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How To Find Cheap Craft Supplies

Updated on November 15, 2012
I made this garland using a pack of free fabric samples.
I made this garland using a pack of free fabric samples. | Source

Most people are still having to prioritize what they spend their cash on and think they have to give up much loved hobbies. Thankfully when it comes to crafts there are numerous ways to get materials cheaply or even for free! By adding an extra touch of creativity and knowing where to look, you not only save money, but have more fun, create something truly unique and help the environment.

Crafts are not just hobbies either. Creativity is an important part of child development, so finding cheap craft supplies to use for kids craft ideas is a must!

I find one of the worst places to find craft supplies and creative inspiration is actually in craft stores! You walk in and you're surrounded by overpriced plastic gadgets which apparently are 'essential to your craft'. No doubt your craft has actually managed several centuries without it up until now.

So with that in mind here's my guide on the best places to find a crafty bargain...

Recycle Old Clothes Into New Works of Art

Have a clean-out of the family closets and you will find a treasure trove of free supplies.

  • Cut up old clothes and salvage fabrics, buttons, beads and edgings. Use these for crafts such as patchwork and quilting, dressmaking, home wares, jewelry making and accessories.
  • If you're more into yarn crafts, make your own t-shirt yarn. The yarn is ideal for knitting and crocheting cushions, rugs and sturdy bags.
  • Don't waste a thing! Pockets, zips, collars, elastics and cuffs can all be used. Don't neglect the knitted fabrics either~ they don't make great yarn but they are fantastic for making unusual cushion covers, especially when you add a touch of embroidery or beading.

Thrift Store Shopping

If you can't find anything at home to recraft, have a dig around in your local thrift store. I often see items that I wouldn't wear but adore the materials. You spend a fraction of the cost of buying the same amount of fabric new. Even recycle yarn by unravelling jumpers.

It's not just old clothes that you can give a new lease of life to. Make your own mosaic tiles using broken crockery and recycle old jewelry by taking pieces apart for their beads and findings.

Prepare to spend some time to really look as the really good stuff is normally hiding well. There will only be one of an item (unless you're really lucky of course) so if you spot something you really think has potential get it quick!

I made this garland using a pack of free fabric samples.
I made this garland using a pack of free fabric samples. | Source

Sample Packs and Other Freebies

If you are planning a project and want to order material online many companies offer a sample pack for a small amount or even free. Once you have chosen your fabric and no longer need your samples, put them to good use and make something with it!

Many sample packs are a generous size and are perfect for small projects. It's not good practice to send off for free samples without intending to buy; but if you are comparing packs from various companies, you probably have a lot of materials laying around your home without knowing it.

Use your search engine to find samples for potential craft supplies, not just fabric. Search for what you need and you'll be surprised what's available. This is a great way to try a new medium before investing in it fully.

Other freebies are found in specialist magazines and by becoming a product tester for craft companies~ you get sent a product, use it and once you have reviewed it you get to keep it.

Upcycling and Recycling

So what's the difference between recycling and upcycling?

  • Recycling breaks a product down into usable materials. So the original item has been totally refashioned it into something new.
  • Upcycling uses what something already is and turns into something new with simple alterations and additions.

Upcycle

Upcycling is very big now. Ideas for upcycling are endless and range from simple customization to giving something a completely new purpose.

It's such a popular process now that even businesses are upcycling packaging. There are even upcycle competitions and whole blogs dedicated to the art. A search for the term 'upcycled' on handmade marketplace Etsy today brought up 137,559 items ranging from jewelry and accessories to garden ornaments and coat hooks!

I made this pendant using a large slate chip from a bag of free samples.
I made this pendant using a large slate chip from a bag of free samples. | Source

Alternative Craft Materials

This is where thinking outside the box comes in to its own. By looking at things differently you'll find potential for crafts everywhere you go.

My favourite places for finding fun and unusual hobby supplies are hardware stores and garden centers. These are a treasure trove of items made from all sorts of materials. Copper wire for example is generally cheaper at a hardware store than from a jewelry supplier.

Ask around. Local businesses often have items they see as waste which would make wonderful craft additions. Out of date newspapers, damaged products, ribbons & twine and wooden crates can all be used to make the most amazing and eyecatching items. One of my favourites is to use hessian sacks as rug canvas.

This pendant was made by cutting a slice off a fallen branch
This pendant was made by cutting a slice off a fallen branch | Source

Forage for Natural Crafts

Come across potential materials by going for a walk.

Fallen branches, nuts, seeds, shells, dry leaves, pebbles and cones can all be found for free and used for a wide variety of crafts. Drill nut shells for example and make into beautifully unusual beads.

If you are planning a trip into nature's store, make sure you stay safe. Be aware of coming into contact with harmful things like certain berries and make sure you have permission from the landowner.

Last Minute Bargains

One of my favourite places to find a bargain is of course eBay. A constant stream of people selling pretty much anything you can imagine, including craft supplies. If you are looking for something, someone is probably selling it there.

I find the best way to get good deals is to browse the categories you think appropriate. Choose auction only and order the results by ending soonest. You could find what you are looking for in a category you wouldn't have considered before. For example I once found some split-rings and cork balls in the fishing category which I needed for a jewelry experiment.

Where do you go first when looking for craft supplies?

See results

Other Ideas for Crafts on a Budget

Fabric swaps are very popular, as often something you no longer need or want, is just what your friend has been looking for. If you don't know anyone who needs what you have, do a search for craft swaps online as there are several sites dedicated to helping people find what they need and often you only need to pay the shipping costs.

