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How to charity shop – six tips!

There was a while when I used to work in a charity shop as a volunteer on Saturdays. I would be out the back, in the sorting room. My “sorting” usually went “One for me, one for the shop. One for me, one for the shop.” I used to leave every night with two bin bags of stuff- it was a bit of a drain on my pocket as I didn’t even used to get mates rates!

I have always loved charity shops- identifying them as a young teen as a way of getting better and more bang for my paper delivery buck. (I was the WORST paper girl in the world, I would do my whole route half asleep on my bike, and then have to go back after school to retrieve and swap them all around until everyone got the right one.) But it gave me about £2.70 each week and even as a 14 year old I would delight in people’s expressions as I gloated “Oh, these Lee jeans? £1!”

I like to think of myself as a charity shop connoisseur. I have honed my art over the last 2 decades, I know the London shops like the back of my hand, and am gathering a charity shop map of the UK in my subconscious as we dabble in charity shop tourism!

Here are my top 6 pointers!Six Tips for Charity Shopping

Have a list

What are you looking for? It can be intimidating wandering into a massive room crammed with stuff. Have a list of 5 items that you always scan for, and then you can be in and out super quick. Mine include: good shoes that fit, vintage tea cups, wooden toys, cheap lace and embroidery,  dominoes, scrabble and Lexicon! With that list I can be in and out in 4 minutes flat, making charity shopping something I can do while I wait for the next bus.

Keep it regular

It does take a certain amount of commitment this charity shopping lifestlye malarkey. You can’t just waltz in twice a year and hope to strike gold. Little and often is the best way, dash around your locals on your lunch break at least once a week. Sometimes you can even get to know the volunteers and bust out the old cheeky “Anything out the back?” question!

Play the long game

Forget instant gratification -you have to be in it for the long haul. Have a list and be prepared for it to take weeks to find things on there. And have a little storage spot for things you need in the future. I have a giant suitcase of gifts that I have found and can pull out when the person’s birthday rocks up. January is THE BEST time for charity shopping new stuff, as everyone gives their unwanted pressies away. Buy them up, store them, and give them away!

Fabric tests 

I try to have a No Polyester rule. It tends to hold people’s sweat and catches on my dry fingers, so I avoid it. And if I find some 100% wool going for a song I nearly always buy it. 100% wool is always a winner both for warmth and also crafting (once felted in a hot wash) and hard to buy economically from anywhere. However, I hate to be grim but do SCOUR for signs of moths. It is possible to bring them into your home with a vintage wool purchase- but you can usually spot them. Figure out the quality fabrics  and classic items you want to fill your wardrobe with, and always scan for them.

Hokey kokey rule

If you are going to get buying from charity shops, also get giving. I kind of have a loose “one in, one out rule” when it comes to clothes. Otherwise I would be buried under a mound of 100% wool. Freely give and freely receive! (Totally mashing up  drunk wedding songs and scripture references here, this is how I roll.)

The lay of the land

The fact is, if you charity shop in posh parts of town you will have to accept higher prices- but you WILL find better labels and better quality stuff. If you like a good rummage and would rather take your chances on finding a dusty gem on a groaning shelf then head out of town and hit up those £1 rails. There is some kind of rule about charity shops paying less on certain streets, so very often if you are wondering where to start just search some of the big name charity shops and you will almost certainly find a run of loads of them. Charity shops don’t like to be lonely.

Be philosophical about your dosh

Your first few forays into charity shops COULD surprise you. You will inevitably find clothes that could be cheaper in Primarni. Sometimes it can be baffling. Don’t dwell on it. Think about the huge amount of goodness these charity shops are doing, by selling on these clothes. I kind of think they almost have a responsibility to get what they can from the things we donate. I pretty much count every penny I spend as a donation, rather then a bout of consumption. (Although, I have been known to have a proper grumble about it sometimes, so I understand, I do. I do.)

Rock Up in Red British Heart Foundation

Wearing my latest secondhand finds including my only red top in honour of Rock Up In Red. It is a bit dull, but jollied up with this awesome vintage scarf. And also a little chance to show off my 5 month bump which popped out a bit more this week- so much more actually that Tim had the audacity to Poke.My.Bellybutton. *throws up* (I’m phobic of bellybutton touching and he has known that for 7 years. Outrageous.)

One of the big hitters on the high street is the British Heart Foundation. I especially love their Hammersmith shop- nestled towards the end of a huge string of charity shops on the high street. In the last few years three precious family members have experienced serious, in one case fatal, heart conditions. Every time I buy something from their charity shops I think about the British Heart Foundation’s huge and ambitious fight against heart disease.

