will be sewing demos, hands-on projects, a clothing swap, handcrafted snacks, shopping, and more!  Tissu is located in Clifton Square, at 3700 E Douglas, Suite 59, Wichita, KS 67208.

You can view more event details and stay updated here.

This is the conclusion to my three part series on slow fashion; (if you haven’t already, check out part 1 and part 2 here..)

Slow Fashion Revolution // Part 2 of 3

After exploring the definition of slow fashion in Monday’s post, let’s take a closer look at its three elements that I mentioned:  care, quality, and cultivation.

First, let’s talk about Cultivation (or, if you prefer, curation.)  This refers to the way you build your wardrobe.  How are you obtaining your clothes–are you buying new, hitting up the thrift shops, swapping with friends, or creating your own?

Thrifting or swapping is often seen as the most responsible, eco-friendly way to get “new” clothes.  These clothes have already been purchased (or made), but are no longer wanted by their original wearers.  Passing them onto someone else keeps them from the landfill.  But whether you’re thrifting; buying new; or planning to sew, weave, crochet, or knit your own; you’ll want to think about quality.

Quality refers to the materials used, the way the garment is constructed, and even the design or style.  (Is it something trendy that’ll grow stale quickly, or a classic you can wear for years to come?)  Are the materials used natural, like cotton, wool, linen, hemp?  Or are they derived from petroleum?  Plastic microfibers, like those from polyester, can cause big trouble.  

Another important aspect of quality to think about refers to the life and working conditions of the people who make your clothes (this is relevant mostly to those who are buying new items.)  Are they paid fairly?  Are they working in safe factories?  The answer is often a resounding “NO,” but transparency in the fashion industry is so infamously non-existent that it’s difficult to know exactly what is going on.  Organizations like Fashion Revolution are investigating so that we can be better informed about the choices we make and brands we support, but there is still a long way to go.

Care is fairly self-explanatory, but certainly worth mentioning: how do you treat the garments you have?  This includes wearing, washing, storing, mending.  Are you washing your clothes in the recommended way?  Are you keeping the moths from getting to your wool sweaters?  When a button pops off or a seam begins to fray, what do you do?  A little sewing know-how can go a long way!

If you get a chance, glance through your wardrobe tonight.  If you’re like many, you’ll find a full closet but nothing to wear.  Think about what pieces you love and wear often.  Are there certain characteristics common to those garments?  Now look at the pieces you bought and wore once, or maybe haven’t worn at all.   What is it that you don’t like about those pieces you aren’t wearing?  Think about what gaps need to be filled in, and what you might pass on to others.

Later in the week, I’ll conclude this series with part 3, in which I’ll explain in more detail how to implement these concepts, share some of my favorite resources, and talk about how you can get involved in the slow revolution.

Slow Fashion Revolution // Part 1 of 3

The Slow Fashion movement is gaining momentum.  But what exactly is it?

Here’s an apt description from slow fashion brand Study NY:

Slow fashion is the movement of designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity. Slow fashion encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste.

Just as the Slow Food movement is seen as a solution to fast food, the Slow Fashion is, similarly, a solution to fast fashion, which the brand Not Just a Label explains this way:

[Fast fashion] relies on globalised, mass production where garments are transformed from the design stage to the retail floor in only a few weeks. With retailers selling the latest fashion trends at very low prices, consumers are easily swayed to purchase more than they need. But this overconsumption comes with a hidden price tag, and it is the environment and workers in the supply chain that pay. […] this industry is constantly contributing to the depletion of fossil fuels, used, for example, in textile & garment production and transportation. Fresh water reservoirs are also being increasingly diminished for cotton crop irrigation. The fashion industry is also introducing, in a systematic way and in ever-greater amounts, manmade compounds such as pesticides and synthetic fibres, which increase their persistent presence in nature.

Fast fashion is viewed as disposable, it hurts people, and it damages the environment.  It is ever-changing but steadily entering landfills, and at an alarming rate.  In fact, is is estimated that 13.1 million tons of textiles are thrown away each year, and that only 15% of this is recovered for reuse or recycling.

