Daughter’s Favorite Afghan Needed Help

Katy L from New Jersey texted to ask if I did repairs on afghans. Her daughter’s much-loved granny square afghan, done in pale yellow, baby pink, mint green, and periwinkle blue, needed some TLC.

IMG_0610  square with issues

square out

My first challenge was to find matching worsted weight acrylics for the job. For some squares, I could harvest the yarn and re-crochet with it, which is the way to keep the color as consistent as possible. I do this when the yarn is in good enough shape, but not when it is old, brittle, fuzzy, etc.

Actually, I had *this* much that I removed as I pulled out areas that had been destroyed/come loose/needed redoing:

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I did have to shop for more yarn, though, and had trouble finding the same shades as were originally used. Ventured out to several stores (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and a few yarn shops) before I found what I deemed satisfactory.

So the crocheting began. And yes, I’m left-handed, so it’s backwards to what you’re probably used to seeing:

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Had to make up several squares–I forget how many–but I know I crocheted at least eight. At one point, I sat at my 94-year-old Aunt Dot’s house, with Mom and my husband, and worked away while discussing the family history. My aunt used to produce the most lovely hand stitching—beautiful crewel work pillows,  cloth dolls whose seams and clothes were lovingly stitches by hand. Oh, she could work a sewing machine, but like me, she preferred the more tactile approach, cloth against the palm of one hand, needle gripped between forefinger and thumb.  I must’ve inherited the gene from that side of the family. Recently, I saw on an ancestry.com census that a great great aunt was listed as “Seamstress” for her occupation.  Oh, and while we sat that day in my aunt’s all-Victorian-furnished sitting room, I asked her for the one thing I really, really wanted to inherit from her: the set of chair covers that she had embroidered. She got right up and went to get them, saying she was happy that I wanted them. I knew where she kept them. I watched her go slowly over to that chest in the corner, where she’d shown them to me a few years ago. Her back is hunched now, her Collins blue eyes blurry now from macular degeneration.

Would you like to see what I wanted to remember her by, one day?

Let me run take some photos!

And here are my treasures:

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Aren’t they great? They’re Erica Wilson’s designs on linen. I don’t have them on chairs yet. I don’t even own chairs to put them on. One day, I’ll buy some, though, just for these. Or I’ll frame them, I haven’t decided yet. I just know when I look at them, I’ll picture Aunt Dot sitting there, looking down at her needle going in and out of that linen, over and over. And I’ll remember her handing them to me, and telling me, as I thanked her, that she was happy I wanted them.

I really digressed! But to bring it back to my customer’s repair, let’s just say that the crewel I inserted in here illustrates just why I have customers in the first place: needlework means something to people. It means someone cared enough to create something and pass it on.

And so, I work to complete the repair on Katy’s afghan. Once I’ve completed new squares, I sew them in:

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This picture below shows *a few* squares out at that time. There were others.

afghan with damaged square out

Not a bad match! My stitching is newer, so it appears not as, soft? as the rest, but it’ll all even out over time.

And once we’re all seamed up again, as I often do, I tuck in some loose ends. This takes a while, but it’s well worth the time and the expenditure. When yarn or thread has been cut too short when it’s tied off, as is often the case, that knot can pull loose SO much more easily then when the original crocheter leaves long ends. So I pull the knots out, take it back out of stitches, add yarn or thread, and then re-knot and re-stitch or replace within a seam. I hope that makes sense! Here is what I’m talking about. I did a LOT of these. Like, 40, maybe? Many were pulled out, pulled back, added to, and recrocheted. You get your money’s worth with me. Seriously.

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And finally, finished!

completed repair

Apologies for the dark photo. This was off my iPhone.

