Ever wondered where the best thrift stores are? Here are 60+ favorite spots across North America and Europe!
So you need some pretty fabric for a skirt, a pair of size 7 knitting needles, or a few glass jars to try etching your brand-new designs onto. Stop by a thrift store before you buy spendy new stuff. Thrift stores can be an incredible source of clothes, furniture, fabric, yarn, craft supplies, books–pretty much anything and everything, from 1960s party invitations still in the package to rick-rack in every color! As Jean says in Get Crafty, “Thrifting is one of the great pleasures of the crafty life.”
I think one of the best things about secondhand shopping is the serendipitousness of what you find. The day you’re desperately looking for a pink blazer is when you come home with a 1970s Pfaff sewing machine with all the original accessories, for $10. Then again, the afternoon you really want a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, there’s one on the shelf waiting for you for 69 cents. Maybe you spot a pillowcase from the set you had (and loved!) as a little kid, or a vintage Lilly Pulitzer dress in your size with a half-off tag. Some days you might not see anything good, or you might spot something awesome out of the corner of your eye… in someone else’s shopping cart. Bummer.
The golden (pre-eBay and Antiques Roadshow, sigh) age of thrift stores may be on the wane, but you can still find incredible things if you’re persistent. Independent charity shops in smaller towns can be a gold mine of cool stuff, and are usually far less picked over than chain stores in bigger cities.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:
-Wear a skirt. It’s much easier to change out of quickly in a dressing room than pants are!
-A quick and fairly accurate way to judge if a waistband will fit you is to hold it up to your neck and see if it wraps around. If it does with a little to spare, it will most likely fit your waist.
-Bring cash. Some thrift stores take credit cards or checks, but it is brutal to find incredible stuff and then realize you have no way of paying for it.
-Don’t overpay. Some stores (I’m looking at you, Goodwill) have really started raising their prices, so a t-shirt or book is about as much as it would be new. Look for sales or try other, smaller shops that don’t gouge you! Look for half-off-everything day, or fill a grocery bag for $2.
-If you’re traveling, look in the phone book (or if you’re in a smaller town, ask around or look in the main part of downtown) for thrift stores. My husband and I stopped at a few places along the Oregon coast this summer and found amazing stuff–a vintage Lacoste dress for me, a bunch of great 1940s baseball cards for him.
I asked a bunch of cool crafty women where their favorite thrift and affordable vintage stores were, and got plenty of recommendations. Here they are, sorted by location. I’d love to include yours, just comment with it and I’ll add it on!
Goodwill (with cheap LL Bean returns!)
Boston and Cambridge, MA:
The Garment District
Second Time Around
New York, NY:
New to Nearly New
Junior League Shop
Salvation Army As-Is department
Berkeley Springs, WV:
R.A.G. (Recycled American Goods)
Virginia Beach, VA:
Salvation Army (and lots of others along Virginia Beach Blvd.)
Chapel Hill/Carrboro, NC:
PTA Thrift Shop (3 locations, also in Pittsboro)
St. Pete, FL:
The Brown Elephant
Community Thrift Store
State of Ohio
Village Thrift Store (also throughout the Midwest)
Unique Thrift Store
St. Louis, MO:
Feed My People
Unique Thrift Store
Red, White, and Blue
Tigard and Salem, OR:
San Francisco, CA:
Stop the Clock
San Jose, CA:
Los Gatos, CA:
The Happy Dragon
Battered Women’s Thrift Store
Humane Society Thrift Shop
Los Angeles, CA:
Children’s Hospital Thrift Shop
Out of the Closet
St. Vincent DePaul
All the shops along Walthamstow High Street
Lots of shops along the Boulevard de Clichy
Thanks so much to the indiebrides and craftistas who shared their favorites!!
Susan Beal is a crafty writer and jewelry designer who absolutely loves thrift store shopping.