Friday, 27 May 2011

Etsy Friday Finds

I've started selling (or at least, trying to sell!) on Etsy rather than Dawanda since most of my readers appear to be either British or American. That, and the fact that I don't speak either French or German with any fluidity, which is a bit of a hindrance to doing business on Dawanda. I'm not going to de-list what is already advertised there (unless I sell it elsewhere), but anything new will be listed via Etsy.

I am finding Etsy a lot of fun so far, and I made my first sale there already (woohoo!) Yesterday I created my first treasury there as well:

'Good Enough To Eat...' by relovedbyrosie

Hummingbird Cupcake...

Mini Strawberry Don...

All The Cakes - Gic...

Coffee Time Button ...

Bar of milk chocola...

Two Peanut Butter A...

waffle ring with ch...

Felt Strawberry Ice...

Arty Farty Gingerbr...

fantastic felt food...

Handmade Felt and F...

Gingerbread Whipped...

The White Rabbit Tr...

Rock Candy Crystal ...

Gummy Bear Gel Cand...

Dollhouse miniature...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Travel Journal

The French road atlas I trash-picked yesterday reminded me of a map I'd already got - and a little project I'd been meaning to get round to for ages. So rather than doing all of the housework and chores I'd lined up for yesterday afternoon, I dropped it all to get stuck into making a travel journal with the map instead! Well, I call it a journal, it's really more of an organiser or folder or something:

The covers are made with a game board I picked up ages ago - a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one that a friend gave me when her lad grew out of it (and had lost all of the playing tokens that went with it). Covered in a map of Paris it looks a lot more sophisticated and you'd never tell what it's covering! The ribbon is some from the sewing box I picked up yesterday. The buttons are from my button box and were cut off old clothes at some point by myself, my mother or my grandmother. The covers are on a really big bind so that the spine can expand as the journal is filled.

When you open it up, on the left is a gusseted pocket that holds a wire-bound photo album with twenty pages of black sugar paper, and three notebooks of various sizes. They are made from salvaged paper and pages from yesterday's road atlas (I ran out of map!). I hand-stitched them all with linen thread, which was also in the sewing box I got yesterday!

On the facing side is a concertina made from a section of map. On the front of it there is sturdy pocket made from the map cover. It is just the right size to hold pencils and the like.

When you open the concertina there is blank sections to glue pictures or keepsakes to, slash pockets to store items, and at the end another hand-stitched notebook to journal in. I can only show sections of the concertina because it's too long to fit in a photograph!

I've listed it in my Etsy shop but if it doesn't sell I won't mind; I think I'll try and persuade my partner to take me back to France instead!

Anyway, that's my latest make and I hope you've enjoyed seeing it!

Sunday, 22 May 2011


About the sewing box, then. It really does deserve its own post.

I have wanted one of these sewing boxes since forever. My mum has one (it's a generational thing, I think they gave them out in maternity wards in the '70s and '80s). They're pretty ugly as they are but I reckon a bit of work and you could make one look awesome! You can still buy them new, and they pop up fairly regularly at the charity shop too, but they are always too dear for me so I've never succumbed. Except today, I did :) The chap saw me glance at it (I'm the queen of nonchalance at a car boot) and said a tenner, which is waaay too much. Then he told me that it included the contents and lifted the lid on one of the top compartments to demonstrate. There appeared to be an awful lot of cheap polyester thread in there, but there were lots of colours I don't have. They always come in useful and even cheap thread is expensive, if you know what I mean. I decided you can never have too much cheap polyester thread. 

I offered him a fiver. He countered at £8. When he added that it was his late mother's I gave in and agreed, even as I realised that lugging it home on foot was going to be a pain. Usually when people at boot sales say something was their late mother's, it's just a coded way of saying they don't want to haggle any further. Well. I think this was someone's late mother's. And it was a bargain.
The compartment he had shown me was just the beginning:

You know I just said you can never have too much cheap polyester thread? I changed my mind already. I've got enough to last a lifetime now. Several lifetimes, maybe. Most of it seems to be very old. From the days when things in this country were still measured in yards and ounces and you were allowed to put the words 'best quality' and 'polyester' in the same sentence. I love how, in true mum-style, there are multiple reels of the same thread. Not only in colours you might need a lot of, like black or white or navy, but in completely bonkers colours as well:

Someone was obviously planning to make a lot of purple curtains. But check out the price label. At 7p a pop why not buy two? Although I bet whoever bought it never realised that this thread would outlive the store that sold it. RIP Woolies. 

Although some of this thread is neither cheap nor polyester. Some of it is very special:

A big old reel of linen thread on a wooden spool. This is truly vintage, and I love the reel! I still buy Barbour's Irish Linen Thread for bookbinding, but I'm not sure if I'm actually going to use this or just look at it.

