A “Green” Crafty Gift Idea

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 16, 2008 in Crafts, Knitting, Other items, Today's Photo, Yardsale Finds

I finally finished the felted purse that I’ve been knitting since SEPTEMBER!  I had this great (but totally unrealistic) idea that I would whip up all these knitted/felted purses and give them as Christmas presents this year.  Well…four months later and only one purse is finished – not exactly productive.  Maybe I don’t have the patience for completing knitted projects – I seem to lose interest – especially when knitting something like the handle that takes FOREVER and is the same stitch and the same color yarn over and over again…

Anyway, here are the side panels after they were knitted (I added some brown fuzzy yarn at the top that will not felt for a little texture):


And here is the purse assembled, but before felting:


And after felting (I added a vintage brown button to help keep the top of the purse closed):


The thing is, I LOVE the felting process…but have little patience for the knitting part…

Then I came across a great idea in the January issue of Country Living magazine called “Sweater Recycling 101”. 

The article described how to take old, wool sweaters and felt them (no knitting required!!!!), then cut and sew them into cute little tote bags – perfect! 

I visited my local Goodwill store yesterday and picked up a variety of inexpensive 100% wool sweaters, all of which were $4.99 or less (yardsales would be great for this too, but there aren’t too many yardsales in Pitman in December – way too cold).

I took the sweaters home and ran them through my washer on hot with the greatest agitation level, then threw them in the dryer until dry.  Just a hint – don’t wash more than one sweater together or with other clothing.  The sweaters will lose an enormous amount of fibers that stick to everything when wet.  And make sure they are 100% wool – I think chunky wool works better for this project. 

After washing in hot and drying in the dryer, the sweater will be felted – the fibers shrink and blend together forming a nice, thick piece of fabric that is easily cut and won’t unravel.  The thing is – felting is a very unpredictable process.  There’s no telling how a sweater will shrink.  Some of those I tried shrank evenly all around – others ended up with a very short body and very long arms.  And in general, the larger the sweater size, the larger the bag.

Cutting the sweater is a matter of experimentation depending on the size of the sweater and the amount of shrinkage.  Country Living gives a pattern that is almost like cutting the sweater into a tank-top – the shoulder straps of the ‘tank-top’ become the handles.  This makes for a very simple project – just stitch a seam across the bottom and you have a sweet little tote:


The bag above started out as a purple ladies V-neck sweater from the Gap with a fair-isle pattern across the chest.

My favorite bag was a men’s extra-large striped sweater in blues and greens with a nice cable pattern and a rolled-neck.  This sweater had some holes in it, so I wasn’t able to use the ‘tank-top’ pattern.  Instead, I had to cut out the front and back panels of the sweater and stitch down the sides.  I then used the arms as the handles, cutting them apart and folding them over in half.  I stitched them in place and this is the result:


I wish I would have taken a photo of the sweater before I felted it – I was just so curious as to how this would work, I forgot to stop and take a picture of the ‘before’!   This is a very large, sturdy bag – but my little basic sewing machine did have some trouble stitching through the thick, felted wool – I just kept pushing and pulling it until it made it though.

I also experimented with adding some pockets.  Here is a women’s wool sweater from Eddie Bauer after I felted it:


Not sure if you can tell, but the body shrunk up really short but very wide.  I cut it into the ‘tank top’ pattern and stitched up the sides as well as the bottom:


The back of the bag was just plain red so I decided to cut the bottoms of the sleeves and add them to the back side as little pockets:


I’m telling you…this became addictive after a while!  You never know how the bag is going to turn out…

Here’s another one – this is an Old Navy sweater before felting:


I used the ‘tank-top’ pattern, but cut it into more a square, then added the unfolded end of one of the sleeves as a long pocket on the front:


I love this project because…1) there’s instant gratification – you throw the sweater into the washer and in no time, you have a brand new piece of felt that’s a surprise every time,  2) one entire project (once the sweater is felted) takes less than 30 minutes, 3) it’s inexpensive, 4) it’s a practical but still a really cute gift and 5) it’s good for the environment to re-use something in a whole new way – it can be fun being green!

