Love, love, love my city’s bi-annual yard sale day. I always find lots of great stuff in just a few hours and last Saturday was no exception. But with 200+ households participating, one has to do a bit of planning. Most places I went to offered some antiques. I skipped places that featured baby/kid stuff, new items, electronics or sports equipment. Not my thing. I tried to find small clusters of sales. I planned and plotted and off I went.
For the first hour I headed out on my own, but then was joined by my eldest daughter and her boyfriend (who was kind enough to do chauffeur duty). In total I went to 14 sales or so–a drop in the bucket to what I could have gone to but I was starting to feel a bit peaky after a recent illness.
If you were to ask me what I was looking for, I would have been hard pressed to answer. Generally I look for things with age, quality, and uniqueness that I like and think somebody else will too. And I was happy with the eclectic mix of things I found and the stories that accompanied them.
Here’s a sampling of what I bought…
Loved this Kuna Mola fabric picture depicting a nativity scene from Panama. The elderly woman selling it said she’d bought it when she took a group of students there on a trip years ago. Yes, that’s baby Jesus splayed in the center. She was selling it (along with the other things) because she was moving and couldn’t keep it all. Her eyes started tearing up as she shared this. It was not an easy day for her.
In the “people are funny” category at this house I asked if I could start a pile and I set some things off to the side away from the display tables. A couple walked up and one of them made a beeline for my two tucked-away items. I said, “Sorry, those are mine.” She looked at me, smiled weakly and through clenched teeth said, “Well, perhaps you should hang onto to them.” Jeez Louise.
I also bought this little Italian glass micro mosaic picture frame from the same teary-eyed seller. It’s a common design, but pretty nonetheless. The post-it was hers.
Across the street at another sale I found a 1951 Webster’s dictionary…that was about six inches thick. Seriously! Price $1. As a writer who adores playing with words, I couldn’t leave this behind. It was just too fantastic.
Turns out this 80+ lady selling it was letting go of things she inherited or was no longer using because her son said he didn’t want to deal with them after she was “gone.” Oh boy. That’s tough. She had some sweet vintage and antique things with really good prices.
I picked up a large crocheted tablecloth and was looking it over when some guy came up to me and asked, “How much is that?” I answered “Two dollars” and kept looking it over. He didn’t move and kept staring at me and the tablecloth. I could see he really wanted it…which of course made me want it all the more!
“Can I feel it?” he continued.
Um no! “Actually I’m buying it.”
“Oh, sorry, sorry. Didn’t know.”
The seller later told me she had used it for years for special dinners. It would also make a beautiful bed coverlet.
I also bought her grandmother’s crystal glass etched vase. Wasn’t going to because it has some strange abrasion at the bottom (not noticeable when displayed), but it was such an unusual shape (turns out it’s known as “corset”) and is likely antique. It does need a good scrubbing. It’s about 12″ tall. I found a similar one listed on eBay for $120 but in better condition.
Thought these Kotobuki sushi dishes from Japan were neato and so usable.
At another house I found the biggest vintage wood bowl I’ve ever seen at 18” across! It’s made by Parrish, a Chicago-based company that was in business from 1919 to 1978. They made their bowls from birdseye maple, oak, cherry, walnut and mahogany. I’m guessing this is oak. It needs to be cleaned and I’ll condition it with beeswax. Wouldn’t this be perfect used for display in a store or bakery? And yes, that’s a normal size apple!
I also decided to buy this bolt of groovy 1970s floral homespun cotton made by Riegel Textiles (1838 – current). The sellers guesstimated that there was 15 yards left on it. Turns out one of seller’s mothers had bought it years ago for a project and only used a bit. (This bolt weighs almost 15 pounds!)
The seller asked what I planned to make with it. Gulp! I’ll admit, I couldn’t tell her I was buying it to resell. I just couldn’t. Some people get angry or disappointed about that.
“Gosh, I don’t know. I just think it’s fabulous fabric.”
“Well, she’ll be glad to know it’s going to be used.” And it will be used by somebody!
The last house we visited was one that I wished I’d gotten to much earlier in the day. She had a very curated offering of goodies. Turns out she just closed her antique booth a few weeks ago and this sale represented the remains. There was a lot of mid-century modern pottery, but most (at least by the time we got there) was brown and plain. Brown doesn’t sell well for me, but I did like this little Pottery Craft bud vase.
And this cool Laholm Swedish ceramic candleholder. It looks like she was trying to sell it for $25 in her booth and I certainly didn’t begrudge paying her $5 for it.
I will say some people having yard sales were likely folks who regularly sell at flea markets. They had professional setups/displays and prices were higher. My first two stops of the day were like that. Not as much fun, but I did buy a sweet hand-painted Russian wood lacquer brooch at one. Love these little pieces of art.
So it was a gorgeous day, I had a lot of fun and found things I can’t wait to add to my Etsy store. I think some of these items are definitely long tail (like the huge bowl!), but I have no regrets.
As always, happy hunting,
For next time, you can get a rough estimate of how much fabric is on the bolt by counting the layers. It depends on the weigh of the fabric but I usually use 2 layers to be 1 yard.
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Thanks Beth. The seller used a similar method only she said 1 layer equals 1 yard!!
Wow that’s really cool that there’s a yard sale day in your town. We have Flea Mkts, and single yard sales here and there, but no one large yard sale. I like those Japanese fish plates!
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Hi RetroDee! I wish they would do it every year, but right now it’s every other. You still have to drive around to every one’s house, but I think people that normally wouldn’t have a yard sale will on this day and the older folks in particular have some great stuff! – Karen
On the weekend there were 2 neighborhoods in the North Bay (S.F) having their annual sales. It was an exhausting scramble but I filled up my car. (Mainly electronics). I still prefer estate sales in general as they are more of a treasure hunt but there aren’t enough of them so yard sales are the next best thing for me.
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Hi Simon! I was only gone 3 hours and I was pooped! I love estate sales too and have been finding some great stuff at them lately. Though some in Silicon Valley attract huge crowds and it almost becomes a contact sport! All the best, Karen