Learn how to sew on a sewing machine! 

Learn how to sew & make a simple napkin!

 

Do you want to learn how to sew?  It’s easier than you thought :).  In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to sew on a sewing machine.  

 

We’re going to make a simple napkin together, so let’s get started!

 

1. Supplies

photo of supplies - fabric, scissors, measuring tape, ruler
Here are the supplies you’ll need.

Here’s what you’ll need to learn how to sew:

  1. Fabric – you can use an old sheet for this project, or search the thrift stores for options, or go to your locally owned fabric store (HartsFabric.com in Santa Cruz has great options).  You can easily make 4 napkins from a yard of fabric.
  2. Thread.  You can get thread that matches your fabric, or just use whatever thread you have on hand.  I work with organic cotton thread, which can be hard to find, but it’s a great sustainable option.  
  3. Scissors
  4. Ruler
  5. Measuring tape
  6. Pins
  7. Iron & ironing board
  8. Marking pen or tailor’s chalk
  9. Sewing machine

2. How to set up your machine & thread it

  1. Find the spot where your spool of thread goes.
  2. Find a short post on the top of your machine, near the large spool, where the bottom bobbin goes to get wound up with matching thread.
  3. Thread from the spool of thread to the bottom bobbin.  There may be a path drawn on your machine showing how to get from the big spool to the bottom bobbin.  You generally go around at least one or two metal hooks to create some tension from the big spool of thread to the bottom bobbin.  To wind the bottom bobbin up, either press on your foot pedal or push a lever that’s just for winding the bottom bobbin.

    To thread the bottom bobbin in matching thread, follow a line from the large spool to the bottom bobbin.
  4. Once the bottom bobbin is threaded, cut the thread connecting it to the top bobbin and bring it down into the hook plate area, under your presser foot.  Thread the bobbin so that the thread is going AGAINST the notch in your hook plate area, as opposed to moving in the same direction.  The idea here is that you want the thread to come off the bottom bobbin with more tension, vs. come off with very little tension. 
  5. To thread the large spool of thread, you’re going to work your way down towards the needle, going through a few hooks and turns on the way.  Your machine might have a path displayed on the top, like this.  But if not, you’ll likely thread from the large spool to around a hook or plate.THEN move into these two long slots/notches on the machine right above the needle.  First, go down the long slot on the right,  then go back up again in the slot on the left.  You’ll find a hook inside the long notch on the left.  Turn the large round knob on the right side of your machine to make the hook come forward if it’s not visible. Thread the needle into that hook and then back down again towards the needle.  At the top of the needle, there will be a small wire or hook to hold the thread closer to the needle that you want to place the thread behind.  Then thread the needle from the front to the back.  Your machine might have an automatic threader or you can do it by hand or you can use a needle threader.  Then put the top thread under the presser foot.  You can also put the bottom thread under the presser foot if it comes out from the hook plate area.  On my machine, it stays down in there.
  6. Make sure your machine is set to a straight line stitch and that the stitch length is between 2-3mm.  I once borrowed a machine from a friend that she thought was broken – it was just in a zig zag stitch instead of a straight stitch so it kept hitting the presser foot and breaking!  Once we put it into a straight stitch, it worked great ;).
  7. Make sure your presser foot is in the down position before you start sewing.  There’s a handle on the back of your machine that moves your presser foot up and down. 
  8. Cut a scrap of fabric off or use a little rag and test some straight lines with your machine until you feel comfortable.  The more gently you press on the presser foot, the slower you will sew so take your time.  Repeat until you’re ready to tackle your napkin!

P.s. – If you want to watch a video of me threading my machine, CLICK HERE.

 

4. How to cut your fabric 

 

You can make your napkin any size you want.  17” x 17” is a pretty typical size.  The key is to add 2” to your desired final length and width before you cut it.

 

Another note: if your selvage edge (the part with the brand name printed on it) is wider than about ½”, you’ll want to cut that off before you take your measurements.

 

For this example, I made a 16” x 16” napkin.  I cut the fabric to 18” x 18” (added 2 inches all around.

 

Making marks at 18″ in a few spots on the fabric with a pen.

To cut your fabric, first fold it in half to make it a little easier to work with.  You might want to work on a large table or on the floor to have enough space to spread out.  Fold your fabric so that the edge is aligned evenly in at least one spot.  Take your measuring tape and make a mark at 18” from the edge (if you’re making a 16” x 16” napkin).  Make a few marks up the edge. 

