Monday, January 30, 2017


In consideration of our landfills and the pollution of our environment, we also have to think about textile disposal. The facts are staggering (here and here – or you can readily do your own research). Besides the issue of space in the landfill, apparently as textiles decompose, they emit methane (greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere.

As a society, we throw a lot of textiles into the landfill – 70 pounds per person annually. Mike and I wear our t-shirts, jeans, and sweatshirts until they’re literally rags (literally!), which means that by the time we dispose of them, they aren’t fit for the thrift store. We mostly cut them into rags. But, we do have other troublesome textiles to dispose of.

My reusable mesh produce bags arrived today
Worn out boots and shoes (also the occasional purse)
Two well-worn crocheted afghans made by our mothers
An ancient quilt
Pillows – and dog pillows
Old towels – technically still serviceable but looking tired
A bedspread and shams

Beyond donating to the thrift store or cutting into rags, what are some ideas for textile reuse?
·       Buttoned shirts can be re-made into aprons and throw pillows.
·       T-shirts can become quilts, pillows, rugs.
·       Jeans can become quilts, bags, skirts, potholders, rugs.
·       The stuffing in human pillows can be reused in dog pillows.
·       Dog pillows can be re-covered.
·       Linens (tablecloths, pillowcases, dresser scarves, etc.) can be made into tote bags, doll outfits, placemats, even quilts.
·       Afghans and sweaters might be unraveled and the yarn repurposed. Or, some people simply cut them into mittens and hats.
·       Towels can become padding for potholders.
·       Sheets can be cut into strips and crocheted into rugs.
·       Old boots can be outdoor planters. I’ve seen them potted with “hen and chicks.”
 Sister-in-law Joanne hooks rugs out of old wool coats.

Any fabric with some life to it can be repurposed in some way. The list is endless. When it comes right down to it, it’s just a matter of using your imagination or borrowing ideas from someone else. The internet abounds with ideas and instructions. (I have a “Reduce – Reuse – Recycle” board on Pinterest.) We should  consider all options before tossing into the landfill.

How do you repurpose textiles? KW

Friday, January 27, 2017


Well, the subject of plastic is deep. It’s like pulling a thread. As the subject unravels, more unsettling facts are revealed. Still, we’re all consumers caught in a system.

Synthetic fibers
I recently became interested in “Scrubby,” a “yarn” product marketed by Red Heart Yarn. With Scrubby, you can knit or crochet scrubbers for kitchen or bathroom use. The patterns are appealing. At Christmastime, I crocheted a heart-shaped scrubber for Hallie’s stocking. But recently when my eyes landed on my sack of Scrubby in various yummy colors, I said to myself, “Oh, oh,” realizing I had undoubtedly provided my plastic-eschewing daughter with another plastic product. Reaching for the package, I determined that Scrubby is indeed 100% polyester.

Mike puts Bess in her new harness
At first I was relieved. After all, I’ve been hearing about polyester since I was a youngster. My mother, an excellent seamstress whose days were devoted to sewing, appreciated the benefits of “polyester” in her fabric choices. The words “polyester” or “cotton polyester" meant the fabric was less likely to shrink and at least somewhat wrinkle-free. Also, with polyester came the development of innovative fabrics, which Mother loved.

“What does polyester mean?” I asked.
And Mother explained it was a “synthetic fiber” – manmade.
And that’s about all the thought I gave the subject, and I suspect she didn’t think much about it either. Remember, though, this wasn’t the age in which most people thought about anything but the benefits of plastic.

Bess models her new harness
But, “what IS polyester,” I asked my computer. The first definition contained the word “polyester” over and over, and we all know a good definition does not repeat the word in the definition. Starting another search, I asked my laptop, “Is polyester plastic?” And now I found a more complete, understandable answer. In a word, yes, it is. In the ‘70s, the cheap leisure suit made polyester a laughing stock. Now re-worked to be less obvious, our textiles – well, let’s say our affordable textiles, including yarn – are heavily plasticized, or synthetic. Perhaps we wear more plastic than we know. And – it’s here to stay.

Back in the day, the words we looked for were “permanent press” when we purchased fabric and garments. (Interestingly, today the words “permanent press” seem to be associated with washing machine and dryer cycles rather than garments.) The fact that cotton wrinkled so badly made it impractical for garments when “permanent press” became available. But Mother did say that a permanent press shirt never looked good whether you pressed it or not.

Well, you’ll just have to draw your own conclusions, as will I. A while back I decided to use only natural fiber yarns for my projects, but when I discovered the yarn to make a small seasonal throw would cost over $100, I changed my mind. When it comes to fabrics, quilters make beautiful quilts of 100% cotton, but for garments, cotton is not easy care. Made of natural fiber, both cotton and wool are expensive. KW

Thursday, January 26, 2017


India has now banned all disposable plastic in its capital city (here). However, I saw in a comment that this likely won't be enforced. The issues relating to plastic use and disposal are controversial worldwide.

