DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


May 29 2015

Common Threads

by Dea Anne M

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been teaching myself to sew. The whole process so far has been more fits than starts, if you know what I mean, but I think that I finally might be making some progress. I’m not really hoping to save money by eventually making most, or some, of my clothes. Fabric can be pricey, after all, not to mention thread and zippers and buttons and all the other notions necessary toward finishing a garment. Home sewing used to be a way to save money, but we live in a world now, and in a country, where clothing is available to us at price points that would have been inconceivably low some 50 or 60 years ago. A page from a 1955 Sears catalog shows a full-skirted, beautifully-detailed, satin dress on offer for $6.98, which would cost about $62.00 today. Jonathan Logan, a company that specialized in designing and producing higher-end dressy and career apparel for younger women throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, typically offered dresses hovering around the $25.00 mark–which would be about $220.00 today.

“$220.00!” you might say. “For one dress? I could get two dresses at Banana Republic for that kind of money–maybe three if I hit a sale. Or five dresses at H&M. Good dresses too. For $250.00 I could get ten dresses at Target. Ten dresses!

I suppose one could be forgiven for believing, given today’s array of choices and prices, that we are living in a Golden Age of clothing. But are we really? That vast selection of cheap clothing relies on the overseas outsourcing of nearly every aspect of the clothing production process. In 1950, 90% of the clothing worn by Americans was produced in this country. That percentage has dropped to 3%. The workers who make these clothes are almost always drastically underpaid and perform their jobs in conditions that can be shockingly unsafe. The 2012 fire that broke out in the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh killed 112 people and carries eerie echoes of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in this country. More recently, the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza, a complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which included several clothing manufacturers, killed over 1,100 people.

And, really, how good are the clothes? My experience of cheap clothing is that it often falls apart very easily. I have a two cardigan sweaters, one from Ross and the other from Target, that developed holes in the elbows after a mere two months of wear.  Necklines stretch out of shape and colors fade quickly. Most of the time, you can forget about quality details like French seam finishing or linings–even with higher-end goods. Now I don’t want to misrepresent myself here. I buy, or at least have bought, as much inexpensive stuff as anyone else. Lately overdressedthough, I’ve started to seriously rethink that clothing strategy, especially after reading Elizabeth L. Cline’s fascinating book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. Candid and well-written, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the fashion industry and perhaps concerned about their own choices.

According to Cline, in 1930 the average American woman owned about nine outfits and probably considered herself well prepared for any given situation that might come up in her life. Today, the typical American–of any gender–will buy 60 or more pieces of clothing in a year. Yet many of us face cluttered, overstuffed closets combined with the nagging feeling of having nothing to wear. Weirdly enough, although the cost of clothing has overall gone down, our total spending on it has increased. In 1950, we spent about $7.82 billion dollars on clothing. Today, that number is about $375 billion per year. What are we getting for that money?

I don’t believe mass boycotting of companies that use overseas labor is necessarily the best answer to the ethical concerns that currently plague the fashion industry. The reality is the economy that we live in today is largely a global one. I do think there are steps that concerned folks can follow to reduce the negative effects of the clothing industry (which can be environmental as well as ethical). First, one can choose to spend more money on fewer clothes that will last longer and then take very good care of them. I know from experience that I have often “felt broke.” I’m also aware there are many, many people who truly have no money to spare. But maybe, those of us who can, should consider saving our dollars up a little longer for more special and durable items of clothing.  There is also the option of buying second hand clothes from thrift stores and consignment shops. Now, this has always been something of a yes-and-no proposition for me. I don’t always have the patience required to go through rack after rack of clothes to find something that appeals. Still, there are plenty of people who love the challenge and there are many sound reasons for giving a pre-worn garment a second life.

Finally, there is learning to sew well enough (not to mention enjoying it!) to construct some garments from scratch and to “refashion” other items that don’t quite suit. There’s a lot of help online should you be interested in pursuing this path, and two of my favorite sites are Refashionista and verysweetlife. The Refashionista is Jillian Owens, a South Carolina native who does some incredible transformations on some pretty hopeless looking thrift store goods. The mind behind verysweetlife is Sarah Kate Beaumont, who since 2008 has made all of her own clothes–and I mean all her clothes including lingerie and hats. Such skills do not come without years of dedicated pursuit and, in fact, both of these women are accomplished seamstresses. My ambitions, for now, tend towards the more modest end, but I have to admit to a personal desire to start doing some refashioning myself. This can be something as simple as switching out the buttons on a shirt to remaking a garment into something entirely new. Are you interested in pursuing this way of thinking about clothes? If so, DCPL has resources to help and inspire.

I have mentioned this book in a previous post, and Threads Sewing Guide: A Complete Reference from America’s Best-Loved Sewing Magazine remains an excellent reference for basic and more complicated sewing. Thismccalls book will be especially useful to those of us who need to alter the fit of purchased items (for me this is most of the time). Also, the photographs are beautiful. Another recommended reference for those of us interested in altering clothes to fit us (or others) perfectly is McCall’s Essential Guide to Sewing by Brigitte Binder, Jutta Kuhnle and Karin Roser.

