Archive for the tag 'thrift'


Monday’s Child: 80s Boucle

80s CowlIt is fall again, and my vintage sweater collection is ready to keep me toasty. I’ve been busy with lots of laundering and mending over the last year, to get everything ready. It isn’t always easy, either, to fit vintage sweaters into modern looks, and I don’t claim to be extra-great at it. Some sweaters, like a simple cream-colored Aran, or a lovely Shetland wool fair isle, will always be fashionable, because they are wardrobe standards. But others, like today’s gray boucle with a cowl neck, straight out of the late 70s or early 80s, can be tricky. It’s so very definitely the era in which it was made; there is nothing even remotely timeless about it. But it is also a flattering shape and an interesting color and texture. Paired with plain bluejeans, it definitely evokes it’s era, but sometimes, with vintage, you just have to embrace it. Meanwhile, a quick search of Anthropologie’s recent crop of sweaters for fall and winter of 2014 give us things like this neutral-colored sweater with a fringe collar and this cowl-neck boucle sweater that both have elements reminiscent of my little vintage cowl. The shapes and textures from the 80s are definitely to be found all over in 2014′s designer sweaters, so I’ll count myself lucky my pretty vintage baby is in-the-moment for it’s debut season. And I’ll count myself extra lucky that this gem came to me via a Goodwill $1-days sale.


Thursday’s Child: Everycolor Yarn

braemarI frequently hit up my local thrift stores on dollar days looking for clothing for my family and also for items I can use as materials. Among the items I always look for are fur and leather coats, wool (or silk, alpaca, mohair, cashmere) sweaters and silk shirts. The wool sweaters will most of them be fulled and given to my sister for crafting. Those which are especially attractive and undamaged or with little enough damage to be repairable might actually get worn. Some few, particularly those made of more expensive or exotic fibers, but those made of wool if the wool is particularly interesting and the construction allows, get taken apart and used for yarn.

This sweater is one of the latter cases. It is a “vintage” 1980s shetland wool sweater by Braemar, size XL. It’s pretty ugly. I grabbed it off the rack for $1, initially intending it for the fulling pile because, well, it’s hard to go wrong with wool for $1. everycoloryarnBut then I took a close look at the background yarn, out of which the sleeves and entire back are also made. It’s gray. Maybe a bit on the blue side, and a nice heather, but basically just gray. Until you look closely, and then you’ll see that it’s heathered in fibers of red, orange, blue, green and purple. It is everycolor yarn. It gives the effect to the eye of being gray, but when paired with a garment of a given color, will sort of lean toward that color. The seams aren’t serged, so I can safely take the sweater apart and harvest the yarn, and that is exactly what I’m going to do, because…

One of these days, I will make myself some kilt hose. I’ve made a couple pair, and have more in the queue. Only my most favorite people get kilt hose and I’ve decided to add myself to that list. I believe the yarn is going to fall in the DK to worsted range, which somewhat limits the number of patterns out there, but fortunately I do not have dainty legs, so patterns in bulkier yarns, geared for men, will suit. At this point, I think I could safely use one of the patterns I already have and rechart some of the cable patterns for myself. Or, I might go with the Highland Schottische from Folk Socks by Nancy Bush. I’ve had those on my list for a long time. I think I’d rather do them in a darker yarn that would show off the openwork. This wool is just light enough to show cables like a dream.

I love vintage clothing, and I love knits, so it should come as no surprise at all that I adore vintage knits. This past season, I worked on my collection of vintage sweaters, focusing on wool. I buy vintage sweaters that most people don’t want because they need repair or are obviously out-dated, and I usually buy them CHEAP. I’d like to focus my Mondays on these sweaters as I get them each washed and repaired. If you do not want to hear a woman wax poetic about knits, these will not be the posts for you.

