Monday, June 24, 2019

Solo Fun

All my buddies were otherwise occupied Friday morning, but I always enjoy solo garaging. Sometimes it's nice to go at your own pace, blithely driving on by minimal sales as the spirit strikes you.

(Using that word ‘minimal’ makes me wonder, though – with the seemingly growing minimalist mindset among young folks [a new book on minimalism seems to be published about every 20 minutes], what will the yard sales of the future look like? Okay, there’s your writing assignment for the week – describe a minimalist’s estate sale!)

I saw what I considered to be the most ridiculous item of the day at my very first stop.

A board book version of Moby Dick. I believe it was actually a counting book using the Moby Dick reference as a gimmick, but come on. Board books are aimed at toddlers, Moby Dick is considered one of the milestones of American literature. Think how confused the kids who were exposed to this thing at an impressionable age are going to be when they get to high school or college and find out that Moby Dick is about something other than counting sea creatures.

Needless to say I did not bring this non-classic home with me, but I did find a few other items to add to my non-minimalist lifestyle. Like an ornate metal frame for a 1909 postcard Judy gave me recently

and a beautiful little Wedgewood demitasse. I don't drink coffee, but this will be perfect for sipping tea.

I didn’t think these painted shoes would actually fit, but they do. When KK saw them her comment was, “Those are SO you.”

I've been watching for a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, and have passed up several because the prices were too high. This one was fifty cents – the price was just right.

These aren't the greatest for scooping ice cream if it's very hard, but perfect for scooping muffin batter. Much neater than using a spoon.

My favorite find of the day came from the annual sale of a couple of ladies over on the posh side of town. (The governor’s mansion is a few blocks away; that kind of posh.) They always have interesting textiles, and one of them this year was an $8 king size quilt of probably hand-printed cotton from India. 

It's stuffed with thick cotton batting, and the fabric is very soft. And it's reversible, so twice the wear before needing washing.

But of course the important thing is, the girls love it!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Plates and Pups and Parts of Sweaters

Years ago I heard Garrison Keillor say something on Prairie Home Companion that I’ve been quoting ever since (sometimes with humor…sometimes in exasperation!):

“How can I miss you if you won't go away?”

Sorry I've been AWOL! Just been lazy about writing. But I’m touched beyond belief by comments that some of you have missed me. Gosh, you guys, you’re the best.

Actually, it's been slim pickings for several weeks. Judy and I have been out a few times and I've come home empty handed. When your very best find of the day is a five-cent staple puller you know that a) you are incredibly frugal; or b) sales have ridiculously high prices; or c) you’ve seen nothing worth bringing home; or d) all of the above. Yeah, choose d.

Of course, this is the best staple puller I've ever seen.

But Judy and I found our first full-fledged neighborhood sale of the summer today, hooray. I managed to navigate it with only a small outlay of cash ($8 in all) and bring home some goodies. I couldn’t resist this balance toy at our first stop (you know me and toys). He was fifty cents, which is my calling card, right?

I was happy to find a couple of pairs of those footie socks (purple, you can picture them) and this cute bottle. I'm going to try flavoring a small batch of olive oil with fresh basil and some of the preserved lemons I made, and this bottle seems perfect for it.

From a free box came a Ralph Lauren sweater – or what was left of it. The lady at that sale had cut it up to make a Christmas stocking, which she said came out very well. Since the sleeves are both still there, I can use them for arm warmers (or maybe leg warmers!). And maybe I can use the yoke and turtleneck for something. Hey, it was free, I can do anything I want with it!

Another free item was this little velvet bag. I was planning to make something like it to hold my new earbuds (my cat Millie chewed up the wires of my last pair!). I figured if this one was a dollar or less I'd get it and save the sewing time, and when I asked the price they said, “Just take it!” I had absolutely no problem with that.

Several years ago I found a Spode Archive Collection plate at a sale, and it's KK’s favorite whenever she eats at my house. I was thrilled today to find her one just like it (fifty cents! Twenty bucks from that replacements china place in case you need one!). AND another from the same collection, one for each of us!

(I got curious as I wrote that paragraph about the first one I found – how long ago, how much? My goodness, what a day that was! July 3, 2010, fifty cents – which was also the day I met a guy who made his own false tooth from an opal. Check it out if you’ve got a few minutes! )

My favorite finds today came from a sale of a lady who recently moved to Salem. Judy and I welcomed her to town and encouraged her to bring her three cute dogs to the dog park at Minto Brown Park. Can't remember if I've told you about our dog park, which is pretty special. It's on an island by the Willamette River, with only one road in. Most of the park is a wildlife area. The dog park section is a quarter of a mile long and wide. Big! Dogs can really run there. I estimate my Zoë runs at least 3 miles every morning retrieving balls. (Me & Fannie, not so much!) Now that I think about it, it's also where I first met Judy!

