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Top 10 Yard Sale Buying Tips

yard sale

I always know spring is here when I start seeing yard sale signs popping up all over the place. Yes, it’s officially yard sale season, and to celebrate, Anna and I jumped in Gypsy Girl first thing Saturday morning and hit the road. This was the first time out this year (yes, late for me!), and we had a great time. Before we’d hit the first sale, I was thinking about my top ten yard sale buying tips. So, since the season is here, I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. Mapping neighborhood sales and  figuring out which sale to go to first…there’s an app for that!!! I still have flashbacks of using a city map to plot out sales listed in the local newspaper. Oh, the good ole days, right? Uhm, no! If you have a smart phone, those days of plotting are over. My favorite app is Yard Sale Treasure Map, which shows local sales and lets you map which ones you want to go to. I will admit that there are times I head out and go from sign to sign, but most of the time I’m using my app.
  2. Be early, but not annoying. We’ve all seen the adds that say “No early birds.” Listen, I like getting to a sale early, but showing up and poking around at 7:00 when the sale starts at 8:00, and people are still getting ready and haven’t had nearly enough coffee? Well, don’t be that person. Just don’t.
  3. Bring a friend, a truck, a tape measure, rope, and small bills. Saturday mornings, when you’re getting ready to strike out, consider a couple things. First, if you finally find that 20-drawer dresser that you’ve been looking for, who will help you load it? And, how the heck are you going to get it home? And are you sure it’s going to fit the designated space? It’s strange how our perceptions of size and space become altered.  I’m fortunate that I have, my van, Gypsy Girl, as well as a husband and several friends who are always willing to join me for a morning of yard sale hopping; however, in the past, I’ve had to ask strangers for help loading pieces, and I’ve had to get pretty darn creative when it comes to getting some of them into my Honda. So, tape measure, friend, and truck.  And rope…seriously, you need to tie down your finds. It’s a sickening feeling to turn a corner and look in your rear view mirror only to see that piece you just bought, skittering out of the truck and onto the asphalt! The only thing worse is being the person in the vehicle behind you! And about those small bills. I know that ATMs spit out what are already being called Tubmans , but if you have a pocketful of 20s, imagine the following: You find a piece that is marked $5. You negotiate it down to $3, but then pull out a $20. Need I say more?
  4. Those who hesitate…well, you know the saying. Whenever I see something I want, if it’s a small item, I pick it up. If it’s a larger item, like a bureau, I will sometimes remove a drawer and carry it around. If you think you want something, pick it up! You can always change your mind later but not if someone beats you to it!
  5. Consider potential over primary use. If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly looking for new ways to use pieces. Before you walk away from that interesting piece that you keep going back to but don’t have a need for, consider the possibilities of what it can be.
  6. Check it out! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve bought a piece only to get it home and discover that it’s cracked or needs more repairs than I’m willing to make. Inspect joints, open drawers, and look underneath pieces. Is it real wood or laminate? Is it warped, cracked, or otherwise damaged? When buying dishes and glassware, gently run your finger over the rim. You’ll be happier for it when you get a piece home.
  7. Negotiate the price, sometimes. After years of going to yard sales, I know that most people are expecting to negotiate. I also know that they want to get rid of as much as possible, so, especially at the end of the day, most people are more than happy to negotiate. Now, having said that, there are times when I don’t negotiate the price. For example, this weekend I found a great piece for a ridiculously low price. I would have felt like a jerk asking the lady if she would take less. So, yes, if I feel that there is wiggle room on a price, I will negotiate, but if I know that I’m getting a great deal already, I don’t.
  8. Buy what you like. I know, it seems obvious, but the truth is, sometimes we’re tempted to buy something only because it’s a good deal. Don’t do it. Put that 1970s macramé plant hanger with the twenty-five cent sticker down, and walk away from the table! Trust me on this. Do get that old door that reminds you of your grandparents’ farmhouse though. Trust me on this too.
  9. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Again, the macramé plant hanger.
  10. Lastly, remember the golden rule: Be nice. Having a yard sale is A LOT OF HARD WORK! The least I can do is be courteous. I always say hello, I’ve helped load pieces (because someone forgot to bring their friend!!!), I’ve kept watch while someone ran to use the restroom, and I’ve disco danced at a wildly fun yard sale (the disco ball from that sale is hanging in my dining room!). I can’t begin to tell you how many lovely and interesting people I’ve met. So yes, be nice because good things can happen.

All Tied Up – A Welcomed Distraction!

Hello!  If you’ve been following us, you know we’re experiencing some exciting new changes this coming spring:  I’m moving the Sage & Twine cottage shop to the village of Contoocook, NH and will be open FULL TIME!  Becky is currently revving up for four phenomenal BARN SALES in Lillington, NC that include more pickins to delight the home decorator, painted furniture lover, and picker alike!  Her first sale is coming up fast, April 22-24!  Boy, do I wish I lived closer.  It’s going to be fabulous!


In the meantime, with an Audible book in my ear (seriously, you’ve GOT to read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt) and a brush in my hand, I’ve been busy painting the days away.  Whether walls, trim, stairs, doors, or furniture, I’ve been up to my elbows in paint.  Some days it feels like I get more paint on myself  than anything else!  For those of you who know me well, that’s like a pig in well, I think you know what I’m getting at.

