Digging Deeper with Meg McElwee, GRAIN Contributor

 

We love your patterns, and are especially excited about the Forager Vest pattern in GRAIN! Tell us a little bit about how you got into designing patterns and how Sew Liberated originated.

I started learning about pattern drafting while living in sleepy, rural Mexican town and teaching in a one-room Montessori schoolhouse. Since I only worked from 8:30 - 2:00, I had a lot of time on my hands. I began designing aprons for my students and myself, and moved on to other more complicated designs. Sew Liberated has been my part-time creative companion for over eleven years now. My involvement ebbs and flows depending on the stage of motherhood I'm in, and I'm grateful to have a flexible option for pursuing meaningful work.


Where do you seek and find inspiration for your patterns and what ideas or priorities drive your designs?

I value simplicity and comfort, but I also love getting dressed in the morning and consider it a creative act of self-expression. I design my clothes to work together, especially my recent designs. I want to be able to layer, play with color, and feel elegant while also feeling free to move with my children in nature. My designs are forgiving; if you gain 10 pounds or lose 10 pounds, they will continue to wear beautifully. For me, this is better for self-image and the environment. Designing for longevity is a cornerstone of my process.


On your blog you say “the most creative of all my pursuits is experimenting with the mixture of motherhood and art.”  Well put! How do you go about balancing and integrating your various creative practices with your family life?

My days flow around my children. Since we currently homeschool, much of my time is spent exploring the world with my three children. That said, I believe that integrating motherhood with my creative practice is not about balance; it's just about being who I am and allowing my children to see me both mother and work. Role modeling is one of my most powerful parenting practices. Since my kids see me at work, they are interested in what I do. My eldest has a passion for Quickbooks and accounting, my middle loves taking photos of my creations, and my youngest loves sitting on my lap while I sew. They see me problem solving, concentrating, laughing, and playing. The one non-negotiable for me is this: when one of my children needs me, I stop what I'm doing, make eye contact, and give a cuddle. The time for uninterrupted work will be here before I know it, and I know I will miss this phase of motherhood if I don't savor it now.

What’s next for you that you’re especially excited about?

Having finished "birthing" my Sedimentary Capsule collection of patterns, I am going to shift into less pattern production and focus instead on authoring a course on building a handmade, sustainable wardrobe. That, and sewing and knitting for pure pleasure!

Find Meg's pattern for The Forager Vest in upcoming Issue 28::GRAIN and her Strata Top pattern in Special Edition MAKE, Volume 1. See more from Meg at sewliberated.com and @sewliberated. 

August 03, 2018 by Rachel McDonald

Digging Deeper with Marisa McClellan, GRAIN Contributor


You teach, write, and blog about all things canning and jars.  Tell us a little bit about where this passion began and how you developed it into a business.   

I got into this specialty by accident. I worked as the editor of a general interest food blog for a couple of years and through that, became really engaged in the food blogging community. When that job was ending, I started Food in Jars simply as a way of staying active in the food blogging world. I had grown up canning and it was something I did and enjoyed as an adult. I knew that it was a category of food blog where there wasn't much coverage at that time and so I could create a space for myself. 
However, I wasn't thinking that it was going to turn into a business or even any kind of income stream. But right around the time I launched, interest in canning and food preservation began to increase. I started by offering classes and doing a little freelance writing, while still working a full time job. Then the book came along and I dropped down to part time work. The summer before my first book came out, I left my job and dove full time into Food in Jars. There are a lot of uncertainties to working for yourself, but it's still the very best thing I've done in my professional life. 

Your recipes are always so creative and feature exciting combinations of fruits and flavors. What’s your process for developing new recipes? 

When it comes to developing recipes for preserves, I have a number of basic ratios that I work with for various jam, jelly, and chutney. From there, I will swap in different flavor elements depending on the time of year or the kinds of constraints I've been asked to work with. With jams and jellies, I typically reach for just one or two flavor additions, in order to keep things fruit forward. I think the biggest part of my success as a recipe developer simply being willing to try without knowing for sure if something it going to work perfectly. You don't make new discoveries if you're afraid to fail. 

What are a few tips you’ve learned along the way you can share with readers who are getting into canning and preserving for the first time?  And what about ideas for long-time canners who want to switch it up a little? 

The very best advice I have for beginners is about which recipes make good starting places. Many people try to make strawberry jam or cucumber pickles first thing and they are two of the hardest preserves to get right the first time out. I always recommend that people start with blueberry jam (it's a higher pectin fruit and so it's easier to hit the set point) and dilly beans (green beans have more natural structure and so will hold on to their crunch better). 
For more experienced canners, I encourage them to try new kinds of preserves. Lots of people get stuck making the same jams and pickles, without ever experimenting with relishes, conserves, and fruit butters. Another good way to stretch your skills is to learn out to use a new kind of sweetener or pectin. 

