Tuesday, November 29, 2005

white horse

a little bit of mistery today, ladies...

once upon a time at a flea market i was looking for white plates and vases. in one of the vases i spotted a white glass horse. as i said before, i am more of a minimalist, so little figurines were never my kind of thing (although i love seeing them at somebody else's place).
but when i took the horse in my hand, i just knew it's been waiting there for me. it costed me a smile and a 'thank you', and went home with me.

i felt so drawn to it that i was just carrying it around in my pocket.
oh, did you know? white glass can become so warm it almost feels alive.

and recently i found out why i had to have this little horse. in the beginning it seemed too good to be true, yet i had no choice but to believe it.

i know it's not very, uhm, polite, to start a story and not finish it, but... the rest must remain a secret!

i just wanted to tell you that things talk, too...
sometmes it really pays to listen :)

Friday, November 25, 2005

The art of recycling an old sweater

Today's victim is an old sweater, that I've felted in my washing machine and recycled into a zippered pouch, and Christmas stockings.

You can find a vast array of feltable sweaters in your local thrift store, here is a quick guideline for finding the right materials: Mohair, Alpaca, Cashmere, and Wool generally felt well as long as they have not been treated in any way to make them machine washable. (*hint if the tag also says "dry clean only", that's a good sign!)


To felt, place sweater inside out inside of a zippered pillowcase. Fill your washing machine with hot water at the lowest water level possible. You can add a teaspoon of dishwashing soap or Eucalan Wool Wash, and place your bag in the machine. Agitate, checking the progress every few minutes. It will probably take several agitation cycles before the felting is complete. So continue to reset your washing machine to the agitation cycle until the felting is complete. (Don't let your bag run through the spin cycle, which can cause permanent creases.) Lay your sweater on a towel flat to dry.


This is where it gets fun!

Cut your sweater up into the desired shape for your project. I cut the neck of this sweater to make the zippered pouch above.


Inspired by the Sweater stockings I've recently seen in ME's Home Companion, and Alicia Paulson's amazing collection from her boutique Rosy Posy Little Things, I thought I'd try to make some as decorations for our upcoming Christmas Eve party. I started by making a exaggerated paper template from the shape of a sock, to cut the pieces for these Christmas stockings.

Remarkably, I was able to sew these thick pieces together with my humble little sewing machine! But if you think it's too much wear and tear for your own machine, these can still be quickly sewn together by hand using the whip-stitch.


Adding the final touches is always my favorite part. Here I used old mother of pearl buttons that I found at a flea market, embroidery floss, batting that my cocker spaniel had conveniently torn out of one of his stuffed toys, and some left-over felt from another project to make the flowers.

Some other ideas to use as embellishments: rick-rac, sequins, ribbon, old fabric yo-yo's, or whatever your creative mind can dream up!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

the tour de thrift

i'm going to take jenny's cue and show off a few thrifted finds around my home. it's not at as charming a stage, but we've been focusing on furniture accumulation first. next summer will be all about finding the bits and bobs that make a home unique!

everything in this shot totaled $9.50. two dollars each for the modern wicker chairs, five for the reversible danish teak table, and fifty cents for the teapot. the capiz hanging was a gift from my sister.

the dining room is a combination of frugal ikea and thrifted finds. the chairs were $5 each at a school fundraiser, the vase was $1 at a barn sale; the silver dollars from a yard sale, home-grown.

this is our first house. like any first-time home buyers, we're looking to fill our new spaces with lovely pieces and don't want to spend our mortgage payment to do it.
it can be done! it may take an entire summer of treasure hunting, but you can fill entire rooms with unique furniture and accessories at well below an ikea budget. you'll also come away with something even more valuable - history. every vintage piece you acquire brings a lifespan of stories into your home!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

around the dollhouse part one

a pink vintage egg cup found for a few dollars moves to the mantel to hold matches for our ritualistic evening fires.

a strand of leftover beaded trim decorates the breakfast nook chandelier for a little holiday sparkle, especially when lit up.

african violets adorn a repainted plant stand, once rusty and lonely at a corner shop in my neighborhood.

metal curtain hooks found on ebay fit perfectly in our vintage tiled bathroom as shower curtain hooks.

a carved bird sits in the unused toothbrush/soap holder to hold onto my necklaces and earrings for the day while i get ready.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Salvage Style: Recycled Window Garden Conservatory

recycled window conservatory

Another confession: I not only like to peek into the insides of people's homes... I also love exploring secret backyard gardens.

