DIY Comfy Jeans Hack!

I just had to share this amazing video I found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hG0YssaRzls OK, so it’s for maternity jeans, but it will actually turn any uncomfortably tight jeans into a wonderfully comfy pair, with a soft, roll-down waistband. A waistband that can expand and contract with you! All you need is the offending jeans and an old top.

You just cut off the waistband and belt loops of your old jeans and the shoulders/ arms off your top. Then join the two together – et voila! I found it a nightmare to try and unpick the belt loops, so I did cut them off which left small holes. I just darned mine, but you could also just cut an extra centimetre or two off the waist so that you don’t need to worry.

I just made a pair with some jeans I was going to give to the charity shop because they weren’t a great fit, with a really low waistband and a slightly worn vest top which was too tight under the arms. So, these are basically free, new trousers and it only took me about 30 minutes from start to finish!

Ta da!

 

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How to Upcycle Old Kitchen Cabinets For Any Room

We just pulled some really old, 1970s kitchen cabinets from our garage. They had probably been the original kitchen in our house, but were then relegated to garage storage about 15 years ago. As you can see, they were dark wood formica, square and simple type of design. Unfortunately because they’d been in the garage, they’d become stained, chipped and the laminate was peeling. Despite all of this, I decided they were probably salvageable.

I peeled off the peeling layers of laminate and underneath I found 40 year old, decaying and yellowing glue. This had to be cleaned off, if I had any chance of saving these from landfill. Cream cleaner didn’t shift it, so it ended up being a tough job with a Stanley blade scraper. Even then, they didn’t come up clean and I knew I wouldn’t be able to paint over that combination of laminate and old glue successful.

Cue- Fablon! Remember that sticky-backed plastic from Blue Peter, that seemed to be in every make?! Well, it turned out to be a fabulous, cheap fix for my vintage cupboard. I bought 1 roll of white wood effect and 2 rolls of this beautiful, contour rose, pink lace patterned for the inside. It definitely sticks better to the smooth laminate surface, but it’s done a good enough job at sticking over the rough gluey surface and making the cupboard look passable again. Just make sure that you measure twice and cut once! I also purchased a Coral smoothing tool and it was definitely worthwhile. It can also be used to smooth wallpaper, should I ever get around to anymore decorating.

As you’ll notice, I removed the doors and discarded them – I wanted that modern, open shelving look. These may not be perfect, but I was looking for good enough. Plus, you’re not going to see much of them, once they’re up and filled with books and knick-knacks. I have 2 more kicking about in the garage and I’m very tempted to upcycle the rest. After all, I’ve only had to pay for the Fablon, approx £20 and new cupboards would have been a hell of a lot more.

After this success, I can see myself attempting a whole range of projects with Fablon. It gives a really professional finish, if you take the time to do good preparation. It has utterly transformed this cabinet and I can see myself doing simple tasks too, like covering books or other pieces of furniture to match.

Over to you – have you ever tried Fablon? There are a huge range of colours and patterns available.

Upcycling a Child’s Table to Make a Board Game Table

We’re big board game fans in this house and we regularly have friends over for ‘Games Night’. We’re all feeling our age and finding it a bit hard going to sit on the floor for hours. Our dining room table is quite small, as there’s just the two of us normally and it gets used for food on these nights. So we’d been keeping an eye out in all the usual places for a suitable ‘games table’. My idea had been that we would acquire one of those retro card tables from the 1950s or earlier, which have a felt top and often fold out. However, as they’re mostly designed for Bridge – they tend to be quite small. All of the ones we saw were also in poor condition or had very high asking prices! We also looked in charity shops for some kind of gate leg table, but as minimalists – it would be a big decision to bring another large item of furniture into the house. They also require chairs and we really wanted something more like a coffee table height, so people could either remain in armchairs (or sit on the floor – more on an answer to that later).

I spotted this child’s play table in a charity shop locally and knew instantly it was a great find. I described it to my other half, but he was unconvinced (mostly because I’d shown him so many unsuitable items on eBay! lol) They were also asking £25 for it, which seemed quite steep to us. Still, he dutifully agreed to come and look at that weekend.Well guess what – the shop was closed! We then got tied up with well, life and totally forgot to go back until we were passing about a week later. Helpfully the table was still there and they’d reduced all furniture to half price, to try and clear some space in the shop. We expressed an interest in the table and asked if we would pull it out, to fully check the condition of it. The manager said we could have it for a tenner! (She obviously wanted rid of it).

It turns out that this little beauty is made of solid wood and retails for about £150 when new. You can also be lucky enough to pick up second-hand ones on eBay for around a tenner too, if you look at the right time. The legs come right off, so we can fold it down and tuck it out of sight, when not needed. The top was a little scratched and we didn’t love the green colour. So we decided to send it a little upmarket, with its own blue felt top which has the added advantage of stopping the board games from sliding all over the place. You can see in the photos above, that we are part way through our little renovation/ upcycling job. The felt cost under £3 from my local fabric shop and we already had the all purpose glue at home, from other craft projects.

