DIY plastic-free face mask with pocket

 

Face masks are going to be around for a while, so why not make yourself a comfortable, sustainable one?  This tutorial will show you how to make a face mask that’s

 

  • PLASTIC-FREE! 
  • ADJUSTABLE!
  •  TRIPLE-LAYERED!
  •  & HAS A FILTER POCKET!

Can you tell how excited I am about this plastic-free face mask?

 

This project is easy enough to finish in about 30 minutes or less.  You don’t need special sewing skills either!  Here’s what you need:

Supplies to  make your very own plastic-free face mask:

  1. Fabric for your outer layer that measures 12” wide x 8.5 height” – I use organic cotton for fabric because it’s more sustainable than conventional cotton or cotton/poly blend fabric. I’ve got a whole post on why you should buy organic cotton over HERE. (https://notraceshop.com/orgcotton/).
  2. Fabric for your inner layer that measures 9”w x 16”h.  Different outer & inner layer fabrics helps you keep track of the inside and outside of your mask, so try to use two prints/colors if you can.
  3. Cotton elastic that measures about 30” if you want it to go around the head. Or 14” (x2) if you want to put it around the ears.  If you can’t find cotton elastic, organic cotton cording works great too.  You’ll need about 45” to go around the head and less than that for the ears – try 16” to start and see if that fits.  I’ve also seen folks use strips of cotton knit fabric to make the loops instead of elastic.  If you search for “DIY t-shirt yarn”, you can find plenty of tutorials to upcycle an old t-shirt into yarn.  Any of these is ultimately going to breakdown in your home compost.  Regular synthetic elastic will NOT and is made with fossil fuels.
  4. Pins or clips
  5. Thread – organic cotton thread is great if you’re buying thread and trying to make a plastic-free mask.  You can also use regular cotton thread if you can’t find organic.  If you only have access to polyester thread, just remember that it’s a form of plastic & can’t be composted at the very end of its life.  You can recycle it in certain cities or with Terracycle.com (with one of their fabric recycling boxes).  Just cut the stitched area out of your mask at the very end of its life to separate synthetic material from compostable material.
  6. Scissors – small ones are handy if you have them.
  7. Safety pin – the bigger the better!
  8. Pencil or chopstick
  9. Iron
  10. Optional: paperboard with pleats, alligator/salon hair clips
  11. Sewing machine

 

Got  your supplies?  Let’s go!

Steps to make a plastic-free face mask:

 

Also – if you want to see my YouTube video of this project, CLICK HERE!

 

First prep the two pieces of fabric & then sew them together:

  1. Fold over ½” of the top edge of the outer layer of fabric (wrong side to wrong side).  Press it down at the iron.  Then stitch a straight line across the fold to hold it in place.

2. Fold the inner layer fabric in half lengthwise so that now it measures 9” wide by 8” tall.  Find the center of the inner layers – you can just fold it in half lengthwise and press a small crease with your fingers at the top.  Do the same with the outer layer.  Place the inner layers on top of the outer layer of fabric, making sure that the centers are lined up with one another.  Make sure that the right sides of the fabric are touching.  And make sure that the folded edge of the inner layer is touching the hemmed edge of the outer fabric.  This’ll be the filter pocket when you’re done.

3. Pin the bottom edges together in a few spots.

 

4. Pin the top edges together at 2” away from the edge of the inner layer.  Place 2 pins right next to each other.  These side-by-side pins will remind you to stop when you get to the pins (I learned this little trick from Jennifer Maker of Youtube!).  Do this for both sides of the inner layer.  You’re going to sew about 2” on each side only so that there’s an opening where you can put the filter.  

Only sew from the edge of the liner fabric to the double pins, leaving an opening in the middle for the filter pocket.

 

5. Stitch straight across the bottom edge with about ½” seam allowance. Make sure to do a backstitch at the start and stop.

6. Stitch the two areas of the top edge – just 2” on each side of the inner layer – with a ½” seam allowance. Make sure to do a backstitch at the start and stop at each side.

Next, create the pleats:

7. Turn the mask right side out.  Use your pencil or chopstick to push out the seams and make a nice crisp edge at the top & bottom.  Iron the seams.

 

8. Next, you’ll make 3 pleats in your mask that are each about 1” tall.  You’re folding the mask from about 8” tall to about 3” tall by creating the pleats. 

