Cheap as chipped china

When keen crafter Rosa May Rutherford bought her first car and found herself with both time on her hands and a growing sense of adventure, she hatched a plan to drive from one end of the country to the other, stopping at every small-town op shop along the way.

Inspired by Ann Packer’s book Crafty Girls’ Road Trip, twenty-four-year old Rosa decided to put her own spin on the fun concept. With a tight budget and little ‘all weather’ driving experience, Rosa was determined nonetheless. She had a plan: to put on loud music, fill her car with petrol and drive from the far north of New Zealand to the deep south, not returning home until her wee Mazda 323 was jam-packed full of second-hand stuff she could fill her house with, or repurpose for craft projects.

Having fun, catching up with friends along the way, and seeing new bits of New Zealand were high priority, but Rosa’s trip was also strongly informed by her staunch belief that craft-making is made all the better by reusing resources. ‘There is so much out there to be reused’ she says, ‘and I was determined to go out and find lots of it.’

While, she says, it’s great how the majority of crafty New Zealanders will now purchase 100 per cent natural fibres, she is inspired most by the people who have gone the next step and are buying their craft materials second-hand. ‘I think I would cry if I saw that my friends had bought brand new knitting and crochet needles. The world is overpopulated already with size 3 1/4 knitting needles!’

‘I’d never been on a solo road trip before so having a focus really gave the trip an extra momentum and I found that having a style or era in mind really helped me to hone in on the perfect scores! When I arrived in some small towns, it was a bit of a downer being by myself, but knowing there were op shops just waiting to be explored made it ok.’

Rosa developed a method to finding op shops in every new town she visited. ‘I’d always do a lap of town, and check out the back streets just to make sure the shops weren’t hiding behind the library.’ She admits though that there would definitely be quicker ways of finding them. ‘If I had been more on to it, I might have actually gone in to the library and checked out their yellow pages! But there’s something satisfying about finding the shop yourself.’

Along the way Rosa became as passionate about the op shops themselves as the potential scores. ‘Op shops rule. I know they’re nothing new, but maybe we take op shops for granted. I love the sense of community and the locals all doing their weekly shop there and catching up on the grandkids. It also adds to the sense of community if you know that every dollar you spend is helping in some small way to keep a good thing going.’ She noticed the places that really took pride in their shops. ‘Some people really make an effort to make their shops interesting and appealing, and that’s inspiring. The best shops were often in the small towns. Some of the big city shops were really lacking in that care – and I just walked in and walked out. You can tell if the shop has their heart in the right place! One small op shop even offered a free piece of home baking with each purchase.’

Refuse centres were another regular pit stop, and great places to ferret around. ‘It’s pretty funny arriving in town with the first question running through my mind – “wonder where the dump is around here!” But it definitely paid off when she would finally spot a Recycle Centre sign, and come out an hour later with two shopping bags full to the brim with kitchen goods, aprons, reusable fabric and have only spent $5, after giving a $2 tip!

Having returned from her trip, and now settling down to start on a myriad of new craft projects, Rosa has good news for fellow crafters and op shop scavengers; ‘having driven from north to south, I can tell you there is heaps of cool stuff around that needs to be found, and used.’ Rosa May totally recommends a second-hand crafty road trip to anyone wanting an adventure. She was overwhelmed by the beauty of the homeland, and the kindness of people along the way, but most of all she is still in awe of her stack of op shop scores.

Rosa May, like many others, has a mini craft business selling her crafts on ‘I want to look after our planet, so I make sure I use as many recycled and organic threads as possible.’ Now she has such an assortment of craft materials (and a house that almost looks like a second-hand store, with so many tea cups and enamel coated dishes) she figures she and her wee business will be set for life – ‘or at least until the travel bug next gets me’.

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