The last laugh…

My fellow traders were pretty good, all in all, not to laugh out loud at me last Friday. A really superb rose-covered 4-piece suite came into the dump, fabulous quality & beautifully made, but alas, huge! Too big for the ex-owners’ new home, or in fact most of the housing stock around here. I pleaded with the manager to give it a day on sale, because someone would have had an excellent bargain there – they can’t charge more than £10 for anything, and this lot would have cost thousands when it was new. Really, really comfortable, too; the back cushions & scatter cushions are all feather-stuffed and it still had all its fire labels and was in very good condition.

But no-one had claimed it by the time I went back, just before closing, so before it went into the skip I “skinned” it. Cue a number of raised eyebrows & knowing smiles from the other traders hanging around in hope of someone throwing out Rolex watches, Wedgwood china or a Hepplewhite chair – which does sometimes happen, around here – but they were very good and didn’t laugh out loud. It was quite easy to strip the covers off as they were all zipped to be removable for cleaning.

There’s a LOT of beautiful fabric in a good suite… Not yardage, but lots of useful sized pieces that people won’t hesitate to pay a pound or two for each; you’d get a good, big, sturdy, long-lasting scatter-cushion or tote bag out of a couple of pieces. I’ll make a reasonable sum selling the larger pieces when I’ve washed & ironed them, and will have the smaller bits to make small bags, needle books, whacky lace-trimmed cushions & lavender sachets for sale. Two of the big back cushions and the scatter cushions have been “claimed” by a fellow-trader,  and I myself have plans for the other three!

Now I need ten minutes alone with a “dead” leather sofa & some sharp scissors… I’ll need quantities of leather, to make bases for the cushions as they become “floor” cushions. But the thing is, I will have more than tripled my money in the space of a few days, in exchange for a little bit of work with scissors, washing machine & iron. I may not get hundreds from spotting, nabbing & selling on one piece, but it all adds up, and I’ll have the pleasure of seeing my Boscombe Vintage Market customers’ faces light up as they spot the roses, feel the quality and realise the pieces are eminently affordable. And I even have some pieces to play with, myself, so I get the last laugh!

Fabulous fabric – with a rather sweet little “helping hand!”

A lot’s gone on…

Many things have happened this summer, and I’ve not been in a place where I’ve been particularly happy to witter on about them. My little Citroen C3 threw yet another expensive wobbly, which was the final straw; it’s no good doing 60-odd miles to the gallon if you’re going to cost an arm and a leg in maintenance. The girls had become anxious about going any distance in her, thanks to her habit of saying she was in first gear at roundabouts & junctions, when she was in fact in neutral. The second or two while she thought about this & I had no control (she’s a semi-automatic) put us in peril more than once. Even OH became reluctant to take her up to Town, but was heartbroken when I announced I was replacing her. Partly because I’ve chosen to replace her with an elderly but expensive Japanese van that only does half as many miles to the gallon…

There was method in my madness, albeit perhaps not very much. Those of us who play at market traders had outgrown the space available in the bigger car, and ended up just about swearing at each other because neither of us had space for all our stock by the time we’d fitted in the tables, chairs, shelves, crates and our lovely joint assistant. I test-drove a 3-year-old Berlingo Multispace & it was lovely, but hardly any bigger than the C4 GP; deeper, but shorter. The only other option within my budget that was likely not to be on its last legs with rust or having done 300,000 hair-raising miles in a couple of years was a fresh-import Japanese MPV…

So I became the proud owner of a 17-year-old Mazda Bongo Friendee 2.5 TD AFT from Southern Bongos, just as diesel was unmasked as the root of all evil. There was a little bit of budget left over, which I used to have the middle row of seats removed & a mid-conversion installed; that’s a cooker, sink, fridge and a couple of tiny cupboards, plus a little pop-up arrangement that means I can sleep in her when the back seat is folded down flat; this’ll be very handy when we do the weekend “events” next year. In theory, two people can sleep in the elevating roof too, but the mattress would need quite a bit of beefing-up before they’d be very comfortable! There’s also a solar panel, as most of the time when we’re camping there’s no mains electricity to hook up to, to run the fridge, lights & gadget chargers that it would be hard to manage without. And I have made her a set of “silvers” or thermal screens; to buy them would have cost over £80, but 3m of Insul-Bright set me back just £20, 50 suction-hooks £5, and a paint-marked 1970s sheet makes the inside look very pretty!

