Spotting the potential in charity shop finds

A Stitching Odyssey

We're very excited to share our first ever guest blog. Marie from A Stitching Odyssey is obsessed with stitching, and has created some beautiful things from items she's found in charity shops...

What springs to mind when you think of charity shops? For me, it can be summed up in one word: potential. I’m not really interested in the ‘obvious finds’ and items in pristine condition. I enjoy seeking out items with potential far more, something I can transform and bring back to life. Charity shops are full of these kinds of items, which really only need a bit of TLC and creative thinking.

Material is a playground. Marie's dress made form curtain material

Since learning how to sew nearly five years ago, I've become obsessed with stitching my own clothes. Buying new fabric can be quite pricey though, so I greedily eye up interesting textiles I come across. There's no better place to grab a bargain than at a charity shop, and you feel even better knowing that your money is going to a good cause.

My favourite finds include bed sheets and curtains, which are usually plentiful and often top quality brands. Take the gorgeous pair of St Michael's curtains I recently found. They are 100% cotton and the print reminded me so much of a summer meadow that I just had to make a sundress...and I still have leftovers for a second project.

Recycling a man's shirt

It’s also fun looking for clothing that’s too big and even intended for the opposite sex. These larger items provide lots of fabric to play around with and are ideal for refashioning, allowing you to really flex your creativity. I refashioned the men’s shirt above as part of an online challenge, but if you want to see some seriously good refashioning skills check out Charity Shop Chic and Miss P.

My other obsession

Sewing aside, my other big obsession is vintage furniture, and this is where my local Sue Ryder shop comes up trumps! It always has such a great selection of rare pieces, at a fraction of the ‘going’ price and in excellent condition.

There’s not a week that goes by without something catching my eye, perhaps most fittingly this 1927 Singer sewing machine, complete with all its accessories and worktop. Alas, I had to give it a miss as I couldn’t justify adopting yet another sewing machine!

Vintage sewing machine

I also regularly drool over the stunning 1930s/1940s pieces, as well as the cool mid-century designs. They honestly don’t make furniture like they used to!

Sue Ryder furniture

Sadly, my house isn’t big enough to buy everything I fall in love with, but I did succumb to two beautiful pieces from Sue Ryder recently – a 1930s/1940s dressing table and a solid rocking chair. I plan on reviving them with a lick of paint and new handles for the dresser, hopefully without compromising their unique details.

Vintage furniture

Are you a fan of spotting the potential in charity shop finds? I'd love to hear about your finds. Leave a comment below or tweet us at @StichOdyssey and @Sue_Ryder

Thanks for reading!


We'd like to say a huge thank you to Marie for writing our first ever guest blog. If you like what you read from Marie, you can keep up to date with what she gets up to via her excellent blog - A Stitching Odyssey. You can also follow her on Twitter - @StitchOdyssey - if you've got any questions or if you want to share anything that you've created.

Think you could follow in Marie's footsteps and write a post for us? Get in touch! Email us at or send us a quick tweet.


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  • on 06/08/2014 14:46 char said:

    I love scouring charity shops for curtain and sheet material which are usually super cheap and making dresses from them. One of my favourite Sue Ryder finds was a vintage fur ocelot coat - £15! I feel a little like Cruella when i wear it but it's wonderful.

  • on 07/08/2014 00:47 Amy Beeton said:

    great post Marie! I too love charity shops and am lucky enough to have a vintage sue ryder shop near me in Headingley leeds. My house is 1930s so love finding bits to match the era. I've recently upholstered some dining chairs (on my blog) and a sideboard is next. Vintage stuff is great quality and lasts so much longer than cheap flat pack stuff. style and scrimping. love it x

  • on 27/09/2014 13:38 Paul Stephens said:

    I read with surprise the comments about the joys of shopping at Sue Ryder for vintage furniture when it seems they do not actually want any donations unless it is new and in mint condition. I have recently travelled across the country to visit my Mother-in-law who is shortly moving in with us, as we had the Sue Ryder van coming round to take away some furniture we were donating to charity, but apparently some of the furniture had marks on it and therefore was not suitable!!!! The items in questions were original G Plan from the early sixties including dining room furniture table, display cabinet, as well as bedroom wardrobes, chest of drawers etc, the furniture is 50+ years old of course there will be some marks? We were originally looking at selling it on line but thought someone would benefit from them, it has certainly changed my attitude to making donations in the future. Incidentally the marks on the dining room furniture were caused by water from vases placed on them and were polished out when the guy had left

  • on 09/01/2015 02:46 said:


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