So while I’m busy slapping paint all over the place, I’d thought I’d share with you a welcomed distraction I’m hoping to finish before I open the doors to my new shop this May.  Notice the word, hoping (wink, wink)……

A few years ago, I came across two antique chairs for sale in an old, local barn owned by an acquaintance of mine.  They were her mother’s and like so many of us, she’d been holding on to them in hopes of doing something with the chairs one day.  Well, she was ready to give the two beauties up and after some thought, I decided I was ready for a challenge.

I’d never done any kind of serious upholstery before.  I’d always wanted to take an upholstery class, so I signed up for one down in Boston at the Eliot School of Art.  My instructor Paul and his brother John are phenomenal at what they do and I bet could upholster a moving car, one-handed with their eyes closed.  Seriously!

The first thing they had us do was strip our pieces down to the bare bones.  I was so excited to start ripping things apart, I forgot to take a before pic. Ugh! I do that way too often.  Besides hay and dust flying around, rotted layers of musty, old upholstery fabric gave way to hundreds of antique tacks used to fasten everything.  There were definitely a few moments of “What was I thinking?!”   Eventually, I got down to the frames.   It only took 4 hours but I finally removed all those tacks.  Talk about a workout!  I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the tools below.

Once that dirty, dusty feat was accomplished (next time I’ll bring a dust mask!), back home they went to be painted and finished.  I used Miss Mustard Seed’s “Ironstone” milk paint and finished with her furniture wax.

Back at class, I was ready to get this party started!  The next step was to add new webbing.

antique jute upholstery webbing 23 feet by Luncheonettevintage
It needs to be tight, so a stretcher like the one below is used while you tack it down.

Webbing Stretcher - Gooseneck Ref: TOGWS

It’s important to alternate the strips of webbing; weaving in and out to create strength and support, as it’s the foundation for the springs and all the padding, not to mention the sitter!


I used a special tack hammer with a magnetic tip like the one below.  It holds the tacks on the end while you tap it down in place.

Vintage Tack Hammer > Antique Old Forge Blacksmith Shoe Hammers Iron ...
Next come the springs.  I kept the original ones from the stripping process because they were in really great shape.  You can tie the springs to the webbing, but I used a fancy gadget with aluminum prong-like fasteners to hold them down tight.  I wish now I had taken a picture of that fun tool or written down what it was called.  Next time I’m documenting everything!

Once the springs were attached, I began tying and knotting them all together with hemp twine to form a network of support for the padding.  Through this process, the springs were compressed tightly to form the domed shape for the seat.


There’s a whole systematic approach to tying from the back to the front, side to side, and diagonally from the corners.  Tack nails are placed at specific points around the edge of the seat frame and knots are tied around the springs with twine and then anchored tightly to the chair frame.  IMG_0846
I stapled burlap over the top side of the springs.


I used one of the school’s industrial staple guns like the one below.  The thing worked like butta!  I think that’s going on next year’s Christmas list for sure.

Next, an “edge roll” was stapled around the edges of the seat to prevent the hard edge of the chair from uncomfortably meeting the back of the knees or sides of the legs of the sitter.  This consisted of a roll of cotton surrounded by more burlap.


Now for the padding.  Finally, I had a reason to dive into those green rubbery foam mats in the back of JoAnn Fabrics!  I measured a 2″ thick high-density foam (like the one below) to fit the seat and back of the chair and laid it over the burlap.  The fit needs to be tight with the edges of the chair, but not so tight it creates waves or bumps.  Then you got it, more staples!  Here’s an example of the materials needed for the padding steps.

Extra cotton (like that in the wrapping above-right) was then added to fill in the gaps and round out the shape of the seat.  A few (full) layers were also laid across the the entire area of the foam and a thin piece of muslin (also above -left) was stapled over the foam and cotton to keep it all together.  This step also provides a smooth surface underneath the upholstery fabric.

IMG_0886 A gazillion staples and tacks later, this is where I’m at now.  I chose to use some fabulous vintage grain sacks I bought online for my upholstery.

Vintage linen grain sack, pale with blue stripes. Nubby slubby

The chairs were so elaborately carved, I felt they needed some rusticity to balance it all out.  I’ll divulge how they came out over the next month.  I’m hoping (there’s that word again!) to have them finished and ready to go home with a new owner when I open the doors in Contoocook mid-May.

It was fun to hold a staple gun for a spell, but now it’s back to paint brushes for me!  What projects are YOU working on right now?  We’d love to hear about it!  Please leave a comment below and share your experiences.

~ Amy



Science, Spring, and Buttercups

Spring on the farm is one of my favorite times of the year. The daffodils poke up through the soil, those purple flowers in the garden bloom (does anyone know what those are???), the bees get busy, and after months of dormancy, everything is fresh and green and new! Aside from the crazy pollen, what’s not to love?

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Seriously, this is one of my dogs on spring sunshine.



With all that sunshine and renewed energy, it always seems like the time to roll up my sleeves and do some serious spring cleaning. Now, if you’re anything like me, you have that one place in your house, perhaps it’s a drawer (lucky you!), perhaps it’s a closet, or perhaps it’s an entire room that was supposed to be an office or guestroom that seemingly overnight  morphed into this Neverland of stuff that either you can’t quite force yourself to get rid of or that you haven’t found a home for yet.

Well, imagine that space is a barn.

A big barn.


