My Frugal Life: Clothing Is Fabric

I was raised in an area that was a long drive to the town, and we went in to town only two times a month - once for paying bills and another for shopping and visiting friends. Each time, we went to a thrift store looking for clothing with a lot of fabric to it and without stains or rips. This was our material for making clothing for the children and other household needs.


We would take the clothing and wash it, hang to dry, then take it apart by cutting all the seams; saving the buttons, zippers, and other notions. We put things in boxes according to their type, then when the fabric was apart, we'd mist it with water and iron it out. Then we'd pick what it could be made in to. I was voted the best dressed girl in two grades - three and four.

I still take things apart, save buttons, and trim zippers and ribbons. When we were planning a blanket, we would gather the kind of clothing made of the same fabric. My granny did a velvet quilt, and the family all asked for it. She had a dear old friend in mind for this quilt, who was sick and her joints were bending from arthritis. We all were envious for a brief time, but understood.


We did the same with knitted clothing also. If the clothing was not too old, we would unwind the wool, softly roll it in to a ball, and mist it with water so it would not be wrinkled.

I laugh at the waste I see. Young and old alike are bored and broke with no money. Yet, do they want to work at having a nice home with home-made, warm, made with love things and clothing? No.

I showed some children in my area I live in how to hand-sew to make a patch, fix a zipper, or put a button on. It was a mystery to them, and some had sewing class in school but did not pass do to lack of attention. I made one of their favorite brand name hoodies good again. They talked to friends, and all 5 boys and girls wanted to know how to fix some of their favorites.

By Rain200 from Chilliwack, BC

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June 22, 20110 found this helpful

This is so true. Thank you so much for sharing this! I do this also!

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June 23, 20110 found this helpful

I was born in 1935. My parents were products of the real depression era, and went through some of the worst possible times the United States has ever gone through. It had not fully recovered when the second World's War broke out, and many things were simply not available. I can't remember ever having a store-bought piece of clothing until I was 12 years old.

My aunts would all get together with my mother and they'd spend an entire day taking apart clothing from their own closets and from other ladies who'd been kind enough to pass on those items they could no longer wear or just didn't wear.


I was never voted best-dressed, but I never had to go to school feeling ashamed of anything I wore either. My Mother's best lady friend couldn't cook or bake at all, but she could sew like a dream even to making men's dress shirts, vests and at least once, she made a man's suit coat to match pants for my father. My Mother would take my sister and me along with her to play with the lady's twin daughters who were just 17 months older than I was. While we played, Mother would cook and her friend would sew. We'd do this sometimes every day for maybe a week at the time.

Mother was also a fantastic housekeeper, and would clean her friend's home top to bottom. Finally, we'd go home with a nice box of good new school clothing. I can remember wanting a pretty red winter coat that I'd seen in the window of MC Penney's store, and begged for it.


I didn't get it, but I did get a much more serviceable moss green one with a matching velvet collar. That coat was my very first piece of store-bought clothing, and I'll never forget it. I wasn't happy with it, but back then, our "wants didn't hurt us", and there were a lot more important things to worry about.

Bartering was so often done during those days, and later when I had my three little daughters, I had the same experience with a friend who was a beautiful seamstress but couldn't boil eggs. I'd cook for her family, making them cakes and casseroles and huge pots of soups while she sewed for my daughters .

Her own two girls and mine were about the best-dressed when it came to skating outfits. Many of the costumes she made for them were using fabrics and trim-work from clothing and old costumes we found at the thrift stores.


When we needed something we couldn't find at a thrift store, we'd look for it on sale or in bargain basement type stores. No one would have ever guessed.

It's always a pleasure reading that smart ladies are still doing the same types of things, and I imagine there's lots more to choose from than I or my Mother ever had. The United States is "a throw-away nation", and it's really too sad. Not only do we waste so much, but we are not learning how to do the things that might help us pull through bad times.

You will get my happy vote, and thank you for sharing your story.


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June 23, 20110 found this helpful

What a wonderful reminder of what we have at hand and so often these days, overlook.

I also save buttons, zippers, lace/trim and fabric. My stash will probably outlive me! : )

Thank you for sharing a wonderful story.

