Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shabby Chic and a happy trash bag lady

A few years ago every decorating magazine you picked up featured small cottages full of painted furniture - either time-worn or hand distressed for a lovely romantic look.  Fabrics were vintage cottons, linens and chenille in soft pastels and almost always featured pink roses.  Roses also dominated the rest of the decor on ceramic plates, vases and teacups, pillows and artwork. And vintage wicker - definitely a must have!  It was the Shabby Chic look and everyone wanted it.  Well, almost everyone - most husbands found it to be too effeminate and felt a little intimidated in their own bedrooms that looked like Victorian boudoirs.  Personally, I've always loved the soft, feminine, romantic and cozy look of it.  It's just so comfortable and inviting.  I think the main appeal is that you can mix and match to create a really unique look - not the typical Big Box store "every house looks alike" look. It's nostalgic and sweet and gives you a little glimpse of the past.
A typical Shabby Chic bedroom.

When the popularity of the "look" first started, I was already heavily entrenched in Ebay selling.   I would scour estate sales, yard sales and flea markets for anything that looked or smelled like roses, anything whitewashed with a touch of class, and especially dainty, Victorian teapots and china.  By a little wordsmithing in my description and a catchy phrase in my title, I could usually double or triple my investment. Even a little crazing, the fine lines that appear with naturally aged ceramics, was totally acceptable in the Shabby Chic style.

Some of these treasures needed a little work to get just the right "shabby" look.  Too much and it just looks old, too little and it looked feeble.  It took just the right combination of sanding and tea dying to get it to qualify as chic. Eventually, they started manufacturing upholstery and fabrics to fit the style.  There was too little of the old stuff to go around.  Shabby Chic is one of those styles that has withstood the test of time - going in and out briefly, but always coming back.

You can imagine what a poignantly sweet nostalgic moment I had when I attended a yard sale this weekend and stumbled upon yards of predominantly pink, green and off-white upholstery and pillow fabric!  Roses, roses and more roses!  That crisp $20 bill looked insignificant in my pocket as I pulled it out prepared to dicker.  "$5 for the whole trash bag full", the lady told me.  "Sold!", I said as I quickly stuffed it all in the bag  hoping that no one else saw it and offered her more.
Just a small sampling of my fabric find from the weekend.

Now what am I going to do with it?  I brought it home and lovingly ran my hands over the nubby weave of the pink, the satiny feel of the pink and white stripe, the silky off-white sheer fabric with embroidered roses, and the rich textile feel of the pink and green floral.  Should I upholster my dining room chairs?  I don't have enough of the same material to do all eight.  They're off-white now so could I just do the two chairs with arms and leave the others?  If so, I could pull out all my old teapots and chintzy china to display where I now have my Roseville pottery.  Or... I think I have enough to make a quilt (which I don't know how to do).  Or maybe I could dig up some small foot stools and chairs to reupholster and sell on-line.  I've recently seen cute handmade purses made with shabby chic fabrics.  I also have a fabulous old Eastlake upholstered rocker upstairs that could use a face lift.  Or maybe I'll just look at them from time to time by displaying them on my old quilt rack.  There are endless possibilities for this fabric, I'm sure.  I'm just not very creative.  How about it crafty friends?  I would welcome any suggestions.

It's funny how a little scrap of fabric can brighten your spirit and lighten your heart.  It's like scraps of your past weaving intricately with the scraps of your present - making a delicate weave of fabric that - like Shabby Chic, can withstand the test of time.
Just a smattering of some of my stash that I consider Shabby chic.


  1. Such pretty photos and a lovely post, and a great find on all that fabric. I had an uplift today when I sent for a 'Winnie' Dog Figurine I had ordered a few months back. He's on my mantle right now and I can't help but smile when I look at this Winston Churchill Bulldog giving that historical Victory sign.

  2. You'll have to post your Winnie figurine sometime - I would love to see it. My daughter has an American Spitz named Winnie. Doesn't look much like Winston Churchill though, lol. I try to surround myself with things that make me smile - flowers, vintage jewelry, art deco pottery, but especially my family and friends.


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