Posts by Nicole :

Failing at Ethical Fashion

mustard sweater feature

I was almost hesitant to share these photos, and for a reason that isn’t readily apparent. It’s not because my hair wasn’t quite cooperating this day, my camera wasn’t focusing properly or because it was really warm in the house and I was eager to get this sweater off.

It’s because this outfit fails at ethical fashion.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, it won’t come as a surprise that I care about responsible fashion- I talk about it a lot. I take part in Fashion Revolution each year. The majority of my clothing is secondhand. I sew slowly and thoughtfully- I try to make sure that each of the items I make are ones that will add value to my closet. I don’t technically have a “capsule” wardrobe, but each and every item is chosen carefully and definitely worn more than 30 times.  I very seldom purchase anything new, and when I do, I try to buy natural fibres, and search out ethical brands if possible.

I love fashion (no surprise there), but seeking to be purposeful and ethical in a world where fast fashion is the norm, can be hard.

And sometimes when you find a mustard yellow sweater, you buy it.

mustard sweater 3

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a local clothing store with my mom and sister, trying to help my mom find a sweater, and as we were looking, I came across this mustard yellow sweater. I’ve been looking for a long time (a couple of years) for some mustard yellow pieces, since it is my favourite colour, but is extremely hard to find!

Since it was on sale, I bought it.

And then I immediately started thinking about the fact that it is made out of rayon and polyester, and dyed with a toxic mix of chemicals, and was made in China, and other than that, I definitely don’t know “who made my sweater”, and then I started regretting it, because this is not ethical fashion, and how can I call myself an ethical fashion proponent, when I just made a very unethical shopping choice?

mustard sweater 1

But I’ve been doing some thinking lately, and I would like to share a few of thoughts on whether it’s possible to be completely “ethical” in your shopping choices.

I participated in a course that Fashion Revolution was offering a while ago. It was an interesting activity, but the one thing that stuck out to me, was this response by the founder of Fashion Revolution, Orsola De Castro to the question, “Is it possible to have a 100% sustainable or ethical wardrobe?”

I don’t think it’s possible to have 100% clothes that were designed or made sustainably or ethically. I think that is going to be very difficult, but it is possible to make sustainable and ethical choices about all of the clothes you have in your wardrobe. So, somehow, you can refresh with love and turn them into something they weren’t originally. . . You can do things like shop at Primark and H&M, but with the same respect if you were shopping somewhere like Gucci. You’ve got to treat your fiver like it was $500, and choose that piece not because you are “stress shopping at Zara”. We are not stress shopping at Zara: we are “deep love shopping at Primark” or Zara or wherever. . . Because, if we were to commit to 100% not putting one foot wrong, we would be damaging ourselves and our wardrobes immensely, and also the people who actually make our clothes, because there are an awful lot of people making clothes who are waiting for the industry to ameliorate, and what are we going to do in the meantime?  Boycott them all? As consumers, we still buy that product. We just buy it in a different way, so we can give a really strong message to the brands. This message might be “Slow down”. This message might be “No, we don’t want five for the price of one; we want one well made piece for the price of five”.

This past year I have started going zero waste in my lifestyle. At first, I thought the concept of “zero waste” was to try and produce no garbage at all. We’ve all seen the pictures of people’s “trash jars” where they are able to fit all of their garbage from the past year (or more) into one glass jar. It’s inspiring to think about living a life that doesn’t result in garbage, but it’s not completely realistic for most people.

I live in a small town, and there is no bulk store. Cauliflower comes wrapped in plastic. I recycle or compost everything I can, but still end up with garbage at the end of the day.

As I’ve been reading more, and started following several zero wasters on Instagram, one thing that keeps coming up is the fact that we are currently living in a culture that is designed to result in garbage. “Zero waste” doesn’t mean that you are producing zero garbage, but is rather a name for a movement that is trying to restructure our global economy to one designed to be circular, where garbage isn’t part of the cycle. Today our products (whether it’s clothing, or food or other things) are designed with waste. It’s impossible to create “zero waste” as a consumer. And even if you think that you are doing a fairly good job, there is garbage that has been created before the product even reaches you. (I work in a shop, and the amount of packaging garbage that is thrown out before a product even reaches the shelf is astounding.)

mustard sweater 4

But again, this quote by Instagrammer Andrea Sanders (@bezerowastegirl) has been bopping around in my head for a while:

“Zero Waste isn’t easy because it’s an infrastructure that doesn’t exist right now. Access to bulk stores, fresh markets and the like are not accessible to most. Everyone makes trash. Period. Do what you can. Never feel guilty because you can’t do something. There is no absolutism.”

