Upcycled Embroidered Mom Jeans

I wanted to sew over winter break, but did not quite have the time to commit to a full-on project. So, I grabbed a handful of embroidery threads and dug through my closet to find some pieces that I had neglected for too long.

The fun part of this project was that I sat down with zero plan. I just put on a documentary and let myself start mindless cutting shapes. I am usually such a planner, but it always surprises me what I can create if I get out of my own way.

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Embroidery doesn’t have to be complicated to look cool. I stuck with the simple blanket stitch to finish off the edges and make every cutout colorful. It’ll take you minutes to learn if you google it.

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This pocket is my absolute favorite part. I love that the denim underneath is a bit darker so it really stands out. Also, thanks to my sister for taking this picture of my butt, along with all of the others. A true team player.

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I 100% recommend trying to embellish pieces of your wardrobe before tossing them. This project was a quick creative outlet that took an old pair of jeans from neutral to unique.

Handmade and Recyled Holiday Gift Guide

For the good of humanity, I am exposing what I plan to give all of my friends for Christmas. I don’t want you to give your friends another round of body sprays you got on sale at Bath and Body Works this year. You’re better than that. Instead, take a look at how I plan to up-cycle most of the gifts I am giving this holiday season. I hope you’ll see that recycling or hand-making gifts does not have to look cheap and obvious.

Wax Food Wraps from Recycled Fabric


This is the perfect gift to passive aggressively prompt your friends and family to be more environmentally conscious! Wax food wraps have been all over the internet this year and it turns out they can be made fairly easily and almost entirely out of recycled materials. You’ll need fabric (cotton, or anything thick with no stretch), beeswax, and parchment paper. Separate them into gift sets of three or four different sizes, and add a label that explains to wash them in cold water and use around 150 times.

Do not buy new fabric to make these. Instead, turn first to what you have laying around. That bag of clothes you’ve been meaning to take to Goodwill? Search it for pieces you can cut up into squares. If you can’t find anything, thrift. Thrift store usually have tons of fabric in bags on the back shelves but you could also buy clothing pieces to cut up for this too. Just throw them all in the wash before using. I actually already own tons of fabric scraps from past projects, so this is a great way to use up fabric that might otherwise go to waste. There is a way to make these in the oven and with a clothing iron. I’m linking tutorials to both because I definitely didn’t come up with either of these methods. I’m planning on experimenting with some other kinds of waxes for my vegan pals.

Treats to Go With

If you want to try making wax wraps, some kind of baked good would pair marvelously as a gift. Even if you are not much of a baker, there are tons of classic Christmas favorites like chocolate dipped pretzels, which are impossible to mess up. However, I feel like most people have at least one recipe that they really enjoy making, so I say go with what you’re best at doing. This adds a little more depth to the gift and gives you an opportunity to show the recipient how to use the wax wraps.

Books

Books are one of the greatest gifts of all time. From an objective perspective, of course. You can buy them second hand form your local book store, and will probably be able to find almost any book you looking for, or you can take time and dig through thrift store stacks. I think a book that was picked out with the recipient in mind is such a thoughtful gift. Add a note to the book about why you liked it or why you picked it out for your specific friend. Small personal touches make all of the difference when gifting.

Mugs

I am guilty of giving mugs as gift way, way, way too often. But who can’t use another quirky mug? I love finding super weird vintage mugs at second hand stores and antique stores. They are never too expensive and are always unique. I bought my sister one that said “sisters are forever” on it, which is wonderfully ominous. These can be filled with cookies and treats, or paired with some nice tea. If you are feeling more crafty, search Goodwill for some blank mugs and design a personalized mug. Using a sharpie, draw flowers, quotes, inside jokes, or obscure tv references only your friend would understand. They Sky is the limit. Then, put them in the oven for 20 minutes at around 350 degree, and then let them cool inside.

Gift Wrapping

I may be giving you the same advice over and over again, but a lot of people do not realize the variety of things you can thrift. On the back shelves in thrift stores there are giant bags full of ribbons and lace for just a couple of dollars. All of the notions pictured above were from thrift store grab bags. (And for you nitpicky readers, I know two of those are bias tape, but they work just as well as ribbon, promise.) I think tying up a gift in a bow, with no wrapping paper, is a super simple way to make your gift pretty with out a bunch of excess. Try using book pages to make gift labels or wrap small gifts. I also grabbed some pretty colored paint chips from the hardware store to make gift labels. I don’t think this counts as recycling but it is cute and free, which is also nice.

