Magpie Packrat Trashpicker!


Although I eschew consumerism and try and make the greenest choices possible each day, I’d never call myself a minimalist. My house is full of a million books and objects, every room is painted a different color  (some rooms 3 colors!),  my wardrobe is small but filled with various  prints and hues. I’m a saver — not only meaning saving things in various cabinets, drawers, and boxes, waiting for the moment the item is needed — but a rescuer of things that people have discarded. I love the pretty and the shiny (not necessarily the “valuable” ), and carefully store my pretty shiny materials no matter what their origins. If I had to come up with a label for myself,  Magpie Packrat Trashpicker it would be!

My Magpie Packrat Trashpicker-ness was at full force recently when I upcycled a plain black short sleeved blouse.

I was walking to the train, and saw a box on someone’s stoop that said “Free! Take me!” I looked through it and saw a plain black blouse. Nothing spectacular, but I thought I could at least use it for work, and grabbed it, along with two Chocolatier magazines and a Cook’s Illustrated (!)

When I got home, I washed the blouse and tried it on – whoa – way too sheer and a little too tight to put a layer under! What could I do with it? It sat there for about a week as ideas swirled in my head.  When I had a free day I took it out along with my various stuffed and squirreled shinies and came up with this little cardigan blouse thing.

Slitting it up the middle was scary but fun.


The provenance of the materials are er, ah, um, interesting:

Top – as I noted above, free bin on the street.

Lace – move out day free bin this May at the University I work for.

Ribbon – extra from curtains I made — I used this thin ribbon as sewing thread in loosely woven sheer material to make curtains for my library room. Idea from the book Sewn by Hand by Susan Wasinger, which I highly recommend!


Thread – from a giant bag of spools of thread of every color — honestly at least 50 spools of thread — that I got at the thrift shop for $3. This bag of thread broke my heart when I saw it because I feel that it was a lifetime of half used thread from the home of someone who could not any longer sew. I’ve made lots of stitches in that person’s honor since getting the bag of thread.


Button – from a huge lot of mismatched vintage buttons I got on Etsy for $5. I’ve been using buttons for all of my projects from this lot for years now! They are like magic buttons — somehow the right button always appears for what I need.

The resulting mishmash of magpie packrat trashpickery is a perfect little layer for a sleeveless dress. In fact, the thing I like it best with is a heavy, wonderfully made vintage slip I got at a church sale around the corner from my house a few years ago. I really thought that at my advanced age I wouldn’t be wearing vintage slips as outerwear any longer, but I guess magpie packrat trashpickers follow different rules than everyone else!





  1. What a lovely top – well done on such creative upcycling! You wear what you like – why follow rules? 🙂

  2. What a wonderfully simple idea. Plus, I can see it now: a hint of the look favoured by Helena Bonham-Carter. Add some hand-knitted black lace socks, Mary Janes & a deep lipstick…!

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