Sunday, August 2, 2020

My Repurposed Life

I started my business with a cap press off of eBay and attempted to sell caps online, that I can’t even sell at a garage sale now. True Story!

Later that year, I was at a garage sale and bought a few fabric samples books that had pretty upholstery fabrics. I stripped up those samples and made rag wreaths on a clothes hanger frame and listed them in my etsy shop. We were doing a lot of “blog hopping” back in those days and joined some weekly “linky parties” where we showcased what we were working on. I don’t think that specific project was linked up, but one of the “big” bloggers, Funky Junk Interiors from Canada shared my “rustic rag wreath” on her Facebook page. Well, I had never thought of that wreath as “rustic,” but I learned that was an important word to describe my style! It and several more sold out from that share! $1 fabric books, became in demand wreaths! I wished I had bought every fabric sample book I could have found, because buying new fabric by the yard was not near as profitable.

I’ve been making rope wreaths since I was a teenager in 4-H. We were very involved in the 4-H Horse program in Upshur County and my Dad, brother, and I all roped. (read about some of my 4H story here)

There was always a few “used” ropes laying around and they got decorated with sunflowers, ribbon, and greenery. I repurposed ropes and that first Christmas my etsy shop was open, I sold a few Christmas lassos. The combination of the two styles of wreaths helped give my business its jump start. Seriously, the first year was slow. I joke that it was an extra job that made my “Christmas money” and I don’t spend much on Christmas gifts! That year, I bought burlap and made stuffed crosses for several Christmas gifts. Of course, I didn’t throw away the scraps of fabric that comes with cutting out shapes. A month or so later, I heard the words “fabric bouquet” and I had a thought. What about burlap wedding bouquets??? I searched on etsy and only found a couple of fabric bouquets that had burlap flowers in them (and they weren’t even very pretty.) So I decided I would put my own spin on a burlap and lace bouquet, using those scraps of fabric leftover from the Christmas projects and some lace ribbon picked up at a garage sale. What a bam, what a bing! Two weeks later and it sold! So I made another and it sold. And another and then I started getting request for custom bridesmaid bouquets and “can you make matching boutonnieres?” I had to start buying new burlap, because I had run out of scraps. Then, someone ask if I could use turquoise burlap? Y’all, I didn’t even know turquoise burlap existed, but I told the bride to be that I would see what I could find, and sure enough there was turquoise burlap! That was the start of something big and now I keep over 40 colors of burlap in stock at all times! I seriously thought burlap only came in tan, brown, white, and orange, because those were the only colors available at the local fabric stores. My repurposing scraps became my new business and we still can’t get rid of them hats!


For the next 3 years, I spent almost every spare moment working on wedding orders. Some had a 6 week processing time, as I was working a full time job (where I was basically on call all the time,) feeding our farm animals, and working at night and weekends on bouquets.


I continued to blog and shared pictures of our yard projects. We got a free gazebo out of a trash ditch, in exchange for helping a friend rescue the two of them. We did a makeover of the gazebo and I decided to only use repurposed, upcycled flower containers in the yard. No store bought plastic pots here. No ma’am, I was over that look. I did a tutorial on how to plant in a rusty, bottomless bucket and make it a hanging basket. I linked it up to a few of those Friday night “linky parties” and it blew up! Seriously, It’s all over pinterest and has brought my blog more traffic that any other post I’ve ever made! The “junk yard” post comes in at number 3 on the popular post on my page. The combination of the 2 post and subsequent decorating of the gazebo has brought more followers and traffic to my blog and facebook page than anything I’ve ever done online.

Welcome to the Junk Yard Blog Post can be found here.


The tutorial for how to plant in this rusty, bottomless bucket can be found at this link

In the summer of 2014, the flower shop I worked for sold. We were always very loyal to our work and it was a long time before I even mentioned my night job to my boss and coworkers. I sold online as GypsyFarmGirl and Janice from Texas and never shared it on my personal facebook page. For years, I only used etsy, my blog, pinterest, Instagram, and twitter (I've pretty much dropped off twitter at this point). Later that year, GypsyFarmGirl became my full time business! 


