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PFJ – how to make reusable vegie bags

You know those lightweight plastic bags supermarkets and greengrocers have for you to put your fruit and veg into?  They’re another source of pollution it’s really easy to remove from y0ur life.

You’ll need:

  • some lightweight fabric – poplin is good, old net curtains even better.  The lighter the better as they are weighed with your produce and charged at the same rate.
  • two sheets of A4 paper (preferably some you’ve saved from recycling), a ruler, pencil and glue
  • cord – about 75cm for this pattern, but longer if you make bigger ones
  • sewing machine, thread and pins.

First, make your pattern

Take one of the sheets of paper and fold it in half lengthwise, glue the other sheet along that centre line.  On the right edge, measure down 6cm and mark.  This is your marker for where the drawstring goes.

To make your pattern, take two A4 sheets of paper and fold one in half.

To make your pattern, take two A4 sheets of paper and fold one in half.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glue your two sheets together at the centre line. Mark the right hand edge at 6cm.

Glue your two sheets together at the centre line.
Mark the right hand edge at 6cm.

Use the pattern to cut your fabric

Fold your fabric, right side to right side, and pin the pattern to the fabric.

Fold your fabric right side to right side.  Use your pattern piece to cut your fabric.  Don't forget to cut a notch on the right hand side, where you marked the drawstring opening.

Fold your fabric right side to right side. Use your pattern piece to cut your fabric. Don’t forget to cut a notch on the right hand side, where you marked the drawstring opening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to cut a notch on the right edge where you marked the drawstring entry point.  Since you’re going to need quite a few of these bags, cut them all out now.  It’s faster.

Now, sew your vegie bag!

First, sew the right side from the notch to the bottom.  Use a straight stitch that’s quite small.

On the right side, start your seam at the notch.  Use small stitches,  you want this to be secure.

On the right side, start your seam at the notch. Use small stitches, you want this to be secure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It should look like this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then you can finger-press (or use an iron) to flatten the seam allowances up to the top of the bag.

Finger-press the seam allowances flat on the inside.

Finger-press the seam allowances flat on the inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change your sewing machine to a tight zig-zag and sew around the drawstring opening.

Using a tight zig-zag stitch, sew around the drawstring opening.

Using a tight zig-zag stitch, sew around the drawstring opening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change your stitch back to straight stitch, and sew the other two sides of your bag.

Using straight stitch, sew along the bottom and left hand side of the bag.

Using straight stitch, sew along the bottom and left hand side of the bag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, sew the tunnel for the drawstring.

Using your zig-zag, sew a narrow hem along the top of the bag.

Zig-zag a narrow hem along the top of the bag.

Zig-zag a narrow hem along the top of the bag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then fold down a wider hem, and use your straight stitch to sew down the edge to make a tunnel for the drawstring.  Start and end at the drawstring entry point.

Sew a tunnel for the drawstring

Sew a tunnel for the drawstring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You should see two entry points for the drawstring.

You should see two entry points for the drawstring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearly done – just measure and thread in your drawstring.

For this pattern, the cord needs to be about 75cm long.  If you’re using a different size pattern, measure across the top of the bag two and a bit times.

Your drawstring needs to be just a bit longer than the tunnel it goes in.

Your drawstring needs to be just a bit longer than the tunnel it goes in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, using a safety pin (tie one end of your drawstring cord to the safety pin), thread your drawstring through the tunnel and tie the ends together so it doesn’t unthread itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And you're done!  Time to head to the market!

And you’re done! Time to head to the market!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy shopping!

Of course you can make drawstring bags any size you need.  You could make small ones for spices or much larger ones for flour or lentils.  They’re handy for separating your luggage when travelling, or you could use them for kids’ laundry.

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Slowing Down Fast Fashion

Have you noticed how cheap clothing items are these days?

The other day I picked up a Target catalogue and couldn’t help but notice how cheap pants, tops, and shoes were. Target prices were rivaling the local op shop prices. How was this even possible?

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Fashion writer Clare Press asks a similar question in her book ‘Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion’:

“How is it possible that we can buy a brand new garment, even one bedazzled by hand with sequins, for less than the cost of a cooked breakfast?”

After all, it’s not like a robot cut and stitched the clothes you wear. People do this. 60,000 people in fact. It’s one of the most labour-intensive industries on the planet.

The people who make our clothes often live in far away places and work in dangerous conditions. Most of the time they work in a factory line focusing on one tiny part of an item (e.g. a button hole) for long hours and for very little pay. That’s how you get to buy a brand new t-shirt for less than a cooked breakfast.

Fashion cycles used to coincide with each season but now fashion retailers bring in new clothes every month and some places every week. For example, fashion giant Zara brings in new clothes twice a week. It’s not surprising Australians send more than $500 million worth of clothing to landfill each year.

Fast fashion has created a ‘buy and toss’ culture where it’s normal to only wear an item once or twice before throwing it out.

Who can keep up with that? I certainly can’t.

Playing a different game

So I made the simple decision that I’m not going to play that game. And you don’t have to play that game too.

Does this mean surrendering yourself to a lifetime of daggy clothing and looking like a relic of the past?

No, but you can choose to play a different game that is less damaging to people and the planet. This is the game I’m choosing to play.

I’m playing a game that values the materiality of the clothes I wear.

