BYO - Bring Your Own Singapore

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BYO - Bring Your Own Singapore
Free Motion Embroidery

The environmental movement in Singapore is picking up pace, but after so many years of debate and discussion, we still don't have a plastic bag tax, or a plastic bag ban. For the past 10 years or more, NTUC Fairprice, our local supermarket, gives us 10 cents off our grocery bill if you bring your own shopping bag, but realistically speaking this doesn't incentivise people to stop using plastic bags.

I have a few friends who have decided to take things in to their own hands. We have the community group, Plastic Lite, and BYO Singapore, a campaign organised by Zero Waste Singapore to reduce plastic disposables. The campaign will get retailers to offer incentives for customers who bring their own reusable containers, bottles or bags. 

Plastics is a Worldwide Problem

It's not just in Singapore! It may be very convenient to get a disposable straw, plastic cutlery or plates, but the fact of the matter is they are made from non-renewable fossil fuels, and they don't biodegrade. If they end up in our waterways and they're not breaking down, they pose a threat to marine life and birds. Isn't it time to reduce and even better, stop the use of plastics?

Bring Your Own - BYO Singapore

I decided to stitch the logo of the campaign as a gift to my friend. The logo comprised mostly of lettering and an image of a box, tumbler and bag.  I ended up with using a teal coloured scrap of jersey on which I layered a darker colour of cotton thread.  It wasn't filled up entirely as I thought it was a good idea to give the logo some depth.  On hindsight, I should not have settled on a woven piece of fabric because the jersey was so difficult to stitch (due to it's stretchy nature).

Free Motion Embroidery

The text and images were sewn on before the excess fabric were removed using a pair of small scissors. I adopted this method rather than applique because I felt the look was more organic.

Free Motion Embroidery

Support the Campaign

During the month of September:

1.  Post a picture of yourself using a reusable container, bag or bottle/cup

2.  Post a creative photo of yourself taking a pledge to use reusable containers when ordering takeaway or to carry a water bottle instead of buying bottled water for a week, etc.

3. Tag 1 (or more) people to take the BYO pledge after you!

Get Mending - How to Darn

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Get Mending - How to Darn

How to darn clothing - a DIY tutorial.
Mending Time

One of my son's favourite shorts got torn when he was out in the playground playing parkour. When your kid reaches a certain age they become very brave and try out the impossible on the climbing frames. Well, this time he ended up with tears up and down the inner leg of his shorts and came back saying, "It happens, mom!"  At least he asked whether it could be fixed instead of throwing them away. I quickly got out my embroidery thread, hoop and needle and darned away.

How to Darn

There have been a few comments on my video asking me where I learnt this technique and why it doesn't look like the darning they have seen. So here are my pointers:

a) I learnt it from my grandma. She didn't darn socks but she did patch up her cloth bags and clothes with this method. She established warp threads across the tear and then wove a tight weave across the warp (under and over alternate threads) until she covered the entire opening.
b) I used multi-coloured embroidery thread which is why you can see bits of yellow, red and blue in the thread. I think it adds character to the mend and gives it a Japanese boro look to the shorts. 
c) The embroidery hoop stabilises the fabric while you do the darning. If you are darning socks then you don't need the hoop but the darning egg.

Sharing Mending Techniques

After sharing this technique (see here), I was overwhelmed by the response and the many people who came forward to share their repairs and the memories it brought back for them.   I was excited to see how so many people had come in touch with mending in some form or another whether it be through their grandparents, parents or even as a reminder for them to get mending.  Two comments stood out. One came from reader, Robert (yes, a guy), and he said,

"Watching my Grandmother darn was fascinating to watch. The process is involved, but like stated it is beautiful. Like my grandmother, using different colors. I miss those days now, so this is great video. So yes darn it! Darn often and regularly. My Grandmother when helping my dad, as he was a single parent. Darn new pants in the knees, I was notorious for how quick I could wear out a set of Levi's after darning, my pants lasted until I grew out of them. There are many different stitching techniques for darning. Like quilting the benefits of tailoring, crocheting, knitting, darning are priceless."

Another came from Carole who said that invisible darning services (ie where the darning is such that the mend looks just like new) is available at the dry cleaners in the USA. So if you can't find the time to do it, there's always the dry cleaners.

Light Bulbs and Curtain Pole Ends

The make do and mend spirit is definitely alive!
A few readers wrote about their darning eggs and mushrooms (vintage too!) while others mentioned using light bulbs and even the wooden finial of a curtain pole to help them in mending; basically anything with a smooth round surface will do the trick.  This is Gail's darning egg passed onto her by her mother-in-law.

A Mended Bedsheet

Michelle shared her darning work on her bedsheet, which I thought was lovely because I would not have thought about mending such an item.  I usually end up chopping it up and upcycling it into something else. She said,

"The sheet is cotton flannel and the thread is just cotton sewing tread. I used and embroidery hoop and straight pins to hold the cloth in place, hand stitched a border around the tear, made long "warp" thread stitches, then wove the whole thing into a tidy little solution. Nothing fancy."