There was a load more ribbons as well, and lace, and needles, patches... all sorts of haberdashery (I love that word.) Again, a lot of it is very old, bought for pennies and hidden away. A lot of it is obviously salvaged; there are earrings there, ribbon that still had stitching on it, one length of ribbon that was obviously squirrelled away from some long-given Valentine's gift. Check these needles out:

I don't know how old they are, but if you've ever seen the Full Monty you'll know it's years since Sheffield actually produced steel, and it's got to be decades since they made things like needles here rather than just importing them from China.

Some big spools of thread, but these are just plain filthy! Does anyone know any smart ways to clean it up? If not, I'll use it for tacking, but I don't see that I'll ever need this much, and I can't imagine anyone else would want it as it is.

Even though I got a really good deal, I felt a little sad. Time was that a woman's sewing notions would be passed down through the generations. It's sad when something like this is sold to a stranger for what isn't a lot of money, really. I'm pleased that I bought it. Someone should treasure it.

Thrifting Shopping Haul! or: Car Booty*

So, I've had a chance to sort through all my boot sale goodies from this morning now:

I was going to look for Scrabble. I want to make a Scrabble journal for my Dad for Father's Day. I didn't find it, but I did find these games instead. The three were in a produce tray together, the guy said he wasn't sure if all the parts were there but I could have the three for £1.50. I offered him the 70p change I had in my pocket and he accepted. They're not worth much more in all honesty. Othello has one piece missing, which isn't the end of the world. I can probably get one somewhere, do up the box and pass it on to a charity shop. I'll make board books with the other two. I've no idea what I'll do with the toy Telex. I had to Google to find out what a Telex even was.

Narnia Risk was £1. I saw it for £7 in a charity shop the other day!!!! I haven't checked the pieces so I don't know if I'll craft with it or sell it on. I do like the board though, and when I've made books with Narnia board games before they've been quite popular.

I love Fuzzy Felt. I've made Fuzzy Felt board books and also Fuzzy Felt greetings cards before. They both sold really well. The box is a tin, it's a little dinted in places but otherwise okay. I'm sure I can find a use for it! The cards in the Disney Princess memory game are heart-shaped and will make great card toppers. Both games were a steal at 50p each.

The cigar boxes were 50p each. People on the web always mention about getting them free, but the only proper tobacconist round here charges anything from £2.50 to £6 each. I'm not surprised, they're surprisingly sturdy and well made, far too good for the bin. I'll make treasure boxes or sewing boxes with them, I guess.

LPs, 50p each. All were bought for crafting. The Madness one I just found funny; Coventry is the home of 2 Tone and British Ska. But it's not a 2 Tone record (it's from when they moved to Stiff) and it's not even in English, it's Spanish. All three are scratched to high heaven so I'll have no guilt in repurposing them.

The sewing box is a proper bargain and I'm giving it it's own post I think. It was £8.

Okay, so I didn't actually buy the atlas: I found it by the recycling bins on the way home and decided I can use it.

I think I did pretty well for just a touch over £13, don't you?

Car Booty, for the non-British, was a daytime TV show that was jaw-droppingly terrible (even by the standards of daytime TV). Even so, it isn't quite the worst car-boot-sale-related TV show; that dubious honour goes to the execrable Boot Sale Challenge. Both shows were so bad they were strangely compelling.

Sunday Morning Car Boot Sale

It wasn't so long ago that I'd be stumbling home at 6.30 on Sunday morning, rather than getting up to start my day. 6.30 the rest of the week is just par for the course, but on Sunday it feels really early. The car-boot sale I was visiting is about a mile's walk up the duel carriageway, but on Sunday morning there is hardly any traffic at all; under the subway, over the railway, past Costco and the car dealers and the plastic factory, the weather station and the pressworks and the magazine distributors, all of which are silent and empty today. It's a surprisingly nice walk at that time. It was like one of those secret gardens you can visit; even though you know that anyone can visit and it's printed on all the tourist maps, by simply being there you feel as though you are one of the chosen few, or have been entrusted with some privileged information. The only cars I saw were loaded up at the back, obviously on their way to sell. The other pedestrians (a gratifyingly high number of them) were all headed to the same place I was.

Car boot sales are the British version of the flea market and the yard sale, tens or hundreds of people gathered in a muddy field to sell their cast-offs from trestle tables set up at the back of their car. Like everything else in Britain, there are subtle class distinctions and snobberies and all kinds of silent etiquettes that one instinctively observes. But at a basic level they have an admirable aim; to earn the seller a bit of pocket money selling their 'trash' for someone else to 'treasure'. It's recycling from before when recycling became a buzz word.

