Category Archives: Environment

Love What You Wear – A Year of Not Buying Clothes

Some of you may remember that last November, I signed up for the Love What You Wear Project – a challenge not to buy any new clothes for the duration of a year (except underwear and shoes!). The challenge ran from 1st November 2012 until 1st November 2013. Next Friday the challenge ends and (assuming I don’t go on a mad spending spree between now and then) I will have successfully completed it. Woohoo!

Initially, I was hoping that the challenge would spur me on to start making my own clothes. And it did, sort of, but then I got a bit disillusioned when making my own clothes failed to result in anything that I would actually consider wearing. There was the skirt that made me look like a lego figure:

front of skirt

Then the top that made me look like a milkmaid:


Oh, well, at least I did get some bargains from charity shops, like this Monsoon top:

thank goodness for oxfam monsoon

And a Boden one:

thank goodness for oxfam boden

And luckily, my mum rekindled her dressmaking and made me several garments including this fabulous Vogue dress:

vogue dress

All in all, I’m glad I undertook the challenge. I have had fun hunting down charity shop bargains and I think it has definitely altered my attitude towards buying clothes. I think I will be a lot less impulsive with my purchases and carefully choose those clothes that I think will fit in with my existing wardrobe and that will last well. Having said that, I am looking forward to shopping for a brand new frock for my Christmas night out with the girls 🙂

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Penguins, Frogs, Bags and Patchwork: Sew Much Fun

This week I let Waif loose on the sewing machine for the first time (under careful supervision, of course!). He has really enjoyed himself. First off, he made a couple of reversible napkins. The first was made with some penguin fabric:

penguin napkin

And the second with some very crazy frog fabric:

crazy frog napkin

As you can see, he was pretty pleased with himself:

rafe shows off penguin napkin

Next up, was making a Morsbag. If you haven’t come across Morsbags before, do check out their website. Even better, have a go at making one yourself! I already had some handles made, so putting the bag together was relatively straightforward, and Waif did a sterling job. As well as taking a Morsbag shopping, you can also hang it in an apple tree, don’t you know?!

rafe goes shopping with morsbags
rafe tree morsbag

Waif’s not the only one who’s been sewing. I have made a start on my tree quilt, by putting together a yellow patchwork background to applique onto:

yellow patchwork

I also made this yellow liberated star:

yellow on grey star

I know yellow and grey is a super trendy colour combination in the quilting world at the moment, but I feel a bit underwhelmed by it. It’s just not really “my thing”. So I’m not sure what I will do with it yet. I certainly don’t want a whole quilt of yellow and grey, but maybe a quilt of colourful stars on solid backgrounds?

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Hugging Trees and Gathering Inspiration

mama hugs tree
r hugs tree

It’s no secret that I am a tree hugger. And, as you can see, I am not the only tree hugger in the family ;-). My favourite place to be is the woods. I love the scent of the woods. I love the crunch underfoot. I love the sounds. And then there’s the benefit of the negative ions.

For a while now, I have been hankering after making an applique quilt, but hadn’t been able to decide on a theme. Now I have decided that the theme has to be trees. I have been gathering together inspirational tree art on my Pinterest board here. Feel free to take a look, and watch this space for preliminary sketches and plans 🙂

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Facebook Schmacebook and Other Thoughts on the Year Ahead


This week, looking ahead to 2013, I have decided to deactivate my Facebook account. Is my life really enriched by knowing that an old classmate is having steak for dinner? Or my sister in law has a pile of ironing to do? Or by hearing my cousin’s offensive political opinions? I think not.

When I first signed up to Facebook, it seemed a fun way to keep up with those friends and family members that I didn’t get to see often. Then there was the novelty of seeing how former classmates had “turned out”. Over the last year or so, when I have been trying to pare down and simplify my life in many ways, it has become increasingly apparent that Facebook is not such fun. It has become, for me at least, a compulsive and yet irritating presence. Yes, I have had some wobbles (a Fear of Missing Out, as Leo Babuta might put it) but in deactivating my account, I feel that I have opened up a new space in my life. Facebook – I don’t need you!

Other internet sites and habits have been more of a support and inspiration this year though. I have really enjoyed being part of the Everyday Matters group, joining in with Daisy Yellow’s ICAD Challenge in the summer, and more recently signing up to the Love What You Wear project.

