Chartreuse Shop Special: Blue Owl Home Boutique

blue owl 4 Blue Owlblue owl 2 blue owl 5

Some of my readers know that since last summer, I have been working part-time at an antique shop in Vancouver. Over its last three years of business, Blue Owl Home Boutique established itself as one of the best spots in the city to find one-of-a-kind vintage and hand-picked  pieces for the home. The shop’s owner Amanda has a deep appreciation for heritage and a talent for curating an aesthetic that is at once nostalgic and whimsical. Although most of the items at Blue Owl are genuine antiques, her careful selection somehow made these ‘old’ pieces become new again.

Recently, Amanda and her family announced that they will be moving on, and Blue Owl will be closing its doors for good in one month’s time. Although the store will be no more soon enough, I wanted to write a special feature on this shop to highlight its ‘chartreuse-ness’ and to encourage you all to visit while you still can.

Working at Blue Owl meant so much to me, not only because I was surrounded by beautiful and inspiring pieces, but because being there allowed me to share my passion for repurposed and reused home style with others. I had many a conversation with shoppers about the beauty of investing in furniture with a history. Antiques are usually better crafted than the mass-produced furniture of today, and of course, they are easier on the environment. Call me romantic, but I also like to imagine the lives of those who owned a piece before me and the kind of value it must have held for them.

I’d like to congratulate my dear friend Amanda on this very chartreuse business venture and I wish her and her family well as they move on to bigger and better things. And if you’re reading this, you live in Vancouver, and you’ve never been to Blue Owl, check it out ASAP!!!

http://www.blueowlhomeboutique.com

Water as a fashion victim? The lesser known evils of cotton

When I think of the fashion industry’s footprint on the Earth, my mind usually goes to the images I’ve seen of landfills made up almost exclusively of clothing, or of the plumes of smoke rising from a garment factory. Until recently, I have never given thought to the fashion industry’s impact on water. But I was surprised to learn that the textile industry is the third largest consumer of water in the world.  Clearly, water usage is a reason why the fashion business is among the most environmentally damaging industries around.

But where is all that water going? An astonishing fact I learned is that most of the garments being produced today are made of cotton, and cotton uses excessive amounts of water. This is because cotton plants are very thirsty and need to be watered intensively, especially when grown outside of their natural environment. Then there’s the dye process, which also uses and pollutes massive amounts of water. As a result, a simple cotton t-shirt can require up to 1,500 litres of water!

Up until now, I mistakenly assumed that cotton was also environmentally friendly because it was natural. I was particularly convinced by the ‘organically grown cotton’ label, but I’ve since found that these are not much better because they use just as much water and are dyed in the same chemicals as non-organic cotton. So how might a self-proclaimed fashionista tread such murky waters of consumer misinformation?

1) Buy less new. The things I learned in researching for this post have re-invigorated me on the path of re-use and reduce in my style decisions. As readers know well by now, this blog is about incorporating an ethical conscience in expressing style. Considering the current water extraction rates of the garment industry, I am prompted to check out my local second-hand shop or to look at re-working my existing wardrobe next time the shopping bug beckons.

2) If you must buy, look for quality investment pieces. Fast fashion (affordable apparel mostly aimed at young women) has increased the turnover in our wardrobes and changed our expectations of how long a garment is meant to last. Instead of purchasing cheaply made items that don’t hang around my closet for longer than a season, I look for pieces that I know will stand the test of time. They will be more expensive, but since I buy less overall, my pocketbook doesn’t seem to mind too much.

Of course, the water woes of cotton and the greater fashion industry footprint aren’t only dependent on the decisions of consumers- the industry definitely needs an overhaul of its unsustainable practices. But I want to leave you with hope! The quest for alternative raw fibre sources is growing, and garment innovators have been introducing improvements in dye technologies. To learn more about some of these neat innovations to help the environment, I leave you with TreeHugger.com’s Top 10 Awesome Innovations Changing the Future of Fashion. Here’s hoping that these ideas are worth their weight in water. :)

http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/10-awesome-innovations-changing-future-fashion.html

Learning to Affirm Myself, Positively

Okay, so I know it’s been a while since I posted anything. The fall brought many transitions for me; namely, I started grad school. This clearly made me busier and less motivated to keep up with the blogging, but it also caused me to lose sight of what this blog is about: happy living. Of course I was super happy to have the opportunity to learn something new, at a brand new school in a brand new city. But while I was excited to take on this new journey in my life, I also unknowingly packed a few extra ‘bags’ of self-doubt for the trip, making for some trying times ahead.

