Category Archives: Thrifting

Vintage Embroidered Pillowcases

I bought a set of pillowcases for $1 each at the thrift store.  They aren’t quite plain; they are stamped with a sweet design of a girl in a heart of flowers.

One of the reasons I think the pillowcases are vintage is that the fabric looks old and  feels like 100% cotton.  The pillowcases don’t have any tags, and the inside seams look different from modern cases.  The style of the design also looks like it’s from the 1950s or 60s.

What floss colors would you use?  I got out all my variegated pinks for the flowers.

I put tissue paper between the hoop halves to protect the fabric, and then tore it away from the center.

I embroidered back stitches, lazy daisies, and french knots.

I decided on a single ply black thread for the outline of her skin.  While I was stitching her, I thought she looked like a lamb with hooves.

I had a little bit of what knitters call second sock syndrome after finishing the first.  I changed the color of her dress for the second one.

 

Tastes have changed since these were sold. Do these pretty ladies have a place in the modern world?  I admit that I folded the pillowcases and stored them away after finishing them.

Would they still be considered vintage even though they’re newly embroidered?

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Button Front Denim Skirt Refashion

I found some great 1970s skirt patterns at my small neighborhood thrift store.

I also bought this long button front denim skirt with pockets there.  I want the basic a-line shape of the first pattern but this time I’m taking a shortcut using this secondhand garment.

Look closer:  I’m not wearing it!  I’m just holding it up to my waist because the skirt waist is itty-bitty tiny and mine no longer is.

So I cut out the pockets and snipped all the way across to get rid of the tiny top which left the skirt with a huge waist.  I unpicked the hem just at the side seams and cut my new a-line shape keeping the width at the bottom and narrowing at the waist to a just right size.

Before sewing, I switched to a denim needle on my machine. I added two darts front and back.  I struggled with reattaching the pockets.  They had a long opening like side seam pockets but they were inset pockets folded over.

Sometimes it can be easier sewing from scratch than trying to figure out how to rework something.

On to the waistband, which I cut, interfaced, folded over, and sewed on.  I attached bias binding to the raw edge.

The last step: making a new buttonhole on the waistband.  The top buttonhole is horizontal, and the rest are vertical.  A horizontal button is more secure, and can take more stress.

I finished by top stitching the top and bottom of the waistband.

And there you have it : a basic casual classic  to wear about town.  Like this:

I feel like an editor for a fashion magazine setting up an outfit shot.  The little patchwork denim purse is also thrifted.

How I wore it:

Or as worn with another of the kimono sleeve tees I made from a big thrifted tee shirt.  The tee is actually a pretty aqua shade but the sun is bleaching the color out in the photo.

 

Shopping Post Election : Bring Your Own Bag

What to do when you have a case of the blahs after being sidelined by illness (shingles), dog problems (anxiety and panic attacks), post-election blues (he won), and can’t muster up the will or desire to finish making a simple pair of pants started in October?

Scrap it!  At least for now, and start afresh.

from pants to bag

The election on November 8 impacted my state of California in the following ways:

California was one of four states that voted to legalize recreational marijuana use.  That brings the total to 8 states where recreational marijuana use is legal. About half of the states have decriminalized medical marijuana use.

The ballot measure to repeal the death penalty failed, and the proposition to speed up the death penalty passed.  Since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978, thirteen men have been executed, after being on Death Row for up to 24 years.  The last execution was in 2006.

Another measure on the ballot that passed by 52% bans single use plastic bags. Customers will be charged 10 cents for a paper bag, and 15 cents for a slighter thicker reusable plastic bag.

That adds up when doing grocery shopping every week. I’m bringing my own!  I gathered up my store bought ones which I think are made from polyethylene (whatever that is).

I also decided to make a tote/shopping bag from a canvas or twill scrap of fabric bought for 50 cents at the thrift store and denim cut from a pair of old jeans.

Shopping Bag Ribbon on Denim Pocket

I looked at two bags I had for construction details – one is a heavier tote bag and the other is lightweight and folds up to a small size.

2 Sample Bags

I made my bag without a bottom seam like both of my sample bags.

I sewed french seams on the side seams.

Box Corner and French Seams

I sewed box corners like the ones on my Queen Mary tote bag.  I don’t think they worked out quite right, and the bottom of the bag is a little narrow.

I used denim for a pocket and the straps.  I changed to a heavyweight denim needle, and used gold thread on the bag to match the jeans.  The hardest part of this project was sewing through the layers of the denim straps where they attach to the bag.  My machine was groaning! I had to turn the wheel by hand to get through the tough spots.

