Tag Archives: thrift store

Finished Project! Leather Pants!


I think any finished project involving leather pants really needs an exclamation point after it.  Don’t you?  😉

So, I bought these from the thrift store for $15.  They’re made by GUESS, and I think they may have retailed for somewhere in the $150/$200 range (which makes me feel like I got a good deal).

Leather pants revival (Pattern and Branch)

Leather pants with side seams ripped out in preparation for their new look.

I wanted to try sewing leather, so my plan was to turn these into a simple clutch or something like that.  But they were so soft…and nice…and AWESOME, so I changed my mind.  I decided to try to make them fit me, especially considering that leather/stretchy knit pants are currently on trend.  This is a good thing, since they were originally so small I could only pull them up to just above my knees.  So, I spent some Christmas money and got some wool double knit (I took my cue from The Selfish Seamstress.).  It was pricey for me (it doesn’t take much for fabric to seem “pricey” in my world), but man!  That stuff is gorgeous!

So, the short version is that I sewed a strip on each side and it worked, but I was sweating it, I’ll tell you.  This was definitely borderline between craft fail and success there for awhile.  When it comes to fitting clothing, I really don’t know what I’m doing.  I cut some extra wide strips of the double knit, sewed elastic into the top, and then sewed the back seams of the side panels.  Then, I laid my favorite jeans on top to get an idea of the shape on the sides.

 "Fitting" the leather pants (Pattern and Branch)

Somehow, what I came up with didn’t seem wide enough, so I extended the shape out 1.5 inches on each side to where I had decided I wanted to sew the double knit waistband section to the pants front.  Then, I went for it, leaving the bottoms unfinished so I could try them on before hemming.

They seemed to fit pretty well, so I hemmed the pants and finished sewing the leg seams.  I wasn’t sure about the length, which is perfect if you have a bit of a heel, but a little long without one, but after wearing them tonight with some flat shoes, I think they are alright as they are.  I still need to fix up the lining inside, but on the whole, I love these pants!  They aren’t perfect or even the most flattering pants in the world, but I went for it, it worked well enough to wear, and I have leather pants now!  How cool is that?

Here are some finished photos.

Leather pants revival (Pattern and Branch)

 Leather pants revival (Pattern and Branch)

And just in case you needed an idea of what to wear when you go OUTSIDE in your leather pants, may I propose this?

Leather pants revival (Pattern and Branch)

Doesn’t everyone need a faux fur coat to go with their leather pants?

Leather pants revival (Pattern and Branch)

Yes, everyone DOES need a faux fur coat to go with their leather pants.

Hm, that coat is supposed to be material for another project, but I’m starting to sort of like it as is, so we’ll see.  We wouldn’t want to keep things too normal around here, would we?  😉


Thrift Store Treasures: Take It or Leave It (Part 3)


Today is the last in our series on shopping the thrift store (read Parts 1 and 2 at these links).  I’m holding back all my thoughts on flea markets for another time, so as not to overwhelm you all.  😉

One of the important things to consider when thrifting is what is too far gone to take home.

Things to leave behind

I try to check each garment over before I buy it to make sure there are no holes or worn spots that are more than I am willing to deal with.  Sometimes I forget and usually it’s fine, but I’m always glad when I remember.  No one wants to buy new looking corduroy pants only to discover that the crotch area is almost worn away or there are iron marks and puckers on the nice black dress pants that fit so well.

Thrifting with Pattern and Branch, Part 3

I remembered to check over these Lucky Brand corduroy pants before buying–good as new.  Score!

I also try to do a sniff test to determine if there is a bad smell that might not come out.  Some smells will come out with washing and wearing, but not all of them, so make sure you can live with the smell if it has one.  I’d vote to turn down really bad body odor or something that smelled like urine (probably a good general principle, right?   😛  )  I have bought things that smelled like cigarette smoke or like an attic and after washing and then wearing them for awhile, the smell has come out.  Just decide ahead of time if you are willing to risk it.

Another thing to check for is stains.  Make sure that if it has a stain, you can live with it if it doesn’t come out, because it may not.  OxyClean works wonders, but it can’t conquer everything.

Check the garment care instructions.  Are you willing to dry clean it?  I’m often not, so I take the risk of running it through the washer.  Usually that turns out ok, but not always…(I’m still sad about the J.Crew sweater I felted.  I guess it’s in the “raw materials” category now.)

Thrifting with Pattern and Branch, Part 3

This was once a fluffy J.Crew sweater. Now it’s felted wool for another project.

Finally, if you don’t really love something or it’s just too far gone, don’t buy it.  It may only be a few dollars, but it’s not worth it if you won’t wear it.  Those few dollars could be spent on something you love more.  And if you get in one of those moods where you think, “This seems awesome, but I just don’t feel like spending the money on it, even though it’s inexpensive”, don’t buy it.  Put it back.  Walk away.  It’s ok to say no.  There will be other gems, even if you pass this one up.

I hope you find lots of treasures on your adventures.  If you have any stellar thrift store tips, I would love to hear them.

Here’s a little look back through pictures from past posts that feature items from the thrift store or flea market.

Thrift Store Shopping: Plan of Attack (Part 2)


This week, we’re talking about strategies for shopping at thrift stores.  In the last post, I talked about what I look for when I go into a thrift store.  Today, we’re going to talk about organizing your time while you’re there.

Strategies for getting in and out.

When I can, I go thrifting kid-free.  That often means I don’t have as much time, but I can be much more efficient.  If you don’t have this luxury, I suggest bringing entertainment with you (I have utilized an iPad when fabric shopping, and it was totally worth it!).  Another option is to find a toy for your child to play with while in the store.  It’s up to you if it goes home with you or not.  A little time lost to the toy section is usually worth it if it buys you shopping time.

