Once upon a time, crafting was frugal. Handmade gifts had more heart, but they also saved you some cash. If you wanted new clothes, you usually saved up for your Sunday best or you made it yourself (sometimes both!). Of course, this was in the days before fast fashion, where things were made for cheap in China and sold at a (sometimes) loss at big box stores like WalMart and Target.
Like many things that have changed over the years, crafting is no longer a necessity, but a luxury- a luxury of time and money. There’s no other reason that giant warehouses are dedicated to crafting and sewing (as opposed to being a small segment of a department or dry good store)- it makes money. Like, lots of it.
If any of us have entered a JoAnn’s or Michaels in the last decade intending to just buy a bag of buttons and left with a cart full of holiday scrapbooking paper, Martha Stewart glitter, fifty skeins of merino wool and an assortment of other goodies that are more “art and fun” than “necessity,” we know it’s an expensive venture.
Handmade gifts are still extra special to make or receive- but it’s no longer cheaper than buying something premade from the store (well, rarely!) If you want to get craft supplies for cheap or free, read on.
Sewing For Cheap: How To Get Fabric For Free Or Really Cheap-
Use Fabric That’s Not Sold On A Bolt:
Isn’t the wall of fabrics in a craft store the most gorgeous thing you’ve laid eyes on? So many fun patterns, colors and textures…also a lot of markups!
To save money- repurpose fabric from other sources. You can find sheets, duvet covers, table cloths, curtains and placemats on clearance you just have to reimagine them…best of all, some of them already have a hem or buttons you can work off of.
Resize & Repurpose:
If you’re new to sewing, you may need to follow patterns and start with regular ol’ fabric. If you’re a bit more experienced, you can upcycle. If you’re a fan of garage sales and thrift stores, you can upcycle with little risk. Denim from jeans is a great medium to make into skirts, purses, cosmetics bags and aprons.
Holiday decor (think sparkly tablecloths or tree skirts) can be repurposed into princess costumes for the little ones… (Elsa from Frozen anyone? I saw a ton of great holiday decor that could have made awesome Frozen costumes for little ones this year!)
The best crafts are ones that that don’t come from a tutorial, but the random ones you creatively repurpose from your brain- say from a snowflake tree skirt you previously only envisioned as a snowflake tree skirt but now rocks as an Elsa costume or adorable apron.
Download Apps To Get Deals:
If you haven’t downloaded RetailMeNot or your fave craft store’s app, why haven’t you? I use apps to save money all the time and it doesn’t require clipping or remembering to bring your coupons!
This is my list of my favorite apps to save you money. I literally use these apps all the time and without clipping coupons, you can save 20% or more simply by clicking a coupon from your phone- no printing needed! Open the app while you’re waiting in line to check out, it’s that fast.
Their Trash Is Your Treasure:
How many of us bought craft supplies we don’t need? Yes, all of us. When we remodel or relocate, we want our sparkles and baubles to go to a good home. Do a quick search of Freecycle, Craigslist or Ebay for the biggest scores. Usually, people unload craft supplies and fabric in mass here. Sometimes, you may just have to pay shipping, other times, it’s free!
Honestly, you can find lots of stuff (I mean “lots” as in groupings sold as such, not just oodles) that include complete kits to quilt with, matching skeins of yarn from the same dye lot, or of course, just oodles and oodles of beads. When people discover they no longer like knitting or buying the entire aisle of needlepoint supplies, they may want to get rid of it en masse. We’ve all been there- chances are you can score these craft supplies or fabric for cheap or free.
Garage Sales & Thrift Stores:
This one explains itself, and is a good option if you have time to spend (you know, time that you won’t be crafting) and you never know what you’ll find. I’ve had better luck with garage sales for craft supplies. Usually, someone’s moving and needs to unload a giant tupper full of yarns, fabric, glitter and supplies all at once so you can snag a hodge podge of awesome for cheap.
Garage sales are a bit better for groups of stuff- giant bins of matching yarn, near full bolts of fabric. Thrift stores, depending on how well they’re organized might be better for one-off stuff, like random assortments,but work well if you need random vintage buttons you can buy in a bag for $1 or those interesting little bits of surplus lace.
People Are Helpful Hoarders, Ask ‘Em To Donate:
Crafters have a rep, people want to give us stuff. Chances are, you won’t even have to peruse the interwebs to find folks that are trying to unload a stash of craft they don’t want. Your friends on Facebook, Twitter & real life probably have supplies that are collecting dust and causing them serious guilt (WHY did I buy two gallons of mod podge for my wedding crafts? Excessive!) Ask and ye shall receive! Plus, many folks will be happy to declutter and help a fellow crafter out.
Many times, when I’ve needed something, I’ve posted a simple status update on Facebook. (If you need it local or the ask is general). When something was more specific, or I was going out of my zipcode to get something, I’ve tweeted it. Chances are, someone out there has stuff to unload and they’ve held onto it because they wanted to give it a good home- like that adorable stack of fat quarters they bought to make a baby quilt and the baby is now entering grade school. They feel the fabric was too expensive and nice to simply throw away or donate to a stranger, they’d rather give it to a friend- that friend, my friends, is you. Simply ask!
Get Better Deals (& Free Shipping) On Amazon & Daily Deal Sites
I heart craft shopping on Amazon, I can just put stuff in my cart when I remember it and batch orders. Whenever I have to place an order and need to meet the $35 free shipping minimum (for those of us without Prime), I will stock up on craft supplies I go through pretty regularly… knock-off ink cartridges, glitter, cardstock and washi tape. I also usually will throw in things I know I’ll need for craft projects later or don’t feel like carrying home from the store, like shoebox tuppers, mason jars and paint pens.
One of my favorite sites to get craft supplies is Zulily. Seriously- they regularly have craft room organizational supplies, Martha Stewart crafts, Fujifilm, Canon and other odds and ends to restock or reorganize with. What I love about this site, is just like with Amazon, you can stock up on others stuff you need- but with Zulily you get free shipping on as many orders as you want (if you notice something later in the day) until midnight.
So usually, I’ll see that Martha Stewart craft supplies are up that day, and I’ll also get a few baby shower gifts, tights for fall and a few stocking stuffers for later in the year. I love that I can get sports shirts for my dad, workout gear for me, and craft supplies on one site with some of my favorite brands. Huzzah!