Archive for the ‘Thrift and Booksale Finds’ Category

I have been reading articles about Sure-Fit Designs, and the reviews have been very positive. While trying to figure out how soon I could save up enough money to treat myself to this pattern drafting system, I remembered that I had four boxes in the sewing room of some drafting kit or other that I had never tried out. They were purchased at the craft thrift store a few years ago and only cost 50 cents each.  Sure enough, they were Sure-Fit Design kits from 1982.

Thrift store findThinking that the kits must have been updated in the 32 years since these were first printed, I emailed the company and got a prompt reply.  Their service is certainly excellent.  I was told that to update the kits I needed to buy the stylus, the new instructions for the dress kit, and a new improved pants kit.  Luckily, my birthday was approaching and the spouse had no idea what to get for my gift, so I helped him out with a suggestion.  Now I am eager to try these out, especially the pants kit since one of my daughters has been wanting me to sew her some slacks.  This will be the next thing I try after I finish a few UFOs.

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Somehow I have never gotten around to getting the daughters to help me make a duct-tape double of myself, so I have to have Madame Merp model the clothes.  Just another thing to put on the to-do list.  The fabric for these tops also came from the craft thrift store at the same time I bought the royal blue haul.

Simplicity 4180

Simplicity 4180

This knit is very light weight and might have some wool content.  It is almost impossible to photograph, but at least I gave it a try.

DSC00618UPDATE:  Wow, this top turned out to be fantastic on the trip.  It was comfortable, and best of all, I could wash it out at night and it would be totally dry by the next morning.  I still have some of this fabric left so I may just make another one of these tops, but I think I will lower the top level of the insert about one inch.  I cut this version with a high insert because I knew I would be bending over to help my MIL in and out of the car multiple times every day, so this was comfortable and modest.

These tops actually have a much nicer shape in real life and have the same comfort as a baggy T-shirt but look much better.



Today I am working on a mundane pillowcase for a car pillow.  We went shopping for an inexpensive pillow and were shocked at how much bed pillows cost in some stores.  We finally gave up and went to Target and got a nice soft fluffy pillow for about $5 instead of $85.  I am going to make a pillowcase that is much smaller than the pillow which will squish it into a more dense shape.   This whole thing makes my questionable impulse purchase of some blue fabric with giant white letters all over it at the craft thrift store not such a waste, since I am going to use it for pillowcases and maybe a tablecloth.

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Earlier this year on a trip to the craft thrift store in Sonoma County, I found a lot of royal blue knit.  It is the kind of knit meant for athletic clothes with a smooth side and a textured side, but I just use it for garments with the smooth side showing.  It is a stable knit and easy to sew.  I don’t know why someone donated over 15 yards of it, but I bought it all for 50 cents a pound.  The main reason was that a few years ago my daughter made me some gorgeous jewelry and I wanted something royal blue that would go with it:

DSC00640First I made one of my standard tops using an old Butterick pattern, 4507.

DSC00630Then I was reading about McCall’s 6844, the much-reviewed cardigan, so decided to give it a try since I obviously had enough fabric.

Fullscreen capture 972014 94820 PMThe reviews said that the sleeves were very narrow, and they weren’t kidding.  The armholes are also very tight if you are using a firm knit.  I added one inch to the biceps and lowered the armholes by 3/4 inch.  Making the biceps measurement larger added to the length of the sleeve cap seam line and reduced the height of the cap, but somehow lowering the armhole the amount I did cancelled out these changes and the sleeve fit in beautifully.

Here's the cardigan worn over the top.

Here’s the cardigan worn over the top.

On a roll now, I cut out one of my favorite knit top patterns (Simplicity 4180 with many changes)


DSC00625The machine is still threaded with the royal blue thread, and I haven’t even used up one 5-yard length of the fabric yet (it is very very wide, too), so I am currently trying to think of even more royal blue things to make.