Slow fashion, on the other hand, challenges us to think about where our clothes come from and where they’re heading.  It urges us to use better (natural) materials, take care of what we already have, and reuse whatever we can.

I believe there are three essential elements of slow fashion: care, quality, and cultivation.  Because of the nature of slow fashion, the care it takes to create a new “slow fashion” garment, it can be seen as expensive and something only for the privileged.  However, it doesn’t have to be this way; with a little bit of knowledge, everyone can nurture a healthier wardrobe, no matter their budget.

Over the next week I’ll be posting parts 2 and 3 of this series, where we’ll explore these concepts and learn how to put them into action.

Until then, stay slow, my friends!!
xo

 

Totes Totes: Free Market Bag Tutorials & Patterns

Farmer’s Market season is nearly upon us!  This is something I just realized the other day…I also realized that I’ve been really bad about remembering to bring my totes to the grocery store.  Market totes are the kind of thing you can’t have too many of….(especially when you’re forgetful.)

I thought this might be a good time to offer a tutorial on totes, but I’ve got so many unfinished projects going on right now that I figured it may be better to simply share some of the great free tutorials that are already out there!  Check out these free patterns and instructions and make some today…

Folding Grocery Tote instructions by Yarn Geek:

(Adorable!) Paws and All Cat Tote Sewing Pattern by Orange Betty

Fold-Up Market Tote how-to by Purl Soho:

Also by Purl Soho, The Twenty Minute Tote tutorial:

Reversible tote how-to by Skip to my Lou:

And I nearly forgot this little illustration I made years ago…see it here.

This is also a lovely pattern for those who crochet; the French Market Bag Pattern by Two of Wands:

And for the knitters…the Eastern Market Tote Pattern by Tanis Gray

Do you have a favorite tote or favorite pattern?  What features do you like or need when bagging up your goods?

Living the Homestead Dream: An Interview with Quinn of Reformation Acres

Today, I am beyond thrilled to be able to bring you an interview with Quinn of Reformation Acres!  I’ve been following her blog and facebook page for sometime, and it is such an inspiration.  She is a homesteader, blogger, and also crafts all-natural skincare items.   Quinn has been gracious enough to take the time to share some of her insights with me, and I am excited to pass them on to you.  If you are interested in the homesteading life, read on…

Quinn

Moth & Rust: Tell me about your name, Reformation Acres; is there a story behind that?
Quinn: The name Reformation Acres was born of a purpose more than from a story.  Whether it’s our lives or our land, we want to always be reforming. We want to evaluate not only ourselves but our farm practices, to continually be making improvements. We want to steward, heal, nourish, and regenerate the land… leaving it better than we found it. The healthier our land is, the healthier our food and herbs will be, and the healthier and more productive we will be!
M&R:  How long have you been involved with gardening/homesteading?
Q:  It’s hard to believe it has been that long, but we’ve started our first garden 2006 and pretty much started building a homestead from there on. The “gateway livestock”, chickens, came the next year, pigs the year after, and then a family cow the following year.  What can I say? We were hooked.

Every year has its challenges and I’m always impressed by how much I still have to learn. We designed our first herb garden around that chicken coop and it sparked a fire within me to constantly be building my knowledge of herbs, particularly the health benefits found in medicinal herbs, flowers, and roots. With a family of 10 I’m given plenty of opportunity to discover new ways to use herbs to improve our health and well-being!
M&R:  What motivate or inspires you to pursue and continue homestead life?
Q:  When you grow and raise your own food, it has 3 secret ingredients that can’t be found in any other food on the planet. Your own blood, sweat, and tears. Those 3 secret ingredients make every single thing you eat taste better! I don’t understand how that magical process happens, but it’s totally true! That’s motivation enough alone!But it is indescribably satisfying to have such a close connection with the earth and your family, all working together to put food on the table. We want our children to learn where their food comes from and understand what goes into their food, the sacrifices that are made so they can eat. Even if they don’t do the work themselves one day, I want them to appreciate the ones who are! We want them live balanced lives and hopefully create a good work ethic that will serve them the rest of their lives.

