From My Carolina Home

Quilting, cooking, reading books, gardening, crafting, sewing, photography and more


Shopping and Sewing with a Purpose

It has gone way past the time I should have flipped my closet to warmer weather clothing.  I have been pulling things out from under dry cleaner bags for almost two months now.   The winter sweaters were still occupying the prime real estate in the closet, making it a pain to get dressed for work in the morning.  Thanks to fellow blogger Kathy in Ozarks, who was talking about cleaning her closet this week, I finally got to it. She posed the question, do you have clothes you just cannot part with? Apparently, I do!  Last winter I did a post on how to analyze your wardrobe, so I put those principles into practice again with the summer clothes.

Closet 10

Pulling out the summer stuff, there wasn’t that much actually. Summer isn’t my favorite time of year, I really hate the heat.  Still, I found a few things that could go to the Humane Society thrift store to make room for something new.  I took a good look at what I was keeping and decided on some rules for shopping.

1. No more black, it is summer for crying out loud, yet the stores are full of black.
2. No solid color tops, this wardrobe desperately needs prints, find at least two.
3. Find a short sleeve, lightweight, not-bolero-style shrug to go over the sleeveless shells for work.
4. Buy only what can be worn at least two other items.
5. Buy only what will go with what I already own.
6. Buy only what fits now, not what might fit 10 pounds from now.
7. Look for new lingerie.

Sleeveless shells

Did I mention that I am a Macy’s freak, and it was the day of their One Day Sale? I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and today was a good day to use it. It takes an hour to drive to Macy’s in South Carolina, but it is worth it to me. I never take anyone with me shopping, as I don’t know another soul that can spend four hours in one store, trying on different things. And I didn’t even go to the shoe or accessories departments!

Believe it or not, targeted shopping with specific goals makes shopping easier. I am not distracted by the other pretties, OK maybe for a few minutes, but I stayed true to the plan. Only things that fit the rules went to the dressing room. I tried on probably 30-35 things, and came home with four.  All were on sale, the light green t-shirt was 80% off!

Shopping With A Purpose at From My Carolina Home

Nothing is black, the polka dot is navy. The two tops are prints. The white crochet shrug is goal #3. The polka dot can be worn with the white shrug or a red one I already have.  I actually am amazed that the crocheted look is still current.  I was hoping for something a bit different, like a cotton short sleeve cropped shirt that could be used as a jacket.

Shopping With A Purpose at From My Carolina Home

The pink floral, short sleeve, cotton sweater has a cute print, is lightweight, and goes with three of my solid color sleeveless shell tops so it also fits #3.

Shopping With A Purpose at From My Carolina Home

The T-shirt was just too cute, and can be worn with shorts or jeans, alone or under a sweater.

Shopping With A Purpose at From My Carolina Home

DH will be pleased to find out that the balance of the gift card went to new lingerie, all on sale, goal #7 achieved.

So how does this relate to sewing?  The rules can still apply for no black, more prints, and choosing a pattern that will be versatile.  I still need more prints in my closet, so I will look for a cute pattern and sew these rayons into tops for work.  I could also make a lightweight cotton jacket to go over those shells that might be more of what I am looking for.


Thanks, Kathy, for inspiring me to get off my duff and get the summer wardrobe in better shape.

Do you shop and sew with a purpose or rules?



Dressing Downton at Biltmore Estate

There’s a special exhibit going on at the Biltmore Estate right now, and for all of the Downton Abbey fans it is wonderful. Even more so for those that know what it takes to use needle and thread to create wearable art.


Wearable art is precisely what I saw there. Gorgeous beading and exquisite hand embroidery adorn these dresses worn by the actors. I adore the hats, too! Pictures just do not do them justice. I would have loved to get some close up photographs, but sadly, photography is not allowed inside the Biltmore House. The next best thing is to show you some of the press release photos from Romantic Asheville  and Biltmore Estate.  You can click on those links to see more pictures of the costumes.  Below, the Dowager’s dress is in the foreground, with Lord and Lady Grantham costumes behind.


