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Dating Vintage Clothes: Seams

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how I date the vintage clothes I find. While I am by no standards an expert, I have been getting much better.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share some tips on how I know when I’ve found something good.

First up is seams. The seams of a garment are where my eyes go first when I pick up a piece of clothing. Depending on the kind of seam, you can easily narrow down when the clothing was made.

Here are a few different kinds of seams:

Example of “pinking”

Example of a “serged” garment 

Simple, stitched seams

In the first photo, notice how the edges are cut into. This is called pinking and was a popular sewing method for seams in the 1950s. Finding a garment with pinked edges is usually a sure sign the item is from the 1950s.

In the second photo, you can see an example of a serged seam. Serging, or overlocking, is a type of seam finish that actually cuts the fabric and leaves overcast stitches to prevent unraveling. Machines commonly referred to as “sergers” are used to do this.

While the method of serging was invented in the late 1800s, it was very rare for it to be widely used on garments until the mid 1960s. Finding a piece of clothing with serged seams lets me know it’s probably from the 1960s or later.

The last photo is one of just simply stitched seams. While I am less familiar with dating clothes with these seams, it can be an indication that the item is pre-1950s. The red and white blouse pictured above is from the 1930s, well before sergers were commonly used.

While these are all good indicators of when an item was made, it’s never the full answer. I usually check the seams first, but then I move on to a whole list of other factors to help me date the piece. What other factors, you say? Well, I’ll get into that next week 🙂

Decisions, Decisions

Last week was a busy one for me, so I only had a chance to get out to shop a few times. Some weeks I’m definitely luckier than others, and this week I only walked away with a few treasures.

I’m really loving this dress. Just look at how lovely the buttons are with that print!

I also scooped up these Pyrex mixing bowls. Partly for my Ms. Fix It tutorial, but also because they’re kitchy and fun.

But my question for you is: should I keep them? I love the dress and I love the bowls, but I’m trying my best to stop myself from wanting to keep all the beautiful things I find. It can be really difficult! What would you do?

What are some of the great things you found this weekend?

Things I Love: Brown Butter & Sea Salt Cookies

Remember how great chocolate chip cookies are? Warm out of the oven cookies are up there as one of my favorite foods. And I had a serious craving for some this week.

Usually I’ll just follow the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag, but to be honest, I’ve been bored with that. I really wanted something special this week.

Good thing I found a recipe for brown butter & sea salt chocolate chip cookies over at Ambitious Kitchen. Reading the recipe, making the cookies and then quickly eating all of them left me with one thought:

Why have I not been baking with brown butter forever???

 

Photo from Ambitious Kitchen
These cookies are out of this world good. So good I’m contemplating making a second batch right now. Just kidding. I’m for sure making another batch.

They are very delicious and definitely my favorite thing this week!

Ms. Fix It: Dirty Pyrex

Good news! I was roaming thrift stores recently (as I often am) when I came across a beautiful set of Pyrex mixing bowls:

Sadly, the green one had seen much, much better days. See how scratched and dirty it was?

I set out to fix it, though! Did you know that you can use Bar Keeper’s Friend to easily remove most (if not all!) blemishes from Pyrex and other dishes?

Before you cover the entire dish in this powder, though, make sure you test it on a small area to make sure it won’t take off the paint. Being the (lazy) gambler that I am, I didn’t take my own advice. Luckily, it worked out just fine.

First, I doused the bowl in water and then covered the entire thing with a healthy coating of Bar Keeper’s Friend. By the way, you can find this stuff at any hardware store. After waiting a minute or so, I scrubbed. And scrubbed and scrubbed. Some areas required more than one application, but it was worth the effort. In the end I had a very good looking bowl!

Nice and shiny!

If you decide to try this, make sure not to leave the powder on for too long, as it can eat away at the paint. Also…it smells really strong. Fair warning.

This is by no means a fix-all, but it definitely makes a huge difference. This bowl went from unusable to something I am excited to use and show off!

Vintage Makeover – Ugly Chairs

You know those people who see a chair on the side of the road, or a table next to a dumpster and snatch it up to take home and put to good use? I’m a modern version of that. I love going on Craigslist and seeing what’s listed under the “free” section. Even if I don’t get anything, it’s fun to look at something that someone sees as garbage and think of all the cool things I could do with it.

Several months ago, I came across an ad I knew I had to respond to. A woman was giving away three beautifully shaped chairs from the 1970s. What?? I immediately emailed her. They were still available and later that week I was meeting her at her church to pick them up. She seemed surprised that I was so excited about them, but said she was glad they were going to a home where they would be used.

The only thing was…they were a terrible, ugly tan with copper legs.

Photo quality courtesy of my “smart” phone

My first thought was to paint the legs silver and then paint the chairs another color. I’ve read that if you use special spray paint made for cars, you can actually just paint vinyl. So I brought them out to my deck and all of a sudden just went crazy with the paint. I was left with tin man chairs. Whoops.

They sat like that for weeks, actually, because I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I considered just getting rid of them, but then thought I’d at least try to recover the seats and then see if I like them. Bingo! I found some awesome fabric and got to work. Thirty easy minutes later and I was left with fun new chairs!

I threw one of my grandma’s (Angie!!) vintage pillows on each and called it a day.

So for the cost of spray paint and fabric, I have two brand new chairs. The third one? Yeah…that’s still waiting in my kitchen. I’ll get to it, don’t you worry.
What fun vintage/thrift makeovers have you done? 

