23 June 2013

My Frugally Creative Challenge

I have had an idea for a series of blog entries tumbling around in my brain for quite some time. I have wanted to do a once a week post about creative expression on a shoe string, but there has been no time for such things, since my #1 priority this time of year is the garden. So, I have been promising myself that I could indulge in some creative projects, as soon as the bulk of the early summer garden work was done. As of this week, the garden is planted, the weeds have been subdued, (for the moment), and it has rained for a week solid so I won't have to spend my day moving the sprinklers around the yard for at least a day or two... so I am treating myself to some play time!

I am challenging myself to create frugal projects that are not only inexpensive, but that also contribute to living green byusing re-purposed and recycled materials. I enjoy cruising Goodwill and local thrift shops for garments that can be turned into craft projects, altered couture, hand bags and decorator items. I don't really care what size they are since I am not going to wear them as they are when I purchase them. Actually the bigger the better... The larger the size of the garment the more fabric I have to play with!

This week I had some errands in Charlotte, so I added a stop or two to my list and went shopping at a few Goodwill stores along the way. I wasn't shopping for anything in particular, I was just expecting that I would  find something that would speak to me. The only criteria I gave myself was that I had to choose something that I could start and finish this weekend. My husband was going to be out of town with his folks, and I was going to be alone all weekend, so it was a good time to indulge in project.

At the first Goodwill, I found several things to add to my summer wardrobe, (which I am in great need of having gone down 4 dress sizes since last summer!). But there was nothing that tweaked my fancy for a project. At the second store I did find some items that I could use; some for this weekend's project, and some for my fabric cache.

For my project I found a wrap around skirt made of heavy weight brocade. There were three different colors and patterns in the skirt, one of which was a lightly beaded paisley motif that was the border along the bottom of the skirt; it appealed to me.

 It called to me saying that it would make a great "Hippie Bag", but I wondered if the colors were a little to subdued for that. It was $3.79 for the skirt so put it in my cart and went looking for something to liven up the earth tones a little and provide some sparkle. I found a dress in a complimentary color, that was burgundy Georgette, painted, beaded and sequined with a gold patterned over lay lined with a solid burgundy Georgette. I try not to take things for projects that might better find use as a nice addition to someones wardrobe, the dress was  very formal and well made but there were signs of wear in places so I felt OK about cutting it up. Since the idea for this blog post series is creative expression on a shoestring, I didn't want to spend the 6.99 they were asking for the dress, but it was Tuesday and there is a 20% off on Tuesdays, which would make the dress about $5.60, and it was a size 14, so I would get more than one project out of the fabric, so I got it.

I took my treasures home and drafted a pattern from one of my favorite across the chest style bags, which I will call a "Hippie Bag" for simplicity. I cut the wrap around skirt so that I would be able to get at least two projects out of it, using the majority of the beaded paisley section for my present project. From the formal sequined and beaded dress, I cut enough of the Georgette beaded overlay to cover the top section of the bag and the strap, backing it with the heavier brocade for added body a some durability.

The bag took 4 hours to make from drafting to cleanup, it would have taken even less time if I had thought about removing the beading from the seam area before I started sewing. I broke or bent 2 machine needles and ended up having to do the top stitching by hand since it was difficult to work around the beading and still get a nice straight top stitch. The total cost of materials was less than $5, (if you don't count the machine needles I ruined.). So for around $5 I got 4 hours of entertainment, (1 hour more if you count my shopping trip), a nice handbag that I intend to give as a gift, and I got to exercise my creativity to boot!

 I will continue to blog about frugal ways to be creative, ( as well as my regular posts), and have several projects in mind, but there is an exciting bigger project that I will be posting about very soon... I am extremely excited about it. I am going to keep it a secret for a little longer, but I will give you a hint...

Can you guess what my project is???

Until next time I hope that you all have a lovely day filled with things that make your heart sing! Please feel free to tell me about your latest project or leave me a comment. I love to hear from you!

