Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Challenging philosophies of thrift

I am sitting here today in a warm glow of thrift and deep dark greenness as I begin my disquisition on me and my uneasy relationship with charity shops. The warm green glow is due to the fact that I have walked about two miles with Princess Bunchy to take her to the swimming pool, and then two miles back. You may be impressed with such heartiness but it is at least partly due to the fact that the Landy had a funny turn on the way home from work last night, and a strange orange light started flashing on the dashboard. When I arrived home I consulted the manual and apparently this all means that I need to seek professional help, which is possibly quite true on several fronts.

And not only was I saving the world singlehanded by using shanks' pony, even my footwear was thrifty. Some months ago I bought myself a pair of Goretex trainers for winter walking, but after a few walks it became apparent that said trainers were a little too large for me, and had since then remained in the cupboard, leering extravagantly at me every time I peered in at them to see if they had shrunk in embarrassment. But a few weeks ago I bewailed my mispurchase in conversation with a very green and eco friend, and she admitted that she had a pair of slightly-too-small Goretex walking boots in her cupboard: so we did the definitely Dottie thing and swapped. I have never had proper walking boots before and I strode out this morning as if motorized, and have returned with toned hamstrings and glutes (or is it just aching legs?).

But back to the charity shops. I love charity shops to the bottom of my heart, and whereas the thought of a trip to Bluewater evokes in me a sense of dread, mention the word charity shop and my eyes gleam and my heart lightens. The trouble is, I tend to return from such emporia with bulging bags and then come home feeling guiltily extravagant.

I have a cupboard full of preloved china - I don't really need any more until the current stash is broken (which it will be, eventually). But this is the first crinoline lady china I had ever come across, so I felt impelled to rehome it in my little cottage, where it will be amongst kindred souls, rather than languishing, rejected, on a shelf amongst last year's unwanted Christmas gift sets of bubble bath, waiting for the next stage in their infinite round of recycling between charity shops.

However, the Dottie Angel Ultimate Challenge has renewed my urge to haunt the emporia of the preloved. I had been quite sensible about it all for some months, and hadn't visited a boot fair all summer, telling myself that I didn't need it all, however cheap it might be. Even bargains cost money, and it was just mindless consumption, even if secondhand.

But since joining the Challenge I am beset with temptation whenever I turn on the computer. Tif stands outside thrift stores with a big trolley, Floss displays the most exciting wares gleaned from the magnificently-named vide-greniers, and last night I discovered that Lola is just like me: the Challenge just encourages us to spend more time in charity shops. The Ultimate Challenge is not a way to save money, more an excuse to take pity on even more of the world's unwanted stuff, and bring it back to, in my case, a stuff-filled cottage. (This is why the General harbours yearnings towards mimimalist white boxes as living spaces - it is obviously his mode of rebellion against the rummage sale crowded shelves of the family home.)

 Just look at these books: I couldn't leave them where they were - especially the one entitled How to Run Your Home Without Help, offering inspiration for servantless households like mine. Alas, the solution seems to involve a lot of hard work and organization - I think I would rather go for the 'With Help' option any day, but so far no one seems inclined to offer much on that front. And Country Wisdom would seem something to aspire to - I have waved it in front of the Head Chef and will now wait hopefully for some bucolic thoughts.

And a metre and a half of Crowson fabric for £1.50 was just too good to resist: surely there must be something that I could do with it?

And so, as there seems no hope for me on the pared-down front, I thought you might like to see a few pictures of the latest textile miscellany to be brought home.

I was actually buying some concepts here, not just assorted textiles: in our local hospice shop I found a jumble of aprons which I imagine to be the remnants of a house clearance. All are made from recycled bits and pieces, not terribly well stitched, and the blue flowery one, quite patently fashioned from an old homemade skirt, even has a one-sided tie, as if there was not enough fabric to make a second tie -  the apron is unwearable in consequence, but someone kept it and treasured it. The pink one is an old pillowcase, and the appley one looks as if it might have been refashioned from a larger pinny.

