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Money saving threads and stitches

Army surplus

  • I buy army surplus gear. It’s cheap and the quality is good. I bought an army shirt for $5 about 10 years ago and its still as good as the day I bought it. It’s got a German flag on it and someone’s name written on the collar. Find one with “Hitler” on it and you could have gold-mine. Army gear really gets me in a combative mood which is exactly what I need when chasing flies around the house!   


  • I only buy the cheapest flannelette sheets, and they can be prone to pilling/fluffing. I put them - while still in their plastic wrappers - into the freezer for at least 24 hours, then wash as usual. They wear evenly, with no pilling, and are lovely and warm. It works with kids' flannelette pyjamas too! - Karen, Palmerston North

  • I try to save as much money as I can when it comes to clothing. I buy out of season when the sales start ready for next year. Already I have shorts and tee shirts packed for next spring and summer and will be using winter clothes I bought in spring when the weather cools down. If you don’t mind being a season behind it’s a great way to save money and have some new clothes! Sometimes I buy one item and if I really like it keep an eye out and buy more when the sales hit. - Denise, Auckland

  • I hang my newly washed shirts etc on coat hangers on the line and then ironing, if necessary is a breeze. - A.K., Carterton.

  • To keep your arms warm when wearing a sleeveless dress to a party use a pair of panty hose. cut out the crotch and toes and pull them over your head. You can use black or nude or mesh pantyhose. - Denis, Opotiki.


  • Use any left over jeans, decorate with lace, buttons, patches, from the crutch area; cut straight across; and resew to seal the legs and crutch.  With the cut off legs, make straps using the leg material; and sew onto the top band part of the jeans where the belt loops are. I used an old tie as a decorative piece threaded into the belt loops. The five pockets I use for placing keys, cell phone, lipstick, sun block, anything small... you can even put a full zip across the top part to seal the new bag. - F.R., Oropi, Tauranga

  • If you have old jeans that no longer fit, Unpick and use material to make jeans for small children, you can add buttons, ribbon, etc to make them more personalised and nobody would even know that they were made out of your old jeans. If you can not sew, maybe you might know of someone that could sew them up for maybe some baking etc. - Shirl, Napier.

Hand-me-downs and second hand

  • I buy my clothes at op shops. - Helen, Sunshine Coast Qld.

  • We buy most of our clothes from second hand shops. It takes a bit longer looking for 'needles in the haystack' but people are always saying how well dressed we are! - Mary, Picton.

  • Do you have sewing skills, a sewing machine and some spare time? How about helping a struggling family by mending their children's clothes? I have recently 'adopted' a family and have been patching items of school uniforms and jeans, have fixed the seams and hems of small dresses, given tights a new lease of life with some imaginative decoration, and all of this for little cost. For patching material, go to an Op shop and buy, for instance, a worn pair of jeans in the same colour as the one to be mended. Use the good bits for patching. If you are of the granny generation and cannot give this kind of practical help to offspring of your own, just look a bit further a-field. I wore hand-me-downs and mended clothes throughout my childhood and gratefully remember my mother's knack of making them look special. Let's use our old-fashioned skills again to help today's recession children. The same goes for the grandpa generation and for DIY skills in general, of course! - Thirties Depression Baby, Auckland.

  • My daughters dolls clothes, cot blankets, bibs are real babies clothes from Op Shops. - G.B.

  • Check what your kids are going to throw out as being out of fashion or too small. They have some really good gear, and even it is only good for the gardening it will be cost effective (a term that, as you know, means cheap!). Another source is to wait until the charity shops have sale days, ie fill up a supermarket bag for a dollar etc. We have found that by using the above means of clothing ones self we have managed a trip to Queensland every year to escape the hardships of winter, using all the specials of course. - L.M.C.

  • When clothing growing kids, ask around for some hand-me-downs. Many items will be as good as new.

  • Those with teenagers and above should have a look at what clothing their kids are throwing out. I recently scored three jackets and a pair of jeans from our son who was going to toss it out. Ok, I know I could be accused of not bring my son up right, but hey, he was just going to toss the stuff out! – F.N.

  • When buying fabric, consider buying second hand clothing. Cut it up and make something new. – F.N.

  • Op' Shops are great places to get cheap clothing from. To help find op shops in your area check out www.opshopdirectory.co.nz - Sam, Hamilton.

Natty kniting

  • I buy good quality knitted items from second hand /church shops. Unpick the garments and wash the wool. You need to wind the wool around the legs of a chair or something similar, like someone’s hands if you have a helper to make a skein. Tie it loosely. Wash /soak for a while till all the crinkles of the previous knitting are gone, then tie on the line to dry. Then rewind.  If you try to knit previously knitted wool without washing it will not look nice. I recently did this, buying an item for 50 cents which gave me wool worth $6-$7 dollars in the shops. -  Erina.

