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I will preface this post with the caveat that (as far as I know) no sheep were killed in the execution of this weekend’s plans. But that, Gentle Reader, is not going to stop me from going to The Special Hell. The one reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.

I put two loads of woolens in the washing machine on the warm cycle.

On purpose.

o O o

A few posts ago (ok, more than a few), I promised you the next chapter of our Edinburgh Adventure: In Which Captain Brid Provisions the Ship and Meets Some Unusual Characters. Well, here it is, because that story comes before today’s story.

In the hope of feathering our abysmally bare nest in the cheapest and most charismatic way possible, I took a day before classes started to pop into the charity shops (like very small Goodwills or Salvation Army stores) in my part of town. And when I say ‘the charity shops’, I mean every charity shop on the route of the 47 bus between the University and when the street trailed off into a residential district.

My spoils:

The spoils of war. FarOuterHebrides 2012.

Reader, I hope you will never experience the trials I went through to get that box. During my travels, I espied a shop that looked like Aladdin’s trove, a mix of the good, the bad, and the dirty, all crammed cheek by jowl into a shop no wider than my living room. From floor to ceiling the wares rose. At ever moment I expected the genie Hythloday to appear from a battered lamp and offer me impossible wishes.

Instead, the proprietor appeared. Speaking no fewer than four languages, I managed, at length, to extract myself with three kisses on the cheek, numerous compliments, offers of a cup of tea and a job, and, for the small sum of two pounds and some very odd moments of my life, one red bread box.

From the helpful and normal shop owner down the street, I obtained my tea set. For the sum of fifteen pounds, I am now the proud owner of a genuine Midwinter tea set, circa 1965. Green on the outside, cream on the inside, with slightly squared saucers and plates, it’s not your typical floral tea set. We’ve since rounded out the set with a mellow burnt-orange teapot. It remains only to track down a sweet little milk pitcher and sugar bowl (the latter is for guests), and to knit–of all things–a tea cosy.

o O o

Fast forward to last week, where I met the charming medieval/renaissance reenactors of our shire at Aberdour castle. Fast forward again to today, when two of the ladies and I met up downtown for the specific purpose of hitting the charity shops.

Now, I have been thrifting on the Cape, so this isn’t the first time I’ve seen organised maps put together by the several organisations in concert to acquaint the uninitiated with the full range of options available. But I was unprepared for the sheer magnitude of the Edinburgh charity shop scene.

I bought books (the top two). I couldn’t help it. At 1-2 pounds each, they’re so much cheaper than kindle books. But I can’t take them with me. Decisions, decisions.

So. E. went looking for clothes, M. for the perfect table to fit a difficult spot in her apartment. I sought a) things for the apartment and b) immediate needs for the reenactment next weekend (!), including warm period clothing, or more probably, the means of making the same. I had scoped out the fabric shops nearest me, but the cheapest wool I could get (unsullied by polyester, which is not comfortable for reenactment garb) was 14 pounds per meter. No. Just no.

You may recognise the colours of my houppelande and NTS’s tunic from last week. Waste not, want not. I’m slowly rebuilding my cache of handy fabric scraps so I have things on hand when I want to do a quick project.

In the end, I spent almost as much money today buying materials as I would have to buy the materials for one dress at the fabric shop. Toward the beginning, I found a trove of undyed wool blankets at 6-7 pounds each (each large enough for a long tunic for NTS or a gown for me). Toward the end of the day, E. brought us on a reverent pilgrimage to the shop cheerfully known as ‘thrifting crack’, because we can’t get enough of it. There I rounded out my woolen finds with yet more wool, at even lower prices, this time in blue and green, and soft linen and cotton for garments that lie closer to the skin. And large, once-expensive, 100% merino sweaters that I’m going to cut down to skin-tight base layers for NTS and me. 8 pounds at a thrift store is a lot more affordable than 35 pounds from an outdoors shop, and merino is the best base layer I’ve ever experienced for cold weather.*

Our arsenal against the cold. [Future] undergarments, sleeping bags, base layers, wool for cloaks, blankets and clothing.

Between the wool and the high-octane sleeping bags**, I’m no longer worried so much about being cold as about making sure I don’t roast us alive by accident. I have one week to create clothing that runs the gamut from cool but comfortable to cold and potentially damp. And do my schoolwork. I think now may be a good time to give NTS a chance to shine by making his own tunics (based on the one I made last week, but with a cooler neck detail). I have confidence in him.

Getting ready to sew with my pretty glass-headed dressmaker pins.

And the woolens in the washing machine? I tossed the blankets I mean to sew soon–I bought enough to outfit us for the next year, if not the next four years–into the washing machine with no detergent, on the 40C (warm) setting. I meant to make sure that once they were sewn into clothes, when we brought them home wet and muddy from camping, we wouldn’t shrink them by throwing them in the wash (at 30 C).

Our living room, full of indigo ghosts. Two of these are actually cotton.

It turns out that wool dyed a million years ago (I’m thinking 50s-60s, based on the tags) has a very strong smell when wet. The natural-colored blankets just smell like wet wool, but the deep, rich blue is giving off an acrid smell, like ozone. Like ozone, if a lightning bolt happened to go off in our living room. There’s a reason those ones aren’t in the bedroom. I’ll hold off on sewing that into a costume just yet.

* Some people prefer synthetic, but I think it must be because merino is a more expensive value proposition. The best part about merino, besides its insulating qualities? It doesn’t smell, even if you get cold and wear it all weekend. I’m not kidding. It’s a miracle fiber.

** Did I mention that we used some of our wedding gift money to buy lightweight sleeping bags comfort rated to -5 C (23 F)? Thanks to everyone who helped us be not cold on our future camping trips! These are the first really fancy sleeping bags we’ve ever bought. Mine is slightly shorter, so I don’t have to worry about a giant pocket of cold air below my feet, and they zip together. Cosy!

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