Kalamazoo Thrift Store Tour

Every time we go to Kalamazoo, we get sucked in by the breweries and bypass the thrift stores. Not this time. I looked up all the thrift stores in the area on Google Maps and clicked “avoid highways,” becasue that’s how we like to travel.

We started out at a Salvation Army Family Store where I scooped up a twin size vintage sheet, among a few other treasures. It’s fitted, so I’ll have to cut the elastic out of it before I can use the fabric. I knew it was old when I tugged on the elastic, and it crunched. Busted elastic may make other buyers shy away, but since I am just harvesting the fabric, I scored some serious yardage.

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No maker label, but I suspect it’s from the 1970s.

 

I also found the most amazing vintage beach towel I have ever seen. I think I can make about six messenger bags out of the terry cloth. The sail boats absolutely kill me.

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This towel has all the colors.
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Sail on!

 

I found another Salvation Army just down the road in Portage, MI. Judging from the photos online, this joint was massive. And it was. After perusing the neckties, I went through the “boudoir” section and headed for the linens. They had a ton of fabric that was sorted nicely, but none of it appealed to me. I’m very particular about the type of fabric I buy these days. Not by choice. I just don’t have any more space to store mediocre polyester. Make no mistake. I can always find a spot to squirrel away some premium fabrics.

The three racks behind the fabric had some awesome sheets and pillowcases.  I turned up a Monticello by Cannon floral flat sheet and a few pillow cases made by Penn-Prest, Sears, and Springmaid.

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Monticello by Cannon

 

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I’m digging the orange butterfly on that yellow pillowcase.

It was right about this time that I saw a sheet pattern that I recognized. A while back, I bought a Cannon Royal Family Featherlite bed spread from the Kalamazoo Antiques Market for $8 that I planned to use for fabric. When I got home and discovered that while the sizing was for a full size mattress, it fit our queen size bed well enough and I decided not to cut it up. Today, a matching queen size flat sheet was hanging on the rack at the Sal. Coincidence or fate? I can’t wait to bust out this 1970s sheet/bedspread combo when the weather warms up.

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The half-off color was yellow. I looked down at my findings and saw a few yellow tags, including the sheet that partially completes our springtime bed set. Yes. That’s the sugar.

We decided to test out a few Goodwill Stores, which as you might already know, can be hit or miss on vintage merchandise. Sometimes, I suspect there are people within the organization who don’t see any value in old clothing, fabric, or linens and cast it aside. But in reality, I have no idea what their sorting standards are like. We did find a few vintage neckties for $1.19 each at one Goodwill, while another location was a total bust.

 

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The new vintage necktie lineup from various Kalamazoo area thrift stores.

 

My intuition was telling me that our luck was running out. There’s only so much gold you can dig up in one day. We decided to hit the NuWay Thrift Store on Cork Street as our last stop. The interior of the store is really dark, and the prices are fairly high. As a result, they have tons of stuff that appears as if it has been hanging around for a while. I am more than willing to dig through piles of clothing and fabric if I think I can come up with something for a good price, but this isn’t my first thrift store rodeo. I can sniff out a low-turnover hoard of mediocre goods in an instant. It wasn’t all bad. I managed to unearth two pieces of pretty cool polyester knit among the fabric. It was finally time to split and drink a celebratory beer at Bell’s Brewery.

 

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It looks like wool, but it’s not. Polyester forever!
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If you look at it too long, the pattern will start to move.

 

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Second-hand score

I nearly forgot about the annual rummage sale at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Lansing. However, I just happened to have the day off and just happened to be in the area around 9 a.m. when the doors opened.

The only occasion I will stand in a line to get my hands on retail goods is when those goods are second-hand. I stood in line outside the recreation hall with about 40 other folks who showed up with empty boxes and bags to fill with used merchandise. I even saw a guy with his own wheeled cart. That dude meant business. I chatted with a lady in line while trying to conceal my excitement. I didn’t want her to discover that I was a total freak when it came to vintage merchandise. I sized up the scene and I was fairly confident that very few of the people who were standing in that line were looking for the same kind of stuff I was. While I was searching out an estate sale on Craigslist to hit after the rummage sale, the line began to move and we all entered the building in and orderly fashion to begin the hunt.

