Our Social Fabric

Our Social Fabric is a textile recycling initiative, a non-profit that collects donations of fabric and sells them to anyone who wants to buy. The fabrics come from individuals as well as from businesses – garment factories here in Canada (yes, they do exist), film industry, and so on. They are fabrics that aren’t needed and would end up in the landfill, thus adding to the massive volume of solid waste that we dispose of each year.

Instead, volunteers sort out and price the fabrics, organize them in bins according to colour, or leave bigger amounts on bolts – you can buy the whole thing, or get a piece cut for you. OSF announces their sale dates on their website and their Facebook page, and people go and shop. You can also find patterns, books, notions and other sewing-related stuff.

It’s like a treasure hunt – you never know what’s there. In October I scored a 3-meter piece of gorgeous purple silk that’s going to become a dress. (Part of it also became a cape for my little boy, now also called Captain Purple – the only preschool superhero with a genuine silk cape.) And here’s my loot from yesterday’s sale – also called a new dress, a new pair of pants, and who knows what else…

There’s a second piece of the same purple silk, some beige linen-like fabric (although I suspect it’s a blend of some kind), and the light blue, heavily woven, wonderfully drapey, unknown fiber pieces of fabric that will become a wearable muslin (I hope) for the purple silk dress. Missing from the lot is a 4-meter piece of blue cotton that someone (aka. Captain Purple) was turning into a fort when I took the photo… 

Ah, here he is, after pulling down his fort when he needed a scarf instead. :)

So that’s yards and yards of fabric that cost me $24 (but only because the silk was a bit more expensive than others) and didn’t end up in the landfill.

The only question I have is, why didn’t I check OSF out years ago?

T-shirts, jeans, etc…

Well, sewing for myself has been on hold. I haven’t finished a single t-shirt… It wouldn’t take too long but somehow there’s always something else to do.

I realized last week that this old pair of jeans I have isn’t going to last even through the winter if I wear them every day – or at least it’s not going to last in such a condition that I could wear them out in public… I’ve started to wear more dresses and skirts with leggings just to save the jeans, and I actually like it! Maybe I’ll become a woman who wears mostly skirts by the time this year is over… They’re easier to make too. Now I need to figure out how to make leggings. Does anyone have a good pattern or tutorial to recommend?

I’ve been sewing a lot lately, just not for myself. For kids. I have this little project called Purple Cat Designs. As some of you may remember, I use to knit stuff and sell it but figured out eventually that I wasn’t making much money that way, and now that I have a little person to knit for it’s just not worth it… But I do take old adults’ t-shirts and hoodies and turn them into kids’ clothing now. It’s so much fun! I have two markets coming up before Christmas, plus a whole load of custom orders to make for gifts, so I’ve been doing that. I’ll make things for myself once Christmas is over, right? Right…

cement mixer shirt

Fabric, jam, and a confession

Well, that new fabric I bought to make t-shirts out of? One of them shrank in the wash so much that the only thing I can get out of it now is a 1980s style crop top. Yep, those are back in fashion… I don’t think they should be, and I don’t think I would have been able to pull one off in 1980s, even less so now… Into the fabric stash it goes. A good reminder on why it’s always a good idea to wash fabrics before sewing.

Confession? I visited Salvation Army thrift store last week, to pick up more materials for these shirts. Found and bought a cardigan. I’ve been looking for a nice, light one since last spring when the previous one gave up the ghost (it had way too many holes to wear it in public, although I did for a long time anyway). So that’s my first purchase during my no-purchases year. Well, this cardigan comes with a label “Made in Canada”, so it could have been worse.

This week I’ve mostly been at home with a sick three-year-old. He happens to love jam, so we decided to make some (because while he was sick he was as energetic as ever – kids, who knows how they do that…). Jams in general have SO much sugar I’ve been hesitant to give him any. But thanks to Pinterest, I discovered fruit butters! We started with this recipe for peach and vanilla butter in a slow cooker. 16 hours over two days later, we had a batch of lovely peach mush that needed some honey to sweeten it – next time I’ll try to find peaches that are actually ripe! Well, it took a bit too long for my liking. So we repeated the process on the stove top the next day, with pears. Added cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks for flavour. It only took three hours, and there was no need for added sweetener. Now we have jars full of kid-friendly jam!

