Posts by Nicole :

Wear Vintage Now | Book Review

Wear Vintage Now book by Margaret Wilds with jewelry, shoes a hat and a purse around it

I met Margaret Wilds of the shop DeniseBrain Vintage on Instagram a few years ago. I believe it was through the #myvintagecover challenge that Tanith Rowan and I hosted in 2017 and 2018, and I have been following her blog ever since. (I have linked to her posts in the past here and here) In 2019 Margaret asked me whether she could use one of my photos in a book she was writing. I was, of course, honoured and said yes! I finally was able to buy her book, Wear Vintage Now: Choose It, Care For It, Style It Your Way, just over a month ago, so I thought I’d share a review of it here.

Note: I purchased this book myself, and was not asked to give a review or receive compensation- I just wanted to share it with you all. 

wear vintage now book wrapped in pink tissue paper

Firstly, in terms of the book itself, it came beautifully wrapped in bright pink tissue paper… and I was so excited that I ripped it off before I took a picture- oops! But at least I was able to get a picture of the sticker afterwards. Also, Margaret signed the book for me, which was such a nice touch; I love buying things from small businesses, since it feels like you’re opening a gift.

It is a softcover book, 150 pages, and she did such a sweet cover design (the cover is laminated with a soft touch, velvet finish too). The only critique I have of the book is that I wish the pictures were larger! But I know that would have changed the price of printing…and so I completely understand why they were on the smaller side. I just wish I could have seen even more details!

As for the content, I really liked her premise for the book, “Who can wear vintage? I can’t think of one single person who can’t!” She focuses on several topics: how to find your vintage “look” or “style”, how to shop for vintage online and how to care for your vintage pieces.

In the first section, she shares tips for styling vintage, whether you want to be what she calls a “time traveler” or a “modern/vintage mixer” (which is the category my picture is in!) She then moves on to talking about which pieces to select if you’re new to wearing vintage, and easy pieces to add to your wardrobe first if you’re not quite ready to dive in headfirst. This section is definitely aimed at those who are new to wearing vintage, and I wish I’d had this book 10 years ago when I first got interested in wearing vintage clothing.

wear vintage now book open to the page my picture is on

In the next section she shares tips on how to measure, figure out what will suit you and make wise purchases avoiding pieces that are going to be more of a headache than a joy. With over 20 years of experience in collecting, repairing and selling vintage clothing, she has a wealth of knowledge about buying vintage online. I don’t buy very much clothing online, but armed with her tips, I actually might start doing so.

Since I’ve been following vintage blogs for years, I honestly wasn’t sure whether there would be much “new” information in this book for me, but I really liked her final chapters on “Taking Care of Your Vintage Finery”. She shares a lot of information on fibre content, laundering and stain removal, damage prevention and storage. I learned more than a few new cleaning tricks that I will definitely be using in the future.

And then in the final section she gives some information about vintage reproduction and alternatives to authentic vintage, in case you’re interested in a vintage look, but true vintage is not an option.

Margaret’s love and passion for vintage clothing shines through her entire book, but especially in her last part titled “Wear Vintage and Make the World Brighter” where she says “Vintage fashion is the creative, high quality, thoughtful and beautiful answer to fast fashion. Go forth and wear it well!”

I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself; those are my exact feelings about vintage clothing as well.

If you have any interest in wearing vintage clothing, then this is the book for you. I’m glad that I finally bought Wear Vintage Now because it will be a great reference to have on my bookshelf.

The book is available either through her Etsy shop, or via her website. (I purchased through her website, since the shipping on Etsy was cost prohibitive to Canada).

Going to the Chapel

wedding guest outfit of a straw hat and purse paired with a navy cross printed dress with a pearl necklace and tan sandals. Nicole is on a grassy lawn with trees in the background

…Not to get married, but to witness one! Summers for most people means weddings, especially with the backlog of weddings from the past two years, but I actually haven’t attended very many weddings in my life, and I only had one to go to this year. Of course, where there is a wedding, there is wedding attire, and this one was no exception. When planning what to wear to this wedding, I needed it to check three boxes: a colour that wouldn’t clash with the bridal party (green) because I was going to get some photos taken with the bride (my friend Chantelle), something comfortable and in a natural fibre because it was going to be an outdoor wedding in August and, finally, something that coordinated with my giant straw hat- because it was going to be in the sun and I needed to bring my own shade!

