Even mom jeans get the blues: new projects from old denim

blue jeans

I remember it well, the day I found out via my adult girl-child’s single arched eyebrow that the answer to the question “Do I wear mom jeans?” was an unspoken yet emphatic yes. Sigh.

My drawers are still well stocked with “Jeans, Mom Jeans” but as a result of my January purge of clothes that have done their part to keep me clothed but are now best destined for the textile recycling bin at our transfer station, there is also a pile of beautifully and honestly aged and faded mom jeans lurking on the bedroom floor.

All that blissfully soft worn in denim looks less like a pile of sad jeans and more like a pile of creative opportunity. Giving it a chance to get recycled into a raw material again is appealing. But so is the idea of blowing the dust off my sewing machine and renovating it into something new for my home. (Something that does not look like it started as mom jeans.)

Inspiration does not always come when we need it. The jeans are still waiting patiently, all potentialled up with no where to go. So I went out and poked in the corners of the internet to soak up some DIY ideas and hopefully find a spark to turn those jeans into a perfect decorative accent for our house.

denim pouf
Denim pouf from Michele Made Me.

There’s a lot of denim projects compilation lists, and this sassy little recycled denim pouf tutorial by Michele Made Me makes nearly every one. With good reason. Form + function + style = timeless awesomeness. 

denim quilt
Hand quilted strip pieced denim quilt from Mollie Makes.

Maura Grace Ambrose has a fabulous tutorial for turning old denim into a strip quilt. Hand quilting is a beautiful zen way to relax.

denim rug
Denim sunburst rug from the Ohoh Blog.

Blogger and DIY addict Ama Ryliss cleverly uses the shape of jeans legs to make a sunburst rug that has the same country charm as a Dresden plate quilt square. The appeal of this beauty is it can definitely survive repeated launderings. In fact, it will only give it better patina.

denim pillows
Denim pillows from H&M Home, as spotlighted on Apartment Therapy.

And although the pillows from H&M Home are new denim, the temptation to make a pile of pillows and break out some embroidery floss to personalize them is tempting indeed. Thanks Apartment Therapy!

This has also caught my imagination: Vlogger Izzy Meimsaab’s  smart video about how to turn your old jeans into flat material panels.

So what will I do with those mom jeans? Not quite sure, but tiny idea seeds are germinating in my brain. What happens next? You’ll have to wait and see…











5 new lives for vintage encyclopedias



Some of us who grew up in the pre-computer dark ages were lucky enough to have a set of encyclopedias in our homes. And some of us used those encyclopedias as a primitive browser. We would take a volume off the shelves and browse the contents. That’s right, some of us actually read our encyclopedias and studied the photos and drawings.

Golden book encyclopedias
The classic Golden Book Encyclopedia set.

Encyclopedias came in different flavors. Many of us started out with the colorful and endlessly browsable Golden Book Encyclopedia with large print and lavish colored illustrations. After that we moved on to something like World Book or Funk and Wagnalls or Childcraft. Intellectual households went full on Encyclopedia Britannica, which frankly, I always felt needed more pictures. 

Buying an encyclopedia set was no small investment, whether it was the kind that came from a supermarket one volume at a time or the kind that was sold by a salesperson who was able to convince parents that not having an encyclopedia was definitely going to impact their child’s future prospects. The books are beautiful quality, printed on nice coated stock inside fine quality covers with embossing. Those of us who know what those encyclopedias cost and who treated them with the respect that books full of the world’s knowledge deserved–we still look at our encyclopedias with the same amount of respect now as we did when they first came home. We know they are dated, but we still like having them around.

While we may still value our encyclopedias, the world at large does not. More and more encyclopedia sets are finding their way into landfills because few organizations will accept them as donations. It turns out, in the computer age, no one actually wants used vintage encyclopedias to use in the way they were made to be used. Sets can be given away for free on craigslist or freecycling sites, but the simple truth is that despite their pedigree, not many people feel a burning need to have encyclopedias as reference books in the days of Wikipedia.