Besides three cute little dogs, this lady had some fun jewelry. I first succumbed to these ceramic owl earrings.

Judy and I were both admiring some bracelets, and I started thinking one of them might be really fun as a decoration on the pull string for one of my ceiling fans. Then the lady mentioned that she had made them, but that they had turned out too large. I'm sure my ears stood up and swiveled like a collie’s – because I rarely encounter bracelets that are large enough for my big-boned wrist. These both fit, and for a dollar each, they were mine. She did a beautiful job making them, and had to have spent way more than a buck each for the beads.

So it was a good morning, and hopefully the harbinger of more to come. I have just a few Fridays left between now and knee-replacement surgery at the end of July which will put me out of commission for probably several weeks. I'm stocking up on fun (and goodies!) now!

Monday, April 15, 2019

More than a Mend

Judy and I both got excited when we looked at a vintage coat at a sale last Friday. “Look,” she said, “I wonder if someone replaced this lining.”

The coat was a rosy brown wool crepe, very heavy, with raglan sleeves and a pleat in back to give it swing.

The lining did indeed have an indefinable homemade quality to it, though very nicely done, with piping all around. Possibly it was the fabric, a print instead of the usual color-toned heavy satin. I figured this coat must have been such a favorite that the original lining needed replacing.

Since my word for this year is “Mend” I just had to look at the price tag. Four dollars! So I  just had to try it on – and it fit. I have more than one winter coat, but there’s room in my hall closet for another. 

Home with me it came.

When I got home I noticed that the lining was unattached to the coat itself at the hem of the pleat in back. The inside of a garment tells its story, so I peeled back the lining to look at the seams. And quickly realized they were homemade. A commercially made coat as nice as this would most likely have seams with the edges finished in some way. I don’t know, it's hard to describe, but you know it when you see it, and when you don’t.

I kept pulling more of the coat to the wrong side, confirming my guess. I worked my way up to the shoulder pads, which look like something I could have constructed myself. Some woman made this coat; it did not come from a factory. It would have been a huge project and taken enormous skill. She made bound buttonholes (something I've never mastered, or even wanted to - you have to SLASH the fabric before you insert the binding!). 

The buttons are secured on the back with small anchor buttons. The back pleat hangs perfectly. 

Thread belt loops, diagonal pocket flaps.

The top-stitching…I looked more closely. The top-stitching was all done by HAND. Through heavy wool.

Just an old coat, hanging in the hall closet at an otherwise uninteresting estate sale. Unregarded by the dozens of people foraging through the house. Mute testimony to the endeavors of an anonymous, creative woman. She went to a fabric store, and found a pattern she loved, then shopped for just the right fabric. It was more expensive than she’d counted on, so she chose a less expensive lining fabric. Then days or weeks completing all the steps of makery – cutting, pinning, basting, trying on. Adjusting, getting everything just right before sitting down at her old Singer and stitching the seams. Assembling the many pieces: the two sides of the back, inserting the pleat, then the two fronts, with facings and those buttonholes. Each sleeve to be eased into the armhole, buttoned tabs with hand top-stitching to insert into the seams.

 And then repeat it all for the lining, and insert that, outlined with white piping.

I wonder where she wore it, the first time? I hope someone noticed her new coat, and complimented her on it.

I know I probably won't wear this coat often, but I will wear it with admiration. Four dollars for artistry; the least I can do is notice and honor the artist. But I do have one regret.

There was another coat in that closet, also marked $4. And I barely glanced at it.

I wonder if she made that one too?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Stormy Weather

The weather had it in for me on Friday.

I have no idea why. I certainly haven’t done anything to it! I try not to complain (too much) when the lovely sunshine goes away and it rains some more. And rains. And RAINS!

But Friday the weather was just being a tease. My friend Toni came along with me to check out the 5 or 6 sales that looked reasonable and not too far away. We started off in sunshine. Reached the first sale, opened the car door – and it began to pour. Hustle inside, to find a moving sale where everything was massively overpriced. I'm talking pottery at gallery prices. Adding insult to injury, one room was full of very, um, fragrant (I want to say smelly, but some people like this stuff!) candles and so-called air fresheners. I could hardly breath. Back through the rain to the car.

Off to sale number two. Sun came out. Reached the sale, got out of car – rain poured. (I swear I'm not making this up.) This was an estate sale for a lady whose taste in decor was very frilly. Nothing was priced, and instead of candle smells we got musty-house-that-hasn’t-had-fresh-air-in-years. Back through the rain to the car.

And the whole morning was like that. Every single time we got out of the car, the shining sun disappeared and it rained. It was uncanny. I did finally find a couple of things to bring home though (whew!). Toni slightly raised an eyebrow when I was looking through some kitchen linens (she’s seen my supply) but that did not deter me from these two lovelies.

