The hidden costs of a good deal

Who doesn’t love a good deal?

There’s a family story that involves a 3-year-old-me and the new Easter hat I wore to church. An older lady across the aisle commented on what a nice hat it was and politely asked, “Where did you get it?”

“ON SALE!” I shouted.

Last week Read suggested that one of my steals was turning out to be more work than it was worth. I’ve been guilty of this before…the $4 thriftstore dress that just needs some tailoring, the free piece of furniture that needs fixing, the hand-be-down chair with a funny smell…

Often I’m swayed by not only a cheap price, but also the thought of remaking and reusing something that otherwise would be discarded. What about for you? At what point is the investment to fix something (in time or repairs or sweat) not worth the savings?

"Lily" yellow shirtdress

I bought this Lily shirtdress for half off because it's missing half the covered to make covered buttons?? hmm

This most recent situation started with that LLBean wool sweater that I got for $3 at the neighborhood yard sale. I deconstructed it and was left with oodles of triple-stranded dark gray wool. I washed the hanks and stretched them to dry, then knit a test swatch with 10.5 needles. YIPES. Way too thick. I’d start overheating in any garment that heavy.

reclaimed wool

Unwashed crinkly wool (left) and washed, stretched, and dried wool (right)

The only option was to separate the strands. I had Read sit on the opposite  side of the couch – he took a double strand and I took a single – and we wound, wound, wound. The excruciating part is that the yarn gets so twisty it knots on itself, so every few yards you have to stop and untwist. One hank took a couple hours to separate. Read said he felt like Mose in that episode of The Office where Dwight makes him un-ply the building’s toilet paper to save money. He shook his head a lot, but bless his heart he kept winding.

Plain & Simple Pullover

the start of a Plain & Simple Pullover

The single-ply yarn is becoming a Plain and Simple Pullover…so far so good. Separating the strands basically tripled my yardage so I’ll get to choose a couple more projects after the pullover.

What lengths have you gone to fix, retrofit, or mend something you got for cheap (or free)? Was it worth it? Any epic fails?



  1. summer picnic · September 7, 2012

    Love the dress! And was happy to find a fellow Boston thrifty blogger. Loving the posts and the pics–especially the ones of the furry creatures (the cat in the basket)–oh, and the lightning on the 4th of July. Fantastic!

    • foxflat · September 9, 2012

      thank you! maybe we’ll have to meet up for thrifting sometime!

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  7. blankenmom · May 29, 2011

    I’m just glad I’m not the only person who does these things… luckily for me (or should I say for my poor hubby) we’re military and have to pitch furniture/projects/non-worked on items every move, keeping this problem to a minimum as of late.
    My worst – a very large, dirty, stinky, and heavy hide-a-bed from a friend of mine. I was going to recover it – I swear! After a year and an upcoming move, the hubby chucked to the curb.

    I agree with everyone else, pitch the covered buttons and buy some beautiful vintage buttons!

  8. Lori · May 28, 2011

    I’ve gotten myself into these situations way too many times. The only saving grace is that my place is too small for me to bring furniture home with me (and I have no space for refinishing any furniture either).

    I had a recycled sweater yarn project end up becoming far more work than I thought it would be when I set out: The yarn was 3 individual fine strands so I separated them into 2 and 1. I lightly spun the 2 strands and then doubled the 1 strand to make a more workable yarn. After all that work I haven’t actually knit anything with it yet. But, the sweater was FREE! never mind that I ended up spending probably 20 hours just to get workable yarn from it.

  9. tami · May 27, 2011

    rip all the buttons off the dress and just pick new ones–uncovered.

  10. kara · May 27, 2011

    Yes, I can relate! I am impressed with both you AND Read for unwinding all that yarn!

    I picked up a wooden chair from the curb about a year and a half ago with the intention of painting it aqua/teal…I haven’t even bought paint yet and am cringing with the thought of all the sanding, priming, and brushing.

    For your dress, I would remove the rest of the covered buttons and find some matching vintage or vintage-looking buttons for all!

    • foxflat · May 27, 2011

      Yes! I have a curb chair that’s awaiting mending and painting too. haha Some nice weekend this summer I’ll make myself do it.

      I think you’re right about the buttons. Vintage ones will be a much easier fix.

  11. Pattiisknittinginflashes · May 27, 2011

    I do the same thing and my husband reminds me constantly of all those things that never get finished.
    One piece that I’m proud of is refinishing the old dresser my brother had painted red, white, and blue using glossy enamel paint in 1976. It was a labor of love as it went to my daughter the week before she gave birth to her twin daughters. She uses it as a changing table. The top was stained cherry and teh base painted black.
    My fails are too numerous to mention. But I’m getting better at finishing things.

    • foxflat · May 27, 2011

      The dresser sounds like a fabulous makeover!! Enamel paint (especially that bright) would take a lot of time to remove. What a wonderful present…

      I suppose for all the fails, every once in a while we work some real magic 😉

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