I thrifted it: Or I didn’t notice something was wrong until I got home

Has this ever happened to you? It’s happened to me countless times. And for some reason or another (no returns, too lazy to return, bought it while in another city, etc.), you just can’t return it. You’re left with a few choices – throw it away, leave it in the back or bottom of a closet for oblivion, or do something about it!

I am a huge proponent of fixing things yourself! Of course it’s a little bit easier if you have the right tools (lucky to have my own sewing machine!), but you’d be surprised how easy it may be to fix some things yourself.

First off, ew. Most times if I can see the stain in the store, and can’t identify it’s nature, I may just leave it. But crap, you already have it at home : you may as well do something about it! Thank heavens for the internet and its bountiful resources – Lifehacker (one of my favorite websites) has a great roundup of ‘how to remove stains‘ links. But honestly, most stains, although gross – may not be that big of a problem (most of the time it may just be food!) Give a gentle soak first, and if still needed, wash in the machine. I’d do a cold run, since hot water tends to set stains. Paint stains like the photo above, may be goners – but even so, if you don’t mind a little paint, maybe you could do some more splatters! (I actually have a pair khaki pants I need to do this to after I got spray paint on them). Dish soap is also a great stain remover.

Holes or rips
I would say holes or rips may in fact be the most common problem you may encounter when you get home. After you’re done punching the air, figure out your next step. You can either close the hole or cover it up! Depending on which type of fabric, you will have different approaches. FIRST and most important, if you don’t already have one, get yourself a little sewing kit. They’re cheap, and will provide you with needles of various sizes for different tasks. If you’re sewing up the hole, you will have to find thread that’s the closest possible color. Most craft stores have them, it doesn’t have to be a perfect match, because you’ll be sewing from the backside, but you want to get close.  Knit fabrics, although daunting may be the easiest. This tutorial is great! The idea is to grab all the loops with your needle so that they don’t unravel even more. For other fabrics, you can almost do the same thing, just kind of thread through one end and close up the hole from the backside.

If you want to get really creative, there are lots of online tutorials for felting or patching holes. I mean, look how awesome this sweater looks! Or how these pins have covered up some would be holes too.

Button issues
Uh oh, there’s a button missing! What do I do? Luckily, most often retailers are smart about missing buttons and will provide an extra button for you in the tags. Always check there first, and more often than not there will be a spare button for you! If there isn’t one or the tags have been cut off, don’t despair, most buttons are basic and can be matched online or at a craft/sewing store. But if you have special buttons or none match, then why not replace all the buttons! Again, with your handy sewing kit (which may have some spare buttons too) and this little how to sew a button tutorial. You can add, switch, or tighten any buttons!

Many times, I’ve fallen in love with a dress at the store, and after I wash it I want to wear it immediately and only then notice the hem has fallen! Ugh. I will admit in my very lazy days and in a quick hurry I have stapled a hem because I needed to go (I have even heard of people gluing,  but I would never suggest this as you’ll probably just ruin it beyond repair after). But this is pretty easy to fix too – if you have a sewing machine you can stitch it up pretty fast of course. But since most people don’t, you have some solutions. Start with matching thread, again with your sewing kits you can do a straight across stitch easily. You can also buy iron on hem tape that will hold your hem in place as a double-sided tape would – although it’s typically a temporary solution. Fixing the hem will also work if you realize the hem is just too long or maybe too short (and there’s some room to let it out).

You can use these same tips to repair any unraveling or ripped seams (think sleeves, or on side seams). It’s an easy fix because you’re repairing right along the seams, unlike holes which can be all over. Your repair work will rarely be visible.

Broken zipper
This may be the toughest to fix – but taken that your zipper isn’t missing a tooth, you may just need some strong hands and a few tricks, but you can fix some zippers again. There are lots of online tutorials on how to do it (one and another). Sometimes you can sew a tiny bit to cover up the part that was broken, some people cut the zipper out and sew in buttons! You can actually get pretty creative in different ways to fix it that don’t require adding a whole new zipper (which sucks, even I can’t do that).

Hole in jeans
A frustrating problem, cause you probably already have a bunch of jeans with holes at home! But good news, depending on the color of your jeans, there may be several ways to fix your jeans (plus save a few of those at home that needed some TLC too).

How well you want to mend is all up to you. Some people like to cover up rips so that they become invisible. Others like the look of some rips or patches. This type of repair almost always requires a sewing machine – you take a piece of fabric or another piece of denim and attach it to the backside (inside out) and then on the forward side sew back and forth & across in a crosshatch pattern until you’ve mostly covered up and reinforced the hole. This is a fantastic tutorial with the sewing machine. Of course this works the best when the denim is of a solid color – and even then, you have to find thread that matches your color.

Alternatively, some people don’t mind holes in their jeans (I am not one of them). Pinterest seems to have lots of cool ideas on patching denim if that’s a route you don’t mind going.

When to give up
Even I will admit that there are some times when there are things you may not be able to do – whether it’s the type of  fabric or just missing the materials. I have a batch of things I bring my mom to fix occasionally when I visit her because her sewing machine is better than mine, she has endless thread and zipper colors, plus she’s infinitely better than me at sewing and mending. If you have a friend that does know how to sew, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for help – but if they agree, please be kind and buy matching thread or the buttons needed. This has happened to me several times where people expect me to spend my money to buy supplies to fix your things. Um, no.

Many people also don’t realize that Dry Cleaners often offer tailoring services as well.

