Antique Apothecary Vase

In my DIY Junk Thanksgiving Cards I posted one card using the label of an antique apothecary bottle I was given (translation: told to throw in the garbage) because it was quite badly cracked.

I had other plans.

I can’t find the before photo, but when I do I’ll post it. But as you’ll see there was absolutely no reason to toss this little treasure in the trash.

Martha Stewart popularized the idea of repurposing antique apothecary bottles as outdoor lights by filling them with lamp oil and wicks. But that wouldn’t work for me because of the cracks.

We’ve all been in Pier 1 and Winners and such and seen the bottles used as vases for dried flowers. That’s what I needed to do.

To help disguise the cracks I mixed up a batch of homemade chalkpaint but added a lot of extra Plaster of  Paris to make it really soupy.  I wanted the dried paint to be very textured.

apothecarybottle1  It took 3 good coats of goopy chalk paint but the cracks are only visible if you know they are there and look hard for them.

I added some dried hydrangeas that I spray painted earlier in the summer…

I am lovin’ it on my nightstand.


Since posting this I found another great apothecary bottle vase project at Knick of Time – check it out!





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Duo Repurpose for Binocular Case

Does watching the Hoarders tv show make you nervous? Me, too.

So, I’m resolved to selling or consigning or donating all of the projects I’ve completed that are crowding my life a bit uncomfortably before doing any more junking.

Last night I did a curbside pickup of a seatless, bashed up but cute adult bicycle. It would have been a cute garden planter, but for a couple of years on Car Free Day and Bike to Work Week I have fantasized about creating a refreshment station: baskets  filled with fresh fruit and granola bars (donated, of course) on the handlebars and where the seat would otherwise be. Paniers filled with cold drinks.

You get where I’m going…environmental benefits on so many levels. The bike I picked up last night would have been perfect, BUT I would have been tripping over it for the next 6 months. I’m proud to say I took it back this morning.

This binocular case is an example of the slippery slope to hoarding. I’ve had it for years. When it came to me it no strap and my original plan was to get a new, longer than normal strap and use it as a purse.


Never happened. And over time it got too bashed up to use for that particular purpose. But leather items like this are not recyclable, so the kindest waste management method is reuse or repurpose.

It could have been used for a funky storage container… anything that you can put stuff in can be used for storage.

But in these last days of Indian summer my thoughts turned outdoors.

Surrounded as I am by my hydrangea haul, I saw cute autumn wreath potential. I used a length of jute to replace the leather strap and stuffed it full of Hydrangeas and end-of-season Lavender.


The wreath was short-lived.

Fall weather means it is time to get out our birdfeeders and help our migrating birds fatten up a bit for their long flights, and let our feathered friends who will winter with us know where the cafeteria is going to be.


Now that the lid is down you can see what I mean about this case being a little the worse for wear…

I drilled a hole near the bottom of the case.  I don’t always like to have a catch basin for seed that falls out. There are a lot of ground feeding birds, and I’m fine with squirrels and the occasional raccoon helping themselves to some nuts and seeds. They’re all God’s creatures.


This feeder is going to a seniors’ housing complex. This particular complex doesn’t permit pets, but most of the residents love critters. There are three “stray” cats that have patrolled the grounds for a year or more, and many of the residents have some kind of bird feeding, even if it is just scattering seed on the ground.

I think they are going to love the idea of spoon feeding the birds


The clasped lid keeps the seed inside clean and dry, and it seeps out as the spoon empties.



Autumn Teacup Wreath

I just couldn’t stand to see these antique Royal Albert Crown China (Devonshire Lace pattern – 1930s) teacups thrown away – even though they had cracks on their insides.



They were a Craigslist freebie – the ad said if no one replied by that evening they were going in the trash. I couldn’t bear the thought.

Among other considerations, these types of dishes cannot go in our recycling bins. They go to landfill.  No way!


So I gathered some autumn rust coloured hydrangeas (yes – I cheated and added a couple of Dahlias for filler because I temporarily ran out of hydrangeas and have to wait for more to start to dry – too hard to handle when they are fresh fresh) from the garden and made a teacup wreath.

