I have an extra set of curtains, which I didn’t want to use anymore. I decided to create a sofa armrest organizer with both curtain pieces. Both curtain pieces were 5 foot 10 in length, and 27 inches wide.
I wanted my sofa armrest organizer to sit at a certain height off the ground, but I also wanted the top half to also tuck underneath the couch cushion. I first measured how high off the ground I wanted my couch armrest organizer. Since I needed to hang it over the sofa armrest and then wrap back over the arm to tuck underneath the cushion, that left about 47 inches to tuck underneath the cushion.
I wanted to store books in the first organizer, which would be fairly heavy, so I needed a lot of the material to tuck under the seat cushion to hold it in place. I actually wanted the top part of the organizer to tuck underneath an entire sofa cushion width, due to the weight that would be applied.
FIRST SOFA ARMREST ORGANIZER:
When I measured out my first design, I wanted the pockets for my books to be 14 inches in height. I first hemmed all of the edges and then I folded one edge to create the 14″ tall pockets. I sewed around the edge of the folded piece (yellow arrows) and then divided the pocket in half, and sewed a dividing line down the center to create two tall pockets (red arrow). These pockets will be able to hold my books and paperwork that I’m currently working on. I wanted my pockets to be a bit taller than the standard paper size (8.5″ x 11″), due to the fact that I knew the width of the pocket might eat up some of the height. I also wanted to be able to hide my books and paperwork, so my pockets wouldn’t look like they were overflowing with paper.
To attach the sofa armrest organizer, I removed the couch cushion on the side of the couch, located how high I wanted to hang the organizer, and then replaced the couch cushion. Since the top half of the fabric organizer is tucked under the couch cushion, it stayed in place.
SECOND SOFA ARMREST ORGANIZER:
I also wanted to create a second design, which would have smaller pockets for smaller items. My second design would have 10 inches in height for the books, and 6 inches for smaller objects.
Using the same sewing method as the first design, I hemmed all of the edges of the fabric material, and then measured 16″ of material at one end. I folded up the 16″ material, sewed along the outside edges of the tall pocket (yellow arrows), which created a giant 16″ tall pocket.
I then took the bottom 6″ of the pocket and folded it up, to create a shorter 6″ pocket at the bottom. This 6″ tall pocket also helped create the 10″ pocket behind the smaller pockets. I then sewed on both of the side edges of the fabric piece (red arrows) and then sewed a dividing line (blue arrow) to create a total of four pockets for this design. I sewed the edges of this design, all the way to the top of the pocket to reinforce the side edges.
Using the same method as the first sofa armrest organizer, I located where I wanted the organizer to hang on my armrest and I tucked the top half of it under the couch cushion on the end.
Since these sofa armchair organizers are made of fabric material, I can toss them into the washing machine and wash them easily. I can also fold them up and put them away if I don’t need to use them. Fabric is my favorite material to work with since it can be taken apart and reused multiple times. I love that it is a very flexible medium and I was able to put my old curtains to good use.
Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than addressing fashion textiles or products. It comprises addressing the whole system of fashion.
There are seven different routes to sustainable fashion. There’s more than one answer to be fashionably responsible. Not all of the methods to approaching sustainable fashion, suits all people equally, because we all have different needs and preferences.
There are seven different moving sections to sustainable fashion.
Sustainable Fashion can be broken down into seven categories:
On Demand & Custom Made
Made to order
Green & Clean
Keeping a green and clean production process throughout the products life cycle
High Quality & Timeless Design
Fair & Ethical Fashion
Fair Trade: According to Fair Trade USA, products that get to bear the “Fair Trade” logo “come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated.”
Ethical: The Ethical Fashion Forum says that “Ethical fashion represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment.”
Repair, Redesign & Upcycle
Repair clothing so that you can give it a longer life
You can redesign clothes to customize it into a unique piece
If you don’t plan on wearing or using the clothing item, you can upcycle it into another use
Rent, Lease & Swap
Rent or lease formal wear, so you can keep your wardrobe quantity under control, and you’ll get to choose from more options
Swap clothes with your neighbors, friends and family
Secondhand & Vintage
Shop at second hand stores or swap with neighbors, friends and and family.
These multiple methods to support a more sustainable fashion industry, and can be adopted by everyone. There really isn’t one “correct” method to the sustainable fashion route. I wanted to mention these seven methods, because I know I’ve written about creating my own DIY clothing from existing pieces, as well as shopping at thrift stores, but I’ve never listed all of the different methods to support a more sustainable fashion industry.
Under the accordance of sustainability, recycled clothing upholds the principle of the “Three R’s of the Environment”: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, as well as the “Three Legs of Sustainability”: Economics, Ecology, and Social Equity. To change the existing fashion industry into a more sustainable system, we need to practice reducing waste, reusing textile materials, and recycling old textiles. The balance between the social, economic and environmental responsibilities needs to be taken into account as well.
