Andrea Mulder-Slater: The Art of Childhood


8 Creative and Fun Art Projects to Make with Thrift Shop Finds

It takes a village to make a change

8 Creative and Fun Art Projects to Make with Thrift Shop Finds

I think we can all agree that reusing, recycling, and upcycling materials is a good idea.

Imagine...if everyone believed that stuff was worth something (even right before it’s thrown away), we could theoretically live in a world without waste a world where everything is re-imagined, rather than discarded.

Instead, Canadians and Americans send over 10.5 million tons of clothing (95% of which is still usable) to landfills each year - not to mention the multitude of other reusable items like furniture, housewares, toys and books that are regularly loaded into garbage dumps - without a second thought.

Landfills are full of useful items.

It Takes a Village

Recycling is in my blood. When I was a toddler, my parents operated a furniture refinishing business, breathing new life into old objects. My mom is a folk artist who uses everything from cutlery and knick knacks, to wire and wooden spools in her works of art, and she and I have salvaged and painted more than our share of tables and chairs.

Our family visits thrift stores regularly for a number of reasons. I have an active 7-year-old daughter (who gets holes in the knees of her pants within seconds of putting them on). My artist husband drips paint and ink on his shirts and pants daily and my mom is always on the lookout for items she can use in her sculptures. Meanwhile, I love scoring great deals on vintage and designer fashions.

I’ve always known Value Village (or as I like to call it: my happy place) to be one of the best places to shop in terms of quality, variety and low prices, but what I didn’t know is that the folks at Value Village are also environmental ninjas whose efforts keep more than 650 million pounds of reusable items out of landfills every year. 650 million pounds!!

And, the stuff they sell helps many organizations like the Canadian Diabetes Association, Easter Seals, and Big Brother and Big Sisters, to name only a few.

Hunting and Gathering

Value Village has shelves and racks bursting with high-quality, new-to-you clothing but they also have all the great beginnings for your next creative project. Seriously. This place is a crafter's paradise.

Recently, my mom, daughter, and I headed to our local store to see if we could find some everyday items we could take home and transform into cool crafts and activities, without spending a fortune.

Filling our cart at Value Village was easy, mostly because the store features thousands of high quality pre-loved clothes, housewares, books, toys and jewelry at incredible prices. We grabbed bright patterned shirts, colourful tablecloths, plastic toys, cutlery, doorknobs, a wooden shelf, grab bags stuffed full of yarn, hardware, and wood. The cashier had never seen such a random pile of stuff!

We were on fire.

Find endless inspiration for your next craft project at Value Village.

Art from Any Old Thing

Over the next few days, we sorted through our acquisitions and - by thinking about how to use everyday items in unusual ways - we came up with several family-friendly arts, crafts and activities perfect for both indoor or outdoor play.


Using four mops and brooms, we created a tent frame over which we draped, buttoned, and pinned (with clothes pins) a variety of shirts, thus creating a cozy reading nook. It is the perfect place for kids to read all of the terrific used books you'll find at Value Village.

Reading nook made of old shirts.


We took big, colourful tablecloths and draped them across the branches of our apple tree to create a fun outdoor rainbow. The added bonus here was climbing the tree. If you were so inclined, you could take our project one step further and sew a giant hammock, perfect for lazy summer days.

Rainbow tree using fabric from Value Village.


Everyday objects like toys take on a completely new look when wrapped in aluminum foil. Imagine your child and his friends turning these into a "guess what it is" birthday party game.

Mystery metallic sculptures.

Project #4 - GRAB BAG ROBOTS

Painted wood, a plate rack, solar lights, doorknobs, hinges, a door stopper, screws, and other items found in Value Village grab bags, can be transformed into cool robot creatures with a little imagination and a bit of glue. You’ll never look at spoons the same way again.

Robots made from items found in Value Village grab bags.


When is a wall shelf, not a wall shelf? When it's flipped upside down and painted. Now, it's the perfect place to hold my kiddo's favourite bedtime reads.

Bedtime book holder.


You don’t need a loom to weave a placemat. We made this one using a metal ruler and yarn we found in those famous Value Village grab bags. The trick to weaving without a loom is to lay out the yarn, hold it down at one end with a straight edge and pull every other piece back over the ruler. Lay additional strips of yarn crosswise - one at a time - and alternate the lengths back and forth, as seen in the video below. Voila! Fancy dinner time.

Make a woven placemat, without a loom.

Project #7 - SPIRAL MAZE

If you’ve ever taken your kids through a labyrinth or maze, you’ll know how much fun they can be. You can use tablecloths, shirts, and pants to make a colourful spiral right in your yard.

Colourful fabric spiral maze.


A shepherd’s hook (normally reserved for hanging flower baskets) wrapped with green, yellow, and red fabric, became a larger-than-life flower when my mom got a hold of it. We even needed to place a nectar feeder nearby, after it began attracting several hummingbirds.

Make a really big flower with fabric from Value Village.

There's no end to what you can create after a trip to Value Village. And at the end of the day, who wouldn't want to shop at a store with no pushy sales staff, zero loud music, and all the supplies you need to help you plan your next birthday party, family picnic or Crafturday afternoon? Not to mention, all the brand-name clothes (that won't shrink as soon as you toss them in the washing machine!)

And then there's the bit about changing the world for the better. So before you head to the craft or dollar store, consider the thrift store alternative and before you throw away still usable items, think about donating them at your local Value Village store or partner organization, because as we all know, it takes a village...