Upcycling and embellishing vintage clothing and linen is big business on the hand crafting sites like Etsy and MadeIt. It amazes me then, that some people will buy from these sites, yet turn their nose up at thrift shops and garage sales. Where do they think the Etsy dealers find their wares to upcycle?
If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you'll know that I love a good thrift store, and making a silk purse out of a sows ear (as the old saying goes) is a challenge that never ceases to put a smile on my face.
Over the last couple of weeks, maybe you've followed along as I've been embellishing thrifted clothing to give it a more designer look and feel. You can see those posts here, here, here and here. I've also been encouraging you to visit your local haberdashery, and familiarise yourself with the look and feel of some of the more luxurious fabrics. Once you know the difference between polyester and silk, or knit and ponti, or polyester chiffon over a beautiful silk chiffon or double georgette, you'll acquire a whole new appreciation of thrift stores, and their offerings. Because at thrift stores, you can find gorgeous items made from all of those luxury fabrics, and more.
Over time, you'll be able to spot a delustred or duchess satin over a polyester satin from ten paces. You'll easily discern a cheap chain store robe, from a 100% silk one just from the feel of it under your fingertips. Your eye will rapidly dismiss anything that looks cheap and throwaway, and will hone in on items made from quality fabrics that will stand the test of time.
Here are a few examples, from this weeks thrift store shopping and upcycling alone....
This camisole looked very sorry for itself when I dug it from the bottom of a wire basket, where it was trapped amongst a plethora of DD cup bras and dubious black and red lingerie. It's silk, and I paid just $2 for it. It looks a bit sad, doesn't it. You probably wouldn't look twice at it. But I felt it, knew it was silk, and pictured immediately what I could do with it.
A gentle sustained swish in a sink full of my home made wool and silk wash helped, (and this is the perfect companion gift for your upcycled pretties). Then I caressed it with an iron set to just barely medium heat, and embroidered it with some Bullion Roses and French knots. Suddenly a thing of beauty.
This sad looking pistachio green satin pyjama set, didn't look much, when dragged from the depths of the same wire basket...
...but again, a gentle hand wash, and a press with a warm iron, and it looks lavish and brand new again. In fact better than new in some respects, as it's been washed of it's starchy new-ness. This will be added to my daughters stash of more grown-up pyjama wear. She's already worn it twice and pronounced it a favourite.
This red Chinoiserie inspired robe, didn't look much either, hung amongst a dozen or so cheap polyester robes. But one drape against the back of my hand, and I knew it was the real thing. This one was just $7, and once washed, dried in the sun, and ironed...
...it rewarded me with the lustre and glow that only silk provides.
See here below, a polyester night dress, and note the difference between it and the silk, above. It's noticeable, isn't it. The polyester looks almost plastic-ey by comparison.
All the same, I grabbed this one for $2, as well as this silk scarf below for just $1, and given it's toning colours, I have a plan to use both to create something sweet and new to gift to a womens shelter.
Of course silks and satins aren't the only prizes. I found this quality robe, in the sort of fine knit towelling that lasts and lasts, for just $4. I knew straight away that some delicate pink Bullion Roses and ivy stems would elevate it to special as well. I haven't decided on a new home for this one yet. I may keep it for myself!
Don't be shy about gifting things that you've elevated to special.
I include a manilla tag tied with satin ribbon to my gifts. It says...
"A prize, lovingly restored to as-new condition, and embellished with my hands, for you to enjoy"
This seems to be an honest representation, that 99.9% of recipients accept joyously.
I hope it works for you too.