Sustainable fashion takes a lot of self awareness from the entire fashion industry. It means actively working with the countries and farmers who take care of the materials we source, to create our textiles. We also need to make responsible decisions that won’t damage our resources or harm our environment. I buy a lot of clothing from thrift stores because I like the variety of options I can choose from. Walking into a thrift store, is like walking into a time capsule, and it’s a fun experience for me. I also upcycle a lot of my clothing pieces that have reached the end of their life. For clothes and textiles I want to keep, but I don’t want to wear, I will upcycle the items into something more useful for my life.
If you want to support a more sustainable fashion industry, consider adopting and practicing at least one of the seven methods that support the sustainable fashion industry. You can choose more than one method to support this much needed system. If possible, try to implement all seven methods into your wardrobe collection.
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.
When H&M came to the California, specifically the Bay Area, word spread quickly. H&M started in Europe, and finally arrived here, to the states. The clothing looked like good quality, and the prices were low, cheap even. It felt like consumers hit the jackpot with this retail store, on the surface. This isn’t the first retail store to offer cheap clothing, with what looked to be good quality clothing. But if you dive right below the surface of what retailers are marketing, you might find the harsh reality of what consumers are benefiting from.
In the past decade, fast fashion has become a growing problem. The Fashion Industry has sold us the idea that instead of four seasons each year, we have 52 seasons each year. Style and clothing becomes outdated as soon as you buy it. Fast Fashion focuses on speed and low product prices, so that they can deliver frequent, new collections inspired by celebrity styles or runway styles.
As you might guess, fast fashion’s marketing strategy includes creating vibrant prints, vibrant colors and eye catching prints to be more appealing to the consumers. However, much of these fabrics are treated with toxic chemicals in order to achieve the final product. The pressure to reduce the time it takes to get a product onto the retail display floor, results in more environmental pollution. Water pollution, the use of powerful toxic chemical and the increase of textile waste are a few of the negative environmental impacts.
Garmets that are made of fabrics such as polyester and polyamides shed microfibers into the waste waste, which continue to contribute to the increasing plastic in our ocean. The demand for more production, increases the amount of waste produced as well as increases the amount of clothing consumers subsequently buy and then get rid of.
The fashion industry feeds our addiction to garments, and they’re very good at it. The low prices and latest trends are great selling strategies. “Newer, bigger, better, faster, etc.” are emphasized in commercials, advertisements and all over social media. Fashion moves fast, and therefore, must continue to develop and market new products. We, as consumers, have a tendency to buy, because buying something new gives us some form of fulfillment (that’s another topic I’ll write about in the future). The combination of companies pumping out new products and our addiction to fulfill that want for new products, creates a perfect storm in creating excessive textile waste and the destruction of the environment.
There are quite a few companies who have been called out for their practice of discarding unsold clothing and garments by cutting them up, destroying them or even pouring paint on them, so they can’t be worn. In January 2017, outside of Nike SoHo, in New York, there were bags of shoes found that had been slashed with a blade. Ex employees of Michael Kors, Juicy Couture and Henri Bendel have come forward in revealing that they were instructed to smash watches, cut up track suits and tear up silk dresses before discarding. Ex Urban Outfitters employees have admitted to being instructed to destroy “dime-outs”, which is a term used for merchandise that didn’t sell. H&M, Zara, JC Penny and even Victoria’s Secret have come under fire for these types of wasteful practices. Their defense in the the destruction of unsold merchandise, is that they are protecting the brand and are worried that donating the unsold clothing would undercut their brand. By not donating the extra merchandise, consumers won’t be able to purchase these items for a discount at outlets and thrift stores.
Americans throw out 25 billion pounds of clothing each year; 15% is recycled, and the rest ends up in a landfill. Not only does “fast fashion” damage the environment, it also disregards the rights of its workers. Fashion retailers such as Zara and H&M search for cheap manufacturing labor in countries like Bangladesh and others.
Here comes some ugly truths about fast fashion.
The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
The fast fashion industry is responsible for producing 20% of global wastewater.
In 2015, the fast fashion industry used 80 billion cubic meters of freshwater.
Production of textiles uses about 3500 different chemicals.
Cotton is one of the most resource-intensive crops out there.
We make 63% of clothes from petrochemicals.
The fast fashion industry produces 97% of our clothes overseas.
40 million people work in the garment industry today.
Dangerous working conditions exist for garment workers in the fast fashion industry.
Fast fashion is predicted to increase ~60% by the year 2030.
Between 1992 and 2002 the time we keep our clothes decreased by 50%.3
We buy 2X more clothes than we did just 15 years ago (2015 data).
The fashion industry produced 92 million tons of waste in 2015 alone.
85% of our old clothes end up in a landfill.