 

**Note:  If you want to make lots of masks, you can create a little pleating board out of paperboard (like a cereal box or old posterboard).  Just cut a rectangle out of paperboard that measures 12” by 8” tall.  Then fold 3 pleats into the paperboard that each measure about 1”.  You want the final size of your pleating board to be 12” wide by 3” tall after finishing the pleats.  Press the pleats very hard – you can even iron them. To use your pleating board, just place the fabric on top of the pleating board and push the fabric into each of the pleats.  Take the board to the iron and press the fabric at the iron right on top of the pleating board.  Then just gently pull the pleating board out.  

 

If you don’t use a pleating board, just create your pleats by hand & then iron them really well.  Next, put pins into the pleats in a few different places to hold the pleats in place for the next steps.  If you want to get some metal alligator clips for this process, they work really well too.

 

Next, create the channels for the elastic/cording.

9. Fold over the short edge of the mask about ¼” and press in place at the iron.

10. Fold over the short edge again about 1” and press in place at the iron.  You want to have a channel that’s about ½” to ¾” wide after sewing so it can fit your elastic or cording.

 

11. Pin this channel in place.  I like to put the mask under the presser foot & lower the presser foot and then CAREFULLY pull the pins out before I start sewing.  Then stitch close to where the edge of the folded over fabric meets the inner layer fabric so the channel is as wide as possible.  I like to do two rows of stitches to really hold the pleats down.  Make sure to do a backstitch at the end when you go back over your original stitches.

 

12. Repeat these steps for the other short side of the mask to make the other channel.

13. Take a safety pin onto the elastic or cording and then push it through the channels.  Tie a loose knot & try you mask on to adjust the length to fit comfortably.  Once you have the right lenght, you can hide the knot inside the channels if you like!  Trim the loose threads.

You’re done! 

These masks sew up so fast and have 3 layers of fabric for even better filtering.  Plus with the filter pocket, you can catch even more particles from the air.

 

I hope you have fun making masks of your own!  If you need a plastic-free kit to make your own mask, I’ve got some here.

 

I’d love to see a photo of your masks or hear about it!  Leave a comment below & tag your project on Instagram with #notracemaker!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Liz at No Trace

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How to sew a plastic free scrunchie! (organic & plastic free!)

Scrunchies are back!  I love this trend because they’re easy to make AND easy on your hair.  No more tangled knots of hair on your hair ties!  And now that I haven’t had a haircut in months due to COVID, I’m loving my scrunchies more than ever to tame my locks.  

 

Sewing a scrunchie is an easy, beginner friendly project.  And if you’d like to make a 100% organic, plastic free scrunchie, I’ve got kits for sale HERE.  

 

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own organic cotton, plastic free scrunchies.

 

Supplies

Organic cotton fabric in strips.

Strips should measure at least 3” wide and 18” long.  You can go wider – up to 6” wide.  The wider your strips of fabric, the fluffier your scrunchie.  And you can go longer – up to 24 or 25” long.  Any type of fabric will work.  If it has a stretch to it, great.  If the fabric doesn’t stretch, that works too!  This project is a great way to use up scraps of fabric.  Several strips of organic cotton fabric are included in a No Trace kit.

 

Organic cotton or cotton elastic

The organic cotton elastic in a No Trace kit measures 7.5” because it is a firmer elastic.  If you use a non-organic cotton elastic, it might be more stretchy and you may only need about 6.5” of elastic.  You can find organic cotton & cotton elastic on Etsy.

 

Safety pins 

Two, including one larger one if you have one.  These come in a No Trace kit.

 

Thread

You might want thread to match your fabric for one outside seam.  If you don’t have matching thread, no biggie!

 

Scissors

I love my smaller scissors for trimming loose threads, but any scissors will do.

 

Straight pins

Sewing machine

Iron

 

Get your supplies & let’s get started!

Here’s how to make your plastic free scrunchies:

 

Step 1 – Iron one short edge of the fabric.

Fold one short edge of the fabric over about ¼” so that the wrong sides of the fabric are facing each other when you fold it.  Iron it in place.  

Step 2 – Pin the fabric lengthwise.

Fold the fabric lengthwise so that the right sides of the fabric are facing each other.  Line up the edges with one another and pin all along the length of fabric.

 

 

 

 

Step 3 – Stitch the fabric lengthwise.

Sew a straight stitch along the edge that you just pinned in place about ¼” away from the raw edge of fabric.  Make sure to backstitch at the start & stop of the line of stitches to lock in the stitches.  You’ve now created a long tube of fabric.

Step 4 – Turn the tube right side out.

Pin one of your safety pins (a larger one, if you have one) to the unfolded opening of the tube.  Push the safety pin into the tube and all the way through the tube to turn the fabric right side out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to do this, push the pin forward with one hand and then feel for it through the fabric with the other hand.  When you feel it, hold onto it and gently tug the bunched up fabric off the back end of the safety pin.  Continue to push the pin forward and tug the fabric off the back until your tube is completely right side out.  

