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Second Helpings

Second Helpings: Wooden Animal Puzzle

By | Second Helpings

The first stop I make at my favorite secondhand store is the aisle with all the wooden objects. I’m usually hunting with a list in hand, which is never a good idea.

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(Never shop secondhand with a list. Always buy BEFORE you need it. That way you have it when you do need it, and like me, you can create your own monument to materialism.)

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I found this wooden animal puzzle when I was looking for something else — which I may, or may not, have found on some later day with a completely different, equally unrequited wish-list in hand. Such is secondhand serendipity.

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Like the crocheted blankets I collect and pom pow, wooden hobby-kit orphans are a dime a dozen at these stores. They are all made by a kindly grandpa caught in a 1968 workshop time-warp endlessly carving small pieces of wood into shapes which are vaguely reminiscent of animals or furniture or farming implements and which fit together in cunning jigsaw arrangements. Get jiggy with grandpa!

Too far?

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This puzzle is wood. Pine I believe. I paint right on the wood with the acrylic paint because the acrylic paint serves as its own primer. Some colors are absorbed more by the wood than others. Pure hues without the addition of white tend to be more translucent and require more coats. So red might take 3 or 4 coats, but pink only 1.

Once I’m happy with the surface pattern and the paint is dry then I seal it with the Minwax Polycrylic Sealer.

And…Bric-a-brac-er fire cracker sis Boom bah! There’s another Second Helpings for you…Rah Rah Rah!!

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Second Helpings: Cowgirl Boot Reboot

By | Second Helpings

For this installment of Second Helpings I shopped my own closet. I have been buying “garments with history” since I cut my sartorial teeth as a teenager in New Orleans shopping at Yesterday’s Clothes and Matilda’s in the French Quarter. However I draw the line at footwear. Shoes, slippers, boots, I buy new.

These boots were new about 20 years ago. They have been resoled and reheeled twice, so I figured they qualified as a Second Helping when I painted them a year ago. I’ve worn them a lot as you can see…

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It was time for a Cowgirl Boot Reboot!

I polished the unpainted leather first being careful not to touch the painted parts. The polish would resist the paint and I didn’t want that.

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Then I retouched the paint where it was starting to flake or fade.

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Finally I gave all the painted parts a coat of sealer with my trusty Minwax Polycrylic Sealer, and these boots are ready to get down, turn around Cowgirl boot scoot’n boogie!

Second Helpings: Pom Pow Blankets

By | Second Helpings

Besides the XL men’s plaid flannel shirt, the item most likely to be overstocked in every secondhand store I’ve ever been in is the crocheted blanket.

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For somewhere between $1.99 and $6.99 you can find a dizzying array of lap blankets, throws and even twin sized blankets in palettes which I can only assume were dreamed up by cartoon characters passing as perfectly ordinary grandmothers. At least those are my favorites.

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Never satisfied leaving well enough alone, I decided to add pom poms. All over. I never have warmed to the “less is more” way of thinking. Don’t ever plan to.

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To make this many pom poms and have them all be consistent it is very helpful to have a tool, and my tool of choice is the Clover pom pom maker. It comes in 3 sizes and you can order it from their site, Amazon, or find it at your local craft store.

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I can make one small pom pom in 5 minutes, 12 in an hour, and cover a good sized blanket in a Lilyhammer marathon.

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Just think, you can justify your next Netflix marathon with not only keeping art out of the landfill but also bringing a smile to the hearts of obsessive crocheters everywhere. Olek excepted.

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* Pom Pow blankets are Lula approved.

Second Helpings: Kantha Stitched Quilts

By | Second Helpings

In addition to finding quilts hugely inspiring for surface pattern design on cigar boxes, dishes, jewelry boxes, and doors, I’m also rather fond of the actual thing.

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And guess what? You can find handmade comforters which have not yet been quilted at just about any secondhand store. My hand to God.

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Personally I like the weird ones. The thoughtless fabric combinations. Though once in a blue moon I do find some real gems like this sweet little polyester number. (Somebody had great color sense and absolutely no tactile sensibility whatsoever!)

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Once you have your un-quilted comforter then mend it if it needs it, wash and dry it, and baste its layers in a big grid or parallel columns just to help keep it square. Then you can begin quilting.

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I do the Kantha stitch which is pretty much just straight stitching in straight lines. I use embroidery floss in colors which contrast with the fabric so they stand out, and I follow the shape of the piece of fabric I’m stitching within.

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One of my favorite stores carries quilts just like this for beaucoup bucks and every time I see them I do the math and figure I’ve got around two grand worth of quilts for about the cost of a year’s worth of streaming Netflix.
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In fact I think I might just hotten my cup, pile on the Kantha quilts and watch a couple or five episodes of Orange is the New Black.
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Nothing wrong with my color sense!

Second Helpings: Painted Cigar Boxes

By | Second Helpings

These may really qualify as “one man’s trash” as opposed to secondhand castoffs finding new life as objet d’art, but either way they start out ordinary, end up special, and that’s enough for me.

I’m talking about painted cigar boxes:

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You should have no problem finding a variety of boxes at smoke shops, or if you have a grandpa or an uncle, or even an interesting aunt who relishes a fragrant Cuban now and then (well who wouldn’t?) you may be lucky enough to find these boxes closer to home.

Once you’ve got the box then all you need is paint. I use that same acrylic paint I’ve been painting everything else in creation with…

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and when I paint I let little bits of the original cigar brand artwork peek through. I like to pick out words or phrases like “ART” or “CAN DO.”

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My patterns lean toward the geometric and often look like quilts. Not much of a stretch for me I guess.

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Sometimes I play with the original images on the box and add more of my own to create a little story.

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So if your recycling is more likely to end up in your studio than in the blue bin out back, and you would never refer to a raw material as trash — consider the humble cigar box.

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And if you run across any fragrant Cubans let me know. I’m working on my Interesting Aunt credential.