And now even though I didn’t actually knit them as I intended, I have all these cute felted purses to give as gifts – plus I may make a few more after a visit to another local thrift store this weekend…


Yard Sale Day

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 21, 2008 in Yardsale Finds

Yesterday we held the annual Torrence Family Yard Sale.  We try to coordinate our yard sale with Pitman’s Fall Craft Show every year to maximize the number of shoppers (we’re not the only ones in town to use this philosophy – there were a LOT of yard sales yesterday).

What a TON of work!

I’m trying to decide if it was worth all that effort to lug all our old, unwanted stuff out of the attic/basement/back of the closets in order to haul it outside into our driveway at the crack of dawn (yard-salers arrive as early as 6am in Pitman) and sit there until noon while complete strangers (and some nosy neighbors) come to your home and judge you by the quality of the items you are offering for sale (I felt like saying, if it was GOOD stuff, I’d be keeping it for myself!).

At the end of the day, we made a profit equivalent to what I could earn working at my job for a little less than 3 hours.  And my job does not require hauling heavy boxes and large pieces of furniture up and down narrow stairways and out onto my lawn for strangers to peruse.

The good news is that after selling some stuff, donating some stuff to charity, and leaving some other stuff out at the curb (after shlepping everything outside, I was not about to carry anything back inside!) our basement and shed are now practically empty.

The attic…now that’s another story.  But another yard sale?  Not anytime soon…


Evolution of a Curly Head

Posted by Kathy Torrence on May 31, 2008 in Family Stuff, Yardsale Finds

While I was out yardsale-ing yesterday, I came across this little gem from the past:

P5300015 P5300014

That would a “Barbie Friend Ship” fold-out airplane from about 1972. I had one of these when I was a girl and when I saw this one for $2, I decided to pick it up for Emily. It cleaned up nicely and brought back some childhood memories…

Then yesterday afternoon, I got my hair cut. I was talking with my stylist and mentioned that someone had told me at work the other day that I had “model” hair and that I just couldn’t believe that someone would actually like my hair.

The stylist and others in the salon went on to tell me that same old standard line that straight-haired people always say to people with curly hair: “Lots of people pay lots of money to have hair that looks like yours.” This usually comes along with the line, “You’re so lucky to have naturally curly hair!”.


This got me thinking – straight-haired people have NO idea what it’s like to grow up with kinky, curly hair in a world where straight hair is considered the standard for beauty. Celebrities with curly hair are still forced to straighten their hair to fit in with Hollywood (Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, etc).

I’ve seen studies done that say that people with curly hair are not taken as seriously in the business world as those with straight hair. They’re seen as “fun and flighty” – not exactly executive material.

And I also saw recently on the Bravo show, “Millionaire Matchmaker” that the matchmaker told her curly haired women clients to straighten their hair because men don’t like curly hair. She said that men want hair “they can run their fingers through”…doesn’t sound so lucky now, does it?

And just to prove my point, I decided to take my new scanner and put together a little jaunt down memory lane inspired by my hair cut (which turned out great, by the way) and that 1972 Barbie toy. I’m going to show what it was like to grow up with naturally curly hair in the 1970s and 80s (when the only real hair product available was Dippity Doo). Keep reading if you dare, but let me warn you, some of these photos are very graphic (in a bad-hair kind of way)…

First, a sweet little baby photo…

Baby photo

Doesn’t look so bad, right? But the curly-hair monster was always lurking not far away…

Baby wild hair

Actually, as a young child, my hair was fairly under control (relatively speaking) – take a look at these kindergarten and first grade photos:


1st grade

Not too bad – my bangs were even blond and shiny!