So what do you do when you are ready to part with an encyclopedia set? As it turns out, clever souls are finding ways to upcycle and/or reinvent encyclopedias as art and as decorative accents. Here are some of my favorites:

book boxes by Shannon Moore
Book boxes by artist Shannon Moore

Artist Shannon Moore greatest incredible display boxes for miniatures form old books and encyclopedias. Her creativity is somewhat breathtaking. Visit her shop, she also makes custom orders.

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encyclopedia bookcase
Artist Jim Rosenau’s Encyclopedia Brittanica bookcase.

Several years ago, Apartment Therapy featured the bookish bookshelves of California artist Jim Rosenau. His Encyclopedia Britannica bookshelf would be an incredible place to showcase a special collection.

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book stool
Bucherhocker (bookstore) by Gabarage Recycling Designs, Vienna

Creative. Part geometry, part engineering, all cool. These small stools constructed from old books would have a more formal look if constructed from encyclopedias. Gabarage gets full credit for making books of all sizes and shapes stack together brilliantly.

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encyclopedia table
Encyclopedia stack table, made to last DIY from Little Things.

A simple stack of encyclopedias with a creative top (serving trays work well) makes a smashing pop up side table. But this tutorial from Little Things gives you the how-to for making an encyclopedia side table that will last.

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stamped books
Books in brown paper wrappers, stamped, by Chloe Moore Photography.

One of the nicest attributes of using encyclopedias as decor is that they are all the same height and depth. The widths may vary, certainly the A volume is going to be larger than Volume D, but the main size conformity is a beautiful thing when filling a bookcase or crafting a tablescape. Chloe Moore Photography simplifies to dramatize with brown paper book covers and spines stamped with messages. Change the covers or messages for fun seasonal displays.

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encyclopedia advertisement
1978 Encyclopaedia Britannica advertisement

As I said at the beginning, your old encyclopedia set may be dated in many ways, but it’s still a great read. The meticulous care that went into crafting illustrations and writing articles holds up. They might not have a touch screen, but they do have the power to engage attention. Is there any better way to practice alphabetizing than looking things up? Some articles may be hilarious framed from today’s perspective, but in that humor lies lessons about our not all that distant past. If you’ve decided to downsize your encyclopedias out of your life, consider asking a someone with school age children if they’d enjoy it.














How to Host a Retro Dinner Party Using Prepackaged Foods from the 1970s

Do you you remember eating Hamburger Helper and Manwich as a kid? Remember how cool it was to get cheese out of a can? Oh, and the taste of Tang… Fun memories! And some of these foods are still around today – can you believe it?!. 

Now you can relive some of these culinary taste treats by hosting a retro dinner party using these iconic prepackaged foods from the 1970s. Your dinner guests will think this is fun!

Here are some ideas for hosting a Retro Dinner Party.

Dinner Party Menu


  • Hamburger Helper – Yes. You can still buy Hamburger Helper. Buy three different flavors, place in vintage casserole dishes and serve. Nothing like variety!
  • Manwich Sandwiches – For your more picky eaters, mix up a batch of Manwich. It’s a meal! Serve on retro melamine plates or on paper plates in wicker plate holders.
  • TV Dinner – Yep – you can still buy frozen dinner’s in a tray, what a concept! I think the classic Fried Chicken Dinner is a must at this retro dinner party! If you don’t want to serve a real frozen dinner, I recommend you purchase the divided metal trays and make your own version. This will let you customize the entrees using healthier ingredients, organic alternatives, or accommodate special dietary needs.


  • Cheese and Crackers – While the can may look different, you can still buy cheese in a can! Buy a variety of flavors, line a vintage tray with your favorite crackers, and enjoy! Print a copy of the label below, and wrap around the can for a cool retro look.


  • Hunts Snack Pack Pudding – Print copies of the retro Hunts Snack Pack Pudding label (see image below), then wrap the labels around any pudding cup, and secure with glue stick.
  • Fiddle Faddle – Yum! You simply have to serve glazed popcorn clusters with your pudding! Pour into a vintage glass bowl, and your prep work is done.


