Friday, January 9, 2015

Making vs. Buying

So when I decided to question myself before every purchase this year, to see if it was something I could make myself or buy locally-crafted, I thought it would be pretty easy. After all, I love to make things for myself and my family. This would be the perfect excuse opportunity to do more of that, save money, and reduce my environmental impact.

Clearly, I was delusional.

I have four reasons why I can't make everything I need:

1. Child #1
2. Child #2
3. Child #3
4. My full-time job

Or, really, time. I don't have time to do everything I want to do, and I wasn't suddenly gifted with more time because I made a New Year's resolution. Once I started to evaluate the things I bought - especially food, I really love anything pre-made and microwavable - I began to realize how difficult it would be to make everything even if I have the ability to do it.

A prime example is our remote control situation. We have a bunch of remotes and they're always getting misplaced. I thought, I should get a basket to keep them in. Then I thought, No, I should make a little container! I made a plan to make a simple fabric bucket out of the leg of an old pair of blue jeans...after all, nothing reduces environmental impact like re-purposing and re-using.  So I went ahead and made it:

I got the idea on New Year's Day. It took me nine days to get around to doing it, and the only reason it happened that fast is because I had off of work yesterday and today because of the weather. Put that together with the days I was off for winter break, and six of those nine days were days off. And it STILL took over a week to do. Once I got started it only took about twenty minutes, but finding the time to do it and prioritize it over all the other stuff I have to do took some time.

I'm not expecting to be able to shift to making everything within a year. But hopefully this mental exercise will help me increase the number of things I make and see the opportunities for being more creative, even if I can't take those opportunities all the time.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My 2015 Resolution

Well it's officially 2015 and I made a few New Year's Resolutions...finish some quilting and knitting projects, acquire more sewing machines. But I wanted to make one real resolution. In 2015, I want to make more and buy less.

One reason is economic. I work for a school district, folks. I don't make a ton of cash. I should save money any chance I get.

Another reason is environmental. Although I don't know the environmental impact of manufacturing and shipping a skirt versus manufacturing and shipping the supplies and fabric I'd use to make a skirt, I suspect that making is environmentally friendlier in the long run because the things I make last longer and will see more use than the mass-produced stuff I buy in stores. And in the case of knit items, I'm sure that making and shipping yarn is much more environmentally friendly than making and shipping sweaters. And, of course, anything I can upcycle or repurpose will save that item from going into a landfill.

Yet another reason is because the more I learn about labor practices overseas, the less comfortable I am purchasing items that were made there.

The last reason, though is because I just love the things I make. I love making things that can be used. I'm not saying that everything I make turns out great - sometimes they don't even turn out okay - but I get sort of a thrill out of using things I made with my own two hands.

This fall I made myself a hoodie. I didn't even really make it, I just altered a hoodie that my husband hadn't worn in forever. I took in the sides, lined the hood with cute fabric, and added ties with the same fabric.

I swear, I wear that hoodie more than any other garment I own. It's partially because I took it and made it into exactly what I wanted. But the other part is that whenever I put it on, I get a flash of satisfaction...I think to myself, I made that. That's awesome, and I want to model that for my kids.

So this year, I won't buy anything without asking myself these two questions:

1. Can I make that?
2. Do I know somebody that can make that?

If I can't make it, I'd rather give my business to someone local who can make it rather than a big business. I imagine that often the answer will be "no"...I can't make oil filters for my car, and although I could knit a pair of socks it probably wouldn't turn out well and it would take forever.

As I go I'll post pictures of my "make more buy less" projects. Hopefully this will be a year with a lot more crafting, a lot more creativity, and less consumerism.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Hello again!

 I know it's been forever, but I've been so busy. Work has been a whirlwind and it's left not that much time for crafts. Fortunately I've carved out some time for sewing and quilting. I finished a quilt for my cousin. My aunt said that he likes my quilts, so she wanted to pay me to make one for him for Christmas. I suppose this is the first quilt I've ever sold! I love how it turned out. It was pieced on my White Family Rotary and Singer 27, and free-motion quilted on my Singer 115.

I sewed a bunch of stuff for Christmas, and started plotting out two new quilts. One is actually a gift for my nephew. His parents love video games and named him after a video game character. This is the plan for a patchwork quilt for him. Do you recognize the character? It's pretty retro!

 I also started knitting. I've had a couple false starts with knitting over the years, and I've always regarded it as too slow to be satisfying for me. However, a couple months ago I got chatting with a woman who was passing the time by knitting, and she said that some people knit bunches of scarves just because they enjoy working with the yarn.


A quilt and yarn shop recently opened up in my neighborhood and I loved looking at the beautiful yarns, even though I didn't know how to knit. The idea of making scarves just to have a reason to work with the yarn really resonated with me. She also mentioned that projects that use bigger needles and chunky yarn go a lot faster, which I didn't realize. So, I bought some yarn and gave it a shot.