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5 – Insert the elastic into the tube.

Use one safety pin (the smaller one) to pin one end of elastic to one end of your fabric tube.  Use the second safety pin (the larger one) to pin to the other end of elastic.

Push the second safety pin with elastic through the opening of the fabric tube – the same opening where you have one end of elastic pinned already.

Push the safety pin all the way through your fabric tube towards the other opening.  The fabric will start to bunch up on the elastic and will start to look like a scrunchie.

 

Step 6 – Sew the elastic together.

Unpin one end of the elastic from the fabric tube, being careful to hold onto the elastic.  Remove the safety pins from each end of elastic but keep the elastic in your fingertips – if you drop it, you have to thread it through again.  Bring the two ends of elastic together and overlap them about ½” to ¾”.  Put a straight pin into the area where they overlap.

Take it over to the machine and lower the presser foot down onto the overlapped area.  Then carefully pull the pin out, making sure the fabric stays overlapped.  

 

Set your machine to a zig zag stitch and stitch over the overlapped area a few times to hold it in place.  Trim loose threads.

 

Step 7 – Connect fabric ends.

Make sure that there aren’t any twists in your fabric.  You can tell it’s straight if you can follow the seam all the way around without a twist.

Take the raw end of the tube and carefully insert about ½” of it into the folded over edge of the tube.  Pin it in place.  Look carefully that there aren’t any raw edges showing and that the fabric is completely inserted on both sides of your scrunchie.

Take it to your machine, lower the presser foot, and then carefully remove the pin.

Step 8 – Sew the scrunchie closed.

Put your machine back on the straight stitch and stitch close to the edge of the fabric.  Make sure to backstitch at the start and stop.  You’ll sew over your elastic, which is fine.  Trim your loose threads and you’re all done!

This is such a fun and quick project to sew.  And scrunchies make awesome gifts – especially organic cotton ones!

 

I hope you have fun making your own organic cotton scrunchies.  And I’d love to see a pic of them!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

 

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How to make zero waste makeup remove pads

It’s so easy!

Would you like to green up your beauty routine?  Why not swap disposable cotton rounds for reusable, DIY makeup remover rounds?  Reusable makeup remover pads are a super easy way to cut waste in the bathroom.  These little reusable fabric squares can be tossed in with your regular laundry and used again and again (and again!).  As long as you use an all-natural fabric & thread, you can even compost it when it’s all worn out at the very end of its usable life!  

 

These reusable pads are perfect for:

    • Removing make-up
    • Putting on toner
    • Putting on face cream
    • Using an astringent
    • Taking off a facial mask
    • Anything else you might use a cotton round for!

I personally love to pair these rounds with a little coconut or jojoba oil to take off any makeup.  And my face feels soft & hydrated afterwards!

So why not switch to a zero waste beauty routine with these zero waste makeup removers!  

 

Here’s what you need to make your diy zero waste makeup remover pads.

    • Scraps of fabric in small sizes – 3” by 3” up to 4” by 4” is perfect, but you can definitely make larger ones too.
    • If you have organic cotton or other cotton/all-natural batting, squares of batting are a nice way to add some absorbancy to your pads.  Or a bit of flannel or fleece would work too.  
    • Thread
    • Scissors, machine, pins, iron, pencil or chopstick

 

Here are the 3 simple steps for your DIY zero waste makeup remover pads.

 

Step 1: stitch 3 sides

    • Pin your squares of fabric together with the right sides facing.  If you’re using any batting, add that to the outside of the fabric.  That way it’ll end up on the inside of your pad at the end.
    • Stitch around 3 sides, leaving one side open.
    • If you want, trim the excess fabric at the corners to have a little less bulk there.  This is totally optional.  If you use a natural fabric and do decide to cut the corners, you can compost the bits. Or, add them to a bag of teeny tiny fabric scraps that you can use in the future for a floor pillow.  You can also send your fabric scraps off to get turned into art yarn (how cool is that??).  I skip this step for my scrubbies and just leave the corners intact.

Step 2: turn right side out & pin

    • Turn your squares right side out and use a pencil or chopstick to push the corners out all the way.
    • Fold in the fabric at the opening about ¼ inch and then press it closed with the iron. 
    • Put a pin in the opening to keep the folds in line.

Step 3: stitch all 4 sides & finish up! 

    • With about a ⅛ inch seam allowance, stitch along all 4 sides.  When you get back to the spot where you started, do a backstitch to lock in the stitches.
    • Cut off any loose threads.
    • You’re done!