Bonus (for the brave):

Embroidery! It is not as hard as many people assume that it is. Shirts with little embroidered phrases or symbols are all the rage. There are tones of blank t-shirts in all colors and sizes at thrifts stores. Pick one up at Goodwill, a 50 cent package of embroidery thread (that stuff you used to make friendship bracelets in sixth grade) and needles, and just spend a little time trial-and-erroring and youtubing. This is another way to make a super personal, inexpensive, and recycled gift. This video is a super simple guide to a few different stitches.

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I suppose I should end this post with an apology to my friends and family for telling them (and all of the internet) what they are getting for Christmas. I’m not going to do that, though.

Hot Take: Is H&M Recycling a Scam?

H&M has been advertising a program in which the buyer donates their old clothing to their local H&M for recycling in exchange for 15% off of their next purchase. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Is it, though?

No? Maybe. Kind of.

I’d advise a healthy dose of suspicion toward fast fashion companies in general, but especially when they suddenly advertise their image in a way that is contrary to their entire system of functioning. Being “sustainable” and having a new display of clothing every week is just not compatible. It is important to ask what H&M’s motive is and even to question our own motive in participating.

This fast fashion company has gotten in trouble in the past for the mass shredding of never before sold or worn clothing. The recycling program, which has been going on for a couple of years, if my memory serves me correctly, is part of an attempt to shine up the store’s sullied image. Trying to clean their image is not a problem necessarily, but it is not entirely genuine.

The 15% off coupon is a huge incentive for most people, considering H&M’s already low prices. If a person drops off one bag of clothing and leaves with three new bags, has anything good truly been accomplished? It seems like one step forward and two steps back. It has the potential to create more waste than it eliminates.

It is also important to consider that clothing recycling is not magic. The act of shipping the clothing around and breaking it down for re-use is also a use of resources. A good use of them, but maybe your clothing could have a second life on a friend or in a re-sale shop before needing to reach its final demise. It is a fairly new practice that is rigorous and in need of more research for efficiency.

Recycling is always better than throwing away, but it is not better than not creating or consuming excess in the first place.

The final decision and conclusion is in your hands. Mostly, I urge you to never stop thinking critically.

 

Back in Time

Let’s go back in time. I don’t mean to the 1960s’ as my outfit might lead you to believe. (I’d rather stay in 2018, thank you very much.) I am referring to close to two months ago when this photo set was taken by my dear friend, Andrea.


I made this dress YEARS ago. When I was in the 11th grade, I decided to make this dress, inspired by Marina and the Diamonds’ Electra Heart phase. Thankfully, I still had pretty good taste back then, as this hot pink mini dress has stood the test of time.



It is crazy that I’ve waited so long to post these pictures considering how awesome Andrea did taking these. This was from one of the last times I hung out with my friends before leaving on a super long trip.


If you didn’t know, I’ve been in Hong Kong teaching English for the summer and I’m current in Cambodia. I have been insanely busy since the minute I got on the first plane, which is why I sat on this post for so long. It’s been a once in a life time experience for sure. I apologize for any mistakes in this post as I only have access to the internet through my phone right now. I am sorry to be so short but am excited to begin posting more in the weeks to come!

Thanks for your patience.

Spring Break – Handmade Fashion

IT’S SPRING BREAK, FOLKS. Well, it’s almost spring break, at least. Today’s outfit is reflective of the care-free times and sunny weather that I am wishing for all of us.

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This bright yellow and peach top is a result of me experimenting with pattern-free sewing. The style is mega simple. It is just a straight tank with no darts of any kind. Seriously, this tank was laughably simple to make. However, I’ll admit, being hecka flat-chested made this project much easier for me than the average girl, as this fabric has no stretch. This fabric was bought second-hand from a vintage shop in Siloam Springs, AR. I love vintage florals; they are so much more vibrant than a lot of the floral prints in stores today.

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Say hello to my favorite shoes of spring. Can you believe these dreamy rainbow pastel shoes are so wearable? My mom gave me these Rocket Dog sneakers as a gift, and might I add, she has fantastic taste. My mother has always encouraged my fashion escapades, no matter how wild, and I am eternally grateful. Whether or not her keen eye for style was passed down to me, her appreciation of the strange and beautiful has made me the person I am today.

