Category Archives: Thrift Finds

Anchorage thrift stores — dressing for success without breaking the bank

Yesterday I had the pleasure of guest posting on GretchenLovesAnchorage about thrift store fashion shopping in Anchorage. It was refreshing to post something a little different from what I normally write and it brought back memories of working as the features editor for The Northern Light.

In case you missed it, here’s my thrift store advice. And for those non-Anchorage residents, you still might learn a thing or two about how to dress to the nines without spending the tens — of thousands…ok, I am done trying to be clever. Enjoy! And if you have a chance, take a look around Gretchen’s blog. It’s happy, insightful and hopefully will make you want to come visit our fabulous city.

Anchorage Thrift Store Fashion Guide | Alaska Knit Nat

I have been thrift store shopping in Anchorage since I was 12 when I bought my very first Kurt Cobain-style flannel shirt at Value Village on Boniface (the Dimond location was Fabricland and Nerland’s furniture store). Since then I’ve furnished my dorm room, first apartment and current home in second-hand décor. I have also created a fun, colorful wardrobe that I can say I’m pretty proud of.

So let me delve into the Anchorage thrift store scene and give you some tips and tricks of the thrifty trade.

Recently my friend, Karen, asked me to be her “thrifty style adviser.” She wanted a little more pizzazz in her wardrobe without spending a lot of cash. I accepted the challenge, but gave her a few ground rules.

First, you have to be persistent and diligent. You can’t expect to waltz into a secondhand shop and immediately flick to the perfect, most amazing item you’ve ever seen in your life. You have to trudge through a whole lot of, well, crap. People often literally donate trash to thrift stores. I’ve spoken with former Salvation Army employees who have told me they toss a majority of donated items because they aren’t suitable to sell. Be prepared to visit thrift stores more than once and to dig, dig, dig to find the good stuff.

My other tip is to take fashion risks. Try on things you wouldn’t normally wear. You never know — that Las Vegas cat shirt might be the perfect level of ironic for you to pull it off.

Do some research. Analyze your closet inventory and figure out what articles of clothing you want or need. I always keep a mental list of items I’ve either worn out or really want. For instance, I NEEDED salmon-colored jeans and — ta-da! — I found some the other day for just $2. Also on my recent list was a pair of plain black heels. Mission accomplished when I found a brand-new pair of Sofft brand black patent leather pumps for $25 — a little pricey by my thrifty standards, but since they were originally $110 I felt it was worth it.

Pricing1

A great resource is Pinterest. I’ll often type in an article of clothing I already own and see what Polyvore experts have put together. From “black blazer” to “chevron maxi dress,” you can create a mental file of what to keep an eye out for.

My goal as a thrift store clothing shopper is to find good quality clothes that will complement my current wardrobe. Sometimes I go out on a limb and buy something wacky and wild just because I love the item. I don’t feel remorse when it doesn’t work out because I really didn’t spend much on it.

Now let’s get started. Anchorage thrift shops are not all alike. Some are great for furniture, others are better for clothing and some have really great dishes. Today I’ll discuss the good clothing stores in town.

Salvation Army — Northern Lights Blvd.

Anchorage has three Salvation Army thrift stores – on Dimond, Mountain View and the oldest location on Northern Lights Boulevard next to Crossbar. My mom used to take me to this store when I was just four years old (thrifting runs in the family).

This Salvation Army is great for most clothes. Target donates unsold items to the city’s Salvation Armies, so if you like Merona, Converse and Mossimo brands you can often find them here for $4-6 with the tags still attached. They are usually stored on their own racks.

Salvation has an endless supply of shirts.
Salvation Army has an endless supply of shirts.

Karen was looking for colorful tops and cute mini skirts so we split up and started flipping through the racks. The shick, shick, shick of hangers quickly passing by can be exhausting, but I made a game of it by holding up the most horrifying of frocks and joking that “this Victoria’s Secret top is so old it’s actually fashionable again.”