All the costumes were breathtaking. Some of them you can just see the actor wearing. Like the purple ensemble above, can’t you just ‘see’ Maggie Smith wearing that?


Displays are set up many of the rooms at Biltmore House.  Lord and Lady  Grantham costumes are set up in a dining room for dinner, with Mr. Carson’s evening dress on the right.  It was interesting to learn that even the servants had day wear and evening dress.


There were lovely dresses in the bedrooms, sitting rooms, library, and billiard rooms along with maid and servant’s costumes in various rooms.  There was even Mrs Patmore’s dress and Daisy’s costume in the kitchen.




You just have to see them to understand how detailed they are, the amount of handwork is amazing.


The collection is on a tour, coming to this area from the Winterthur museum.  I don’t know where it goes next, but if it comes near you, go see it.  For those of us in the Western NC area, the exhibit goes until the middle of May.  Be prepared for some long lines, it is very popular!


The dress on Maggie Smith above was in the gift shop.  The Biltmore House produced a book of all the costumes, pictures with the actors wearing them, with bits of history and social conventions of the time.  It was the perfect remembrance of the day, pages of history and evolution of fashion to savor at home.  Fashion was heavily influenced by the war years of the first world war.  I thought it was so interesting to read how the use of metal for war projects influenced the demise of the corset, and how working women began wearing shorter skirts to keep their hems clean particularly in the hospitals.  So much more is there, and it is fascinating.

I almost bought the tote bag that said “I spend Sunday nights at Downton”.   The final season is filming now, and will air in January 2016.  I really wish I didn’t have to wait that long!  Are you a Downton Abbey Fan?


Refashioning a Necklace

Do you have any of those multi-strand necklaces?  This one was sitting in the drawer not being worn because two of the chains were starting to look tarnished.

Necklace rework - 2

Plus it was a lot of necklace at once, actually just too many strands.

Necklace rework - 1

So, I decided to take it apart and recycle the individual strands into single necklaces.

Necklace rework - 3

I really like these lavender beads with the gold ones between. The pearls became two necklaces, one with chain links and the other without.

Necklace rework - 7

I have another vintage pin to use with a couple of strands like I did with the black ones from What’s In YOUR Closet?

Necklace pin 1

I have this snowflake pin that goes well with the pearls from this project and a rhinestone necklace from the vintage drawer.

Snoflake pin

This one DH gave me in the 70s when we all wore rhinestone pins on scarves around our necks.

Necklace rework - 6

Who knows, this may turn out to be a new trend!

Necklace rework - 4

Do you have any pins that would work with two necklaces like this?  Do you like to recycle older jewelry into a new look?



Book Review – A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

Sometimes I’ll pick up a book to read expecting one thing and get an entirely different story. Such was the case with A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff. The book jacket describes this story as centering around a woman, Phoebe, who opens a vintage clothing store. She likes to think about the woman that owned a garment before her, what her life might have been like. When she encounters an elderly French woman who wishes to sell some of her garments, Phoebe finds a new friend with a story of her own.

Vintage Affair2

What the jacket doesn’t say is that both women are trying to overcome a tragedy in their lives. There is a connection between the two women in that each blames herself for circumstances beyond her control. The revelation of these circumstances to each other helps each woman to come to terms with the past and give light to the future. This isn’t a sad story, it is a beautifully written journey with hope.

Vintage Affair4

The descriptions of the clothes will make a textile enthusiast drool with happiness. She describes 1950s prom dresses with bustier tops and frothy net petticoat skirts as cupcake dresses. There is lovely detail in the descriptions of Vivienne Westwood skirts, a Balenciaga dark blue silk evening gown, and a pleated evening gown by Madame Gres, along with other items. It makes the reader want to visit this store and feel the fabrics, admire the buttons and peruse the hats and jewelry.  I’d really enjoy to spending an afternoon there.