 

Draw a line to connect the marks you made to make cutting easier.

Next get your ruler and draw a straight line connecting all of the marks that you made on the fabric.  Cut along the line.

 

Repeat this process on the other edge of the fabric by folding your fabric the other direction. E.g., if your fabric has a print with a direction on it, like flowers, fold so that the flowers are now pointed perpendicular to the direction they were pointed with the first fold.

 

Again mark 18” from the folded edge – make several marks along the edge.  Draw a straight line connecting the marks with your ruler, then cut along the straight line, just like you did for the first edge.

 

5.  Press & pin your fabric 

 

Take your fabric to your iron and press it flat.  Now you’ll fold up ½” on a side and then press it in place.  Repeat this for all sides of the napkin – fold it over ½” and press with the iron.  Then fold over each side another 1/2″ and press again.  This way all the raw edges are hidden in your hem.  

photo of fabric with edges folded 1/2" on all 4 sides
Fold edges 1/2″ on all 4 sides, press. Then fold again 1/2″ on all 4 sides, and press again.

Take your pins and pin the newly folded & pressed edges.  I put about 3 pins on each side.

fabric with hem pinned
Place pins along all 4 sides to pin hem in place.

6. Sew it up

 

Napkin is right side down so that I can see the hem I made. Sew close to the edge of the hem.

Take it to your machine and place it right side down.  This way you can see the hem and easily follow the straight edge. 

 

Pick a spot near a corner (but not on the corner) and sew straight down the side, making sure to capture the hem with your stitches.  Take your time, sew straight, and don’t go off the folded edge.

 

Sew slowly when you get near the corner. Sew close to the edge but not off the edge.

When you get to the corner, sew towards the bottom edge but don’t go off the fabric.  Press the reverse button (it probably looks like a u-turn) and go back a few stitches.  The goal is to stay on the corner and not go back onto the side.

 

Make sure the needle is in the down position.  Then lift up the presser foot and rotate the fabric so that you’re positioned to sew down the next side.  Press the reverse button and backstitch a few stitches.  Then sew straight down this side.  When you get to the corner, again go towards the bottom edge, backstitch a few stitches, rotate the fabric, backstitch towards the other side of the corner, and again go straight down the side.  

 

Repeat this until you get back to where your stitches start.

 

When you get to the side you started on, you’ll want to stitch over the original stitches with a few stitches, then back stitch, then forward stitch again just a few stitches.  This really locks those stitches in place so they won’t unravel.

 

7. Trim your threads

 

Once you’re done sewing, lift the presser foot and pull your napkin off the machine.  Your machine probably has a blade you can use to cut the threads, or just cut them with your scissors.

 

Next, carefully trim the threads very close to the fabric without cutting the fabric.  

 

Now you’re done!  

 

That’s it! 

 

Now you know how to sew!  Keep practicing with simple projects and before you know it, you’ll be sewing your own clothes!  Learning how to sew is taking a small stand for the planet.  Appreciating the effort that goes into making your stuff makes you a better and more thoughtful consumer.  And turning your old sheets and things into functional home goods is the greenest way to furnish your home.

 

Are you ready to sew?  What’ll you sew next?  Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading!

Liz at No Trace

 

p.s. I’ve got a tutorial on sewing a snack or sandwich bag HERE if you’re ready for your next project :-)!

p.p.s. head over to my YouTube channel for more video tutorials by clicking HERE.

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Our 2019 low waste advent calendar

Are you hoping to slow things down and savor this special time of year WITHOUT a ton of trash?  Want some ideas for a low waste holiday season?  

 

Check out our easy low waste advent calendar ideas from 2019.  Having a low waste advent calendar is one way that we embrace the holidays and stay connected with each other during these busy days.  

photo of Christmas pyramid

 

We’ve been doing this family advent calendar for the last 5 years.  You can read about what we’ve done in previous years here.

 

Each year we keep our favorite activities from the previous year’s low waste advent calendar and create new ones too.  So I thought I’d share our 2019 low waste advent calendar ideas with you in case you are looking for some near zero waste advent calendar inspiration.  

 

Oh, and if you’re wondering what our physical advent calendar, it’s basically a fabric tree with 24 pockets.  Each pocket has a little fabric ornament that velcros to the tree.  We slip a piece of paper behind the ornament with each day’s low waste advent calendar activity/treat :).

low waste advent calendar
This is our actual calendar with pockets and velcro ornaments.
rocking horse ornament
The little slips of paper fit behind the ornaments in the pockets.

