Tag Archives: thrift store finds

Those who can’t sew…


Well, that’s part of the problem, anyway. I’d rather be sewing, but shopping is a quick fix.

So, in order from least guilty to most guilty:

Sewaholic Patterns:

Minoru Jacket & Renfrew top

Tasia is a sweetie at the best of times, and while I resisted all through the pre-sales of both these patterns, the deluge of awesome internet versions and her birthday sale totally put me over the edge. Plus, even though the shop was down when I tried to use it (overloaded by others drawn in by the sale), she replied to my plaintive email (delivered in obnoxious triplicate—OOPS! 😦 ) the very next day and was super-quick to put together an email invoice at the sale rate. And I had my patterns in only four days—hooray for in-Canada shipping! And supporting an independent small business, yadda yadda. So I am refusing to allow myself to feel guilty for this one.

Thrift store books

Circumstances conspired to have me at Value Village not one, not two, but three times this week, and different things appeared every time. I doubt you’re terribly interested in the shoes Tyo picked out for her Gr. 6 grad this spring, or the Pampered Chef stoneware, but two sewing books did throw themselves at me (I resisted another beginner-level one as I already have several of those and the only one you really need is Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing anyway 😉 )

Sandra Betzina's Fabric Savvy

Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina. I’ve heard good things about this one. And aside from a no-illustrations 70s paperback, I didn’t have any other books on different fabric types and how to work with them. So yeah, it was coming home. Although so much of what I sew with is bargain-store mystery (and even if it’s not, I’m abysmal at remembering what it is I’ve actually bought) I’m not sure how useful it’ll be. But it’s one of those resources you ought to have, right?

The page on denim.

I like the layout and illustrations—the front is a big alphabetical section on different fabric types and how to work with them, including laundering, needles, thread, sewing-machine feet, and seam-finishes. And it’s got the coil-binding so it lies flat open, which seems to be considered a bonus. I can’t say I’ve felt the need to have one of my reference books open on the table while sewing yet, but if I did, it would be great.

The techniques section

The back has quick overviews of the seam-finishes and other techniques referred to in the front. It’s a great idea and the drawings are lovely, although I’m not sure I’d be able to figure all the techniques out if I were a complete beginner.

Then there was this one:

Sewing Tops & T-Shirts by Marcy Tilton

The Easy Guide to Sewing Tops & T-Shirts, by Marcy Tilton (which I did a bang-up job photographing :P). I bought this more because I really like the other couple of books I have in this series than because I was sucked in by the cover or even content. But I do like how these books are set up—to help you take a basic pattern and adjust it and construct it just that bit above and beyond the basic standard instructions.

Cheater Full-Bust Adjustment

It has some interesting tips, including favouring stitching seams with a regular straight stitch (I’m guessing Marcy wears her knits looser than I often do) and the “cheater knit FBA” that I’ve read about online but never seen endorsed in an actual sewing book.

Thrift store fabric


I should’ve resisted, because the price, while low, was not great for the length available, which is less than half a metre. But It’s absolutely perfect to make a bunnyhug for Tyo. Except, of course, there wasn’t enough fleece, so I had to go back and hunt down an oversize men’s sweatshirt in black to fill in the other pieces. But I already have the pattern traced out (Jalie 2795), so assuming I get it sewn up with sufficient speed, I won’t feel too guilty for stash-building.

Expensive Book

Closet Monsters

And this would be the maximum-guilt item, because it didn’t come from the thrift store. Rather, we were at the book-store looking for a birthday present and I made the mistake of showing this book to Tyo. Tyo has a big black plastic bag of clothing sitting on her closet floor waiting to head to the thrift store, so she’s over the moon at the prospect of getting to turn it into monsters instead. And it’s a pretty cute book, with charming, wacky creatures. My only dislike is that there are no actual patterns—the book gives you detailed instructions for drawing out the pattern pieces (a lot of which are rectangles) on the clothes you’re de-constructing, but that’s not so helpful if you don’t have the exact same garment they’re deconstructing.

However, it shouldn’t be too hard to improvise—I’m just hoping Tyo can achieve some degree of independence on these projects, since my actual interest in making stuffed monsters is, um, fairly limited.

Ehm. So there it is, the whole shameful, consumeristic list. I did get a bit of pattern tracing done this week, so it’s conceivable that a finished item might make an appearance. I hope so. I’m getting tired of writing “look what I bought” posts, as I’m sure you’re getting bored of reading them.