If you look on my business card, my title is Creative Hoarder. And it’s a joke (sort of) but the truth is, it is the nature of this business that we are always surrounded by inventory. I don’t have one bed; I have ten! I’ve already admitted in an earlier post that I may have a serious obsession with chairs (although I have culled that collection dramatically). So, every spring, before the first Barn Sale (and this year’s is right around the corner!!! April 22-24!!!) there is a lot of cleaning and sorting to do.

Yup, I’m up to my elbows and eyeballs; I’m sorting and cleaning; I’m painting and sanding; I’m asking where did that even come from, and how am I ever going to get it all done?!!! And honestly, sometimes I look around and wonder why I do it.

But I know why. I do, and it has something to do with science and spring. Really. Let me explain. Did you know that it’s been scientifically proven that looking at buttercups can make you happy?

Let’s look at some.


Wait, you wanted actual buttercups?



In my world, furniture equates to buttercups (and I know I’m not alone in this!). I think we can all agree that looking at “buttercups” makes us happy. There’s the science part. Now, the thing about spring is that it reminds me not only of the beauty in things but also in the hope and potential they have.

Sure, every spring it’s a huge job to clean everything out in the barn and get it ready, but at the same time, I’m reminded of how incredible it is to give new life to a piece, to save it from from a landfill, and to reset the expiration date. It’s no coincidence that this year’s first Barn Sale is on Earth Day!

Perhaps I could come up with a magical, happy, sci-ency formula for all this, but I don’t have time! Right now, I’m rolling up my sleeves and headed out to the barn; I’ve got buttercups to pick!  ~Becky


If you’ve been following our blog, you recently learned that we’re making some VERY exciting changes at both locations.

To recap:
Sage & Twine NC will now be having FOUR FANTASTIC BARN SALES! Becky’s first show is coming up soon – April 22, 23 & 24. WHOA! That’s only a few weeks away! If y’all are from down her way, you can’t miss Becky’s BARN SALE in Lillington, NC! Also stay tuned for new products AND painting workshop dates, and times!


At Sage & Twine NH, we’re not only relocating to the village of Contoocook, NH but we’re also adding some great new products and services. We already carry Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint and LOVE witnessing how many of our workshop participants and DIYers love it too.   It takes a little finesse when mixing (it comes in powder form and is mixed with equal parts water), but the end results are totally worth it.   WE especially love this milk paint because it gives pieces a naturally-aged chippy effect that’s to-die-for. Ohhh mama!

ve always loved this painted dresser from Miss Mustard Seed, who ...
That being said, there are specific paints you need for specific jobs or to give you a certain effect.  We’ve been searching for years for a high-quality chalk paint that’s as beautiful as it is functional. Well, the time has come! DRUM ROLL, please ………

We’ve finally found a chalk paint we feel honored and excited to use and stand behind!  So here’s the latest scoop!  We’re gettin’ FAT! Wait a minute, what?  Yes!  Both locations (NH & NC) will be carrying FAT Paint!

“What is FAT paint?” you might be wondering. The FAT Paint Company makes chalk-style paint that goes on smooth, distresses easily, and finishes with flair. It has exceptional coverage and sands with much less of that powdery chalk dust flying all around, too.  Developed by an artisanal brother-sister duo, FAT Paint transforms furniture, frames, bowls, jars – anything at all really, into enviable works of upcycled art. We like this paint so much, we’ve decided to make it the main chalk paint brand to work with and carry in our shop and for good reason. Here’s one of them ……..

Labels: <b>FAT</b> <b>Paint</b> , <b>FAT</b> <b>Paint</b> Colour <b>Palette</b> , The <b>FAT</b> <b>Paint</b> Company

Just look at all those fabulous, luxurious shades & colors!  They just recently added 4 more (see them all here) plus 6 more designer inspired colors (by Amanda Forrest).  Here’s the latest – “Verdigris!”  WE LOVE THIS!!!!!  Yup, it’s a sage color. Go figure!
We also like other FAT Paint products, especially their wax. It’s as smooth as face cream and actually smells like it too! Once dry, it buffs easily without having to throw out your back in the process. That’s definitely a win-win!  Unlike most chalk paints on the market, FAT paint comes in varying sizes/amounts. No longer do you have to buy a quart when all you need is half the amount. FAT paint comes in sample, pint, and quart sizes. No more waste, people!


The FAT paint company has become extremely popular and celebrated in Canada and it’s fame is quickly spreading across the US. We love how this company started from scratch with a kitchen aid mixer and a dream. We especially love their branding and what they stand for.  They recently put this on their Facebook page on International Women’s Day.  Of course, a shout-out was given to all the FATtastic men out there, too!

We’re beyond excited to offer our customers a chalk paint line with excellent performance and the beauty to transform. We can’t wait to bring this into our shops and painting classes!

See you there!  In the meantime, keep following us because there’s much more to come!

We’re curious, what’s YOUR favorite color on FAT Paint’s palette?
Leave a comment below and let us know!



Our Vintage Barn Wedding

Many of you know that the Mister and I live on a little horse farm (I should add dogs as well because we have two that run the place, and we’re always picking up a stray and re-homing it. In fact, while writing this, an adorable little pooch in desperate need of food and love, has, in fact, shown up.). We’ve been here since 2008, and every spring there is so much to do.  But last year there was even more than normal. On May 23rd, after years of being together, the Mister and I got hitched.

Trust me, we seriously considered quietly slipping away to the courthouse, but after thinking how crazy fun it would be to get our family and friends together, we decided to get married on our land and have a big ole barn party.

