crafts · Sewing · Thrifting

Ok, point taken!

After you all weighed in yesterday (for the record, no one besides me thought that I should give up!) I decided to continue on with my dress.  I attached the peplum in hopes that it would pull down the wrinkles.  The results?  Success!

(why yes, the sweatpants are part of the outfit!)

I’m feeling much better now that I’ve tried it on.  Sometimes I get a lot of anxiety about how a project will turn out – especially when I haven’t made a muslin, and I can’t try it on yet!  I have made some initial alterations:

I removed 1.5″ at center back (I’m holding it where I want the excess out in this photo)  I’m also going to taper the waist in a little when I sew the final side seams.

I’m no longer planning to use the sleeves.  I really like how it looks sleeveless, so I will finish the armholes and neckline with some skinny red bias binding and call it a day!

I’m not lining it – one of you mentioned that it would be harder to iron after cleaning that way, and you had a point!  I agree with Carolyn that underlining would help.  I still have flashbacks about the time involved in my last underlining project, so I’m going to skip that this time, but I do agree – it’s the best way to avoid wrinkles!

am going to line the skirt.  I’d imagine it will be easier to wear in the winter that way.  I’m also planning to shorten and peg (taper) the skirt, to give it a more vintage feel.

The waist on this baby is super duper high.  I like that – goes with the vintage feel.  This will be lovely for sipping bourbon cocktails on derby day, yes? (Notice I didn’t say mint juleps, a drink which I am convinced someone invented to trick the tourists with something gross!)

Other random thoughts this week:

– I can’t wait for the new Vogue patterns – I’ve seen the line drawings (thread here) and they look good (and yes, there are several peplums in this collection!)  I will post my opinions when they are up.

– I need to clean out my closet for real.  I’ve been doing some thrift shopping, and that means I need to get rid of some dead weight (and donate it back to the charity shop… it’s like the cycle of life!)  My husband wonders how I could need more clothes and… yeah, he has a point.  But!  If I didn’t check often I would have missed out on this:

Yes, that is the faux leopard jacket (circa late 1950s or early 1960s) that I have been dreaming of for years!  I kept wanting to buy one, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay much for an item with limited  usefulness.  So when I went to the shop and saw this sitting with the other coats I grabbed it immediately.  And how much was it?  Five dollars!  And it’s my size, in perfect condition with lining, original label etc (Btw, if you have any vintage labels you wonder about I recommend this resource –  I have found it useful in dating my vintage clothing!)

That’s all for now – hopefully I will be back soon with a completed outfit!

crafts · decorating · Thrifting

Drowning in a sea of fabric

I’ve spent the past week sorting and reorganizing my sewing room (ie the entire 3rd floor of my house,) with the idea of turning half of it into a workout space (I don’t use all the space now, it mostly holds boxes!)  Right now I’m in the “looking worse before it gets better” phase (see below)

The big chest that you see in the back there is currently blocking off about an 8’x8′ area of usable space.  The trunk was my husband’s in childhood, but I have no nostalgia about possessions… we have nowhere to put it, and no use for it, so it has to go!  I have yet to get my big pattern chest in this room, partially because of the trunk issue, so I’m hoping to get it up there this week!  Needless to say, there is no sewing… but I am finding patterns and fabric that I forgot I even had!  I’ve been compiling a folder of fall inspiration, which I will show you soon.  I can’t wait until my space actually looks inviting again – I hate clutter!

I also thought I would show a few recent fun thrifting/ yard sale finds with you.  I’ve been trying to get up earlier, so I’ve actually made it to a few more sales this season.

I got this adorable homemade sheep cross stitch at one of those yardsales.  The lady I bought it from said it no longer suited her decor, but I love it on my bedroom mantle (along with a globe that’s so old it still shows “French West Africa” as a country!)

I’ve been searching for a fall purse, and I think this is the one.  I bought it at Goodwill.  It’s not fancy, but it is unused (still with tags) and has a great leopard print lining.  I think this might have been one of those bags they give you with a large cosmetic purchase.  I’m happy with it!

