Yard sale signs are popping up faster than dandelions. Are you ready to start shopping for those vintage dishes that you’ve been looking for?
I’ve made lists before, though it may seem unnecessary. This is not the grocery store, where you can expect certain inventory to be in stock. Why write a list when you're heading off into the unknown to go shopping?
You never know. I think having a list keeps your mind focused on what you want.
You can be surprised by how the things you want seem to be easier to find when you make a shopping list for vintage goods.
It will also get you brainstorming about what you want, and remind you of things you’ve thought about but didn’t capture at the time.
Tips For Your Thrift Store And Garage Sale Hunt
Evaluate your needs. Are you looking for more of your favorite pattern? Certain piece types? Gifts for someone special?
Write down that wish list. I know for me it’s easy to forget something if I don’t keep track by writing it on a notepad or scratch paper.
Collect your colors and pattern samples. You can use paint chips, fabric swatches, or even keep a gallery on your smart phone. This will help you with your list, and to review any serendipitous finds you stumble upon.
Bring along some boxes and packing materials, old blankets or towels, so that you can protect and cushion your goodies for travel. I sometimes take empty boxes into thrift stores with me, as there’s no guarantee they will have what you need.
Wear good walking shoes, keep a good supply of small bills, and bring your water or snacks. I like to be comfortable when I’m not shopping, and I don’t want to stop for basics if I can help it.
I like to walk through a good sale at least twice. And by "good," I mean a sale that I can see has lots of promising, vintage items when I scan the surface.
When I find a spot that looks promising, I’ll take the time to look in more detail. Check under the tables, and walk by from both directions. You will miss things if you only look once.
Have fun! The thrill of the hunt will carry you along. And when the day is done, you can savor your new dishes while you put up your feet.
Everything is out there, just waiting to be found. There’s no time like beautiful summer days to get out and find the dishes you’ll want to use for parties and holidays all year round.
In the photo: Studio Nova mug, bone china, in the Chip-and-Putt pattern. How cute is that for the golf lover on your list?
There are always new ways to celebrate, and mix the best of vintage dishes with current holidays. When I saw this pairing of two Swedish Modern vintage glass pieces, an idea dawned. Let me serve chips and salsa for Cinco de Mayo in this vintage glassware, design inspired by a colder part of the world.
Swedish Modern is a style that’s sleek and clean. It was very popular during the 1950s and 1960s, when this glassware was made. Like all things “modern” in style, this pattern has a classic appeal. It’s timeless and relaxed. It will hold its own in your casual table settings.
Part of a larger Scandinavian design tradition, this pattern encompasses the minimalist and functional standards that continue to appeal to loyal fans.
Vintage Anchor Hocking
This pattern was made by Anchor Hocking, and there are a number of piece types available, including the platter to the chip and dip set I used here, and the relish dish. The bowl that actually goes with the chip set is, to my mind, a bit too small to use for a generous plate of salsa and chips for a group.
The original chip and dip set was probably intended for a dip to go with veggies, or potato chips. Everything about salsa should be bold, including the size of your scoop! Why not use the larger relish dish to your family and friends with a good salsa!
Swedish Modern came in several colors, the crystal clear and others, including amber (gold), hunter green, avocado green and aquamarine. There are also examples in clear glass with gold metallic trim.
Not to mention the Fire-King pieces in this pattern.
The clear glass items are by far the easiest to find. They tend to blend in with all the other clear pieces on a thrift store shelf. The possibilities get lost, along with the individual pieces. There was a lot of this glassware made.
Finding Vintage Glassware
Like any glassware, I presume there is a chip or crack until proved otherwise, so I examine my finds closely before making a final decision. Most of the time, I want perfect pieces. No need to risk getting cut on a sharp chip. There is enough of this glassware out there that I know I’ll find my piece eventually.
If you find a piece with a small chip, you can have it polished by someone who knows how and has the right tools. In my area, the local Depression glass society has contacts for this service.
I like the simple lines of Swedish Modern. The glass itself is quality. Just compare to some of the other pieces you’ll see if you’re not sure.
If you’d rather use china, check out this idea using vintage Franciscan dinnerware, and another using the Mayan pattern, made in Japan.
When it’s time to celebrate a holiday, it’s a lot of fun to look through my vintage china glassware and find a new idea to bring to the table, along with the food!
I saw these cups with whimsical chickens on them and I liked them. Of course, the matching saucers were nowhere to be found. I had to have them for my collection of chicken dishes.
It took me some time, but I found a suitable pair of saucers to go with them.
The cups are in the Chicken Kiev pattern by Sakura. Based on the shapes and color palette, I estimate this pattern is from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.
I really like the big chicken motifs, especially the hen.
The saucers I chose to go with the cups are in the Country Cupboard pattern by International, Bob Timberlake designed.
For my uses, I like these saucers better than the cups that were meant to go with them.
I believe the saucers are from the same general time period as the cups, and that’s part of why they work together. Generally popular shapes and sizes, by different manufacturers, following styles popular at the time.
