Thursday, September 18, 2008

Towards a Less Plastic School Lunch

Beth at Fake Plastic Fish is always asking asked what we are doing to reduce plastic and got me thinking.

It amazes me how much trash, especially plastic trash, can come from a typical homemade school lunch - juice box, individual servings of applesauce, chips, cookies, even pre-wrapped frozen PB&J sandwiches. And if you don't buy the prepacked, then there is usally a flurry of sandwich baggies at the end of lunch. A new school year is when I like to look at how I'm packing lunches and make a small change or two.

I've never been a fan of the individual servings of applesauce, pudding and other treats. So, I've been putting applesauce, goldfish crackers, grapes, nuts, and other little goodies in reusable bowls. The kids know to bring them home to be washed. The bowls are plastic, but I also have a set of very small stainless bowls with plastic lids that I use when I can. (Looking for more!)

Last year I stopped buying juice boxes for school and bought small (plastic) sport drink-type bottle to reuse.

This year the kids got new stainless thermos-type bottles. We are reusing their lunch boxes from last year. I'm experimenting with wrapping their sandwiches in cloth napkins instead of plastic sandwich baggies. I hope to make some cloth snack bags for cookies, etc., soon.

I buy concentrated juice in aluminum cans (Welch's) and mix it at home. We occasionally buy juice boxes for other purposes, but we've cut down on our juice-related waste quite a bit.

I'm sure there's a lot more I could be doing. But, like most people, small changes, one at a time, is the only way I can keep going without getting overwhelmed.

edited 9-19-08

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Caution, Irene's Tote May Be Addictive

I am loving this pattern. I love that you use heavier fabric, so no need for lining. I love how fast and easy it comes together. (Still not on the SMS payroll!)

Anyway, the next night after making my first Classic Tote, I made two more! They are both a bit smaller than the original.

apple bag1

This is may be a teacher gift, but I am hurting looking at my bad sewing in this! It's a bit smaller than Irene's original because it was made from... curtains. Yes, another great find from Target's clearance rack, only $3.24. If I pick all the seams out for maximum yardage, I am hoping to get 3 more bags from this one set of curtains! I like the pencil pocket on the front.

fish bag

Here is a bag for my three-year-old son. I was rummaging through the stash, thinking he wasn't paying attention, but when I pulled this fabric out, he said, "I want that one." Made over from a little curtain I had made to hide the cat box in our old house (yes, it's been thoroughly washed). This bag is quite a bit smaller, and the pocket is divided to hold four pencils.

Show us your bags!

Friday, July 11, 2008

La di da di dum, La di da di dum, What's the Name of this Blog?

That's right, Make A Bag. So it's about time I showed you - get ready...


Oh, if you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about in the title, there's a little something for your viewing pleasure at the end of this post.

This pattern is Irene's Classic Tote, from the Sew, Mama, Sew blog. If you haven't visited SMS, you've just gotta go. It is an online fabric shop with the cutest of the cute, plus the blog has amazing tutorials on all kinds of sewing projects. Lots and lots and lots of tote bags there, many of which I plan to link to soon.

(No, I'm not on their payroll. I wish!)

Now, the pattern was originally designed by Irene's aunt, so Irene asks that you do not sell any totes made from this pattern. But she says you can make as many as you want for yourself or for gifts.

My fabric came from my current favorite real life fabric store - the lovely, lovely clearance shelves of Target. 100% cotton stripey tablecloth transformed to stripey tote. Let me tell you, a $4 tablecloth yields a LOT of fabric.

I'm not going to take you through all the steps. Irene has an amazingly easy-to-follow tutorial on the SMS site, and I would be insulting her genius if I tried to duplicate it here.

One of the techniques she shows is a French seam, which I had not heard of before. If you're not familiar with this sewing technique, watch the instructions and photos closely at 4b - that's WRONG sides, together, people. The instructions are correct; don't assume they're not. Also, don't ignore them completely, assuming you know what you're doing. Like some people I could mention. *cough*


Hello, Mr. Rippy!

Shortly after this little interlude with Mr. Rippy, my bobbin ran out exactly at the end of a seam. How often does that happen?

Then, just after midnight...




(Yes, the horizontal/vertical back/front thing is on purpose.)

Irene's Classic Tote is a definite winner in my book. It took just over 2-1/2 hours, and would probably be even quicker for a more experience sewist (SMS's word, can't take credit). Or one who can follow directions! It's big and roomy and very strong if you use a heavier fabric as noted in the instructions.

