Friday, March 30, 2012

Thrift Store Shopping strategies/tips

I'm going thrift store shopping with my friend Patti tomorrow.  I've been thinking about how I can explain my methods, strategies, considerations--in other words why do I pick out what I pick out and how do I do it?  Completely random order:
  1. I already know what styles look good on me (for the most part) and I look for those styles
  2. I like classic clothing which is generally made in solid colors so I shop solids first
  3. I like natural fibers and most of the times can spot them. I will buy nice quality synthetics too.
  4. Quality of fabric draws my eye, lack of quality is often very apparent
  5. I'm not attached to size--if it looks about right I will try it on no matter what the size
  6. I scan by color and focus in on garments in colors I know look good on me
  7. For fabric I adore (but doesn't fit) I look to see if I can make something else out of it (have done this successfully)
  8. If a garment is close, but not quite it, I ask myself what could be done to fix it, if anything?
    1. change buttons? (a favorite)
    2. take it in? (will it still hang right, look right? works some of the time)
    3. dye it (I haven't successfully so far so I usually end up dumping those)
    4. raise the skirt hem to knee length (works like a charm most of the time)
    5. Re-hem pants? (works like a charm)
    6. lose weight (a no win proposition, why buy and store something I can't wear yet)
    7. embellish it (add trims, unlikely to work but interesting thought)
    8. change pants into a skirt (it works!)
  9. Do I have enough of "x" already?  If yes, is this "x" nicer than what I already have? Should I swap them out?
  10. What would I pair the item with? Do I already have companion pieces? If not, what is needed?
  11. If I like the fit but it turns out I don't like the color/fabric, can I cut it up and make a pattern out of it?
  12. Is it something different than I would usually wear and I am interested in an inexpensive experiment?
  13. Will my husband complain if I bring it home? (baggy overalls, sequins and anything sparkly for starters)
  14. Does it look too "youthful" or too "old lady"?
  15. Does it/will it itch? (don't buy, it only gets worse--unless it is the waistband on a lined skirt which can be easily covered)
  16. Will it be easy to clean? Am I willing to dry clean (not usually) 
  17. Does it need repairs and am I willing to take the time?
  18.  Is it flattering from all angles (usually no three way mirror so can be hard to tell)
  19. Is it well made? If not is it fixable? (buttons are easy to re-enforce)
  20. Is it too tight? It is easier to take-in than let-out. Also too tight makes a person look heavier no matter what size they wear.
  21. If I am looking for pants I scan the length first before I bother with sizes.
  • Wear clothing and shoes that you can get on and off easily
  • NO good earrings/necklaces (too easy to lose when changing clothes)
  • Use light-weight purse with shoulder straps
  • Don't keep stuff in your pants pockets (cell phone/money will fall out when changing)
  • Count on your hair getting messed up
  • Be committed, but not attached to finding something amazing every time - drop in frequently
  • Watch your items, sometimes staff is really quick to try putting things away before you even rotate them in to try them on.

Dgrade makes clothes from material that has been spun from discarded plastic bottles


Making a difference
Who: Dgrade Clothing, a UK-based company with a branch in Dubai
What: Dgrade makes clothes from material that has been spun from discarded plastic bottles


Thursday, March 29, 2012

TGBM Tally: Polka dots

TGBM Tally

Thrifted: Sweater (2012)

Gifted: Necklace (2010?)

Bought: Shoes (2011), T-shirt (2010)

Made: Skirt (2011), Earrings (2011)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Threads Magazine is my all-time favorite sewing magazine.  Even if you don't subscribe the website is worth a visit as they frequently post articles and other interesting information. The magazine itself has a more sophisticated sensibility (usually) than Sew News. 

Vogue Patterns is alright and they too have articles. 

Even if you are not a sewer there is an interesting and useful feature on Vogue patterns--they designate what body shapes work best with each pattern.  They use symbols, here is their explanation:
Figure Flattery
Determine your body shape from the explanations below and use our KEY TO FIGURE FLATTERY diagram to select styles that are particularly flattering to your figure. Choosing styles suited to your body shape can also eliminate the need for most pattern adjustments. Look for the figure symbol that indicates your body shape, then proceed with confidence, knowing that your pattern adjustments will be minimal and your finished garment will be pure figure flattery.

Inverted Triange THE INVERTED TRIANGLE: Large bust and/or broad shoulders with narrow hips.

Triangle THE TRIANGLE: Small bust and/or narrow shoulders with full hips and/or thighs.

Rectangle THE RECTANGLE: Balanced on top and bottom, but boxy, with little or no waist definition.

