Given the current situation, the dreaded coronavirus, we’ve seen an explosion in DIY and crafting — including a throw-back to Victorian hobbies, such as scrapbooking.

We’re no different; we’ve been putting in a lot more hours in the studio – and not just for custom pieces, but been listing items in our handmade Etsy shop, LunaTiqueBazaar, too.

And we’ve been keeping busy with our crafty-DIY supply shop, KindnessOfStrangers, including restocking with new old stock embroidery kits featuring kitsch-tastic wishing-wells, owls, & mushroom designs!

NOS retro vintage embroidery craft kits

But I, the wifey, came here to blog today to share some images of a sweet old scrapbook we once had in our possession. It was a book compiled by a woman who clearly had spent a long time in 1955 recovering from a hip injury.

vintage greeting cards in old scrapbook

Along with the kitschy old “get well” greeting cards, and an odd note from well-wisher about her icky toe (see below – if you wish!!), the maker of the book had created delightful drawings, including this “stepping stones to recovery” one.

Stepping Stones Leading To Recovery old scrapbook art

Note that this vintage scrapbook page below combines drawing or coloring with glued in images – charming & so much like today’s junk journals, right?!

It’s no wonder so many people today have joined in the junk journal craze!

For those who are not familiar with the phrase “junk journal” – it’s a handmade book, usually made & embellished with found & vintage items, the pages of which you fill with writings, artworks, clippings, doodles, stickers – whatever you wish! Rather combining the best of scrapbooks, diaries, & art journals. So many creative options!

red velvet junk journal
handmade vintage junk journal

(I’ve also written a bit more about junk journals over at The FARM’s blog – there’s a video too!)

The junk journals I sell are often called “naked” because they are created with plenty of blank pages to fill in. As you can see in this video I made. (I am so much better at making journals than videos lol)

Because so many of my extended family members are unable to see one another now (unless it’s on Zoom or something), I have spent most of April making nearly a dozen junk journals & mailing them out as gifts. In fact, we’ve often shown-off some of our junk journal pages in Zoom chats!

The journals were so well received, that I’ve spent the past few weeks taking custom orders for handmade junk journals their friends! Proof that everyone loves – & needs – a creative outlet.

Art is good for the soul.

Like Kevin Smith says,

Only someone who doesn’t understand art tells an artist their art somehow failed. How the fuck can art fail? Art can’t be graded, because it’s going to mean something different to everyone. You can’t apply a mathematical absolute to art because there is no one formula for self-expression.

It’s a quote I put into each one of the handmade junk journals I made for family & friends the past few weeks – hopefully, they find it as inspiring as I do!

For those interested… The icky toe news!

Dear Cousins - icky toe letter
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Sure, we are all about the vintage Valentines this time of year – but we are also enjoying the new trend: Valentine’s Day Trees!

We call this one the Sweet-Tree For Your Sweetie!

(In our space at Fargo Antiques & Repurposed Market; booth #26, dealer code YES.)

Also, what can be more romantic than weddings – and vintage photos of weddings? The entryway at Fargo Antiques & Repurposed Market is filled with them for the holiday!

And we’ve even got this sweet vintage centerpiece idea: a pink & gold metal mid-century modern bowl, sitting on a crisp white china plate, holding a pink Asian jade tree sheltering an adorable pair of vintage, made in Japan, china bride & groom candle climbers! About as romantic – and eclectic! – as it gets!

Discover more in glorious pink & white at the #isncollectorscorner hash! (And on the wife’s Instagram too!)

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Looking for something to mix into your Fall decor — something that will work with your country burlap and chicken wire looks as well as it will with more simple styles and even more elegant looks? Perhaps something that will work not only for today but can also work for your Thanksgiving table? Check out these handmade vases!

I like the mix and contrast of glass, metal, and thread. Tone on tone ivories and whites makes for an elegant sort of rustic glam, which is perfect for Fall decorating. The delicate dried flowers gives them a more elegant look. But you can use fresh flowers — or, my current obsession, air plants. The neutral tones allow for these little vases to work into many decor styles — and be flexible enough to change with the seasons!

About 20 years ago, I spotted the idea in a textile art magazine… I call them “floss vases.”

Sadly, I no longer have the publication nor even remember its name. (If you know it, please do let me know so I can properly credit the idea!) But I loved the look so much that I kept the idea in my head. It didn’t take long to stumble upon a box of vintage and antique balls of Coats & Clark crochet thread at an estate sale. It took longer to find the glass pieces for the vases themselves. Eventually, I scored a box of vintage glass cigar tubes. But the box of crochet thread was now buried in storage… You crafters and collectors know how this goes. Years of moving didn’t help. But recently, when we cleared out our storage unit, I found the boxes one at a time… One by one I dragged them home. Finally, decades later, I was able to put these beauties together!