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I have owned several slightly different variations of these John-Depp’s-Willy-Wonka-esque glasses over the years. I am honestly not sure why I keep buying the same glasses, but they are still working for me. Also, I know you are coveting my high-end “aesthetic” bracelet. Too bad for you. It is one of a kind, made for me by my sister. I only wear the finest jewelry. 

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Since this fabric has such little stretch, I needed to create a way to actually fit my head through the collar. I used this as an opportunity to add a cute little bow detail to the back.

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There are not too many different hairstyles for short hair. On most days, I do not mind this at all, but when the weather is warm it is nice to get the hair out of my face with some little buns. It seems that this hair style is being referred to as “space buns” on the internet, although I have no idea where the name got its origin. My brother once referred to these buns as “the biscuits on your head,” so that works, too.

I hope you all have a fun (and safe) spring break!

Tips and Tricks: Taking the Ethical Fashion Plunge (3 of 3)

Want to take the ethical fashion plunge, but not sure where to begin? I have compiled a list of my tips for getting started. If you have been following the series, you’ll know I wrote two informational posts about fashion’s effect on humanity and on the earth, which help explain why you should start being more conscious of how you’re handling clothing. Now that you know why, I thought it would be helpful for me to provide a how, as well. It may not be plausible to make all of these drastic changes immediately, but I’d challenge you to pick a couple of these to implement in your daily life.

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How to Start the Ethical Fashion Journey

  • DONATE your old clothes rather than just tossing them.

    • Take clothing to a trusted thrift store. Many of those drop-boxes on the side of the road can be misleading. They often end up throwing a lot of the items away, rather than actually reusing them. (This is not true in all cases, but try to look into it before you toss the bag.)
    • Let your friends look through your old clothes. I bet you’re pretty stylish. You know your pals would love a free blouse.
    • Pay attention to the people in your community, and give hand-me-downs to those that can use them. When I was in high school, there was never a shortage of junior high girls at my church who would happily receive the items which I had outgrown.
  • MAKE something new out of something old.

    • One of my favorite youtubers and biggest ethical fashion inspirations, Annika Victoria, has a TON of tutorials for sewing and clothing DIYs. She has varying difficulty levels, so there is something for everyone.
    • If you can’t sew your old clothes into something you’d like to wear, you can easily create dish rags or re-usable grocery bags out of them. Even if you aren’t much of a DIY-er, you’d be surprised how simple it is to up-cycle. (Let me know below if you’d be interested in a tutorial on any of these, to help you kick-start your up-cycling.)
  • EDUCATE yourself.

    • Good On You app is a great resource to find out what stores you like to shop at are ethical. It is a super easy to keep this app on your phone and check it before you head out to shop or even while you are in a store.
    • This website has a lot of information on the transparency of popular brands.
    • We have access to infinite knowledge with the internet. There are apps, websites, and something as simple as a quick google search can get you farther than you think.
    • We need to show the fashion industry we won’t stand for the way they are conducting things. They want our money, and if they realize they won’t get it if they keep abusing their power, they’ll start to make changes. You can’t stop supporting bad companies if you aren’t willing to find out who is doing what.
  • INVEST in ethically conscious, well-made items.

    • Brands that are ethically conscious tend to be more expensive by nature. It takes more money to pay workers well and keep facilities up to code. We need to change our mindsets from expecting to buy tons of items for cheap to investing in key pieces that we can keep longer. In the end, the money evens out, we just throw out less poorly made items.
    • Big Bud Press is one of my favorite brands, currently. They may be a little out-there for some of my readers, but they are full of psychedelic color and all of their items are made in Los Angeles. They are totally transparent, and often post videos of their clothes-making processes on their Instagram story.
    • Miracle Eye is a 1960’s and 1970’s inspired clothing line, which is totally ethical from start to finish. I’m obsessed with their velvet mini dresses and jumpsuits. Getting into ethical fashion is a great way to start supporting small businesses and artists who are doing great things in fashion.
    • If you are into hiking, or pretending that you are outdoorsy, Patagonia is actually one of the most outstanding brands I have ever seen. They have TONS of information on their website about sustainability.
    • There are plenty of other ethical brands online. Searching Etsy is a pretty easy way to find some, if none of my suggestions tickle your fancy, I’d encourage you to search out the locally owned stores, vintage shops, and thrift shops  in your area.

(I am not affiliated with any of the brands or other resources linked throughout this post.)

