Second-hand kids’ clothes

secondhand childrens clothes

I’m often writing about my own second-hand finds, but I rarely talk about my childrens’ clothing, and where I source it from.

Having three girls means we have relied a lot on donations from other families, hand-me-downs and second-hand sources. I have scoured NCT sales, charity shops and specialist second-hand stores, as well as online sites, to pick up clothing for my girls. As a result we have rather a large collection of outfits and, living in a tiny cottage, very little room.

My middle and younger daughter share a room and one chest of drawers (plus some hanging space). So I have to be very ruthless when clothing comes into our house. To be honest, when they’re not in school uniform they tend to stick to the same few outfits anyway. My eldest is now at the age where a shopping trip to Primark with her pocket money is a monthly treat. We have talked a little about the shoddy manufacture of their clothes (and who makes them). However I’m not going to ban her from going there. As a result, though, her chest of drawers is crammed with cheap throwaway items.minimal clothing for children

I do rotate clothing and pack it up for the next child in line. This is where our loft comes in very handy and bags are stored there, divided into age and season.

I have also been trying for the past couple of years to really cut down on what the girls wear and am forever donating piles to charity shops. I’m not very good, though, at saying no to friends who pass on armloads of good quality clothing for the children to wear. Through these donations I have noticed that some labels last longer and it’s not unusual to find Boden items that have been worn by at least three other children by the time they reach us.

I have also been rather cheeky and some of the outfits donated by older children have ended up in my wardrobe. At present I am wearing this boxy burgundy jumper that was donated by a 14 year old!

kids' jumperIf you read this blog regularly, though, you will also know that occasionally I buy first hand clothing for the kids. My last few experiences with cheap Primark outfits, though, has resulted in mending them (here). The lesson I’m learning is second-hand can be better quality that first-hand.

Mending children’s jeans: £4.66 v £5 Primark jeans

Mending children's jeans

I wrote this post here about my belief that if we buy cheap clothes we have to learn to mend them. Well now it looks like I have to eat my words as the £5 jeans I bought for my 9 year old from Primark have massive tears (hangs head: buying cheap clothing means low quality and low wages).

So, determined not to throw them away, or turn them into embellished cut offs (as shown here) I set to work fixing them.

I am no stranger to mending jeans as I patched my own pair a few times (see here), but I knew my daughter would need a) slightly less visible mending and b) harder wearing.

I found this tutorial on wonderful Youtube.

As a result I paid a visit to the local haberdashers and bought lightweight fusible interfacing. I know it sounds silly but I’ve never used this material before – but now I am completely hooked on it as it’s so easy to use! Cut to size, iron on and hey presto it sticks!

While the tutorial only uses the interfacing to mend the tears I also cut off some denim from an old pair of jeans to act as a harder wearing patch underneath. (The denim came from my old much patched jeans that had been mended using fabric from an older pair of my daughter’s jeans – which were turned into the cutoffs mentioned above – so now the fabric was being used to mend another pair of jeans. I also have plans for the remnants of these old pair of jeans: post to follow).

Phwew, so now that the never-ending cycle of old jeans had produced denim material patches all I needed to buy was fusible interfacing and special denim needles for the sewing machine: a grand total of £4.66.

mending children's jeans

So the process of mending the tears on the jeans went something like this:

  1. Iron jeans (I also cut off some of the hanging threads from the tear). Turn inside out and cut a large piece of interfacing and denim to generously cover the tear.

mendig jeans

2) Iron on interfacing so that it sticks. (I also stuffed the denim patch up the leg so that the interfacing wouldn’t stick to the other side of the leg)

mending jeans

3) Pin the denim patch over it (making sure not to pin all the way through the leg as you need to turn the leg back to the right side in a minute).

mending jeans

4) Select a wider zig zag stitch on your machine.

mending jeans

5) With the jeans now the right side, slide the leg onto the sewing machine. Sew over the tear a couple of times using the zig zag stitch. This will secure the patch underneath in place and (hopefully) prevent any more fraying. You can then turn the jeans inside out once again and cut the denim patch to a smaller size. I used pinking shears for a zig zag edge, which should prevent it from fraying.


mending jeans

With hindsight I should have chosen a thread that better matched the colour of the lighter jeans. The stitching is more visible than I would have liked. However, for playing outside these jeans will be far more hard wearing for my daughter.

But the lesson learnt is Don’t Buy Cheap Clothes! Something I tell myself time and again but when you’re on a budget and the charity shops don’t have the right size it’s a very easy thing to do.

At least I now have my Denim Mending Kit in my sewing box for the next repair. It may have cost only 34p less than the £5 jeans but I now have plenty of needles and interfacing to patch time and time again – plus the satisfaction of knowing I will NOT be going to Primark again to buy cheap jeans.

