Upcycled Gift Wrap

This holiday season alter your wrapping style from wasteful to thoughtful and hand crafted. Why? Because gift wrapping has an extremely short lifespan and ends up in the garbage seconds after being torn apart. It is a complete waste.

Instead of being tempted by the sparkly, shiny papers and bows at your local box store choose instead to upcycle things already at hand in your house. Use items that are on their way to the recycling center such as newspaper, brown bags from the grocery store, or other paper products like calendars, maps, & magazines and catalogs.

In order to be more sustainable you must think and plan ahead. The same way that you have to remember to bring your resuable bags from the car into the store and to take your tumbler with you in the car before you stop for a coffee, you’ll have to plan to hold onto newspaper and other things to be used for wrapping. This takes foresight, but you likewise buy and keep store bought wrapping paper and bows, so it should be an easy shift to begin storing newspapers and brown bags for wrapping in the same location and stock up for upcoming birthdays and holidays. It’s not that common these days to receive a newspaper since most people consume their news from online sources, so you may have to acquire newspaper from your place of work or from a relative who still gets a daily paper. Junk mail and advertisements that come are another source, for me it is the local penny savers that I keep to use because they are abundant where I live. We must have 3-4 placed in our mailbox weekly.

To jazz up your gift wrap have a search on pinterest for upcycled wrapping ideas, there are many. You can paint the wrap or stamp it with a homemade potato stamp which could make for a great winter craft night in. Here is a detailed blog on how-to make potato stamps. You can also make bows out of newspaper. There are a lot of different styles and techniques to make different types of newspaper bows. A quick google search brings up half a dozen styles that you can create so that your gifts under the tree are unique and look as snazzy as purchased bows made in China. Here is a good blog tutorial to make bows out of newspaper or, a neat idea for those with little ones in the house, to make the bows out of children’s scribbles.

Creating bows will take time, but as I find with most things that I do with my hands to create something, is in the end satisfying and meditative. You’ll need simple household items such as scissors, glue, and tape. Making a patter first for your bows may quicken up the process.

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Other embellishments can be added like twine or other festive string, using twine and other string as ribbon is not necessarily waste free, unless you hold on to previously used string and give it a second life as gift wrap, so I cannot say completely that the gifts that I wrapped are absolutely zero waste, but they are more ethical than plastic based ribbon sold at stores. A more eco idea is to use sprigs of pine tree snipped from the back of your Christmas tree or from outside. If you’re wrapping during another season, for a summer birthday perhaps, then you can use other seasonal plants. Check first to be sure that the plant is not harmful – don’t give your friend a gift with decorative poison ivy on it, for example. This blog has a lot of different ideas including using bits of plants and more.

Crafting your own gift wrap is not hard, it just takes time, so put the kettle on, sit in front of the heater and get creative. The best part about upcycled and DIY gift wrap is that on top of being unique and personalized, it utilizes materials that are easily recyclable as opposed to store bought wrapping paper, which often IS NOT RECYCLABLE and sadly ends up in the landfill.

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Sustainably Fill Your Closet – 6 Tips

In my last post I outlined the many negative effects of the fashion industry and how learning of them altered my shopping habits. In the past I used to shop somewhat regularly. It wasn’t often a matter of desperately needing an item, instead it was just something to do in my down time. I would check out sales and feel really excited and happy when I found what I thought was a good deal. Sometimes I would even buy something without even having any need for it, and maybe not even liking it much, therefore it might have found its way to the back of the closet, and then much later, to the thrift store.

Now I give so much more consideration to my shopping, and here’s how.

  1. Just get by: If you saw me out and about and paid attention to what I was wearing, then you would notice that my clothes are on heavy rotation. I have a relatively small amount of clothing that gets worn again and again. Specific to me, being a kindergarten ESL teacher and a yoga teacher, I am able to get away with going very casual, for example jeans and a baggy sweater. You might not have this sort of lifestyle and may find yourself requiring more variety in your wardrobe, if that’s the case, then there are ways to obtain them sustainably.
  2. Second-hand shopping: There’s still a way to have a shopping hobby, but without supporting the fashion industry, and that is to shop second-hand. Of course, second-hand shopping is more like finding a needle in a haystack at times, but when you do find that needle it feels like it’s the shiniest needle in all of the world since it probably took some time and luck to come across it. Here in Korea there are second-hand shops in most neighborhoods. This is my favorite one- The Beautiful Store. Another option would be consignment stores, which are costlier but guarantee less digging.

    Items donated for my upcoming clothing swap.

    Items donated for my upcoming clothing swap.

  3. Swap clothes with friends (and strangers): It’s common to lose interest in things that were bought long ago or that were not quite right but got purchased anyway. Instead of tossing thes things in a landfill, host or attend a clothing swap. That way you can feel satisfied with a cleaned out closet and then quickly fill it up with some fun new things.
  4. Read labels: Imagine if people read clothing tags the same way that they read nutrition labels and avoided toxic fabrics as much as they avoid GMO foods. It’s become a new habit of mine to check out where things are made and what they’re made of. Shop around and choose the more sustainable option of what you’re buying. Recently I have done this when shopping for headphones and yoga pants and feel prouder of my things even if nobody knows that they’re a bit more sustainable. Choosing something that’s better for you and for the environment can give a small sense of pride.
  5. Shop locally: If possible buy items made in your area, or at least country. That’s not very common
    in the US anymore, but can be done, American Apparel comes to mind. You could also shop on Etsy for up-cycled clothes. Here in Korea it’s much easier to do, a lot of small shops sell Made in Korea.

    Merino wool, one of my favorites.

    Merino wool, one of my favorites.

