Once upon a time, crafting was frugal. Handmade gifts not only had more heart, but they also saved you some cash. Of course, this was in the days before 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!) so you have to be smarter about your purchases to ensure you get what you need and save as much money as you can on craft supplies.
If you want to get craft supplies for cheap or free, read on.
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.
If you do have a very specific project in mind and need fabric that won’t be sold as remnants, you can save cash by shopping in bulk. One of my favorite sites to do this is Fabric.com that offers 5% discounts for 2-14 yards, 15% off for 15-34 yards and 20% off for orders of 35+ yards.
Fabric.com is great because they offer a lot of character prints and very trendy pieces- not just plain cottons or synthetics. They also offer notions and patterns, so you can get just about everything you need for a project in one order.
If you are not using Ebates now, it’s a great way to get money back on your favorite shops. There truly are times you can’t cut corners and need to get certain craft supplies that may or may not be on sale. It is one of the easiest and well-known ways to save cash when shopping online. You get money back for shopping at tons of retailers, including some craft stores.
Plus, you can also get a bonus for signing up. So- regardless if Michael’s has a sale or not, you can stack the savings by using a service like Ebates to get cash back on your craft supplies.
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 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.
One of my favorite sites to get craft supplies is Zulily. Seriously- they regularly have craft room organizational supplies, Martha Stewart crafts, Cricut, Canon and other odds and ends to restock or reorganize with. Plus, 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, and a few stocking stuffers to stock up on for the holidays. 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. It’s exciting that you never know what you’ll find.
Additionally, your local yarn shops might have deals on sites like Groupon. In my city, I’ve found stellar deals with our local quilting shops for classes and also some of those fun “sip and sew” classes to sign up for with friends. These make great gifts or to keep on hand when you want to enjoy them!
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!)
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.
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.
While most of us love to shop Etsy to get truly unique craft supplies, have you ever considered starting you won Etsy store?
This one is a bit more involved than using an app or asking around, but starting a shop can help you acquire new skills, save money and even earn some side hustle cash. Starting your own Etsy store will take some research, but if you need supplies you use regularly- why not buy in bulk and sell what you don’t need?
Starting a side hustle can bring in some income, be a tax write off and also save you cash on the supplies you use the most frequently. In the past I’ve sold some of my bulk supplies on Ebay or to friends, but scaling up to a full-fledged shop will help you take advantage of the steepest bulk discounts and also could be a fabulous passion project even if you work full time and have other things going on!
Many times, when I’ve needed something, I’ve posted a simple status update on Facebook or searched local Facebook groups for things. “Buy Nothing” groups are great for this!
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!