Category Archives: Reuse

How We Roll

A few years ago, my friend Kara began posting about how she was shifting how she shopped. She was going to stop buying new and focus on vintage and thrift shops. Kara is a dish and has great fashion sense. She can pull off stuff that would look laughable on my near six foot frame. So, I was curious about her experiment and invited myself along on one of her Goodwill adventures.

It was shocking. There were so many nice, gently worn, and sometimes new-with-the-tag items on the racks for a tiny fraction of what I was used to paying. The experience opened my eyes. Of course, I wasn’t new to thrifting, but for whatever reason, I’d never spent time looking through clothing.

Fast forward two years, and now the shock comes when I walk into Talbots. Or Banana Republic. It is bananas (said in my best minion voice) what I’d been used to paying for a blouse, for example. Between Goodwill and ThredUp, I’ve completely changed my shopping habits to second-hand. I feel good about the environmental impact of this and certainly the change on my pocketbook.

That said, just like walking into a department store and walking out with a new outfit used to give me a rush, I’ve found myself making time for thrifting when I need a pick-me-up. This behavior has become a problem. Our closet was so full and Jason made a gentle comment about the number of shoes.

Coincidentally, my dear friend Meg is newly living in Denmark and just got her first European job. She did not bring a professional wardrobe with her and she reached out. Could I go to thrifting with her in mind?


I spent about $100 at Goodwill and a couple hours sorting through things in my closet that are not well used, but in good shape. Meg and I are the same size, which works out well. I’m excited to be taking this giant suitcase to her in a couple weeks. Needless to say, Denmark and Arizona couldn’t have more different weather. Denmark is cold and rainy and they live on the coast. We are dry, hot, and sweaty for 8 months of the year. But, with tights, gloves, and a good jacket, I think you can make just about anything work.

I won’t go into all the details, but if you need a nudge to change your shopping habits, consider this: for that $100, I was able to find three dresses, two skirts, two blazers, and a handful of other items. All are name brand and in great shape. No one item cost more than $14. Also, these items didn’t go into a landfill. No child labor, or giant ship to cross an ocean, was required for the Goodwill run. Plus, they have coupons! Spend $20, save 20%.

I’m on a shopping hiatus for the time being. I need to address and change the behavior to shop when I want to feel a rush of endorphins. It is a yucky habit and it does not align with who I want to be, the values I want to demonstrate. It also is grossly capitalist. Consume more! Feel better!

That said, a friend suggested I start thrifting for others as a side gig. I love to shop for others! I also would love to start a closet organizing business because my goodness, my nerdy hobbies run deep.

So, if you care to play along:

  1. What’s your best thrift find?
  2. Do you have a habit you need to change? How are you working to do so?
  3. Where is your favorite place to find a good deal? (If you are in the east valley, check out the Sunshine Acres boutique!)


Where Old and New Meet

My cousin Cale was given this quilt after my grandparents died. It wasn’t one my grandmother used; it was kept on display on a high plant shelf above the kitchen. Cale’s puppy didn’t show such deference and sooner than later the hand-stitched heirloom was in pieces.

Cale, abashed, asked me if I could do anything to fix it. “It’s just so soft.”

It was soft. The fabric had been used for a generation before being tucked on a shelf, and I didn’t blame him for wanting to use it, or for his puppy not knowing better. Accidents happen and Grandma Maxine would have been the first to smile at her grandson wanting the quilt to live on.

It took a bit of cutting away tiny stitches…

and a bit of creative patching…

I cut away three of the four corners and patched them with new fabric, and backed the quilt with flannel. This beauty will live on for yet another generation.

We miss you, Grandma Max.


And, done.

Once upon a time, I found this pillowtop at a thrift store. I don’t remember when, but I know it was within the last year. And I’m fairly certain it cost less than $5. The author signed the embroidered piece. I tucked it away with my fabric and found it a few weeks ago.

Sewing and repurposing

It deserved finishing.

