Monday, January 15, 2018

KK’s Surprise

Did you see that golf cart?” I said, as KK made a U-turn so she could park near the estate sale.

“No, what about it?”

I led her to the back of the small vehicle parked in front of the house with the sale.

“Isn’t that nice,” said KK. “Someone brought me a truck!”

Which was about the most exciting thing we saw all morning. Three estate sales: first one was in the country club neighborhood down by the river. Overpriced and nothing either of us wanted. Then the one with the cart, then one on the east side that was also overpriced and had nothing I wanted.

I did manage to spend a quarter, on a little music box that has seen better days. It didn’t turn and the figures were all loose, but it was a quarter – and a challenge. I wanted to see if I could make it go.

I did this once before, with the wonderful vintage Steinbach piece featuring woodcutter elves playing the zither and doing the foot slapping dance. That one was stuck, stuck, stuck and took quite a bit of tinkering. This one was less stuck than simply broken – two of the three figures were broken off under the platform, and the tree was no longer anchored.

I worked on it for an hour or so. Took a while just to figure out what the problems were. Then several more minutes to heat up the hot glue gun! Yes, I may be retired and no longer a children’s librarian, but I still rock that hot glue gun. 

I got all the pieces back in place and the music mechanism going. Originally the figures turned as well as going around the tree, but only the unbroken one still does that. But hey, it plays! Okay, not terribly well or for very long, but what do you want for a quarter? I figure the figures are not of children holding those green apples, but rather of three little old ladies who see no need to go rushing around that tree.

The box is now among my Funny Little People collection where it looks quite at home.

We passed the Goodwill bins on the way home, and I had better luck there. Found the king size sheet I was needing (and hopefully will be able to remove the rest of the infernal smell of &(*#^&!$%@ dryer sheets after a few more washings) (don’t get me started on those things), as well as some art. Isn’t this print adorable?

Apparently the artist, John Knowles Hare, did a lot of magazine covers and advertising work back around the 1920s. This print was tucked inside a vintage picture book and is in pretty good shape. I've added a frame for it to my search list.

I also brought home two of the vintage picture books, oversized and printed on that heavy paper that feels almost like linen. I may frame some of the pages from Baby Animals.

And I have a plan for the Sleepy Time Book. 

I've been wanting a long runner or some such for the wall over my king-size bed. I'm going to stitch some of these pages in a row to black cloth and hang it there. Easier than making a quilt! And lest you be fretting over my dismantling of books, I made sure that these are not rare or in perfect condition. They’ll get a lot more love and attention on my walls than in the Goodwill bins, for sure!

I also picked up a big piece of tulle at the bins, where you pay by the pound. Exactly the place you want to buy diaphanous fabric - yards and yards for pretty much nothing. A tiny bit has already been put to use in my latest project. Many years ago I picked up a fused glass bunny pin (from a yard sale, natch) that I love but rarely wear. So I decided to make him a series of fabric backdrops so I can wear him as a necklace, and finished the first one yesterday. The tulle became his wings.

Let’s fly away! (Bunnies have the best ideas, don’t they?)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Good Omen for the New Year!

One of the folks whose blog I read is Kelly Cline, an amazing quilter. I think I first found her site because she does a lot of quilting using vintage textiles, and as you may know those things follow me home from sales like little lost puppies.

So Sunday evening a new post on her blog popped up on my feed reader entitled "We Have a Ruler Winner!" You can imagine my surprise as I began to read:
CONGRATULATIONS TO Queen of Fifty Cents!!! I don’t know your name, or who you are, but you are the winner and I love your thrifty blog! 
Seems like a good omen for a creative year to win a set of quilting rulers before the first week has passed.

The only slight hiccup is that these are used for free motion quilting, which I have not (yet!) done. But what better motivation to learn, right? I'll keep you posted on my free motion adventures once they begin.

Meanwhile, here's a piece I just finished, made in large part as a learning exercise. I used some of the upholstery sample fabrics I picked up in September for the rooster. In fact all of the fabric, thread and batting came from other people's driveways.

I tried out some of the techniques from the Craftsy class I've been watching called Stupendous Stitching.  I learned how to do the edge binding using a felling foot, and the hanging sleeve on the back with the blindstitch foot that came with my Bernina I found on Craigslist. A total thrifting project!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

This is the Way it Was

Hooray, it's spreadsheet time! It's probably crazy how much I love looking at the past year through Excel, but it is so darned satisfying. And 2017? It was a very big year.

Bottom line? Spent $1197.50, my second highest year since I started the spreadsheet in 2005. The biggest year was put over the top by our Ekornes sofa, which would have retailed for about $4000. Well worth the money: comfortable, handsome, and the entire family (two people, two dogs, one cat) can sit in front of a fire crackling in the fireplace at the same time. 

A few steps away sits the item that put this year over the top: the large handmade bell I majorly splurged on back in July. We still ring it whenever we pass by. The splurge did not diminish my lifestyle, we still have enough to live on. I'm good with it.

That’s the spending part, but the next column on the spreadsheet is the fun one—the retail value. I’m conservative when I figure these, mainly because it's almost impossible for me to believe that people actually pay the prices I’m seeing when I look up what I've brought home. Like the Brooks Brothers Italian merino sweater I found for the hubster that would retail for right at $300. 

My price? Ten cents.

My “retail” total this year came to $21,490—an average of $18.20 value for every $1 spent. Yes, of course it is true that much of what I bought would never have entered my doors if I couldn’t buy it on a driveway. But let’s face it: there are many, many people who shop in malls the way I shop on driveways, and a lot of them have the credit card debt to prove it. I get to have the goodies and live without debt. Talk about a win!