  6. Buy Natural Materials: Choosing a wool knit over acrylic will definitely cost more, unless found at a thrift store, but you get what you pay for. Spending more on high quality will mean that it will actually feel nicer to the touch (and you will be wearing it on your skin,) it will look nicer, and last longer. Other natural materials to keep an eye out for are organic cottons, silk, hemp, leather and suede.

Conscious consumerism takes more time and effort, but after practice it will develop into unconscious-concious consumerism, if that makes any sense. You will begin to be more aware of the things that you bring home with you and where and how they came to be. It really is similar to watching the breath in yoga, at first it’s not easy to give the breath full attention, but after hours and years of practice, it just begins to be the new normal. Likewise, choosing to shop more sustainably can soon become your new normal, too.
A handmade poster made by yours truly for my first swap in which I gave a short talk about shopping habits.

A handmade poster made by yours truly for my first swap in which I gave a short talk about shopping habits.

DIY Natural Dying

I learned about using compost to make natural dyes via a podcast that my boyfriend was listening to one night, and it caught my attention. On the podcast, the woman was talking about collecting onion skins from restaurants to turn them into dye and I thought, well we go through a lot of onions, so might as well start collecting. I also asked some girlfriends to save their onion skins for me and had quite a collection. This past weekend I finally put the skins to use and the results were surprisingly nice. They will be sewn into eye pillows and cases.

How To

The Collection: I’m not sure on an amount, but if I had to guess I’d say that I used about 20 onions worth of skins. Initially I froze the skins, but I found that that’s not necessary. The skins keep well at room temperature as long as none of the flesh is on them. It’s winter now, so that might not be the case during the humid summer.

The Process: I followed this blog. Outlined below are the stepsSoaking the skins I took to dye my fabric.

  1. After collecting and storing the skins until I was ready to dye, the first step I took was to soak the onion skins. I covered the skins in water until they were all covered, but of course some were not submerged because they floated to the top. I had read that soaking over night gets the best results, so that’s what I did.
  2. The next day I boiled the skins in the water. They didn’t remain
    boiling for long. After they reached boiling, I lowered the heat to simmer. They simmered for about an hour. When I went to turn off the gas completely, I noticed that a lot of the water had boiled off and the water was colored an orange-brown. I removed the skins as much as I could.
  3. The next step is soaking the fabric in thedye. Using different types of metal creates different colors, so I used two different pots and experimented a bit. One piece of fabric was completely submerged in a cheap camping pot (I’m not sure what type of metal it is, but it’s cheap) while the other fabrics I played around with and explain how below. For the best results the blog said to soak the fabric in thedye while it is heated on the stove for about an hour.
    1. Two fabrics I tie-dyed. The first fabric I planned to use for eye pillows. The second was a shirt that I altered when I first bought my sewing machine (it has very rough hems from learning how to sew!)
    2. The other effect I daydreamed about making was an ombre effect, or fading from dark to light. I theorized that if I strategically hung the fabric above the dye only submerging the end and then lowered more into the dye every hour, then I’d end up with the part that was soaking the longest would be darker in color and that which was soaked for the least amount of time would be lighter in color. The end of the fabric wasn’t submerged at all and stayed the original cream color (minus some staining from the steam of the dye.
  1. After the fabrics were in the heated dye, I turned off the heat and let them cool in as they were. For better results it was recommended to have them sit in the dye overnight which is what I did. The following day (3 days into the process now) I took them out of the dye and rinsed them in cold water until they stopped running.

The results of this process came out great, I thought. I hope to play around with other natural dyes in the future. A student recommended dying with turmeric and fruit skins. Have you had any success with natural dyes?

DIY Yoga Eye Pillow

A yoga prop that I love to utilize in Savasana (corpse pose) is an eye pillow. I started to use one regularly years ago after being introduced to them at a yoga studio. What an eye pillow is, is what it sounds like; a tiny little pillow to rest on top of your eyes. Usually they are made of a soft fabric like silk or cotton that feels comfortable on your face. The filling is made up of flax seeds coated in an essential oil- lavender being my favorite. Not only does the soft scent of the lavender calm you as you inhale in your Savasana, but the flax seeds make it impossible not to close the eyes and also block out any light in the environment.

Unfortunately, I lost my eye pillow months back while travelling and never replaced it. Instead I had a goal to teach myself how to make them and it turned out to be much easier than I might have imagined. I acquired a sewing machine, found a tutorial online, and cut apart an old pillow case to upcycle* into the eye pillow, and while I was at it I created half a dozen for the students of my classes to use. These lovelies were a long time in the making and even include hand-picked, dried lavender kindly sent from England, upon request, from my boyfriends mother.

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The How To

What You’ll Need:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Cotton or silk upcycled fabric
  • Flax Seeds 1-1 ½ C
  • Lavender (to relax) or Mint (to revitalize) essential oil
  • Measuring cup
  • Funnel
  1. Cut your fabric to 25x25cm.
  2. Fold the fabric inside out (print on the inside) in half and sew to close two sides leaving an opening to fill the pillow.
  3. Scent the flax seeds to as strong as you like (careful not too much, I once re-scented mine more than I should have and the lavender oil burned my eyes!)
  4. Turn the pillow right side out. Fill the pillow with about 1 ½ C of the scented flax seeds depending on how dense you want your pillow.
  5. Sew the opening to close the pillow.

Follow this link to a blog where I found these directions as well as easy to follow directions to make the pillow cases.

*A note on upcyclying and why it’s great; this is when you give new life to an old, no longer used, soon to be discarded object. As this is a blog dedicated to both yoga and sustainability, I am glad to write this post about creating (DIY) rather than consuming with the added benefit of keeping some pillow cases out of a landfill.