Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

28 September 2015
Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

My talented sister is sharing a step by step guide to making your own cutlery wraps.

I am selling these in my Starter Kits for Plastic Free and Zero Waste Living (sold out), and it was my sister who made these and the bag for the kits. I know there are plenty of people who are handy with a sewing machine (or a needle and thread) and would be interested in making these rather than purchasing one.

My cutlery wrap sits in my handbag, goes with us to the farmers market each Sunday, has travelled across the US and to the Phillipines.

I am in talks with my sister about selling these individually - until then, enjoy the tutorial.

The cotton poplin is vintage Ken Done and a repurposed red canvas. Thanks sis!

Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

What you will need

Sewing machine
Ruler/tape measure

Cotton canvas
Cotton poplin
Cotton tape

Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

STEP 1 - Draw pattern

You can make it as big or as little as you want depending on your needs. Below are the dimensions I used. 
  • 50cm x 25cm
  • 1cm seam allowance
  • Draw a notch for cotton tape insert 21-23cm up left side of pattern 
  • Fold line 11cm up

STEP 2 - Cut/Lay fabric

Iron fabric.

Cut 1 cotton canvas and 1 cotton poplin.

Cut 50cm of cotton tape.

Notch (2mm snip with scissors) appropriate markers such as seam allowance and cotton tape 
parameters on fabric.

Right sides facing each other (poplin on top).

Fold cotton tape in half.

Place the folded end of tape in between the two pieces of fabric at the notch indicated.

Pin down.

STEP 3 - Sew

Sewing machine -Stitch length 3.

Sew the three sides.

Snip the 2 corners at an angle and cut away ¾ of the cotton poplin off the three sides. This removes some bulk when turning it out.

Turn the wrap out, use the scissors and gently push the corners out to make right angles.
Iron down corners and edges.

STEP 4 - Now to enclose the wrap

Stitching will be visible from here on. So you may change the stitch length to 4 as it is more aesthetically pleasing.

At the opening, fold 1cm seam allowance inwards, pin it together and iron.

Line up the foot of sewing machine to the edge of wrap to close this opening. This will be 7mm.

Now on the other end, fold up 10cm, iron and pin.

Sew from the folded end up (follow the edge as you did previously) both sides.

Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

STEP 5 - Onto the pockets

From the left side of the fold I make 4 cutlery pockets (3cm each) the remaining pocket is for the cloth napkin (9.5cm)

Adjust pockets to fit your cutlery needs, just sew from the folded end up 10cm.

Cutlery wrap sewing tutorial

Voila, that’s a WRAP!!!!!

To fill up your kit, look out for eateries that have wooden takeaway utensils and keep them for your wrap. If you are going to put metal cutlery into the wrap, remember to remove if you are taking the wrap onto a plane in your carry on as there is a high chance you will loose all your cutlery! A simple old hanky can work for your napkin too. If you want to buy a reuseable straw, check out Biome's range.

Feel free to leave any questions about this tutorial below, and my sister will answer. Feeling keen to make a wrap? I'd love to see it. Take a snap and send it to me or post it to your social media with the tag #bringyourowncutlery

Sustainability in Style: Navigating the world of synthetic and natural fibres

25 September 2015
My post on synthetic fibers was nothing more than me trying to nut out my thoughts. I try to live a plastic free life, and this blog is the records of my experiments. So after I hit publish on that post I received emails from some of you, letting me know that i can't save the world. This is true, I cannot save the world and believe the world will adapt in its own way with or without us humans.

Essentially I was confused about my clothing. I feel like I have sorted my life when it comes to avoiding plastic. But then something sneaks in or reminds me that it won't ever be completely plastic free leaving me with the feeling that the only option is to run into the hills and live in a cave. I can only do the best with what I have got and since I was feeling a little lost and confused about synthetic fibers as a contributor to plastic pollution I decided to contact Katie of Sustainability in Style to help me navigate new and second hand fashion. Since I did not have the well rounded knowledge Katie has, a former fashion industry employee, I asked her to pen a post for you and ME that would help us understand the world of synthetic and natural fibers.