I found Karen a few pretty shirts, a lovely blue dress with pockets, and she came up with a floral skirt and some indigo straight-legged jeans. It’s off to the fitting room. Keep in mind that not all thrift stores offer such a luxury. Employees have told me it has to do with homeless people using them as public toilets. The Mountain View Salvation Army only has a full-length mirror, so be sure to wear a camisole and leggings if you want to see how things look on you.

I stood outside the fitting room as Karen broke a mild sweat.

“Nobody said you didn’t have to work for it,” she said as she tried on several unexpectedly frumpy shirts. True that, Karen; true that.

She came away with the blue dress, a striped mini skirt, a comfy Gap sweatshirt and jeans. I found a couple of pairs of perfect-fitting pants and red patent leather flats.

patent leather flats

Karen models her Salvation Army finds; total cost, about $5:

Karen

Quick tip: check the rack of recently tried-on clothes. Often times people do the hard work of digging for you and don’t end up buying what they find. That’s where I discovered some awesome Vigoss pedal-pushers.

sale

It was our lucky day because *almost* everything was 50 percent off, so we walked out with an armload for under $20.

S.P.C.A. Thrift Shop — Arctic and International

SPCA

This gem is nestled in a strip mall on International Airport Rd. with Guido’s and Partycraft. Enjoy a saketini at The Dish and get your thrift on because the S.P.C.A. won’t disappoint. Psst! Here’s a secret: a beloved local consignment store often donates their unsold items to this place. I’ve found designer brands here for mere pennies. Plus, your purchases go toward helping animals so what isn’t there to like?

Most of the clothing follows a flat pricing list, save for a small rack up front with “fancy” clothes. The items on this rack range from $10-20. A few weeks ago I spotted a cashmere argyle sweater vest from J. Crew for $10. Pretty good deal!

Karen didn’t find much on our visit — just a Merona denim-colored skirt. But I found two Columbia brand skirts — with pockets — and an unusual sequined belt.

Full-body selfies are the worst!
Full-body selfies are the worst!

Don’t forget to remind the cashier to give you a punch card if you spend more than $10. I don’t remember what happens when you fill it up, but it’s a perk nonetheless.

Value Village — Dimond or Boniface

The “Buy more, spend less” mantra isn’t always accurate and I hesitate to say that Value Village is a good thrift store. Often its knickknacks are grossly overpriced and they have a pathetic furniture selection. But they do stock an unbelievable number of jeans and tops at reasonable prices, which is why I’m including it on today’s list. Skip the dresses at VV because most of them are priced at $30, and that’s just crazy! Pricers here understand the value of a designer label and won’t hesitate to mark a Calvin Klein top with holes in it at $20. But most of the tops and jeans are about $7-10, which I can handle.

pendleton

I went solo on this Value Village trip and came out with black cropped dress pants from Banana Republic for just $7.

pricing2

Karen and I had a medium-good thrifting day. I had to remind her not to give up. Thrifting can be rewarding, especially when you find just what you’re looking for at a good price. She definitely bulked out her wardrobe with a dress, skirt, pants and shirts without spending more than $25. I call that a thrifting success!

What thrift stores do you visit to find great duds? How do you fill your clothing cravings without overspending?

Visit my blog at www.alaskaknitnat.wordpress.com and keep any eye out for the rest of my Anchorage thrift store series.

Thrift Store Skirt Refashion — Free Tutorial

Floral prints are all the rage these days and I’m always finding skirts at the thrift store that have pretty patterns, but they are just too long for my stumpy legs.

You’ve probably come across these types of skirts — they are from the ’90s, ankle-length and look as though a church lady might wear them.

If you have basic sewing skills it’s pretty simple to shorten a skirt to a more youthful length. It only took me 45 minutes and I went from bake sale mom to hipster mom for $2.50. You can too!

Thrift Store Skirt Refashion -- go from bake sale mom to hipster mom in less than an hour!