For all the increased fuel bills, she feels very safe & reassuring to drive, especially after dark; no-one tries to barge you out of the way, and the visibility is great, unlike in the little car. And there’s clearly a lot of capacity for fun; picnics spring to mind, but for one reason or another we haven’t had a chance yet, though we have done one market & managed to take everything we needed with us! We also traded at a car boot sale this weekend, offloading excess stock, and it was lovely to be able to sit out of the biting cold wind in quieter moments, without having to struggle up from a car seat to help potential customers. But I’m very mindful of the increased emissions, as well as the fuel bill; my one way of dealing with this is to try very hard to cut the miles driven down to the bare minimum whilst keeping my business going and keeping half an eye on my dear mother!

Another of The Offspring has moved back in for a year, having found a job locally whilst waiting to do his MA starting next September. Delighted though we are to have the pleasure of his company for another year, this has reduced still further the amount of space we have for stock or refurbs, and increased the mess in the shared areas of the house. And thanks to lighting issues with my stall at Molly’s Den, I’m moving over the aisle to a smaller but more visible space. So I’m trying very hard to refine what I do; only to take on things which can be cleaned, repaired and/or upcycled very fast, and which are directly relevant to my regular customers. But on a positive note, Boscombe Vintage Market is going back to monthly after Christmas, which should help stock flow through our household better.

I’m now struggling to deal with an avalanche of apples & quinces; having had a good rest last year, when high winds stripped the blossom clean off the trees in spring, they’ve gone to town this year & presented us with tons of fruit. There are three trays of apples in store, and numerous bags have been distributed amongst neighbours & family. But I don’t need to make any apple butter or jams or chutney as there’s lots still in the garage from last year & the year before; there’s not a lot of point putting more in there if it’s not getting used. I also have another mega-pumpkin sitting on my lawn, waiting for someone (probably me) to take a knife to it; this is going to be distributed amongst four households, but even just a quarter of it is going to overwhelm my preserving skills & apparatus for a few days!

There’ll be another post along shortly; I’m mulling some ideas over already, but kind of felt I should bring you all up to date before I get too philosophical…


Eeeek – 6 weeks later!

This week’s haul…

That’s what £6.50 got me at the market this morning: 2 punnets of raspberries, one of small but delicious strawberries, & two of seedless grapes for £3, a big carrier bag of “marked” locally-grown apples for £1, two pots of carrots, two of broccoli and one of courgettes for £2.50. I didn’t need tomatoes, as we have plenty of our own still to use up, or onions, parsnips, garlic or potatoes, all of which were available, but I have more than enough already. The raspberries are already in the oven, in a Rasberry Clafoutis, half of the broccoli is inside us, and the apples will be bashed along with our rather-splendid crop of quinces later on this afternoon, quite probably to make spicy Apple & Quince Butter to enliven our winter breakfasts. Given a few spare minutes, I’ll add recipes later.

I’ve been buying & using the 50p fruit & veg all along, but haven’t had the time or, to be honest, the inclination to write about it. Someone (not likely to look on here) made a pointed remark about middle-class people writing patronising money-saving stuff, and I went into a bit of a tailspin; it’s really not my intention to make people feel that they’re Not Doing Very Well if they have no option but to buy things in supermarkets or DIY superstores at full price. But it is my intention to alert those who do have other options, that those options exist & may not be as impractical or unachievable as popular opinion would have us believe. And I’d recently begun to wonder just how much that remark was simply aimed at pulling me down & undermining my confidence. Then, yesterday, at Boscombe Vintage Market, one of our lovely regular customers said how she’d missed A) the market and B) reading my blog… thank you, dear customer! Normal service will be resumed forthwith…

There’s also the fact that writing is actually addictive. It doesn’t matter whether anyone would actually want to read my maunderings; I can no more stop writing than breathing!

So: define “Vintage”…?

Here’s a subject that comes up quite often: what is the actual definition of “vintage” and how do you know if something really should be described as such?


