Finding Crafty Treasures at Flea Markets, Estate Sales, and Thrift Stores

comments (3) November 7th, 2008     

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susanstars Susan Beal, contributor
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These handmade doilies and vintage thread spools were all tucked into a ziploc bag for $1 at a neighborhood estate sale.
Heres a rack full of necklaces just waiting to be taken apart for your next jewelry-making project at the Rose Bowl flea market.
These handmade doilies and vintage thread spools were all tucked into a ziploc bag for $1 at a neighborhood estate sale.

These handmade doilies and vintage thread spools were all tucked into a ziploc bag for $1 at a neighborhood estate sale.

Photo: Susan Beal

While we've been talking about crafting and the current economy this week, I've been thinking about some of my favorite sources for affordable secondhand, vintage, and reusable craft supplies: flea markets, thrift stores and estate sales. Here are a few tips and ideas for hunting for just the thing for your next project!

November is a great time to go browse at your local thrift store. They are usually mobbed in October with people looking for Halloween costumes, which is great, but can be quite crowded! Look for vintage linens, old jewelry, stashes of sewing or other craft supplies, and garments to rework or alter. On sale days, you can get deals on certain departments or tag colors, and some shops even offer a discount if you also donate some of your own stuff. Many thrift stores support charities or recycle un-saleable materials, a nice bonus.

Local flea markets and swap meets can be an outstanding source of the same kinds of good craft materials, too. Indoor events are often held year-round, perfect for fall craft-supply shopping. You can often bargain with vendors, too -- especially if you're interested in several items from the same booth. If you're in Southern California this weekend, head over to Pasadena on Sunday for my all-time favorite, the Rose Bowl flea market.

And check your local newspaper or craigslist for estate sale listings, too. Unlike summer-centric outdoor yard and garage sales, many people host in-house sales all winter long. The real bonus is when you find a house with a packed sewing or craft room and all kinds of cool stuff for sale! If it's a multi-day sale, the last day is often half-off or make-an-offer. And rummage sales are also potential goldmines, especially when you can fill a whole bag for a set price. You never know what you're going to find on those big long tables!

General tips:

-Bring cash with you, especially 1s and 5s. Some thrift stores or estate sales accept checks or credit cards, but it's an awful feeling to fall in love with a vintage dress or ziploc bag of old jewelry and be short on ready money.

-If you bargain, be respectful about it, and don't be offended if the seller doesn't want to adjust the price for you. Sometimes you'll get an enthusiastic yes, other times the price is firm. It never hurts to ask nicely.

-Check your items carefully for any visible damage -- returns are not usually an option.

-Bring your own bags along, just like at the grocery store.

-A few other handy things to have are a measuring tape, a water bottle, and your bank card for a last-minute ATM run -- you never know when you're going to find a big-ticket item like a sewing machine that you can't live without!

What are your tips for happy secondhand shopping?

posted in: vintage, Craft supplies, thrift store, reusable, flea market, estate sale, rummage sale, secondhand, bargain

Comments (3)

MammaButterfly writes: You have to know what the new item cost is before you buy at a thrift store. Sometimes the thrift store price is not much of a bargain, especially when the used price is as much as the new price or even more. Still the thrift store and flea market are some of my favorite places to shop at.
Posted: 11:09 am on December 3rd
mommaviv writes: My girls and I get a lot of our crafting supplies at our local thrift stores. I've been able to get complete embroidery kits, for around $3, frame included. At this time of year when I am making handmade ornements as gifts I can get big bags of yarn, embroidery floss or fabric scraps for about $2 as well. This makes it easy to remember everyone on my growing gift giving list.
Posted: 12:04 am on November 9th
craftivist writes: my favorite tip is to check the "last chance" bin - i'm always amazed at what i've found. also, getting to know employees at your favorite secondhand shops is a great way to find out when they put out new merchandise (some stores by us only do so once a week) or even get certain items held back for you!
Posted: 4:43 pm on November 7th
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