As promised, a little movie magic...

Isn't there a version of this that Ernie sings to Bert and keeps him from falling asleep?

Anyway, I kept thinking of this song and this blog and realized I needed to get back to more bag patterns. There's a great big world of bags to make, so get sewing, knitting, crocheting, or whatever floats your boat. And, as always, if you have a macrame bag pattern, please, the macrame world is desperate for your pattern!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Keep Yer Cool Challenge

If you're living under an enviro-blog rock, you may not be aware of Crunchy Chicken and her sometimes outrageous, alway challenging... uh, challenges. Here's the latest:

Keep Yer Cool Challenge

Some of her challenges are a little too skeevy for me, but I tell you, the woman gets ya thinking. I only started reading her blog about a month ago, and it's already one of my can't-miss faves. So I'm happy that she's running a challenge I'm not too grossed out to participate in.

Click on the logo for more info on the Keep Yer Cool Challenge. I signed up for No Air Con - I can't wrassle those window units into place by myself, so we're making do with fans this year, like it or not. Now, the office is obviously a different story since I don't control the thermostat there. And the van AC is definitely going to be on as the van doubles as a solar cooker otherwise, and I prefer my kids to arrive home uncooked.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Reel Mower Update

more cat pictures

I felt like that kitty today after using my newly sharpened reel mower on the front yard. Woo hoo!

I tell ya, a good sharpening makes all the difference. The mower worked okay before, but now it's much better.

Some people say a reel mower only works well on flat, well-groomed traditional lawns. Mine is not that kind of lawn. Mine is a hodgepodge mix of sunny patches with semi-decent grass, deep shade with nothing but low-growing moss, and the rest, which is pretty much all broad-leafed weeds. In fact, I laugh when I see ads for broad-leafed weed killer - if I used that, I'd have almost no "lawn" at all!

Guess what the reel mower works best on? Small, broad-leafed plants like clover and wild violets. In fact, if I had my way, I'd happily overseed the lawn with those two plants. They are so pretty in the spring, blooming before the rest of the grass is long enough to cut, and they don't get very tall unless you really let them go.

That said, it's confession time. I only got the front yard done. This is the smaller portion. The back yard is probably close to .5 acre - and it's hilly. And the grass is almost knee high in spots because I let it go a leetle too long.

I think it's stopped raining, so I'm off to tackle the back yard. Send water. (Or beer.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Factory Farming + Floods = Bad News

The following was swiped liberally from Yahoo. Bold is mine. Full article here.


In Des Moines, where a levee failure Saturday sent water pouring into the Birdland neighborhood, some residents returned for the first time to see the damage.

Where floodwaters remained, they were a noxious brew of sewage, farm chemicals and fuel. Bob Lanz used a 22-foot aluminum flatboat to navigate through downtown Oakville, where the water reeked of pig feces and diesel fuel.

"You can hardly stand it," Lanz said as he surveyed what remained of his family's hog farm. "It's strong."

LeRoy Lippert, chairman of emergency management and homeland security in nearby Des Moines County, warned people to avoid the floodwaters: "If you drink this water and live, tell me about it. You have no idea. It is very, very wise to stay out of it. It's as dangerous as anything."

Mixed into the floodwaters are pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer from Iowa's vast stretches of farmland.

Ken Sharp, environmental health director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, acknowledged that the floodwaters could make people sick. But he said the sheer volume of water can dilute hazardous substances.

The flooding also raised concerns of contamination in rural wells, said G. Richard Olds, professor and chairman of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"For rural folks, it's going to be hard to know if their water's safe or not," he said.


Eat local. Grow 'em if you've got 'em. (And all the more reason for me to get those tomatoes in the ground - soon!)

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Melanie from Bean Sprouts has posted today about joining your local Freecycle group. I couldn't agree more. Freecycle is a great way to get items you need or want for free, as well as a great way to get rid of things you don't need anymore and saving them from the landfill.

One thing I wanted to add to Melanie's excellent post, is that you don't HAVE to get a bunch of emails. In Yahoo Groups (which you must join to participate), you can opt for digest emails, which group together 25 or so posts in one email. Or you can opt out of emails altogether.

Here are some of the things I've recently gotten from other local Freecyclers - a big bag of blue jeans to wear and for crafts, an old manual typewriter for the kids to mess around with, some old blue canning jars and tons more.