Google’s definition, which I rather like, is, “denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind.” Really the word belongs to the world of wine, and simply denotes the year a particular wine was produced, but like many another good & useful word before it, it’s leaked out into other areas and the connotations of quality and age have gone along with it.

Not wine, but surely vintage?
Not wine, but surely vintage?

There is no official “age” that an item (or a style) should attain before it can be considered vintage. At the market I regularly trade at, the agreement is that things should be, to the best of our knowledge & belief, 25 years old or more. Which brings the huge shoulders of the 1980s firmly into the “vintage” rearview mirror, but to someone of my age, that’s hardly any age at all; it was only yesterday! And that, I suppose, makes me too somewhat vintage, provided I can dredge up a bit of quality from somewhere. But to the young fashion students who often buy from us, the 1980s are out of the Ark – practically prehistory!


All of us will sometimes have items that we don’t know the age of; we can’t (economically!) carbon-date clothing or fabric, for example. But we do know quality, or quirkiness, or classic styling, so we will usually describe things as “retro” rather than vintage if we know or suspect them of being less than 25 years old. However we could, with justification, use the word “vintage” to describe something only 5 years old, if it ticks the “high quality/best of its kind” box. Needless to say, some vendors elsewhere exploit this to the fullest & will happily label any old secondhand stuff as “vintage” which rather muddies the waters & is in danger of bringing the whole game into disrepute. And there are things, and plenty of them, which may well be more than 25 years old but will never be vintage, just old tat. Mind you, I’m assuming that that phrase probably originally comes from the use of “tatting” as an inexpensive substitute for more complex & expensive bobbin lace, so I’d actually be very interested in genuine old “tat” anyway!

Old tat? A tatted doily from a 1970s Golden Hands craft compendium.
Old tat? A tatted doily from a 1970s Golden Hands craft compendium.


I have some “Golden Homes” magazines from the 1970s somewhere; you could swap many of the room sets into a current IKEA or Habitat catalogue and I genuinely doubt that anyone would even notice, because good design doesn’t have a sell-by date or built-in obsolescence. Not that everything IKEA sell is good, but we have things we bought from them way back when they first opened in the UK, over 25 years ago, and they are still doing the job we chose them for, and still look good. They have now, in my understanding, become vintage; perhaps they always were.

Classic 1970s styling from Golden Homes magazine.
Classic 1970s styling from Golden Homes magazine.


When I’m challenged about the exact dating of something, I have now learnt to say that vintage isn’t about an exact date; it’s about quality, design & style from the past. Quality doesn’t vary, but each stallholder will have different ideas about style, and that’s just how it should be; each of our customers will have equally different and equally valid ideas too, and will combine, wear, use or display the treasures that we’ve found for them in a myriad of different ways. Many of those undreamt-of when the item was new, and often mixing & matching the best of old & new. The best of both worlds, in effect, carrying our past forward into the future…

Lace? Tatting? Actually, crochet - and definitely vintage!
Lace? Tatting? Actually crochet – definitely vintage!


Viva vintage!


Please, do actually look…

Several times lately, I’ve been restocking my stall at Molly’s Den when ladies of roughly my own age have drifted in & rummaged through the clothing, looking wistfully at the floaty 70s maxi-dresses, comfortable kaftans and cheesecloth tops. Then they usually sigh deeply and say to me,

“Oh, I’d so love to be able to wear things like these again! It’s such a shame I’ve put on so much weight; we were so much smaller in those days, and vintage clothes are all so tiny!”

Erm, no, actually. NOT all vintage clothes are tiny. Quite a lot of mine aren’t; they have come from America & Germany, two countries where people have traditionally not been built like pixies. And I’m in great danger of clearing my rails of all the larger sizes and chopping them up to make bags with the fabrics; I thought people would be delighted to find vintage clothes in normal sizes, but actually, they’re not even looking! Now it may be that people are just being nice, and they don’t really want to revisit their youth and float out of the door in psychedelic glory or swathed in cheesecloth, but there are plenty of ordinary-sized vintage clothes out there; maybe not with the nipped-in waists and tulip skirts that we did wear back then, but you’d find plenty to fit & suit you on the rails if you actually looked.

