Thursday, 16 October 2008

Refashioning adult shirts into girls' dresses.

Posted by Julie
Towards Sustainability

One of my most popular posts was about refashioning an adult shirt into a dress for my daughter. It's not an idea that I came up with, I pinched the original concept from a great tutorial in a forum, which you can find here. I am NOT an experienced sewer by any stretch of the imagination, and I had only used my new-ish sewing machine a few times before having a go at these, but fortunately they require straight-line sewing only. Trust me, if I can turn out half-decent looking dresses, then pretty much anyone can!

I've made several variations of this dress now for my daughters; none of them look the same and none of them look like they used to be shirts (at least no one has commented if they have noticed ;-). I thought someone might be interested so I have reposted a couple of them here, with apologies to those in the northern hemisphere going into winter right now :-)

With the first dress, I started with this pretty women's button-up shirt I found at an Op-shop:

The tutorial is based around using a men's shirt, which has a yoke at the back. The shirt I decided to use was a women's shirt though, and had no yoke at the back, darts down the front and back and under the bust, and was made from a stretch fabric! Nevertheless, I didn't have much to lose if it didn't turn out, so I unpicked all the seams with a seam ripper, including all the darts, and I ended up with these bits and pieces:

I ironed the front and back of the shirt to even out where the darts had been, then folded them both in half. I measured around Miss 6's chest and got 58.5cm (23 inches). The tutorial's author added 3" for ease, divided it by four, and then added a seam allowance, so that's what I did and ended up with a final measurement of 18cm (about 7 inches). Then I measured from under her arm to her waist and got 15cm (6"), plus a seam allowance. Those two measurements gave me a rectangle for the bodice which I marked on the wrong side of the back of the shirt with a pencil and ruler, and then I just drew a straight line from the bottom corner of the bodice to the bottom corner of the shirt (you might need to click on the pic to see the pencil lines):

I cut it out, and pinned it to the front of the shirt, which I had also folded in half, and got these:

When I sewed the side seams together, I ended up with this (below), which I tried on Miss 6 and it was way too big! I ended up taking in the side seams another 3cm along the bodice, so maybe I shouldn't have allowed for so much ease when using a stretch fabric? Anyway, I just left the extra side seams inside the dress as I figured it might be useful for letting out when she inevitably grows over winter so we can get next summer out of it as well.

Note that because it was a women's shirt, the bottom hem has that nice rounded finish. Unlike the tutorial, which cut the shirt straight across, I decided to incorporate the bottom hem because a) it looked nice, b) it was one less hem I had to sew and c) Miss 6 seems to grow about an inch a day so she needs all the length she can get.

To finish, I folded over the top edge of the bodice twice (about 1/4" each time) and hemmed it, by just machine sewing around it. I then decided that the bodice was pretty boring and definitely needed some definition - plus my hem sewing is *really* wonky - so I grabbed some narrow pink ric rac leftover from a craft project and sewed some around the top edge and again around the waist. I didn't even pin it first, 'cause I am the impatient type ;-)

Then I looked at the tutorial to see how the sleeves were done and decided that the sleeves from my shirt were way too deep (you can see them in the second pic, above) to get the same effect as those in the tutorial, so I ended up just cutting a couple of narrow strips from one of the sleeves, folded them in half and sewed around two edges, then turned them inside out using a knitting needle. I measured them on Miss 6 and machine sewed them onto the inside of the bodice seam - I didn't bother shortening them either as I now have a couple of inches extra to let them out as Miss 6 gets taller.

And this is the final result! The back:

Here you can see how the buttons from the front of the original shirt now go down the back of the dress:

And here's the front:

Not bad for around 4 hours work sewing, and I have NO prior experience other than a few high school sewing classes over 20 years ago. I'm sure if I knew what I was doing I could whip one up in a couple of hours?

This second dress also started as another women's op-shop shirt (the one in the rear of this photo).

And ended up as this dress, using the same tutorial.

As you can see, I tried to do the straps the same as in the tutorial, but a) I accidentally cut them way too wide, and b) since the fabric was soft they don't stand up stiffly like the ones in the tutorial, but having said that, because they are so wide, if they had stood out stiffly they would look really odd I think?

As they are they almost look a bit like cap sleeves, so I left them as they were. Ignore the fact that they look lopsided in the photo below, they aren't really, it was that Miss 4 had flipped her shoulder up as I took the photo.

The thing I love the most about these dresses (apart from the fact that they are repurposed) is that they are all originals, and since they don't use a pattern as such - providing I get the measurements right and the basic seams sewn in the right place - the final product can't be "wrong". I've seen some dresses made from old, stained shirts with beautiful patches or embroidery to cover the stains, and they look fabulous.

