I love decorating, and I especially love salvaging old furniture and “junk” and transforming them into new pieces for my home. While it can be fun to buy new ready-made things, it is so satisfying (as well as zero waste!) to save something old or broken from the trash and turn it into something completely new. While this post is a little bit out of my usual blog niche, I am really happy with how this latest DIY craft room organizer project turned out, so I wanted to share it here, in case it can provide you with some inspiration.
At the shop I used to work at, we had these carousel stand organizers, but they were poorly made, and over time the bases broke. They got put in the back storage room until we were clearing out the store, and my boss decided that she didn’t want them anymore. I couldn’t bear to put them in the dumpster, so I called my mom and asked if she thought we could do something with them. At the time, I wasn’t actually thinking that I would use them as a spinning organizer- I was thinking more along the lines of turning them into plant stands, or hanging them as outdoor planters. My mom said we should definitely save them, so we brought them home and put them in the workshop…where they have been sitting ever since! Then, a few weeks ago when my dad was cleaning out the shop, I was reminded of them again, and started thinking that perhaps an organizer for my sewing and art supplies would be a good idea after all. I was trying to think of some way I could make a new base, or fix the old one, when my dad mentioned that he had seen an old umbrella stand at the dump. “Aha!”- that was the perfect solution!
I was just going to use the original rod, paint it and call it a day, but my dad came up with a much better method of building the pole/ stand. Even though you probably won’t have baskets exactly like these, this method could still be used to easily create a stand with trays, or other baskets.
I also saw this picture online of a vintage pole plant stand, which I think would be so cool to make with this method (especially since the only other versions I can find online are ugly plastic ones!) If you offset the trays, or used small wooden shelves you could easily make a really cool space saving plant stand!
OK, so here’s how to make this DIY shelf/organizer. My dad did all of the work with the pipe, and I basically just did the painting! Firstly, I took all of the basket pieces apart and cleaned them with some soap and water and then rinsed them with the hose, because they were very dirty!
We used 3/4″ copper pipe and couplings to create the pole. I know that new pipe can be expensive, but we had a bunch of old used copper pipe lying around from past renovations, so it worked perfectly for me. You could also salvage pipe, use black steel pipe (which has all sorts of threadable pipe fittings available) or even use an extendable metal curtain rod.
We cut the pipe with a tube cutter into the lengths needed. The bottom two pipes are 17″ and the top one is 10″. We then used 3/4″ pipe couplings to create the connections for the baskets to sit on top of (so they don’t slide down the pipe). The bottom basket sits directly on top of the umbrella stand, and then the pipe threads through the middle, and so on until the top.
Because the umbrella stand’s diameter was much wider than the pipe, my dad made a wooden spacer with a 3/4″ hole drilled through put inside the tube for the copper pipe to slide through. There is a coupling flush with the top of the stand and then a washer on top as a spacer for the basket so it doesn’t sit directly on the stand.
We didn’t solder the couplings to the pipe, but you could solder one side, leaving the other loose so it can be dismantled. Or if you don’t need to it to be able to be taken apart, you can place your shelves and then solder both sides of the couplings to create a more rigid and sturdy pole. Because I had that original pole, I didn’t solder the pipe, but slid it straight through the copper pipe to make the entire stand sturdier, since it was a bit wobbly.
If you aren’t using pipe, but are instead using an extendable curtain rod, I would make it by cutting the thinner pipe the height that you want it to be (my stand is 54″ tall, by the way). Then, instead of using small couplings, cut the outer rod into “spacers” the height you want the shelves to be placed at. So, instead of having just a small coupling, the entire inner rod will be covered with the outer rod and you can assemble it by threading “stand, basket, spacer, basket, spacer…etc.” until you reach the top. Using a curtain rod will work perfectly too, because then you can use your finial to finish off the top!
After my stand was assembled, it was time to paint it!. I debated about polishing up the copper and have it metallic with black baskets, but then decided that I don’t really have copper as an accent in my home, so I painted it. (Of course after I decided that, I remembered that my fan is antiqued copper so I could have….)
I painted it black to give it a more industrial look to match the style of the punched metal. I started with satin finish paint, then realized that I should have gone with matte since the shine highlights all of the imperfections of the metal! Oh well; it is a salvage project, after all. I used Rust-Oleum 2x Ultra Cover Satin Canyon Black, (and noticed that I took the picture of the French side-haha) since I already had 1/2 a can on hand. I did three coats and I guess that I used about 1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cans of paint for the entire project. I still have almost an entire can of paint left over, so I can use that for a future project!