I couldn't leave such leftovers of a thrifty, stitchy life to be discarded for rags, and have plans to reincorporate them into new aprons, perhaps with the help of the doyleys and some of the dressing table and traycloths which also came home with me. I know I have no need of more traycloths, but the cross-stitch one is quite interesting. I have another in just the same pattern and style, but using different-coloured threads, so possibly this pattern was one which was widely distributed as a kit or in a magazine, and is hus a bit of domestic social history.

And doyleys - Tif has set me back upon the doyley route, one which I thought I had put behind me. I wrote a good few hundred words on doyleys in my magnum opus, and even ventured on into the world of antimacassars. Philosophers have also expended much ink and paper on the socioeconomic and cultural significance of such domestic coverings, and I, too, jumped into the fray.

Reworking them knowingly into the functional domesticity of the apron - surely that can't be extravagance, no, not even thrift, worthy as that might be.

No, it is quite clear, going to charity shops is really quite a cerebral act, and the reuse of such domestic detritus is a socio-political statement. And as such it must be a Good Thing, and no need for me to feel guilty of wanton extravagance at all. It is all in the cause of Art and Philosophy, and therefore a route to discovering the Meaning of Life.

And if that isn't an incentive to go and have a rummage in a charity shop, I don't know what is.

And a quick postscript thank you to Andamento, who has very kindly given me an award. I have completely lost the plot on the award front, and can't possibly single out someone to pass it on to, as I read so many lovely blogs. So take it as yours, readers, and go and have a look at Andamento, where you will find some lovely pictures, not only of some beautiful landscapes, but even more fitting, of wonderful thrifty finds from charity shops!


marigold jam said...

Oh Pomona you really are in wordsmith mode today - how lovely and how thought provoking! I loved all those finds and that crinoline lady reminded me of a cup and sauce my mother used to have. I too have a drawer full of traycloths and doilies which rarely see the light of day these days. Will be interested to see how you incorporate those doilies into the aprons made from the fabric you found.

Jane x

Lola Nova said...

Well, you have made my morning a bit brighter with your well put post. You see, I knew there was something to it, I am sorting out the meaning of life whilst on the thrift. It is very important work.
I am adoring your treasures, well done!

Sarah said...

Em, I quite agree. I feel a little virtuous when purchasing something in a CS as the money goes to so many good causes, but I quite frequently feel guilty as I really shouldn't be spending more money!

Suzy's Vintage Attic said...

Hello Pomona

I know exactly what you mean about the charity shops, the number of times I have come back with bags full of things which I haven't used or displayed! I would convince myself that at least the charity shop had benifited! I have become a LOT stricter with my purchases, something I thought I'd never achieve. I have such a good feeling when I think to myself: Lovely, but no thanks!
Boot fairs are such a tempatation though with prices a lot lower than charity shops. I have a bit more work to do there on the temptation front...;-))
Isabelle x

Floss said...

Glad you talked yourself round, Pomona - I was getting worried for a moment! In all honesty, I have relatively few unloved items from Charity Shops - most of my regretted purchaces (jugs that don't pour, bike panniers which catch in the wheel etc) were bought new.

However, some of my finds sit in drawers awaiting their day. That always seems to come in the end!

JuliaB said...

I know what you mean about shopping centre dread and despair! yuk yuk. Happy thrifting! xx

Hen said...

You definitely could not have left those goodies behind, the fabric is lovely and you can definitely make something pretty and useful from that. Definitely a pat on the back for you.
Hen x

cathleen said...

Lovely, lovely post. A pleasure to look at all your treasures. But those dishes with the crinoline lady are what really won my heart.

jennyflower said...

Well done on the boot swap, we have clothes swapping parties amogst a few school Mums, as we diet or expand we pass along and find homes for things with which we couldn't bear to part with to strangers but are heart warming seen modelled on a friend.

jus said...