You’ll probably want to make a bunch of these little cuties.  It’s the perfect way to use up scraps of fabric or to upcycle an old textile, like a t-shirt, into something useful.  

 

If you want to sew up a little drawstring bag to keep your scrubbies organized, I’ve got a video on a DIY drawstring bag here.  Or if you’re giving these as a gift, a little bag is a great way to keep them organized.

 

Let me know if you make some reusable makeup remover pads!  I’d love to see your creation.  

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

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How to sew a zippered pouch!

Want to make a zippered pouch? Even if you’re new to sewing, you can make one in no time at all!

 

A zipper pouch is perfect for your pencils and markers, art supplies, toiletries, make-up, special things and more!  And these make the best little gifts for your loved ones!

 

So let’s go!

If you’d like to see a video of this process, head to https://youtu.be/rDwNvhW5AQo to watch me sew this up!

Here’s what you’ll need to make a zippered pouch

Supplies

  1. 7” zipper – try to find a cotton one with metal teeth – it’ll breakdown at the very end of its life, but polyester ones with plastic teeth will be on the planet FOREVER!
  2. Fabric- I love organic cotton fabric for my products – easier on the planet and the farmers and on us!  You’ll need to cut 4 pieces that measure  8.5”w x 5.5”l.  2 pieces are your outside or outer panels, and 2 pieces are your inside or inner panels.
  3. Matching thread – again, i’m all about the organic cotton!
  4. Plus your iron, some pins/clips, and  your sewing machine!

Now that you have your supplies, here are the steps to make your zippered pouch: 

 

Step 1: Attach the fabric to one side of your zipper 

  1. Line up your outer layer right side up with the top of the zipper facing down on top of your fabric.  So the right sides of the fabric is facing the right side/top side of the zipper.  Clip in place.  Or pin if you don’t have clips :).

2. Next, place the inner layer on top of the bottom of the zipper.  You’re making a zipper sandwich with the zipper in between your inner layer and outer layer of fabric.  Make sure that the right side of the inner layer of fabric is facing the right side of the outer layer of fabric.  Add this to your clips.

3. Put a zipper foot on your machine and stitch about ¼” from the edge of the fabric/zipper sandwich, removing the clips as you get close to them.  When you’re done, make sure you caught all the fabric and zipper tape in your seam.

4. Take your finished side to your iron and press the right sides down.  You’re trying to iron the fabric away from the zipper teeth as much as possible.  This way they won’t get caught when you’re trying to zip your pouch.  

Iron along this seam and make sure the fabric is pressed away from the zipper teeth.
Top stitched after ironing.

5. Take it back to your machine and top stitch all along this seam.

 

Step 2: Attach the fabric to the other side of your zipper

  1. Next, line up the remaining piece of outer layer of fabric on other side of the zipper – the side of the zipper that is still open/unattached.  Again make sure that the right side of your outer layer of fabric faces the top of the zipper.  Pin/clip in place.

2. Next, place the remaining piece of inner layer of fabric onto the bottom side of the zipper.  You’re again making a zipper sandwich.  The right sides of the inner and outer layers will be facing one another with the zipper in the middle.  Add the inner layer into your pins/clips.

3. Stitch together with the zipper foot close to edge.  Make sure you caught all the fabric and zipper in your seam.

 

4. Like you did for the other side of the zipper, press the right sides down and away from the zipper teeth as much as possible.  This helps them not get caught in the zipper teeth.

 

5. Top stitch all along this seam.

Top stitched after being ironed.

Step 3: Sew the sides of the bag

  1. Lay the bag flat on your surface so that the zipper is in the center, the outer layers are facing each other (right sides facing) and the inner layers are facing eachother (right sides facing).  Make sure that the zipper is at least partially open.
Make sure zipper is partially open.
Clip along sides, leaving 5″ opening.

2. You’re going to stitch all around the bag, leaving a 5” opening at the bottom, so first pin all around the bag and mark the area that you won’t sew closed.  This opening will let you turn the bag right side out later.  Make sure that the seams on the zippers are lined up with one another.  And have the zipper tape pointing down into the inner layer area of the pouch, rather than pointing up towards the outer layer fabric. 

Make sure the seam at the zipper is lined up when you clip it in place.

3. Start at one side of the 5” opening and start sewing all around.  Backstitch at the start and stop of the opening.  

 

Step 4: Finish the bag

  1. Turn the bag right side out through the bottom opening.

 

2. Sew shut the bottom opening.  You can iron this opening if it doesn’t fold in neatly before you sew it.

Stitch closed the opening at the bottom. Make sure all the fabric is pressed in and caught in the seam.

