Tag Archives: recycle

Dirty old things

We’ve got a decent ReStore nearby – luckily not too close or I’d go too often, but not too far that you have to plan to go. We had an entirely awesome architectural salvage store in our old city that I dearly miss, but still visit when passing through, and though this doesn’t replace it, in some ways it’s more practical because it carries a wider variety of smaller-scaled items (and I’m no longer in the market for a victorian mantle anyway). We found a good mid-century dresser there, a near-mint wool kilim rug, and the typical bits we usually bring home from thrift stores like records and books and fabric scraps.

On my last visit, I scored an old sewing machine box.


I’ve got a partially boxless machine that has been topless for nearly 20 years. Once in awhile I’d dick around on ebay debating about buying one, but usually balked at the shipping price, so this was a classic example of finally finding something for which I’d given up looking. And oddly enough, it was already in half of an old Morse box.


But the best part is that it was saved – yes, it’s dirty and stained and a bit smelly, but it still serves a good purpose in a way that nothing new can. Granted, that’s a given because I’m using something old on something old and the whole thing is a no shit sherlock kind of thing… But many/most people would have probably thrown the thing out? Or the thrift store might have dumpstered it? In fact, the half-naked machine had a complete case, but the thrift store threw out the top because the handle was broken off, or something along those lines, and unfortunately just before I bought it too… or so said the clerk who might have just been itching to see a long face…

So the machine has some new vintage digs albeit much younger than the machine itself. I had also been intending to un-electrify this machine and put it back in a nice treadle cabinet like it originally came in, but until that lucky happenstance comes along, I can at least store and use it a bit more securely.

old-case after

And then I’ll see if anyone needs the bottom part of an old Morse box – I need to check the rest of mine first though – I know I have one that the little post things that hold the machine are broken, but don’t know if the lid will fit the bottom – unfortunately even though these are all a universal size, the clasps that hold the two parts together can differ – these two Morses from approximately the same time period didn’t – one had clasps 1/4″ longer than the other…

During our most recent vacation, we stopped in a Goodwill in Maine. I love seeing the local flavor coming through in used shit and stop at thrifts whenever I can when I’m on the road. I was hoping to find some good old hard-wearing woolens, but silly me, in the land of frugality, of course they wouldn’t just be chucked in the charity bin but used until they were entirely shredded and then stuffed in the walls for insulation or given to the dog.

So I poked around the household items even though I’ve banned myself from buying any more plates ever.

oldthings-dirty plates

And I fell hard for these dirty old things.

At $4 for the whole lot, can you blame me? And they’ve got a bit of green and yellow and orange, my favorite colors? And they’re from the time period that I’m most drawn to in terms of household things?

old things-plates

But what I like best was that they were clearly salvaged from an old garage, barn, abandoned house, unrepaired attic, root cellar, or someplace long neglected and not suitable for proper china storage…

…but someone made the effort to chuck them in a box and haul them in for someone else.

The set isn’t really one – mostly dessert* dishes and a couple smaller and one larger. They aren’t in the best shape and are delicate-ish, therefore not entirely practical, but the worst ones are still useful for holding drippy or dry things (soap or sewing bits) and the good ones will be perfect for the occasional dessert

dirty old thing-polenta cake

(This is just one quarter of a very tasty polenta bar.)

*They’re probably actually luncheon plates instead of dessert plates, and though I think today’s plates are obscenely large and use “lunch” plates for my “dinner” plates on a daily basis, these would only hold the daintier finger sammies… And they’re made by W. H. Grindley & Co., England, but I can’t find the name of the pattern – according to a random website, the mark dates c. 1914-1925 – anyone recognize it?


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Filed under collecting, recycling, sewing, thrifting, travel

A quick and pratical project

Somewhere I saw something like this – maybe exactly like this, at least in terms of application.  Cut up an old felted sweater and use it to sit on the cold wet ground… maybe it was someone on Ravelry, Pinterest, Etsy, Flickr, a blog, or, or, or*…  oh my, many days I just want to kill my devices.   But regardless, I’m not super keen on winter hiking if there is snow or ice involved, but the warming winters are having less of the stuff and making for pleasant and cool outdoor ventures.  On a recent hike through the New Jersey Pine Barrens, we found a large plastic bag of “wildlife feed” on the trail and picked it up to dispose of it properly.  I don’t know what wildlife it was intended to feed, or if there is a one-beast-fit-all kibble, but the dregs were a disturbing fleshy liverish color, so maybe it was a modern Soylent Green for the Jersey Devils.  The bag had a phone number on it so I could have returned it for a refill which probably would be the most ecologically friendly thing to do, but we’ve been watching a lot of Portlandia lately and my urge to make stuff out of trash is especially high.

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And besides it was a good lightweight damp-proof material – I cut it up, sewed it to some felted sweater chests, and done.

Butt warmer

trail seat

Field tested and approved – not too heavy to pack along for a short to medium trip and allowed us to linger longer over our still steaming coffee for a legitimate break.  The plastic is woven though, so it would not be ideal in a sopping wet situation, so I’m considering making some backed with oilcloth, though that would make them heavier and less bendy; or some fused plastic.  In a pinch, they could also be used for staunching the flow of a serious wound or added warmth shoved into a jacket…

And the knitted hat is Stephen West’s Botanic Hat pattern.

* If anyone knows the original source for this, please let me know!


Ravelers are fantastic creatures and came up with my reference in a snap!  I saw it on Hanna Breetz’s Ever green knits blog.