 

Ready to hear our ways of staying connected?  Here we go!

1-Make paper snowflakes.

 

Got paper in your recycling bin?  Watch a quick tutorial on YouTube to learn how to turn that paper into paper snowflakes.  We have fun make at least a few paper snowflakes each in different colored paper.  Then we’ll tape them to our windows and walls for a little extra holiday spirit.  

 

Don’t forget to compost the tiny bits of paper that come off in the cutting.  Most recycling centers don’t have a way to easily catch these and so they probably won’t get recycled.  

photo of paper snowflakes

2-Check the cupboard or fridge for a special treat.  

 

We’ll go by a local bakery the night before and get them each a cookie, donut, cupcake or anything special that we wouldn’t normally get to eat at breakfast.  Pre-COVID days we’d bring our own container to avoid the packaging trash.  And even today some places are coming back around to the realization that our own containers aren’t filthy, disease ridden super spreaders.

 

Little low waste treats like this are sprinkled into the advent calendar for busy days – we don’t have time for fun-tivities everyday, but we can take a moment to mark the day in easier ways.

 

3-Hot chocolate with whipped coconut cream.  

 

Another easy breakfast treat.  We get coconut cream in a can.  Simply scoop out the hard part of the cream (leaving behind any coconut water/milk) and then whip it either by hand or in your stand mixer.  You can add a dash of vanilla extract and sugar too.

photo of hot cocoa
Coconut cream is an awesome vegan whipped cream alternative.

4-Candlelight snuggle story time on couch.  

 

SO fun!  After dinner one night, we got out extra blankets, light candles, and snuggle around a good book.  We have a few Christmas decorations that involve candles, so this is a perfect time to light & enjoy those.  As for books, we’ve been loving The Mysterious Benedict Society lately.  My partner will read outloud to them for long stretches at a time.  I tend to lose my voice before him, so I get to sit and snuggle and listen instead :).

photo of Christmas pyramid
Our Christmas pyramids arent this fancy after years of wear and tear :).

 

5-Shop for adopt-a-family.  

 

Does your school or church or community group adopt a family around the holidays?  Our school participates each year and we join in too.  Last year the kids and I had fun at Target picking out what we thought our person might like.  My partner stayed home (not a huge shopping fan) and made dinner so we could squeeze this in after school and dance.  We don’t all 4 have to do everything on the calendar together – we try to keep it manageable for our regular life stuff like school, dinner, dishes, homework, piano practice, etc!

 

6-Night swimming.

  

Yes, just like the REM song ;).  We have a local heated swimming pool (Simpkins Swim Center) that has evening hours.  It was a blast.  Swimming at night feels magical.

 

7-Watch the lighted boat parade.  

 

At the Santa Cruz Harbor each year, there’s a parade of boats decorated in lights.  We went last year and took a couple of their friends with us.  It was pouring rain, but that made it more memorable.  Plus I packed a thermos of hot apple cider and some cups, and some popcorn.  We huddled under umbrellas, sipped cider and munched popcorn and watched the boats go by.  The rain seemed like a bummer at first but it made the night that much more memorable for everyone. 

 

8-Pick out a tree.  

 

We’re still getting a real tree each year although we’ve talked as a family about other options, wondering what is the most eco-friendly option.  As long as we aren’t driving far to get a tree (fewer emissions) and if we compost the tree at the end of its life, it feels fairly sustainable to get a real tree.  But there’s a tree rental place in our area called Rent a Living Christmas Tree (RentXmasTree.com) for another option.  

 

We go to a local business to get the tree (Capitola Produce) and the kids usually want to play hide and seek among the trees a few times before we bring one home.

photo of kids in Christmas tree farm
We try to have a little fun when we pick out our Christmas tree.

9-Pick a charity to donate to.  

 

As a family last year, we talked about the different causes we cared about and then picked one charity to donate to.  The kids wanted to donate to a charity that provides global health services, and so we picked Partners in Health.  

 

I will say, though, the amount of unrequested paper mail we’ve gotten from them over the year has been INSANE.  So this year, when we make a donation, we’ll remember to make a firm request for NO MAIL.

 

10-Make caroling video.  

 

The past few years we’ve recorded ourselves on our iPad singing a Christmas carol.  It’s of family-viewing-only quality, and a lot of the joy comes from looking back at our videos over the years.  Pretty dang cute! It’s neat to see how they’ve grown each year by Christmas time.