Materials:

One thrift store skirt in your size

Ruler

Straight pins

Chalk or pencil

Fabric scissors

Sewing machine

Iron

Thrift Store Skirt Refashion -- go from bake sale mom to hipster mom in less than an hour!

Step 1: Iron your skirt if it needs it.

Step 2: Determine how much length you’d like to cut off. I wanted the skirt to fall just above my knees, which was about 10.5 inches from the original hem. I subtracted 1.5 inches to account for the new hem. For me, 9 inches was how much I needed to remove.

Thrift Store Skirt Refashion -- go from bake sale mom to hipster mom in less than an hour!

Step 3: If your skirt has buttons down the front, unbutton it and lay it flat, wrong side up. With a ruler and chalk or pencil go along the bottom of the skirt and mark 9 inches all around. I didn’t do this accurately at all and it still worked out fine. My skirt had a slight arc to it so I eyeballed it here and there.

Step 4: Cut along the measurement lines you made.

Thrift Store Skirt Refashion -- go from bake sale mom to hipster mom in less than an hour!

Step 5: With your iron, turn under 1/2 inch from the edge all across the skirt.

Thrift Store Skirt Refashion -- go from bake sale mom to hipster mom in less than an hour!

Step 6: Turn under 1 inch all around and iron down, pinning as you go. *NOTE* if your skirt buttons in the front, make sure your ends match in the front. Mine were really off so I had to re-iron and eyeball it till it worked. Doesn’t need to be perfect, especially if it’s a flowing skirt. No one will notice if the back is slightly shorter than the front.

Thrift Store Skirt Refashion -- go from bake sale mom to hipster mom in less than an hour!

Step 7: Sew a seam along the hem 3/4 inches from the folded edge, backstitching at the beginning and end.

Step 8: Trim all threads and run an iron along the hem one last time.

Step 9: Put on your skirt and admire your crafty awesomeness.

Thrift Store Skirt Refashion -- go from bake sale mom to hipster mom in less than an hour!

Travel Purse

Lately I’ve been in purse limbo. My favorite one broke, my backup one isn’t the right size and I just can’t seem to find what I’m looking for.

So I turned to my basic sewing skills and my frienemy Pinterest. I have this bad habit of inventing projects in my head before going to sleep. Next thing I know it’s four hours later and I’m still awake, thinking about my awesome idea. This idea came to me at night — why not make a simple zipper pouch but add a cross-body strap. Better yet, why not take the detachable leather strap from my old purse and attach it to a simple zipper pouch?

Done and done.

Use a detachable strap from an old leather purse to create a new fabric zippered purse | Alaska Knit Nat

This purse is based on a terrific tutorial from Sew Me Happy. You can find it here.

Use a detachable strap from an old leather purse to create a new fabric zippered purse | Alaska Knit Nat

It’s very clearly explained, but the dimensions weren’t what I had in mind.

For my own records (in case I want to make another one), I cut my fabric 8.5 x 9.5 inches. I also added some medium weight interfacing to the lining fabric. To add the detachable strap I just made a strip of exterior fabric 1.5 inches wide, added interfacing (keep the edges free of interfacing so it’s not too bulky), folded the edges toward the center, doubled it over, ironed, and sewed a strip. Then I cut two lengths that seemed like a good loop size, accommodating for the seam allowance and sewed two loops above the zipper, the way the tutorial instructs.

Use a detachable strap from an old leather purse to create a new fabric zippered purse | Alaska Knit Nat

Since this purse was just for myself and I have low personal standards, I didn’t mind that the directional fabric is going sideways inside or that the directional fabric is upside-down on the back of the exterior. What I do love is it fits my wallet, passport and sunglasses, it zips easily and it looks so dang attractive with a leather strap.

Use a detachable strap from an old leather purse to create a new fabric zippered purse | Alaska Knit Nat

Quick Craft — Easy Cell Phone Caddy

My desk at work is glass and whenever my phone vibrates it resonates at an embarrassing volume. What I needed was a place to keep my cell phone that was easily accessible and, of course, cute.