Nicole is wearing a navy blue fit and flare dress with a large straw hat with a navy ribbon and a straw tote bag. She is standing outside in front of some trees

Despite the fact that I knew about this wedding since March, I didn’t actually figure out all of these important details until July, and then I didn’t actually sew the dress until a week before the wedding. In my defence, I was hoping to be able to find something to buy in the shops, but that shopping trip immediately reminded of why I even started to sew clothing in the first place. If it wasn’t synthetic fibres, it was cheaply sewn, and if it was good quality, it didn’t fit…which meant that it was time for a sewing project! (And one with a deadline too, but I got it done….and my mom’s outfit too!) 

I knew that this wasn’t going to be a quick and easy sewing project, since I’ve changed sizes and needed to draft an entirely new bodice block. After a failed attempt at draping a bodice, I found a tutorial for creating a bodice block, and another for fitting it, and with the help of my mom we were able to make a fairly well fitting bodice block/sloper. Then from that base, I was able to customize it and turn it into a pattern for this dress.

detail of a simple classic pearl necklace with a v-neck dress made out of sevenberry fabric by Japan

I originally planned on buying some new fabric, but when the fabric search also proved unfruitful, I turned to what was already in my stash and decided that this cross printed navy cotton would be elegant, yet still good for an outdoor event. I had originally intended the fabric for a button front skirt, but am actually glad I made it into a dress instead, because the tan and navy colour combination probably wouldn’t have coordinated with very many of my tops, and as a dress, it is a perfect one-step outfit. 

The fabric also proved to be a great choice because it’s 100% cotton, with a linen textured weave, so it was lightweight and breathable, but it didn’t crease! I wore it from about 10:00 am to 10:00 pm and it looked almost as fresh in the evening when I took it off as when I’d put it on, which was incredible because we were outside melting in the summer sun. I bought this fabric from the clearance rack at Fabricland, and it’s by the Japanese brand Sevenberry. (That’s all I know about it, as that info was printed on the selvedge).

nicole is wearing a navy patterned cotton dress and a straw hat and pearl necklace. She is walking away from the camera in a grassy lawn with trees around it

When thinking about the dress, I first designed it as button front, but then the thought of making 20+ buttonholes in a short period of time just seemed like asking for trouble, so I opted for a simple back zipper, v-neck, short sleeved bodice and knee length pleated skirt. In the end I’m actually glad that I went for the zipper closure, because that meant that I didn’t have to fiddle with the buttons and make sure they weren’t gaping or pulling.

nicole is wearing a navy knee length dress, tan leather sandals, a pearl necklace, a straw hat with a navy hatband and a straw purse outside in a treed area

When you are sewing, you need to keep in mind not only your ideas for the design, but what the fabric itself calls for. When designing, I planned for a turned up sleeve cuff with a button detail and maybe a bit of navy contrast fabric. I’d found some pretty cream and antique brass buttons in the stash and designed the entire dress around using these button accents on both sleeves and at the back neck. As it turns out, the fabric had a mind of it’s own and it did not want to have a cuff or button detail on the sleeve, and instead asked for the simplest of sleeve styles. I kept trying to add some sort of feature- a pleat, a contrast binding, a keyhole…but the nature of the fabric called for something simple and structured.

neck button and keyhole detail of the dress made of navy cross patterned fabric

Likewise, after I had sewn the keyhole at the top of the back zipper, I discovered that the cream and brass buttons I’d planned for actually didn’t actually look good! Then I had to go through the entire stash (of course it was at night) looking for a new button. This one (an extra from my green cardigan) was a bit more subtle in colour and sheen and worked perfectly. When sewing, things don’t always turn out the way you planned…but sometimes they turn out even better. This simple style of dress is actually a better addition to my wardrobe than any kind of statement piece. It’s almost like a “background” dress in the fact that the fabric pattern is interesting and detailed, but can easily be matched with many of my accessories for a different look. Those simple sleeves will also layer very nicely with cardigans for Fall and with the heavier texture of the fabric, it isn’t going to just be a summer dress, but will carry over for cooler weather too.

