Cottage Decor Swap 2007

Our grandmothers would be in shock; swap-meets have taken to the Internet highway. Now instead of gathering together in a large church basement to trade crafts, baked goods and other items with friends and neighbors, we do so with our virtual neighbors online.

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in my very first swap. This was a little bit of online whimsy devised by some of the crafty minds on the Cottage Living forum, and efficiently organized by one of the fine members there. In this case, our set of rules were this...

We were each to mail an assigned swap partner a package of cottage-style decorating items for their home. It had to include:

--One floral item (because, hey, what cottage girl doesn’t like flowers?)
--One old or distressed item (because cottage girls are never distressed by distress)
--One recipe
--And the total cost of the items were not to exceed $10 (because cottage girls believe in bargains)

Prior to the swap, each member posted a little info about their favorite colors, flowers, and collectibles, in order to guide their swap partner.

Below is the thoughtful and rather overwhelming collection of goodies my swap partner sent me.
Not only was I touched by how she took into account the colors and types of things I collect-- like the Victorian postcards and transferware plate-- but I particularly appreciated the handmade cards and pretty little notebook she took the time to assemble for me. The fabric-patterned notecards are so cheerful, I’ve included them on my memo board here by my computer, and I think they look right at home.

I’ll be having a lot of fun in the coming week finding just the right place for all of the items. I think it might be hard-- simply because there are so many things they’ll coordinate with!

Now, my swap partner indicated she collected milk glass and vintage handkerchiefs, loved peonies, had a number of rooms in a pale green, and had just beautifully redone some outdoor furniture in a vintage Shabby-chic-styled fabric. This was the kind of information I needed!

So armed with my list o’ rules and my swap partner’s favorites, I set out to, yes, the thrift store and antique malls.

This turned out to be amazing fun because, having never focused on milk glass as an option before, I was really surprised and delighted to see just how much of it is out there. For folks who are collectors, they really have a wide choice of lovely glass pieces, and it has gotten to the point that now when I go out on my shopping adventures, I actually can’t un-see the milk glass!

Anyway, at the Salvation Army, I uncovered a really nice milk glass vase-- good size-- and within my $10 limit. I was rolling!

But what to put in it?

Well, that very day I also found a bouquet of... pale limey green silk peonies of all things! When I saw them there in the craft aisle, I about fell over at the happy coincidence. So I grabbed those babies, which turned out to be just the right size for the vase. So that took care of my “floral” item-- along with enabling my swap partner’s milkglass collection.

The next thing I needed was something distressed. So I decided I’d go with something old, and distress it just slightly, in order to meet the criteria.

I think I’ve mentioned many a time about my Lamp Addiction, and how I like to fix these up to either use myself or give to others. Well, I selected very nice little lamp which was waiting for a home-- because it seemed to me very similar in style to the Shabby Chic outdoor furniture my swap partner redid. Probably originally from the 50s, the lamp just needed a little love and a bit of rewiring to really light up a room once more.

So I removed all the old, questionable wiring and added some new. Then I tackled the off-color fake golds of the lamp fixtures. First I painted the golds out with a vintage moss green. Then when dry, I rubbed various area of the painted metal pieces with a candle. Then I painted over the whole thing with wicker white. When dry, it was easy to rub off the candle wax and reveal bits of the green underneath. I recovered the felt base with some vintage color-coordinated fabric, and topped the whole thing off with a little Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic shade. And there ya go!

The final part of the package was to include just a few vintage hankies I discovered from an antique mall.

It was a fun project to put together, and so nice to shop for someone else’s collections. But the most interesting thing about the experience, many of the participants agreed (myself included), is that we felt we got a chance to break down the “fourth wall” by sending tangible items into the homes of our online friends. It was just a little bit surreal to know something you chose is in someone else’s house. And best of all it’s been a wholly different way of getting to know each other.

Just one more wonder of the Internet!