Undoubtedly the sizings have changed several times over the span of years that my clothing covers, and from country to country too. I have clothes & dressmaking patterns ranging from the 1940s to the 1980s. (In case you’re surprised at that, to an 18 year-old fashion undergraduate, which a number of my customers are, the 80s are pretty much pre-historic & certainly count as vintage. They do love a batwing sleeve…) In the 40s a 36″ bust meant you were a size 18, now you’d be a 10. Or so it is in the UK, but not in the US; you’d be a size 6 there, and something else altogether in Europe, where inches are not overly popular anyway.  So I don’t bother with size tags, especially not as a fair number of the garments are handmade; I provide a tape measure & a mirror and there’s a changing room elsewhere.

Quite a few of the top-quality, pristine-looking vintage clothes are in fact tiny. This is because they were bought back then, quite probably in the sales, by people thinking, if I lose half a stone, I’ll be able to get into it. But they never did, so the item has languished unworn at the back of the wardrobe for 50-odd years. However, if you don’t mind that something isn’t completely unworn – and if you did, you probably wouldn’t be looking in a vintage shop anyway – most evening/Sunday best/party clothes will only have been worn a few times, and hence they have survived, when the everyday items were worn & mended until they disintegrated, and may well have been cut up & used for rags or patchwork after that. So yes, the things you see in the windows of the coolest “Retro” shops in the high-rent locations may well be tiny, as well as horrendously expensive, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find anything to both fit & suit you.

So, get yourself down to a vintage shop like Molly’s Den or market near you – there’s one in Boscombe this Saturday, as it happens – and have a good hunt around; you will almost certainly find something to fit you, provided the stallholder hasn’t given up stocking them! And you may well save a vintage treasure from being chopped up & turned into a bag, if it’s been on the rails for 6 months because the customers the right size to wear it have assumed there won’t be anything there for them, and haven’t even looked…

NOKIA Lumia 610_000116

Erm, please someone explain, why might it be immoral…?

… to buy something in a charity shop, then sell it on at a profit?

It’s a discussion I was having with my elder daughter this morning, and have had with others online over the last few years. Once or twice things have got quite heated. Why do some people feel that we are somehow cheating the charity, if we’re paying the price they are asking for an item? Most of them are pretty savvy these days & aren’t likely to sell an original Picasso for the same price as a fake Constable print in a plastic frame. I will only buy stuff in a charity shop (thrift store, to our American cousins) if I actually need it for myself or our home, OR if I’m certain I can at least double my money on it. But that doesn’t actually mean that the charity could have got twice as much for it, and I’m cheating them. Nor does it mean I’m doubling my money with each purchase.

For a start, many of the things I have picked up from them over the years have needed work put into them to achieve the higher price. They’ve needed cleaning, servicing or mending, maybe some parts supplied & fitted. Clothes may have needed a bit of surgery; for example, a 1970s Lurex jumper is actually more valuable without its sleeves at the moment, as the students like to wear them as tunics, with a belt. For another thing, part of my expertise, such as it is, is knowing what my customers are interested in & will buy; charity shops by & large are very general, selling a bit of whatever comes in in saleable condition, but a large proportion of their stock is of no interest to me & my customers whatsoever. You have to hunt quite hard for “treasure” and be prepared to pass by a lot of dross on the way, although one man’s trash is, of course, another man’s treasure. So part of my “mark-up” is because my customers, by & large, don’t have the time to hunt through twenty-odd shops for one piece of genuine 1950s fabric for their vintage caravan renovation project. But they know they will likely find 4 or 5 pieces to choose from on my stall. One or two of those may have been picked up in charity shops, but the rest have come via car boot & jumble sales, house clearances and other contacts, so that’s another reason why I am not just a parasite leaching money away from charities; they would never have seen a penny of the money for those pieces in the first place. And some of my stock is bought from charity shops that have failed to sell it in the time they allow things to be “on the sales floor”; at least they are getting something for it from me, and usually a fair bit more than the ragman would have given them.

I have expenses I need to cover, too. Stalls don’t come free, and people are often shocked when they find out what the stall fees are; yes, it does cost more than a car boot pitch, or a table-top at a school sale. This is because the organisers will have expenses they need to cover too, like staff, proper advertising & rent. I use fuel to find stock and more to get it to where it needs to be. My washing machine uses energy & consumables and I go through coat hangers, safety pins and even price labels at an alarming rate. So it’s not just a matter of buying something for £1 at Oxfam, carting it off and selling it on for £2 at Molly’s Den or Boscombe Vintage Market.