And so, it makes me ask: Was this sweater an unwise shopping decision after all? Am I “failing” at ethical fashion?

Our current fashion culture is one that is driven by the need to buy more and more, regardless of how much we already own, but when I purchased this sweater, I wasn’t buying it from a fast fashion perspective.

I have been searching for a mustard yellow sweater for a few years, so it was not a spur of the moment purchase. It was “deep love” shopping, not buying for the sake of buying.

It is estimated that wearing a garment at least 30 times, reduces the carbon, waste and water footprint of a garment by 20%-30%. I wear all my clothes at least 30 times, and despite the fact that this sweater is not made of completely natural fibres, it is well sewn and will last me many years. I also take care of my clothes, and will be hand washing this one to help increase it’s lifespan.

mustard sweater 2

It’s a tricky issue. I can’t say that I’m completely convinced that I should have bought it. Maybe if I had waited a while longer I would have come across something in mustard yellow that would have ticked all the boxes, but then again, maybe not.

I want my wardrobe to be 100% ethical, but that’s not really feasible right now. If 95% of my wardrobe is ethical fashion, then is the 5% that isn’t ethical, OK? Where do you draw the line? Is there a line? How do you balance want vs. need, especially with something as “frivolous” as fashion?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. How do you decide for your own wardrobe?

mustard sweater 7

mustard sweater 7

mustard sweater sleeve

mustard sweater 6

Valentine’s Day 2019

valentine-cards, the artyologist

Happy belated Valentine’s Day everyone!

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, it will be no surprise to you that I love Valentine’s Day. Every year, on Valentines I send cards, bake a heart shaped cake, wear pink, and spend time with my family eating the aforementioned cake. This year was no different! I was originally planning on posting yesterday, sharing the cards that I made this year, but then I decided to include a picture of the card my sister got me, because it was too cute to not share!

valentine-cards-2

These are the cards I made this year.

And this is the card my sister got me! So adorable- it’s definitely getting framed and hung on my wall! The artist is Jane Carkill of Lamb Little Illustration– she has the sweetest illustrations!

Can’t have a proper Valentine’s Day without chocolate and hearts!

And lastly- I bought myself some flowers on Wednesday, because it’s February and winter seems like it has no end, it was Valentine’s Day, and why not? They do cheer up the place and I smile every time I look at them.

Did you do anything special for Valentine’s Day?

How to Sew Your Own Mittens out of a Felted Sweater

Goodness, it’s been cold lately! It was -38 yesterday and this morning! I’m not used to it (am I ever used to the cold?) because we’ve had such a mild winter (so mild that I was wearing my raincoat in January, because my cashmere coat was too hot!)

But, this past week we got a huge amount of snow and chilly temperatures along with it- so it’s winter again in Alberta! All that to say- it seems like the perfect time to share a tutorial for felted woolen mittens! 

I made these mittens a few weeks ago for my best friend’s birthday gift (and I couldn’t post this tutorial until she opened them today!) I wanted to give her a pair of mittens, since hers have sadly reached the end of their life, but the only problem is that I don’t knit! I also didn’t think of giving her mittens a few months ago and looking at all the Christmas craft fairs, where I was sure to have found plenty. I didn’t want to give her “store-bought” ones, and I also didn’t have time to order any from Etsy or someplace like that.

So, what to do? Felt them! 

As I was figuring out how to make them, through much trial and error, I had the forethought to take a few quick pictures to share with you, so today is a tutorial on making your own mittens out of felted wool!

This is the first project I have ever made out of felted wool (I think. . . ) so it was a completely new experience. When I had the idea to make some mittens, I started looking for a pattern, but couldn’t find one that seemed to work. Many of the patterns I saw had the bottom of the palm and the thumb as one piece with a seam across the palm. I made up a test version with this style, and I didn’t like how it fit. There was a lot of excess fabric on the palm and the thumb was not off to the side enough to fit well.

So, as I was scrolling through pictures of felted mittens, I found a pair for sale that had a separate piece on the side for the thumb. I decided to attempt making this style, so I took a scrap piece of fabric, sewed a test mitten, created a pattern from it- and here is the result! 

You will need:

  • A piece of 100% wool, such as an old felted sweater. Check out the thrift shop for wool- just make sure it is 100%  wool content, so it will felt for you.
  • Lining fabric- make sure it is stretchy. I used a scrap of t-shirt fabric. For extra “eco cred”, you could even recycle an old t-shirt! 
  • Needle and Thread

Optional: 

  • Woolen thread of the same colour, for handstitching
  • Elasticized thread for sewing in lining, if you are lining them

STEP ONE:

Felt your wool if it isn’t already felted. You can put it in your washing machine on hot, with a bit of detergent and then wash as normal. If you put in a few sweaters, they will felt faster, because of the agitation. Check your wool once washed, and see if it is felted enough- if not you can repeat the process until it is. Then let it dry.

