Thanks be to the Goodwill gods

The tapa cloth tale 

This colorful magic on my ceiling is called tapa cloth, or mulberry cloth. It is made from the bark of mulberry trees and dyed with its berries. It’s a rare piece, probably something very special to the family that made it, and I (miraculously) found it while treasure hunting on the Goodwill website. (I put this cloth on the ceiling about 9 months ago but I didn’t have a blog then and now I do.)

This picture got me 1,000 followers on instagram, it's so strange what goes "viral" and what doesn't! I think it has to do with the color pink... 

This picture got me 1,000 followers on instagram, it's so strange what goes "viral" and what doesn't! I think it has to do with the color pink... 

What is tapa cloth?

Tapa can be decorated by rubbing, stamping, stencilling, smoking (Fiji: “masi Kuvui”) or dyeing. The patterns of Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian tapa usually form a grid of squares, each of which contains geometric patterns with repeated motifs such as fish and plants, for example four stylised leaves forming a diagonal cross. Traditional dyes are usually black and rust-brown, although other colours are known.

In former times the cloth was primarily used for clothing, but now cotton and other textiles have replaced it. The major problem with tapa clothing is that the tissue loses its strength when wet and falls apart. (Still it was better than grass-skirts, which usually are either heavier and harder or easily blown apart, but on the low coral atolls where the mulberry does not grow, people had no choice.) It is also labour-intensive to manufacture. Tapa cloth was made by both the men and women in ancient times. An example is the Hawaiian men, who also made their own weapons.

Nowadays tapa is often worn on formal occasions such as weddings. Another use is as a blanket at night or for room dividers. It is highly prized for its decorative value and is often found hung on the walls as decoration. In Tonga a family is considered poor, no matter how much money they have, if they do not have any tapa in stock at home to donate at life events like marriages, funerals and so forth. If the tapa was donated to them by a chief or even the royal family, it is more valuable. It has been used in ceremonial masks in Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands (Mangian masks). It was used to wrap sacred objects, e.g., “God staffs” in the Cook Islands.
— From Wikipedia

When I bought this online, it was labeled as “rug”, it was in the “art” category, and it looked super small in the picture. I remember looking at the dimensions and thinking it was definitely a typo. (193” by 168”) But I bid anyway, won it, and when the huge box arrived I did a happy dance.

I had to open the box outside because this was so big it didn't fit in my house! 

I had to open the box outside because this was so big it didn't fit in my house! 

Then the box sat in my shed for like 6 months.

Until, creativity suddenly struck. I was 7 months pregnant in a loopy mood and decided to drape the giant thing on the ceiling of our guest bedroom. IT WAS NOT EASY.

It’s not like wallpaper; it was one giant heavy cloth, and I didn’t want to cut it into sections and possibly ruin the peice. So I decided to roll it up and attach it to the ceiling as if I were rolling out a rug, except upside down. I attached the corners and edges with a staple gun and used spray adhesive on the ceiling. I uninstalled the chandelier, cut a small slit, and reinstalled the chandelier right over the tapa cloth.


My pregnant arms were sore, but it only took about 1.5 hours and I was done!  

The finished project did not look like a wallpapered ceiling. The tapa cloth itself had flaws, the hand-dyed pattern was not straight, and my ceiling was definitely not straight. But the end result was breathtaking all the same. I used to lay in that room and drink in all the beauty and variations of the cloth. It was like having a piece of art on the ceiling!

We have recently moved from this house and the buyers wanted to keep the tapa cloth, though I considered removing it and taking it with me. It makes me happy that it lives on with a new family in all its glory.

If anyone sees another giant tapa cloth for sale in the wild, please let me know!

Until next time friends,  


How to thrift with your pants off

Subtitle: because pants are the worst.

Want to find a $50 flowertastic couch and $9 set of vintage paintings? Then read on my friends. 

Want to find a $50 flowertastic couch and $9 set of vintage paintings? Then read on my friends. 

Estate sales are a BEAT DOWN. I get it. There are “career” estate-sale-ers who already bought all the good stuff before you even got there, it’s always hot somehow, crowded, and there’s aggressive signs everywhere like “NO KIDS!” and “NO WALKING ON THE GRASS!” and “NO PUSHING!” It’s a bad sign when you have to tell people not to use violence. (Get it? Sign? See what I did there?)  

So, save your sanity and your Saturday mornings: don’t go to estate sales. Here’s where you can search for vintage on the interwebs, from your (flower) couch.

If you have followed me on Instagram you know that some of my best finds are from It’s an old website that is in auction format. I actually got this tip a long time ago from Erica Reitman’s blog ( ). She has a lot more online resources in her “online design source shopping list” (which I will not duplicate here but you can check it out for yourself).

This is a GINORMOUS hand dyed and rare tapa cloth that I scored on Goodwill online and then put on a bedroom ceiling which was AMAZING 

This is a GINORMOUS hand dyed and rare tapa cloth that I scored on Goodwill online and then put on a bedroom ceiling which was AMAZING 

Warning: the Goodwill website quality is TERRIBLE. Here’s my strategy:

I go to Catergories>Art and Categories>Antiques and just see what’s ending that day. For whatever reason, the best stuff is on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It’s my BEST source for old portrait paintings!

Go ahead and try the “For the Home” category but you’ll mostly find Willow Tree wall décor and old humidifiers.  

I also run an individual search for “rug” or “blanket” or “macramé”. 