Here’s an interesting fact you should know about having a hitching ceremony; it doesn’t just happen! Shocking, right?! And here’s another interesting fact; I’m not the greatest planner. Case in point, two weeks before the big day, I still didn’t know where I was going to get tables and chairs for 150 people! What can I say? I like living on the edge. But somehow I knew everything would come together. Now, I’m not gonna lie. There were hundreds of several times we questioned our decision. Why was it we didn’t go to the courthouse?!! But we know some awesome, awesome people, superstars really, who were IN from the get go. This truly was a family and friend co-opted vintage barn wedding.

So, on this March morning, when the north is bracing for a crazy snowstorm, and down here in North Carolina, our warm weather is being threatened by upcoming frosts, now is as good a time as ever to share pics from our vintage barn wedding.


Becky and Al_183


Let’s talk for a second about weather in regards to outdoor events. Did you know you should have a back-up plan just in case? When my photographer friend, Maria (by the way, all photo credits go to Brunson Creative), emailed me and asked what ours was, I’m pretty sure my response was, “It’s not going to rain.” Probably not the best plan in the history of outdoor weddings. We lucked out. The entire week before the big day was scorching hot, but Thursday night a huge storm blew out the heat and blew in one of the nicest weekends North Carolina has seen in a long time. Does it get any better than that? Funny you should ask.

Becky and Al_180


You just gotta love family!

The second my family arrived from Maine, they all went straight to work! My brothers and brother-in-law immediately started hanging a gazillion white lights (yes, that is a real number!). My sister and sis-in-law, along with my nieces and nephews set up the ceremony site on the front lawn in the shadiest area we could find.

 I love, love, love the circle of chairs.

Becky and Al_179

My neighbor, Maggie, decorated the vintage arbor for us.

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We have two barns. I sell furniture in one, and we store hay in the other. The hay barn was a perfect place to have the reception, and across the yard, under the porch of the furniture barn, was the perfect place to set up a “watering hole.”

Becky and Al_187      Becky and Al_190

Becky and Al_192


One of my favorite things is a table that I’d painted and had everyone sign, instead of a guestbook, at the entry of the hay barn.

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Becky and Al_235

We, and by we, I mean all those superstars I mentioned earlier, covered the tables (yes, I did eventually find tables and chairs!) with white and pink linens then topped them with vintage tablecloths and runners. And here’s a funny story about that. A couple weeks before the wedding, during my opening barn sale (yes, I had a barn sale before the wedding! No, I’ve no idea what I was thinking!), three of my favorite customers stopped by (mother, daughter, granddaughter). Turns out, newly-married Rachel, the granddaughter, had had a vintage barn wedding. No way! Get outta here! Long story short, they let us go through all their stuff and use whatever we wanted. Seriously.  We’re talking vintage tablecloths, vases, huge candelabras, benches. I mean, it was the mother load  (Rachel, we should totally go into the vintage wedding business! :-o). Not only that, the grandmother, Faye, did my hair for me the morning of the wedding!

My neighbor, Kim, and her daughter, Jordan, did the flowers. I gathered up every vase, candle holder, and vintage dish I could find, and they filled them. Man, did they fill them!!!

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We hung birdcages around the barn too…because, why not?!!

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And everyone knows there’s no dance party that is complete without a disco ball! So I took one of the three that I have hanging in my dining room (yes, I have three disco balls hanging in my dining room). And those are the candelabras we borrowed. Needless to say, I had a hard time giving those back!

See the two strings of lights running the length of the ceiling? My cousin, Max, who was a commercial electrician, hung those for us. He took a day off from work (unheard of for him), and not only hung those lights but also did all our electrical work for the gazillion white lights my family strung and for the band equipment. Max arrived early the day before the wedding and worked well into the night, making sure everything was perfect. And here’s the thing, we’ll never take down those lights. Max died on December 31st, and now, every time we turn them on, we’re reminded of him and the light that he was in the world.  Becky and Al_188

Let’s talk about food! Our friends, Cindy (who also happened to make my dress!!!) and Jim, oversaw the food prep and setup of the taco and dessert bar we had opted for. Our friend, Deb, who also officiated our wedding, made huge amounts of beans and rice. Our friends, Ed and Katharine spent hours making homemade tamales along with a ton of other food. Oh my word, those tamales and everything else was amazing!!!

 I’m telling you, we have superstar friends!

Becky and Al_239 Becky and Al_236

The desserts were awesome (so good, in fact, that they were gone before we got a picture of them!). My sister made Maine whoopie pies, Cindy made carrot cake cupcakes (and look at that cake sign! Cindy made that too!). There was a plethora of yumminess.

Becky and Al_185

There were several informal seating areas for people to relax in the shade.

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There were cold drinks

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and boots.

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There was a great band

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 and dancing. There was a lot of dancing!

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Becky and Al_122

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But mostly, there was love, so much love.

So, we did it! We had this beautiful, love-co-opted wedding.

Becky and Al_42            Becky and Al_77

Becky and Al_37

And we wondered why we’d waited so long.


