Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weird 1980's Jumpsuit Upcycle Project

I'll admit I spend too much time on ebay.  But really, where else can you learn so much about Americans and their junk?  I came across this thing last week.......

So....I am intrigued.  Its New With Tags, meaning someone bought in a LONG TIME ago and never even pulled the tags off.  It's aqua.  And 99 cents.  Made by Newport News.  The description was a half sentence only ......"office pants that are a dress too". 

It kept me puzzled for 48 hours until I decided I had to see it in person.  It would be worth the $6 shipping just to SEE what the heck it was!  Was it knit?  silk?  Palazzo pants?  Skirt? 

It arrived a few days ago and the first thing my daughter said was, "those buttons have to go!" as she rolled her eyes away to keep from cracking up.  The buttons were nice shiny bright silver - very 80's.  The fabric is 100% rayon in a nice weight a color.  It was a vintage size 8 which is too tight in the bust for me.  I remembered when I tried to pull it on that I couldn't wear this style of one piece in the 1980's either because I am too long waisted - making the crotch seam pull right up and attempt to split me in half.  Those were my first observations......

But wait.....this was all about a creative upcycle idea!  I'm working on it.  I will post the finished product soon! 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

She Knows

As I said, we have an important event happening here........

You can't convince me that she is too young to know.

Brides and Mother-of-the Brides

Terri at ragsagainstthemachine has a fun topic going on her blog about choosing bridal gowns and mother-of-the-bride dresses. 

I decided to scan some old photos and share a few stories about weddings in our family.

I was married right out of high school and wore a Gunne Sak eyelet long dress that I bought at a department store.  The dress was perfect and I still have it.  The marriage was a disaster and didn't last very long (as everyone predicted).  These are now called EFM's (early first marriages).   I hear everyone should have one.

So.....moving along.........this is me in my (counting now 31 years) marriage.  We got married at Christmas time in my mom and step-dad's 100 year old house.  I made my skirt and vest and all of the floral arrangements.  A friend brought a cake.  I wish I still had those boots!

In 2003, my daughter got married.  Travis had deployed to Korea for 18 months.  They thought they might get married when he returned.  Instead, he called and proposed to her in March.  The wedding was set for July 3 when he would be home on his 30 day leave.  At the same time he proposed, the war in Iraq broke out.

We decided that I wouldn't sew her dress but I would make the bridesmaids', flower girl's and we would work together on the floral stuff.  The wedding was in our back yard/pasture with about 100 people because his family hadn't met our family, and he was home on leave to see everyone! It was a hectic three months!

These were super simple dresses with an overlay.  They began with the embroidered valance my mom found on a clearance sale which became the flower girl's skirt.

The best man was serving in Afghanistan at the time so Travis' dad stood in for him.  Thanks to the U.S. Army we had navy blue, royal blue (with gold stripes no less!), and dark green uniforms to work with in menswear.  Sabra always called this "yellow" (the color of her bridesmaids and flowers) but in reality I usually bought it in the "ivory" sections.  At the last minute I whipped up two dress shirts for the cousins to wear as ring bearers using the leftover fabric from the bridesmaid dresses.  The flower girl had already disintegrated into puddles of tears by this point in time and her mom had taken her home.  The candlelighter cousin, (Mackenzie - where are you?) must have missed the entire photo session.  She was helping her parents who were catering the bbq as well as bringing half the wedding party! 

Now - to Terri's questions about brides and mother of the brides.......

As I said, Sabra and I had jointly agreed that even though she would have liked for me to make her a custom dress - it was going to be way too stressful.  So we walked into a mall in the Kansas City area and tried on dresses from the clearance rack.  She loved this one.  I think it was $225.  She wore it all evening, spilling bbq sauce on it and the back hem was full of grass stains.  After the wedding, I pre-treated it and threw it in a cold water gentle wash.  It looks new and now lives in a bag in my storage room.
I, on the other hand, didn't care what I wore.  And I hated the specialty stuff marketed to mother of the brides.  So I just put it off until the last minute.  My mom finally forced me into a shopping day about two weeks before the wedding.  At that point, I didn't have time to leave for a day at the neighboring bigger city malls.  So I found this one; it fit, it worked and it was fine.  My only regret is that it wasn't anything really "me", no personality, etc.  And it is forever captured in some of the best and only family photos we have.  Oh well!  

