Thrifty Tuesday: Dallas

Dallas is chock full of truly awesome vintage and thrift stores. However, there is an important distinction between the two:

  • Thrift–Your typical dingy stores where you have to dig a bit to find the good stuff. Prices on clothing will be lower because items are donated and their quality and condition are not tediously inspected.
  • Vintage–Vintage stores are more curated than thrift stores. Items are usually not donated, but rather purchased by the store to be resold. Therefore, prices will be higher. Many vintage shops will even repair and alter clothing.

If you don’t know the difference (or sometimes even if you do), vintage stores can give you sticker shock. But when looking for jewelry, vintage stores can actually be a better bet. Thrift stores tend to hike up jewelry prices, especially if their selection is limited. Most of my favorite and least expensive pieces were from vintage stores. They are more likely to sell “by the bag,” and also more likely to carry trinkets and interesting knick knacks.

On Saturday, I took to the streets of Dallas and visited my favorite of both. Here are the highlights:

First up, I went to Genesis Benefit Thrift Store. If you live in the DFW area and haven’t been there, go. You can find quality suits, like-new designer (actual designer, not just “designer by thrift standards”) wear and jeans that haven’t faded yet. The prices are fantastic as well. I bought three belts–one Ann Taylor, one Express and one vintage–for $1 each. As for jewelry, the prices weren’t so great. A simple tiered chain necklace was marked to $20, and when I questioned the price, the lowest negotiation got me to $12. Most places won’t negotiate though, so I will give them that.

Another of my favorites is Dolly Python. I am completely, hopelessly obsessed with this place. Upon entering, it seems like a crazy, unorganized mess. Look a little closer though, and it starts to make sense. The clothes are wacky and unique, and when you find something that fits it’s magic. This is also my go-to place for bags of jewelry and vintage buttons. This is a vintage store–not a thrift store–so prices will be higher.

Finally, I ventured into a new place. The side of Lula B’s Antique Mall in Deep Ellum labels it as having “cool stuff and cool people.” I would agree. With two floors of clothes, antiques, jewelry, records, rusty collectible beer cans, and pretty much anything else you could imagine, I was hooked. And this is what I dug up:

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Total cost: $3.

More to come soon–happy thrifting!

Thrifty Tuesday

I live in Arlington, Texas–home of many things, but not home to many decent thrift stores. If you are familiar with sub-par thrift stores, as I am, you probably know the struggle of finding something in good condition that has been priced way too high. You know the sort: Forever 21 dresses for a whopping $20, shoes from Target marked $10, or even worse, an entire section of items labeled “better clothing” and priced close to their original value.  

I went thrifting in Arlington today and found this to be my luck. But I am in need of chain and beads and I was determined to find them at a good price.

First up, I visited Thrift Town. They have one of those infamous “better clothing” sections and can be inconsistent with pricing. I found a few good options in the housewares aisle and the toys department:

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Housewares departments of thrift stores are full of knick-knacks. This could easily be taken apart for the seed beads

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A knick-knack with beads and reusable wire

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Bags of small toys like this would be perfect for crafting. They can be painted and used for magnets, necklace pendants, etc., and this bag was only $1.99.

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$8 for a necklace I’m going to take apart? No thank you!

I ultimately passed on buying anything here today. I guess I was too frustrated after visiting the jewelry section. Each item was priced between $5 and $15. Crazy, right? I don’t even pay that much for new jewelry unless it’s real silver or precious stone.

Next I visited Salvation Army, and here’s what I came away with:

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All of these were on sale. Total cost : $5.50

I can’t wait to tear them apart and experiment with the different pieces! Typically you can come away with a better deal than I got on these, but like I said, Arlington thrifting isn’t the best.

Spring Break seashells

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I get so happy every time Spring Break rolls around. I’m graduating in May so this was my last year to have that glorious week away from campus and feel reinvigorated by sunshine after spending weeks under fluorescent lighting in the library. I admit, that’s a little dramatic and I really don’t spend that much time in the library.

Regardless, I spent last week in Galveston collecting seashells, sipping drinks with cheesy tropical names and freezing my limbs off in the cold March water. I came back with an angry sunburn, a sack full of shells and an itching to make something.

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I posted yesterday about using atypical materials, with things found in nature being one of them. The thing about natural items is that they sometimes smell or contain still-living organisms. Especially seashells. This was my first time crafting with shells, so there might be better ways of cleaning them. This method worked just fine for me:

Supplies:

  • Shells
  • Saucepan or stockpot, depending on amount of shells
  • Spoon or utensil to stir (don’t use anything wooden, as you will definitely want to put this in a dishwasher)
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Bleach (I used a bleach-based kitchen cleaner)
  • Sponge
  • Clear nail polish (colored if desired)

Sanitize your shells:

  1. Put the shells in the saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain in a strainer. This might smell really, really bad depending on where you collected the shells.
  2. Move them to a bowl and fill with equal parts water and bleach. Leave overnight.
  3. Pour back through the strainer. Scrub the shells to remove the bleach. I used a little dish soap to help with the smell, and scrubbed over a plastic bag to catch any broken pieces.