Crocheted Bedspread Repair

Jon M phoned to ask if I could clean and repair a white cotton spread he had purchased at an estate sale. He said it looked just like one he’d seen here on my site—and amazingly it was the same crochet pattern as my customer, Kay’s. When he brought it over, I couldn’t see it very well in the den lighting, but once I got it into my sunny, well-lit crafting room, I saw that it had a lot of yellowing. This was probably due to having been stored in plastic for many years. Plastic is not a good thing to store fabrics in. It prevents air circulation and can actually trap dampness in there with the fabric. Here is some advice directly from the Smithsonian (online) about textile storage:

“Textiles should have no direct contact with wood, blue tissue, regular tissue, or other wrapping paper. Most paper tends to be acidic; acid is especially damaging to textiles. Instead, textiles can be wrapped in clean, white cotton cloth, such as an old sheet or pillowcase, or in muslin. Because textile fibers need to be in an environment where there is some air movement, fabrics should not be sealed in air-tight plastic bags or containers to prevent damage from moisture condensation. Also, because some plastics give off fumes as they decompose with age, they should not come in direct contact with antique textiles. After wrapping the textiles in cotton muslin or sheeting, they can be loosely encased in an unsealed plastic wrapping. The best place to store antique fabrics is on top in a drawer. Storing them at the bottom of a drawer under heavy items can cause sharp folds, which may be difficult to remove and which may cause splits in the cloth.”

Jon’s repair job involved tucking in all the loose ends of thread that for some reason the bedspread maker hadn’t sewn in, or maybe they’d come out in washing? Not sure, but there were a LOT of them left out. Also, the store-bought tassel trim was loose where it had been whip-stitched around the finished crocheted spread for its border. And finally, there were a few (very few) places where I caught some stitching that had come loose.

Here are some photos showing where the border has loosened from the bedspread:

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And here is the bedspread: I tucked in about 125 knotted thread ends, which took over 4 hours:

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My only thing that didn’t make me totally happy involved the washing of Jon’s spread. I took it to the textile cleaner I use, and she washed it white as snow. Only problem was, once she got it white, she saw that it wasn’t *all* white. In other words, someone had made some squares white and others with an ecru or off-white thread. It was nearly half and half, and randomly stitched in. You could not see the difference really well, and especially if it were in a not-super-sunny bedroom. However, I hate it that we (the cleaner and I) had no way of knowing before it was cleaned that it wasn’t all made from the same color of thread. Yellowing can make such differences imperceptible. But as they say, “everything comes out in the wash” and the thread difference was revealed.

I know why the person who crocheted the spread may have used different threads. I’ve been making my own crocheted bedspread off and on for 10 years. It’s painstakingly slow, this labor of love. And the thing is, when you go and buy individual spools of cotton at Michael’s or Hancock’s or wherever she may have purchased it back then, you get a bunch of spools that all look the same and say “no dye lot.” Well, that “no dye lot” means there can be variations in the color! I’ve had the same problem with my 155 spools of Aunt Lydia’s Fast Five, which isn’t even made anymore. I picked up spools every time I could, and as I’ve been making my 40+ squares for my knitted spread, I’ve done some that had a yellow tinge to the ecru and some that had a gray tinge.

It’s hard to get around this issue if you’re buying a textile you don’t know the history on, as in Jon’s case. Because my textile cleaner won’t clean a piece until after I’ve done the repairs. She doesn’t want the liability of splits turning into more splits, stitches coming apart more, etc,…which makes total sense.

Needlework’s Enemies:Wool Moths and Carpet Beetles

Lately I’ve been about ready to scream over certain pests in my craft room, and I’m not talking about my dogs, who enjoy roaming in and rifling through my trash can to pilfer whatever, or get into my poly fiberfill, plucking it from its bag like so much cotton candy. I’m talking about those tiniest of pests, wool-eating moths and carpet beetles:

(Below, l to r: Carpet Beetles & larvae, Wool Moths and larvae and eggs)

carpet beetle and larvae                            moth egg pupa adult

It doesn’t matter *how* many times I fix a hole, re-stitch, or tuck in a seam, if I have a moth or beetle problem, and I don’t get that fixed, it’s a problem. For one, it means more hours of work. But I don’t want to send anything out of my craft area that may be infested with something, either.

And how did these bugs get there in the first place? It’s hard to say, since I stockpile natural fibers to use in my repair work.

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I’m always adding both new and vintage yarns and threads. And the repairs themselves may come in with pests in them that we don’t know about. After all, they’re coming to me due to holes or tears, rips or loose threads, etc,… That could spell “moth trouble” and such.

But why would anything stick around here, when we’re on a routine pest control by a reputable bug service? Well, because they’re resistant to a lot of the commercial sprays that get bigger bugs. And they hide. And sprays are not the be-all, end-all answer.

