Pretty & Fair

Living in a big city like Chicago has a lot of benefits. I am constantly inspired by the people around me, the architecture, the pockets of different cultures. I live in a funny spot were Eastern Europe and Puerto Rico are side by side. There is always something exciting going on, or something free to do with the children, even if it's just going to one of the many gorgeous parks in the city, or story time at a local 
bebe boutique.

There many are drawbacks to living here as well, including considering where J will go to school when the time comes, the cost of living, parking tickets (my sworn nemesis, I have to remind myself that the poor meter maid is just as human as I am and it actually isn't personal even though it feels like it is) and high taxes in everything imaginable ( that's a can of worms I don't want to open ). Oddly enough, one of the most difficult things for me to deal with while living in the city is the constant exposure to retail. this could be a positive for others but for me, it's a downfall.

I can easily pass 30 adorable and beautiful boutiques on a walk to the park with the children. There are THREE Anthropologie stores with in a thirty minute radius using public transportation. Do I need to explain myself further? Haha. While walking past these gorgeous shops there are gorgeous women in well thought out ensembles, oh you know, just going about their business being gorgeous haha. I've never been SUPER into fashion but living here has caused me to pay more attention to the way I present myself, which in its self is not a bad thing. It's not a bad thing to want to look pretty and have nice clothes and shoes. For me, I struggle with this on an almost daily basis because I feel that I have a realistic grasp on the real cost of looking so perfect. Someone has to pay for the savings somewhere.

I find myself constantly asking shop attendants , "Where was this made?". They usually don't know and after tuning a dress inside out twice I find the tag which reads "Made in Thailand 100% polyester". The fact that the sales associate has no idea where her products are made gives me the impression that the company she works for doesn't care enough about where the products are made to educate the stateside employees, which leads me further to believe that they probably don't care about the people making the products either. I know that is sort of a big jump, but I feel that it is he case with most retailers. Even some retailers that run their business stateside have poor business practices and treat their employees badly. I know that every dollar I work for is a vote, and a choice to support ethical business practices. I have to make the choice to be informed and responsible for knowing where my hard earned money is going. This is an area that I can actually make change and impact, through my spending. I also want to live a life full of compassion, and that life style attitude should not stop at my closet simply because it is inconvenient. Yes, buying things made by local designers, or from etsy, or even from businesses who market themselves as "fair trade" is more expensive, but I think its worth it. I would rather have less quantity and more substance,
  pretty and fair. 

With that said I want to share one of my favorite dresses with you, I am wearing it today! 

 I love this color so much, and it does wonders for my skin tone. Im such a textile fanatic and this print is so lovely. The fabric is 100% cotton, hand block printed with natural dyes in India. The designer is actually a Chicagoan, and her shop is called Mata Traders, but you can also buy some of her dresses online through Rouche and ModCloth. I purchased this particular dress at a local shop called Greenheart. I wont go into detail about the shop because I want you to read it for yourself on her About Mata page. 

The aline skirt hits the right places for this momma, I cant take care of a bunch of little ones with my booty hanging out all the time. Oh and it has pockets! Dresses with pockets are the best of both worlds, and I can keep delicious snacks in those pockets! 

The top of this dress was really great when Julian was still nursing, it ties together at the top, so all I had to do was untie and retie instead of try to half way and inconspicuously undress myself in public. And honestly, every time I wear it I get compliments on how interesting it is. Knowing that it was made by hand, and for a fair wage makes it mean so much more to me than just a pretty dress, it give me a tiny sense of confidence knowing that I am choosing to put social responsibility BEFORE connivence and a few extra dollars. It's pretty and fair. 

What are some of your own pretty and fair things? Id love to hear where you get your favorite items from and the stories behind them!  


D.I.Y Sweater Yarn Rescue

Inspiration is such a funny thing. It never comes when you're looking for it, but seems to jump out at you when ever it so pleases, usually when you are unprepared. I had a lot planned for this weekend, lists, but the winds of creativity set my course askew. 