It's fun to look at my individual categories too. All except for one: the donations category. Yup, all those things I bought that I decided not to keep. And there were a bunch this year, 70 in fact. (Hangs head in shame.) Half of them were things I bought for either crafting or décor. (A focus for 2018 will be to diminish that trend!) But even though it's a tad embarrassing to make what turn out to be buying mistakes, the total cash outlay was a little over $60, the stuff was donated to the kitty rescue that provided us with Millie, and hopefully it will help at tax time.

Clothing continues to have the highest return on investment, and this was an amazing clothing year, mainly thanks to the estate sale that spanned the first two weekends in February. The sale where I spent about ninety bucks total (which is like a zillion dollars when you are the Queen of Fifty Cents) but brought home over $9000 worth of cashmere and silk and more. 

Hardly a day has passed since then that I am not wearing something from that sale. KK and I often greet each other with, “Is that a Katherine you’re wearing?” (Katherine was the artist whose estate was being sold.) I'm still astounded by that sale, and positive it will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. And so grateful that I got to experience it.

To make it even sweeter, the Pendleton white raven blanket I found at that sale resold for over $300, thus paying not only for that sale but also for about a quarter of my garaging year!

After clothing, craft and sewing items are a biggie and have led to a lot of fun this year. I've made several Welsh-smock style shirts to wear over my cashmere sweaters and keep them unspotted, and tried my hand at textile jewelry. 

My little Dancing Bunny art quilt hangs over my sewing machine. 

I even used thrifted thread and cloth to repair a travel dog crate of mesh and ripstop nylon when family visited last summer for the amazing solar eclipse. Now that was an interesting mending project! (Of course, Millie was a huge help as always.)

Every year I swear I'm going to lay off the décor items, and every year I bring more home (as noted above in the donations!). But…I love the things I kept! As long as something makes me smile whenever I look at it, I will continue to consider it priceless.

And admit it—you would have taken home an armload of those Steiffs too, right?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Five Hundred

I am amazed to write these words: this is my Five Hundredth Post as the Queen of Fifty Cents.

When I started this as a lighthearted experiment in the blogging thing I'd been hearing about, it never occurred to me I would just keep on going. And going. Who knows, maybe I'll just keep it up until I get done with garaging.

In which case maybe we’ll run forever! Come along for the ride, it's been fun so far.

I have no thrifting adventures to report, as predictably there were no sales to be seen the Friday before Christmas. But we still needed a Fun Friday, so KK, Judy, and Linda came to my house that morning. We had a fairly hilarious time constructing holiday gnomes from wine corks, felted sweaters, and various crafty items brought home from sales through the year like vintage pipe cleaners and wooden beads.

The hot glue gun came in handy, and only a few fingers got burnt by the glue. Perhaps we shouldn’t have imbibed Judy’s mulled red wine sangria while gluing?

But we thought our gnomes turned out pretty darned good.

The other reason we gathered was to eat. (Gatherings at my house always include eating!) KK had recently mentioned that she had never tasted a soufflé, which was not a state of affairs I could allow to continue. So we had asparagus and cheese soufflé with KK’s fruit platter, then for dessert…individual chocolate soufflés!

I had not made a chocolate soufflé for ages. But looking at the picture, I think celebrating a 500th blog post is an excellent excuse to make another!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Handicapped Frog & the Broken Pitcher

Pickings looked pretty darned slim on Friday, with only one estate sale listed in Salem. Well, there was another sale but since all they had were Hot Wheels, we had no trouble skipping it. 

But then it turned out that KK had to go to Portland to return a loaner car (hers went in for an oil change and they found a leak in the water pump, to the tune of over $800…Merry Christmas, KK!) so I turned up a few more estate sales in the big city. Turned out that big city sales are pretty much like our local ones, with the same mix of stuff and prices. But it was fun to have an excuse to drive around in handsome old neighborhoods we don’t normally see.

Looking was pretty much all I did; I spent a total of four bucks. I was bemused at the local sale by the four-poster bed sitting across the room from a large bathtub. Evidently this was the master bedroom.

Not how I would arrange my own house, but hey, I'm not planning to live there. I was empty handed when I left the place, but as I emerged I spied a fun piece of garden art – a metal frog made from two shovels and some rebar.

He was marked $5, which would have been fine if he weren’t half blind.

I offered them two bucks, they said yes, and now I own a one-eyed yard frog. Millie of course had to check him out.


The frog has temporarily gone home with KK. Since she is an artist she has an arsenal of paints, and is going to try to create a passable replacement eye, maybe from a Ping-Pong ball. I can hardly wait to see what she comes up with.

Her reward is the pair of Keen boiled wool slippers that I got at one of the Portland sales, that turned out to be just a leeeetle bit too small. Her feet are a leeeetle bit smaller than mine, so she gets them. Along with the pair of Josef Seibel short boots and the bright yellow rain boots from the same sale, where shoes were a buck a pair. I really wanted those yellow boots, sigh. Oh well, that’s what I get for having such nice big feet!

So – two bucks for the frog, one for the Keens. The last dollar? Spent that on a lovely little glass pitcher that was heavily covered with dirt, down in the basement of an old Craftsman house. I noticed it was signed on the bottom so I handed over that dollar.

And wouldn’t you know the dirt was covering up cracks! I was really batting a thousand that day, right?

A one-eyed frog, too-small shoes, and a cracked pitcher. Determined to make at least a little lemonade from my lemons, I got out the jar of Museum Gel and added the little pitcher to the glass collection on the window ledge.

Where no one can see the cracks. We’ll just let it be our little secret, okay?

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