Author Archives: chattamama

About chattamama

Full time stay at home, play at home, neigh at home mama. Part time crafty superstar.

The Life of Our Fabric, Cotton

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This gorgeous print is by artist Julia Bowling Burnett. To view and purchase more of her work, click here.

You know the jingle for the cotton. And it really is the fabric of our lives. One look at the tags of your clothing, bedding, linens and most of you will find that you really do live in cotton.
It is, by far, the most common fabric found in the shop. I love it because it’s easy to work with, soft, absorbent, comes in almost endless colors and prints. But there’s an ugly side to this well-loved fabric.
The amount of pesticides allowed on food can be astounding so just imagine what they allow on crops not intended for food! Cotton fields are laden with toxic chemicals, much of which runs off to pollute rivers and soil. Ninety percent of cotton is farmed in third-world countries. This means they have few, if any, regulations on pesticides.
From toxic fields, cotton is transported to be dyed. More toxins are added to both the cotton and the environment. Forty percent of all denim sold in U.S. is dyed in South China. Rivers flowing nearby dye factories dump so much poisonous dye into the rivers it can actually be seen from orbit.
Once dyed, the cotton must be sent to yet another factory to be turned into the product you buy. For some items, this means being sent off to sweat shops where people, people like you and I trying to provide a good life for our families, are paid unfair wages, forced to work through illnesses and consistently being forced to work multiple shifts in a row. Some workers will literally use clothes pins to pin their eyes open as they work hour after hour after hour. People, like you and I, just trying to provide the most basic care for their families.
So what can we do about it? I think we need to start by becoming more aware that this happens. Take a moment to watch this video which details much of what I’ve written above.

So what are our options? When purchasing new, we can use tools such as the Good Guide smartphone app. Using this we can learn to buy new products from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. We can use our power to vote with every dollar we spend.
As we learn to think more about the hidden cost of new products we bring into our home, we can also focus on buying used when possible. This keeps our money out of the hands of greedy, bottom-line focused companies while keeping items out of our landfills.
As a purveyor, ok – borderline hoarder, of fabrics I find joy in giving items a second chance at life. I love hunting down just the right print at thrift shops and antique malls. My friends know I’ll never turn down an in-kind donation of random fabric scraps. I even received a call to pick up a truckload of upholstery fabrics from our local animal shelter after someone dropped off the unwanted lot to them.
But what’s more important than the joy I get in finding a great piece of fabric to up-cycle, is the benefit of not polluting our Earth and of not subjecting another human being to unimaginable circumstances. And so I want you, my customers, to know that I support responsible companies when purchasing new fabrics and that I look first to local distributors to supply my crafty endeavors. When I can’t find local sources I move to Etsy where I can support small businesses also dedicated to the handmade movement. So far, I’ve not had to look elsewhere. If I did, I think I’d have to question how important the really project is, as well as how sustainable it is. But as I’ve learned, it just isn’t worth the cost of that hidden price.

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{Tutorial} Upcycled Jars Keep the Warm Holiday Spirit Year Round

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One of my most favorite things about the Christmas season is the lighted tree.  We have an artificial, pre-lit tree so all those beautiful glimmering white lights are always perfectly spaced.  I love getting up in the darkness of winter mornings and turning on the tree.  The light is so soft and perfect I’m almost disappointed when the sun comes up.  Almost.

I needed to create something to display those gently glowing white lights year round.  But nothing ruins that warm fuzzy glowing feeling faster than seeing that green cord trailing along my light colored wall and carpet. I needed to create something that hid that cord and I needed to do it with what I already had in the house.  Jars!  As you may know I have a thing for jars.  I also have a thing for fabric.  So I had everything I needed:

  • Empty cardboard fabric bolt (fabric stores will happily give you these)
  • 1/2 yard of scrap fabric
  • Small strand of Christmas lights (mine was 15 ft)
  • Jars of various sizes and shapes
  • Box cutter or knife blade

1.  Get your cardboard bolt and tear the ends off.

  

2.  Arrange your jars as you’d like them, but DO NOT space them more than 2 inches apart.  If they are spaced more than 2 inches apart your lights will not fit nicely and your board will not sit flat.  Turn them upside down on the bolt and trace around the lip of each jar.

     

3.  Cut out each circle.  I found it easiest to knife cut through all layers across the circle, then use my craft blade to cut around the edges.  My set my craft blade to a shorter setting and cut the cardboard in 2 seperate layers.

        

4.  Your cuts don’t need to be perfect.  Set your jars in to make sure they all fit.  Everything will be covered in fabric so don’t worry if something seems a little wonky at this point.

     

5.  Set your cardboard on top of the fabric.  Trim short ends 1-2 inches from the edge of the cardbaord.  If you aren’t sewing, simply wrap it up as you would a gift and secure with tape.  Sewing directions follow in step 6…

   

6.  If sewing, flip fabric so the wrong side is up.  You’ll be sewing everything inside out.  Bring ends together and pin (just a few pins will do).  Fold both ends over in the same direction.  With a fabric marker, draw a line in the crease of this fold.

