If you read about my Fast Fashion post, it relates to this one. If not, please go check it out. Even though I do by thrift store items, I will still mend an item to save it from a donation. Sometimes I will mend my items and then I donate the item. For instance, I found an old shirt at my aunts house. It had a few holes in it but overall, I liked the color and I didn’t mind the cut of the shirt. The color went perfectly with my color palette for my capsule wardrobe, so I really wanted to save it from being donated. I just needed to mend the shirt, so it would be decent to wear.
Now I have an almost new shirt.
Whenever I upcycle clothing, I always keep scraps of the leftover clothing item. In my Reusing Fabric and Thread blog post, I wrote about keeping my fabric scraps in a small bag. I literally have a bag of scraps. I love fabric, and the use of fabric in different products, (depending on the thread count, material, and the way fabric is sewn together,) can be a very durable material.
Some shirts have higher thread counts, which lends them to become excellent candidates to upcycle into grocery bags, or other heavy duty bags. The smaller scraps that I keep, I always try to find a use for them. Whether it’s going to be upcycled into a small project or large project, the one thing I can count on is that I can throw it in the washing machine to clean it.
If I had a choice to make, with picking and choosing reusable products, I prefer to choose items that I can wash easily. I don’t like to buy items which require a special cleaning method or liquid to clean. I like to sew and mend items, because the product that I’m usually mending, only needs to be washed with soap and water.
If you reflect on the products that you use daily, the majority of them are probably sewn together: your clothes, handbags, wallets, car seats, bedding, upholstery, etc. Knowing how to sew and understanding how to repair fabric products has been a life saver for me. I actually learned how to sew by hand, and didn’t learn how to use a machine until years later.
Learning how to mend items can save you money, time and stress. Even the simple act of sewing on a button is helpful. You can save a simple dress shirt, like I did, from sending it to a donation station.
It’s interesting how we pick up habits from our parents or other figures in our lives. When the rain season comes, my mother has always wrapped an old towel across her car mats to absorb the extra water that would get dragged in by everyday use. To this day, I’ll see her break out the towels around the middle of October.
As for me, I never cared for my floor mats in my car. I honestly never liked my car. The car was bought without my input and I was stuck with it thereafter. But recently I did get new car mats, along with a new car, and since I didn’t want to drag a bunch of water into my car, I too, wrapped my car mats in towels. But I soon realized that the towels would get tugged and moved around from the daily use of them. I had to solve this issue. I didn’t want to constantly re-tuck the towels under my car mats, because sometimes they were already dirty and wet.
The front floor mats were a large size and I knew that bath towels would be a perfect fit. I decided to make some towel sleeves for my car mats. Since my carpet in my car is black, I knew I had to find black towels to create my towel sleeves. With the towels sleeves, it would be easier to catch the dirt and rocks that would be brought into my car, and the towels would be easy to clean, since all I had to do was take off the sleeves and throw them into the washing machine.
I found two bath towels that were 52″ long by 30″ wide. Since my front floor mats are about 31″ long and 21″ wide, I only needed the width of the floor mat sleeves to be about 22″ wide. the size of these bath towels would give me 26″ width. I didn’t mind if the towel wasn’t long enough to cover the length of my floor mat because the mat could stick out a little bit.
I folded the towel in half, length-wise and pinned the edges together, to prepare for the sewing process.
I wanted to leave one of the shorter edges open, so I could slide my floor mats in and out easily. In one continuous line, I sewed along the yellow arrows (in the picture below). For the corners of the towel, where the material was thicker, I angled the long sew line and continued on. I then went back and hand stitched the corners, so they would stay together better.
As you can see, the folded towel was still large enough to fit over my floor mat, and there was still extra room.
In order for the sleeves to fit to the car mats better, I sewed rough outlines of the shape of each mat on each of the sleeves. First, I flipped the car mats over, onto the back of the car sleeve. Then, using my white fabric pencil, I drew rough outlines of each mat. I did this because I didn’t want the white washable pencil to show, when I fit the sleeve over the car mat.
I only outlined the rough outline of the car mats, because I still needed to remove them easily. I created the outlines about 3/4″ from the actual edge of the car mats. I left a bit of a boarder, for the fact that the towel might shrink in the washing machine and also, I wanted the sleeves to slip off easily, when needed. Towards the closed end of the car sleeve, I tightened the outline a bit, but in general, I kept the outline lines straight in from the open edge.
I placed each of the front floor mats into my car, and folded the edges underneath the floor mats accordingly. You don’t have to fold them under, but I chose to.
For the rear seat floor mats, I found eight hand towels to create the set in my car. My rear seat floor mats are 24″ long, by 16″ wide, so I found hand towels that were 26″ long and 16″ wide. The sewing process for these floor mat sleeves follows the previous steps for the front seat floor mat sleeves.
