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Generations - Sewing Susan Vintage Ad

Introducing Generations – a series of workshops designed to put you in touch with other generations!

We are launching an new series of workshops on the first Saturday of each month from 1:30pm – 3:30pm.

The ‘Generations’ platform will feature a volunteer guest who will do an introductory workshop to share a skill or art form that has been passed down from another generation. We’ve already had someone interested in sharing the art of macrame for example. We have a large library resource (including lots of vintage sewing & crafting books!) which can be used as teaching aids and wherever possible we will try to donate the supplies and tools needed.

These workshops will be offered by donation directly to our hosts and kits related to the workshop can be sold directly to guests.

Generations Host Requirements:

  • Workshops must fit in to a 1.5-2 hour period
  • Be able to be taught around a table without the use of electricity
  • Hosts must have good working examples ready to share
  • Skills must not be conflict with our existing core workshop or courses

Dates available: Oct 7, Nov 4, Dec 2, Jan 13, Feb 3, Mar 3, Apr 7, May 5  & June 2

These workshops will take place in our new location at Unit #400 -2950 Douglas Street (just behind Lifestyle Markets).

If you’re interested in hosting a Generations workshop please email your idea and images to jenny (at)

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Furniture DIY: Chairs

One of our most popular workshops is Simple Upholstery. This is a class we run regularly and spans four weeks, giving you the opportunity to reupholster a small item of furniture. If you are a fan of vintage chairs, this is a great opportunity to learn how to fix things up.

In the meantime, here is a round up of our favourite chair DIYs which you an find on our Upcycled Furniture Ideas Board.

The “Upholstered” Wooden Chair

Okay so this first one would probably horrify Miro, our upholstery teacher, and you couldn’t really do it to a better chair than the one used, but for a bottle of Mod Podge and some cute fabric, this is pretty cool. For the full how to, go to the blog, Designer trapped in a lawyer’s body.


The Mash Up

Take an old dining room chair, reupholster (come to our class to learn how) and then go all Frankenstein on it and attach it to an office swivel chair. We found this tutorial on MyMorningInspiration.

mash up chair

The Blah Office Chair

Again, this apartmenttherapy how to doesn’t require authentic upholstery skills, but instead calls for fabric and a nail gun. Looks pretty sassy for a blah chair!


The Belt Chair

Although this tutorial from EchoPaul Official doesn’t call for fabric, it does call for traditional furniture tacks, which we just love as they look so darn classy. The seat of this chair is made of belts.


The Vintage Webbed Chair

This tutorial from A Beautiful Mess might be a little more difficult than it looks, but we’d definitely give it a try. Keep your eyes peeled for frayed or seatless aluminum chairs and given them a new lease of life with coloured paracord.

cord chair

The Burke Chair

Although you might have a hard time finding a good vintage version of the Burke, look out for a similar style. This chair we found on is refurbished with a vintage blanket!


We hope our finds have inspired you. For more information about our traditional upholstery class, click here.

The girls at ( took our Simple Upholstery class and loved it, taking a cute vintage foot stool back to their office. Take a look at the video they made.

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Upcycling Men’s Shirts

We are huge advocates of upcycling clothing and making the most of fabric scraps. If you can’t pass it on at one of our legendary clothing swaps, then turn it into something else.

You can follow us on Pinterest for a ton of upcycling ideas or attend one of our Wardrobe Surgery workshops to learn techniques and tips to turn clothing you can’t wear anymore into revived functional fashion pieces.

This blog post focuses on upcycling men’s shirts. Men’s formal shirts can be picked up cheaply in very good used condition and there are so many fun options for them.

Turn a man’s shirt into a summer skirt or dress


There is a really easy way to do this and that’s just to climb into a men’s shirt and wrap the sleeves around your waist. Or you could tailor something. This is a nice and easy skirt from men’s shirt pattern on (image shown) whilst there are many links to dress patterns on our Pinterest board, from easy pinafores to structured peplum styles.

From men’s shirt to girl’s shirt


Boys can wear girl’s, who wear boy’s, who wear girl’s! But if you want something a little more feminine there are lots of great options. Our favourite is this cute tank style shirt because of the added bow.

