Sunday, May 25, 2008

Thrifting Gems

Many of you guessed correctly about my "thrifting mystery," and Erica even knew the name--it's a Butter Bell! You can pack a cube of softened butter into the hollow area in the lid, put cold water into the crock, and the butter will remain fresh at room temperature for about 30 days. Hubby and I stopped eating butter very much when we started trying to eat better--we substituted something called Balade that I get at Trader Joe's--it's a "light" butter. Still, the website for the Butter Bell has what appear to be some yummy flavored butter recipes, and if a cube will stay fresh up to 30 days, I can certainly see using my butter crock in the future. Not a bad find for around $3!

In honor of tomorrow's big 50% off sale at Goodwill--which you know hubby and I plan to participate in--I thought I'd tell you a few of my "secrets" for what has--surprisingly to me--been some thrifting success and fun. I seriously used to get frustrated on the rare occasions I visited thrift stores because I never seemed to find the "treasures" others found. Now my attitude has changed--at least I think that's what has really made a difference in my experiences.

First of all, go with an open mind. Don't head out to the thrift stores with something specific in mind. It's okay to say, "Gee, I hope I can find a wicker chair for the porch," but go for more than that--go with the idea that maybe you'll find something really great that you didn't even know you wanted. Really LOOK at what the store has. And many times I've gone through all the aisles and then gone back again and found things I'd missed the first time. Of course, since they keep putting out merchandise all day long, it's possible that whatever I came across wasn't there the first time I looked, but I think it's really more a matter of looking. Sometimes the real finds might be buried under other merchandise on a bottom shelf--get down there and look.

Use your imagination. Look for things that appeal to you for their color or shape. It's not always important that you know you can do something with whatever it is--if you like the way it looks, it can always just live life as a decoration or a curiosity. And what's the worst that can happen? You donate it back to the thrift shop and you're out of pocket a couple dollars! Remember that weird rolling pin-like thing I found?

I still don't know what it's supposed to be, but my plan is to hang it on the wall in the kitchen and then hang a small quilt from it. I hope I'll be able to show you how that turns out before too long.

The other day when I was in the thrift store, I came across an interesting bottle. I didn't know what I'd do with it, but I liked it and it was $2. Then I found three more further down on the shelf.

As I looked at them, I realized they'd make great containers for some kind of liqueur to be given as Christmas gifts. Hubby's thinking something red would be ideal. Does anyone have a good recipe for cranberry or cherry liqueur or something along those lines?

And speaking of Christmas gifts, I often make up gift baskets for friends and family. That's one thing I'll be looking for tomorrow--nice baskets for that purpose. Baskets are already plentiful and pretty inexpensive at thrift stores; at 50% off, I'm sure I'll come home tomorrow with several, ready to start thinking about what I want to fill them with for the holidays.

Glasses are also plentiful at thrift stores; some are pretty average but occasionally I come across some really nice ones. Wouldn't a couple of fancy glasses and a bottle of champagne make a nice gift for a young couple for Christmas, weddings, or aniversaries? I was chatting with a woman in the thrift store a few days ago who was looking for some glasses she had seen the day before and wanted to get for a friend--they were Kentucky Derby glasses. Of course they were gone already. And if I had seen them, I might have bought them, thinking I could make a gift basket for my boy boss who enjoys horse racing--but no, I wasn't in the thrift store when they were put out and I didn't see them. But keep an eye open for that type of thing--you just might come across something that would make a unique gift for someone.

Thrift stores also have tons of pictures and frames. Often the frames are beat up a bit, but as long as they still have their glass and are well constructed, a little paint or stain will have them looking like new. Of course, that means putting some time and work into them, so look for frames that are worth the effort. I also look for frames with mats--if nothing else, I can use the mats for another picture and it's less expensive than buying new picture mats.

Remember that floral embroidery I found? I found a frame I liked and painted it. Here's a photo:

I'm still not quite satisfied--I think it might need a small black mat or something to set it off a little more, but maybe not. I'll live with it awhile and think about it. In any event, though, it looks nice on the wall in my bedroom, brightens up an otherwise boring corner, and I have the satisfaction of knowing I rescued something someone had put a lot of time and effort into making.

Clothing. Thrift stores have TONS of it. And some of you may not want to shop for clothing at a thrift store, but you can actually find things that have never been worn. I've bought a couple of denim shirts for summer. Still, if that's not quite your cup of tea, there are other things you can use clothing for. Look for clothes with great buttons or trim you can recycle. Or, here's another idea: My friend Kairle bought a few sweaters and turned them into purses. Check her blog HERE. You can also make sweaters into pillows--just measure the sweater, sew a few seams, and stuff a pillow form inside. A week or so ago, I saw an off-white eyelet lace blazer that caught my eye--it was only later that I thought I should have bought it and made it into a pillow--wouldn't THAT have been cool?!

I also like to look for storage items. Baskets, again, make for more decorative places to store things than plain old boxes or plastic containers. I found this little picnic-style basket, and I think it would make an awfully cute lunch "bag."