I stacked two hand towels on top of each other, making sure that the tag was facing inwards for both towels. I then sewed along the yellow arrows around the towels. I left one of the long edges open because I wanted to slide the floor mat in easily. For the corners of the hand towel sleeves, I angled the long, linear sew line to complete the stitch, and then I went back to each corner and stitched them together carefully. My machine doesn’t like it when the material gets too thick, because it can’t pass under the needle easily.
These rear seat floor mats had a lot of extra room around the edges, so I knew that I might have extra floor coverage.
This size hand towel seems to accommodate different car brands and the mats still fit really well within the parameters.
Now, when I need to clean my floors, I’ll just remove the floor mats from the towel sleeves and either wash them or shake them out. I might have to vacuum the edges, but that doesn’t take long at all. These towel sleeves makes my life a bit easier, by allowing me to keep my floor mats clean, and that’s always a good perk.
Living a Zero Waste life means that I create simple solutions for simple problems since I don’t want to go buy anything new or seek out another possession to take care of.
So I usually carry my phone around with me when I’m doing certain types of household tasks. These tasks don’t require a lot of vigorous movement, but I’m definitely moving around. A lot of the time it’s annoying to remember to carry the phone from one place to another when I’m running around the house and if my hands are dirty, I really don’t want to touch my phone. I needed a quick solution where I could carry the phone along with my keys without much hassle. I didn’t want to go out and buy a separate cell phone holder strap that would wrap around my arm. I have one for workouts, and that strap holds down my cell phone securely since I’m running. But I just needed a quick solution where I could carry around my phone and my keys easily for a few hours.
My quick solution was to see my t-shirt sleeve in half and create a pocket. my t-shirt sleeves are usually longer than I need them to be. This gave me the extra material to work with. I simply folded my sleeve in half and pinned the sleeve all the way around.
Depending on the width of your cell phone, measure that distance out on the top of the sleeve. Just make sure you divide the width of your phone in half and center the opening on the top of the sleeve.
For the other sleeve, I made the opening just about the same size since I knew I was going to use the other pocket for keys or my credit card.
Then just sew the sleeve from the front to the back or back to the front, making sure you still leave enough room for your cell phone. Then tie off the open thread ends.
If you put smaller items in the short pockets, they tend to fall towards the bottom of the sleeve. This can be annoying for some but for me it gives me a sense of security knowing my items won’t fall out. I just need to go fishing for my keys at the end of the day.
So there you have it. My quick and dirty solution to built in t-shirt pockets. I like to move the pockets towards the front of my body for easier access to my cell phone, but that’s simply more comfortable for me. I also will sometimes secure the t-shirt using a binder clip, that I’ll use to clip my t-shirt to my bra.
San Francisco, it’s a beautiful city with so much history, it’s mesmerizing. This city made a significant impact on my life because my zero waste journey started with this city. I don’t share this story often, but I thought I’d finally give a background to how I started my zero waste journey seven years ago.
I had moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school. It was a big city with so many places, restaurants and activities to explore, I couldn’t even keep track of everything I wanted to do. At the time, I was working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for a large, and well know ambulance company.
Fulton Avenue and Stanyan Avenue path into Golden Gate Park.
I had moved into a studio apartment in the Richmond District and it was on the third floor of a three story building. It was a beautiful studio. With hardwood floors and a cozy interior, I settled in. My building stood directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. It was an interesting location because on the weekends, the park was closed to cars on Saturdays, so the foot traffic was busy. I could also open up my windows on the weekends and I listen to the music performances from inside of the park. Since I was on the top floor, sunlight consistently illuminated my apartment all day and all year long. I lucked out on that part because San Francisco can become very cold and foggy during certain seasons.
One of the Golden Gate Park entrances off of Fulton Avenue. (at Fulton Avenue and Arguello Avenue)
I was raised and lived in the suburbs my entire life so living in a condensed large city was quite a new experience. All of my routines including grocery shopping, working out and even parking was new and took a bit of an adjustment. I parked on the street since my apartment didn’t have a parking lot. This is also how I learned to become a stealth car parking spotter. Understanding and knowing which streets you could park on in the city was a must in order to avoid parking tickets. San Francisco streets are each scheduled for street cleaning all week long on different days and at different hours, so you have to be careful of where you park, or you’ll get a ticket for blocking the street cleaner.
Living in San Francisco also introduced me to trash chutes. A trash chute is a smooth, open shaft in a multistory building, used to convey trash from upper floors to a collection room. My building’s trash chute could only be accessed from the exterior wooden staircase on the side of the building. From each floor, there was an door which allowed access to the staircase. The problem was that these doors were very heavy and never stayed open. It took quite a bit of effort to even open these doors and step out on the balcony in order to access the trash chute; it seemed that they were installed to slam shut. It could have been an issue with the spring on the door, but regardless, it took a lot of force to open the door and hold it open.
