Archive for January, 2009

Happy Obamauguration!

January 20, 2009

Hope you all had a warmer weekend than I did.  But I also hope it was as endlessly memorable.

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Day #12, A Year of Non-Denominational and Green Hand-makery

January 16, 2009

For my final day in this 12 day series (that extended about 18 days in reality…), I offer you my 2008,  year in review: My first year of green knitting.

As you all know, my goal for 2008 was to only use yarns meeting at least one of my green criteria:

1. Organic

2. Least resource-intensive production (for example, the growing of flax for linen requires little to no pesticides naturally–so while it may not have the organic label, for all intents and purposes, it meets that criteria).  I did try and take into account the resource intensive process of producing yarns from the plant fibers.

3. Natural dyes

4.  Socially responsible (non profit cooperatives, for instance)

5. Otherwise sustainably sourced, such as bamboo, which is rapidly renewable and can actually help prevent soil erosion.

6. Locally sourced raw material

7. Recycled material

8.  From a small farm or is otherwise animal-friendly

Within all five categories are products that are not as “green” as I would ideally prefer, meaning the producers don’t limit their impact on the environment nearly as much as I would like.  However, it is impossible to live a life without impact, either negative or positive, so as time wore on I eased my expectations a little.  Overall, I think I did a decent job sticking to my goals and discovered that there are many more choices than I ever expected–from organic cotton and wool to soy silks, bamboo, and hemp.  Even as the year progressed I would notice more and more “eco-friendly” products come on the market than I could even keep track of.

So I thought I would share some of my findings.

First, there are some great online shops that specialize in green/organic yarns:

Annie Sherburne — For me, this site has served as a fantastic source of information.

A Second Chance — Great shop selling recycled/reclaimed yarn from old sweaters, items handmade from reclaimed materials, vintage clothing, etc.  I really love that the shop is completely dedicated to materials that deserve a second chance–I can’t stress enough that this is as green as it gets.  Also, 10% of each sale goes to Kiva.org (a microfinance organization).

Blonde Chicken Boutique — Tara of Blonde Chicken specifically sources animal and earth friendly fibers and creates beautiful, unique yarns.  I’ve worked with her on some custom yarn and she was extremely helpful.

COLORBOMB Creations — This shop sells really interesting, crazy yarns, three of which are tagged with the COLORBOMB Greenish™ label: ‘(S)craptastic’, ‘Shaganator, and ‘Raggedy’, all made from 100% repurposed/reclaimed materials (like mill ends and vintage yarns, scraps and threads). Like I’ve said before–recycled/repurposed is my favorite kind of eco material.

defaceReconstruct — Lovely Etsy shop with recycled yarns and other pretty goodies.

Earth Friendly Yarns — Self explanatory, decent selection.

Freecycle — A great place to find yarn ready to be discarded by others, therefore not requiring any new production (and it’s associated impacts) for your project–the most eco-friendly option in my opinion.  Even organic production pollutes…it’s just way better than conventional.

Hands and Notions — Yarns come from small family farms and have minimal processing (I haven’t bought anything from here yet, so can’t review personally).

Insubordiknit — She uses alternative fibers, such as soysilk and tussah silk, and eco yarns, like organic cotton to create very cool, funky yarns.

Knit for Brains — Lots o’ vegan yarns (bamboo, hemp, soysilk), but also a great selection of pretty organic cotton.

Martha’s Vinyard Fiber Farm — The purveyor of the oh so fabulous yarn CSA…which I never joined.  Someday…

Midnight Sky Fibers — Has a great menu structure so you can shop according to your values: local (if you’re Pacific NW), vegan, undyed, etc).  They also have this amazing “Recycling” option, where if you add it to your order you are pledging that you will recycle the packaging that your order comes in and you get a discount!  Very cool.

Naturesong Yarns — One of my favorite collection of shops (with Colorsong Yarns), which specifically offers naturally dyed or organic yarns (like Habu and Fleece Artist).