Hourglass THE HOURGLASS: Equally balanced on top and bottom, with a trim waist."
- source:

Soooo - if you are looking for input on what types of clothing might look good on your frame browse the pattern collection.  Just click on a pattern to bring up the details including the figure symbols for each one. I'm somewhere between a triangle and hourglass.

Killer suit for $12.49

Check out the killer suit I picked up from the newly re-opened Campbell (California) Goodwill store.

I think I may even keep the buttons!  

I like the collar feature where the top part of the lapel sits on top of the bottom.  The skirt fits like a dream and I am wearing it right now with a cream colored sweater (also thrifted).

The price - an amazing $12.49 for both pieces!

TGBM Tally today (no picture):

Thrifted: Skirt (2012), sweater (2012)
Gifted: Silk scarf (2009? thank you George!)
Bought: Shoes (2010)
Made: Earrings (2010)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Amazing dress from recycled t-shirts

These amazing dresses were designed and made by a bay area artist transplanted from Europe, Anya BroeninkI've seen her work in person and it is unique and eye caching.  I'm especially enamored of her recycled t shirt dresses (on the left).

You can find out where to buy her things from her website:

recycled grocery bags from old t-shirts

Great instructions for how to make a shopping bag out of old t-shirts.  I've seen them sewn doubled up too. It's probably easy to make them reversible.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Justin Bieber and taking in the waist on jeans.

 I ran into Justin Bieber yesterday and he gave me a tip on altering jeans.

I was telling him about my difficulties finding jeans that are small enough in the waist and still fit my hips.  He noticed that my curvy hips are more than 10" larger than my waist (such a flirt).  

The result is that what fits my booty is invariably too large in the waist.

The alteration is shown in the photos below.
What I've done is:

 1) Decided how much I want to take in.

 2) Cut narrow (1/4-1/2" wide at top tapering to nothing) pie shaped wedges (like a dart for you sewers) out at the waist in the back just down to the seam above the pocket.

3) Butted (not overlapped) the edges of the wedges together and zigzagged them closed. You can see that I used matching thread so these two barely show. Put a strip of stabilizing fabric in place on the inside before you stitch.

4) I tacked across the top at the waist to keep it from pulling apart under strain.


Note 1:  It is critical to use a Jean needle (heavy duty) when sewing on jeans or you will likely break a needle (watch out eyes) or overload your machine or both.

Note 2: There is also a tool to use with your presser foot to help deal with those thick seams.  It works very well.

Note 3: Do not try this on your favorite jeans first! Practice on something else.  

Note 4: If you match the thread well the stitching will not be noticeable unless you point it out to people. I typically do not tuck in my shirts unless I have on a blazer so for me it is not much of an issue.

Happy Altering!

I scored big time at Goodwill

I scored big time yesterday.  

I found this beautiful beaded evening bag at --you guessed it--Goodwill.

I've been "borrowing" (for years) a bronze colored beaded bag I bought for my daughter in China.  

I've been wanting a silver bag as most jewelry I wear is silver.

 Here it is!

The inside is very clean and the bead work is perfect - no missing beads etc.

Check out the price!!!!

I visited Lacis in Berkley not to long ago and bought a similar bag frame without a handle and it was more than this finished bag.

See April 1 post for finished Lacis bag.

Friday, March 23, 2012

TGBM Tally

Thrifted: Jeans, blazer (2012)

Gifted: t-shirt (2007?)

Bought Retail: Shoes (2011), Necklace (2010)
Bought Vintage: Pendant (2010)

Made: Nothing

Thursday, March 22, 2012

TGBM - George's sweater

TGBM Tally:

Thrifted: Jeans (2012), Camisole (2012 - not visible)

Wool sweater (George bought it on Maiden Lane in SF for himself (2006?), he wasn't wearing it so....), Necklace (2008?)

Bought Retail: Shoes (2011), pendant (2010), earrings (2010)

Made: Nothing

Brooches on Pinterest

I've become addicted to Pinterest and collecting pictures of brooches...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eyeglass case made from recycled wool sweater

I made an eyeglass holder for myself using a 100% wool sweater I snagged from a workshop grab box (2011)  - loved the color and stripes.  

I washed and dried it several times to felt it (makes cool lint).  It shrunk to about 1/2 the original size.

Once wool is felted it doesn't unravel and cut edges don't really need hemming. The wool also becomes soft and fuzzy and thick. I've also used felted wool to make fingerless mitts.