Sustainability in Style

The world of fashion can be difficult to navigate.

From finding a car park outside the department store to finding the right sized bikini, there is a multitude of problems to solve every time we head out with intent to add something new to our closet. Some issues we can solve easily: like riding our bike to the store instead of driving or choosing to shop online, while others (like finding the right bikini) aren’t necessarily within our immediate control.

We live in a world where the supply of fashion items is becoming increasingly abundant. Our world that now consumes eighty billion pieces of clothing each year. This is up 400% from just two decades ago. To meet this increasing demand for fashion world fiber production is now 82 million tons, which requires 145 million tons of coal and somewhere between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion gallons of water to produce. You would think that this abundant supply would make shopping for clothing and accessories (including the dreaded bikini) easier and more enjoyable. However, designs are dictated by seasonal trends and the current industry trend is ‘fast’ with some stores operating on the release of 52 new collections a year. If trends or the season aren’t suited for your purchase it can be difficult to find exactly what you want. Worse still, there is very little transparency in the garment manufacturing chain so it can be difficult to know the background behind your purchase, and many fast fashion brands are guilty of using cheap off-shore labour. The kind that encourages manufacturing in conditions like those of the Rana Plaza, where 1129 people were killed when a garment factory collapsed despite factory managers having been warned to evacuate the unsound structure in the day’s prior. Furthermore, 91% of companies surveyed for the Baptist World Aid 2015 report don’t know where all their cotton comes from, and 75% don’t know the source of all their fabrics and inputs. From this it is easy to see that for The Rogue Ginger conscious consumer who aims for a life of mindful and simple living; free from trash, plastic, and toxins, the world of fast fashion can be minefield of hidden nasties.

Sustainability in Style

The Thoughtful Fashion Purchase

As conscious consumers it is important to consider the entirety of the purchase. From product conception to end of life disposal there are implications of each and every item we buy. This concept of thinking is called ‘cradle to grave' lifecycle assessment. Taken a step further, some folk in sustainability design circles have developed a cradle to cradle’ approach. Cradle to cradle design looks beyond the grave into how a product that reaches the end of its life can be transformed into a fully usable product with minimal to no waste. While some fashion companies do use cradle to cradle manufacturing techniques, much of the discussion on this cradle to cradle ‘closed loop’ design is focused on synthetic fabrics because these are more readily recyclable than biodegradable natural fibres. Unfortunately these synthetic fibres don’t readily align with the goals of living a plastic free lifestyle. Which brings us to the bit where we talk fabrics.

Polyester is Plastic

Synthetic fibres are derivatives of the coal (and sometimes gas) industry. They are clothing made from polymers that do not occur naturally. These fibres are products of years of scientific research and are made in the laboratory and chemical plant. Commonly used synthetic fibres in fast fashion manufacturing include polyester (from polymer, polyethylene terephthalate), acrylic (from acrylonitrile), nylon (from polyamide) and lycra (Polyurethane). Polyester production now exceeds 50 billion pounds a year worldwide and is the dominant fiber. A quick Google on the sources of synthetic fibres and you will find they are the same sources used for the production of everything from soft drink bottles to takeaway food containers. This is how companies like Patagonia can turn old plastic bottles into board shorts. Synthetics are highly desirable within the fashion industry as they are easy to care for, long lasting, and readily available on the global textile market.

However, Luz Claudio paints a not-so-pretty picture of the manufacturing of polyester in the paper Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry, stating that:

“the manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease. Volatile monomers, solvents, and other by-products of polyester production are emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants”

Also adding that:

‘The EPA, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, considers many textile manufacturing facilities to be hazardous waste generators”.

Synthetic Fibres and End of Life

While there is potential for synthetic fibres to be recycled and for synthetic fabrics to be made from recycled material (ECONYL is the new darling of the recycled fabric scene and gaining serious traction in swimwear circles) this practice isn’t common. The average American is throwing away 82 pounds of textile waste a year adding up to 11 million tonnes of textile waste from the USA alone. Assuming that around half of this textile waste is comprised of synthetics that make for at least 5.5 million tonnes of non-biodegradable textile waste from one nation. Nylon, as an example, takes up to four decades to decompose.