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June 23, 20110 found this helpful

Dear Rain200 & Pookarina, Thank you so much for sharing your childhood stories and experiences. I yard sale for craft material. I found a pamphlet from the 40's about repairing clothing, and making clothing out of larger pieces as you are referring too. I find it fascinating and feel like we/I have so much to learn! You guys should write a book!

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June 23, 20110 found this helpful

I learned this from my grandmother and I'm so glad I did! I love the softness of worn cotton and make my tops in the styles i like. we do have so much that we take for granted. Thanks for your post!

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June 24, 20110 found this helpful

Just took the buttons off a jacket I am sending to the thriftshop to use again. Used to be that everyone had a button jar! How do the people without them replace missing buttons?

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June 24, 20110 found this helpful

Just took the buttons off a jacket I am sending to the thriftshop to use again. Used to be that everyone had a button jar! How do the people without them replace missing buttons?

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June 28, 20110 found this helpful

Pamphyila asked how people without button jars replace buttons, the answer is really simple, they usually don't! Some might buy new buttons, but I've met so many people who throw clothing away or donate it just because it's missing a button,or even because a seam is torn out & they either don't know how to fix it or don't want to!

My Grannie used to tell the same stories as Rain200 & Pookarina. She was so poor growing up in the hills of KY, that they didn't wear shoes until it got cold & fixed the holes in them with pieces of cardboard.They made clothes & underwear out of flour sacks-nothing went to waste, it was either handed down until it wore out,or it was re-purposed. When Grannie & her husband moved their family to AZ, their 2 teenage boys (my dad)built their home with ammunition boxes from the Army Depot & tar paper.It was 2 rooms for 6 people! My parents made do or did without,they learned to look at things in other ways & find unique ways to do what needed to be done.

It is a throw-away society! But on the other hand, companies don't make things to last anymore & it really frustrates me to spend good money on something that falls apart in a couple of years!

I also cut buttons & zippers out of clothing that isn't good anymore. I don't remove them if I'm going to donate them,because I don't think most people are going to buy something that they are going to have to put buttons on. I save zippers from my kids worn backpacks & coats,I save everything! I bought a pair of new teva sandals at a thrift store for $4 because one shoe was missing a plastic piece that clamps the lace that tightens the shoe- I'd recently cut the same thing off a torn up pair of shoes I threw away, so I was able to replace the missing piece & have a good pair of expensive shoes ($50 online) that are made to last nearly forever! I've saved my teenage boys outgrown flannel pajama pants so that I can use them to make smaller pajama pants for all my grandkids this fall.

I'm going to use some t-shirts I've saved to make little shorts for my grandaughters to wear under their dresses so the stop flashing people when they play. I have a pink/purple crinkly cotton Mexican dress that developed a hole in the bodice. It has a wide gathered skirt,so I bought some matching ribbon & am in the process of cutting the skirt off the bodice so that I can make two sundresses(or nightgowns) for the little girls!

There seems to be a fast growing group of younger people who've discovered the thrill of re-making things, they call it "re-fashioning" or "upcycling". I love to cruise the internet to see what ingenious ideas people come up with, that's how I found Thrifty Fun! Here are 2 of my other favorite places, one is for sewing & one is for everything you can imagine!



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June 29, 20110 found this helpful

I am glad you were voted best dressed in grade school, just cannot believe that schools did or do things like best dressed etc. I was born 1937 grew up in UK, where most all schools wore and still wear uniforms Private and public schools such a good idea. I had 5 children who all went to Public school in states, found it expensive to clothe them as did not have garage sales and no thrift stores in our town. I did manage to have some hand me downs given to me for my children. I am glad our local schools do not have best halloween costume or any kind of costume anymore. My mother did make patchwork quilts from clothing no longer worn.

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September 9, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for the votes I was just thinking of some fun things we did for fund raisers and collectables. Grannies lace was put in to book marks so all the grand kids got one. Fabric flowers for sale we made and sold every kind of small rag toy you could dream of.

Grandpa's old pants pockets were taken off carefully and put on photo albums with a hanky showing such good memories.
Again thanks, Rain200

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June 10, 20130 found this helpful

You are awesome! The world needs more folks like you willing to share your knowledge with kids! God Bless

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