Becky and Al_247

We’ve Got Change

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

Each winter, we take a few months off from Sage & Twine to rejuvenate, reorganize, and reflect on the past season.   Ahhhhh, time, free time. Can you see us running with open arms in a field of wildflowers?  Now add some sunshine. Oh yeah, baby, there it is!

girl in field

After almost 10 years in this business, our short break is never as restful and rejuvenating as we think it’s going to be.  In between commissioned pieces for our customers, inventory assessment and ordering, other work responsibilities, our families, and well, scraping the gunk out of the cracks of the stove,  we always take some time to rethink the structure of our business model and how it can work most efficiently and productively for both of us, not only as sister shops but also as individuals. We LOVE what we do and are thrilled that so many of you love it too, but it has become increasingly clear that we need to find more balance with our work and the people and passions we hold sacred (shocking, right?!).  Listen, if anyone thinks that lugging furniture around or asking our husbands to help is fun or easy, we’ve got a big ole armoire that needs to be moved!

guy with furniture

Each year during our break, we share countless phone calls, a trip somewhere tropical (yes, face-to-face in the sun is a must!), and–who are we kidding–wine, lotsa wine! But this year, in between bouncing around decorating ideas, sharing our most recent finds, and drooling over Pinterest pics, we realized that in order to continue to grow, we’re gonna have to make some changes.

So, having said all that, we are very excited to share with y’all the changes that are a-comin’!

Are you sitting down???  Here goes…..


Sage & Twine NEW HAMPSHIRE is relocating!……yes, you heard that right!  We’re moving five minutes away to Main St. in downtown Contoocook!  We’re ecstatic to join the growing group of unique and fabulous shops that make this town so special and a popular shopping destination to boot!

In addition to our location, we’ll be changing a few other things as well.  Instead of being open one weekend a month, Sage & Twine will be open 6 days a week!!!  We’ll continue to offer a variety of monthly painting workshops, teaching the “tricks of the trade” when painting furniture. However, a new and exciting addition to the services we already provide will be an open studio work space for customers to come whenever we’re open and work independently on their own pieces.  We provide the space and materials; you provide the creativity!

Our GRAND OPENING will be mid-May, so stay tuned!

Sage & Twine NORTH CAROLINA is also making some big changes! In the past, we’ve curtained off sections of the barn where we keep unfinished pieces. Of course, we always have customers who want to know what’s “hiding over there,” so at the end of last year,  we had this “aha” moment; we decided to open up the entire barn and offer both our finished and unfinished pieces. What have we been thinking all of these years?!!! It was so fun, and everyone loved it! Therefore, we’ve decided to continue with this new model and have 4 big ole barn sales with even more inventory (finished and unfinished) than ever before! 

Becky and Al_198

In order to do this up right, we’ll need more time in between sales.  Come on, this means more traveling and shopping! More importantly, it also means that there will be some breathing space between sales to write, garden, and do other things that are restorative to mind and body.

In alignment with this change, we’ve decided that the barn will be the only location where we’ll have our items available. Thus, we’re no longer selling at Wisteria in Dunn. Although we’ve enjoyed being there, having everything under one roof feels right.

Having more time in between sales also means we will be able to offer painting workshops in the barn! Those dates have not been finalized yet, so again, stay tuned!  We’ll let you know as soon as we do! Here are the dates for this year’s barn sales: 

April 22, 23, 24
June 24, 25, 26
September 16, 17, 18
and November 4, 5, 6


Both of us are SUPER-excited about this upcoming year (maybe even more excited than we were when we slurped our way through Serendipity in NYC!) and SUPER-excited about our renewed energy to continue bringing our customers cottage and farmhouse-styled painted furniture and new and vintage home goods. So, here’s to balance, change, and painted furniture that makes you fall in love all over again.

See you soon!

Amy & Becky


Paint Blisters and Foam Roller Dances

You know that old saying “When it rains, it pours?”  Well, let me share with you what happened recently during a 17-day stretch of rain. Yes, this fall it rained 17 days straight here in North Carolina!

I had a customer, Stephanie,  who wanted me to paint her dining tabletop. She wanted it black and lightly distressed, which would look great with the darker stained base. I don’t paint many pieces black, but painting is painting, so I’m thinking easy peasy, right? Even though it was raining on and off, the temps were warm, in fact, one day it was raining and in the 80s, which is crazy for fall, and besides I had to get this table done.

So, I cleaned then lightly sanded the top then proceeded to apply 3 coats of oil-based paint. I let it dry several days then lightly distressed the edges.  Because I knew the table would get a lot of use, I finished it with four coats of polyurethane, sanding lightly between coats.

It looked great! I loved it! The customer loved it! We were all happy.

 Then, a week later, she sent me some pictures:

IMG_3488[1] IMG_3489[1]

I’m not going to lie; I was sick. In all my years of painting, I’ve never, ever seen this before.

I did what anyone would do: I googled it, and called my girlfriend. I may have gulped down a glass of wine too! Paint blisters. Yup, that was it. There were several explanations given. For example, they could be the result of a quick rise in temperature. Nope. They could also be caused from layering an oil based paint over latex. Nope. They could also be caused by MOISTURE. What? Noooooo!!! The dreaded “m” word. And to seal the deal, proof positive that it was moisture is that the paint blistered through all the coats of poly and paint, down to the wood.


Nice, huh? I’m still sick to my stomach looking at it.

But whatcha gonna do?

This. This is what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna go get that top, pop the blisters (gross, huh!), sand them down, prime them, then paint them. Bam. Done. Happy Thanksgiving.

Nope. Wishful thinking.

You’re gonna get that top home and realize there’s no popping blisters or sanding. There’s only stripping.


For some reason, I can’t rotate this pic, but you get the idea.


And I’m not going to lie and say it was fun, but somehow it made me feel better to be able to start with a fresh, clean, and beautiful surface.