While donating clothing to charity can in fact divert items from ending up in landfill, statistics from The True Cost indicate that only 10% of items donated end up being sold in charity stores, with the remainder being shipped off for second-hand clothing markets (which have their own ethical issues), or being sent for rag recycling and eventually to landfill.

Wear and Wash Issues for Synthetics

Upon invention in the 1940’s synthetic fabrics were a dream for housewives and single men across the globe as they are naturally more resistant to creasing and often require very little ironing. But like most things that seem too good to be true, synthetics have their downside when it comes to wash and wear. Ever smelt your armpits while wearing a synthetic shirt? There is a good chance that they were a little stinky. You don’t believe this? Rachel McQueen, an associate professor from the University of Alberta has conducted studies into the stink factor of fabrics and has discovered that polyester is the number one offender when it comes to retaining body odour. Stink factor has more implications in life than having people move away from you on public transport, it also means you will be washing your garments more frequently.

Laundering of garments contributes to around 82% of the items total energy embodiment and 66% of its solid waste and half of it’s emissions to air come from washing and drying. The less frequently you have to wash, the more environmentally friendly your purchase becomes. According to McQueen’s research you are better off opting for fibres like wool, that have natural antimicrobial properties that help keep stink at bay (between you and I, my wool might only get washed every few months) as these usually only require an airing between wears. There have also been some murmurs around the web that synthetics when washed can release fibres into the waterways contributing to global oceanic pollution.

The saddest part about this polyester washing mission? Polyester tends to hold smells even after washing, so that sport shirt that never seems to smell quite right probably never will no matter how diligently you wash or how many different laundry powders you use!

What are the alternatives?

Every day new and innovative fabric ideas are being created and we are now seeing everything from spoilt milk to fruit are being made into material for the manufacturing of clothing and accessories. While some of these fabrics haven’t reached mainstream textiles, clothing, and footwear manufacturers just yet, the industry openly embraces innovation if it can be made at the right price. At present the most common fabric alternatives to synthetic you will find on the market are: Viscose/Rayon/Modal/Bamboo, Cotton, Wool, and Leather (click each one for more info). The first group are man-made fibres from a re-constructed natural source, primarily manufactured through a chemical process of reconstructing plant cellulose into usable fibre, while cotton, wool, and leather are all grown, harvested, and converted to product using traditional manufacturing processes (some of which can be quite chemical intensive). Of course this list only focuses on the most predominant fibres found in our stores. There are a variety of alternatives out there in fabric land and this site is a favourite resource of mine for learning about fibre types.

Sustainability in Style

So what fabrics should I choose?

Unfortunately there is no definitive answer to this multifaceted question. The final thoughts from research into the life cycle assessment of synthetics vs. natural fibres states that:

“In reality, no single fabric is the best for the environment. It is up to consumers to demand that manufactures take a closer look at the processes to produce clothing and find the best way to make it healthier for everyone involved”.

What it all really comes down it is asking yourself ‘what do I value', doing your research, and getting the right item the first time around. When it comes to values we all differ. Many people opt for synthetics as an alternative to animal based products like leather handbags and shoes, however if you values are orientated around plastic free living this may not appeal at all. Generally I like to consider the end purpose of my items when deciding on what fibres to opt for. Most of my bags and shoes are leather (around 80% purchased second-hand) as I appreciate the durability of leather products and the fact a leather crafts person can easily repair them. Many of my shoes have been to the cobbler at least once and I own one pair of leather boots that are now reaching their 15th birthday and are still functional. With my values firmly placed in ‘functionality’, living in a hot climate means 97% of my closet is made up of natural fibres and some viscose/rayon (which are a breathable man-made alternative) because sweaty stinky synthetics doesn’t cut it in the humidity. The remainder? Yoga pants, swimwear, and pantyhose. While my synthetic yoga pants may make some plastic free folks shudder I have yet to find a pair of cotton/bamboo leggings that can live up to the number of sun salutations that I put mine through without pilling or bagging out. Synthetic ones last me half a decade, while natural ones are lucky to get me through six months (I have tried). Fortunately there are some great recycled and ethically manufactured options out there now and when my reach their end of life they will be lovingly recycled as stuffing for yoga bolsters.