But one of the things I have been most proud of this year was overcoming my party-phobia to invite friends and neighbours round for a stitch-in as we took part in the Craftivist Jigsaw Project. Online groups certainly have a place, but sometimes you need to connect with people right where you are. And giving a thought to what the future world might need to look like, this community level involvement will become more important than over. So, for 2013, I would like to devote the time and headspace freed up by releasing myself from Facebook to make deeper connections with local friends and neighbours. Just call me an old-fashioned girl.

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Learning Skills to Love What I Wear

You may remember that I signed up for the Love What You Wear Project a few weeks’ back. I made a commitment not to buy any new clothes from 1st November 2012 to 30th November 2013. In my last post, I talked about learning to sew my own clothes as a response to life on this new planet we have made. About time I got round to something then!

I was pleased to pick up a couple of old dressmaking books in a charity shop:

dressmaking books

Both have lots of useful info, but the Batsford book is a particular gem. There are charts detailing which needles and threads to use with which fabrics:

pfaff fabrics

Info on basics like facings and setting in sleeves:

setting in sleeves

And some very twee illustrations:


Next step is to actually make something!

After the disaster of cutting out a too-small-size pattern for Waif’s pyjamas, I decided that, rather than cut out the actual pattern for my skirt, I would trace off the size I need. This has the added bonus of reducing the number of confusing lines; plus I am less likely to put my thumb through the tracing paper as it is much thicker than pattern paper. My mum gave me a tip, which was to tape the pattern onto the window to trace it, which I did:

pattern tracing  (1)

I have now cut out my pattern pieces, and washed my fabric, so hopefully this weekend I will be able to get to work on cutting out the fabric and actually sewing something!

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Learning to Live on Eaarth

Have you ever read a book that affects you so deeply that your life for ever more will be separated into “before” and “after” reading said book? For me, eaarth is such a book.

I am certainly no climate change sceptic and some would consider our family to be quite “green” – we recycle and compost; we don’t take foreign holidays; we cycle and use public transport as much as possible; we eat organic food…

However, until reading McKibben’s book, I don’t think I had fully appreciated the scariness of the predicament that we humans have placed this planet in. McKibben gives example after example after example of the effects of global warming. And these are not predicted effects. These are things that are happening RIGHT NOW. This is not a problem just for our grandchildren. This is not even a problem just for our children. This is our problem. Now. Right now. As McKibben puts it:

The planet on which our civilization evolved no longer exists.

Although the first half of the book was seriously terrifying (it quite literally gave me nightmares), McKibben does go on to talk about solutions for the future and there is hope BUT only if we radically change things. A few green tweaks here and there are not enough. We need to do some serious scaling down. In McKibben’s words:

The project we’re now undertaking – maintenance, graceful decline, hunkering down, holding on against the storm – requires a different scale. Instead of continents and vast nations, we need to think about states, about towns, about neighbourhoods, about blocks. Big was dynamic; when the project was growth, we could stand the side effects. But now the side effects of that size – climate change, for instance – are sapping us. We need to scale back, to go to ground. We need to take what wealth we have left and figure out how we’re going to use it, not to spin the wheel one more time but to slow the wheel down. We need to choose safety instead of risk, and we need to do it quickly, even at the sacrifice of growth. We need, as it were, to trade in the big house for something that suits our circumstances on this new Eaarth. We need to feel our vulnerabilities. It’s not just people in poor nations who are exposed to the elements now, but all of us. We’ve got to make our societies safer, and that means making them smaller. It means, since we live on a different planet, a different kind of civilization.

From a personal point of view, this has triggered some serious thinking about how I can prepare for this future, and as a home-educating parent, how I can help prepare my children for this new Eaarth. I strongly believe that compassion and kindness will become more important than ever. But I also think that we need to become more self-reliant and resilient. The skills for life on Eaarth are probably quite different to those emphasised in our current educational model. I believe that we need more practical skills. I undertake to help our family to learn skills like:

  • growing and cooking our own food
  • mending and making our own clothes
  • basic property maintenance
  • holistic health care

Our throw-away, consumer, growth-driven way of life must end soon. These forgotten skills (that would have been second nature to our forefathers & mothers) are in serious need of renewal. What better place to start than right here, right now?

How will you prepare for life on Eaarth?

