What to do with ties

A few months back, I became obsessed with ties. I saw a skirt that someone had made out of old ties, and decided that I needed to have one. Thing is…I have no skill with a sewing machine, so the notion of having all these great “tie” things has been dashed (insert big sigh…).

But I am sure many of you have been blessed with the crafty-gene, so here are some great ideas:

OK, really? How adorable is this? Adding this tie detail to the collar of a tee? INGENIOUS!

Love the notion of re-purposing not only ties, but this vintage chair. So cute!

Yes, this dress is made out of ties! Can you imagine? LOVE IT!

This is so creative! What a great holiday gift for that guy who has everything!

This skirt is so cute, and the thing I like the most is the face that the ties don’t look like ties!

Thanks Pinetrest for the images and ideas!

How to Shop at a Thrift Store

One question I get asked quite a bit is “how do your shop at a Thrift Store“?
Well – I’ll tell you – it is a mix of science, research, art and…GOOD LUCK!
Here are some basic tips that will help you as you head out to fill your closets with fab finds for Fall!
1. Be patient The biggest tip I can offer is to be patient!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve frequented stores searching for an authentic vintage Louis Vuitton (anyone out there have one?  message me!).  But many times on those “scouting trips” I find something else amazing…like Gucci sandals, 7 (seven)-jeans, Anthropologie skirt.  All things I would not have in my closet (all for under $20, by the way!) if I hadn’t stopped in searching for that vintage LV.
2. Be ready to dig Think of this kind of shopping like an archeological dig, or treasure hunt.  You really don’t know what you will find until you dig through a lot of other stuff.  This means your Thrift Shop shopping trips may take some time. Be prepared to invest that time. What you invest in time you will save 10-fold in your wallet!
3. Be friendly Everyone who’s worked in a customer service position knows what a big difference one nice person can make in your day. Besides, being nice pays off; in return for your smile the person checking you out might tell you about a 50% off day or suggest a “preferred customer” shopping program!
4. Avoid binging, shop with cash It can be tempting to stock up when you go to a thrift store – I’ve done it, and end up with all kinds of things that end up getting donated back to Goodwill.  If you are on a tight budget, it is wise to seek out sale days, and implement a ‘cash only’ policy.
5. Go in With a Plan Know ahead of time what you need. The organization of each store can be a bit different, and might be overwhelming. So if you go knowing you’re looking for 12-24 month-old boy’s khakis, and size 8 black dress shoes, it can be a lot less stressful.
6. Be Open-Minded That said, keep your eyes open for any surprising deals. It’s hit-or-miss with thrift stores, so sometimes you really hit the jackpot (remember my note above about the Gucci sandals, Anthropologie skirt and 7 (Seven) jeans?). You need to make sure what you find is actually something you need – otherwise, you’re just over buying. Think about unexpected gift ideas. You could find birthday gifts for all your nieces and nephews, or you might find throw pillows in just the right shade your friend is looking for.
7. To Brands or not to brand It is true that there is a coorelation between quality and price – which means know your brands.
8. Try Things On Always try things on. Just because it’s a beautiful silk Ann Taylor skirt doesn’t mean you should buy it. If it doesn’t fit well, then it’s a needless purchase and will only clutter your closet. And different brands size things differently, so you can’t assume anything by the number on the tag.  One last comment on this – many people alter clothes.  Just because the tag says it is a size 10 doesn’t necessarily mean it is a 10.
9. Don’t Go With Kids Sure, you may have to bring them sometimes. But if you’re armed with a detailed list, it can be hard to get much accomplished at a thrift store when you have little ones to watch. Shopping at thrift stores means having to sift through lots of aisles of crammed-full racks. If you have to bring your kids, plan on just shopping one of the store’s sections, and then come back another day to shop the rest.
10. Find Ways To Repurpose Think creatively when you head out to your local Goodwill store. I read about a woman who was looking for a Christmas tree skirt, but she happened upon a perfect vintage tablecloth with red and green flowers. It was thick, durable canvas with a beautiful red fringed border – and it will work better as a tree skirt than she had originally planned.

Shopping Goodwill for Back-to-School

It is hard to believe that summer is coming to a close, but our children will be heading back to school in no time flat. The month before school is always such a busy season of preparations as we stock up on our school supplies, pick our cool character backpacks, get our new school shoes, and select our school uniforms for the year.

Goodwill might not be the first place you think of when you are doing your school shopping, but if you are a family on a budget, it can be a fantastic resource for families during this expensive season in our lives.

Today I wanted to share with you just a few ideas for items to look for at your local store that you may not have thought of before.