The thing about wool moths and carpet beetles is, first of all you may not even know if you really have them because they’re so small. AND they only like to be out at night (little vampires, sucking on my wool in the dark!) So how do you know if you’re a victim? Check your sweaters or your wool needlework, or (in the case of the beetles) your oriental rugs or wool carpeting. See any holes or missing threads? Then you’ve probably got an issue. Some recommend putting out moth traps, which look like regular fly traps. Hang them in a “suspect” room and see what you catch. You may be amazed.

Do you own pets? Then you’re more likely to have wool moths or carpet beetles. They like to munch on organic substances like pet hair, too.

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Do you vacuum regularly? That helps keep the population down.

Another reason they’re hard to get rid of is, there are 3 stages of the pests: 1) egg, 2) pupae or larvae, 3) adult. You may not see them at various stages. I recently saw a carpet beetle. Couldn’t tell with the naked eye if it was actually a beetle, but it was tiny and it was moving, and I looked up “beetle that eats wool” since it was near a repair project, and yep, I *hadn’t been* crazy, something HAD been taking out more of the wools on the project even as I worked on repairing it. GRR!!

So much for learning about them. I *have* them. So now that I know that, how do I get rid of them. I began Googling furiously, hoping for a quick fix for a big problem. I’d already been worried about getting any type of pest in my craft room, since I regularly take in other people’s projects + own a lot of vintage yarns + am always bringing in more fibers, and especially tasty wools. Recently, I’d even purchased a big Ziploc bag full of wonderful, fragrant dried lavender blooms, which I’d made into little sachets and placed on and around anything with wool or silk in it. But the professional response to this homeopathic moth/beetle repeller was shot down by just about everyone. Same with cedar. Sigh. At best, most experts said, these easy-to-find, natural fixes won’t work on really hungry pests, they’ll only deter a few of their friends.

Best advice was to wash the items in hot water, then seal them in something with really good seals like a Rubbermaid tub. Next, vacuum the room regularly (to get rid of any eggs or pupae around) and then use the moth paper or a fly paper with wool or hair stuck to it for attracting beetles and see if you’d gotten everything. They said to repeat this process every so often, since eggs can hatch and the cycle start all over again.

Ugh!

This is not great news. I cannot wash most vintage and antique pieces because the dyes will run. I can’t risk that.

Finally, after much research, including reading many customer reviews on the usefulness of any of the specific control products out there, I sent the hubby to Home Depot for a simple Raid fogger product that kills household pests, leaves no residue, and specifically states on its label it kills black carpet beetles and moths.

Raid Concentrated Deep Reach Fogger, 4 ct

We followed label directions and fogged, then waited 4 hours. Then we aired out the room. We’ll repeat this two more times, or whatever I go back and review online, I forget the specs, but we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure nothing else comes back.

 

 

Addendum: got a small freezer and am doing the freezing process. Do it for 72 hours in polyethylene bags, remove, thaw, repeat a few times. This is supposed to really knock out the pests for good. And from now on, EVERY repair project that comes into my shop will be freezer-processed before I begin work on it.

 

Oops! Bedspread Returns for More Repairs

Well, I’m dreadfully embarrassed to say that one of my repair projects came back to me. My customer, Kay, was very understanding, though, and I do appreciate it. Kay’s crocheted bedspread had so much handwork in it that it is easy to see why areas would come loose and need work. After six or seven hours’ worth of putting things back together, however, I do believe that several other areas literally “came out in the wash.” My textile cleaner June does a great job, but though the spread was nice and white and looked great after its bath, it sure had many places that needed to be re-stitched. The spread is, however, so beautiful, and Kay says that her mother worked on it while pregnant with her. What a great piece to own! I know she sure is glad to have it all nice now. Here are more areas I worked on lately. The rest of this story is in an earlier post:

And here are a few more action shots of the bedspread repair. Kay marked spots with her safety pins, but I found a bunch more and marked them for her with orange thread that she can snip off once she receives the bedspread. Thanks for your patience and understanding, Kay!