Near Sea Naturals — A fantastic online shop where all knitting supplies and sewing supplies are eco-friendly, from sustainably produced knitting needles to natural elastic and organic thread.  There are also yarns grouped by fiber (animal fibers you can feel good about, plant fibers you can also feel very good about, and blends) and fabrics grouped by type–all of which, yes, you can feel good about.

The Yarn Grove — Great selection of “natural, organic, and hand-dyed yarns.”  Not everything meets my criteria, but there’s a lot of good stuff.

Second, there are a number of Organic Cottons and Blends, and throughout 2008 it seemed like the different brands with organic cotton lines were exploding.  I’m only going to comment on the ones I’ve used, which are quite a few…

Be Sweet Bambino Yarn — This yarn is 70% organic cotton and 30% bamboo.  I LOVE this yarn.  It is so soft, the colors are incredibly rich, and it’s just beautiful with a cloud of cotton wrapped with shiny, gorgeous bamboo.  DK weight.

Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton — This yarn is incredibly soft and I will definitely use it again.  My one complaint is the pilling (which is not insignificant), but again, I would more than consider it for future projects because of the softness, the rich colors and organicness.  It’s also nice that it’s a bulky weight, as many of the other cottons are DK (like their newish Organic Skinny Cotton).

EcoKnit Organic Cotton

K1C2 Recycled Cotton — I haven’t used this, but love the idea of creating recycled cotton yarn.  I wish there was more of this!

Lion Organic Cotton

Inca Cotton

Malabrigo Limited Edition Organic Cotton — Really smooth and beautiful in very rich colors.  It’s not as soft as other organic cottons, but that makes it great for more polished pieces.  There definitely won’t be any pilling with this yarn.  It’s a DK weight, and I highly recommend it.

Nashua Natural Focus Ecologie Cotton (naturally dyed)

Pakucho Organic Cotton

Rowan Pure Life Organic Cotton — Very soft and smooth, with an almost bamboo or silk-like sheen.  I love this yarn, but definitely recommend buying all your yarn from the same dye lot, as the  natural colors can vary significantly.  Also a DK weight.

Sublime Organic Cotton

Tahki Eco-Friendly Yarns

Third, there are a number of fibers that lend themselves to production processes that have a less negative impact than other commonly used knitting materials, such as Linen and other Alternative Fibers:

Berroco Naturlin Yarn

The Fibre Co Organik

(Louet is obviously a major manufacturer of linen yarn, which I decided met my green goals since the production of flax would generally meet organic standards, but is not worth the hassle of certification to many producers.  More information on the benefits of linen here)

Fourth, Organic Wools, etc:

Fleece Artist Organic Wool

Green Mountain Spinnery

Lorna’s Laces Green Line Worsted — I really love this yarn and plan to use the DK weight again and the worsted weight for the first time at some point in the near future.  The colors are chic and the yarn is soft and smooth–really very beautiful.  I highly recommend this yarn–it’s definitely in my top 10, possibly even 5.

(There are many others that I haven’t tried, like the O Wools, but they are available at the shops listed above)

And, last (but certainly not least), Socially Responsible:

Frog Tree Yarns — This company is non-profit and you can tell from the prices–which are extremely affordable for some very very nice yarns.  I’ve used their Merino Melange, which is incredibly soft and lovely, and their fingering weight alpaca, which is equally nice.  I highly recommend these yarns.

Be Sweet — Another favorite of mine in this category. The yarns are gorgeous, great quality, and supportive of job creation for mostly women in South African villages.  The only problem I have found is that they can be difficult to find and are not cheap.

(I also put companies like Manos del Uruguay and Malabrigo in here, because they are small family businesses or support cooperatives.)

There is a fantastic knitting green resource here, with a matrix of many, many different green yarns to give you an idea of what’s out there and what you can try.  Hopefully you can piece them together with some reviews to see what would work best for you.

If you have recommendations you’d like to add, I’d love to hear them.  I’ll continue to update this post with new findings and recommendations.

Day #11, Lucy, I’m home…

January 15, 2009

My favorite show in the whole world is I Love Lucy.  I’ve seen every episode a million times. Literally. One million times.