Only about 1% of textile waste is truly recycled.
With current technologies, it would take 12 years to recycle what the fast fashion industry creates in 48 hours
Fast fashion is a huge contributor to plastic pollution.
There are a lot of people and factors involved, when considering the timeline of producing a garment. From the farming of cotton fields, to the workers who work to create the bales of cotton fibers in the cotton facilities, then dying and creating the fabric, or using the screens to print images and patterns on the shirts, than to the manufacturer selling and sending the product out to distribution centers; there are a lot of people involved in this process.
There are real dangers for garment workers, who work to help push out production for big companies. In 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Balngladesh, which housed the Dhaka garment factory, collapsed and left 1,134 people dead and left approximately 2,500 people injured. It was a an eight story building and collapsed due to a failing structural system that included an additional illegal three stories above the original permit. Even though an engineer had requested an inspection of the building, since it was deemed unsafe, unethical administrative players in this case, passed the building off as safe, and told the workers they should return to the factory and continue to work.
There’s speculation that perhaps the pressure to have the workers return to the factory the next day, was to continue to complete the garment orders on time. The demand for the garments were still flooding in, so slowing down production was not an option for the managers. The demand for fast fashion, low-cost clothing by clothing brands, dangerous conditions, non-union representation and low wages, is what the fast fashion industry creates.
Our resources for producing cheap and fast clothing is taking a toll on the environment, and people are starting to speak up and speak out about it. The bigger the industry is, the more impact it has on our natural resources. More companies are looking towards more sustainable materials such as hemp, linen, and wool.
Hemp material is a favorite of mine because it is a more sustainable material. It’s a very durable material, has UV protection qualities, water absorbent and breathable, no chemical fertilizers pesticides required during farming, naturally biodegradable, and highly antimicrobial. It grows quickly and can be grown in all different climates.
Linen is derived from the flax plant. Linen is 30% stronger than cotton and is known to be the strongest natural fiber. It’s thicker than cotton, but linen lasts longer than cotton too. Linen can absorb 20% moisture before it starts to feel damp. It has a natural ability to prevent bacterial growth, yet can move air and moisture through it’s hollow fibers easily.
There are options when the choice of introducing new garments into your wardrobe. You can shop at thrift stores, choose more sustainable materials for your wardrobe, or even choose to not buy clothing as often, to alleviate the textile waste created by the fashion industry. Apparel retailers such as Zara and H&M dominate the world of fast fashion, with Zara owner Inditex making 3.44 billion euros ($3.9 billion) in profit in 2018.
The second hand apparel market was worth $24 billion in the U.S. in 2018, versus $35 billion for fast-fashion, say the figures from GlobalData.
However, by 2028 the used-fashion market is set to skyrocket in value to $64 billion in the U.S., while fast-fashion will only reach $44 billion.By shopping at thrift stores, you can help keep clothing out of the landfill.
Even better, is to stop buying cheap clothing, invest in sustainable fashion clothing and stop buying unnecessary amounts of clothing.
Cutting mat (or cardboard, plywood, some type of surface you’re willing to cut into and can damage just a little bit)
4 Safety Pins
So I’ve owned an over the door shoe organizer for awhile. I didn’t use it a lot because I didn’t have many pairs of shoes. When I started to declutter my life and minimize my possessions, I kept it because I still liked the design and I knew I could use the material to create something else.
Because I’m not a fan of keeping items out in the open, much less hanging them out in the open, I knew I wanted to upcycle this shoe organizer into smaller organizers. I personally like things to be put away. My minimalist, zero waste lifestyle lends my living space towards clean surfaces and minimal decor. So I wanted to create two smaller organizers which could be hung up in the closets.
The goal was to create two separate organizers that were each 2 pockets across by 3 pockets vertically on each side of the smaller organizer. So each side of the hanger would hold a grid of pockets that was 2 pockets across by 3 pockets vertical.
First I cut the shoe organizer in half.
I then folded each organizer in half (vertically) to find out where I wanted to locate the hangers.
I then placed each hanger on each organizer, as I wanted them to sit. I wanted to place each hanger so that the top bars of the hangers would still be protected by the fabric. I only wanted the neck of the hanger to stick up and out of the fabric so the fabric organizer would sit higher on the hanger. The hanger would have more control of the overall weight of the items inside each pocket when it was hung up.
I placed the hangers where I wanted each hanger to be located on each organizer and then marked the location of the bottom bar. I needed to make a mark at those locations, because that’s where the bottom of the openings for the hangers would pass through.
Using the X-acto blade, on the folded edge, I carefully cut a straight line of where the hanger would stick out. I cut along the mid line of the fabric grid pattern and only cut enough for the hanger to fit. You can sew the edges of these openings if you want a clean and sturdy structure around the edge of the opening. I suggest using a running stitch to do that, if you choose to.