 

11-Write a letter to Santa.  

 

This is a big highlight for the kids, of course!  They each get to ask Santa for 1 pre-approved thing from Santa (i.e., we might veto certain items before they get in the letter.  Think more animals or an iphone or other devices).

 

12-Aquarium outing with Grandma & Grandpa.  

 

We are super lucky to have grandparents nearby who do fun things with our kids.  This past year they wanted to take them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the day.  So fun!  There are lots of great outings in our community – local parks and beaches, art museum, children’s discovery center, the animal shelter, etc etc.  You get the idea.

 

13-Ornament shopping with Grandma & Grandpa.  

 

This is another annual tradition in our little family.  Each year the kids head out for the afternoon with Grandma & Grandpa.  They drive to a few different locally owned stores that carry really cute ornaments.  The kids take everything in and then make their decision (sometimes having to go back to an earlier store, but that’s okay).  Part of the joy of this is just seeing all the creative and sparkly and beautiful ornaments.  Plus they love showing us and picking a spot to hang it on the tree.  And when we decorate the tree (which is often an advent calendar activity), we all like looking back at what they’ve picked each year.  E.g., a glass pink cadillac, a glass stand mixer, a fuzzy squirrel, glass ballet slippers, and more.

 

14-Doggy christmas at dog park.  

 

We made this up but basically brought our dogs to the dog park (which we RARELY do) and got them each a little something at the pet store.  Fun for the dogs, fun for us!  

photo of dog and ball
happy dog at the park!

 

15-Gratitude letters and hot spiced cider. 

 

One evening after dinner and before bedtime, we sat down to write a few things we’re each grateful for while we enjoyed hot spiced cider.  I like to buy spiced cider from Santa Cruz Organics because it comes in a glass container vs plastic.

 

16-Make an online family Christmas card.  

 

This was super fun, especially for my older daughter who’s into design.  We found some simple templates (Canva.com has plenty – all free), picked our favorite, and then picked family photos from our google photos and uploaded them into the card.  Once we were done, we downloaded it and sent it in email to our family and friends.  We aren’t doing real cards any more, although it was fun to do each year in the past.  But this is a more eco-friendly option.

 

17-Tea party for dinner.  

 

Although this is the most work, it’s my FAVORITE advent calendar event.  I make a big pot of herbal tea and then a bunch of finger foods – homemade cookies, popcorn, hummus, chopped veggies, vegan cream cheese & cucumber sandwiches, a couple other dips, and crackers. We put all the food in the living room and sit around our little coffee table on the floor and enjoy our special meal.  So fun!

 

18-Family S’mores night.  

 

By December we’re out of fire season, so it’s s’more season! At least for a bit.  Again there’s the packaging of vegan marshmallows (and graham crackers and chocolate!) If you’re feeling super ambitious, I’ve seen recipes for vegan marshmallows & you might be able to find the ingredients unpackaged in a bulk store.  Here’s one recipe: https://thehiddenveggies.com/vegan-marshmallows/ and another one: https://happyfoodhealthylife.com/vegan-marshmallows-recipe/.  

 

You could get creative and roast something else – i’ve seen folks do bananas (but they’re wrapped in tinfoil).  Or just have a little backyard fire.  The real fun is being in the yard on a cold night, warming our hands and feet around the fire pit.  

 

19-Family movie night.  

 

You know those nights when you’re exhausted and want to be horizontal for as long as possible?  Perfect excuse for a family movie night.  We try to pick a holiday movie, but honestly whatever the kids can agree to is great.  Elf and Home Alone are a couple of our family favorites.  

 

20-Ice skating with Grandpa.  

 

He likes to take the kids to the ice skating rink at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk that gets set up around the holidays.  Super fun for everyone.

 

21-Hanukkah breakfast at the Bagelry.  

 

We love our local bagel restaurants and added a little breakfast to the advent calendar.  They have loads of vegan spreads.  Yum!

 

22-Birthday celebrations.

 

My youngest daughter has a birthday in the middle of the holiday season and this day is her day – we do a family dinner party and then she has something with friends too.  We put any parties that we’re going to on the calendar as well – those are special enough for the day! 

 

23-Cookies with grandma.  

 

Another super special annual tradition.  Grandma bakes a bunch of sugar cookies the day or two before and then the kids come over for a decorating bonanza.  The kids have also helped bake the cookies in the past, but the decorating part is their favorite. And it makes it a little easier for everyone if they’re baked already.  Bonus: parents get to eat the cookies!