Winter continues; sunshine predicted for tomorrow.
Perhaps I’ve gone on long enough about containers and recycling, but it’s still winter, still cold, still not much happening -- a good time to research and set goals. Hallie’s original premise seemed to be about eliminating plastic altogether, but that’s just not going to happen, so we need to learn to manage. Hopefully, we will have help from inventors, manufacturers, and government entities. Through consumer awareness and participation, we can “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” perhaps with more emphasis on reducing. And meanwhile, as we become aware, we’ll have to toss some plastic, one way or another.

For instance, the other day I cleaned some old plastic Rubbermaid containers out of my cupboard. They say you shouldn’t use it when it looks old, and I had some that fit that category. I don’t think it’s recyclable, though – I know it isn’t in my community – so there it is in the landfill. All I can do is pledge not to replace them with plastic. (I won't have to worry about it for awhile because I just bought a new set six months ago.)

Glass begins to replace plastic in my cupboard.
I love the concept of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but what is viable reuse? For instance, use (and reuse) of plastic bags for garbage still constitutes throwing a plastic sack into the landfill. Perhaps my biodegradable scraps would disintegrate more quickly if left unwrapped, but then there are other issues. (I like to keep the odor down, and occasionally I have to “dumpster dive” for some receipt I shouldn’t have tossed.) Well, one obvious solution is to be more zealous about composting. I am now seeking a small compost bin for our town house.

Nellie and Bess curled up for their afternoon naps.
I’m sorry to say that I occasionally come home from shopping with items in plastic bags, for one reason or another, and then I return them to the designated bin at Albertsons or Walmart. But I’m thinking that I could re-use those lightweight see-through plastic bags we pull off rolls in the produce department. Even reusing them once would reduce my usage by half. But once used, are they really clean? On the other hand, does it matter when I’m going to wash or peel the produce before eating it? It’s probably more questionable to reuse plastic bags for bulk products. I buy oat bran from bulk stations, but that’s about it.

And did you know? You can buy reusable produce bags. Has anyone tried those? These are the ones I ordered (here). KW

Monday, January 23, 2017


My favorite plastic people: Nina Ballerina '56, Madame Alexander Favorite Friends, Tonner My Imagination, Toni '50, American Girls Kit, Maryellen, and Molly

Daughter Hallie started this discussion on plastics when she wrote that she’d like to do more to reduce her plastic footprint. She said she wished plastic had never been invented and asked how our ancestors managed without it. (Read it here.)

So, without really researching, I stepped up to this huge controversial topic. Through nine posts, I shared as much as I know – well, a lot of what I know – about mid-century product containers and how consumers managed without plastic, suggesting the pros and cons.

But I have to tell you – life has really changed. I subscribe to the theory that whatever the era, we live within a system, and there’s only so much one person can do. I encourage you to research the subject, draw your own conclusions, and then decide your course. I have asked my laptop any number of questions about plastic, and it always provides plenty of websites with diverse ideas for my consideration. Some of them take a hard line: plastic is bad; eliminate it. Others offer more doable options.

I believe that if I tried to totally eliminate plastic from my life, I would deprive myself of a lot of good. After all, some of my favorite people are plastic! We have to face the fact that plastic is here to stay, but we should be concerned about the overall issues related to the reuse and disposal of plastics and its impact on our health and the environment.
What can one person do? Okay – I’ll go first. Here’s what I’m willing to do:
·       I will continue to reuse cloth shopping bags or to carry without a bag when possible.
·       I’ll reduce the purchase of juice concentrate in those cute little plastic bottles and opt instead for the old-fashioned cardboard cylinder – if I can find them.
·       I promise to never buy water.
·       I’m willing to use a razor and insert new blades rather than using disposable razors.
·       I will phase out my use of plastic storage containers in favor of glass – Pyrex, Corning, and Anchor Hocking. I will also use jars if appropriate.
·       I will increase my composting efforts.
·       I will look for products in jars and bottles rather than plastic.

And here’s what I’m unwilling to do:
·       Return to powdered detergent because it’s sold in cardboard boxes. (I love those pods.)
·       To wash my hair with vinegar and soda – though I do find it an effective drain cleaner.
·       Buy that cheap brand of toilet tissue just because it’s wrapped in paper.  
·       Pay twice as much for milk by buying it in half-gallon cartons instead of plastic jugs. (I suspect those cartons are plasticized anyway.)
·       Cease buying cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc., because the carton is plastic.
·       Switch from my favorite brand of soap because of the plastic wrapper.