Friday, 23 September 2011

Some more on sustainability

It seems a lot of you were interested in my post about creating a sustainable wardrobe, and that is encouraging news. The more people I can infiltrate with my green views the better! And the more people you can convince to stop polluting our world with worthless stuff the better.
On that note, I've been reading about this woman who is on a quest to give up plastic- so impressive. She's been almost plastic -free since 2007 and is going strong. I want to do this! Her blog is a  great source of ideas and inspiration but I'm not sure I'm ready yet, especially living in Beirut where going to buy vegetables without plastic bags is apparently insane- a couple of times at the supermarket the bag packers have actually stuffed plastic bags into my reusable bag, this honestly has happened!
However, I am always trying to cut plastics and other harmful chemicals out of my daily life. Recently I have done this by cutting out shampoo. Yes, you read that right, no shampoo on this head. I know it sounds disgusting, and maybe weird, but have you never felt that shampoo is an endless addictive cycle? The more often you wash your hair, the more often you need to? It's all a big scam by those dirty pharmaceutical companies (probably the same ones that ban the import of cheaper aids drugs in Africa in order to hike up the profits on their brand), and multinational cosmetics companies to keep you spending all your money on the "indispensable" products. The thing is they are not indispensable, you don't need them and actually they may cause more harm than good.
One of the obvious drawbacks of using 1000s of bottles of shampoos.
Many shampoos contain parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben), a preservative used in most cosmetic products and some foods, that have been linked to reproductive disorders, hormone imbalances and breast cancer, as well as harming marine life. Another nasty in many of our shampoos and other beauty products are PEGs (polyethylene glycol or ceteareths) "PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen." (source) This means it is known that these chemicals can have cancer promoting properties. "Fragrance" is another typically misleading and harmful ingredient listed on the back of a lot of our shampoos. According to the Environmental Working Group (an excellent website and source of information on all types of cosmetics products- seriously check it out, its amazing) "Fragrance may include any of 3,163 different chemicals (IFRA 2010), none of which are required to be listed on labels. Fragrance tests reveal an average of 14 hidden compounds per formulation, including potential hormone disruptors and diethyl phthalate, a compound linked to sperm damage (EWG & CSC, 2010)." Companies like Proctor and Gamble (who make Herbal essences, Pantene, Max factor, Aussie) also still test their chemicals on animals. 
Personally, even if these things aren't as bad as some report I don't want to take the risk of putting these anywhere near my skin, which is a pretty absorbing organ. Not only that, but I don't like the thought of supporting these multinational companies that are taking over our world, companies that don't have to answer to anyone and probably have more power than most governments and definitely more money.
So whats the alternative...I'm not suggesting you all go drastic and give up shampoo straight away (although that would be great!) but just understanding what you are buying is important, read the labels! What are all those crazy ingredients listed on a shampoo bottle? If they're are not derived from natural sources, I don't use 'em. But there are shampoos without all these horrible things in them, before I went hardcore I used to use Faith in Nature. and I also tried hand made olive oil soap, but that was too greasy for me.
So shampoo free, how does that work then? Well, now I use baking soda to wash my hair. 
Yep, the stuff you use in cakes. If its safe to put in my tummy then I think its pretty safe for my hair. Baking soda is king in my house, it deodorizes, cleans, de-greases and does a world of other things. All I do is mix it up with some water (about 1 part baking soda to 4 parts water) in a jar and then pour it over my head. It takes a bit of scrubbing its true, it doesn't foam up like shampoo, and you do feel a little bit like you are rubbing sand into your hair-all better than scary chemicals though I think. Once I've rinsed it all out I then give my hair a double rinse with apple cider vinegar diluted with water (about 1 part vinegar to 8 parts water). 
This stuff is brilliant! It literally feels like your hair is being softened and conditioned instantly. The smell goes away as soon as your hair dries and isn't that bad anyway, its kind of appley. That's it! No chemicals, all stuff you would eat and soooooooo cheap. No more lining the pockets of corrupt and evil companies who kill the world's natural resources in their quest to get filthy rich and clean shiny hair too. 
It probably needs a brush!
Apparently I get all intense when thinking about hair washing!
One word of warning though, if you do try this, and I really hope some of you take a leap of faith and just have a go, you need to give your hair at least a week or two to adjust. The first little while your hair will probably feel greasy, but that's only because its readjusting and gaining back all the natural oils the chemicals in your shampoos have stripped out. Persevere, I promise you'll have a beautiful mane eventually!

