Where growing, making & good living come together

Adding to our vintage crockery collection with a charity shop bargain

Posted by on Monday 11 June 2012 in charity shopping | 5 comments

We had a good charity shop score on Saturday – 4 little plates and two bowls for £1, all in perfect condition, from one of the charity shops in Shipley (which is the place to charity shop these days – all the cool kids are doing it).

Not only is that a pretty decent bargain by itself, it’s an especially good score as it’s in the classic 1970s Bacchus by Kilncraft design – which is “our” vintage pattern.

It was one of those everywhere patterns in the late 1970s-early 1980s and my mum & dad had a set – I remember it vividly from my early childhood, especially as it regularly turned up as props on TV shows back then (which, as a small child, is enough to make you feel special by association).

Here is a picture of me at about 18 months, Christmas 1980, with one of the Bacchus dishes on the table in front of me (bottom right corner):

We stole acquired what remained of my mum & dad’s set a few years ago (including that dish from the picture) and have slowly been adding to it with charity shop finds over the last few years. A milk jug here, a couple of bowls there. A couple of years ago, we found the remains of another family’s set in a charity shop in Armley – dinner plates, side plates and cups – on a white background instead of the mustard, but that was close enough for us (and they’re the ones I tend to use when taking food pictures). And we get items from other sources too, for example, just a few months ago, John’s mum found a few more not-quite-dinner plates at her mum’s house so we’ve added them to our pile.

I’m not very much into collecting things because special collected items tend to end up as unused Sunday best but they are very much in everyday use here so it’s fun to find these items as we go about our travels – especially when they’re cheap or free. Coffee cups and individual dinner plates often pop up on eBay for £5+p&p or so but that misses the point for me — the hunt or rather the stumbling-upon is half the pleasure. The other half of the pleasure is, of course, still using perfectly good crockery that is as old as me and will probably still be usable in another 30 years time :)

Do you have anything in particular that you collect or look out for in your charity/thrift/op shop adventures?

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Charity shopping haul: books! books! books! and yarn

Posted by on Monday 10 October 2011 in charity shopping | 3 comments

I seem to go through splurging fazes – spending a lot of money in one particular spending category each month. Last month it was clothes, the month before it was crafts and the month before that was eating-out/take-out food. This month, it’s looking like it’ll be books.

As I’ve said before, I love books but have bought surprisingly few for me this year – and I think that’s what inspired me to buy eight books in the first eight days of October! I think, for the sake of our bookshelves & my purse, I shouldn’t keep up that rate all month!

Two were new & full price (a rarity for me), two were second-hand from Amazon and the other four were charity shop finds from Saturday. We had the good fortune of going to the charity shops in Shipley just a couple of days after someone with similar reading tastes to us had a clearout – the shelves were full of interesting non-fiction books, half of which we had and the other half spiked our interest.

I got:

“Waste” by Tristam Stuart, a book about innovative (but often long standing) solutions to food waste, a little guide to woodworking with some easy project how-tos (I have a big encyclopedia on the same topic but this looks more immediately practical) and for fun, since I’ve been reading a lot of factual stuff lately, “World War Z” by Max Brooks which was amusing filed in the non-fiction section (it’s presented as a non-fiction oral history but is about the Zombie War, which, you know, hasn’t happen [yet]. I spent yesterday afternoon reading it and so far, would definitely recommend it to post-apocalyptica fiction fans). The books are all in really good condition but the charity’s “please give this back when you’re done” stickers were really annoyingly sticky and I’ve dented the front of “Waste” and “World War Z” by trying to peel them off. Grr.

At another shop, I picked up a little book about growing fruit:

I have a couple of dedicated books about vegetables but none about fruit, just the odd reference in more general books. This one isn’t the most comprehensive encyclopedia ever but has already answered a couple of questions I had about soft fruit bushes, so I think it’ll be well worth 50p.

I also made two craft purchases while I was out:

1000g of navy Guernsey, 100% wool yarn for £5. Not sure what I’ll use it for yet but it’s such a novelty to find enough wool for an entire project in a charity shop – and at such a bargain price too. According to the British Breeds website, their 5-ply usually retails at £5.50 per 100g ball!

I also took a chance on a squished-but-otherwise-brand-new “funky cord kit” – essentially two foam circles and some cotton threads designed for making friendship bracelets and the like.

It’s a kids’ kit but I’m a big kid who like playing about with thread so I’ll have fun trying it for 20p :)

Have you been charity/thrift/op shopping recently? If so, any good finds?