And thanks, everyone, for your commiserating on my last post. Even if this one is basically an illustration of how I’m entirely my own problem. /sigh.


Filed under Sewing


Before I get distracted with anything else, thank you all SO much for your very kind words about our poor fish. They helped a lot, each and every one. Thank you.



Hudson's Bay point blanket

Erm. So, I had thought my weekly thrifting-as-time-killer was a relatively harmless pastime. I mean, aside from the occasional sewing-machine acquisition. Most weeks I might spend $10, often nothing at all.

Well, this last one blew my streak.  I was being so good, too! No sewing books tempted me. The fabric section had been thoroughly re-stocked for the first time in months, but there was nothing I needed. I walked away from two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles curtain-flounce thingies as they were $4 apiece for really not very much fabric. (I gotta say, a TMNT bedsheet dress would be da bomb)

And then, on a whim, I wandered through the blanket section. I don’t usually spend much time in there, if only because it’s always full of fluffy fuzzies and hand-made quilts I’m going to want to take home if I look at, despite not actually liking patchwork very much.

And then I saw red.



Could it be?

I pulled it open, heart beating quickly. That weight, of heavy wool, scratchy, boiled, and felted. There it was—the wide, black stripe. And where—yes, there were the points, four narrow black lines, and right below them, the label.

I had found a genuine Husdon’s Bay Company point blanket.

Points and label

For those of you for whom what I just wrote is complete gibberish, here’s the Cliff Notes. (I’ve also touched on this topic before.) The Hudson’s Bay Company was originally a fur-trading company, founded in the late 1600s, that traded across much of the territory that is now Canada. Trading posts were the front-line of European colonization, long before anyone was farming out west; and, perhaps unusually in colonial history, the native people actually had something the Europeans wanted other than land—skilled hunters and trappers, they could produce fur, especially beaver, which was in huge demand in the European hat trade. My own husband is Métis, a group descended primarily from white fur traders who married native women during their long deployments for the fur-trade companies. Since the late 1700s, one of their signature products has been the point blanket, so-named for the black bars woven into one edge, which denote the size of the blanket (my four-point blanket is a standard double size; more points=bigger). These points were important in the weaving process, since the blankets are boiled and felted after weaving, which considerably changes the size. The blankets are top quality and very thick—almost 1cm thick. Aside from their use as blankets, one of the most popular things to do with a point blanket was to make it into a coat. At some point during their transition from fur-trade company to modern deparment store, HBC hit on the idea of manufacturing their own blanket coats.

Label closeup

Which brings in my own personal connection. Early in their marriage, my father bought my mother a professionally-manufactured Hudson’s Bay blanket coat. Which I presume left my mom tickled pink, as one of her favourite jobs at that time had been excavating Fort Carlton, an HBC fur-trading post in Saskatchwan which burnt to the ground in the late 1800s. However, it was a dress-coat, and she never wore it very much, saving it for best.

I wish I had a better picture of this coat...

Unfortunately for her (and the coat), I had no such qualms when I got my hands on it as a teenager. I wore the crap out of that coat. I wore it until it cried uncle. I wore out (and patched!) the lining. I ripped the armpits. All of which might have been fixable, but my backpacks have worn the fabric so thin in the back that it’s probably beyond saving. I’m sorry, Mom. I loved that coat. Even though it was shapeless with a waist belt (not a good look for me) and the sleeves were too short (like every other storebought coat I’ve ever owned). It was the direct inspiration for my Czarina Coat.

So, it was only natural that, when I began sewing, I should price out some Hudson’s Bay blankets, just, y’know, for someday.



Let’s just say the price for a new HBC blanket is, um, a LOTTA beaver pelts.

Which brings me back to my thrift store moment. My heart sank as I fumbled for the price-tag. Value Village may be a thrift store, but they know what they can charge for the good stuff, and there’s no way they’d missed how good this was. Sure enough, $69.99.

WAY more than I was planning to spend that night.

But still about a quarter of the price new.

So now I have an HBC blanket, in my favourite red and black colours.

All I need now is the perfect pattern…


Filed under Sewing

More thrifting…


Erm. So, those of you who have (or have had) kids of a certain age know what I’m talking about. You get in the car, drive across town, drop them at their dance/music/sport/insert enriching activity here, and then… what? You drive back home, only turn around and go get them right away (and feel like a first world troll burning wanton fossil fuels)? You stay and watch, and feel like the classic annoying and overprotective parent? You sit outside in your car, wasting even more fuel? (Trust me, up here sitting with it not running in the winter for more than a few minutes is not an option…)

My solution, when I’m feeling responsible, is to head to the grocery store. When I’m feeling less responsible (or once the groceries are bought…), it’s to head to the thrift store.