wearing a navy v-neck knee length dress with a straw hat and bag outside in a treed area

For the day of the wedding, because it was outdoors in the sun, I wore my giant straw hat. I love this hat, and was so thankful for it because we were sitting in the sun with no breeze. (At least a rainstorm came up after to cool us off.) I made a hat band out of a coordinating navy grosgrain ribbon, and while it wasn’t perfect, it worked well for one day. However, that is not the hatband you are seeing here because…I lost it somewhere. I guess I put it somewhere “safe”, so I had to quickly hot glue a new ribbon for these pictures. Oops!

large straw hat with a navy ribbon hatband

I chose to wear my pearl necklace and earrings, since they make any outfit instantly more dressy and for shoes wore my low heeled sandals since they are comfortable and don’t have heels that would sink into the grass.

tan cognac leather sandals with an ankle strap

And I didn’t actually bring this purse to the wedding, even though I wanted to, because I didn’t get the handles in time. I bought this straw bag from the thrift store, removed the (ugly!) fake leather handles, put a new lining in the bag and added leather handles I bought from this Etsy shop. (She did a custom size for me, 26″ x 5/8″ in cognac leather.) I wish that they had arrived in time so I could have carried this bag, since I had to use a tote bag instead, which was way too floppy, and not nearly as stylish.

straw purse with leather cognac handles

So, that’s what I wore, and I’ve already worn this dress again because it’s so versatile. I’m am so glad that I went to the effort to make a new bodice block because that means that the hard part of fitting (the most hated part) is already done, and it’s pretty easy to whip up a dress once that’s out the way. I was planning on making another summer dress, but decided that since we are almost at the end of the season, I will instead start some sewing for fall and winter! That’s the thing with sewing…you always need to be thinking ahead to what season it will be when your projects will be finished. I’ve got some plans for more cool weather sewing projects, hopefully my next projects will be as quick as this one was, and I will have a few more things to wear this winter!

Have you attended many weddings in the past couple of years? When you go to a wedding, do you repeat the outfits you wear, or try to find something new? 

walking away wearing a navy knee length cotton dress and a large tan straw hat with a navy hat band

Social Saturday | September 3

bachelor's buttons tiny bouquet with teacups in the background for a tea party

Happy Saturday Dear Readers! Here are a few things I’ve been up to in the past few weeks.

Thankful For- Tea parties with friends! We served Earl Grey Tea and Vanilla Cheesecakes with sugared pansies on top (this recipe, but with an almond crust). So pretty!

vanilla cheesecake cut into squares with purple and white sugared pansy decorations on top

ReadingBonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. I recently read a different book about WWII and was interested in reading more about Bonhoeffer. And then when I visited a second hand book shop a couple of weeks ago, I found this one.

a very tiny fairy egg beside a normal sized egg

Loving– This adorable tiny little “fairy egg” or “fart egg” one of our hens laid. It was so small, yet was perfectly formed with a little yolk and everything! (Read more about fairy eggs here.)

Watching– So many home decorating channels on Youtube. I’ve been especially enjoying XO MaCenna renovating a 1910 fixer upper and Lone Fox working on a 1929 Spanish Revival home. Do you know of any other good home decor channels?

Making– Refinishing an antique dresser! It’s taking a lot longer than I first anticipated, but I think I’m going to love it once I’m done. If I ever finish it, that is…

spicy green peppers, tomatoes and peas fresh from the garden

Eating– Veggies from the garden; tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots…home grown produce is so delicious and flavourful!

Hope you have a great weekend, however you spend it!

bell pepper turning yellow and branches with dark berries on them

Last Days of Summer

blue bachelor's buttons flowers

I can’t believe that it’s already the last day of August..where did the summer go? I had so many projects I wanted to complete over the warm months, but between the humidity and the heat waves, that didn’t go exactly as planned. (I am working on a furniture refinishing project and have been getting up early in the morning to go and work on it outside before the sun heats up too much!)

We’re currently in one last, well, I hope it’s the last, burst of high temperatures. I am hopeful that when we turn the page to September, the weather will cool off a bit. It’s already starting to feel like the end of summer though; the sun sets earlier, the nights are chilly, the flowers are fading and we’re harvesting vegetables from the garden. There truly is a change in the air and the sunlight that signals the changing of the seasons…and I love it!