  • Tang Cocktails – Whip up a batch of this retro Tang cocktail, called The Buzz Aldrin and serve it in a vintage Tang pitcher. The extra vitamin C will do you good.


Retro Dinner Party Decor

  • Print ads from the foods that are no longer made and use those copies as placemats or coasters – your guests are sure to have plenty of conversations about them. TIP: Click the images in the photos at the top of this post to open them in a new window, then click them again to enlarge, save, and print so you can use them in your decor.
  • To add to the ambiance of your retro party, use vintage dishes from the 1970s. Things like snack plates, drink coasters, and beverage glasses will give your party that groovy, hip, retro feel – and make your party more fun!
  • Use vintage TV trays to hold snacks, and use vintage serving trays for beverages. Or go “totally retro” and have guests sit on folding chairs using TV trays! A great novelty instead of sitting around the traditional dinner table.


Retro Dinner Party Activities


Retro Labels To Use

Right-click and save the labels below. Print them on a color printer, then use them on today’s products for a cool retro look.
TIP: Click the image to open it in a separate window, and then click it again to enlarge it so you can save a larger copy. You can also resize the labels as needed in a graphic editor or photo editor.


Decorating with gesso frames

gesso frames
gesso frames
Three gesso frames, the two on the left are antique old, the one on the right is more recent.

What is a gesso frame?

It’s not hard to spot an antique gesso frame at a flea market or estate sale. Look off to the side, maybe behind quite a few other things. It will be hiding there. Frames with gilt gold that has dulled and gesso that has gotten chippy aren’t given prime display space. And usually they aren’t given a prime price either, which makes them all the more attractive. These aren’t the high value frames carefully cared for and prized by collectors. Those you will find at high end dealers and auctions. The chippy lovelies you find at a flea market are the ones from the Victorian era that framed art and photographs owned by average households. 

A gesso frame is a wooden frame that has applied ornamentation and detail made from a molded chalky, plastery white material. Gesso is a basic artist material. Painters use gesso to prime canvases. Molded gesso was an inexpensive and versatile material for frame makers that had the added advantage of “tooth”–it provides good adhesion for either paint or gilding size if it was to be covered with gold or silver leaf. Molded designs can be as simple as a rope border or highly intricate with small flourishes and flowers.

old gesso frameYou know you have gesso frame with some authentic age if you flip it over and the wood looks old, there is evidence the art was held in place with small nails (not staples), the hanging hardware is screw eyes (not more modern sawtooth hangers) and the chipped edges of the ornamental decorations on the front are  are white (not wood colored).

There are some frames out there that look like gesso, but are really from the 1950s and 1960s when French Provencial was a hot decorating trend–think paintings of Renoir-inspired ladies, impressionist ballerinas or European landscapes with lots of pinks and blues. They’re pretty ornate around the edges, are usually painted white and gold and may a web of cracks in the heavy paint and finish. There’s nothing in the world wrong with these frames, in fact, they are quite charming. But don’t be fooled into thinking one of these much later frames are antique-old.

Repairing a gesso frame

It is possible to do a home repair on a gesso frame. The Polka Dot Closet has a fabulous DIY blog post on how to do it. Her technique using polymer clay and epoxy putty is simple and pure genius. This works great on your average thrift store frame. Restoration of a true antique frame is best left to a restoration expert.