Stock Up on a Back-to-School Wardrobe: Goodwill carries loads of name brand items that can get your kid’s year started out in style and with your budget in mind. Name brand jeans, t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, coats, dresses, pants, and leggings can all be found at Goodwill for a lot less than you would pay at the mall.

For stylish girls that need a little persuading to shop at Goodwill first, I recommend having them pull together a style file or poster board with their favorite looks from their favorite magazines for this year’s season. Encourage them to come up with a list of their top pieces that they would like to start the school year out with and challenge them to replicate the looks that they created in their style file with pieces from Goodwill. Issue a fun reward for them if they come under budget like a gift card to their favorite store or even an actual piece from the style file that can add that extra sparkle to their Goodwill wardrobe.

For children that are required to wear uniforms, like my own, Goodwill often has uniform pieces for a fraction of the price than you would pay retail. I keep my kid’s clothing sizes on my phone so when I see a particularly great deal on an item at the store, that I know exactly what sizes to buy when I see them.

Embrace Refashioned Style– Refashioned pieces and handmade accessories are the latest rage this year. You may not think of Goodwill as a fabric store, but I do! No matter what the size of the item, look at the pieces as material to create chic back-to-school accessories out of items that you purchase from the store.

Consider using pieces from Goodwill to make items like a fabric flower pin that could accessorize your daughter’s hair or clothing, try using fabric to create rolled rosette rings for a cute accessory, whip up cute ruffled t-shirts from the clothing at your store, or add a leather label to your son’s backpack or hat with his initials burned in.

Half of the fun for me is thinking outside the box with items that might be overlooked and creating new pieces that will make your children the envy of their classmates. The possibilities are endless at the store and every day is a brand new day with daily donations coming in.

Get Those Back-to-School Papers Organized– The one thing I dread the most about school starting is the unbelievable amount of papers that come home and the homework paper trail that comes with it. Start thinking now about what types of systems you would like to use to control the paper chaos in your home and jot down the items you would like to find at your Goodwill store.

Items like magazine organizers, binders, hooks, storage ottomans, and baskets can be found at the store and I love to really hunt on the sale days for these items. When doing the rest of your back-to-school shopping this year, be sure to visit the Housewares section of the store to see what you can find to house the paper chaos in your home.

Stock Up for Teacher Gifts– I love to spoil our teachers, but I also love to do it on a budget. Goodwill is my favorite store to look for cute elements to add to our teacher gifts throughout the year. The store offers a plethora of gift baskets, mugs that can be painted and filled with treats for our favorite teachers, jars to package our favorite drink mixes, and adorable plastic containers that can be filled with bath salts for a fun gift to give.

You may also be surprised to find that there are many fabulous items that are new and still in their package that could be stored away in your gift closet for the holidays or Teacher Appreciation Day.

I hope this entry gives you just a few fun ideas to begin saving for the back-to-school season with Goodwill. Be sure to take advantage of their wonderful sales and find new ways to save at your store today!

What items do you buy for the back-to-school season at your local Goodwill? We would love to hear what you love to hunt for this time of year! Please share!

What To Do with Old Jeans

I hope my previous post inspired you to NEVER EVER wear Mom-jeans again!  
Remember, I said don’t WEAR them...not don’t purchase them from Goodwill and turn something frumpy into something fabulous!  
Meet Liz.  You might recognize her from her debut on the runway as one of our models from the Little Black Dress Fashion show in April (2010 and 2011).  She loves finding old denim at Goodwill.  The older the better…the more material (in other words, the horrible high waisted kind she LOVES!).  Look at all these great things she has made out of old jeans she has found at our local Goodwill stores!  Now THAT is some serious crafting talent! AMAZING! Check out her creations up close:





Here are some other ideas:

  • Kim said, “I’m searching for great old jeans to make a quilt someday”
  • Leah said, “I love finding old jeans that are about 2-3 sizes too big.  I make them into skirts.  Take the waist, stitch together the legs, cut short and leave the hem frayed…super cute!” 
  • Kris said, “I am locker hooking wit them”
  • Joan said, “My mother quilts with them.”
 There are some great blogs out there with other fund ideas.  Check these out!

What creative ideas do you have in the effort to re-purpose things from Goodwill?  We’d love to hear about them!

p.s. Thanks Liz for allowing us to use some of your photos!

Breathing New Life Into Thrift Store Items

Walking into a thrift store can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. There are so many amazing items on the shelf, but it can be a challenge to look at all of those items and see the potential in these used treasures. Luckily, for those of us that are more thrift store challenged, there are so many great blogs filled with fabulous inspiration for transforming those common thrift store pieces into true masterpieces.
Truly, my best craft materials come from Goodwill and the best part is the money you will save by acquiring those materials at the thrift store rather than paying the full retail prices.

