Economic uncertainty has settled in for a nice long stay and everyone is looking to scale down his or her living expenses. In tougher times, hobbies and charitable giving generally fall down the list of priorities. In the past, making your own clothes and furnishings was the ultimate economy, now craft supplies often cost more than a comparable finished product. Fortunately, for those who like to sew or knit, thrift stores offer a great source for affordable notions and fabrics while giving back to the community.
Shopping for finished clothing and other soft goods in thrift stores can be very time-consuming; you can spend an entire afternoon looking for a particular color of blouse that is not damaged, the wrong size, or out of style. Shopping second hand for fabric and notions may be more challenging than walking straight to the sewing section and picking out your buttons, but crafters still have the advantage. The fit and cut of clothes does not matter when all you need is that great fabric. A stain on a cuff doesn’t make a difference if you are making a patchwork quilt and can discard that small piece. The perfect sweater that is 4 sizes too big is just what you want if you are going to unravel it to knit a scarf.
Sewers who are looking for fabrics are in luck. Higher quality fabrics are the best bargain, as dressier clothes tend not to get worn much and you have more fabric to work with. Velvet may cost you $40 per yard in a retail store, but finding an old formal for $10 will get you not only the fabric, but the zipper, trimmings, buttons, and lining. Plus-sized clothing provide plenty of fabric for sewing larger items, and thanks to women’s tendency to get rid of clothes as soon as they lose weight, the larger sizes tend to be in very good condition.
Notions are another big money saver for the sewer or knitter. You can buy a tacky, shabby blazer for .50 if all you really want is the mother of pearl buttons. The faux fur cuffs, or suede patches are going to cost a couple of dollars, compared to $20 or more at the fabric store. That $2 purse? Who cares if it is torn when the handles would be perfect for the new bag you’re making, and don’t forget to save the bag bottom and flex frame for another project.
For knitters and crocheters, there are plenty of raw materials that are much less expensive than buying new. Sweaters (the larger the better) and blankets can be unraveled and the yarn reused in your own patterns. Smaller sweaters and scarves can be great for projects that don’t require large amounts of the same color, like domino knitting projects or mittens. To go even more frugal, get your hands on a sweater shaver – generally sweaters are tossed only because they’ve started to pill up, and these are even cheaper.
So what’s better than getting to continue to indulge your hobbies while saving money? Shopping thrift stores is also a way to ensure you support your community with the same dollars. Near my home there is a thrift store that supports a no-kill animal shelter and a Salvation Army. Both of these stores also train and support individuals who are in rehabilitation programs. There is also a privately owned thrift store near by, and I like to know the owner is successful and can support her family through her business. Chances are there is a thrift store around you that supports a cause, organization, or individual you care about, do a quick internet search to find them and then make them one of your regular stops.
So many frugal habits require giving up something that has given you small happiness. Maintaining your hobbies through economic tough times is a great way to keep the joy in your life, and being able to help those who have little joy at the same time can help you keep the meaning in it as well.