Tuesday, February 23, 2010

All Ready

I am all ready for the update tonight at 5 CST - don't miss it! I'm really excited to open the doors for Pocket Pocket, and there are so many more great things to come soon! Last night I spent some time packaging everything - these might look fancy, but really they're eco-friendly, too. The packaging is 100% recycled kraft paper, coated on the inside with a water-resistant lining to keep the fiber safe (the lining coat is biodegradable). All of the fixings are vintage - seam binding tape and little vintage mushroom picks from Germany.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Crochet Success - Potholders

I'm still learning crochet, but when it was announced that the Potholder Swap would be repeated for 2010, I knew it would be a challenge I'd have to take on. It's really wonderful in the way it works too - you crochet 5 potholders that are double thick, mail them off to a location with a self-addressed, postage paid mailer tagging along, and you get back 5 potholders that other people participating in the swap have made. It's a very low-stress swap, too, since all the potholders are made out of cotton, no extra goodies are required, and if you don't get them done in time, you just don't participate. No disappointed swappers - you send in, you get back.

Now, I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of all the variegated potholders, or the ones that have themes like chickens and flowers and giant bows, but I do love me a pretty swatch of color, so that's what I set out to do with my own potholders. I decided to use the Old-Fashioned Potholder pattern by Cathy Ireland, which has been touted on Ravelry as a beginner-friendly choice. After a few basic crochet misunderstandings (no, you don't chain 1 in between each dc) and a wonky first-round potholder, I finally got the hang of it and made something worth sending.

I know it's simple, but I'm so proud.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pocket Pocket Fiber Update - 02.23.10

Hey everybody! I wanted to make it official - the first ever Pocket Pocket all-fiber update for the Deciduous Collection will happen on February 23, 2010, at 5 pm CST. There are previews up in the Ravelry group and on Flickr, but I have a few pictures up here for you to ogle, too. Remember, even if you miss this first update, you have the Grand Opening update in March to look forward to, and that one will include all kinds of gorgeous things.

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Whoops! Belated Go-Green Tuesday!

(Let's rewind for a moment, all the way back to yesterday, when I forgot to put this post up!)

Go-Green Tuesdays aren't all about body lotions and shampoos - because 'going green' is so much more than that, it's a change in your lifestyle completely to suit both yourself and the environment. As crafters, we have to be conscious of the materials we're using too.

This is a lot of what Pocket Pocket is about - being conscious about materials and looking for ones that are low-impact on the environment. But we're not the only company that is trying to do this - there are huge groups of people who are working daily to provide crafters with what they need to make beautiful, eco-friendly things. So today, I'm going to share some awesome eco-friendly fabric sources with you! The most important thing you should remember is that everyone's level of participation is gradual, so some of the fabrics (though not most) have notes included that discuss certain questionable fibers.

Modern Fabrics is a company that buys cuttings (which can be huge, mind you) from larger textile and upholstery companies. So, they're already recycling - but in addition, some of the fabrics they offer have aspects of environmental consciousness. I've put three examples below so you can see some of the gems they have in their online store.

Left: Carnegie Pebble, 100% post-consumer recycled polyester
Right: Luna Textiles Charm, 100% bamboo
Lower: Knoll in the Loop Nectar, 53% wool, 41% rayon, 6% nylon

Many of you may have noticed the last product, which includes rayon and nylon. Rayon comes from wood pulp, but does require significant processing to get to fabric production, including methods that have long been considered air and water pollutants. However, big steps have been taken to improve the production of this manufactured regenerated fiber - in the US, many producers are working towards closed chemical systems that recycle any waste the factory would put off, and re-use water so that they aren't putting it into the environment. Nylon, on the other hand, is entirely synthetic and I try to avoid it wherever possible, since it is produced with a lot of chemical processing and uses fossil fuel - petroleum - as the base material. Since this fabric only contains 6% nylon and is already recycled, I have still included it in the list.

If you are a textile designer, you've probably already heard about Spoonflower. This printing company takes your digital images and prints them on fabric - a great boon to those of us who want to have fabrics that match our collections exactly. While some of Spoonflower's fabric options are not remotely eco-conscious, please note that they also offer printing on Organic Cotton Knit fabric, Bamboo Cotton-Rayon fabric, and Linen-Cotton Canvas. The coolest thing about Spoonflower is that if you aren't a designer, you can enter something in the search box and come up with neat prints already for sale on whatever fabric you choose! I searched one of my favorite people - Heidi Kenney from My Paper Crane - and got several of the fabrics she's been recently showing on her blog.

Etsy also provides a wealth of awesome organic and natural textiles.