If you're scared of sewing and can find an old shirt or two, have a go! You've got nothing to lose :-)

make your own pouch

Posted by Heather
Beauty That Moves
With the holidays on the horizon, many of us may be looking for a few gift making ideas. Here is a post pulled from my craft archives, written last winter. Making things for myself and my family (for everday and for gift giving) is becoming more and more of a priority, likely it is for you too. I hope you will be seeing a lot of this sort of thing from me... I made myself a little something the other day. It isn't much but it was one of those things born out of necessity and completed start to finish in under an hour. I have many things to share from the holidays still, gifts that were handmade by us and by others, but I still have no photos of most of those things. For now I revel in the quiet of January in a south facing bedroom flooded with passive solar heat...
It was so simple . Would you like to make one?

- Cut out two wool felt rectangles, one being 1 1/2 inches longer than the other. Mine were 3.5 in x 6.5 in and 3.5 in x 5 in. You could adjust the size as you'd like for your pouch. Just be sure to cut one rectangle 1.5 inches longer for the flap.

- Place them on top of one another and from the top corner where the shorter piece meets the longer one, start blanket stitching your little heart away. Go around the entire case finishing where you began. If you work with embroidery floss (3 strands) a little bit longer than arms length you should be able to go all the way around without running out, if you use the measurements I've given here.

- Choose a button that is approximately 1/2 inch. Make a button whole by snipping with very sharp and pointy scissors the right size opening on the extra length of the bottom felt rectangle. Better to start a tad small and make it bigger if needed. You could blanket stitch around the button whole if you'd like, I did not.

- Find the placement for your button that works for the hole you've made and stitch it on.

You're done! Time to test out your pouch and happily admire your work! Children like making this project also. Wonderful for hiding and protecting important treasures.

I hope somebody out there enjoys making this simple craft, the blanket stitching alone makes it worth it.

I love the meditative aspect of blanket stitching.

A great start

I can't tell you how delighted I am with the start of The Co-op. New beginnings are always special but this has gone smoothly with few hitches and a lot of new connections being made.

I hope you're all finding topics that interest you. Don't forget to "follow" us or add us to your reader so you know when we update. With so many writers, we can't really tell you when that will be. There will always be interesting material for you to slowly flick through, so tell your friends we are here and hopefully we will will deliver information relevant to your life and the changes you want to make.

Hello to all the visitors from SouleMama! Amanda has a very special blog and we're really pleased to be mentioned on it.

Please let us know if you have any suggestions for the Co-op - topics we could write about or what your interests are. All feedback is helpful to us at this stage so let us know as much as you can via the comments or by emailing.

Hopefully, together, we can all make a difference, one home at a time.

Don't Kill That Bug!

Hello, Marc from GardenDesk here.

In my organic vegetable garden I sometimes have to tolerate minor pest infestations. The only insect control I employ is hand-picking and destroying the problem insect. Many people reach for an insect killing spray at the first sign of bugs on their plants.

That is the wrong approach. Never mind what that does to the environment and your health, poisons don't discriminate. When a gardener applies an insecticide, there are actually "good bugs" in the garden that are killed along with the problem insects. If you are new to the idea of beneficial insects, let me explain. If you saw the bug in the picture on one of your tomatoes, would you want to destroy it?

You shouldn't. That is a Spined Soldier Bug and he is a soldier in the gardener's army. The Soldier is beneficial because it eats armyworms, beetles and cabbage loopers. The Soldier Beetle is so beneficial that there was a big article in Organic Gardening Magazine about how to trap them in the wild for the purpose of releasing them in your garden. Read the article HERE.

Here is a picture of another insect you might find in an organic vegetable garden:

Surely that ugly thing needs to be killed, you might be thinking. There is more in this picture than meets the eye. This insect is a very destructive Tomato Hornworm, but look closer. What about the little white cocoons attached to it? These are Braconid wasp cocoons. Braconid Wasps are parasitic. They live in the Hornworm (which is actually a caterpillar) as larvae, and then make cocoons on the outside to pupate. The adult wasps emerge, kill the caterpillar and fly off to find more caterpillars to destroy.

See, who needs chemical insecticides to control caterpillars?

To further illustrate this cycle, my daughter actually kept a hornworm in a jar and fed it tomato leaves. We got to witness the tiny wasps emerge and kill the hornworm. here is a picture montage lifted from one of my older posts about this:

We emptied the whole jar back out in the garden. I counted over 300 cocoons on this hornworm! If only half of them find a new caterpillar to invade, I soon won't have any caterpillar problems at all. No need for chemicals - nature can take care of things if we let it.