While I adore the ivories and whites, this idea has lots of possibilities — including more color! Colored balls of floss or thread can be used. And the decorations can be colorful too.

Other favorites are what I call the “ecru and blues”…

(Shown here with a little vintage sewing drawer piece I made.)

Here are some made with colorful thread balls, paired with vintage diaper pins, hair barrettes, and buttons. They are very cute for nurseries and little girls’ rooms.

To make these, all you need are balls of crochet thread, glass cigar tubes (or test tubes or other small glass tubes or vases).

If you don’t have such vintage items on hand, you can try Etsy, of course. Or, if you are excited and would rather not wait (or risk the scenario I described above!), you can get new items at Amazon for this vintage look: Crochet thread balls, test tubes.

Assembling them is relatively easy. The vintage glass cigar tubes have rounded bottoms, so they must be hot glued or otherwise affixed to the paper bottom of the balls of crochet thread. For best results, I recommend putting the plastic seals on the top of the tubes to use. Simply cut off the part which would fit tightly inside the tube. Now you have a tiny flat-bottomed “dish” which can be filled with hot glue. Fit the round bottom of the glass tube inside the little dish of glue and hold ’til it sets. (Low temp glue is fine.) Once that’s set, use the glue gun to apply more glue to the flat bottom of the cap piece and quickly insert it inside the ball of thread and hold it securely in place until the glue sets, affixing the whole piece to the paper bottom of the ball of thread.

Once the glass vases are inserted, and, if necessary, secured in place, you are then free to decorate with bits and bobs you have sitting in your craft drawers… Bits of broken jewelry, charms, buttons, beads, sequins, bows, found objects, etc. Depending on the pieces used for decoration, you can attach them to the balls of thread via pins, tacks, chains, and even the glue gun again.

I like the simple clean look, where you can see the thread and the vase. But you can create your own variations… Stack more balls of thread to hide the vases. Load up the glam by covering up the surface of the balls of thread as much as you’d like.

All of these vases can be found in our booth spaces at both the Fargo Antiques & Repurposed Market & the FM Antique & Repurposed Market. Small vases (single ball of thread) are $12; larger floss vases are $16 each. As always, if you are interested in any of these items or any others on our site, contact us! We do ship (in the U.S.).

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In our spare time, we’ve been (admittedly slowly!) working on a series of tables made from vintage suitcases. This is the first one we’ve managed to finish and put up for sale. It’s in our space at the Fargo location of F.A.R.M.

This one is in shades of vanilla and white.

vanilla-white-suitcase-table

Yes, it opens! Spiffy blue satin lining, with plenty of pockets for hiding remotes etc. Pretty & practical!

vintage-suitcase-table-fargo

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As noted before, “farm fresh” is often an oxymoron. Things found in barns are usually anything but fresh. Today’s example, a number of old feed sacks — burlap feed sacks, to be precise.

spencer kellogg burlap feed sack

While our dog, Sir Oliver T. Puddington, really loves how dirty and smelly farm fresh finds are, I prefer to clean them!
While our dog, Sir Oliver T. Puddington, really loves how dirty and smelly farm fresh finds are, I prefer to clean them!

While the graphics can be real beauties, they lie beneath layers & clumps of stuff that is not so beautiful and smells — like dirt and, yes, manure.

In order to be of any real value, the vintage and antique feed sacks must be cleaned.

But it is neither safe nor advisable to throw them into the wash machine. (Since the weave of burlap sacks is so wide, I rarely ever trust my washing machine with them. Even the gentle or hand-wash settings always seems to create pulls or holes, often starting at the threads at the seams. I just don’t like to risk it.)

Instead, you must hand wash them — and, due to their size, one at a time at that.

While the old feed sacks I cleaned today are made of burlap, you can clean other feed, seed, flour, sugar sacks etc. in the same way.

How To Clean Old Feed, Flour, Seed Sacks Found In Barns

Step One: Remove Stuff From The Inside

As these old seed and feed sacks once held product (and also may have been used for lots of other purposes) there’s always some icky stuff left inside the sack. Stick your hand into the bottom of the sack and turn it inside-out. Shake it gently to remove any leftover contents. And then follow-up by using your hand (preferably gloved!) to wipe away anything hiding along the seams of the sack.

Once satisfied that you’ve removed everything, stick your hand in again and pull upwards to return the sack right-side-out, so that the graphics are again on the outside.