Also, we’ve come to realize that, in most facets of the homestead, we couldn’t afford not to homestead. To buy meat and milk raised with the care we give our animals, and vegetables grown as naturally as we grow ours would be devastating to our budget.

Reformation Acres’ Super Scrub Gardener’s Soap

M&R:  How did you become involved with making soaps and balms?  How did you learn the process?
Q:  When I had babies, I started reading labels on everything. I stumbled across The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their Skin Deep Database. It really made me think about everything we were exposing our bodies to through our largest organ, our skin. I learned that most soaps you’ll find in the store aren’t really soaps, but are synthetic detergents. I wanted better for myself and my family. I learned from seasoned soap makers how to make real, cold-processed soap. I was nervous at first, but it didn’t take long before I was hooked! It is so much fun discovering new ways to incorporate the things we were making on our farm into our soaps! I’m always brainstorming new ideas and combinations. The only downside is my soap-making can often be limited by the seasons. We moved to a new and larger farm a few months ago and we’re planning to grow a larger volume of botanicals and herbs that can be preserved for off-season use.

Dandelion Salve

M&R:  Can you tell me about the ingredients you use?
Q:  We use only natural ingredients in all of our products. No artificial fragrances, no synthetic dyes in anything we make! Whenever possible, we incorporate local ingredients in our products, preferably those from right off our farm. Whether that’s milk from our Jersey cow, Holly,  jewelweed growing down by the creek, produce from the garden, or comfrey under the apple tree. Those herbs and flowers that we don’t have on our farm but use in our products, we are in the process of getting established to the point where we can sustainably harvest.We have chosen to be 100% palm-free. This is so important to us! Palm oil is one of the most common, versatile oils you’ll find in handmade soaps. It’s also one of the largest contributors to deforestation and habitat loss for native species where the trees are grown. Instead, the base oil used in most our soaps is local purified tallow made from the suet of cattle grazing the hillsides in Amish country, Holmes County Ohio. Instead of being thrown out, we are able to take what would end up as waste,  saponify and redeem it to make the most creamy & bubbly, moisturizing & nourishing soap for your skin!

 

Reformation Acres’ Burn Salve

M&R:  Which products are your favorites and why?
Q:  Oh my goodness! This is such a tough question because I love them all (or I wouldn’t dare sell them!) Right now, it’s the dead of winter and my dry skin is so thankful for my Calendula Butter Hand Salve. But when I burn myself in the kitchen, my favorite product is Burn Salve. It instantly soothes the burn. When my face breaks out, I grab a bar of Tomato Soap and it’s cleared up in days. In the summer, when we start getting bug bites and poison ivy, I’m reaching for the Jewelweed Salve to bring relief from all the scratching. But I’m a lover of simple things and my favorite soap, after all my creations, is still Cream

Anti-Itch Jewelweed Salve

Line. It’s such a great bar of soap! I love everything about it- the fresh scent, the lather, how extraordinarily well it cleans without drying out my skin, and especially how long it lasts compared to other handmade soaps I’ve used!

M&R:  How do you hope your products and blog will influence others?
Q:  You know what would be truly awesome? I would love hearing a story one day about someone who used our herbal, farm-based products and it sparked a connection with the land. They were drawn to experience it in a closer, more real and tangible way. Perhaps then a visit to our website would encourage them to take that first step. Not to look at the obstacles that might be in their way, but to get their hands dirty (literally) and learn the satisfaction of being a producer. Is that too much to wish for?  I sure hope not!

M&R:  How has your community (online or offline) impacted your homestead journey?
Q:  I have the most amazing community building me up and encouraging me! I am so humbled every day by the love and support I get! Early on in our homestead journey, I realized how dependent we become on God. Through the influences of nature, we only have so much control. The rest is up to Him. Some years He provides and other years He doesn’t, but we find it’s always balanced in another area of production. It makes you realize what a misnomer “self-sufficiency” really is.

But as we continue on our journey, we realize we are even less self-sufficient than we at first thought. Though we know more now than we have before, we are just as dependent on our community for encouragement, support, wisdom, and often-times the hands to make it all possible!