When my time is limited (or even when it’s not), I go in with an idea of what sort of item (or items) I am looking for.  Here’s a sample of a longer list for me:

*look at sheets for cute vintage prints or decent knit fabric

*look in boot section for motorcycle boots

*slim/skinny jeans, dark wash

*long, men’s sweaters

Thrifting with Pattern and Branch, Part 2

Sometimes, my list is as minimal as looking through the pants section for black dress pants.

When I go in, I visit each section without spending too much time.  Sometimes I get bogged down deliberating, so I make myself move on either by saying I can come back later if there is extra time (knowing that there often isn’t) or just making myself walk away.  If there is something I think I might really love, I throw it in the cart to make a final decision later.  When I get to a section where I am going to have to try on clothing, I try to go through the items quickly and put whatever I think I might want to try on in my cart, trusting my gut reaction on whether or not I think I like something.  I also try to put things in that might not normally be my first choice on the rack, knowing that they may look different when I am wearing them.

Then I go to the dressing room and try things on quickly, going with my instincts.  If I can tell I’m making myself say yes to something because “it’s such a good deal” or I “should” get it for some reason, I try to stop thinking that way and put it back.  Most likely, I won’t wear it.  If I’m really not sure, I set it aside to try it on once more at the end.  When I find something I love right away, I put it in another pile.  Then I retry the “maybes” and make my choices.

Thrifting with Pattern and Branch, Part 2

Cozy men’s fleece-lined flannel: love at first sight

I used to agonize and deliberate more, and then get stressed because all my time was slipping away.  However, after reading the book How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, (which is a great book that helps you know when to go with your gut and when to deliberate), I realized that because I had tried clothes on for many years, I could safely go with my instincts, and I started making a point of doing that.

If you happen to be at a thrift store where there are no dressing rooms, I recommend wearing leggings and a tank top as your base layer so you can try clothes on over your clothes.  Another option is to take your measurements and bring along a tape measure.  It’s more of a gamble that way, but it’s an option.

Finally, once I’ve tried everything on, I do a mental tally of my total cost to make sure it’s not more than I want to spend.  If it is, I go through and rule out the things that seem less necessary or desirable.

In the next (and last) post on thrifting, we’ll talk about knowing what to leave behind when making your final choices.

My Friend, the Thrift Store (Part 1)


The thrift store is my friend.  We have a close relationship.  I visit often and bring it gifts from our home, and it gives me gifts, too.  In fact, the gifts my thrift store has given me make up the backbone of my wardrobe.  My sister and I began “thrifting” when we were in high school.  We had a route of really good (i.e. really cheap) thrift stores that we would visit from time to time.  I think this dismayed my father, not because he’s against thrift stores in any way but because, being a tomboy, I came back with some “interesting” finds (old man adjustable waistband pants—which I still say were awesome, orthopedic looking shoes probably from the ‘70’s, etc.).  I still stand by these purchases, but I will admit that they probably didn’t do much for me.   :0)

Some of my better finds have included an authentic military pea coat for $25, a free surfboard, free Dr. Martens shoes, a vintage hat in perfect condition, Guess leather pants for $15 (these may make an appearance on the blog as I’m “transforming” them), Marimekko pillowcases (free), a Burberry plaid scarf (free),  a new L.L.Bean toiletries bag for $3, a new looking Brooks Brothers shirt dress for $10, and on and on.  (Full disclosure:  we have a “free” thrift store near us where you can take whatever you want, so maybe that’s cheating a bit, but it just feels like an extra good deal to me.)

Over the years, I discovered new thrift stores, tried out new styles, and came up with some strategies for visiting these treasure troves…strategies that really came into focus once I had children and had to develop time management skills when shopping.  I can really wax eloquent (some might say long-winded, but we’ll stick with eloquent) when it comes to finding deals at these venues, so we’ll break this subject up into a few posts, and maybe even go more in depth on the subject of antique shopping somewhere down the road.

Here are my thrifting philosophies.  Hopefully they’ll help you as well.  These apply to thrift stores and generally to antique-type flea markets.

Ask yourself what you are looking for.

I look for things in three categories:

1.  Useable now

Thrifting with Pattern and Branch

Brooks Brothers dress and trendy boots, ready to wear after washing!

Look for clothing or other items in good condition—once you wash them, you can use them.  This is also a great place to look for trendy items if you want to try out a fad, but don’t want to invest much money in it.

2.  Needs only small repairs

Thrifting with Pattern and Branch

This vintage dress needed only small alterations. The Italian sweater was ready to go after cleaning.

How much are you willing to do to this item to make it work?  I will happily replace a button.  Sometimes I’m willing to hem something.  The more excited I am about a piece, the more I’m willing to do to make it work, but if I just don’t feel like doing the repair, or if it seems like it’s in such bad shape that it’s not even worth the low price, I leave it.

3.  Raw materials for use in other projects

Thrifting with Pattern and Branch

Sheets and pillowcases ready to be made into something “new”.

Look for things you can make into other things.  I nearly always look through the sheets.  They provide a lot of fabric for a low price.  They are great as a stand-in for muslin if you like to make practice versions of a garment before sewing a final product.  Vintage sheets and pillowcases can also make cute pillowcase dresses for little girls, skirts and shirts for adults, etc.  Also look for leather garments if you want to try sewing clutches, leather details on clothing, or other small items.  I even found a large faux fur coat that I hope to transform into a pullover a la The Selfish Seamstress (hopefully I’ll be able to show you the finished product as a success and not a craft fail).

In the next post we’ll talk about using time as efficiently as possible, so you can maximize your shopping experience.