Can someone please explain to me why people get so upset about the idea that I can buy something in one place and sell it on at a profit in a more appropriate place, if there’s a charity involved? I would not take the bread from the mouth of a starving child to sell it, as one slightly hysterical online commentator once accused me of; it doesn’t seem equivalent at all to me, but am I missing some important idea or concept here?

“Shopping” in your own home…

I’ve been puzzling over where to put my bread maker. Although my kitchen’s quite big, at 12′ x 15′, I don’t have a lot of worktop. One reason for this is that it’s always covered with clutter, but another reason is that there really isn’t very much, just a 4′ stretch between the cooker & the sink. For many years my trusty breadmaker has shared this with the enormous fruit bowl & the spill-over from my woefully inadequate spice rack; am I the only cook who could do with a full cupboard-sized spice rack? I really do use them all regularly! The breadmaker is in regular, if not constant, use, but I’d become increasingly aware of how much its great white plastic dome intruded on the rustic look of the place, such as it is. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I moved it onto a small table on the other side of the room, where it looked much more at home. The problem was, the rackety little plywood table, with a crumpled, water-damaged top, was a “sacrifice” picked up specifically & needed for its parts; the legs are now installed on a workbox/footstool and the leg connectors have rescued my lovely pink Lloyd Loom chair. But I couldn’t think what else would be the right size; the space isn’t in use for anything else, but it’s pretty small.

Until I noticed my Swedish-made step-stool in the utility room, that is. The top is just the right size & the footprint’s not too big for the space. A good height for a breadmaker, too. But – it’s in constant use, as a step-stool! So I’d made up my mind to pop into my favourite Viking emporium when I go to pick up son no. 3 for a dental appointment next week, and invest a whole £11 in another one.

One of the very minor precautions I took before last week’s storm, which luckily passed us by with very little damage, was to fill both our big camping water containers with tap water in case of any interruption or contamination to the supply; it’s not unknown for our local river to burst its banks. I emptied these early this week, let them dry out & went to replace them in the shed. On – surely, that’s an Ikea step-stool…? I did a proper double-take; I hadn’t a clue I owned two of them! A vague memory surfaced of having picked one up for someone who’d mentioned that they wanted one, but had got one literally the day before I found this one; I must have stuffed it out there soon after & was just using it to keep some camping stuff off the damp concrete floor.

This wasn’t the first instance of finding I’d already got something I thought I needed to go out & buy. It’s always happening with fabric and kitchen utensils – I’ve lost track of the times I’ve spent good money on a modern minor electrical appliance, only to discover that the old hand-operated one was better, quicker & easier both to use and to wash up afterwards – but has also happened this week with lamps and suitcases, oddly enough. I’ve been really busy moving my stall at Molly’s Den into the main warehouse as well as preparing for Boscombe Vintage Market, and didn’t have time to go shopping for things I thought I needed. Which was lucky really, as it turned out I didn’t actually need them, so would have wasted both my time & money. And I do now “shop” my existing wardrobe before even thinking of buying anything new, and look at how I could team things up differently or tweak details to make a “new” outfit. Not just for financial or indeed ethical reasons: I’m an odd shape & when I find something that both fits & suits me, I need to treasure it & hang onto it as long as possible!

I expect most people are much better organised than me, and don’t lose track of their possessions & clothing, but to anyone else whose home resembles the storage area of a secondhand emporium (which in our case it actually is) – don’t wear yourself out running up to town to buy a whatever-you-think-you-need – you’ve almost certainly already got one somewhere!

What happened next…?

Just a quick post to let you all know I’m still here! Just busy looking after my young PGs, my stall at Molly’s Den, and planning a little holiday in France at the start of September. I’m beginning to see the point of package holidays… by the time you have sorted out transport there & back, transport whilst you’re there, insurance, somewhere to stay, whilst trying to please as many of the people as much of the time as possible, you can quite see that travel agents really do earn their keep.