One woman working the sale told me that it took more than a week to price and organize everything. The people working this sale really had it together. The merchandise was priced to move and the nice ladies at the linens table bagged up my selections and wrote my name on the bag so I could continue to shop unencumbered by a giant sack of linens. Check out the photos below to see what else I found:

 

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A cool scarf for 40 cents? Yes please!
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A nice tea towel with 3-D embroidery
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A handy guide about where to use certain colors in your home
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Nice aluminum tray to stack junk on. I figured it was probably worth two dollars in scrap metal alone.
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Nice insulated cup set with serving tray
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New old stock Luster Dry apron and towel set.

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Cute casual place mats. I’ll probably reuse the fabric on another project
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Hand-sewn swans. I think the lipstick stain on this handkerchief is kinda cool.
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Is that quilt hand-sewn?
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Why yes it is!
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I don’t really know what these are, but they’re hand made and they were 25 cents.
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When you see a table-top gold lamé ironing board for 50 cents. Don’t ask questions. Just dig around in your pocket for two quarters.

After staggering out to my truck loaded down with vintage merchandise, I hit the navigation on my phone to find that estate sale. There’s really no other way to do estate sales in my opinion. Gone are the days of driving around aimlessly searching for signage. No more slamming on the brakes and taking turns at 30 miles per hour when you see a sign the reads “yard sale” or “estate sale” with an arrow pointing the way. Plus, I don’t have the added annoyance of twisting my way through a neighborhood only to discover that the sale was the previous week and nobody bothered to take the signs down.

 

Luck was on my side again at the estate sale. Everything was half price and there was still plenty of cool stuff that shoppers the day before had passed by. I noticed that an old Singer sewing machine was featured in the Craigslist post, so I knew there was bound to be some vintage fabric. I gasped when I saw the coolest quilt in the world laying across the bed. It was pieced together with vintage bark cloth and was probably made about 50 years ago. I suspected that it may be out of my price range because it was so glorious. I did a double take when I saw the sticker. It was marked $10 which meant I got it for $5. I snatched it up as if someone was else was going for it at the same time. A lady sitting at a card table with a money box told me I could put it on the table next to her. Not a chance. I wasn’t letting this thing out of my sight. I tucked it up under my arm and continued to search the other bedrooms. I found some super thick cheap denim fabric, which is good because I was just about out of cheap denim. I also scooped up a few yards of bright red polyester knit, a souvenir plate from the Grand Canyon and a blue ashtray from a California-based restaurant named Fjord’s Smorg-ette, which I discovered was recently torn down to make way for an In-N-Out Burger. I paid nine bucks for all my goods and almost ran out of the house. I imagined that someone would stop me and told me they made a pricing mistake on the quilt. Once safely down the street at my truck, I draped the quilt across the tailgate and snapped a photo so I could show it off on Facebook. I hope that when I’m no longer part of this earth and they sell all my junk off, someone finds something they will treasure.

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half of the quilt
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detail of the quilt
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I don’t smoke, but I like blue glass.
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I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, but now I can pretend that I have.
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Sweet 50-cent table runner
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50-cent fabric!

I was on a roll. I had a few bucks left, so I swung into the Volunteers of America thrift store. This joint always delivers. I seldom go to the VoA without finding some great vintage fabric and/or ugly 1970s neckties and this day was no exception. I was already running dangerously low on my favorite brown and yellow bark cloth. The thrift store gods must have known that, because I found some serious yardage of a fantastic purple bark cloth from the 1950s stuffed into a bag with some other less desirable shimmery synthetic fabric from the 1990s. I also scooped up a couple sweet neckties. One sported a pink tag which meant it was 75% off, which is always nice. I strolled on up to the checkout where the nice lady who rung me up asked, “How are you today?” I cheerfully answered, “I’m super!” Because I was. It was another victorious day of mining Lansing’s second-hand scene for vintage gems.

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detail shot of my new favorite fabric. Look for it to appear on a messenger bag in my shop!
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Green shark skin tie and a brown striped tie that I bought just because the tie tag was so cool.