Using the bottom of opening as a location marker, I sewed both sides of each organizer together. I wanted the backs folded and sewed to one another to create a more sturdy central structure. I sewed from the bottom of each opening, around and up to the other side, making sure I stopped at the other marker.
The idea was that I wanted to seal the two flaps of pockets to each other, but leave enough room for the hanger to slide in and out of the design.
Once the hanger is slid into place, the flap should allow the user to remove the hanger if necessary. I used a hem stitch to secure the top of the opening on the folded edge (see below). I did this because I know that the weight of the the organizer will tear the opening over time. I wanted to secure the top of the opening and reinforce the structure.
I stitched an extra line above the hanger (towards the folded side of each hanger), but underneath the pocket flaps, to reinforce extra support for the organizer.
Using a safety pin, I pinned the opened edge approximately where the top of the hanger was located on the opposite side. This way, the hanger can be removed easily when it comes time to wash it or put it away. The safety pin will act as a closing mechanism to hold the hanger in place.
So there you have it, this is how I upcycled my over the door shoe organizer. Although, I technically only created smaller shoe organizers, I had the idea that I could use these smaller organizer to store smaller items such as jewelry, scarfs, socks, etc., that can get lost in a closet. Basically, anything you might store in the top drawer of your dresser, you might use this for. I don’t use a dresser, so this product can be useful for me. Right now I actually use a few of the pockets to keep some running and workout items organized. I like this design for the fact that it’s double sided and it can be folded up and put away if it’s not being used. Hopefully this post might spark some organizational ideas for your life.
So recently I started going auditing my traveling items such as my bath bag, travel accessories as well as my sport bags. I wanted to find 3 pieces of clothing to donate, but I also noticed that my bath bag wasn’t containing my bath items comfortably.
So I had the choice to go buy/find a new bath bag or find another solution. Out of the items I decided to donate, I found a tank top, sweater and a pair of jeans. Denim is one of my favorite materials to work with. I love upcycling denim into new items. The idea of donating the pair of jeans wasn’t exactly what I thought I would do, so I decided to make a stand up bath bag for myself, or at least a few stand up bags.
I’ve owned bath bags before, but the material was with a polyester or nylon blend. Over time, my bath bags would have soap or toothpaste residue stains. I figured that with a denim bath bag, I could simply throw it into the washing machine and it would clean easily.
I divided each leg in half by folding it in half. I then cut the legs off from the pair of jeans and then divided each piece in half.
I turned each of them inside out and designated the wider end of the pieces as the bottom of the bag and the smaller ends as the top of the bag. I folded the top of the bags down to create the drawstring tube. This is where I wanted to install the drawstring later.
I hemmed the bottoms of the bags by simply sewing a sew line across the bottom. I then sewed the drawstring tube. I measured 2″x2″ squares on the corners on bottom.
I marked these white dots on BOTH SIDES OF THE BAG, near the bottom section of the bag. These white dots will be used as guides of where you will sew in the next step.
I then flipped the bag upside down, and so that the right side seam was facing up. I then folded the bottom of the bag to create a diamond shape. You should be able to locate all four dots that were created in the last step, when molding the diamond shape.
The dots are guides to sew where you will sew horizontally across the diamond. After sewing the two lines, the diamond should look like this.
Since I was initially thinking of making a new bath bag, I wanted to sew a small pocket inside of that bag. I had this extra pocket left over from my Handmade Handkerchiefs project, so I added it on the inside. To find the opposing edges of the box, you can locate it by finding the perpendicular lines of the top and bottom hemmed lines.
If you want to make a small pocket inside, you can sew a piece of material to the inside of the bag, as long as you leave to top of the material open.
In this case, because the pocket was more than half of the height of the bag, I placed the pocket towards the bottom of the bag. I also knew that I would be folding the bag down when in use, so placing it towards the bottom gave me room for the top to be folded down.
Once I pulled the drawstrings through the bags, this is what they looked like. They stand up pretty well, and I can fold them down to create a top frame for the boxes.
This is what my bath bag looks like now.
I like the fact that I can simply fold my bag down and be able to access everything I need inside. I also have the habit of attaching a ring to the interior of any bag. So I attached a metal ring to the inside seam of the bag, because I wanted to hang small bath items for easy access.
So there you have it. This was my solution to my travel bath bag issue. I genuinely love denim and to make these stand up drawstring bags with this material is one of my favorite kinds of sewing projects that I like to get involved in.
I used my other bags for some camera gear and for another bag I use for traveling. The denim creates a nice thickness for the bottom of these bags, which is why I like to use them for electronics.
As a bonus…
I made a bag out of the top part of my denim jeans. I simply flipped the top inside out and hemmed the pant leg openings. Due to the nature of how the jeans were cut and sewed, I folded the outer edges of the jeans inward when I hemmed them.