If you are overwhelmed, simply pick one or two of these changes to integrate into your life. It may seem like we are too small to make a positive change with our personal choices, but a movement always starts with individuals. If you learned anything from this post, I hope it was that there are tangible ways to make a change on the world around us. We mustn’t be idle when there is so much good we are capable of accomplishing. Are there any tips you would add to the list? Let me know!

 

Baby Blue – Handmade Fashion

This blog has been up and running for several months and, yet, this is the first time I have featured a clothing item that I made myself. This is mostly due to the fact that this blog has only ever known fall and winter, and 95% of my sewing projects are dresses. So, without further ado, brought to you by an unexpectedly warm day in the middle of February, I present to you one of my own creations.

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This dress was made from a reproduction of a vintage 1960’s pattern. 1960’s mini dresses are one of absolute favorite pieces of clothing, ever. They are so cutesy and whimsical and wearable. I love how the 60’s style is very doll-like. These dresses are versatile, easy to style, and do not blow up in the wind like most dresses, which is a pretty huge plus if you ask me.

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I picked up this vintage, baby blue fabric from a second-hand store in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. One of my favorite places to buy fabric is at thrift stores and vintage shops. Not only is it more inexpensive than buying new, but I can always find unique patterns and colors that I wouldn’t be able to find somewhere like Jo-Ann’s or Hobby Lobby. These colorful buttons were found in one of the many, many jars of my mother’s button collection. Having a sewing teacher for a mother has its perks. The button details add a lot of character to a dress which would otherwise have a lot blank space.

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My friend Charity took these super fun pictures for this blog post. I am infinitely thankful that I have so many friends who have an artistic eye and are down for impromptu photo shoots. Also, Charity told me I had to pose by this because it matched my yellow button.

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This was my first attempt at using a decorative zipper, and I love the way it turned out. I usually opt for an invisible zipper, because they are easy and unnoticeable, but, like the buttons, this zipper is an example of how small details can make such a huge difference.

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I started sewing my own clothing mostly because I was having a hard time finding clothes in styles that I wanted. Vintage shopping can be expensive and time consuming, and sometimes the pieces I have made up in my head just don’t exist yet. Sewing gave me a creative outlet; a way to put the inside of my brain on the outside of my body. Now that I am learning about ethical fashion, being able to sew my own clothes is a great option because I know exactly where every piece comes from. I’m looking forward to spring so that I can post more of the pieces I designed and made myself.

I hope you are all staying warm these last weeks of winter.

Fashion and the Environment (2 of 3)

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In the first part of my ethical fashion series, I tackled how the fashion industry affects humanity. Today I’ll be explaining the fashion industry’s effect on the earth (which also, in turn, affects humanity). If you want a little bit of background on this topic before diving in, click here to read my first post. This issue is fairly complex, having different facets such as the production, materials, and us– the consumers. I am no professional, but we are all capable of educating ourselves, so read on if you’d like to raise your awareness with me.

Production & Materials

Every item of clothing produced uses up resources and, since we are buying more clothes than ever, companies are producing more than ever, and using up resources at a vastly unsustainable rate. One of the most prominent examples of this is the disappearance of the Aral Sea due to the vast amount of water necessary in cotton farming. The amount of water it takes to produce one cotton shirt is enough for a person to drink in over two years (about 27,000 liters) according the World Resources Institute. In the process of drying up the Aral Sea, around 60,000 people lost jobs in fishing. Not to mention the water and air pollution caused by pesticides used in cotton farming which release carcinogens and toxins, causing sickness and death in the surrounding areas. Humanity cannot afford to farm cotton at the rate that fast fashion companies are producing items.

(Other materials, such as leather and fur, have a big impact on the environment, but for the sake of this article’s length and the fact that most of us are more likely to be consumers of cotton, I left them them out.)

Although the creation of synthetic fibers can reduce the use of natural resources in the process of making clothing, it ends up negatively affecting the earth toward the end, or lack thereof, of the clothing item’s life. Synthetic products, such as polyester, do not biodegrade. So, when it gets tossed out, it sits in a landfill basically forever. When all human life, animal life, and the earth itself have passed away, there will just be millions of transcendent polyester mini-dresses floating throughout space. (Okay, that was definitely not scientific, but I was worried you stopped paying attention.)

Now what?

I know what you are thinking, “If natural fibers are bad and synthetic fibers are bad, are we just supposed to become nudists?” And the answer is no (or, yes, if you feel so inclined). Natural fibers, such as cotton, are definitely the best option, we just need to make sure we are supporting companies which source products that are organic (leaving out all those bad chemicals) and sustainable (paying attention to how they are using resources). The issue is not that we need to stop growing natural materials, we just need to grow less of it and grow it responsibly. This may sounds impossible, but if companies such as Patagonia can do a fantastic job of this, I believe other companies can follow suit.

