Soy Candles: Natural Choice for a Wedding

The growing trend for brides of today is toward handmade and recycled elements to creatively reduce waste of precious resources. We’ve seen innovative ways to recycle vintage wedding gowns, how to make handmade flowers and containers, creative ideas for wedding and shower favors, and host of eco-friendly ideas to consider for your wedding, shower and reception.

One oft-neglected element is candles. Who doesn’t love them, especially at a wedding? They have deep spiritual symbolism as the guiding light for two people beginning a new life together. They testify to the solemn vows spoken during the ceremony and bring ambiance to the celebration. We feel their presence from the subtle glow that gives the room a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Brides love candles and lots of them. But have you considered the amount of waste in the many candles on your table? What about the smoke and irritants they emit into the air? Did you know that paraffin is classified as a chemical preservative? In addition, paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product, so the candles often emit smoke into the air. Who likes that?

A new up and coming technology is using soybeans as a wax base. It is an exceptional alternative to paraffin. Soy wax is completely vegan and renewable, the candles are long-lasting and clean-burning and also supports the local farming industry The wax has a beautiful creamy texture and also exceptional scent throw, both lit and unlit. An added bonus is the ability to clean the used container with hot soapy water – no scraping and scrubbing!

Marty Vanslette, owner of provides beautiful handmade soy candles for weddings, showers and parties. After working with paraffin wax for many years, she moved to NYC and left her supplies in storage. When she began reading about soy wax, she took her molds and supplies out of storage and decided to give soy wax a try. She was totally amazed with the creamy texture and superior properties of the soy wax so she began making a variety of candles as gifts before setting up shop on the internet. Unscented pillars, votives and tea lights are her best seller for large gatherings. She also assembles shower and party favors with an assortment of soy candles attractively wrapped. She exclusively uses EcoSoya wax which is guaranteed 100% soybean and carefully selected botanical oils. From their website: “Every ingredient has met with the approval of the United States Food and Drug Administration and Kosher Certification criteria. EcoSoya™ soy waxes are FREE from pesticides, herbicides and Genetically Modified Material”.

Marty hand-pours each candle and tests each candle type to ensure they burn property. In addition, she has a unique buy-back program and will repurchase unused wax to recycle into new candles. What better way to make your wedding even more eco-friendly and guilt-free?

-Marty, DewOnAPetal
Dew On A Petal
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An Eco-Friendly Accessory

Alright ladies, you all know you do it, and some of you men too out there with your ties. Someone gives you a gorgeous silk scarf or tie, and you love it, but does it ever see the light of day? My guess is not so much. I’m guilty too! Those scarves are so amazing, but how to wear them? So we just tuck them away in our closets or drawers in the hope that someday they may be used. Or we lie to ourselves, saying that we will make a pretty cushion cover out of it, or wrap our hair-dos in it. But instead, the scarf makes many friends back there in that drawer since chances are, we’ve collected more than a few of these treasures.

Well have I got a solution for you! Not only is it eco-conscious, it’s also fashionable, can be sentimental, and has a catchy name too! The Original Beadscarf® is a great way to recycle your gorgeous scarves into a beautiful one-of-a-kind accessory that you can wear anywhere!

I can use any size scarf for these creations. By carefully manipulating a scarf around recycled beads, I create an adjustable length accessory that can be worn as a necklace.

You may have seen similar styles before. However,
The Original Beadscarf® can be custom made from scarves and ties that carry sentimental value. I have been commissioned to create Beadscarves with materials that previously belonged to grandmothers or late husbands.

Since it is made from repurposed materials The Original Beadscarf® is an eco-friendly accessory. It's environmentally responsible, and it makes a statement that everyone can relate to.

So go on, dig up those ties, scarves, skirts, blouses or other silk fabrics you’ve tucked away for a special project. The Original Beadscarf® is the special project they’ve been waiting for!