I then sewed a zipper to the top opening of the jeans using sewing pins to hold the zipper in place and then sewing it to my pants. I used the same sewing steps to attach the zipper as to when I Created Slim Hanging Organizers.
Since my zipper wasn’t quite long enough for the length of the jeans, I closed off the jeans by sewing the top together.
I used an extra tie to create the handles of this bag. This was a simple choice but some people may prefer to use a belt or something more to their taste. I chose the tie because I wanted to be able to throw everything into the washing machine.
And as always, I attached a metal ring to my zipper for a slightly easier access.
I use this bag to hold some smaller items that need a bit of cushion like camera gear or smaller electronics.
So I had a hanging fabric shelf organizer which I had replaced by sewing slim hanging organizers from pillow cases. You can find that blog post at Created Slim Hanging Organizers. But once I replaced the canvas hanging organizer, I didn’t know what to do with it. So I decided to create small fabric boxes with the leftover material. I first took it apart, literally took it apart piece by piece. I recycled the cardboard and I was left with rectangular pieces of canvas.
This project works best if you have perfect square material, but I didn’t want to waste any material so my pieces were left as rectangular pieces. Rectangular canvas pieces yield rectangular shaped boxes. Square fabric pieces will result in perfect square boxes.
So I first worked on the larger fabric piece. I first sewed the edges of the fabric so it wouldn’t com apart. I wanted these boxes to have a rougher look to them so I didn’t hem the edges. You can insert a fitted quilt batting piece in between your fabric pieces if you are using a softer fabric and if you want your box sides to be a stiff frame. I didn’t use batting because my material is canvas in this project.
I folded it in half (doesn’t matter which direction), and then I marked off a 3 inch by 3 inch triangle on each corner of the folded side. These triangle marks are the red lines in the photo. The larger the triangle, the higher the height of the fabric box will stand.
I opened it up and I folded the fabric piece in the perpendicular direction, with the first set of triangle marks still facing upwards.
I then proceeded to fold the fabric and mark off the second set of 3 inch by 3 inch triangle on each corner of the folded side. These are located with the blue lines in the photo.
From there, I sewed over the lines of where I had marked each set of triangles. I sewed the blue lines first. I then opened up the fabric piece, lined up the other corners in order to sew over the red lines.
Once you sew all of the four corners, when you open the fabric, it should look something like this. However, now you have to flip the box inside-out. Once you do that, the rectangular tabs you created should be on the inside.
With the four triangle flaps sticking straight up, fold them down to create a straight edge of the box. You can pin it down with sewing pins to watch the shape take form. Once you fold down all of the standing flaps, you should have a similar box like the photo below.
Now you just need to sew the standing flaps down to create sharper straight edges of the box and then sew the flaps on the inside of the box to keep them flat against the sides.
I’ve used the large fabric boxes to organize items in my linen closet as well as my camera gear items. Although these aren’t perfect squares, I like the idea that these fabric boxes are easily modified to most objects.
For the smaller piece of fabric, I hemmed the edges to keep the fabric together and then I measured a 2 inch margin all around the edges. Here, you can insert a piece of fitted quilt batting before sewing the edges together, to give your fabric box a more framed look.
I folded each edge over and ironed the lines to define the bottom of the box.
Using sewing pins, I folded in each corner and held them there. These smaller triangles will help define the corners of the box.
For each triangle corner, I found the center of the triangle and folded it in half. Once the triangle folded in half, the edges of the box came together naturally. I hand sewed these edges together by using a running stitch pattern. I sewed the running stitch in one direction, then simple went back the opposite direction to fill in the gaps in the pattern.
Once I sewed all four corners, I proceeded to sew the triangle flaps on the inside of the box to the walls.
I’ve used the smaller fabric boxes to keep smaller items organized that sit on shelves and table tops. So there you have it, these were very simple boxes made from the canvas material I had left over from the hanging fabric shelf organizer. You can use pretty much any fabric you want, but you may need to use quilt batting to strengthen the sides of the boxes.
Fabric Shower curtains are usually made with polyester fabric. A few years ago, I had ordered extra fabric shower curtains and I really wanted to use up the material. I had previously posted a quick blog post about using fabric shower curtains as temporary screens for doors in Alternative Screen For Doors.
But now I wanted to see if I could upcycle the material again for another purpose. This upcycling project works well if you have solid color curtains. I wanted to create a sheer curtain layer to hang with each of the three sets of my existing window curtains. I thought it would be interesting to upcycle my extra fabric shower curtains to sheer curtains for my windows. I still like the patterns I choose and with the sheer curtains up against my windows, the patterns would be illuminated as the sun hit them each morning.
So I took down each of my existing window curtains and measured them to see how much fabric I needed from the shower curtains. The width of the window wasn’t a problem since I had 72″ to work with. The only variable was the height of each curtain.