  • Take up knitting. It’s a great way to better utilize time that would otherwise be wasted in front of the telly. Knitted garments make excellent gifts (like knitted underpants!). You may even find and tourists shops will stock uniquely New Zealand creations. – F.N.

Sales and seconds

  • Make the most of buying opportunities such as sales and factory seconds. If it coming up to winter, buy for next summer. If its coming up to summer, buy for next winter. – F.N.

  • Wait for a sales. One oily ragger waited six months for a bumper shoe sale before buying a much needed pair of dress shoes. By the time he foud a pair (down from $200 to $86) his other shoes were well past their used by date. – Ed.

School uniforms

  • Buy school uniforms (especially the expensive items like winter jackets) through the classified ad’s or through a school notice board. – F.N.

Second hand

  • Here’s a tip for buying clothes at second hand shops. Always check the clothing labels to see how worn the garment is before purchasing. Also, we find clothes can be cheap at garage sales during the summer - and especially at sales where people are moving overseas. - E. Loo.


  • Dust off the sewing machine because there is gold in there! When my daughters sweat shirts get a bit snug I cut then a the front down the middle add a full length zip & make a roomier sweat jacket. Zips cost at local op shop a dozen for $1.00. I also extend the length of the sleeves by cutting the arms off at the mid upper arm & adding a piece in. This takes me about 10 minutes & I am a beginner sewer. It can be easier to remake clothing from existing pieces as they often already have hems, zips, waist bands. A second hand $2.00 long skirt became three skirts with additional elastic at $2.00. Total cost for three skirts $4.00. One skirt used the existing waist band & zip & button. The others used the existing hem & elastic. The material is stunning. I have made short sleeve tops into long sleeve, shirts to skirts & dresses (apologies to my husband!), knit shirts to tights. There are a lot of tutorials on the internet so ...no excuses.  Teach your kids. P.S. I share my machine with three other friends, Second hand it cost us $25.00 each. 2 weeks about gives us a month to get our stuff together. When we have the machine it is sew, sew, sew. – SMP, Mangonui.

  • My mum was throwing away some old woollen jerseys that were a little bit moth eaten...so I rescued them from the bin, felted them by washing in boiling water, then used the sleeves to make mittens and the body/scraps of the jerseys for either a matching scarf or hat...so cute! - crafty wee savage, Opotiki

  • Old electric blanket can be cutup for shoe liners in slippers( I've worn my Ug Boots for 15 years) around the house. Also can cut off the old cord & pull out the wires and resew the edges to make a spare underlay blanket or for extra spare blanket. My old electric has prints on it. Plain one can be covered with material. Have fun making it. - Cosy Bee, Wanganui.

Smelling nice

  • Rodders from Rotorua asks, "I am a bachelor and find that my clothes always smell musty when I take them out of the drawers after a while. What do I use to keep them smelling nice?"  

Cakes of your favourite toilet soap placed in your clothing drawers will change the musty smell. - H.E, Te Kaha  

To keep your clothes smelling sweet, store cakes of soap in your drawers.  Not only do they make your clothes smell nice but the soap matures and hardens on storage and has a longer life when finally used. - Bernie, Christchurch  

Special occassions

  • If an outfit is needed for a special occasion (a school ball for example), hire it don’t buy it. Buying something to use once only is not the sort of thing those living off the smell of an oily rag would do. – F.N.


  • I found some good bras at an op' shop, they were two small four my use so I unpicked the hooks and eyes and sewed them onto my bras. So no more getting hooked up in the broken hooks on my bras. The op' shop bras were only 50 cents each, Have a go - Dianne

Wishy Washy

  • Buy machine washable garments. “Dry clean only” labels are a protection for the manufacturer. Only a small percentage of clothes cannot be hand washed if done carefully. Pressing of clothing at the dry-cleaners costs a fraction of the full dry-cleaning price. - F.N.

Wool jumpers

  • I've just finished fixing" a pure wool jumper bought in a jumble sale for $1. It had a very dirty neckline (probably because it had bene knitted too tightly) so I undid several rows and reknitted it on larger needles, discarding the last few inches of wool. Result, a $150 pullover for $1. - Y.L.

  • A reader recalls the experiences of her grandmother. “Gran’ would go to a second hand clothes shop and buy two or three knitted garments. She would undo them, wash the wool and rewind into balls, then knit into multi-coloured jerseys. And with the left over wool she would make soft toys. This is far cheaper than buying new wool.”


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