By 2nd grade, my hair started to rebel just a tiny bit:

2nd grade

You can see the little wisps sticking out in the back…

Then came third grade. Again I warn you…some of these photos are pretty graphic…

3rd grade

What happened here (fashion aside – what’s with the yellow scarf and zip-up jumpsuit)?!? Lesson learned – NEVER brush out curly hair after it’s dry, or you’ll end up looking like you’re wearing a helmet. But please do take note of my cute little patriotic barrette for the 1976 bicentennial…

I think my mom tried to tone it down a little bit for 4th grade, but I feel that this style is slightly reminiscent of Princess Leah from Star Wars (maybe that’s the look she was going for):

4th grade

She tried to use curlers to tame the frizz, but the result was very odd…

Now for some strange reason, my mother decided to give me a perm when I turned 10. Maybe she was hoping to cancel out the natural curls with some manufactured ones? (By the way, my mother has perfectly straight hair.)

We moved to a new house in 5th grade, and so this was how I met all of the kids in my new school…looking like this:

5th grade

I’m still traumatized by this hair – just the smell of perm solution brings back bad memories. The good news is that somehow, I managed to make friends in spite of this horrible hair.

Oh…but it gets even worse, I’m afraid…take a look at 6th grade:

6th grade 2

Um…yeah. I don’t even know what to say. More curlers and some adolescent hormones resulted in this fine, fine photo. The year here would have been about 1980 or so.

The next year, I decided to try to at least let my hair grow a little longer – and I tried some sort of weird ponytail configuration. Here’s 7th grade:

8th grade

Again, let’s not even talk fashion here. Focus on the hair, please (and that’s not too hard to do).

I tried something new the next year – I let it grow out and always wore it pulled back in a ponytail:

7th grade

Notice my feeble attempt at ‘feathering’ my bangs – it’s as close as I could get to the Farrah Fawcett look!

When I started high school, I tried to go a new route – I cut my hair shorter and left it curly with LOTS and LOTS of gel:

6th grade

Yes, that’s right – you’re looking at a curly-haired mullet. I’m so proud! I even wore it to my boyfriend’s high school prom that way:

7th grade prom

Fast forward to high school graduation – I kept my hair short and curly all through high school – it was the best I could do with my lack of curly hair knowledge and the few hair products available in 1986:

High School

Wow. I warned you that the photos were graphic! And those are just my childhood photos – maybe if I have more time, I’ll share with you my adult hair-escapades.

Oh – and if any of you curly-heads (or non-curly heads) are brave enough to share YOUR bad childhood hair photos, please send them to me so I don’t feel so alone being traumatized by my past hair blunders…


It Was a Better Weekend!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Oct 15, 2007 in Family Stuff, Yardsale Finds

We went back to Lake-in-Wood campground for the last of our three ‘No-Tow’ weekends and it was a beautiful one! There was no dog vomit or people influenza involved this weekend, thank goodness!

We managed to take a hike around the lake:

Lake in Wood-2

Going for a hike

And celebrated “Christmas in October”:

Christmas decorations

Christmas in October

(Apparently, you can celebrate Christmas any time you’d like at campgrounds…)

I also managed to escape to Shupp’s Grove by myself for a few hours (FINALLY!) on Saturday morning and found this lovely vintage watch for just $5:

Vintage watch from Shupp's Grove

Fortunately, my friend Marie and her husband Steve own Skinner Watch Repair, so I’m hoping they can get it working again.

I also picked up this piece:

Star Naptha box

It’s a side to a vintage Star Naptha soap box – I thought this would be great hanging in my kitchen, bathroom or even laundry room. It was just $4.

So…after walking around the antique market for two hours and spending just $9 (I could have spent a LOT more, but I was on a strict budget!), I had a nice, relaxing morning.

I hope to get into my craft room soon – I still haven’t had a chance to put everything away from Stamp Club last Wednesday! It’s just been so busy around here with lots of things at church going on this week…



Shupp’s Grove Antique Market

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Oct 1, 2007 in Yardsale Finds

After our hike this weekend, we stopped at a FANTASTIC outdoor antique market, Shupp’s Grove.   Rows and rows of tons of vintage stuff at reasonable prices – it was like the greatest yardsale ever!  The items were not quite at yard sale prices, but not quite at antique store prices, either.  There were definitely lots of bargains to be had!

Unfortunately, I had three whiny kids and one impatient husband with me, so I couldn’t explore as much as I wanted to. I will be going back again next weekend – sans husband and kids!