Saturday morning J decided he wanted to wake up at 6 am. I tried to convince him that sleeping in would be so luxurious and fun but  he didn't believe me, he just demanded his yogurt and stared at me like I was bothering him by talking to him before he's gotten the chance to fully wake up. (He is already just like his daddy.) So we started the day and when X woke up he took us to our honey hole of a thrift store, no I wont tell you where it is. I wasn't expecting to find much, I was still pretty tired, but the moment I walked through those doors and the sweet and sickly smell of old clothes and couches hit me, I got excited. 

The diamond of my finds was this sweater for $6 dollars : 

Which turned into this:

I wanted to make a tutorial but I got a little too excited and forgot to photograph a few steps. Ooops. Then I thought about it and Ive decided that a video would be a better way to show how to do this. There are also a few important things to look for in a sweater that you intend to unravel, such as determining if it was machine surged together (which means you can't recycle the yarn, unless you want hundreds of knots) or if was hand assembled, you can determine this by the seams. You should also check the fiber content, you don't want to invest all of your time and effort into unraveling a bunch of junk yarn. In the mean time, these are a few of the steps: 

1. Turn the garment inside out and get a look at the seams. You can tell this sweater was not surged by the neat line of double v's down the center, this signals that it was probably mattress stitched together. If you are familiar with mattress stitch, finding the thread used to stitch both knitted pieces together should be simple for you. The photo below shows that thread. 

Step 2: This is the silly part. you can literally pull this thread and the whole seam will come apart in seconds. It's glorious. I didn't learn this trick until I had tried tediously snipping the same thread at each row, which takes forever and ends up giving you tired hands. LOOK FOR THE THREAD! PULL IT! 

Ta da! This is the front and back of the sweater, all ready for unwinding after removing the seam thread. Now, this is where I forgot to photograph a few of the steps, including how to unseam the arms. I promise the video will demonstrate this a lot better. 

Here are the sleeves and the cowl neck of the sweater, and my little foot. 

The next few steps include determining if the sweater was knit top down or bottom up. If you try to pull from the opposite end of the way it was originally knitted, it simply wont be easy. This sweater was knit top down. Once you locate the beginning of the knitting you can literally start ripping the stitches back and "harvesting" your yarn. I have tried several ways keep the unraveled yarn organized, but the best way to rip back AND keep the yarn tidy is to use a ball winder. 

It took maybe an hour in total to unravel the whole thing once I got started with the ball winder. I sort of go into a little trance at this point, and I get a little crazy thinking about how I'm cheating the system about getting all this gorgeous yarn for a few dollars and little work. 

Look at that pretty little yarn cake!
I have yet to weigh the yarn to determine the yardage but my guess is that its about 700+ yards. A similar yarn sells online and at most knitting shops for about $20 for 100 yards, so by doing this I have potentially saved $134 hahah! I am giddy just thinking about it. Oh the things this poor forgotten and abandoned sweater can become! There is a sense of redemption in this for me, it's a little intense. Have you ever seen the dumpster diving skit in the show Portlandia? (which is amazing, you have to check it out, by far the most hilarious representation of hipsters I have come across.) There is this ridiculous sound that Meg makes when she finds something she thinks is cute. This is me, with sweaters.

So, like I said, I am planning on doing a video tutorial (maybe this weekend) so that you can do this too! What a great way to save money, repurpose items which can be redeemable and reduce waste. Oh, also I did this on Earth Day, so I get extra points..haha. I will do an update with what ever this yummy yarn turns into to bring it full circle. What would you make this into?! 


