Make your crafts vintage chic with materials from the flea market!
To us the flea market is not only a place for collectibles, it’s also the ultimate craft store loaded with one-of-a-kind finds that inspire us and give our projects heirloom flair.
We headed out with several crafts in mind. Jennifer was working on a “steampunk” lampshade with dangling keys and needed watch faces and lace scraps. Kitty wanted sheet music to decoupage onto a sideboard. It was a new piece of furniture, but the yellowed paper would age it instantly. We hadn’t been shopping long before we found a booth with sheet music galore. Kitty picked out seven 99¢ sheets for her table, including a song called “Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes.” You just won’t find that kind of thing at the craft store!
Jennifer bought three brooches and a mailbox key for $12 from the seller next door. He also had a stunning cameo, but at $35 it was too expensive for crafting!
Two booths down we found a faded corsage with a pink rose and tiny forget-me-nots. (Clearly it had been forgotten.) We thought it would be a terrific starting piece for a vignette under a glass cloche. What we needed now was a love letter and a black and white photo of the fictional couple in our story. We found a vendor with bowls full of ephemera. We dug and our pile grew. Jennifer found a ticket stub from the Alaska Steamship Company, a B&O Railroad receipt, and a cigar band. Kitty found a picture of a man in uniform, perfect for the bell jar.
Jennifer still needed lace to tie keys onto her steampunk lamp, so we skipped the appliance area and went straight to fabrics and notions. She selected some hand-tatted strips and what looked like a swatch of someone’s wedding dress. Not bad for $5. Then we found the hankies! Printed ones, embroidered ones, monogrammed ones. Some were as little as $1 each! We immediately thought of making a pillow cover with the floral handkerchief or a table runner with hankies sewn end to end. And they always make darling sachets—perfect hostess gifts. We bought ten each, and with that, we had a whole new list of craft projects to shop for!
With the explosion of the steampunk trend, we’re seeing tons of watch faces, padlocks, and skeleton keys at the flea market. Not sure what this style is all about? To us, it’s like vintage Victoriana meets retro cog-and-sprocket technology. Picture a winged bike gear with clock hands mounted on sheet music that’s set off in an ornate gilded frame. It’s all about creating whimsical––and sometimes edgy––combinations of old and new. A mysterious past takes flight into an imaginary future!
Once you start spotting these materials, you’ll be inspired to give your crafts a dash of historical character. Try mixing furniture keys with velvet ribbons to fashion colorful beaded tassels. Decoupage a cigar box with clipart of gentlemen in top hats, then embellish it with clock faces, a compass, and an aged brass keyhole. The most surprising discoveries happen when you layer elegant finds like art nouveau buttons and silk flowers with unexpected pieces like spoked gears and watch parts. You never know where steampunk will take you!