'Green' Clothing Collections

As part of a conscious approach to Design I have opted to use unwanted fabrics in the clothing collections I design and create. Every season is different and every garment is unique. I begin by scouting the fabric stores in the garment district, 35th, 36th, and 37th streets between Broadway and 7th. You’ll see me diving under tables, and inside giant cardboard boxes to look for fabric that is in usable condition, by usable I mean I can wash it, rip it, sew it and/ or paint it. Once I find fabrics I coordinate color stories including the various fabrics mixed together and the trimmings I will add later. You can see this in the pictures below. The colors are approached as if they are finished garments on the rack, how do they look next to each other? what is the presence of the colors as a full collection? what is most attractive to a customer? This aids me in making a decision on whether I use the fabrics as accents or as full garments. Once this is set I usually choose 1-4 items, tops, bottoms, or dresses, which I will make with variations on silhouette or trimmings. Creating a few items is useful because I want to be at an affordable price and make my producing time smooth. This also allows me to design smaller capsules within each color or trim idea, with minor variations like a big shirt with a square, scoop, or a u neckline. Also in this manner the collection can be expanded and items can easily be mixed and matched.

I approach the Design process by being inspired with fabric and trim first, I then do lots of research on style and finally I add my favorite crafting finishes. The silhouettes are kept simple to allow the craft details to stand out. Part of the ‘think green’ movement is not just to create instead of buying for yourself or others but to also cut down on the demand of more fabric, try finding unwanted fabrics, and also trimmings, that will stand the wear and tear of creativity and keep them from being dumped in a landfill this is a truly conscious way to Design and craft.

A {NewNew} How To: Patchwork Blanket - Combat Global Warming with Style

While I was thinking about what to contribute to our Earth Day blogging, trying to come up with a project that anyone could do, the idea of patchwork blankets kept coming to mind. I thought maybe it was too late for a tutorial on making blankets as it is almost May, but here in NY it has still been very cold, and we just had a blog posts on Salvaged Designer Fabrics and on our Pre Earth Day Team Swap. It actually seemed to make sense. I have made these simple patchwork blankets for myself, for friends and family and so I decided to share this “how to that anyone can do” with you.

As a scenic and costume designer for theatre I have always had lots of bits of fabric from various projects around. Many of the pieces of fabric I had were too small to make anything out of, but too nice to throw out. Some reminded me of specific shows I had designed and I wanted to give them all a new life and save them from the garbage.

If you have access to a sewing machine and can stitch a straight line you can do this project. No patterns, very little measuring. Easy. Eco-friendly. Fab. Here’s how:

1) Gather your fabrics and decide on a theme or color palette. You can use any kind of fabric – You might have things around the house just dying for a new life. Here are some ideas:

Leftover fabric scraps
Vintage fabrics
Favorite shirt or blouse that got ripped or got a stain (concert t-shirts, etc.)
Your favorite sweater that you accidentally shrunk in the wash.
That article of clothing that doesn’t fit anymore. (must have shrunk too!)
That gift item that you were given but never used.
Any nice fabric bits that need a new life

2) Decide on the size of your squares. For this blanket you don’t need lots of the same fabric. For the blanket pictured I cut 7 & ½ inch squares based on the scraps I had available. I only have 1 square of some fabrics, 2 or 3 of others, it doesn’t matter – you can use whatever you have. To decide the size of your squares just look at the smallest scrap that you want to use and don’t make your squares smaller than that – it’s that simple.

3) Trace out your squares & cut. I cut a square template out of the cardboard from the back of a used notepad. Trace around your square template to get all your squares a uniform size. If you are careful in keeping your squares the same size everything will line up easier when you stitch it all together. Cut your squares out on your lines. (To see how many squares you will need see step #4)

If you are a beginner – here are some tips to keep this project simple: Use fabrics that are somewhat similar in weight and consistency. Don’t use fabrics that are too thick or heavy or too thin. Or, if you want to use a lighter weight fabric back it with something more stable, like a basic shirt-weight cotton. You can attach them together with a fusible product like “Stitch Witchery” or just attach them together as you zig or surge the edges. You can also back fabrics if you want to use something that is sheer or lacey. It’s best to keep woven fabrics “on grain” – this just means place your template so that the threads of the fabric are going the same direction as the edges of your template. This isn’t an absolute must, but will make it easier to stitch as your fabrics will be more stable and not give and stretch.