Here are some of the flowers from the month of August before it’s time to enjoy the fall leaves.

hydrangea flower blooms

bumblebee in a hollyhock flower

There were so many bumblebees on the hollyhock blooms, but as soon as I tried to take a picture of them, they all left, so this is the best I got. They must be camera shy!

pink hollyhock blooms with light striping

My mom grew so many lilies and they all had such abundant blooms this year!

light pink asiatic lily

orange tiger lily and white asiatic lily

broken heart double asiatic lily

orange and yellow sunflower and burgandy and orange daylily

white yarrow and pink blooming sedum

blue sea holly

blue and burgundy purple bachelors buttons blooms

A Pretty And Practical Craft Room Tour

mugs with knitting needles, crochet hooks and paintbrushes sitting on a wooden shelf

Our new sewing room/ studio has been “in progress” for about 9 months, but when the last piece of shelf trim was attached last week, it was finally done. I am so excited to share a tour of this creative space! After many years of sewing at a desk in the living room or creating art in the corner of my bedroom, it is so nice to have a dedicated “studio” room. Crafting is a messy business, and while I do love a creative mess, I don’t love it so much in the living room. It is nice to now have a room that houses not only the desks and supplies but the mess as well…and a door to close on that mess. This room is my former bedroom and though I miss having that wallpaper, it wasn’t the best bedroom because it is over the boiler room. When my sister got married last year, I moved into her bedroom, and we decided to turn this one into a studio and sewing room. (And, yay, I still get to enjoy the wallpaper!) We also tried to make it both a pretty and practical craft room; we needed storage, but also wanted to have a space to decorate.

This room is also a bit of a catch all for other things… donations waiting to brought to the thrift store, chairs without a home, the ironing board… I moved most of that transient stuff out for the pictures, and tidied up, but other than that, this is a fairly realistic representation of what the room looks like most days. 

tiny watercolour painting by Rosemary Piper in a white frame

As you enter the room, the first thing you see is this lovely painting I bought in the Yukon many years ago, by artist Rosemary Piper. I love her tiny watercolours, and that is where I got the idea to do some of my own tiny pieces.

full craft room with sewing desk, wall mounted shelves above and a shelf unit beside the desk housing sewing supplies and notions

This room is 9′ x 11′ with a closet. On one side of the room are my two desks and across from them is the shared sewing desk. As you enter the room, the closet is to the right of the door. Originally it had a basic shelf and rod, with bifold doors. The shelf was in bad condition, so my dad built new shelves with a small section of rod to hold “in progress” sewing projects. We also removed the doors to open up the useable space.

closet with built in shelves to hold fabric and craft supplies

The shelves are 12″ tall and 42″ wide, and they perfectly hold all of our fabric, foam, leather, extra sewing machine, projects in progress and craft books. I’ve got the fabric sorted into sections based either by fibre content and purpose, or by who owns it. The baskets hold slippery fabrics and smaller scraps that don’t fold well into stacks. My mom and sister each have their own sections of fabric and my personal stash is housed in the basket on the bottom shelf and a stack on the second shelf. The white boxes on the floor hold my seasonal decorating supplies, the rubbermaid bin houses wool sweaters for felting projects (such as these and these) and the basket of fabric on top holds old sheets for use as fitting muslins.

shelf unit painted black with milk paint holding patterns and sewing books. A dress form stands beside it

To the left of the closet there is this little area which perfectly houses a hook to hang painting aprons on, a giant roll of Kraft paper we use for patterns and wrapping paper, my dress form and a shelving unit. My parents bought this shelf to use as linen cupboard in a bathroom in a past house, but never ended up using it because we moved. Now 15 years later we finally have a spot for it, so my mom and I painted it with milk paint and finished it with linseed oil. The reason we chose milk paint is because it soaks into the wood for a very durable finish that won’t scrape off.