I think the bride carries her own beauty and if she is crazy in love and happy - the details of the dress just don't matter much.  I worked in a bridal salon for a short while and it seemed to me that the brides that just wanted to marry their lover were focused on getting a dress so they could move on to more important things.  Some of the other brides were caught up in game playing with their mothers or fiances or whoever - about money and who loves who the most.

I liked that Sabra wanted to wear a poofy white thing and that she was willing to wear it all evening.  Guests enjoy seeing brides in their dresses.  It's so rare that we have these happy, happy family celebrations.  This is my favorite photo of the day.....

I'm not supposed to be "internetting" about military stuff - but this weekend is time of big change for us again.  Please remember our soldiers and their families as we start year ????? what - year seven?? eight? of a war no one really wants.  They are still fighting that war everyday.  Their lives are in constant turmoil even though other issues seem to have taken priority in the rest of our nation.  Lets just say that I would hand over all of my retirement security and stock accounts today if I could trade it for my soldier to be home with his wife and daughter; watching movies and eating snacks in their pj's.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Measuring Up

1. Have you ever looked at someone's blog and thought yours will never measure up? 

Oh yea.  Mostly the other blogs just make me wish that I had cared more about how I dressed over the years (when I didn't have the extra bulges and wrinkles I have now!).  I'm happy to see that there are many, many young women that are enjoying their uniqueness right now.  And they are not trying to fit in with whatever is for sale this week at the mall.

2. Do you (did you) feel pressure to meet some kind of undefined standard for fashion bloggers?

No.  I was excited to see the wide variation in what is already out there in blog world.  I don't enjoy the blogs that seem to encourage more buying, buying, buying.  But I keep some of them in my google reader list to remind me of where I used to be and how unhappy I was.  I quit cold turkey and I am so much more content.  To each her own! 

3. Many established fashion bloggers are also extraordinary DIYers, bakers, and crafty people. Do you think you need to combine all of these things to be successful at blogging?

No, but I have also realized over the past few months that many of the "crafty" (read "money-saving") things I have done my whole life are, in fact, skills that I could share. 

4. The most successful blogs are the ones that have their own personal voice - how are you developing your voice or how did you find yours?

I have only been blogging a few months so its difficult to know whether or not I have accomplished anything yet.  I know I have finally found my voice in other areas of my life so its bound to be showing up here too!

5. Toot your own horn... what's one thing you do that is unique to you and your blog? What gives your blog an edge?

I'm so rural.  And so out-of-touch with anything really "fashion".  And I reached fifty plus years old with too much stuff and no feeling of contentment with any of it.  I know alot of women like me.  What makes me somewhat unique is that I have been given one year of time away from the stress and bustle of the corporate world.  I researched.  I tried things and evaluated whether they worked.  I found excellent resources with Dressing Your Truth ( and I expanded my simplifying.  And then something clicked and its working!  I can show others what is working for me!

Thrifted Jumper

I always check the childrens rack at thrift stores.  I have two granddaughters that I pick things up for, but also sometimes things are sorted onto the wrong racks and SOMETIMES there is a very unusual item that is made for a almost adult size child that I can wear!  This jumper caught my eye right away and I considered putting it away to wait until my oldest granddaughter could wear it.  It is very plain except for two fake pocket flaps on the front and some brushed silver buckles at the straps.  The more I looked at it, the more I decided I might even try it myself.  It fit some criteria on my wish list.......I have been watching for solid color knit casual dresses to wear with tights and boots.  I realized that skirts and tops cause me fits because they create a horizontal line at my tummy.  And I just get tired of fussing with where each layer is supposed to be tucked inside or outside of the next layer.  So I am experimenting with dresses like this.  I loved how this felt all day and I think I am happy with the look.