Us

We cannot entirely place the blame on the industry, as we all have a shared responsibility in what and how we consume. According to the World Resources Institute, a regular shopper is buying 60% more clothing than they were less than twenty years ago, while only holding on to it for half of the time. A byproduct of inexpensively made and mass-produced clothing is the lack of quality. When the clothing we buy falls apart because it was cheaply made, we just toss it in the trash and head back to the mall, knowing that it won’t leave too big of a dent in our wallets.  If we throw away synthetic items, they will just take up space in landfills and even natural fibers will sit in landfills for a while before degrading, “due to lack of sunlight and oxygen,” according to EcoGoodz. The best way for us to partake in fashion responsibly is to wear our clothing for longer, reuse it when we can, and recycle it when we can’t.

I know I just dumped a ton of information on you, but the crazy thing is that I just barely scratched the surface. If you want to know even more about this topic, I recommend clicking on some of the articles that I sourced throughout. More than anything, my goal was to get the conversation started so you might begin thinking about your personal impact on the world. My next and last post in this series is going to focus more on what we can do to make our fashion choices more ethical, so stay tuned for that. I hope that we will all continue educating ourselves to the best of our abilities so that we might care for one another, and our earth, better.

What the H*ck is “Ethical Fashion,” Anyway? (1 of 3)

How “Ethical” are Your Clothing Choices?

This is a relatively new question that many people have never taken time to consider. Ever wonder how it is possible that there are $2 camisoles at Forever 21? Usually we are too excited about the cheap prices to consider that there may be some corners cut along the way to make these prices possible. In short, the question of fashion “ethics” is a question of whether one’s wardrobe choices are positively or negatively affecting the world around them. It is a complex issue, but hold on tight; I’ll try and make this as painless as possible. (Spoiler: finding out some of your favorite stores use slave-labor is going to be painful.)

There are TWO main concerns when it comes to ethical fashion, to put it simply. How does the fashion industry affect humanity and how does it affect the environment? Both of these are concerned with the conditions of the factories where clothes are made. The biggest culprit causing the fashion industry to be detrimental is fast fashion.

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Defining “Fast Fashion”

Fast fashion is the industry that produces the cheap, trendy, low-quality items that you find in most mall stores. This industry profits off of our fast-moving culture. They produce clothing at rapid speeds, we buy, we get bored, and two days later the shelves are restocked and the process begins again. However, to be able to produce clothing so quickly that the average person can afford to keep buying on a weekly basis, companies need insanely cheap labor, which is just as sketchy as it sounds.

Humanity of Fashion

Our clothing is not made in a vacuum. In order for Forever 21 to grace us with their latest $9 pizza-graphic crop top every week, they are basically using slave labor. (Nice try with that “John 3:16” on your bags, F21, we see through you.) If the prices in your favorite store seem too good to be true, they probably are. It is easy to ignore this happening, as it is quite literally out of sight out of mind.

Most businesses place their factories in other countries, where there is a great need for work, making it easier for them to exploit workers by paying far, far below living wages. These low-budget factories are often hazardous, meaning that workers’ lives are at risk as well (e.g. the 117 who died infamous factory-fire in Bangladesh, 2012). This Huffington Post article written by Shannon Whitehead Lohr reveals that inexpensive beaded items are often a sign of child labor, as the equipment required to do bead-work is more expensive than low-cost brands can afford. While many companies have been outed for this slave labor, some refuse to disclose information on their employees and factories entirely. If they don’t want us to see it, we can infer that there is probably something disgusting they are hiding. Our blind support of these companies directly allows, and even promotes, the exploitation of real human lives to continue without challenge.

This website has information on what businesses are disclosing factory information.

This blog post is part one in my three part series explaining ethical fashion. Stay tuned for my seconds part on how the fashion industry affects the earth, and finally my third part on tips to becoming ethical in your wardrobe choices. This information is not meant to guilt anyone into change, but rather to help get the ball rolling on this important conversation. Many people cynically believe that one’s personal choices cannot affect industries at large, but many companies have been known to change their ways based on pressures from the public. You are more powerful than you know. Together we can make the fashion industry a more conscious place.

I appreciate you taking the time to read about a topic I am passionate about.

Never stop learning!