Decorating with gesso frames

stacked antique frames

Antique frames as art themselves

Lindsey Ballard of makelyhome.com has a thoughtful tutorial for creating a wall display of stacked vintage frames. She paints her frames and gets a great look. As with all antiques, the question of whether or not they should be painted is an open question with passionate defenders on both sides. It should be noted that if you paint a gilt frame, you have pretty much eliminated any antique value it has. But things should be used and loved, right? So if to use and love it, you want to paint it…

Antique frames to spotlight collections

frames in frames
Photo by S6 Photography/Jennie Beard

Antique frames are a great way to showcase a collection of things you love. Photographs, plates, pocket watches, paper ephemera, baby clothes or anything you can stick on a wall with a nail or a tack look right at home arranged on the wall inside an antique frame. British blog boho-wedding.com features a lovely framed photo arrangement designed by prop stylist Hansley Beard

The larger the frame, the larger the items you can collect in it. I’ve hung a collection of floral plates inside a massive chippy old frame. Branches with Christmas ornaments?Don’t mind if I do. But I use faux plants so I don’t mess with the paint on my wall. Add micro fairy lights? Yes please, for a frame on a horizontal surface where you can hide the battery pack. The nice thing is that if you aren’t squeamish about making holes in your wall, one well-placed frame can be changed seasonally. 

Antique frames with added function

Tarah from grandmahousediy.com transformed an old dresser mirror that needed more reassembly than a piece of Ikea furniture into a functional jewelry holder. Although her frame was all wood, you can use the same techniques with a gesso frame. Add extra interest by spray painting the chicken wire before you install it.

Other ideas:

  • Memo board: mount a sheet of cork to piece of foam core board cut to fit the opening of your frame. Use framer’s points if you have a framing gun or tiny brads to hold it in place
  • Distressed glass mirror: a well-aged frame with a good patina is begging for you to create a distressed mirror. Get a sheet of mirror cut to fit the opening with these instructions from HGTV.

Are you using vintage frames in your home? Share them with us on Instagram using our #vintageunscripted.


25 tips for shopping estate sales

estate sale

If you love vintage like we do, you have probably spotted an estate sale sign or two in your travels.  But have you ever shopped at estate sales? Estate sales are different from shopping flea markets, thrift stores, auctions or garage sales. They present some unique opportunities for interesting finds as well as the ability to get in on the ground floor so to speak.  

Here are 25 tips for shopping estate sales–helpful ideas for both new shoppers and seasoned pro’s alike.


  1. Bring your own bags and packing material.
  2. Do your homework. If the sale is online, look at the pictures, read the descriptions and know the rules, i.e. no large purses, cash only, etc.
  3. Be respectful, courteous and polite, after all, you are in someones home. Use your manners.
  4. Ask questions, are they willing to discount for multiple items, will they hold a large piece for a day, etc?
  5. Parking! Don’t block driveways, stop in the middle of the street, or block in other vehicles.
  6. Bring cash.
  7. Look over items your are considering carefully. You don’t want to buy something only to find it’s damaged later on.
  8. Come early or come late. Early birds get the first pick, but coming later often means better deals.
  9. If you find an estate sale company you like, follow them on social media or their blog, and let them know. Everyone wants to be acknowledged, and you may get early entrance or special deals by being a preferred customer.
  10. If you are shopping for large items, be prepared to bring them with you or have someone pick them up quickly. This includes things like moving pads, rope or strapping, a large vehicle, and enough strong bodies to help out.
  11. Bring your smartphone and be sure it’s charged so you can research items on the spot. 
  12. When digging through drawers, boxes, or cabinets, don’t leave a mess. Put things back as you found them. 
  13. Make a pile, or ask the cashier to have someone set items aside that you are interested in. This way you can review items in detail and make a final decision on your purchases.
  14. Shop with a friend, and know what you are looking for. This way you can each to a quick round of the sale and come back for in depth shopping.
  15. Follow the rules. Don’t jump the line, bring in large bags, or be pushy. Most sales have rules posted in advance or at the door. Please abide by them.
  16. Plan your route in advance. Look online for sales in your area and plan out your route before you go.
  17. Bring water and snacks with you in the car. 
  18. Take along a magnifying glass for reading identification marks and spotting defects.  
  19. Bring paper and pen to record what you bought as you may or may not receive a receipt.  
  20. A flashlight might be needed for those dark corners or in the garage, attic and basement.
  21. Once you have paid for something, take it to your vehicle so it won’t be mistaken as an available item.
  22. Don’t forget to ask for an itemized receipt, especially if you are a reseller. You will need it for taxes.
  23. Know what you are shopping for, but be open to new items. You never know what you will find.
  24. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
  25. Check the weather before you go. Be sure the sale is not cancelled due to inclement weather.

