Monday, September 5, 2011

How much are you going to pay? To who?

Above is a project I'm happy to complete, refinishing this vintage sewing box. Little Pie and I spied it at Goodwill three weeks ago for $9. Hand-crafted in Poland, each component still has penciled numbers on the undersides. It was a tedious process and it was well worth it. I used products we had left over from restoring our 100 year old casement windows in our bedroom. The only new items purchased for this project were brass screws and washers from the mom and pop hardware. I've deep appreciation for the amazing craftsmanship and care that went into constructing this piece so many decades ago. I think it's a work of art.

Now my thrift store sewing and craft supplies have better organization. Everything below is from thrift. Particularly interesting are the early plastic, possibly Bakelite, scuttles.

I cannot remember how much embroidery floss below cost, but am pretty certain I bought a wide color spectrum of 30 spools for less than $5 flinch point.

Embroidery floss is easy to pick up at thrift stores and it's a bargain too. I purchased this set for $1 this weekend. Modern Mommie and I took our girls to the high country of the Rockies for a two night camping trip. We sat about the fire making friendship bracelets. Little Pie makes them lickety split. I can't keep up.

Thrift stores are many things. One thing for certain they are an excellent resource for sewing, knitting, art projects and crafts in general. Whether you are purchasing something never used like a skeen of yarn, reusing yarn by unraveling a scarf or finding a new use for a moth-eaten cashmere sweater, thrift is common sense and resourceful.

Let's get honest. Shopping for craft items is really a question of who do you want to give your money to and how much are you willing to pay. Please consider that before racing off to the chain stores that largely sell products imported from overseas and likely send their profits out of your state. For example, I paid $4 total for all the black grosgrain ribbon below. It was 50% off during Labor Day weekend at the ARC. It'll take me awhile, but I will use all this ribbon. Imagine how much this would have cost at a chain retailer.

Fortunately, this ribbon was manufactured in the USA. I understand that some purchases at thrift stores are mass manufactured items from China. I'm not particularly thrilled that jobs went overseas to bring such items into our market, but once in circulation we might as well make certain items are used in a resourceful manner - if that can happen. Better to use the item than toss it unused into a landfill. Hard to imagine that unused items are tossed in landfills every day in this country.

In essence, how about we better manage the stuff we already have via reuse, repurposing or recycling before we race out into the new market and fetch stuff from across the Pacific Pond?

As I've written many times, I cease to be amazed by the stuff Americans toss. Like all this quality origami paper pictured below. I use this in making cards and invitations. Little Pie folds it. I give some to the classrooms at Little Pie's school. It does not go to waste. 

This week I picked up two Strathmore drawing pads. The first to pages had been used, that's all. There are loads of art supplies awaiting purchase in thrift stores. Drawing pads are not uncommon on school supply lists.

Every now and the a little gem comes along. Modern Mommie and I've yet to determine what to do with these crocheted flowers and snowflakes. All 25 handmade pieces cost me $6.

Follows is a random brain dump of items commonly found in thrift stores that had their original start in chain craft stores. Many of these items will never have been used. Shopping thrift is smart on the pocket book, saves items from landfills and supports a wide spectrum of charities.

Rubber stamps and stamp pads
Cutting boards, die-cutters, scalloped scissors
Picture frames and mats
Crochet hooks and tatting needles
String, yarn and ribbon
Silk flowers, dried flowers, garlands
New scrapbooks, paper and stickers
Glue guns and refills
Oasis and Styrofoam forms
Glass vases, chimeras
Polished stones, glass balls, seashells, cedar wood balls
Sewing patterns
Embroidery and quilting hoops
New and vintage fabrics
Cut quilting squares
Paper card stock, poster board, foam-core and construction paper
Bottles of glitter and confetti
Sewing machines and bobbins
Volumes of instructional manuals from making paper to recipes
Cookie presses, piping tips and bags, assorted cake pans
Boxes of new mason jars, vintage mason jars too

Along with great deals and green shopping there is another benefit to thrift. One learns a new resourcefulness when participating in the reuse market. For example, my old sewing box was not one purchased at a chain retailer, it was an old over night piece of luggage.

I'm thankful for what I find. Currently I'm knitting a holiday gift that requires eight skeens of yarn. I found eight beautiful skeens of quality yarn for $7 thrift. Conventional retail would have easily pushed this project over $100 for product.

Please share items you have found or items you have found new life or new purpose for. If you thrift, you know what's available.

Post Script: A smartly outfitted sewing hamper would be a lovely gift for the person who's about to leave the nest and strike out on their own. Do it thrift and make it personal.