San Francisco also separates their trash out into categories: trash, recyclables and compostables. Therefore, I had to separate my disposable items. This is where my problem lay. When I first moved into the apartment, I thought the trash chute was great. It was useful, accessible and being that I was located on the third floor, it seemed convenient for me. However, it only gave access to the trash bin, not the compost bin or the recyclables bin.
When I used the trash chute, my trash bag would bounce around the chute all the way down to the trash bin. It made quite a bit of noise and I thought that wasn’t appropriate since I didn’t know if my neighbors worked night shifts or slept during the day. So I would carry my trash all the way down the narrow exterior stairs. These stairs were very old and were designed to be very narrow. This meant I had to carry my three seperate bags directly in front of me. Some weeks this was not ideal since my bags would be so full, so I had to take two trips. Taking two trips meant that I would carry two bags down together, let the stairwell door slam shut behind me, walk down the exterior stairs and throw my bags away, exit the side yard in order to enter my building from the front. I would then walk up the inside staircase to my apartment, and grab the last bag to repeat this routine. In order for me to throw away all three bags, I routinely had to exit my building twice and enter it twice; all the meanwhile walking up and down two sets of stairs. I didn’t like taking two trips just to throw out trash, so I decided that I had to eliminate one of the bags.
This is where my zero waste journey began. In order to simplify my weekly “taking out the garbage routine,” I decided that getting rid of my trash bag would be the easiest solution. I had to first start swapping out all of my disposable items and figure out how to either replace the items with more sustainable solutions or eliminate them from my life completely. I decided to tackle all of my disposable items in the kitchen first. I started by swapping out my kitchen sponges for smaller washcloths, and then started buying food without packaging. That took a little bit more planning because I had to purchase glass tupperware and change my diet slightly. Changing my diet included giving up certain foods that came in packaging such as certain types of meat, candy, snacks and cereal. I switched those out for bulk snacks such as nuts, granola mixes, whole vegetables and fruit. I started eating whole grains for breakfast and really took solace in my progress towards a zero waste life.
Although swapping out disposable items meant that my laundry load would increase, it really didn’t increase by a lot. I went through my kitchen items and then moved over to my bathroom items. I paid attention to the materials of the items I was replacing my disposable with. I always tried to choose 100% cotton material, bamboo, stainless steel or glass. I then went through my clothes and started donating everything I didn’t need.
My journey to a zero waste life took about a year and half. It sounds like a significant amount of time, but if you think about auditing your entire life, there’s a lot of stuff to go through and get rid of. During my zero waste journey, I also started minimizing my life where I also implemented a minimalistic lifestyle.
I’m writing about this story of how I got started because truth be told, it started because I was lazy. That’s the honest truth. Each blogger has a story of how they got started and this is mine. A lot of bloggers tend to move towards this lifestyle based on their awareness of their own plastic use and it’s commendable that they started living with less plastic. I wanted to write my experience so that my audience may know that not all zero waste journeys need to start with fighting for the environment. Sometimes it happens on a fluke, a chance encounter, but that it’s very possible to live this way. I did notice the benefits of living a zero waste life as I dove deeper and deeper into it and the environmental impacts became more evident as I continued on. But my story doesn’t start with an ethically conscious mindset. It started because the exterior stairs at my apartment building was too narrow to carry three bags down to the trash bin.
This is my story of how I got started to living a zero waste life. #truth
Three 7 inch-8 centimeter, white zippers (for one pillowcase design)
Two 12 inch, pink zippers (for the second pillowcase design)
Two Velvet Hangers
Sewing Machine or sew by hand
I always try to take up less space than necessary when it comes to my home. It’s not that I dont’ have the room to spread out, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t like my items and possessions spread out over a large space because it takes more energy to find things and living a more compact lifestyle helps me keep my possessions to a minimum. As a designer, it’s an interesting challenge to minimize the space that I take up.
So I decided to create a slim organizer for my closet. I had a hanging closet shelf but I wanted to get rid of it. In order to get rid of it, I still needed some type of organizer in its place. The items that I needed to organize were small clothing items as well as small accessories. This slim organizer only needed to hold the weight of those items. I did move some stuff out of the original hanging shelf to other areas of the house, so what you see in the images below isn’t a direct transfer of items to the new slim organizer.
Hanging organizers actually already do exist in stores, but from what I’ve seen, these organizers tend to have the user access the pockets from the front of the organizer. It would be easier for a person who has a walk-in closet to use those organizers, but I wanted to make a slim organizer which I could access from the side.
So in the end, this organizer helped me reduce my space by half:
Here is what I did…
I gathered my pillowcases and designated one of the pillowcases to be divided into three sections and the other pillowcase would be divided into two sections.