To learn more about estate sales and find ones in your area, be sure to visit EstateSales.org and check out their blog as well at The Goods.

3 new tricks to teach old TV carts

tv cart
Two styles of vintage TV cart in their natural habitat, at the curb with a “free” sign

Historically speaking, as the size and shapes of televisions change, so do the size, shape and popularity of the furniture that holds them.

Working backwards from now: today’s flat screens go on the wall or on anything that’s got 12″ of depth. TVs have become like statement art–the focal point of a room.

The 1990s through 2000s bubble back TVs popularized big entertainment centers with compartments to hold the VCR or DVD players, video game systems, DVDs and VHS tapes and giant cable boxes. These originally expensive pieces of furniture are now readily available at charity shops, priced right to be reinvented into play kitchens or puppet theaters.

1960s and 1970s TVs  came in sizes from tiny portables to huge furniture consoles. In between the extremes was a modestly-sized set that came with a simple wheeled stand so it could be moved to get better reception from your rooftop antenna or your set-top rabbit ears.

1960s TV stands are often found lurking about at the back of basements (and yes, sometimes with the TV which hasn’t worked in 40 years still on it). TV stands are one of the things that get kept because “it might be useful.” Now that more boomers are downsizing, it’s pretty common to find an old TV stands being released into the wild, set “free” on the curb. 

What do you do with a useful piece of furniture that long outlived it’s original purpose? Not everyone can see the lovely in a metal frame with some wood or wood substitute shelves and plastic wheels. But they are kind of cool in an inexplicable way. A repurposing challenge if ever there was one. We scratched our creativity and came up with three ideas for making a little TV cart magic.

tv cart

The Craft Cart

As luck would have it, suitcases fit quite nicely on a 1960s TV cart. If you live in a small space and you don’t have room for a whole craft studio, you can make one with a couple of vintage suitcases and a TV cart.

An added benefit is that TV carts provide a way to stack shaped side suitcases, like hard-sided 1960s and 70s American Touristers. Shaped sides will slide off each other if they don’t have a structure to keep them in place.


The Recycle Cart

TV tables from the 1970s have two shelves but no high back handle. With their wheels to make them mobile, they can be used a little more versatilely than their 1960s predecessors. Solve your recycling storage challenges by adding some vintage gym baskets and using it as a mobile corral for your non-trash refuse.

tv cart recycling

Guest Room Hospitality Cart

If your guest room is also your office is also your yoga room, a vintage TV cart can make it a little more welcoming to your guests when filled with necessities (towels, extra pillows and extra blankets) and niceties (good reads, a nightlight and lotions).

What else could a TV cart become? Imagine adding some spray paint, some fabric, some pixie dust and some elbow grease…

Do you have a vintage TV cart in your life? What tasks does it do for you? We’d love to know!

23 Tips for Buying Vintage and Antiques at Auctions

The VU team loves a good auction. It’s got all the elements of a good adventure: the inspection of the auction lots, the listing of things you’re interested in, the watching and the bidding and of course the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Going to your first auction can be a little intimidating. You might worry that you won’t know how to bid. Or that you will have auction regret for bidding too much and winning. Or auction regret for bidding too little and losing. We’ve put our brains together and compiled some auction tips because we want you to get in there and have some fun. As long as you’re not bidding against one of us…no wait…that brings us to the start of the list.