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Charity shop finds: a wool blanket & a cute jug

Posted by on Thursday 25 August 2011 in charity shopping | 2 comments

I had to go shopping from drama supplies on Monday and while I was there (Shipley), looking for spookily featureless masks, I had a couple of pleasing charity shop finds too.

Firstly, a big wool blanket.

The label says it’s 100% wool and “British made”, and it’s in very good condition – no felting and just a few snags that a couple of minutes with a crochet hook will set right.

I’ve actually be looking for a nice wool blanket on eBay for a while and based on previous sale prices, had given myself a pretty tight budget of about £12 inc p&p – but this one was just £3.99. Win.

It’s a little scratchy (it is wool after all) so it’s not going to be my favourite buried-up-to-my-face-in-it snuggly but it’ll be more than fine on top of the duvet (it’s at least double bed size) or as a throwover for cold legs/feet on the sofa.

The other thing I got was a bit less practical – well, I’ll probably use it in a less practical way. A cute jug:

It was spattered with tea or coffee stains when I found it and there is a tiny (1mm round) chip near the spout but I thought it was cute enough to still be worth the 60p price tag. It’s about 6inches tall so I’ll use it as a vase on the rare occasions we have flowers in the house and in the meantime it’ll probably be used as a pencil pot.

Have you had any good charity shop finds recently?

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How I popped my charity shop cherry

Posted by on Tuesday 7 June 2011 in charity shopping | 8 comments

After reading this post on Homestead.org, I thought back to my first time – the first time I bought something from a charity shop I mean.

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was little – certainly compared to many of the people around us – but as far as I recall, we didn’t get any clothes from charity shops – maybe a couple of things from jumble sales when we were very little but not after that. My mum knitted so we had a lot of homemade jumpers when I was under 10 and for casual “playing out” clothes (which, aside from our school uniforms, were all we really wore), I got a lot of hand-me-downs from my older brother – which possibly inspires my not-exactly-feminine style to this day.

When I hit my teens, I started getting a little more interested in fashion – not much compared to most girls but more interested than I had been. That coincided with New Look and the like, cropping up with their cheap clothes and perpetual sales. But while those shops were perfect for little vest tops and minute skirts, they weren’t great for everything – particularly heavy winter coats – and at 16, I also started to like the idea of vintage clothes, so I decided to finally cross that threshold…

It really was a threshold – it felt … wrong. Not necessarily that very first time but over my first year of charity shopping, I remember being embarrassed about going into the shops – hoping no one saw me. I didn’t want anyone to know I went to charity shops. I guess I had embarrassingly inaccurate prejudices about charity shops myself – that they were for poor people, that they were dirty – and I assumed all my peers would have similar ideas, and I didn’t want to get tarred by those brushes. (How times change – I’m now really happy to tell all and everyone about my love for charity shops and the like!)

But despite my worries, skulking into the British Heart Foundation in Southport was worth it: on that first visit, I found a nearly new black woollen winter coat for £5. The coat was a bit too big for me but I didn’t care, I was delighted. A woollen coat would have cost me £60+ new, which at 16 I couldn’t really afford – so big schmig. I wore it every day that winter and when I was done with it – when I’d moved onto charity shop vintage velvet blazers or the fantastic swinging ’60s leather trench coat I found at Barnados for £12 the following year – it went back to a charity shop for someone else to use.

I do wonder if I’d have caught the charity shop bug if that first visit hadn’t been such a success. Over the years, I’ve probably had as many charity shop clothes failures as I’ve had successes – wasting money buying stuff without trying it on – but the successes have been worth it.

Do you remember the first time you went to a charity shop?

(Photo by ell r brown)

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Charity shopping, planting and making – my fun weekend :)

Posted by on Monday 18 April 2011 in charity shopping, growing, making, wood stuff | 4 comments

Last night on Twitter, I asked people to put their hands up if they’d had a lovely afternoon in their garden/at their allotment yesterday and I got a sea of hands waving back – it is really bloody lovely out there at the moment, isn’t it?*

On Saturday, I blew my no spending month thing out of the window by going to a craft sale at Kirkgate Studios in Shipley – well, actually, I only bought two balls of wool and a postcard from there but since I was in Shipley… As with most poorer areas, you’re less likely to find exclusive designer goodies going for £1 but with eight charity shops, there is at least plenty of choice.

I bought 13 books. Thirteen! But 10 of them were (drama) work-related and two Monica Dickens books I’ve been considering buying off Amazon/Abebooks for a couple of months, so it wasn’t all spur-of-the-moment spend-spend-spend. Plus, eight of the books were in a 4-for-£1 offer so all 13 books cost £7.70 in total — not too bad. (And I’ve already found seven books to give away under my “buy 2, get rid of 1 old one” rule.)