Generally speaking, you do have to rummage around a little to find the treasure. An increasing number use the car boot sale as a last ditch attempt to get a little cash for something before dumping it. Currently the secondhand route is approximately as follows:

Prized Possession --> Private sale --> Small Ad/Gumtree --> Ebay --> Boot Sale --> Charity Shop --> Bin

People miss out stages depending on the quality of the goods and their general laziness. Sadly, a lot of people bypass everything between 'prized possession' and 'bin'. In fact, a staggering number don't appear even to value their possessions when they plan to hang onto them. Then there are a large number who don't have the time, or don't need the money, so tend to dispose of everything useable to charity shops. I like these people because I like buying their cast offs! But a lot of people will try and sell their stuff by any means possible before resorting to a car boot. Prices are low and it's one of the few places where us reserved Brits will haggle.

Conventional wisdom has it that you have to get there early to get the good stuff. It's true that the 'dealers', that is, the professionals and resellers, will be there early and will search aggressively for what they are after. This morning I witnessed a dealer literally snatch a large box out of a lady's hands to search through it before anyone else got to it. (I felt a little surge of joy when she tartly told him she wouldn't sell a thing to him at any price after that, and all of the nearby stallholders applauded). If you don't get there early you'll never get any of the urban legend-style bargains. But to be honest there was never anyone selling still-boxed Star Wars toys for 20p each anyway. If you're happy to scrum, or you're after something specific like Lego or Barbie dolls, then yes, you need to be there at the crack of dawn. If you just want a poke around through other people's junk and you prefer it when people behave in a civilized manner, then early-ish, an hour or so after opening, is fine. You can take your time wandering round and have fun even if you don't make your millions from what you find.

If you're after the biggest bargains, then you should ignore the 'rules' altogether, and turn up late. An hour from closing time is perfect. Although there are professional booters who'll pack up and bring their unsold items back next week, the vast majority are householders who've had a bit of a spring clean and would really rather not cart all their rubbish back home again. Many will accept any offer to get rid of stuff. I even know professional booters who get all of their stock this way, by offering £5 or £10 the lot just as the sale closes. And the seller tends to be really grateful for the offer. Of course, there is a trade off; thousands of people have already picked over and rejected this stuff. But if you're a visionary who enjoys the challenge of transforming the unloveable, it's definitely a strategy to consider. 

I personally use both strategies, depending on whether I am looking for something specific and whether I can be bothered to get out of bed early enough. This morning I was looking for Scrabble, but it was such a lovely, peaceful morning that simply being there was enough.

Saturday, 21 May 2011


Note to self: buy non-slip ruler. Yep, I sliced the tip of my finger off with a craft knife. It's about as painful as it sounds. Typing is tricky but cutting, sewing, and even paper piecing are almost impossible, so that's me out for a day or so. Sigh.

Still, I'm pleased with how this dinky little notebook / post-it holder turned out, so it was totally worth it!

It's not every day you can say that actual blood and tears went into a creation. If you want to own it, please visit my Dawanda shop!

And in the mean time, if you're cutting anything today, take care :-p

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Joy of Paper

I know it's wrong in this day and age to admit being obsessed by paper. It's so analogue, so last century, and not in a funky retro way either. You can't go anywhere without being reminded of your carbon footprint, Amazon Kindle is on a mission to do away with paperbacks, and every email I am sent at work finishes with the message "Think: GREEN. Do you really need to print this out?" (to which I have always longed to respond "Think: you're two feet away from me. Did you really need to email in the first place?") It all makes me immensely sad, and even as I'm sat typing this on a blog, my real journal is pen and paper, stored in that ultimate cliché hiding place, down the side of the bed. Paper doesn't run our of battery life, hurt your eyes, or rely on technology that will one day become obsolete. It's intimate, personal, tactile, and a mile away from the self-obsessed self-promotion of online life.

It all started with school stationery. The joy of starting a new exercise book and the determination to keep it perfect for as long as possible. I was so much of a control freak that I would actually pretend to lose my books at the first sign of a ripped out page, bad grade, or ink blot. Eventually my favourite English lit teacher figured out what I was up to and taught me that perfection isn't healthy, not for individuals and not for the arts either. He taught me that great works come from knowledge, from experimentation and mistakes and dubious choices, and also that I'd need all those essays on Lord of the Flies come revision time. I got an A in that exam, but I have to confess that even now I have a cupboard full of half-used exercise books from various subjects. Still, they have come in handy for use in various reclaimed paper projects.