We found this clever greenhouse made from recycled windows during a garden tour in our neighborhood last year. The men who built it had such a genius garden scheme. They had refined materials that were ready for the trash, and transformed them into treasure.

recycled window conservatory

No one minded the peeling paint, or the make-shift building's asymmetry.

recycled window conservatory

There was something altogether magical about the way it felt to be inside this glass house. It was filled with someone's colorful treasures, and overlooked a cheerful garden filled with handmade mosaics and singing canaries.

recycled window conservatory

There were places to lounge inside with a good book and a cup of tea. Or it could be a great place to set an easel to paint...

recycled window conservatory

I've been daydreaming about building a structure like this, since the day I took these.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

artmaking with thrifted tools and materials!

staggered eyelets

i'm sitting at home today, sick with a chest cold, and knitting with one of my many sets of thrifted knitting needles (shown above). and i'm musing and meditating about how thrift stores are simply brimming with tools and materials and mediums for creativity and expression:

-furniture to transform, with fabric and paint
-bags of luscious yarn, in all shades and colors and fibers
-well-worn knitting needles and crochet hooks in every size and configuration
-pieces of unused vintage, and newer fabric, to be put to a myriad of end uses, like quilts, dolls, doll clothes, clothes for people or kids or pets, covering the aforementioned furniture, pillows, and so on, and so forth
-clothes and linens to cut up and transform and remix (why not add a doily to that sweatshirt? or make a dress out of vintage towels?)
-sewing notions of every conceivable type and form
-old magazines and books to be cannibalized for collage
-beautiful old sewing machines (or even knitting machines!) with some miles left on them
-sweaters to felt or frog, to be turned into fun new takes on the idea of "knitwear"
-old crafty tomes to pour through, for inspiration
-paintings or wall art or canvases to add to or paint over
-cups and dishes for the painters, to clean brushes and serve as palettes
-old dishes to smash and turn into funky mosaics
-old jewelry to take apart and reinterpret in a modern way

shoot, the possibilities are really endless...and i could keep adding to to this list infinitely. thrift stores are clearly an indispensable resource for artists and creatives...and anyone with the means of getting their behind to a thrift store should be taking advantage of the art-making treasures within. they are a terrific supplement or even replacement for materials that can be bought new.

i invite you to add your own suggestions of artists materials you could glean from your local thrift! :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Uses for Your Treasures (part 2)

Old recipe boxes make great little storage containers; I use mine for sewing notions and ephemera.

Protecting my stove burners helps cut down on cleaning time and this large tole tray makes a great cover.

Vintage aprons are such a great collectible but I hate to bring them out only when you're cooking. I display some of mine tied around the bar stools in our kitchen and that way I get to enjoy them everyday.

Monday, November 14, 2005


sometimes you just need to take something home with you, despite the fact that it needs a bit of work. it has...potential, you say to yourself.

unfortunately, we've been gathering perhaps too many of these potential projects. my poor retro bicycle, a $12 beauty in need of new tires and a polish, has been orphaned by time - banished to the cold garage for another winter.

what are some of your well-loved but still-neglected finds? do share!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

the art of altered clothing

Stretch grey mock turtleneck: trim out the "turtle" in the neck and the perfect top is found.

Ho-hum leather flats: clip on a pair of brooches/glue vintage pearls & beads or fabric for one-of-a-kind footwear.

Basic totebag: embellish with embroidered flowers, pins and patches for a sweet bookbag.

Spied gorgeous patterned long skirt: make the right asymetrical length and trim with lace a la victorian era.

Wool blazer: cinch at waist with wide leather belt or satin ribbon for a feminine silhoutte.

Pile of secondhand necklaces: layer on and add charms or tassels to wear with tattered jeans and tees.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Second hand Chic

Rachel Ashwell's table

This fall I had a really great experience of getting to see one of my favorite interior designers Rachel Ashwell, demonstrate different decorating ideas with vintage materials at an event called Be Creative New York.

Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic table


Since the holidays are fast approaching, I thought it would be great to post a few pictures that I took that day of the fantastic table setting she had set up in her booth. It was so beautiful and eclectic how she had paired together the unexpected with mismatched china, crystal & silverware, vintage plastic ballerinas, layers of antique lace, millinery flowers and vintage ribbons pinned to the table cloth, and old beaded bracelets transformed into napkin rings. It truly was a second-hand masterpiece!


Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Today it'll be just the photo and the question: did you ever get a thrift store/ flea market find as a gift? Or maybe you've given somebody one?

P.S. I did, recently. My friend Monika found this cup at the flea market in Sweden and bought it for me. It's so special for me now. I just love it.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

good things, small packages

this summer's yard sale season was a veritable treasure trove of interesting midcentury furniture. i filled at least two rooms with beautiful bargains in teak and wicker. oddly enough, however, the finds that made me smile the broadest were only about two inches tall.

dollhouse furniture. a tiny credenza with doors that open. a fragile midcentury chair, upholstered in a nubby, tomato-red cotton. a set of wee bent-plywood dining chairs. they turned me into a 6-year-old on christmas morning, and i didn't even have a dollhouse! i vowed that day that i would find a house for them. it was a fulfillment of that inner 6-year-old's wish, still brewing under the surface for almost 30 years.

fate has a way of listening, sometimes. perched next to me as i type this is the dollhouse i found at a yard sale, just five days after finding the furniture that enchanted me so much. it's funny how much you can get out of something so small.

creamed dishes

milk glass - detail bottom

everytime i'm at a thrift, i cannot deny my love for milk glass. how can you pass up the creamy texture and luminescent glow? most of the milk glass you'll find at thrifts will be everyday flower recepticles. not to worry - these vases come in all shapes and sizes which are great for holding long utensils, like stirring spoons and knitting needles. you will also find other shapes, such as short flat pieces, which are great for holding guest soaps, kitchen sponges, or your bobbypins. if you are really lucky, you'll find the most beautiful and rare representation of milk glass - opaque blue, green, or pink creamy glass. my favorites are animal-shaped candy dishes, printed pieces, and anything with raised detail on the bottom. i have so many pieces in my collection, but i cannot seem to stop the growth of my stash - it's just too beautiful!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Whimsical chairs

Bring an old chair back to life with a simple coat of paint, and a little ingenuity!