The last few months have been full of ups and downs plus a lot of questions involving my own self-belief. Could I really take on the workload of a master’s program? Could I converse with ‘intellectuals’? Was I ‘intellectual’ enough? Innovative enough? Courageous enough? Would people even like me? These thoughts and questions swirled around in my head over and over again, choking the fun out of being a student and making me forget what it was like to be happy. Months went by before I realized that I needed to do some active thought replacement therapy if I was going to rid myself of those pesky negativities once and for all. Hence, my latest crafting activity.

In the midst of another self pity party I was having as a result of an unsuccessful job application, I decided I would make a positive affirmations jar. I took a note-pad and wrote down positive statements for myself to remember, folded them up, and stuffed them into a mason jar. The statements are simple and are designed to remind me of the good in situations when I seem to have forgotten (such as, “when life brings challenges, I know that they are just opportunities in disguise”, or, “I have the smarts to do whatever I put my mind to”). I plan to take a few statements out next time I’m having a hard time remembering what happy living is about. Call it cliché, but I’m willing to give this thing a shot! Check out what a positive affirmation jar could look like below:

affirmation jar

Photo credit: http://katieorse.typepad.com/katie_orse_close_to_my_he/business/

On my own version, I attached a gift tag given to me by my sister with the following quote by Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you don’t do than by the one you do do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I felt it was a fitting label. :)

Oh happy at home: DIY candles

Candles 1  Candles 3

Candles 5  Candles 2

Images:

  1. http://www.beadandcord.com/clipper/rachael.stevens.1366648/room-decor-9282/28097.html
  2. http://bathnbody.craftgossip.com/diy-eco-friendly-soy-wax-candles/2012/01/04/
  3. http://you-havent-done-nothing.blogspot.ca
  4. http://media-cache-ec3.pinterest.com/upload/107734616056280487_7HCWIV9C_f.jpg

Before I moved across the country and had to seriously de-clutter my life of stuff, I was a candle fiend. Over the years I collected so many that I had storage boxes of them by the season! The problem with many of them, however, was that while they smelled amazing before being lit, the scent they gave off while burning tended to make me nauseous. Which explains my collection of half-used candles.

Later, I discovered that it wasn’t just me; candles made with paraffin wax release chemicals into the air while burning that can make you sick. In fact, the emissions they give off are compared to diesel engine fumes! Yuck. So, in light of this news about the dangers of paraffin wax (no pun intended), I am presenting you with pictures from a little DIY candle-making session my friends and I did with soy wax.

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We settled upon making container candles, but there are great instructions for DIY-ing all kinds of candles at http://www.wicksandwax.com/instructions.htm.

If you’re in Vancouver and you’d like to make your own candles too, Homesteader’s Emporium is a great little shop that carries everything you need.

Happy candle-making everyone!

Chartreuse shop feature: Block Shop Textiles

Block Shop 1 Block Shop 5

Block Shop 6 Block Shop 7

I was so happy to stumble upon Block Shop Textiles during one of my recent blog-hopping-geek marathons at the computer. Block Shop is a textile manufacturer founded by sisters Lily and Hopie, who partner with the Chihpa family of Master Printers in Bagru, India to produce the most lovely, hand block-printed scarves.

I love Block Shop‘s scarves because they are not only beautiful, but also environmentally friendly. Only non-toxic natural dyes (such as onion skins, turmeric and pomegranate skins!) are used in the printing process. The scarf fabric is a blend of locally-sourced silk and cotton, not synthetic material. The scarf-making process is also guided by hand, not machines, utilizing simple techniques such as boiling and sun-drying. Each scarf truly is an artisanal- and sustainable- work of art!

Block Shop 2 Block Shop 3

Block Shop‘s approach to making scarves is also ethically conscious. Block-printing is an ancient textile tradition that has been enabled to continue through Block Shop‘s business design, but Lily and Hopie have taken their commitment to Bagru a step further by giving back to the community. A portion of the sales from each scarf helps to fund a mobile eye care clinic in the region.

To learn more about the process and to support Block Shop’s initiative by buying one of their scarves, visit http://www.blockshoptextiles.com.