Once the paint cured, the organizer was done and ready to use! As I brought it inside, I realized just how heavy that umbrella stand is when you need to move it around. I am keeping my eye out for the base of an old metal rolling desk chair to swap out the stand for. That would make it so easier to move around when required!
I haven’t filled all of the compartments yet, but this is going to work perfectly for ribbons and laces and zippers and other sewing notions. They were previously in drawers, which made it hard to find anything. I usually like closed storage solutions, but for some things, open storage just works better. And sewing and crafts, is one of those things that works better when I can see things and find them easily.
This method worked so well to create this craft room organizer stand that I am considering whether I should make another with offset shelves using the curtain rod method in order to create a plant stand. (I have a lot of plants!) The curtain rod I have is already black metal and I could use wood for the shelves, so it wouldn’t require any painting. Maybe a good project for over the Winter?
Do you like to DIY furniture or other home projects? What’s the best “salvage” piece you’ve ever saved and transformed? And do you prefer open or closed storage solutions?
Letter writing has been around for nearly as long as people have been on this earth. It’s a way to communicate with people if you aren’t able to be there in person and for much of history writing letters has been the only channel of long distance communication. At least until the advent of the telegram, telephone, and internet. As wonderful as those advancements in technology are, though, there’s still something so special about receiving a handwritten note in the mail. I love writing letters, and while I’m not always consistent, I do try to write a few times a year to my friends and family who live far away. I inherited my love of writing letters from my Grandma. She was an excellent letter writer and it was always such a joy to receive one from her in the mailbox! If you aren’t used to writing, here are my tips on how to start writing letters.
Of course my first tip is to make yourself a lovely cup of tea (or other beverage) and find a comfortable spot to sit at. Perhaps even light a candle to make the experience more enjoyable. I wouldn’t suggest playing music, though, as I find that I get distracted and start to listen to the music instead of writing! Try to think letter writing as an elegant ritual.
Choose who you will write your letter to and consider your audience. From there, decide if it is to be a formal or casual letter. What you write to your grandmother might not be what you write to a friend. My Grandma often used to leave her writing paper out on the table for a week or more, adding bits and pieces to the letter as she thought of them. They were quite newsy and a joy to read since she’d include tidbits in her letter that you wouldn’t always think to say on a telephone visit. She’d include information about what the weather was like at the time of writing, where she was sitting in the house or about the chickadee she was watching out the window. Details like that really did make reading her letters feel like you were there with her.
If you aren’t used to writing, and don’t quite know where to start, then start slow by sending a greeting card with a heartfelt note written inside. A “thinking of you” card is nice to receive in the mail and it’s not as much pressure to send as a long letter is. Since there are only two pages on the inside of a card, it gives you a boundary to write a quick note without feeling the need to write an entire epistle.
Get some good writing paper. It doesn’t have to be stationery, though that is a nice thing to invest in. I often use lined paper that I trimmed out of a journal. It’s a perfect size to fit in an envelope, and the lines help me to stay tidy. Once you’ve gotten the rhythm of writing letters, and perhaps found a pen pal, then getting some dedicated stationery or writing paper is a nice touch. You can find all sorts of beautiful stationery including monogrammed and letterpresses, all the way down to simple plain paper. Keep an eye out for sets of stationery that have matching envelopes in the correct size, so that you don’t have to origami your letter to fit in an envelope for mailing. That being said, I have received letters that were written on construction or copy paper and I never cared, since it was the words on the paper that were of much more importance!
Letter seals or stickers are a fun touch to add to your envelopes- some stationery sets even include matching stickers. Wax seals are another gorgeous touch, that hearken back to the days when security was of utmost importance for top secret correspondence. Another way that letters were kept confidential was through the art of “Letterlocking”. This is a fascinating article from the BBC about how letters in the past used ingenious methods of folding and cutting to ensure that they couldn’t be tampered with. I want to get some heavy writing paper and try out this technique- wouldn’t it be fun to receive a letter like that in the mail?
Another nice touch, is to use a pen that writes really well; I personally prefer liquid ink pens to ballpoint pens. I don’t use a pen with a nib, though I would like to learn how. Right now, I use the Uni-Ball Vision Needle pens in black and I like how they write. I’ve found that when I have a nice smooth pen, my writing is neater. If my pen is scratchy or dry, then my writing gets progressively worse!