My friends are always a little surprised at my strong, unwavering love for the show.  I suppose it’s unusual for someone of my generation, but I always watched it as a child and it just never loses its appeal with me.  The affinity is so strong that it extends to others that feel the same way about the show…there’s a kinship.  Like I have some sort of understanding with other Lucy fans…

Really when it comes down to it, I just love Lucy.  Seriously.  She was funny, witty, beautiful, quirky, and (because I’m that kind of lady) I loved her style–the 50s style.

So here is my attempt at channeling Lucy, except with some patent pumps, which I’m not so sure Lucy would’ve been so into.

I found the pattern for this 50s-60s style Vogue dress on Ebay, a Vogue Couturier pattern by Belinda Bellville.  When you go back that far you’re really confronted with how sizes have changed to make women feel skinny and buy more clothes (the old conspiracy theory I’m so fond of).  I’m often shocked at the small size I am in today’s sizes, mainly because I’m not that small relative to many people I know so I’m not sure what sizes are left for them…do they go into the negatives?  Must they walk around in sack-like size 0s?  Perhaps they delve into kid sizes.  In any case, the old sizes, where I’m well into the double digits, make far more sense…even if it does hurt my ego for a short minute.

The fabric is a Japanese double cotton gauze by Nani Iro.  It’s quite nice–more substantial than normal gauze, but light.  The dress itself is very fitted on top with a satin charmeuse yoke and armbands, puffy sleeves, and a very gathered skirt (mostly gathered in the back). The front is pleated with a pocket tucked in one of the pleats.  I love the hidden pocket–nothing is more gratifying than when you buy something unaware that it has a pocket and then one day you just discover it…and the whole day is perfect from that point forward.

The shape I found to be very reminiscent of Lucy’s house dresses that were so adorable to me. She always seemed so lovely and dressed up at home.  Whenever I came home from school, my parents would make me change out of my good school clothes into “house clothes.”  Just having that rule in place (which makes complete sense and is one I abide by now on my own) made me want to dress nicely at home.  It makes no sense, really–but I wanted nice house clothes.

This will not be a house dress.  I really love this one.  I tried hard to finally make something where the inside looked just as neatly done as the outside.  So I used french seams, yoke facings (which in the past I’ve been too lazy to do–but should always be done!!), and (this will sound horrible to sewers that it isn’t something I always do) matching thread.  I’m actually relatively careless with a lot of sewing projects, but lately I’ve been really trying to exercise some patience.  It generally pays off…

See you tomorrow-ish for the final Day…

Day #10, I’m not mad…

January 11, 2009

I’m just very, very disappointed.

courtesy of the best blog around, Grist.

This is how change happens–indoctrinate the children.  It’s kind of like with new fuel economy standards for cars…you have to wait a while for the fleet to turnover, but once it does, BAM. The entire fleet emits far less than before because cars are just built differently.

My generation has far greater environmental awareness than the baby boomers and the same will be (or already is) true of children today and the generations before them.  They’re just programmed differently–recycling is standard practice, riding a bicycle or taking public transportation is not for the “lower class” but for the very cool eco-conscious, and being vegetarian is normal and healthy rather than some sort of bizarre hippie weakness.  I already see this within my peers and can only assume through efforts like the one above that the future generations will take these concepts to the next level.

The change may be slow, but it’s going to be powerful when it comes.

Day #9, Tomato Petal

January 8, 2009

Hi everyone.

I really wanted to change the course of these next couple of days to write about some substantive goings on, particularly in the realm of normal everyday people making an environmental difference….but I’m sick and busy with a lot of work and other professional goings on.