All images: http://www.blockshoptextiles.com.

Oh happy trend feature: The Lace Short

Lace Shorts 1 Lace Shorts 2

Lace Shorts 3 Lace Shorts 4

Images:

  1. http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=27102904
  2. http://southernpiphi.tumblr.com/post/52862255379
  3. http://www.sheinside.com/Keeping-it-Casual-photo-8287.html?medium=HardPin&source=Pinterest&campaign=type173&ref=hardpin_type173
  4. http://www.ahaishopping.com/ahaishopping-7715-Lace+shorts+WDK9456+Pink.html

With shorts season finally upon us in Vancouver, I am inspired by the array of options for dressing up the classically casual summer standby. The lace short is a particularly graceful way to face the heat without ‘losing your cool’ (haha). Whether layered to look like ruffles, scalloped along the seam, or dyed in a bright summery hue, lace shorts add sophistication to an otherwise simple outfit. I love them because you can just pair them with a chambray denim top and leather sandals and you’re good to go!

THRIFT TIP:

In my thrift store hunts, I’ve found that the lace short is pretty difficult to source secondhand. If you’re like me, you might also have a hard time in general finding shorts that are just the right fit. But don’t lose hope! With a bit a tweaking, it’s possible to get the look without resorting to a brand-new purchase.

DANDY DIY:

Lace Shorts 5

Start with a pair of shorts already in your closet that fit well, but could use a bit of updating (think: shorts with paint or grass stains!). You could also hunt for a thrifted pair, which might be easier than looking for lace ones. Shorts that work best for this idea:

  • Are fitted but not too tight (since the lace likely won’t have as much stretch at the short and you don’t want it to rip).
  • Have a side/back zipper instead of a front one. This makes your sewing process a lot simpler.
  • Are not cuffed/don’t already have added textural details- again this will interfere with the lace laying flat.

Next, head to a fabric/craft store to find some lace that can be sown ontop of your shorts. I would look for wide lace trim that can be layered to give the ruffled effect. You could also get creative and thrift the lace out of some old tablecloths or curtains.

Then, beginning at the waist, use a sewing machine to sew along the straight edge of the lace trim, leaving the scalloped edge loose. You can choose to do the whole short, or just the front. Once your first layer is complete, place the next layer just under the first so that there is about an inch of overlap. Pin the first layer out of the way, then sew the second layer. Continue until you reach the bottom of the short. Don’t worry if the last layer ends below the natural seam-line of the short, as this will add to the effect.

I definitely plan on trying this little DIY. It makes me happy to know that, when finished, my shorts will be a one-of-a-kind piece AND I will have used very little new material to make them. Stay tuned for results :)

What do you think? Will you try this DIY for yourself?

Oh happy at home: DIY Greeting Cards

It’s been a hectic week for me. Working full-time hours is not something I’ve done for a long time, and since I’m also adapting to a new job, let’s just say my resources have been pretty drained lately. Having said that, I don’t at all regret that I managed to squeeze in a little craft date with some friends on Saturday. I find crafting to be very therapeutic, and it allowed me the time I needed to de-stress. Not only that, but we made greeting cards, which will be a lovely way for me to re-connect with loved ones at home on the other side of the country. Here are some photos of our little DIY project in progress:

IMG_0393 IMG_0395 IMG_0392 IMG_0394

Some of us used dried and pressed flowers, while others crafted with bits and scraps of pretty paper. One of my friends also hit up Urban Source Alternative Art Materials, a little shop on Main St. in Vancouver that sells discards and misprints (that would otherwise end up in landfills) for crafting purposes (http://www.urbansource.bc.ca). It’s a great feeling to make beautiful things out of what others deem to be ‘trash’.

I invite you to do a little DIY with greeting cards- and I challenge you not to buy anything new but to collect bits and scraps of what you already have. You might be surprised at what you are able to dig up!

Chartreuse shop feature: Valiant Bob

Valiant Bob 1 Valiant Bob 2 Valiant Bob 3 Valiant Bob 4

All images: http://www.valiantbob.com

I love what my friends Tyla and Lacy are up to with Valiant Bob, their line of eco-friendly and updated vintage garments for men and women. Beginning with a desire to create the perfect organic cotton t-shirt, their business venture blossomed into work with vintage patterns. Together, they hunt through thrift stores to find tablecloths and other fabrics that are upcycled into the most beautiful peasant dresses, skirts and tops. Each item is crafted by hand, right here in Canada. From design to production, Valiant Bob is promoting standards of ethical and sustainable fashion. Plus, their clothing is just really pretty and carefree!