.

 

3. Trim any loose threads on the inside and the outside of the bag and you’re done!  

 

Wasn’t that easy?  Making a zipper pouch is a great beginner project.  Once you make one, you’ll want to make 10 more for everyone you know :).

 

If you make one, tag @no_trace_shop in Instagram and share your finished bag!  I’d love to see it.

 

Thanks for reading and for all that you do for our planet :).

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14 ways to use a vegan wax wrap

 

Did you know there are at least 14 different ways to use your vegan wax wrap??

 

Check these out – some of these ways to use a vegan wax wrap will surprise you :).

 

Oh, and if you have a beeswax wrap, you can use it these ways too!

 

How to use a vegan wax wrap – 14 different ways!

1. Cover a jar.  

 

You know how jar lids get rusty over time?  Or you lose one?  A small sized vegan wax wrap makes a PERFECT replacement for that lid.  Just use a little pressure to seal it onto your jar – voila! 

wax wrap on a jar
Works great as a replacement for old or lost lids!

2. Cover a plate of food.  

 

Sometimes your kids can’t quite finish their dinner but you don’t want to toss it out.  Just cover the plate with a vegan wax wrap!  And other times you want to send a loved one a dinner plate so they can taste your masterpiece.  A vegan wax wrap will keep everything in place. 

.

3. Cover a bowl.  

 

One of my favorite ways to clean up quickly after dinner is to put a vegan wax wrap on top of the bowls of whatever we were eating and put them straight into the fridge.  This keeps the food fresh and speeds up the clean-up.  No need to transfer leftovers into a special container.  So easy.

wax wrap on a bowl
A little pressure helps the wrap make a strong seal on your bowls.

4. Cover half a fruit or veggie.

 

If we only use half an onion with a meal, I love wrapping it up in a vegan wax wrap and tossing it back into the fridge to stay fresh and keep those onion odors contained!  A small vegan wax wrap works great for half an avocado, half an apple, some carrot sticks, or even covering the end of a cucumber or squash.  

half an apple in a wax wrap
Preserves half an apple, onion, avocado and more!

5. Wrap fresh herbs or greens.  

 

A vegan wax wrap helps keep fresh basil, cilantro, and other herbs fresh.  It’s also great for lettuce and sturdy greens.  You can wrap them up gently – no need to squish down too hard. The water barrier of the wax wrap will help keep them fresh.

  

6. Open a stubborn jar. 

 

I didn’t even know about this until just recently when my friend told me she uses my wraps to open tough jar lids!  Just wrap a vegan wax wrap on top of the jar and twist!  It comes off so much easier!

 

7. Wrap flowers.

 

Picture what a sweet gift this would be for a loved one.  Homegrown flowers in a cute, reusable vegan wax wrap.  They help them stay fresh too!  Two gifts in one :).

wax wrap with flowers
Cute bouquet of homegrown flowers in a wax wrap

8. Cover a casserole dish. 

 

I’ve got a size in my shop that’s just perfect for your average 9 x 13 casserole dish.  It works great for other sizes too.  When we make vegan enchiladas, we use a large wrap to cover the leftovers.  A vegan wax wrap also works great if you’re bringing over a dish in a casserole pan.  Just remember to remove it before you reheat your leftovers!

  

9. Wrap a sandwich.  

 

Classic wax wrap role.  Just wrap up your lunch and pop it in your lunch bag or backpack or purse.  Bonus – when you’re done, you don’t have a large container to carry around.  It folds up neatly.

Wax wrap in a sandwich
Cover a sandwich in a wax wrap.

10. Carry your granola or nuts.  

 

My mom loves using her wax wrap this way.  She keeps a little stash in her purse of nuts and raisins.  The wax wrap keeps it fresh.

 

11. Use it as a placemat.  

 

If you’re picnicking on the go, it’s a great little placemat to keep a protected or germ-free spot for your stuff.  Also works great at home for your kiddos.  It even keeps the plate from moving around too much!

plate on a wax wrap
Use it as a placemat!

12. Preserve vegan cheese.

 

If you buy vegan cheese at the store, you’ve probably noticed that the packaging doesn’t really stand up to multiple uses.  A vegan wax wrap will keep that cheese fresh though!

 

13. Use it under your cutting board.

 

If you don’t want your cutting board to move around while you work, a large vegan wax wrap will help it stay put.

 

14. Preserve your bread.  

 

If you make your own bread or get it in paper bags, a wax wrap will help it stay super fresh.  It works for freezing the bread or keeping it in the cupboard.