Vintage pink wool hand-knit cardiganLet’s start with this ridiculously pink cardigan. This is a mid to late 60s hand knit. If you recognize this from a vintage pattern book, please drop me a note; I’ve been hunting and can’t track it down. Special features include a saddle shoulder and paired cable braids on front and sleeves, with little open breast pockets at the top of each of the front cables. It has no shaping to speak of, and I really don’t know how to style it. Open over a white T-shirt and black jeans? Every time I look at I feel different about the color. Half the time I think it is perfect, the other half I make up my mind to over-dye it with purple. At the very least, I think I will update the buttons.

Now, this is also my first serious attempt at mending a sweater. I’ve fixed seams in the past, and even holes, but never with the intention of the sweater being as good as new. One of my previous attempts was a sweater of my husband’s that was worn a lot during our dog’s younger years, and lots of tooth and toenail snags latter was in the throw-away box. But he thought it was comfy, and lamented that it was ripped to shreds. So I mended it to good-enough, so he could slouch about the house in it. He could never wear it to work again, though. With my vintage sweater collection, the goal is to make the sweaters every bit as wearable as they ever were. This sweater had a hole in the back, and a weirdly crusty stain on one sleeve. After washing, the crusty stain turned into a lightly stained hole, and right over a cable, too. I couldn’t find any yarn quite the same pink, but found something pretty close and did a swiss-darning-style mend on the back to make it as invisible as possible, and then basically just tried to reconstruct as well as possible the damaged cable. It’s in a spot that won’t be noticed, and will most likely be taken for a stain rather than a darn, but my mixed-success was successful enough, I think, and will be even more so after another good blocking.



Monday’s Child: Dolman

Sweater: Vintage cotton dolman sleeve, Thrifted

March is here, and that means it’s starting to warm up here in sunny Nebraska. I love a light sweater for spring, and I also love the new/old dolman sleeve trend. It happens to be flattering on me, as well as being handy when you find a lovely vintage sweater and don’t want to look too terribly out of date. Once again, I really don’t know how to style this garment, but I feel like (my winter weight not withstanding) a pair of skinny jeans is the right direction. Perhaps that’s a little too 80′s, though. As always, let me know in the comments if you have any ideas for ways to style this garment.


Thursday’s Child: Heritage School

The history of Nebraska as a prairie state, of immigrants and settlers, is a valued part of our heritage around these parts. Willa Cather and Beth Streeter Aldrich wrote brilliantly of Nebraska’s pioneering history. (I personally recommend My Antonia by Cather and A White Bird Flying by Aldrich to anyone and everyone.) The social dynamics of European immigrants as settlers of Nebraska, the interaction of the communities of isolated nationalities, and how it can still be seen in the Nebraska of today are fascinating lessons in the history of American immigration, differing from those taught by 19th century Boston and New York. And we are proud of that history; of the perseverance and courage of our forebears.

And so, in my little part of the world, we try to teach our children the lessons of prairie life. In fourth grade, we send our children to Heritage School for a day, where they participate in a one-room class taught in the style of the late 19th century, in period clothing (or close approximations thereof) and with period expectations of manners. This after a long unit at school learning the differences they can expect, learning the songs they’ll sing, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (as it was said in the 1890′s), learning what kinds of lessons they can expect, and preparing for the spelling bee.

The foundation: A thrifted dress, possibly from a Halloween costume, but most probably from a past participant in Heritage School.

And where do I come in? The costume, of course. When I attended Heritage School, my mother made my costume, and I could do no less than to put my skills to work for my own daughter’s special day. I cheated a little; At Goodwill dollar days when the Halloween costumes were still on display I found a dress that would fit Kit, who is nearly the same size as I am. (The dress I wore to Heritage School in 4th grade Kit wore at Halloween when she was 6.) The dress is a somewhat unfortunate color of peach, and had a strange stand-up, fold-over collar and 3/4 length sleeves, with a weird yoke-look created with applied eyelet on the front of the dress. Obviously we had some things to change. I removed the eyelet on the front. I planned on removing the edging from the sleeves as well, but plans change. I managed to find a fabric that closely matched the dress and was therefore able to remove the weird collar and replace it with a rounded collar much more in keeping with the period. The matching fabric also allowed me to use contrasting fabric on other parts of the costume, which was nice.

