Monday, May 23, 2016

Hundred Percent

When Judy climbed into the back seat of KK’s SUV the other day, we all said hi, then she immediately told us about four unrelated things. She paused for a second, then commented, “I am one hundred percent random.”

I thought that was just the best line ever. “I want to put that on a t-shirt,” I told her, and grabbed my Kindle Fire so I could make a note. (I knew I'd never remember later if I didn’t write it down.) 
KK went me one better; she spoke to her phone and told it to take a note. When she was finished, it repeated back to her what it had saved.

“I’m one hundred percent Rhonda,” it intoned. We all cracked up. I'm afraid that is going to become a catchphrase for all of us. Years down the road, someone will ask how we’re doing. “Oh, I'm a hundred percent Rhonda,” will be the answer. I can hardly wait.

KK and I had a random/Rhonda Friday last week. Strike that, we actually began on Thursday, which was the first day of the Episcopalians’ rummage sale. (Which they have been doing since something like 1936.) I thought I was going to get out of there with only three vintage Christmas balls for fifty cents. Then I strolled over to the menswear and hit pay dirt. I love the crazy print on this rayon shirt

which I've already remodeled with a modified collar and a couple of tucks at the waist for a little shape. 

As if the fabric wasn’t busy enough, I replaced the buttons with seven different ones from my stash.

The sweater rack yielded up a couple of cashmeres for two bucks a piece.

When I got home, I looked up the brand. Turns out they came from a pricey store in San Francisco, where Scottish cashmere sweaters like these are still available. The price tag? Oh, between $400 & $600 – each. How fast do you think I got back in the car to go look again? Found two more with the same label, this time wool and cashmere blend. 

These are more reasonably priced in the store. Only about $350 each! Sheesh! Glad I didn’t quibble at the $2 price tag!

On Friday, one of our first stops was an estate sale where I picked up this large, all-wool throw. It's not a Pendleton (actually heavier and larger than my Pendleton throws) but very nice quality. And $5 seemed like a very nice price tag. 

I was carrying it around when another lady noticed it and wondered if it were hand woven. She mentioned she is a weaver. I told her there was another piece where I had picked up the throw that was hand woven and took her to see it. This was a gorgeous long scarf in shades of purple that I had considered, but it was a whopping $8 so I had put it back. She took one look at the maker’s tag still attached and beamed. “It's by Gayle!” she said. “I know her, I took a class from her.” She had made a wonderful vest of her own handwoven fabric in this class, but alas, the first time she went to wash it she found she was out of Woolite. Off to the store for more (leaving the vest lying on the washing machine). When she returned she found her lovely husband had done the laundry for her. Yup, including her vest, which did not take kindly to the experience. It sounded like it came out doll-sized. Sigh. But at least the purple handwoven scarf got a good home. Where it will only be hand washed.

We had a pretty good list of sales, but at least four of them turned out to be nonexistent. Annoying. I'm just glad none were far afield. One that did exist had a trash pile with an old light fixture lying on it. KK took it home…and now it is a bird feeder! (When Judy saw the picture, her response was “That's just for the upper class birds 👑 Too fancy for our birds!”

We were almost through the list when we came to a moving sale not far from my house. I spotted a pretty sheet right away and noticed it was marked 50¢.

The fabric is wonderfully soft; turns out it's a king-size Ralph Lauren flat. (Which would have retailed between $125 – 185. For one sheet.) I've been wanting to make a kimono jacket to throw on these cool mornings (it's still getting down into the forties at night here) and thought this would be good fabric to try. In the same box I found a duvet cover for the same purpose. It's only a twin size, but a double layer of fabric. Lots to play with.

While I was looking at sheets, KK was going through a rack of clothes. I heard her ask the guy holding the sale how much they were. “A quarter each,” he said. I headed for the clothing rack! Found a pair of Ellen Tracy linen pants that fit, just need to shorten them.

Forgot to get a picture of the navy and white striped Ralph Lauren shirt I gave my SIL (told her if she doesn’t like it she can use it for a rag – since it cost a quarter). Also picked out a boiled wool vest that’s a little small, but could be fun combined with some kind of sweater.

This sheer cardigan is knit of linen and was probably purchased at Nordstrom.

I brought home this Jones New York blazer because I like the wool/silk/linen fabric.