On that note, letter writing is a great way to practice your handwriting. Cursive is another lost art, sadly, and while I don’t have the best handwriting myself, I do like to practice while writing letters. I’ve been trying to slow down when I write, because when I write fast, I might as well write in shorthand considering how illegible it can become!
If you plan to start sending letters often, then buy your stamps in bulk. They aren’t cheaper the more you buy but (at least here in Canada) if you buy a single stamp at the mail counter it is more expensive than buying a pack. Also in Canada, we have “permanent stamps” which means that when the price goes up next time, we can still use the stamps we already own. So buying a roll of stamps might save you money in the future.
Always include a return address, either in the top left hand corner or back of the envelope. Once I mailed a letter but forgot to put on a stamp- oops! At least because I had included a return address, the postal worker just placed it back in my box. Otherwise that letter would have been lost into the abyss! Also, make sure that your letter is clearly and neatly addressed. Some postal services are quite excellent (yay England!) while others can be rather abysmal (looking at you Canada Post).
As for receiving letters in return, if someone does send you a letter back, make sure to answer it in a timely fashion, or you’ll forget what you wanted to say. As I read a letter I’ve received, I find myself thinking of all kinds of things to write back in return but, if I put it off, then I find that I’ve forgotten all of those bits of “news” and have to rack my brain to find something to write down!
Well, those are my tips to start writing letters. Of course, letters can’t replace other forms of communication in our lives, but I think that there is a special art in letter writing, and that it is a lovely way to add a bit of elegance to your everyday life. Oh, and of course I can’t finish off this post without mentioning that if you’re looking for some greeting cards to send, you can check out my shop here or here.
How about you- do you enjoy writing letters? Or do you prefer instant communication instead? If you haven’t in the past, do you think you’ll start writing letters?
This is my final post in the PERSONAL STYLE series. Today I am talking about how I have been using minimalism to clear a lot of clutter from my closet that was hindering me from the dream closet I wanted.
Should I Use Minimalism as a Tool to Curate My Wardrobe?
After collecting vintage clothing and accessories for over a decade, I came to the conclusion last year that my dream closet was always bigger than my actual closet. I probably came to that conclusion while hauling a suitcase full of out-of-season clothes from under my bed, or trying to reach a shoebox on the top shelf in my closet. No matter where I live, my closet is always just a bit too small and I am always having to cram in as many items as can fit (mostly hats), yet still having to store the excess in a dresser, and under my bed, and in the hall closet, and on the back of the door. . .
Along with this frustration over lack of storage space is the knowledge that I will probably always be a small space dweller and, as much as I love small spaces, they come with less storage space, which ultimately means you have to own less stuff. So, even though I love collecting vintage, I was tired of having too many pieces in too small of a closet; like many other people, 2020 became the year of the Great Closet Clear Out. It was actually my decision to start paring down the items in my wardrobe that sparked this entire series of posts.
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Minimalist, even though that is what I titled this post, because when it comes to my wardrobe, or anything else, I don’t actually desire to get things down to the minimum. I like to keep some things around that aren’t useful and that I might never wear, but I keep them just because I like them. However, while Minimalism might not be a lifestyle choice for everyone, many of us could probably do with some simplifying and paring back of our wardrobes and other possessions. Rather than following a strictly minimalist approach, I prefer to follow this advice by William Morris (a designer who was key in the Arts and Crafts movement). I think he perfectly sums up how many items you should keep, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. I think that is a pretty good description of what minimalism should be.
When you’ve gone to all of the effort to figure out your personal style, it makes sense to then apply this advice to your closet and remove the extra; keeping only that which you love and value.You can look at it kind of like a stone carving- you’re getting rid of the excess to reveal the figure within. So for this last post in the series, I wanted to share my tips for how to pare down your wardrobe, in case you’ve ever found yourself in the same situation!
IDENTIFY YOUR PERSONAL STYLE, COLOURS & SILHOUETTES
Once you’ve figured these out, and come up with a clear picture of your own personal style, it will be a lot easier to evaluate your closet, because you’ll have a clear vision of what you want your dream closet to look like.
When you are looking at your clothes from this perspective, you are choosing which items to keep rather than which items to get rid of. Selecting the items that you love puts a positive slant on the process and you can more easily evaluate the items left behind. I tried this method, and it really helped me to be more objective about those items I wasn’t sure about. Because I had taken the time to figure out my style description and colour palette, it was so much easier to part with items that weren’t fitting into any of those categories.