But you get the idea.  Not including the harvest and drying of hydrangeas, this project took a whopping 15 minutes to make and cost nothing (I used a grapevine wreath that I had on hand. I bought 3 for 75 cents at a yard sale a year and a half ago but I have used them several times already).


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10 Junk Altered Autumn Cards

Old lace, fabric scraps (including the seams that are of no use as dust cloths!), old buttons, belt buckles, bottle caps, corn husks, candy wrappers, old keys and broken jewelery pieces…

When most people do a cleaning purge such items go the trash.  With me they go on cards.

I recently took the opportunity to get a jump on my holiday (Thanksgiving/Christmas) cards.   Boy I  had fun!

I’m getting a lot more confident in my multi-material play at the same time.

And since the cards frequently include something more, I pulled out to include with my cousin’s card this antique autograph book that belonged to our  Grandma.



I enjoy the benefits of the internet as much as the next guy. But I swoon over hand-written cards  and letters.

I don’t receive a lot these days, but here’s a sample of what my family and friends can look for in their mailboxes over the next few weeks.













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Rustic Engagement Sign

This wonderfully bashed-up trumpet is not new to this blog. And the door from a 200 year old Quebec cupboard is not new by any measure.

But they are new together, like my 58/63 year old friends who just got engaged.

They wanted to keep it quiet – it’s not the first time for either of them.

But I convinced them to have a little soiree to share their happy news and made this for the occasion.

And it all comes apart very easily (no chalk paint here – just regular latex that will scrub off fairly easily within a few days), so the pieces can live on to trumpet other occasions.


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Candlesticks from Repurposed Lamp Parts

I have one board on Pinterest for ideas for items created from lamp parts. It has hundreds!

One of my personal favorites is candlesticks (maybe “candlestands” because I don’t limit myself to posts or “sticks”)


For example, this pair of Art Deco-style light shades make great candle holders and would look fabulous on a dinner table dressed to create a certain sleek look like a New Year’s Eve Buffet

This rustic-looking candlestick came from a lamp I bought at a Thrift Store for the shade. The stand was a hideous (IMHO) colour so I grabbed a cloth I had used to wipe up a paint spill and invented a new (to me, at least) paint technique – the swipe.

I got distracted when I went to get a clean paint brush and when I got back it had dried like this. A kind of self-distressed thing. I liked it.

And since I’ve started this candlestick pairing thing (whole new line of interior décor), I would use this when serving hearty Irish Stew and rustic, whole grain loaf.


The oldest  and my favorite of these candlesticks is this gorgeous metal pillar. I bought the lamp for $8 at a thrift store with this result in mind. It was the first time I single-handedly dismantled anything electric and it took a long time.

But you learn with experience – and in addition to still having parts available to use on other projects, I have used this candlestick on indoor and outdoor tables and in the garden (and it doubles beautifully as support for a fruit basket or cutting board with cloche). But most of the time it lives on my bedroom nightstand.


And, of course, to really appreciate a candlestand, the candles should be lit, right?




Repurposed Antique Cigarette Tin


In the past few years I have had the opportunity to accompany my uncle on appraisals and to view and list consignments to his antique and estate auctions. I grew up working in the family business, but I am learning so much more now. And occasionally I get great stuff – without even asking for it.

In July I was helping my uncle list a consignment from longtime friends of his and fellow antique dealers. I gasped when I spied this Sportsman Cigarette Tin. Both of my grandparents smoked Sportsman cigarettes. My grandfather died when my mother was only 10 or 11 years old, so I never knew him.

But I have few memories of my grandmother that don’t involve her smoking. She was one of those chronic chain smokers that frequently light one cigarette from another.

She’s even holding a cigarette in some photos, like this one.

Her smoking is not a good memory (although we have a number of funny stories that feature her smoking – and trying to hide it when her children tried to get her to quit).

She was my best friend. I adored her, but I lost her to a brain aneurism (which is linked to smoking) when I was only 9 years old.

Her death in turn triggered a domino effect of very sad events that dominated nearly 3 years of my childhood. I should hate this tin.

But I gasped when I saw it and held it up for my uncle to see. From the son who had bribed and begged his mother for 20 years to quit smoking poured forth warm, funny stories. Like about the time she promised to quit smoking if he would buy my mother (then a single mom) a washer and dryer. When he dropped by her house the week after installing the washer and dryer, Grandma pretended the screen door was jammed shut while she had one arm held behind her back and a tendril of smoke spiralled upward from behind her back.