Some things I've given away on Freecycle include clothing (both good and worn, although I disclose if clothing needs some extra care before use), packing paper, moving boxes, old towels for pet bedding, etc.

As a receiver, you never know what you can get, so it's worth asking. As Melanie points out, it's generally bad form to ask for luxury items, but this may vary depending on your location. We live in a somewhat affluent area, so asking for, say, an older digital camera is not necessarily seen as bad manners here.

And as a giver, you never know what people want. So again, worth asking!

Once you're in the group for a while, you get a feel for which items are popular and definitely worth your time listing.

Make sure you read your group's rules. Each group's moderators determine limits on things permitted. For example, our group does not allow animals to be traded on the group. They used to disallow plants, but reversed that decision.

Once you've signed up, head over to Bean-Sprouts and vote in Melanie's poll!

Monday, May 12, 2008

New (Used) Toy!

(Photo to come)

I just bought a Craftsman reel mower off of our local "garage sale" Yahoo group. (The garage sale site sprang from our Freecycle group and is another great way to find useful used items.)

Our house sits on .75 acres with another .2 acre side lot, so you might think I'm crazy for trying to mow it with a non-motorized lawn mower. But I don't know. My powered lawn mower used to be a "nice" self-propelled gas mower, but the self-propel feature broke last year, was not fixed, and makes the power mower darn heavy. I figured if I have to push mow it anyway, why not use something lighter?

Plus avoid paying $3.85/gallon to MOW MY LAWN (an artifical environment to begin with). I need that money to drive kids to school.

Not to mention avoiding all the nasty carbon emissions.

And I could stand to lose a few several a couple pounds.

So it's a win-win-win and probably a few more wins I didn't think of.

I will say my old mower would rip through small twigs and pine cones like nobody's business, where the reel mower tends to get hung up on these. But the blocks are easily cleared and, after the first few tentative efforts, I no longer hear my Grandad's voice telling me, "Don't touch those blades; they'll take your finger right off!" (Thanks, Grandad! Miss you!)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Another Fun Green Video

Saw this on Bean Sprouts. It's too funny not to share:

In other green news, there is an abyssmal dearth of fuel-efficient cars available in the US, especially if you're looking for a used (reused), older (cheap), 6+ seat (3 kids) vehicle like I am. Anyone want to hook me up with an EV-1?

Friday, April 25, 2008

MagKnits & The Way Back Machine

Jennie hooked us up with a couple of links via The Wayback Machine, so Injeanius and The Saturday Market Bag links are now up to date. Thanks, Jennie!

Monday, April 21, 2008

We Need MagKnits Patterns!

With the untimely demise of the MagKnits site, a couple of our knitted bag patterns are no longer available. However, the rights to these patterns reverted to the original designers, so we're looking for them so we can relink to these patterns. We need new links for:

Injeanius from November 2005
Saturday Market Bag (two sizes) - June 2006

Can you help?

You Say It's Your Blogiversary...

Friday was my first blogiversary on my other blog, Tinky McFrog.

In the knitting blogosphere, this calls for a contest!

Random Last-Minute Belated Blogiversary/Earth Day Contest - Visit Tinky McFrog, and leave a comment on this linked post including...

1. One change you have made in the past year to tread a little lighter on the Earth
2. Your favorite color(s)

by April 30 to win an "Organic Nettie Kit" (enough organic cotton yarn to make a Nettie bag). Open to US and Canadian residents. (I just don't trust the mails any farther than that!) Winner will be chosen at random on May 1.


Some simple changes we've made in the past year:

1. Stopped buying juice boxes
2. Switched from buying pre-mixed juice (mostly water) in a big semi-recyclable plastic jug to buying juice concentrate in a very-recyclable aluminum can
3. Made a stronger effort to reuse plastic shopping bags for groceries
4. Started saving toilet paper tubes to use as seed starter pots (I'll let you know how it goes)
5. Started this blog! I hope it has helped you live a little greener!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Meeting Resistance From Store Clerks

Because I am lazy (besides the two jobs and three children), I tend to reuse my existing plastic bags vs. trying out all these neato patterns listed here. (That's what you guys are for - give me feedback!) However, last week I was flabbergasted when the Meijer clerk refused to reuse my plastic bags! Here's how the conversation went:

H (me) - Oh, I brought my own bags to reuse.

Clerk - We don't reuse plastic bags.

H - What?! (This has never, ever been a problem for me before.)

C - We'll use those new reusable bags we're selling.

H - (fuming) Funny, this was never a problem before you started selling those bags.