And saving the best for last…

Oh yes… you know you are jealous of my STTNG clock!  I haven’t decided yet where to put it… it’s important to find just the right place, you know?  I’m thinking it will end up in the sewing room, so that Commander Riker can inspire me!


crafts · Sewing · Thrifting


I have been super busy (in a good way!) lately.  My teaching schedule is pretty much full, and I’m in two, possibly three  performing groups this year.   In addition, I’ve been trying to fit in an hour of exercise every day, which cuts into my blog reading time – I’m about to have to declare  Google Reader amnesty and just start over!

I have been sewing, albeit a bit slowly.  I’m still working on the Vogue Vena Cava dress.  I did change my fabric – I decided the zebra print had a bit of a diagonal repeat, and it would have been noticeable in the finished dress.  Instead, I’m using this ITY print:

It’s a little more spring/summer than I really wanted, but it was the best option I had.  I wasn’t willing to order fabric for this dress without being certain it will fit!  I will say that the construction is challenging – I have never made  a dress that was put together this way!  Because of that, I find that I can only do a few steps each night before fatigue sets in (I really hate interpreting drawings.)  The instructions are good though – I have been following them to the letter and it’s working!  Last night I finished the bodice, so I’m onto the skirt now!  I think I’m going to have to use the pockets – I usually leave them out, but I don’t think that would work in this case.  I’m hoping to finish this dress by the weekend – I want to wear it before it gets too late in the year!

I haven’t posted about thrifting in awhile.  Actually, other than the step I bought a few weeks ago I haven’t really been!  My friend Sarah (my thrifting buddy) and I hit one of my favorites last weekend.  I find it very handy to thrift with someone else – she can talk me out of items that aren’t my style, and we wear roughly the same size, but prefer opposite colors (she loves warm tones and brown.)

Although I have been trying not to buy clothes than need alterations, I couldn’t help myself.  Except for one, I’ve already done the work!  Here is what I got:

I love animal prints, but I’ve never tried this kind.  I’m showing it with my trusty Kwik Sew obi belt – it goes with everything!  The dress was two sizes too big for me, so I took it in from hem to underarm (the sleeves were fine) and shortened it by 3 inches.  My 30 minutes of alterations paid off – I love this dress, and I can’t wait to wear it in the fall with boots!

Thrift stores are great places to take a risk.  This dress (don’t worry, despite appearances this is not a romper!)  has a slightly dropped blouson waist.  This would not ordinarily be my thing, but I thought “why not?”  As it turns out, I love this dress.  I wore it Monday with a pair of black flat sandals, and it was so comfortable (yet not sack-like!)  I like that it has a tie rather than elastic – I am coming to a point where I really hate elastic waists on dresses.

I love the fabric of this dress.  It’s originally from the Gap.  I don’t find that Gap clothing fits me well, but this is an exception.  I did shorten the dress by three inches – for some reason dresses from Gap seem to have long hemlines.  I wore it yesterday.

This is also black, not brown (my camera was in a mood.)  Made by INC, I am probably taking in the sides a bit, but other than that it’s a lovely summer/early fall dress.

Ok, so… I bought this because I loved the fabric (which is emerald green, not teal.)  It’s  3 sizes too big for me, but I think I can work it – I want to add some boning to the bodice anyway.   I will take it apart and consider my options – a bigger job than I would usually take on, but my emerald is my favorite color (and so hard to find!)

So that’s what I’ve been up to!  Hopefully I can finish and photograph my dress this weekend – I don’t currently have a tripod that works with my camera, so my husband has to be home for me to get modeled photos.

crafts · fashion · patterns · Sewing · Thrifting

In a 70s sort of mood…

I go through phases with my clothing.  Sometimes I cannot live without my full-skirted 50s dresses.  Other times I am attracted to the mod 60s (though they are not, it must be said, super great for my body type.)  Right now?  I’m having a minor obsession with some Studio 54 inspired 70s fashion.  It was sparked when I purchased this dress at a thrift store last month:




This dress has zero hanger appeal, but I had returned a dress that had major holes, and my thrift insists on an exchange rather than a refund.  With 15 minutes to store close I grabbed this dress, which had the advantage of being actual vintage.  I figured that if I didn’t like it, I could unload it to someone else who would.  To my surprise, this dress is really flattering, even at the just below the knee length!  I’ve always avoided these sorts of drapey frocks, but now I seem to have a whole new category of dresses to lust after!  To that end, I’ve bought this pattern on ebay:

Some DVF dress patterns can go for up to $100 (the famous wrap dress.)  This one?  Five dollars.  Apparently I am the only one wanting to revive this moment in fashion history!  The pattern calls for draped fabrics – challis, double georgette, crepe etc, or single knits.  I have a ton of knits, so I might try that  – either a matte jersey or an ITY.

It amuses me to look at old photos and realize that pantyhose with sandals used to be totally acceptable!  And, come to think of it, I haven’t owned a pair of regular pantyhose in at least 10 years – crazy!

crafts · outfits · Sewing · Thrifting

Military shirtdress: before and after

On one of my thrifting expeditions recently I ran across a military style shirtdress.  It was super dowdy, but a good quality brand (Talbots,) made of a lovely silk.  It appeared almost unworn. The hidden clasp at the waist (a nice feature in a shirtdress – mine always gape there!) was detatched, and I sincerely hope that’s not why it was donated (although, based on the number of requests from friends and family for me to sew on buttons, I wouldn’t be surprised.)  Here is the before shot:

As you can see, not so cute.  This is actually a size 10 petite.  Last I checked, I wear a 6 in Talbots, and 2 sizes isn’t a bad alteration.  And petite is always better, because the shoulders on a petite tend to be narrow.   My inspiration was this dress, from Anthro this fall:

I shortened the dress by 4 inches (actually too much… I had to take a really tiny hem!) I shortened the sleeves, and took 2 inches of width out of each side, from the sleeve to the waist.  The skirt portion originally had a slit, which I sewed up.  That altered the hang of the skirt enough that I didn’t need to adjust it.  The waist is elastic, and it’s meant to be worn with a belt, so I didn’t adjust the waist at all.  It was made a little more complicated by the fact that the skirt was lined.  I wanted it to look nice, so I carefully removed all the hems and made a nice, neat new hem in both.  The results?

I am really happy with how this came out – it’s very on trend, and you would never guess that it was a $2.50 thrift store purchase!  I think I got close to my inspiration.  The only differences are the sleeves (I wanted shorter sleeves, and though I made a tab I ended up preferring the sleeves hemmed shorter,) and the belt – I dislike fabric ties, and prefer a nice, stretchy elastic belt.  This project ended up costing about $5 (I had to buy matching thread!) and took me one evening to complete.

Here is how I’m actually wearing it today (it’s a cold one!)


Sweater: 525 america, this is definitely my favorite sweater this year.  Love the shawl collar!

Belt: Forever 21

Boots: Nine West



Thrift store Sunday

Thanksgiving weekend is apparently a great time to hit the thrifts.  The donation line was out the door (I guess when people have time off, they clean out their closets!)  I visited two stores this week, one in Cincinnati (my in-laws live there,) and the other in Indiana (I live downtown, so it’s often easier to get there than venture far into my own city!)

The first store I visited (in Cincy) was having 50% off clothing, and it was madness!  I managed some great finds by doing my squirrel impression, throwing everything that looked possible into my cart, and then finding a (relatively) quiet corner to sort.

Printed cardigan sweater (Ann Taylor.)  This is recent season – I’m pretty sure I remember it.  It’s light, almost tissue knit.

I also got several dresses to alter, including a silk military style shirtdress from Talbots that I’m certain will be great when it’s finished (I’ll photograph those after altering.)

The thrift I went to in Indiana often has recent season Target items – the local Targets donate whatever doesn’t sell.  They all had blue tags, so they were 50% off ($2.50) this weekend.

“Tucker for Target” designer collaboration, this was in stores earlier this Fall.  I bought two of these in different prints.  It’s a polyester, but it does feel nice.  This dress will work for most of the year.