Daisy Janie features textiles designed by Jan DiCinto, who has her work professionally printed on organic fabrics. While a little pricey, the fabric is totally worth the cost - it is supremely beautiful. I bought some of her Boxwood Parkside print as a fat quarter to use in a school project last year, and was enamored with both the hand of the cotton sateen and the quality of the print. The print pictured to the left is on heavyweight cotton canvas duck, which is not organic, but is all-natural cotton. It is called 'Audrey'.

Cicada Studio doesn't have organic fabrics, but they do specialize in great prints on linen and on linen/cotton blends, making them all natural. The sophisticated whimsy of these prints make them remarkably versatile as apparel, housewares, and even toys. I have long been a fan of the Winter Foxes print, on 100% linen.

The newest series of prints by Cicada Studio features classic geometric designs that just scream to be made into dresses and jackets.

Last, but definitely not least, Betz White fabrics are all-organic and remarkably colorful. I know they'd make a fabulous quilt because I am always drooling over her fat-quarter packs. Her new Indian Summer collection is utterly gorgeous, and she's written a book - Sewing Green - that you may have heard of on several blogs.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pallid in Comparison

Amid several episodes of Farscape, Season 3 on Netflix Instant, I have managed to finish my Baktus! I had to re-knit it because once I got about 3/4 of the way finished, I noticed that the angles weren't even on both sides. I knew it would bug me forever, so instead of trying to block out the issue, I knit another baktus, frogging the old one as I went. I really couldn't be happier with this project.

Pattern: Lacy Baktus , which is a mod of the original Baktus pattern
Yarn: my own handspun, Hello Yarn Fiber, colorway Pallid, 440 yards of fingering weight, 2 ply.

Other than knitting, I have been working really hard on getting a new project off the ground. My own business! Under the name Pocket Pocket, I'll be selling all kinds of things - handmade objects, paintings, knitting and embroidery kits, handspun yarns, hand-dyed fibers. There's a Ravelry Group for us now, please look me up! It will be so exciting to share this venture with you all.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

For those of you who are with families or away from them, with or without sweethearts this holiday, Happy Valentine's Day from me to you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Happiness, is a warm bowl

I love to cook. Actually, I kind of hated to cook, for a really long time, after a sequence of baking disasters. But then I discovered that while cooking and baking are related, they're really very different in many, many ways. For baking, you have to measure everything out exactly and there's very little wiggle room until you understand the basics enough to alter things like liquid content properly, in the correct proportions (you can't just add more almond flavor, you have to take away a little bit of milk to keep it even, or you end up with a soupy cake. Ask me how I know.)

For cooking, you can be almost as free as you want within the basic outline of a recipe. One such recipe I've been fiddling with is my mom's chili. She makes an AWESOME chili but I like mine a lot spicier, and little less soupier, and since it's just me and my dad at home, we've been adding things to it a bit, and I have discovered a nearly-flawless, perfect chili recipe. And you can make it in about 10 minutes (use ingredients with the * for 10 minute version), mix up some Jiffy Cornbread mix, and have the whole thing ready in about an hour while you sit nearby, knitting and making sure that it doesn't burn (which is hard to do, but totally possible. Seriously, ask me how I know.)

Now, I'm sure many of you have great chili recipes to reference at home, but there is a HUGE population of 20-somethings who never learned how to cook, because maybe their parents don't eat dinners together or never cooked or they just never bothered to learn. So the recipe below is simple, doesn't take long, and is always delicious. It's also really great for leftovers.

Hannahbelle's Mom's Modified Chili
serves 4-6
1 medium sized vidalia onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, a pint of cherry tomatoes, or a 15 oz. can* , diced
1 can tomato sauce
1 green chile, diced, or a can of green chiles, diced*
1 can chili beans (or, if you want, rehydrate some beans the night before)
1 lb. lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 tsp butter
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
pinch of salt and black pepper

Chop or dice your onions (slice if you like them larger and stringy). Put a large pot on the skillet and warm on medium heat. Add butter, and pound of thawed ground beef. Chop it up a bit with a spatula and brown, add onions, let them saute for about 5-7 minutes until there is nearly no pink in the meat. Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes and chile - add spices, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chile and beans to the pot. Stir, turn down to medium heat, and let it simmer for about an hour. We like to add cheese and sour cream to ours here at the house.

Go Green Tuesdays - Body Lotion

Now, I know that a good many of you probably have your favorites in this category, and I would love to hear them! I have heard so much feedback about the products listed in last week's post, and suggestions for other things that I should try (and I am going to try to find them!)

