Saturday, October 30, 2010

EcoWeen: DIY Native American Costume

It's Halloween weekend! YAY! Being that I was raised in the Mardi Gras culture down in New Orleans, I get really into costume making, probably more then any other kind of sewing project. Back home Halloween is almost like a mini Mardi Gras and the costumes are always elaborate, lovable, amazing, hysterical and just plain wrong. It's a bar raised too high & it's hard to live up to... but I try.
This year I decided to make a Native American costume (I am part native american) with a lil' Clan Of the Cave Bear flare (cause I just finished reading the whole entire book series!), but mainly I chose this genre because I have been collecting feathers from my chickens, rooster, the wild turkeys, and a few brightly colored ones given to by my awesome friend Heather....

I started making the head-dress first because that was going to be where most the feathers would go and I was excited to use them! I did not use any kind of glue, tape or toxic products to get my feathers to stay in place. I decided to sew them directly (and carefully) to strips of black organic cotton fabric (locally made here in north carolina!)
I attached a small jaw bone to the center front, and hung more feathers and beads from strings that reach all the way past my shoulders. (Gives it major dramatic style!) The construction is really simple, and just ties in the back of the head.
The first thing I did to make the body or dress part of the costume was to trace a shirt I already owned and fit me well onto some paper, in order to make a pattern. I drew (freestyle) the bottom half of the dress and then cut out the full pattern...
This is the pattern without the sleeves ( you can make it with or without sleeves.) I planned on adding in sleeves because I knew the weather here in the mountains would be cold for Halloween.
I pinned the pattern onto the velveteen bamboo fabric and cut out the back side of the costume...
This is the tedious part:::: I then CUT the pattern into three panels to make the design for the FRONT of the dress.
Each panel will be sewn back together, but I cut them separately in order to tighten up the bodice in the front.
These are all the pieces that need to be sewn together (pic below). I used more black organic cotton fabric as the strips along the front bamboo fabric bodice.
I put all the pieces together and then cut out some black organic cotton arm bands to tie onto the sleeves. They are removable and I made it fringed by cutting strips into the fabric and pulling each fringe piece tight.
I also cut fringe strips into the bamboo dress at the bottom of the long sleeves, and at the bottom hemline of the dress!
You can never have enough. Period.
Once I got started with the feathers, beads and (real) bones it was hard to stop.
In fact, my cabin looked totally trashed by the time I was done with making this costume!!!!
THE END RESULT IS Fuckin' FIERCE!! ::::::::::::::

Drama, Character. It's what halloween is all about.

Fabrics by:::
The Bamboo Fabric Store, see here.
Near Sea Naturals, see here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hand Washin', Hang Dryin'

There are several alternatives to using an electric powered washing machine... all of them have their specific design benefits, but one thing they all have in common is you no longer depend on the grid (aka electric energy) in order to get your laundry squeeky clean...
I happen to have the Lehman's Hand Washer (which is almost the same exact design as the well known James Washer!) Whenever anyone comes over to visit at the Luck Cabin they love to see how the Hand Washer really works - children are especially into it (i know, shocking!), they'll beg me for more laundry to wash. I bet you parents out there don't hear that often (ever?)!
Here is a quick vid to show how the hand washer works in the real. I included some deleted scenes at the end. ;)

PS --- I could not get this video to ever edit captions and sounds in sync, so I had to leave out the captions... the last four scenes after "the end" are the deleted scenes. :))) Eventually I will figure out this technology shit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

DIY: Sew An Organic Sweater (with hoody!)

Armed with some sustainable Organic Cotton Fleece and Bamboo fabric I decided to take the challenge of making my own organic sweater for the winter. Organic clothing can be really pricey, most times far out of the range most people want to spend and when it comes to organic cotton winter wear it's even worse...although worth the $$$ to those with sensitive skin, chem sensitivities or eco minded ethics, sometimes we just can't pay $100 to stay warm.
This is why DIY sewing skillz can be a big money saver, not to mention a lil' creative fun. I am not the best at sewing to be honest, each project is a lesson...
so here is what I learned & how I did it....
I took a shirt I made a few years ago, and used it to make a new pattern.
When making a pattern from a garment you already own here are two important tips:
  • Make sure to trace extra room at all the seams where you will be sewing (see pic below)
  • Check for differences in the fabric, like stretch vs. not so stretchy and adjust accordingly

