Eco-friendly clothing: links roundup

Over at A Little Bit of All Of It, it’s eco-friendly clothing week! In honour of which, here is a round-up of various links and so on from me and elsewhere, on the subject of eco-friendly clothing.


Upcycling existing clothes that you no longer wear is an eco-friendly way of getting new clothes. I haven’t up cycled anything for myself lately, but I have been upcycling a T-shirt of mine (no longer wearable into a T-shirt for Leon. A skirt I don’t wear became a pair of baby trousers last summer; they’re still being worn this summer, just as three-quarter length rather than full length. I also made a pair of smart trousers from some suit trousers recently, but haven’t yet blogged it.

Not clothes, but I made toys from scraps from my scrap box earlier this year, too.

Making clothes from fabric

How eco-friendly it is to make your own clothes (if not upcycling) depends on how eco-friendly the source fabric is. Although you could argue that making your own makes you more likely to wear and appreciate the garment, rather than treating it as disposable; it may also last longer and you might be more likely to patch it.

Here’s a few sources of eco-friendly fabric, or yarn:

  • Organic Cotton do eco-friendly (organic, also fair trade) cotton and other materials, and deliver very fast. I’ve used them personally and can recommend them.
  • The Hemp Shop do hemp fabric, which is organic. It’s not fair trade but they do give their factory working conditions on that page.
  • There are several sorts of yarn which is recycled from other yarns or fabrics:
    • Recycled sari silk: can be a bit odd to knit with, though, and doesn’t knit a smooth fabric.
    • Second Time Cotton: recycled from consumer cotton scraps. Nice to knit with, but sadly I can’t find a UK stockist at the moment.
    • Full Circle worsted and bulky wool is also made from leftover bits of British wools. It’s 100% wool, very snuggly, and nice to knit with. It’s a bit scratchy but only in the way that wool is often a bit scratchy.

You can also knit multi-coloured things from your end-balls of yarn; blankets are another way to use up ends of balls.


Finally, if you’re buying, start out with charity shops or Ebay second-hand clothes (as well as promoting reuse, this is also much cheaper!). If you’re buying new, look for organic and fair trade, and be prepared (sadly) to spend a while at it, as it can be difficult to find both. Once you do, make your clothes last as long as possible by washing them only when they’re actually dirty, protecting them when you’re doing dirty chores (get an apron!), and patching them if possible.

Baby tipi, and another guest post

I really wanted to put a willow den in our back garden for Leon to play in.

Bamboo canes pushed into a grassy lawn and tied into a small tipi, with a sheet clipped over them, in foreground; in front of that the top of a blueberry bush, a rosemary bush to left of shot, apple tree behind, blue sky
Baby tipi between the blueberry bush and the rosemary

Unfortunately, that was scuppered by the realisation that there’s a sewage pipe running underground through the middle of the garden. You’re not supposed to plant willow within 3m of any pipes (it seeks water, and can sneak into the pipe through any cracks), and the apple tree prevented me planting further down the garden than that.

Instead, it occurred to me this week that after building the bean wigwam recently, I had lots of bamboo cane left over; and a couple of old sheets in the bottom of the airing cupboard. So now we have a baby play tipi.

Unfortunately the baby was unconvinced, because it has grass on its floor, and he is somewhat mistrustful of grass on bare feet. Hopefully as he gets steadier on his feet he may be more enthusiastic; in the meantime I might put a blanket down in there tomorrow.

Baby focussed on playing with a box of rice
Those moments of total absorption are a lesson in mindfulness.

In other news, this week I wrote about the competing pulls of parenting over at the Natural Parents Network: The Two Minds of Parenting.

Knitting merrily along

I’ve just realised that while I blog occasionally about sewing, I virtually never blog about knitting, despite the fact that I always have at least one (usually more) projects on the go.

Leon, from behind, wearing mitred baby jacket and playing with something at a table

Leon wearing his jacket

Recently finished projects:

  • a mitred baby jacket for Leon’s Christmas, which used up lots of ends of sock yarn*;
  • a couple of spa cloths for my Mum’s Christmas;
  • [SECRET] (another Christmas present that still hasn’t reached its intended recipient);
  • and these socks for me, for the second time. (Pro tip: do not put your non-superwash expensive-handdyed-yarn socks into the washing machine with everything else. I now own a very nice pair of felted booties, suitable for Leon in a couple of years.)
My feet propped against a dark wood wardrobe, wearing blue knitted socks

My feet, this morning, with Jeeves Socks: The Return

The only thing I actually have on the needles right now is another [SECRET], but I’m about to cast on for a sock knit-a-long, about to start this gorgeous shawl for my sister-out-law for her wedding in December, and have a bag full of skeins of yarn to knit some samples (so I can decide on a yarn substitution) for the cardigan I want to knit for myself. Perhaps I’ll leave that last until I’ve finished at least one of the others…

Also, I am fed up of winding skeins into balls, and am about to splash out cash on a ballwinder, thus freeing up valuable time for knitting rather than winding (and untangling, which is what always happens when I DIY).