MOVE PAST THE SUNK COST, OTHER ATTACHMENTS & GUILT
It can be really hard to get rid of items that cost you a lot, or that you are emotionally attached to (a gift for example), but it is freeing to simply accept that you no longer love something and move on.
I don’t regret trying out new things, or even making style mistakes, because from those fashion experiments I was able to figure out what my personal style and preferences are. Without trying new things, I wouldn’t have known, so that learning experience was valuable. However, keeping items that I no longer love just because I spent a lot on them or invested time into them (for example, pieces that I made myself) doesn’t help me in any way today. That money and time is already gone and it isn’t coming back by keeping the item, so sometimes it is better to be realistic about it, rather than feeling obligated to keep things that are just collecting dust.
I’ve also learned to move on from clothing pieces that bring me guilt or body insecurity. For example, keeping clothes that haven’t fit for years, and might never again, is not a great motivator to get in shape. Likewise, as I talked about in this post, there isn’t any point in keeping items that you don’t wear because they aren’t a great fit for your specific body type. For me, I decluttered two gorgeous vintage plaid skirts that I never wore. I really loved them, but every time I pulled them out of my closet I would inevitably decide that I didn’t like how the plaid looked on me, and I would end up putting them back in the closet. Instead of keeping them, and then feeling bad every time I didn’t wear them, I now plan on sewing some skirts with the plaid cut diagonally rather than horizontal, since I know I like that look a lot more!
It can also be easy to hold on to pieces “just in case” or because you’ve had them for so long without thinking about whether you still want to keep them. For example, I had some hats that I loved, but never wore. I kept thinking “one day, I will figure out an outfit to pair with that hat” but when I took a second look at them, I realized that I didn’t actually want to wear them anymore. Just because they were vintage and one of a kind didn’t mean that I had to keep them, if they didn’t really suit my style anymore. It’s OK to pass things on to new homes where they will be more appreciated when they don’t work for you anymore.
GET RID OF YOUR 80%
I have never been one who wanted to limit myself in the wardrobe department. While I am intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe, I have never personally been interested in pursuing that. In fact a lot of my wardrobe advice from the past has been, “Why limit yourself?” I love to experiment and try new things and I never wanted to fit myself into one specific category, but over time that doesn’t always work well. For me, rather than having lots of options and coming up with new outfits all the time… I really just had too many clothes that didn’t go together, so I ended up mainly wearing the same few coordinating pieces over and over again. Instead of focusing on the versatility of each item I purchased, I was choosing variety, but when you have a lot of clothes that don’t coordinate, you end up having to get more accessories to go with each outfit, which then means you need to have more storage…it’s an endless cycle.
It is said that we wear only twenty percent of our clothes eighty percent of the time, and that was definitely true for me. I had a closet full of clothes, but wasn’t actually wearing many of them on a regular basis. I realized that a capsule wardrobe is basically removing that eighty percent of clothes that you aren’t wearing, and focusing on your twenty percent. So, instead of having a closet bursting at the seams with clothing, I got rid of that excess and focused on how to improve that twenty percent that was left. And of course, there isn’t any set number of pieces; the perfect number of items for you might not be the same number as someone else.
ALWAYS KEEP WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
Don’t feel the need to get rid of everything you don’t wear; keep the pieces that make you happy. (Especially if they are unique, one-of-kind vintage pieces!)
I have several beautiful evening dresses that I will probably never get rid of. I’ll probably never wear them either, but I love them too much to pass them on. I used to have a lot of evening dresses and then realized that I didn’t really need so many when I don’t ever (or want to) go to parties. However, when I pared down my collection, I kept some of my absolute favourite and irreplaceable ones. I like to hang them out on display where I can enjoy them.
DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR DECLUTTERED ITEMS
Having a plan for what you are going to do with the items you are removing from your closet can make it a lot easier for you to part with them. In the past I had kept a lot of pieces in my closet, even though I knew that they weren’t working for me, because they weren’t things that my local thrift shop would want, or I had spent a lot on them and felt bad about losing that “investment”.