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4. If there are still barnacles or thin layers on your shells, you’re going to want to get rid of them. I used a pair of jewelry pliers to pick them off (make sure to sanitize after).

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5. Lay out to dry, then paint with clear nail polish. My shells lost a lot of color in the washing process, so I painted some with colored nail polish before adding a clear topcoat.

6. Some might contain natural holes (convenient!). For those that don’t, you will probably need a drill. I used a hammer and small nail, but I would not recommend this if you’re attached to any of the shells (a few broke).

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And here’s what I made…

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Thinking outside the craft store

I’ve already established that thrift stores are the greatest place on Earth. Don’t get me wrong, craft stores are also great. But often times when I turn the corner into the jewelry aisle, I start wanting everything. “Ooh, I want those beads! And that chain! And look, it’s a necklace-making kit!” These thoughts start flooding my head and next thing you know, I can only think of designs with these items.

More often than not, I feel that this craft store state of mind limits my creativity. I start seeing what the displays want me to see–buy this book, this material, make this necklace. People who design craft store displays are geniuses. They play on what’s trendy or what everyone is Pinteresting (not sure of the proper term). When skulls are popular, you will find a display of skulls, next to a book about skull jewelry, next to a kit that makes skull jewelry a snap. Even their websites are this way.  

To bust out of this craft store rut, I like looking for atypical materials. Here are a few examples, and a few DIY projects that might inspire you (some links are to blog posts outside of wreck. renew. repeat.)…

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking outside of the jewelry aisle at the craft store. You can pretty much use any material you come across (as long as it isn’t perishable…). You will still need to visit a craft store for most projects to pick up head pins and jump rings, but grab them and run. Get out into the world and try to find supplies in random places. It may be a disaster sometimes, but craft disasters make for funny stories. Trust me, I have a ton of ’em.

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I made this today from a stone, chain and beads (from thrifted items).

DIY: Beginner necklace

For me, thrift store hunting often results in finding interesting beads. They’re everywhere. In this post, I’m going to show you how to make a basic necklace using chain and a single bead. This is a great project because you can make any bead into a charm and swap them out to match your outfit or mood. This is a very basic, beginner necklace so it might be too easy if you have jewelry making experience. Now for the fun part:IMG_7409

Supplies

  • Interesting bead
  • 3 jump rings
  • 1 head pin
  • Chain, approx. 16″ long
  • Lobster claw or other style clasp
  • Wire cutters, round nose and bent nose pliers

Making the charm

  1. Put the head pin through the bead. Leaving a little space above the bead, use the bent nose pliers to bend the head pin to a 90 degree angle.
  2. With the round nose pliers, pinch the head pin at the bend and loop the pin around it.
  3. Use the bent nose pliers to wrap the end around the space between the bead and the loop. Clip extra wire with your wire cutters.

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This is called a wrapped loop. Alternatively, you could make the charm using a simple loop but I like the look of wrapped loops for this necklace.

Chain necklace

  1. Attach a jump ring on one end of your chain, and a jump ring and lobster clasp on the other.
  2. Connect the charm to the chain using a jump ring.
  3. Voila, you’re finished!

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Copycatting

I firmly believe it’s okay to copy other people’s jewelry. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, am I right? Let me clarify by adding that I believe it is okay to copy if you do not plan to sell. It is one thing to practice jewelry making by copying pieces you like, it is another to make money off someone else’s designs.

When I first started playing with jewelry, I wanted to make things, bend things, create things. But everything I came up with, I didn’t want to wear. It was just a little… messy. So I started copying jewelry from blogs or Urban Outfitters or Instagram pictures. This made me really think about the final product before I began and analyze how I would have designed it differently. Now I waste less materials (mess-ups can be costly), and I actually wear what I make.

What type of jewelry do you buy?

Start there. If you always buy statement necklaces with colored beads, try finding one you like and copying it. You will be more likely to finish it and it won’t collect dust hanging in your closet.

Move on.

Spend some time copying, but follow your own impulses and ideas as well. I have recently become a fan of mood boards. I tend to be a little all over the place, and they help me focus to one idea. I look through magazines and tear out pictures of jewelry I like, current trends and things that have a retro or bohemian vibe. Sometimes it can be a font, color, pattern or photo that sparks an idea–throw those in there too. You can also make them digitally, but I like tangible ones that I can hang in my closet or above my desk.