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Myrtle

One great source for sewing patterns and tutorials is Colette Patterns. The company is small, independent and focused on great quality, easy-to-use patterns. Their sewing handbook is the perfect starting point for any new sewer.

Earlier this summer (I’m still calling it summer – the weather is mighty fine here in Vancouver) I bough a dress pattern from Colette. Shortly after I had bought it I got an email that there was going to be a sew-along for the dress. I signed up but didn’t manage to find the time to finish the dress in time.

It’s finished now, and I’m very happy with it. I think it’s a great way to start my year of sewing. I adjusted the pattern a bit, left out the elastic from the waist (gathered skirts aren’t my thing) and made it more fitted. I think it’s just a bit too tight over the bust but otherwise it fits well.

myrtle dress

Fabric shopping

I took a good look at my t-shirts last week. The truth? I started to wish I had done that a week earlier so I would have been able to run to the store and stock up… But no, that would have been cheating. I need new t-shirts, unsurprisingly my cheap “Made in Bangladesh” shirts have lasted for one summer and have no life left.

So today I stopped at my friendly neighbourhood (well, downtown) fabric shop Dressew. I picked up some jersey knits. The lady who was cutting my fabric asked me what I was making. T-shirts? Great, they’ll last so much longer than the store bough ones, she said. So I told her about my project, and she was excited. She had done a similar one a few years ago, for six months, and said it’s surprisingly hard. We talked for a while about the garment industry, then about reliable fabric sources. They’re all machine made, she said. But someone uses those machines. Someone takes the bolts and packs them up. There’s labour involved. She nodded, and said there are so many facets to this. What about fabric dyes? Sure, I bough organic cotton blend for my t-shirts, but where do the dyes come from? So many things to consider.

Baby steps. I’ll make some t-shirts first. I got enough fabric for two or three shirts, depending on what I’ll make. The price for the two pieces of fabric was $16 – I don’t think I’d get an organic cotton t-shirt anywhere for that price.

New challenge

It’s time to admit what I’ve already known for a long time – I’m a lousy blogger. I often have a great idea of what I want to write, and just can’t find the time to sit down and do it. :/ My apologies. I’d like to say “I’ll write more from now on” but considering how it’s been, that probably won’t happen. But I keep trying.

Well, it’s almost September, and fall is right behind the corner. It’s my favourite season for many reasons, and I always feel energized in the fall. I’m looking forward to that; the summer has been long and hot, and I’m feeling weary.

I’m taking on a new challenge from the beginning of September. I’ve been reading more and more about the garment industry, and how they operate. I’ve known some of the stuff for a long time – most cheap t-shirts are products of slave labour. They’re also made to break down soon so that we’d have to buy more sooner rather than later. All very clever for the bottom line, and completely unethical.

Here’s an article I saw recently, and it was the last straw. I need to get out of this hamster wheel of buying cheap stuff. So I’m making a one-year-long pledge NOT to buy any clothing for myself or for J, with the exception of undergarments, socks and swimwear if needed. I’ll continue to accept hand-me-downs for J, and I’ll make the rest. It shouldn’t be too hard, I won’t need much new stuff, and he gets lots of hand-me-downs. I know my pair of cheap Old Navy jeans will wear out, then I’ll just learn to make my own or wear skirts. Whatever, I’ll manage.

I’m leaving hubby out of the pledge. He wears dress shirts and pants to work, and those would be a bit much to make… Then again, his stuff doesn’t wear out so quickly either. I might make him some t-shirts when his old ones are done.

So that’s what I’m planning to do, and I’d like to say I’m going to write about it weekly but how realistic is that? Oh, well, I’ll update every once in a while.