What do you have in the works that you’re particularly excited about? 

Right now, my most exciting upcoming project is a cookbook that's coming out in April. Called The Food in Jars Kitchen, it's all about cooking with preserves. One of the things I've learned in the process of teaching classes and writing books is that lots of people want to can, but they're not sure what to do with the preserves once they have them. This book will help folks figure out how to cook, bake, transform, and share their homemade preserves. 

Find Marisa's piece Coming Home to Whole Grains in upcoming Issue 28 :: GRAIN and Flowers are my Jam in current Issue 27 :: BLOOM. See more from Marisa at foodinjars.com and @foodinjars.
August 02, 2018 by Rachel McDonald

Plastic Free July

By now, you've probably heard about Plastic Free July's "Choose to Refuse" challenge. If you haven't heard of the organization or the effort, I encourage you to take a look at their website and everything they're doing to help eliminate the use of plastics.

My own journey to eliminate plastics actually began on Earth Day when I asked myself what it would be like to have to carry around with you everything that you acquired for the rest of your life. I conjured up this not-so-funny image of myself bent over, burdened under a giant rounded-up mound of garbage, somewhat like an erect tortoise. Burdened was the operative term as, when I thought about it, I felt the weight of my impact in creating a waste stream that was impacting real-life turtles.

I resolved to first get a sense of the scope of the problem by holding onto every single-use plastic bag that came into our home. That is what you see pictured above. With a family of 5, you can imagine that I don't have 100% compliance in collecting it, but I've also gathered plastic bags as I've found them at other places, bringing them home and adding them to my stash, so I feel it's pretty representative. And disturbing.

Here are the stats:
Weight of Recyclable Bags: 6 lbs.
Weight of Non-Recyclable Bags: 12.9 oz.

There's a lot hidden in those weights, so I decided to do a further analysis of the recyclable bags. For simplicy, I sampled half of what I'd saved and figured it would be close enough.

Bag Type
Qty (Sample)
Qty Per Year
Weight Per Year (Lbs.)

Bread

6

24

0.51

Bulk

4

16

0.34

Ziploc

14

56

1.19

Nuts

12

48

1.02

Cereal, Candy, Chips, etc.

16

63

1.36

Household (Water System Salt, Toilet Paper, Cat Litter)

10

40

0.85

Instant Drinks, Flavor Packets

10

40

0.85

General Clear (Coffee, etc.)

16

63

1.36

Meat/Dairy

64

254

5.44

Newspaper

6

24

0.51

Packaging

26

103

2.21

Grocery

6

24

0.51

Shipping (Airpak, Mailers, etc.)

58

230

4.93

Produce

32

127

2.72

Total

280

1,111

23.80

According to this analysis, our family would collect almost 24 pounds of plastic bags in a year and over 1,100 bags. Not so super enviro-conscious! And that's the recyclable bags. The not-recyclable ones are still another 0.75 pounds in my sample or 3 pounds per year.

So far, it's the non-recyclables that I've been able to take the most action on, the low-hanging fruit if you will. I have a confession to make: I like good coffee. Coffee from Counterculture, Intelligentsia, Stumptown. Sadly, though, with a commitment to reduce plastic, I can't make it part of my morning routine. The bags that it comes in are made of a mixture of materials, some "compostable" like paper and others not like, well, plastic.

There is actually a video showing the "composting" of the types of bags these coffees come in and they show how the paper part goes away and all you now need to do is locate in your compost pile all of the strips of leftover plastic. Oh, and throw away the little valve that comes on the bag to keep the beans fresh. No thank you. I've switched to a local coffee roaster that puts their product in two separate bags, one paper and one plastic, so I can recycle them both (or compost the brown paper one).

Why did I choose to focus on plastic bags? Because I have learned that recyclers in many locations are not equipped to process bags, accepting only rigid or hard plastics, which means that they simply end up in the garbage. Since this is the case where I live, I looked to find alternatives. It turns out that Trex, a manufacturer of synthetic wood products has a recycling program that can turn bags into their products. One of their dropboxes is not far from me, so dropping them off should also be convenient. Look here to see if there's a location near you.

Even recycling isn't a perfect solution. What becomes of composite materials in the future? What happens to all of the broken down "microplastics" that exist as particles for at least 500 years. In actuality, we don't know how long they last, we only have estimates.

I'm so glad that we at Taproot chose to lose the bag with our previous issue. So far, we've been gratified by your support of this change and we haven't had to reship a large number of replacement copies for damaged or missing copies. Together we can solve this problem.

