Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Beginners Guide to Op Shopping

"How do you find such great things?" It's a question I'm asked all the time. As Mr J and I were driving out to one of our favourite treasure troves the other day we were discussing this very thing. What's the difference between a person who walks into an op shop and sees clutter and junk, and a person who sees future design projects, bargains, and treasures?

I've taken a few people op shopping with me only to have them walk out empty handed which amazes me.. because I always seem to leave with an armload!  Thrift shopping requires a completely different mindset to normal retail shopping. It's more of a discovery than finding the exact thing you're looking for. That's what I love about it.. the thrill of the unknown. Here are some of the things I've found recently:

Vintage suitcases for storing linens and craft supplies

Vintage pottery


Some good things to be found at Bullaburra Market

Le creuset  saucepan, Pyrex pie dish, wool blanket and vintage linen

Old tins for crafty bits, Pyrex, and souvenir linens

West German pottery 

Here are my top tips for op shopping success:

  • Have an open mind. That ratty old board game with missing pieces in the corner there? You could transform that into a piece of family artwork like my Scrabble Board. Try and look at things not for what they are, but for their shape, colour, size, and texture. 
  • Keep in mind that you can change the function of items really easily - a key rack can become a jewellery holder, a pile of stamps can be used for mosaics, and you can turn an outdoor table into a side table, or a screen into a headboard.
  • Always look at the linens. Tablecloths can become skirts or bags, sheets can be used for just about anything, and tea towels make fantastic cushions or bags. If they have holes or stains keep them for cutting, you can use the good parts for applique detail or for patchwork quilt squares. 
  • Have a go at remodelling vintage clothing. Old dresses can easily be updated by cutting them to knee length or by removing the sleeves and adding a belt. A simple remodel trick is to cut off the bottom portion and attach it to a t shirt top or singlet like I did with an 1980s dress and a dress for my daughter. A simple top can be transformed by adding a doily or a piece of embroidered linen.
  • Don't be afraid to have a rummage. Some of my best finds have been down the bottom of bargain bins or plastic containers full of remnants. 
  • If something catches your eye but you don't know what to do with it, buy it and store it until inspiration hits. Once you leave the shop the chances of ever finding something similar again are slim so don't let anything you really love go by.
  • Prices in op shops are fixed and it's generally not polite to haggle. My exception to this is if the price of something is out of place with other similar things in the store. In my experience prices are set by volunteers who like all of us have their own tastes. I've often heard old ladies having spirited arguments out the back about how much to charge for something. Last week I found a suitcase that was $9 and a much bigger one was $7 we took them both to the counter and they changed the price for us.
  • If you bring your kids with you feel free to let them loose in the toy area but do tidy up afterwards. 
  • Take cash, lots of op shops (in Australia particularly) are cash only or have a $10 minimum for eftpos.
  • If there's something you like, try and collect a few of the same in varying colours or shapes so you can display them together. It makes op shopping really fun if you have a secret wishlist in mind before you walk in the door. 
  • Have fun! Plan an op shopping route and make a day of it.

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