Since my parents moved and I no longer have the world’s greatest crafter at my leisure, I relied on a coworker — who is also incredibly good at all things sewn, knitted, embroidered, etc. I showed her the pillow top and asked what she would do.

“Well, I’d finish it. And I have the perfect backing for you at home. Let me bring that in.”

Sewing and repurposing

Another trip to a local thrift store produced the perfect sized $2 pillow form.

Sewing and repurposing


And voila — the finished peony pillow. I kinda love it.



Trying not to cut my fingers off with the rotary thingy


We have a chain of thrift stores in Arizona called Epic Thrift. I am new to these, if they aren’t new to our community. (They either popped up overnight, or I just haven’t been paying attention.) Depending on the store, they have a pretty incredible collection of fabrics, which are really, really inexpensive. My favorite find so far is the blue rose pattern. It was five yards for $.99. I have made a couple sets of pillow cases and plan on putting together some curtains with the remainder.

This makes my thrifty, recycling self very happy.

The new craft I’d like to learn is applique. Specifically, I’d like to make a dresden pillow. And then a log cabin pillow. It’s fun to have these bright fabrics when considering how to put one of these together. I know the basics of quilting, but this is a new animal entirely. As such, I’m considering my first Craftsy course. Have you ever taken one of these? And buying this book, which I hear is great for learning applique and quilted pillows.

I love the idea of a neutral couch full of different pillows, with their bright colors. (And of course, one of my mama’s quilts on the back.)

I really miss college. For now, these crafty courses and challenges in patience will do. A big thanks to my buddy Nic for her help in guiding me to the right resources!



Needle Wrangler

Anyone else have a tangle of circular knitting needles that looks something like, oh, say, THIS?

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Good times. Or, a tangled nonsense of zero fun. Your choice.

I did a bit of research, asking fellow knitting nerds how they store their supplies. The results varied in methods, with “in a giant mess” being the loudest, most popular vote. I was already winning that race, and frankly it wasn’t working for me.

Looking around my office, I had an old three ring binder full of recipes. (Remember the quaint days of writing recipes and storing them? Awwww. Once again I say: thank God for you, Internet.)

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Mayhem managed. Nothing to see here. Carry on, friends.


Make It Work

I am slowly turning our third floor into a sewing room and office. The room started as our catch-all for boxes we didn’t know where to unpack, rolled rugs — purchased for our New Jersey home — with its gorgeous hardwood floors, and stacks of books that didn’t make it to the haphazard piles on bookshelves downstairs.

I wanted a space to iron, cut and sew fabric. I also wanted things to be organized in a way that allowed me to access them. If I have to move a dozen boxes to get to the one I need for that one additional element to any project, it simply won’t happen. After a few weeks, it is starting to come together. Far from perfect, but better than where we started.

First find: a chair and cushion at Goodwill — purchased for $5:

The making of an arts + crafts loft

The making of an arts + crafts loft

Second find: a small farm table to replace the one I loved in Golden. This one is smaller, but it will work for my sewing machine. (Or a laptop, if we want to work up here as the weather cools.) Carpets unrolled, chair pulled in and this little table works like a charm.

The making of an arts + crafts loft

But dang it, if that doesn’t still look messy. Baskets of sewing books and that printer were driving me crazy. Also, I don’t have anywhere to cut my fabric, which was sitting with the ironing board in a corner:

The making of an arts + crafts loft

And those little windows needed some attention. Curtains. Some funky curtains. Another cheapy Goodwill find, a good washing and ironing and voila:

Creating a sewing room

Perfect? No. Functional and better than staring at tiny venetian blinds? Yes.

A trip to Ikea with a gift card later — two more bookshelves were added upstairs and that clutter took a much better turn:

The making of an arts + crafts loft

Creating a sewing room

Creating a sewing room

As for cutting the fabric, for now, I’ll have to share the sewing table and make the best of it until I find another sturdy table that will work.

