Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thinking outside the package

Several years ago, I went to a post-Christmas sale at a craft store. In the final-clearance, nobody-wants-this bin, I found a couple of Christmas-themed cross-stitch kits that came with some kind of square plastic frames, and bought them for about 75 cents apiece. When I got home, I realized that floss was not included in the kits. I didn't have much floss and definitely not in the right colours, and I don't get to the craft store much. The kits sat. And sat. I kept thinking "someday when they've got floss on sale, I should go and match up all the right colours, and get what I need, and make up those kits." But it wasn't really high on the list of priorities. I'm not even a very good cross-stitcher.

I tried to give the kits away to a crafty friend, but she didn't want them. So they sat.

Finally I was about to put them in a thrift-shop box. And then I took another look at the packages, and a light went on. Those things in my hands were meant to be coasters: nice, heavy-duty clear plastic coasters that you could insert your needlework into. Or anything else! Aha! (You mean I'm allowed to throw out those cross-stitch patterns I've never used? Sigh of relief.)

Since it was close to Father's Day, I found a couple of colourful family pictures that we'd taken at a mini-golf course; stuck them on some printed origami paper (because the pictures were smaller than the coasters); got the kids to sign their names below the pictures; and inserted the whole works into the coasters. One for Mr. Fixit, one for Grandpa Squirrel. Mr. Fixit now uses his coaster every night for his bedtime tea.

Now I'm not expecting that you're going to run out and raid the bargain bins looking for useless needlework kits. But it does illustrate a basic frugal principle. As the DHM at the Common Room likes to say, what do you have in your hand? And if you can't use something in the way it was intended, could you use part of it for something else? Sometimes you'll come up with something even nicer than what it was really meant for.

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