About Nancy Doud

Nancy is the mother of four boys, a writer, a professional photographer and a bargain hunter extraordinaire. She’s been writing at her personal blog http://shawnandnan.wordpress.com/ since March of 2006. Visit Nancy Doud on Google+

Learn to Shop a Thrift Store: Get A Thrifting Buddy

My mom is my thrifting buddy. She taught me the dainty and fine art of dumpster diving from a very early age. Actually I hid in the car and cowered, quite sure that a friend or, worse still, an enemy might see my mom and then see me… The psycho-social ramifications would be unbearable. So I hid.

I felt the same way whenever my mom would bring me to the thrift store. I would look with contempt at the items she would present to me. I would live in utter fear of being discovered in this musty place of cast-offs. I would cringe even more when I would reluctantly ((gulp)) LIKE something I saw at the thrift store.

Perhaps it was my desire to own more clothes in high school and still keep more of my hard-earned babysitting money. It may have had something to do with the fact that I embraced the grunge look of the mid 1990’s. Ever since then my mom and I have been thrifting pals, sharing our finds and rejoicing with one another at the steals and deals.

I think everyone needs a thrifting buddy or two. After all, two bargain-hunters are better than one!

Today my mom brought home the most lovely oilcloth picnic tablecloth for a crazy $3. You’d pay about $40 for this double reversible padded blanket on Etsy. It’s pretty much right out of a lovely little Technicolor dream.

thrifting-3 (2)

She also found me a great little pile of yarn and a pair of beautiful wooden knitting needles for just $5.


And look at this loot of beautiful colorful buttons! My dear bargain-hunting buddy found them, over $50 worth of buttons, for just about $3! Oh, how I love buttons!thrifty-1

Do you have a thrifting buddy or mentor? When did you get interested in bargain-hunting? Any recent finds you want to gush about?


Craft Ideas: Fabric Memo Board From Recycled Materials

sheetIf you are into crafting or sewing or any other kind of project that involves fabric, the sheet section in the thrift store is a great place to hunt! So much upcycyle potential there! I grabbed up this lovely one for a dollar in a hurry when I was there a few days ago. I also swiped a big old bag of buttons for two bucks. I have wanted to make one of these French memo boards for a long time.

This is a super easy project that takes only a few hours at most.

You’ll need:
-stretched canvas
-thrifted sheet or fabric of your choice
-quilt batting
-1/2 inch ribbon
- 1 ½ inch ribbon
-sturdy thread
-buttons (more or less based on size of canvas)
-staple gun & embroidery needle

- Optional: Roll of cork board in appropriate size

First you’ll need to cut two sheets of quilt batting the size of your canvas (in my case 20×24).

batting on canvasNext you’ll need to cut a piece of fabric four inches larger (height and width) than your actual canvas. So I cut my fabric piece to 24 x 28 inches.

cutting sheet_fabricIf you are going to add a roll of cork board this is the time you will want to measure it and place it on the canvas before you measure and place the batting. Next you will lay the batting on top of the canvas (or cork board) and lay the fabric over the batting and then carefully flip it over like a pancake.

staple fabricNow begin stapling around the back edges. I started on one of the short ends. Carefully tuck the corners, pulling the fabric nice and tight, for a nice clean look.

fabric all stapledOnce it’s all stapled and nice and snug, you are going to begin cutting ribbons. Cut the first two ribbons long enough to make an X right across the middle of the board. You’ll want to make them a few inches longer than needed so that stapling them is easier.

measure_cut ribbonsYou will measure, cut and attach ribbons, placing them parallel to the other ribbons you’ve attached already. A larger board (like mine) will require two more ribbons than a 16 x 20 board.

My ribbon for this project was very light so it might be a little hard to see here is the board with all of the ribbons attached.

ribbons attachedNow comes the most time consuming part; sewing on the buttons. You will sew buttons at each ribbon intersection. In order to get a nice indent, you need to sew the button on with an opposing button on the back of the canvas.

place buttonsHere is the front:sew buttonsAnd here is the back:

back buttonsWhen you’ve secured the buttons well (wear a thimble if you value your thumbs!) tie it off at the back with a couple of snug slip knots around the button.

