Life in Malta

Charity shops and flea markets in Malta

I love going to markets, flea markets and charity shops (called thrift stores in the US). Visiting places such these, you get an idea of how wealthy we are. People get rid in a larger part of new or slightly new objects and you get them for peanuts. I often buy clothes as well. In this way, you are contributing to the environment. When buying from a charity shop you’re helping other people or animals who need food and care. These places are educational. There are materials you can also find in anthropological museums, such as video recorders, handwritten music cassettes, kitchen tools, old stamps and postal cards, old toys…I strongly believe they should be promoted more for cultural and social events, especially for the younger public.

Photo by Phad Pichetbovornkul on Unsplash

In Malta, there are several charity shops spread all over the island. But if you want to see more curious items and treasuries there is a weekly flea market in the old village of Birgu (now called Vittoriosa) where I go in certain periods of the year. I avoid it after it rained because the pavement becomes muddy, and during the heat of August. This market is a mixture of secondhand items, antiques and knick-knacks and has placed every Sunday morning from early hours till not later than noon. Comparing to Ballaro’ (Palermo), Porta Portese (Rome) or other flea markets I have visited in the past years, this one is attended by few tourists. Visitors are mostly adult people, Maltese couples or singles but also foreign families living in Malta and British pensioners. Sellers are aged 50+. It looks like a neighbourhood garage sale. Few of these sellers keep items in order on a plaid. Some don’t even use it. In the same space, you can find fine decorated plates and mobile chargers, old home appliances and magazines. I like going there because I keep myself focused on it as visual exercise. Do you remember during childhood playing memory games? I feel to be more or less in that spirit.

They should be more promoted

for cultural and social events,

especially for the younger public.

 I have found there my precious mannequin, where I take pictures of every necklace I make. Then a handmade sewing box made from the seller’s wife, two ebony elephant bookends, cute photo frame and letter mail holder for book lovers, two aboriginal Australian plates, Maltese exercise books, a colored terracotta vase, a colored tin and lately a bunch of metal chains and shells for jewelry. Some time ago I have also bought a like-new record player and some succulent plants. if you live in a tiny flat, browsing in markets like this it’s hard. I have been tempted on many occasions, so I always do my best to be selective and choose only useful and needed items.

My necessary secondhand mannequin

Last visit to the Birgu Sunday market was a failure for me. I was looking for some jewellery to reuse, woollen yarns and a cute small box or container, possibly a wooden one but what all I found it was a new corkboard to pin my notes for 0.50 euro cent only. It went better on Saturday morning at a charity shop. There I got plenty of vintage buttons, a wicker basket to fill with pine cones I painted last year for Christmas and two glittered fabric flowers as decoration for the holiday season. 

Have you ever been in such lovely places?

If your answer is “NO” I will give you

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Wooden crafts

The light wool offcut : a handmade loop scarf necklace

What I have learnt in my childhood and what I keep trying to adopt in my everyday life, are my mum’s lesson on recycling, especially of clothes, fabrics and sewing equipment. 

That is why I would like to say something about it. 

When I was a child there were times where people used to buy fabrics at the weekly open air market or else in the only two haberdasheries of the local area that sold fabrics and finishing named “Cubo magico” and “Merceria Raffa”. Thirty years ago it was not custom to purchase all one’s clothes from shops. Much rather there was at least a tailor in the family or in the neighbourhood.

I can still remember when the kitchen table was full of tailor’s paper pinned on cloth strips of different sizes. Women of our village came to sew together almost every day with my mother or just to ask her advice. I liked listening to their conversations about new issues of those fashion magazines with included all model patterns that they usually swapped. 

During the last Christmas holidays, some family friends came for dinner. The topic of  conversation was firstly on Christmas presents. We overall receive clothes or accessories, so the talk moved around fashion and trends. What all of us agreed was that nowadays people buy “fast fashion” because there is not time to sew anymore. Apart from that, it may be a paradox but in our area it is now difficult to find fabric sellers.

It was there that my mum’s friend remembered a stored beautiful woolen offcut gifted a long time before. She said that it had a floral pattern with dark red tones, soft to the touch and lightweight. She partially used it years before to make a shirt, but she did not know what to do with what was left. As soon as she asked if it could be useful to me, I looked at my mother who nodded and enthusiastically replied: <<Of course! I love vintage fabrics, they make you think and travel within your mind >>.

A few weeks later me and my mum put our ideas into practice. 

She started with measurements and claimed that the length was not enough for a long stole, as I had thought at the beginning. Instead she suggested sewing two loop scarves and immediately we both  agreed to adorn them with some vintage buttons. I went straight to find two good ones in an old biscuit tin where she keeps them.

I suppose it took her only an hour to sew them. Even though if they were been two simple things, the satisfaction you feel by creating something with your hands it is so much that makes time pass by quickly.