Up-cycle a thrifted cardigan and look cute doing it

Have you seen those cute little cropped cardigans floating around the internet? Well I have and I wanted, oh how I WANTED, so when I was gifted a secondhand grey cardigan I decided to see if I could recreate it and I’m pretty thrilled with how it turned out. It’s dead simple, probably takes about 2 hours if that. Easy to customise, so if you want it tighter or with little ties at the front, for example, it’d be easy enough to do.

Unfortunately I’d made the bleeding thing before it occurred to me that I should have taken photos of the process, so the ones below are guidance photos based on another grey cardigan/jacket I have but don’t actually show any arty footage of things being cut or sewn. I’ll remember to take photos of the actual process next time, maybe…

Disclaimer: you could do this WITHOUT a sewing machine but it’d take a fair while longer!

MATERIALS NEEDED

  • Cardigan
  • Sewing machine (or a needle for the patient)
  • Matching thread
  • Fabric scissors
  • Something to mark the fabric with, e.g. pins, chalk, fabric markers
  • Pins
  • A ruler
  • An iron
  • Pinking scissors *optional
  • Any additional accessories/decorations you fancy

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Pop that baby on and make a mark at the length you’d like the cardi to be shortened to. Take it off and add about an inch to that measurement, use a ruler to mark a straight line so you know where to cut, then cut it. It’s easier to stay straight if you lay it flat.

Mark where you’d like the length to to be.

2. Once cut, put it back on inside out (this is very important!) and pinch along the side edges starting from the bottom of the sleeve down to the hem diagonally, making a triangular shape. Pinch in as much as you’re happy with so that it fits your body and isn’t too baggy. If it’s quite big on you, especially around the arm area, you can pinch down in a straight line instead of diagonally. Again, use something to mark this line so you know where to sew, no need to add a hem allowance.

Starting from the bottom of the arm hole pinch in the edges in a diagonal line to the hem until you get your desired fit. Repeat on the other side.

Or you can take in more by doing a straight line, bear in mind this will make the arm hole SMALLER so this might only be needed if the cardigan is big on you.

3. Take it off and use a ruler to draw a line where you’ve placed your mark then sew along this line. On jersey material (or stretchy material) when using a sewing machine use a wide zigzag stitch so the material doesn’t pucker and will still allow it to stretch. You should now have what looks like a triangular flap.

4. Cut off the excess material of this flap, leaving about a centimetre of material, you can use pinking scissors to stop fraying OR you could zig zag stitch or overlock stitch the edge of the fabric. (You can look up tutorials for this.)

5. Now, return to the bottom of the cardigan and turn up half of the hem material and then turn up again so you have what is effectively a fabric roll at the end of your cardi (see below images), press this down using an iron and sew it down in a zig zag stitch or hand-sew it in place. I chose to hand-sew because it was easiest on my stretchy material.

There you have it!

If it doesn’t have buttons you could either add some or easier yet make a tube out of scrap material and turn it into a little tie closure. Remember to try on your piece at regular intervals to make sure the fit is good for you (especially before chopping anything off).

I hope this helps you make something cute and on trend! It’s a great way to avoid dishing out like £20-30 on something that’s relatively simply to do yourself and helps rescue and repurpose old cardigans. 🙂

Meg x

Spotty vegans: breakouts + dietary change?

Now, I can only correlate the outbreak of tiny, angry second-heads on my face as a direct result of going vegan. Deep, under the skin spots on my chin, a smattering of small pimple like constellations across my forehead, trickling down into angry, welt like lumps on my temples. Even a few rearing their ugly heads on my cheeks (how dare they!!).

Ah, nothing like the power of words to make you sick.

But honestly the sudden onset of these nuisances really affected my mood and the way I viewed myself. I’d never have spots, so why now? Eating all this wonderful plant-based, easy to digest food?

Queue much googling.

Apparently it’s ‘normal’ to have an outbreak when encountering dietary change of any sorts. One source even said it could be a sign of detox – if I believed in things such as detoxing (hello I have a liver for a reason, thank you). Another said vegan diets sometimes means a switch to a more carby based foods, which can contribute.

Either way, it wasn’t so easy for me to start scouring shops for products to rid me of these evil things – what with trying to be plastic free and (as much as poss) zero waste in the bathroom. But there’s a couple of things I started doing that I thought – hoped & prayed – might help.