Gap denim duster, thrifted at Goodwill this summer, $12.99
Gray t-shirt: thrifted at the VA, Van Heusen $1.49
Navy Jumper:  thrifted for $1.29
tights:  Christmas gift
socks:  walmart
Spanx thingy underneath - long story of how I went to a bridal store tax lein auction and ended up buying 150 long-line strapless bras and an assortment of Spanxy things! 
Navy Boots:  Ebay score for $4.99
Silvery Bracelet Watch:  Big Lots close out for $5

Upcycled Boots and Embellished Sweater

I picked up my boots at the cowboy shop this week!  I bought them at Thanksgiving time on ebay for $6.99.  I wanted a pair of dark blue leather boots and these are almost a denim blue color.  Antonio Moreno I think is the brand name.  The heels had lost their finishing heel caps and the bottom of the soles was just kind of worn out looking.  But the boot repair man fixed all of that - plus he added the gripper coating on the bottom of everything so they will be nonslip.  I love them! 

I'm wearing my Zena jeans (ebayed) and a thrifted Talbot's blue gray t-shirt.  My sweater is one I have had in my closet a couple of years but not worn.  My mom gave it to me from her crates of stashed 1980's embellished sweaters.  I recently took out the shoulder pads and altered the shoulder seams.  The sweater is all covered in beadwork including lots of imitation pearls.  I have never liked pearls so this may be the closest I ever get to wearing them! 

My mom gave me two crates of her embellished 1980's sweater collection to sell.  I have been busy taking photos and measurements to put them on etsy.  My seller name is flinthillskittykitty if you are interested in looking!   Lots of red and black designs which are colors I don't wear much!  So far I have only kept one, maybe two, okay - I think its three of the sweaters for myself!

My photographer decided he should show off his fashion accessory skills too:

He hurried to get centered next to his buck on the wall!  I knew you'd appreciate that!  Any dead animals in your living room?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Cozy Upcycled Wool Coat

I've been wearing my purple wool coat for a couple of weeks now.  Love it!  As you can tell its been cold here and I've already gotten it dirty up against the back of the car unloading groceries.  And my husband didn't mention that the scarf was hanging out the bottom when he took photos for me.  Oh, well - this is what I look like most of the time anyway!

Everyone thought I might really be losing my mind when I bid 99 cents for this on ebay last summer.  But I could see the potential!  Click here to see the original coat as it looked on ebay.

The first step was the hardest - I dropped the whole thing in the washing machine for a cold water cycle and hoped for the best.  When it came out the wool was great, even clearer purple after washing away the years of dry cleaning solvents.  But the lining was ruined.  It was made of cheap acetate fabric which is not even nice stuff when it's brand new. 

So I cut out the old lining, took out the shoulder pads, decided not to keep the black buttons and chopped about 12" off the bottom hem.  I searched online for some new lining fabric, then discovered I had a remnant in my fabric stash from when I worked closely with a local fabric store ten years ago.  It is navy blue and the heavier weight type that has a flannel backing to it.  I had just enough to squeeze out the pieces, using the old lining pieces for a pattern.  Since I had the whole coat torn apart, I decided to use some of the scraps from the bottom to extend the length of the sleeves a few inches. 

I searched for purple buttons, even visiting Emmy Lou's, a local thrift store that specializes in old buttons.  But I couldn't find anything that I liked as well as these gold buttons from my stash, or rather Sarah's stash.  Sarah's husband surprised me one Saturday years ago when he drove up with an old button cabinet in the back of his truck.  He said Sarah had sent him and that I needed these buttons.  They were from her long closed fabric store.  I wasn't sure I wanted the cabinet and buttons in my basement, but I could tell that Bill was not in the mood to negotiate!  I am sure his next stop was the landfill!     