I hope that you enjoyed this little insight into fabrics! While it’s not all-inclusive hopefully it (and all the attached links) provide a start to get us all thinking about what our items are made from.

What did you learn from Katie's post? What other issues around sustainability and fashion do you find confusing? How do you think we can inspire change? Be sure to let us know if you have any additional insights on fabrics, or the way you choose to shop for fabrics, in the comments below.

How To Reduce Your Water Footprint

21 September 2015
Last weekend was the annual International Coastal Clean Up. Over 500,000 volunteers in 80 countries rolled up their sleeves and picked up rubbish from beaches.

While I could not get out to a local beach to help, I did follow the many people on Instagram, who were taking photos of the waste collected. A photo by one clean up team showed a small mountain of plastic water bottles. It was not a photo from a country where water is unsafe to drink. The empty water bottles were collected from a beach where tap water is safe and abundant.

How To Reduce Your Water Footprint

It is fantastic that there are selfless people who get out there to pick up rubbish, like plastic water bottles. But really these people should not have to pick up after anyone. So please share the graphic below, and let's teach those who don't understand the wide reaching impact a plastic bottle of water has.

Let's ditch plastic water bottles and invest in refillable water bottles that we can use everyday for the rest of our lives. 

Buying a bottle that can be used over and over is one of the easiest ways to reduce your water footprint. 

Let's give those 500,000+ volunteers less plastic water bottles to pick up next year. 
Reduce Your Water Footprint by Wheels For Wishes

Interview with The Last Straw Australia

10 September 2015
Over the last year I have been wanting to get out from behind my computer and spread the plastic free, less waste message offline. It has been a slow process. The beginning of that journey began not too long ago when I shared my plan to ask a local café to remove their plastic straws. You can read about that here.

Turns out I am not the only Aussie who thinks plastic straws should be reduced in this country. While working in hospitality Eva Mackinley saw the volume of plastic straws that were sent out with drinks. While working in a moderately busy Hobart bar Eva estimates 20,000 plastic straws are used each year. Eva began to think about the plastic straws handed out at other bars in larger cities like Melbourne and Sydney. Then there are the busy take away franchises that also supply thousands of plastic straws each year.

Eva saw it as a massive problem and one she believed could be changed. And so The Last Straw Australia was created.

I discovered The Last Straw Australia about the time I was getting ready to speak to my local café. Being equally inspired by her efforts I decided to invite Eva onto the blog for a chat and tell us about The Last Straw Australia...

Interview with The Last Straw Australia

What is The Last Straw Australia about?
The Last Straw is about reducing and eventually eliminating the use of the plastic straw in Australia. We see plastic straws as an unnecessary luxury with a massive negative impact. There is a massive disconnect between what people hold in their hands or put on their plates and where it comes from or what it means for the world on the big scale. Plastic straws are a perfect example- people don't need them. At all. They are nothing more than a convenience, yet because of social convention they are slowly clogging up our waterways and our landfill to the tune of hundreds of millions per day across the globe. Would anyone use them if they understood the impact they were having? Hopefully not. The Last Straw is about encouraging behavior change in venues and consumers to stem the tide of unnecessary plastic waste going over the bar every day. 

"The Last Straw is a campaign to reduce the use of plastic straws in venues around Australia."

What prompted you to start the campaign? 
Like I said above, I have worked in hospitality for a long time to fund my social volunteerism. I always saw the two things as completely separate, but one day as I was dumping a bucket load of used straws in the bin, I asked myself for the first time where they would actually be going. I did a bit of research about straw use and the impact of mass plastic waste and figured this was something that needed to change in a big way. There are so many campaigns and organizations out there striving to reduce plastic waste, which is amazing to see. We like to see our point of difference as working with venues, who are some of the biggest sources of straw waste. The more of us out there advocating for this cause- the better.