  • Double cleansing – once to get rid of my makeup with a facial soap bar and another with a Lush oil cleanser I found in a bag of toiletries I had.
  • Toning with witch hazel diluted with water, as it also helps reduce inflammation and smells like a witch’s workshop.
  • Mixing sudacrem with my moisturiser as it’s anti-bacterial and apparently a bit of a cult product in the murky world of pots & potions. Not plastic free but very cheap and one pot lasts for like a millennia.

I also tried altering my diet, thinking ‘oh no what if it’s the bread, processed vegan cheese, and *gasp* soya’… but I quickly scuppered this plan. I’ve only just started enjoying food again, veganism helping rid me of several unhealthy fears I’d had about food – contributing to a frightening weight loss in 2017/2018. I don’t want to start restricting myself by demonising food I’d enjoyed. I can’t do that to myself. I know I am balanced (for the most part) and healthy (for the most part) – I will not punish myself for eating food I have enjoyed.

My mum recommended Evening Primrose Oil based on rave reviews from colleagues at her workplace and I decided there was no harm trying. After some research I found there was a double whammy of it (potentially) helping with cramps during menstruation. It’s a mixed bag of scientific evidence but I can only review based on my experience. Having one pill a night before bed seems to be really helping the hormonal (?) outbreaks of spots I get on my chin, especially the deep under the skin ones. The science behind it is that it contains Omega 6 fatty acids that help keep the skin plump and soft – and I think that’s what is helping my skin as it’s naturally quite dry. Also, the pre-menstrual/ovulation related pain doesn’t seem to be as bad as normal; my periods have been appearing out of thin air with little cramp notice. The only change has been the oil, so I think it’s helped in that way. Though my pain during periods is still pretty horrible. I’m not going to start raving about it though – there’s a lot of claims of what this oil can do and a lot of science refuting it as a miracle cure.

Lastly, and perhaps most effectively, is the cheapest, simplest, and most accessible solution of them all: steaming and hot compress! After cleansing my face I’ve been soaking a reusable cotton round in hot water and then wringing it out and applying the heated cloth to my chin area. The science is that it helps release the oily sebum by opening up the pores and helping clean these gunky spaces out. I’ve also been steaming my face once a week for the same reason. I have seen the biggest difference. It helps bring the pimples to the surface on those nasty under-the-skin spots and helps soften the skin so it doesn’t feel tight and dry. I cannot recommend doing this enough. I really do think this simple remedy has made the biggest difference, especially in culmination with my other solutions.

Some say that diet related spots will clear up by themselves, and whilst I didn’t want to wait months feeling a bit uncomfortable and painful in my own skin I was not going to sacrifice the healthy relationship I’d built with my food. Life, as they say, is for living.

How do you help get rid of spots?

Meg x

Article review: How the world got hooked on palm oil

Sorry I’ve been pretty much AWOL from here for a couple of weeks. I burnt out, I’ve got to admit – things have been HECTIC.

But I have been reading up on things, continuing my eco-journey by educating myself. Which leads me to this article from The Guardian.

Worldwide production of palm oil has been climbing steadily for five decades. Between 1995 and 2015, annual production quadrupled, from 15.2m tonnes to 62.6m tonnes. 

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

Now I’ve been aware for a while of how bad palm oil is for the environment and have somewhat tried to avoid it. But I haven’t really been awake to the ins-and-outs of why palm oil is as bad as it is.

So this article was very enlightening. I want to try and outline the reasons that, accordingly to Paul Tullis, palm oil came to be a bit of a miracle ingredient, and through that an environmental nightmare:

  • As a combination of different types of fats it is almost completely versatile, it can be used in baked goods, soaps, detergents, cosmetics, adhesives… the list goes on…
  • On top of that it has ‘low production costs’ (due to the ease and quantity of which is can be grown in comparison to other seed oil) – meaning it’s as cheap as all hell.
  • It’s a healthier additive to processed foods / as a cooking oil than the butters that preceded it. So when pressure was placed on the food industry to remove trans-fat and make products more heart-healthy, palm oil was a good solution.
  • In light of the rise of animal rights campaigning and a desire to buy more ‘natural’ products, in cosmetic etc., palm oil has replaced animal-derived fats.
  • It can be used as a bio-fuel:

A similar thing happened with biofuels – the intent to reduce environmental harm had unintended consequences. In 1997, a European commission reportcalled for increasing the percentage of total energy consumption from renewable sources.