I made this cowl. It's pretty warm!


 I also made this scarf. I actually made the scarf first, but it wasn't a successful project. I learned to knit by watching a YouTube tutorial and somehow I missed the part about knitting a row, turning the work around, and knitting another row. So instead I'd knit a row left-handed, knit a row right-handed, knit a row left-handed, all along the scarf. The scarf is super-curly and curls into a tube the second you lift it off a flat surface. Whoops. At least the cowl is usable.


I'm sort of in love with knitting. I'm on winter break from work right now, which means I'm knitting and sewing up a storm. It's absolute bliss.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Design wall

I've always wanted a design wall, but I didn't really have the space. Now that I've moved into a new spot in the basement I was able to hang this tablecloth over the shelves near my space. It covers up the overstuffed shelves and gives me a new design wall! I'm so excited!

These blocks are for a quilt I'm making for my cousin. I don't spend all of my time gathering machines, despite what it looks like on this blog.

So excited!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New space

Lately I've been working on re-arranging the basement. I have my sewing area down there, and my husband has an area where he does projects. I thought we could use our space better, and make a new and better space for the kids to play, if we moved things around.

My spot is done. Here it is!

I don't usually keep my machines out of their tables - I did it just for this picture. I kind of love it, though, seeing all those old machines out and ready for work. I'd love to host a treadle workshop sometime...if only my house was bigger (this is actually less than 1/4 of the basement of my 900 square foot house).

This cabinet came with the house. The previous owner was a school custodian, and this looks an awful lot like cabinets I've seen in schools' science labs around the district. I absolutely love it.

This is what the rest of the basement looks like. I'm going to get a tablecloth with a flannel backside and tack it up over the shelves. I'll FINALLY have a design wall! Oh, and the shelves will be covered too.

I cleaned out my old corner of the basement and I've started setting up things for the kids there. I feel sentimental, which is silly, considering that I'm just on the other side of a shelving unit from my old corner. However, I'm really excited about what my kids' new space will look like!

Like I said, my house is around 900 square feet. I share it with a husband, three kids, and three cats. It's cozy and we have to use every inch well, which is why I'm so glad that I have my own space in the basement for my machines and my sewing. I feel really lucky. I also think it's good for my kids to see someone modeling how rewarding it can be to make things by hand and follow creative pursuits.

This past weekend we had a rummage sale. We did fairly well. I had the White Rotary in the garage and for our rummage sale I dragged it around onto the porch so I could sew while watching our merchandise.

It was really nice! Later I moved the machine into the basement and put all of its drawers in. Now it's ready for regular use.

Right now in between working on machines and arranging my space I'm also working on a quilt for my cousin. I'll have to post pictures's just a patchwork quilt but I think it'll be really pretty!

Friday, July 18, 2014

White Family Rotary

I've been having some luck with sewing machines lately. Today I gave away my Davis Honeymoon and Bradbury machines to someone who will get more use out of them. It makes me feel not so bad about picking up yet another treadle, even though I just got that New Home this week.

But this one was free...someone on Facebook was just looking to give it away. It was meant to be!

This is my new White Family Rotary!

The woman who had it actually bought it at a rummage, and used it up until a few years ago. She kept the manual, an extra belt, and the attachments. She even kept the oil can!

The cabinet is so pretty. I can see why people love White cabinets.

We took the machine and drawers out to transport the machine, so I can't wait to get it all put back together. It's going to be beautiful!

This will mean some re-arranging of my current sewing space can only hold so many machines. However, I'm sure we can slide it in. It's a beauty!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Welcome home, New Home

I always peruse Craigslist. I have an app that lets me search my local Craigslist and the Craigslist listings for one town over, and it's part of my nightly routine to do a search for sewing machines.

So when I saw a New Home in a parlor cabinet for a mere $20, how could I resist? I didn't know much about New Homes, but the price was right for me to find out.

It turns out that New Home was a pretty interesting company, and the machine was pretty cute!

This is the treadle mechanism. I was kind of sad when I picked it up because there were no cabinet drawers to rifle through, but over in the corner there was a mix of sewing junk and dust, and there were two long bobbins lurking in there. Score!

You can also see the original finish. Beautiful.
There was a name scratched into the oil pan, and below it is written "RR #2." I wonder who it belonged to...
This was the cabinet when I picked it up two days ago...pretty good, but kind of grungy from living in someone's basement for years...

And this is how it looked yesterday. It still has flecks of white paint all over it, but the finish is much improved. I washed it with Murphy's Oil Soap and went over it with Howard's Restor-A-Finish. 
The machine head will still take some tinkering and oiling before it'll sew easily, but I'm really pleased with my new machine.