For my multicolored shower curtain, I divided the shower curtain in half length wise and width wise equally. I had planned to use the top half of this curtain to create my first sheer window curtain set. The bottom half would be combined with the top half of the bamboo curtain, to create the third set of window curtains.
For my bamboo print shower curtain, I measured the height that I initially wanted starting from the bottom of the curtain. I did this because I wanted the second curtain set to be completely covered by the pattern. I left the white void at the top of the bamboo curtain because I knew I was going to use it in the third set of window curtains. I had planned to sew the top half of the bamboo shower curtains to the bottom half of the multicolored shower curtain to create the last set of sheer window curtains.
I then pinned the edges that had been cut using sewing pins and hemmed them to clean up the trim around the shower curtain.
Since the width of each shower curtain piece was wider than the individual window curtain pieces, I tucked and folded the shower curtain pieces to fit each window curtain width accordingly. I only sewed about 6″ up the shower curtain piece to hold the folded in piece in place, and across the bottom. You can sew the entire height of the folded piece, but I simple choose not to.
Since I know I want to keep these curtain designs as is, I decided to sew the new sheer curtain layer to my existing window curtains. You don’t have to sew them, you can use safety pins as a temporary solution if you’re not sure about keeping the sheer layers, or if you want to change them out. Make sure you decide which side of the sheer curtain you want to face towards the window and which side of your existing window curtain you want to face inwards into your home. I personally don’t care about what my curtain looks like to the outside world so I have the nicer pattern facing inwards. This is why adding a sheer layer helps the presentation of my curtains to the outside world.
To secure my curtains, I had initially made cord tiebacks with leftover material from an old bed sheet, in order to keep my curtains open. With the new sheer layer, I can tie back the solid color window curtain and leave the sheer layer or I can wrap them both back to let in even more sunlight.
This hack has been published before, but I made these years ago and I thought I would share it. Depending on the type of material the tank tops are made out of, the bags may be better used for carrying smaller and lighter items. These tank top bags stretch well, so a lot of items can fit into these bags.
First I turned the tank tops inside out and hemmed the bottom of the tank tops. I pinned the hemmed edge using sewing pins and tied off the thread ends.
I turned the tank tops inside out and that’s about it. Using the straps of the tank tops as the handles, the tank tops become small bags.
These are really simple and quick solutions if you have extra tank tops or shirts that you may not want to get rid of. For t-shirts, just remove the sleeves, and hem the existing openings of the shirts and you can use the collar opening to fill up the t-shirt bags. You can always repurpose items into useful items. Living a zero waste life doesn’t necessarily mean to live with only glass or aluminum items, it also means to repurpose items so that you won’t purchase unnecessary items as well. Considering where materials are foraged for the products we use, and how much clothing is donated each year, sometimes repurposing clothing just seems to fit better for some memorable pieces. It’s the reason why I tend to repurpose clothing items when I can.
For the clothing items that mean more to you than others, consider making it part of a quilt or a bag or even a pillow cover. You’ll be able to hold onto the items, and they will also serve another purpose as its initial purpose may have expired.
In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans toss each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons, or an astounding 80 pounds per person. The EPA estimates that diverting all of those often-toxic trashed textiles into a recycling program would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road. Trashing the clothes is also a huge waste of money. Nationwide, a municipality pays $45 per ton of waste sent to a landfill.
Whenever I go and do a beach cleanup, it’s never really a formal event. I use large fabric bags that I had sewed awhile back and I gather what I can. I use old running gloves to pick up the items because I don’t own a pair of rubber gloves anymore. I can easily also toss these gloves into the laundry when I’m done. With fabric gloves, I’m still very cautious about what I pick up and how I pick items up.
Most of the time, I’ll find anything and everything discarded on the beach. I usually walk along the shoreline and carefully look through the seaweed and debris that gets washed up from the ocean. A lot of ocean trash gets tangled up in the seaweed which then gets washed up on the beach.
I went to Roosevelt Beach this time for the beach clean up, and this beach looks fairly clean overall, but when you slow down and walk slowly, you can see little bits and pieces of trash everywhere like this:
On the surface the beach looks clean, but once I examined and shoreline and walked further and further, I kept finding more and more trash. At one point, it felt overwhelming because I knew I probably missed a bunch of pieces of trash due to the angle I was standing at or maybe my eyes simply couldn’t see the trash clearly. The reason why I like to do beach cleanups is because of the amount of trash that now occupies our ocean. There are different garbage patches that exist in five different ocean gyres in the world. With the ocean currents and the trash that’s discarded into the ocean, the combination creates different garbage patches which subsequently, kills the ocean wildlife. Since I live alone the Pacific Coast, the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is the closest garbage patch to me.