I did manage to find a great booth with lots of ephemera for bargain prices…I picked up a bunch of old photos for 50 cents each:

Old Photos

And a couple of advertising cards for $1 – these just made me laugh out loud so I had to get them!

Advertising cards

I can’t wait to go back next weekend!


Cool Yardsale Stuff

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 17, 2007 in Yardsale Finds

I haven’t had as much time to post lately (busy with my new job and all), but I did find some time in the last few weeks to hit some yard sales with my crew.

I found this great old bridge table for $5 a few weeks ago…

Bridge table

It has some teal and brown in it and it looks great in my family room – you can never have enough tables or chairs!

Here’s some other assorted stuff I found last week:

Yardsale stuff

That’s an old printer’s typesetting drawer in the back (I thought the openings would be perfect to store little stamps or embellishments).  The long, white item in the front is a clip board from Pottery Barn Kids – it was brand new and still in the box.  I thought it would be cute to hold my kids’ artwork.  In the upper right is a little vintage framed children’s prayer and under that is an old box containing an Amish doll.  I’m not a doll collector, but I bargained with the lady to get this for free – I thought someone on eBay might find it valuable (we’ll see if I ever even get the time to list it on eBay…if not, Emily’s got a free doll!).

I also found these other vintage treasures – games and books:

Vintage games and books

An old Pollyanna and Parcheesi game, an old Harper’s magazine from the 1800’s, a vintage camping handbook (great words and photos) and an old geometry book.

I also picked up this vintage Santa collection for $10:

Vintage santas

There’s also a vintage angel thrown in there too.  Most of them are candles (probably from the 50s and 60s), but there’s also a stuffed Santa and a plastic one.  I thought this would make a cool display during the holidays.

Ooh – I also spent a whopping 75 cents on some old stationery sets:

Vintage stationery

That’s 25 cents for each set.  Not sure what I’m going to do with them yet, but for that price, how could I resist?

And, even though these didn’t come from a yard sale, I thought I’d share these great clearance bargains:

target clearance

The letters and wood shapes are from the Target scrapbooking aisle.  The words were each 98 cents and the letters and shapes were 74 cents each.  The little 6X6 notebooks were on clearance at Staples for 90 cents each – perfect for altering!

Love shopping the clearance aisles!

I like to think that it doesn’t take a lot of money to be creative – you just have to keep an eye out for those things that can take on a new life with your imagination. 


Recovering From My Yard Sale

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 2, 2007 in Crafts, Our Goldendoodle Puppies, Yardsale Finds

My ‘crafty’ yard sale was great – I made over $900!  Surprisingly, the biggest sellers (quantity-wise, not price-wise) were my card samples.  I started with 6 plastic boxes of cards – probably about 500 cards in all – and sold every single one of them!  Between the cards, retired stamp sets and the other items I sold, I finally have a little more space in my craft room again. 

But the yard sale was a TON of work and both days were EXTREMELY hot and VERY humid.  It took me a whole day just to recover from near heat exhaustion from hauling things out to the yard and back and sitting out in the sun all day.

Next I have to get ready for a workshop scheduled for this Wednesday.  And it’s sure going to be an interesting week with TWO goldendoodle puppies running around.  We’re watching Bella while Andrew is at the shore with his dad and step-mom.  And so far, the dogs are running around like crazy, playing with each other like two bulls in a china shop.  It’s so cute to watch, though – and I’m sure as the week goes on, they’ll get used to each other and calm down – at least a little bit, anyway.

Oh – and I found out this week that I’m going to be a make-and-take helper at the Stampin’ Up! Regional Seminar in Philadelphia in September!  I’m excited about that – you know how I love to be involved in things (being a control-freak and all).


Having a Crafty Yard Sale!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Aug 22, 2007 in Crafts, Yardsale Finds

After almost drowning in all the stamps and stuff in my craft room, I’ve decided to have a small yard sale this weekend. 

I’ll be selling about 100 retired Stampin’ Up! stamp sets, some retired paper and other accessories as well as stamps and inks from other companies.