4) Decide on the size of the overall blanket. You can make this type of blanket any size you want. The one pictured is 8 columns/10 rows of squares - about 48 inches by 62 inches. It is narrow enough that I was able to use a single solid width of fabric for the backing. You can decide on your overall size based on what you want to use as your backing and how much fabric you have available or the size of blanket you want. Once you know the size of the blanket you want to make you can easily do some basic math and find out how many squares you need.

5) Zig-Zig stitch over the edges. Once you have cut out all your squares I recommend doing a zig-zag stitch around the edges or serge them if you have access to a serger, but don’t trim the size down as you surge so they will still all be the same size. This will help keep them from fraying and make the blanket more durable.

6) Compose your blanket design. I just lay mine out on the floor. If you have a tile floor you can use the tile grid as a guide to help you layout all your squares. I usually start by spacing out my lightest and darkest squares and then fill in with the other squares, but you can compose your blanket in any way you like. I like mine to be somewhat random, but I generally avoid having two squares of the same fabric very close to each other. You can arrange them in any way you like.

7) Stack it. Once you have placed all your squares to compose your blanket you are almost ready to start sewing. Take the first square of your first column and stack it on top of the next square down, then stack those two squares on the third one, and so on. This will make sure you keep it all in order and maintain your composition. When you have stacked your first column, just pin it all together with a large safety pin through a post-it note and label it “column 1” and continue to the next column. Once you have all of your columns stacked in order and labeled you are ready to sew.

8) Stitch your first stack into a long strip. Place you first square from the top of your first stack on your table and place the second square on top of it, with the faces together. (If there is a pattern or top/bottom to the fabrics be sure to maintain this as you stitch things together.) Stitch the two squares together ¾ from the edge. (the bottom of square #1 to the top of square #2, face to face) Continue like this going through your stack top to bottom until you have one long strip of squares. You may not even need to pin these if you are comfortable with sewing and depending on the size of your squares. If you are a beginner a few pins doesn’t hurt. (keep each of your columns marked with the number so you can maintain your composition.)

9) Repeat step #7 for each column/stack.

10) Press your seams open. From the back of your strips just press all of your seams open flat so that the seam allowances are pushed out away from the actual seams.

11) Stitch your columns together. Place column #2 (now a long strip) face to face on top of column/strip #1. You will probably want to pin things together here. As I pin things together, edge to edge and face to face, I make sure that I am matching up the four corners nicely. Once it is pinned, stitch the two strips together, ¾ inch from the edge as before.

12) Repeat step #10 until all of your columns are attached and you have the front side of your blanket as one nice, big patchwork.

13) Press your new vertical seams open, as you did before.

14) Top stitch (optional) At this point you may do some top stitching if you like, it’s a nice detail, but not necessary. From the front of your blanket stitch straight top-stitch lines to both sides of your stitch lines. As you stitch, make sure that your seam allowances stay pushed out away from the seam. Top stitching like this will keep those seams nice and flat. Top stitch both your vertical seams and your horizontal seams. It will look like this:

15) Attach a backing. At this point you are ready to attach a backing to your blanket. I have often used an interesting textured corduroy or something else soft with a little body in a similar weight to the front of your blanket. All you have to do is lay your backing fabric out on the floor (or table) face up and place your patch work face down on top of it. Line it up nicely and pin the edges together. Trim your backing down to be a little bigger than your patchwork front. Then just stitch around the outside, (with ¾ inch seam allowance as before) leaving about 12 inches open on one side. You now have an inside-out almost finished blanket. Pull the blanket through the opening so that it is no longer inside out. Admire.

16) Press the outside edge flat and make sure your corners are pushed out. You may need to trim the seam allowance at the corners down a bit to make them less bulky and then push them out with something pointy (but not sharp) so they are nice and square and crisp.

17) Stitch the opening closed by hand with a nice tidy stitch.

18) Top stitch around the outside as you topstitched on each side of your seams.

19) Admire your new fabulous eco-friendly hand-made one-of-a-kind blanket.

20) Make popcorn & get cozy under blanket. Enjoy!

HOW TO: Eco-Friendly Label Making!

