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.

Learn how to fix a beeswax wrap – it’s easier than you think!

 

Is your beeswax wrap not working anymore?  Did it get left in the sun?  Or washed in hot water?  Or scrubbed a little too vigorously?  Or is it just getting really old? Or did you make one but it didn’t turn out great?

 

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to fix a beeswax wrap that’s gotten damaged or worn out.

There are 2 key ways to fix a beeswax wrap:

 

  1. Carefully warm it and smooth it any problems.

OR

  1. Apply more wax blend and warm it and smooth out any problems

 

I’ll walk you through the steps for both of these.  

 

If your wrap got a little damaged, you might just need to warm it and smooth it out again.  This is a little easier than applying more wax blend.

 

If your wrap got really damaged OR is worn out (over time, with use and washings, it’s normal for your wax wrap to get worn out), you’ll want to apply more wax blend and warm it and smooth it out.  

 

Wax wrap that needs to be rewaxed
As wax wraps get used, they may lose their stickiness and have areas that need to be rewaxed

 

Let’s go through the steps for fixing a wrap with just a little damage.  You can fix it using two methods – the iron method or the oven method.  

 

If you use the iron method to fix a beeswax wrap, here’s what you’ll need:

  • An iron
  • Parchment paper (you can find a compostable version by Reynolds Kitchen at Target and other stores).
  • Somewhere to hang your wrap to dry

 

If you use the oven method to fix your beeswax wrap, here’s what you’ll need

  • your oven
  • a baking sheet 
  • parchment paper if you’d like to protect your baking sheet.  
  • somewhere to hang your wrap

 

Let me walk you through the iron method:

  1. Place your wax wrap between two pieces of parchment paper.  The parchment paper protects your ironing surface & your iron from the wax.
  2. Iron across the parchment paper to smooth out the wax blend.
  3. Peel the paper away from the wrap
  4. Hang the wrap to dry for a couple of minutes.
Use a string or clip your wax wrap to a handle

Here’s a troubleshooting tip for you:  if you find that the wax wrap starts to stick to the parchment paper and doesn’t peel away easily, try ironing just smaller sections at a time and peeling away those small sections, letting them cool, and then ironing a different section of the wrap.  As the wraps cool, they’ll start to stick to the surface they’re touching, so it’s important to peel them away quickly and hang them to dry.

 

If you’d rather use the oven method, here’s how (this personally is my preferred way).

 

  1. Turn your oven on very low – 200F or lower.
  2. Place the wax wrap on a baking sheet.  You’ll want to cover the baking sheet with parchment paper to protect it from the wax unless the baking sheet will be used for making lots of wax wraps.
  3. Put the baking sheet into the oven for a few minutes (up to 5 minutes MAX).
  4. Pull the baking sheet out of the oven and quickly pull the wax wrap up off of the baking sheet.
  5. Hang the wrap to dry for a few minutes.

 

The reheating process, either by iron or oven, should help repair damage to the wrap by redistributing the wax blend.

 

If your wrap needs more luvin’ than that to get back to working, here’s what you’ll need:

  • More beeswax blend (either buy a bar or make your own blend of beeswax, pine gum rosin, and coconut/jojoba oil).

 

Plus:

  • a shredded that you don’t mind getting waxy.

OR

  • a small pot & clean paint brush that you don’t mind getting waxy.

 

The gist of the process is that you’re going to put more wax blend onto your wrap, warm the wrap, check your results and smooth the blend around, warm it again, and hang it to dry.  You can repeat the process of adding more wax blend, warming the wrap, smoothing the blend if needed, and warming it again, until you get the wrap where you want it to be. 

 

Here’s more specifics:

 

Using a shredder, get the blend spread evenly across your wrap and especially on any worn out spots.  Then apply heat to your wrap with either the iron method or oven method.  Check that the blend has melted all across the wrap.  Once you get it evenly spread, you can hang your wrap to dry.

 

Using the other approach with a small pot and a brush, melt your blend on a VERY LOW temperature just until it’s melted.  Then turn off the heat.  Keep a close eye on it so that it doesn’t overheat and start to smoke.  Wax is flammable!  

Dip the tips of a clean paintbrush into the blend and “paint” the blend across your wrap. 

Dip just the tips of your brush into your blend
Dip just the tips of your brush into your blend
Painting the wax wrap with beeswax blend
Paint the blend onto your wax wrap

The was will start to cool as you apply it – that’s okay!  Once you get a decent amount spread around, you can warm the wrap with either the iron method or the oven method.  Let it warm for a little.  Check the results to see if you used enough blend and if it’s spread around evenly.  If so, you can hang your wrap to dry! 

 

That’s all there is too it!  It’s really easy to fix your beeswax wraps.  It just takes a little time and patience.