I also use Evernote and drop in photos or blog posts that I stumble across.

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DIY Button studs

This will be just about the easiest DIY you will ever do, and will take all of five minutes. For my supplies, I used buttons from a bag I bought at a vintage store. I have also used this method to make clip-on earrings into studs. I find clip-ons to be just about the most uncomfortable accessories ever. How did people ever wear clip-ons anyway?  

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Supplies:

Instructions:

Using your handy-dandy wire cutters, clip off the button shanks and try to get the back as flat as possible.

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Put a dot of glue in the center of the back of the button and press on an earring back. Pick of any excess glue.

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Done! See, wasn’t that easy?

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Scouring for supplies at thrift stores

Today let’s go on adventure. Not skydiving, no road trip, just a jaunt to the thrift store. As a college student and jewelry maker, the thrift store is my friend and should be yours, too. Say it with me, “The thrift store is my friend.” Walk up to that clear display case with confidence and look critically at its contents. There will be a lot of plain old junk. But if you’re lucky, you’ll find some usable chain, interesting pendants or beads you can reuse. Try not to judge pieces by what they look like now. The point is to rip them apart, after all. Some of my favorite pieces I’ve made have been crafted from old, tacky jewelry.

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This is probably my favorite thing I’ve ever made, and I created it out of an old charm bracelet.

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These earrings are also entirely made from jewelry I found at the thrift store.

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I love old buttons. Mainly because they make for a super easy afternoon project. I have about a million pairs of stud earrings that I made from vintage buttons.

You can save a lot of money finding supplies at the thrift store. And when I say a lot, I mean it. Most vintage or thrift stores sell old jewelry in bags, sometimes for as little as $1. There is literally nothing that cheap in the jewelry aisles of craft stores. Plus, thrift stores are fun. You never know what you’re going to find.

Frankie Says Macramé: Easy How-to

In my last post, I mentioned using macramé to loosen up. There are many different patterns, but I am going to show you a basic bracelet pattern. These make for awesome homemade gifts or look great stacked. Here we go:

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Supplies:

  • String (yarn or twine is okay, but is sometimes hard to work with. I use hemp cord, which you can find in the jewelry aisle of craft stores)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Hard surface
  • Beads (optional)
  • Wine (optional)

The basic set-up:

  1. Measure about one yard* of cord and fold in half. Put a piece of tape about two inches from the top. Tape the two hanging strings near the bottom to hold in place. (This will be string “A”)
  2. Measure another three yards of cord and tie a knot under the tape, leaving the two hanging ends even.
  3. Pull the right end (string “C”) across A and underneath the left end (string “B”).
  4. Pull B underneath A and C.
  5. Pull ends to form a knot.
  6. Repeat the process, this time bringing B across A to the right side and pulling C through to form a knot. Continue forming knots, alternating between the right and left side.

*All measurements are approximate. 1 yard = nose to fingertip, 1 inch = middle portion of index finger.

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Adding beads

Simply string beads on A and continue knotting.

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Finishing up

When knotted part fits around your wrist, you’re ready to tie it off. The easiest way to do this is to knot the end around itself and use the loop as a closure, but I prefer a more finished look. Your other option is to make a sliding closure:

  1. Tie each end onto itself and right against the knots (on one end you will still have four strings, so tie all and trim the ends of the two shortest ones). Tie a regular knot on the ends.
  2. Tape the strings next to each other.
  3. Use a short piece of cord and make a few macramé knots (10-15) around the four strings. Tie off with two regular knots and trim the ends.

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Your bracelet is ready to go! Adjust the slider to fit your wrist and tuck in the loose strings.

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Frankie Says Macramé

When I was in elementary school, my mother came home one day with a bag of old cigar boxes. She went out to the garage, tapped a nail into the top of each and tossed beads and twine inside. Then she taught my sister and I how to macramé, tying the start of each bracelet to the nail and showing us how to tie the knots and slip on beads.

The cigar boxes are long gone, but I still macramé. In the same way that athletes warm up by stretching and writers by free writing, I use macramé to loosen up before playing with wire and chain. It isn’t too tedious, so I’m able to relax and make the knots without over-thinking it.

If you get frustrated while learning how to bead and wire wrap, take a step back and macramé. It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s cheap. Packs of cord cost around $5, and make about 1,000 bracelets (not literally, but they last a long time). 

Macramé bracelets are also incredibly easy to customize. You can change the type of beads, color of the string or the braiding patterns. Check out my next post for a super simple pattern to get you started!

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