On the shelves we have two boxes of patterns, sewing and crafting books, stationery and my printer. In the bottom cupboard are miscellaneous crafting supplies such as hot glue, raffia, spray paint and batting. On the top of the shelf is my sister’s basket of UFO’s (UnFinished Objects).

framed 1950's dress pattern and dress form with vintage ribbon and lace pinned onto it

The dress form isn’t my size, but it has come in handy in the past, nevertheless. I got it years ago from a lady in my church and I now use it as a little display area. I’ve got some pretty vintage trims and a collar pinned onto it and I also hung my new bodice block on the side so it doesn’t get crumpled. The pattern hanging above is one that my Gramma sewed in the 1950’s to wear to her sister’s wedding. I love the tiered skirt paired with the shirtwaist top!

wooden wall mounted shelves with pegs. Baskets, vintage sewing supplies and framed patterns fill the shelves

Now to get to the wall shelves; my favourite element in this room! We put some thought into this area because we wanted it to be functional for storage, but also to have space to display our vintage sewing notions, because if they weren’t going to be displayed in this room, there was nowhere else for them to go. I liked the idea of having shelves with wooden brackets, rather than metal ones, and incorporating some pegs to hold things; this is a workspace after all.

wooden pegs holding vintage scissors and spools

My mom and I found a few pictures of shelves we liked and then my dad built these for us. (I stained them with the colour “Provincial” by Varathane, by the way). The shelves are 5′ long, 9 3/4″ deep and hung with 16″ between them. The baskets hold lace and ribbons wound onto cards, the green box holds serger thread and then the rest of the space holds our collection of vintage sewing notions and books.

mini vintage hand held sewing machine and a framed 1960's dress pattern

This little portable sewing machine is hilarious, isn’t it? I’ve never used it…I wonder how well it would work? The two framed 1940’s and 1960’s patterns are from an antique market.

vintage sewing pincushion that looks like a lamp, and a glass apothecary jar filled with vintage wooden spools of thread

I’ve also got my collection of wooden spools in an apothecary jar- I’ve been wanting to do this for years! And, this was my Great Grandmother’s pin cushion, shaped like a little lamp, isn’t it sweet?

thread spool organizer made out of nails and a whitewashed wooden board with thread organized by colour

I skipped over the new thread holder in my excitement to share the shelves, but my dad also built us a new thread organizer! I took all of the nails out of my old one and whitewashed a wooden board, and then he spaced the nails wider apart and used a jig to hammer them in at an even angle. It holds 84 spools, and fits perfectly in this spot beside the shelves.

For the sewing desk we have my parents’ old IKEA desk and… it is very orange. It’s got a strange textured veneer, but it is height adjustable and it was free. I would like to eventually invest in a different top; I was thinking of a wooden countertop or something like that since I like to share projects here on the blog and the orange colour is not quite my style! However, it is perfectly functional for now, and I do really like the length of it: 6′ 7″.

serger and sewing machine on top of sewing desk

The most important thing was to be able to have the serger and sewing machine both out on the top of the desk to easily switch between them as we are working on projects. There is enough leg room to slide your chair in whichever direction you need, and there is plenty of room on the left side of the desk for spreading out your project for working on details, pinning, or even cutting small patterns out. (For most projects, we still cut out fabric on the dining room table.)

ikea alex drawer unit underneath the desk for holding sewing supplies

Finally, the thing that made the biggest impact for the sewing space was biting the bullet and buying the Alex cabinet from IKEA. I looked for ages for a second hand one, but no one was selling this short and wide version…I guess everybody was happy with their purchase? My sister bought one of these years ago for her craft supplies and I’ve been jealous ever since because the shallow drawers are perfect for crafting and sewing supplies.

Is it cheaply made out of MDF and quite expensive considering the materials? (Wow, I just realized it’s gone up in price since I got it too!)

Yes.

Would I prefer a beautiful vintage wooden apothecary or drafting drawer unit?

Yes.

Am I still happy I bought this one?