Turn men’s shirts into kid’s clothes

Daddy's little girl dress

Again, lots of options here but the love the classic pinafore style dress like this one from

Turn men’s shirts into cute collars

We love an added Peter Pan collar and it’s so easy to do from men’s shirts of any size. Check out this tutorial from Leafy Treetop for an easy to follow Peter Pan collar pattern.

Patterns galore

Remember we have a large selection of patterns online and in-store that can help you on your way to upcycled clothing heaven!

patterns galore




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Hello St. John’s!

Anna Templeton Centre

Jenny Ambrose is delighted to return to St. John’s this summer to bring some of her most popular workshops to the fine folks of Newfoundland! All the workshops will take place at the Anna Templeton Centre located at 278 Duckworth Street between August 10-13th, 2016.

You can book online by following the link below, or call the centre at  (709) 739-7623.

Lovely Bamboo Leggings & The Cutest Knickers

Lovely Bamboo Leggings & The Cutest Knickers

Date: Wednesday August 10, 2016 (6-9pm)

This class is a special opportunity to learn how to sew your very own, best fitting, leggings from the very lovely Jenny Ambrose.  Jenny will guide you through the steps – from choosing the size and colour of your project to learning how to construct your garment using the serger, and how to apply the elastics with a sewing machine and hem with the coverstitch machine.  There are even options to trim your legs with stretch lace, binding or lingerie elastic.  Or, forgo the leggings and make yourself the cutest best fitting knickers. It could be the best three hours of your life as the class size is small; you will get plenty of instructor attention, complete one pair of leggings, and leave with the pattern and skills to make additional pairs.  Basics sewing skills are recommended.

A list of available colours in bamboo knit will be emailed to participants prior to the workshop.
Please note: this class is limited to six participants

Fee: $70 (includes HST & supplies)

You Got This! Sew Your Own Swimwear

You Got This! Sew Your Own Swimwear

Date: August 11 & 12th, 2016 (6-9pm)

According to Jenny, sewing swimwear is not as hard as people fear, and she will show you how to sew your ideal suit with confidence.  In two three-hour classes you will go step by step through the process as you sew your very own best fitting swim suit.  Sign up and Jenny wil make you a believer.

Swimsuit styles will be discussed with each participant prior to the workshop so you will know how much fabric to purchase for your project. Select colours of swimsuit fabric can be pre-ordered from Jenny at least 2 weeks before the workshop @ $12p/m. Please inquire about availability by email

Please note: this class is limited to six participants.

Fee: $120 (includes HST, pattern & elastics)

Sensational Knits – Summer Dress

Sensational Knits – Summer Dress

Date: Saturday August 13th, 2016 (10 am – 3 pm – with lunch break)

Join Jenny Ambrose as she shares with you the skills and secrets to using soft stretch cottons or bamboo to make your best fitting and most comfortable summer dress.  It will be so awesome that you will wear your dress all year round with your lovely bamboo leggings.

In this one-day workshop Jenny will guide you step by step through the process of sewing the dress.  You’ll choose your fabric and size; learn how to construct your garment using the serger, how to hem with the coverstitch machine, and how to make adjustments so that the dress fits and falls perfectly.  Small class size ensures lots of instructor attention.  Basic sewing skills are recommended.

Dress styles will be discussed with each participant prior to the workshop so you will know how much fabric to purchase for your project. Bamboo fabrics can be pre-ordered from Jenny at least 2 weeks before the workshop for @ $21p/m. Please inquire about availability by email

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Adventures in Upholstery: The Filth Inside The Chair


Week 1 of the “Simple Upholstery” course I’m taking at The Makehouse can be summarized by the following word: ICK!!!!!!!!

Not because of the course itself – oh no, so far it’s great fun.

But when you discover what kind of crusties are hiding beneath the cushion of an old chair, you may find yourself gagging, wincing and/or screaming.

Upholstery 1 Chairs

Let me back up.

My project is to re-upholster these four dining room chairs. Two were given to me by my dad’s girlfriend and another matching pair were found at a garage sale. I also plan on refinishing them so that I’ll have a (mostly) matching set.