All decked out.

I created a plain muslin petticoat, which you can’t see. The bib apron is my own design, and I’ll be re-making a slightly modernized version with a tutorial in the near future. (It’s really very easy, and I just made it up as I went. In the re-make, there are a few points I’ll change for the sake of elegance of design.) For the bonnet I used this tutorial with a few changes (namely using a contrasting fabric for the underside of the brim and no interfacing) and was very happy with the results. Kit has requested that we keep them rather than donate them to the school when she’s through, but we will be lending them out in the future. Kit is by far one of the tallest children in 4th grade, and the items of her costume are very much adult-sized. I know from personal experience that it can be a challenge to provide costumes for a child of such above-average size, and it amuses me a little to know that a teacher could just as easily borrow this particular outfit. Notes on the costume itself: Yes, it is March, but it is snowing today, so long underwear was necessary, and owing to the non-period-correct short sleeves, her long-johns show. Also, I was so busy making the costume that I forgot I needed to go hunting for less-obvious shoes. Bad mommy. She does have a shawl of wool plaid for wearing inside the chilly schoolhouse, but fortunately, they’ll be wearing their own coats for recess.


Thursday’s Child: Pirates

This weekend my daughter and I are attending a costume birthday party with a pirate theme. I’ve worked a number of pirate festivals in my day, in addition to having a reasonable ren faire garb closet, so putting together a couple of pirate costumes doesn’t present that big a challenge. However, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet to go Airship Pirate instead of High Seas pirate.

Now, the golden age of Caribbean privateers and piracy up the coast of the US was in the 17th and 18th centuries. Your typical Airship pirate is aiming for somewhere mid-19th, so the look is going to be somewhat different.

By the Victorian era, gone was the tricorne from the naval uniforms of Europe, and thence out of pirate ken. However, the tricorne’s descendant, the bicorne (you might recognize this hat style from a number of famous paintings of Napoleon.), was widely in use in naval officer dress around the world until the early 20th century, and would be a good option for a Victorian-era costume. For an airship, leather aviators caps and goggles, though somewhat cliche’, are also useful.

I like the idea of steampunk and pirate costumes (or both) for women incorporating items of men’s clothing as well. A peek at historical female pirates generally shows them in very masculine wear, although that might be artistic license. But it must be said that trousers seem a more practical garment for swashbuckling than a dress. For a steampunk outfit, I think a knickerbocker-style pant tucked into tall boots would be lovely. A more feminine approach would be a pair of bloomers, although at some point the knickerbockers and bloomers will be difficult to tell apart. A pair of baggy pants made of linen could be either. Give it a fancy edging and a casing for elastic and it’s a bloomer, tuck that fancy edging into a boot top and it’s a knickerbocker. Very handy.

My own plan involves a black velvet corset, linen bloomers in a color I haven’t chosen yet, probably cinched above the knee, stockings and booties, a man’s banded-collar shirt and a fur and leather mohawk aviator cap affair if I have time to make it. With some adjustments at a later date, this could also make a good con costume.


Monday’s Child: Junior Fashions

Dress: Vintage Junior fashion dress

February’s vintage look isn’t really a look. I found this adorable shades-of-gray dress from the early 1960s, and it fits me like a dream. But I have NO earthly idea how to style it. I like the bright shoes, but I don’t know if red is the color. Perhaps a blue or turquoise would be better? I need more shoes. (Don’t tell my husband I said that.)

Ideas for how to style this dress? Leave me a comment!