I hope these tips come in handy for you thrifters, but realize that these tips may also help you save some things at home that were sitting in a pile already waiting to get fixed! Get creative! I know many people today don’t think they have time or energy to do work themselves for whatever reasons (often because it’s just cheaper to throw something out and but another new product). But shopping responsibly, and taking care of & mending your clothes will increase their lifetimes in your wardrobe.

The world of thrift: or why I go thrifting

Let me state the obvious here, my blog is called Thrift Eye. I used to thrift all the time, and I’ve refined it to about once a week if I can afford to and have time. I hope I’m not giving the impression to you guys that I’m one of those bloggers that’s shopping all the time. I window shop a lot, and then I use that as inspiration for when I thrift. (I also want to say that I don’t only thrift, but it does make up about 75% of the clothing I ever buy).

I will give you an example from today- I spent months drooling over this Madewell dress, but could never justify spending that much on a dress. If you can, that’s perfectly fine. But she sure is a pretty dress.

And while thrifting today at a Goodwill, I came upon this dress, and it’s by J.Crew.

So you guys know that Madewell is owned by J.Crew right? Not only did I save retail price from the Madewell dress, I saved it from the J.Crew one too –  my dress was $8. I waited, waited, waited and in the end found a dress that was pretty similar. I’m very  happy with it. Now I can’t wait to wash it and wear it.

I’m constantly reminded why I thrift, why I named this whole thing Thrift Eye six years ago. I dug through my archives to find a very old post about my “thrifting rules.” I made several bullet points about the whole world of thrifting. I re-read the rules and altered them to fit how I shop and dress now-

Set yourself a kind of routine to check out. I typically start by looking at the shoes, work my way to purses and accessories, furniture/home accessories, and then women’s clothing (some days I even look at men’s clothing). Remember that things can often get mixed up and you may find that their markers for sizing or types of clothes may not necessarily match what you find on the racks. Depending on how great or little time you have, know where to start, divide and conquer so you don’t get overwhelmed.

There are some people in life who just wear their clothes no more than a few times. Luckily for some of us, “those” people like to donate their lightly worn, almost new, designer clothing as tax-deductible donations to thrift stores. So do NOT be surprised if you see Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, etc… next to the scrubs and muumuu’s.

Some days you cannot help but to just walk into a thrift store and find something perfectly great, I think it’s an art. Finding something that is currently fashionable, not damaged, affordable, fits your body, and not to mention unique from the things everyone else is wearing is not an easy task – I’ve often walked away empty handed.

Probably one of the worst things you can feel at the thrift store is finding those items that you love but not your size. And not just a little bit, because we can sometimes get by with not having something fit perfectly – but it just doesn’t fit at all. Like the zipper that won’t close or those pants that won’t go over your hips, or maybe they don’t stay on at all. It’s almost heart breaking to leave something behind on these circumstances. But don’t worry, if you find it once at a thrift store, you may find it again at another one in your size, just be patient.

The more you thrift, the more you see the Thrift store hierarchy – some are more organized than others, others have better prices than others, some may have really great clothing merchandise, some may have really great furniture pieces.

I remember seeing one thing I liked once – a colorful plaid sundress by Isaac Mizrahi for Target. If I wanted something from Target, I’d gladly go to Target. But I found the dress, and it was about $16, which for a thrift store, I believe is way too much. And on top of that, it was too small for me. Then while digging around some more, I found the same dress in a bigger size, my size. Except the price rose to $22! I could have probably paid that at Target. I try to stick to thrift stores that have consistent and regular, sensible prices.

Sometimes to find your jewel, you’ll have to dig through a lot of trash. And after hanging out with record collectors, I am find similarities in the trade. So you’re telling me that I’m going to have to look through ALL those racks to possibly find something good? Most likely yes. I think it is more of a mood thing. Some days I feel like looking through every single rack, some days I just browse on top, looking for standout items, certain colors, patterns, or labels.

There is first come first serve factor. While this still applies to a regular store…at least there you have the slim hopes that there is more than one of the item or that there is more in stock at the back. At thrift stores, if you don’t get at it first, then it’s most likely gone to someone else’s home. And yes, I have followed someone around a store before, hoping that they would leave something I really wanted . And sometimes it has happened, others, sadly not.

Be ready for imperfections, especially if you’re looking for vintage clothes. After about 20 or 30 years in someone else’s closet, some of this stuff may be near to or falling apart. If you don’t have basic sewing skills, or access to someone who does, I would most likely suggest not buying the item.

So all that being said…..set yourself some limits. Mostly being that, if I am not completely WOWed by an item when I first lay my eyes on it, then I am almost definitely going to leave it behind (this should also go for regular shopping). Know when to leave something behind because it’s kind of smelly (no matter how cute), is damaged beyond any repairs you can’t do (unless you can fix them yourself), or the price seems too high for you. Yes, sometimes thrift stores price items competitively, and it’s perfectly fine to walk away because I usually find those items at half-price a few weeks later anyway. Don’t feel afraid to try something new – take advantage of the grab bag thrift stores can be, to try a new trend or color that you don’t wear much. But most importantly, don’t feel that because it’s so cheap, you’ve failed if you don’t buy anything. You don’t have to buy something every single time you shop. Don’t ever feel pressured that because you blog, or you read lots of blogs, or whatever reason, that you have to keep up with others.

To thrift or not to  thrift? Do you?