Sharing with It’s Overflowing, Think Pink Sundays, Thrifty 101

Dreaming of Swing Dancing

Well, Monday is quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. Why? Because I get to share with you all the prettiest things I have found!

This past week I was able to get to several thrift stores and pick out some very cute pieces.

I found this red and black polka dot number at a nearby Salvation Army

 

The best part? I found it’s matching coat in a different part of the store! I love vintage separates because you can mix and match them with more modern things. I can definitely see that jacket being paired with some dark jeans.

 

I also stopped at a Goodwill out in the suburbs over the weekend. I usually find more vintage pieces in the suburbs. There’s so many people in Chicago who are also looking for vintage that the racks at thrift stores can be picked over.

I found this gorgeous 1970s dress. It’s so flowy and comfy that I really wanted to keep it for myself. Don’t worry though, I’ll post it in the shop with the other pieces.

I also found this 1930s top. Those buttons are actually snaps! I don’t often find such old pieces so this was a very exciting find.

 

Did you find anything good this past week? I’d love to see what other people are finding!

 

Fall Prep – Vintage Coats

Fall is just over a week away, you guys! Even though I know there’s still some (lots) of 80 degree days left for Chicago, I can’t stop myself from shifting entirely into fall-mode.

Some people are obsessed with shoes, bags or hats. But I can’t get enough coats. Ever. It’s an issue, actually.

What better way to psych ourselves up for fall that to dream about some lovely vintage coats?

Pretty golden coat! Will be added to shop.

And, of course, bunches of other coats that I’ve found and can’t stop thinking about. For the love of all things fall, someone get me this coat:

 

Available at Crush Vintage

 

Then again, this one would be perfect for apple picking and fall bonfires:
Available at The Vintage Domain
Oh, and this one for date nights:
Available at Ravishing Ruby

And this one too, just because I know my sister would love it:

Available at Dirty Birdies Vintage

 

Well. I’ve officially got a problem. Hope you all have fun dreaming about vintage coats all day.
And have a wonderful weekend, while you’re at it! If you have nothing to do on Sunday, check out the Vintage Garage and pick out some fun vintage pieces. I’ll be soaking up the very last bit of summer at a baseball game 🙂

Favorites from Renegade

This past weekend I enjoyed going to the Renegrade Craft Fair in Wicker Park. If you haven’t heard of Renegade, make sure you check out their website. They pop up all over the country and offer some truly unique vendors with some very lovely products.

What’s that? You want to see some?

These clocks from Uncommon Handmade are maybe the best non-vintage options I’ve ever seen. I can’t stop looking at them!

 

Images from Uncommon Handmade

Ryan Berkley from Ryan Berkley Illustration! had some of the funniest, most interesting illustrations I’ve seen in a while. Just look at that frog! And doesn’t that sloth look like it should say “attorney at law” underneath?

 

Images from Ryan Berkley Illustration!

 

Chicago Cutting Boards had some really different cutting boards on display. They’re not exactly my style, but they’re so beautiful and well-made I couldn’t help but love them.
Images from Chicago Cutting boards
And if you love food anywhere near as much as I do, you’ll probably love looking at the pieces Inedible Jewelry has to offer. They honestly look good enough to eat. Too bad it’s clay…

 

Images from Inedible Jewelry

I could keep posting, but there were so many artists there I’d be going on for hours. If this little sampling looks good to you, pay Renegade a visit next year.

What? You want to look at more clocks? Me too 🙂

 

Both from Uncommon Handmade

Booties and Bags

Lately I’ve been wading through mountains of clothes and needed a change of pace. So I’ve been working this week on getting some accessories photographed for the shop. Yay for things that don’t require me to measure them!

Here’s a sampling of what will be added to the shop by the end of the week:

 

 

 

 

 

There’s still several more items I need to photograph, but thought you’d like a little preview. See anything you like?

Ms. Fix It: I Also Broke It

You know when you find an incredible vintage dress, but it’s just too small? Normal people might realize it doesn’t fit and leave it behind. Me? I tried my best to wriggle my hips into a dress that was clearly made for a woman who was much smaller.

And the result…was not pretty.

I so wanted this beautiful dress to fit that I ripped a couple of the zipper teeth off in the process! I was devastated. I also felt pretty foolish. I mean, this dress is obviously several sizes too small for me.

In any case, I knew I couldn’t just leave it as is. I’m also pretty intimidated by fixing/sewing zippers. Doesn’t it just look like it’d be really hard to do? But good news: it’s not!

First things first. I found a perfect shade of thread.

Then, I slipped the zipper back on track through the gap left by the missing teeth. If you’re fixing a zipper where some of the teeth are just damaged, you might consider pulling a few out so the zipper is easier to slip back on track.

The fuzzy looking threads on the left side of the zipper is where the teeth came off.

This is what it should look like once it’s back on track:

I know, I know, the hole is still there. Don’t panic! Next, turn the dress inside out:

I was pleasantly surprised to find that a previous zipper repair had been done near the original base of the zipper. I liked the idea that maybe 20 or 30 years ago some other size 8 tried to slip her way into a size 2 🙂

Anyway, back to business. Carefully stitch the hole shut, making sure to sew tightly. When you’re finished it should look like this:

The hole is completely shut and you can barely see the thread. Success! Now, turn the dress right side out again and voila!

A once broken zipper is now functional and pretty again!

Look how pretty it is on my friend Rachel:

Now it’s ready for someone to take home and dance the night away in.

And, of course, I learned my lesson too. Some dresses are just meant for other people to have!