AvaTrimble said...

I wish I had your luck at finding good sewing and craft supplies at thrift stores! I rarely find good anything along those lines, though I did find some good lengths of printed cotton yardage some years ago. One piece was so enormous that I made an entire Civil War era dress (skirt five yards around!), and still had several yards leftover!

(That was the same thrift store where I was rooting through the racks of linens and found a beautiful cream colored pashmina hanging amongst the pillowcases! It even had the original label, declaring it 100% cashmere. That store had some interesting surprises.)

Maybe it's regional? I could never find much in the way of sewing/craft supplies at thrift stores in the L.A. area, but I'm seeing more now that I'm in Las Cruces. I bought two early 1960s vintage patterns the other day, and a red cotton gypsy skirt that I'll rework to have an actual waistband instead of a bulky elastic waistband.

I would love to be able to find vintage sewing things, and sewing manuals too (1970s doesn't count as vintage, to my mind), but no luck so far. I found some great vintage kitchenware items though - a coral pink Pyrex pie plate, a foo-foo little milk glass goblet-y dish, an outstanding glass citrus reamer. All of which are proving quite useful!

Reduce, Reuse and Rummage said...

I often look at the craft supplies and see some great quality North American-made ones. Since I am not a crafter, I leave them there.
I do, however, look for party supplies and gift giving. Cards for 5, 10 and 25 cents are a great deal when recipients likely throw them into the recycle bin anyways.
We had a 40th birthday party for my Husband this summer. Instead of buying made-in-China party supplies at the dollar store, I bought candles, crepe banners, and all sorts of other unopened party supplies at the thrift store.

Loretta said...

These are awesome finds! Sometimes you have to look/see beyond the norm to get the goods! Love this post! Hugs! Loretta

aimee said...

Great job on refinishing the vintage sewing box! It looks great!

I'm always on the lookout for sewing/crafting supplies when I thrift, especially vintage items. Recently at our local Salvation Army I found two early 1960's-era sewing patterns for making Barbie clothes - that should be fun! (they were 99c each). But I've found sewing patterns from much more recent years as well, and for 50c or less a pattern, I've made a duvet cover, a Halloween costume, a decorative windsock, skirts, shorts and more. And it's a bonus when I find thrifted fabric to use in my projects.

I also make all my own greeting cards, so rubber stamps, stationery sets, origami paper, vintage ephemera, etc. come home with me from the thrift stores too.

rtstxtrdnr said...

I have a couple who, when they had their wedding reception, purchased dishes glasses etc and then were given to the guests and the remaining were given back to thrift or charities

Sharron said...

As an avid crafter, I relish all those wonderful bargains in op shops.

My favourite reuse for unused yarn purchased thrift is to fuel my knitting for charity - as my children no longer desire hand knits, I put my skills to use knitting clothing items and toys for the homeless and women's shelters.

A win-win in more than one way me thinks!

Janeen said...

I am not particularly crafty, but have vowed to try my hand at basic sewing in the coming year.

Something I see a lot of at thrift stores are colorful cloth napkins. Any good project ideas for those? I love fabric.

I have found great deals on mason jars at local sales. I snapped a dozen up for making holiday gifts this year. I'm better with food, and have decided that bright red cranberry relish in a pint mason jar with a fabric cloth topper (bought at thrift) will make a colorful, heartfelt gift. Total cost for each is estimated at less than $2! Here's to crafty!

Jill said...

My classroom was filled with reused items (prior to my layoff last spring). I had found revolving bookracks that started off as calendar/cards racks, baskets of all shapes and sizes, and art supplies galore, all purchased thrift or at yardsales. Not to mention a classroom library that now completely fills my 1 car garage (we left a path to the washer/dryer)all purchased for under 25 cents each. I've begun Christmas shopping, and all 6 kids in my combined family will be getting awesome thrift store finds!

Shopping Golightly said...


I am so sorry to learn of the spring lay off. They weren't very bright in letting go such a resourceful teacher. Too many talented people have been let go. It's everywhere. My thoughts are with you.

And! You're right! No classroom need purchase new staplers, hole punches, rulers, crayons, cutting boards, book racks, books for little libraries, storage bins, file folders, tape dispensers...

Shall I move on to no office kitchenettes? They need not purchase mugs, coffee maker, utensils, etc.

So very much is waiting on the shelves of thrift stores.

Anonymous said...

Love this post! I regularly pick up craft items when I shop thrift. It gives me double to joy to re-use and repurpose while I create.

Beth said...

