Monday, November 27, 2006

Good Garbage!

You know the feeling: You're late for work, the car's running on fumes, and suddenly you find yourself performing all manner of traffic violations so you can take one quick look at the very promising trashpile you just inadvertently whizzed by...

Well, if you don't know the feeling, at least you know how my morning started. And if you're anything like me, then you also know that I arrived at work a little late, a little grimy, and in proud possession of an incredible pair of wooden library chairs.

My name is Wendy, and I'm a treasure hunter. While I love to thrift as much as the next guy (ok, probably more than the next guy...), and I'm a yard sale junkie, to boot, I get my real (cheap) thrills on the curb. I am amazed and delighted by the variety, the quantity, and the sheer serendipity of what's to be found nestling alongside the garbage can. Take today's haul, for example. In addition to the aforementioned pair of chairs, I scored three hockey sticks (which my boys need for camp this summer), a grapevine wreath, and a very cool wine rack, which is on the verge of becoming a hat/glove/scarf storage center in my mudroom.

I drive my husband crazy. My neighbors think I'm certifiable. My four year old, however, rides shotgun in his booster seat, and is often the first to spy a cast-off treasure. "Good garbage, Mommy!" he'll call out, and most of the time, he's right.


Domino, deck of cards, board games, tokens and dice...when I find any of these things at a flea market I feel like yelling, "Bingo!!"

Of course in all fairness I feel like yelling, "Bingo!" at anything I find at the flea markets. I am crazy for flea markets, aren't you?

(links to vintage board games, take a look at the artful design.)

photo: Green turn of the century French bingo card.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The free table

Every so often, tag sales and thrift stores here have a free table. I enjoy sifting through these odds and ends, on a treasure hunt with no expectation of actually coming away with anything.

Over the years, I have collected all kinds of miscellaneous goodies from these free tables: A string of broken pearls, a lead printing block with the image of a wedding ring set, mother-of-pearl buttons and other small, random objects. Most of these trinkets are special enough to me that I remember where I found them, and consider them treasures.

The aqua-colored Japanese mugs above came from a local thrift shop making room for holiday decorations and glassware by dumping a bunch of bits and bobs on a table near the front of the store. I picked the mugs up, put them back down, walked around the store, watched another woman pick them up and put them back down, then I smiled and scooped them up on my way out the door.

If your area doesn't have free tables, I would suggest recommending it to thrift store staff or trying it out if you host a tag sale. It saves a lot of good stuff from just being chucked into the trash because it doesn't sell.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Old Signs Tell Stories

Old signs carve a place and time, like a message, they lead us.
Old signs, numbers, clock faces, menus, anything with writing on it...
It doesn't matter if they are in paper, wood or metal.
It is the texture of the faded message that speaks to me.
Even a number, that has nothing to do with my address
can take up residence in my home!

Friday, November 17, 2006

my friends,
it has been so long! finally, i am back to share my tag sale tales with you. i've been so pleased with the new writers that have joined us, and i know that you are too. we have quite a comeback!

i'm writing to you from montevideo, uruguay (in case you didn't know about my move, here's more) and though i am so far away from the world of north american thrifting, i am still on the hunt for incredible finds.

a little over a month ago, i had visited this city, to scout it out and see for myself if this was the place to satisfy my wanderlust. i clearly remember walking across the rambla, that long stretch of road that winds around the rio de la plata and snapping a polaroid of this building because its exterior was so beautiful. it looked like a french chateau on the beach! i stood smiling at its presence in front of me as the wind whipped my skirt around my legs and my hair across my face. after all, montevideo was once known as the switzerland of south america and this surely must be evidence of the european influence here. little did i know how much i would love it. a couple weeks ago, i was in the backseat of a realtor's car (we were out house hunting) zipping around the same curve of rambla. i had to know what the place was about. he pointed out it was called "la casa de remates" which roughly translates to the house of knockdown prices. music to my ears! as soon as i found the time, i ventured back to check it out.

furniture was scattered all over the grassy lawn. old tables, chairs and once beautiful things that would be so easy to transform if i wasn't just a visitor here. coming inside to a small hallway opened up to a few spacious rooms with magnificent ceiling heights. i wished i could have seen what this old structure once looked like! collections of dishes were neatly arranged along the base of the stairway in different colors. the walls were unpainted and cold, dark and uncared for. one of the rooms had a stunning wall mirror that would be perfect over a master bed. i couldn't resist mentally decorating with everything i saw.