So, the result is -  I wear it.  I have received several compliments on it.  Its a little brighter than things I see in the retail stores now which is what I wanted.  My key advice to anyone trying the same project is to focus on finding the best coat lining fabric available.  I have decided that the warmth and feel of a coat are not about the outside, but rather ALL about the lining!  This one just feels good! 

This was my first experience to work with wool and I was very pleased with how easy it is.  I never thought of wool as a stretch fabric, but I guess you might say it was the first knit fabric made.  It stretches just a little as you sew it - which suits me.  Since this project went so well, I have started gathering up old wool sweaters and cutting them into cardigans, shrugs and leg warmers for my granddaughter. 

This was the outfit underneath.  I have tap dance lessons on Mondays with four other women.  The youngest is not quite fifty years old yet and the oldest is 83.  They have danced together for years, but this is only my third year with them.  We have quite a time! 

Sweater dress:  ebay, $4.99
Tights:  TJ Maxx, $5
Boots:  ebay, I bought two pairs (a navy pair and a brown pair) from someone for $15 total
Coat:  ebay $.99, upcycled with lining and buttons I already had
Handmade Scarf:  Trunk Thrift Store in Manhattan, Kansas $3.49

Monday, January 3, 2011

Upcycling Christmas Trees and Altoid Tins

I was searching online today for an upcycling idea for my artificial Christmas tree and ran across these trees on

Is that not amazing?  Did you go look?  It' s made of Mountain Dew cans.  Not sure I could stand looking at it in the daylight for a month though.....and not what I was looking for.  But there was an article on
"Ten Ways to Reuse an Altoid Tin". 

I have been using a system of recycled tins for years at my vanity.  It has become so much a part of my daily routine that I no longer think about it as unique.  I decided I should share! 

I created it years ago when we had no money and what little jewelry I had was just piled in different jewelry boxes and stashed away so it wouldn't get lost in the general chaos of living in a very small house with three other people.  My step-dad used to tease me that my jewelry would be completely safe if someone were to break into my home.  He could not believe it when I pulled out the various things I had it tucked away into. 

Then my son, who was not old enough - yet was smoking, gave me these tins he was getting for free when he was making his illegal cigarette purchases....hmmmmm.......something wrong with that picture, but I'll continue the story.  Of course, I loved the tins but didn't know what to do with them.  And didn't know if I should feel happy or sad that he thought about me, knew I would love them and actively collected them for me.  A couple of years later the jewelry idea happened:

This is an old soda crate I have had for years.  I bought it at a garage sale.  Someone had already put the hanging apparatus on the back and painted it.  I repainted it and stored/displayed knick-knacks in it for years.  Then I found that the tins fit perfectly in the shelves.  So Kenny repainted it for me again and I started using it for my jewelry.

The tins work better if you cut a small piece of shelf liner to fit in the bottom - the kind that keeps things from sliding.  That way, pairs of earrings tend to stay together in the tins. 

Then I used another tin for my eye shadows.  I had various brands but found there were two reasons why I had quit using them.  1)I had to open and close each one with its tiny little latching system to get to it and 2) they made a powdery mess.  So I popped them out of their original containers and stuck them down in a tin:

Now I use them again! 

My most recent addition to my vanity was another upcycle Christmas tree idea.   I love silly, noisy bracelets and they were taking over the space in the soda crate.  This metal Christmas tree was a close-out Big Lots item years ago.  My mom insisted that I needed it and it was only about $5.  I took it home and it has lived in my basement storage area for 10-15 years.  Frankly, it looks silly with Christmas ornaments on it so I just stored it, not sure what to do with it because it obviously had potential for SOMETHING! 

So, those are two unique upcycle projects from my home.  And in case you were wondering, my son quit smoking twenty months ago (at age 26).  And thankfully, he has been drug-free for a full five years now.  That makes something to celebrate each December! 

Now - back to what to do with this artificial tree that I am just not crazy about putting up with anymore.........