I have very specific requirements for body lotions:

  • I have very, very dry skin, so any body lotion must be extremely nourishing and moisturizing. Luckily, when working with organic or natural lotions, they very rarely feel the need to add a whole bunch of alcohols to the formula like they do with standard lotions.
  • I cannot abide by a strong scent. I like to wear perfume and I hate the smell of baby powder.
  • No peppermint, or evergreen ingredients. I am allergic to these and though I love and adore the smell of both things I cannot wear them at all. I break out in a very itchy red rash.
I decided to approach this post a little differently than the last, because I have tested so many lotions to find just the right one that it is nearly impossible to recall them all. So instead, I will offer you up two of my favorites.

Burt's Bees Naturally Nourishing Milk & Honey Lotion

I know many of you might be surprised to see another Burt's Bees product here, especially after the less-than-stellar review I gave their shampoo last week. But in truth, it is a great product line and I use a ton of their stuff, especially their lotion. It is very affordable ($10 on the Burt's Bees website), and is incredibly soothing to my dry skin. The only problem is that the bottle isn't as large as I'd want, and I go through a lot of it quickly. My mom didn't like the scent at all, either, and refuses to use it.

This product is the only body lotion by BB that I have tried - I hear the carrot one is nice but I don't like the way it smells. The body butters also have royal jelly in them, which I avoid whenever possible because it is the only source of food for some bees in the colony.

VERDICT: Scent not for everyone, 98.2% Natural, Only 8 oz.

Origins Organics Precipitation

The bottle this comes in is huge. You can get it in smaller quantities, but I don't bother because I know I'll go through all of it long before it goes bad. In the large bottle, you're paying $55 for 33.8 oz of amazing lotion. This stuff keeps me from getting itchy for the entirety of the day and has a very light, herbal scent that actually fades about three or four minutes after applying, so it won't interfere with your perfume. If you don't wear perfume, a similar lotion and body butter comes in ginger, grapefruit, lavender/vanilla, and mint/rosemary. I don't use body butter because it is expensive and I need a LOT of lotion, but I have tried it and it's amazing stuff, really.

I ended up trying this product not because I'd heard great things about it, but because when I got home my parents were using it, and I hopped out of the shower and just tried it one day. I have been so impressed by the quality of this Origins Organics product that I have been really tempted to try the rest of their line of shampoos (which come in pretty bottles, and I am a sucker for great packaging), and face washes.

VERDICT: Good value for price, All-Around-Best Lotion, 100% natural

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Night Playlists

So, I thought I would start sharing my playlists here, I listen to a huge variety of music and everyone is always asking for mixes but I can never seem to get around to it (mostly because I feel like a mix should come with custom album sleeves and stickers and little computer designed playlists)

This mix is always my go-to music for getting ready to go out, or staying in but feeling energized. Some stuff is newer, some stuff is older - tell me what you think! (Also, some of these have a few colorful words mixed in, so if you're at work you might want to put some headphones on.)

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Square Dance

So, guess what I learned how to do today? Crochet granny squares! I'm sure most of you have been way on top of this new trend - awesome granny square afghans have been showing up everywhere and the selection of colors, textures, and patterns (hexes, puffy stitches) have made them much more attractive and irresistible, at least to me. A great tutorial is at The Purl Bee, but I needed a little extra help than what it could provide.

After a Skype session with my friend Carrie, who is a pretty amazing genius of both color and crochet, I was brave enough to make my first granny square out of some worsted-weight handspun. Seems that I'm a really tight crocheter and I had to use a size K hook for it - but it turned out well!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Go Green Tuesdays - Hair Care

So, all of you know that in the past I've never been one to have a regular feature on the blog, but we'll give it a try and see how it goes. From now on, Tuesdays shall be known as 'Go Green Tuesdays' and each week I'll try to feature a tip or a product or something that I care a lot about, culminating with some really neat stuff I've been learning while I develop the line (which you don't know that much about yet, so I'll be sure to share more later in the week.)

Today's 'Go Green Tuesday' is all about hair care and hair products. In the past year I have tried a lot of different eco-friendly and eco-natural hair products, in a variety of price points and ranges, and I've discovered a few that I feel are truly, honestly, the best of the best.

But before I start, I want to give you some insight to my own hair, since everyone's hair is different and that means that different products might work best for some people and not for others. I have long, fine hair, but a lot of it - fine/thick is how a lot of hairdressers have described it. This means that if it gets oily, it looks oily (no matter what color it is), and I have to wash it every day. This also means that it tangles if it's not moisturized properly, it doesn't tease well, and it doesn't hold ANY body. Seriously, I have hair as flat as a board and as straight as sticks. I have colored and I do have color on my hair now, so all of these shampoos are color-friendly. (Though I am not coloring any more, because it is not eco-friendly at all.)