 

If you want to learn how to make your own wax wraps from start to finish, head over to NoTraceShop.com/courses to sign up for my online DIY beeswax wrap workshop – you can take it from the comfort of your home at any time!

 

Have you tried fixing wax wraps?  I’d love to hear about it!  Leave a comment below!

 

Thanks for reading!

-Liz @ No Trace

Easy DIY zero waste snack bag tutorial

Hey there!  I’ve got an easy, step-by-step tutorial for you to make these cute snack and sandwich bags!  

 

These sew up super fast and easy.  You’ll want to make a bunch for yourself and give them to everyone on your gift list!

These are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags.  Plastic bags are choking our environment!  Use these cuties instead!

 

The smaller bags work great for:

Trail mix

Almonds

Cookies

Goldfish crackers

Pretzels

Crackers

 

Some folks use them for other purposes like:

 

A mini wallet

Dog treats

Holding your essential oil jars

Hair clips & rubberbands

Seaglass and other special treasures

 

Basically anything small.  You get it ;).

 

The larger bags work great for:

A sandwich

A croissant

Lots of popcorn

A big bunch of grapes

A scone

 

Or you could use the larger size in your bag to hold your zero waste kit together.  I like to put a napkin, utensils, straw, and beeswax wrap inside mine and keep it in my purse.  You could also use it in your luggage to hold your hankies or socks or undies together. They work for art supplies too – markers, crayons, colored pencils and a small notebook.  Basically any medium-sized thing.   

 

By now you see that you NEED some of these baggies in your life!  Some in your kitchen. Some in your backpack. Some in your purse.  Some in your luggage. Right??

 

So let me show you how to make them!

 

Materials needed:

 

Fabric: 

All-natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and hemp are the best.  Organic fabrics are even better. Nylon or water-resistant type fabrics are more difficult to deal with at the end of their usable life.  Those synthetic fibers usually end up in the landfill. Plus some aren’t food safe. All-natural fabrics can be composted at the end of their usable life, so they never need to end up in a landfill.

 

I use two layers of organic cotton poplin/quilters weight or one layer of poplin and one layer of canvas for my baggies.

 

For the snack baggies you need 2 pieces that measure 5.5” wide by 9” long.  

 

For the sandwich baggies you need 2 pieces that measure 8” wide by 18” long.

 

Supplies:

Thread, Scissors, ruler or measuring tape, pins, pencil or chopstick, fabric chalk or marker if you have one.

 

Now that you have your supplies gathered… 

 

Step 1: Cut your fabric to size.

 

If your fabric has a pattern with a right and wrong direction (for example, something like this)

 


 

cut it so that 9” corresponds with the length of the pattern, like this:

5.5″ wide and 9″ tall

For the sandwich bag, make sure the pattern length is 18”.

 

That way when your bag is complete, you’ll see the pattern in the right direction.

 

Step 2: Line up your fabric

 

Whether you’re making the snack size or the sandwich size, these steps are the same!

 

Place your two pieces of fabric together with right sides facing each other (so you see the back sides of the fabric).

picture of fabric with right sides facing each other
right sides facing each other

Get some pins and pin them together in a few spots.

 

Mark a 3” opening on one long side with pins or your fabric marker.  This 3” opening is how you turn the bag right side out later. You WON’T be sewing over this 3” opening.  

Pin along sides and mark a 3″ opening on one long side.

Step 3: Sew the two pieces together.

 

Take your two pieces to your machine and start at one side of your 3” opening (remember: you are leaving a 3” opening for later).  Backstitch at the start and then stitch along the edges with a ¼” seam allowance until you get to the other side of your 3” opening.  Backstitch again at the end. 

Finished stitching along all 4 sides, leaving the 3″ opening.

Step 4: Turn your bag right sides out.  

 

Before you turn it right sides out, cut the extra fabric to the right of your seams just at the corners.  This gets rid of the extra fabric at the corners. Make sure not to cut any of your stitches.

Cut off the extra fabric at the corners

 

Use the 3” opening that you didn’t sew over to push the right sides out through the hole.  Use a chopstick or the eraser end of a pencil to pus. Make sure to get the corners poked out with the eraser end of a pencil or a chopstick.  

Pull the fabric right side out through the opening.
Use your chopstick to push out the corners

Press your bag at the iron for nice crisp edges.

 

Step 5 (optional): Topstitch the outer flap of your bag.

 

If you want a more polished look, topstitch the outer flap of the bag with a ⅛” seam allowance.

 

The outer flap of the bag will be the bottom of your fabric if it has a directional print to it.  If the print doesn’t have a right or wrong direction, just pick which edge you want to lay on top of the other flap and top stitch that one.  

Top stitch along this edge of the bag.

 

Step 6: Fold your bag up and pin the sides.

 

For the snack size, you want to fold the bottom up about 3″ (the part that doesn’t have the top stitching). 