Here are the basic facts about the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch;
7 million tons of weight
Twice the size of Texas
Up to 9 feet deep
In the Great Pacific Ocean Gyre there is 6 times more plastic than plankton, which the main food for many ocean animals
By estimation 80% of the plastic originates from land; floating in rivers to the ocean or blew by the wind into the ocean
The remaining 20% of the plastic originates from oil platforms and ships
According scientist it is the largest plastic dump on earth; so plastic patches are larger than waste dumps on land
Trash patches consist for 80 percent out of plastic
Scientific research from the Scrips Institution of Oceanography in California U.S. shows that 5 to 10% of the fish contain small pieces of plastic.
There are many reasons why I choose to live a zero waste life, or at least as close as I can to a completely zero waste life. Knowing that the trash we discard into the ocean is killing wildlife weighs on me. Although there are many concerns in the world that I do care about, this one hits close to home. We did this. Humans did this and are still doing this to wildlife.
There’s a program called Take 3 For the Sea, where they encourage that when you visit any location and pick up at least 3 pieces of trash, you too can help with reducing the amount of trash floating out in wildlife. This non-profit organization delivers education programs to inspire our global community to help create a cleaner planet for wildlife and future generations. You can pick up 3 pieces of trash wherever you go and that would make an impact on the environment.
I encourage you to do this. Please help clean up your local beaches. You can even download the app by Ocean Conservancy called Clean Swell. It’s a global movement to keep beaches, waterways and the ocean trash free. Head out to your favorite beach and use the app to easily record each item of trash you collect. Then share your effort with family and friends.
You can also find local beach clean up organizations near you. I have been a member of the Surfrider Foundation and they hold monthly beach clean ups.
Extra nuts and bolts to secure the handles to the peg boards
I first had to measure the width of my cabinet openings, due to the fact that they were old up-cycled cabinets from when we had first moved into this house. The cabinet drawer opening measured 12″ wide and 24″ deep. Ideally, most new cabinet installments would add a nice overall look and clean up the space a bit, but the way new sliding drawers are built, the thickness of the wood would eat up a lot of the width opening. This is why I decided to make some generic sliding drawers.
I measured out the dimensions of 11-1/2″ wide and 20″deep on the peg board, and I had just enough board to make up three drawers. Because the peg board came with pre-drilled holes, it was easy to guesstimate where the handles would be located, and not all of the handles would necessarily be centered. Also, the screws that came with the handles accessories package were designed to fit a 3/4″ thick board, but the peg board was only 1/4″ thick. this is why I had to gather a few extra nuts to infill the space between the original handle screw and the end of the handle itself.
Once I cut the boards to the right size to fit the openings, I placed the handles where I wanted them to be located and attached the nuts and screws accordingly. Because I wanted these drawers to slide, I went to a local fabric store and bought some thick bulk rope. I used this rope to wrap around the long sides of the drawers so that they would slide out easier. The rope also evidently contained the items sitting on top. You can also contain the items that would sit on top of these drawers by screwing a thin piece of wood onto the top of the drawer so you have a more secure way of holding your items.
Because the motion of the drawers is more of a pull-out motion when in use, I was more concerned about the items falling off in the back of the drawer when the drawer was pulled outward. Once the rope was tied on, I placed my items inside my small rectangular, fabric containers.
I nailed down 12″(L) x 1/4″(W) x 3/4″(D) wooden pieces on each side of the drawers, inside the cabinet, as guides for the drawers. I chose to use a 12″(L) because the depth of the cabinet is 24″. I braced the guides up against the front of the cabinet, in which these guides will help slide out the drawers along a smoother line.
These drawers are very simple sliding drawers made form material found around the house. There are a number of designs to secure drawer guides in place, and this one was a very simple design. If I had used a 1/4″ bottom for the drawers, I would have secured a different drawer guide design underneath the drawer. I genuinely like the fact that these drawers slide on the rope and it makes virtually no sound when pulled out and pushed back in. It doesn’t’ scratch the surface of the cabinet shelves and it’s simple enough to take apart if I no longer have the need for this design. Maybe this design will work for you, in other areas of your home. I hope this post might have helped brainstorm some ideas.
So originally, I had created these bags for my Utensil To-Go Kit, and I realized that I could create smaller bags for my make-up tools. So I tested it out and this is what I came up with.
I had some old zippers from awhile back that I never used and these were a great fit. I first undid and removed the drawstring from the bag. Then I cut the original bag in half and sewed the sides of each to create two smaller bags. Because I cut straight thorough the original drawstring hem, I took the string and also cut that in half.
I measured each zipper and made appropriate cuts on the front of each bag for each zipper. Using small sewing pins, I attached each zipper to each bag and then I hand sewed the zippers to the bags. I inserted the smaller drawstrings through the new drawstring hems and tied them off.