My personal favourite is this little floral elastic miniskirt. It has such a vibrant and whimsical pattern that I find irresistible!

Valiant Bob 5

If you’re looking to support a Canadian retailer that makes local, sustainable and earth-friendly clothing, look no further! Support my friends by checking out their website ( http://www.valiantbob.com) and by purchasing an item from their Etsy shop (http://www.etsy.com/shop/valiantbob?ref=seller_info). And if you’re in Toronto, they are also at the Arts Market ( http://www.artsmarket.ca/) at 846 College St. in Little Italy.

Chartreuse shop feature: People Tree

People Tree 2 People Tree 4  People Tree 3 People Tree 5

All images: http://www.peopletree.co.uk/

We typically don’t associate words like ‘sustainability’ and ‘fair trade’ with ‘fashionable’. True, with increasing concerns like climate change, there has been quite a bit of corporate greenwashing, making ‘eco-friendly’ a catch word. But apart from the stereotypical tree-hugging hippie style, it’s hard to picture what sustainable and fair trade fashion actually looks like.

Enter clothing label People Tree and its line of garments that are made with respect for both its manufacturers and the environment. People Tree takes its fair trade designation seriously, not just by paying fair prices to the producers who make their garments, but also by supporting local charities for a better quality of life. An example: its partnership with a group called Bombolulu Workshops that  empowers the physically disabled in Kenya. By building and maintaining lasting relationships with the communities that create their garments, People Tree is transforming the business side of the fashion industry.

But if you thought that was enough to set them apart, People Tree is also committed to reducing its ecological footprint. By producing hand-made clothes, they are making use of human energy rather than electricity. By supporting organic cotton growers, they are decreasing the amount of chemicals that get absorbed by the earth. And, by recycling most of their outputs, they are reducing the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.

There should be more clothing companies doing what People Tree is doing. But don’t take my word for it- check them out for yourself! Here’s to hoping that the UK-based outfitter makes its way to Vancouver soon, or better yet, that more clothing labels take the same direction!

http://www.peopletree.co.uk/

Oh happy at home: DIY Terrariums

Terrarium 1 Terrarium 3 Terrarium 2
 
Image 1: http://handmadepride.tumblr.com/post/45283993247/click-here-for-more-handmade-goodness
Image 2: http://www.thebalconygardener.com/shop/terrariums/a-long-way-to-ride/
Image 3: http://abbeymckennasucculentdesigns.com/collections/
 
I love fresh-cut flowers as much as the next girl. But I also find it depressing to know that many flowers travel a long (and fossil-fuel burning!) distance only to wither and die in our apartment a week later. Hence, in an effort to breathe sustainable life into our home this spring, I have been exploring terrariums.
 
Terrariums are self-contained growing environments for plants. They are ideal for the home because they can be as big or as small as your space allows for, and they require little sunlight or maintenance once established. As most of you know that we recently downsized to a place with no backyard, terrariums are the perfect way to get our gardener fix, in miniature format!

Here are the results of our little terrarium-building experiment:

IMG_0362 IMG_0364 IMG_0363
 

HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN TERRARIUM:

1. Find a container. Clear glass is usually most suitable as it allows better sunlight access, but you can also use plastic- recycled pop bottles with the tops cut off make perfect terrarium containers!

2. Make sure your terrarium has a decent drainage system. Pots from gardening stores often have built-in drip trays, but if you’re working with glass, place stones/pebbles at the bottom of your jar so that your plants aren’t sitting in water. Stacking the stones about 1 inch should do.

3. Add plants and fill in with soil. You can select any number of plants for your terrarium, but try to find ones that need approximately the same amount of sunlight and water. Or, try to keep plants that need less water on a higher gradient so that the water drains to the ‘needier’ plants.

4. Follow plant care instructions written on the tags for your plants. Enjoy!

A full instructional on terrarium building can be found at the following the website:

http://www.ehow.com/how_8579938_make-terrarium-plants.html

Are you thinking about starting your own indoor garden, or have you already done so? If so, I would love to see your pictures and find out how it’s making your life a little greener- and happier. :) Share away!