Archive for the 'diy' Category

Stuff I Really Meant to Tell You

Did you hear the one about the underwater Cabinet meeting?  The President of the Maldives made his Ministers meet underwater in scuba gear earlier this year, which will be good practice for when the rising seas flood their island (projected to be sometime this century).  Opinions on the efficacy of his gimmicky and populist approach are mixed, but you’ve got to give him credit for seeing a problem and diving right in.

BusinessWeek reviews some of the Obama administrations efforts to remake the nation’s electricity grid by installing sensors and smart meters.  Given that technology sure is moving fast, and the part where we have no good idea of the chnages to the grid’s supply and demand in the next few decades (being at the beginning of the renewable revolution and all, and I haven’t had a chance to buy my plug-in car yet), this is literally more difficult than we can imagine.  But the stimulus money provided a $3.4 billion dollar down payment on meters.

Which ties right into the article on Al Gore and his investments today in the New York Times.  We all know Al Gore is an advocate for clean technologies to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and that he has invested millions of dollars in start-ups that provide clean technologies.  One of his investments was in a company that sells smart meters for the grid, and has gotten plenty of money from those billions of stimulus funds.  The article points out a potential conflict of interest between his green technology advocacy and his investments, and gives the “profiteering” and “investing in his personal beliefs” angles.  And while Gore is not a lobbyist, he has testified in favor of clean technologies such as the ones he invests in before Congress.  Are you cool with that?  I am, as long as he’s upfront about having those investments during that testimony.   The article doesn’t mention if he did.  Also other people testify before Congress abotu things they have financial stakes in- the auto company presidents begging for their bailouts, for instance.  Fascinating article, if you like ethical puzzles.  Read it and figure out where you draw the line.

Best for last:  I hope you have heard about this already, but if not check it.  William Kamkwamba, back when he was 14, built a windmill.  By himself, in a village in Malawi, with stuff he found, with an old textbook and being amazing for his guide.  People noticed, and now’s he’s got a foundation started to benefit his village and build more windmills, and he’s given a TED talk, and just wow.  His blog is here, his book (of course he wrote a book about it) is here at BetterWorldBooks, an online bookseller that I like and has free shipping (and you can compare their prices to Amazon right there).  Wow!  This is so cool I want to post about it more.

My Laptop Case, Begun

As soon as I finished posting about the laptop cases I was coveting the other day, I had a vision of exactly the kind o laptop bag I’d like to make for myself.  I sketched out a design with a padded internal section, various extra pockets, and a pair of shoulder straps that each encircle the pouch and must be clipped closed, in order to complete the strap and close the pouch flap.

Now, I am not a great seamstress.  I don’t follow patterns well, and I know very little about the intricacies of sewing.  I only figured out how to automatically wind my bobbins Friday- before, I thought I was just doomed to poorly tensioned seams.  But this weekend, I had time, good bobbins, a vision, and a hearty confidence in my ability to reduce a theoretical bag structure to straight lines.  Finally put that engineering degree to work and all.  Incidentally, that’s always the mindset before I tackle a freehand sewing projects, and most of them haven’t turned out so well.

Laptop case internal structure

I made the case out of a gray denim material left over from another project I’ve been working on, with a double layer of fleece to pad the laptop compartment.  It’s lined with a portion of a very unfortunate-looking velvet skirt that I thrifted, and some shiny white fabric from a remnant bag I was given lined the other compartment, and made a few pockets.  I made a second case out the grey denim to put the first, rough case in, to both conceal the seams easily and give it more strength.  Voila!

Case with Lining

I’m rethinking the strap ideas, but I need to add those, bunches more pockets, and dig up some sort of something from my fabric pile to use as a bias tape to even out the rough edges.

I’ve signed up for a for-real sewing class this weekend, so ideally that will lend some polish to my enthusiasm.  Photos will ensue, if I like how it turns out.

More photos of the construction are here.

Window Shopping

My laptop has been sitting around, naked and unprotected from the dangers of her surroundings.  Alone most of the day, completely exposed to the ravages of…well, wayward photons.  I guess.   You see, I’m trying to rationalize my desire to buy an awesome laptop case.  I do need one.  One day, I’d like to be able to leave the house with her.

