How to Update Vintage · Style · Tennessee · Thrifts

Is It Spring Yet?



Hello! I’m back!

I had a feeling that I would be slowing down on projects in February, but I thought I would sew SOMETHING in the midst of all the Bunco planning. Nope. February was a whirlwind of donation collections, ticket sales, event planning, people coordinating, and more trips to the Dollar Store than I could possibly count. It was SO MUCH FUN, but it was SO much work, too. The big event was this past Friday night, and we had a great turn out and raised money for our beloved preschool. I am so grateful to be part of such an amazing community of families, and I am glad that I have the opportunity to give back in this way.

On Saturday morning after the big event, Husband took the kids to get an oil change and get breakfast at McDonalds, a rare treat. I slept until 7:30 and then had the house to myself for a few hours. I thought I would start sewing, but instead I made myself an omelette and took my coffee back to bed to read. It was glorious. The perfect way to unwind after a busy week month.

When Monday afternoon rolled around, BB was off at school, BG was napping, and I had a couple of free hours with nothing to do. I immediately got out my sewing machine.


I found this vintage dress over Christmas. While we were in Tennessee visiting family, Husband’s grandmother and I decided to hit up the one estate sale happening during the break. We drove out to Elizabethton, but there wasn’t really much to be found, especially since I would have to pack anything I got for the flight home.

(I have two memories of Elizabethton. The first, from my childhood: My brother lived in Elizabethton when he was in college at ETSU. He used to tell people that he lived on the “outskirts of Johnson City” – he seemed embarrassed to say he lived in Carter County. We went to visit one time, and he took us to this little Italian restaurant that he called a “dive” – first time I had ever heard that term. He warned us that the waitresses there would sit down with you and smoke a cigarette while they took your order. Husband’s grandmother and I drove past the restaurant on our excursion. It looked exactly the same as it did 20+ years ago.

And now, a new memory of Elizabethton:  While driving around this trip, trying to find a thrift store, we saw a woman not much younger than Husband’s grandmother walking down the road in full camo with a shotgun flung over one shoulder and what I can only assume was “breakfast” thrown over the other.)

We never found the thrift store, so we headed to Johnson City.

vintage tennessee dress

First, let me tell you, thrift store prices vary widely from area to area. At the Goodwill I went to in Tennessee, I found clothes for BG for $1.79 – a bright pink vintage Health-Tex corduroy skirt. (A skirt I probably owned at some point, honestly – it looked so familiar.  Do you remember Health-Tex? I remember having mix-and-match Health-Tex outfits.) This vintage dress in perfect condition was less than $7.


I loved the creamy color and the light, flowy, sheerness of the fabric.


I loved the little gathered shoulders.

secretary tie

I even liked the little pearl buttons and the secretary tie neckline.


I didn’t love the ruffled cuffs on the sleeves.


Or the frumpy length.


I started by taking the sleeves apart.


There was some old, stretched out elastic in the cuffs of the sleeves that needed to be replaced, so I tried to carefully remove the ruffles, but I realized I could use my small, sharp scissors to just cut the ruffles away from the hem and then seam rip the hem apart. Once the ruffle was gone, I sewed a little casing and threaded new elastic through on each sleeve.


When it was time to shorten the hem, I tried a couple of different ideas before realizing that using my trusty scarf-hem technique would be the easiest. I am not very good with sheer, silky fabrics, and this technique covers a multitude of sewing sins.


When I found this dress at the thrift store in December, I thought that it would be great in the spring and that I could make it work in the winter months. Little did I know I wouldn’t even get around to it until spring – well, at least spring-like weather in Northern California.


When I went outside to snap photos, I was met with the fragrance of these flowers blooming on the bushes beside our house. They are so pretty and delicate and sweet. I wanted to stay outside all afternoon.


Here I’m checking out the bees buzzing by my ear, making sure I don’t get too close. (I know, if your back East, the last thing you want to hear about are the flowers and bees. Sorry.)


Clearly it is still winter, as I am still very, very pale.

DSC_0073Love the way the hem turned out – the stitched double fold adds a little bit of structure to the hem that makes it look really pretty.

DSC_0173And here’s what I was envisioning when I bought the dress – warm layers for winter.

DSC_0194Alas, we haven’t had much of a winter, anyway.

sheer vintage dress

Won’t be long until it’s really spring.



31 Days · Color · good life · How to Update Vintage · Sewing · Style · Thrifts

31 Days: Color – Day 20: Rust and Warm Fuzzy Memories

Working on this dress brought back a lot of memories, but maybe not in the way you would think.


First of all, here’s the before. It isn’t going to look much different than the after, because all I did was hem it. This dress is perfect to wear with boots except that it is midcalf length and just looks frumpy with boots. Hemming is always my first defense against frumpy dresses. A different hemline makes all the difference.


When I thrifted this dress, I immediately fell in love with the pleats on the bodice. I’m a sucker for pintucks.


I’m also a sucker for a great label. That’s the way my Mom spells her name – Gayle! Working on this dress reminded me of my Mom. Not that she had this dress, although I’m sure she probably owned something similar at some point – it’s got that great ’70s feel to it. I’m not even sure what the fabric is – cotton? polyester? a blend? Who knows? All I know is it’s thick and soft, and it’s a pain to iron.