On 1st February 2013 they are hosting a “Rock Up in Red” day – a chance for individuals, workplaces, youth groups, schools etc to raise cash for a future filled with healthy hearts. It is a simple idea- get everyone wearing this most racy and bold of colours for one day and get small donation from each person – but is could make a massive difference in people’s lives. Hey, why not make your first delve into charity shopping a search for some lush red garments for Rock Up in Red?  You can download a fundraising pack and get loads of help with planning all their website. And blog your fancy red outfit!

Thanks, now come on, reveal all- what are your charity shopping tips?

PS If you love charity shops you will probably enjoy this round up of the UK’s BEST charity shops from some thrifty bloggers!

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Ten new uses for old lace

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I love old lace, I gather reams of it whenever I visit car boot sales. I simply can’t say no. Fortunately there are a million and one craft projects you can create with lace, so even when I am buried beneath it, gasping through the intricate florals, I will be squawking  “Lace! More Lace!”

Here are some of the things I have whipped up, and some of the things I have plans for. Click the links to be taken through to the How-To’s and Tutorials.

1- Perfect rosettes. The picture above are some lace rosettles on a flapper-style head band I made for a favourite little rascal I know. Lace is quite forgiving and looks beautiful even if your rose is a bit haphazard!

2- Classy lightbulbs. Simply spraypainting through lace onto normal old lightbulbs just makes the most beautiful thing – and  imagine the shadow they cast! I spied this on Pinterest and it went straight on my “15 minute craft” board.

3- Encase it in resin. A little bit of resin goes along way in my books! I love encasing bits and pieces in resin – it is so easy but looks pretty pro. I love the look of this little snippet of lace, I  turned it into a delightful keyringby simply rilling a tiny hole in the corner- but it could easily be turned into some jewelry.

4- Gorgeous plant pots. Amazing what a small strip of lace can do to a boring old planter. Suddenly a gift of bulbs in a pot is taken to a lush new level, with just lick or two of homemade mod podge.

5- New t-shirts. I love making small adjustments to things in my wardrobe. Once I get some time I am going to add new life to my old tees with a touch of lace. I did it to my first DIY baby-sling too- turning it from a plain black number to something a bit, er, kinda saucy.

6- A no-sew skirt Kids love dressing up, and parents love it if the dressing up box is packed with bargainous, easy to make items, no?  Enter the no-sew lace skirt by the thrifty Missie Lizzie.

7- Handy bowl This bowl is just 15 sloppy minutes of making and you have a vessel that is tough and pretty.

8- Elegant pegs With just two minutes and a slick of home made mod podge you can upcycle some pegs. We use pegs for hanging all sorts; cards, photos, leaves we have collected.  (I also just got sent decorated pegs with strips of magnet on the back for the fridge- how genius is that?!)

9- Upcycled Scarf. I tend to keep my scarves for years (when I have managed to not leave them on the bus) so this idea of adding lace to the ends massively appeals to me, giving a bit of pizazz to a scarf you’ve had for yonks. And it looks stunning, hey?

10- And, finally… Snazzy slippers I made these slippers out of the armpit of a jumper I felted, they were so, so simple but the trim of vintage lace makes them look just a little bit fancier.

Have you made or spotted a new use for old lace? This is merely ten out of a whole UNIVERSE of ideas, so do share…

(Also, come and say hello on the Facebook page, or Twitter, or get thrifty/crafty/mother-y emails pinged into your inbox by hitting follow over on the right there.)

Tiny Resin Collage Craft (using just an old ice tray)

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You know that old ditty “when in doubt, get the resin out”? I adhere to that in a big way.

I might have a little tiny trinket, a word from an old book, an image from a retro children’s book, or even a scrap of fabric, that I just love and want to show the world –  for me the solution is nearly always encasing it in resin.

It takes almost no skill and can be done on one of those days when you are completely lacking in creativity and nearly always turns out with a pro-looking sheen.

At the moment I am using up my Gedeo Crystal Resin, but soon will be moving on to try out a more eco version.

The key thing is to follow your instructions carefully and MIX IT TOGETHER REALLY WELL – UNTIL IT IS CLEAR AGAIN. (This is in caps because it is so critical, the only thing that will ruin it really, as it won’t set,  and then you’ll probably cry.)

I use the flexible ice tray, and fill them up to the level that I want my thing to be. I used a star mold last time, and made a scrabble letter pencil end and a tiny deer necklace.

This time I kept it plain, and filled every compartment in the tray with little papery experiments. I had someone in mind for every single one.

I popped them out after 24 hours – it is easier to get them out the quicker you do it. A couple I left in for a week and they were tough cookies, determined to stay in the tray.

Once out I drilled little holes into them, using the tiniest drill bit I have. I still need to sand the edges of them- I was kind of hoping these snaps would be a little more forgiving, mwhaha!

Some of them I made into key rings.

Some into a necklace.

I used a variety of papers- an old cowboy comic and a little piece from an old book.

I used some scraps of sewing fabric and cut up a few segments of a photo I’d taken of a million flying seagulls.