There are even smaller parasitic wasps out there. GardensAlive! is a store that sells organic and natural fertilizers and pesticides. They sell Trichogramma wasps for you to introduce into your garden to do a similar thing that my Braconids are doing. The Trichogramma wasps are almost microscopic!

These are just a few examples of beneficial insects. Depending on where you live, you will encounter different ones. When you find an insect in your garden, you should do some local research to determine if it is good or bad. If there is plant damage near by, don't assume that the creature you found is the culprit. It might be there to feed on the actual pest!

Other beneficial insects that I have discovered in my garden are ladybugs, lacewings, mantids and bees.

The bottom line is this: If you spray insecticide at all, you won't have any beneficial insects to help you. When the pest insects come back, they will inflict even more damage because of the absence of beneficials.

Gardeners and farmers who use chemicals force themselves into a never-ending cycle. They continue to have to spend money to temporarily solve their pest problems in an unsafe and harmful way. I think nature's way is better. Sometimes I may have to wait on the beneficials, hand pick pest bugs, and even lose a few crops, but I like watching nature work. It keeps gardening a fascinating endeavor instead of a divide and conquer campaign. Knowing that I'm participating with nature instead of destroying it makes makes me feel good.

Keep Growing!-Marc

Why I consumed too much...

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

My journey into a more frugal and simple life has involved not only the learning of practical skills but also learning a lot more about myself and my own consumption habits.

Below is an excerpt from a post I wrote in my blog in March 2008:

You know, when I first asked myself what I need, I came up with the following list:

1. Love
2. Self-worth (the feeling that I'm contributing towards the well-being of those I love, and the resolution of those issues that I care about)
3. Food
4. Shelter
5. Clothing

That I think is a good list. It reminds me what I truly need. Notice the lack of lots of STUFF on that list. So why have I ended up with so much stuff?

1. Because I believed that the stuff will give me more free time. Take for example the fact that I have two mops. One is a standard mop and the other is a mop that is supposed to be "better" (because of better fibres etc etc) ... well it isn't better. Its the same. And here's the other question, why do I need more free time? If I am not so busy trying to find free time, what would I be doing instead? Rather than finding free time, why don't I just concentrate on actually doing what I want to be doing? Surely I don't need gadgets to find that free time. Besides, the time it takes to shop for then maintain/store those gadgets takes up that precious free time I needed.

2. Because I believed that the stuff will keep me safe. This is me falling for "scary information" given out by the people who are usually selling the stuff. This I feel a bit funny about and I hope I express my feelings on this well. Information about stuff that is bad for you (eg. use of plastics for food storage) I think is a good thing. Its great for me to know this. However, just because its bad doesn't mean I need to go out and buy different (aka "safe") stuff. I think too many times, we tend to just go with what other people say. Sometimes the hype of it all makes us buy without thinking it through and we are scared.... this seems to me the very antithesis of joyful consumption. I think its more important to view the risk from our own individual experiences and habits. Eg. I use plastic for food storage. I am aware that over time that some plastics will start to leak very small amounts of chemicals into the food. Many government agencies have said that the amount leaked is not harmful. I have decide to respond to this by not changing a single thing. We rarely use plastic in our house anyway. Almost everything is stored on ceramic plates/pots or glass. We use plastic maybe 10% of the time. I have decided that our amount of exposure to the risk doesn't warrant buying new stuff to replace every plastic food storage item. Now if only I had applied this same attitude to other things around the house!! (*kick up the bum for me*)

3. Because I believed that the stuff will entertain me. I packed up 2 boxes of CDs and DVDs... of which I probably listen to about 8 CDs regularly and I very rarely re-watch DVDs (I think the last time I re-watched a DVD was back in October 07). So what are the other CDs and DVDs doing?? I suspect they're on my shelf because of the last reason....

4. Because I believed that the stuff will turn me into the sort of person I *imagine* myself to be. I like to think of myself as widely read, listens to a variety of music, etc etc. So I need symbols around me to show me this... Hence the reason for 2 boxes of CDs and DVDs... and not to mention the 8 boxes of books.... and the 8 boxes of toys for my kids.....

Reviewing the above post has been good for me. I find that (like most moments of awareness) I have to experience it a few times before I can finally move on from "getting it" to "living it". Recently I was almost tempted to buy an item produced unethically for my daughter. Reason was because, I wanted to be a "good mother" and good mothers should make their daughters happy. Yep, reason number 4 almost came out and bit me again! I almost bought the item despite knowing that buying her an item would not make her truly happy - that sort of happiness is always fleeting. So re-reading this post has been good. Its helped me strengthen my resolve in not buying that item. Instead I can now focus on what I truly want to do - finding authentic and long-lasting ways to show my daughter I love her.