Once you trace your pattern cut it out with scissors.
I cut out the body part and the sleeves separate, because I planned on sewing them together later.
Making a hoody is actually super easy, like making a basic pillow!
Trace a hoody you already have, which will make a pattern for one side of the hoody. Both sides will match and be sewn together.
You can always test the paper pattern on your head to make sure it will fit, and to see how long the neck part may need to be to meet the back of your sweater.
Lay out all your pieces on the fabric and make sure you have enough. I ended up not having enough purple organic cotton fleece for the hoody and used more bamboo fabric instead.
To make cutting out the pattern you made easier, pin it down to the fabric. I totally hate this part for some reason and always try to find ways to get out of it... but it never turns out right without those pins holding it right in place.
Once the pins are in, you can cut out the fabric pieces that will be sewn together.
I doubled the fabric so that I could cut out the back and front of the sweater all together.
I then took my sweater cut outs, and pinned them to the bamboo fabric I wanted to use as a warm smooth lining inside the organic cotton sweater.

I made the sleeves separate, and after sewing together the seams for the body part of the sweater, i added on the sleeves.
I did a tight zig zag stitch on the outside of the sweater so that it could have that cute handmade look.
The hoody got cut out and sewn on last....
END RESULT #1 ::::
The sweater is SO amazingly soft and warm, but was feeling a little tight because the fleece didn't have much stretch... (some organic cotton does and some doesn't, bamboo typically stretches.)I could have taken out the inner seams and loosened it up, but then i got another idea!!!
NEW IDEA! :::::
I cut down the entire front of the sweater and sewed some zig zag seams along those sides to hold in the bamboo lining.
Then I took the bone awl Urban Scout made me (see pic below) to punch holes evenly along those seams.
I used the bamboo lining scraps to create a corset, lace up front for the sweater that way the size could adjust with my needs.
ADorabLe & SeXy!! It has a hardcore fairy feel to it now, and I like it even better. :)))
Yes? Yes!
The Bamboo Fabric Store, see more.
Near Sea Naturals (who now carry Spiritex local organic cotton), see more.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Little Frog (With Black Stripes Over Eyes)

I found this frog under a brush pile when I was out playing in the rain. Does anyone know if this is a tree frog? It's very small and fast, with a black stripe crossing over both eyes and a white line at the lips. It's legs are striped but it's body really is not (it's vaguely spotted).

Totally cute.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mystery Squash!

It totally looks like a watermelon, but since I had collected the seeds to this winter squash last year myself and watched it grow on a distinctly winter squash vine I knew what it had to be. I just didn't know what kind of squash it would be on the inside. It appeared that a buttercup & a spagetti squash mixed genetics...
but ya can't judge a squash by the color of it's skin.
I finally opened one up this morning to find that the inside looked just like a spagetti squash, but smelled a bit sweeter. (If ya think I look proud in the picture, it's cause I am super proud of my mixed up squash! Should I call it buttergetti or spagetticup?)
I get really into saving seeds from just about any food that holds them, winter squash are not only delicious but they are also way too expensive in the store (sometimes costing $16 for one organic butternut!)...and if you buy the seeds in packets to plant they are even a bit pricey considering how many actually come in one squash.
The real test though was to cook it and see if the taste of the mystery squash was altered...
it has the shape, texture (forking out the spagetti shaped strands) and inside color of a spagetti squash, but the outside green stripes and the taste are sweet like a buttercup! How rad is that!?!
This is something I am gonna dork out over for a while. :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Backing Away From Society