Wen by Chaz Dean

One of the first lines I tried was the Wen line of products by salon guru Chaz Dean. Basically, Wen is different from a lot of shampoos because it doesn't lather. Wen claims that lather strips all of the natural oils out of your hair and slowly ruins the hair follicle. Now, to tell you the truth, I am a big fan of lather, but as a go-green-obsessionista, I know that a lot of stuff that doesn't later does work so I gave Wen the benefit of the doubt. My mom and neighbor had both tried it, and raved about how it made their hair lighter and fluffier and prettier and all that.

I tried the Sweet Almond Mint shampoo/conditioner (they're combined). The instructions are to use 40 pumps (OMG! At $30 a bottle that is a good portion of the bottle!) per use, massage through and comb through your hair, leave on for 3-4 minutes, and then rinse. If you like, you can put 1-2 pumps worth in your hair as a leave-in conditioner. I found after lots of experimentation that the only method that worked for me was to use all 40 pumps, push it around in my hair like crazy, and then rinse like my life depended on it. Then, put 2 pumps, mostly in the ends (not in the roots) as a leave in. My mom and my neighbor both use like, 8 pumps for shampooing and then no leave-in, and that works for them. If I did anything but the exact regimen for my hair, I ended up with flat, oily (but very shiny) hair. Wen is supposed to improve your hair structure over time, and you're only supposed to wash every other day. This just didn't work for my lifestyle or hairstyle preferences at all (and I don't style much), so I'll skip the Wen, except as a leave-in conditioner (which I used it for the remainder of the bottle). Apparently, though, it is really, really good for curly hair, and it smells AMAZING. I think I might go back and try their repairing hair masque, though, just so that I can get my Wen Sweet Almond Mint scent fix.

VERDICT: 100% Natural, Eco-Friendly, Smells Great, Excellent Conditioner - Expensive ($30), Flattening and No Lather.

Burt's Bees Green Tea and Fennel Seed Shampoo

This is carried by Target, a lot of drugstores, and is both easy to find and easy to afford. At usually only $8 - $12 a bottle, you can get the conditioner and shampoo for less than the price you paid for the Wen above. But remember that when it comes to green products, you usually get your money's worth, and Burt's Bees shampoo proved to be no exception to the rule. It lathers great and smells pretty good, too - you can get it in different scents and styles for different hair types, and they don't smell bad either. My guy friends really liked the smell of the Pomegranate one especially. I personally wasn't so impressed. After the first use, my hair was shiny and nice, but I had a hell of a time combing through it - the conditioner barely does its job at all. The result was hair that felt like straw after a few weeks of use, and it faded my color at the time (a russet red) to something that looked a lot like a copper kettle. My mom also tried this product and stopped using after a week and a half because it made all her styling products useless.

VERDICT: Shows what percentage of natural ingredients on the bottle, Smells good, Affordable - Crappy Conditioner, Dull straw hair after 7 uses, Fades colored hair faster

Surface Hair Health Art

Apparently inspired by Wayne Grund, this stuff has weird names, and comes in four flavors of conditioner/shampoo pairings - Baba, which is a moisturizing shampoo (Lord knows I needed it, after the Burt's Bees), Purify, which is a clarifying shampoo (NOT safe for colored hair, but great if you're a swimmer or someone who uses a lot of product), Trinity, which is a strengthening shampoo, and Awaken Theraputic, which is an anti-aging and thinning product. I used the orange one, which is Baba Moisturizing, but I have tried Purify in the past as a pre-color treatment.

They smell pretty good - kind of like Redken hair products, which have a sophisticated 'hair product' smell that makes you feel like you spent a lot of money and might be at a professional salon instead of in your shower. The price tag is middle range, in my opinion - I can buy it at my local place for about $15 a bottle, which means you pay as much as the Wen shampoo for the set. After use, it made my hair really silky and shiny, and it dried to be light, and easy to move around - no oiliness or stiffness like with some products (not to be mentioned, but Matrix Biolage is on the list). This was the winner of my testing and now I plan on trying the strengthening shampoo, since I am almost out of the Baba and I think I've recovered from my three year coloring-every-three-months hair destruction phase.

The best part? Surface is 100% organic and naturally certified, so you can feel good about buying it - and they have a great line of other hair products, too. My personal favorite is the Crave Styling Paste (comes in a blue bottle but is not part of Purify). They say it's a pomade/wax, but the way it works is really cool. You squirt a bit into your hand (it's a pump dispenser, no emissions here), and use it right from the bottle as a mousse. If you work it in your hands, it gets stiffer and can be used as a pomade or wax, depending on how much friction you apply. This makes it a really versatile product and I use it for everything. I have stopped using mousse and gel entirely in favor of this, and when I do attempt to tease (who am I kidding, it doesn't really work for me), I can use it as replacement for hairspray.

VERDICT: 100% Natural, Shiny, Beautiful Hair, Smells Good - Middle Price Range, Hard-to-Find

Next week: Body Lotion and Moisturizer Reviews