Back In Action

After having a very busy few months I am taking some time to get back into this, for several reasons. I want to connect and share my thoughts, experiences, experiments and so on, with people who have similar interests. I have been struggling with a long time with the idea of blogging, and my motives, and expectations of the feedback I get in return, for investing my time and energy into this. I have found myself in the past comparing myself (ok I still do this) to a lot (ok pretty much all) of the bloggers I follow. Am I as clever as this person? Talented? Am I as good a mother as she is?! A wife? I know this is silly, and pretty immature, but I am learning! I have to constantly remind myself that when people blog, they have total control over what people see, in their words, photos, ideas, etc. I believe that some of the bloggers I follow are honest, this one for example and I want to be honest too.

So what better way to get back into the swing of things than to start posting a weekly "Currently" post, inspired by Danielle, her blog is so inspiring to me and I feel like I can really relate to her. So here it goes!

Reading: Xavier and I went to the bookstore this weekend (one of our favorite things to do on the weekends) and I had a few books in my hands. this onethis one and settled on The Dirty Life. This book is so beautiful, Kristen tells the story of how she met and fell in love with her husband and his farming dreams, and how those dreams came to be reality. I read half of it in one night. I am so in love with the idea of growing food, living from the land and living simply. Its a huge contrast from the life I truly live, but I am making steps to getting there. Mind you, I dont think we will be starting a farm anytime soon, but this book has inspired me to want to look into spending some time with Xavier's friends at Tempel Farm. Ironically, I was reading in Luke and felt really drawn to the passages about good soil, the word of God and how it grows in our hearts,  hoping to "cultivate the soil of my soul" and let the message take deep root.

Watching: American Idol, don't judge me. Im torn between Holly and Philip. I don't want to discuss this any further. :)

Working on: Shea's birthday present, very long over due. Im hoping to get it done before the new baby comes! I'll be posting my knitting notes on revelry and on here when its finished.

Thinking about: Our future. I take walks with the babies everyday around Wicker Park, and I am always so inspired by the homes I see. Xavier and I are thankful for the tiny apartment we have, but there is a part of me that just wants my own nest to invest in and build and grow in. I want to be able to plant things in the ground instead of in containers. I want to be able to have open shelving and a room for Julian that is not a closet under the stairs, Harry Potter style. I know that in order  to get to that place, where we can buy our own home, we have to work, hard. I need to go to school. I have been going back and forth between several career options.People close to me have told me I would be a good nurse, I think I could be one too. I would also love to go to culinary school, and be a personal chef for families that have children with eating restrictions or allergies.I could do both I suppose.  If I had no responsibilities I would go to art school and major in textiles and be a knitwear designer hah. There are a couple road blocks to getting there but Im trying, and thats all I can do right now. I have to have peace with that, even though I want to help our family be in a better place right now.

Anticipating: Baby Gilliam 2.0! He will be here in about a month and a half! I know so many things are going to be changing in the Gilliam home, Im so excited and happy to be involved! Im not sure how it's all going to look, with Julian and Omi, and now the new baby, but Im sure it will be a little nuts and a lot amazing, maybe a little difficult sometimes.

Listening to: My friend Jeff over at Letters To Eloise posted an instagram photo of The Lumeneers album. I love them! I feel like Ive been waiting for this album for a while, after listening to the new Bon Iver album, and new Fleet Foxes albums on repeat for a few months haha. I really like their song "Classy Girls", its cute and funny and true at the same time. Classy girls don't kiss boys in bars. Thanks Jeff!

Eating: Today I was pretty busy, but I went to Red Hen Bread in Wicker and got the babies some peanut butter blondies and I REALLY went in for the ham and swiss croissant, but they were sold out! Blast! I settled with a rosemary herb focaccia, and it was great! (not as good as the ham and swiss croissant, but it was good enough..) Omi actually tossed her blondie out of the stroller and demanded my savory focaccia, her parents would be proud. OH! AND! I made these zucchini fritters yesterday for the babies and Omi went nuts over them, so I tried them with carrots today, and I went nuts over them. I spread a little cinnamon spiced Nancy's Plain Yogurt on top and man.....they were so delicious!

Wishing: I had more time. And more yarn.

 What about you?! Id love to hear!