Thrifting for Plaids and Denim

I’m a bargain shopper, an expert thrifter. Who doesn’t love getting a great deal and reusing things instead of just always buying new!? Well this mindset can certainly be applied to fabric shopping. With cotton prices sky-rocketing, maybe you’ll head to Goodwill for your next fabric fix like I do! Naturally, there are certain kinds of fabric that you can only find at quilt shops, but some types thrift stores have an abundance of- like plaids and denim!

I’m talking about cutting up shirts or dresses. I look for the largest sizes I can, to get the most fabric for the cost. Typically I also only buy the color tag that happens to be on sale that week. In Iowa, years ago when I first started buying plaid shirts and denim dresses from Goodwill I would go there on quarter days! I was getting beautiful plaid shirts (which I planned to cut up into 5″ squares) for a quarter!

Now this may seem crazy to you- cutting up a perfectly good shirt- but believe me, I am saving them! After being clearanced out at Goodwill they would have likely been donated and used as rags. This way, these lovely plaids get to be showcased in a quilt! In my last book, Nickel Quilts & Borders, I included a quilt made out of completely recycled plaids and denims- Hickory Hills (shown above).

Large panels are the easiest to cut up, which makes the back of the shirt most “valuable.” I simply cut around the seams with a scissors or rotary cutter and then cut it into squares or strips- a lot like cutting up a fat quarter. The front panels are also useful, but can be a little tricky. I usually cut around the pocket and save the buttons- you never know, they might come in handy some time.

And also, while you’re hunting through thrift stores for good plaids, you might even find something you want to wear! A few years ago when vintage western shirts (the kind with the pearl snaps) started becoming popular, my daughter Roxie asked me to start looking for them while thrifting. I’ve found loads of them, and can’t use them in quilts since they all tend to be polyster blends, but I’ve made Roxie and her friends very happy- supplying them with vintage shirts that cost only a fraction of what they would if bought elsewhere!

Now, don’t go sifting through your husband’s wardrobe looking for shirts to cut up- go save those ones from your local thrift store! Just think of it as Green Quilting!

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