An sewingapproach to “green sewing” is presented in Sewing Green: Projects and Ideas for Stitching with Organic, Repurposed, and Recycled Fabrics, Plus Tips and Resources for Earth-Friendly Stitching by Betz White. The idea here is to take a recyclable garment and turn it into something completely different. Thus, men’s dress shirts become aprons, pretty sheets become lounge pants, and a couple of old wool sweaters become a cute, felted scarf. Toys, baby blankets, colorful shopping totes–they’re all here. White’s ideas are really creative and, as a bonus, the book features profiles of designers and craftspeople behind such innovative companies as Harmony Art and Alabama Chanin. Very wardrobemuch worth your time.

Finally, keep an eye out for DIY Wardrobe Makeovers: Alter, Refresh & Refashion Your Clothes, Step-by-Step Sewing Tutorials by Suzannah Hamlin Stanley, which is currently on order at DCPL and promises to be a treasure trove of methods to help you–as the book’s subtitle indicates–alter, refresh and refashion your existing wardrobe.

How about you? Are you a lover of second-hand? Are you interested in refashioning and/or sewing clothes for yourself or for others?



Oct 26 2011

Decatur Electronics Recycling Day

by Joseph M

Do you have any old electronic items sitting around at home gathering dust because you aren’t sure about the best way to dispose of them?  Check out Decatur Recycling Day, a biannual event taking place this Saturday, October 29 in the Decatur High School parking lot from 9am to 1pm.  Almost anything with an electrical cord can be recycled at no cost, including cell phones, computer components, cameras, DVD players, batteries and more.  Television sets can also be recycled for a charge of $10 cash.  In a change from previous years, styrofoam will no longer be accepted.  For more information, including a list of acceptable items, please visit this link on the City of Decatur website.

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electronicsrecyclinglogo_2251If you forgot about the Decatur Electronics Recycling Day, there’s no need to worry–due to bad weather over the weekend, the event was rescheduled for late April.  Recycling Day is held outdoors, and the weekend weather presented a safety hazard for volunteers.

Electronics Recycling Day has been rescheduled for Saturday, April 25, 2009 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Decatur High School parking lot.  Visit www.decaturga.com for a list of electronic items that may be recycled and more details about the event. You may also call 404-377-5571 for information.


Mar 10 2009

Spring Cleaning, Anyone?

by Jnai W

cleaningI spent all of Sunday helping my mom with some spring cleaning…and helping myself to some of the old forgotten treasures that we uncovered. I stumbled upon long-lost books,  misplaced CDs, my old Fat Albert lunchbox (hey, hey, hey!…okay it was actually my brother’s but finders keepers) and even some clothes that, with a bit of TLC, can make a comeback into my wardrobe. I’ll admit it, readers, I’m a packrat…and so is my mother (she knows it, though).

It’s amazing the sentimental value that one’s belongings can hold. But what’s equally amazing is how these keepsakes can accumulate and become burdensome clutter.  Now that spring is in the air there is no better time to give old items a new purpose. If you’re like me perhaps you’d prefer donating the better quality pieces to Goodwill, Salvation Army or another reputable place where they will be of use to someone else.

If you’re more enterprising and looking to make a little extra cash, maybe you can hold a garage sale. Perhaps you’ve even found some items in the attic that can be repurposed and put to good use again, in which case good for you! Just don’t let anyone tease you about having to wear your old high school class ring on your pinky now. They’re just jealous.

As always, the Library is a great source for all things related to Spring Cleanliness and good feelings in general.

Books For Getting Organized:

The Everything Organize Your Home Book by Jenny Schroedel (Adams Media): I love the Everything series of books (if you’re interested in rocking out–after you’ve done your chores, of course–try the Everything Guitar Book also). This is pretty much the only organization book I’ve read in a while but the title says it all. It’s got Everything.

Your Garagenous Zone: Innovative Ideas For Your Garage by Bill West (Paragon Garage Co.): Pages 21-29 are a great start in organizing this space. This isn’t exactly about garage sales as I thought it would be but you’ll be well on your way to a organized garage.

Garage Sale Magic by Michael Williams: Once you’ve decluttered your garage why not try and make a few dollars? This book promises to “turn your trash into cash.” But please don’t try to sell trash; that’s rude.

A Book For Crafty Folks Looking To Reuse Old Items:

Don’t Throw It Out: Recycle, Renew and Reuse To Make Things Last by Lori Baird: I know I’ve blogged about this one before but it really is a great resource for making the most of what you’ve got in your home.