Saturdays here at are all about frugal living. Saturday’s child isn’t the only one who works hard for a living, and we all like our dollars to go as far as possible. My favorite way to stretch the dollar is being a cheapskate in my shopping habits. I think everyone should be a cheapskate. The last non-grocery item I bought at regular price was yarn, and I got it with a gift certificate. I just do not buy things unless they’re on sale, and except for intimates, socks, bath towels and bedding (really, I think those are the only four categories) I’d be just as happy to buy used as new. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve bought bedding and towels used, and even socks and underwear, but you have to understand, I buy vintage and I buy for repurposing. Truth be told, I like to know I’m the only person who’s slept on my sheets, but I’m not above using a set of used sheets for the material. Every person will have a different level of comfort when it comes to using used items, but I’m a firm believer in getting over it. I don’t bat an eye at giving gifts of thrift store purchases at Christmas or birthdays, and I buy garments and housewares for myself and my family with regularity. I also occasionally resell items. However, it does take practice to do this well and make it pay.

OK, first, let’s look at the outfit to the right. I think I look pretty nice. The cuts and colors are flattering and not completely out of date. (I’m generally a little bit in and a little bit out, to be honest.) They’re comfortable, and the entire outfit, boots included, cost me about $25. The top is a dolman-sleeved sweater I picked up at an after-Christmas sale at T.J. Maxx (my favorite non-thrift place to shop) for $10. The skirt, vintage 60′s John Meyer of Norwich, wool herringbone tweed in a sort of cherry-tomato red, $1 at Goodwill. The belt, vintage 80′s, $2 at Goodwill. And the boots, $13 on clearance at Target a few seasons ago. Now look, I’m not one to brag about my fashion sense (not even a little bit, in fact I’m not sure I have it) but a quick scroll through the cool-weather sales at Neiman Marcus convinced me that this look was not outside the realm of fashionable, and I did it for $25 instead of $250. And look how skinny it makes me look!

So, it can be done, this tricky business of shopping at thrift stores. But it takes practice and it takes patience. I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 most important things you need to know to be an efficient thrift store shopper.

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I have a love affair with kitschy vintage stuff. Bowling things make me especially happy. I love bowling bags. So, when I walked to the sporting goods section of the Goodwill a few days ago, and saw a tooled-leather bowling bag practically in pieces on the bottom shelf, I swooned a little. But what would I do with a bowling bag that was falling apart? Was it in good enough condition to try to save?

The answer was no. The stitching was rotting, the thing was falling apart. The bottom had obviously been sitting in water at some point, so there was some staining and some mildew. But… but… well. Tooled leather bowling pins. That’s all I’m saying. I bought it, and I brought it home, and I got some ideas.

Step one was simply giving up and taking the entire thing apart. I broke it down to its constituent parts, and then discarded whatever clearly couldn’t be saved. That was pretty much all the non-leather parts, including the bottom, as well as many of the very thin leather parts, like trims and lacing. But I did get the two large front and back panels, two smaller panels from the sides and the side/top parts where the zipper resides. Which, really, were the only important bits.

Step two was reconditioning. I first soaked the pieces in hot water for a bit, then washed them carefully. I used Dawn dish soap. (Hey, if it’s safe enough for the oil-covered critters, I figured it’s safe enough for this, and I didn’t have any saddle soap handy, although I really should get some.) I scrubbed carefully with a soft cloth to remove the dust in the tooled designs, and the filth on the inside of the leather, to include mold on at least one piece. After rinsing thoroughly, I let the pieces dry overnight. The next day, the task was to remove as many of the tedious little leftover bits of stitching as possible, and then oil those puppies. I had some mink oil I bought to condition some shoes, and along with the shoe brush and an old cotton sock, I first scrubbed, then rubbed, the mink oil into both sides of the leather pieces, being careful to get the edges really well.

Ladies and gentlemen:


The bowling scene. I love this. I believe this will be one side of a knitting bag. It will be a basic tote style, with the rest of the body made of felted plaid wool suiting or coat material, and bowling-themed lining fabric. (I’m contemplating designing my own, having not yet found one I really love anywhere.) The handle hardware will be replaced, and it will also have a shoulder strap.