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

The good, the bad, and the humanitarian crisis

Can there be anything good about palm oil? Well, yeah in a way:

  • Palm oil production is centralised in Malaysia and Indonesia, giving a boost to economy that was much needed. Palm oil accounts for ‘13.7% of Malaysia’s gross national income’, says Tullis. It has also aided in reducing poverty in the nation.
  • In areas such as India, the use of palm oil is almost symbolic of the country’s economic growth. Studies have shown that national wealth increases, so does the consumption of fat. That being said, it has moved from being used as a cheap, accessible cooking oil to also being used as a staple of new junk food chains that have appeared in wake of the economic growth.

Between 1993 and 2013, Indian per capita GDP expanded from $298 to $1,452. Over the same period, fat consumption in rural areas grew by 35% and in urban areas by 25%, and palm oil has been a major ingredient in this escalation.

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

So: economic growth, higher employment, a dependable wage, and more filling food – all very good things, all very necessary good things. How much can we weigh this against the very clearly bad side of palm oil?

In my opinion, whilst economic development in these countries is absolutely no bad thing, the fact is that the product, the contributing factor, isn’t sustainable. Demand is outgrowing production capacity, and just think about the consequence of very vital environments being razed to the ground. Eventually we’ll run out of area to chop and burn, they’ll be hundreds of thousands of animals killed, and ecosystems shattered. Resultantly, wouldn’t this cause an economic collapse? I’m not sure I can safely say, considering I have no experience in economics apart from paying my bills on time every month, but it seems like a tall, rickety tower.

The bad:

  • Pollution – when trees are burnt, a huge amount of carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation – again just another example of how humanity thinks it can shape the earth with ignorance of the consequence its destruction brings. I don’t think I need to go on about how heart wrenchingly bad deforestation is for the environment. But here’s a link to National Geographic’s article – according to them 502,000 square miles of land has been lost between 1990 and 2016.
  • Humanitarian issues – yes, palm oil can be associated with a global economic rise, yet children are working on the farms being paid barely more than a pittance…?
  • ‘Sustainable palm oil’ – the idea of sustainability is a bit of a myth, as per the below quote. It doesn’t make sense to me that a mill can be classed as ‘sustainable’ but this doesn’t necessarily stretch to the raw ingredients… Additionally, standards of sustainability are set ridiculously low by the organisations governing it (the RSPO).

For instance, a product can earn a “certified sustainable” label even if 99% of the palm oil it includes came from freshly deforested land.

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

Is it too late?

As the population of the world increases dangerously, so does the demand for resources such as palm oil. According to the article, demand will have nearly quadrupled by 2050. And it’s not easy to turn to other resources, especially considering these will mean deforestation still, but with less yield and more expense.

I think what shocked me most about the article, is how it’s also pointed out that schemes implemented by organisations, such as Iceland, have failed so far. It’s hard to not use palm oil – it’s going to take a long, sticky time to separate ourselves from the web of convenience it has created.

Additionally, the cost of labour on palm oil farms will increase… the boost in the economy ultimately means a class shift, with people having a steady income and accessing opportunities and products they weren’t able to before. It only makes sense that eventually there will be a demand for increased pay in line with their hard work on the farms and in the factories.

But that model isn’t sustainable. If things continue, the forests and their creatures will be gone, and the cost of labour will increase as some workers move up the economic ladder and realise there are better things they could be doing than picking fruit.

Paul Tullis, ‘How the world got hooked on palm oil’, The Guardian

So, what do I think?

Well, this article couldn’t have been more of a wake-up call for me if it had tried. I think, on a personal level, what I can do avoid buying anything with it in. This is already a bit stressful, I don’t know what I’m going to do about vegan spread – it always seems to have a high quantity of it in. At least I know why now.

Also, support organisations that are campaigning against deforestation. It isn’t sustainable, it’s a short-term benefit, it’s a long-term crisis. We can’t give back the ecosystems and lives we take away.

I hope this post was a bit helpful, the article was a bit meaty and I wanted something shorter to come back to when I needed a reminder of how bad palm oil is for us and the environment (one and the same, really). But I thought Tullis laid it all out there perfectly, nothing like statistics to make me feel all righteous and empowered – lol.

Let’s just avoid palm oil, shall we? Yeah, sounds like a good idea. Drive down that demand a bit and invest in finding sustainable alternatives that still prosper economic growth without pushing the environment into the pits (*desperately googles ‘sustainable alternatives to palm oil’*).

Your thoughts?

Meg x