Absolutely!

top drawer of the ikea alex drawer full of sewing supplies

It holds almost all of our sewing notions including pins, tailors chalk, bobbins, sewing tools, sewing machine accessories, zippers, buttons and snaps, buckles, my mom’s leather beading supplies, boning, elastic, sleeve board, pressing supplies, tracing paper, hem marker… and I’m sure we could even fit in more than this. The only downside to the unit is that the drawer stops prevent the drawers from opening fully, so you have to move the items in the front to access ones in the back, but we just put infrequently used items in the back, and it works fine. I do really love this cabinet (although, if you are a woodworker, I would say to build a beautiful wooden one yourself instead!)

wooden schoolteacher style art desk sits beside a window and wall shelves are hung above holding boxes and baskets of supplies

Now on to the other side of the room; my art space. My parents gave me this schoolteacher desk several years ago and, though it is definitely a refinishing project, I am using it as-is in the meantime. (I’d like to stain it a rich, dark brown one day.) Beside the desk I have a bin of wrapping papers and a vintage basket that houses fabric scraps and my sewing UFO’s and fabric scraps.

schoolteacher desk drawer open showing pens, pencils and office supplies

I love the large, deep work top and the huge amount of concealed storage this desk has. I keep all of my supplies such as scissors, hole punches, beads, fabric for flowers, rubber stamps, ribbon and lace, paper cutter, pencils and pens, watercolour paints, tissue paper and wrapping supplies, 8×10 mats, stationery and computer accessories in the drawers.

magnet board with papers and pictures hung on it

I hung a metal strip above the desk to use as a bulletin board for pretty “inspiration” things, as well as notes and patterns I’m working on etc. I like my desk placed here in the room because of the natural light from the window. The window also means I get to have my Marble Queen Pothos in here! On top of the desk I keep a tray of frequently used items on the corner of the desk, a basket for project’s I’m currently working on, and my computer. I usually have tons of other things piled on top, but I’m working on finding homes for everything.

a pothos plant on a shelf and a tray of art supplies sitting on top of the desk

I hung shelves above this desk as well, which is a great storage solution for all of my supplies; I’ve never had wall mounted shelves before, and I love them!  The shelves are 5′ long and 11 3/4″ deep. I used pine shelf boards, sealed them with linseed oil and used simple L brackets I already had (painted white to minimize their appearance). After I saw how nicely my dad built the other shelves in the room, I wish I had stained mine and made them a bit nicer too…oh well these can be the “practical” and the others the “pretty”!

wall mounted shelves holding art supplies in boxes and baskets

On the top shelf is all of my stock from my shop along with my camera bag and accessories. I hung one half shelf so I could fit taller items on the left side and shorter boxes on the right.

wall mounted shelves holding art supplies in a vintage train case and paper boxes and a plant trailing off the end of one shelf

The orange train case on the half shelf holds my tools and the boxes house ephemera, vintage postage stamps, paper scraps and stickers. Miscellaneous paint and glues all fit beside the boxes and then paper, boards, canvases and art books fill in the middle section.

ikea orfjall desk chair in grey and wall shelves holding paper, books and a sewing basket

Though I originally I wanted to have a bit of a display area at the end of the left side of the shelf, which is why that painting is leaning in behind, I did end up putting my sewing basket on the end because I just have too many supplies for the length of shelf. Maybe if one day I use up all of my supplies and the stash decreases, then I will be able to have more decorative space! (But I doubt that will ever happen, haha)

I use my IKEA desk chair interchangeably between all of the spaces, and am still searching for the perfect fabric to either reupholster or slipcover it with. I’d love to find some vintage fabric, so I keep my eye out when thrifting, but haven’t found the right thing yet.

work from home desk with a vintage window above it with a cotton wreath hanging on top

Finally, right beside the door, is my comparatively unexciting work-from-home desk. I made this skinny desk with metal IKEA legs and it works well because it can sit close to the door in this room without impeding the traffic flow. I also hung my vintage turquoise window above the desk with a grapevine wreath over top. I like to change the stems on the wreath to reflect each season- I can’t believe that soon it will be time for acorns and fall berries!

And now that we’ve made it back to the door, that means the tour of our new craft room/ sewing room/ creative space is over. I am so happy with how this room turned out and I spend so much time in here now! It’s an enjoyable room to be in, and I love that I can come in here and work on things and leave them out without having to put everything away in time to use the dining table for supper. While having a separate crafting room is not a necessity for creativity, it was a treat to be able to organize this room specifically with our hobbies in mind. And I love that we were able to make some space to decorate and display our vintage collection, making this both a pretty and practical craft room!

Do you have a dedicated creative space? What are your best storage solutions for craft areas?