So, like yesterday, I present to you an ongoing project: my Petal, pattern by Stephanie Japel.  I was inspired by this version (on Ravelry) by Ravelry user Natsuko.  I am basically making the exact same thing, even with her sizing modification using size 6 needles rather 7s.  I loved her entire creation, dress and all and realized I had some perfect Be Sweet Bambino in Coral that needed to be frogged from a yarn-eating Twinkle project that I would probably never ever wear after taking the photos of it for this blog (kind of like my Vogue Twinkle Dress).  I was initially going to make the Gitane Tunic Dress from the new Town and Country book, but after spending $100 on Bambino in black and coral for this project, a quarter of the way through I realized I would still need about $75 more of yarn to actually finish.  The whole thing definitely seemed not so worth the money and trouble.  I still think it’s beautiful and think it would actually be better (by which I mean at all wearable and at all affordable) if I modified the pattern to use 3 strands of yarn instead of 4 and used smaller needles to get a less chunky final product.  But that seemed like a lot of effort…

So I frogged what I had and am going strong on this little cardigan.

A note on the yarn.

It’s INCREDIBLE.  In all ways.  It meets so much of my criteria: socially responsible, organic, low impact dyes, alternative fiber (bamboo); but it’s also crazy soft and the colors are beautiful and rich.  Even if it weren’t “good” and “green”, the yarn itself is just gorgeous and soft like a cloud.  Most perfect for baby stuff, so I just ordered a bunch to make a baby blanket for a friend.

Almost there, friends…3 more days!

Day #8, Wrapped in Stripes

January 6, 2009

I’m back to showing you projects in progress…

This will someday be the Raglan Wrap from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits.  I really love this border, which is an interesting stitch involving pulling yarn-overs over 2 stitches–very simple, but new to me.

Beyond that, the pattern is really basic.

I’m using Malabrigo Organic Cotton in Pimenta and Pacae, which is very nice.  It’s not as soft as other organic cottons, but it’s crisp, in a good way–if that makes sense.  I’m hoping this will be a simple, basic piece that I can wear a lot and throughout the year.

This is not an exciting post.

So I leave you with my WWII message for the day:

ridealonewithhitler

Day #7: Smelling the Flowers

January 5, 2009

This a bit of an unusual FO, though I’ve mentioned it before…homemade deodorant.  I have many, many issues with conventional deodorant, particularly that all I can find in the women’s “deodorant” section is antiperspirant.  My problem with antiperspirant is that it is full of chemicals and even metals that may cause me health problems that researchers are unsure about now, but are studying, such as the link between aluminum and alzheimers.

I also just generally find it unhealthy to block the natural, toxin-eliminating process of sweating.  And I find it curious that it is virtually impossible to find just deodorant for women (not the chemical and aluminum filled anti-perspirants), yet the aluminum-free options for men are plentiful.  For some time I was using men’s Speedstick as my only moderately effective option, but I got a little tired of smelling like my dad and a little resentful that as a woman it wasn’t enough to just smell nice, but I wasn’t allowed to even sweat at all either.  There are of course the natural alternatives that don’t impose such mandates, Tom’s, Jason, and many others, but to be perfectly honest they did absolutely nothing for me.  Perhaps I am unusually smelly, but it became a huge problem.

And then I found it.  Amy Karol’s Angry Chicken blog saved my life with this homemade deodorant recipe.  It’s suprisingly simple (shea butter, cocoa butter, baking soda, corn starch, vitamin E, and whatever essential oils you’d like to smell like) and is even more surprisingly effective.  I followed the recipe exactly, with the same oils and using a half pint mason jar, which lasts me a few months.  The only thing I may add for next time is vegetable glycerin, which others had commented would be good for additional softness. The recipe fills the jar with a cream deodorant that you rub on.  A pea-sized ball takes my smelly pits through a whole day and it’s literally the only thing that has ever been 100% effective–no stink. At all. Even through the 100 degree DC summers.

It won’t keep you from sweating, but like I said, for most of us, sweating is meant to happen–and it’s a good thing.

Another great thing about homemade deodorant is eliminating a lot of unnecessary plastic packaging (though you will still have some from the materials to make a few batches of deodorant) and reclaiming certain products for the homemade realm that I think we’ve all been conditioned to believe we must buy from large companies.  This is true of many things that are so laden with chemicals, that I personally actually believed they had to be made that way to be effective–like shampoo, face lotion, lip balm, and many others.  It’s great to break down these products to what we actually need from them and make a product to do just that, simply and naturally.  Like using baking soda to neutralize odor–we all know it does this, but for some reason it’s become difficult to make that next leap of putting it on my pits.

