Go Find Your Like-Minded, Weird, Lovely Friends

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So I have to tell you about a first-rate thing that happened last weekend. Consider it my own personal proof that life’s more fun when you get over your hangups and let yourself be who you are. For crying out loud, you guys, is anybody else tired of being concerned about what everybody might think of us, anyway?

Here’s the deal. I love thrift shops. I adore them so much I’ve devoted entire blog posts to celebrating good ones like Top Drawer of Austin, Texas. I’m also a huge fan of people who build community, which is what draws me to bloggers. So a few weeks ago I had an idea for putting these two together in a way that brought me so much joy it made my head want to explode.

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It wasn’t all that complicated, really: How about I reach out to the Twin Cities Blogger Collective and invite them along on a thrift-shop hop? We’d visit a local thrift store or two, take pics, then write about it. Yes! I was drawn to the idea and it was simple enough. But simplicity wasn’t my problem. No, my issue was much more diabolical. In order to follow through with the outing I envisioned, I’d have to get over my fear of not being liked.

First of all, I’d never met anyone from this collective of women bloggers. I’d recently joined their Facebook group, but that was my only point of contact. Okay, I had met one, but she hardly counted, as she’d told me about the group in the first place. That left 108 ladies I’d never seen face to face.

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Spolier alert, I pushed past my doubt and reached out to the bloggers. Here I am with Sarah, the Recreational Gardner herself. We explored two fine Minneapolis thrift shops, Junket: Tossed and Found and Time Bomb Vintage.  (Photo by Recreational Gardner.)

Second, I hadn’t entirely gotten over my shyness about taking photos in public. Sure, taking a quick phone snap is practically the norm. Even so, wearing a DSLR around your neck feels like an invite for unwanted attention, regardless of whether or not this is actually true.

Think about it. There’s no way to have a long-lensed camera suspended on your chest AND appear casual at the same time. You might as well hang a sign on that industrial Sony strap. It might boast something like, “HEL-LO, fellow shoppers! You may be here for a spontaneous afternoon jaunt, but I actually planned this. I really, really like this place, and I drove 18.8 miles one way just to come. (True story.) What’s more–and this may be the hardest part to admit–I genuinely care about what happens here today.”

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This is my favorite image from our trip. Yes, it’s a bin filled with typewriter keys. I was  drawn to their stark beauty, and it felt good to run my fingers through them.

I know. My dilemma may not sound like life and death, because of course it isn’t. But I believe there are too many of us walking around, holding back back the best parts of ourselves. What a damn shame! Not only does this habit require a great deal of personal energy, but the world is missing out because of it.

Since starting this blog just over a year ago, I’ve grown braver about reaching out. I’ve learned skills that have helped me feel more empowered. I’ve gained inspiration from creative women all over the world. So when the idea came along to connect with actual people in my own city, it was easier to push past my fear and just go for it. And thank God for that, because the afternoon was ridiculously fun.

Four bloggers responded to my Facebook invite to meet me at a local thrift store, and I was able to sync schedules with one right away: Sarah of the Recreational Gardener. She figured she could score some thrifty yard art for her garden. We agreed to meet along the Minnehaha Mile, a collection of hip neighborhood shops in Minneapolis. We’d head to Junket: Tossed and Found, then walk a block to Time Bomb Vintage.

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Truer words have never been spoken. This sign accompanied the rack of ties hanging on a  display at Junket.

Both shops are nothing short of delightful. The displays are arranged so lovingly they actually talk to you. That’s right. Within minutes of our arrival, a photo in a small green frame spoke to me. (Literally, assuming you count thought bubbles, which I clearly do. I mean, obviously.) It reassured me that I’m among friends and don’t have to be embarrassed.

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Here it is, the photo that reached through the cosmos and spoke what I needed to hear. Check out the kids! I snapped this shot without noticing them. Later, while cropping this image, I saw them for the first time and laughed out loud.

I’ve come to believe this advice is is true of the world as well. There’s no need to feel ashamed. And who are the best reminders of this? Our very own like-minded, weird, lovely friends. So get over yourself and go find them, wherever they may be. Look online, head to a meetup in your city, invite that work acquaintance to coffee. Sure, not every lead will pan out. But that’s okay.