 When it was time to paint, everything I had used prior felt jinxed, so I went and bought new paint. And call me crazy, but I decided to try the new chalk paint at Lowe’s, which turned out to be pretty funny (and something I’ll try again!). The first can they mixed for me was black chalkboard paint, which I thought was ironic because they had specially mixed it for me! I’m still curious as to what the heck they did to it! But, round two, and after explaining exactly what I was looking for, they mixed a beautiful black chalk paint for me.

And all three coats went on nicely (I did thin the paint with water on the last two coats).


And then I did four coats of Polycrylic.


And, I discovered a beautiful-bright-shining-morning-hallelujah way to put it on! Are you ready? Instead of painting it on like I normally do, I tried a foam roller.

foam roller

I’m singing right now. Can you hear me? Listen, this is the poly-ing equivalent to finding the Holy Grail. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. But why have I never thought of this before??? And if you knew about it, why have you never told me???

Ready? I poured some polycrylic into a tin pie plate, dipped one side of the roller, then while holding the foam part down with one hand (I tried banging the roller first to get it to not roll, but had to resort to holding it), I dragged the roller back and forth . No. Seriously. I will never paint this stuff on again. Ever.

I’m just glad no one was there to witness the crazy foam-roller-goddess dance I did around the table. Because I did one.

And then it was done. And I hauled the top back to Stephanie’s house, and she was super-understanding and nice about the whole situation (thanks again for that as well as the pics, Stephanie).


And I was reminded that sometimes despite our best intentions, things happen and we have to fix our mistakes, but sometimes too, in the midst of it all, we get to do a crazy-foam-roller-goddess dance. And really, who doesn’t want to do that? I mean, not all the time, but trust me, on occasion it’s just the thing.


Aging Raw Wood – Stain Need Not Apply!

Ever hear about aging raw wood with a vinegar/steel wool solution? Recently here at the
Sage & Twine workshop in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, I decided to give it a try with some raw pine boards I’m using for signs.

To make the solution, I poured 2 cups of vinegar into a recycled, glass pickle jar and added a clump of steel wool. Some recipes suggested using a 60% vinegar/40% water solution but I went full strength.


The reason I went full strength was because I also added some brewed, cooled, black tea (5 bags in about 1 cup of boiling water).  I let it sit overnight, swirling every once in a while.


Do this outside if you can.  It’s quite odiferous!  I sanded and wiped both boards with a tack cloth before applying the vinegar solution.   I also took a hammer and chain to them to give the wood more of a distressed, beat-up look.  I applied the day-old solution with a 3″ chip brush. Below is how it looked right after one application.  The one on the right has one coat of the solution and the left board is flipped to the plain ol’ raw pine side.  You can see a little bit of a contrast, but not much yet.


About an hour later, I gave them another coat of the solution.  It didn’t seem to change much at all, so I decided to wait and check it the next day.


Here’s how it looked the next day after two coats of the day-old solution (obviously, one of the boards is flipped over so you can see the raw wood vs. treated board).  WOW!


Things got busy for me with some other projects and over a week passed (boy if I had a dime every time I said that!)  When I finally got back to this little diddy, I took a look at my solution. The steel wool had completely dissolved and it was now black (see below).  It was also a little foamy on the top.  Chemistry rocks!


Since I wanted more of a grey look, I decided to apply 2 more coats of this blacker solution to the boards. Here’s how it look right after I finished the second coat.


And here’s how it looked the next day after it had some time to dry and process the wood.IMG_3883

I definitely see the grey that came out after applying the older (darker) solution.  It’s still not exactly the look I’m going for. I’d like less brown and more grey – more like aged, barn wood.  Since I’m a big-time experimenter, next time I’m going to use the older, darker solution first without tea and see how that goes.  I’m still glad I tried it.  Oh, and the smell disappeared like vinegar usually does, thank goodness. Who needs stain?  ;0)

~ Amy

Tips of the Trade…..

Earlier last month, our third muskateer (did you know we had one?!), Cindy, and I had a blast together at the Brimfield Antique Show in Brimfield, MA. It’s a 6 day, sun-up to sun-down flea market/antique extravaganza. It’s held three times a year (May, July, & September), and people from all over the country travel to find what they didn’t know they just HAD to have.

brimfield barn

You know the saying, “There’s no such thing as too much fun?” This event applies – in spades!  A 1/2 mile long, and booths as far as the eye can see, you won’t experience it all in just one day. If you like anything vintage, industrial, funky, or junky, a walk down any aisle is bound to make you giddy with excitement. Rain or shine, this is a good time, y’all! But being exposed to so much of a good thing can be very overwhelming for some of us.


Now that we’re in the full swing of fall, you’ll see a surge of estate, garage, & yard sales pop up before Jack Frost stays for good. Flea markets are usually in their prime at this time of year. When we are out and about and on the hunt for something great, we want to make sure our time, energy, and $$ are spent wisely.  Whatever you do, you don’t want to get suckered into buying something you might regret later.  Buyer’s remorse is a bummer!


So the Sage & Twine gals want to share some tips for staying focused when looking for those fabulous finds:

1. Do your homework. Go online or read the paper; prioritize the sales you want to visit  in order of importance (i.e. If you are looking for furniture or vintage sewing notions, pass up the sales that list children’s clothes and toys first and look for those key words). Choose the most efficient driving routes so you can hit as many sales as possible in the time you have. There are also free apps you can download to your phone to help you do this.

