The inexorable allure of vintage sewing notions

Today I ran errands. This is always rather perilous, as it offers me the opportunity to pop into shops that I really should avoid. For example, while waiting for my husband’s prescriptions to be filled I could a) wander around the pharmacy fidgetting, or b) pop across the street to Value Village.

I don’t really need to tell you which option I pursued.




The mass of heavy denim I had spotted the other day was still there. It is now in my laundry basket awaiting laundering. What I hadn’t planned on taking home: a whole bag of random bias-binding, rick-rack, and piping, and another of shoulder pads. Those little mixed baggies are deadly, I tell you.

So, the tally? About eight packages of bias binding, three of which are in colours I would expect to use.

An four or five pairs of shoulder pads. All but one look like this:


shoulder-pad: end view.


They’re quite thick, but the open ends mean if I want to remove some of the padding it won’t be hard.

About four packets of seam-binding, mostly NOT in colours I use


Mending kit as advertising. And I thought grocery lists were sneaky!



Other side of the mending kit


Two little portable mending kits, including this rather cute one.


Red and silver rick-rack; originally sold at Eaton's for about $0.25.


Two packets of small rickrack (although I’m charmed by some recent uses of rickrack I’ve seen, I still can’t get over the tackiness entirely. It’s an issue I’m working on.) Eaton’s was a long-time staple of Canadian department stores; it went belly-up in the 90s, but I couldn’t even tell you when they stopped carrying sewing supplies. Before my time, anyway.



Blue piping. Probably too grubby and worn to use.


And one rather grubby packet of piping in a lovely pale blue.


Lovely (?) lace


And a bunch of old cream lace with pink flowers. Like the rickrack, I’m torn between “quaintly charming” and “ugh-70s-tacky”. At the moment it’s in the “bag of Petticoat Stuff” in the fabric room. If I decide I can’t live with the coral flowers, perhaps I could find a fabric dye pen or paint them.

I’m not sure why I get such a charge out of these random binges of sewing acquisition. It’s got something to do with my stereotype of the proper stash, modeled on my mother’s long-gone sewing paraphernalia (most of which I plundered mercilessly as an adolescent). Some of these bits I’d almost be reluctant to use—they seem more like museum pieces, to be preserved for posterity. (snerk) I do have to be careful of this, as we’re borderline hoarders in my family. I suppose worst-case scenario I open an etsy shop ;). Except that would require (ulp!) MAILING stuff. (Sad but true… you’ll probably never see me host a giveaway. Not because I’m selfish or ungrateful or even don’t want to give stuff away… but because I’m the world’s worst procrastinator when it comes to posting stuff.

Anyway, Tyo has a presentation tomorrow on How To Make A Zombie. Her ingredient list included sage, bay-leaf, chili powder, red water, ketchup, mushrooms, and eyeballs. When I was out this afternoon, I looked for those round chocolates with foil that looks like eyeballs, but couldn’t find any, so we were forced to improvise. I’ll leave you with the result:





Tomorrow, pants update, I promise. πŸ™‚



Filed under Sewing

16 responses to “The inexorable allure of vintage sewing notions

  1. Good Morning, Tanit. I’ve got some metal zips for you. I’d like to send a photo, so you can tell me what you’d like. I can get them in the post today.

    • Aww, thank you—the generosity of you people continually amazes me. The zipper crisis has been solved (I went out and bought a grey one yesterday) but thank you SO, SO much for the offer! (and yes, metal zippers are definitely desirable!)

  2. I’ve posted photos on my blog

  3. Sewista Fashionista

    Who could resist a store called Value Village? I especially like the lace. I think it has possibilities. Do you have a little girl? Sewing little girl clothes is delightful for using up those charming, funky, grab bat bits.

    • I have two little girls, although one is well past her cute & girly phase. Value Village is a large chain of second-hand stores… to be honest as thrift store/charity shops go it’s not the best: the prices are comparatively high and it’s basically a for profit (very profitable) business with just enough of a charity sheen to get people to give them stuff. On the other hand, the outlets are HUGE so you can almost always find SOMETHING, and (most importantly) it’s only a few blocks from my house. πŸ™‚

  4. I will bring you to the dark side. I have plans for a bustier that ties up the back, utilizing giant rick rack to make the loops for the tie. It will be awesome. You could totally use the same method to make some lace-up-the-side pants! My head is spinning. I need to go lie down…

    I’m a totaly sewing notions junkie, particularly vintage lace and ribbon from antique shops. Then I get it home and hoard it because it’s “too nice” to use.

  5. Lizzytish

    I totally support your VV Boutique habit…it meets the criteria for ‘reuse & recycle.’ Okay, so it doesn’t help with ‘reduce’ but it’s great for the ‘refashion’ habit that I live with! Check out Goodwill and ‘Sally Ann’ too. Their selections may be smaller, but their prices are much more reasonable & they’re real charity stores. Lovin’ your blog!

    • We don’t have Goodwill here that I know of, but the Sally Ann is everywhere (though I do have issues with them as an organization as well, lol). Sadly it ISN’T within walking distance of my house, unlike VV. I have the unusual privilege, in a sprawling and suburban city, of living within walking distance of the vast majority of the shops I need to visit, so I try and take advantage of that as much as possible.

      and thanks! Good to have you here πŸ™‚

  6. If you have any future eyeball-sourcing emergencies, you might consider whipping up an eyeball pincushion:

    Cutting Geomtery 3 - 9x12 sheet of felt
  7. I’ve never found the notions section at Value Village – now I have to go take a look next time I’m there! I always check out fabric and patterns, hoping for a good vintage score. Sadly I only find bad, half-used 80’s patterns.
    I like the lace, but of course I do! It’s pink and girly and ruffly. I’d quite like to see you in pink and lace! It would be an awesome contrast to your cool edgy haircut πŸ™‚

    • The two I’m most familiar with have a small fabric section, with patterns and assorted notions/oddments; it’s labelled as part of the “bath and kitchen” stuff, generally. The patterns are definitely heavy on the ugly eighties, aren’t they? Often there’s nothing in the “notions” but yarn (especially rug-hooking yarn! ugh).

      I actually don’t have a strong aversion to either pink or ruffles (I do have four JJ blouses, remember)… maybe it’ll creep into the sewing at some point πŸ™‚

  8. Celkalee

    I also have a collection of “vintage” trims and laces. Some are inherited and some my own stuff. I add the laces and piping to Night wear sometimes and sometimes for gifts for children. My personal style does not usually support frills, but I recently have seen little bits on tailored clothing (blouses) that are quite cute. We don’t have VV here, but there are many thrift and charity shops. Need to spend some time there I think. Love the eyeballs!

  9. cheryl

    I don’t remember when Eatons stopped selling fabric and notions either, but Eatons was never somewhere I shopped. But I do remember when I first moved to Calgary (2000) the Bay Downtown had a small fabric and notions section on the top floor. I didn’t sew at the time, so I couldn’t tell you how good the selection was, and only now realize how amazing that was!

  10. ack – I have the same thrift store/garage sale craft/sewing problem. It’s hard not to snap these up when they are so cheap (so expensive in the stores) and if you don’t, your next project will surely require them! There is very little in the name of craft that I have regretted buying.

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