And both patterns are drawn from what would have been less expensive casual dinnerware product lines.
The icing on the tableware cake: Two whimsical patterns that go with my chicken dinnerware collection. The motif pulls the pieces together.
I could see using this dinnerware as inspiration for an entire table setting, and to decorate some napkins or a table runner in the future – in cross stitch or patchwork.
Repurpose Mismatched Cups and Saucers
Unfortunately, most dinnerware cannot be recycled through standard means, such as those used for plastic and paper. Glass is generally the exception, depending on what kind it is.
Finding another use for old dinnerware in good condition is my favorite option. Dishes that are not chipped, cracked or crazed can be used for food. Pieces in bad condition can be used for decorative or craft products, but don’t eat off them.
Single cups and charming saucers without mates can be used in other ways. If you make candles, cups can be their containers. They can hold small flower arrangements. Or fill them with small bags of jelly beans, and insert a place card for a special party favor.
Saucers can go under pillar candles. They can also go in a shallow basket, to be the edging for a centerpiece.
That is, any you have left over after you play with making your own unique cup and saucer sets – starting with the orphan cups and saucers in your cupboard, or your yard sale and thrift store hunts.
Itchy for green outdoors? Start indoors, with a table setting of garden theme dishes!
Earth Day is on Monday this year.
That makes this weekend an ideal time to bring out the summer-y garden and floral dishes, to satisfy your need to enjoy growing things.
Start with any green dishes or glassware you might already have.
Add on the quantity, or piece types, you need based on how you’ll use your dishes, and your menu.
Do you need serving pieces, or just place settings?
All Greens Are Not Created Equal
Most greens can be mixed and matched to create a unique table setting.
I divide the green spectrum into the yellow end, center and blue end, and go for a palette that concentrates in one of those three groups. You can bring in accents from the other two, and see how they work with your overall setting.
A single statement piece, like a soup tureen, or 3-tier server, can have more latitude than, say, the salad plates on a table set for eight. But...rules are made to be broken, too, when you create your own special style!
Remember, too, that monochromatic is generally my taste. If yours is more adventurous, go with yours!
If you’re not sure, get some paint chips from the hardware store, and use them to create your portable color palette. Then shop for new dinnerware, or thrift store finds, to make your working dinnerware set.
Earth Day is about recycling. When you use what you have, reuse vintage dishes, and add carefully-chosen new wares to your collection, that will last for years, you’re bringing the spirit of the day to your table.
And you can have greenery around you all year long, when you set your table with garden-theme dinnerware.
Dishes shown, front to back: Naturewood cereal bowl by Pfaltzgraff. Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady cups and saucers, vintage Noritake, made in Ireland. Mismatched mugs by Hartstone Pottery made in Ohio. Top is Citrus pattern, and bottom is an unidentified herb and plaid motif pattern from the Carlisle ownership era. Corelle salad plate in the Delicate Array pattern at the back.
Hello Spring is the name of a vintage Noritake dinnerware pattern, from the 1970s. It’s funky and chunky, representative of the full-on design sensibility of that era. We call it retro these days.
The yellow flower especially makes me feel happy. I also enjoy the handcrafted feel of the stoneware, along with the big, orange tulip and purple accent flower.
This kind of dinnerware is heavy, but it will give grounding to any table setting build around its weight and color scheme. Bold pieces hold their own in any style, or in an eclectic and creative combo.
Hello Spring pieces are out there in secondary marketplaces to find, even though this pattern was only made for about five years.
When you’re shopping your favorite places, the chunky handles, and overall heft of the ware, often stand out among the rest of the dinnerware on the shelves.
And if you grew up in the 70s, the shapes and colors just scream “retro,” and can bring back all the memories you may have from that time.
You can mix this dinnerware with other stoneware patterns, especially those that have the substantial look and feel of the potter’s art. Yes, they are factory made, but fit in well with handmade pottery and table linens.
Want to go rustic? Hello Spring china could be the start of your new collection.
Other Noritake stoneware patterns in this line and time period include Orinda, Lily, Providence, Winterrose, Rapture, and Bliss.
Noritake’s Primastone line is also from the 1970s, and also made of stoneware. The pieces in this product line have a similar shape, but they are a bit more refined in style and motif. Patterns include Pleasure, Desert Flowers, Rapport, Fjord, Running Free and Winsome.
Can a table setting that uses dishes with names like Hello Spring, or another dinnerware set where yellow is a focal point of the color palette, hurry away the snow? That's an open question.
One thing I know for sure, I’m looking forward to warmer days, green grass and bright flowers.
A cheery table setting with a dinnerware pattern that says “spring” can be a start.
In the photo: Noritake dinnerware in the Hello Spring pattern, sugar bowl, creamer and salad plates.
Mix and match china, glass and linens on your table setting to create something original and unique. Bring the best of old and new together to delight your guests, even before they sit down to dinner.
Painting with dinnerware, and accessories, too.