old paintings and vases a giant old typewriter that would be oh so fun to write with! and then the most beautiful couch straight out of the 18th century. in olive green velvet, i felt luxurious running my hand across the back at its embossed patterns. looks like something for a fancy parlor, surrounded in ivy and women in pretty frocks sippinbg their tea. until i sat on it and felt a large spring bounce under me! some things are just nice to look at. another living room set was covered in soft white cotton, all curved in a feminine shape filled with goose feathers. it was divine to sit on.

the last of just three rooms available to us (the rest were blocked off for some other purpose) held desks, wardrobes out of narnia, heavy tables and multicolored chairs. dangling above them unusual chandeliers and light fixtures hung in a mass like a crystal rainforest. it reminded me of my chandelier that i had just packed up from my dollhouse in virginia. i lingered just long enough to take a few pictures, then we had to be on our way.

sometimes i find myself thinking that i could stay here longer.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Shower Hooks!

I have an obsession with collecting shower hooks from the thrift store. I think this is my strangest thrift score compulsion. I have never lived in an apartment that had any more than 1 (one) shower at a time, and I have more than enough shower hooks for the 1 (one) shower curtain that is needed.

bath art 4

This is my favorite group of hooks, because they look like edamame or pea pods!

bath art 8

I am wondering if anyone has any ideas for alternative uses for shower hooks. This is meant to be a little puzzle to get the creative side of your brain going, perhaps a bit ambitious for a Monday? I'll let you decide. Your ideas are welcome, no matter how outlandish!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Paper Chase

Old papers, handwritten, calling cards, or bills.
Prayer cards, wine labels, paperdolls, or announcements,
Stickers, tags, notes, post cards or stamps.
Newspaper print, music, ledgers or photographs,
Maps, tickets, envelopes, any form of mail,
Menus, engravings, journals or patterns...
If it is old paper I am going stop and look!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

If the dress fits.

sabrina yellow and pinkfront of dress bow detail top

My friend Sabrina is gifted in a lot of ways. Not only is she generous, photogenic, funny, musical, and kind... she is also a small person. She can wear whatever she wants! Whenever I have friends come over for a clothing photo shoot, I inevitably end up with a huge pile of clothing to reserve in case Sabrina comes by. Sometimes it seems like she is the only person on the planet who can wear half the vintage pieces that I pick up, because she is the only one who will fit in them!

I collect clothing almost compulsively, and it is quite clear that clothing is not manufactured for real body shapes on either end of the spectrum. Sabrina herself has told me that she can't find things in retail stores that fit her, sometimes. And at 5'10" with a generous waist-line, I am also a far cry from a normal size on the clothing rack. Please note that I am not putting myself down for this fact, because I love being tall and I'm working (successfully) on the waist-line, but I often find that I do not fit in to 99% of the really great clothes I find at thrift stores-- and no amount of tailoring or alteration would change that fact.

So, what's a girl to do? I thought I would list a few of my own sizing solutions, and ask for input on what other people do to alter thrifted clothing so that it works with their own wardrobes.

  1. First I look for clothing that can be let out. Look for inside seams with extra or doubled-up fabric.

  2. Next I look for clothing that is too big, but will be easy to take in to fit my measurements. Sometimes this means shopping in Menswear, sometimes it means shopping in Plus Size or Maternity even if I feel like I am smaller than that. Don't even look at the numbers on clothing tags at a secondhand shop. Try everything on.

  3. Next I look for fabric that makes me happy. When I was in high school I would ask my mom to sew me clothes from the fabric that I would buy. Now I have the ability to do this for myself, and it makes me feel like I have options.

  4. Sometimes I have to admit my weaknesses. I don't think that I will ever find jeans that fit me at a secondhand shop, and I am resigned to avoiding the rows and rows of trouser hangers. This saves me a little bit of my self worth every time, and I instead invest my time wisely and target the sections where I know I'm bound for a good hit!

  5. Bulk up! Given the gamble of the resale market, sometimes I like buying in bulk and for cheap and then sorting through it later with a friend. In other words, if I *really* love a fabric or the shape of a garment, I just buy it anyway and figure out what to do with it later.

