Step right up folks, for the DIY you’ve all been waiting for!   This project requires no tools, no glue, no sparkles, staples or scissors.  Just an old shoe brush and your imagination.


My sister Pink Tool Belt asked me to go to a flea market with her last weekend.  A real flea market,  not an antique market.  The kind of place you can either buy a shoebox filled with cell phones from 1996 or a fur coat with only one sleeve missing.

Flea markets are weird places.  Real flea markets like the one we went to are filled with people looking to sell pretty much anything.  You might find a booth selling chandeliers and antique china next to a booth with someone selling expired gum and mustard.  You just don’t know what’ll be around the next corner.  But kind of like a horror movie, you’re terrified but just have to look.

Also there’s a very real possibility that a human eyeball might roll across the plywood floor in front of you and that just isn’t the sort of thing you can see just anywhere.



The first booth we went into looked very much like a dust covered Jenga.  There was stuff from floor to ceiling with every square inch filled up.  Shelves bent and sighing under the weight of 142 dirty Princess phones.  It was like American Pickers randomly barfed up everything they’d ever seen but didn’t like.



But when we actually started walking down the tiny aisles we realized that everything was completely organized.  All the bowls in one spot, cups in another.  An entire section dedicated to nuts and bolts.  And all along the floor in one aisle mounds and mounds of vintage mason jars.



Along the last aisle I found these old(ish) shoe brushes.  Which I’ve always loved for some reason. I think it’s the natural wood and bristles. I just like the look of them.

Years ago I saw brushes like this holding pencils and pens.  But whenever I found these brushes that little trick never seemed to work. So I gave up on it.  But while I was rummaging through the brushes at this flea market I figured it out.

For these brushes to work as a pencil holder the bristles need to be packed really close together. If you look down and can see space between the bristles it probably isn’t going to work.  Also, longer bristles give you better support for pencils.

So I grabbed some pencils (from the pencil section, just under the waffle maker section) and tried out all the shoe brushes as a pencil holder.  3 out of about 30 worked.  I bought em.

$2 each.

I like them to look old, but  not old and gross so if you’re like me and buy some brushes, when you bring them  home just give the fraying bristles around the edge a trim.



Once I had them home I couldn’t STOP finding uses for these rustic, little holders.

Pencils, business cards …



Pens …



But like I said you have to try different things.   You might get your brush home and find it won’t hold pens because the pens are heavy.


Yes, I know, you like the pencils.  You can get them on Amazon.

Also you can’t jam too many of them in the brush because when you go to grab one you’ll knock the rest of them and they’ll topple over, making you very angry, cursing the Jenga booth.


Lightweight pens work the best.  Yes, I know. You like the pens.  You can get them on Amazon.

If you do this you just have to try different things in different brushes to see what sticks.




A recipe card holder is probably my favourite use for the brushes. And yes I still have recipe cards. I love them.  As brilliant and great as it is to have all your recipes on your laptop or tablet there’s something greater about having an old, worn recipe card to cook from.

Stuck into a dirty old shoe brush with someone’s shoe crud on them.

Just kidding.  I hope.  I ran my hand over the brushes and no shoe polish or dirt came off of them.  But I washed them for my peace of mind.

Partly because of the shoe crud, but mainly because the shoe brush section?  It was right next to the vintage porn section.



  1. TONI says:


  2. I’m still wondering what the f is a shoe brush? Is that a Canadian thing?

    • Karen says:

      LOL, have you never seen a shoe brush? I think they even still sell them for cleaning/polishing leather shoes. For some reason vintage ones are all over the place for sale at flea markets/antique stores. :) ~ karen!

  3. Renee says:

    I actually have a question about that recipe. I already saved it to make from the original oist, but is it better with the tomato juice, or with crushed tomatoes, or tomato sauce? I cannot seem to find tomato juice that is salt free/low sodium.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Renee. I use my own tomato juice that I press from tomatoes every fall. But if I happen to run out I use a regular large cans of tomato juice. I think Heinz makes some that is low salt. But if you can find the regular, big large cans of tomato juice you should find the low salt version right beside it. (hopefully) Otherwise just use the regular tomato juice and just remember to not add any salt. ~ karen!

  4. I so so like you and your blog!!!!

  5. Joslynne says:

    I think you know your readers all too well…’you love the ring, I know’, ‘you love the pens, I know’ and you love the pencils, I know!!! Just makes me smile to read your posts!!


  6. Kelli says:

    Someone’s been getting their DIY ideas from Pinterest again.

    Or maybe :


    • Karen says:

      I don’t get it. :( I hate it when I don’t get it. There’s nothing about this post there. :/ ‘splain. ~ karen!

  7. Penny says:

    It’s official now, Karen, I’m older than dirt.
    These ‘vintage’ shoe brushes are the exact same make as the ones I have for CLEANING MY SHOES!!
    Two for each of three colours of polish I use, tan, black and neutral, one to put the polish on, one to buff to a shine. They’re at least 40 years old and my shoes last ages because of them. Your ideas look smashing, but I wouldn’t, couldn’t dream of retiring my faithful servants, even if I could get them clean.
    And, yes, Spellcheck, here in the UK it’s ‘colours’, stop it with the wiggly red line.

  8. nancy says:

    See you still have your MacBook. Mine is earlier 2010 and I just changed the RAM in it, using yours and Crucial’s instructions. (Crucial is the site from which I bought the ram). I needed both sets of instructions. Can’t say it makes much of a difference but sure was heart pounding fun. I have many of my mom and dad’s handwritten recipe cards and couldn’t part from them. I am going to copy them on sheets of heavier paper and use it as wall paper in my pantry. When I get a pantry. For my recipes on the iPad, I made a copper tubing holder that is quite lovely, from a blog named A Bubbly Life. If you make this holder more narrow, it holds your iPad vertically and horizontally.