Creating a sewing room

A pretty and functional space.  A minimal investment in new things. A focus on using what we have.


With a bow



Recycling in New Jersey is a pain. I can only imagine the book of rules, no joke, was created as a deterrent. That said, I have yet to find a job and I’ve will happily jump through the necessary hoops to see that these items are sent to the right facility, instead of just carried away with our trash can. This involves tying like items together, marking the junk mail in one bag and the newspapers in another, etc. It doesn’t take long, but I can imagine is a huge hurdle for anyone with little time.

I’ve been laughing lately at the news out of NYC. The mayor controversially wants to enforce a “food scraps recycling program.” AKA: composting. Can you imagine how much compost could be created from NYC in one day? Also: for the international readers — can you believe that this isn’t something we Americans inherently know we are supposed to do?

I’ve seen, and previously owned and broken, the Rachel Ray trash bowl that sits on your counter for compost. Rather that spend the $20 to replace this, I spent $1 on a larger plastic bowl that sits beneath our kitchen sink. In our area, you are not allowed to have a garbage disposal. As such, all food waste that doesn’t contain animal products goes in the green bowl:

Prosecco + pasta

The perks of composting this way:

1. If you live in a humid environment, like New Jersey, this stuff will compost quickly outside.

2. You have to take out a lot less trash, using fewer trash bags.

3. If you are a gardener, this stuff will be gold, especially if you have patience. Add some worms from your local fishing store and watch out. You’ll have amazing humus. No, not pita humus. This kinda hummus. 

4. You’ll get more exercise, especially if you place your composting area wisely a good distance from your house.

5. You will likely think twice about buying sub-par, out of season fruits and vegetables from a big box store that your family won’t finish, leaving you to later compost. The process can’t help but bring you closer to nature — you’ll be begging for the snow to melt so you aren’t digging and dumping your full bowl. And if you are like me, it will give you a deep sense of environmental smugness that is entirely undeserved as a global over-consumer.

The cons:

1. If you have a dog and haven’t spent the time enclosing your compost area, chances are you will have a dog who finds a way to eat whatever he can out of this area. Yuck.

2. You may attract other animals into your compost area. Shoo!

3. More trash. More trash bags. More hauling the dumb trash can back and forth. Urg!

Morals to this story:

New Jersey — I see your recycling laws and I will meet them. Also, I am composting. So there!

The end,





Sometimes it works...

Sometimes it works...

Sometimes it works...

Sometimes it works...

It is lovely to be able to go into the garden to trim a bouquet for flowers around the house. Also, it gives me a smug sense of satisfaction to be able to use something I already had in a different way, and add color to our home for no expense. With any luck, I’ll get some lavender and bulbs planted so we have lots of flowers next spring too.


Shabby Chic Dresser

The dresser, in stages:

I. Dusty rose. Dirty.

Before + After: antique dresser

II. Stripped. New hardware. A lame attempt at bringing a “barn furniture” look to my bedroom.

Before + After: antique dresser

III. $20 of primer and paint later — a clean look.

Dresser, after

I am glad I was adventurous enough to paint a checkerboard on top. I think it gives this a little more character, without looking like a worn out barn.

Dresser, after

Dresser, after

I changed out the lamp and voila — a shabby chic dresser that matches my bed and keeps the colors in this crazy room to a minimum. (The walls are painted purple and orange; I’m renting this sweet home, and my painting commitment extends only to what I own.)

Dresser, after

I fought the urge to buy a new lamp and instead used something from another room. I love that big white beehive lamp — and I’ll use it more in my office. However, I know I do want to buy a new lamp for my living room because I’ve been swapping all the lamps around, and none of them seem to match the style of it, so, I’m currently on the hunt to find table lamps to brighten your living room! I haven’t had much success yet, but at least I’ve got my bedroom sorted.

Total investment in this project:

Dresser — free

Hardware — $20 at Hobby Lobby

Paint supplies — $26, including lining for the drawers

Time — 5 hours over 4 days