That year, with the two incomes, I didn’t live extravagantly. For one, I didn’t have time. Two, I was putting back everything I could, because I knew the two paychecks would be coming to an end. For the longest time, I thought the burlap bouquets was just a passing fad and didn’t want to believe that it would last very long, but it has. I’ve shipped to all 50 United States and several countries.


With more competition online and more time on my hands, since I didn’t work 40+ hours a week in town, I started expanding my business. Working from home, I missed the people and my former co-workers, so we started having lunch in town on occasion. Then Angea and I started meeting at the thrift store on Thursday mornings and then going to garage sales, and would finish “girls day” with lunch at our favorite Mexican food joint. Over one of those lunches, we decided to set up at the East Texas Yamboree, our county fair, with a booth. I had rescued and repurposed a 1959 camper and had got it all fixed up in 2014/2015, and we wanted to show her off and use her for our booth display. We hauled our inventory in Miss Gussie and rolled into town for our very first booth set up and boy was it a big one! And we had a blast over those 3 days! Our one time show, selling some of the things we “didn’t want to ship” led to another show just a few weeks later as an art venue wanted to feature us at their Christmas open house.


Wedding business slows down in the fall and we had time to work on a few events. After Christmas, we were told about an event happening in the rural area of our county. It was a juried show, 9 miles out of town in the “Backwoods.” We must submit photos and tell about our projects, with jury selection to take a few weeks, since they were only accepting 4 new vendors to their group. Almost immediately we were accepted and went on to do that show for a few times, before the owners discontinued the market. We did the Yamboree again, but our husbands, aka the “road crew” weren’t overly eager to help at all the setups and I wasn’t overly excited about the furniture that we kept dragging around taking up a lot of space in our small house.


My husband heard me say “we need a storage building” a lot and one day he said, “no, you need a booth where you can sell your items all the time, not a storage building (or rented storage space) were you pull your stuff out once or twice a year, for just a weekend.” So we opened a booth in an antique store in Mineola. We were there about a year and a half, before we joined the Mineola Antique Fair. Our last Mineola show was March of 2020. Now we have a booth at the Kickin' K Cattle Co in Quitman, where you will find a mix of our shirts plus our funky finds and repurposed pieces. 


Along the way, I started repurposing some clothing items. I saw a few ideas online and put my own spin on it. We started with a few flannels and jackets, distressing them or adding vintage lace and doilies. We buy just about every single flannel shirt we can find, second hand. I sell these online and in our booths. If other shirts appeal to me, I’ll grab them up and when inspiration strikes, I’ll get out my stash of vintage fabrics and go to sewing. I’m a night owl and prefer to sew when the house is quite and peaceful. No meetings to get to, no meals to cook, no cows to feed, or other places to be. Just me and my Saturday night sewing. Often I buy box lots of vintage linens and lace at sales. Sometimes they have stains and imperfections, but that’s no reason to completely throw them away. I’ve made necklaces with little bitty embroidery flowers, pillows, and curtains from pieces of barbeque stained tablecloths, hung wedding dresses over windows as a curtain, stapled a veil to the ceiling of my camper, along with scraps of burlap coffee sacks and doilies. I’m not crazy about doing custom orders on the clothing, because I am using the things I have on hand. No two pieces are just alike and I may have a random piece of lace today for one shirt and never find another piece just like it. Sometimes, that does make it harder, because someone wants a shirt in a different size, but that’s just a part of it.


The last few seasons, my fall and Christmas flannels became so popular, that I did have to start buying new shirts, just to be able to fulfill request. I know not everyone is concerned about it being a repurposed shirt, although, I still like to offer as many upcycled shirts as possible. When were at the antique store, we only sold 2-3 shirts a month plus my online sales. When we started doing the Antique Fair, just a block away, our shirt sales went up and became one of our best sellers there. I researched sublimation for several months and finally decided to take the plunge with a new printer. Gasp, I had to pay big time, but I did wait till there was a black Friday sale, because we prefer to never pay full price for anything!

The sub printer has allowed me to offer t shirts and other products to my shop to supplement my wedding business. With the t shirts, I am able to offer the same image on multiple sizes and fulfill those custom request. It’s all done from our small, two bedroom home. I often tell people, If I can do this, so can you. People want me to come  show them how to sell online. I'm self taught and in the words of Rachel Hollis - all it takes is a high school education and google at your fingertips. It’s just a matter of following the on screen prompts, referring to the sellers handbook, and googling or searching pinterest for the answers.