Easy Resin Craft

I couldn’t resist putting a bit of lace in, and I love how it came out, and then this little kids book image. These are my faves.

Others I have not quite made up my mind what to make them into, even though I know exactly who they are for.

What do you think? Any ideas for these tiny little collages?

Add some sparkle to an old pair of shoes

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So, what did you think of The Debate? Unexpected dynamics or what? Reckon Obama might have recovered ground with his forthright derision of Romney’s truth-avoidance techniques today? Obviously the impact of the American political spectrum ca-

OH HELLO! Sorry, caught me right in the middle of being Very Serious. What’s that? You want to hear about my sparkly shoes? You want a tiny, quick glittery How To? Weellll… this will almost be my THIRD fashion-y post in a row, which could make me seem downright frivolous. But, they ARE nice and I AM going to have to stop talking about going to the MAD blog awards soon…

So I had this posh frock, and this big hair do, and then some old, tired clodhoppers. They are so comfortable but I bought them 5 years ago- from a second hand shop. Not right, I tell ya.

So with a small £1.50 jar of glitter and a tube of shoe glue (BY THE WAY, THE BEST INVESTMENT EVER! You can fix all your own shoes at a mere fraction of the price – buy from a shoe repair person) I added a sprinkle of glamour.

  • With a paintbrush I painted glue on to the parts I chose to funkify (use tape to mark off bits you don’t want glitter on. I didn’t due to a very poor work ethic.)
  • Working quickly I put the shoes in a box and shook glitter all over them – reusing the glitter at the bottom of the box.
  • I worked strap by strap so glue didn’t dry too quickly.
  • The glue dried in a couple of hours and I was safe to traipse the streets of London.
  • Spray on a waterproof varnish to seal it all. (I ran out of time, working on my beehive.)

I was SO happy with them, they were devoid of any “handmade vibe” even with my slap-dashery. I was even more stoked when I spotted these essentially IDENTICAL Louboutin numbers.

This could work with ANY shoe- A Thrifty Mrs does brilliant ballet pumps, Court Shoes look AMAZING and is such an eco, frugal way of rejuvanting old shoes – particuarly with party season ahead.

Right… back to rich old Romney…

Shake your yoghurt maker

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So how good for you is yoghurt? Like, WELL good. Amazing protein, jam packed with gut protecting bacteria and also, umm, I dunno, other good stuff I suspect. Calcium and things.

And it is incredibly delicious – my little lass Ramona puts nutritious yoghurt away like the Hungry Caterpillar getting through the treats page. (She is OBSESSED with the treats page – you know;  ice cream, chocolate cake, lollipop, cherry pie. She doesn’t want to read the rest of it. We just stare at the treats and when I have finished reading the list of yummy morsels out she implores “More?”  and I read it over and over and over again. Really, what’s so important about the transforming into a butterfly bit anyway? Back to the treats, mummy!)

But, for real, HOW EXPENSIVE is yoghurt? Especially if you get the organic, live, probiotic stuff.

So imagine my delight when, for 50p I discovered THIS at a jumble sale:

Why is a seventies curling set gonna help with my yoghurt conundrum I hear you ask?! I can understand your confusion. Let me explain.

It is actually a yoghurt maker.

It is a retro Bel electric yoghurt machine, minus a plug. We popped one of those on the end and got straight to work experimenting with the best home-made yoghurt recipe. It is incredibly simple and basically just involves making yoghurt from yoghurt. (You couldn’t make it up.)

I’ll give you the recipe we use, because you might come across one of these bad boys at a car booty (these were ALL the rage in the seventies) or Ebay. You might also try one of the many other options like wrapping some jars in a tea towel and leaving in the hot water cupboard/ making it in a thermos. Have a look here for more detail on yoghurt-maker-less yoghurt-making.

We have six cups in our machine so fill each one with the amount below. The whole batch comes to 50p – about a quarter of the shop bought cost.

To make one cup of yoghurt

  • A cup of  organic UHT milk (or milk heated to exactly 47 degrees – it has to be perfectly sterile.  We find UHT is the same cost and without the faff.)
  • A teaspoon of milk powder (this makes it thick and creamy)
  • A teaspoon of existing fresh, probiotic yoghurt (so we save a bit from the last batch to make the new batch)

Firstly, make sure you use super clean utensils as a bit of dirt can stop the good bacteria getting it’s action on.

Mix the milk powder thoroughly in with the milk, then stir in the yoghurt.

Plug it in over night (or set it up in a constantly warm place) – 12 hours seems to get the thickest result.

Put in the fridge for a little while, and then you get cold, seriously creamy, majorly cheap, incredibly healthy pro-biotic yoghurt!

You can eat it plain but we tend to get a bit naughty and stir in a teaspoon of lemon curd. Heck to the Yes.

Don’t you just want to slurp that right up?