Pineapple Crochet Project: a Tablecloth

Gayle K, a repeat customer, had a beautifully-worked round tablecloth in the familiar pineapple pattern. This pattern is really a lot of crochet chain, single, double and treble stitching. It’s just the sheer volume of work that makes it a long project. The pattern booklet Gayle sent with the project looked as if it came from the 1940’s. This is it in the photo to the left, I believe. I’ve already sent it back to Gayle. She also sent plenty of thread, and I used the ball that was attached:

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The pattern was pretty easy to follow. Took me a while to see where the original needle-worker had left off, and I definitely had to get to working on it before I realized how much time was involved in covering one round! The piece was probably about 70 inches already, but it wasn’t blocked. So just going the rounds I did on it pulled it out and then I did a lace finish on it. Here is how the tablecloth looked as received:

Very nice! And then the work began, and here are the first 2 (believe it or not) trips around:

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They don’t look like much but due to the pattern and large circumference took hours and hours! Each little circling of that hole you see at the hem is 24 double treble crochets all the way around (I think 22 of them) + the pineapple chains in between, x 2 rows!

So, for each double treble stitch (one row= 24×22 double trebles) here are the instructions:


  1. Yarn over hook three times, then insert hook into next stitch.
  2. Yarn over hook and draw yarn through stitch (there are five loops on the hook).
  3. Loop yarn over hook and draw through two loops (there are now four loops remaining on the hook).
  4. Yarn over hook and draw through two loops (there are now three loops remaining on the hook).
  5. Yarn over hook and draw through two loops (there are now two loops remaining on the hook).
  6. Again, loop yarn over hook and draw through the last two loops on the hook (there is now one loop remaining.)
  7. This completes one double treble crochet.

Double treble is a fun stitch that adds the needed fan appearance on top of each pineapple. But since adding whole pineapples at that point would’ve involved *far* too much time/hourly expense, Gayle and I opted for a nice finish that was a little lace border. Here is more of it, but then a final finishing row pulled the pineapple tips down a little more, which you see below in the last photos:

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Once the hand work is done, it’s time to clean the piece. I enzyme-washed the cloth and then block stretched it to shape it. It dried overnight. I actually blocked it twice because after the first time, I was not happy with the level of lightening on some of the dark brown “rust” stains so I spot-treated them to get them lighter and lighter, carefully using various stain removing agents. If you attempt this at home, I would suggest you do your research first, as there are plenty of times I won’t clean an item and instead will refer people to a textile cleaner I know. Too much room for error, in my opinion.Below are the dark spotted areas. Overall, because the cloth was stored in plastic, there was a lot of yellowing that would come out in the wash:

And now for the finish! Here are the results! Nice and white-clean, and with a little border that looks feminine. It fits on a round 4-seater table or I’ve shown it on a little parlor table.

One Mother, Two Beautiful Bedspreads

After I had repaired Bob of CO’s crocheted spread (see previous post) I was very happy when his sister Kay from CA contacted me. She, too, had a beautiful bedspread their mom had made for her about 75 years ago. Hers was in need of repairs as well.

With Kay’s spread, there were quite a few split threads in the cotton, simply from age and use. That doesn’t bother me a bit, since why *have* a bedspread if you don’t use it? There is SO much work involved in crocheting or knitting a bedspread/counterpane. So many hours. When people go to the trouble to make them, they imagine many, many years of gracing someone’s bed. Which reminds me, I once made some felted slippers for a dear friend, and when she opened the package, she said, “You *made* these for me? I’m putting them right up in my closet.” I said, “Um. You’re supposed to wear them.” And she said, “Oh, no way. You made them for me!” I appreciated the thought, but really, when people make you functional items, they intend for them to be used.  Smile

And so the repairs began, on various double crochets, single crochets and chain stitches. (the popcorn stitch (baubles) was all intact):

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Some are re-weaves and some are crocheted chains where a chain link is missing.

There were many hours involved in this project, as I had to very carefully check each motif area and see if there were any loose threads at all. And there were many. If I had to estimate, I would say there were at least fifty tiny spots that needed some sort of repair. Some of the splits were more evident than others that just needed to be tacked or reinforced. All of the fringe was in good shape, and there were only a few areas at the border that needed to be whip-stitched back in place.

Once my repairs were completed, I put the spread on one of my beds so that Kay could see how it looks now! It’s a really lovely spread. There are small “rust” spots in several places that my textile cleaner partner, June, will remove for my customer. June is a very talented woman who has been cleaning every type of textile imaginable for over thirty years, and she did Bob’s bedspread and he was amazed at how well it came out!