* Particularly good as I am attempting to destash**.
** Since deciding to destash, a further 7 skeins/balls/cones of yarn have mysteriously*** arrived in the stash.
*** I bought them.

Sewing beyond my means: halfway through

Back in November, I decided to have a go at a quilt-as-you-go patchwork version of Amy Butler’s Weekender Bag. Since then I’ve been steadily ploughing onwards a bit at a time, and now I’ve finished the piecing, and am halfway through putting the bag together. Pics after the jump…

Continue reading “Sewing beyond my means: halfway through”

Travel busy bag for a 10 month old

We travel by train quite a bit, and Leon is getting beyond the age where just waving my keys in front of him will distract him. Today I constructed a travel busy bag for him, with ideas from a couple of places online.

I made two quilted texture cards: one pieced from differently-textured scraps from my scrap box, the other from a curtain sample. One of them has buttons on one side, and a zip and a suspender clasp (it was kicking around in the bottom of my bits box & I thought he’d like it) on the other. The second has little scraps of fabric of different types sewn onto it, secured only at one end so they all flap like little tags.

Two quilted 'cards' with bits sewn onto them

The other side of the 'cards', one with buttons, one with fabric tags

My new headphones have a carrying bag, but I won’t use it, so I used it to hold a bunch of twisted metallic pipecleaners, and a small string of beads, in, for taking in & out & playing with. (Though he’ll need help with the bag.)

I threaded beads onto another pipecleaner, and a metal spring and split ring I found in my bits bag onto a second one.

Busy bag pieces all spread out

(The pencilcase to hold it all also came from my box of bits. The carabiner clasp visible there I ditched in the end.) I also tucked in a couple of bits of card, one for folding/playing with, and one with the names of a handful of nursery rhymes & songs written on, for those moments when my brain goes blank.

Small zippered bag, with pen-holders on the front

All zipped up and ready to go! When Leon’s a bit older, I could tuck a couple more bits of paper in, and a couple of pencils into the front pen-holder part. (And, of course, swap out a bunch of the activities for something else.) You can’t see in that photo, but there’s a piece of ribbon attached to the zipper, and most of the activities have a ribbon loop on them, so I can tie the ribbon through the loop while Leon’s playing with them, and hopefully spend less time fishing under the seat for something he’s dropped.

It was fun to make, came entirely of bits and bobs I had lying around, and didn’t take that long. Now we need to go somewhere to test it out!

Sewing beyond my means…

Or at least beyond my likely abilities. But what the hell! It’s more fun that way.

There’s a sew-along on a forum I’m on of this quilt-as-you-go version of the Amy Butler Weekender Bag. Which I gather is famously Very Hard. (Famous if you hang out on sewing blogs, anyway, which largely I don’t. Yet.) I love the look of this version of it (patchwork is ace!), but since I have done next-to-no quilting, the sensible thing would clearly be to back away slowly and, I dunno, practise a bit first on something smaller.

So, of course, the pattern is now sitting on the table looking at me, a couple of metres of organic wadding are on their way, and I’ve dug out a bunch of scraps to piece the front parts. My excuse is that it was clearly a Sign that my order of “some random remnants” from the nice organic cotton people included some nice thick plain fabric suitable for interlining.

Selection of brown/blue/green fabrics laid out with slightly bad lighting
Some scraps, yesterday (flash has done nothing for the accuracy of the colours; it’s broadly a blue/green/brown look I’m going for)

It’s going to be FUN. Yes. I mean, what can possibly go wrong? Other than everything, obviously.

To balance this out with something I’m actually competent at, I’m also ploughing through the Xmas crafting: making beanbags (little hacky-sack type ones) and Phazelia’s Mitred Baby Jacket for Leon, and [ CENSORED ] for assorted family members who are old enough to potentially read this blog. Also I still have a pair of socks for ME to finish to replace the ones I accidentally felted shortly after Leon was born.

But it’s the bag I’m most looking forward to, despite knowing that it will involve sweat and tears and bad words and so on. AM WRONG IN THE HEAD.

From skirt to (baby) trousers

Another round of decluttering recently unearthed a skirt that I made for myself many years ago, but have never actually worn. After seeing two posts about upcycled baby trousers, one from a T-shirt and one from trousers, I thought I’d see if my skirt could become a pair of trousers for Leon.

I used an existing pair of cotton trousers to cut a pattern. As with the above posts, I cut them with the side seams on the existing side seam of the skirt, and the bottom hem on the skirt’s hem. No need to repeat work already done.

Baby trousers look very long from crotch to waistband, especially if (as here) you need to fit them over a cloth nappy.

denim material on desk, one leg of trousers cut and being used as pattern for second leg
First leg being used to cut out second leg.

Next, I pinned and sewed the front and back seams, and the crotch seam.

Pieces of trousers pinned together along front and back seam, ready to sew

Front and back seam sewn, trousers pinned together to sew crotch seam

They looked pretty good already at this stage. The beaded decoration was already on the old skirt (I’ll take it off if Leon gets too interested in it as I’m not sure how secure it is.)