While donations to thrift shops are great, sometimes there are better ways to pass on unwanted items. Selling clothing can also be a worthwhile thing to do, especially if you have rare or vintage pieces. Now that Poshmark is in Canada, I was able to sell a lot of my items there. It did take a lot of time, but it made it a lot easier for me to part with the pieces, since I was able to make back some of the money I had spent. I also know that each of the pieces (even the vintage “wounded birds”) were going to people who wanted them.
Some other options are to give them to friends or family or to have a clothing swap. I also like to donate some of the nicer items to our local women’s shelter- it’s a good place to pass on some of the prettier items.
PUT ASIDE ITEMS YOU’RE NOT SURE ABOUT
When going through my closet, I did see some things that I hadn’t worn for a very long time, but I wasn’t sure whether that meant it was time to part with them or whether I just hadn’t had an occasion to wear them lately. (Probably something many of us went through in 2020.) If you find items that you haven’t worn for months (years?), then take them out of your closet for a while to help you decide whether you still want them or not.
For me, I realized that I needed to move some pieces into my sewing pile to see whether there was something I could do to alter/mend the item to make it more wearable. Other pieces that I wasn’t sure of, got packed away in a suitcase for a while. This works because when you open the suitcase or box again in a few months time, you’ll either be excited to bring those pieces immediately back into rotation, or you’ll find that you completely forgot about them, don’t feel any attachment and can easily move them into the “donate” pile.
I also have some items that don’t fit at the moment, but I do still love them and am not ready to just move them out of the closet. (I think this happens to us all at some point or other!) Rather than leaving those pieces hanging forlornly in my closet, I moved them into my out-of-season storage, and I will reevaluate them next year.
WAIT A LITTLE WHILE BEFORE BUYING
Especially when you live in a small space, at some point you have to curate your belongings to the amount of storage you have: your space dictates how much you can realistically own. If you have a difficulty in not bringing in new items when you’re shopping, picture where you are going to put it or store it. Or, figure out which item is going to have to go out to make room for the new item. (“One in, one out”)
I now create a list on my phone of everything that I am thinking of buying, and I hardly buy anything right when I see it. Even when browsing on Poshmark or at the thrift store, I try to think of what I am going to pair it with in my existing closet. I often bookmark things and think about them for several days or weeks before going ahead with the purchase. I debate about whether I will be disappointed if it’s gone and oftentimes I realize that while I like something, I wouldn’t be sad if it sold out.
Of course, if you have a large closet with lots of space to spread out, then you don’t need to be as ruthless with what you clear out or bring in!
TAKE A BREAK FROM BUYING TOO
While keeping to the rule of “one in and one out” is great, that only works if you have a good number of items to start with. If you are trying to actively reduce the amount of items you have, eventually you’ll have to stop buying new things. I see so many decluttering videos that neglect to mention this key detail: you have to bring in less or you won’t end up with less.
While paring down my closet last year, I tried to also do a “low buy” year, to give myself time to actually go through and figure out the right size of closet for me. I’m not sure I was completely successful on that front but, nevertheless, by the end of the year, I estimate that for every four items of clothing that I decluttered, I only brought one into my closet. I was pretty happy with that ratio.
IDENTIFY YOUR WARDROBE GAPS
Over the last year of this process, I have gotten better at identifying the gaps in my wardrobe, and knowing when it is time to bring something new into my closet. When I was decluttering I came across items of clothing that I liked, that fit into my style and that made me happy, but I still never wore, and I realized that it was because I didn’t have anything to pair them with! I also have some outfits that always seemed like they needed a certain something to finish it off perfectly.
I was able to figure out some key items to put on my shopping list this year:
tops in colours other than black so I can mix and match with my black skirts.
brown leather everyday shoes
an everyday brown leather purse
a couple new everyday skirts to replace the ones that were threadbare
a vintage brown fur collar (OK, I didn’t need this one, I just fell in love with it when I saw it!)
Removing a bunch of the clothing I wasn’t wearing finally gave me the freedom to go and fill some of the gaps in my closet with pieces that fit my personal style, rather than being held back by my bursting closet, despite the fact that much of it wasn’t working for me. Also, because I took the time to evaluate what I was looking for, rather than just browsing at the thrift store like I usually would, I was able to wait and save up to get the few particular things I really needed (and wanted) rather than wasting my time getting a whole bunch of small new things I didn’t need. And because I made back some of the money from my old clothes, I was able to put it towards “investing” in pieces I actually needed.