In the presence of such emotion, John told me I could have the tin. In addition to be a reminder of my grandparents, I collect Canadian antique tins and this one clearly states that it was made in Canada.

I am in the process of launching myself as a freelance writer with an environmental specialization. I’m using the tin to hold cards and bits of paper with contact information of prospective clients – using it to help clear the air on many levels, I hope.


Chair Planter with Bling

Planterchair1.jpg  Here’s a tip off the top from the auctioneer’s kid: when you go to an auction (or antique store) park near their garbage.

It’s astonishing in this junk-friendly era with distribution mechanisms like curbsides and “Craigslist free” listing, but people still throw away stuff that is…well, “killing me with potential” as we used to say around the Crib board.

In this case the source was my antique auctioneer uncle. He bought a batch lot (a “Lot” at an auction is an item being sold. That item can, as in this instance, be a group of items. Usually they are items of low value grouped together in the hope of creating enough value to make it worth the auction house’s overhead costs of selling it.)


My uncle wanted one item in a batch lot being sold at a competitor auction and he did NOT want this seatless, scratched up chair frame and told his employee to haul it out to the garbage.

It never got there.

The frame was nearly 100 years old and perfectly solid. Someone had sanded one side – clearly intending to refinish the frame and probably upholster a new seat cushion (if that is your desire for a chair frame you come across, there are tons of cushion forms floating around for free or you can get one cut from scrap wood for a song!)

I had other plans. So on the way home I stopped by the recycling centre. I don’t know about where you live, but in British Columbia you can take your leftover paint to the provincially funded recycling depot in every community. They will either dispose of it in the most environmentally-safe manner possible or, if it is still usable, will put it in a bin where another member of the community can take it for free and use it up (THE most environmentally responsible disposal method). I picked up almost a full litre of off-white paint (colour selection is limited to what gets dropped off…of course).

But I was fortunate and found a good supply of cream colour latex – which I made into homemade chalk paint with the addition of some Plaster of Paris (about 30% which I mix in a separate container so I can play with the combination until I get it right.

I took advantage of the lovely summer weather to paint outdoors. Two coats.


I then distressed it by scraping with the blunt edge of a butter knife the parts that would be worn naturally (edges of the legs, back and seat, most elevated areas of carved section) and then lightly sanded with a sanding block.

It was pretty, but I wanted something a bit more so I looked through my vintage costume jewellery and found a brooch I thought perfect for the job.

I love pearls – and am quite fond of rhinestones.


I attached it with E6000- a good, strong glue.


I wiped the chair down and gave it a coat of clear outdoor Minwax.

The only planter I had that fit the chair was brown, so I gave it a quick spray with quick-drying Rustoleum matt white spray paint. Filled it and set it next to the front door.

The pink flowers brought out a pink tone in the pearls.




I’ve used it as porch décor, but it would make a nice piece of decoration for a backyard wedding, as well.


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Repurposed Mantle Clock

Don’t you love receiving a framed photo of a special moment or person?  Me too!

No number of digital photos can compare to the enjoyment of  nicely framed specially chosen photos of family, friends and shared moments around my home and office.

I also give them as gifts and am always on the hunt for special, one-of-a-kind frames.  I have a drawer full of empty frames I like or ones I bought at estate sales and painted or embellished.

Packing up purchases from an antique auction I attended, I saw potential in a non-working mantle clock with no key to wind it (in short, it will take a few bucks  to get it working).

But I thought the casing would make a photo really stand out.

For privacy reasons I can’t show the clock with the photo of my friend I intend to put in it, but I put in a couple of cut-outs to convey the concept.

It is going to look amazing with the graduation photo I am gifting to the graduate’s proud parents … but it would make a retirement or birth photo look very special

Any photo you want to give as elegant a setting as possible.

And in this case at least the clock workings don’t have to be removed or damaged… so the integrity of the original clock is not sacrificed.

Every antique and estate auction and lots of garage and estates sales are full of antique and vintage clocks – and often empty clock cases.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.