When looking for secondhand chairs, look past the color or finish (or what's left of it) and instead look at it's lines, or shape. The one's that are too far gone to come inside, can be transformed into something magical for your outdoor space with a little creativity. Here are a few tips & tricks in using second hand chairs to add a little whimsy and charm to a garden, porch, or balcony:

* Use paint colors that are bold outside to make the colors of the flowers in your garden really pop! Try colors such as pink, sunshine yellow, Caribbean blue, lilac, or fire engine red.

* After you paint a base coat on your chair, use a low tack painters masking tape to mask out stripes then paint them in with a contrasting color.

* Decoupage images over the paint using a product like modge podge. If you're unsure of where to find images try using full color images from affordable clip art collections such as the Dover series. You can also achieve a similar look by using stencils, stickers, rubber stamps, or hand painting.

* Once you've painted or used the decoupage technique on your chair, add a clear coat of polyurethane to protect it's new look from the elements.

* Transform a chair into an outdoor shelf, by cutting off the legs and add a hanging wire to display on a sturdy fence.

* If you have a canned or wicker chair with a worn out seat, widen the hole just large enough to place an enamelware bowl, or a terra-cotta pot...and use it to display trailing flowers.

* Collect a series of old dining room chairs in different shapes, and re-paint each one in a contrasting color. Arrange them around a table for an eclectic garden room sitting/dining area.

Adding a dash of the unexpected adds a lot of interest to your outdoor space!

Thursday, November 03, 2005


violet silk dress   red-violet foldover turtleneck sweater

as some of you may know, i am currently in school, studying fashion design. fashion design has been a passion of mine for as long as i could remember. i can barely remember my childhood friends and most of my early adventures as i age, but i can clearly recall dresses i wore as a little girl: the white, lacy first communion dress, the little red puff-sleeved affair with the chambray blue pinafore over it that i wore in second grade, the corduroy knickers that were a hand-me-down from my maternal cousins, the grey size 5 heels i insisted on wearing at school at age nine. those memories of those objects of personal adornment are crystal clear in my (seemingly one-track) mind. :)

i began thrifting in high school, and i used thrifting as a way to extend my extremely limited clothes budget, and simultaneously expand my wardrobe exponentially. it was a way to be able to dress different than my peers, to have special pieces that no one else had, and it let me be able to dress differently every day.

over the years, i educated myself on designers, clothing construction, fabrics, costume history and the like. and thrifting became more than just buying what i liked, more than just a way to expand my wardrobe. it also became a little adventure where i found myself searching out items that had been discarded due to the whims and whiles of current fashion. i found myself attracted to items with interesting details, intriguing colors or patterns, and the like, no matter what era they originally hailed from. sometimes those items inspire me when making my own designs...and that's part of why i find them, and the act of thrifting so delightful.

i have come to have no shame about what i love and feel drawn to...it's an inner voice, a decree from my own personal thrift gods. i try items on, follow my heart and heed my inherently sharp eye, and buy them. i throw them together with old and new pieces from my closet and go. i like getting feedback on my clothing decisions, on these old pieces i unearth, just like when i make a item myself.

i can't help it...as a fashion person, someone fascinated by the whiles and whims and details of fashion, i feel compelled to experiment. to try, and to find out if i will succeed or fail. i feel that one has to take risks, or they'll never push things forward.

it's fun, and it's really research, this trying out old styles, and getting other's feedback. while i always try to follow my own muse, i still feel that it is really important. if other people don't believe in the possibilities, then how can i sell my vision later? it's up to me to root through the old, great stuff, pick out what i perceive to be the gems, and give them a go. i love it when i find something, try it out, and the trend for it emerges later. it's fascinating.

and i implore others to experiment similarly: i mean, really, most thrifts are almost giving clothes away at a pittance. therefore, it's worth giving something old a new life, another run. even if there's a question, just try it! you might find yourself on the cusp on a new trend! as i always say, it's all in how you mix it, really. sometimes the ugly can become beautiful if one styles them with panache. you must be able to see the possibilities, have no fear, and most of all, be bold.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

winter's coming...

it's time to take out the stacks of vintage craft magazines, patterns, and knitting guides i uncovered throughout the summer!

this is one element to thrifting that hadn't even occured to me until recently - thrift shops and estate sales are often brimming with retrocrafty treats. fabric, buttons, knitting needles; you name it. it's not only a fantastic way to accumulate heaps of unusual raw materials and ideas that your friends will swoon over, but it's also a very inexpensive way to build up a vast collection of potential rainy (snowy) day projects.

here's to a cup of hot cocoa, frosty windowpanes, and finally mastering the art of knitting this year!