     

7.  Remove the cardboard from the fabric.  Use the line you just drew as a guide.  Sew the long end and ONE of the short ends.  You’re basically creating a pillowcase.  I am using my serger in these photos but sewing will bring you the same results.

     

8.  Set your cardboard on top of your newly sewn fabric. Roll down the open end of your “pillowcase” so the fabric is just 1/2 – 1 inch longer than your cardboard.  It’s better to have your fabric be too long than too short, so err on the side of caution.

  

9.  Pin if you’d like or just sew down this fold.  Slip your cardboard into it’s snug new case.

     

10.  Press to find each hole.  With your craft knife, cut an X into each circle.  These don’t have to be too big.  Now with scissors, cut the Xs in the TOP LAYER only all the way to the edge of the circle.

           

***We’re almost done!  Now it’s time to assemble everything!***

11.  Plug in your lights to make they work.  Think about where you want to place your creation.  I want mine on top of the piano.  I plugged in my lights to see how far they would reach and to determine where my first light on my strand would hit.  That first light on the strand wouldn’t quite make it into a jar so I knew I had to unscrew that bulb and not take it into account when determining how many lights would go into each jar.  NOTE: bulbs can be unscrewed so they do not light up but cannot be removed from the strand completely or none of the bulbs light up.

  

12.  Now we have to do a little math.  Stop!  If I can do this so can you!  Determine how many lights you have to work with.  I had 49 on my strand but because I wasn’t counting that first bulb I knew I was working with 48.  I set out my jars and divided up those 48 lights based on the size of my jar.  No magic formula here, I just made up some numbers and worked it out.  Set your jars into your board and set the numbers to other side in the same order.  This way when the jars are gone and you starting threading your lights in you know how many to place in each hole.

  

13.  Thread your lights into each hole according to your count.   I used a small piece of tape at the beginning of each new hole to keep the lights from popping out of their assigned hole.  This is why it was so important that jars not be spaced more than 2 inches apart.  Once your threading is done, flip your board over and corral all the lights into their jars as you place the jars back into their base.

   

***You’re done!  You did it!  It’s Beautiful!***

You can leave it as is or cover the jars in fabric or paper.

        

This is what I love about this project!  You can easily cover the jars with different materials for each season.  I found a lace table cloth at a thrift store in South Carolina while I was visiting family for Christmas.  It costs me ONE whole dollar.  I cut a 6 inch piece off the bottom and it was more than enough to cover each of my jars, which I simply secured with tape.  You could easily sew covers you think you’d like to reuse throughout the seasons.

You can make your own lace covers out of paper.  See this super easy tutorial for more on that.  I’m already thinking of seasons ahead and how I can continue to use this year round…

  • Autumn – dried leaves, small twigs and other treasures we collect on hikes
  • Spring – fingerpainted masterpieces (we do a lot of outdoor nakie painting during outdoor nakie weather!)
  • Summer – long blades of grass tied simply with twine
  • Winter – evergreen springs and pinecones

When Your Mom Asks for a Diaper, It’s Time To Get Sewing!

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I had given up much of the disposables in my life for some time.  I recycled/re-purposed all my tupperware and switched to glass jars, swapped out paper towels for cloth and I couldn’t tell you the last time I bought paper napkins.  We had been using  dish towels and rags for years, but now with my 18 month old being well out-grown for his newborn sized prefolds, they became our go-to napkin stash.  Or stack.  Very large stack.

this is about 1/16th of my “stash”
 Yes they were a bit bulky and the absorbency was definite overkill when all you needed was to wipe a wee bit of sauce off your chin, but they were available, by the dozens, and they did the job.
My parents were visiting for a few days and as we were sitting down to a big, delicious dinner my Mom speaks up and says “Oh, I need a diaper please”.  Not what you want to hear your mom say.  Ever.  And at dinner?  Oy.
And so I knew it was time to retire the prefolds.  We needed simple, durable and attractive napkins.  It was a simple enough task and certainly my family was worth it.  And that was also something the reminded me of something my Mom had said (don’t worry, nothing disturbing about this one)…
When I was about 15 and living at home I had woken up from a nap (ahhhh, remember those?) and came into the kitchen to find my mom, her hair tied up in a red kerchief, buzzing around from stove top to table to fridge to sink.  The table was set and every inch covered with homemade goodness.  There was yet more bubbling away on the stove top.  Apparently she was out to impress someone.

“I didn’t know we were having people over.  Who’s coming for dinner?” I asked, not even awake yet.

“No one.”  She seemed puzzled I would ask that.

“What about all this food?”

“It’s just for us” she answered matter-of-factly, continuing to buzz about the kitchen.  “We’re worth it, aren’t we?”

Certainly our family didn’t sit down to lavish meals every night.  Some nights we barely sat down.  But that stuck with me.  And so while the newborn prefolds were getting the job done, I wanted Real. Nice. Napkins for my family.   Because my family is worth it and so is YOURS!  And of course because I don’t want to hear another adult request for a diaper as I sit down to meatloaf and mashed potatoes.