~ Jason, Publisher

July 30, 2018 by Jason Miller

Update: No More Plastic Wrapper

We heard you! 

As of our most recent issue (Issue 27::BLOOM) we no longer ship Taproot in a plastic bag to U.S. subscribers. (Sorry, but international postage regulations require that it be bagged.)

We had several reasons for adopting the plastic bag: shipping damage, lost copies, and the need to communicate renewal status to subscribers. To make this important change feasible, we’re hoping that our subscribers can help us out. Can you be somewhat forgiving of the postal service’s handling of the magazine in transit? Some scuffing and minor damage may occur. The additional printing, shipping, and packing involved in sending replacement copies could quickly negate this effort to lessen our environmental impact. (Of course, if your copy never arrives, let us know at subscribe@taprootmag.com. It might happen!) We also want to point out that your renewal card will now be inside the magazine. Don’t forget to renew two issues prior to the expiration of your subscription. You won’t want to miss any future issues!

July 25, 2018 by Amanda Soule

An Important Announcement from Taproot

Dear Reader,

We have important and exciting news to share with you today. Beginning with our next issue, GRAIN, Taproot will only be available at our online shop, our Portland store, and at select stockists and libraries. This means we are ending distribution to big box stores and large grocery chains. This decision is a values, feasibility, and ecological choice that we’d like to tell you - our supportive readers - more about.

The traditional magazine distribution process is designed for ad-supported magazines. The more copies distributed, the more they can charge their advertisers, even if many of those copies end up being “returned.” For ad-free magazines like Taproot, the cost of printing and distributing means we must sell at least 40% of the copies that go to the newsstand just to break even. This is a very high bar and one we have struggled to meet.

In addition, there is the problem of the inherent waste in this kind of magazine distribution. All the returns I mentioned? Those aren’t actually “returned” anywhere. They’re destroyed, as is the industry standard. This practice goes against what our team believes in and works towards - eliminating waste and preserving the earth’s resources (all those trees!). We strive to create a beautiful, timeless publication with each issue, one that we believe has lasting value and whose content is worthy of the precious paper it is printed upon.

We started this magazine seven years ago, none of us coming from the world of publishing, but rather from the world of families, farming and small business. We’ve learned so much in that time about the publishing industry, and where we want to live in that. This is one more step in that process of learning and growing, and striving to remain true to the beliefs and values we started this magazine with. The belief in creating a physical place - in the pages or in person - where we can gather to share stories, share skills, and strive together to live fully and dig deeper. Those core values are what will never change about Taproot. We welcome this change as a way for us to continue to deepen our relationship with our most important, and only customer - you, our readers -  and hope that you’ll be inspired to support us by subscribing or renewing today. Subscribe or renew by Tuesday, July 17th to receive our next issue, GRAIN, shipping later this month. 

And if you've already done that, thank you! We are so grateful for your support. And we humbly ask you to do one more thing. Without those newsstand copies out there, we need your help in spreading the word about Taproot the good old fashioned way - by telling a friend about us, or sharing one of your back issues as an invitation into our community.

P.S. Are you a shop owner who would like to wholesale Taproot Magazine? We’d love to work with you directly. Please send us a note at wholesale@taprootmag.com to find out more.

 

July 12, 2018 by Amanda Soule

Issue 27::BLOOM Makealong!

Use the hashtag #taprootmakealong to show us what you're making from the pages of Issue 27::BLOOM!

A few lucky winners will be featured in the magazine and receive a complimentary one year subscription
June 29, 2018 by Amanda Soule

Issue 27::BLOOM is now shipping!

Issue 27::BLOOM is here and it will surely put a smile on your face! And the cover image is available as a print!

May 29, 2018 by Amanda Soule

BLOOM Launch Party!

We're about to release our next issue BLOOM! Join us for a celebration of creativity and community!

Wednesday, May 23rd from 6-8 at Taproot Market in Portland, Maine.

We'll have flower crown making with Broadturn Farm, food and drink from the pages for sampling, a chance to meet local contributors to the magazine (including Julie Letowski, Stacy Brenner, John Bliss, Leah B. Thibault and 2018 Cover Artist Abigail Halpin), and of course copies of the magazine - hot off the press! 

Plus, first 25 guests receive a surprise goody bag!

May 15, 2018 by Amanda Soule

New Books added by Taproot Contributors

We've added two new books to our book shop! 

The Great Chicken Escape by Nikki McClure and Southern from Scratch by Ashley English.

April 30, 2018 by Amanda Soule

Shipping Update

April 01, 2018 by Amanda Soule