The wonder that is Miss Lizzie B, host of Magpie Monday has flown the nest to a stunning resort in Portugal, where she is bathing in glorious pools and frolicking in the sunshine. *no really, not in THE LEAST jealous*

So I am STOKED to be having the Magpie Mondays over here at my place today. WOOT.

Just click this little guy to see and add the links:

Thanks for linking up or even just visiting. *Pops the lid from a jar of lemon curd yoghurt* *Offers round spoons*

Delicious body scrub in a fancy jar – a Mothers Day craft

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I am absolutely rubbish at Mo Day usually but my New Year’s Resolution was to do something for people on their birthdays and special days. This Sunday it is my mum’s turn, the lucky devil.

I love giving gifts in pretty jars, the dual element of something cool inside but then a craftivised jar mean the receiver gets something immediately and more long term.  This time mum gets some delicious home made body scrub (it feels sooooo good on your skin, and only 3 ingredients!)  in a rose lidded jar.

Obviously, it took just absolutely days and days and days of really hard work, also, it cost LOADS of money, like, literally, gosh, probably should have just sent her to a spa in France for a week.

Yeah, well, that’s the end of this post. Yep. BYEEEE!

PSSSSST. Are you still here? That’ll be mum fooled. MWAHAHA. For real, this scrub is SO EASY! AND CHEEEEEAP!!!! HAHA! The lid, probably took  10 minutes, the scrub about 2. I reckon it cost me about £1 to make. Here’s how:

Coconut and mint Body Scrub:

1  cup salt
1/2 cup coconut oil (I buy mine from the local Nigerian shop for £3 huge jar)
Few drops peppermint oil (you can leave this out/replace with some other nice smell)

Allow the coconut oil to soften in a warm place. Let it cool but not set again and stir in the salt and peppermint. Spoon into your jar!

And for the lid….

The paper was some beautiful rose paper the Red Cross sent me as part of a stationary set. Who knows why? But I have crafted the hell out of it so I am muchly indebted to that life saving emergency organisation.

I actually also did a layer of crystal resin over the top of the lid, as a bit of waterproofing as I imagined the jar sitting in the corner of a damp shower. I have only used resin once on my bottle top magnets but I am a big fan, worth having some in your craft cupboard for this kind of thing.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

Car Boot Bargains – hustle or hope?

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Let’s go carbooting naked in the rain…

We weren’t actually naked but we were very much in the rain, and this nineties one hit wonder was this morning’s theme tune. Ramona and I had a couple of hours to kill so excitedly sought out the legendary Rotherhithe Car Boot sale. Alas,  I was astonished to find that South Londoners are seriously lightweight carbooters – instead of 200 stalls there were FIVE!!!!! But with a similar number of punters. You can imagine the carnage. It was like opening five tiny Primarks during lunch break at a girls school with Justin Beiber cutting the ribbons wearing nothing but Krispy Kremes.

Us punters were desperate -shivers, I didn’t catch two buses here to go home empty handed- and many of the sellers were milking it. Fortunately I managed to nab three large Ikea frames for £7 (and you know I always snap up large frames for teatowel repurposing) and two of them even made it home unbroken! And I also found these glorious little tiles, three for 50p. They are hand screen printed from Jersey Potteries. What a riot of Seventies dazzle.

I am stoked I didn’t fall into the trap of buying stuff at a clear mark up and as I traipsed home I got thinking about the dynamics of carbooting. Obviously the best price for something is one which you are both happy with. But what can you do to not be taken for a complete chump? The last time I went to Rotherhithe I went with a bunch of people and one couple fell in love with a tea set, but it didn’t seem worth the £10 the seller wanted. So they got one of our other friends to inquire a little bit later and the seller asked for half that. The friend bought it (he fell in love with it too) (haha, just kidding, he bought it for them, obvs) so they got their tea set without anyone getting hustled too badly.

I tend to point nonchalently at something as I ask the price, if it is more than I’m happy to pay I ask them to knock a third off – usually with a cheeky remark (a friend read a book once which told her that if you make someone laugh as you bargain with them then they will more likely meet you.) I don’t really haggle beyond that, just throw my price at them and hope for the best!

I also try to make a point of greeting the sellers and having a nice chat with them, not only does it make the haggling a little less awkward, I also remember what it is like sitting behind your junk while people treat you like a vending machine. The banter is one of the coolest things about a car boot. Although, got to admit, I do sometimes let this slip when faced with boxes of manky treaures and a sign saying EVERYTHING 50P- it is easy to forget oneself when one is diving through piles of junk hyperventilating.

Do you enjoy a good haggle? Have any tips for getting the best bargains at boot sales? Feel like sharing all your secret squirrel bargain hunter tips and tricks here eh?

And don’t forget to check out all the other magical Magpies over at Liz’s Magpie Monday.