Monday, May 28, 2007

The ultimate in recycling... or when a shower curtain is really a skirt

I took up sewing when I was five. Allowed only a hand needle and embroidery thread, I set to work outlining heat-stamped kittens and puppies on Mother's old sheets. She would then hem them and have dishtowels. When clearing out her kitchen drawers preparatory to the estate sale, I found some of them, saved over nearly half a century. It goes without saying that they came home to continue service in my kitchen.

From dishtowels I moved onto doll clothes, first for baby dolls and then for my Barbies. Supermodels have nothing on my Barbies' wardrobes. By the time I was allowed access to a real sewing machine I was in it for myself. My favorite department of any store was the fabric. Pouring over patterns, matching fabric to line... I was in heaven. I had a large wardrobe at a fraction of the cost of "store-bought".

I kept this up in fact until about 15 years ago. I gradually started shopping the stores more. Clothes became cheaper as my tastes in better fabric became more expensive. I adjusted my sights on seasonals. I didn't buy it for it to outlast me: a season or two would do. Even given that, some items in my present closet are close to ten years old. Heck, some of them are even back in style!

But I still had my eye for fabric. At trade days, antique stores, Goodwill... all these places are havens for discarded tablecloths, bed covers, shawls, pillowcases. And though discarded by someone from their original use, they were still gorgeous (and now very cheap!) fabric. My sewing condensed into "Kay couture." (An acquaintance, thinking no doubt to insult me because she was that sort of person, once remarked that my skirt and blouse looked like a tablecloth. I told her she had an astute eye and walked on.)

So seeing a skirt in Boston Proper catalog that fairly screamed "tablecloth!" (although its description is 'lace'), fired up my fingers to comb through my treasure trove of recyclable fabrics. I have five rather large rubber boxes of such and in fact had just purchased a lovely rose bed cover (think spring coverlet) a month ago at Canton Flea Market, intending to make it into a skirt. Now I had my inspiration. I needed a better skirt pattern than my old ones were affording me so I took myself off to Wal-Mart.

Since when do patterns cost over $10? Are they for real? No wonder the market has fallen out of home sewing. You can't afford the patterns! Of course, there are lines of cheaper, simpler patterns in the $2.50-3.50 range (where I ended up buying), but looking on the package for the price is enough to give a home sewer a heart attack! But then, Wal-Mart to the rescue, there are special prices in the Wal-Mart edition of the pattern books. Prices much more in line with what I was willing to pay if I hadn't found my niche on the cheaper, simpler rack.

The bed coverlet made a great skirt. I garnered multiple compliments on it at church yesterday and actually told some people (those that would appreciate the fact) that it had had a former life.

But I still liked the lace effect on Boston Proper skirt 3227NC. I dove back into the trove and emerged with a bargello lace shower curtain. Not old, but certainly in the mood to be recycled.

The final product resembles the inspiration in mood only. The color is different, the hemline is plain. So, even though I am not the typical Boston Proper customer (too old, too modest), I may have to give the original another look.

It just went on sale.

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