Could be fun to upcycle, but before I do I might try to resell it…since it still has the $229 hang tag on it!
As we headed to the car with our arms full, KK said, “I'm betting he just got divorced and wants her stuff gone.”

She was probably right. Or maybe it was just a hundred percent Rhonda.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Going Back for More, More, More!

Our adventures this week started on Thursday. I've signed up for emails from, and when the listing arrived in my inbox for a sale with lots of midcentury stuff, I quickly sent a message to my posse. Judy couldn’t make it for our 7 a.m. start (she did go by later) but KK and I were there bright and early.

Big house (over 4,000 square feet) built in 1952, on almost half an acre. 
I’d love to see the place after it has been emptied. Because you really couldn’t see the house for all the stuff. It felt like a hoarder situation, except that everything was clean, nothing smelled musty (or worse), and things seemed to have been used and loved. They just really had a LOT of stuff. 

For instance, while waiting to go in on Thursday, we noticed the front porch was literally piled to the ceiling with vintage suitcases. Not only every room in the house but the front and back yards were full. It was incredible. We heard later that the estate sale company got rid of four of those huge dumpster trash boxes you rent before they could even start working on the sale.

Before we even entered the house I had picked out two things from the front yard. This piece of wooden art was made by Dave Criner, probably back in the Seventies.

A similar piece sold for over $400 on this site. Mine is missing one of the circles, so now I’m on a quest for something to fill in that space. But for a couple of bucks, I’m happy!

I spotted this game while we were waiting in line to go in.

Okay, I'm a sucker for toys! I just love it. 

But I need your help. What the heck are these things called?? I've tried every search term I can think of and the only thing that pulled up anything similar was “vintage five pin bowling toy.” As far as I know, the idea was to roll a ball and hit one of the pins and make it spin around to rest on top of the metal bar. Adding to the mystery, this one came with a handle that appears to be missing a piece from the end with a screw sticking out. 

The little tied-on whiffle ball is clearly an afterthought. Now I'm on the lookout for a suitable wooden ball.

Once we got into the house we ooh’d and ahh’d our way through the spendy stuff in the living room, including some MCM pole lamps and vintage metal art pieces on the walls. The lady of the house was evidently a notable seamstress, because there was a room full of sewing books and supplies, and downstairs was a room with thousands of yards of fabric. (Some of which was polyester double knit, so you know how long it had been there.) I picked out a few notions

and for a big splurge (five bucks!) I got this box

full of thread. Gütermann thread (voted the best sewing thread in the UK last year). Over 120 spools of it! 

Not huge amounts but the color range is amazing, and it includes ombres and metallics.

If you bought these puppies one by one in a store this would easily be over $200. So five ain’t bad, and now I should be able to do any top stitching I need for a long time to come.

Downstairs I resisted the fabric, which wasn’t too hard because it was selling by the pound. Five bucks a pound, which with fabric can add up really fast! However, somehow ten skeins of mohair yarn made their way into my bag. I'm not sure how that happened. Oh wait, I put them there! Nice yarn, fifty cents each! And in my defense, I knit pretty much every day. 

We were there a couple of hours, and by the time we left were reeling with sensory overload. I know neither KK nor I could have seen a third of what was in that house. But…we knew that Sunday they would be having a bag sale!

So yes, first thing Sunday morning, there I was again. We didn’t go together, but KK was there too. 

Now here’s where I have to confess, I have Taker’s Remorse.

Taker’s Remorse is related to Buyer’s Remorse, except the item was free. Free, so you succumb because your better judgment deserted you at that four letter word. So what did I bring home? 

Remember the vintage suitcases I mentioned earlier?

I brought home FOUR of them. And they are orange.

All in pristine condition. They don’t even smell musty inside and that is pretty hard to do with vintage suitcases. But by the time I got them loaded into the convertible I realized just how big they are. Even the carry on bag is roomy. However, I'm still thinking about how I might use them for storage containers (except they are so big!) or resell them or go on Pinterest to look for suitcase upcycles. Or maybe I could lash them together and live in them. (Okay, maybe they’re not that big.) If none of that works, I will donate them to the kitty thrift store and let them worry about it. If no one bought them I’m sure numerous kitties could live in them.

