Monday, January 22, 2018


We were in the back hallway of a house having an estate sale Friday when KK saw someone who looked familiar.

“Are you Bo’s mom?” she asked, and the woman said yes. “I’ve seen you at the dog park,” KK went on. “I go there with my dog Willow? That Bo is just the cutest little thing.”

The woman looked a bit confused. KK went on talking about the dog park, until the lady interrupted her, laughing. “Actually, my dog’s name is Charlie Brown. Usually my husband takes him to the dog park but sometimes I do. But the reason I said yes was, my son is named Bo!” We all cracked up over the coincidence. I mean, what are the odds?

That was the sale where I spent the most money on Friday—a buck and a half. For which I got an unopened can of tahini and two fancy jars of jam.

It was not a big spending day! My only other purchases were for danglies to put on textile necklaces—a bracelet

and a couple of bobeches (bobeche? aka candle wax drip catchers) with nice beads.

KK’s big splurge was two bucks for a large sheet of high-quality plywood for a future painting. Which came from a sale where we saw something surprising...KK’s truck again! And this time we got to meet that other KK. Who evidently is another thrifter, so we will probably keep running into her and her unusual vehicle.

Turns out that it's not a golf cart at all. It's a one seat, three-wheeled vehicle made for use as a meter-maid cart. She pointed out to us how strongly it’s built, with roll bars built into the chassis all around. I believe it is one of these Westward Interceptors. She bought it at a police auction in Seattle.

Reportedly it is street legal and will do up to 60 MPH. “But the only time I tried that,” said the other KK, “it was pretty scary. With just one front wheel it wouldn’t take much to tip over at that speed.”

She seems to be making good thrifting use of her diminutive steed. There was an 8 foot long board sticking out of the off-side window!

Some of you may remember my big splurge from a few weeks ago on a 100% alpaca throw. Ten bucks is definitely a lot for me to spend, but these babies cost hundreds of dollars if you buy them in a store, and it’s quite luscious. Turns out I'm not the only one who thinks so—our Zoë has discovered that the best place to spend the night is curled up in alpaca.

Isn’t this the epitome of why we thrift? I'd be terrified to spend hundreds on pretty much anything, afraid of ruining it and wasting all that money. But by spending a few hours shopping on driveways, Zozo and I can both wallow in luxury!

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?

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