You've done it again...I now have an overwhelming urge to don a crinoline and rush down to my local emporia of the preloved, squealing... "I'm a lady, I'm a lady, let me through!"
Have you read the Oxford English Dictionary book I mentioned on the blog a few days ago...I have the feeling you would love it.

Gina said...

This was such a lovely post... and now I want to go and rummage in charity shops!

Michela said...

Did Andamento give you an award for your great finds??!! ;-)
Well done Pomona!

A Bun Can Dance said...

Dear Pomona
I totally agree with Floss - everything in our home which has come from the Charity Shop or Car Boot Sale is VERY MUCH LOVED indeed! So, when I went to the shops today with Mr Bun and spent a wopping £10 on vintage loveliness for the home and to give as Christmas gifts, I initially felt guilty about spending £10 and then told myself that these Lovelies of the Vintage Kind would costs multiples of tens elsewhere and reminded myself that the receivers of the gifts would be Very Happy Indeed to have such UNIQUE presents!!! Phew! That was a long sentence!
But you know, and I know you know, and so does your Hubby Know, that it is essential in the turning wheel of the Universe to give a loving home to any preloved item which beckons from the Charity Shop Shelves.... tis the law, you know!
Happy days to you
Denise x

whoatemycrayons said...

Thrift is the new 'eco'. I love charity shop rifling, you never know what treasures you can uncover and it's got to be the best form of recycling.

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Thanks for that - a very enjoyable and entertaining read. Like the photos of your 'material possessions' too! BFN. Lesley

Jackie said...

I really shouldn't look at posts like these..I thought I'd got over collecting stuff...but no....
I used to helpat the school jumble sale and rescued lots of things from being taken to the tip. My cupboards are full.

...Miss...Maddie's... said...

You have done well in your helping of reducing our carbon footprint and recycle.
The dresser scarves (as I call the long embroidered pieces) work wonderfully for the pockets on an apron. The doilies when all gathered together and tacked at the corners make a lovely curtain that when hung across the window look like snowflakes filtering the Winter light.
The possibilities are endless and with the coming of darkness much sooner now you'll have time to play with your lovely finds.

Shirleyanne said...

You have some lovely finds from the charity shops.
I'm a big fan shopping in charity shops.
Just wish I had more time to browse, but on occasions, I purchase some lovely things.
Some of my cross stitch books have been discovered in these shops.
Love the skirt you made of Princess Bunchy aswell.

Take care Pomona

Sal said...

Great post!
I love charity shops too..we have so many in my town it takes a day to go around them all!

Pipany said...

Great post Pomona. It highlighted what I have often thought about the world of carbooting and charity shops. This last few years I have avoided both - not an easy thing for someone slightly addicted such as myself - and actually really have saved money! Do miss it though x

Menopausal musing said...

My Charity Shop day is Friday, I love it...... just love it.... It would appear that you have better ones than those local to me..... but I still keep going because those extra special "somethings" are sometimes sitting there discarded and unloved, waiting for me to rescue them.....

Frances said...

What a delight to read this post and see those treasures. I am pretty good at resisting buying much these days (except perhaps yarn) because of true lack of space at home.

However, if I had access to your charity shops with that vintage china and those textiles ... I might have to put up some more shelves in this apartment and just fill them up!

Best wishes.

Serenata said...

I'm so glad you posted this as it was something I had been struggling with recently, wondering if I really SHOULD be visiting CS at all. But like others have said everything I have got is very much loved. Only yesterday I got a lovely leather purse for £1.99! It has hardly been used.

I did however by a pair of jeans that seemed to shrink on the way home - never mind I will turn them into a couple of bags!

I just love your crinoline china, I wouldn't have let that pass either.

Cottage Garden said...

I spy a grey Persephone book amongst your reading Pomona! Two sublime grey volumes arrived in the post for me this week - The Village and The Victorian Chaise Longue. Can't wait to start reading them!
I love the Crinoline Lady china - that was a lucky find. Like MM my charity shop day is Friday and I will be thinking of you and the challenge while I rummage!