So I put my name on the suitcases (Amanda, the estate sale lady, practically begged us to take them so she wouldn’t have to deal with them) then headed inside. My first aim was to go through the sewing room again, where I started stuffing my bag. A cute little desk lamp


some metallic gold yarn (for knitting Christmas ornaments)

a tea towel and an embroidered runner, both of linen

ribbon that I will use to make labels for my upcycled clothing (I'll use a Micron pen to write on them)

a large vintage tablecloth with dogwood blossoms (sorry about the wrinkles, haven't laundered any of this stuff yet) 

and an even larger linen tablecloth that I don’t think was ever used. It feels like it still has sizing in it. 

Downstairs I added a large piece of black wool fabric, and somewhere along the way I snagged a little poodle figurine because I remembered Judy saying she wants one for her midcentury house.

And finally, I picked up this vinyl tablecloth because I need to recover the seats on my front deck chairs. (Still deciding if the orange poppies work with the yellow chairs!) 

All that (and a set of LARGE suitcases!) for five bucks.

Hmmm, I'm hardly feeling that Taker’s Remorse at all now!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Getting Down to Some Upcycling

On Friday I proved that it is perfectly possible to go out for a whole morning of fun garaging (I think we hit a dozen sales)…and spend only fifty cents. That’s right, living up to my name I came home with only two tea towels.

Naturally they came from the very first sale we stopped at. But I'm good with that, it means I did not succumb to the lures of anything I might later regret!

In lieu of showing you any exciting new purchases, let me share some recent clothing upcycles. The hubs was away last weekend, and I used the time to pull out all the many (many many) pieces of clothing I've brought home over the past couple of years for upcycle-play. I realize now I should have taken pictures as I was working, but you know how that goes. You get busy with a project and picking up the camera is the last thing on your mind.  But picture in your mind’s eye a dining room table heaped high with all kinds of clothing roughly sorted by color.

It was good to go through everything. I pulled a number of items that I decided I'd probably never use (part of that learn-as-you-go thing) and boxed them to send to the thrift store. Then I selected several pieces that I could accomplish something with fairly quickly.

Sometimes it's just a matter of a little refitting. One of the results of the weekend was the realization that I might have the world’s narrowest shoulders. When I really started looking, I saw that on virtually every shirt the top of the sleeve needs to be moved over at least an inch. So I started playing, and came up with a pretty quick fix. Instead of unstitching and resewing the sleeve, I created a tuck over the top 2/3 (more or less), which gives a pleat in the front and back. This can be stitched down, but in most cases I just tacked it at the waist. The shirt ends up still roomy and comfy but with a bit more defined shape. It's pretty unobtrusive when it's finished!

I started with four tops (one had a matching skirt) and two pairs of pants. One of the shirts was this heavy natural-color linen with a pointy collar and no shape at all.

The matching (too short) pants became crop pants, and what I cut off was used to lengthen the shirt sleeves.

I know, not much different! But now a wearable length.

On the shirt, I rolled the collar under to create one that stands up, 

did the shoulder tuck thing, and we’re done.

Another linen shirt from a church rummage sale got a similar treatment. This one had a collar with a neckband, so I removed the pointy collar and stitched the neckband back up for a mandarin collar. Gave it the shoulder tuck and added some bias tape I made with fabric from a free box under the collar, front bands and sleeve hems for a little more zip. 

The shirt with the matching skirt more or less fit but was much too short. The skirt had an under layer with a flounce, so the flounce became the new bottom section of the shirt. 
There were flounces on the sleeves too, which I just tucked under and stitched down. Another collar removal, a shoulder tuck, and this one was done.

The last top started out as this Eileen Fisher dress. 

Gotta tell ya, upcycling with an expensive brand like this makes you feel really wealthy!

I don’t wear dresses much anymore (ahhhh, retirement!) but I loved the heavy linen fabric. 
I cut off the bottom and used some of it to add triangular side panels. 
Did yet another shoulder tuck. I liked the bit of color I'd added to the green linen shirt, so I found another remnant and lined the neck band and sleeve edges with polka dots.

The last piece was a too-long pair of nubby silk pants that I paid fifty cents for a couple of years ago. They were comfortable but I doubted I'd wear them as slacks, so I decided to make something I've wanted since I was a teenager. (Yes, I’m blushing a bit to admit this!) Back in the day I really wanted a pair of knickers (ummm, knickerbockers to any Brits reading this!) and in my shy youth did not have the nerve to wear something like that. I waited, oh, about fifty years, but I finally have them! 

Hopefully I've left enough shyness behind that I will actually wear them. Probably to go garaging!

Pin It button on image hover