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I thought of my grandmother while taking this shot. She collected napkin rings and had two  displays of them hanging on her dining room wall. You could tell she treasured them, and each ring was different from the one next to it. Dosie was an artist who passed away when I was in middle school. Oh, how I’d love to have an adult conversation with her!

Know that it’ll take time, but seek your community. Surrounding yourself with your people is one of the best ways to draw you out of shyness and into your best self. Find those who are already doing what you want to do. Learn from them. Pay careful attention. Then over time, figure out which ones you can come to meet, online or in person. In fact, I’ll leave you with one final piece of thrift-shop wisdom: “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”

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Find your community and you’ll be one step closer to living this out.

For the bloggers among you, do you have your own story of creating opportunities? Join my February linky party: Make, Mend, Change.

So what about you? Who are your like-minded friends? Let me know in the comments!

Thrift-Shop Hop Minneapolis: Junket

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Playfulness. Inspiration. Community. When these things combine, they make a powerful combination, a triple threat of goodness. If I can find them all in one place, you can bet I’ll try to get there. And so explains my hankering for thrift stores. Maybe you share the same infatuation. (Is yours enduring, too? Oh thrift stores, I’ll always love you.) Or maybe you just need a break from whatever stress is on your mind.

Either way, welcome to my new series: Thrift-Shop Hop. When I’m in a different city or exploring my own, I’ll seek out second-hand stores. I’ll invite you along as I discover stories they have to tell. I’ll find items that may spark an upcycling project or two. Or else the treks will simply be amusing, which is just as good, I say.

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See? I hope you’re amused already. Junket intersperses works from local artists throughout. Here’s one such cheeky surprise.

The shop from my first installment, Top Drawer Thrift of Austin, Texas, was exceptional. It inspired me to define what makes a thrift shop great. Let’s see how the checklist stacks up as I visit one closer to my home: Minneapolis’ own Junket: Tossed and Found. (Spoiler alert: Thumbs way up.)

Five Signs You’re in the Presence of Thrift-Shop Greatness

Sign #1: Displays are Artfully Prepared

When I stepped into Junket, I could tell it was set up by somebody who cares. It was just a feeling I got, but evidence quickly followed. Arrangements featured handmade signs, many which suggested ideas for DIY types like me. Thread arranged by color made me want to reach out and grab spools by the rowful.

Before long one of the displays taught me a new word, a move that earned Junket some bonus points. (How, may I ask, have all of you been describing those protective ornamental plates in your life? Excuse me for a movement while I arrange my collection of escutcheons.)

Sign #2: Wandering Brings Out Your Playfulness

As I ambled through Junket, playfulness surrounded me. Sure, anyone can toss a bunch of beads in a cabinet, but those wily Junket arrangers knew better. You’ll have to ask my man to know for sure, but it’s entirely possible I laughed out loud when I saw the drawer labeled, “Holy beads, Batman!”

Dont get me started on the medley of snarky teacups. You’ll have to visit Junket yourself to see them in all their spiteful glory–yes, coffee mugs are included, too–but I’ve provided my favorite here. I’m snickering even as I type about it.

Sign #3: The Shop Supports the Community

Okay, y’all, let’s just put it out there: Junket’s a community-supporting superstar. First of all, free coffee and donuts greeted me at the door. This made sense given its pedestrian-friendly, local-business-championing neighborhood, but still. This show of openness was a nice touch.

On this particular Saturday afternoon, I was impressed by the sizable stream of customers, many who clearly seemed to know the place. Mugs at the door were available for use, as well as for purchase.  (I had to venture deeper inside to get to the irreverent ones.)

Another example of local support was the mosaic artist positioned by the door. (I was too shy to take pictures.) Working on one of his creations, he chatted with those who stopped by. A few of his pieces appeared in the store. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, there’s an empty wall in my craft room that really should have this beauty hanging on it. Oh, man. I wonder if it’s still there.

