Thursday 14 December 2017

Refusing a Rubbish Xmas

Earlier this week I attended a very timely workshop on how to reduce waste over the holiday period. The astonishing statistics that I took out of that are sourced from Recycle:

  • On average, Kiwis throw away 30% more rubbish over the summer holiday period than usual. 
  • The waste we generate just about doubles the week after Christmas.
  • An extra 50,000 Tonnes of waste is likely to be produced during the Christmas week. 
  • A 20-foot container is able to hold on average 3.5 tonnes of waste (50,000/3.5 = 14,285.7 containers).
  • With each container standing 2.4m tall, stacked on top of one another, this would be equivalent to 105 times taller than the Sky Tower.
  • This means the amount of extra waste generated the week after Christmas in NZ is equivalent to more than 14,000 20-foot containers stacked on top of each other, 105 times taller than the Sky Tower!!

The workshop hosts, Hannah and Liam of the Rubbish Trip effort, kindly invited me to talk about Elf Bags.  The event took place at Sustainability Trust, and I walked around the shop to find bits and pieces to gift bag as exemplars: bokashi bucket set, gardening tools, rat trap.  The walking and looking part took far longer than the bagging part.  I'm glad I wasn't talking about some upcycled, hand-made wrapping paper.  Nothing wrong with that idea, but gift wrapping those oddly shaped items would have been a pain.

Hannah and Liam are giving two more talks in Wellington before they take off on their South Island Rubbish Trip for another six months.

Monday 11 December 2017

Custom Elf Bags

If you have some fabric you're particularly fond of, I'm happy to sew custom Elf Bags for you.  Elf Bags are an alternative to gift wrapping, so they will most likely be used only for birthdays and other gift-centered celebrations, and with good care, should last for generations. That's generations of not forking out on wrapping paper every year. You might need to wash an Elf Bag once a decade or so, which means that precious fabrics of high sentimental value but little practical application are perfect for this purpose.

Oh look, a decorative snowflake. I make those, too.
Perhaps you have your old baby blanket that will never snuggle another baby, but it's a shame to feed it to the moths in the attic.

Maybe your kids have grown out of their cutesy dinosaur curtains, and the curtain edges are too sun-faded, and they are too old to give away, but you want to hold on to the fond memories of curtain peekaboos and infectious giggles, and it's fun to test the progeny's knowledge of Dracorexes vs Eoraptors when the are twenty. 

You might have some hideous holiday shirts that are too offensive to wear, but their nostalgia value is phenomenal.

How about those neat decorations for your custom Elf Bag?
There's that psychedelic tea towel that your, now deceased, uncle gave you ten years ago.  You never actually used it, but it seems disrespectful to take it to a charity store.  Show your relatives that you cherish the memory of your eccentric uncle by transforming the towel into a gift bag to sit under the family Christmas tree.

How about your grandma's selection of novelty scarves?

That Christmas table cloth that got a massive hole burned in it by a rogue firework that your inebriated cousin let off last year? Grandpa was not impressed.  Only a third of the table cloth is completely wrecked.  The other two-thirds, made into Elf Bags, will remind your family about the fireworks incident.  That might keep the cousin from drinking too much this year, and Grandpa can find someone else to swear at.

An Elf Bag can have a family story to tell. A funny story or a really weird one; and every year, when the gifts are bagged under the tree, the stories are retold and new tales join the family history.
Santa has a big sack. It's full of naughty children who accept sweets from bearded strangers in eccentric attire.
If you need some inspiration, have a look in the gallery for examples of ready made Elf Bags.

Friday 8 December 2017

Elf Bags #3

Brooklyn Christmas market is tomorrow, and those bags won't make themselves!

Two-tone metallic, shimmery sophisitication

Did someone say "hipster"?

Bokeh print
More designs in the gallery.

Another installment of Elf Bags

The elves are still hard at work, sewing like fiendish slaves.  You can check out some of their creations in the gallery.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

More Elf Bags

The Elves have been busy in their sweatshop:

More details and more bags in the gallery.