STEP TWO:

I don’t have an actual pattern to share with you, because as I was sewing, I changed things along the way, and had to cut out excess fabric etc. but this is the original shape that I started out with. Measure and trace your own hand to create a pattern that will fit you. I made the underside/palm of my mitten slightly smaller, so the seam wouldn’t show as much, but once I made them, the wool was so forgiving I don’t know if it made any difference. If you include a 1/2” seam allowance and start out with pieces shaped somewhat like this, you will have room to tweak as you go along! 

ps- this is the size I made it for my hand. The measurements might be different for you.

STEP THREE:

Lay the wool out flat, and decide where you want your mittens to be. Look to see if you can use some of the existing elements, such as cuffs or collars in the design of the mittens. If you have a patterned sweater, like mine, choose where you want the pattern to run. I ended up placing my pattern pieces along the hem, so I could incorporate the finished edge as a cuff. I also made sure to line up the edges of the pattern along the bottom, so the pattern would be consistent from front to back and across the thumb.

STEP FOUR:

Cut out your pieces!

STEP FIVE:

Pin along the top curve of the mitten and sew, either by hand or by machine.

Once you get over to the side, you’ll have to feather out your stitching, like a dart. If, when you turn the mitten right side out, the curve isn’t smooth, use a thread to hand stitch the pieces and soften out the curve and pull the pieces together nicely.

STEP SIX:

Sew the curve of the thumb piece. 

Try on the mitten, to see how it’s progressing for fit. If you need to make any adjustments to size, do so now. It’s easier to make changes before it’s completely sewn together.

STEP SEVEN:

Turn inside out and pin thumb to the hand piece. Line up the bottom edges and then sew together. You probably won’t be able to sew all the way around with the machine, because the pieces are so small. Finish attaching the thumb piece on with a hand stitch. I found it was easiest to put the mitten on my hand, right side out and then hand stitch the pieces together.

STEP EIGHT:

Turn the mitten inside out! 

If you are not creating a lining, then you are done! Simply tack the seam allowances down at the edge of the mitten, and steam into shape if there are any bulges etc. 

STEP NINE:

If you are creating a lining, repeat the steps with the lining fabric, but don’t worry about shaping (as long as it’s not too big), as it’s going to be hidden inside the mitten. 

STEP TEN:

Once you have finished the lining, leave it inside out, and fit inside the woolen mitten. Turn under the edge and then stitch to the outer mitten with some elastic thread. 

And there you have it!

The nice thing about making mittens out of felted wool is that the fabric is very moldable, so it will soon conform to your hand.

This was a relatively quick project. I finished them in several hours- and that includes the trial and error of fitting them. Now that I have sewn with felted wool, I am thinking up other projects I can make. . . earbands, slippers, baby boots. . . what else?

Have you ever made anything with felted wool before? Do you think you’ll try making some mittens of your own? What other projects would be good to make out of felted recycled wool?

Vintage Beauty Advertisements: A Fashion Moment with Canadian Home Journal 1941

Vintage 1941 Cutex ad

I think it is about time we took another look into this April 1941 edition on the Canadian Home Journal, don’t you think? The last time we took a look inside was back in March, with a spread about Easter fashions. This time I am sharing a collection of the beauty advertisements!

There are quite a lot of ads for face creams and “cocktails”, several advertisements featuring movie stars, and of course all of the ads showing the ideal 1940’s look! Interestingly, unlike other beauty ads I’ve seen, none of these mention the war, even though they were right in the midst of it in 1941. There are quite a few pictures today, (a lot of which are Woodbury ads!) but as I was flipping through it again, I realized that I missed a few, so I think that those will make another post sometime in the future!

Vintage 1941 Campana ad
Vintage 1941 Elizabeth Arden ad
Vintage 1941 Evan Willams Shampoo ad
Vintage 1941 Ingram's Milkweed Cream advertisement
Vintage 1941 Lady Esther advertisement
Vintage 1941 Loretta Young Lux soap advertisement
Vintage 1941 Palmolive ad
Vintage 1941 Woodbury powder ad
Vintage 1941 Woodbury Loretta Young ad
Vintage 1941 Woodbury facial cocktail advertisement

I love this last ad- I wish that my powder came in containers this pretty! Modern makeup just doesn’t come anywhere near as close in elegance!

Vintage 1941 Yardley makeup ad