I don’t see my story as anything spectacular, but have realized over the past few years, that part of my job is to motivate and inspire others. My Facebook (my last social media platform to add and now my biggest) and Instagram usually have some fun quotes or inspiring images, gardening, pictures from the backroads, and farm, and then a few pictures of things I make and sell. You see, you can’t just “sell” to people all the time and expect them to show up and support you. You must motivate, inspire, educate, and humor them, then you sell to them less than 20% of the time. My donkeys are a facebook favorite! I wasn’t confident in my photo editing skills at one point and I bought a ready made digital graphic of a donkey that looked similar to ours. Super cute, but it wasn’t a great seller. Several ask me if it was our donkey and I had to say no. That prompted me to try to figure out how to take a picture of our Flossie and remove the background. Well, after I made the graphic, Flossie took over my social media for the day, asking if her picture should be on a t-shirt and the people spoke up and said yes! I’ve found my original designs with a story sell much better than just a digital graphic I have purchased.

We only have one piece of store-bought new furniture in our home and honestly, I wish I would have never went to target and bought a table. My clothes are usually all thrifted or made by me. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find enough jeans that fit me, so that is sometimes the exception. I was at the hospital waiting room recently and the doctor came out and said he was looking for the girl who always had the cute clothes on. Well, that very day I had on a t shirt I made, a pair of palazzo pants I had made from a skirt, denim jacket with a vintage doily added to the back and a necklace with a vintage embroidery flower. It made me feel pretty good, that this professional didn’t look down on my clothing. Just the month before, a man walked through our booth and was looking for a size small shirt to give someone. I showed him a few t shirts and then one of my upcycled creations. He said “I’m from Dallas, where would you wear something like that?” Well, I wear my upcycled clothes to the doctors office, the grocery store, thrift store, feed store, garage sales, antique fairs, school presentations, to feed the cows, to the bank, the post office… pretty much anywhere I go!

 Through this whole pandemic, we've had several shows cancelled and closed our space in Mineola. I brought home lots of metal buckets, old windows, and things. I wasn't sure what I would do with them, until I started painting them one day. All those pieces that have been painted have sold for more than they would have in our booth (some had been sitting unsold for months.) My motto this spring really became "When life gets tough, get creative" and that has powered us through this crazy time and thankfully, with all of your support, we've been able to keep rolling and keep going. 

Our repurposed life has allowed us to be self employed and be able to be there for family as they’ve had multiple medical issues over the past few years, it allows me to work from home (or where ever I roam) and have much less stress than working in town, and express my creative freedom. This year, when everything got disrupted and so many, our home based business was already established, although I'll say with all the extra internet usage with everyone shifting to home school and work, that definitely effected our ability to do some live videos and uploading pictures to our website. In addition to our etsy shop, we added our own website last year. Since March of this year, we have really focused and put more attention in our stand alone website, so that's where you'll find the newest items up for grabs. It is or you can reach it by simply going to (that seems easier for some to remember.) We picked the Rust and Romance name becuase we make the rustic romantic wedding bouquets with burlap and lace, but we also love a good rusty bucket of flowers, or we will take the rusted barn tin and make something new out of it.  

We don’t have house, land, or vehicle payments. Yes, there is some stress because there isn’t a guaranteed Friday paycheck, but somehow, it's always worked out. We thrifted our way into business and it became our lifestyle. I wear what I make, because if I wouldn’t wear it or live with it, why would I want you to? 

Did I mention - over the years, our gazebo has been featured by several blogs, numerous facebook pages, and even made it to Country Living website this spring! And Miss Gussie, our 1959 camper was included in Mary Jane's Farm Magazine a few years ago. Our rusty bucket is a pinterest star and we got chosen to be a Junk Gypsy Book Team Member. We've been invited to participate in shows in several states, although we do prefer staying closer to home. All because of the love of junk, rescuing, repurposing, and upcycling! 

And if you wondered why I've wrote about this now? Well, I'm getting ready to give a workshop on repurposing at a state convention this week and wanted to highlight and go over some of the things we have done... wish me luck, I'm a little nervous! 

1 comment:

  1. So excited for you! You'll be great! So thankful that our life journeys crossed paths!


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