The rose. Yeah, this is awesome. Another tote-style bag, possibly also a knitting bag. Like the other large panel, the handle will be replaced, and it will have a shoulder strap. Meanwhile, this one will, I think, have a black/red color scheme. I’d like to do plaid in those colors if I can find it, but otherwise a plain black or strip will work. For the lining, I’m thinking rockabilly, Day of the Dead or Catholic imagery. And I was also thinking about doing some kind of black-polish wash-type thing to only the rose portion of the tooling.

Last, but not actually least:


Each of these pieces measures a little under 6″x9″. I’m thinking I’ll knit and felt bodies for them and make clutches or little handbags out of them. The floral motif one will have a zippered coin pocket. (I am not sure what that zipper was for, but it reached into the liningless bottom of the bag.) The other piece used to have a little window sewn on to put a name label. The stitch holes delineate an area almost the exact size of my driver’s license, which means by the time I sewed a window pocket there it would be too small to actually put the ID in there, or at least, a very tight fit. So. I’m thinking it’ll have some kind of pocket, but I’m not sure what.

Not pictured are the zipper bits. I haven’t finished reconditioning them yet, as I have a LOT of stitching to take out first. (Including removing the zipper.) Once done, I think they’ll make a really interesting little bag. I have ideas. Oh yes.

The really nice thing about all this is, I think I can do a lot of the sewing on my machine, including sewing the leather pieces to the fabric. The former stitching left holes, and as long as I go slowly and/or hand crank the machine, I think my machine will be able to use the old stitch holes with no problems. That’ll save a lot of work, although the other nice thing about the stitch holes is, even my ungainly hand-stitching will look neat, wherever it happens to be necessary.

Brush Pile

This is a brush pile. It is composed almost entirely of white ash saplings, with a few elm saplings thrown in for good measure. Some of these saplings were fairly large, since we’ve neglected our South fence line something fierce over the last couple of years. I spent most of Saturday afternoon sawing these suckers down, in many cases from under the neighbor’s fence. I only got about 2/3 of the way done, and opted to complete a different project the following afternoon due to blisters.

That project? Create a small flower bed around our mail box, and move some of the daylilies from the aforementioned South fence line to said flower bed.

At about noon, I walked out my front door and stood looking at the mailbox. I glanced at the fence, then at the brush pile, then at the mailbox again. The night before I researched wattle fencing, feeling morose that I had all these lovely, straight sapling branches and would probably end up just throwing them out for lack of a way to use them. I really hadn’t even thought of putting a fence around the mail box bed, but as I stood there in the sunlight, it occurred to me that I really had nothing to lose.

A little bit of sawing, strategic use of the garden shears, some spading, about 5 hours of total work, and one injured 7 year old, and I went from a mail box surrounded by lawn and a brush pile to this:

Lilies In

You can’t see it, but there are lilies in there. I might get some more of different colors and plant them as well. These should be pretty sparse this year, but I anticipate many years of lovely lilies in the future.

My little wattle fence is made using upright pieces roughly 14″ long, pounded into the ground up to half their length. The four corner pieces are roughly 1″ to 1.5″ thick. The twelve interior pieces are in the 3/4″ range. Then I took long, skinny branches (most starting at 3/8″ to 1/2″ at the cut end) and wove them between the poles. I used 8 narrow branches per row. First on one side, then on the opposite, and then on the other two sides, one branch is woven outside/inside/outside with the ends resting on the outside of the corner poles. The second branch is then woven inside/outside/inside, making sure that the fat ends of each branch are on opposite ends of the row. I think my fence has 8 rows. It is quite sturdy, and once the wood is no longer green, I think it will be even more so, since this fence is made of hardwood (mostly white ash, as I said above) rather than the typical willow whips. I may wrap the top ends of the corner posts to secure the final row from slippage while it is curing, and also for a decorative finish.

Truthfully, this is a little more “rustic” or “country” than my taste usually runs, but I feel so good about using these materials rather than wasting them that I don’t care about style. And the process was so much fun, especially with my daughter helping me (never mind the injury, which was quite funny, actually), that I have another little plan for the too-thin and/or too-short branches left in the brush pile.

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