  1. All’s fair in love and bidding. Your money is as good as anyone else’s money. If you want something, you can bid on it. 
  2. Auctions have previews either the day ahead or early on the same day of the auction. Do not bid on anything you have not examined, even if the bidding seems too good to be true. Every one of us can share a story about how that ended poorly. 
  3. Bring your camera or smartphone with you to take pictures of the items you are interested in – that way, you can do advance research on the items before the sale. Or look them up onsite. 
  4. Items are sold individually or in lots ranging from a small tray of items to a whole table of them. Usually there is a tag or label that tells you what is being sold together.
  5. If there are box lots, peek at what’s on the bottom of the box. We don’t do it and we don’t suggest doing it, but sometimes potential bidders will rearrange the contents so the good stuff is hidden from view.
  6. Don’t buy big things without measuring. And without knowing how you are going to get it home.
  7. Dust doesn’t necessarily mean something is old. It just means it’s dusty. Pick it up and handle it to see how old it really is.
  8. Textiles and rugs are often good buys at auctions. Most textiles and definitely any rugs should be cleaned or stored at freezing temperatures for a few days before they are brought into your home. Beautiful rugs are good. Moths that hide in them are not.
  9. Make a list of lots you would like to bid on with a bidding limit. Setting a ceiling helps prevent your competitive streak from taking over and paying more than you want for something.
  10. Auction houses add a buyer’s premium, a percentage of the sale price, to the final purchase amount. The amount varies, but always be aware of that when you are bidding.
  11. Keep of running total of what you’ve bought so you know how much you’ve spent and so you remember to find all your lots at the end of the auction. Auction houses will usually write your bidder number on your purchases, but they don’t group your things together, so you will have a treasure hunt and it’s easy to forget a treasure.
  12. Be an observer. Get to know the players. Who are the dealers who buy lots of things? Who are the collectors who came for one item and are determined to get it? Who are the people buying things for their own use? Auction houses tend to have some of the same buyers at all their sales. You can help figure out your bidding strategy if you know how others bid.
  13. If you are new to auctions, you may want to let others start the bidding on items you are interested in. The auctioneer will start the auction at a certain price. If no one bids right away, he or she will drop the price slightly until someone starts bidding. By allowing other, more seasoned bidders start the bidding, you will probably have a better chance of winning the item at a better price, than if you started the bidding at a price closer to what you are willing to pay.
  14. Sit or stand in the front, near the auctioneer. This allows you to see clearly and hear about the items that are being put up for bid, and it helps to ensure you are seen and acknowledged when you place your bid.
  15. Put on your poker face! Really. If you show excitement about finding an item you want to bid on, you call more attention to it (and to you) and chances are more people will bid against you.
  16. If you are there for one specific lot, you know approximately what it’s worth and how much you are willing to pay, don’t be afraid to let everyone know you plan to take it home by raising your number and holding it up rather than raise and lower it to enter a new bid. Sometimes this display of auction determination will get less avid bidders to drop out earlier. 
  17. Remember that a bid is a final purchase. Only bid on things you really want to take home with you – you can’t change your mind after winning the bid.
  18. Don’t be a sniper! No one likes a sniper and it will give you a bad reputation among the people who attend the auctions. A sniper is someone who places their first bid at the very last minute before bidding closes. If you are truly interested in an item, it’s better to bid on it at some point before the bidding ends for that item. At that point, if you bid at the very end and win the auction, you are not seen as a sniper – mainly because you had already been invested in the bidding.
  19. Lose graciously. If you lose an item to another bidder, it’s best to do so with grace. Don’t show emotion or complain – you’ll only attract attention to yourself. You may see the same people attending all the same auctions you attend, so by avoiding calling attention to yourself, you may be able to avoid a potential rivalry.
  20. Make sure to bring along anything you need to get your purchases home safely. Things like boxes or bags to contain small purchases, bubble wrap or other padding to protect delicate items, furniture blankets to protect the surfaces of furniture, and rope or tie-downs in case you need to haul something home on the roof of your vehicle.
  21. Some auctions can be very long. Make sure you plan enough time in your schedule to stay until the items you are interested come up for bid. Bring water, snacks, and even a portable folding chair with you for the day-long auctions. If the auction is being held outside, you’ll also want to make sure to dress appropriately for whatever the weather may be. Bring an umbrella for rainy days or to provide shade on hot and sunny days.
  22. Get to know your local auctioneers. When you establish a relationship with them, they’ll know the kinds of things you are looking for and oftentimes will give you advance notice of upcoming auctions that have items you like. Sometimes you can even preview those items long before the preview is open to the public. It’s nice to have that “inside information”.
  23. Some auction houses have a regular schedule of auctions each month, and the auctions they hold are often within their specialty. For example, some auction houses deal with commercial businesses, some with liquidating estates, others specialize in farm auctions. Getting to know your local auction houses will help you decide with auctions to attend. Don’t be afraid to branch out! Attend auctions in rural communities, auctions in industrial areas of the city, or auctions in affluent neighborhoods. You never know what you will find!