Which, as I’ve said, is a bit uninspiring at the moment, but you never know when that’s going to change, and popping in once a week is exactly the kind of persistence that nets you the occasional gem. Or bags of lace you’re going to call a gem because it’s been so long since you saw anything better…

Anyway, on my most recent visit, the entire Singer Sewing Reference Library was there. Again. I’m not sure how many people in my area bought this collection, but it must’ve been a few as there’s been at least three infusions of these books since I started haunting this particular thrift store (which is only in the last year and a half, frankly.)

The trick with the Singer Sewing Reference Library is remembering what you’ve bought already. Maybe that’s why so many end up at the thrift store… people buy things twice and forget? I dunno. Anyway, this time I picked up the tailoring volume (which I know I wanted but can’t remember if I found or not) and the pants-fitting volume, because, well, one can never have too many fitting books (especially for fitting pants!). Of course it focuses strictly on loose, dress trouser type pants that are fitted at the wasit… y’know, the kind I never, ever wear… But still, good to have, right?

But then, of course, like clouds parting in the heavens, like choirs of angels singing, I saw another book, just sitting right there on top of the big block of SSRLs…

Yessiree, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. (1995 edition)

Obviously this was meant to be.

… which would probably be more meaningful if I mentioned that my husband used to play in high school, and recently his buddies back home have started playing again (pre-midlife-crisis, anyone? at least it’s cheaper than sports cars…) and over Christmas I sat in and actually participated in my first D&D game ever and kinda had a blast, and of course if my husband ever did have a copy of the Player’s Handbook it’s long, long gone, and I was kinda in need of get-out-of-doghouse ammo that night and this was the perfect thing to bring home to make a sick and long-suffering hubby less grumpy with me and did I ever mention how I read ALL the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance books I could get my hands on when I was like, nine, and this kid in my class told me I was in a cult for reading them (wtf?) but I never actually knew anyone who played becaue MAN that game would’ve been totally up my alley at that stage in my life when day-to-day reality was just about the most hellish it’s ever been…

Why yes, I actually am quite happy with myself. And I did sew up a Where’s Waldo shirt for Tyo over the weekend, but I haven’t got photos yet and may not get any before she takes scissors to the sleeves, which is a whole ‘nother issue…


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It’s probably Sherry’s fault, posting that Ruby Slip pattern and then hosting the sewalong with all those yummy tips on sewing with lace. Filling my nightime fantasies with dreams of guipure and silk habotai…

Yeah, let’s go with that.

It might also be that pickings at my local thrift store have been slim lately. (Except for sewing machines. There’s been lots of those. But I binged out over Christmas. It’s going to have to be something REALLY special before I bring home another one. I promise.) Maybe I’m desperate.

Whatever the reason, last time I stopped by, they had bags of lace. Bags and bags of it. I resisted. I only brought home two.

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with lace. Similar to how I feel about 70s fashions, actually. The best is heavenly, ringing bells for elegance, texture, luxury—all kinds of things I love.

But a lot of it, especially of what’s in my price range, is, quite frankly, meh. And some of it’s truly, abhorrently awful.

And I have to say, a fair bit of this haul is in the latter two categories.

Wide lace

There’s one piece that’s quite wide. (Maybe wide enough that I could do a practice Ruby with just some piecing? Or three. There’s like four metres of it.) Unfortunately, it’s nasty-70s/80s-polyester-awful, and doesn’t even have a nice pattern, either. The next widest stuff is stretch lace. Sherry recommends against that for the Ruby (even if it were wide enough), but maybe there’s cheeky panty possibilities? At any rate, it’s quite pretty. (I tried to take a closeup but it didn’t work out and I’m too lazy to re-take.)

There’s another, 3″ wide stretch lace that I could see using as a band at the hem of a T-shirt or something.

My Fave

Strictly for looks, this one’s my favourite. I love the delicacy and the little silvery threads. I have absolutely no idea what I’d do with it.

Bit of pink

This one with the bit of pink is also pretty neat. And there’s quite a lot. What for? What for?


And then, there’s the bits. Why did anyone even save these? (Oh yeah, they’re a scrap hoarder like me. :P)

And yet…

And yet…

Ok, I might have an idea. It’s twee. Possibly cavity-inducing.