This was a nice reminder that those remnants of craft efforts may be quite valuable to another crafter. Do wish the thrifts I frequent (owned by the same nonprofit) would do a better job of colocating patterns, notions, and crafting tools and supplies. It would help the shoppers and also, I suspect, spur donations. There's just got to be a lot more of those items out there...

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking ahead to Christmas gifts (it is coming quickly!) and have been purchasing picture frames at the local resale shop for $1 each. I will fill them with either chicken wire and decorated clothespins for note/picture hangers or with scrapbook paper or fabric-covered corkboard/magnet board along with a set of decorated thumb tacks or magnets. Practical and I'm repurposing items.:)

Cynthia in Indiana

Shopping Golightly said...

Tis the season to start holiday projects. Making them really adds to the build up. When you really invest a part of yourself in a well thought gift, giving it is like getting a gift in return.

I'm going to be knitting a lot. Which will hopefully set me to a higher state of meditation. I'm like a knitting monk.

Serena said...

Gorgeous sewing box! Great job repurposing it.

I find lots of embroidery and needlecraft kits at the thrift I frequent, but since I don't do needlecrafts, I sell them on eBay :)

Unfortunately, I don't find a whole lot of papercrafting supplies at the thrifts, other than picture books that I cut up for the images. After cutting up a book, I donate all the hardback covers to a local book maker who uses them to make journals made with paper that's been tossed out by printers. 90% of his journals are made from repurposed/recycled items.

Periodically I find glass/crystal vases with decorative rocks inside that I then give to my friend to use in making fake floral arrangements. She has to buy new silk flowers, but I'm still happy that at least part of these arrangements are made from items purchased at the thrift store. My friend started making her floral arrangements after seeing the high-priced ones at Pottery Barn.

Serena said...

BTW, I forgot to mention (your blog seems to generate a lot of thoughts in my head - so much so, I can't type fast enough!)- in San Francisco where I live, there are two nonprofit organizations that take in lots of donated goods that they then sell to the public for reuse. A lot of these items are purchased for reusing in craft projects. You never know what you will find, so you always have to have an open mind when you visit.

Shopping Golightly said...


So true. If one approaches thrift as "I can find everything I will ever need in this store," it's shocking what will pop up. Planning an event? You can find it all from linens, chairs, place-card holders, vases, candles, dishes, flatware, even a microphone if you look hard enough. Again, insane what people just toss.

I purchased three full boxes of bookplates from The New York Public Library (They were 50 for $1.00 when the NYPL sold them. 1950's?) They're beautiful. Came in a bag of other stuff for old world graphic design and other ephemera, $3.Tags for holiday gifts or use in card making, uncertain. But will be used and treasured.

Just finished my knitting project with the French mohair/wool blend this week. The yarn cost less than $7.

Janeen said...

It's so inspiring to read about some of these finds. I'm jealous! I live in a smaller town and so don't have many thrift stores to frequent on a regular basis.

But, I have found that the key is going more regularly. In the last week I have found some great party supplies and a set of Williams-Sonoma pasta dishes (woot woot)!

I see pictures of fantastic finds on these pages (especially cast iron cookware and ephemera) and I just don't know how people do it.

I'm reluctantly going to Las Vegas next month for a work trip and was just online the other day looking for great thrift stores near the strip. Haha! Any Las Vegas thrift tips?

Laurie said...

I've gotten quite a bit of fabric at thrift shops, as well as ribbon. Now that I've begun crocheting, I look for yarn. Most of it no longer has the label, & I wonder if there is an easy way to tell if it is wool?

Anne said...

I looked at the crafting section a little more thoroughly at Goodwill after reading this. It's always a pleasure stopping by here!

I'm hoping you'll post about all this Missoni for Target drama. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Shopping Golightly said...


Off the top of my head this Missoni for Target saga is reminiscent of a Tickle Me Elmo or Cabbage Patch Doll.

I find in strange that people would rush out to purchase something that will be so widely distributed and common, like milk. I just can't relate to that mental rush.

I had a mental rush yesterday at the ARC when I found a pair of hand sewn mukluk boots for Petite Poe for $8. They're in pristine condition and I doubt anyone at her city high school will have a pair like them. They're very unique and hand made. Little Pi can't wait until they fit her and tried to convince me they do now, even though they rise above her sweet knees.

But, something mass produced overseas? No real rush for that.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

I've seen those snowflakes dipped in liquid starch and used as ornaments.

Shopping Golightly said...

Ahh Prudent,

You're on to us. We were thinking little bowls for the ones that are not so snowflake-y.