Both brand new, and fifty cents each. And how appropriate to find towels. I could dry my hair a bit between rain storms!

Our last stop was the most high-end of the morning, so I was surprised to find something I wanted. But how could I resist this upcycled tea kettle bird?

He weighs a ton, must be filled with cement or something. And those big feet keep him well balanced. I won’t have to worry about this guy blowing away.

And as waterlogged as I am from being rained on so many times, I won’t blow away either!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Surviving February

One of the things I love about Oregon is our four-season climate. Even winter. Though the days are short, we have relatively little severe weather, and there is still a lot of green in the landscape. Yes, we have a lot of rain in the Willamette Valley, but even rainy days often have a break in the clouds at the end of the day when we get to see some rays of the setting sun. This has been a fairly open winter with lots of sunny days. So I'm okay with winter…until February.

Some years it's early in the month, sometimes late, I get to a point where I've had enough. Suddenly I really need Spring. I need trees to bud, and daffodils and tulips and irises to bloom. And I need garage sales! The pickings get awfully slim this time of year – the occasional estate sale, a desperate moving sale or two. This past weekend I just stayed home; nothing in the two or three ads on Craigslist tempted me in the slightest. If I could I would run away to some warm climate for the rest of the month.

I decided to look over my garaging spreadsheet to see if February is always so dismal on the thrifting front. Good heavens – I brought home 52 items last February! There were several memorable estate sales, and I found sewing stuff and linens (including the set of French napkins, one of which I mended last week), and my fortune telling sticks that I thought were fancy fireplace matches. 

And be still my heart. Two years ago in February was that amazing estate sale that I went to about 4 times and bought cashmere, cashmere, cashmere (among much else) that I wear every day all winter. I own cashmere ponchos. I have a pair of black cashmere slacks. I wear cashmere sweaters when I garden; I sleep in cashmere. Clothing was priced at $1 each the first weekend, and half price the next. All told I spent $158 garaging in February 2017 – and my estimate of the retail value was over $10,000!

I'm starting to see why this year seems particularly dismal, even though I know that was most likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For fun, I went to the oldest page on my spreadsheet: 2005. Yes, I've kept a record of all the things I've thrifted since 2005! I find it fascinating to see all the things that have come into my life in those years, and how many of them left again. Of course my life has changed considerably in that time, but I found two items that I still have and enjoy.

One is this metal bird silhouette, which currently resides on the chalkboard I use for my grocery list. 

It was originally attached to a hideously ugly pink picture frame. I paid fifty cents for it and removed it from the frame, which I happily tossed. I still love it. The second item was this reproduction Frank Lloyd Wright frame that was the perfect size for a tiny piece of art a friend had given me. 

This set me back a whopping thirty cents! I think it's interesting that I chide myself at times for buying décor, but the only two items that I've cherished since this time of year, fourteen years ago, are just that. 

Go figure. 

Long live art.

We’re nearly through another February, and I'm certainly looking forward to longer, warmer days ahead. But a month that can bring art that you keep forever, and so much cashmere you can use it for pajamas, can't be all bad!

Monday, February 11, 2019

This is Why We Are Thrifty

I've long been aware that one of the best reasons to shop on driveways is to save money. I mean actually save it, as in put it in a savings account and watch it earn interest and grow. So that when those big ticket items come along we can handle them without fear or (horrors!) debt. Not that debt doesn’t have its place, but earning interest just feels SO much better than paying it.

One of the biggies is buying a car. Not in the same category as house buying but adrenaline-producing enough. My beloved green convertible was purchased almost 17 years ago, so it's been a very long time since I participated in this sport, but the time had come. I tried, but just couldn’t make a sport car work for hauling a couple of dogs every day. So for several months, waiting for the divorce to be final, I've been monitoring car ads in our local Craigslist and figuring out what I wanted to buy – and how much it would cost.

It's the first time I've bought a car all by myself. There’s an old saying, I believe from WWII, that “time spent in reconnaissance is rarely wasted.” It certainly felt true in this case; by the time I was ready to test drive I was familiar with prices and pros and cons of various makes. I ended up test driving only two cars, and would have been happy with either, and I discovered a car-buying option that worked well for me – the used rental car. No salesmen! The downside was I could only see one car a day; you book a test drive, and if you decide you want that car you make all the arrangements over the phone.

The place was in Portland, so my lovely assistant was my SIL Linda, who knows the city like the back of her hand. While we were out in the first car, she told me the story of how she and her friends as teenagers would blindfold one of the group, drive around to some unfamiliar spot, then take off the blindfold – and that person had to find their way home! She could hire herself out taking people on test drives. We found hills, curves, freeways; she even knows where the worst railroad crossings are to test the suspension.

So this is what I bought: a 2017 Nissan Rogue. Yes, I have joined the ranks of SUV drivers, and I love it.