Everything But the House (


I have found some of the most unique stuff here! It’s an easy to use app that has a collection of estate sales across the country. They pictures are thorough and the items are well-researched. The shipping is horrendous for furniture, so I always search for local sales with a free pick up option. If clothing and jewelry is you thing though, EBTH has TONS of unique vintage and you won’t get killed in shipping prices. Also, since they're search function is so great, it is the prime place to find a high-end and rare vintage item like a specific lane burl wood dresser or a Murano glass chandelier. (Though not necessarily the cheapest place to find them.) Another tip: ALL the prices go up in the last 30 minutes of the auction so don’t be fooled by the low starting prices.



OK I know you already know about Craigslist. But here’s how to get the most out of craigslist:

            Use it on an app with better search features. There are several available.

            Set up alerts if you’re looking for something specific

            But most importantly, don’t search for anything at all. For real! If someone knows that their chair is a Knoll chair, or a Henredon chest, or a Kagan couch, then they know what it is worth, and it will be expensive. You see this amazing chair?


It was $20 and the description of the ad was “ADULT CHAIR” and nothing else. Plus, at least in Dallas, a lot of my cheapest finds are ads in Spanish!

So what do you do instead? I check Craigslist like I check my email: several times a day. I look in the “furniture by owner” category without anything filtered and arrange the listings by newest to oldest. That way if there is something good, I’m surely the first to find it and contact the seller. If you do find something good right after it was posted, make sure you pick it up before the seller gets 100 messages of people who are offering to pay them more money.

The same strategy applies to all the other buy/sell sites. (I also use OfferUp and 5 miles.)


Facebook Yard Sale Pages

Chances are, you have a neighborhood facebook yard sale page. Not all pages are created equal, but check to see what your hood has to offer (or maybe start one of your own!) The best pages are the ones with admins that are very active and with a lot of rules that are enforced.


Facebook Marketplace

Ok so I don’t love the Facebook marketplace. The listings are always old and the search function is pretty annoying. That being said, if I have extra time I peruse every once and a while and have actually found one or two unique items as a good price. Plus you can check out the seller’s profile picture and see if they are a serial killer or not.



Duh. Ebay! This lucite bar cart I got on ebay and I’m not even going to tell you what I paid. I have a pretty targeted strategy for ebay shopping, which is quite in depth and I’ll save that for a future post. But one sneak-peak tip: message the seller and haggle! They are almost always willing to lower the price.

The most amazing lucite bar cart I bought on eBay and even after paying for shipping it was a GREAT deal (after haggling on the price, of course).  

The most amazing lucite bar cart I bought on eBay and even after paying for shipping it was a GREAT deal (after haggling on the price, of course).  


Ok to those of you who haven’t stopped reading out of extreme boredom by now, thank you for sticking with me! Email me if you have any other suggestions, comments, or even hate mail. I love it all.


Goodbye for now friends!






Beginners Tips for Thrift Store Shopping

How to Thrift Like a Champ


Almost everything in this picture is thrifted. 


1.     Don’t go to thrift stores.

Just kidding. Kind of. But truthfully, thrift stores are often over-priced. UNLESS you use the following tips.


2.     Make friends with the staff.

And give them your number! I have a woman who texts me when they get something that she thinks I will like. It’s been a great resource for me and makes shopping so much more fun when you build friendships with other humans along the way.


3.     Find out when they stock the floor.

Almost every store only stocks the furniture on certain days or certain times. (In my next posts, I’ll do a guide to Dallas thrifting and tell you the best times to go!)


4.     As a general rule, don’t thrift in fancy neighborhoods.

No seriously. Here is the life cycle of most fancy furniture found in thrift stores. Rich guy buys fancy furniture. Rich guy moves to a fancier house, puts outdated furniture on the curb.  Lucky not-rich guy finds furniture on curb. Not-rich guy keeps furniture for 50 years until he dies. Not-rich guy’s kids don’t want their parent’s old ass furniture so they send it to the closest thrift store. That lucky thrift store is not in a fancy neighborhood. It’s in a neighborhood that used to be trendy but now it is mostly abandoned and the only thriving business is check cashing places.  THIS is where the best thrift stores are. These diamonds in the rough have the furniture that is SO outdated, it’s popular again.  


5.     Thrift at local charity-based thift stores

The exception to rule #4 is local, non-chain charity-based thrift stores in fancy neighborhoods. Furniture there is sent by fancy people who are aware that they have nice (but unwanted) furniture, but they chose to send it to this one particular thrift store because they know the proceeds will help real people in their community. Knowing that makes people more generous. The down side is that the prices are usually a bit higher.

Also, Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul stores are better the closer they are to a fancy neighborhood. Both stores offer free pick-ups of donations. So, they often have better stuff when the store is close to a fancy neighborhood. Fancy people ain’t got no time for garage sales and posting on craigslist, so they call the donation truck and get on with their fancy lives.


6.     Quantity over quality.

It is better to go to one thrift store for 5 minutes every day than go to the best thrift store once in a while. Prepare to not buy anything most of the time.


That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more thrift guides, for online thrift secrets, online sources for CHEAP vintage, and a review of all the best thrift stores in Dallas!


This is a blog.

Hi Visitors! How do you blog? Seriously, tell me. Just write stuff and add pictures? 


this is me and a fat baby. 

I am new to blogging (like 10 years late, right?) but I have a background in writing. I was a journalism major and created magazines at a PR non-profit job after college. Then I went to law school, though words were read there more than they were created. I still have to look up grammar rules, and I never knew how to spell. I'm rusty. Forgive me. 

It will be great to try a new flavor of writing however. Instagram has its own prose, mostly pictures-as-words, 90% emotion and 10% thoughts, CAPITALIZATION, and a lot of exclamation points!!!!!!! It is great "writing" on IG because grammar rules don't count and if I can't remember how to spell a word I can just use a picture of the word. 

This world is funny, isn't it? 

Anyway, read my blog! Follow me on IG @katiesaro! Buy my stuff! 

Signing off,