 

There you go – 14 different ways to use your vegan wax wrap.  If you want to make your own vegan wax wraps, i’ve got blend bars for sale on my site.  If you’d like to buy your own, i’ve got those too on the site in 3 different sizes.

 

How are you using your vegan wax wraps?  Do you have any other suggestions?  Leave a comment below – I always love hearing from you :).

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

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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
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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Are you hoping to make less waste this Halloween?  I’ve got some easy zero waste Halloween ideas that you AND your kids can get behind.  Read on to learn about:

Our 2019 zero waste Halloween ideas

 

Halloween again already??  I’m not complaining – it’s actually one of my favorite holidays.  And although it’ll look different this year cuz of COVID, we’re still aiming for a zero waste Halloween.  Last year we made even more strides towards a zero waste Halloween, so I thought I’d share our low waste Halloween ideas with you.  

 

For last year’s Halloween, we were inspired by Amanda at mamaeatsplants.com.  She described their zero waste Halloween in 2018 and I knew that was what we would aim for in 2019.  

 

How we had a zero waste Halloween in 2019

Zero waste Halloween
our zero waste Halloween

Here’s what we did.  Each year, the kids get a UNICEF box from school to collect spare change and bills that get donated to UNICEF – trick or treat for UNICEF, it’s called.  In the past, my partner and I have done our best to fill the little cardboard box with coins & bills. 

We didn’t want our kids asking strangers for candy AND money on Halloween. It felt like asking for too much.  So we figured we’d do the UNICEF part at home and let the kids do the candy part on the streets.  

 

But this year, we got behind trick or treat for UNICEF, instead of trick or treat for candy.  And one of the friends who came along collected spare change for a couple of other non-profits that support immigrant children at the border.  How cool is that?? 

 

Let me explain how we got the kids into these zero waste Halloween ideas. 

 

  • First, I told the kids what Amanda and her family did – trick or treat for UNICEF, followed by a homemade dessert party at their home.  Isn’t that a great idea? Says mom.  

 

  • Second, I proposed that if the kids decided to trick or treat for UNICEF instead of for candy, we’d have a literal BUFFET of homemade vegan desserts to come home to and pig out on.  And plenty of leftovers to carry us through the next few days, fully sugar-fueled.

 

  • Third, I proposed that the kids could each pick TWO desserts that they wanted to have on Halloween, and that I’d make them (within reason, of course, and with help from the kids if they were inclined).   Basically, we were aiming for a dessert BONANZA.  

 

  • Fourth, I reminded the kids that the fun of Halloween is not about the candy.  It’s about the planning, the costumes, the friends, the walking around, the excitement of it all.  The energy on the sidewalks from throngs of kids and parents walking in the streets, having a good time.  Such a fun night.

    Halloween costumes
    My kiddos in their DIY costumes (Wednesday Adams & Evie from the Descendants)

 

  • Fifth, I reached out to another family who cares about low waste living to see if they would be interested in joining us and being a part of trick or treat for UNICEF with a dessert buffet to follow.  They were in!

 

After going through all this, my girls had no qualms about giving up the candy in exchange for a dessert party with their buddies.  

 

The kids each picked desserts (rice pudding, cupcakes, chocolate peanut butter bars, and cookies). 

vegan cupcakes
Did you know you can whip coconut cream to make a delicious, vegan whipped cream??

I started with a shopping list the weekend before to make sure I had all the ingredients on hand, in a low waste form (planning ahead for groceries always works better than last-minute shopping and not finding what you need in bulk).  And then I started baking some of the goodies a couple of days in advance.  That way I wouldn’t spend all of Halloween baking (I’ve got other work to do too!).

 

On Halloween, our friends came over and we had a healthy dinner of vegan pesto pasta and a green salad – yum! – before we started on our walk.  Kids also got a little dessert before we hit the road. 

 

I was a little worried about how people would feel about donating cash on Halloween for UNICEF.  Surprisingly, no one blinked an eye or had any problems with the request!  Full success.  I forget the exact amount we raised but I think it was close to $100.  Go kids, go!  

 

After getting worn out walking around, we came back home and ate desserts.  Also, instead of counting candy, the kids had a great time adding up their UNICEF donations.  

 

Everyone was happy and full of sugar.  No complaints at all.

 

This felt like a more zero waste Halloween than the previous year.  You can read about our first zero waste Halloween ideas here.  This year we didn’t actually take home candy and then give it away – we avoided that trash altogether.

 

If you’re hoping to have a low waste Halloween this year or next year or whenever the world goes back to semi-normal again, here are my key tips for a low waste Halloween 

 

Tips for a low waste Halloween.