Christmas Bookshelf


A Christmas Bookshelf

It is has become somewhat of a tradition in our house to have a small collection of Christmas books on display at this time of year. It’s really nice to be reunited with familiar tales and remind us all of when the children were really young.

Over the years I have added to this collection and have picked up a few from charity shops:

Books to read at Christmas time

Among the children’s books are these:

Children's books to read at Christmas

The Snow Lady is a lovely tale by the wonderful author, Shirley Hughes. A little girl thinks her elderly neighbour is grumpy and miserable but feels bad when she makes fun of her. There is a classic Charlie and Lola tale (which came with an audio CD): Snow is my favourite and my best. The Christmas Gingerbread is a delightfully illustrated story about badly behaved gingerbread men and women. Of course no home is complete without the classic tale: The Night Before Christmas.

I also wanted to mention two classic books which we bought first hand:

Books to read at Christmas

Fireside Tales is a special collection of winter tales from around the world. Published by Barefoot Books the stories take us through the winter season, from a Scottish tale of mystery set at Halloween to Russian, Canadian and Czech stories meant for Christmas, New Year and the coming of Spring. I also wanted to mention the lovely abbreviated stories, taken from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series (which, even as an adult I still love). We have a couple of picture books, adapted as tales for young readers. Every Christmas we read Christmas in the Big Woods, taken from the first book in the series when Laura, Mary and baby Carrie live in the woods of Wisconsin, and welcome their cousins for Christmas.

I sometimes find myself re-reading excerpts from the other Little House on the Prairie season at this time of year, especially when brave Mr Edwards saves Christmas Day in Little House in the Prairie, or the family welcome old friends and manage to stretch their food and gifts in By the Shores of Silver Lake. For a look at how desperate winters could be for settlers in the American Mid West I would recommend The Long Winter.

I also have a small collection of Christmas and Winter books meant for adults, which I have picked up second-hand:

Winter and Christmas reading Tove Jansson is the creator of the Moomin series for children. I really enjoyed her A Summer Book, set on a small Finnish island. I also picked up second-hand A Winter Book, a collection of her Winter themed short stories.

This week I was fortunate enough to find this book by The Woman in Black author, Susan Hill. I’ve just started to read Lanterns Across the Snow with my middle daughter, and we are really enjoying it. Lanterns Across the Snow by Susan Hill


It is the tale of a nine year old girl living in the Dorset countryside with her family (her father is a vicar) and set over a hundred years ago. The illustrations by Kathleen Lindsley are charming and the text (and images) remind me of my childhood favourite: The Country Child by Alison Uttley.

Susan Hill: Lanterns Across the Snow

Finally, for me, no Christmas reading list is complete without the wonderful and  frightening tales by MR James. If you have not read his short ghost stories before you will find them familiar. Over the years they have been adapted for television and radio. Their scenarios are familiar: empty hotel rooms where shapes appear in the bedclothes; a mysterious figure on a desolate beach seen only out of the corner of your eye; a pair of binoculars which, when viewed through, reveal grisly scenes. Although writing in the early 20th Century he is often seen as the father of the modern ghost story. And there is nothing more Christmas-like than a good old scary tale…..

MR James: Collected Ghost Stories


Scrapstore Halloween

Last year I wrote this post about our second-hand Halloween. Since then the decorations got damaged and had to be thrown away. Thankfully we had picked up a big bag of ‘scrap’ from Wiltshire Scrapstore in the summer and had lots of material left to make some new spooky decorations.

As you can see from the picture below, we re-used some Scrapstore netting and turned it into a giant cobweb. We made some spiders from circles of black foam and some very simple ghosts from some old white fabric.

Scrapstore Halloween Decorations


Last year we had to get rid of our old tent, after 12 years, but I kept the white fabric from the sleeping compartments and for this Halloween we turned it into a very simple ghost.

Halloween ghost using old fabric

I have to confess I ‘stole’ this idea from Pinterest but I think it looks quite effective. We used three garden poles and attached a stuffed carrier bag to the middle one. We draped the fabric over the three poles and used some wire to create a head shape.

'Tent' ghost


The giant pumpkin came from the allotment of a friend who was raising funds for Diabetes UK. I’ve tried to save as much flesh when carving it and hope to turn it into something tasty.

Hope you had a fun Halloween!

Zero Waste Week (Day One): Top of the class!

Today sees the start of Zero Waste Week. The initiative has been running for eight years and this year’s theme is ‘Re-use’. Having been ill with a rubbish cold over the weekend I feel slightly disorganised for this week but am determined to take part as it’s such a great idea and seems to get bigger every year.

I don’t think I will get anywhere near producing zero waste this week but I will really try to cut down on the rubbish I produce and rethink about those items that would go in the bin – or even the recycling boxes.