I was also delighted to discover some books designated for Little Free Libraries. Do you have these in your neighborhood? (I’m pretty sure the movement began in Wisconsin, and these cute boxes are definitely a thing in the Twin Cities.)

The official site describes them as boxes “full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another” to share. Each is a standard size, but all are different and reflect the style of whoever put it up. I’ve seen them in residences and at businesses.

Sign #4: You Find an Affordable Discovery You Can’t Live Without

Of course I grabbed a basket of my own. For months I’ve had a project in mind that requires transforming Altoid tins, so I snapped up a couple. Four projects on my list will likely come first, but I’ll get to it. Really, I will! If I can achieve what’s in my head, those tins’ll give me a good way to encourage friends going through a tough time.

Sign #5: The Shop Inspires A New Project

Those of us who sew are notorious for having stashes of fabric. I’m no exception, though I make a strong effort to buy fabric only for each project at hand. That said, when I came across a basket of remnant bundles, I saw a silky scrap that caught my eye.

It featured diamonds of sage and mustard, two of my must-have colors. It would make the perfect lining for a hat or bag. (Within the month, I’d already found a use for it: Making a decorative accent to the pocket on my bottomless bag made from men’s suits.)

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So. . . what treasures are you finding at thrift stores? Leave a comment and let me know.

Thrift-Shop Hop: Austin

If you love thrift shops, be forewarned: I’m about to make you strikingly jealous. First, close your eyes and picture the sassiest one you’ve ever seen. In what city was it located? I’m happy to report I have a new answer: Austin, Texas, baby.top_drawer

Last week I attended a conference in Austin, which happens to be my former hometown. I took a few days afterward to visit friends I rarely get to see. After enjoying tacos with my fave gals from the high school days, I ventured across the street to Top Drawer Thrift. It turned out to be wondrous, and I’d like you to have a similar encounter soon. To make sure you’re prepared, I’ll share my Five Signs You’re in the Presence of Thrift-Shop Greatness.

Sign #1: Displays are Artfully Prepared

Not everyone knows how to pair a silver vintage dress with a colorful ceramic mask. Or that the same silver dress would benefit from a paisley silk scarf being swooped around its waist. Fortunately, somebody at Top Drawer’s got a keen artistic eye. Artful displays in the aisles impressed me even before I discovered the shop hosts college-level interns in visual merchandising. (Loving your sparkle-antlers, Anna!)

Sign #2: Wandering Brings Out Your Playfulness

unicornI get that some people don’t understand the allure of shopping for discarded items. For me, though, it’s hard to beat the experience of making old things new. Seeing possibility requires a certain level of playfulness.

This shop clearly understands the the importance of a joyful shopping experience. Um, yeah . . . if your display contains a tutu-sporting, boa-wearing, equality-touting unicorn, then I say, “Playfulness? Check!”

Sign #3: You Find an Affordable Discovery You Can’t Live Without

For my friend, this meant finding a pair of pink-and-purple boots. The second she came across them, she exclaimed, “I’ve been looking for a cowboy rainboot!” They fit her perfectly and it was a done deal. I, on the other hand, had never heard of cowboy rainboots. This did not stop me from immediately wishing those fabulous things were mine. How, oh, how, had I lived through four decades without knowing I had an urgent need for plastic boots?

The item I couldn’t live without turned out to be vintage upholstery fabric. Labeled Covington Fabric Corp., the sample pack showcased an address of Fifth Avenue in New York. The 1940 company has since moved away from this textile-row address, but it remains one of the largest manufacturers of printed home-decor fabrics.

 Sign #4: The Shop Supports the Community

Thrift shops and community go hand in hand. In this case, the store is part of a nonprofit that provides hospice and housing. In also supports the local economy, evidenced by a hand-drawn map of other second-hand stores in the area.

Sign #5: The Shop Inspires a New Craft Project

As soon as I saw the Covington samples, I sensed they’d become a sewing project. Their colors were vibrantly retro. Their linen-cotton blend would be easy to work with, but provide substantial heft. And I couldn’t resist the way the samples coordinated with each other. The only question was, “What to make?”

Vote: What Should I Make from Fabric Samples?

So, what should I make, y’all? I’d love to hear your thoughts.