I’m playing a game that involves dedicating my limited time and energy to the things that matter most: strong relationships, community connection, good physical health, personal growth, and a healthy environment. If I’m shopping for clothes, it means I’m not hiking, reading, cooking, or writing (all activities I thoroughly enjoy and value).

Clothing Addiction

I’m not up for continuously going shopping for clothing because I know it’s a trap. How do I know? Because it was only a few months ago that I found myself caught in that trap.

Back in May, I traveled to Japan not for a holiday but to say goodbye to a relative who was dying of cancer. It was probably the saddest and loneliest 4-weeks of my life.

To pass time in the evenings, I would visit the shopping centre opposite from my hotel (Sea Mall) and walk around for hours looking at the different clothing stores. It was a great distraction. It was easy to do. Like I said, I was lonely and sad. Over the 4-weeks, I spent hundreds of dollars on clothes and shoes.

 

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Sea Mall in Shimonoseki, Japan

 

The one thing I noticed is that the more I bought, it was still not enough and I wanted to keeping buying more. I was never left feeling satisfied. I would say to myself, “This will be the last t-shirt I buy. This is it. No more clothes after this!” but it never was the last item. I kept going back for more and more…

As Clare Press explains in her book:

“There is such a thing as too much. And too much rarely makes us feel good. You binge; you get a hangover”.

 The Antidote to a Clothing Addiction: Community

I had a clothing hangover. The only thing that stopped my shopping addiction was coming back to Australia. Once I was back in my community and involved with Transition Town Guildford, my desire for new clothing disappeared. Being back with friends and family, my core needs were met, which a t-shirt could never satisfy.

Now I was interested in helping others to avoid the trap I had fallen into. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone and other members of our community group were keen to do the same.

So Transition Town Guildford organised two events to counter the fast fashion culture: a clothes mending workshop and a clothes swap party.

 Clothes Mending Workshop

 

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An experienced seamstress helps a man fix some pants

 

Experienced seamstresses came together and assisted people to mend their clothing items at this event. Socks were darned, buttons were sewn back on, pants were fixed, and holes were patched up.

There was something quite empowering about fixing a shirt that I thought was destined for the local op shop or landfill because of a small hole.

From this event it was clear that learning basic mending skills is a powerful way to disrupt a ‘buy and toss’ culture that has become normalized.

 Clothes Swap Party

 

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Swapping (not shopping) for clothes

 

The second event Transition Town Guildford hosted was a clothes swap party for women and teenage girls.

Why a clothes swap?

We figured swapping could stop shopping. And since the average woman wears only 40% of the clothes she owns, we thought there will be plenty of clothes to swap in the community!

Some people have asked “But why not donate your clothes to an op shop? Don’t the poor people need them more than you?”

But the thing is op shops are drowning in clothing. They can’t handle all the clothes we donate.

In fact, 30% of clothes donated to op shops in the UK, US, and Canada get shipped by the bale to Eastern Europe and Africa. The Salvation Army’s tip fee is $3 million a year in Melbourne. So we figured it was time to give the local op shops a breather.

 

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Secondhand clothes baled up

 

Don’t get me wrong, op shops are good, but they need to be a last resort for our unwanted garments.

So how did the clothes swap go? Well, it was a great success!

40 women and girls attended our clothes swap party. Most came with 5 items to swap. In exchange for their clothes, we gave them buttons. This was their currency (1 button = 1 item).

We provided food and drink for our clothes swappers while our team sorted out the clothing onto the right racks. Then the swapping began.

I had concerns: would it be like the post-Christmas sales? Would a feeding frenzy ensue? What if people started fighting over a pair of shoes? But everyone was well behaved and courteous.

The feedback online has been overwhelmingly positive. People have asked if we will run both events again. Most likely we will.

To sum up

Through hosting the clothes mending workshop and a clothes swap party, Transition town Guildford is trying to shift people’s relationship to fashion, from being one that is short-term to one that is more sustainable and long-lasting.

If more community groups start to host events similar to these, perhaps we stand a chance of slowing down the frenzied fashion cycles. At the end of the day, if collectively we don’t buy into their game, they (the big fashion retailers) won’t be able to keep playing it.

Paddling with the Wind

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It was a fierce wind that greeted us on Sunday morning at Garratt Road Bridge. Undaunted (and helped by the fact the wind was behind us) we lined up in our canoes for our trip up river to Ascot Kiosk. This kiosk has become a favourite with us, serving delicious breakfasts in a lovely setting beside the river.

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It was a capable team of canoeists and we  made good progress, everyone managing to steer the canoes with the following wind. It was a quiet day for other boat traffic on the river, the less hardy being put off by the blustery conditions.

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The sky changed several times during the trip, from blue to dark grey with threatening clouds.

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However, there appeared to be no arguments in the boats and I heard no complaints about tiredness!

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We arrived at Garvey Park in time for a delicious mid morning breakfast after which we decided it would be prudent to drive back to the cars as by now the wind was reaching gale force, or so it seemed to us! Another delightful morning on the river with Guildford Outdoors.

Our next Guildford Outdoors event will be a social bike ride, stopping again for brunch at our favourite kiosk! Places are limited, so you will need to register for the bike ride via eventbrite: https://lycra-free-bike-ride-garratt-bridge.eventbrite.com.au