Idea. Also poorly photographed. /sigh

Good thing I have a ready supply of little girls. Although I’m not even going to try this until I have at least one more good pair for me, dammit.

Maybe lace on the pockets, too?


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Those dastards…


The fine folks who run my local Value Village have caught on to a practice the VV in my hometown has long practiced—bundling up the patterns in little plastic baggies so you have to buy four extras to get the one you want.

As a result, all these “lovelies” joined me the other day just so I could take home this Project Runway pattern:


Also, this way you can’t really check the envelope contents before buying. Fortunately for me Simplicity 2508 turned out to be uncut in factory folds, but I didn’t know that until I was home.

They are brats, aren’t they? (and as if I needed another jacket pattern)


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All Machines All the Time (Part 2)

Domestic. Army.

(I promise more sewing posts, fewer machine posts, in the future!)

The Domestic Special—AKA the Army Machine

In breaking news, she sews! Yay! And my gawd, what a beautiful stitch it is, too. Nothing like the wannabe zig-zag of the White*. And fast. The only limit to the power is that the motor turns a rubber wheel which turns the flywheel, and this rubber wheel is old and hard and a bit worn down, so sometimes you need to give the flywheel a nudge to get it started. Presumably it’s possible to replace the little rubber wheel at some point. (Incidentally, the belt on my Featherweight slips similarly, so it should be adjusted or possibly replaced as well. Someday when I’m a little more secure about this vintage machine thing ;).)

Fortunately, she uses a standard needle, that goes in sideways, exactly the same as my Featherweight.

Except that the Featherweight threads right to left, and this one threads left to right. Which was a bit of a WTF moment, but we got past it.

In terms of functionality, it’s similar to the Featherweight. There’s a lever for the stitch-length/reverse, just like on the Featherweight (this one’s very stiff, though. I need to figure out if it’s possible to oil it.) The tension/threading apparatus is quite different, though—it has a lever, too, and there’s no disc to wrap it around. I figured it out, though! The system of threading is fairly sketchy—there’s a lot of places the thread is kinda left to do its own thing, and it rubs against the case of the machine in a number of places. On the other hand, the up-and-down-arm-part (the manual calls this the take-up) has a hole with a covered slot you can kind of floss the thread into, rather than just a plain hole like most vintage machines (of my acquaintance, which is admittedly limited). (My new Janome has kind of a slot in this as well, but the way the slot opens occasionally the thread slips out of it which can be a pain in the butt.)

I want to thank both Peter and Claire for suggestions of manuals and comparable machines. I actually tracked down a teensy bit of information about Domestic sewing machines here, and they have three different manuals. This is the one closest to my machine, although I think it’s a slightly newer (or perhaps just more expensive) version than mine as it has a tension dial rather than lever, and a slightly more advanced-looking stitch length mechanism. There’s no date on the manual, but the font looks sort of 50s to me (I know, so precise). I’m guessing late 40s or 50s for this machine—I’d be surprised if it was as late as 60s (but then, they were still making Featherweights through the 60s). Vintage aficionados care to weigh in?

Also, just because I’m obsessive that way, here’s more photos (in no particular order) of the various feet and attachments than you can shake a stick at. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Fortunately, most of these are covered in the manual…

*Toodling around on the yahoo wefixit group led me to this post about sewing machine stitch formation, which basically advocates stitch acceptance. I still think something’s up with the White, though, as the stitch is WAY more zig-looking than my other machines, even with the straight-stitch needle plate in place. That being said, it does a mean zigzag, so I’m not really complaining.


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Yup, I officially have a problem

Look what followed me home...

Hello, my name is Tanit-Isis, and I have a thrift-store sewing machine problem. I made it one whole week without buying a machine.

The evil masterminds at Value Village had this out to tempt me. What really put it over the top is the little box of accessories—hemmers! binders! RUFFLERS! not shown in the picture because it was in my hot little hands waiting to be pawed through. Also, it has its bobbin-case and everything in place.

Wish me luck. The motor runs and things go up and down, but I’m not convinced I can even thread this one. I’ve found threading diagrams for older Domestic models but none exactly like this.

Tyo has dubbed it the “Army Sewing Machine,” and despite giving me well-deserved crap when I showed it to her, spent the rest of the evening opening it up and cleaning it out. Perhaps I can train her to be my very own personal sewing machine mechanic?

I got a new bobbin case for the White, as well. I’ll give an update on her pretty soon.

This has to stop. Now.

Unless a nearly-new, fully-functional serger or coverstitch shows up, anyway…


Filed under Sewing