Personally, I think she looks like something a soccer mom in a mafia clan would drive, being shiny and black, but she’s perfect for an old lady. And I have a shiny black dog and cat as well, guess it's my look. 

I have a tendency to name everything (I'll tell you all about Adelaide, my left knee one of these days), and what popped into my head for my new car is Nelly. Which I quickly realized was harking back to an icon of my early childhood – the jeep Nellybelle on the old Roy Rogers TV show. So now me and Zoë and Fannie and Millie can drive around in Nelly; guess we’ll all need to squeal “Eeeeeee!!!” from time to time, just because that’s who we are.

One major expenditure should last me for quite a while; I've already returned to frugality with more mending. I believe I've mentioned before that Zoë has a thing for cloth napkins; ripping them up is one of her favorite activities. Though maybe she just feels the need for a new outfit from time to time.

She had her way with one of my favorite napkins the other day, hand block-printed cotton from France (I even have the matching tablecloth). 

Spent an enjoyable twenty minutes or so patching it. It's funny, but my patched napkins are the ones I reach for first.

I also mended – make that re-mended – the slipcover on this chair. The fabric around an earlier patching had worn through, so I patched the patch. I was going to take a picture of the work, but there was Zoë ensconced upon her favorite chair, and I wasn’t going to disturb her.

After all, that might have inspired her to go looking for another napkin to ravish!

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Year of Mend

Do you participate in this business of selecting a personal word for the year, as a focus? It seems to be the offspring of making New Year’s resolutions, which never resonated with me. But a word is something I can get behind. Several friends and I chose ‘mindful’ last year; it was nice to have folks to check in with from time to time. This year we all seem to have found an individual word to focus on. One friend selected ‘purge’; another is seeking that Danish concept ‘hygge’.

My word is ‘mend.’

When I came across it on a quilt artist’s blog (it was her word a couple of years ago) I knew immediately this was my focus. After last year and all the changes it brought, mending feels like exactly what I need, both for myself and plenty of objects in my life. 

I started thinking about the difference between mending and healing; healing feels like something that just happens (if you’re lucky), but mending is something that you do. You take something into your hands – a hand knit sock with a hole, a fifty-cent music box that no longer plays, your heart – and you make it better. It's an act of will rather than patience.

I want to mend.

For fun, and to keep the word in front of me, I made a little banner and hung it in my studio.

A month into the new year, and I've already had plenty of opportunity to practice my word! The socks with holes are getting darned, my bare yard is getting planted with a backbone of substantial shrubs. My arthritic knee is undergoing a series of injections to see if we can postpone replacement surgery for a year or two. I'm interested to see just where this word takes me. I've also decided to keep an eye out for examples of my word, and by golly they are out there. I was at the humane society thrift store the other day and noticed this long vintage nightie, probably homemade. 

It must have been a beloved piece, because one underarm has been patched with a gusset and then also finished by hand on the inside.

There was little in the way of garaging this weekend; on Friday the one sale I found yielded only a stack of magazines (Bon Appetit, Better Home  & Gardens) from the free box. On Saturday I went by an estate sale that had started on Thursday; I was going to skip it but someone told me there was sewing stuff there. I was bemused to find this among the varied collection of yarn.

Prices were by my standards quite high, but as the lady running the sale said to me when we chatted, her job is to make the most she can for the client, who in this case is in a nursing home. I can respect that…but it appeared that she would have quite a bit unsold at the end. It must be difficult sometimes to decide how to price things.

I ended up spending ten bucks, which included a bag of assorted yarn, 

about half a yard of lovely cotton fabric, 

and a small zippered purse for my garaging cash. 

I plucked this cut-paper mermaid off a wall, liking the color and slight iridescence; 

turns out it was a Hallmark card but I still like her. I've hung her up in my bathroom.

I was about to pay up and leave when I spotted a framed piece I liked. I may have mentioned that I now live by a creek, which is frequented by Canadian geese. One of my favorite memories of this house will always be the spring day a pair of geese brought their babies by for us to see.  Papa Goose swam protectively around Mama and the babies as they foraged a few feet away. (And I cannot share the picture with you because it's among all the pictures I lost with my faulty hard drive.)

So I brought home these handsome geese, 

and as I came into the house juggling several things I dropped the bag holding my finds. It made a really loud crash on the floor, and sure enough, the glass was broken. Dang it.

But…easy to mend! The size turned out to be a standard 8 x 10”, so I scooted down to the thrift store this afternoon and checked the aisle of donated art and frames. Sure enough there was a never-used frame the right size marked $2 on a tag that was the half price color, so I got my replacement glass for a buck. (The frame itself will be re-donated.) Even better, I managed to change out the glass without injuring myself on the broken glass.

See, mending is way better than healing!

Pin It button on image hover