Upholstery 1 Kidston

When I was in the UK in January I picked up this strawberry fabric from Cath Kidstonspecifically for this project (this exact pattern doesn’t seem to be available online but I absolutely love this and this too!). I know, I know – it’s white. Not exactly the best colour for what will essentially be an ass landing mat, but I will not be swayed! I figure I can always redo them once I learn the skills.

When I arrived, The Makehouse was bustling with activity, and three chairs were on the verge of going into surgery. Here they are with their respective surgeons:

Upholstery 1 Student 2

Upholstery 1 Student 3Upholstery 1 StudentUpholstery 1 Miro 2

Instructor Miro started by going around and giving us all an individual diagnosis. Some of us (me) have the unfortunate task of having to glue together some unstable aspects of our chairs between this week and next.

Upholstery 1 Close

The universal first step, however, was peeling back the skin and seeing what gore lay beneath our seats. It was fascinating to see how much variation there was. This was the oldest chair in the course and it contained springs as well was horse hair.

Upholstery 1 Fuzz

Others found organic material (Miro said this stuff was similar to seaweed).

Upholstery 1 Foam

This disgusting foam looks more like a chunk of cinder toffee than anything.

Upholstery 1 Miro

Everyone had to painstakingly remove the tacks and/or staples that held the yucky old upholstery together.

Upholstery 1 Inside 2

Mine was by far the crappiest chair in the room and it took me a while to get over the profound chair envy. I have concocted a master plan to somehow acquire a better chair before the course is finished but for now I do need to get these chairs functioning.

Upholstery 1 Inside

Beneath the first layer of fabric was a 1960s-era fabric that had seen better days. My dad’s girlfriend had warned me about this – I bet she’s laughing now.

Upholstery 1 Inside 3

As I began lifting the tacks, a gross wave of crud started seeping out from beneath the fabric. I’m still not sure if it was dirt or disintegrated foam, and I’m not sure if I want to know!

Upholstery 1 Inside 4

Here’s the completed dissection – that’ll make you think twice about NOT recovering antique chairs.

Into the garbage it went, all of it.

Upholstery 1 Hands

My chairs have  a plywood base, but those who had webbing tightened it up.

Upholstery 1 Tacks

Everybody’s foam was toast – Miro is ordering up a slab of brand new foam and we’ll be diving into that next week. In the meantime, I’m looking at all chairs with suspicion.

If you live in Victoria and think you’d like to take this upholstery class, there’s one starting in April.

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Begone, Nasty Dining Room Chairs!


Reusing and honouring perfectly good furniture is a huge principle ’round here at The Life Nostalgic. There are so many reasons why:a) The planet has too much poorly-made crap for sale these days – why buy new if it already exists?b) Fixing up something yourself helps hone your self-sufficiency skills (you’ll be well on your way to invincibility).c) Reusing enables you to save money and use it for more worthwhile things (like freedom).So, starting on Monday, I’m taking a four-week course called “Simple Upholstery” at The Makehouse, and I’m going to be blogging about my progress here on a weekly basis so you can see how it’s going (and count how many upholstery tacks I’ve managed to hammer into my thumb).To start, I paid a visit to the instructor, Miro, at his home studio.

Miro Photos

Miro’s Short Biography

Originally from Léon in Spain, Miro came to Victoria at the tender age of 17 to romance the ladies (“people thought I was a gigolo”) and pursue a career in upholstery. He worked for Standard Furniture, The Empress Hotel (where he was head upholsterer) and Eatons before establishing his home studio. Just from my short chat with him, I could tell that Miro is severely allergic to shoddy upholstery jobs.

Miro Cushion

Why re-upholster?

“Some people look at this chair and think: ‘that’s a piece of shit.’ UM, EXCUSE ME?! It’s hand carved and will last hundreds of years.”

Simple upholstery course victoria BC Miro chair

The Course

“I don’t want to see anybody going bigger than this chair,” Miro says. “If you start too big, you will run into problems.”

He suggests starting your upholstery education with a dining chair, small stool or pillows. Sometimes people end up getting disappointed and frustrated when they find out they can’t work on a big puffy armchair in a course – the kind of work that would take an expert like Miro a whole week and cost around $1000!

“Being an upholsterer is like being an artist, it’s a very creative thing.”