Shopping Bag Inside top

Shopping Bag Pocket Side

Shopping Bag Plain Side

Shopping Bag in Use

No, I don’t live on donuts and potato chips.  The photo is for illustrative purposes only.

I would also like to make a thin roll-up bag like the German bag pictured.  I’ve used that one quite a bit.

I’m happy I got through this project.  Something simple, fast, and useful was just what I needed to help beat my doldrums.

 

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A Simple Dress Refashion

I bought a long dress from the thrift store even though I knew it was too tight for me in the bodice.  The waist and hips were plenty roomy.  The dress is rayon with a small rose print on a black background.

The style featured ties emerging from the side seams below the bust further emphasizing the too tight fit in that area.

I was being a little dramatic making it look like I popped the button in the photo!

Rose Print Dress Before

When I bought the dress I thought I would make it into a skirt, but I really preferred to have a dress.  I don’t have enough dresses, and need more for the ease of wearing – no matching of a top and bottom needed – and hopefully figure lengthening properties.

What to do?

I made three little changes that made a big difference!

I hemmed the dress at knee length.

I removed the side ties, sewed them together, and made a belt to be worn at the natural waist.

Bodice Close-up

I cut the neckline lower into a v-shape removing the top button.  That gave me more “give” across the bust, and suddenly the bodice fit.  I also wore a different bra that helped the fit, and I might have lost a few pounds, but not many as both before and after photos were taken in the same month.

I was going to make inseam pockets with the leftover fabric,  but was having a really hard time unpicking the seam, so I ended up scrapping that idea.

Rose Shirtdress After

Rose Shirtdress Back

Just a few little changes, and my figure looks much more balanced.  Wouldn’t you agree?

shirtdress-beforeafter-800x800

 

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The Dress Doctor by Edith Head

I noticed a book at an estate sale with a dress form on the cover, picked it up, and discovered I had a first edition copy dated 1959 of the book “The Dress Doctor” by Edith Head.  I bought it!

I got a good deal. The book is selling on Amazon for $61 and up.  The 2011 reissue is not the original book, but a very abridged version.  However, many libraries have a copy.

I remember watching Oscar telecasts as a little girl with my mother, and  hearing Edith Head’s name being called as a nominee in the costume design category.  Miss Head was nominated 35 times in her career, and won 8 Academy Awards, 6 of them in the 1950s.

In the book, she tells of being a French and art teacher at the Hollywood School for Girls in the 1920s, where her pupils included the de Mille daughters.  Some days they would shut down school, and go to Paramount to watch Mr. De Mille direct a scene.  Evidently, Miss Head found the movie business to her liking; during  summer vacation she answered an ad for a sketch artist at Paramount. Even though she couldn’t draw,  she got the job by bringing to the interview other students’ drawings from the art school she was attending.

The doctor hangs up her shingle drawing

She began designing for silent pictures and westerns.  Her first  design that garnered attention was the sarong dress designed for Dorothy Lamour in the 1930s.

In 1949, a category for costume design was added to the Academy Awards, and Miss Head received her first nomination.  She didn’t win until the next year, for “The Heiress”, in which she designed  clothes whose purpose was to make Olivia de Havilland look plain and unattractive.  Up until 1968, the Academy awarded two costume design Oscars, one for color, and one for black and white.  Six of Miss Head’s wins were for black and white pictures, including “All About Eve” in 1951 and “Roman Holiday” in 1954.

Edith Head worked with all the top female stars of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and in the book describes costume fitting sessions with Clara Bow, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Barbara Stanwyck, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others, and offers little anecdotes about their personalities.  Nothing snarky here – all the best stories were doubtless omitted as a dress doctor has an oath of confidentiality  to consider.

Miss Head worked on some of the greatest classic movies and my all-time favorites: dressing Bette Davis in “All About Eve”, Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday, Grace Kelly in “Rear Window”, Kim Novak in “Vertigo” and Tippi Hedren in “The Birds”.

In the book, fashion advice is also given to the ordinary woman.  Miss Head appeared on a radio show with Art Linkletter in the the 1940s where she gave fashion pointers to the women in the audience.    I thought it very quaint to give fashion advice without any visuals, but then I remembered that the designer Mr. Blackwell, best known for his “worst dressed” annual lists, had a radio talk show broadcast from Los Angeles in the 1970s in which he did the same thing.

The show with Art Linkletter made it to television in 1952.  It was a fun show: contests to shop and select accessories, fashions shows, and a staple of women’s daytime entertainment: the makeover.

What Clothes Can Do for You drawing by Edith Head

My favorite part of the book is the section on what clothes can do for you.