As a new member of The {NewNew} York Street Team, I decided to offer up a quick and fun little tutorial on one way of making eco-friendly tags or business promotional pieces, all from scrap materials... What follows is my tutorial:

What You'll Need:
•Scissors or an X-acto Knife
•Scrap paper (with a blank area for writing)
•An old magazine or other reading material that might contain interesting designs and be easy to cut out and use.
•Something to trace with (This should be the size and shape that you'd like your tag to be...Look for something around your house that you could use)
•A pen/pencil for tracing and writing
•Scrap string
•A staple-less stapler or appropriate adhesive

What You Need to Do With All That Stuff I Just Listed:
1.) Take the old magazine or other scrap reading material you've found and find an interesting design/drawing/background in it that could make for a cool looking tag. For me, I thumbed through an old Wired that my fiancée gave me the go-ahead to use (the last thing you want to do is cheese someone off by cutting up something they have no intentions of getting rid of). I found an interesting design inside, grabbed my tracing object and pencil, and traced around exactly what I wanted contained on my tag. In this case, I chose a genetically modified bell pepper because he looks pretty badass.

2.) Grab that scrap paper now, and trace on a blank portion of it with the same tracing object you chose to use in #1, and then cut everything out!

3.) Here's where staple-less stapler fun is to be had... Simply line up your design cut-out with your scrap paper cut-out (make sure the blank portion of the scrap paper is showing on one side, and your cut-out design is showing on the other), and slap em together with the wonderous staple-less stapler. If you don't have a staple-less stapler, you might opt to use an appropriate adhesive here instead.
4.) Grab a pen or pencil now, and write whatever the heck you desire on the blank side of your tag. For mine, because I don't have official "business cards" for my eco-friendly shop, I simply wrote out my message and shop address with the best penmanship I could muster up, and will use it as both a tag and business promotional material.

5.) Scrap string will come in handy now, to slip through one or both holes you've created with the stapler. I used scrap yarn from old knitting/crochet projects that I save. A crochet hook comes in handy for grabbing the string through the hole of the label and pulling it through, if you have one of an appropriate size lying around.

That's pretty much it!!!

If you want a more professional look you might opt out of the staple-less stapler and go for some adhesive or tape to hold the two pieces together. You might also have a stamp made that you can use to stamp these promo materials with your url, shop name, etc. Also for smoother edges, use an X-acto knife, by all means, when cutting these suckers out.

Here's my finished result. Frankenstein Bell Pepper looks a little worse for wear, but he's wearing it well.


eco-friendly hair care

as maryanne just taught us all, baking soda + vinegar are miracle products, and are practically the only things you need to have a clean and fresh-smelling home.

and now i'm here to tell you that they can work equally miraculously on...your hair.

i've fought a long fight with shampoo/conditioner. the day i washed my hair, no matter how well i conditioned, my hair looked and felt like straw. it would be okay the next day, good the next, perfect the next, then all of the sudden super greasy and gross the next, and i'd start the dance all over again. then i read about the natural method of cleaning your hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. possibly better hair plus better for the planet? sign me up.

the process is fairly simple. wet your hair thoroughly, then take about a tablespoon or so of baking soda and plop it into your palm and splash in some water to make a fairly watery paste. get the paste onto your fingers and work it all over your scalp, starting at the crown of your head and working outward. massage your scalp with the paste for about 1 minute (for extra green points, turn off the shower while you're massaging:), then rinse. do another rinse using a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted in about a cup of water (i keep a large chinese take-out soup container in the shower for this purpose...), then rinse that out thoroughly. that's it!

it does take a little perserverance to make the switchover from shampoo to this method. everything i read about it warned that you'd have "yucky" hair for the first couple of weeks, because your scalp would continue to overproduce oil, as it had been doing to compensate for all the oils that the shampoo stripped away. i could never get a more precise description than "yucky", but now that i've lived through it i can give you one: my hair felt like it was coated in a mixture of wax and motor oil. by day 13, i was getting a little cranky, and tired of bandanas. but then like magic, on day 14, my hair was perfect and soft and glossy.

you may have to fiddle with the proportions of baking soda and vinegar a bit—everyone's hair and scalp are different. if you use too much baking soda and your hair turns out dry, you can use a little bit of natural oil to even it out; just smooth a tiny bit over your hair, avoiding your scalp, once your hair is dry.