Monday 4 December 2017

Elf Bags

Elf Bags are an infinitely reusable alternative to gift wrapping. They are perfect for family celebrations, to be reused every year. They can be a gift in themselves, for a friend, with a gift inside, even! That's a double-gift! Your friend can then regift the bag as a gift to someone else or use it for their own family Christmas as a non-gift.  That's a lot of gifting.

Elf Bags are full of happiness
Several years ago I decided to do away with gift wrapping, and instead, started sewing festive bags for our family Christmas merriment.

The idea, which I'm sure originates a long long time ago, in a place far far away, was introduced to me by my mother in law.  She'd sewed a stack of reusable gift bags from some in-your-face Christmas fabric that was sold dirt cheap after the holiday.  The textile made my eyes sore.  With a pained grimace on my face I walked into Spotlight and found some vaguely non-hideous Christmas fabric. I sewed a pile of gift bags. And that's how it happened.  No more mountains of ripped wrapping paper and bits of sticky tape stuck to the cat's behind. Finally I would no longer anxiously linger by the plastic tree, trying to salvage whatever paper was somewhat intact, while everyone else helped themselves to pudding. Instead, the cloth bags would get folded and stashed away with all the decorations, for more gifting next year.

Our family gift bags prop up Christmas trees every year
As with all expanding families, every year we'd find ourselves making more presents and needing more bags. Every year I've been sewing more, with a sneaking suspicion that a family member or two likes to keep their gift bag, instead of returning it.

Last week, on RNZ National, Jesse Mulligan got all the treehuggers to crawl out of their burlap sacks to frantically send in their ideas for alternatives to non-recyclable shiny gift wrap.  Apparently lots of people use it, and many of them contaminate their recycling with it. I emerged from my black burlap sack to email Jesse a photo of my gift bags, and he responded with enthusiasm and a suggestion that I turn this idea into a business. Thanks Jesse, I am acting on your wisdom and turning my house into some sort of a sweat shop to create Elf Bags.

Elf Bags come in a variety of sizes, fabric types and textile designs.  The sizes are loosely grouped into Small, Medium and Large, and there are a few narrow, long bags also. Someone told me they are good for wine bottles.

Would you like an Elf Bag? No, you would like a large stack of Elf Bags. That's excellent! It's too close to Christmas to be retailing them online this year, but I will be selling them at the Brooklyn Christmas market on Saturday, December 9th.  Alternatively, you're welcome to browse the Elf Bag gallery and get in touch to let me know which bags you'd like to collect from me. I can also post them to you, if it can arrive before the gifting obligations.  I will keep adding photos to the gallery over the next few days and weeks.
The kinds of things you can Elf Bag

Saturday 2 December 2017

Sewing Boomerang Bags for a Zero Waste Fair

The gold standard of zero waste, is just that - no waste. Nothing. Zero. Fresh air. The next best thing is to end up with compostables that will grow someone's food, and it that doesn't completely succeed, recycle the rest.

This year, Brooklyn Primary School fair set a goal of being zero waste.  I think everyone had enough of seeing events conclude with seas of trash, rubbish bins over-stuffed with takeaway containers, and plastic bags floating in the air, just out of reach. We received composting and recycling stations from the Elemental Group. We used a combination of borrowed crockery and washing stations, and compostable plates and cutlery. We asked people to bring their own reusable bags, keep cups and food containers.  Hell, the school was actually tidy!  Boomerang Bags kindly supported this initiative by providing dozens of Bought to Support pockets for the sewing bee volunteers.  We made and sold over seventy bags. 

I made my Boomerang Bags in a less conventional, but my standard way - from old shirts, jeans and pillow cases. 

Bags for transporting donkeys

Three shirts and two cushion covers

Three jeans legs in this photo

It was pretty sweet seeing people walk around with their newly acquired Boomerang Bags.

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