My other half announced that some bean bag cushions would mean we could all sit comfortably, at the right height. You could easily pay £15-£25 each for these in the shops and I have an abundance of leftover material from other projects. So I picked out some that matched our lounge curtains, some heavyweight corduroy that I picked up in a charity shop for a song and another piece leftover from some bedroom curtains. I purchased 6 zips, at a cost of 64p each and 2 bags of beans at £6.50 each. Perhaps I will do a tutorial soon, but for now here is a picture of 2 of the cushions I have made. They take a couple of hours each, but the savings are evident.

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And lo, we are the proud owners of a custom games set-up, all for the princely sum of £20. Can’t be bad eh?

A Short History of the Second-Hand Clothes Market

Anyone who knows me well will know that I love to shop second-hand, be it charity shops, jumble sales, car boots, eBay or anything else! During the many years I have been a part of the second-hand market, I have built a working knowledge of the value of items and particularly those which are sought after (hint: it tends to be the good brand names, as people know those are quality items). I also have been able to develop my love of vintage style, as I find genuine vintage items in the charity shops. One of my great loves is vintage Laura Ashley garments and I hope to be able to share a little more of that on my blog soon. I recently discovered a book published by Laura Ashley in 1983 and it’s a really fascinating read. It’s called Fabric of Society – A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870 by Jane Tozer and Sarah Levitt. You can pick up a hardback 1st edition for 1p, plus P&P on Amazon so it’s a real bargain!

I was very interested to come across this information about the history of the second-hand clothes market. As still is the case nowadays, second-hand clothing provides a way for poor (and financially savvy) people to buy the essentials. Then, as much as now, people were often too busy to sew or make their own garments. The Primarks of the day were known as ‘slop’ shops! I’m not sure if that’s where we get the word sloppy from. But just as today, the quality was poor and the garments did not last. The savvy people knew to buy second-hand, high quality garments that had come from the large houses. People who knew the market were very shrewd and able to judge which were the high-quality pieces. This meant if you were buying through a dealer, you’d pay a higher price than if you found the bargain yourself. Nothing changes eh?

Certain items of clothing were only worn by the gentry, such as dress coats and so, there was no second-hand market for these. They had to be turned into other garments, so they could be sold on. So, people either bought them and turned them into wool hats or caps, or traders did. These coats were also used to patch other garments. If a waistcoat began to wear, then it would be cut down into a smaller size or used to create cloth tops for boots. I think we could learn a thing or two from those days, don’t you?

Woollen garments which were so worn, they could no longer serve as clothing were sent for recycling. They would be ground down and mixed with new wool, into a fibre known as ‘shoddy’. I wonder if that’s where we get that word from also? This fibre was used to make cheap, mass-produced clothing. They didn’t waste anything and the dust from the mills, was used as manure on the hop-fields of Kent. This of course is safe with natural fibres, unlike the plastic micro-fibres that are clogging up our oceans today because we like to wear micro-fleece garments.

Old boots and shoes were patched up with anything they had to hand, even cardboard! Although that can’t have been great for anyone concerned, as it’s hardly durable or waterproof. Then they would be blackened to look good as new, if only temporarily. For this reason, people who worked outdoors often purchased new boots, even if they had to save up for them because they knew that quality footwear was essential to do their jobs safely and well!

In the 1700s and 1800s, women’s dress was less subject to change and this was because they knew how to sew! They would carry out any alterations themselves if fashions changed, or either repairing garments or cutting them down into child-sized ones. They would also tend to sell garments on themselves, after cleaning them. Old silk garments were used to line new clothing, or work boxes or dressing cases. They could also be turned into childrens or even dolls clothes!

Wool and cotton were recycled into shoddy thread and linen rags went to paper mills, but silk was not salvageable once damaged or worn. Cotton gowns were the most popular as they stood the test of time well and could be cleaned. Woollen dresses were less popular, as they did not last so well- probably prone to bobbling. Then of course, there were the furs. Any second-hand furs were mostly sold to prostitutes, as most people could not afford them – even second-hand! So much of this bears true today, if you buy a quality cotton garment it will be very long-lasting, as opposed to cheaper man-made fibres. I suspect that wool is more long-lasting today, as we know to hand wash it to keep it looking good.

The items that were most worn, such as trousers obviously tended to wear out and that’s why we don’t see many of these types of items, or working-class items at all in museums today because people actually wore their clothes out in those days. That really is a testament to the thriftiness and historic success of ‘the rag trade’, which really abhorred waste. A story that really is so relevant today!