I think I’ll also put out some craft show projects that I still have on hand and some vintage ephemera and other finds that I’ve collected but haven’t had a chance to use yet.

Plus, I’m also going to venture up into my attic (now THERE’S a scary thing to do!) and grab some of the things that are just in the front – bags of kid’s clothes, toys, and other household things that are piled up in there.  Hopefully, I’ll make it out alive!

We’ll need to have a bigger yard sale later this fall, but I thought I’d have a smaller one now to increase my cash flow this month.

And…it looks like I’ll be doing it alone.  Since Daisy is still recovering from being spayed on Monday, it doesn’t look like she’ll be able to go on our camping trip this weekend.  And we are also puppy-sitting Bella, Andrew’s other dog, while her family is at the shore next week.  I can’t imagine trying to keep Daisy calm while there’s a puppy in the camper!  So I’m going to stay home with Daisy while Bella goes on her first camping trip with the rest of the family.

Hmmm…a weekend alone with no children…sounds like a nice break, even WITH a yard sale!

The yard sale will be both Friday and Saturday mornings and will be listed in the Gloucester County Times and online as well – if you’d like more info, just send me an email…


Cool Yardsale Finds!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on May 20, 2007 in Yardsale Finds

While we were camping this weekend, I found a few unique items at a church yardsale just outside of our campground.  Both of these were purchased from the sweetest little old man – he said he was 85 years old and just loved to chat!

I got these really cool vintage thumbtacks:

They have numbers on them and were used as window markers to mark which window went into which opening.  I think they’d be great on a card with the number matching a specific birthday.

On the right is also a little container with two dice – probably from an old baseball board game.   Thought I could use these as an embellishment on some baseball project someday.

I also bought this item from him:

Doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s hinged on the left and inside are lots of pages of vintage ephemera:

These are color pages from the Philadelphia Inquirer from the 1950s – 60s.  There are a whole bunch of pages inside – I can’t wait to find a project for them!

Oh – and this was also in the book:

It’s an old Phillies poster – my husband thinks it’s from the late 1980s-early 1990s.  Maybe I can list it on eBay and some sort of collector would be interested in it…


Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on May 13, 2007 in Family Stuff, Our Goldendoodle Puppies, Yardsale Finds

We’re back from our first camping trip of the season! We went to Beachcomber’s Resort in Cape May, NJ this weekend and had a wonderful time.

This was Daisy’s first camping trip and she was great – just like an old pro! She slept in her crate inside the camper at night and adjusted very well to her new surroundings. She did not, however, like being tied up on the lead very much and tried her best to chew through it when no one was watching. Sorry, Daisy – that’s not happening! There’s a steel cable inside… :)

We went to Cape May Point (one of the few spots where dogs are allowed on the beach) and let the kids hunt for Cape May diamonds while Daisy dug in the sand to her heart’s content.

I was surprised that Daisy didn’t immediately jump in the water – she seems to like water so much (she even tries to jump inside the bathtub with Emily!). But she was VERY cautious and ran from the waves whenever they rolled in. Mike was determined to get her in the water, but she never went in past her little ankles.

That’s the famous sunken concrete ship in the background (for those not from this area).

What a gorgeous day! And Daisy was quite the little center of attention everywhere we went. Everyone stopped to pet her and wanted to know what kind of dog she was. I went into one store for a few minutes and came out to find Mike surrounded by a dozen admirers – of Daisy, not Mike, unfortunately for him. 😉

But I did tell my husband that if, God forbid, he ever found himself single again, he could sure use Daisy to meet women!

I also managed to fit in some stops to a few antique shops while we were in Cape May. I found it so hard to justify paying ‘antique prices’ for items that I knew I could probably find at a yard sale for less than $5.

But I did make one purchase – a unique vintage sewing cabinet.

I thought this would be so cool to organize my punches, embellishments and rolls of thread.  It has little clear jars and lots of little pockets too.   Best of all, it folds flat for storage:

Only $25 – not bad for something not only pretty, but useful too.

Hope you have a happy day!

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