How to darn

Mended Pair of Shorts

Cleavan was very happy to have picked up darning and she told me she has been mending her partner's shorts eversince.  She has even been doing a little invisible mending; just look at how invisible it is!  Cleavan says she forgot to take a picture when she started so the red lines are how far the tear went. She darned the edges first because they were a lighter part of the plaid pattern using grey thread, before switching to black thread for the black middle section. I think it is a lovely job, don't you?

Invisible mending

Mended Lace

Katharine, the lovely seamstress from Needle &ThreadSmith, shared her wedding dress surgery where she used handsewing to repair a snag in the lace. You can read more about it here.    You can read about I how mended some lace gifted to me by an old lady here.

Mending lace

Hydrangea Patch

Rebecca shared her nifty free motion embroidery work and made herself a beautiful hydrangea repair patch. Now that's inspiration!

Repair patch using free motion embroidery

What have you been repairing?

How to Clean Your Sewing Machine

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How to Clean Your Sewing Machine
How to clean your sewing machine

I have been asked a few times about what model and which brand of sewing machine I use for my sewing, free motion embroidery and upcycling projects.  Many of you have asked whether I have gone and purchased an embroidery sewing machine. Well, the answer is a big NO, and my reasoning is as follows:

a) embroidery sewing machines are expensive, and if you are on a tight budget (like me), then no, you don't need one. In Singapore, the price can be more than $800 for a basic embroidery sewing machine. However, if you are looking at fancy preset embroidery patterns then perhaps these are for you.
b) some embroidery sewing machines have electronic components that are expensive to replace.
c) you can do free motion embroidery on any basic sewing machine that allows you to lower the dog teeth or at least has a cover to stop it from pulling your fabric back.

Here is my sewing machine, a SINGER that I purchased over 10 years ago. My issue now is that I have to toggle between the different tension settings when I want to sew normally and when I want to do some free motion.

How to clean your sewing machine

Regardless of what type of sewing machine you have, it's important to clean it out after every project, or even after an hour or so of sewing. The action of moving the fabric backwards and forwards on the plate creates an immense amount of lint that can clog up the bobbin case. A clogged up case means a jammed machine.

There are several things to take note when you are cleaning your sewing machine:

1. Do not blow into your machine. It is really tempting to purse your lips and give it a good puff but trust me, you will be pushing all the lint back into the machine. Don't do it!
2. Use a vacuum cleaner - if you find it a hassle to take it out of the store room just to clean out your sewing machine, you can purchase a handheld one. What I do is I vacuum the sewing machine every time I use the vacuum cleaner for cleaning the house.
3. Use the brush that comes with the sewing machine to brush away the lint.
4. Open up the bobbin case and the plate to get to all areas that the lint could possibly be hiding in.
5. Be patient too. Spend as much time as you can to get all that lint out!

Is your sewing machine jammed? You might like this post.

Ultimate Sewing Machine Repair Cheatsheet

Patch & Repair Workshop

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Repair Workshop

Have you ever wondered what to do with your torn clothing?
Toss it in the bin? Leave it in the wardrobe? Convert it into a rag? Maybe even upcycle?
If it's just a tear, don't toss it, repair it.

Momshoo and I will be sharing our patch and darning tips and you'll come away with the skills to beautify those boo-boos away.  Not only that but you will have a repair sampler to take home so that you can refer to it each time you need to repair your garments. What a better way to start your mending journey, because mending is definitely trending!

2 hour workshop, $60 per ticket
Key in HI5 for early bird discount code - $5 off!
26 August, available times 11am - 1pm, and 2 - 4pm.
Sign up  or

This workshop is part of the FestivalForGood and is conducted in collaboration with Coopita Asia and Fashion Revolution Singapore.

Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus Bark

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Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus Bark
Natural Dyes with Eucalyptus Bark

What have I been doing this past month? Well, I am working on my upcycled installation, "Nature in Stitches", exploring the local flora and how the public can connect with nature. I have slightly less than a month because the installation will be featured at the Singapore Eco Film Festival from 1 - 3 September.  It's slowly getting there.
I visited Hock Siong to purchase the old hotel bed sheets - oh my goodness, I didn't realise a king sized bed sheet would be so heavy to carry home. I wish I had bought my suitcase along with me.
I have been collecting mango leaves and eucalyptus bark to dye the bed sheets.
Last week the mango leaves gave lovely hues of brown, but I was looking for a green colour and I was fortunate to find out that to retain the colour the leaves should not be boiled for too long.

Preparing Eucalyptus Bark

I collected a lot of bark from the park but I didn't want to be taking red ants back home so I made sure to shake them off! Getting bitten by a red ant is awfully painful so be careful what you encounter in the park. 
One of the most important things about the preparation is cutting the bark into tiny pieces and then steeping it over night in hot water. I found it difficult cutting up the bark with a pair scissors, but I got there. I'll probably need to find myself a proper tool to do the cutting.