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Do you have any additional tips regarding auctions that you would like to share? Add a comment below!

The antique handsaw conundrum: restore or repurpose

vintage saw
Workshop fresh saws, some dating back to the early 1900s.

There are vintage treasures to be found in every workshop. There’s the workbench itself, with it’s decades of paint spatters, nicks, chips and holes from drill incidents. There are the wooden or metal utility drawers, repurposed from a previous industrial life into storage for screws, nails and this-and-thats in the home workshop. And there are the tools. The wooden handled screwdrivers, the whetstone in it’s wooden box, folding rulers, the calipers, the eggbeater hand drill and the king of the workshop–the beautiful, durable handsaw.

The handsaw has always been the top of the workshop heap. When you are building something, the hammer, the drill, the screwdriver all have to wait until the saw cuts everything to the proper size.  You can use louder, faster mechanical saws, but the technology that made the handsaw the tool that built our nation (literally) has not been outmoded. The handsaw made a hundred years ago can do the same job as the power saws tantalizingly arrayed at the front of every home supply big box store. It may take longer to get the job done, but it will definitely be more satisfying.

In addition to being workshop stalwarts, antique saws are also beautiful. The handsaw handle illustrates the form follows function principle. The curves and crannies all have a purpose for adjusting your grip, but they’re mighty attractive too. Some makers add carved details to make them even more wonderful.

All of which presents a conundrum: should antique handsaws be restored to continue their workshop lives or should they be repurposed to capitalize on their aesthetic charm?

The answer, as with most vintage and antique pieces, rests in your own priorities.

If you’re a woodworker, you definitely would stand firmly on the restore side. Restoring a vintage saw is an act of skill, patience and pride, so you’d only invest your time if you know your end product will give you a big time workshop ROI. Josh Burroughs wrote a great how-to post on makezine.com to get you started. And Erik von Sneidern, curator of the DisstonianInstitute.com provides invaluable links to saw resources (Disston saws in particular) as well as this fabulous essay, Why Bother with Handsaws?

If you would like to repurpose a beautiful old saw, you might have to do nothing more than put a couple of holes in the wall and hang it, because it has the patina of real life that can’t be faked. Katrina Lounsbury used a collection of vintage saws to create this focal point in her garden.

garden shed with saws
Saws become a garden focal point from fleamarketgardening.org

The craftosphere is dotted with ideas for turning saws into coat racks or what have you, but having been on the pointy tooth side of a saw more than a few times, it’s hard to imagine why you would put your fingers and/or your textiles near it. Many talented landscape and hand lettering artists use saws as their canvases. If you’re going to think of form following function, repurposing a saw into visual art makes way more sense than trying to manufacture a way to repurpose it into a household organizer.

painted saw
Hand lettered saw by santangelostudio on Etsy.

If you decide to try your hand at painting a vintage saw, illustrator Kelsey Phillips has a tutorial on prepping a saw for painting.

If you have a vintage saw in your life or vintage saw decor plans in your future, it’s always good policy with any antique to do a little internet snooping and see if what you have is either rare or collectible. It’s not that rare saws sell for enough to buy a villa in France; it’s that they have artifact value that would be prized and honored by a collector. There is no shortage of old saws in this world, your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore will likely be able to hook you up with any number of them at a very reasonable price, so if you do happen to have something kind of special, you can pass it on to someone who would appreciate it, confident that you will find a replacement saw for your decor or art project.


