I’ve stocked much of my sewing studio from local thrift stores and rummage sales. Reusing materials you find secondhand is eco-friendly and usually much cheaper than buying new. Here are my best tips for a successful shopping trip to the resale shop:
1. Don’t buy thread. Thread becomes brittle over time. Old thread will fray and
snap so you can’t sew with it. Because I love wooden spools I buy old thread,
but just for display purposes.
2. Find the “holiday décor” section. People who organize rummage sales often stick the fabric and sewing supplies in the holiday décor section. Search for the Santa figurines and Christmas ornaments. I’ve found tons of awesome fabric shoved in bins under the holiday table.
3. Look under the table. Fabric is bulky and hard to display. It often gets shoved into garbage bags or cardboard boxes and is underneath the table at the sale. Be sure to pull the bags and bins out and have a thorough look inside.
4. Head over to the “linens” section. Large cuts of fabric are often mistaken as tablecloths and may be hanging with the linens. Old linens themselves are also awesome sources of fabric. Vintage cloth napkins, linen placements, and tablecloths make great fabrics for tote bags and all kinds of other craft projects.
5. Check for stains, weak spots, holes, and smells. Items often end up at a thrift shop for a reason. Be sure to look things over carefully. Just because something has a stain or a moth hole, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it, but assess how much of the piece is usable
before making your decision.
6. Finish what other people start. Half completed needlework canvases, quilt squares that have been sewn but not assembled, embroidery kits that were never begun…these are all wonderful treasures! Don’t feel limited by the work that has already been done. You can disassemble or cut up what’s there and use the materials in a new way.
7. Don’t buy stuff just because it’s cheap. Having too much stuff crammed into your studio space is demoralizing. Just because the fabric is cheap doesn’t mean you need to take it home with you. Evaluate your finds and try to think clearly about them. Do you need 3 yards of zebra print canvas at a $1 a yard? Maybe not.
8. Don’t forget the books. I learned to sew stuffed animals from vintage soft toy books. Be sure to peruse the book section of any thrift store before you check out. Craft books are often shoved in with the gardening titles and cookbooks. Vintage craft books are like gems, full of crazy color combinations, antiquated language, and terrific inspiration.
9. Keep an open mind. Thrifting is a treasure hunt. If you have time, look at
everything that’s for sale. Those leather gloves could be cut up and used as teddy bear paws. That skein of yarn would make awesome doll hair. And the funky fleece scarf could become an excellent elephant. Think broadly and embrace the thrill of the hunt.
Do you shop secondhand for craft supplies? If you’ve got a story of a great find, we’d love to hear about it! And please share your tips for successful thrift store shopping.