I’m hoping that my need to protect my investment justifies the amount of time I spent looking for laptop cases today.  Recycled material, fair trade, sustainable fibers, and proper laptop padding are apparently all quite compatible.  I have at least four favorites.  There’s a vertical bag made from recycled mosquito netting at Peaceful Valley, in green and red.  It’s big enough for a 15.4 laptop, but it doesn’t say how the laptop pocket is padded.  But hey, if it’s not padded, maybe I could put it in this slim red leather case with fake purple fur lining from bronwenhandcrafted, at etsy.  Man, with that wrapping, I could stick her in anything and she’d be safe! Or at least fabulous.

But if it’s not a red leather and purple fur day, I could use this inexpensive, recycled plastic bag from Verdant Computing.  It comes in black, sky blue and orangish, and it looks way useful and unassuming.  Like, if useful and unassuming is your thing.  And one I keep going back to is this reclaimed plastic case that’s made from fused waste materials in India, and fairly traded.  The company that makes them, Conserve, has some really gorgeous bags, but the laptop cases come in less exciting color combinations right now.

As much as I liked them all, I don’t like any of them enough to commit right now.  And I’m hoping that, after this weekend, it won’t matter.  I have the sewing machine all set up, and some extra strong canvas and soft fleece, so I could make my own, and that’d be pretty awesome!  Or I could knit a case for it with some of my yarn stash.  Or maybe I should stop looking through etsy and getting ideas about what can be done with my extra fabric and yarn.  But I’m envisioning a canvas case with two shoulder straps and a carrying handle, a medium-sized top flap, an internal divider…

I need a case for real though, so if inspiration hasn’t made my hands swift and seams tight this weekend, I need to buckle down and pick something.  I’m leaning to the mosquito net thing right now.

Hippie Hamlet sums it up:  To buy, or DIY?

A Finished Project, Almost: Kanzashi Lite

For an event tonight, the organizers requested we bring the flowers- made ones, by hand, please. I sewed mine, and it’s all recycled- made of fabric scraps from various projects, and some beads from a broken necklace. I modified a template for kanzashi, which are Japanese folded fabric or paper flowers worn mostly by Geishas. Here’s the chain of inspiration: I first saw the fabric version on etsy, then found a website with plenty of links to different tutorials for both paper and fabric versions. I adapted the instructions at this site, since I was using a flimsier fabric for the petals. And, voila:

flower petals

I had a petal base. Basically, I cut triangles of fabric, and folded them twice (so you have two folds at the top, and two loose ends and one fold at the bottom), then sewed a couple of times through the four layers at the bottom of the petal. I stitched each new folded triangle to the same thread, until I had a long chain that, when I held it in a loop, formed a solid flower circle with no obvious blank spaces yearning for its own petal. I then sewed through the circle at the bases once more, to space them a little more neatly.

You flower budcan see the “hole” in the middle, where all the petals meet, and it looks a bit uneven. Iflower stem needed a bud, which I made by stuffing a little square of fabric with some leftovers, and sewing on the beads. I also made a stem by rolling a bit of rectangular cloth and sewing up the sides in a spiral- when it was long enough, I trimmed the top to make a neat circle. By poking the bud through the middle of the hole from the top, and whip stitched the sides of the petal to the top folds of the petals. This allowed me to flatten out the bud over the entirety of the messy middle, and to hold the petals evenly in place around the bud. I then stitched together the mess at the bottom of the flower center- all of the folded bases together with the bud base poking through- then whip stitched the stem over all those to the single fold at the bottom of each petal, to space the bottoms of the petals neatly. The results:

kanzashi flower

As you can see, I added a few more beads and a little stitching to the bud, and leaves (folded the same way as the petals and sewn to the stem).

If I get a chance, I’d like to try and add some thin wire to the beads, so they poke up perkily- I’m going to dig out some twisty ties after this and see how that works. And the bud looks unfinished, since I’m no good at embroidery (yet). I’d like to finish it with some cool contrasting beads, and I haven’t got any of those. But otherwise, I’m quite happy with it.

I found other instructions for fabric flowers here, through a post at Crafting for a Green World, and they look pretty cool, too. I went with the kanzashi for this project because I liked the more defined petals, and thought they’d look good in larger sizes.