  6. Like we do with birthday cake: we can just take a small slice. Sometimes there is a detail on a dress, or a print on a skirt that I feel drawn toward. There is no one who can stop me from detaching said row of buttons, or patch of 60s flowers, and reattaching them onto something else--a handbag, a t-shirt, even the cuff of a sock! Once you start looking at a piece of clothing as a composite of details, you start to think outside the limitations of that garment.

  7. Think bags and shoes: last resorts can be just desserts! Great accessories can do a lot to satisfy the soul.

  8. Remember, great clothing is meant to be shared. Seeing that little yellow polka dot dress on my sister might be a lot better than leaving it behind or selling it to a stranger at a garage sale!

back of dress zipper 1

Like I said, I'm working on the waistline and I'll have a better go at the thrift stores again in no time. Meanwhile, your comments are welcome. Happy Hunting (sewing, ripping, throwing out, hiding in the back of your closet for "someday", and generally drooling wistfully over it all)!


So the other day I was visiting a woman who I am working on a project with for Paper Relics at her shop. The shop is great, it is in this old mill that has been turned into a little shopping center and filled with cute boutiques and art shops, and much to my surprise, an antique mall in the
basement. I forgot how it came up but as soon as she mentioned it my mind was already heading for the door. I went down, not sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. One section was dedicated to sewing, it was wonderful and I only wish I had the space and extra cash for some of the unique items for sale. I was about to move on when my eye spotted a pile of early
1900's French fashion catalogs. *Swoon* I had to get someone to come open the case for me to look at them, and I always hate that. I am afraid that while I am going to find a person with a key, that another shopper will see what I spotted and figure a way in to get it before me. Silly, I know, but when I find something I have to have, I get that wonderful feeling inside - pure joy.

They were amazing French catalogs from 1902, 1904, 1905 and 1915. I purchased 2, went back upstairs to show the woman I was visiting my lucky finds and ended up running back down to get the other 2. they are WONDERFUL (click on photos to see larger version). Lots and lots of girls in dresses, cute items, everything and each has a fabric sample sheet in the front! I have so many ideas floating around with what to use these images for... one thing I am going to do eventually is scan a bunch and offer a French Catalog clip art CD. But I had to share this find with you! And stay tuned for a post of what I made with some of my flea market finds!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Collecting Silverware

Forks, knives, and spoons. Tablespoons, teaspoons, and butterknives. They do not have to be a set, or of the same pattern for me to scoop them up, and take them home. Mix-match luxury is a class act I can afford.

The only thing I know about French silvermarks is this:
If it is silver, on the backside of each piece, there is a stamp pressed at the base of the neck.

I know very little about silver. But it is of little importance to me. I buy antique silver that is inexpensive so I can use it everyday.

In France, the forks are set upside down when set on the table. That is why the pattern is often on the back side.

Usually, when I buy silver at the flea markets, they do not look silver. They are black with tarnish. Nothing, that elbow grease cannot take out.

Photo taken by Corey Amaro. 19th century French silverware would you like some?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Tea for Women who wear Pink Lipstick

I have a bad habit, I like to collect things I do not need. Take these teeny tiny napkins, tea napkins and hankies, for a dainty tea party with ladies who wipe their lips perfectly at the edge...or the cream ladle with its delicately painted porcelain handle!

Collecting is like that, it seldom has to do with is about imagination and dipping into passion. A touch of lace, an old ribbon, turn of the century floral paintings, small pleasures are taken from their romantic flare.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Have Cart will Shop

The other day while at the fruit and vegetable market in Rennes (in France,) I saw these hyper cute portable shopping carts! I quickly snapped one up! Far more practical than a back pack!
Aren't they snazzy these eye candy color treats! Just too hip not to like them!

Seeing these made me think how I could take a simple metal frame cart and doll it up with vintage fabric, creating my own little snazzy antiquing go cart! My wheels are turning! Isn't it just like that, we see something or buy something for the idea of it, and the creative juices start flowing taking us to new ideas to explore?

My flea market purchases are going to look mighty chic riding inside!

A common thread

I always wonder about the person who owned the item I'm buying when I go out thrifting.

Just last week I found a bag full of old thread, and immediately snatched it up. I wasn't looking for thread (not that I could really use this old stuff - it's fragile), but I picked the plastic baggie up and brought it home anyway. The spools fit perfectly in this Pyrex bowl I found this past summer.