So, while I wouldn’t consider myself to be a minimalist, I would still like to be purposeful with what I have in my closet. I’m sure this is going to be a process that I will have to revisit many more times in the future, but it’s a start! I want my wardrobe to be full of things that I love and wear regularly- not to be distracted by clothing that I don’t love wearing!
How about you- have you ever done a complete closet overhaul? Do you have any tips for how you decide when it’s time to part with something, or when to keep it? Are you attracted to using minimalism in your closet or not?
Now that Spring has officially arrived, it is time for the seasonal wardrobe transition! I always enjoy the changing of the seasons, and all of the things that go along with that… packing away my cold weather garments and then pulling out my warm weather ones always makes for a rather fun afternoon task- it’s kind of like opening presents! Switching your wardrobe around for a new season does take a bit of time, but it is also the perfect opportunity for a bit of garment care and maintenance as well. Here is how I go about switching around my closet, as well as some of the tasks that I like to do each season to keep my clothes and shoes in good condition.
Depending on where you live, transitioning your wardrobe might not be very drastic, and if you don’t live in a climate with four distinct seasons, it might not even be necessary. (Or if you live in the Southern hemisphere, you’ll be pulling out your fall and winter clothes) Here in Alberta we definitely do have four seasons but, while it is now officially spring, we certainly will have some cold days left, so I am not doing a complete wardrobe switch.
There are some etiquette “rules” that I like to follow for my closet, just because they make sense for me and the climate where I live. According to Miss Manners, here are some seasonal wardrobe rules:
–Straw should not be worn before Easter nor after Labour Day.
-Velvet should be worn between October 1 and March 1.
-Furs should not be worn between the months of March to September
-White should not be worn after Labour Day, nor before Memorial Day. (This one is rather archaic, and a better rule to abide by, rather than colour, is judging the weight of the fabric you are wearing. Gauzy white linen is not appropriate for fall and winter, depending on the climate of where you live, of course, but a white wool coat or stockings is a completely different matter!)
I moved my strictly winter garments, such as my fur collars, winter coats, berets and lined boots into storage and then rotated my lighter spring and summer items into my closet. While I might not wear some of them right away, because we do still have cool days ahead, I brought them out so I have something to look forward too! I most likely won’t wear my straw hats until Easter, but it’s still nice to take them out and hang them up too. I also don’t have that much space, so I have to trade the items in and out, to fit them all back into my closet. I keep my in-season clothes hanging in my bedroom closet, and put the out-of-season clothes in a suitcase.
I did leave some of the more “seasonally ambiguous” items in my closet, such as my brown Oxford pumps. Rather than moving them out with the winter wear, I decided to keep them in since I might be able to wear them while the days are still cool.
Before I put each item into storage, I made sure to look it over and see if it needed any cleaning or other repair. There’s nothing worse than pulling your shoes or clothes out in six months for the next season, and then having to wait to wear it until you can repair it, or even worse than that, it has become irreparably damaged from sitting. So, here are five of my garment care tips to do before packing your winter clothes away for the season.
Depending on the soil level, I don’t wash my clothes after every single wear. Some garments can be worn a few times before they need laundering, and if your clothes are delicates then they will actually benefit from less washing. Before you pack the clothes away, though, make sure to clean them so they don’t sit with dirt or odours for months. Dirty clothes in storage can attract moths or other pests, and any light stains on the fabric might set over the months and become a much bigger issue for you later on.
If you have “dry clean” items, you may be able to spot clean them yourself. I don’t like dry cleaning my clothes, because it’s not actually really cleaning and the chemicals are so pollutant and unhealthy. Thus, I prefer to do most of my own washing, though sometimes dry cleaning is a necessary evil. You can often spot clean your wool or hand wash delicate items. If you do decide to wash a woolen item, and it ends up wrinkled or out of shape, you can take it to the dry cleaners for a “press only”. I have done this before with pleated skirts and they come back looking so much better than I could ever get them to look with my iron at home. Once you’ve cleaned your items, make sure they are completely dry before storing. If you are storing your out of season clothes in bins or boxes, you can also add in cedar sachets to keep pests out.
Brushing & Shaving Your Woollens
Brushing wool is a new habit for me, and I learned this from the book How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. She talked about brushing wool clothes rather than washing them in order to clean them, and I had never heard of that! So, I have ordered myself a clothes brush with natural bristles (that is what she recommends in order to not damage the fabric over time) and once it arrives, I plan on brushing all of my winter coats before putting them away.