But what’s on my mind today is stories. One of the things I love about doing a stall at Boscombe Vintage Market is the sense I share with my elder daughter that all the things that pass through our hands have stories of their own, or play a part in other people’s stories. And when they come to us, we play a little part in those stories, whether we mend them, clean them up, re-purpose them somehow, or just find new homes for them, albeit usually at a profit, or that’s the idea. When you sell something to someone face to face, you usually have some sense of where the story is going; part of the fun of it all is chatting to your customers & getting to know their likes & dislikes. But when I leave an object on my stall down at Molly’s, I don’t know what happens next. Sometimes I almost feel a pang of guilt when I place things on the shelf; it’s as if I am leaving them to their fate, which may just be to be an on-trend ornament for a few months, then thrown out without a second thought when the “vintage” fad passes. I have no doubt that many people will value & look after their carefully-chosen treasures, but not everyone thinks like me! Which is probably a good thing, or no-one would ever throw anything out, in case it could be mended or the parts come in useful somehow… I know I have regular customers down there, but I don’t know who they are or what they’re looking for.

I might just put some cards on my stall asking anyone who’s interested to leave a comment here about their purchases and what they intend to do with them. I wonder if anyone would respond? It would be good to hear, sometimes, what happens next…

What stories has this little 1950s tin tea set played a part in?

Wayyyyy cool!

You may have guessed that I’ve been a bit busy lately, firstly preparing for, then at the Larmer Tree Festival as part of Boscombe Vintage Market. It was the first time we’ve done anything like this & I don’t think any of us knew what to expect, and by all reports most of us were pretty anxious as well as busy leading up towards it. But it was great, really good fun and well worthwhile. There were some magical moments which I can’t resist sharing with you all, and the whole thing sparked some interesting trains of thought & ideas for next year.

We were in a marquee opposite one of the big “venues” and got to hear some great music. I joined in with a couple of workshops over there, which were huge fun, but spent most of my time on my stall. And so I was there when a couple of early-teenage boys ran into the marquee, probably by accident. They skidded to a halt and looked round in utter amazement, and I mentally braced for trouble. But one gasped, “This place is waayyyyy coooool! Look! Harry Potter Luggage!” at the cabin trunk beside my stall. And off they trotted, admiring our ramshackle treasures quite happily. Then there were the group of bronzed late teenage boys who wandered past, looking somewhat supercilious & uninterested. Until they spotted the bookcase… “Ooooh, books!” And the next ten minutes resembled nothing quite so much as a meeting of the Literary Society as they leafed through the various vintage volumes, made their choices and queued up patiently with their pound coins. The bored husbands-being-towed-behind who suddenly spotted the vinyl records, the young lady who needed a slip to wear beneath her diaphanous Indian draperies, the people doing up vintage caravans who found just the right fabric or trim for their curtains or cushions – I do love making people happy!

Needless to say, there were people – a small minority, luckily – who just came in to sneer. But they weren’t just sneering at us & our vintage bargains, but also at the acts, the beautiful gardens, the peacocks and the other festivalgoers, especially those who were joining in with things. But to my mind, joining in is what it’s all about; festivals are as old as mankind, and aren’t something that can just be consumed, like a film or TV programme, they’re something you have to participate in to get the most out of. There’s always something new to see, a new skill to try, something different to taste, and if you’re too busy looking superior to join in, you’re missing out. It’s not all about buying stuff, although it’s nice when when people do; it’s about celebrating life in all its infinite & glorious variety, and adhering strictly to a narrow view of how people should look & behave doesn’t half get in the way of that!

I loved seeing people express their individuality, both in their clothes (I may have to become a steampunk, if I’m not too old & round) and by spontaneously breaking into dance with total strangers. There’s somehow both something very real & fundamental about festivals, and also something deeply unreal; those of us who went home every night (we didn’t, we camped) spoke of it as going back into the “real” world and there’s undeniably something fantastical, in the truest sense, about the whole festival thing. Life isn’t &  never can be all bubbles & flags, lace, glitter, music & dance, but are shopping malls, traffic jams, utility bills and the 9-5 any more “real” actually? The paradox is that I suspect people can somehow be more their real selves when they are dressing up, and that our brick & mortar habitats, our mobile metal shells & our serious workaday personas are no more real than our festive selves. And I know which I prefer…

One customer told me about her daughter, who was awarded a first-class degree in psychology several years ago. But after two years in a well-paid recruitment job, she retrained as a henna tattooist & nail artist and “works” the summer at festivals, living in a well-insulated van, and picks up whatever work she can in winter; far from worrying about her, her mother was proud of her independence and free spirit & I can understand that.