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A Craft-Tea Afternoon

In honour of Buy Nothing Day, I held a little “Craft-Tea Afternoon” yesterday. It was going to be a Craft-Tea Party, but that sounded too scary to an introvert :-p. I invited a few friends and neighbours round and we stitched up pieces for the Craftivist Collective’s Jigsaw Project. To save people from spending ages with scissors and Bondaweb, I had made up plenty of jigsaw pieces beforehand and set out bowls of yummy threads, buttons, ribbons and so on, together with information about the project, and ideas of things to write on the pieces:

table set for stitch-in

In case anyone wanted to try out some cross-stitch or backstitch alphabets, I copied a bunch of these, and had markers and pencils available to:

markers and alphabets

I was pleased that so many folk came and took part – with ages ranging from 10 to 60ish. We ate cake, drank tea, stitched and chatted:

stitchin hands in orange thread
cross stitch bravery
stitchin hands
a piece in progress

Altogether, a lovely way to spend Buy Nothing Day! And to boot, we have all these beautiful jigsaw pieces to send off:

puzzle pieced together

The #imapiece Project runs until spring 2013, so there is still time to take part – go to the website to find out more. If you don’t have fabric & Bondaweb & need a little help, then you can now buy a kit for £3 from the Craftivist Collective folksy shop – check it out here. And for those who are not at all craftily inclined, then please consider signing the Save the Children Race Against Hunger petition, which you can find here.

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Let’s Talk About This Shit!

If you didn’t know, Monday 19th November is World Toilet Day. According to the World Toilet Day information brochure, “This international day of action aims to break the taboo around toilets and to raise awareness of the daily struggle that a staggering 2.5 billion people face”. I figured it would be good to break the taboo with my children and really talk about this shit. I think the fact that they got to use the word “shit” several times helped to engage the kids with this particular learning topic (!) but nevertheless, I think they found it really eye opening. We watched several videos together, and talked about them. This one is a beautifully presented short film showing the construction of a tippy-tap – a low tech but ingenious solution used to enable hand washing in less developed countries:

The boys were also very taken with Jack Sim of the World Toilet Organization, giving a TED talk here:

We then made posters, stating what our reasons were for giving a shit:

viv gives a shit
gman gives a shit
waif gives a shit

I’m not sure the boys’ illustrations of steaming piles of poo were *strictly* necessary, mind you!

And afterwards, mama added her voice to the petition, which calls on all decision makers to: “to keep their promises to take action to end the sanitation and water crisis, and work towards providing safe sanitation, good hygiene and clean water for all.” You can sign the petition here.

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Love What You Wear Project

Just lately, I’ve been reading a bit about the fashion industry and it doesn’t make for pleasant reading. I started with Elizabeth Cline’s “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” and I have now nearly finished Lucy Siegle’s very thorough expose “To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?”  I’m not totally naive.  I did realise that the fashion industry wasn’t what you’d call ethical, but I must admit I didn’t have a clue just how bad it was.  Exploitative labour practices; a total disregard for the environment; shocking wastage…not a pretty picture.  The more I read about it, the less I want anything to do with it.  As well as supporting such organisations as Labour Behind the Label and the Clean Clothes Campaign, I feel that I want to change my own relationship to clothes and clothes  buying.  So when I read about the Love What You Wear Project, I thought “Yes! This is it!”  In a nutshell, the project involves a commitment to buying no new clothes for a year, running from 1st November 2012 to 3oth November 2013.  So, we’re looking at buying secondhand, mending or repurposing what we’ve already got or making clothes ourselves.  Just what I had been wanting to try in any case 🙂


I want to use this opportunity to really learn how to look after and mend my clothes.
I want to use this opportunity to think more about my consumption.
I want to use this opportunity to learn a new skill – dressmaking.

First things first, though, I have to finish Waif’s pyjamas. Then, I have promised some pyjamas to my husband. After that, maybe I’ll have a go at making myself a skirt with this pattern:

butterick skirt pattern

Watch this space 🙂

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Getting Ready to Buy Nothing

buy nothing

I’ve stitched up this little piece in preparation for Buy Nothing Day on 24th November 2012.

Not sure what I will do with it yet though! A card? Bunting? Banner? Purse?

If you are in the US, buy nothing on 23rd November.

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