Merona dress, also from this fall.  I don’t love the slippery acetate material, but look at the cute shoulder bows!

Coming tomorrow: photos of my completed corduroy shirtdress.  I love it so much that I’ve already started a second (in plaid shirting!)

crafts · Thrifting

Thrift store Sundays

Because I find that I tend to post more often if I have a theme, I’m declaring Sundays to be thrift store days – where I show you what I’ve found on my weekly thrifting excursions, and give tips for better thrift shopping.

When facing a large thrift store I find that it’s best to know what items you have luck thrifting.  For instance, I always search through the dresses, skirts, and jackets.  I almost never check out pants (which I hardly wear, ) and I only give the tops a cursory exam (there are more tops than anything at most stores, and I find they are often worn out or too short for me.) I usually look through the slip selection too, because I love vintage slips and modern ones aren’t as pretty.

This week I had great luck with dresses, and bought yet another new coat.  These items were all $5 each.   I’m only showing the items that work pretty much as is – I also got some things to alter, but I’ll show those as I finish them!

I actually found this coat by chance – it was misfiled, and another shopper saw it, looked at me and said “This would be so cute on you – here!”  and threw it into my cart.  I find this happens pretty often – there is a curious sense of camaraderie among the dedicated thrifters! I love the velvet collar (in perfect condition!) and believe it or not I didn’t have a peacoat before.   It looks like the coat is missing a button, but it isn’t – it appears to me that someone wanted a doublebreasted peacoat, and so they replaced all the buttons, neglecting to realize that there is only one buttonhole (the button is sewn on underneath.)  These buttons are cheap, and I’m going to replace them with buttons befitting the age of the coat (which I’m placing as late 60s/early 70s by this label:)

I love this BCBG dress!  The pattern is very me, and the fit is quite good (needs the belt, but dresses without a waist seam always do on me.)

Sorry for the darkness of these photos – I actually lightened them, but it’s a gloomy day!  This dress is by Maggy London, and it’s a petite.  There’s actually a black band at the bottom, but it’s still pretty short on non-petite me!  I’m planning to wear it with leggings and boots as a tunic.  Thrifting is a great time to experiment with shapes you wouldn’t usually wear.  For instance:  I usually wouldn’t wear this sort of 60s style shift, because it doesn’t have a waistline.  But this is actually really cute, at least when it’s this short, so I’m happy to try it out!

The details are hard to see, but this Ann Taylor dress has some really cute embroidered and gathered details, and a pretty eyelet hem.  In this color it will work for summer as is, or for fall with boots/tights and a jacket or cardigan.  It’s a little big (Ann Taylor is a bad offender in the vanity sizing I think,) but only a little – and with a belt it fits perfectly!

That’s it for this week – I also have a few items to alter, including a cute purple plaid shirtdress, but I’ll get around to posting those once I finish my alterations.

This was a busy weekend – my chamber choir had their first full concert, which was a great success (we will have another right before Christmas, if any of my local peeps are interested… leave a comment and I’ll get you the info.)  I have this whole week off!  We’re actually staying here for the holiday instead of going to Cincinnati, though we will be going up there one day.  I have sewing plans: to finish my shirtdress (I made the muslin last night,) and to sew two cardigans from a Jalie pattern.)  I leave you with this photo of Marc and I, heading out for the concert (he’s drinking vermouth, which for some reason I do not understand he likes by itself.)  You will note that I did not have time to make another dress yet, but I did wear different shoes which helped.


outfits · Sewing · Thrifting

11-16-2010: banishing the demons

I woke up in a bad mood this morning, having come to the decision last night that my muslin for the Vogue Cynthia Steffe pattern was not going to work out.  It has eight(!) inset corners in the bodice and bodice lining, and I really hate sewing those.  So that wasn’t great, but what really did it in was the massive size of the sleeves – even pleated the way the pattern asks they were a bit overwhelming for my frame.  So I put it away (I am planning to rescue the skirt portion as soon as I get some wide elastic for a waistband.)  I’m going to start my cord shirtdress instead.