Today I wanted to show three fun new ways to breathe a new life into Goodwill pieces that you may not have thought of. Let’s see if you don’t rush off to the store this minute after this craft inspiration!

Furniture Furniture deals abound at Goodwill and I love to look for pieces that can add a little bit of sparkle to our house. My most prized furniture possessions include an ’80’s desk that we transformed into a hutch for our dishes and a cute bench that was recovered in faux leather for our bathroom. I have more love for those pieces than anything else in my house because they were made by me. It also feels good to know that they are pieces that others overlooked, but I saw the potential in!
Centsational Girl is one of my favorite resources for transforming rooms on a budget and I absolutely love this easy dresser makeover. She purchased the details that were added to the dresser and then finished it with a fun painting technique. This would be the perfect addition to any room and I love that a simple piece can be so lovingly embellished. Think of how paint and a few appliques could transform a piece of Goodwill furniture into something that people would be envious of for their own homes. Any piece with good bones can be created into a masterpiece with a can of paint, elbow grease, and a whole lot of imagination. (Photo Credit: Centsational Girl)

Other fun furniture ideas: Use an old drawer for a serving tray for a family night (@ Farm Chicks)
Makeover chairs in a fun way with a little chalkboard paint (@ Pretty Ditty)
Think outside the box with a fun kitchen stool makeover (@ A Soft Place to Land)
Transform a worn out coffee table into a large ottoman (@ Little Green Notebook)
Create a beautiful kitchen table set from Goodwill furniture (@ Pink and Polka Dot)
A nightstand to a play kitchen is both inventive and inexpensive (@ My Little Gems)
Clothing Refashioned– If there was ever a year to try your hand at adding detail to Goodwill pieces this is the year to do it! This year’s style is all about delicious feminine additions- ruffles, appliques, and rosettes are all beautiful and easy details that you can add to Goodwill pieces to give you that elegant Anthropologie look on a Goodwill budget.
Bloggers everywhere are adding fun details to simple cardigans and this ruffled cardigan from say YES! to Hoboken is one of my favorites. Look for plain cardigans or even shirts that can be cut in half to make a cardigan, and use these pieces to add a little bit of ruffles and fun to your wardrobe. (Photo Credit: say YES! to Hoboken)

Other fun wardrobe refashions:
Transform a shirt into a cute DIY Cardigan with a Twist (@ Happy Together)
Turn a t-shirt into a fun summer tote for the kids (@ giver’s log)
Make an Anthropologie-inspired scarf out of fabric found at Goodwill (@ Sewing in No Man’s Land)
Add a flower collar from clothing or fabric found at Goodwill (@ katie did)
Turn men’s shirt sleeves into quick & easy toddler pants (@ luvinthemommyhood)
Create an unbelievably beautiful DIY J Crew ruffled cardigan (@ Mighty Girl)
Add doilies to a stained cardigan and add a little vintage flair (@ one pearl button)
Whip up an easy ruffled t-shirt (@ Tea Rose Home) Make a summer sweater from a t-shirt (@ Angry Chicken) Housewares With Style– The housewares section at Goodwill is a crafting mecca of ideas and there are tons of great tools for gift giving and creating beautiful crafts for your home. I love to visit this section for pretty baskets, platters for giving treats to friends, organizing tools for my craft storage, and even used craft supplies that someone has lovingly passed down.
One thing I keep an arsenal of is white mugs from Goodwill for a fun craft project with the kids. I let my children use a ceramic paint sets (purchased at the craft store) to decorate them for cute gifts for teachers and grandparents. Of course, I absolutely love anything with a monogram on it and these monogrammed mugs from Design Mom are absolutely beautiful and would make a very cute & creative gift. (Photo Credit: Design Mom)

Other Housewares Recreated:
Create a fun mud pie kitchen for the kids out of vintage housewares (@ Pepper Paints)
Create cute labels out of chalkboard paint to label mason jars (@ Wisdom of the Moon)
Paint mason jars to elegantly decorate your patio (@ tatertots and jello)
Add fabric yo-yos to adorn a wicker basket (@ Tea Rose Home)
Recycled pickle jars get a whole new life with glass candlestick holders (@ eighteen25)
Pull together a tiered cake stand from odds and ends in the housewares section (@ giver’s log).

What have you transformed from Goodwill that you are proud of? Any tips or tricks for things to look for when doing your thrift store shopping? I would love to hear your ideas!

Amy Allen Clark is the Founder of MomAdvice.com, a web community where she shares advice on parenting, money-saving ideas, recipes, and solutions for work-at-home moms. Visit her site for more ideas on ways to live on a frugal budget!