Lastly, you will take your 1 ½ inch wide hanging ribbon and cut a large enough piece to attach it as you see in the picture below.

attach hanging ribbonI just eyeballed it rather than measuring a specified numeric length. How long you want the hanging portion of the ribbon is up to you so that will affect the length of ribbon that you should cut. Once that is attached you are done!

Here is my finished product.

finished productI’m really happy with how it turned out. I liked it so much that I made another one the next day!

This one I made from an old table cloth that I got during the same thrift store outing.

second exampleSince this board is canvas push pins will only work around the edges where the wooden frame is. They will probably work better if they are longer push pins as well because of the double thickness of the batting.

Happy thrifting!


DIY: Chair Reupholster

A DIY chair reupholster is not what I would consider complicated. It is time consuming and produces a mild perspiration but it is not a confusing process. And best of all, it’s a really affordable way of giving new life to your kitchen chairs.

First thing you need to do is remove the seat from the chair frame. Just locate the deep holes underneath the seat and using a screwdriver, take that puppy off. Be careful not to strip those screws. You will need them again later! We want to save as much as we can because we are cheap… er… I mean thrifty!


So now your chair will look like this:


And your hideous seat cushion will look something like this:


Flip it over and begin removing the staples. I went through a couple of tools before finding the right ones that did the job most cleanly and quickly. There are a lot of staples so this is really the most tedious part. The first one will take longer because you will want to be careful to save that black outer lining so you can tack it back on at the end when you’re done.


You also want to make sure that you don’t destroy the shape of the old cover as it will be your guide for cutting the new one.


This tool proved to be the best for removing the staples cleanly.


I found it most efficient to loosen any staples that were too tight with a small flat head screwdriver and then remove them with the tool above. Remove ALL those staples. You are going to put a lot of new ones in and you don’t want to be running into all the old ones.


There! Now we are ready to start the fun part!

First of all, now would be the time to add an extra cushion to the existing padding if you want a little more loft for your buns to rest upon. Because the old cushion is already so nicely formed to the shape of the chair, I just slipped my new chair cushion (bought at Joann’s Crafts) underneath the old one. Basically you want to keep all the original cushion where it is unless it is damaged.


Now, lay out your new seat cover. I used a black polka dot oilcloth because I love oilcloth (washable!!) and I love polka dots.chair-13

Using a good staple gun, begin stapling the cover snugly around the underside of the seat. How much you tug and pull at this to get it nice and smooth and have the corners nicely folded will probably vary based on the type of fabric you use. I pulled mine pretty snugly as I wanted it as firm as possible.


Staple staple staple. Remember Dori on Finding Nemo? “Just keep swimming…” Well, it’s sort of like that. Just keep stapling. Make sure ahead of time that you have plenty of staples on hand!


Now, if you want to, you can go ahead and call this done. Put the backing back on the bottom and screw it back onto the seat. However, if you want a more finished and professional appearance, take the little extra step (and really only about $10 more) and add the welting cord around the base of the seat. You can get it in the upholstery section of most fabric stores.


It’s not hard at all. Just staple it down at the edge of the seat, making sure that it is nice and snug as you go. You may go around the entire perimeter of the seat or only around the front and sides. This chair did not originally have welting cord at the back so I kept it that way.

And here is the underside of the covered and welted seat:chair-17

Go ahead and reattach the black backing with (you guessed it!) your staple gun. Not as many staples this time. Just three or four on each side.

Screw the seat back onto the chair frame.


And you are done!


Really a very rewarding project!

These chairs retail for $139 each. I bought them for $15 each at the thrift store. The fabric and welting cord were approximately $20 total for both chairs. I’d say that’s a pretty nice little deal!

Happy thrifting!

Thrifty Finds

I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say it again, thrifty bargain hunting runs through my veins. I used to literally cower in my car, lest my super cool fellow junior highers might see me, as my mom and dad would scour garage sales for great finds. Clearly I had yet to appreciate the value of a dollar and the sheer excitement brought on by finding an incredible deal.

I buy practically everything used. And I love it this way. Continue reading