What has been the challenges faced so far?
So far we haven't come up across any big hurdles- thank goodness! People have been incredibly receptive to the cause. I can't imagine anyone advocating for more plastic waste. But I imagine we'll come up across some difficulties when we start challenging people behind bars not to give straws out. It's a hard thing to break habit, and the service industry is so used to straws being a tool of the trade. I imagine we'll face some tough nuts who don't want to affect the experience of their customers. But that's why the campaign in consumer facing too- so that people won't want or expect a straw in their drink anyway. Hopefully this will make the process of change a lot easier!

Interview with The Last Straw Australia

If any readers would like to approach a café/restaurant/bar and ask them to stop handing out plastic straws, what is your advice on how to approach them?
Get in touch with us! Over the next couple of months we'll be developing a kit for people to do just that.

But other than that, I'd say three things:
  • Give them a strong reason why. And there are so many compelling ones!
  • Give them an easy action that won't disrupt their day to day business too much. It could be replacing their straws with re-usable ones or just having a policy of staff asking people if they want a straw instead of just handing them out
  • Make it a community issue- there's an amazing campaign going on in Bondi at the moment to end the use of plastic straws in local businesses to keep the beach clean. Make it political- no council likes to look messy in the public eye. 

And what would be your advice for people that want to talk to friends about refusing plastic straws?
First of all, do some research and get ready to drop some plastic facts on them. Straw use is often something people have never thought about, and once they do it's probably going to be pretty easy to get them ordering their drink without one. At the end of the day, this is not an 'activist' issue- it's a common sense issue. You're not asking them to chain themselves to a bulldozer- you're asking them to drink their drink just from the cup, like we were made to do. Nobody wants to see oceans full of plastic or animals choking on our rubbish. Just mention it casually and drop a stat and I'm sure they'll change their minds!

Do you know of any venues that offer reusable straws? How are they finding it? Will you be making a list similar to Responsible Cafes? (they let people know where cafes in Australia offer discounts on reusable cups)
I definitely have heard of a few that have gone straw-free, or have decided to introduce reusable metal straws (think of it as just like using a knife and fork at a restaurant). It's a hard change for a business to make, so it helps when consumers are supportive.

Part of The Last Straw is working closely with venues to get them thinking about all the ways they can reduce their plastic straw use- and we want to reward them for that! So part of the plan is to add venues to our website when they sign on as part of The Last Straw so people can see which venues are making a concerted effort to be ethical with their plastic waste.

How can people get involved with The Last Straw Australia?
We're very young, having launched just over a month ago. So we are at the point now where any help is massively appreciated! On a basic level, just liking our Facebook page or following us on Twitter is amazing! The more public reach we have, the more leverage we have to get venues on board!

If you want to go next level, shoot us an email at and let us know if you have any ideas or skills or anything that you think might help out. We're looking at focusing ourselves in Hobart and Melbourne to begin with, so any people power there would be amazing.

What plans does The Last Straw Australia have for the future?
So. Many. Working with venues is just the start- we want to see plastic straws legislated against or similar leadership steps taken within business the same way it has been for plastic bags. We want to see closed community events like festivals use organic waste bins and adapt a policy for all their stall holders to use bio packaging for food and drinks so that it can all be composted properly. We want to join with other similar organizations and lobby for organic waste bins to be accessible to hospitality venues so they can switch to biodegradable straws and dispose of them properly. And most of all, we want to see a complete end to the use of the plastic straw across Australia.

It's totally possible- all it takes is some people power and a tiny shift in behavior to make it happen.

Get Your Starter Kits for Plastic Free & Zero Waste Living Here!

3 September 2015
When I started out on my plastic free journey I wished there had been a kit that would make my transition easier. So I decided to put together kits myself for those in the same boat. 

Unlike reusable water bottles and reusable coffee cups which are plentiful, these are the other more crucial items that I wish I had early on. 

