Tools + Supplies

Published on June 25th, 2009 | by Julie Finn


Thrift Store Crafting: What to Buy, What to Make

Thrift Store CraftingA good thrift store is an asset to a community equal to that of a mom-and-pop hardware store, a locally-famous ice cream/snowcone/frenchie stand, and a rockin’ adult co-rec softball team: in other words, it’s crucial.

In my hometown, we’re lucky not only to have all of the above and a library that stocks just released feature film DVDs, but several excellent thrift stores—thrift stores small and quirky, thrift stores large and conglomerate, thrift stores frequented largely by the college students, thrift stores frequented mostly by the townies. As an avid crafter whose Crafting Manifesto dictates that I work primarily with recycled materials, I have throughout several years’ worth of projects figured out a way to use pretty much any kind of thrift store junk to make awesome stuff. Here are some of the possibilities:

Got scratched old vinyl records? Rip them into mp3s, melt them into record bowls, make cuffs or coasters or pendants, or paint them and hang them. Make ornaments or sewing cards or boxes out of the covers.

Got T-shirts? Sew a quilt or placemats and coasters or baby bibs, or appliqué them or stencil them to cover up stains, or mod them into a pleasing design of your own.

Got jeans? Sew another quilt or a jumper for your kid, or more placemats and coasters, or purses or book covers and pencil rolls, or use them to patch your other stuff.

Got dishes or pottery? Use them for storage, shatter them to grind and solder into pendants, drill a hole ino them with a tile drill bit and buy a DIY clock kit.

Got sweaters? Felt the wool ones for stuffies or brooches, mod the cotton ones into dresses or pants for little kids, sew any of them into hats or mittens or scarves for the winter.

Got books? Cut them up for scrapbooking or Artist Trading Cards, hollow them out for secret storage or a funky purse, separate out just the hardback covers for bookbinding into journals or notebooks.

Got board games? Make them into journals, too, glue a jump ring onto a game piece or alter it extensively for a jewelry pendant or key fob, cut strategic holes in them and mount them as photo frames.

What are your favorite thrift store scores?

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

10 Responses to Thrift Store Crafting: What to Buy, What to Make

  1. What an awesome list! My favorite thrift store score is probably this amazing fabric covered in tiny birds. It was beautiful and a joy to sew!

  2. Lisa says:

    I get the majority of my supplies at the thrift store- wool garments, linen, leather coats and belts, sewing patterns, old teacups, etc. One thing my kids love is when we find wooden animals and boxes for them to paint up. Tacky wooden fish become wonderfully funky wooden *masterpieces* in their hands.

  3. Marla says:

    I love this article! Thanks so much!
    My favorite thrift store score is old jewelry! I either wear it or make new jewelry.

  4. Alice says:

    I find old gathered skirts that the material is like new. There is a charity store here run by volunteers. Every thing is donated so sells cheap. There is usually around 2 yards in one. I buy them for about 25 cents and rip them up for quilt piecing. Most are donated after someone passes away and some are pretty old. These old prints make your quilts look like they are much older than they are. I make lap quilts for the nursing home mostly.

  5. I love my local thrift store. All the money goes to a no kill animal shelter. I make recycled coasters, coffee cuffs, tee skirts, tee pillow, and actually today I’m trying my hand at making a sundress out of vintage sheets. I’ve made record bowls for my friends and family, I even have a scar to prove it, burned myself on the oven rack, my bad. Thanks for all the ideas, I just love this site!

  6. Becky says:

    I live and breathe our Thrift Shops! We have 3 within a 5-10 minute drive and more just a bit further up the road.

    The suggestions you gave are great! I’ve just started buying skirts for the fabric often making ’em into aprons!

  7. Delilah says:

    I love it! Lately my thing is to hang onto all of the old unwanted clothes, and those of my friends and family too. LOL! I like to sew new things and baby clothes an stuff from the old clothes.

  8. Becky says:

    Usually when I get crafting supplies at the thrift store, it’s clothes to refashion, or the occasional pieces of jewelry to deconstruct for beads and components. I think one of my most creative thrift-store crafts was that I once made a cover for a palm pilot out of the cover of a vintage Kansas album (I liked the art). I think I’m going to have to revisit that idea now that I’ve gone back to that sort of calendar, since I can’t find the old one!

  9. Pingback: Found: The Store that’s Found it for You : Crafting a Green World

  10. Emily says:

    I love to thrift store shop! I’m lucky enough to have a thrift store that carries end of the bolt cuts from local denim and fabric mills. You would be surprised at the amounts of fabric I can pick up for a couple of bucks. It’s no secret- so you have to catch the good stuff as soon as it hits the floors- but it’s well worth the trip. (= Thanks for posting about your thrift store project list. I do a lot of the things you mentioned too!

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