This eyeglass case qualifies as both Gifted and Made.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New (to me) jeans

I found a pair of jeans (that fit!) at Goodwill yesterday.  They are in the dryer right now so pictures soon.

There are more jeans in most thrift stores than any other single type of ladies clothing. For this reason I am often not patient enough to look through the enormous racks.  This time I employed a strategy that cut down my browsing time quite a bit.

I am average height, but somehow by the time jeans make it to a thrift store they've often shrunk so it seems difficult to find a pair that is long enough. My strategy was to browse by looking at the bottom of all the pant legs to spot the pairs that were longest and only check the size on those.

It worked!  I found two pairs that fit.  The one that fit best I bought for $8.99.  The other pair were "Lucky" brand which must be some type of big deal because they were a whopping $29.  They did not fit perfectly so I left them there.

My daughter says that jeans in retail stores are really, really expensive.  I prefer used jeans because I already know that they've been shrunk and I'm not going to drop $$$$$ only to have something shrink to not fit and not be returnable. The ones I got for $8.99 are Gap brand and a recent style.

Happy hunting.

TGBM Tally and skirt waistband lining

TGBM Tally:

Thrifted: Jacket (2012), Blouse (2012), Skirt (2012), Pin (2011)
Gifted: Nothing
Bought Retail: Shoes (2011)
Made: Earrings (2011)

It is a bit difficult to see but this is the skirt I am wearing in the picture above.
My Husband says I have Princess in the Pea syndrome. When it comes to tags in clothes or an itchy part of a garment that is very true.  I cut my tags out most of the time.
For this skirt I covered the tweed-lined waistband (itchy!) with cotton bias tape (sewn in by hand.)
Sooooo much more comfortable.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fantasy Closet

I have a recurring fantasy of a closet with a limited number of items all with some amazing feature -- artistic, classic, beautiful fabric, unusually draped or constructed, with outstanding details, etc.

Something like having access to a movie wardrobe collection, or a couture collection in someone's New York closet, or a museum quality collection of garments.  I so admire bold style of the ladies Ari features in his blog Advanced Style.  Given that I live in the suburbs and not New York even if I had that closet I'm not sure I could wear it to shop at Costco and Target.

I can still have something approximating my vision and I've gotten closer over the years. I have some amazing garments that are favorites.

Today I took a few bags of clothes and 3 pairs of shoes to Goodwill.  That is a far cry from having a limited number of items in my closet.

What is it about giving up items of clothing?

I notice that I have a standard back-of-the-mind set of thoughts regarding giving something up. They go something like this (no particular ranking):
  • I might find something that goes with that later
  • I might wear that later
  • I should be wearing that more
  • It was expensive
  • Maybe I could take it to a consignment store and sell it (almost never do)
  • I planned to combine that with (something) hmm, haven't done that yet, maybe this week.
  • If I loosen the fastener/ or shift the buttons/ or raise the hem / or dye it / or take in the waist / or covered the itchy waistband (did two of those tonight), etc... I would like it better / it would fit better
  • Maybe I can rework it into something else (frequent thought about cashmere for some reason)
  • I'll use it until I get a nicer version (of whatever "it" is)
  • I'm tired of it now but I think I could come back around to liking it again after a rest
  • It is a classic and I can brag about how long I've had it (thought today when looking at a wool knit (St John level quality) that I've had for at least 25 years and last wore a decade ago.) I kept it. : >
  • I'll regret giving it away (has happened on occasion)
  • I made it, how can I give it up?
  • And the classic - maybe I will lose some weight
Sometimes I do break out of a rut and wear garments in new combinations (fun!) and that also becomes a reason not to get rid of things because they might be just what I need for that next combination.  There is a bit of scarcity in that perspective. 

I do best at purging when I think of my closet as revolving, existing in a combination of what is there and what will/can be there. Even better when I am present to the fact that if garments are not being worn they are a useless resource in that they are not available for anyone else to use.

I have noticed that many of my TGBM tally posts are made up of garments which were acquired in the last 2 years. Makes sense because I've been experimenting with inexpensive thrift store purchases.

What is your ideal?

TGBM Tally and Franchised clothing recycling stores and more

TGBM Tally:

Thrifted: Hoodie (2012), Facconable button down shirt with daisies (2011)

Gifted: Belt (2010?), necklace and pendant (thanks Dad and Judy)

Bought: Jeans (2010), Socks (2012), Slippers (2010)

Made: Earrings (2011)


     I haven't heard of this chain of stores before but I am intrigued.  They are franchising clothing recycling for-profit stores:

"With over 300 Plato's Closet store locations throughout the United States, and Canada, that number continues to grow. Be part of the trend and turn your passion into your business!

