Saving the planet... one garment at a time!

... and one upcycle at a time... Welcome to my blog: A place to have an "over the fence conversation" about sewing, altered couture, upcycling, and all kinds of crafts using found objects, beads, ephemera and other vintage finds!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Snake Oil

Snake oil!  The term "Patent Medicine" has been used frequently to describe drug compounds marketed (mostly) prior to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.  Perhaps "proprietary" is a little better term, because it denotes the the more common trademarking of  "secret (often old family) recipes".  I'm fascinated with this phenomenon, and I collect ephemera and memorabilia associated with the Lydia E Pinkham Medicine Company of Lynn, Massachusetts.  Lydia's medicines were marketed to women to cure all manner of "women's complaints".  Enterprising Lydia started out cooking each batch on her kitchen stove and sending her sons door to door with her brew.  Eventually her company became a booming concern in Lynn, selling throughout the country.

You had to love the elaborate and artistic marketing materials!  Trade cards with cherubic children, kittens, and smiling healthy people.  Not only are most of these concoctions laced with plenty of alcohol, but they often contained opium, heroin, morphine or cocaine.  They were marketed for people of all ages, including babies.

While browsing my favorite estate shop, I came across some sewing machine oil, which was being stored in a bottle which originally contained one of these magical elixirs.  The owner had taken care to scratch out the label, but the original label is still very readable.  Active ingredients?  Opium and alcohol...

So, of course, I brought it home!

Have you found anything fun lately?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Project Progress: House Quilt

I am already having a great time piecing together the house blocks I bought at my favorite estate goods dealer.  The colors are bright and fresh and springlike.  Sewing this quilt will both relieve, and create, cabin fever!

The colors in the batik jelly roll I bought complement the houses very nicely.  I'm impressed with the workmanship on the blocks.  I believe them to be hand pieced, not machine pieced.  The evidence is in the irregularity of the stitches, and the hand knots.  There is a minor problem though.  It seems that the blocked are not precisely the same size - something I think I can disguise well enough.

Reverse of blocks!

I'm thinking of making two wall hangings, rather than one larger quilt.  One to keep and one to give away to a dear friend who could use some cheer.  Here are a few shots of the process so far!

Just looking at the colors together makes me feel happy!  Let me know what you think so far!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Isn't that Pinteresting? - 3

The third installment in our Pinterest series relates to one of the main topics on this blog, restyling old clothes into something more useful and wearable, when the useful life of the original garment is past: in short, restyling!  You all know how much I love the search for raw materials, as well as the end results, of fashion upcycling.

This pin actually comes from a retail store called LaGarconne, based in NYC, carrying oodles of really on- trend clothing.  So the garment pictured was designed this way... but I was thinking... what about an old tank or T, joined to a discarded men's shirt?  Ooh-la-la et voila!

Do you get some of your inspiration from retail catalogs or websites?  Everyone hacks Anthropologie, right? What are your favorites?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Making Over Victoria: Dining

When I began blogging again earlier this year I mentioned the new home my husband and I had purchased, and I showed you a little bit of our laundry room makeover.  Now, I'd like to show you the changes we made to our dining room.  Here is a picture of the dining room as we saw it when touring the house.

It was bright and airy, with a clean, modern aesthetic, but we didn't think it was entirely in keeping with the Victorian era.  The house was built in 1884, so one of our goals with the house was to go back in time to restore the house to more of a Victorian look and feel.  So here's what we did instead.

The color scheme is much different with the red walls instead of the yellow.  The drapes are yellow with coordinating roses, with lace panels in the windows for privacy.  Note that we replaced the chandelier with a new but more vintage looking dim-able fixture. Though I did not capture a picture of it, it is surrounded on the ceiling with a medallion reminiscent of the plaster work of the time.  Here are a few of the details.

"Gone with the Wind" oil lamp.

Wall sconces holding candles on either side of the mirror over the buffet.

Lace tablecloth and bowl of flowers.

Floral art in a Victorian style frame with convex glass.

Tea set by the window.

And I love this last find, an antique garden stool.

We've entertained in this room a couple of times, and it's a very cozy, comfortable and warm setting for friends and fun.  Hope you like it!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Isn't that Pinteresting? - 2

Here's another of my pins on Sew Inspired: something I thought was just a super idea, especially for the vintage sewist!  This idea came from Destri, writing a guest post on Miranda Walker's blog.  There's a full tutorial on how to make one of these nifty pin plates at the link.

It uses magnets glued under the plate to make the pins stick!  How cool is that?  If you've ever stepped on a stray pin in the sewing room, you think it's pretty cool... What inspiring sewing room gadgets and notions have you pinned?  And don't forget to share your pinboard url so we can all check in and follow you, too!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Upcoming Project: Quilt Completions

I love almost anything previously owned.  I frequent thrift and consignment shops, estate and yard sales, and antique shops.  In one of my favorite shops, tucked away in a corner box was the hard work of a quilter. At the top of the box were a stack of 30 perfect little log cabins.

Of course I purchased these (for a ridiculously low sum).  Since obtaining them, I went out and bought a jelly roll of sherbet colored batik strips to finish a quilt top.  Do you think it's cheating to start with those wonderful pre-made squares?

Under the little log cabins was another wonderful example of piecing excellence.

It's still in star shape, not even on the edges, so it too needs to be pieced with other fabric to complete the quilt.  What would you do with it?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mini Projects

 Today I only had time for a couple of quick mini projects.  When I bought the burlap for my laundry room curtains, I also bought a roll of burlap ribbon.  Today I made the first of many burlap flowers to use as accents on the laundry room curtains.  I have made fabric flowers before, but I love the way the burlap lends itself to the imperfection of my flower folding, and comes out just right!

I had a little time left over and wanted to do something a little different, so I made this pair of earrings.  Hope you like them!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sewing Books: An Obsession

I'm of the mindset that you can never have enough books.  Especially books about things you love.  In my case - sewing!  Today I was wandering in my local Joann's Fabrics (something I really shouldn't do because it always ends with money in their registers and less in my wallet) and I came upon a basket of books.  Well, of course the temptation was too much for me.  I had gone in for something specific, but books always catch my eye.  Here is the book I came home with:

A very nifty volume, with tons of how-to goodness!  But what was better is what I paid.

I could not walk away from that!  I admit that I am somewhat of a collector when it comes to sewing books (as well as machines, fabrics, notions - okay - anything that has anything to do with sewing) and I received one as a Yule gift as well.  My husband indulges my penchant sewing and for books.

This lovely book dates from the forties and is packed with clear instructions, historical opinion about dress and fashion, and great illustrations.

This book's previous owner had placed a bookplate on the flyleaf.

Zadie sounds like a girl after my own heart!  What are your favorite sewing references?