They’ve already been in here in other categories, and it’s for good reason. Curtains are fantastic sewing supplies at thrift stores because of all that yardage!
Pass by the super polyester sheers and look out for the heavier weight natural fiber curtains. Use them for jackets, aprons, skirts, and dresses.
I even found a heavy canvas curtain recently that I’ve been using as sew-in interfacing for bags. 3 yards of 72″ wide canvas for $2? No-brainer!
9. Silk Scarves
While finding actual yardage of silk may be the thrift store equivalent of finding a unicorn sitting on a pot of gold, you will absolutely have no problems finding vintage silk scarves at the thrift store.
Silk scarves are a special category of vintage fabric! There’s so many beautiful florals and geometrics in old silk scarves!
You can incorporate your silk scarf into a top like I did on this sleeveless raglan tee, or cut it up and use it for appliques. Shoot, some of my favorite silk scarves are so nice, that I use them as wall art. I get asked about this one in my house all the time. It was $3!
10. Men’s shirts
I offer this one with a warning. There’s a lot of men’s shirts that are not 100% natural fibers. Avoid those polyester blends–they don’t sew or press well, and they will have more cardboardy drapes than their natural fiber counterparts.
That disclaimer aside, men’s shirts are excellent fabric sources. Men don’t need darts, so there’s more available width in any given shirt, and don’t forget the buttons! There are so many buttons, especially on long sleeve shirts with cuffs!
Here’s an eclectic shirt dress from shirts.
11. Maxi dresses and maxi skirts
I think there’s a big misconception out there that if you choose a garment to refashion, you should always go for the biggest possible size.
Nope. What IS important is getting as wide as possible goods that are as long as possible. Why? More. Yardage.
Enter maxi dresses and maxi skirts. They are the Fort Knox of usable fabric. All that length is going to give you so many more options when you go to cut your fabric. Capitalize on all that beautiful length and refashion a maxi dress into an asymmetric top.
Denim is probably the most common fabric you can find to use at the thrift store. It’s so hard-wearing and there’s so many colors, that it will always be a sewing supply at thrift stores worth seeking out.
And always, always look for bright colored denim. It’s hard to find pretty colored denims in yardage like I used for this sea glass denim jacket, but colored denims are quite common in charity shops.
Most handbags that you find at any given thrift store are in rough shape. They’re lumpy and sad, and otherwise pitiful looking, but they hold a hidden treasure: hardware!
It’s always worth your time to look out for good hardware on old bags. This handbag from Goodwill has 6 different heavy duty buckles, and it was $1. That’s crazy bananas cheap and they’ll make great centerpieces for belts or a new handbag. There’s also cool faux leather zipper pulls on it I can reuse.
14. Vintage Sewing Tools and vintage sewing notions
This is another category of sewing supplies at thrift stores to be excited about, but also a hair cautious.
You’ll notice that some vintage sewing notions like zippers, thread, and some trims will deteriorate over time. If it looks long in the tooth, it probably is, so pass it by. If a zip has a hard time opening, do you really want to put that on a garment?
Do go for vintage buttons, cover buttons, snaps, and shoot, pick up that vintage thread anyhow. Old thread isn’t good to sew seams with since it will likely snap on you, but it’ll make great hand basting thread. And for Pete’s sake, if you find Ginger Snaps like the ones in the pic, buy all of them. They’re literally the best pearl snaps I’ve ever used, plus they have weird 70’s pics on the cards.
Also, if you see old sewing tools like Tailor’s Hams, vintage hem markers, clappers, or sewing boxes, those can be a great addition to your sewing room.
Oh boy leather. There’s so many things you can sew with leather, but it’s not the easiest fabric to work with.
If you’re looking to practice your leather skills before you commit to buying $200 worth of leather to make a legit leather jacket, the thrift store has your back.
Grab that old handbag you scavenged for hardware, and use the faux leather or real leather it’s made out of and cut out a simple bag to practice your skills. A 7 minute DIY zipper bag would be a great place to start with leather! That $1 bag can go a long way towards helping you gain some confidence with leather.
So that’s a pretty exhaustive list of sewing supplies at thrift stores you can always be hunting. For different secondhand fabric supplies to look out for, be sure to check out my blogging buddy Emilee from Mama Needs a Project. She has a different perspective on this topic than me, and I think you’ll enjoy it!
For lots of helpful refashioning advice + 12 full step by step tutorials, check out:
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.