Storing Vintage Holiday Decorations

Now that the holidays are over, the gifts opened and put away, it’s time to take down and store your decorations for another year.  Many of our most coveted and favorite vintage holiday decorations are heirlooms handed down from older generations or purchased to commemorate special occasions in life. You’ll want to store these in such a way as to ensure they remain intact and in good repair for next year and years to come.

Those vintage ornaments and decorations require a bit more care than just placing them into the box and storing them back in the garage.  Here are a few quick tips to keep you holiday decor in top shape for many more holidays.

Before you put each item away, take a close look at them. Wipe each item down, even if it’s just a quick dusting. Check for any damage, breaks or loose parts, anything that may need a quick repair.  Many vintage items can easily become unglued, or loose over time. Taking the time to do any minor repairs now will save you time and effort next year when you unpack them all again.

Packing those vintage ornaments away properly will also ensure they remain in pristine shape for next year. Before you throw them in a box and forget them for another year, make sure to wrap them well.  Acid free paper will ensure vintage inks won’t fade and some bubble wrap or foam will keep delicate pieces from getting broken.

As tempting as it is to stash holiday decor in the garage, it’s probably not the best place for those delicate pieces of family history. The extreme temperature and  humidity changes can warp older plastics or create mold on vintage fabrics. If you can, find a cool dry place to store your most prized holiday decorations and ornaments. The back of a closet is a good location where your vintage holiday decorations can remain undisturbed until next year.

What are Christmas crackers and why are they awesome

christmas crackers

christmas crackers

You’ve probably noticed the boxes of Christmas crackers on your holiday shopping travels. They’re the boxes filled with what look like cardboard models of Brach’s Milk Maid Royals, straight center cylinders, nipped in with a twist and a flare of paper at the end. Originally part of the British Christmas narrative, the American market must be embracing them because they are easy to find these days. 

The basic cracker structure is pretty much the same. Cardboard cylinder, twist concealing a paper strip that is chemically treated to make a snapping sound when you pull on the flared ends to tear them off and get at the cheap plastic prize, fortune and, most important, tissue paper crown inside. Seeing everyone you share your holiday with standing around wearing paper crowns is ridiculously satisfying for reasons science cannot explain.

If you’re purchasing Christmas crackers, the price differential is based on the trinket that comes in the crackers. You pay more, you get slightly better cheap prizes. Do not be fooled by the packaging. Cracker makers package them to appeal to every aesthetic, from elegant gold with refined script labeling to sweet polka dot and stripes style with cheerful labeling and everything in between.  The packaging may be different, the stuff inside is exactly the same. There is usually a small photo of typical prizes on the back of the box. (Last year, our cracker prizes were stick-on mustaches. Those crackers were worth their weight in adhesive felt, providing hours of quality entertainment.)

You can definitely make your own crackers and fill them with whatever would make your crowd as happy as seals with their very own bucket of fish bits. The DIY Christmas cracker market may be somewhat niche, but there lots of retailers online, including shops on Amazon, Etsy and Ebay, ready and willing to provide the absolutely essential cracker snaps and more. 

Cracker snaps from Old English Crackers. 

Olde English Crackers has pretty much everything you need, including  cracker snaps and tissue paper hats.

British celebri-chef Jamie Oliver offers a how-to with some creative ideas for what to use for paper on your crackers.

And over on tutsplus, Eleanna Kotsikou has a fabulously detailed tutorial for making crackers that will satisfy even the most diehard DIYer.

Mr Bean
Mr. Bean and his cracker. What happens next is pretty much what you would expect to happen in a Mr. Bean show.

No post on Christmas crackers would be complete without mentioning Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean (1992), the viewing of which has become a holiday tradition with our extended pack of Christmas eve celebrants. It’s available on Hulu. Our Canadian friends can watch it on CBC 12/24 at 9:30 pm.