Trousers turned right-way-out, waistband still unfinished. Dark stretchy denim with beaded decoration on front left leg

I pinned and sewed a waistband, with plenty of room to feed some elastic through.

Trousers inside out again, inch-thick waistband pinned ready to sew, with white pin marking for centre front

Note pin marking the place at the front of the trousers where I was going to leave a gap for the elastic to be fed in through.

Waistband of trousers, right way out, gathered with elastic threaded through, unfinished at front

Waistband sewn and elastic threaded through on a safety pin and pinned to what I thought was the right length.

Elasticated trousers aren’t that much of a fashion statement, but they’re the easiest to get on over a baby bottom, having as they do no fastenings to do up while the baby is trying to crawl away from you. I checked the tightness of the elastic on Leon, then cut the elastic, took a few stitches to hold the ends together, and hand-sewed the gap in the waistband shut.

Sleeping baby on bed, wearing new dark denim trousers and white/blue/green stripy top
Sleeping baby, new trousers!

I’m pleased with that bit of upcycling, which took maybe half an hour all in, and may be repeating it with a pair of worn-out trousers currently lurking in the fabric box.

Making a laptop caddy

In our household we have a tendency to leave laptops lying around the living room. It occurred to me, as L began rolling and trying really hard to crawl (he is currently managing whole millimetres at a time, often backwards), that this might not be a good long-term strategy.

So I consulted the rest of the household (the dog wasn’t that helpful), did some sketches, dug around in the piles of miscellaneous wood in the garage, and spent last Sunday afternoon making this between bouts of feeding L:

Wooden laptop holder with four upright slots

We have three laptops and a couple of tablets, so 4 slots seemed like plenty, with a box at the end for power cables. The original design was altered a bit when I established what wood I had readily available, but I think for the better (I was a bit too generous with the original sizing).

The short ends are a couple of bits of 3/4″ pine shelf offcut; the long sides and the dividers are plywood left over from a flooring project. The other ends of the dividers are held by a 1″ batten, because I didn’t have another piece of the 3/4″ pine:

Close-up of inside of laptop caddy, with wooden batten

To cut the slots for the dividers, really I could have done with a router[0], or failing that, a chisel which hadn’t been wrecked by being used to prise up carpet nails. I also realised afterwards that a hacksaw would have been a better tool than a regular saw. All in all, then, they’re not the neatest ever, but they do the job:

Close-up of top of laptop holder, with plywood sitting in roughly-cut slots in the end piece of wood

I’ll probably paint it sometime soon (we have some nice grey linseed wood paint left over from the same flooring project as the plywood) but the natural wood looks OK for now. And it’s doing the job, for the total investment of a dozen screws and an afternoon with the power tools and a manky chisel.

[0] After chatting to my Dad later, I will be getting a router next time I’m at B&Q. He says he’s spent 30 years repeatedly thinking that a router would be useful but not quite worth it for any given project…

From pallets to shed

I spent much of February slowly constructing a shed (more of a tool cupboard, really; our garden is very small) from deconstructed pallets.

The first step was to measure up (my shed was 80cm x 60cm in footprint, and spade-height-plus-a-bit in height) and cut the pallet planks to size. I think I used about 2.5 pallets, and a hand-held circular saw (very very useful to speed things up).

I also needed four lengths of 2×2, one per corner, to attach the planks to. My design called for a sloping roof (so the rain runs off), so required two shorter lengths for the back, and two longer for the front. I nailed the back planks to the shorter lengths, and each set of side planks to one of the longer lengths (so at this point the side planks were braced only at one end).

The back wall, screwed into its 2×2 bracing at both ends of the planks.

One of the sides, with only one end braced. Note that its 2×2 rises above the planks; this is because it needed a triangular piece of planking attached later to allow for the slope of the roof.

The next step was to screw the loose ends of each side piece to the 2×2 bracing of the back piece.

Shed with three sides. Note again the space at the top of each side for a triangular piece. (Apologies for the sun flare in the photo!)

Shed corners screwed together.

I measured, cut, and attached triangular pieces for the top of each side (no photos, sorry). For the roof, I cut a piece of plywood which overlapped the sides by about 4-5cm in each direction. I intended to cover this with some thick black plastic left behind by our kitchen fitters, but my Dad came up instead with a roll of roof felt from in his garage, so I was able to do a more professional-looking (and longer-lasting!) job with that, roofing glue, and some roofing nails. Before covering the roof, I screwed in a batten at the back to keep it from sliding off.

The batten on the underside of the roof, and the roofing nails keeping the felt down. The felt was glued down on the topside of the roof.

Since installation, I’ve added a couple of battens at the front to keep it square and to brace the roof.

It still lacks a door (I’m on the look out for some large enough plywood), and at some point I will use a couple of L-shaped metal bits to attach the roof, rather than using bricks to hold it down. But as of now, it does the required job, and, given the high percentage of reused materials, for minimal financial or environmental cost. I’m also kind of proud that I built it at 38 weeks pregnant!