Jeanne x

Florence and Mary said...

Oh the crinoline lady china is beautiful, i love it too and am lucky enough to have a few pieces.

Victoria xxx

Simply H said...

Ohh I love a good charity shop! Your lovely post and wonderful thrifty finds have inspired me, I think I might have a mooch around them tomorrow and see what treasures I can find x

niftyknits said...

Love the crinoline lady china, I've never seen such a thing. I thought on first glance it was an embroidered something - I remember my gran having a tablecloth with that design. I live in charity shops, and would rather go to the dentist than a big shopping centre.

sarah-jane down the lane said...

The Meaning of Life, of course!

I must be nearing Nirvana in that case! Loving your crinoline lady!

Sarah x

dottie angel said...

it is quite obvious after this rallying post that it is now 'our duty' and nothing less will do... we must go forth and rescue discarded 'waifs and strays' from within the bins and upon the shelves, across the lands and around the globe.
together, united in our challenge we stand...

'handcrafted thrifted' items being 'used and loved' again, can only be a good thing in my books...
even if our cupboards are already full to bursting. it would have been a 'crime committed' if you had left these finds where you found them.

well done pomona for making me and everyone else feel so much better about our verging on 'insanity' addictive ways :)

Country Bliss said...

What a wonderful haul of goodies you have there! Especially the beautiful Crowson fabric & the crinoline lady china.
Yvonne x

Cally's Cottage said...

Wonderful post!I too am doing the dottie angel challenge-so from one participant to another- well done!
Warm Wishes,
Cally x

dottycookie said...

Your lovely post made me nod and giggle in equal amounts - I'm very glad to have found your blog too and am off for a good browse!

andamento said...

Hello Pomona,

I want to go to a charity shop NOW!

Thanks for my mention, you're very generous and deserve every award you get!


PS I like the look of the books best!

rockinloubylou said...

We have a great wee charity shop and I'm sorry to say I'm in it a lot more than perhaps I should be. However, I can't bear to leave these beautifully stitched items to go to landfill or whatever would otherwise happen to them. As a beginner stitcher, I can see just how much work has gone into them. They deserve to be rescued and used again. And even if they sit in a drawer and our daughters rescue them from us in years to come, then that's ok too.

Julies knitting corner said...

I am just like you I love love love charity shops and have just bought a few little goodies for myself, I am always checking the books as well. I love my ever growing collection. best wishes julie.C

Barbara said...

I certainly know the feeling. Have enjoyed charity shops since the
These days it is mainly toys for the gandchildren to play with when they come to visit and BOOKS......for me withthe odd interesting item when I find it.

Spent 8 hours in Bluewater though last Tuesday looking for something to wear for our 50th. At the end of the afternoon I finally came up with something in M & S. Did not want anything fancy but nice, that was the difficuly part. Stayed on until after the rush hour which worked well as we were home in 30 mins.

Agree about the mushrooms. It only takes one poisonous one to make one really ill.

Hope the car gets well soon, or maybe I shouldnot say that if the trainers need an outing.

Rowan said...

That crinoline lady china is so pretty and as for those tray cloths and doilies.....antique linen has always been a weakness of mine.
I've never really spent much time in charity shops but I'm beginning to think that I'm missing out and had better go and see what I can find!

janie said...

I work in a charity shop, but unfortunately we never get the wonderful china that you have shown. I am obsessed with plates and platters and have some lovely pieces that I purchased on visits to the UK. I LOVE that crinoline lady china! On my next visit to your area I will have to visit more of these shops.

sarah said...

not sure if you'll read this as it's an old post..I am sitting here the other side of the world with a beer, a Spag Bol from the slow cooker and find myself nodding my head

especially about place I surely do not miss, her we call it 'The Mall', I detest it and the kids ask warily when we go when the Mall Witch will come out to play, which is generally after about an hour or so of being there

nice post, I enjoyed



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