Filed under recycling, sewing

Long term UFOs – part III

The boyfriend shirt quilt.  I don’t have a good reason for why I never finished this, or why it barely got started for that matter.  When N bought the house, he had a window of time where the lease on his apartment ended before the closing on the new place, so he moved to my tiny weird but wonderful apartment.  In his last days before moving in with me, he tossed out half of his wardrobe (mostly over-sized 90s clothes) in a frantic windmill action – as he tossed, however, I snatched up.  He was irritated, my apartment was already crammed, so why did I want to make it worse?  I reassured him that it would turn into a nice quilt that he would have as a housewarming gift.  I was already in the middle of making a quilt for my nephew, so I didn’t start on it right away.  Then I began to enjoy N’s cooking more and more so I didn’t get out the sewing machine/s as often since I had to use the dining table that was previously minimally used.  Then the newly purchased house need work, a lot of work, so we spent the next year sanding, staining, tiling, painting, reconstructing, digging, and whatnot so I don’t think I sewed at stitch of anything.   Then I moved out of said apartment into the house and everything got boxed up and banished to the basement.  Eventually, I dragged everything out and up to my newly restored third floor studio.  I opened the beer box that held the shirts, cut up and ironed them, then made one patch and sort of started another.

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Then what happened?  I know there was still work to do on the house and much to do with the yard, but I still had time in the evenings…  but I think my knitting obsession was taking off, then I was producing other things for craft fairs.  And then N took a job across the state but we kept the house with me in it.  I thought about making the quilt again for him to use in his new depressing apartment, but we were always traveling to see each other on weekends, so there never seemed to be any time.  Now I am here with him, so it’s time I made this quilt!  I started on a few scraps and will continue with my usual hodge-podge style.

N's quilt blocks

I’m not sure if I have enough for a queen size, but if I need to augment, I’d like to thrift a few shirts that at least look like ones he had before or have now.  I really should give myself a deadline.

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Filed under quilts, recycling, sewing

Long term UFOs – part II

The sweater quilt.  I joined Ebay in 1996 – those were the good old days before the vintage market got utterly saturated and you could sell stuff for a decent profit and find great stuff to buy.   There were a few awesome thrift stores around where I lived, and I scoured one in particular weekly or more.  At that time I was working in a gallery, putting off grad school, and convincing myself that I could be an artist even though I made little art and showed none of it.  To supplement my meager income, I produced a few craft items for shops and fairs and sold vintage stuff online – mostly dishware, printed tablecloths, and some clothing.  For a couple of years life was good, and my Ebay earnings paid for a few trips to visit friends and family scattered from coast to coast, but then I noticed a problem – namely I had a thrift-store problem, and for every item I bought to re-sell, I bought another or two or three to keep…  This also coincided with the bottom falling out on things like Jadeite dishware and the like, so it was time to quit.  But.I.Just.Couldn’t.Stop.   I loved the sensory experience of whirring through a rack of old sweaters and my fingers landing on cashmere or something sturdy and sheepy, never mind the other senses tweaked from mothballs or a neighboring browser or her shrieking kid.  I couldn’t quit the hunt for prime fiber, so I continued to go, but less frequently and I tried to stick to just the clothing racks and electronics (did I mention I also collected sewing machines?  Yeah, back then I rarely moved…).  I started to believe it was my destiny and responsibility to “rescue” sweaters of beautiful fibers that couldn’t be worn  any longer, and I still do to some extent.  But back to the 1990s, I had amassed a stack of sweaters in a pleasing color palette that I determined should be a quilt.  I also determined that it should be a king-sized one, which I don’t know why – did I expect to get a bigger bed?  Did I have a buyer in mind? Was that just the amount of fabric I had?  I don’t remember.  I also don’t know why I didn’t consider fulling [felting] them first, though I had to use the laundromat then and only did so when the need was dire, so my disdain of the place, and not wanting to do it by hand was probably it.  So I started sewing (on one of my many vintage thrifted machines) and in a day or so, finished the top.

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And then all movement on it ceased.  I remember showing it to a few people who really liked it, and one in particular probably would have bought it for a decent price, but I just couldn’t figure out how to finish it.  I had a stash of old army blankets that I thought I would use for the backing and I experimented with one but the stretchiness of the sweaters wasn’t playing well with the stiffness of the blanket.  The blankets were also fairly heavy and I wanted this to continue to have a sweater-like drape.  I also remember seeing a bolt of thin knitted material (wool & angora) in a antiques/junk store that would have been perfect, but it wasn’t there when I went back for it.  Then I think I thought I would back it with a cotton/wool plaid material that just never went on sale, or a cotton flannel plaid that never existed in the colorway I’d desired.  And then I hadn’t addressed a few of the holes that were in the sweaters from the beginning – I believe I was thinking about embroidery, but now I’d just like to repair them.  So here it is about 15 years later, or maybe I’ll say nearly 20 since that sounds more dramatic.  I actually still like it too, but its lack of a backside or trim is still troublesome.

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If I had fulled the sweaters beforehand (and some are a bit already) I wouldn’t worry about it and would leave the rough side naked, but as it is now, I can see little bits of sweater coming off everywhere and making me bats, and the seams probably aren’t the strongest.  The thought of attempting to back something so stretchy makes me ill, and I don’t really like a tufted look, but that would be easiest.  I’m considering maybe using a jersey sheet, but haven’t looked for a giant cheap one yet.  So this is the UFO that might fail my attempt to make it not so, but I will think about it, and maybe live with it on the bed for a bit…

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Filed under quilts, recycling, sewing