Trash To Treasure: Dark Garden Corsetry & Couture

by ilene on February 28, 2012 · 5 comments

in sewing, upcycle

I set out to explore Hayes Valley last week and embarked on an unexpected mini urban adventure.  Hayes Vally is a  little neighborhood in San Francisco that has a bunch of cute restaurants and shops right near the downtown civic center area.  The main reason that I wanted to go was to stop by Dark Garden Corsetry & Couture, a boutique/workshop that specializes in custom corsets.  Now normally I would have NO business going to a store like this, I surely did not need to buy a custom $250- $500 corset for myself or for anyone for that matter.  But Dark Garden happens to be right next to the popular Blue Bottle Coffee shop and last time I stopped for a cup of coffee, I noticed a sign on the store’s window that said “free fabric scraps”.  This piqued my interest because I heard they used vintage fabrics and I was curious to see the variety of materials that they used.   This month being Frugal February, I decided to take the bus over there and see if I could score some free stuff.  I’m determined to not spend any money this month on supplies!

As I waited for my usual mocha order from Blue Bottle, I noticed that there was no “free fabric” sign on the window of Dark Garden this time and was disappointed.  Not wanting to waste all the time traveling there, I decided to go in anyways and ask them if they had any free scraps that day.  The girl behind the counter went back to check and to my delight, she came back and said that they had a bag in the back room ready to be given away!  YES!  The only catch was  she said I had to take the WHOLE thing. Sure, I thought, I’ll take anything that is free!! This must be my lucky day!  She went back and emerged with a HUGE  trash bag densely stuffed full of all sorts of scrap pieces.  She handed the bag over to me and it must have weighed over 30 pounds!   I could barely lift it!  I couldn’t tell what was in it but I could tell that it was heavy and dense. And cumbersome.  Oh dear.

As I hobbled out of the store  carrying my loot and trying to balance my cup of coffee on top, all these thoughts were running through my mind – “how heavy is this?!!  what the heck is inside it?!  and how am I going to get all this home?! AND how am I going to hide this all from my husband?!”  Jeff’s always bugging me about all the craft supplies that I hoard.  I’ve been trying to purge all the junk out of our apartment, the last thing I needed was to be gathering MORE junk!

I’m only 5’2″ and I’m not the strongest person so I basically had to stop every 15 feet, drop the trash bag to the sidewalk and take a break:

I made it around the corner and had to take another breather at The Grove:

I walked all around the Civic Center area (one of the seediest areas in San Francisco) trying to figure out how to get myself home, looking like a real San Franciscan bag lady.  I almost gave up at this point and stuffed the whole bag into a trashcan but I love fabric and free stuff so much, I had to forge on.  I finally got on a bus and made it home just in the nick of time.  Right when I stepped through my front door, the whole trash bag tore open and bits and pieces of fabric burst out everywhere!

It took me over 2 hours to sort through the contents of the bag.  There were so much random stuff in there, it looked like they had basically swept all their scrap pieces off the floor and stuffed it into the trash bag.  Most of the scraps were too small and unusable but I managed to sort and save some goodies for myself.

I found yards and yards of silk satin ribbon:

I was the most excited about the leather scraps:

A lot of black lace:

Lots of silk brocade:

Lots of solid satin fabrics:

And some menswear fabric:

I saved all the stuff that is pictured above but ended up throwing out the rest, which I’d say was about 99% of the scraps in the bag.  The sheer amount of stuff in that bag was ridiculous!!  There was just too much to sort through and most was unusable.  A lot of the fabric wasn’t really my style and I’m not sure what to do with it all (anyone have any ideas?!) but it was all great quality stuff.  I’m going to see if I can make anything cool out of the scraps I got!!  All in all, it was an adventurous afternoon and I got some free materials out of it.  If you are ever in the San Fran area, definitely stop by and see if you can pick up a bag of surprise goodies for yourself. But I would recommend bringing a car with you!

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1 Beata February 28, 2012 at 10:24 am

I could totally imagine this being the basis of a sitcom episode… thanks for the morning laugh! 🙂

2 Natty February 28, 2012 at 11:07 am

Yay, I know a bag lady now!
& I had to look up the word, “brocade”

3 Annette February 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I bet the lil soft scraps woulda made great stuffing…

4 Donna February 28, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Hilarious! Welcome to SF 😉 I gasped when I saw the leather pieces.. there was a really cute stamped leather luggage tag tutorial floating around the net recently that I’ve been wanting to try. Can’t wait to see what you do with the scraps!

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