And that’s what started the memories. As I was ironing it by the windows, the sky overcast and looking like rain, the smell of the iron took me back to childhood. It reminded me of sick days, staying home from school, watching Press Your Luck and Card Sharks on TV from a pile of blankets and pillows on the couch (which was also rust colored) while Mom folded laundry and ironed clothes and brought me 7up and played cards with me. I hated missing school – I loved being there, and being with my friends, and I hated getting behind – but staying home was always fun, too. It was such a small memory, but it was so comforting just thinking about it.

A friend and I were talking about this a while back – about things from childhood that are surprisingly comforting. At the time, I had started Tivo’ing The Cosby Show. I said that it just made me happy. She said she felt like that, too – that there were shows and songs and other small things that just brought you back to being a kid, to being taken care of, to a time when our worries and stresses were few and far between. I wonder what it is in our home now that BB and BG will remember, what will be comforting reminders of when they were little and were taken care of by us?


So the original hem of this dress was a blind hem that was hand sewn. I have never really hand sewn anything (unless cross-stitch counts, another memory from childhood), and this looks pretty difficult.


I mean, you can barely even see the stitches. I am impressed.


I do have a blind-hem stitch on my sewing machine. :) Not sure how blind the hem will be since the closest thread I have to “rust” is red.


Ah well, not bad.


And the dress is now not frumpy, either.


A warm fuzzy dress that will be comforting for the fall and winter ahead.

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This post is part of a 31 day series. Find all the posts in this series here.

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How to Update Vintage · Style · Thrifts · white

How to Update Vintage: No-Frills

It’s my BIRTHDAY!!

I am a big birthday person. HUGE! When I was growing up, birthdays were always really big at our house, but none were as big as my mom’s birthday. She really did it up, proclaiming herself the Queen and getting everything she wanted. (What am I staying? She still does.) Husband doesn’t get it, but I’m giving him lessons. While I was at a birthday brunch with friends on Sunday, he took BB and BG to shop for cake ingredients and presents. (BG says I’m getting bracelets, but I’m pretty sure that’s just what she wants for HER birthday.)


So today’s vintage project is a Victorian-inspired ’80s blouse with lots of added lace.


A small piece of lace trims the high neck of the blouse, and a larger piece frames the yoke of the blouse.


All this needs is a good seam ripper!


Check out my “new” sewing box. On Saturday, BB and I hit up garage sales around town before his soccer game, and I found this. (Yes, I know it’s a little broken, but it still works.)

Hitting garage sales with BB brought back memories of doing the same thing with my dad when I was little. We would get out the paper, dig through the classifieds, and map out our sales. We would spend all morning together, just him and me, driving and talking and digging and shopping. Those weekends are still some of my favorites. As BB and I were driving this past weekend, I was wondering about all the things that have changed since Dad’s been gone – 16 years this month – and what he would think of them. (I know one thing – he would love Craigslist as much as I do!)


One of the stops we hit on Saturday was advertised as an Antique Dealer clearing stock. It did not disappoint! His prices were great – the sewing box was $3 – and there were many cool things to inspect. I ended up with the sewing box and a cute basket, and BB ended up with these:

hulk smash

These actually aren’t ours – it’s a photo I found online here. For some reason, ours are both left hands – not an original set. Doesn’t matter, because as the morning wore on, we were unable to find anything suitable for BG, so BB offered to give one of his to her when we got home. It works out really well – they battle each other with their one fist. And yes, they do make noise. While we were cruising for other sales, BB kept crashing them together to hear the sounds. He said, “‘Egg Sauce’? Is that saying ‘Egg Sauce’?” Apparently, “HULK SMAAAASH!” is something the Hulk says a lot, but that’s not what it sounds like coming out of the fists, so now, everyday, the kids run around with their one green fist each, shouting “EGG SAAAAAAUUUUUUCCCCCEE!”


So, back to the shirt. I used my seam ripper to very carefully remove the lace from the blouse. It was tricky because it’s a white blouse with white lace made of tiny white threads attached by other tiny white threads. I had to bust out my reading glasses. That’s right, I finally broke down and got some. And let me tell you, they are amazing. I was telling my friends about them at brunch on Sunday, and a few were making fun of me because I bought them at the dollar store. Now, I don’t use them for reading (yet – ahem), only for seeing tiny threads or pieces of wire when I’m working on jewelry, so I don’t need anything fancy, just a little bit of magnification. The $1 ones are perfect for that.

photo 3 (1)

Dollar Store Reading Glasses Selfie. This is my second selfie of the day. The first one was at MOPS where we were instructed to take a selfie to add to a little directory of all the moms participating. With a new school, new afterschool activities, and a new MOPS group, I’m constantly meeting new people and having a terrible time remembering their names. What a brilliant idea!


So here’s the lace I removed. (Any thoughts on what I could do with it? Besides sew it on a blouse, of course.)


And here’s the blouse with all the lace removed. I like the little pleats on the yoke of the blouse – simple detail but not frilly. I am definitely not frilly.


I like the length and the drape of this blouse, especially with more fitted jeans.


It’s better. I liked it when I was figuring out how to wear it, but now that I’m looking at the photos, I’m thinking I might need to do some more updating. Remove the turtleneck piece to make it more of a crewneck? Or even turn it into a v-neck to echo the yoke? Leave it as is? What do you think?

DSC_0070Leave me a comment and tell me what I should do. We’ll make this project “to be continued….” In the meantime, I’m going to go have a piece of chocolate cake. For breakfast. It’s my birthday! I’m the Queen!