The end product were bags that could be accessed through the zipper or through the top where the drawstring closed the bag. This was an interesting solution because when I place items in these type of bag designs, I never have items of all the same height. This bag allows me to access the taller items from the top opening and the smaller items from the front where the zipper is located. I’ve used this for make up tools, writing utensils and also my “Take Out Silverware Kit” that I keep in my purse.
I’m a big fan of carabiners. I have all different types and designs, however, I tend to favor the Asymmetrical D-Shape. On a whim a few years back, I bought two S-Binder carabiners. I really liked this design because the items I would place on the bottom half of the carabiner were separated from the top half. The top lever was the lever that I would use to hook and unhook the carabiner to other objects.
This also lead to an issue with the way in which I used it. Each time I would wrap my hands around the carabiner to press open the top lever, I would inadvertently press my palm against the bottom lever and the objects had a very good chance to slide out. This involuntary action happened a few times and I had to come up with a quick solution.
First, I wrapped a small piece of Velcro around the bottom lever, but over time, the Velcro started to become weaker and would become unattached, which left the end flap of the Velcro unattached. I knew I had to come up with a more permanent solution. I knew other carabiner brands sold their Asymmetrical D-Shape carabiners with locking mechanisms or had an external accessory that helped lock their levers in place. I had to make my own locking mechanism in order for me to not drop my keys all over the place.
I took a old piece of an iron on elbow patch (I had bought a set years ago and never used them all up), and I cut the length to the distance that it would take to cover the lever and half of the basket of the carabiner. (If you don’t know where the ‘basket’ is, I labeled all of the parts of a carabiner in the first image).
With a few sewing needles, I marked the locations of the fabric of which I would have to sew the fabric together. I removed the fabric from the carabiner and sewed it up. I needed to create a snug fit for the locking mechanism so that the fabric didn’t move easily when in use. When I sewed my second locking mechanism, I sewed it a little too snug, but with fabric, you have a slight chance to stretch the length and width of any product due to the material. This was material for iron-on elbow patches, so it was a very, very slight stretch .
Once I was finished sewing both the locking mechanisms, I slid the pieces on, moved my key rings over them and then slid it back over the levers. It’s a simple solution to a very basic tool I use everyday.
If you use any other kind of fabric, perhaps 100% cotton, you may have to sew it a little tighter because cotton tends to stretch more. And, you may want to extend the length of the locking mechanism so that it can’t slide back and forth on the basket as easily. The idea is to make the fabric slight “stuck” on the spine of your carabiner. If it has a hard time sliding around the basket, then it most likely won’t slide around when in use.
I hope this might give any of you some ideas as to how to approach design problems such as this one. Happy sewing and don’t loose those keys!
So I had leftover thread and fabric from making my homemade produce bags, I didn’t want to add them to my trash pile because I knew I could still reuse the material. At the time I didn’t know what to use the extra thread and fabric but I kept it anyway.
Then when I was adjusting my hallway mirror one day, I noticed that the mirror kept banging against the wall (which drove me nuts). I don’t like the sound of an object not secured safely or is unstable in any way. I took my extra fabric and sewed cushions over the metal hanging hooks that were attached to the back of the mirror. I’m lucky that this mirror already had staples on it and I utilized them to secure the fabric to the back.
The first image is leftover fabric that I pulled from my pile of fabric and thread scraps. I took a close up image of the attached hanging hooks and what the hanging hooks looked like afterwards. The last image is what the back of the mirror looks like now. I’ve never tried this before but it worked pretty well. I may just go around the house to look for more items to cushion against hard surfaces.
If you have extra fabric around, I suggest to keep it and find a way to reuse it. It’ll keep the fabric out of the landfill and you get to reuse the material for something useful.
Sometimes after I purchase a clothing item from the thrift store, I’ll come home to find out that some adjustments are needed. If the item is not exactly what I need, I’ll add design edits to the product with my own creative touch to get to the specific use that I was really looking for in the store.
For my light blue blouse, the button holes of the blouse were stretched larger than the buttons, so I had to shrink the size down. The buttons were able to unhinge without much effort. With a little bit of thread and hemming, my button holes were sewn smaller and fitted accordingly.
For my shoulderbag, the bag was designed with double straps but I’m a single strap kinda gal. I also hate trying to grab both straps, of any purse or handbag, each time I need to pick up the bag. This is what the bag looked like when I first bought it with both shoulder straps intact.
With a little bit of cutting and resewing, this is what my strap for my shoulderbag looks like now. I left the other two rings on the bag because I use them to hang my bag up in my car (that’s for an upcoming post about how I hack my car). I’ve done this with another bags, one of which is actually my camera bag. I use the extra rings to hook carabiners when I go on impromptu photo shoots. Idealy I want the top to be closed, and once I figure out a way to design it, I’ll add that in too.