Catbird, Quilt, Quilts, Quilting

Thrifting, Shirts, and My First Quilt

I love the Thrift Store.


What I mean by “the thrift store” is this: The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Goodwill, America’s Thrift Stores, cheap secondhand/consignment shops, local non-profit charity stores, flea markets, etc. In short, “the thrift store” isn’t one location to me…it’s ALL of them.

The thrift store provides entertainment and enjoyment and hope. Buying anything really–but especially clothes—from the thrift store is the antithesis of conspicuous consumption, but it is infinitely more rewarding. It is responsible, practical, often off-trend, and (generally) inexpensive. Which doesn’t really sound exciting or entertaining or hopeful. But clothes from the thrift store carry with them the promise of a second chance. At the very least, they get a new beginning with a new wearer. Sometimes, though, they get up-cycled into a totally new life as something completely different. And that IS exciting (at least to me it is!)

I find that shopping at the thrift store for men’s shirts is especially delightful.

You may be thinking, “Why?!” with that dubious or confused or critical expression on your face (you know the one.)

Let me just tell you. Men’s shirts are very often made with some of the best fabrics the fabric world has to offer. And it’s not just the fabric type that can be so wonderful (yes, I’m talking about you, linen shirt. You too, flannel.) It’s the patterns and prints, for me, that can be so compelling and surprising. Tiny polka dots? Yes! Pin stripes? Yes. Plaids? Yep. Tons of them. Paisley? Floral prints? Yes, please. Don’t even get me started on the ginghams! And that doesn’t even touch the wide range of specialty prints on men’s shirts that pop up in thrift stores from time-to-time. A few days ago I saw a shirt made with a print of cute little sailboats! See? So surprising.

Which brings me to yet another aspect of thrifted men’s shirts that is so delightful: the uniqueness. Unlike the bolts upon bolts of fabric at a local quilt shop or Joann’s or Hobby Lobby, these shirts are one-and-onlies—even if there are 37 light blue shirts on the rack. You’d be hard-pressed to find 2 shirts out of those 37 that are exactly the same. (Well, except for the guy that donates all his uniform work shirts all at the same time to the same thrift store. In that case, you might find 6 army-green wrinkle-free polyester-blend button downs on the same rack, but we don’t often speak of it.)

Pro-tip: If you stumble on an all-cotton set of shirts in a color you like, buy them all and you can piece them together and use them as quilt backing.

And let’s be clear on this: I’m more of a confident-beginner at this point. I’m certainly NOT being paid to buy men’s shirts at the thrift store to make quilts–let alone anything else–out of them.

I digress.

So I started buying men’s shirts at the thrift store because I think the fabric is gorgeous (the colors! the prints! the textures!) and one day somewhat out of the blue I decided to make a quilt from them.

So I did! And I love it. And now I especially love to make quilts with men’s shirts from the thrift store.

And my first quilt is the softest, coolest, smoothest quilt ever. It feels just like the other side of the pillow. Really.