Boiling the Bark

The colour (tannin) that came out of the bark just through steeping looked almost like a strong pu'er tea. At this stage, I must emphasise that it is very, no extremely important to always label your experiments and place them somewhere so no one will unknowingly consume it.  In fact, after labelling them, HIDE them.  We are talking about health and safety here, and we would not want any accidents to happen.
Once the bark has been soaked, it is now time to transfer the bark and the water into your dyeing pot (not cooking pot!). I topped up the water to make sure everything was submerged and simmered the concoction for 1 hour. 
Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus Bark

Dyeing the Fabric

As soon as that was done, I took out the bark and popped in my fabric. At this point, it seems I have to consider getting a bigger pot. The second time I did this with a larger piece of cotton (40cm x 40cm) the fabric could not move and I ended up with streaks. I think I need a big vat!
Don't you think the eucalyptus bark gives a lovelier brown than the mango leaves? 
Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus Bark

Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus Bark

On this note, I have been looking at our National Parks website and found that there is a variety of eucalyptus trees in Singapore. I am still trying to find out what species of eucalyptus I have in my local park. If you have any idea, please let me know!

Eucalyptus tree, Singapore

Dyeing with Mango Leaves

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Dyeing with Mango Leaves
This is the latest update on my natural dye journey and how it can be used to upcycle our clothes. So far, I have tried eco-prints but haven't ventured into immersive dyeing.

Mangoes are one of my favourite fruits, and they are sometimes known as the king of fruits, the other one being durian (although some people dispute this and say durian is the only king!). The sweetest mangoes are grown in India and Pakistan, and the best ones that make a mean mango pudding are those that are over ripe. Unfortunately, the mangoes (mangifera indica) that grow along the roadside in Singapore are very sour, but my friend says they are very good for making pickled mangoes. I haven't tried making pickled mangoes, but I was very curious about the colour mango leaves produce.

Dyeing with Mango Leaves


I did not know what to expect with the green mango leaves that I had collected from my local park, but the mangiferin in the leaves is known to produce a range of yellow to brown colours depending on the type of textile and type of metallic mordants used. Even my cat, Ajay, was beginning to get curious with all the leaves on my workspace - he's so used to having the sewing machine.

Dyeing with Mango Leaves


The leaves collected from the mango tree were already on the ground and had an intense green colour; I did not collect the dry or brown coloured leaves. These leaves were washed in cold water to remove dirt and any insects before cutting them into small pieces and placed in a pot.

Dyeing with Mango Leaves

Harvested: 146grams
Amount of water: 1.5 liters
Simmering time: 2 hours

I left the pot overnight before trying out a few dyeing techniques - immersive and shibori - with old cotton bedsheets (treated with soy milk) and an old silk handkerchief.

Silk versus Cotton

I found that the silk took up the colour very readily. The cotton, on the other hand, was rather difficult and the colours were not even. I tried some shibori with clothes pegs as well and was happy to see the patterns that it created.  I basically had a long rectangular strip of the bedsheet which I folded in half length wise, before carefully folding it into a triangle.  The clothes pegs created little white patches on the fabric.

After the initial round of dyeing, I decided to add less than 10ml of iron rust to the dye pot and further simmered another piece of cotton. The rust had caused the wheat-coloured dye to become a dark brown. I initially thought it was black, but after the fabric was dried, the colour became a dark brown.

Dyeing with Mango Leaves
Dyeing with Mango Leaves

Dyeing with Mango Leaves - Shibori
Dyeing with Mango Leaves
From left to right: mango leaves on cotton, silk handkerchief, mango leaves plus iron on cotton

Dyeing with Mango Leaves
Outcome of the shibori

Working on My Next Project

The lessons I learned in the project is that
a) green leaves don't produce green
b) natural colours take time to be extracted from the leaves and adhere to the textiles
c) immersive dyeing brings out different colours compared with eco prints. You might remember the eco print that I did just a few weeks ago.

Eco printing with leaves
Eco printed leaves - note the mango leaf at the top right hand corner

Why am I excited? Well, I am looking forward to applying these colours to my next project, an installation involving stitching and getting the public closer to nature. Stay tuned for my next blog post with eucalyptus!  Do take a look at my dye experiments with the eucalyptus bark.

Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus Bark

This post is part of the Shibori Indigo Dye Week organised by Stephanie of Swoodson Says. Check out the other posts this week.

Monday 7/24 Sarah at Sewing with Sarah - Shibori Top  Stephanie at Swoodson Says - Shibori Kit Review
Tuesday 7/25 Katie at Creative Counselor - Shibori Shift Dress Sara at Radiant Home Studio - Shibori Zipper Pouch
Wednesday 7/26 Vicky at Vicky Myers Creations - Shibori Scarf Stephanie at Swoodson Says - Shibori Blanket
Thursday 7/27 Maryanna at Marvelous Auntie M - Shibori Bag Ula at Lulu & Celester - Shibori Clutch
Friday 7/28 Laurel at My Heart Will Sew On - Shibori Maxi Skirt Agy at Agy Textile Artist - Shibori with Mango Leaves Stephanie at Swoodson Says - Shibori Curtains