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A long time ago when I was in junior high, my grandmother gave me an old coat.  She was always bringing us old stuff when she came to visit us, and this coat dated from the 40’s or 50’s.  The wool in this gray coat was fabulous, thick and warm.  We took the coat apart and I made myself a 6-gore skirt.  I wore that skirt for years, all the way through college.  I saved the scraps and still have the skirt saved somewhere.  I used the scraps to roll up into a bobbin lace cushion when I was teaching myself bobbin lace making, so the coat was eventually all used up in a useful manner.  Because of this, I have always had an interest in remaking outdated clothing.  I picked up this booklet at an antique sale a few years ago:IMG_0003

It has pages of instructions for using old clothing to make new items during the wartime years when it was hard to get fabric and required ration coupons.








In addition to thinking about sewing, we have been working in the garden a bit.  Here in California, Spring is on the way and we will have a week or so of nice sunny weather followed by several nights of frost.  This morning is really frosty.  Over the weekend we drove to the nursery in Sebastopol and bought what we thought were 4 raspberry canes.  When we got them home, though, we saw that they were 5 canes tied together in each packet so we are going to have raspberries all across the back fence.  I’ve never grown berries before except for a few volunteer blackberry plants, so we have been reading the gardening book to see what we are suppposed to do.

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I usually go to the thrift store in Sebastopol every two months or so, and today I hit the jackpot.  Not only did I find some new cones of Maxi-lock thread, some 6000-yard cones of Dual Duty thread (for 75 cents each), but I found this in brand new condition:

I’ve heard a lot about this book, about how great a reference it is, but it is out of print except for the e-book form sold by Taunton Press, and the books for sale online range from $40 to $150.  I was delighted to see it on the shelf at the thrift store.  I paid about $1 for it.

I also got a really old Singer 121795 black buttonholer that will be fun to try out.  The manual was easily found online.

On the way home, though, I was headed down a pretty two-lane country road that carries quite a bit of traffic on weekdays.  There was a huge truck in front of me and a police car behind me.  The traffic was moving along under the speed limit.  All of a sudden, the cop lights came on and he signaled me to pull over.  “Oh, no!!” I thought.  I wondered what on earth I could have done wrong.  Traffic tickets in this area are extremely, horribly expensive.  I pulled over as soon as I found a spot, and a miracle occurred as the police car sped past me and pulled over the truck.  He just wanted me out of his way.  Hallelujah!  That could have been a very expensive trip to the thrift store.

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Time to make a practice garment for New Look 6871.  This is the second muslin, and the hope is that it will be a wearable muslin.  Instead of making a plain garment, I did a little free-motion embroidery on the yoke.  It’s been some months since I did this kind of embroidery, maybe even a year, so I am a little rusty at it, but nothing some practice won’t cure.

This is a plain green cotton I got at the the thrift store in Sebastopol.  It will make a nice cool summer top, if it fits correctly.  I am using a heavier than usual cotton thread for the embroidery.  I like the textured look it gives, and the price was right.  They had lots of these big 9600-yard cones at the thrift shop, and since it was 50% off day, my cost was only $2.50 each.  That’s a lot of thread.

Tomorrow, I’ll cut out the rest of the top and get started on the sewing.

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When the library has a book sale fundraiser, I am always there.  It is amazing how I eventually find most of the books I have been looking for.  For example, when we were first married and living in Sacramento, I got a Batsford embroidery book, Practical Embroidery,  from a downtown bookshop.  The book was great but didn’t have the basic information about how to start and end your threads, etc.  The book said that all that information was in their first volume,  Let’s Embroider.  I couldn’t find that book anywhere in that pre-internet age, but 30 years later I got a great copy from the booksale.  Nowadays, I am always on the lookout for vintage sewing and knitting books and pamphlets.  Here’s what I found yesterday:

On the left and right are two books by Adele P. Margolis, the wonderful sewing writer who lived to be 100 and was writing another volume in her 90’s about fitting the aging body.   In the center is Clothing Construction by Evelyn A. Mansfield.  This is a 1953 college textbook, a wonderful book full of great pictures and technique how-tos.  Here’s a sample page showing how to make Chinese knot closures and buttons:

If you ever get a chance to get this book, it is well worth the investment.  Especially if you can get it at the library book sale for $1.  I also found some assorted vintage and more modern books on sewing.  The Bishop Method book,  which my mom had a copy of, dates from 1966, and the McCalls book is from 1957:

The McCall’s pamphlet is from 1967, and the other books are from the 90’s.