Maybe it is time for a shopping day!  I have found some wonderful bargains in the thrift and consignment stores here, like designer skirts and a sequined jacket (for $5!!), as well as wonderful vintage rhinestone jewelry. I also love hats, and still wear them often especially outside.  I have a Pinterest board of some of my finds – My Thrifty Bargains.  I just cleaned out my closet, so there is now room for something new-to-me.

Have you found a great bargain in a thrift or consignment store?




What’s in YOUR Closet?

January, a new year and good time to do some sweeping out of the old.  This is a perfect time to do a closet clean out.   In a book by the Simplicity pattern company, the statement is made that most people only wear 10% of their clothing 90% of the time.  After years of watching What Not To Wear, I have a pretty good handle on what I should be wearing.  After all, I do still have a day job, so I have to have a working wardrobe.  But, do I really need six long-sleeved black cardigans? Apparently so, since each one is a bit different with beads or lace or ruffles or some kind of detail.

Closet 1

One thing I like to do is flip my closet at least twice a year, and clean it out in January. This means moving things around, so that the pastels are put away for winter to return in the spring, and the warmer clothes come out when the weather turns cooler.

Closet 10

It also means pulling out and getting rid of things that are past their prime. It keeps me from becoming tired of the same things, and I have something fresh with each season (without spending any money!). I’ll only wear rust, pumpkin and harvest gold in the fall, so those things come out in September and are put away after Thanksgiving.

Closet 2

I really like these cropped cardigans and shrugs, and I think they look reasonably good on me. I have a feeling, though, that these will be out of style after another season. But for now, I have a quite a few. Right now they are all in good condition and still wearable to work.

Closet 8

I have found that this surplice style looks best on me, so I have quite a few of that style. Thank goodness for camisoles though!

Closet 5

I like animal prints, and they have been good for a few years now, but this one is that cropped style and may be on its last season. I wear it with a black sleeveless shell.

Closet 7

So, how did I figure all this out? By trying on lots of clothes in stores, and doing a wardrobe analysis. Essentially, pull out your favorite things and figure out why those are the things you like the best.  Is it the style or color, or the fabric?  Or is the fit just fabulous? Now pull out the things you never wear.  Why don’t you wear these?  Again look at fit, style, color, fabric. Is there a theme emerging?  Are you drawn to particular colors or styles more than others?  I found the styles that I liked and looked good on me using the rules from What Not To Wear for my figure type.  I also realized that on my next shopping trip, my mantra will be ‘step away from the black’!!

Closet 9

Shorter jacket styles on my shorter frame are more in proportion to my height (or lack of it!). I should wear straight leg jeans and trousers, create a waist with surplice styles or thin belts, and use completer pieces for a whole outfit like cardigans, jackets or shrugs.

While I was in a clean-out mood, I decided to sell some of my huge collection of vintage jewelry.  I came up with a new idea of how to wear the multitude of antique pins in my box while I was doing this.  This idea came to me just a day or so ago, so I had to get a pic before I went to work yesterday.  I used two strands of black and white beads, and I put a vintage butterfly pin on both to link them together on the left side. Pretty neat, huh?  I got a ton of complements on that look, and it didn’t cost a penny.  I just re-imagined what was already in my jewelry drawer.

Necklace pin 1

I took a pic in the mirror, then one straight on like a selfie to get a better look.  The butterfly is a vintage Trifari black enamel from the 1970s.  I really like this, and will look around for other pins and necklaces that might work.  Great, new jewelry out of my old box!!

Necklace pin 2

Back to you and your closet, if you really want to do a hard analysis of your current wardrobe, try on every piece.  Place them into three piles – Keep, Alter, Donate.  The keeper pile just needs to be put back into the closet.  Can you alter the marginal things?  Would an inch shorter on the sleeve or the hem make a difference?  If you can do an easy alteration, take it to the sewing room.  If you love it and are willing to spend some money to have it professionally altered, take it to a tailor.  I did this recently with this skirt.  The zipper was broken and it needed an inch taken up in the waist.  I just love this suede skirt with its border print, and I was willing to pay to have it wearable again.