and no, you won't smell like a big pickle. :)

- cakehouse

HOW TO: resuscitate that old t-shirt!

as i've mentioned here on the {newnew} blog before, one of my favorite forms of recycling is wardrobe recycling, aka wardrobe refashioning. instead of heading to h+m when you feel like you have nothing to wear, why not shop in your closet instead, and re-make something that doesn't fit anymore—or just doesn't fit your current style?

one of the easiest places to start refashioning is with t-shirts. we all have them: the t-shirts we don't wear but can't seem to let go of. here's what i did with one of mine.

this was part of my college uniform:


not only is it ridiculously big (as all of my clothes were back then), it had developed some issues in the back....


...and so had since been relegated to the pajama drawer. but i never wore it, because i was afraid it was just going to keep ripping and completely fall apart. clearly, it was time to dismantle it myself.

i started by removing the sleeves, then cutting across the back horizontally at the spot of the enormous gaping hole, leaving me with this:


then i cut down the sides vertically, making two pieces, and slit the part of the back that was attached to the front down the middle, comme ca:


i decided that those two pieces coming off the top of the front piece would become straps, so i trimmed them a bit to make them slimmer and equal widths, and hemmed the edges. i also turned the neckband under in the front and stitched it down to make a uniform hem all around.

then i put it all together: pinned the side seams and sewed them up, hemmed the top of the back piece, attached the straps to the back, and hemmed the front piece— which had ended up longer than the back—at the bottom. and this is what i got:



putting it on, i realized that the part where i had hemmed under the existing neckband stuck out...


...and i was going to fix it by turning it under one more time and re-hemming, but then i realized that i liked it the way it was. i also love that the finished product retained some of the pinholes and frayed edges of the original shirt.

and so something destined for the scrap heap became a fab, totally original "new" top.

- cakehouse

Pre-Earth Day Team Swap

What is it about spring that inspires one to sort, edit, and organize their belongings? The lengthening days, casting an unforgiving light on the piles of accumulating unused supplies? The extra energy that accompanies the blooming trees and warmer air? No doubt it is something primordial - straighten up the cave before summer arrives!

Whatever the reason, what is one to do with the resulting bags of perfectly wonderful yet no-longer-necessary-to-you stuff?

Last night several members of the {New New} tackled this seasonal dilemma by participating in a swap at the home of jewelry designer and all around crafty chica Joanne Tracy. Needless to say, the attendees brought a fascinating assortment of goods ranging from fabric, beads, and fancy paper to clothing and lamp shades! (And of course wine - everyone brought wine. It is ill-advised - if not impossible - to host a swap without libations of some sort.)

Almost everyone found a treasure to take with them (the most recent issues of the New Yorker - score!), and whatever items did not find a taker will be donated to a local church that does a lot of charity work in the neighborhood.

If you'd like to know how to host your own swap according to Real Simple magazine, be my guest. But it really wasn't that complicated. Put the stuff people bring out on tables to rummage through. Give them wine and delicious homemade cookies. Bask in the warm glow that comes from keeping a whole lotta stuff out of a landfill.


Earth Day Celebrations around Brooklyn

Ah Earthday.... there are so many great celebrations going on around the city where you can learn more about the environment and what you can do. The accompanying photo is an Art Photograph by Ania of Honorata.

If you're in the Greenpoint/ Williamsburg / Bushwick area, head on over to McCarren Park for North Brookyn's first ever Earth Day Celebration, Go Green! Go Greenpoint! on Saturday April 19 from 11 to 4pm. They'll have educational programs, recycling stations, contests, live music, and a market full of eco-friendly products, where our own CharlieAndSarah will be selling their fun line of English inspired gear for adults and children.

If you're in The Park Slope, Red Hook, Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, head on over to the Old Stone House on May 17th for the Park Slope Parents Association Eco Fest at the Old Stone House on 5th Avenue btw 3rd and 4th Streets. Kathy aka Fofolle will be there running a Monster Making workshop with some material donated by fellow {NewNew} members. There will also be 10 Green Designers vending at the event.

Know of any more in your neighborhood?