 I'll leave all my other chemical free cosmetics ideas for another post...
Some other reading material:

Friday, 16 September 2011

Some (tiny) home improvements

Before I went on my lovely holiday of beachy goodness, before Self-stitched September started and I went into a frenzy of sewing, and before I became a whizz at trouser making (I will tell you all about these other things at another time if you really want!), I made some pretty snazzy things to make my studio and my house a bit more organised.
If you want to know what they were, keep reading, if not come back another day when I brag about my trouser brilliance and maybe my barely noticeable suntan!
Look! Aren't they pretty (they are I promise, its just bad lighting!)?
 There's lots of advice all over the world of sewing blogs on how to make these very simple and very handy storage boxes. I used ideas from this helpful blog but actually didn't quite "get" it all to be honest... you know how it is when you tell someone how to do something it seems so simple but when you are trying to understand something its just a big jumble in your head? Well, that's what happened to me so I made it up!
First I cut the fabric like suggested on the instructions- don't forget to add seam allowance. The width of the smaller part across the bottom will be the width of the finished box; the length will be the two "flap" widths added together; and then height will be height of the flap pieces...make any sense? No? How do you put those brilliant little arrows and lines onto pictures? I'm always jealous of those. Maybe its explained better on her blog...
 Oh no, hang on, I worked out arrows and lines, ok they're not all pretty pretty but hopefully they help.
Cut another piece of fabric in the same colour or something different, this will be your inside piece. This should be the same size as the other piece but without the "flap".
 This fabric has been in my stash forever, and as its quite oriental and shiny, I couldn't think of anything better to do with it, and actually all together they look like shiny jewels!

Next lay the flappy piece right sides together, and sew down the sides that are marked in the picture with arrows! 

Then do the same for the inside piece of fabric- the rectangle piece. Right sides together and sew down the short sides. At this point you could also hem one edge of this piece. I didn't do that because it's inside and I don't care about things like that and luckily for me I had cut it on the selvedge! But it will show (on the inside), so if you are fussy about things like that, hem one side. 

Ok, this next bit is a bit tricky to explain.  Take the outside piece and line up the side seam with the bottom seam so they are lying on the same line.

And sew along the opening. Can you just see my white stitches in the picture above?

Lay your two pieces (outside and inside piece) right sides together and sew around the top edge.
Turn right side out and iron  the seam you just sewed really well. This is important as you want to get the two side seams really well lined up.
So, get them well lined up so they are both on the same line and then sew down that line- ie the side seam line (actually it's more of a middle seam but lets try not to get too confused- is it too late, are you lost?)

Now take some cardboard. I always keep boxes lying around, very useful to have cardboard on hand, even if it has been sitting under your bed for almost a whole year! I knew I'd need it one day. Anyway,cut the cardboard into two rectangles the same size as the inside piece of fabric (remember the rectangle piece without the flappy bit?). It's better to cut this a little larger and then trim it down afterwards. 
Score a line down both sides. The scored line should be the same distance away from the edge as the width of the box. My width was 18" so i scored 18" from each edge.

You should have two pieces that look like this.

Nearly there, Just need to wrestle the cardboard in between the outside piece and the inside piece of fabric to make a box.

Ta dah! A box!

Here are the finished productions of my labour: Organisation and prettiness-two essentials. See, a stack of shiny jewels...

In my quest for self sufficiency I feel this ticks a lot of boxes...fabric found in my attic ages ago, old cardboard,  some happy sewing sweat and I saved myself buying those cheap plastic storage boxes. AND...this is a big one, I organised all my DVDs by category and threw them into these bad boys, some for the sewing room next I think.
What do you think? Worth forsaking a trip to the dollar store for cheap plastic tat? Do you have organisation envy yet??!

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