Goodwill: The Poor Man’s Craft Store

Maybe it’s the way I grew up, maybe because it’s because I’ve spent the majority of my adult life pretty damn broke. In any case, I’m super frugal. I’m a master of fiscal efficiency. I get the best I can for the least amount of money possible. It’s partly how I got into crafting and sewing. More than once as a teenager, I took cheap clothes and hand me downs and turned them into something actually wearable. I’ve made more gifts than I’ve bought. This is all especially true of garb and costuming. If it’s something I’m only going to wear one time a year, I’m not spending more than twenty bucks on the whole thing top to bottom. Less if I can finagle it. A little bit of practice, some patience, and a keen eye and you’d be amazed at what you can do for very very little.

This, for example, is a suede purse I found for $2 that I glued some old earrings to and a loop on the back for going through a belt. Now it’s a cute little owl bag with plenty of room for my coin purse, phone, car keys, and a magic wand that an eight year old didn’t want to carry any more.


But we can go bigger than accessories. These are my favorite pieces from earlier this year.

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It was part of our “pop art mages” that we went to the spring faire in. Basically, a weird anime/western RPG mesh that landed fairly well, I think, but might need some more tweaking. Including dying and a little trial and error, both pieces took about an hour. The robey part started as this cotton dress thing but with a white background.


I dyed it green, cut it down the middle, did some shaving and re hemming…BAM! Instant robe. The purple vesty tabard started as a purple sheath dress that wasn’t even my size.


I cut and re-hemmed the sides, adding in some snaps and straps on the side so that it would stay closed but have a cute little cut out effect. I also cut it to about mid-thigh, and, again, re-hemmed. I bought both pieces for $7 each at Goodwill, about a quarter of what that much fabric would cost at a craft store. It also had the added advantage of cutting my actual sewing time down by half, leaving me more time to work on the two other outfits I actually HAD to make from scratch.

The added advantage of doing things like this is that it can help with brainstorming. Sometimes I have an idea, but I can’t quite figure out where I want to go with it. Looking at what’s available to me, I get ideas, little sparks of inspiration that morph the idea into something better and more solid. This vest is the perfect example of this idea in action. Look how pretty it is!

Excuse the potato-ey quality. The shiny fabric was annoying to work with.


It’s a freaking pajama top. Cut off the arms, shortened it, added gold bias tape. Beautiful.

We came across it while trying to build Husband’s “magical pirate” last year. We couldn’t figure out what the hell to do. As mentioned before, pirate mage is tricky, and we were stumped as to a piece that could bring it together. Then we found this silk shirt, and it was like a light went on. I need to fix the bias tape (I messed up when I put it on because I was in a hurry), but it’s one of my favorite pieces in our collection.


You don’t have to do just prefab pieces this way. Goodwill is one of the best fabric shops I’ve ever been to. This funky gypsy-inspired skirt?


Bed sheet. $3 at Goodwill and really comfortable. This, though, was my first foray into this particular field of scavenging, and it’s held up pretty well for five years.


Isn’t it just the prettiest fabric? It’s sleek and shiny, and, because of the way it’s woven, vaguely reversible.

It’s a curtain.

Sixish yards of beautiful brocade rose fabric for $8.99. That’s about a $1.50 per yard. Comparable fabric at Joanne’s runs for, at the minimum, $15 a yard and can be as much as $60 depending on exactly how fancy it is. I was able to make this thigh length vest then have sooooooo much leftover for 10% of the cost of what it would take to buy the fabric from a store.

I’m making a new vest this year, and look at the awesome curtain (for $5, mind you) that I’ll be making it out of.

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Paired with some of the green flower fabric that I still have, it’s going to look really great. And, bonus, the new tan curtain comes with this weird color coordinated lining that will become the lining of the vest. Again, all for the fraction of the price that these things would cost at a fabric store, and it works through the sewing machine and holds up just the same.



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