Stitched by my hand: corset tank top #1

img_7056I have been struggling a bit lately with what to write about in this space. I enjoy the process of writing and telling a story, but to any of you who know me personally, it probably comes as no surprise that I put myself under (unrealistic) pressure for what I post to be perfect. Perfect photos, topics that are relevant, writing that is without grammatical flaws – these things hold me back from sharing what is going on in my daily life. There are people in my life who encourage me by telling me that the most important thing is the sharing aspect of this space. Deep down, I know they are right and so I am trying to let go of my need for each post to be perfect and instead I would like to focus on the connection with others that a blog provides. I mean, what is the point of having a blog to share your thoughts/projects/interests when you don’t actually share them?

I have long been a big fan of Alabama Chanin for many reasons. I am inspired by their commitment to ethical fashion, the preservation of the hand stitched traditions, the celebration of local food and artisans and their open-source business model. I love their aesthetics, but am unable to afford their price-point. Their book series allows me to create my own garments inspired by their construction practices at a price I can afford. Over the past several years I have created many garments both from the Alabama Chanin patterns and from other sources, including my own designs.

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I started with the Alabama Stitch Book, the original pattern book, and created the corset top in a cotton/polyester jersey blend that I bought at the Albert Cuyp market. Pure cotton jersey was difficult to obtain back then and while I’m happy with the top, despite all the wonky hand stiches, the blend has not worn very well, pilling over time. I also found the original pattern to provide more exposure at the neckline than I am comfortable with, so I modified it after the fact by adding a piece before I sewed on the binding.

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Modesty panel added (not very expertly as you can see)

Not to make that same “mistake” again, in the years since I made this piece, I’ve modified the neckline before stitching it. This had yielded another couple of very comfortable tops which I will hopefully share on here someday.

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Making natural skin care products

I am always looking for ways to reduce the chemical footprint in our home.  A few years ago, I started using white vinegar as a fabric softener, for example. When I started, I feared that our laundry would smell of vinegar, so I added a few drops of essential oil to the vinegar bottle and used a small cup in each wash. After a while, my fears proved unwarranted, so I reduced the amount of drops I used, eventually using just straight vinegar. I find it makes the laundry softer and doesn’t leave any residual smell despite being hung to dry after coming out of the wash. I also use other natural cleaning items around the house which I used to consider strictly as food, such as lemons and baking soda.DPP_0004

The next step came when one of my aunts told me how most deodorants contain an aluminum-based antiperspirant which can have a negative effect on your health. I read about breast cancer and Alzheimer’s – both which run in my family – and their suspected links to the use of antiperspirant. A scary thought. I thought it must be possible to find a “clean” deodorant that I could feel safe using. After a few evenings trolling the internet, instead of finding a safe product I could buy, I found a great recipe for homemade deodorant which I’ve been using for about 5 years and am very happy with. I do like a bit of variety, so I use a different essential oil for each batch ranging from the original grapefruit to orange, cinnamon and my aunt swears by tea tree oil. It’s a little messier to put on, but even my husband – who smirked and shook his head when I first told him I was going to make deodorant – now uses it as well.DPP_0002

When I stumbled across a recipe for beeswax lotion recently, it seemed like another great way to incorporate natural ingredients into our body care products. I haven’t been sorry – it works great for really dry skin and eczema. Since I love the smell of the cocoa butter lotion I used to use, I incorporated some pure cocoa butter into the recipe and enjoy the subtle aroma it leaves behind. I liked it so well that I actually purchased Kendra’s booklet with lots more natural recipes and have already tried the body butter recipe, which is a bit easier to apply at room temperature, and plan to try to the lip balm recipe once the weather turns. Biking around Amsterdam is great and all, but the winter weather can be brutal on your lips!DPP_0005

I’m not sure what the next step will be, but I am always on the lookout and haven’t regretted getting rid of the chemical-rich and store-bought products at all. How about you? Do you use natural body care products? Do you have any favorites?