Blog Hops this post is linked to:

About Our Blackberries

It has been uncharacteristically cool and wet this year. Usually at this time of year we are drowning in humidity, but get no rain so that we have to water regularly to keep our gardens from succumbing to the heat. But this year we have had a lot of rain, and the gardens have been drinking it up with relish. Our blackberries are starting to ripen and they are so juicy and sweet! We picked almost 10 pounds of berries the other day and I need to get out there and pick again if it will stop raining long enough that I can!

We planted several varieties of blackberries that we paid a pretty penny for, but the only cultivar that has thrived in our microcosm is one that we dug up from an old an abandoned homestead years ago. We would go there every year to pick the sumptuous, juicy berries that covered an embankment next to the road. One day we saw a sign that advertised that the land was being turned into a subdivision. We saw a bleak future for our summer berry picking and hated the idea of this wonderful, vintage variety of blackberry falling prey to land development. So when the bramble patch started putting up next years canes we took several buckets and dug some of them up, took them home and began the many year long process of multiplying what we saved from the bulldozer. Normally I would hesitate to dig since we didn't have permission, but they were going to bull doze them anyway, so we were pretty sure no one would care. Now when you drive by our favorite picking spot there is a nicely landscaped berm to a subdivision of McMansions... and  the only berry canes that remain from that particular hearty, disease free heirloom variety are in our berry patch.  We will be eating our weight in berries, freezing and sharing for a few weeks and then it will be time for our blueberries to come in. As I eat my fill of blackberries and have plenty to spread around, I recall the sunny days long ago when our family would go out picking, I will think about the homesteaders who lived off the land where the berries grew, and I will smile with satisfaction knowing that we did our part to save an heirloom variety from being wiped out.
These berries are from a heirloom variety  that thrives in our local weather conditions and produces the largest sweetest berries I have ever eaten!

11 June 2013

A Trip To Wilmington, NC

Recently My husband and I made a trip to visit friends in Wilmington, NC. Friends we met while we were living in Costa Rica, were in Wilmington for the wedding of their granddaughter. Since Wilmington is only a 3 hour drive we jumped at the chance to get to see them while they were Stateside. We also really enjoyed getting to visit with the rest of the family, that we haven't seen since 2009, when they left Costa Rica with their 5 children and sailed to the Mediterranean.

Wilmington is my favorite North Carolina city. It has a beautiful historic section, lots of good restaurants, Flaming Amy's Burritos is a family favorite, and Indochine is another. Both offer an interesting variety of vegan friendly selections. The WWII battleship North Carolina, is moored across the river from downtown Wilmington. It has been turned into a museum and is open to the public. The New Hanover County Arboretum is a lovely place, it is not large, only 7 acres in total, but it well worth the time to visit. Our time this trip was limited. There was too much going on at home to make it a "beach trip", and spend some time enjoying the lovely light sand beaches that are just minutes away from downtown Wilmington. But we did go for a brisk walk at Wrightsville Beach, between rain storms, just so we could enjoy the ocean view for a few minutes while we walked. Once things settle down at home we will make a trip back, specifically to spend some time at the beach.

Inside the Bottle Chapel
On this particular trip we spent what free time we had walking the extensive grounds at Airlie Gardens. Airlie Gardens is  67 acres of gardens, with live Oaks, ponds, thousands of azaleas and camellias, as well as fountains, statuary, art and other features. On a green not far from the entrance to the gardens stands a 467 years old Live Oak. Just past the Airlie Oak stands the Bottle Chapel, constructed by local artists in honor of Minnie Evans, a long time employee of the gardens and resident artist. The chapel's sunny location brings the color of the bottles to life. What a wonderfully unique way to recycle bottles!

The Bottle Chapel

While we were strolling the grounds we spotted a pair of swans on the lake. Upon closer inspection we also saw that the swans were proud parents of a single fuzzy gray signet. I was totally enchanted and spent the remainder of our available time photographing the swan as they fed.

I was really surprised that the swans let me get so close. Swans are notoriously protective of their young.

 It was a great day and I can't wait to go back to Wilmington, but next time I will actually spend some time on the beach!

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