So, one handmade thing finished! I should have a few more over the weekend for you. If you have any questions about my methods, feel free to ask, of course.

Fast Flip-Flop How-To

Actually they’re not flip-flops, really, they’re nuno-zories. At her blog, Ecosamurai has translated the instructions and posted some in-process pictures of her new-no zories. (Har har! Forgive me.) They’re adorable and so practical! Having just spent way longer than I meant to in a shoe store, I do feel the need to sit down and contemplate life and consumer choices while weaving my own from all those free teeshirts that I no longer have space for. Plus, making a pair of these will isolate you from dirty floors- you’ll never sweep again, or suffer while waiting for someone else to do it first.

Thanks for the post, ecosamurai!

I’m adding it to my list of handmade things to do. And in a couple of days, I promise pictures of what I’ve done so far.

Why DIY?

I’ve been inadvertently posting lots on handmade things and crafting in the past few days. It’s on my mind because with work, school, moving, and weekend commitments, I’ve currently got three or four projects started…and left. I am literally itching to continue them. Literally.

My current works in progress:

1) scarf, knit (3/4 inch done) (but I have the supplies and I’ve decided on the pattern and it’s sized right finally, so it’s less lame than it sounds) (still pretty lame, though)

2) quilt, sewn (numerous squares cut. need to learn to “quilt”)

3) Weighted Companion Cube footstool (frame built, fabric almost ready, lots of stuffing and sewing left) (I feel especially bad about the delay on this one, since it’s for the Gentleman Friend’s birthday, which was over a month ago)

That’s all I can think of now, but once I get my fabric scraps out I’m sure I’ll remember- or think of- a few more. Maybe I should block off some time this weekend to get started on a few of those again. Or one. I should pick one, and finish it. Or go back to the Salvation Army to find unravelable sweaters…no! I will pick one. One that I have started.

Clive Thompson at Wired wrote an interesting article on the pull of Doing It Yourself, and how the growing movement to make things may save our souls. Or the world, or at least some money.  I think he’s got a great point.  I’m a mechanical engineer, and instead of ever showing us machines and their workings, our curriculum was 95% math and book-learning.  If it weren’t for a particularly uppity and old-fashioned professor (he walked straight out of 1955, proudly, and insisted on hands-dirty labs) I might never have learned what a pump looked like, or seen one work.  When I talk to older engineers, I’m ashamed of my total lack of knowledge on useful things, and the rest of my shop and home-ecless generation probably feels (should feel) the same way.  Unless, of course, they were smart enough to learn it on their own.  Knowledge is pitched as books and computers now, and that’s not going to be very helpful when the apocalypse comes.  I’m hedging my bets by learning a few actual skills, so I don’t get eaten first…

What do you think- books and computer simulations vs knowing how and what to weld?  Do we have time to know the “old” skills and learn the new ones?   Will the new wave of DIY-building robots from toasters translate into an intellectual renaissance?

A New Neighborhood and an Old Friend

The “Green Blogs” link to your right popped up a few weeks ago without explanation- it’s a collection of recent headlines from a passel of blogs with ecoleanings, and it’s full of interesting stuff- a few project blogs like mine, but also updates from Grist and some environmental news sites. I am a recent addition to their feed, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the neighbors.

Our new “Craft” link is a dear friend’s etsy shop. If you haven’t run across it before, etsy is a marketplace for independent craftspeople- they sell clothing, jewelry, art, beads, stickers, books, paper- it’s overwhelming. Something for every price range and taste, and a large number of people create their art with found and recycled objects, and it’s got an option to only search items from local artists, for that extra sustainable touch. Shopping for specific items can be daunting, but it’s easy to find beauty with their random browsers. My friend designs jewelry with resin work and vintage beads, and it’s just lovely- she always did have good taste.

Hurrah for the handmade! Why it is so much easier to love something you’ve made, or someone made you, or someone just planned and was proud of and created? Emotional investments in things aren’t supposed to be that wholesome, but there’s a pride in work, and considered action that goes into making things that reminds us of so much more than a teapot. Or an earring. So you can cherish the thing for all the right reasons.

Email Me @ (at )

RSS Photo Albums

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Blog Stats

  • 47,635 hits

Unless otherwise indicated, all content and photos posted on this site are generated by me. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.