Fold the bottom of the bag up by 3″

And fold the top flap (the edge with the top stitching) down about 2 inches.

Top edge is folded about 2″, for total bag height of 4″

This gives you a final bag size of about 4”. Pin along the sides.  

 

For the sandwich size, you want to fold the top flap down about 3 inches and the bottom up about 7”.  This gives you a final bag size of about 8”. Pin along the sides.  

 

Make sure that the unsewn edge/opening is folded in so that it’ll get caught in your seam when you sew.  

 

Pin the flap down to keep it in place as you sew.

 

Step 7: Stitch the sides closed

 

Take the pinned bag back to your machine and stitch up the sides, one at a time, with a ¼” seam allowance.  Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each side. You’re only sewing up the sides of the bag – not the top or bottom folds.  

Stitch along the sides with 1/4″ seam allowance

Afterward, check that you caught all of your fabric in the seams by looking inside your bag. 

  

Step 8: Trim off the loose threads.

 

Cut any loose threads off the sides. 

Carefully trim loose threads from the bag

 

Then you’re done! Repeat and repeat as many times as you need :).  

 

Have you made one of these cuties?  Has it replaced plastic bags for you?  Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you :).

 

p.s. – just want to buy some?  CLICK HERE TO SHOP FOR SNACK & SANDWICH BAGS!

Top 10 Things to Make with Fabric Scraps

AKA: How to keep fabric scraps out of the landfill and upcycle fabric scraps.

 

I love to sew stuff for me, my family, my friends, and my customers!  That’s probably obvious.  The only bummer of this is that there are almost ALWAYS little scraps and bits leftover from pretty much everything I make.  I try my best to design pieces that minimize this, but some of it is inevitable.  So I’ve been doing some poking around on the interwebs and testing out different ideas to keep these scraps out of the waste stream.  Here is my list of my 10 favorite ways to upcycle fabric scraps.  

 

  1. Pin Cushion
    1. This is just the cutest little pin cushion you ever did see.  A square pin cushion is perfect for using up small squares of fabric (or corners if you do any boxed corners on bags like I do).  I’ve stuffed it with tiny fabric and thread scraps!  No poly-fill necessary!

      Tiny pin cushion. The cutest!
  2. Napkin Rings
    1. We use cloth napkins in our house, so it’s lovely to have each one marked whose-is-whose.  Each napkin ring is in a different fabric, so we never get them mixed up!  Confession: we use our napkins a few times until they need a wash.

      Napkin ring made from fabric scraps!
  3. Cord keeper 
    1. I was getting so tired of constantly having to untangle my headphones.  Ugh.  I finally took a minute (no, make that 3) to sew up this cord keeper with a snap closure.  Be gone, tangles!
      Cord keeper from fabric scraps!

       

  4. Fabric twine.
    1. This stuff just looks so pretty.  I used it to wrap Christmas presents this year.  Twine is a great way to use up long, thin strips of fabric, like selvage edges.  The pieces don’t need to be the same thickness or length, and you can keep adding in more pieces as you go!

      Fabric twine from fabric scraps!
  5. Woven Potholder
    1. This is a great craft for a little one.  I made this little guy on my daughter’s loom, and now she’s made one too.  If you don’t have a loom, they are SUPER easy to make – you can do it out of cardboard!  I weaved my long skinny pieces (like a selvage edge or other strips) and just overlapped them a couple of inches, rather than sewing them together.  You could also knot them together.  Lots of options.  If you want to go bigger, make a placemat!
      Handwoven pot holder. We use it in the kitchen!

      Handwoven placemat. So pretty!
  6. Braided bracelet
    1. Also perfect for long thin strips.  I made a bunch of these for my kiddos and also gave them out to kids at the farmer’s market.  Super easy – another great craft for little ones.  
  7. Patches for clothes
    1. I turned an old stained skirt into hearts for my daughter’s leggings.  Super fun.  Super cute.  

      Patches for leggings from fabric scraps!
  8. Coin purse
    1. This is great for rectangles of fabric.  I modeled them after my snack bags, only much tinier and not always lined.  So fun.
  9. Quilted napkins
    1. I love quilts, but let’s be honest – I ain’t got time to make a whole dang quilt.  That’s where quilted napkins come in!  These are perfect for any shaped scrap.  I’ve used squares to make a simple 4-square napkin design.  But it works great for rectangles or triangles or strips!  The world is your oyster with this one!
  10. Pom poms!
    1. Yes, the world needs more pom poms.  Especially upcycled, handmade, biodegradable ones.  I made these tiny ones by wrapping long thing strips around a fork.  You could use super thin scraps for these.  Aren’t they adorable??  

 

Those are my favorite 10 things to do with scraps right now.  Do you work with fabric scraps?  Do tell!  Would you like to learn more about how to make any of these?  I’d love to hear that too!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

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