Step Two: Remove The Clumps Of Dirt & Animal Poo

I prefer to begin by hanging the sacks on the clothing line outside and using the hose to spray off the clumps and first layer or two of dirt; however, as it is below zero today (and not likely to change any time soon!), I begin with the bathtub. So gather your plastic cleaning gloves and follow me into the bathroom…

As soon as I start the warm water running in the bathtub, I take a single feed sack out and begin by holding in beneath the running water. I do not plug the tub yet as because many of the clods of dirt an manure will require pressure to come off. Since we are without the pressure of our handy lawn hose today, the pressure of the running water from the tap will have to do. Once the majority of the big pieces are off, I set the wet feed sack on an old towel while I wash the mud and farm fresh dirty pieces down the drain — being careful to catch any twigs, rocks, or other large pieces I do not want to pass into the drain and clog it. I toss the twigs and other pieces in the trash and rinse the tub a bit so that it is clean enough not to turn the running water brown right away.

Step Three: Soak & Rinse

Next, I put the stopper in the bathtub and begin filling the tub with warm water. As these sacks are pretty dirty, I only use warm water at this point.

Since old feed & seed sacks are quite large, you’ll need to fill the entire bottom of the tub with at least 2 inches of warm water. I lay the feed sack onto the water & push to submerge it. (Despite the earlier soaking, you’ll often find large sections of the sack are not wet. Sometimes this is where large pieces of dirt were; other times, it’s from the graphics themselves or other chemicals preventing the water from penetrating the textile fibers.)

Usually the water turns instantly brown again, but I continue to swish the sack gently around in the water to dislodge more dirt.

I don’t use any brushes or tools. Just my hands, the water, and, as necessary, gently rub the fabric against itself to dislodge things I can see and feel through the gloves. Remember, burlap is an especially rough textile and may contain “knots” and other natural bumps, so look before you spend time rubbing something that won’t come out. (Or at least won’t be removed without ruining the piece!)

As you swish and rub, look for holes, spots, etc. Avoid unnecessarily pulling on the holes and tears while working to remove the spots.

Typically, I repeat this step at least two more times so that the water bears just a slight tint of brown and few, if any, clumps of stuff. Then I proceed to flip the sack inside-out again, and give the inside a rinse.You’d be surprised how much remains on the inside, even after three rinsings!

washing cleaning antique feed seed sacks

If that is clean enough to not require repeating, I flip the sack back so that the graphics are outside and give it one final rinse.

Now, finally, it is time to proceed to washing with soap. This sack is on it’s fourth rinsing and just about ready for Step Four.

(This is the only use I have for red Solo cups these days! lol)
(This is the only use I have for red Solo cups these days — rinsing out dirty bathtubs! lol)

Step Four: Wash With Soap

With more warm water running into your clean enough for this (but not clean enough for your family) bathtub, plug the bathtub drain and add some gentle cleaner. I prefer to use, again, Murphy’s Oil Soap. I find it strong enough to clean, but not too drying for such old fabrics. (Old textiles left in barns like this can be more brittle than you imagine!) Also, since Murphy’s doesn’t make a lot of bubbles, you can see what you are doing. And you’ll want to see what you are doing so you can address spots. (I know a lot of you are thinking you need bleach to clean something this filthy, but scrubbing and rubbing does more to really clean than soaking in bleach or other chemicals — and I do not want to discolor or otherwise damage such old fabrics!)

Bonus: Murphy’s Oil leaves a more natural and non-offensive scent, which means the cleaned primitive farm advertising piece is much more like it should be — and isn’t now a perfumed piece that annoys those looking for primitive items or mantiques.

Once you add your previously-rinsed old seed or feed sack to the soapy water, you’re likely to see much more of the brown than you’d imagined could possibly be left. You can let the submerged textile soak a bit in the soapy water, if you’d like. And then come back and gently swish it around and rub spots as necessary.

Step Five: Rinse

As the tub drains its filthy water, I run the tap with warm water again and rinse out the sack.

Step Six: Drying

Once you are satisfied with how clean it is, you can remove the old farm advertising sack from the water and gently wring it to remove the excess water. Once you’ve got as much water out as you can from wringing it, lay it flat on a large beach or bath towel and roll it up so that the towel can absorb more of the water. You may have to do this more than once, with a new clean & dry towel each time, as these large old feed and seed sacks can hold a lot of water.

old purina burlap feed seed sackThen hang the old seed sacks to dry. (Antique & vintage textiles are never a good mix with dryers.) Again, this is great to do out on the clothesline, but the season prevents that. So I hang them to dry on clothes hangers with clips (with plastic, vinyl, or rubber tips to avoid rusting!) over the bathtub. It is best to hang the seed sacks from the bottoms, where they are stitched, so that the heaviest part of the bags are at the top and not pulling so much on the rest of the fabric. I like to use the tired hangers for this, so that I have more room to work on cleaning up the bathtub (again!) while things dry. However, if you have different fabrics and colors involved, you may wish to hang each piece separately so that there is no color transfer, bleeding, or discoloration. (This set lets you have the option to hang tiered or use the hangers individually.)