  1. Talk way in advance with your kids about your ideas
  2. Talk about the charity you’d like to trick-or-treat for, or ask your kids if they have any ideas.  UNICEF provides cute boxes but you could make your own!
  3. Make awesome desserts.  My favorite cookbooks for vegan desserts include Vegan with a Vengeance and Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World.  I also love NoraCooks.com for amazing vegan recipes.
  4. Find another family who is on board with your idea.  Are some of your kids’ friends into zero waste living?  Or some of your friends?  It’s more fun with a group!
  5. Remind your kids that the night is fun because of the dressing up & hanging with friends & and (post-COVID) having a good time in the neighborhood.  Not because of the candy!

 

BTW, this year we’ll do something different to accommodate COVID.  We might go on a treasure hunt with hidden bulk candy in the neighborhood!  Or we might just go to a few select homes of people we know and trick-or-treat for UNICEF or homemade goodies at their door instead.

 

That’s what we did last year!  Do you have any other thoughts on a low waste Halloween?  I’d love to hear so leave me a comment below!

 

xo,

Liz at No Trace

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Tour of the No Trace Studio!

 

It’s like open studios – online!

 

This year I was finally ready to participate in Santa Cruz’s annual open studios event.  I was looking forward to propping open my workspace doors for each day’s visitors. I was ready to tidy up my space and set out cold beers & bubbly waters, popcorn and cookies.  I was looking forward to having my inventory neatly arranged for shoppers to browse and shop.  And then COVID-19 cancelled EVERYTHING.

 

So instead of seeing you in person and sharing a real life moment with you, I decided to give you a virtual tour of my new workspace!  So grab yourself a beer or wine or bubbly water, make yourself a snack, and welcome to my studio tour!  

 

 

I’m sooo excited and grateful to have this space.  Since the start of No Trace in 2017, I’ve worked out of my home.  I would take over the kitchen to make wax wraps.  And take over the living room to package large orders.  And take over the master bedroom everyday for everything else.  

 

At first it was manageable to work out of shared space with my family.  But as I got more and more orders, my home started to feel crowded.  My bedroom was cluttered.  I was falling asleep each night surrounded by my machines and my in-process orders and my fabric and EVERYTHING.  I felt a little like a hoarder in my own bedroom.  It was time to move out.  And then COVID hit and everyone was home all day, everyday and moving out got more complicated and even more essential.  

image of original sewing studio
The original No Trace headquarters. AKA my bedroom.

But it finally happened just last month.  Now No Trace is in a separate workspace and it feels amazing to have a little elbow room.  It’s not in a perfect or final state, but it is 10,000% better than being in the house.   So following along for a sewing studio tour & a peek at my wax wrap-making station!

The sewing studio tour

In my new studio, I have areas for storage and for completing different tasks.  One of my FAVORITE parts of my new space is how easy it is to get my fabric off the shelf.  I used to have the fabric on a shelf on the wall above my large cutting table/work table in my bedroom.  So I’d have to bend and reach hard to grab a bolt.  Putting them back was a pain too.  Now I’ve got super direct access to my bolts on two large shelves right at arms height.  I got these shelves off craigslist years ago for our garage and just repainted them to spruce them up a little. The shelves also hold fabric scraps and my inventory.

photo of a shelf with fabric
One of two shelves that hold just about everything.
photo of shelf holding fabric
The second shelf loaded with fabric, inventory, scraps, and more.

 

Moving on…Lots of my tasks start right at my cutting table.  I work with full bolts and rolls of fabric (15 yards per bolt and 75 yards per roll) so I need a large enough space to unroll my fabric and make cuts.  Our old dining table works great.  I also have a cute little ironing board that allows me to iron my pieces and even get into tight nooks and crannies.  I think it’s called a chest & sleeve ironing board and I found it online at Amazon.  I tried to get it from a non-Amazon seller, but they had a 2 month wait.

 

photo of cutting table and ironing board
My old dining room table, repurposed for cutting & ironing & sewing.

After being cut, my pieces are made by either sewing or waxing them.  Let’s start with the sewing station first.  I have two machines that I use regularly, with some back-up machines in storage.  The one with the 4 large rolls of thread is my serger.  I use it for making my napkins, snack & sandwich bags, and for finishing the seams on some of my bags.  It’s a super affordable little model – bottom of the line, really – and it’s worked great – sewing up thousands of pieces over the last 3 years.  I’m including an affiliate link way at the bottom of this page to purchase this – if you need a serger and like the sound of this one, I’ll get a small commission if you buy it.  

