Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Frugal crafting alternatives.

One thing I am is a die-hard crafter. Honestly, I have yet to meet a craft that I don't like. Plenty I'm not good at, I'll grant you, but I can see use, art, and entertainment in them all.

But how, on a limited budget and an attempt at a frugal lifestyle, can I get my hands on the materials to satisfy my crafty urges? It's not like most of them come cheap, after all! I ball of wool to make a single scarf can cost $8, depending on the brand and the quality of the wool. (And I do mean wool as in the fibre type, not as another way of saying "yarn.")

Thrift stores.

Some thrift stores are good enough to have a small section for actual craft supplies, and this can come in handy, but the downside is that there's no guarantee of finding something for a specific project that you have in mind. It's worth taking a look, if the thrift store you patronize has such a section, but really, there are better and cheaper ways to get your hands on good materials, so long as you know how to look.

The trick is to look in the rest of the store. With a bit of creativity, old clothing can be remade and repurposed into things that most people wouldn't even imagine!

I get most of my yarn for knitting by buying sweaters from thrift stores, unraveling them, and then reknitting the yarn into whatever I so desire. Sometimes I'll overdye the yarn with drink crystals like Kool-Aid, if the yarn is made from animal fibres like wool or angora. In this way I can get a sweater's worth of cashmere, for example, for the same price it may cost me to get a scarf's worth of acrylic, if I were to buy brand-new.

Look in the larger sizes of clothing for the best buys. Some stores price the oversized things at the same cost as the smaller items, so by buying large, you're saving yourself that extra bit of money. That size 22 skirt could be turned into that new pillowcase you've been needed, after all. (And before anyone thinks I'm ragging on large people, I'd like to say that I'm one of them. I could probably wear that size 22 skirt!)

Old second-hand books, if you don't feel like reading them, can be turned into hollow books to conceal little trickets and treasures.

Beaded necklaces can be snipped and just "harvested" for the beads they once held.

Old blouses? New handkerchiefs, and if you personalize it by embroidering an initial in the corner, it makes a wonderful gift option!

My local thrift store often has fabric remnants for really low prices. I once bought enough plain black cloth to make myself two pairs of dress pants, and it only cost me $3.

I once read a story about a woman who bought old fur coats from thrift stores, cut them up, and resewed them into teddy bears. She apparently made quite a tidy living by doing so, and it allowed the fur to not go to waste. Very few people are brave enough to wear furs anymore, and if my thrift store is any indication, half the time the fur coats they have already are ripped or cut up to start with, so nobody could wear them again anyway. Giving the fur new life lessens the blow, a little bit, of the fact that an animal was made to give its life for the sake of fashion. At least it's not going to waste.

A friend of mine once told me he used to buy cheap velvet dresses and gowns at thrift stores, cut them up, and turn them into embroidered pouches to sell to tourists.

Some people buy old wooden furniture from thrift stores, sand them down, give them a new coat of paint, and end up with something that looks as good as if it had just come from a speciality store. Chairs, dressers, you name it. Some thrift stores even sell cans of paint, though those are a little harder to come across than the furniture.

With a creative eye and a mind for frugality, second-hand stores can become so much more than just a place to get cheaper clothing.

In a few days I'll probably also make a follow-up post about crafty things you can do once old clothing wears out, too, to stretch the dollar that much further.

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