Step Seven: Inspection

Once the feed sacks are dry, inspect them again for holes, spots, and other imperfections

Sadly, after all this work, there sometimes are spots left. You can wash them again, as needed.

Sometimes I still find a few seeds that have worked their way into the seams and fabric weave as well.

As a buyer or collector, you likely will need to wash your new acquisition again. Even when dealers like myself clean the items, it’s more for presentation than the final act; we know items will be handled in the shop and we remove the “ick factor” but other shoppers do handle the items, including laying them on the floor to inspect them and the like. So whatever textile you buy, you ought to be prepared to launder it yourself for use or display in your own home.

It is especially important to note any holes, tears, or weak spots before you ever even consider using the washing machine.

Final Notes

As a dealer, I never mend any sacks as that would mean the piece is not in original or as found conditions. Other than filth, I leave them as original as I can and instead price accordingly. I leave it for the buyer to decide what, if anything, they want to fix. (Sometimes, they like the authentic nature of the sacks as they are. Sometimes they prefer to stitch them up a bit before displaying them or using them for pillow cases, foot stool coverings, etc. But that is up to the buyer.)

With finer gunny sacks, or sacks with lighter colors and finer weaves, you may need to do some additional cleaning on spots. More on that at a later date as my back is sore from all that time bent over the tub!

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I’ve been busy writing a lot of eBay Guidesmy most recent one was inspired by this vintage Christmas tree stand my folks have for sale. I just knew it should be reborn and repurposed as a decorative piece! Other cool ideas and inspiration in that post comes from Laurel of Chipping With Charm. Her site is a real treat to visit!

ebaystandout

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There are many stories and legends about trapping spirits or imps in bottles, and they are especially fun to make and display at holiday time.

wax sealed spirit bottle fair oaks antiques

When you see these, you may be tempted to not even clean out your fresh-from-the-dirt bottles — but remember, there may be dead mice and far worse hiding in them. So clean and disinfect them first! (For heaven’s sake, at least disinfect the outsides!)

vintage antique glass bottles dug from dirt making spirit bottles

Making spirit bottles is a lot easier than cleaning them. The hardest part is finding and/or cutting corks to fit the bottles and then sealing them tight with sealing wax. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here…

If your bottle is stained or streaked from its long dirt nap, you may wish to do nothing else but cork and seal them. But if you want them to look more spooky, you can put bits and bobs in there that look a bit creepy… Found natural objects, like seeds, leaves, and feathers work. And you can add bits of moss, sting, and the like as well. Not to give too many of my secrets away, but you can pull apart some strings to make wispy webs — and I like to toss in a bit of flour and other bits to make some dust and things stick to the webs. You don’t need to add much of anything really. The simple “what is that” factor behind some cloudy glass in a distinctive bottle has a large effect.

Now you need to seal the evil spirits inside the bottles. For bottles without any caps or lids, I use cork stoppers. And I like to smudge the corks up a bit to make them look older and creepier. It’s easy to do this by rubbing the corks on newspaper. Given the random range of bottle sizes, you’ll likely need to cut or chop some cork pieces to fit. That’s OK, because they look old that way too.

corks spirit bottles

Whether you have cork stoppers or the original caps n the bottles, you’ll need to really make sure the spirits remain trapped in the bottles. For this, we used sealing wax. We opted for red and gold, but you can pick whatever colors you think work best. If you are doing this with children, adults should do this part — and carefully! Hot wax burns! (One note here, the gold colored sealing wax was more temperamental to work with.)

derek dripping sealing wax on spirit bottles

Once the bottles are sealed and the wax cooled, use twine to tie on some paper labels. We used slips of old paper from a sadly-too-damaged “lost” antique book to make labels, writing names for witches, demons, and diseases in German, Russian, and French! For finishing touches, I pulled strands of the twine part to have older looking strings. And we rumpled the edges of the paper tags too.

making spirit bottles

For the antique shop, I made a large display of the spirit bottles, hand-painting warning signs on more of the antique wooden shingles. We set down a vintage black hat and a few more seasonal items to create a little Halloween vignette. If you don’t want to make any spirit bottles yourself, you can come buy some at the antique shop — or contact us. We will ship! UPDATE: You can now find the spirit bottles and signs in our sister shop, LunaTiques!

spirit bottle display fair oaks antiques exit 55spooky halloween spirit bottles how to danger spirit bottles do not open

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On a barn pick, I got a rather large box of antique wooden roof shingles. Since there are times one just has to put the piles of supplies to use, I began making a series of classic signs, such as “Gone Fishing”, “Welcome”, and the like. Of course, I had to make a few “Gone Antiquing” too. *wink* And I managed to get a number of them done just in time for the Fargo Street Fair too!

antiques primitives signs fargo

handmade signs from antique wooden shingles

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