 

photo of serger sewing machine made by Brother
This little machine has served me well over the last few years.

 

Next to the serger is my regular sewing machine.  It’s a pretty solid machine with a lot of bells and whistles.  I love simple, old fashioned machines too.  But when I’m fulfilling lots of orders, these bells and whistles shave seconds off each piece.  Like a knee bar – this lets me lift the presser foot with my knee so I can turn my piece without having to take my hands away from the piece.  Very handy.  And an automatic cutting button – saves the time of pulling a piece off and cutting the threads by hand with the thread cutter.   Also super handy.

 

Another thing I love about this machine is the speed control.  This lets me slow the machine way down to turtle speed for tricky pieces with tight spots.  It’s also awesome for teaching my kids (and other kids) how to sew at a slow pace.  I LOVE that.  And it has lots of stitch options and specialty presser feet.  I don’t use much of that but occasionally I’ll sew clothes for myself and it’s super handy to have those different stitch options.  I’m including an affiliate link at the bottom of this post just in case you want one.

 

photo of Juki brand sewing machine
My Juki has lots of bells & whistles and I use them!

Next to my machines is my pegboard for tools and small pattern pieces.  This lets me keep my table space open for cutting and sewing and takes up minimal space.  I got the idea from withwendy.com who does great DIY sewing tutorial videos.  And I found this pegboard in the trash!  I spruced it up years ago and gave it to my partner to hang his bike tools on it in the garage.  But he never used it. So I reclaimed it, painted it, and started using it a couple years ago for my sewing tools.  It’s really convenient.

 

photo of pegboard with sewing tools
Found this pegboard in the trash! Cleaned up & repainted, it works great for my sewing tools.

 

Wax-wrap making station

Now on to my AWESOME waxing station.  I can’t tell you how stoked I am to have a special place just to make wax wraps.  It is a GAME CHANGER for me.  It saves me so much time.  I used to have to scrub down the kitchen counters and stovetop and oven and then kick everyone out of the kitchen when I need to make wraps.  Now, all I have to do is turn on my gadgets and start.  So much faster and easier.  This ginormous thing is a commercial grade electric stove top by Yescom.  It plugs into a regular wall socket but pulls a lot of juice.  Everything else needs to be turned off when this thing turns on, like the hot plate right next to it and my iron.  I use an electric hot plate to melt my wax blends.  Once it’s melted, I turn the hot plate off and turn the Yescom on.  The great thing about the Yescom is that I only turn it on for 5-10 minutes at a time.  It keeps the heat for at least 30 minutes before I need to turn it on again.  And I only turn it to its lowest temperature (about 120F) to make my wax wraps.  I used to use the oven and a series of large baking sheets – pulling them in and out every few minutes.  This is much easier and no more bending over again and again.  Plus it felt like I was wearing out the hinges on my oven door.  

photo of Yescom commercial electric griddle
This electric griddle works great for making wax wraps. It only needs to be on for a few minutes at a time and stays hot for a while.

After coating each wrap with the wax blend, I hang it on a few strings that I set up across the shelves.  I have the strings tied onto S-hooks so I can easily take them on and off when making wraps.

photo of beeswax wraps drying on the line
Wax wraps on the line brighten up the studio.

My space for packaging orders 

The next workstation is my packaging area.  This is where I package orders for shipping and local delivery to stores.  I’ve got my packaging supplies in a little rolling cart and my shipping supplies in another little rolling cart.  This stuff used to be crammed around my bedroom in boxes under the work table and my bed.  As you can imagine, this is much more convenient than climbing under my table every time I need to ship an order.

photo of work table and rolling carts
I built this table! It serves lots of functions, including packaging orders.

I also work on my laptop at this table, like right now while I type up this post.  And I take photos of my products on this table.  This used to be the only work table in my bedroom (other than my sewing desk) but it’s still working hard in here on lots of different tasks.  Oh, and I made this table!  It’s made from a piece of plywood by Columbia Forest Products that free of formaldehyde.  I order some table legs online and attached them with screws after glueing reinforcing squares at each corner.  So at the end of its life, this table doesn’t have to go to the landfill. I can repurpose the plywood and legs.  I think the plywood is even compostable based on the soy-based glue but I’m not totally sure about that.  

 

So there you have it – a virtual open studio for you.  Of course, I didn’t lay all my inventory out for you but you can shop for that virtually at NoTraceShop.com/products anytime you like.  Do you have a workspace at home?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

 

P.s. – I do hope to see you in person in the studio eventually!  As soon as that’s possible I’ll be shouting it from all the online places.