A Plato’s Closet franchise offers entrepreneurs a very unique small business opportunity, based on a sound business model and the support of parent company, Winmark Corporation. Initial investment requirements range from $178,500 - $354,000*.

    In other clothing recycling news I've been reading about those big metal collection boxes for "Clothes, Shoes".  Not all of them are owned by charities.  If you want your donation to go to a non-profit check the name on the bins and check online to see what type of outfit they are.

   I also enjoyed this article about recycling being a way of life in the last century (remember string balls?)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Millinery Class

What you see here is a work in progress from my Millinery class with Wayne Wichern at Canada College.  We learned how to make a hat from scratch using a buckram foundation.

Buckram is a stiffened cloth that reminds me of needlepoint canvas.

My hat is covered in quilting weight cotton. The pin came from where? Goodwill of course -- for less than $15.
I found it with my sister Suzy-Q in Colorado Springs.

The third type of hat is straw.  Wayne demonstrated starting with a straw flat (literally like a tortilla), he wet it, and then shaped it over a wooden hat block to dry into shape. In a week Wayne blocked a hat for everyone in our large class in their size and preferred color - he is a saint and a very generous man.  Great teacher. He also gives workshops in his studio in Redwood City CA and other locations.  Check his website for details.

Wayne - Thank you!!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

TGBM Tally: Grandparents Day 2011

Last fall I went to Grandparents Day at the grade school.  I decided to dress how I remembered my grandmothers dressing up.

Thrifted: Pin (2011), vintage purse (2011), gloves (2005?)

Gifted: Bracelet (2010), velvet coat (2011, wear it ALL the time, thank you Suzy-Q for thrifting it originally and then gifting it to me : >)

Bought retail: Dress (2010), Shoes (2009)

Bought from artist: Hat (2011 from Rosemary Greene), earrings (2010), necklace (2011)

Made: Nothing

I looked so convincing that some ladies at Blvd. Coffee in Los Gatos ask me if I was in a play.

A lady at Macy's said I reminded her of the British as they tend to dress up.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

TGBM Tally - walk of shame

Yes, it is true I wore 90% of this outfit yesterday too (different venue) officially making it a "walk of shame" outfit even though I spent the night at home.  A good friend of mine, Sandy, suggested that I add a spot on the blog for people to post their own "walk of shame" photos and stories.  Not sure how to do it but I like the idea.

TGBM Tally:

Thrifted: Grapes pin (2011), Jacket (2012), Pants (2011)
Gifted: Buttons on Jacket (2011 thanks Suzy-Q), necklace (2007/8? thanks George)
Bought Retail: Hat (2011), shoes (2010)
Bought from Artist: Pearl earrings (2011)
Bought Vintage: necklace pendant (Carol picked it out for me when they were in Morocco)
Made: blouse (2011)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

TGBM Tally red jacket and grey pants

Today my tally is:

Thrifted: pants(2011), jacket(2012), pin (2011)
Gifted: necklace(2007?)
Bought retail: shoes(2011), earrings(1993?)
Bought used: antique pendant in Morroco (2010) by a friend
Made: blouse(2010), scarf(2011)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

TGBM Tally: Green Suit

Thrifted: Jacket and Skirt (suit 2011) Consignment: Shoes (2011)
Gifted: Nothing
Bought Retail: Pin (2006?)
Made: Earrings (2011)

This green suit is from Goodwill.  I noticed the color of the jacket and really liked it.  The skirt was in the skirt section, again I spotted the color- what luck!  It so happened that both pieces fit perfectly.  What are the odds.

Screening for color and fabric quality is my way of skimming through the vast selection.

I'm at an advantage as a sewer because I have distinctions about quality of fabric and as an artist I'm tuned into color.  Happy hunting!

More free sewing /art supplies in the Bay Area

"(FabMo) volunteers collect a truckload of beautiful fabrics, wallpapers, tiles, carpets and more each week, then once a month we invite our guests - teachers, artists, artisans, costumers and others to make appointments to make selections for creative reuse. More than 40 tons of high quality designer materials are diverted annually from the waste stream by our all-volunteer organization.  These exquisite materials are generally not otherwise available."

I've been to non-profit FabMo a number of times and it is truly a treasure hunt.  There are thousands of samples to choose from, some very small, many medium and sometimes whole bolts. 

In addition to give-away events, FabMo organizes workshops and sales for people who make up goods from FabMo materials. There is a multitude of information on their site.

There are also instructions on how to sign up for a give-away event.