Then I found one that's the same style but larger. Hummm. It seems to me I've got a "collection" going now! I bet that larger one would hold fabric and things for a quilt class very nicely!

Wooden boxes--I love wooden boxes! Right now in the Sweat Shop I have a shelf that's lined with plastic boxes containing stuff like buttons, lace, ribbons, and other trims. It seems to me that a line of painted and/or embellished wooden boxes would look a heck of a lot nicer and would be fun to decorate as well!

Look in places at the store that you don't expect to find anything you'd want. Seriously! I wasn't looking for a lamp the other day, but I happened to glance over at the shelf holding lamps and saw one with apples on the ceramic base, and apples are one of the themes I use in my kitchen. For $4, I came home with a "new" kitchen lamp. The center post had yellowed, so hubby took it apart for me, and I spray painted it white. I then pulled out some blue and white fabric from my stash and made a ruffle and used the red and white ruffled zig zag I had bought to make an apron--I think it made a rather nice trim!

Textiles. Since most of you reading this are probably quilters, you well know how attractive textiles can be! I love tablecloths, curtains, napkins, and just about anything made from fabric. I continue to hunt the sections containing this kind of thing but I haven't yet found another quilt. Still, I've found other "treasures"--just the other day, I brought home a red and white tablecloth from Crate and Barrel that will look equally great on my kitchen table during the summer or at Christmas. Napkins are also plentiful--remember those Christmas gift baskets I mentioned? Look for red, green, or white napkins to line the baskets. If you have an embroidery machine, you could easily add embroidery for something really special!

The really wonderful thing about thrifting is that you can spend just a few dollars and bring home a few bags full of stuff to enhance or change the look of a room and/or give you hours of fun painting or otherwise transforming what you purchased into something you love. The other really wonderful thing about thrifting is occasionally stumbling across a true "treasure"--an item you found for a couple dollars that you then find is worth ten times as much. But don't go thrifting with the idea you're going to find that type of treasure every time because you won't, and as a consequence, you won't enjoy the experience. Just go knowing that sometimes the small treasures are reward enough! And sometimes the real treasure lies in the dream. What do I mean by that? Well, I didn't really NEED a butter crock--and I didn't even know that's what I was buying! But now I have a yellow butter crock that matches a yellow pitcher I found. Throw in a blue and white checked tablecloth--another thrift store find--and a loaf of fragrant, hot, homemade bread, all served out on the patio on a beautiful spring day--yep, that's what I'm dreaming about now. Not a bad Home and Gardens vision for just a few dollars!


kcenya1950 said...

Kim, love what you did with the lamp. I have been a thrifter all my life -- and nearly all my furniture has come from goodwill, salvation army, or whatever local thrift agency was in a given town. there is nothing as satisfying as making these things your own. my favourite part of thrift shops these days is what i call the crafts gone bad section --where someone started and did not finish a craft project, or did something they didn't like so you get something kind of off beat and funky. and occasionally something positively perfect like your quilt or embroidery. hope your memorial day thrifting is rewarding

The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

What great finds! Love the little bottles for cordials. I make cherry cordial every few years--if I'm remembering right the recipe is from Fancy Pantry by Helen Witty. It's out of print but your public library might have it, or there are used copies around. It's really easy to make--basically soak sweet cherries in brandy and sugar for several months. Tastes great and would be lovely in those bottles!

mamaspark said...

OK, OK, I will keep trying. I just wish the thrift store was closer. I'd probably make it a plan to visit more frequently!

Nancy said...

Oh, I was going to say a butter dish, but DH said that "was stupid". Why, oh why do I listen to him? lol

We are leaving to buy a tree this am, Goodwill is close by, I will get him to stop.

See ya,.

Vicky said...

If you're into felting wool for projects, don't forget to look for wool clothing. I only went once and picked up a pleated skirt, 100% wool, for $2. I came home, cut the waistband off, unsewed the pleats and there was almot three yards of the most beautiful green wool which felted beautifully in hot water in the washer.

Having fun watching your adventures, Kim!

Red Geranium Cottage said...

That little basket would make a cute sewing basket too. And I LOVE that lamp!!! Great job you thrifter you!!!

Su Bee said...

Oh man -- I gotta go back to Sac; those thrift stores are great! In a real small town in a real rural area all we have is true junk. You have some fantastic finds, and your talent turns them into something really really special!

Kairle said... I'm tempted to go back to Savers and find out if that cream wool blanket is still there. They have 50% off today, too. which would make it $3. Last week I found a particular type of dance shoe that the Ballerina needs for her summer workshop. New they would have been $45+. They were only $10 at Deseret Industries. Good thing since she'll only wear them a few times this summer.

Eileen said...

The picture frame looks great and I love the lamp. You are really getting into this.

Anonymous said...

The Roller is back massager! Try it on Pat's back. He will like it. Just don't try and flatten him like you would with a ball of dough!

Well, I have an idea what you are giving for Christmas this year! I like homemade apricot brandy!! Yum!

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