Discontinued Supplies are easy to find online. Yarn in particular goes through trends and just like with fashion when a company has decided to move on to something new the remainder gets sold at discounted prices. Search for what you are looking for but add 'discontinued' before it.

Discount stores have many products suitable for crafts. I have been lucky enough to even find some pretty decent painting canvases, paints and brushes in my local pound shop, along with twine, yarn and storage ideas. Just remember it's always worth a look!

Buy in Bulk if you use a lot of the same materials. This can result in big savings per product and if you spend over a particular amount in one order many sites offer free shipping too. When shopping in stores not online, buying in bulk means using less time and fuel.

I hope this has given you lots of ideas of where to look whatever your craft. We really are surrounded by possibilities. If you know any other places do let us all know below. It's always good to find a new way to save some cash!

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    • KarenCreftor profile image
      Author

      Karen Creftor 4 years ago from Kent, UK

      Thanks for the great comments :D

      I rarely go to craft stores now. I find I prefer the look of a finished product when it's been made from recycled materials or has been upcycled! To me crafts should look homemade, not perfect~ otherwise you may was well just buy mass produced.

      Yay for upcycling indeed!!

      ~Kaz x

    • wizardofodds profile image

      Kayla Brown 4 years ago from Wichita, Kansas

      Great ideas! It's good to be reminded of how many useful materials are laying right under our noses! Yay for upcycling!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      I usually look in my house for supplies - there are so many ways to use something differently, and then ask friends and family. I do shop at craft stores but maybe from now on, I will be using them less.

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 5 years ago from Northern California

      You have written a very useful and creative article for finding craft materials. I agree with your idea to search and find options other than the main well known craft stores. thanks!

    • KarenCreftor profile image
      Author

      Karen Creftor 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      Oh cheds you have to send me a photo when you're done, I LOVE denim and rag rugs :D

      sofs, thank you! oh I adore drift wood, but alas have never found any here in South East England *sigh*. Do you have a shop or online gallery I can visit?

      ~Kaz x

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 5 years ago

      Great ideas here Karen, some of which I may have never thought about. You are right about the crafts store not being the most inspiring of places. I love seeds, stones, shells and wood, especially drift wood which you can collect from beaches...for my craft work. Thanks for sharing your ideas here. Have a lovely day.

    • Cheds profile image

      Cheds 5 years ago from Maine

      I'm making a rag rug out of old jeans. I love reusing old unloved fabrics.

    • KarenCreftor profile image
      Author

      Karen Creftor 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      Thank you! :D

      Susan that sounds fantastic. I'm currently making a plaited rug with fabric my mum was going to get rid of as it wasn't very nice...but torn into strips looks fantastic hehe.

      Natashalh I find inspiration strikes at the most unusual times and rarely in a craft store :P

      Cheds thank you!!

      ~Kaz x

    • Cheds profile image

      Cheds 5 years ago from Maine

      I LOVE this hub! Right on!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for all the tips! I'd never thought to use free samples/trial sizes for craft supplies. I agree that craft stores are a bad place to get ideas. I only go there looking for a certain item, and I am always amazed by how expensive stuff is there! I mostly get ideas when I'm just wandering around other places.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I like all the tips that you've provided here for craft supplies. I've been saving old t-shirts now in order to try to make a rug that I saw someone else make.

      Up, useful and interesting.

    • KarenCreftor profile image
      Author

      Karen Creftor 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      Wow lovely comments thank you all, you've made my day :D

      I'm really pleased you like the ideas here! I think it's wonderful how so many professional designer/makers are also using alternative materials for their work too, it gives recycling and upcycling a fantastic reputation (and rightly so!). I love how creativity (and a career in selling handmade) is available to everyone nomatter your budget as even a newspaper can be used for a fun craft with the kids or used to make spectactular works of art.

      I'd love to know what you make so please do come back here and tell us :D

      ~Kaz x

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Great tips. I've stopped crafting due to budget restrictions. Maybe I'll try some of your ideas and get back into it.

    • Media Magnate Mom profile image

      Media Magnate Mom 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      What great ideas! With a preschooler in the house, we're always on the lookout for cheap crafts. Useful and voted up!

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Great stuff! I am sharing this with a friend who has a Trash Baby theme - finding treasures that other people think are junk and recycling them into very useful and beautiful art and jewelry pieces. Voted up and interesting.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      In these times of austerity these are exactly the kind of practical, imaginative and innovative ideas that help creative crafters. Well written and useful. Love the examples made from various materials - my daughter is going to love these ideas !

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      This sort of hub is right up my street! Many thanks for the suggestions. My latest 'thing' is spraying acrylic ink over everyday objects such as plastic combs or rubber bands to make interesting stencil effects as backgrounds for journals.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for a good look at using craft supplies that are on hand and making the most of what we already have! You've got some great tips here for creatively using supplies to make inexpensive crafts.

    • KarenCreftor profile image
      Author

      Karen Creftor 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      Thanks all for the lovely comments :D

      Austinstar I know what you mean! Sometimes it's easy to forget that we probably already have what we are looking fer hehe

      Angela: Oh I love a bargain too! I find craft stores are getting so expensive and resent paying their over-inflated prices when there are so many alternatives.

      Twinstimes2 excellent! Your daughter sounds really creative :D

      ~Kaz x

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Some very good ideas here. I think I have used most of these at one time or another. Thanks for reminding me!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      Great topic, I am a huge bargain person. I need to be more so with my crafting as well.

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      My 5 year old daughter is a recycler...when it comes to making things. This gives me a ton more inexpensive or free options for her. Great information. Useful and interesting!