 

24-Craft date with momma.  

 

I like to put together super simple crafts that we can finish in a couple hours.  It’s a fun time to invite the kids’ friends over too.  One year we made cloth crowns with elastic bands out of fabric that they picked.  Another year we made simple sandwich baggies out of fabric they bought at the store.  Friendship bracelets are fun and easy.  Or bookmarks out of scrap fabric.  Lots of easy options!

 

There’s our 2019 low waste advent calendar.  Do any of these sound like fun for your family?  Or do you have any to add?  I’d love to hear – leave a comment below!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

 

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How do we REALLY fight climate change?

Read this to find out how to fight climate change – the 4 most important ways.

Climate change is coming, people.  But we can fight back and minimize the impacts on our communities & planet.  

photo of polar bears
How to fight climate change

 

There are TONS of small ways to fight climate change.  I wrote about 50 of them here.  

 

But in the bigger picture, the more life-threatening picture, there are 4 key actions we need to take to fight climate change.  Here are the 4 most important ways to fight climate change.

 

4. Fight disinformation

 

Disinformation is a huge threat to climate change action.  And hunting down this disinformation is a big project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Big oil companies fund disinformation in several ways.  One of their sneaky ways is to create fake scientific information with made-up research results, and by only publishing certain findings (as opposed to all the results), and by using flawed methodologies.

 

Another way that corporations create disinformation is by intimidating scientists who publish information that goes against their financial interests.  They also create clever campaigns to create doubt in scientific findings. For example, they’ve created “grassroots” organizations in states like California to oppose legislation that targets carbon emissions.  Big oil companies also use their wealth to buy influence among universities and government officials in the name of their particular agendas.

 

So how do we fight this disinformation?  

 

Use your voice to call out these corporations for their misinformation.  You can call them out on your platforms (Twitter, FB, IG, etc) and you can also send letters through the Union of Concerned Scientists.  ExxonMobil, for example, has known about climate change for decades and buried the facts in favor of profit.  ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron & ConocoPhillips have paid billions to hide climate change facts.  You can read it about here.  Call them out for their misinformation.

 

3. Demand a tax on carbon emissions 

 

“Carbon pricing” puts a monetary cost on carbon emissions.  It’s a market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it can be put into action at a local, state, or federal level.

 

The idea is that corporations have to pay for emitting carbon and that cost will get passed on to the consumer.  This puts pressure on the market to find more cost-effective approaches to doing business that creates less carbon emissions.  

 

Carbon pricing is already in place in California and other states, as well as in other countries, but we need to do more.  National carbon pricing bills have been introduced but none have passed to date.  Reach out to your Congressperson & senator and tell them to support carbon pricing legislation.  Head to senate.gov and house.gov to find your representatives and contact them.  

 

2. Demand that the US sign the Paris Agreement

 

The Paris Agreement is a landmark international agreement among global leaders to fight climate change.  It’s super important to tackle climate change on a global level, and this legislation accomplishes that.

 

Of course, Trump began the process to withdraw us from this groundbreaking agreement which would go into effect this November 2020.  His reasons?  He cited false information (see above), he doesn’t believe in climate change, and he takes millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry to fund his campaigns and inauguration.  I guess if you take millions of dollars from an industry you’re expected to offer something in return??  

 

So what can we do about this poor decision on Trump’s part?  Reach out to your representatives & tell them how important it is that the US rejoin the Paris Agreement.  Write to Trump asking him to rejoin the agreement.  And tell all your friends and family to do the same!

 

If anyone in your social circle is uncertain of the value of this agreement, the NRDC has a great piece on how to talk to them about it here.

 

1. Vote.  

 

This is the absolute most important thing you can do.  Vote for local, state, and most importantly federal representatives who will fight climate change and vote on legislation.  Look at candidates’ positions on climate change before you go to vote.  You should be able to find their stance on climate change on their website.  And if they don’t mention it, well, there’s your answer about their position (not good).  

 

Research local and state initiatives on energy & power plants, transportation, vehicles, agriculture.  Join your local climate action network to stay in the loop on important topics.  Head to usclimatenetwork.org to find one near you.

 

This November 2020, make sure you stand up for climate change at the ballots and vote for action.

 

There you have it -how to fight climate change – the 4 most important ways.  I hope something in here inspires you towards action.  

 

Do you have any to add to this list?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

 

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