M&R:  Does homestead life ever become overwhelming?  How do you recharge and keep things balanced?
Q:  Does it ever! And I’ve learned that the feeling of overwhelm ebbs and flows with the seasons so on one level I know that it will get better soon. But I’ve also learned that I don’t have to “do it all.” We have chosen to do the things that best suit our families needs and passions and focused on them instead of being rockstar homesteaders.  Still I struggle with getting overwhelmed. I used to push through and run myself ragged, but I now know that  in the end it will only burn me out. I’ve really had to force myself to take care of me too! When I find myself stressing, I head to the woods and pray! (Or spend a little extra time brushing and talking to my cows.) Being creative helps keep me balanced and my passion for soap making allows me to be creative and productive at the same time!

M&R:  What advice would you give to someone who wants to become more self-sufficient but believes they don’t have the enough resources?
Q:  Learn something. Don’t make excuses. It really, truly doesn’t matter where you live. You can build skills. And the things you learn to do with your own two hands, no one can ever take that away from you!  And in those skills you’ll find empowerment! It’s the little things, the baby steps you take that create a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Look around and find one thing in your kitchen you could make yourself instead of buying and learn how to make it! There is large and powerful network of people on the internet eager to help you take that first step!

+ + +
I am, again, so grateful to Quinn for taking the time to do this interview with me.  Please be sure to visit the Reformation Acres website for insightful articles, how-to posts, resources, and more; and be sure to stop by the Reformation Acres Etsy shop to check out her amazing products.  

Favorite Fabrics: The Feedsack Dress

There is something so appealing to me about the feedsack dress.  Though sometimes viewed as a symbol of the necessary frugality (or, poverty,) of the Depression era, it was also a way to “[give] rural women a sense of fashion.”  I’d love to see this type of practical reuse come back (though granted, less people are living in rural settings and don’t usually find themselves purchasing large bags of feed…)

I know “the good old days” were not always a fairy tale, but you have to admit this aspect of past times is pretty dreamy.  And aside from the upcycling aspect, the prints were so fun and cheerful!

Yellow tiered feedsack dress from Dreem Co, $165
’30s feedsack dress from Vintage Clothing and Co, $114.99
1940s Dress from Carla and Carla, $145

When searching for examples, I even found this children’s play costume of Cleopatra!

Vintage feedsack from Maudelynn, $98

Of course, these colorful fabrics were also utilized for crafting quilts and other items that were useful around the house…

Yo-yo Twin Size Quilt from Upswing Vintage, $225
Floral Feedsack Apron from Hatfeathers Vintage, $32.49

Craftsy has a lovely post about feedsack quilting that talks a bit more about feedsack fabric, which you can read here.

Scrapper’s Delight

As you may know, I often offer curated scrap kits over at my Etsy shop, because after 15 years or so of sewing, I have accumulated a whole lotta scrap.  If I am unable to use them (or am just tired of looking at a particular fabric!) I sell them because I know there’s someone out there who will give them the love they deserve.  Also…it’s the responsible thing to do!  The EPA estimates that the average American trashes about 70-80 pounds of textiles a year.   (YIKES.)  That is an absurd amount of waste that can be easily prevented by wise purchasing, careful use, and reclaiming/recycling.

Needless to say, I am so excited when I see other scrap kits popping up on the web!  Recently, the non-profit FABSCRAP in New York City launched their online store featuring mixes of fabrics recovered from high end designers, which you can visit here.

Also, the London-based artist Flextiles, who specializes in indigo shibori and ecoprints is now offering kits in her shop, which you can see here.

Really, you can find a wide variety of scrap bundles available on Etsy with a quick search.

One of my goals for this year is to put together a little inspiration booklet of projects that would work well for the scraps of all sizes…we’ll see when that gets done!

But in the meantime, as I was doing a bit of searching, I stumbled upon this fantastic directory of Scrapstores, as they’re called here.  Is there one near you?  Click here to check it out!

Mermaid’s Tale Scrap Kit from Moth & Rust
Unicorn Parade Scrap Kit from Moth & Rust