Stumped for a unique gift that won’t bust the budget? Look for less-than-perfect items at a thrift store and upcycle them into a gift or a one-of-a-kind item for you to wear to holiday gatherings.
Here are four fixes Allison made to thrifted items. Let us know what secondhand items you’ve found and improved!
1. A necklace changes color — in a good way. While traveling last summer, I visited Second Impressions Upscale Thrift Store in Kalamazoo, MI, which is WELL worth a stop if you are anywhere near the city. It has attractive displays, fair prices and lots of unusual merchandise.
I found this very heavy and nicely made pearl and gold chain necklace with a ribbon tie for $9. (See it on the mannequin above.) Loved the necklace, but wanted something jazzier than beige. So I bought navy satin ribbon in the same width and, after struggling to redo the attachment in a way that looked professional — the attachment was more complicated than it looked — took it to a jewelry repair shop. For $15, they replaced the ribbon and turned it into a piece I wear often.
- The evening bag without a strap. I found this beaded Art Deco-esque purse at the Salvation Army on Pico near downtown Los Angeles. It was only $1 because the strap was missing. Bought it and kept driving downtown to Trim 2000 in the Fabric District, one of our favorite shops, where chain is sold by the yard (or half yard, in this case). I bought a length of pretty silver links for $5, figured out how long I wanted the strap to be, and with a pliers attached it to the bag. For $6 and less than a minute of effort, the bag had a new life.
2. Appliqués save a pair of shoes. I wasn’t ready to give up a pair of well-loved Cole Haan black suede ballet flats that I had found in near-new condition at a thrift store in Pasadena so long ago I can’t remember whether they were $5 or $7. Definitely less than $10. I wore them for years, and a small hole was starting to appear on one of the toes. Cole Haan doesn’t make them any longer, so I turned to M&J Trimming, a New York City-based resource for trims and appliqués that has a thriving online business. I thought the black stars might work, but my go-to shoe repair magician, Sean Keklikyan at Village Cobbler in south Los Angeles, said the other appliqués I found would work better. He stitched, and my comfy flats got to live another day (or year). Of course, appliqués can add personality to cloth shoes even if you aren’t covering holes.
4. Beautiful labels come out in the open. Found a genuine French beret in a bin of hats and scarves at Central Thrift for $1. Had it dry-cleaned, but the leather band was too brittle to make the beret usable. But the label! Beret labels are gorgeous, as I first learned shopping at French General, my favorite shop of any kind in Los Angeles. (Find it online at FrenchGeneral.com) Owner Kaari Meng is a fabric and jewelry designer, teacher of fiber arts, a Francophile who leads the most amazing tours of France (number one on my bucket list), antique and “dead stock” purchaser with an unparalleled eye for the quirky and beautiful, and the owner of a shop in near Silver Lake/Echo Park that is a mecca for anyone who loves antique fabrics, beads, stationery items and needle arts. For years, Kaari has stocked rolls of vintage French beret labels she discovered at a hat warehouse in France. You can buy them from her website here: https://www.frenchgeneral.com/collections/found-in-france.
I’ve bought labels from her store from time to time, always intending to sew them on a shirt. But when I found this beret, I finally did it, attaching it to a thrifted shirt. No sewing machine or special skills needed. I simply attached the label with a single thread using tiny stitches. See the result below.