Here’s the spread, repairs completed and before going to June, as displayed on one of my beds:

“Diaper Dazzler” Embroidery Completion for Client

Just completed a finishing job for repeat client Gayle K from CA. Gayle’s mom was a member/student of White Pines Michigan Embroiderer’s Guild, and she chose some really complicated patterns to attempt! I’m impressed. The needle artist and instructor for this project was Ann Strite-Kurz: who was certified by the National Academy of Needle Arts, Levels 1 and 11. Not sure what that means, but having completed two of her pieces, I can tell you that she knows how to stitch and design like few do! Here is a bio I found online:

Ann Strite-Kurz
Biography

Ann Strite-Kurz
Ann Strite-Kurz has been an active teacher and designer for seventeen years. She is certified in canvas embroidery by the National Academy of Needlearts (NAN) and teaches regularly at seminars sponsored by the Embroiderers’ Guild of America and the American Needlepoint Guild. She is available for workshops and programs for local chapters of these groups and taught three group correspondence courses for EGA for over a decade. She also holds a Master Craftsman certificate in canvas from the Connecticut River Valley Chapter of EGA. In 1992 she published her first book, The Heart of Blackwork. Her second book, Potpourri of Pattern, was published in June, 1995. Both of these books explore innovative styles of open patterning which have become the hallmark of Ann’s recent work. Ann continues to teach and to publish a line of commercial designs and pamphlets and is a regular vendor at both the TNNA and INRG tradeshows. She has recently published three additional books on pattern which include CDs to display the illustrations in full color.  These titles are Backgrounds: The Finishing Touch (2003), Creative Canvas Couching (2005) and Diaper Patterns (2007).  An expanded resumé on education background, teaching experience, and noteworthy needlework accomplishments follows.

Here is an example of her patterns and instructions:

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Here’s the first area I did finishing work in Area 3, combining alternating diamond and cross units:

(Diamond Eyelet Variation with Double Straight Cross Tiedown + Four-way Tied Oblong Cross Cluster with Double Straight Cross Variation Tiedown)

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Second area: Area 4 (turquoise) with Combo of Double Straight Cross and Diagonal Hungarian Units in a Cluster, followed by Double Straight Cross Units in Two Colors:

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The next step was Blackwork (not always done in black thread on white, but always a colored thread in white background) which I’ve never done before, but enjoyed very much. That’s the red part above that looks lacy. It was used on cuffs and collars back in the 1600’s in Europe. Fancied things up a bit! Spain and England were fond of it.

Here are a few historical examples :

      

And here is how my blackwork took shape:

Here is the finished piece. Wish you could see it close-up. The colors are richer, like in the photos above.

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Punch Needle Art Piece Now Stabilized & Acid-Free

My client, Christina from MA, sent these photos of a piece she had recently purchased that needed help:

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It’s a beautiful piece, very well done by the needleworker, and I don’t think it was from a kit at all. The way the stitcher used a lot of different colors of silk thread for shading makes it special. The problem lies in the deterioration of the fabric she used to punch thousands of little loops through to create the picture. It’s dirty, has holes, and was attached by very rusty nails. The wood it was backed with is also acidic, and it needed to be off there as soon as possible.

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Pictured above are the nail tacks, and here is the wood the piece was tacked to. The plan was to make the whole thing acid-free and to stabilize it. The photos below shoe where, once the stitching was taken out of the frame, little pills came off and some of the piece was in danger of being lost.

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Now we get to work. First I took matching thread and sewed into the loose side of the picture (the side showing above.) A lot of sewing up into the layers actually secured the pills in place and kept more from coming off. Once I was sure that side was firm enough to add some border fabric, I took washed, unbleached cotton muslin and machine-sewed it to all four sides.

Below, you can see the new border fabric. Then the gray is the original fabric, which was trimmed a bit. You can see my seams on both fabrics. My finger is holding back a new cotton backing that was hand-stitched (at sides) to the piece (actually to the border near its seam, because the gray original fabric is still too unstable to hold new stitching.

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Next, a piece of foam core board (acid-free) is laid against the new backing, and the new border is laced fast to the back with cotton string. The edges are slip-stitched down:

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Here is the final result. Most was saved and now it’s in good shape for its future and ready to be framed!