Anyway, now I have a much better idea of what kind of stock to take along next year, and how much; approximately half of what I took this year! But none of us were to know what would work, and it’s probably different for each one of us, and each year will be different too; the weather was glorious this year, but might not be so good another time. And more ideas on how to lay it out, and how to create & maintain an attractive display. All I need now is a sensible way of keeping track of all these ideas – I may have to sit down & make a book or folder of some kind, after I’ve updated my paperwork… now, that’s a good idea!


A little lament for The Ottoman Of Doom…

Last week younger daughter suddenly took it into her head to “tidy” her room. At 17, she still had virtually everything she’s ever owned stuffed into corners, under the bed, and heaped over her exercise bicycle, but something suddenly clicked inside her head & she, like me, realised that you can indeed have too much of good things, and that actually it’s rather nice not to have to scramble precariously around umpteen piles of junk in your own bedroom.

Which explains what I was doing down at the Tip on Tuesday; I took down a car full to the brim of childhood & teenage detritus, most of it completely un-re-usable in any way shape or form. Needless to say, the car didn’t come back empty… sitting in the re-use area was the most relentlessly cheery & twee piece of furniture I have ever seen;  a large ottoman covered in a white plastic quilted-effect fabric dotted with little red & yellow rosebuds, complete with shadow-rosebuds in some kind of silvery-shiny substance. The whole artfully trimmed with gold braid, with brass-effect handles & hinges to finish it off. I took one look at it & knew that this piece of heroic kitsch really, really needed a trip to Boscombe on Saturday… My middle son took one look at it in the boot of the car and panicked mightily, basically saying that if it, or indeed anything remotely resembling it, ever entered our household, he was leaving via the nearest exit! So it acquired the nickname The Ottoman Of Doom, and stayed safely in the boot of the car for the rest of the week.

There were other good things down there too; a nice little 50s-style vanity case, a grubby but promising quilt and an interesting modern original acrylic-on-board painting, which gently suggests sailboats in what looks very much like a bluey-purple Aegean sunset. The vanity case also went down to Boscombe with us and sold within minutes of the market opening, for the same price that I’d paid for all four items. The painting is now adorning younger daughter’s suddenly sophisticated & miraculously-coordinated  bedroom, and the quilt washed up a treat and has been “spoken for” by elder daughter. And the Ottoman Of Doom? It sold towards the end of the market; I didn’t price it very high, for the same reason that although a treadle sewing machine is the best of both worlds and the ultimate stitching experience, I can’t expect to get very much money for them; most people just don’t have the room for such large items, no matter how useful. A lot of people stopped  to coo with delight over the ottoman, but then worked out that they didn’t have any way of transporting it, never mind anywhere to put it; luckily it found its new owner at last.

Although ottomans are very useful on the stall, and indeed I have one in the shed that I’ve had for months, full of vintage curtains, that just needs to be unloaded from the car, wheeled down to our pitch & opened to display our wares perfectly effectively, I was glad I didn’t have to bring the big one home again as I haven’t a clue where I would have stashed it! But I do kind of regret not having taken a photo of it; I wonder if such a determinedly-cheerful & outrageously OTT piece of furniture will ever come my way again?

So you’ll have to make do with a pic of one of my latest efforts instead; last autumn a collection of random handmade needle-rolls (complete with vintage cottons) sold well on my stall, mostly snapped up for thoughtful Christmas presents for fellow-stitchers, so this year I’m making some myself from some iconic 1970s curtain fabric. I’m also planning to do some crochet-hook & knitting needle rolls from the same fabric (previously 5 pelmets) and other vintage leftovers. And there’ll be some new ear-rings from elder daughter, now trading herself under the name “Pippin Run Wild” and all the usual indispensable Vintage Craft Stuff – I’m looking forward to November’s Boscombe Vintage Market already! I wonder what other whacky & wonderful treasures will come my way before then?

Needle rolls from 70s pelmets