These are the types of projects that sit in the back of my mind as I scour thrift stores. The other day I was browsing the knick-knacks at a local antique shop and I came across this tacky little votive:

Quick craft -- easy cell phone caddy | Alaska Knit Nat

Weird? A little. Functional? Hardly. Cute? There’s definitely some potential.

All it took was a little cleaning up, two coats of spray paint and *tweet! tweet!* cute cell phone caddy! I can even run the charger cord through the hole in the front.

Quick craft -- easy cell phone caddy | Alaska Knit Nat

I have now cutified my desk.

Nifty Thrifty — Shower Curtain Curtains

I’m always trying to improve our living space without having to spend a fortune. Many things I can find at the thrift store, such a pillows, tables, shelves, vases and such, but curtains is one thing that I have a hard time finding second hand. Mostly they are old, dirty and unattractive. New curtains are pretty spendy. This is why my living room curtains have looked like crap for four years now. When we first moved in we were spending a lot to furnish the place. The landlord did not have any blinds on the windows so we needed curtains in every room. It was adding up. Most panels are $20-40 apiece so I ended up buying hideous curtains at an outlet store.

I finally got fed up and had a brilliant idea. Shower curtains don’t seem as pricey as regular curtains. They are made out of fabric and I know they will fit our windows. I headed to the place that always has the best deal on linens: Kohl’s.

Sure enough we found some groovy shower curtains that were half off. We opted for cheapo clear shower curtain rings and just swapped the old crappy curtains with shower curtains. Not only do they look great, but they glide across the curtain bar much more easily than the traditional curtains.

Total cost for two large windows: $70. Not bad if you consider the alternative.

Thrift Find 8

I love Craigslist!

We’ve been putting the nursery together the last few weeks and I’ve decided if I were to pick a theme it would be “Vintage Circus.” I just love vintage colors like rust, aqua and dandelion yellow. I also don’t want an overly cutesy nursery with one or two colors dominating. I want to be able to live in the room and love it too.

I found some vintage Fisher Price toys today on Craiglist. I was surprised they hadn’t been scooped up yet, considering the low price. I got the toys as soon as I got off work. I know our boy won’t find them useful for a long time, but at least they will look perfect in his room till he’s ready to play with them. The woman who sold them to me was really happy they were going to a family that would get more use out of them as her kids did.

I think the toys are from the ’60s. One of them has a copyright of 1961. They are in great shape and are ready to be played with!

Tippy clown. Our child will be terrified of clowns!

Putt Putt Plane. Head bobs when it’s pulled 
Tractor. The wheels wobble when it’s pulled

Musial Chime and Wobble Dog

Pink Champagne Cake — Again!

Last month I made a cake for a coworker’s wedding. Instead of having centerpieces at the reception the couple had friends make cakes for each table. It was a brilliant idea. And it got a lot of my coworkers craving more of my pink champagne cake.

It seems we have a lot of August birthdays around the office, so I decided to make another champagne cake. Instead of using brut style I opted for spumante. It’s sweeter and it gave the cake a slightly different flavor.

I also opted for a different kind of icing. I had been making a butter cream cheese frosting, but I decided it was a little heavy so I made a whipped cream/cream cheese frosting. It was fantastic and it used less sugar.

Oh, also I crafted my own cake stand out of a thrift store plate and a porcelain cup.  A glue gun did the trick!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg whites
four drops red food coloring
2 cups Champagne

For the frosting:
1, 8 oz. block of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
one pint of heavy whipping cream
fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
For the cake, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar for several minutes till fluffy. Mix in the vanilla. Add the egg whites one at a time then mix in the food coloring. Incorporate the flour and champagne in alternating batches of three, starting and ending the flour. This way the champagne won’t curdle. Pour into the cake pans and bake for 35 minutes or till a knife runs clean when stuck in the cake.
Let cake cool completely before removing from pans.

For the frosting, whip together the sugar and cream cheese. When fully combined, add the whipping cream and beat till you get stiff peaks. Slice up fresh strawberries for garnish.