Zero waste progress

The zero waste journey is made of the accumulation of little acts of resistance against the status quo in everyday life. This series of post is about those little steps I take every day to make my life simpler and more sustainable.

With the new job and the summer I have had even less time than expected to dedicate to this blog. I was even tempted to stop writing altogether, but then P. reminded me why I started it in the first place: to keep moving forward toward a mindful way of life. Being busier, I will need this space more than ever not to let convenience get in the way of my convictions.

Eco amigurumi giraffe

Amigurumi giraffe with recycled stuffing

I used my baby niece’s birth as an excuse to make this cute crochet giraffe I saw on Pinterest. I used organic cotton yarn for crocheting and fabric scraps for the stuffing. I am not sure I will be able to keep up with homemade gifts for all Christmas and birthdays, but at least we (I got a lot of moral support from P.) welcomed her in the world in an eco-friendly way.

Jacket upcycle

Jacket up cycle

I bought this jacket in high school with a voucher my uncle gave me for my birthday and it got a lot of use, so much that the shoulders started falling apart and I was ready to send it to rag collection. But looking at old pictures, I remember how I liked the cut and decided to save it. After reinforcing the parts of the shoulders that needed it, I used an also much loved T-shirt to cover the worn parts. As a bonus, it now has a touch of colour.

Online zero waste shopping

Zero waste online shopping

Until now, I had refrained from buying zero waste accessories, but I made an exception for P.’s birthday. This summer, we lost one of our two bottles of water, so I got him a eco-responsible replacement. I also realised during Plastic Free July that we could not completely get rid of straws, but we now have inox reusable straws to take with us to the cinema. While I was at it, I also order zero waste deodorant and toothpaste. I will let you know how I like them once I’ve had a bit more time to make my mind about them.

I normally don’t like to shop online. One of the reasons is that it normally generate a lot of packaging that I don’t know what to do with, but I was positively impressed by the parcel I received from Sin Plastico. The packaging was kept to the bare minimum and all of it was recycled, recyclable or biodegradable. The brown paper used to wedge the order was immediately recycled as gift wrapping. While I wait for eco-friendly items to be more wildly available in physical shops, I will be happy to order there or in other online plastic free shops again (with moderation).

 

Egg-free cookies

Egg free cookies

At work, it is customary to bring something on your birthday and I had everything to make cookies, but eggs. I had read that eggs can be replaced with chickpea cooking water (aquafaba) and I just happened to have a jar of them in my cupboard, so I gave it a go. I followed this recipe replacing the egg by 3 spoons of chickpeas brine, and I got a lot of compliments for them. It worked so well, I also replaced the egg by aquafaba in my sour milk pancake recipe and the pancakes were even fluffier than usual (although that might be because the milk was older than usual because of the holidays).

(Almost) zero waste travel toiletry

Zero waste travel toiletry

As I try to simplify what I have in the bathroom, I set to finish all the samples I have collected over the years and that I was keeping for who knows what. It is going much slower than I expected, but I finally finished the  shampoo and shower gel ones. When I travel, I now have a small soap for hand and body and I am refilling one of the hotel shampoo bottle from one of the big shampoo bottles I have left. Like this when I get to a hotel, I can leave the sample untouched for the next guest. My new deodorant and toothpaste should also be great for traveling.

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How to sew the perfect bulk aisle produce bag

Shopping in the bulk aisle is a great way to reduce waste. Of course there is still the big bag the bulk food came in before being put in the bulk bin, but it sill uses less packaging and we could imagine that with the push for circular economy, they could actually be delivered in reusable containers as well. The most accessible option to buy bulk is to reuse the paper bags from the shop until they need to go to the compost, but fabric produce bags are much more convenient, both to fill at the shop and to transfer in glass containers at home.

How to sew the perfect bulk aisle produce bag

Produce bags can be bought, but they are easy to make with basic sewing skills. It took a  few trial and error to make a produce bag that is convenient for bulk groceries. I originally made a few by cutting in 4 an old pillow case, sewing on 2 of the open sides and putting a casing for a string on the fourth side or using the pillow case slap to close. Those bags work well for fruit and vegetable, but are not completely convenient for cereals and other small stuff:

  • They don’t close very well so things like rice spread in the bag.
  • Some grains stay stuck in the seams and I end up spilling them everywhere while transferring in the glass jar.
  • Fabric of the seam was frying despite the (bad) zigzag stitch and fibres would end up mixed in the food from time to time.

Since my sewing skills have improved a bit, I came up with a few tricks to solve those problems. It is a bit more difficult to make, but even if they didn’t come out as neat as I would have liked, they are much more convenient to use.

Tutorial: Drawstring bag for the bulk aisle

1 – Cutting the fabric

I made two sizes of bags based on the ones of the paper bags from my organic shop: 15 x 25 cm, and 20 x 35 cm, but you can use the size you want. The small one is nice for stuff like rice and the big one for stuff like pasta.

In a light and ironed fabric, cut a rectangle of:

(width + 4 cm) x (2*length + 6 cm)

In my case, 19 x 56 cm for the small bag and 24 x 76 cm for the big bag.

2 – Double-turn hemming the long sides

Perfect drawstring bags for the bulk aisle

Fold 2 cm on the long sides of the rectangle (up on the photo). Press and then fold the seam in two towards the inside of the seam (down on the photo). Press. You now have a 1 cm seam and all the loose ends inside.