C - Well, it's just that reusing plastic bags is unsanitary.

At this point, I pulled out my two hand-knit Nettie bags and a Target bag - yes, I whipped out a reusable Target bag at Meijer! So there!

H - They're not any less sanitary than reusing the other bags. I'm sorry, but whoever is telling you this is lying to you.

I was still mad as heck, but trying to be nice. Clerk continues to bag items, using my non-plastic reusable bags and fresh new plastic bags.

H - So, is this a store-level decision or a corporate decision? I need to know who to talk to about this new policy.

C - (looking sheepish) Well, uh, actually, I think it depends on the cashier. I mean, this is something they told me years ago. It's just one of those things that stuck with me.

H - (mentally) AH-HA!!!!

Oddly, the conversation took a friendlier turn as I told her that I would be making more Nettie bags and that I would add a buttonhole to the top edge to make them eaiser for cashiers to use at the turnstiles.

Now, I am not the best at the quick verbal comeback. Here are some points I wish I had made:

1. I have never, ever, had a Meijer cashier, or any other store cashier, question reusing plastic bags before.

2. Up until Meijer started selling their own branded reusable bags, they would refund shoppers 5 cents for each bag they brought in to reuse, thereby encouraging shoppers to reuse plastic bags.

3. Every single item I purchased was already packaged and well-protected from any "uncleaness" lurking inside a reused plastic bag. Not one thing was going to be pulled out and put directly in my mouth without unwrapping it first. Not even the apples. (I am a little ashamed of this, but it's a valid point regardless.)

4. Do most shoppers who use the canvas/whatever reusable bags wash them out after every use? I doubt it.

5. Shoppers who use the U-Scan lanes may reuse plastic bags if they choose.

I hope the cashier will think about our conversation and realize the above points. She has worked at that store for a while, so I'm sure she is familiar with the former bag refund policy. In the meantime, since it appears this is a one-cashier situation and not a store-level or corporate-level decision, I don't feel I need to write a letter or anything.

I will still shop at Meijer because they are Michigan-based (local to me), have great prices, buy at least some of their produce from local farmers, and have an amazingly diverse line of store-brand organic food that is fairly competitive price-wise with the regular stuff. And, hopefully, next time I meet a resistant cashier, I'll be better prepared to educate her about reusing plastic bags.

Greetings From Signer #363

Beth at Fake Plastic Fish is helping lead a campaign to get Chlorox to take back Brita water filters. One of their tools is an online petition. Beth has an appointment with a Chlorox representative tomorrow morning, and would like to have 500 signatures by meeting time (8:30 a.m. Pacific Time).

To read about the initiative, click here.

To skip the background and go straight to signing the petition, click here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fade to Black

Tonight is Earth Hour, where millions of people around the world (hopefully) will be switching off their lights and other electrical appliances from 8pm - 9pm, whatever their local time.

The kids should be in bed by then, so I'll be curling up with a soy candle and some knitting.

Also posted at Tinky McFrog.

Monday, February 4, 2008

"Does exactly what it says on the tin."

That's Melanie Rimmer's comment about this site. Thanks so much for the mention, Melanie!

If you're coming over here from Melanie's blog, Bean Sprouts, thanks for stopping by. Please take a look around for a few minutes and leave a comment. I'm very open to positive suggestions to make this a better resource for hand-made alternatives to single-use plastic bags.

If you are a crafter, I'd love to know what you think of the format. Is it easy to find patterns in your chosen craft? Have you seen anything you might like to try? Have you tried any of the patterns here? What did you think of it? Can we see your finished project? Do you have a pattern you'd like showcased here? I'd love to help you out with that.

And the macrame thing? I kinda put that in as a joke and because it rhymed with crochet (I am a geek). Yet, there are crafters out there googling high and low for macrame bag patterns! So if you have a nifty macrame shopping tote pattern, BRING IT ON.

If you're not a crafter, did you see anything that might spur you on to picking up a skill or at least switching to reusable bags. Maybe you'd like to be a guest writer on an environmental topic?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Bags from Interweave Knits

Here are links to two intermediate-level knitting patterns from Knitting Daily:

Hemp Market Bag is knit from 100% hemp on size 10 straight and circular needles.

Vicki Square's Market Bag is knit from flax on size 6 and size 11 needles.

Needles sizes are US.


If you have made any of the patterns found via Make-A-Bag, I'd love to see a photo and get your thoughts on the pattern!