If you cannot easily alter it, and it doesn’t fit you perfectly, donate it.  There, now you have more room for things you really like and fit well.

Closet 6

And speaking of fit, when I stopped wearing things that were essentially too big for me, people started asking if I had lost weight. Amazing what a good fit can do for your self esteem. This is true even if you only wear T-shirts and jeans. I was wearing the wrong jeans for a long time – high waist with a tapered leg and a tucked in shirt. Awful, but I didn’t realize it until I tried the right ones – lower-rise straight-leg and left the shirt un-tucked. My derriere lost 10 pounds with that alone. So when I really did lose weight, my new smaller clothes were purchased with better fit and more flattering style. I also realized I needed more prints in my wardrobe, so the next shopping trip had more purpose.

Closet 3

A book I highly recommend is Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible. It was a Christmas gift to me this past year. Not only is it a fascinating read on the history of certain types of clothes, there are fitting tips for each one in each chapter. The info on T-shirts and jeans alone is worth the price of the book! But reading about the evolution of the dress from the hoop skirt to the Grecian goddess draped dress was very entertaining. Even if you aren’t a fashionista, you might enjoy the history. There are also chapters on all kinds of accessories, vests, shirts, shoes, and lots more.

Tim Gunn

So, what’s in YOUR closet? Are you happy with your clothes, or do you have a closet full of nothing-to-wear?  How do you create something new from something old?

Happy Sewing!





Rayon Challis Three Season Skirt – Using your blind hem stitch

A few days ago I pulled out this pretty yellow rayon challis from the stash and made it up into a simple elastic waist skirt.  A couple of techniques were used on this skirt, which made it go together in about one hour.  Yep, that fast!


First I changed the serger thread color from the scarf I made last time over to an ecru for finishing off the raw edges of the skirt.  I do this by tying the new color onto the old and pulling the threads through with the tension bar up.  Then I test a small scrap to make sure they are all properly threaded.


I measured my hips, and doubled that measurement to get the total width.  Then I measured how long I wanted it to be and added three inches for the elastic casing and a one-inch hem.  I serged the sides together, simultaneously finishing the edge and creating the seam.


I then serged the top edge and the bottom edge for a professional looking finish.


Next I turned over two inches at the top for the elastic casing and left about three inches open to insert the elastic with a bodkin.


I stretched it out and let it snap back to evenly distribute the fabric, then I stitched down the elastic on both sides with a vertical stitching line through the elastic to hold it and keep it from turning.  See my Lace Edged Skirt Refashion for a full discussion of how to do that.

Now for the hem.  Put your blind hem foot on your machine.  Fold the fabric up one inch and press in your hemline.


Now, using the ironed crease, fold the hem backwards on the outside, right sides together until you have just the edge showing on the wrong side.  Put this under your blind hem foot, with the fold on the left side of the bar, and the right side showing just that bare minimum of fabric to stitch on.


The blind hem will take three stitches in the right side bit, then jump over the bar for one stitch on the left.  The bar will allow enough thread overage so it will pull back flat.


When you first pull it flat it will look a little puckered, like on the left side above.  Just pull it flat, like below.


Then iron it on the right side and it comes out wonderful.


I wore it last week to work with a purple shell and a white shrug and my favorite nude beige pumps.

Challis Skirt purple shell nude heels

I’ll be able to wear it well into fall with a light shell and my pumpkin color shrug, or even long sleeved sweater and my bows on the toes suede flats.

Challis Skirt Pumpkin ecru suese flats

Or, I can pull the green out of the print for fall with this long shirt worn over the skirt with a wide brown belt. I could still wear either of the other shoe choices, or a rust flat would be cute too.

Challis skirt green shirt

Isn’t it fun to sew when the outcome has so many choices!! What are you working on?

Sincerely, Paula