I finished up the batik blouse but still haven’t photographed it.  Now M wants me to make the same top out of some Indian gauze from the stash, so I hope to cut that out soon.  In the meantime, I am working on fitting some patterns for A.

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My camera is acting up today, and I am afraid it is slowly losing the fight against advanced age.  It is about 7 years old now, and has always been a good little camera.  I tried hard to never drop it, which was hard because I am not the world’s most coordinated person, but I succeeded.  Maybe after the camera recharges and rests for awhile I can get some pictures to show.

I don’t like marmalade much, and now that I am allergic to citrus rind, I won’t eat it anyway, but I am interested in making some to give as gifts.  I have an orange tree, and an anemic lemon tree, but my brother gave me a bag of lovely lemons, so today I am going to give the marmalade a try.   That’s the nice thing about living in the West – the lovely organic citrus in just about every yard.  The oranges on our tree have always been very sour, but they might make good marmalade, and I can substitute the juice for lemon juice in an emergency.  I also found a link to this recipe,


which sounds similar to one that was popular when I was newly married, only that one used apricot jam.

There’s no sense going to all the trouble of getting out the canning pot and doing all the dish washing for just one batch of jam, so I may as well do a few batches of plum jam too.  I need the room in the freezer.  I chop up the plums and store them in the freezer every summer to wait for cooler jam-making weather.

Yesterday I made my usual visit to the thrift store in Sebastopol.  It is a lovely drive in the spring, and the new lambs were in the fields with their shorn moms, the cows were sitting down in the slight rain, and a flock of Canada geese were all over another field.  The almonds are blooming and the fields were full of mustard flowers.  I found lots of old knitting and crochet books, a few patterns, and some pretty long lengths of fabric to use for muslins or little girl dresses.

UPDATE:  Well, making marmalade is quite a production, isn’t it?  There’s a lot of peeling off the rind, taking off the pith, chopping the fruit and peel, and watching for seeds – quite a bit different from plum jam where you just wash and pit the plums and toss them into the food processor for a quick chop.  I did two batches of plum jam, too, so the final count is  7 half pints of marmalade and 9 pints of plum jam.  The camera decided to cooperate.

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I’m always on the lookout for old sewing books and pamphlets at the library booksale and at thrift shops.  Here are two new acquisitions:

This is a large ring binder and has nice illustrations and is dated 1961.  It is very basic, and is not a comprehensive sewing book that will answer your every question.  For example, if you are looking for information on sewing a kick pleat, you won’t find it in the index.  For beginners, though, it is a very good basic sewing book.  Below is a sample page showing french seams.

The book was well worth the big $1 price I paid at the library sale and is in nice condition.

The pamphlet is small but packs in a lot of information in its 64 pages.  It is dated 1951, so it is for the post-war,  short-of-money-and-materials population.  There are lots of hints for making do with what you have, refashioning, and decorating.

The page below was kind of funny, because of the way the grandmother is pictured.  The older generation is thought of as a lot peppier these days, since grandma is probably line dancing down at the Senior Center or scuba diving in the Bahamas:

Today I am actually following through on my goal to alter some basic patterns for myself.  I decided to start with a princess seamed, 3/4-length sleeve blouse, and have just started tracing off the pattern.  It is a lovely day here in California, a little chilly but sunny.  Spring is on the way, I hope.



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I picked up these two pattern drafting books fairly recently, but I really like them.  The info is great, even though the measurements are metric.  A metric ruler is easy to find, even if you don’t already have one.  Mostly, though, these books are great for when you want to change one of your patterns around a little and need to know how to manipulate the pattern.  For example, on a recent little girl dress, I needed to know how to change a big puffed sleeve into an angel sleeve, and this book has great graphics and diagrams.  I picked up the adult version at the library booksale for only a dollar, so I didn’t feel too bad about paying the regular price for the kid’s version as a late Christmas present for myself.



Here’s an example of the diagrams in the books:

Today I am working on another top for myself, a UFO that has been cut out for, who knows, maybe 5 years or more.  My embroidery machine has developed a glitch so has to go into the shop, but it was pouring down rain today and I decided to wait for the sunshine.  I would hate to slip in a puddle and drop the machine, and I don’t think the machine would like it either.  The weatherman says tomorrow will be sunny.  I don’t have any lack of UFOs to work on while I am waiting for the repair.

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