2.  Know your budget & bring cash.  Most sellers at tag/estate sales & flea markets accept cash only. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one who’ll take a check or maybe even credit, but don’t rely on this. Cash is the best currency to carry.  If you’re keeping to a strict budget, only bring what you can spend. This definitely helps to prioritize and make wiser decisions amidst all the distractions.  Don’t forget to budget in for gas, food, tolls, parking and lodging, if applicable.

3.  Fuel-up!   Shopping on an empty stomach is NEVER fun. You’ll need focus. Fuel your brain. Drink plenty of fluids (but leave room ahead of time for a trip to the loo before you get serious on a buy.  Who wants to shop under that kind of pressure?)

(Cindy & I shared a “Figgin Goat” sandwich at the Gourmet Grilled Cheese truck at Brimfield that was TO DIE FOR!  I was so excited, I forgot to snap a shot of it before it was devoured.  If you needed to find me, all you had to do was follow the moaning.  Shopping after this badboy was blissful!)

4.  Choose the right vehicle. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised. If you have a truck or SUV or are shopping with a friend who has one, take it. You never know what goodies you’ll find and having the right vehicle can make or break getting that great find. If all you have is a ten-speed, ask the dealer/seller if your item can be shipped or delivered to your home. However, be prepared to pay an additional fee.

motorcycle-mover- ride the machine

5.  Protect yourself from the elements. This may also sound obvious but is easy to forget. If you are going to be outside for a good part of the day, don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, jacket, gloves, boots, umbrella – whatever you think you’ll need for the possible weather. It could mean the difference between an unbelievable shopping adventure or feeling like you’re partnered with Bear Grylls in the eye of the storm! Oh, and sensible shoes are a must if you’re on an all-day excursion.

bear grylls
6. Think outside the box.
So, you’ve found a beautiful, 3-drawer bureau you LOVE while you’re out and about. Ugh, you already filled your bedrooms with four other ones you’ve collected over the years and really don’t need another one. But, but, but the lines of the legs and detailed carvings on it are exactly what you’ve been looking for! Think outside the box. What else could this be used for? Cut two holes in the top for sinks and make it a unique bathroom vanity. Cut down through the top, take out the first drawer and turn it into a bench with storage, or use it in the dining room for your linens and extra dishes. Finding alternative functions for pieces you love may not seem obvious at first. Take a moment and look at the outside lines and shape. Imagine it turned upside down or on it’s side. Deconstruct it (with your minds-eye, of course) and ask yourself, “What else could this be? What else could I use this for?” If it helps to achieve the look you desire, can be a focal point for design, a great conversation piece, or serve as storage/organization, it’s probably a keeper. Most importantly, if you really love it and it’s in your budget, it’s a great find. Find a function that works for YOU. If it’s “Eh,ok,” or is just going to be a dust collector,  and you still want it – I’ll get you the hoarder hotline number. ;0)

sink dresser

7. Check for defects. Look over the entire piece. Use your eyes AND hands (and on occasion, you’ll find your nose can come in handy too)! Don’t be afraid to pull out all the drawers or get down on your hands and knees and look underneath. Wiggle it back and forth. Check for loose joints or cracks. Put some weight on it to see if there’s any give.   If it’s a chair, sit. in. it.  Sometimes, all you need to do is tighten a loose nut or screw, and it’s good to go. Other times, the repair will be more time-consuming and costly. It may also be irreparable. If that’s the case, decide if the reason you want it still makes sense. Some things that look great and tie a room together may have defects that don’t affect that purpose. But if it’s a tureen you’d like to use for butternut squash soup over the holidays, make sure that side crack isn’t going to cause the massive flood that ruined your Great Aunt Gertie’s famous Christmas sweater!

8. Ask questions. If you can locate the dealer or seller, ask what they can tell you about the piece. You’d be surprised how many times sellers will point something out you may have missed. You may also learn some interesting facts or history about it. This also helps you to develop a good rapport with the seller and get a feel for how your transaction will proceed.

9. Don’t be afraid to bargain. Ask the seller if he/she would take less. What’s the worst that could happen?  They may say, “No,” but this is usually unheard of at garage/yard sales or flea markets. If you feel completely uncomfortable, you can put the ball in their court and ask, “What’s the best price you could give me on this?” Even after their answer, there may still be some wiggling room to what they’ll take.  Regardless, be prepared to throw out a price.  They most likely have a minimum amount they’ll take and odds are, it’s lower than the tag price.  What you don’t want to do is be a “low-baller.” If the price says $150, don’t offer $25. You will most likely insult the seller and may seal your fate of walking away with nothing.

make a dealThere are also places you can score a great deal where you can’t “dicker.”  In most antique stores, you can’t go back and forth with the dealer, but at the counter, they’ll take 10% off the tag price (unless it says, “FIRM”), but only if you ask.  Sometimes with a larger or more expensive piece, the cashier can call the dealer and you can offer less.  Do this discreetly.  You may get yourself an even better deal.  Sometimes you’ll receive a discount for paying in cash or check as opposed to credit.

