Today Betz White, author of “Sewing Green 25 Projects Made With Repurposed & Organic Materials” wraps up her blog tour with a stop at CraftSanity. Keep reading to find out how you can enter the random drawing to win the book which is loaded with projects that will inspire you to shop your closets and recycling bins for fabric and supplies before buying new. Betz also gives great tips for working with organic and other Earth-friendly fabrics.
Okay, so lets get to that Q&A…
Your first book, “Warm Fuzzies,” covered projects made from recycled sweaters, and you just published your second book “Sewing Green 25 Projects Made With Repurposed & Organic Materials.” Why do you think you’re so committed to green crafting?
Betz: I think there are a number of reasons. The main one is the realization that there is so much waste in the world, especially in the way we consume fashion. When I was working on my first book, I had the opportunity to tour the Goodwill Industries Headquarters in Minneapolis. It blew my mind to see the sheer quantity of cast-off clothing that passed through that one facility on one day. Having spent about 20 years in apparel design and product development, it was a real eye opener for me to get a look at the waste that the apparel industry generates. Viewing used items, whether they are in your closet or at the thrift store, as raw materials for sewing and crafting just seems like a no-brainer to me.
Jen: You focused on felted wool in your first book, now in “Sewing Green” you’re showing readers what they can make with vintage tableclothes, old towels and even the plastic rings that come off milk containers. What was your inspiration for the projects? Did you look at what you had around, or cook up design ideas then go out in search of materials?
Betz: I work both ways. Sometimes I look at something that I have in excess and try to figure out a new use for it (for example, the Auto Sunshade made from mylar juice pouches). Other times I have a desire to make a specific thing, say a skirt, so I look around at things on hand to see what can be used, like the table cloth made into the Reversible Wrap Skirt.
Jen: The very first project in the book is the Striped Cafe Apron and I love it. I actually took a break from making mine to send you this email. So I’m in the process of turning a man’s dress shirt ($3.69 at a local thrift shop) into a fun apron to wear over jeans. What was your inspiration for this project? Are you an apron girl, too?
Betz: Men’s dress shirts are quite plentiful in thrift stores. I love them for repurposing because they have so many high-needle details that I would never have the patience to execute in a project sewn from scratch. Reusing the precisely sewn pockets and the highly constructed collar and cuffs in a new project, such as the apron or the wallets saves so much work, they are halfway done.
As far as aprons go, I wouldn’t say I am as enamored with them to the extent that you are! I do like the tongue-in-cheek aspect of taking a symbol of the “businessman/breadwinner” and turning it into an apron that is “bread-making attire” for the home.
Jen: Given your talent for recycling materials into fantastic “new” projects, are you able to keep your craft supply budget pretty low? Or do you have a guilty craft pleasure? Any advice for the crafter on the budget?
Betz: Like anything in life, it’s all about balance. I do use a lot of repurposed finds, but even those can cause craft-budget-creep. It’s easy to get carried away bidding on those vintage textiles on eBay! I try to stick to a list when I thrift or eBay hunt for materials.
One splurge that I believe is well worth the money is organic fabrics. Not only are they better for the user directly, they are better for the world overall because no toxic chemicals are used to cultivate organic cotton. Everyday there are more sustainable fabrics on the market. It’s up to us to buy and use them to keep the demand high and the momentum going!
Jen: You’re a mom with a busy career, how do you find the energy to keep creating?
Betz: That’s a good question! I just create because I love to. Fortunately my family is similarly wired.There’s never any lack of understanding about it, it’s just the way it is. My studio has enough space for the kids to come in and work on projects right along side of me. Often we work on things together. Pretty much every surface of the house has some kind of work-in-progress on it. I’m not the best housekeeper and sometimes I worry that I am not setting a good example for my kids as far as tidiness goes. But I know that being a “maker” and raising them creatively is a quality that I value. I prefer to focus on that!
Jen: How has your craft world success changed your life? What did you do when you saw yourself on the cover of “Craft” magazine?
Betz: I guess the main difference is that people I don’t know know me. It’s a funny thing when you share yourself and your creations with the world. It’s my greatest hope that my work resonates with others and inspires them to be creative. I love when someone takes the time to write to let me know how my work has affected them. I feel so honored when one of my books motivates someone to discover or rediscover sewing.
Being on the cover of Craft was a trip! It’s not something that I ever aspired to, but it sure was nice of them to highlight my work.
Jen: What is a typical day like for Betz White?
Betz: A typical work day starts with getting my two boys up and out of the house for school. When I come back from taking them to the bus stop, it’s time for me to start my work day, around 9am. I have usually prepared a To Do list the night before which I consult first. I check my email to see if anything has come up over night that needs attention then I add it to the day’s list. I take a peek at my Etsy shop and my blog and then get started on my list. If I have any photography that I need to do for my blog or Etsy shop, I make sure to handle that early in the day when the natural light is best in my studio. The bulk of the day is spent developing new work for my shop, tutorials for my blog, sometimes writing magazine articles, and hopefully some sewing. If I have any orders to ship or errands, I push them to early afternoon and run those quickly before the kids get home from school.
From about 4-8pm, I’m wearing my “mom” hat, helping with homework, making dinner and putting kids to bed. After that I go back into my studio and work a few more hours on things that don’t need natural light or full brain power, such as editing my photos or uploading listings to my Etsy shop. At 10-11 pm I head downstairs for a little TV time with my husband, usually to watch the Daily Show. Then I go to bed by midnight and do it all again tomorrow!
Jen: What can we expect from you next? Any projects that you can tell us about?
Betz: I mentioned my interest in organically produced cotton. I’ve had a long time goal of designing my own print fabric line and I’d love to have it produced on organic cotton. I’ve spent the last year or so trying to track down some of the larger manufacturers with whom to license my line with the requirement that it be organic. I’ve made the realization that it’s going to have to happen from the ground up, so to speak. I’m currently collaborating with a few other designers and we hope to be able to produce our own line of organic prints very soon. Stay tuned!
Jen: Awesome. I can’t wait to check out the fabric line. Thanks for stopping by CraftSanity!
* Note: All the photos in this post are courtesy of Melanie Falick Books.
Enter to Win a Copy of “Sewing Green.” Okay, CraftSanity readers, what do you think about the green crafting movement? Tell us what you’re making! Leave a comment below by May 4 to enter the random drawing.