To cheer myself up I finished a few refashions from my pile (yes, I have a backlog of things to alter from the thrift store!)  Here is the first:

Dress: Merona, thrifted

Scarf: Merona (current season)

Tights: Betsey Johnson

Boots: Unisa

It was so dark and rainy today that I had to snap photos on the back porch (which, if you will notice, is falling apart… must remember not to stand on that corner!)

This dress was thrifted back when I lived in Bloomington, so about eight years ago.  It’s made of a thin t-shirt material, and has all the style of a potato sack, seriously.  It used to have a sad little self belt, but that has long since been lost.  For years this was my funeral dress.  You see, part of my old job required me to attend an average of one funeral a week,  and this was safe and basic.  I nearly got rid of it my last closet purge (as, thank goodness, I no longer have to attend a crazy number of depressing funerals,) but I held onto it, thinking it might be worth a refashion.

I cut 4 and a half inches off, and did a wavylettuce edge hem with the serger.  Then, paired  with a belt and some colorful accessories, the dress starts to lose some of its funeral connotations!

Other thoughts:

– I actually paid full price for this scarf.  How could I not?  It’s both leopard print and one of my favorite colors!

– I’m experimenting with colored tights.  I like the look with boots because it gives color without being overwhelming.

– I need to make a few black dresses – they work so well as a backdrop, but they are so boring to sew!


Epic thrifting day

I have a great love for thrift stores – when I was little we were very poor, but my Mom made bargain shopping into a game.  I still enjoy it!  I also like a lot of variety, but retail prices make me flinch.  I have literally no clothing budget except for my sewing.   Today I went to one of the larger Goodwills in town.  I had been on the verge of giving it up, as it seemed lately that they suffered from the same issue that all the southern Indiana stores have – very little in my size, and in fact, very little that wasn’t recent season Wal-mart discards and such.  I thrift to get nicer things than I could otherwise afford, and I could afford to shop at Wal-mart (but I don’t… it’s such an unpleasant place.)
I don’t know what happened, but it seemed that today there was plenty of merchandise in my size, from very nice brands – and even some actual vintage, which I find is quite rare in a Goodwill (I think it must get shipped to their boutique stores.)  Of course, it may also be that I was on my own – I often thrift with my husband, but he does not have the patience that I do to sift through every single rack in the store (and it is a very large store.)  I was there for two hours, but I think I made up for my recent absence from the thrift scene.
Skirts.  I have found that skirts are very easy to alter, so I have started buying them too large and altering to fit.  The red skirt  is vintage Pendleton wool – never worn, see the tag still attached!  It’s too big, but it’s easily altered.  I already washed it in Eucalen to remove the thrift store stink (how is it that all thrift stores smell the same?) and Leon slept on it (cats have an irresistible urge to sleep on wet laundry I find.) thus the wrinkles.    The other plaid skirts are also nice – the olive/purple miniskirt fits really well, and just to show you how sizing has changed, it’s a size 8 (I think it’s from the 80s, based on the tag.)  Now I usually have to buy a 2 in skirts, which I think is just silly.  I put most of these skirts in the “to be altered” pile – even if they fit they are often a low-waisted style, and I’ve definitely decided that low-rise skirts do not suit me at all.
This coat was a great find – vintage 100% cashmere, fur collar, silk lining in perfect condition except for one tiny, easily repaired rip where the sleeve lining attaches.   Sadly, it doesn’t fit me as well as I hoped, being a few sizes too big, so it is probably destined for ebay.
Various jackets… the one on the right is a Banana Republic equestrian style that appears to have never been worn, with great elbow patches.  I don’t know how I found these, because I never have any luck at all in the jacket section!  I have lately become enamoured with wearing blazers open over full skirts to extend the summer skirt season, but I had very few jackets anymore.
Many tops… you can never have too many I think, though when I had all these in my cart I was actually approached three times by people who thought I worked there!  I find that I don’t enjoy making tops as much as dresses and skirts, so I’d rather thrift those items than have to worry about making my own.  These will be worked into my wardrobe.  I need to get to making those two black skirts – I have fabric for a pencil style and a more full style, both with the thought of wearing them with my more colorful blouses.  Most of these are from Ann Taylor or NY&Co.
I bought this 80s sweater because I liked the color.  Is this style back yet?  I’m seeing the giant dolman sleeved sweaters everywhere, but that is really not a good look on me (though fab on others.)  This is better – volume on the top, but since my arms are free I don’t look like an enormous bat.
I even found a few dresses, after picking through a sea of ugly 80s denim jumpers.  The green print dress is clearly home sewn, and I had to buy it for that reason.  It needs taking in around the bust, but it will be cute next summer.  I love the teal wrap dress, which is sort of an empire wrap.  Works better on me than a waist wrap.  The calico dress is to wear with my cowboy boots and a jacket – I’ve seen a few women in similar outfits this fall, and I like the style.
And a purse… it isn’t a fancy purse, but I thought the stripes were fun.  I’m thinking early 90s maybe?  I seem to recall this sort of Ralph Lauren stripe being popular then.  Purses are stupid cheap at Goodwills here – $1.50 each.
And finally, I bought this set of vintage sheets to use as dress fabric.  I thought there was something I liked about the pattern, but it wasn’t until I had washed it and hung it over the balcony that I realized it forms a very MC Escher type 3d print.  My husband (the math nerd) was very excited to point that out to me.  I don’t know how old these are, but the fitted sheet does not have elastic, just a zigzagged edge.  Is that a clue?
Does anyone else share my love of thrifting?  None of my friends do… in fact, I bet they would be shocked if they realized what percentage of my wardrobe is thrifted.  It’s why I say sewing is not saving me anything – yes, it’s cheaper than retail, but I don’t shop retail!  That’s ok though… I just put it in my entertainment budget instead.
I’m hoping to start on my polka dot dress today… I was going to cut the fabric last night, but there was a giant wasp in my sewing room.  I’m a big wuss when it comes to anything that could sting me, so I shut it in and waited til my husband got up this morning to take care of it.  Hopefully today!
crafts · Crochet · knitting · Life · Thrifting