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There are still a few places that aren’t 100% stable but once in a frame, it should be fine. Two reasons why these spots: 1) I wanted to save as much of the picture as possible, and 2) the backing on those spots was just gone and therefore the stitches had nothing to adhere to. I am going to tack the one on the right down more, for the framing. The other is fine for framing.

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Customer Review

Dear Melissa,

Guess what I received today?! The needlework is beautiful! I am so appreciative of your abilities. I was reluctant to try this myself because I was afraid that it wouldn’t look professional. It was interesting to read that you practiced the stitches before working on the piece. My husband is good at framing things so I’ll get him right on it. My New Year’s resolution was to finish things that I had started but am glad I extended it to include those projects of my mother’s which are yet to be completed. Thanks again!

Gayle K.

 

Needlework Repair—5 Reasons Why People Do It

People who end up emailing or phoning me generally know this: there is one main reason for getting a piece of needlework repaired: because you want to. That’s the answer in its simplest form. But for people like me, who tend to overthink just about everything, let’s break it down to five reasons from which we can choose (and of course some may overlap):

1) BECAUSE IT HAS SENTIMENTAL VALUE

This is probably the main reason why someone hires me. It’s their mother’s unfinished crewel embroidery, for example. It’s something she worked on with her own hands, that she put love and attention into. It may or may not be worth a lot to the rest of the world, but to this mother’s daughter, or this aunt’s nephew, it means “Mom” or “Aunt Trudy” made it. So it’s cherished. How do you put a monetary value on that? You don’t. It’s priceless. Therefore, it’s worth getting it repaired, framed, made into a pillow, or whatever needs to be done so the owner may enjoy it daily.

2) BECAUSE IT HAS ARTISTIC VALUE OR VALUE AS AN ANTIQUITY

There are people out there who collect things of beauty and they just have a great eye for what is fine, rare, what took a lot of work. I admire those people. I’m one of them, to a certain extent. I love trolling crafts fairs and antiques malls and seeing the things people have created, working for hours to turn a leg on an old chair, to cane a seat. Quilting is amazing, and it takes so long to cut, to piece, to sandwich fabrics and to apply all that hand-stitching that layers it and adds such interest. Some people know very little about how to create the piece, but they certainly appreciate it. And they know when something is worthy of restoration. They know restoration, preservation, completion, will add to the value of their “find.”

3) BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE CARES ABOUT IT OR WILL CARE WHEN THEY RECEIVE IT

Some items I have worked on have been gifts that the creator was working on and hasn’t finished, but would like to gift to someone else. It’s important because the person they want to give it to is important to them.

Other items are something a client brings to me to repair because someone else they care about wants or needs it fixed. Ex: a mother bringing her child’s blanket in for repair

4) BECAUSE IT HAS MONETARY (FOR RESALE) VALUE

I haven’t really worked on anything in this area. I’d had a few inquiries that may or may not have been from dealers who had a nice textile that needed repairing. They didn’t use me to do the work, but the pieces (or photos they sent of them) were great. I imagined that they might be antiques dealers, since they had clearly found something amazing, and if repaired, they could get a good price for it. But they might simply be collectors (see #2 above) who found something wonderful and wanted to fix it and keep it themselves.

5) PUPPY FOLLOWED ME HOME SYNDROME AKA BROKEN BUT CHEAP AND FIXABLE

This is MY personal favorite, since I do it SOOOO often! I have this thing about buying things cheap and fixing them…or at least, dragging them home and letting them sit around while I daydream about fixing them, or hold them for years in my basement with the thought of fixing them, before I end up sending them back out to a thrift store. And what’s wrong with that, I ask?? LOL It does tend to add to the clutter!

Seriously, there is something really heartening in finding a little wood table with faded needlepoint and 1 out of 4  corner brackets missing, with a badly scratched glass top, and being able to 1) stitch it a new needlepoint top, 2) find a guy named Brian who works at an ACE Hardware in the mountains who’ll make my brass corner brackets (all 4 for $15!!), 3) getting a new glass top made, and putting it all back together into a cute little side accent piece—when it was purchased for all of $10 at a rummage sale! It’s all a treasure hunt, a “puzzle pieces fitting together” high that keeps me dragging home items that need TLC.

So hey, send me YOUR items. I promise to always get to them first, and *then* work on my never-ending supply of “fix me’s.”