Sunday, 31 May 2009

Car Boot Heaven & Hell

This morning my husband and I went to a local car boot sale in search of bargains. I am always hoping to find vintage handbags, buttons, fabric, jewellery etc. To be honest, I don't often buy anything but it is quite nice wandering around looking at everything on offer.

Today, half way around the sale, I struck vintage bag gold. Trust me it is a rare occasion! I spotted an Art Deco beaded purse being sold by a professional trader who was packing up to leave. He was in no mood to haggle with me, trust me, I tried. I couldn't resist such a gem of a bag so bought it. I paid a fair price for the bag, it certainly wasn't a bargain. The dealer knew what it was worth. I was still pleased with my find anyway, so I was happy.

Happy until we got back to the car anyway. Having stowed all of our purchases in the boot of my husband's car, I got into the passenger seat. My husband got into the driver's seat and said "Where are the keys?!" I looked blank, he looked concerned and then announced, "I've locked them in the boot!"

Now it is worth just pointing out here that the boot of his car can only be opened with a key. There is no button to push, or lever to pull inside the car. Even the manual helpfully informed us that you should be careful not to shut the boot with the keys inside. Great!

There was only one solution, I phoned for a taxi to come and pick me up, take me all the way home so that I could get the spare key and drive back again in my car. So, £17 later on the taxi fare and over an hour later, we were both back home. I was still pleased with my one and only purchase, my husband's day was slightly more expensive. Next time, we'll take my car!

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Monday, 25 May 2009

Tea at the Palace

Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. There is quite a strict dress code involved with ladies requested to wear tea dresses and hats. As I am usually superglued to my jeans, I was thrown into a bit of a quandry. I didn't actually own a dress!

As the dress was the main requirement, that is the first item I bought. I purchased a pretty silk tea dress in shades of pink on a white background. It was perfect. Unfortunately, I hadn't actually considered accessorising a pink dress. Easier said than done, believe me. I spent a long time deliberating on colour and whether or not your shoes, hat and handbag need to match each other or not. In the end the lack of pink accessories for sale solved that dilemma!

By some complete miracle I managed to find a pair of dark pink suede shoes which matched the dark pink in my dress perfectly. That just left the hat and handbag. The hat came next as I managed to find a large white gauze hat which was ideal. With a white hat, I opted for white handbag as I decided trying to find the right shade of pink handbag was going to be impossible.

Having already spent a small fortune on the dress, shoes and hat, I really didn't feel like spending very much on a white handbag. To be honest, I didn't think I would use a white handbag again in a hurry either. I headed to the bridal section of a local department store and found the perfect bag there. Even better, it was in the sale and cost just £3.99!

On the day, the outfit looked perfect and I felt like a million dollars rubbing shoulders with Royalty at the Palace. Not sure what they would have thought of my bargain basement handbag, but it just goes to show you don't have to spend a fortune on designer labels. You just need a bit of luck when shopping.

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Monday, 18 May 2009

Doorstop Delight!

One of my favourite homewares to make, although I do enjoy making all of my items, is doorstops. I think I like making them because they are quite straightforward and don't require much planning.

I tend to make triangular ones, although I have made a couple of cube ones as a special order in the past. The cubes were definitely more tricky as there are more seams to line up with each other.

All of the doorstops I have sold in the past have been filled and sewn up but as they weigh up to a kilo, they would be too costly to post. I have now redesigned them with a short zip in the base so that I can post them empty and allow customers to fill them up themselves. The doorstops can be simply filled with rice, lentils, barley and the like and zipped up securely.

Having solved the postage problem, I am happily making doorstops to add to my website. Spotty ones are definitely one of my favourite designs.

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Friday, 15 May 2009

Auction Anticipation

If you are a lover of vintage bags and linens, a really good place to pick them up is at local auctions. There are a few that take place around my area every month, so there is often a good chance of finding a few gems.

In the past I have been quite lucky, managing to pick up large mixed lots of linens and textiles, as well as mixed boxes of handbags. One of my best auction buys, a few years ago, was a huge box of vintage handbags. There was so many there I didn't really know how many, so just made an estimate and left a bid on that basis. My winning bid was £80 which came to £94 with fees. When I got home and sorted the bags out, there was 54 in all, so quite a bargain. Obviously, age and condition varied enormously but there was some great bags amongst them.

Having already checked one of the auction catalogues online, I know there is a lot of vintage bags for sale, together with some boxes of linens. I am quite excited to go and view the lots tomorrow morning and will hopefully leave some bids. The other auction is an auction in a day, where the lots of dropped off in the morning and sold in the afternoon. You never know what will be there until you go and look. But that is half the fun of it.

Hopefully, I will be lucky. I shall let you know!

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Monday, 4 May 2009

Dyed & Applied

A week or so ago, I was dying some clothing chocolate brown and decided to throw in a couple of my unbleached cotton tote bags which I use for making my photo totes. I thought I could just applique a few fabric flowers on the bags for a quick and simple makeover.

The resulting bags came out a pleasing shade of brown but unfortunately all of the stitching remained cream. I assume the thread used was polyester and not cotton or else it would have taken the dye as well. I really couldn't put up with the cream stitching showing around the top of bag and along the handles, so I decided to unpick it all and redo it in brown thread. For some additional decoration, I used a decorative leaf embroidery stitch in a gold thread.

The flowers are made from suede, corderoy, wool and a faux suede, all taken from old clothing and remnants. The flower centres are vintage all buttons. The buttons were definitely the best bit, I was dreading sewing them on, particularly pushing the needle through leather. I suddenly remembered that my new machine could sew on buttons so I decided to try it out.

It was fantastic! So easy! There was a small amount of setting up beforehand but the actual sewing of the button took about 10 seconds. It would have taken me at least half an hour of fiddling to sew them on by hand.

Overall the bag was more involved than I had originally intended, mainly due to changing the cream stitching but I think it was worth it in the end and I am quite pleased with the finished result. Hopefully you will agree!

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Sunday, 3 May 2009

A Brief History of Metal Mesh Bags

Whilst I love fabrics and fabric handbags, I do also find metal mesh handbags alluring. The way they move and catch the light can be very appealing. Having stood the test of time over the decades, if not centuries, I can't be the only one who is drawn to them.

Chain mail and mesh have been used for centuries, just think about the knights of old in their chain mail armour for instance. The sheer durability of the materials being used made fine metal mesh an obvious choice for bags. Skilled craftsmen began crafting mesh handbags from gold and silver, with their popularity rising through the 1800's. Each bag was made by hand with each individual metal link meticulously crafted. Needless to say, these bags were very expensive and only affordable by the very wealthy. Today, solid silver mesh bags are still highly collectable.

One of the best known makers of mesh handbags is the American company Whiting & Davis. They began as jewellery makers but started to produce mesh bags in the 1890's. Once A C Pratt had designed and patented the first mechanised mesh making machine, Whiting & Davis became the only maker of machine made mesh bags. The mechanisation of the manufacturing process made the bags more affordable to the masses and their popularity exploded.

Designs became more elaborate with the onset of new technology and base metals were used to improve affordability. Enamelling also became popular on the metal, to provide distinct patterns. Throughout the 1920's and 1930's mesh bags were particularly popular with the Flappers and many of the bags still around today show Art Deco detailing in their shape and decoration.

Modern bags can still be found which utilise metal mesh. Personally, I don't think you can beat a vintage version that has so much history linked through it. I sometimes have mesh bags for sale on my website, so if you are interested, stop by occasionally and see if one is in stock!

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