If you need to refinish your project, you have to do it BEFORE the upholstery portion. (Guess what I’m doing this weekend?)

Miro Tools

The Tools

To upholster properly, you’d need all of these tools.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – there’s no way I am personally investing that much when I don’t even know if this might be my last as well as my first upholstery experience.

Miro says you can cheat and start off with a hammer, scissors, flat screwdriver and pliers. The only thing that might be a hassle is finding upholstery tacks – short/thin regular nails can be substituted.

Miro Fabric

The Fabric

“Buy good quality fabric that’s going to last,” Miro says.

You always have the option of using Scotchgard on the finished product as well.

Join us!

If you can’t make it this time, there is also an April course.

Special thanks to Reb Stevenson from THE LIFE NOSTALGIC for her coverage of our new upholstery course!

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If You Build it They Will Come…

Marilyn – Fairy Godmother of The Makehouse

Although The Makehouse is still a very new fixture in Victoria, our space has already been enhanced by some very generous and enthusiastic souls!  Some might call them fairy godmothers, others would say they are angels, but one thing for sure is that we are so lucky to have these people in our lives!

It all started with the first article that appeared in the Times Colonist, which led to the telephone ringing several times with delighted Victorians offering their sewing machines, fabrics and haberdashery to help set up our studio.  I met with several people in person, including a stop in Chemainus for tea to meet a lady called Bea who is now sadly unable to sew due to arthritis in her hands.  Bea told me that when she saw the article she was so delighted that she finally had the answer to what she could do with the contents of her sewing room!

Before + After
Moving in Day September 1st and Now!

The article also led me to get to know Marilyn Vallance [pictured above], the first godmother to The Makehouse. Marilyn [a lifetime seamstress and crafter and serial networker] began to bring round very useful equipment and materials to the studio including ironing boards, fabrics, patterns and so much more.  Marilyn continues to bring happiness [and small gifts, which are sometimes edible] whenever she visits and will soon be teaching a workshop in rug-hooking!

Shortly before moving into our Fort Street shop front, I exhibited at the Vancouver Island Mini Maker Faire held in North Saanich. It was there that I met our next godmother Dela Wilkins – a nurse, knitter, sewer and lifecare coach.  Dela has been very generous in her donations of both useful equipment, materials and books, but also with her time. In fact Dela has also given her time by running the ‘Stitching Parlour’ sessions to give me a chance to travel to a family wedding!  Here’s what Dela says about The Makehouse…

When I first met Jenny at the Maker Faire, my first thought was “Wow, what a great idea”. My next thought was “How can I support this, in every way?”

As a lifelong sewer, who also knits and crochets, I have often been asked to make things for others. My usual response is: I will help you make it. We would work on the project together, either at their home or in my sewing studio. It was a great way to visit with friends or get to know new people. When I lived in a small rural Ontario town, this was comfortable, as I knew everyone. In a city, this is more difficult.

Everyone has the ability to learn how to make things. What most people lack is the confidence to do it alone or for the first time. The Makehouse offers a welcome space for people to work on projects together until they gain confidence.

Dela Wilkins – February 8, 2013

More recently we’ve been awestruck at the love shown to us by Ed George. Ed and his wife were previous tenants at 833 Fort Street for over 15 years as Angela Fashions. They ran a bridal shop together, which was based in Oak Bay for many years before.  Ed came to see me just before Christmas to deliver the sad news that his wife had passed away. He later told me that he would like to bring over some of the materials from her sewing studio. We are now housing an immense collection of patterns, beads, feathers, silks, art supplies and the list just goes on and on. We are so grateful for Ed’s generosity and for sharing his wisdom and stories of their life in business together in Victoria.


We’ve also had random donations from excited souls including the ladies from Satin Moon [our neighbours] and some of our students who just can’t help sharing! I still can’t believe how lucky we are to have so much support in such a short while. With our 6 month anniversary coming up on Friday March 1st, I want to say thanks again to Bea, Dela, Marilyn, Ed, my mother and father [who has helped with so many of my handy man needs on visits to Victoria!] and all of you wonderful people who have helped to make my dreams come true!

What a warm welcome back to Canada! I am truly touched.