  9. Liz says:

    Who is Renee Beach??

  10. Grammy says:

    I love this idea. And now I’m stealing it with a teensy variation.

    Last Christmas I asked for a Japanese tawashi vegetable brush (stiff bristles like these shoe brushes, but shaped like an oval doughnut with a little wire loop on one end) to appear in my Christmas stocking. My own personal Santa Claus found them on Amazon, figured more is better, and got me two packages of three brushes each. I don’t expect to live long enough to be able to use six well-made vegetable brushes. But one of them will now hang from a little cup hook under one of the upper cabinets to be handy to grab and place on the countertop for recipe cards. Brilliant. And now you’ve given me a bunch of other ideas to try, too.

  11. HeatherMTL says:

    Love the idea of re-using old stuff. My Dad was a pilot, so shiny shoes were paramount (ex Navy, too) and I have his shoe shine box, the kind that has a raised platform for the foot, etc.
    Because of my quilting hobby, having lots of thin tools as in pens, screwdrivers, fabric markers and
    89 scissors at my ready means designating a spot for them. I use a 4″ old glass flower frog. I found a lovely bowl it can sit in so the frog rests like a dome. All my tools fit in it perfectly!
    Love using recipe cards, too. My Bran muffin one looks like it’s from 1902. The original well be as I have not found a recipe like this anywhere else.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Penny says:

      I agree, flower frogs are wasted on daffodils! I use one for pens, scissors and pencils on my desk and another on the kitchen drainer for teaspoons. (I’d run out of teaspoons if I waited until my dishwasher was full enough to run)
      As for recipe cards, not so much. I have a little blue notebook, ruled feint, filled with my ‘go to’ recipes (Christmas pudding ice cream, peanut butter brownies, cowpat pudding …) handwritten in ballpoint pen. Some of the pages are transparent in large areas due to butter or cream!

  12. Ruth says:

    Vintage (old) pre-loved shoe brush on kitchen counter holding recipe card while food prep is taking place… ummm

    Let’s just talk about the pens. Especially the one that is front and centre… I have heard cold showers and distraction through overwork being recommended here for such things, so it makes perfect sense that you’ve mastered the art of doing stuff. Tee-hee!

  13. Barb says:

    Very cool idea! You have such a great imagination, able to “see” an item and transform the ordinary into extraordinary. I wish I had that talent. But at least I am smart enough to come here and steal your ideas. LOL! Oh, and love those wooden pencils. And the pens! I might have to buy some of those.

  14. Jenifer says:

    I love the idea of holding the recipe! But who’s Renee and Beach?

  15. Eileen says:

    I use them for needle-felting, instead of buying the overpriced “specialty” brushes sold for that purpose. They just have to have the finer bristles (so, probably polishing/buffing brushes, rather than coarser cleaning ones).

  16. Jane Hill says:

    I have my dads shoebox with brushes and polish still inside. I may have to have another look at those brushes now!

    • Jan in Waterdown says:

      Oh Jane, that just brought back a lovely memory of my Dad shining his shoes, a small brush for applying the polish, then the larger one for buffing. And I can almost smell it . . . Ok now where did those tears come from?

  17. Michelle says:

    The brush idea is neat. I wonder if my horse grooming brushes would work for something?

  18. Pam says:

    I just love stuff like this, I will be on the look out for old brushes for awhile and new ideas to use them

  19. Carolyn says:

    I see what you did with the pens in that last shot! ?
    Nice find at the flea market.

    Unfortunately, I have a cat who likes to bite/chew up brushes like these. He would love them, but not his tummy.

  20. Jody says:

    You’re very clever. I see neat old stuff but only what it is not what it could be. I guess that’s why Pinterest and you were invented.

    Where is this flea market?

  21. TucsonPatty says:

    I want a replacement brush for the shoe scraper I used to use. The brush was in the body of the cement hedgehog. It was the best thing ever, but the brustles rotted off. So my question is, are the bristles of these flea-not-antique market brushes rotting off their backing? I, like you, love the look of these shoebrushes. Reminds me of my dad with his cowboy boot polishing paraphernalia! Very clever!

    • Karen says:

      Nope, they’re not rotting at all. When I find them a lot of them look like they’ve never been used. I don’t know if they still carry it, but Lee Valley has a boot brush mat (I own one) that works great. It’s only about 1 square foot and it has really stiff bristles. ~ karen!

  22. Kathleen says:

    The bristle trimmings reminded me of moustache trimmings in the bathroom basin that used to drive me insane when I was still married. I therefore will NOT be following this nifty idea of yours. :) *silent heave*

    • Karen says:

      Ha! ~ karen

    • Grammy says:

      For anyone else with moustache and/or beard trimmings to contend with, it gets better if you can tolerate the guy long enough that the dark little stubbles in the sink become gray little stubbles and then white ones. Some men (mine) never seem to learn to clean them up, but by the time the moustache and beard are white your eyesight is failing so you won’t even see them. Most of the time.

  23. Laura says:

    very clever!!
    I love the pop up ad that will take me straight to Amazon to purchase those hilarious pens. Handy!!

    • Karen says:

      ??!! I had no idea, lol. I didn’t mean to do that! It must have been a Google thing. I have asked not to have pop up ads, but I guess they’re getting through! Oh well. As long as it didn’t bother you I guess, lol. ~ karen!

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The Art of Doing Stuff