I also bought a cute small plate to be our kitchen soap dish for 50p, another little dish for 50p because it was a tourist souvenir from Baghdad (and how often do you see those?) and a fake-patchwork duvet cover for £1.50, which I’ll turn into a cheat quilt like Lynsey’s from SwirlyArts made this time last year — again, something else I’ve been looking out for because I love Lynsey’s quilt so I was very happy to find it :)

Anyway, after all that spendery on Saturday, I declared Sunday would be a day for the garden. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped (I’ll have to have some time off this week to get the rest finished) but I potted on lots of tomatoes & pumpkins, sowed nearly all my potatoes as well as more lettuce & annual herbs. I also made two new scrap wood planters – not the prettiest but certainly the easiest ones yet.

I believe the sides are old scaffolding planks or similar — John’s dad had a trailer full when we went over the other day. He said “they’ll be great for burning” until he saw me hugging them to my chest and squealing with planter-building delight. They’re about 3ft by 1ft by 8inches deep, with reclaimed decking for the bottom supports. Again, they’ll be lined but I think I’ll see how far I get cleaning them rather than painting them as I like the character of the wood. (Apologies for the somewhat shadowy photo – was in a hurry, camera battery was dying.)

I also made some super quick wire wall mounts for some herb pots in the greenhouse – I’ve run out of room on my staging/the floor at the moment so wanted these little pots (and five with baby sage seedlings in them) out of the way. I’ll have to make sure they don’t dry out too much but they’ll probably be fine for now.

Oh, and I also cleaned the windows for the first time this year on Saturday evening – they were, as you may expect, rather filthy but I did a rather good job, even if I do say so myself – not a single water spot in sight! ;)

* (People in parts of the US still in the soggy tailend of winter and people in the southern hemisphere who are heading into full on winter – sorry to gloat about our sunshine. We’re just not used to this nice weather in the UK and you know, talking about it is our national pastime.)

What did you get up to this weekend? Any frugal fun? Or planting progress?

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Second hand kitchenalia

Posted by on Tuesday 1 March 2011 in charity shopping, frugal | 7 comments

Piper, who writes about The Frugal Life on MSN, has asked: Would you fit your kitchen out in second hand items or do you insist on brand new?. I started to reply on Twitter but quickly ran out of characters!

We joke that our house is “the house that eBay” built after my numerous purchases on the auction site in the months after we bought our new house – and the kitchen was one of the main recipients of that. We replaced the very dated, dark green hob & plastic sink with eBay specials – less than £20 each for a very good quality stainless steel Smeg hob (and collected from less than a mile away!), and a white ceramic farmhouse sink with taps & waste — they really transformed the kitchen, making it a lot brighter & easier to use/clean. I’m currently looking out for a new oven (since ours is old and playing up) – and that’ll be a used but in good condition one from eBay too.

The kitchen itself was installed by the house’s previous owners in the early-mid 1990s – it’s a bit dated/not our style and also the cupboards in the small extension don’t match the rest – but it’s fine. We might replace the cupboard doors at some point – but I imagine that’ll only happen if a perfect set comes up on eBay/Freecycle or is heavily, heavily reduced at a shop (such as ex-display). The previous owners also left their fridge, freezer, microwave & dishwasher – we’re going to swap out the separate fridge & freezer with our old stacked one when our coal hole is finally turned into a utility room, but that old one was also secondhand — a freebie from a relative upgrading their kitchen.

Most of our crockery is a retro set my mum & dad used when I was little – we got what remained of a dinner & coffee set off them a couple of years ago and have been adding to it from charity shop finds ever since. The best charity shop find was a complete dinner set in the same design but a different base colour (cream instead of mustard yellow) – for £3. Other random plates & bowls were charity shop finds including the most chintzy plate I’ve ever seen, which John hates but I think is perfect for cakes.

Our most commonly used pans were a cheap set my brother bought to take to university in 1995 – he returned from uni with them and I took them when I moved out of home in 1998 and have been using them ever since. Similarly, we’ve got a small casserole dish that was given to my mum and dad as a wedding present when they married in 1974 (retro chic a go go!).

We have two sets of scales – both from charity shops. Our pots for wooden spoons etc are old school lidless crock pots – 40? 50 years old?. Our two small teapots are a hand-me-down and a charity shop find respectively. Our cereal bowls are little Chinese soup bowls from someone emptying out a store at a restaurant. Our blender & pasta maker & blender were both unwanted re-gifts. Our fruit bowl came from a charity shop. Our former egg storage chicken was a charity shop purchase too – but she’s just too small for our egg collection these days!

So would I fit out our kitchen out in second hand items? umm, yes!

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