A new Irish tea towel, in a linen and cotton blend, can work as a bread cloth to line a basket of rolls, muffins, or slices of soda bread for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner. The woven-in motifs just shout “Ireland.” The fiber blend makes for easy care.
This cloth happens to be new, brought back from a trip overseas. You can also find vintage linens in patterns to inspire your decor and table.
A towel like this will age gracefully, as you use and display it in your green or Irish-theme kitchen décor.
When it comes time to set the table, add white dinnerware or glassware to light up the combo. This vintage white milk glass pitcher, shown here in a Hobnail pattern, gives brightness and texture to your eclectic mix.
Fenton and Westmoreland are just two companies that made milk glass, and in this vintage version of the Hobnail by Anchor Hocking. If there was a pattern and a material that says “vintage charm,” this glassware would be at the top of the list.
Milk glass goes for a cottage style, shabby chic or even traditional table, too. “Milk glass” is heavily opaque, and predominantly found in white, though other colors are also out there, including new wares in pink, blue and green.
If you love milk glass enough to collect it, you already know your pieces can be used as well as admired on display.
Vintage china dinnerware can add color as well as charm, like this plate in the Brookdale pattern by Lenox.
The company made this pattern for about 30 years, which shows its enduring popularity and classic style. The glazed flower petals are slightly raised, and the golden centers stand out a bit more. Brookdale is especially sweet for a spring table setting.
You can also go Irish with dinnerware made in Ireland, such as the Keltcraft line by Noritake. Some of these patterns even have names drawn from the Emerald Isle, like Shannon Spring, Kilkee, and Wicklow.
Something old, something new. Set a table unique to you.
Combine what you’ve got, with what you’ve found, and sprinkle with some new elements bought especially for a special occasion. Bring dinnerware and accessories representing these three threads together, and you’ll have the ingredients. Your own special recipe for beauty and style, in a table setting you created yourself, blending those lovely pieces you’ve found to enjoy.
Tips to use mismatched cups and saucers for an eclectic table setting
If you shop thrift stores for dinnerware, you’ve probably done it, too. You just have to have those darling, charming, funky, lovely, delicate, classy, retro or just plain wonderful vintage cups in the store, even though the saucers are nowhere to be found.
You scoured the store. Because other shoppers will move things around, and you might find the fourth glass, for example, with the wooden ware. Or the underwear.
And you’ve returned to the store, asked the clerks, tried all the area stores of that kind, and the competition, too.
Still, no saucers. Orphan cups.
You can check online and see if you can find them.
Or you can do what I did, and search the shelves right then, and see what they have that could work with the cups you can’t leave behind.
At least, you’ll enjoy using those cups for your tea or coffee, while you hunt for matching saucers at a more leisurely pace. Or you might decide, you just don’t need them.
Eclectic is cool.
Fireglow by Royal Doulton
I saw these cups a couple of times, and they just kept calling. The Fireglow pattern is a fine example of retro style, from the 1970s. These are cool cups!
It’s been a few weeks, and I’ve been back to that store several times. Still no saucers. But the day I bought the cups, I dug around and came up with three candidates for saucers to go with them. One is a vintage mid-century plain off white. The saucer with the green band on the edge is Elegantware, made in China. And the embossed example is by Gibson.
Bella Roma by Nancy Calhoun
These cups are a recent find. This pattern is from the Café Classico line, from the 1990s. I like their heavy weight, reminiscent of restaurant ware, but these not quite so highly fired. These could go with another apple-theme pattern, or a fruit theme table setting.
I paired one with a real restaurant ware saucer. The red band example is by Buffalo. The embossed saucer is by Pfaltzgraff. It’s a little larger, but the weave texture goes with nature, to my mind.
Tips For Matching The Mismatched
- Materials. Look for a similar weight, or something that’s different enough that it provides contrast. They’ll know you did it on purpose, if you use your mismatched sets for a party.
- Background color. Again, a match, or different enough to complement. Different colors in the same range give depth to your tablesetting.
- Foot well. Whether the cup is footed or not, there’s a round spot on the saucer made to fit the cup. Your cups and saucers should match, or the well should be slightly larger than the cup bottom. If it’s too small, your cup could tip and spill. If it’s too large, the cup will slide around and again, can spill, or even fly off the saucer.
These are general guidelines. Rules are made to be broken, especially when it comes to creative use of your thrift shop finds. As long as you’re creating an eclectic table setting, you’ll set your own rules.
Which pair of mismatched cups and saucers did I like best? I like the Royal Doulton cups with the green-band saucers. I think it picks up the same bold colors as the cups.
I like the Nancy Calhoun cups with the Buffalo saucers. It’s the reds, and especially since the apples have multiple shades.
When I get around to setting a table, that could change. It depends on the rest of the dinnerware, and what effect I’d like to achieve.
Mix and match dinnerware is a fun game. Once you get started, you might not want to stop!
And for these no-longer-orphan cups, maybe there’s more than one match made in heaven, even if I do find the matching saucers someday.