My Personal Sustainability Victories in January: vintage sewing machine, dying yarn with coffee & oak bark, and more



Scrap yarn to socks for hubby

I began making socks for my husband just before the New Year started, and finished 2 pairs for him during January! He wears through his cheap socks very quickly since he does such active work, and I really wanted to avoid having to purchase (practically) disposable socks for him at Walmart (where he usually buys his socks).

I used scrap hemp and cotton yarn leftover from a recent sweater a made for myself, as well as some clearance yarn purchased with a gift card at Webs Yarn. He enjoys wearing my homemade socks in his Birkenstocks and also to work in his steel toe workboots.

I am now working on the third pair for him πŸ™‚


Clearance groceries

I found so many clearance groceries during January! I hope to move to dumpster diving in the future, but for now I’m happy to be buying undesirable items and preventing them from ending up in a landfill πŸ™‚

Acquisitions included multiple packages of: Good Earth veggie burgers (for only $0.90 per pack), clearance Silk soy yogurt (a six-pack for only $0.99), Field Roast yukon potato sausages ($0.99 per pack), Treeline Vegan cheese ($0.99 each), clearance bread, clearance spices, and organic chicken nuggets (for Gabe).


Homemade bread crumbs

I’ve always found pre-made bread crumbs to be bland. This last month, I made my own on several occasions with leftover homemade bread and stale clearance bread from the grocery store. Delicious, and prevented waste!




Yarn dyeing with coffee

So I really wanted to try this for 3 reasons…:

  1. I wanted to make sure the yarn that I used had never been bleached. I’m trying to make sure I don’t encourage any company who is bleaching their products, and cotton is almost always bleached. Cotton is also a water-intensive crop, so I purchased this unbleached cone from an online estate sale so as not to encourage cotton production.
  2. The mordant used in commercial dyeing is usually very unfriendly to the environment, and needs to be treated as hazardous waste.
  3. And lastly, yarn dyed in China (which most is) is likely contributing to water scarcity throughout much of Asia. Not only is the mordant in the dyeing process normally a toxic metal (like aluminum), but factories in poor countries are known to dump the untreated water used for dyeing right back into a river that billions of people depend on for clean water.

I decided that this experiment would mark the beginning of me making sure that my handmade clothing was as kind to people and the planet as possible. I purchased a used book on natural dyeing, and found that coffee doesn’t require a mordant (or fixative) anyway, so I could just boil my yarn in coffee for awhile. I plan to use foraged oak bark this weekend to see if I can get a bit darker brown.

Reduced electronic devices

Not a huge deal, and it wasn’t planned, but my tablet overheated and died last week. I use it for my work- tutoring via Skype across various states- but decided I would just have to start using my Chromebook (even though it takes up more space in my book bag).

I took the dead tablet to be recycled, and also recycled the old charger that came with it (since it had been overheating too). Now I’m down to my cheap Smartphone and my refurbished Chromebook, and that’s fine.


Reduced HVAC permanently

My husband and I moved to a larger apartment in our building (from 400 square feet to 700 square feet) and our new apartment doesn’t have energy efficient windows- in fact, it has the original windows from 1910. Our energy bills have always ran about $60 a month, until moving to this new unit where our energy bill tripled. Statistically, I knew that half of our bill was HVAC heating, so we decided to nearly eliminate our HVAC heat use altogether- permanently.

My mother had given me a radiant heater a few years ago, and Gabe calculated that it’s wattage would reduce our kilowatt usage quite a bit. We lowered the heat level in our apartment to 66* Fahrenheit (which it maintains without much effort) and we now just heat the room that we are in with our radiant heater πŸ™‚




Sewing machine

The Grand Finale of my month- a 1950s Brother sewing machine! πŸ˜€ I have been on the lookout for a new sewing machine. My current sewing machine is the lowest model that Brother sells ($70 at Walmart) and the warranty ran out over a year ago…so I’m likely on borrowed time.

I really wanted an all-metal, easy to service sewing machine (gears easy to get to for oiling, etc.). This one was at Habitat for Humanity Restore for only $75 and it works great! It looks like whoever owned it before me took very good care of it. The sewing table isn’t in good shape, but my husband can fix that. One he does, I believe this sewing machine will serve me for a very, very long time πŸ™‚




Did you learn some ways to live more sustainably last month? πŸ™‚ I’d love to hear about them!

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