If your fabric has a right side, it should be up while doing this. All the seams will be on the outside to avoid the food to stay stuck.

Sew as close as possible from the edge.

3 – The casing

Fold 1 cm on the small sides of the rectangle. Press and fold another 2 cm. Again the right side is up. Pin, press and sew along the edge of the casing.

4 – Side seams

Perfect drawstring bag for the bulk aisle

Fold the rectangle in two, right side inside. Press from the top for the two casings to align as well as possible. Starting just above the casing stitch (the casing stitch needs to be covered, but not much of the casing opening obstructed), sew as close as possible from the previous seam on both sides. It is important to start from the casing side and not the bottom of the bag as this will hide small dimension mistakes.

5 – Strings

For the stings, I use some yarn I had, because it is very light, but you can use any sting you have lying around. Eyeball the length for it to be just a bit longer on each side when folded in two. Using a safety pin, put 2 pieces of string through both sides of the casing. Tie the end of each string on a different side. This will enable to tie the two pieces together to close the bag well and prevent grains to escape during transport.

Have fun making your own bulk aisle produce bags. If you have any doubts on the instructions, feel free to ask in the comments.

‘Invisible’ jeans patching

As part of my attempt to dematerialise gifts and to slow down our crazy accumulation of stuff, I offered a ‘fixing one piece of cloth’ voucher to P. for his birthday. I love the idea of visible mending, of imprinting its history on a loved piece of cloth to make it even more special. But sometimes it is not a good option. For some reason, P. didn’t want to draw attention on his crotch.

The hole was already quite big by the time I got to take care of it, so I needed a patch. Since there was a bit of extra length at the bottom of the legs, I thought I could use that. So we started by hemming the jeans. Yes, we. I took the occasion to teach a bit of sewing to P. and we did one leg each. Who says sewing is a woman only thing?

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I used a seam ripper to make sure I would have as much fabric as possible out of the legs’ cut. After a bit of ironing, I cut a patch in the smaller piece, pined it in place, stitched all around the patch and around the hole to keep it in place. I started by doing a simple hemming stitch, but because the patch is in a high-stress zone, I had to do it again with a catch stitch to prevent the patch to fray.

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Et voilà ! It is not perfect, but when P. is wearing it, you don’t see a thing. And there is still quite a bit of fabric left for future patches.

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Mending socks : darning vs patching

With St Nicolas around the corner, I thought a post on socks was quite appropriate. Am I the only one whose socks always fail in the same place? It seems a waste to get rid of socks because they have a small hole in the back of the heel when the rest of the sock is still in perfect condition. So I looked into my options to extend my socks life a bit.

darning-vs-patching

Darning

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The most documented sock mending option seems to be darning, which consists in weaving thread over the hole. So I tried this on my thin store bought socks, but I was not super convinced. Because I used thin thread to match the thickness of the sock, it was difficult to follow the mesh. It still did the job ok, but the result somehow doesn’t feel super comfy and I tend to keep this pair for when all the others are dirty. However I used darning to fix a hole in my glove and it worked very well.

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If I had bothered buying matching embroidery thread, the mending would be invisible.

Patching

For a while I had the idea that I could use several old socks to make a new one, but I thought the seams would be a problem. Looking if someone had done something around this idea, I found this tutorial from Stale Bread into French Toast that suggests patching store bought socks.

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Traditionally a darning egg is used to put in the sock to help fix it, but I found that the toy box of a big kinder surprise works well. I am sure you have something ready to do the job at home too.

After struggling a bit to understand how to make a catch stitch, I fixed a first pair and then liked it so much that I fixed another two the same way. The patch actually gives a bit of padding in the place I normally get friction from the shoes and I also kind of like the way it  looks. I used an old sock that had been turned to rag a while ago for the patches. After patching 6 socks, I still have about half of the old sock left to save other socks. The only inconvenient is that both socks need to be patched otherwise it feels wired.

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In conclusion, I would use darning for thick socks and maybe for areas below the sole, but patching otherwise. Now I am waiting to see how much longer my mended socks last.

Intro to sewing

I have been interested in learning how to use a sewing machine for a long time. After a failed attempt with my Grandma when I was 16 (a carnival flamenco dress is definitely not a good beginner’s project), I decided to go for a proper sewing class at Sew over it. Not to be able to make myself loads of new clothes as I had in mind in high school, but to be able to re-fit, repair and re-use the clothes and other fabric-made items I already have.

Clothes have become so cheap. It is easy to just throw them away once they get damaged and I have definitely had my share of filling my closet with clothes I didn’t really need because getting new clothes is just so nice. But each new piece of clothing most certainly means use of pesticides, chemical and water resources, underpaid people working in questionable conditions and goods that travelled twice round to globe.  A pity when fixing or altering clothes is as satisfying as getting new ones.

After 3 hours working on a drawstring bag, I am definitely not an expert, but I am convinced sewing is not that hard. With a bit of practice I should be able to get to the level I need to stop wasting clothes. A drawstring bag is a perfect beginner project. Simple, forgiving and satisfying. It was also a nice coincidence since I want to make a few out of old bed sheets to help me with zero waste shopping (still need to find the right shop though). It is quite nice to have someone to ask questions to when it goes wrong, but if you want to try by yourself you can have a look at this tutorial.

Now I feel like re-fitting my entire wardrobe, but considering I just finished to knit the scarf I started for P. 3 years ago, it will probably take some time. To be continued…