Wednesday Craft: Finding excitement in the unexpected

Estate-sale buttons

Beautiful vintage buttons

Over the weekend I visited an estate sale in the neighboring city of El Cerrito. My love of such sales is well documented, and I go to them whenever I can. As a voyeur, I’m fascinated with the insides of other people’s houses: their style, the way they live, the things they keep. As an eco-conscious crafter, I appreciate the opportunity to acquire supplies without consuming anything new; admittedly, this also saves me loads of money. But most of all, I relish the treasure hunt. There are things one finds amidst people’s stuff that simply can’t be found in stores.

New threads

Color cacophony: New threads meet my pen collection

At this sale, stuffed plastic baggies (stapled shut so they can’t be picked through before purchase) yielded dozens of gorgeous vintage buttons for a mere $5, and a gigantic stash of thread for only a dollar more than that. Some of these spools are old enough to boast “made in W. Germany” (which makes them at least 20 years old, certifiably vintage according to Etsy’s standards). I’d been running low on certain thread colors (red, gold, and white particularly) and now I have more thread than I know what to do with. For the moment.


Vintage fabric labels

Vintage fabric labels


When I buy big grab bags like this, I often end up with — besides what I came for — other odds and ends, things I wouldn’t have picked out if I’d been shopping at a store. When the whole bag is $6, I’m not going to nitpick that it has a few things in it that I didn’t want! Sometimes I throw those items away (broken buttons, elastic so old it’s cracked), sometimes I pass them on by donating them to the thrift store, and sometimes I hang on to them. In one memorable instance, I kept a strange implement that turned out to be the handy little Knitwit tool. The fun thing about these unexpected additions to my supply closet is that they encourage me to experiment. During my backpack makeover, I used some of the silk thread I’d obtained from sales; in this weekend’s sale, I got two spools of metallic copper and bronze thread to add to my collection. It’s the same with the free fabrics I get at FabMo. Since I only pay a donation to the organization, I feel emboldened to pick out materials I’m not accustomed to working with — faux suede, sheer mesh, heavy bouclé — or try out different prints (chintzy florals) and colors (silver, grey). This is the big fun and challenge of crafting, and this is why I wouldn’t stop sourcing my supplies this way even if the local Jo-Ann stocked organic cotton for mere pennies a yard. Surprise, puzzlement, experimentation and random restrictions to work around: these are fertile conditions for creativity.

I’ve made several new items in the past few days. I’ll let you know when I post pics!