“You are a woman with weapons, why not use them?  Why be a sheep when you can be a self?”

“Everyone has a day’s work, a career, in home, office or wherever, and why not express your individuality?  See how you can best dress for the day’s work to give yourself assurance.  Life is competitive; clothes gird us for the competition.”

Miss Head sums up her advice in three rules:

  1.  Be dressed for what you are doing.
  2.  Have the right accessories.
  3.  Don’t wear your clothes too tight.  A dress should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.

How do you think that advice holds up in the 21st Century?

Next week, in the The Dress Doctor Part 2, I will apply some of her concepts to myself, past and present.

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Refashion with McCalls 7131

It’s hot and I need fashion relief.

I bought this long rayon skirt at the thrift store.  I love the print, and it was even pretty worn as is (or as was).

Long Skirt Before Pic

The skirt had 3 panels on each side, and a wide, shirred elastic waist.

Long Skirt showing seaming

inside out with seams showing

I wanted to make a fun, weekend look, but instead of hemming the skirt to knee length I decided to try something different.

Enter McCalls 7131.  Yes, I have finally become a culottes convert.  A cool and loose item of clothing halfway between shorts and a skirt (with pockets) suddenly seemed just what I needed this summer.

McCalls7131

By putting the pattern at the bottom of the skirt, and making the short version, I had just enough fabric to cut out my pieces.  I used the top third of the skirt to make the pockets.

Culottes pattern with pleating lines marked

dotted lines showing pleat markings

This pattern isn’t based on a circle skirt like some culottes patterns.  Instead it has box pleats in the front, and an elastic waist only in the back.  The center inverted box pleat is stitched down partway, and forms the “camouflage” pleat hiding the center front seam so that the culottes look more like a skirt.

Center Inverted Pleat I bypassed the waistband instructions as I had unpicked the original elastic waist to sew back onto my culottes.  I wanted the back to look like a skirt, too, so I also added pleats to the back, including the center “camouflage” pleat.  I think it’s odd that the pattern only had that center box pleat in the front.  I didn’t make a mock-up of this pattern or compare the crotch curve to a previous pattern, but luckily it worked out well.  I assumed that culottes would have a lowered crotch to look more like a skirt, and would be easy to fit.

Waistband of Culottes

I made a size 14, and the waist would have been way too big if the front wasn’t also elasticized.  I had to stretch the original waistband mightily to make it fit!

These are being worn! Not just on weekends, but to the office, too.

Culottes Refashion

Culottes Back

These culottes catch every breeze, and I don’t have to worry about wearing a slip or chafing.

Every make I’ve seen of culottes on sewing blogs has a reveal shot showing that it’s not a skirt.

Should I do it?

I couldn’t resist.

Culottes Reveal Shot

 

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Plain Grey Tee

What to do when I want to make some tees and don’t have any knit fabric in my stash?  Find a tee shirt in a thrift store, the bigger the better, and use the fabric.  A men’s 3X size certainly fit the bill.  It was massive!

I partly used the pattern and instructions for the  Kirsten Kimono tee, (free when you subscribe to the newsletter), but I also used an existing tee to get the right fit and I cut the same neckline as that tee.  I was going to make the size M but it turns out I’m more of a size L.  I added a 1/2 inch inch seam allowance to the pattern.

cutting out from 3X tee

I used the original bottom hem of the tee, and double needle hemmed the kimono sleeves.  I unpicked the ribbed neck from the original tee, shortened it, and sewed it to my new tee.

Grey tee on hanger

This might become my new favorite tee.

Close up of Grey Tee

I didn’t have any twill tape or knit tape to reinforce the neckline or shoulders, so I might have a problem with these areas getting stretched out of shape.

Grey Tee with shorts

 

I also experimented with a thrifted big white tee.  I made the fit relaxed but not oversized.  Again, I unpicked the original ribbed neck, resized it, and stitched it to my new neckline.  The join is a bit awkward at the back of the neck.  Maybe I should try to reposition it next time.

white tee on hanger

This time I also unpicked and reused the long reinforcing strip made from the same knit fabric as the shirt by sewing it to the neck and shoulders.

reinforced neck and shoulder

I tried out a different technique and made a wavy lettuce hem.  I sewed a very close, wide zigzag on a double thickness of fabric while stretching the fabric, and then trimmed close to the stitching on the inside.  I used this tutorial on lettuce hems published on Craftsy.

wavy lettuce hem

White Lettuce Tee

If you’d like more information and ideas on sewing knits take a look at my “learn to sew knits” board on Pinterest.

More experimenting with thrifted tees to follow!

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