In the mean time, I will go over my coats with a velvet lint brush, as well as a pill remover/shaver. It’s amazing what a difference a brushing and shaving can do! A clothes brush works so much better than those sticky lint rollers, to take out the dust and dirt that collects. This is a good practice to get into a regular habit of doing, to keep your clothes in good condition, but it is especially important to do before you store your clothes.
Cleaning & Polishing Your Leather Shoes
This is such a simple thing to do to keep your leather in good repair, but it’s the one task that I always neglect. I am trying to get better at doing this more frequently, but I always seem to procrastinate and put it off for far longer than I should. (This is probably because shoe polish smells like death…and probably brings you closer to death as well…?) Every time I do get around to polishing my shoes, though, I am amazed at the transformation and vow to do it more often! I haven’t tried any of the more natural leather conditioners yet, but I’ve ordered one to try on my purse. I think it’s a natural wax that doesn’t smell as bad as regular shoe polish, so maybe I’ll use it more often!
Cleaning and polishing or conditioning your leather is a good thing to do regularly, but is also very important to do before your put your winter shoes away. Salt stains from ice-melt burn leather and if left untreated can ruin a good pair of shoes (I’ve had that happen before!) and other stains will only get worse over time.
First clean your shoes with a leather cleaner and a soft rag. (I clean mine with a suede cleaner solution since that is what I have on hand, and it works well.) Once your shoes are dry, you can polish them with either a cream or wax polish in a matching colour. I’ve heard different cobblers recommend bothoptions, so I’m not sure which is better!
I’ve also just started using a shoe brush that we got from my Grampa, and I have no idea why I was using just a rag before- the brush gives such a nice polish! I like to finish the shoes off with a little sponge for a nice shine, and then they are done.
In the image on the left, the shoe on the left is unpolished, and the shoe on the right shows the difference that polishing makes! The final result is in the photo on the right.
For any shoes that need more serious repairs, you can take them to a cobbler for fixing. I am so hard on my shoes, and have really done a number on some of my favourite pairs (such as ripping the finish off the toe of the aforementioned Oxford heels!) but it’s amazing how cobblers are able to restore them back to – almost- as good as new!
Storing Your Shoes
Once all of my shoes are polished and clean, I put them into shoe boxes with tissue paper in between to keep them from leaning on each other, and then put them back in my closet. I stack all of my shoeboxes on the top shelf in that inconvenient corner of the closet that you can’t quite reach, since it isn’t useful for storing things you actually need to access on a regular basis!
I don’t have quite enough boxes for all of my boots and shoes, since I only keep the shoeboxes with aesthetics. There were a couple of pairs of boots and shoes that I didn’t have boxes for, so I made some fabric bags to store them in, to keep the dust and dirt off, and they work just as nicely as boxes do.
Using Garment Bags
Coats can get so dusty while hanging in the closet over the summer, so I put a garment bag over the top of them- especially after having gone to the trouble to brush them clean! It is important to use cloth garment bags, not the plastic bags that come over dry-cleaning, because plastic can trap in moisture and cause your fabric to get musty. Instead of purchasing garment bags, I made some for myself out of vintage pillowcases. I’ve been using pillowcases as garment bags for a few years now, but had never gotten around to actually sewing them into the proper shape, so I decided it was finally time to do that.
To make your own, all you have to do is take a pillowcase and sew it into the shape you need. Pillowcases are easily found at thrift stores, or maybe you even have a few extra in your linen cupboard (or you can, of course, sew a rectangle of fabric to the width you need). Trace the hanger you will be using onto the wrong side of your pillowcase, and make sure to double check your tracing with a ruler, so you don’t end up with a lopsided angle. Curve the seam where it meets at the sides.
Sew along the line, then open a little hole in the seam at the top, for the hanger to go through. I hand stitched the top edge around that hole to keep it from unraveling, and then trimmed off the excess fabric with pinking shears. Flip it inside out and pop it over your coats, and that will keep them nice and clean until next fall!
Once I finished these garment care tasks, my seasonal wardrobe transition was done. Doing these tasks adds some time and is not as much fun, but it is worth it! Keeping your clothes and shoes in good repair will reduce your wardrobe costs over time, since you won’t have to replace your items due to damage. And, not only will it save you money in the long run, but your clothes will look better too; wearing a pair of freshly polished shoes is always going to elevate your outfit!
Do you switch out your wardrobe seasonally? What sorts of garment care or maintenance do you do for your clothes each season?