A Book For, um, Folks Who Like To Declutter Only To Reclutter Because They Can’t Resist Thrift Stores and Garage Sales:

Thrift Score by Al Hoff (Harper Collins): What do you do if you’re a packrat and a thrift store junkie? Seeking counseling wouldn’t hurt but until then, this is a great book about how to spend your money wisely when you go to Goodwill or Last Chance. It’s easy (for me, at least) to forget that just because something’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. Author Hoff offers great tips on how to shop secondhand.


don\'t throw it awayAre you looking for inventive and resourceful ways to save money? Perhaps you’ve resolved to be “greener” and more environmentally friendly this year. If any of these apply to you, there is a great book here at DCPL that could help you along that path. Don’t Throw It Out: Recycle, Renew and Reuse To Make Things Last (Rodale) is a treasure trove of ideas combining two of my favorite things: being economical and being creative.

This book offers numerous tips and ideas for conserving common household items and getting the most out of your appliances, furniture and gadgets. Do you have an old nightstand that’s becoming an eyesore? Why not turn it into a hideway/sleeping spot for your cat?  Perhaps you can salvage an old nightstand or end table by decoupaging it with pressed flowers (I’m not that crafty but it sounds like a great idea).  Page 84 of this book lists six great ways to repurpose your old dresser drawers, including yet another sleeping spot for your cat (pets make out like bandits when it comes to reusing old items!).

One of the main reasons that I like this book is that not only is it informative but it’s also kind of inspirational. Reading about how to turn a vinyl LP into a wall clock (!) made me really start thinking of ways that I can make the most out of the stuff that I’ve got lying around the house. Each item–whether it’s an old work boot, a stack of worn-out CDs or an out-of-commission baby crib–can be given a new purpose or function. And during cash-strapped times such as these it’s a nice reminder to look at the things we have with an open mind and a little imagination.

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Oct 24 2008

2008 Fall Electronics Recycling Day

by Jimmy L

THIS Saturday, October 25, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Decatur High School Parking Lot (Corner of N. McDonough Street and Howard Avenue), come recycle your cell phones, televisions, and other electronic components.

For the first time at this event, TV’s will be recycled for a minimal fee of $10 cash only per TV set with exact change. There is no charge to recycle other items.  For more information, please visit the City of Decatur Website.


Jul 9 2008

Recycled Crafts

by Ginny C

Here’s a fun idea for all those odds and ends you have laying around the house. Use them in a crafts project! Recycled crafts involves taking items that would otherwise end up in the trash and using them to create something new. This includes pieces of paper, scraps of fabric, cereal boxes, bottle caps, plastic jars and whatever else you have.

If you’re having a hard time imagining how to turn that empty laundry detergent bottle into something else, have no fear. The library has several books to help you get started. Recycled Crafts Box has ideas for things like puppets, jewelry, and castles (toy castles, of course). Ecology Crafts for Kids shows you how to use items from nature as well as household items. Earth Friendly Crafts for Kids is arranged by material (glass, plastic, etc.) and demonstrates how to use these things to make something beautiful.

The message in all of these books is largely an environmental one. They each offer suggestions for how children (and their parents) can reduce, reuse and recycle and to think twice before throwing something away. However, these are also good books for those on a budget. Buying crafts supplies is expensive. A lot of the suggestions in these books require nothing more than the “trash” and some glue and scissors, things most people have on hand. Whether you’re looking to save money or save the environment, these books will help you turn your “trash” into “treasure.”


Recycling_logoSaturday, January 5th, 2008 from 9am to 4pm

Start your new year with recycling! This year Keep DeKalb Beautiful (KDB) is
offering DeKalb residents the opportunity to “GO GREEN by RECYCLING” at
the end of the holiday season. They will be hosting a Christmas tree recycling
and electronics recycling event at several locations.


Wesley Chapel Home Depot
4325 New Snapfinger Woods Dr
Decatur (770-981-4553)

Lawrenceville Home Depot
2295 Lawrenceville Hwy
Decatur (404-315-0015)

Tilly Mill Home Depot
4343 Tilly Mill Rd
Atlanta (770-452-8858)

Citizens are encouraged to recycle their Christmas trees during our 18th annual “Bring One for the Chipper” event. They will also be able to bring their old electronic items to the Home Depot site for recycling. KDB hopes citizens will “green-up” this winter and begin 2008 with a spirit of environmental stewardship!

While supplies last, all who participate in the recycling effort will receive a free dogwood seedling. Residents who are currently serviced by DeKalb County Sanitation Division may also leave their trees for curbside pick-up.

The following electronics will be accepted: Computer Monitors, Stereos, Microwave Ovens, Computer CPUs, Copiers, Telephones, Laptops, Video Machines, CB Radios, Printers, VCRs, CD Players, Disk Drives, Camcorders, Portable Radios, Floppy Drives, Cameras, Cell Phones, Test & Networking Equipment, Record Players, Keyboards, Modems, Speakers, Scanners, Circuit Boards, Typewriters, Cables, Electrical Panels, Fax Machines, UPS/Battery Back up, Projectors, CD ROMs, Computer Mouse, Televisions (*$10.00 Charge for Televisions).

For more information about this event, please call KDB at 404-371-2654.