Each kits contains:

7 Cotton Draw String Bags (retails $19.95)
  • 4 large (28x35cm)
  • 1 medium (21x28cm)
  • 2 small (15x22cm)
1 Cotton Cutlery Wrap (retails $25.95)
  • 23cm length when rolled up – 23x27cm when rolled out
  • 1 stainless steel straw for adults
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 wooden knife
  • 1 wooden fork
  • 1 cloth napkin
1 Two Tiered, 3 IN 1, Stainless Steel Lunch Box (retails for $34.95)
  • two levels to store food + a small container 
  • top tier can be used on its own
  • clips can be adjusted to be looser or tighter
  • dishwasher safe
  • not for use in microwave or hot food - metal will become hot when exposed to heat. 
  • 100% high-quality, non-toxic stainless steel
  • 10.3cm wide x 14.5cm long x 7.5cm high
  • small container :5.6cm wide x 10cm long x 4cm high 
1 Stainless Steel Cup with Black Silicone Grip (retails $8.95)
  • dishwasher safe
  • not for use in microwave
  • premium 18/8 food grade stainless steel
  • 13cm high, 8.5cm mouth
  • not advised for hot drinks - metal will become hot when exposed to heat

The bags and cutlery wraps are handmade here in Australia using material from The Fabric Cave in Sydney. The Fabric Cave sells fabric off cuts that would have ordinarily gone to landfill. It is a not for profit with proceeds going to Achieve Australia. Achieve Australia is an organization that supports disadvantaged and disabled people.

Because the fabric is donated there is little to no information on the nature of the fabric. For instance there is no way to know if the cotton is organic OR the quality of the fabric so there might be slight differences between the kits or even bags. Everything has been preshrunk. If you are vegan, please note that beeswax has been used to stop the fraying of the cords on the bags and ties on the cutlery wraps. The beeswax is from Rooftop Honey, here in Melbourne.

Retail these items would cost $89.95.

These kits are only $69.95  + postage. 

Everything will be shipped to you with as little plastic as possible* (That includes the cellulose tape!) in second hand boxes. All for just $69.95. 



*Please note that that plastic stickers from the Australian Postal sytem may be hard to avoid, especially for international buyers. 

Get Your Starter Kits for Plastic Free and Zero Waste Living HERE!

At this stage I am not selling any of the items individually. If you would like to buy items separately I have compiled a list below of similar products. I have grouped according to readers from the northern and southern hemisphere to help you save on postage costs and carbon footprints.

Like the items in the kits the list below feature what I have found helpful and wish I had when I started living plastic free and zero waste.

Southern Hemisphere (Australia and New Zealand)
Buy - Stainless steel insulated coffee cup

Northern Hemisphere (USA, Canada and Europe)

Buy - Oval Bento Lunch Box

Buy - Portable Place mat with Cutlery Holder

Buy - Insulated Steel Pint Cup by Klean Kanteen

Buy - Organic Cotton and Hemp Produce Bag

If you happen to make a purchase through any of the links above I do receive a commission that helps to keep this blog running. I have had nothing but great experiences with the online stores that sell these items and highly recommend them to anyone.

All items to be paid within 24 hours of purchase.

Items are posted within 24-48 hours with insurance against loss or damage.

Shipping to International customers - please allow time for postage to your country.
All shipping is via Australia Post International.
International shipping - shipping times can take from 7-30 business days.

**Custom fees - international customers may be liable for customs fees on receipt of goods. Please check with your local customs office and be aware that you are responsible for any fees.

Refunds and Exchanges
Refunds or returns (minus shipping costs) will only be accepted for damaged goods. The items must be returned to me within 7 days of receipt. It is the buyers responsibility for payment of return shipping costs.

Erin Rhoads disclaims any liability, loss, injury, or damage incurred by the use of any of our products on this web site or in the store. Erin Rhoads admits no liability if damage or injury occurs through carelessness or misuse of any of our products shown on this web site or in the store. Any small parts may be hazardous if swallowed. Please keep these items away from young children and pets.

This online shop is governed by the laws and courts of Australia.
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