In other shops, the price is the price, is the price.  What’s on the tag is what you pay.  Period.  This is the case in most shops.  Shop owners buy and sell or create and sell their work looking for fair market price.  Most items are in very good shape, new or are artisan-crafted.   At Sage & Twine, for example, we work hard to find, refurbish, and/or repurpose the pieces we sell. Those we refurbish with paint and distressing techniques are a reflection of our individual artistic expression and the result of hours of additional work to make it look the way it does.  Many times, we will leave certain features of imperfection because we feel it lends character to the piece.  As long as it doesn’t affect the integrity, we’ll leave certain marks because they are interesting and tell a story.  So, even if you see a distressed crack down the center of a farm table, know we’ve priced it according to its overall condition, character, and quality.  Most shops who sell this way do the same.  But it’s not all, so look over your pieces well before you consider buying them.

10. (S)He who hesitates is lost. If you are immediately drawn to a piece and get that excited, panicky, breathless feeling, pick it up. Literally. If you can’t pick it up, grab the tag, or immediately tell the seller you are interested and try to make the deal. We learned this the hard way early in our buying years. If you gasp, throw both hands to your cheeks, stare wide-eyed at your friend, are in need of tape for your jaw, or if you scream or mutter an expletive under your breath…..PICK. IT. UP! You feel that way for a reason. While you have the piece or tag in your hand and are looking around, you can think about it for a few more minutes. Don’t leave it or walk away to think on it or come back later. Instead of reminiscing about that amazing piece you found that makes you feel all happy inside, you’ll be crying in your cosmo about the one that got away (I’m still kicking myself about that shelf, Becky!).  Listen to your inner voice.



11. Be nice! Well, yeah…… Like most of us, I think that treating others with respect and kindness should be at the top of the everyone’s list. However, you’d be surprised how even well-meaning, grown adults can act when they want something badly enough.

women arguing

Remember, you can bargain in some places but not in others.  It’s not very hard to determine what the atmosphere is dictating regarding the bargaining factor.  Read the tags carefully.  Listen to other transactions between the merchant and customers.  Think about where you are. If you are having trouble reading the “lay of the land” at a sale, just ask.

As shop owners, we buy AND sell, so Becky & I have been on both sides of the coin (pun, intended!). We are often out buying, and come across some crazy good pieces.  We want to try to get as good a deal as possible so that we can pass the savings on to our customers. It’s easy to get aggressive when we want a fantastic piece.  But…..there’s nothing more annoying than a buyer who acts entitled, is pushy, or insults the condition of what you’re selling. If they push or knock someone else over to get to it, odds are, they won’t get very far in making any kind of deal (it has happened!).  Don’t let this be YOU!

After trying to bargain, if the seller stands firm to a price you don’t agree on, respect that. If you don’t like the deal, or someone else grabs it first, simply move on. No snarky comment needed. You may be shooting yourself in the foot by getting upset.  Put the boxing gloves down.  You may see something else you like or the seller may have second thoughts and come down on the price.  Either way, always take the high road.  It’s less stressful and will keep your blood pressure down!

boxing gloves1Keep in mind, anyone holding a sale has worked to set it up, price, and manage it.  Most sellers are not looking to swindle you. They are looking for fair market value, to drum up business, or move things out and make a little something in exchange.  Be respectful of this, but also be smart about it.  One person’s trash can be another person’s treasure, but stay educated and look closely at what you are buying.  More often than not, a deal can be made where both parties are happy.  Whatever you do, have fun and be nice, people, because it does matter.

~ Amy

Nitty Gritty, Touchy Feely

 One question I hear all the time is, “How do you get such a smooth finish on your furniture?”

How something feels is, for me, just as important as how it looks. It’s probably why I could never buy a sofa on-line. And it’s also why my pieces are never finished unless every part of them feels good. After painting a piece, there is a bumpy, rough residue. You know what I mean, right? Well, that residue has to go!

For me, it all begins with prepping a piece. I know there are a lot of people who say that if you’re using chalk paint there is no need to sand your pieces.  But for me, sanding is key. First of all,most pieces I find are old…and yucky. After washing, sanding takes years of that yuck off and gives me a much cleaner surface to paint. So, yes, I sand almost a 100% of my pieces. This includes chairs. Ugh! Don’t even get me started on chairs!

Sammy Collection 067

 I’ve got several different sanders, but this is my go-to one. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. For that initial sanding, I use between 150 and 220 grit paper.


On chairs and spindled or contoured pieces, I love these 1/2″ thick foam sanding pads. I usually order them on-line as I can’t always find them at Lowes or Home Depot (just make sure you’re getting the 1/2″). I use a medium grade on unfinished pieces and a fine grade on finished.


After that initial sanding, sometimes I prime pieces. It depends on the look I’m after. But if I do prime, guess what? Yuppers, I sand between coats. After a coat of primer, I use a 220 grit. And this is a very quick sanding. I’m literally going over something only once or twice.

Sometimes I sand between coats of paint and sometimes I don’t. It depends on how impatient I feel.  However,  I always sand after my final coat of paint! Always!!! The key is to use a higher grit (and to let the piece fully dry!).

  I’m not talking about the distressing part. I use a courser grade paper or sponge sander to distress, but when I’m finished distressing, I go over the entire piece again with a fine grit sponge/sand pad or paper. I sand, stop, and feel. Sand, stop, and feel. Sand, stop, and feel… trust me, you get to know your furniture very, very well!


On the flat surfaces, I use my trusty sander again and a 400 grit extra fine paper.

400 grit

Only after all of the nitty gritty, touch feely sanding and making sure everything feels smooth, do I wax or poly, which is a whole other post!

But that’s what I do to get that buttery-soft, silky smooth feeling.

Sammy Collection 072