We'd often take family holidays in France, and I regret that one of my biggest highlights was visiting the Hypermarche near the end of our stay to stock up on back-to-school stuff. The average French supermarket stationery department at back-to-school time has to be seen to be believed. I'd buy homework diaries, composition books, journals and notepads, and feel so chic using the Seyes rule instead of normal, boring lined paper.  These days I keep a dozen or so journals to catalogue every little thing, which I'm sure I wouldn't do if it hadn't been for those made stationery shopping sprees.

My friend is even worse than me. She has dozens of beautifully bound books that she will never write in. To her, it's not the point. She would never sully what is, to her, a work of art, with something so mundane as a thought. I am the opposite. I have moved on from the days when a 9/10 was enough to see me abandon a notebook, and from the day when, aged 21, I burnt all of my teenage diaries because they were full of angst and bad poetry and unrequited obsession. I have developed more confidence in my 'voice' (as the English teacher would have put it) since then, and have discovered the amazing Mass Observation archives, the histories written by David Kynaston, and particularly the journals of Nella Last. For years I knew that my interest lay with the peasant, not the king, and that I cared more for the ephemera than the artwork, and the food people ate more than the wars that they fought. Even the most mundane record of the most average life has a value; in fact, the more average the better, one could argue.

I have only one that I could never bear to write in; it is the one, that illustrates this post. It's bound up in hand marbled paper and memories. On the last holiday I took with my father, we were in Florence, and I was drooling into the window of Il Papiro. The journal wasn't so expensive, not considering the quality and history and craftsmanship, but it was beyond my meagre student budget. My dad asked me what on earth I could need another blooming book for, he'd never been keen on my holiday paper binges, and I can remember feeling a surge of anger and resentment - that teenage angst again - as I slouched away from the shop. Five months later, on Christmas day, I opened a small parcel to find this perfect little gift. He admitted he'd been excited about me opening that particular gift since the day he bought it - right up until the moment I picked it up. Would I even remember what it was or where it was from? Nothing I could commit to paper will ever compete with the love that that journal already holds. And I doubt I could have ever felt the same way about some gadget, even if I had wanted it just as badly.

The paper has changed slightly over the years; from French-ruled to Student Union to Moleskine to whatever I can salvage to bind for myself. But I don't think that I will ever change. I'll always be a paper-and-pencil kind of girl.

Even as I sit and type.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Thrifting Shopping Haul!

Just a quick trip to my two nearest charity (thrift) shops today. Both are run by local hospices; Acorns and Myton Coventry. They are both excellent charities and I would ask anyone who lives in the area to consider donating - or buying - or both. Thrifting is one of those times when everything just comes together perfectly, so everybody wins. The donor declutters and gets the warn fuzzy glow of knowing they've done good without even trying. The buyer gets a bargain. The charity gets a donation, hopefully with gift-aid to boot. And the planet gets to postpone the day when all this junk ends up buried in the ground. Once all of my surgery is out of the way, I plan to volunteer at one of my local shops; until then, I'll have to settle for retail therapy!

Not a vintage haul today, but:

Cluedo (just Clue everywhere but the UK, I think) had been sitting in the Myton shop for a week. Its condition looks too good to butcher for books really, but as nobody else was buying it, and it was only £2, it would be rude not to! I was chatting with one of my favourite volunteers about it. She thinks it looks too old for people to want. I have to confess, I have never once sat down to play a game then decided not to because the board is too 80's. And I thought the 80's were in again now, anyway?

Whatever, it's mine now and I imagine it will be board books by the weekend!

There's another board in the picture too - top centre. It's a Little Mermaid game board that had been donated, inexplicably, on its own. My lovely volunteer offered it me for free. I gave her 50p. A donation is a donation is a donation. I think this will become books as well.

I have to confess that there's nothing wrong with this Memory Game either, apart from that it's a bit dated and smells a bit musty. I had the exact same one when I was a kid and I just had to buy it. £1.50 from Acorns! I'm thinking mini-books, but that is because I am book obsessed right now. I have no idea if they'll be any good; each tile is just two inches square. I adore the pictures on them. They're just the right brand of retro kitsch. Plus, they bring back many happy memories. I was a five-year-old Rain Man and could beat anyone at it. 

Now, here's a question for you. What would you do if you owned a lovely Laura Ashley sweater? Hopefully you wouldn't wash it wrong then donate it to a charity shop, which is what someone did. Luckily I have a contact who keeps these things by in case they interest me. And at 70% lambswool and 30% angora, this interested me a lot! I gave £2, which I consider fair; I usually pay £3-5 for Laura Ashley garments that are in wearable condition. The picture above really doesn't do it justice, but it's a lovely deep red with embroidered and beaded flowers. I'm already thinking a couple of handbags and matching purses. The only downside is that I usually make my garments up before felting, because the finish ends up being so much better. But the thing about thrifting is that it's rare to find things that are already perfect; that's the challenge and that's what makes it so much fun!