Another plus–I actually find the recipe easier than walking to the store to buy myself deodorant.

Day #6…Half way there!

January 2, 2009

Ok folks, this is getting difficult.  I knew I didn’t have twelve finished products to share with you, but I forged on with the charade.  So now begins the I-must-atone-for-my-lies-and-show-you-the-myriad-of-ongoing-projects-I-have-which-illustrate-my-inability-to-commit portion of… Twelve Days of Non-Denominational blah blah blah.

I would actually have a great FO to show you had the yarn not completely betrayed me.

Here sits my completely knitted, seamed and otherwise lovely Phildar Meshy Sweater.

It sits soaking in a bucket, anxiously awaiting either its death or ascension to glory at the hands of this first-time dyer.  You will notice that even while it sits in a large bucket of water, it is comprised of two distinct colors–a very light grey and a darker grey-blue.

This was unintentional and not completely my fault.  The yarn I used is Rowan Purelife in Logwood–for the entire sweater, but from two different sources.  In my research, I have found that logwood is very prone to fade and rub off, and natural dyes in general can produce extremely different results in different dye lots.  I still believe the yarn itself is fantastic, I just caution all of you organic knitters out there to buy all the yarn you think you’ll need at once, from the same dye lot.

Because if not, you must delve deeply into the world of natural dyeing in order to fix your beautifully knitted sweater that now looks like a colorblock 80s mess.  I’ll give you full documentation of my dyeing endeavor once it’s completed, but let me tell you–it’s not what I thought it would be.  Dyers will laugh, but I seriously thought I’d just squirt some color into a bucket of water and stick my sweater in it for an hour or so.  But no no no.  I have to scour, then pre-mordant, and then dye.  I have no measuring implements, so it will be improvised.

I’m fully prepared for my sweater to die.  from the dyeing.

Possibly in memoriam, I wish to say that this sweater became kind of annoying to knit.  Quite a bit of knitting through back loops and the excitement of dropping stitches doesn’t come until the end.  That being said, I really am happy with the design, fit, and shape.  It’s very cool and…I think I’m realizing that I may shed tears if I kill my sweater.

The only thing that was a real problem was the sleeves.  According to my non-French-speaking translation of this French pattern, the sleeves are given no shape whatsoever–I mean no armhole shaping at all, just tubes of sleeve.  It looks surprisingly nice on, but when I followed the pattern exactly, the armholes were too small.  My fix was to still drop the appropriate stitches at the end, but pick them up again after creating the ladders and knit a couple of more rows–so no stitches were lost and the armholes would be almost twice as large.  They’re still a little tight, but fit decently.

I’m hoping to get to dyeing this week, so I’ll report back.

Let’s cross our fingers for a real FO, rather than a eulogy.

See you Monday for Day #7!

Day #5: Waves of Glory

January 1, 2009

This is my latest sewing endeavor that I think is the most detailed work I’ve done to date.

The pattern comes from Burdastyle: the Jennifer Blouse.  It’s made of a peachish silk, which is crepe-like, but I think knit.  I loved this pattern for it’s nicely placed pintucks that add subtle, but feminine detail. The cuffs are also entirely pintucked, which does take quite a bit of time and patience, but looks quite nice and polished.

The inset is not part of the pattern, but was entirely inspired by the creation of another Burdastyle member, CarotteSauvage.  Her creations generally give me inspiration and a level of artistic quality that I hope to infuse into every future project.  This was a lesson in how the addition of simple shapes, placed in interesting, 3 dimensional ways can really make an otherwise plain pattern into something artful and beautiful.

The finished product came out a little big, though I do like the loose-fitting shape.  The inset and neckline could also use some little refining touch-ups, which I will get around to…someday. Overall this enters my list of favorites–it’s my masterpiece of the moment.

Ok, see you tomorrow for Day #6…I’m running out of things to share, so the format will have to change slightly.  I will also be out of town for the weekend, so some days off will also have to be had.

Happy New Year everybody!