Thursday, December 06, 2007

Kitbashing, a way of life

(Relax, this hasn't anything to do with blog bashing or HBA bashing.)

Kitbashing. Do you know what that is? I used to get dollhouse magazines with examples of kitbashing, and I know car modellers who do the same thing. You want to build something customized...like, if you'll pardon the example, a haunted house...so you buy a regular dollhouse kit FOR THE COMPONENTS...or two or three kits...and change, combine or otherwise customize them to suit your purposes. Roof from here, walls from here and so on.

I was thinking through a whole blog post about kitbashing as a kind of frugal philosophy...a variation of what's in my hand...but this essay beat me to it.

"Sure, what I call "kitbashing life" has been stated before in a multitude of forms, from the impressive "Adopt, Adapt, Improve" of the Knights of the Round Table to the cliched "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." But I've found that since I started kitbashing toys, I've really taken this sort of attitude to heart...it's more than just words of advice, it's something I live by."

The inverse of this philosophy is missing out by not being able to see the parts, just the whole. I wrote once here about going to a yard sale and buying, for $2, some bits and pieces of craft supplies packed in a $14.98 plastic container--that several people had passed over because they didn't like those particular bits and pieces, or they ONLY wanted the bits and pieces and didn't notice the container. Sometimes you get a better deal buying a whole junker whatsit with a good part you need, than you do trying to get a new part alone. (Or sometimes, in that case, it's the package that's the best find of all.)

I was thinking about that this week when I noticed that a local fabric-plus-more outlet store has reduced its prices on several educational-type kits for kids. You might have seen them: they are large boxes, six kits (each marked with a school grade), and each one has a different theme and project booklets. The sixth grade one, I think, is called Flying (it contains things to make kites and gliders); the fourth grade one is a Top Secret Spy kit with fingerprinting dust and so on; the first grade one is just art and craft supplies. The outlet store had them for $5.99 for quite awhile, now they're $3.99. Somebody told me their dollar store had the same kits--incredibly--for $1 apiece.

And they're sitting there. How come? Maybe because of the grading thing: what sixth grader wants to be given a box marked "Grade Two?" Or maybe because of the whole-parts thing: maybe you don't want to be a top secret spy, but you sure could use a magnifying glass; who couldn't use a big boxful of craft supplies? How much paint and glue can you get even at the dollar store for that price?

I guess the company boxed themselves in (pun intended).

Of course the most frugal--I mean, the only sensible way to do the kind of kitbashing I'm talking about--is when you can get the pieces-in-the-whole for less than you'd pay for them separately. But even better is when you find a poor old forgotten whole--maybe in a dusty or dented or otherwise bedraggled package--for almost nothing, and it turns out to have one or two pieces of gold in it. A bag of tangled yarn with leftover knitting needles thrown in. A bag of weary-looking stuffed Santas and snowmen with, somehow, one very cute Dora the Explorer doll in there too; and the thrift shop was not going to parole Dora without her cellmates. (We bought the bagful--it was worth it for the doll, and the Santas found new homes too--they turned out not to be as awful as they'd first appeared.) A set of books for almost nothing, in which one volume turns out to be exactly what you need. Would you pass up the set and pay more than that for a different book?

Maybe that's not kitbashing exactly, but you know what I mean. Look at parts as well as wholes--and never mind the holes. Instead of buying all new embroidery floss and tapestry yarn, consider using what you find in the half-used kits at rummage sales--I see those all the time. Half-used latchhook kits, too. Obviously this only makes sense if you like latchhook pictures of old mills and things, and I don't, especially, so for me this is not a good kind of kitbashing. But I'd pick up a partly-used package of floss or yarn, if it wasn't cut into little latchhook pieces. I've found partly-used party kits (usually with some leftover paper hats and unused noisemakers)--even the slightly Boy ones are fun for Mr. Fixit's family-only birthdays. (He doesn't mind Ninja Turtles or robot warriors, even if we have to combine a couple of themes to give everybody a hat and a napkin.)

Recently some Squirrelings and I were talking about doing fabric painting, and we realized that, between two or three paint-a-something kits they had been given, we could put together enough colours to do the project we had in mind. As Meredith says, better than a trip to the Big M (not McDonalds).

Keep an open mind, and kitbash when you can.

5 comments:

JacciM said...

Yeah, I pretty much stink at being frugal. I *am* learning, though. At least now I'm willing to buy children's clothes on consignment and shop at more than one grocery store in one week. I'm getting there, little by veeerrrry little. I still pay too much for a cup of coffee on the run, though ;)

Meredith said...

You know, I had never heard that term before now. Makes sense!

I am all too guilty of walking away from yard sale finds because I don't want to drag home extra junk with the good stuff.

Perhaps now I'll slow down and look a little more carefully at those mixed bags!

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

brilliant! We've been known to open thrift store bags next to the trash so we can throw out the bits and pieces we do not want, snip awesome buttons off ugly clothes that were going for a quarter and toss the clothes.

SongBirdy said...

I never knew there was such a "great name" for what I do! lol!

Its true, but often I do get stuck on the extraneous parts!

JoVE said...

Came over via Willa's link... this is really interesting and your rummage sale technique reminded me of something a friend (in the UK) did when her kids were little. She'd often buy garbage bags full of baby clothes at a car-boot sale (equivalent to rummage sale or flea market) for about £5, take them home and go through them to extract the good stuff, and then just repack the rest and take it to a thrift shop and donate it. Someone might want the others.

I think it is the willingness to do both the physical work of organizing and the mental work of re-imagining that puts some folks off. But, as you say, this is very valuable.

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