A jacket from a tea cozy.
A dress from a lace curtain.
An evening jacket out of a comforter.
It all may sound like "loving-hands-at-home" busy work, and done by some it could look that way. But not in the hands of Edwina Conrad.
And so, for example, when the salmon-colored velvet stage curtain went up for sale at a neighboring Methodist church in Chevy Chase, Conrad grabbed it to upholster her living-room sofa.
Sewing became part of Conrad's life because of her mother's skill and encouragemnet (sometimes more like insistence). "When I was at Catawba College (Salisbury, N.C.) if I needed a prom dress, she would send fabric."
Then, as the wife of a Navy lieutenant transferred frequently, Conrad left most of their things in storage and shopped the thrift stores, rummage sales, fairs and garage sales. Even for some of her clothes.
She recalls, in fact, that when she had to resign as head of the PTA in Berkeley, one member commented, "We really hate to see you leave. We often came to meetings just to see what you were wearing."
Some other examples of her work:
Old beaded bags rejuvenated with new hardware store chains. A loose bolero from the Philippines turned into a blouse. An old white Battenbury lace-edged cloth into a skirt. And lengths of antique eyelet and embroidery transformed into a new collection of children's dresses.
Conrad, former dean of women at Alliance College in Pennsylvania and now a substitute English teacher in the Montgomery County school system, admits that the creating and sewing is "my therapy. When I get real low down I pull out a beautiful piece of fabric and figure out what I'm going to make of it."
Conrad admits it is harder now to find things at garage and estate sales, not only because of the economy, but because of a new appreciation for old things. "Years ago only old people liked these things," she says, "but now young people do as well.
"You never know just what you are going to find. But you can always count on it being an adventure."