Anyway, as I was saying, I get to thinking about who owned this stuff. I wonder what project the woman who purchased this thread might have been working on. Why did she pick up the fuschia, the tangerine, the teal? Such vibrant colors. I wonder if they matched her personality.

The area I live in has an over-65 population of about 65%. When these folks pass away, their family or friends gather up the person's belongings and drop them off at the local second-hand stores. I think of this everytime I see another large cache of goods come into the shops.

I have found half-completed quilts, partially embroidered pillows and a large bag full of men's neckties that had been washed and cut up for a project. As I put them into my cart, I think of the person who had owned these items, whose hands had hoped to create something, and I long to finish what they have started.

hello, I love junk

my name is andrea and I have a confession to make: I have been struggling with what to write here at tag sale tales for months and months now. I was thrilled when jenny first invited me to contribute this past spring-- my head immediately began to spin with ideas of what I might write about. but the words, they just wouldn't come. I got it in my head that I needed to take a specific angle with it and that's when I got stuck. yes, I was overthinking it (as I am so prone to doing). at the end of the day, this is what I have to offer: twenty years of junk-hunting experience. and stories. oh, the stories! better even than the goodies that I've found along the way (and the crazy things I've done with them), the collections I've worked to build year after year-- are the stories. if you're anything like me, you love to see what other people dig up, you're curious about what they do with their finds, you love to hear the stories.

about the junk-loving part of who I am: I grew up in a family of collectors, I come from a long line of lovers of old stuff. my mom had a thing for primitives (still does) and my grandma was an antiques dealer who crammed house after house full of ancient lovely things. I remember her occasionally holding auctions in her backyard. I was mesmerized by the man with the microphone and the strange staccato voice selling off boxes of china and armoires faster than what seemed right. once, she let me pick out something from the tables to keep for myself. after much consideration, I chose an autographed picture of ginger rogers in a vanilla-colored art deco frame. it's something I'll never forget. these days, I keep ginger in a special place.

the preteen me didn't really like old things. I just couldn't understand the attraction. everything seeming so brown and so... dusty. my preteen mind worked overtime dreaming up plans for a house that would be filled with 80s style coolness-- sleek couches the color of salmon and mirrored tables with sharp angles, everything sparkly and new. and then my mom took me to the fleamarket when I was 14 and gave me ten dollars to spend however I wanted. that ten dollar bill had 'new clothes from the mall' written all over it. I was on my way to buy a funnel cake when I stumbled onto it-- a table piled impossibly high with vintage clothing. old beaded dresses, slinky satin slips, glamorous pajama bottoms-- three pieces for ten dollars! I had so much fun digging through that wrinkly, jumbly mess. something terribly intoxicating about the whole affair and in that moment, I got it. I totally got it. and really, that was it for me. I started to see old things with new eyes. I couldn't get enough of vintage clothing-- old hats and dresses, costume jewelry. then when I was 16, we moved from a small southern illinois town to cincinnati. all of the sudden, I found myself with direct access to an army of thrift stores. my mom had been taking me to yard sales and antique stores for years, but the lovely underworld of thrifting proved to be exceptionally seductive. another world of possibility cracked wide open.

twenty years later and I'm still not tired of it. I'm up and down with it but never, ever done with it. I'm not really into traditional antiques and don't collect vintage clothing pieces anymore. naturally, my tastes have shifted. these days, I am on the prowl for vintage vernacular photography (particularly photobooth snapshots), vintage travel memorabilia (souvenir pennants and pillow covers, postcards), old world globes in deliciously aged shades of turquoise, vintage purses, pull-down school maps, midcentury modern pieces (especially lamps), odd old signs, wood/metal printers blocks, letters and numbers from signs, various ephemera (always with the ephemera), paint-by-numbers, all kinds of old cameras and vintage wallpaper. oh, and whatever else I'm unable to pass up.

so finally, here I am. nice to meet you, fellow junk-lovers. I promise to do right by you, I do.

(and if you just can't get enough: my flickr fleamarket set)

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Once upon a time there was an old wooden chair.
The chair had an old worn checked seat and looked quite sad and misreable....

ok .

that was once in the past ....

since then :

It changed its owner. is mine now :)
it has a new violet cover made from a pillowcase bought for $3 .
It has a new company of a wooden creamy wall and they are very close friends ... they look good together .

~ the end ~

ps ~the HAPPY end~