I took one pillowcase and hemmed the open end of the pillowcase. I then folded the pillow case into thirds and marked the lines using sewing pins. This pillowcase would have the three 7 inch-8 centimeter, white zippers sewed to it.
I sewed along the lines to close off the three separate sections, then I placed my zippers down to mark the location of the zippers. Depending on how I wanted to access my slim organizer in the closet, I had to choose which side of the pillowcase to attach the zippers. Since I wanted this slim organizer to be on the right side of my closet, I wanted the openings on the right side of the pillowcase so that when it was hanging up, I could access the slots easier. I also left about an inch margin between the zipper and the edge of the pillowcase because the items inside will create a bulge that I had to take into consideration.
I used an ink pen to make tiny dots at each end of the zipper. I actually marked the dots in between the zipper teeth at each end, this way, it also centered the location of the zipper. I connected each set of dots to create the cut lines in order to fit my zippers into the pillowcase. I just used scissors to cut these lines.
After I cut the lines, I inserted the hanger into the opening that was on the end of the pillowcase that was originally closed. I folded the pillowcase in half (vertically) to find the center and pretty much wedged the metal hook through the pillowcase. I chose to place my hanger on the original closed end of the pillowcase because if I used the hemmed end of the pillowcase for the hanger, the weight of the items in the organizer might weaken the that end of the pillowcase over time. I had to consider the weight of each pocket that was created, so I constantly thought about the overall weight that would pull on the material itself.
Once I placed my zippers into each slot that was made, I folded the edges of the pillowcase down to the zippers and pinned them together with sewing pins. Then I hand sewed the zippers to the pillowcase (making sure I sewed both the hemmed layer and the top layer of the pillowcase to the zipper).
Once I was done, I used the same process to create the double pocket slim organizer. The triple pocket slim hanging organizer will be used for small items and the double pocket slim organizer will be used for some extra pieces of clothing items.
I don’t know if this is a favored design, but I personally like how much less space it takes up. this design works for me and, my space. Hopefully this design may jog some space organizing ideas for you as well.
Although furniture is designed for specific uses, there are a few opportunities when you can design multiple functions from one piece of furniture with a few design hacks. Using or having a flat surface is essential in pieces such as tables and desks. If the furniture piece is going to have items set on it in a balanced manner, you’ve got a table style of furniture. I approach the need for flat surfaces in a few different ways.
When it comes to the need for a coffee table when I’m sitting at the couch, my ottomans become my table. I either flip the ottoman lids over and use the back as the flat and hard surface to set items on, or I use a tray on top of the ottoman to give it more stability. I’ll usually use the tray if I need to serve guests and if I need to move many items all at once (and when the clean up process is also all at once). If I’m alone I’ll usually bring the items over individually.
When it comes to more functional use of surfaces, I utilize my drawers into pull out surfaces as well. As you can see, I place my cutting board across my drawer to create a place to use it. And because I don’t need to use that particular drawer often, the cutting board stays where it is. If you use this method, as long as your cutting board is sturdy and there’s enough support on at least three sides of the board, you can utilize the drawer a a location for your cutting board. Keep in mind that you may not want to apply a great deal of pressure when using your cutting board, while it’s balanced on the drawer edges. The further you pull out your drawer, the weaker the drawer attachment is to it’s rightful sliding hinges. Basically, if you’re going to carve a heavy food product or dish, please move it to a sturdier surface. When it comes to the other drawer next to it, I use a clear cutting board, which I’ve had for awhile, and slide it out of the way when I need to access the silverware.
My bedroom came with a closet system from IKEA, which was also designed with a roll out pant rack. I hang up my coats and a few other clothing items, but I prefer to fold the rest of my clothes. Folding clothes is easier for me due to the fact that I simply don’t own a lot of clothes so I can see everything at a glance and folding is a quick task. This closet system does come with an extra shelf to be placed in the closet system, but I wanted to try out a few different design options. Currently, the closet system does not have a shelf in the location of the pull out pant rack, so I simply used my large cutting mat as a substitute. I’ve had this cutting mat for years because of my degree and I still use it. Granted, I can’t place heavy items on this generic shelf, but I also don’t need to.
When I was playing around with this design, I had used two pillowcases, attached with safety pins and I stretched the pillow cases over the pant rack. I didn’t stretch it to the point where I would start bending the pant rack arms, but enough where the pillowcases fit just right. That method actually worked pretty well. If you want to test out the pillowcase method, it will take some trial and error. It really depends on how tight you want the pillowcases to fit over those bars. These two methods worked for me because I don’t own a lot of clothes and for the ones I needed a flat surface to place them on, it wasn’t a heavy amount, so the pant rack wasn’t damaged.