Flying North for the Winter

Ok, so it won’t be winter for ages here and I certainly won’t be able to wear today’s dress for a while but it’s all good. I’ve got a plan. Well, not really a plan more than an idea to put it to the back of my wardrobe and bring it back out when its cardigan and tights weather. One has to suffer for one’s art. Anywho, this is the dress I bought on my most recent thrifting adventure. What I loved about it was the print more than anything else.

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The fabric isn’t good quality and the construction (another homemade one) is a bit all over the place. Nothing a good unpicking can’t fix. Its clearly some sort of polyester blend since it doesn’t breach at all, and the sleeves and collar were horrific. Also rather than a traditional shirtdress and buttoning up the front, there was a facing and a zipper inserted in the back from the bottom of the collar to the waist. Suffice to say, it was difficult to get into. The skirt was fine. Not amazing but not terribly enough that I wanted to alter it. There really wasn’t enough fabric to try and cut a new one. One interesting little detail was that the previous sewer had used three – yes, three! – different colours of bias binding to finish the hem. Clearly a woman after my own heart in terms of cobbling things together. One day I might rip it out and replace it with plain black but for now I’m honour the time she spent hand-stitching that hem and keeping it the same. But the top had to change. Continuing my obsession with the Kim Dress (yep, that’s three in as many days) I unpicked the bodice and completely re-constructed it as a sleeveless princess seamed bodice. A far cry from the collar, clunky sleeves and umpteen darts. I counted at least 10. Having reunited the bodice and skirt, I edged the armholes and neck with black bias binding and hand stitched in place for an invisible finish. With the lowered back neckline, the previous black zipper was far too long so I replaced it with a black invisible zip.

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Isn’t it so much better!? I’m thinking a little jacket, tights and boots and we’ve got ourselves a great outfit. I hope that the previous sewer would be pleased with this, and wouldn’t be upset that I took apart her work. It got me thinking what will end up happening to my handmade items? I’m hoping I’ll love them for a long time, and hopefully hand them over to friends or family who will appreciate the time and effort that went into them. And if not, I hope someone somewhere finds them and gives them new life; be it by wearing them as is, altering them or completely taking them apart and making something new. Whichever way they go, I hope they’ll have a good and exciting life; I know I certainly loved them.

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A Thrifting Adventure

On the same day as we found the pirate dress of previous post, we visited about 4 different op-shops in our area. These are my most frequent haunts. Thankfully they provide a lot of variety in quite a small area, and the catchment for donations is always of a high quality. Three of them are in one street, and the fourth (and the biggest) is about a 10-minute train journey away.

On this particular occasion, we had amazing luck in finds. The very first shop we entered (as it opened, I might add) was Red Threads run by the Red Cross. Specialising in clothing, with a few knick-knacks scattering in between, it was great fun, if occasionally a little overpriced. We must have tried on half the shop. Fortunately amongst all the things that didn’t fit or looked terrible on, there was the pirate dress I spoke about previously. Too big but with an amazing skull and crossbones print and with great potential. It’s already been taken in and is currently in hot rotation in my sisters’ wardrobe.

We then moved on to our local Salvation Army Family Store. The newest of the op-shops in our area, it has a great selection of clothing, furniture and particularly haberdashery. I think I must have struck gold: the biggest bag of zippers I’ve ever seen, priced at 50c a piece. Since that’s less than half retail (and these looked like they’d come from a shop clearance) that was a pretty good deal. But I couldn’t choose. There were too many and so many colours and lengths. So I walked timidly to the counter and asked for a price for the bag. The volunteer looked at me very strangely. Apparently she had only just put the bag out on the floor and were expecting to sell the zippers one at a time. I’m pretty sure she grabbed a number out of thin air; not really believing anyone could have uses for so many zippers. $10 for the bag. Well, that’s definitely coming home with me. Turns out there were 126 zippers in the bag! That works out to about $63 if I’d bought them individually at 50c each. Not a bad haul.

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Having found my first big score the day, I moved to the dress rack – my favourite area of the store after fabrics and haberdashery. I’m such a dress person, it’s a bit ridiculous. So I’m always looking for something in those racks: doesn’t matter if its vintage or new or somewhere in between. I love them all equally. Thankfully, luck was once again with me. I found the most amazing print dress. The fabric wasn’t the best quality but the print of flying geese was unusual and it was priced at $6, so I didn’t even try it on. The top was definitely not my style, so that’s definitely changing, but there’s loads of fabric to do something with.

With our treasures, we moved on to the third of the op-shops: St Vincent de Paul. This one in particular is amazing for sewing notions. They’ve literally got buckets and buckets of patterns, even vintage ones dating back to the 50s. Plus good amount of fabric. I generally find a good quality of bias binding and hem facings attractively priced at 50c per pack.

On this occasion it looked like the zipper gods were again smiling on me. Literally a whole basket of invisible zippers. Knowing how many I’d just bought, I restrained myself and only bought ten. God I love invisible zippers. They look so professional and sleek. If they have any left next time I’ll there, I’d love a few more in different colours. They only seemed to have white or bright pink. I’ll stick with white, thank you very much. At 50c apiece (do op-shops have some sort of hidden guideline for zipper pricing) they were another steal. I’ve already got plans for a few of them.

At last we hit the train and jumped off a couple of stops later at the second St Vincent de Paul in our area. The biggest shop of the four we visited, I’ve had great success there in the past, including everything from linens to formal dresses to sewing patterns, even furniture. They’ve got enough of everything that you’re about to have a good rummage without actually getting lost in the clutter. They even have the odd true vintage piece. On this particular day I think I used upon all my good luck in the previous shops, as I didn’t find anything I wanted. My sister however – my constant thrifing companion – found a number of outfits to try. None of them quite compared to her pirate dress, so we left with just a bird scarf (see, we’ve got a thing for bird printed things at the moment).

We then spend the afternoon sewing and altering our treasures (more to come in future posts!). It was the loveliest way to spend a day, and just what I needed.