Yard Sale Adventures

by Anne Culbreath Watkins

Yard sales, garage sales, rummage sales, whatever you call them, the advent of warm weather brings crops of these bargain bonanzas sprouting like wildflowers. And if you're the crafty sort, that pile of someone else's discards could turn out to be the source of all sorts of fun and interesting projects for you and your kids. Here are seven ideas to prod your imagination.

  1. Cast-off prom gowns, old bride's maid dresses, or jewel-toned silk shirts magically become fairy-tale princess gowns for imaginative little girls. A man's old dress coat becomes an orchestra conductor's tuxedo for a dramatic little boy. In the hands of a child, who knows what wonderful things will come from those tossed-out items? Just be sure that any clothing you purchase is in good repair and clean. To be safe, have any questionable pieces laundered or dry cleaned. Store the clothing in a suitcase or trunk scavenged from another yard sale. Then step back and prepare to be entertained!

  2. Old costume jewelry is marvelous fun. Not only can the pieces be given a good cleaning and worn as-is, but also they can be taken apart and redesigned into fabulous, one-of-a-kind creations. Look for pins, hair clips, rings, necklaces, beaded collars, and bracelets. Pretty up clothing with the pieces, or take them apart and use to create lovely decorative items such as fancy boxes or picture frames. You can even custom-design a lovely tiara to go with your daughter's yard sale ball gown! Cut a tiara shape from a piece of cardboard and encrust it with jewels. Then loop a piece of soft elastic through holes punched in each side to make a headband. A hot glue gun is a great tool to have on hand for these projects.

  3. Enhance your home's decor by transforming old satin or silk dresses into lovely pillow shams. Snip the stitches along the dress seams and pull out the threads, then separate the pieces of fabric. Next, lay out your pillow sham pattern and cut the pieces. Then sew a few seams and finish the edges. Now you have a stylish cover for a fraction of the cost of a new one. As an added bonus, collect any fancy buttons or accessories that may have been on the dress to reuse for other projects.

  4. Find a box of old bottles and jars? Purchase the most interesting ones and use them to create inexpensive, but rich-looking items. Tie on a beautiful ribbon and fill with colored marbles to create an eye-catching room accessory, or cluster a few on a corner shelf. Trim one with jute twine and fill with bath oil. Drop seashells in a couple, or put in a fragrant candle. Another fun idea is to help your children cut out small pictures from magazines. Using white glue, have them attach the pictures to the jars to make interesting collages. Let dry and then spray with clear sealant.

  5. Never overlook the possibilities of yard sale artwork. Okay, so you don't have to buy that black velvet painting of the poker-playing dogs because you love the picture, but what does the frame look like? Many yard-sale frames can be stripped down and refinished in stains that match your home. Or you could get creative and paint them in your family's favorite colors.

  6. Delicate old china teacups and saucers are stunning and make beautiful gifts. Package a couple in a pretty basket with a selection of teas, coffees or cocoa mixes, and add a silver spoon and embroidered napkin. Keep in mind that some old glassware is valuable. If you think have found a piece that may be worth something, take it to an antique dealer to have it evaluated.

  7. And don't forget the family pet. Dig through that box of old bath towels and pick out the best ones. Carefully launder and dry the towels, cut out some fun shapes, then sew them up securely and stuff with leftover scraps. Your dog will have a blast! And best of all, when the toys are worn out, you can just throw them away and make more.

Let's go! Keep an eye on your local newspaper for yard sale postings. Mark a few promising ones, pack up the kids, and set off. Who knows what cool projects your trip might yield? Happy scavenging!

A published writer for nearly 20 years, Anne's work has appeared in numerous publications such as Angels on Earth, Pet Age, Fate, and Bird Talk, and in more than 18 anthologies. She lives in rural Alabama with her husband Allen, and a menagerie of pets. Copyright Anne C. Watkins

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