Growing up in the Midwest, Geri Justinger first took to scissors and safety pins to reconstruct her vintage finds. She soon refined her repurposing skills to create quality designs now available on her Krrb corner. Read on for inspiration and to find out how Geri began upcycling reclaimed fabrics.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from and where do you currently live?
Except for a brief stint out west, I have lived in various Midwestern locales my whole life. I currently live in Chilton, Wisconsin – a small town located just east of Lake Winnebago.
What’s the best thing about your neighborhood?
Lots of green, nature and quiet. There is a real sense of community.
Sounds wonderful! What are the some places you go locally to discover hidden treasures?
I love exploring collections at various thrift stores, estate sales, and rummage/garage sales. Some of my favorite thrift shops are located in Sheboygan and Green Bay. One of my favorite “hidden treasures” is a salvage grocery spot just down the road in Hilbert called The Corner Cupboard. It’s a great place to purchase gourmet food for pennies on the dollar (food and fabric are two of my top faves).
As a kid, did you go vintage shopping?
I like to say I began thrifting in utero. I grew up in a very thrifty family – where rummage sales were a part of life. I don’t think I owned many “new” things growing up. In fact we received many handmade, vintage and/or repurposed items for birthdays and holidays. As a tween I began experimenting with my wardrobe and fully embraced thrifting. I actually sold items off my back to friends. I had (and still have) quite the vintage clothing collection.
That’s amazing. How did you begin reconstructing vintage clothing?
I often found great items that weren’t my size or had damage issues so I learned very early to alter and repurpose items. I did not have access to a good sewing machine so I made due using alternative methods of reconstruction. My mom used to call me “scissors monster” and safety pins and I were great friends. It wasn’t until I was in college that I got a “decent” sewing machine – which opened up a whole new world of design possibilities. Many years later as a new mom, my dad gifted me my first serger sewing machine. It was a gift that started me on my journey of designing and selling my clothing.
How often do you go to garage sales, flea markets, etc.? Any personal tips you’d like to share?
As often as possible – but not as often as I’d like. This time a year I go several times a month and during “high season” I go weekly. Look everywhere – underneath tables, in corners, in the “wrong” size section – treasures are often hidden. Try not to go with a specific goal in mind – you will have much better luck if you allow yourself to be open to the possibilities. Visit thrift shops often and go early to flea markets and garage sales. The early (and persistent) bird really does get the worm.
Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?
Much to my spouse’s chagrin I am a HOARDER! I have built many collections (mainly in the textile realm) and know how fickle the availability of specific items can be. I have a really hard time passing up a great piece of fabric. Multiply this by the fact that I see the potential in just about everything and it’s hoard-city over here.
You might need professional help! Tell us the story behind your most cherished thrifted, secondhand, vintage, upcycled object in your possession.
Most things I own are from the above mentioned realm. Besides several pieces of vintage clothing and my (enormous) fabric collection, I’d probably have to say my dresser. I found it at a garage sale many moons ago. It’s from the 40’s and has really beautiful wood details and Bakelite handle accents). The top section has 4 mini-drawers and the bottom drawer is a cedar “chest”. As is with most vintage items, it’s not in perfect condition but I really love it – imperfections and all.
It sounds like a special item. What are you creating these days?
I’m really looking forward to warmer weather and have some new patterns in the works. A couple of different dress patterns; shorts (for kiddos and women); and also some very specific concepts utilizing vintage silk scarves. I am also working on staying warm.
The Short List
The Corner Cupboard, 44 S. 8th Street (State Highway 57), Hilbert, WI.