Before I ever had health problems, before I ever found myself submerged in nature unknowingly following a path into a reclusive life... long before the change really started I never was very good at "fitting in" to society's standards. Looking back it all seems like superficial steps, practice steps, maybe baby steps into the life I would inevitably later lead - choosing the wrong kind of clothes, choosing the wrong things to say at the wrong time, the wrong music, the wrong color lipstick, the wrong haircut, the wrong colored date for the school dance.
Society always seemed to have this thumb pressing down on the very nature of the human heart, and while pressing down hard it seemed there was a voice saying that unless I gave into the demands, commands and expectations I would get squished by the giant civilized thumb. If I obeyed the thumb it would let off the pressure (a forever promise), the message being that "fitting in" was all one could choose if they wanted to be "happy" in this life.
Problem was, I saw right through the facade of all the people who had heeded to the thumb. They were not happy either - that small bit of observation alone was enough to send me searching, even if was just for a darker shade of lipstick at the corner store. But when my health led me to a drastic change in plans (aka- WHat? You mean I am not going to be a famous artist with one kid married to another famous artist living in NYC?) I found a new freedom, a freedom only nature seemed to give me.
I was diagnosed with a rare & severe form of Celiac Sprue (autoimmune disease) around age 22. I have mentioned this before and I mention it again because it was the turning point that led me to the near utter rejection of all things connected to the outside world. Outside world being, modern civilized white picket fence, windex spraying, fine (gluten) dining, consumer monster society. This was a world I already had trouble having a toe in, much less a foot in the door. Once I got sick the not-so-hypoallergenic door was slammed shut, because there would be certain social activities (like going out to eat or enjoying holidays meals) I could never be a part of again, period, finis, over.
Nature though didn't care. Nature has no judgement or obligatory feelings. The forest celebrates everyday in the same way, and has no concern for it's kindness or cruelty. The butterflies, the crawling insects, the opossums don't go X-mas shopping, don't go on dates, grab a beer or go out to eat. They don't care if you can have babies, or if you have a real job. In fact, the more I look(ed) at the natural cycle of life, not manipulated by humans, the more life opened up and seemed to have a safe place for me after all. It was human society that had created a modern, domesticated, civilized world that I couldn't quite fit into... so I slowly, and sometimes reluctantly backed away from "normalcy", from the high expectations of a tribe I could not force myself to function in (for the sake of my health and the rest of me).
I really believed Janis Joplan when she said "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose" because at my lowest points I felt the most free from the enormous thumb of society. The less I had the less I would fret, the less I was protective of, the less I had to defend or justify. At the same time, I learned that having nothing can also be a hardship which forced me to vacillate between hating modern life and using modern life in a manipulative way to get what I wanted.
What did and do I want?
To set myself up to not need society anymore.
It is not just a survivalist thing, or a rewild challenge, or even just an eco friendly way to live. It's a way to avoid the thumb of society and the people who individually make it a (ass)whole- the judgement that burns your back as you walk away from a scolding neighbor, or a cold stare from the people in suburbia who not only have gave into the thumb, but went ahead and shook hands with the big ogar.
But I dont mind being a threat to civilized & structured patterns. In fact, there is some kind of purpose and drive in ruffling up the straight line I was told to walk, a drive that reaches into my spirit in the purest form and says "keep going!"
I can say with all certainity, I am never turning back.
Not because I can't, but I don't want to. My back will stay facing the eyes of our harsh society in full protest to their robotic way of living. Even if sometimes I ask my very soul "WTF, why is THIS the path to choose? Why wasn't I just one of them?"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Splitting Logs, ft. JuJu the Donkey

I know. I am almost obsessed with splitting wood, luckily it's a healthy 'hobby' that will build muscle, get my heart working, make my lungs take deeper breaths, give me strong fingers and arms... and then heat my house without causing a huge heating bill this winter. Saving money is sweet, and so will be cooking on my wood stove.

Here is a short video I made yesterday morning while starting to split logs... the big wood pile to my left is what I had split the morning before. The big donkey who appears is JuJu. :)


JuJu The Donkey Smiles

And it's not a trick of the camera. She really does smile. It's heartbreaking how a face can make you love the whole spirit so much.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Skinning A Chipmunk

Another case of "oh my god look what the cat dragged in" but instead of living my life "sin after sin" against nature I realized this nearly untouched but dead chipmunk would be the perfect opportunity to learn to skin an animal. It seemed like such a waste that my cat killed it without even eating it...even though I know various bugs and some other forest animal could scavenge the body.
No better school though then the school of life, alone, with no teacher to show you the right way, just silly survival books with crappy drawings on skinning small critters.
I tied the chipmunk with hemp twine to a pine stick I found on the ground. Then I hung it up for better leverage.
I won't lie, I was trying to multi-task while doing this... I was on the phone with my sister, and going back and forth with my donkey giving her ginger candies. Which is why I probably made my first mistake...
I thought I'd just cut down the belly, but it was hard to penetrate the skin and when I pushed hard enough, some organs started poppin' out like bubble gum slowly filling with air. Then blood dripped and I was totally unsure if I was doing it right...
I took it down to take some time to think, and realized having it hanging up gave the tension, pull I needed to actually cut into the skin. And that I needed to cut somewhere else.
I decided to cut around the feet (full circle) then a line up each inner thigh all the way across.
and pull HARDER... the skin pealed off.I realized that puncturing the belly was a bad mistake, because the more I had pulled the skin, the more organs were falling out, the more blood...which got on the fur. I left the rest of the chipmunk for the creatures of the forest, away from my porch.
I had to rinse the blood off the chipmunk fur in the kitchen sink, then put it out to dry.
I am really kinda amazed at how simple this is. If any of ya'll have done it before I would really love tips from a expert!
Also, any ideas on what can be made with tiny chipmunk fur? I was thinking about a bracelet, but wish I could think of something more functional.
XOXoxxoxo (dont worry I washed my hands before these hugs and kisses!)