I’m at home tonight, ignoring all the fireworks.  July 4th is my least favorite holiday – it involves picnics and sudden loud noises, two things which I don’t really enjoy (and yes, I know… everyone loves a picnic except me, but I have major bug phobia.)

Instead I have started the packing process (half our things are already packed away in storage, so it really isn’t too many boxes) and I’m still working on babette!

I still have lots of squares to go, and I’m starting to feel the need for another break… I don’t want to burn myself out.  I don’t think I ever before understood how long it takes to make a blanket, but you all have my respect now!  Maybe I will try working on Joy some more (I stopped because the denim was hurting my wrists and the pattern was hurting my brain… I wish more Rowan patterns had charts!)

Last weekend we visited Marc’s family, and we managed to hit some of the thrifts there.  For some reason they have better Goodwill stores there.  Ours, while cheaper, are always junky and overcrowded with poorly organized stuff.  I got some t-shirts for the upcoming home renovations (I always look for the strangest ones to get paint on) and I also found one of my favorite thrifted books ever.

It’s a sort of guidebook to being a wife, and while I suspect that even at the time of publication (1964)  it was outdated, I still think it’s super fun!  It has a whole chapter devoted to picking out furniture for your new home, and includes such admonitions as “make sure to get furniture large enough for your husband!”

The chapter on furniture arrangement helpfully shows you how to display way too many things over your sofa.

I think it’s funny that the random letters on the wall thing seems to have come back, and whose family didn’t have a giant key on the wall (mine did – and you could hang keys on it too!)  I seriously covet the sofa, even in a drawing.  Our sofa (see above) was reasonably priced, but it’s still too overstuffed for my taste.  Ah well – I had to get one large enough for my husband, right ladies?

The book has lists of things to outfit your kitchen, and a chapter on setting a nice table (tablescapes!)  It also contains a number of recipes, and the photos accompanying these are predictably bad, as they always are in these old books.  But the recipe below… even the nicest modern camera couldn’t make that look good.

Why yes… those are indeed brussles sprouts in a cranberry rice ring, why do you ask?