With this in mind I started with something very small this morning – a school badge:


returning school badges for Zero Waste Week

My children go to a lovely nurturing village school and one of the things they do at the start of every school year is ask to be a member of a various school council group (School Council, Class Council, Celebration, Food and Sport Councils). Having three children who have, at various times, been on all of these councils means there are a lot of badges that come into our house and only last a year.

I’m not a great one for keeping lots of things for sentimental value and the badges end up hanging around in the bottom of drawers, boxes etc. This school year I was determined to return the badges so that the school could re-use them. In the end I could only find this Class Council badge which my middle daughter had worn last year. Ironically her younger sister has just been given a Class Council role so may end up wearing this very same badge by the end of the week!

A Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Scrapstore Birthday Party

Today was my youngest daughter’s seventh birthday. She had requested a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme as they had been reading the book in class.

In my usual cheap way I decided to make use of what we already had at home, while also taking a trip to the wonderful Wiltshire Scrapstore. I have blogged about this great resource before. We are very fortunate to have the scrapstore (and its High Street shop) only twenty minutes’ away in the beautiful village of Lacock. At the beginning of the school holidays we took a trip the scrapstore – a great holiday activity  in itself. For just £7 I got this massive bag of scrap paper, foam, ribbon, cellophane wrapping and other odds and ends:

Wiltshire Scrapstore bag: ideal for party decorations!


At home we got creative, making large liquorice allsorts from black and orange foam. We also blew up some balloons to make giant jelly beans, and then hung them all from ribbon to make a sweet-themed entranceway.

oversized sweets made from Scrapstore materials

Having scoured Pinterest (of course!) for other decoration ideas I stole this idea for balloon lollipops. They were wrapped in cellophane (some scoured from the scrapstore, other sheets left over from floral bouquets) and then attached to the inner tubes of wrapping paper:

Not pictured is the purple bunting that I picked up from the rubbish bin at Cock and Bull festival last weekend. Having given it a good wash and iron it was as good as new.

We also used the bag of Scrapstore materials, and other ‘junk’ to make a couple of party games. Imagine our delight at finding the sheet of gold card, which was perfect to turn into golden tickets for both a treasure hunt, and party thank you notes.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: golden ticket game

I also used my ‘art’ skills to recreate this Willy Wonka for party guests to pin the hat on (apologies to Quentin Blake!):

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory party

The Scrapstore also supplied us with a craft set as a prize for pass the parcel:

Wiltshire Scrapstore craft set

Finally, as I may have ranted on about before I HATE party bags and all the plastic tat and waste that they create. I haven’t given out party bags for years and, instead, tend to hand out birthday cake and a craft item that the children have made during the party. This time I scoured local charity shops for second-hand Roald Dahl books. These were wrapped in the plain brown paper from an Amazon delivery, and a golden ticket thank you and small bar of chocolate was attached.

The party was small scale but everyone seemed to have fun. We’ve also got loads of scrapstore materials left over which will keep us all occupied over the summer – and I’m sure provide decorations for the next birthday party in our household.




second hand books as party thank yous

Fair Trade Easter

As I have just completed my Supermarket Free Lent I thought it was only right that I should give non-supermarket Easter eggs to my children and family. I found this great Shaun the Sheep egg from ethical superstore:

Fair Trade Easter


Happy Easter!!

Slowing down….

This week is already shaping up to be a busy one. I have work this evening, voluntary work on Tuesday and Wednesday, job application to complete, school Easter service on Thursday plus a few things I want to buy or make for the school holidays next week.

Tomorrow we have someone viewing our house (it’s still for sale) so I have spent a stupid amount of time tidying and getting it ready. As we are continually decluttering and I am trying to be more minimalist this does take less time. However I’m sure the energy used up in preparing our house for a viewing compared to the amount of time that the viewing takes is very disproportionate.

But a couple of things have forced me to pause, gather my thoughts and contemplate on what is really important. While tidying the garden in the spring sunshine yesterday I came across this Easter nest that the girls had made with friends:

Slowing down: making time and space for the little things

For one moment I had thought about tidying it away – as if a ‘nest free’ lawn would make all the difference to a house sale! What was I thinking? Instead of believing it made the garden look untidy I should have been celebrating their creation. I should have been overjoyed that they were playing outside, unplugged and with friends.

Another sign that made me slow down and take stock was this book I picked up by chance in a charity shop today:

Slowing down

I hadn’t heard of the book, or author before, but was intrigued by the minimalist sounding title. I do have a pile of books by the side of my bed and I know I swore not to bring more into the house but I did end up buying it nonetheless. Later on I found I had twenty minutes to spare while I waited to pick someone up from the train station. This proved a perfect opportunity to slow down, read a few chapters and savour the contents. I haven’t read enough yet to provide a review but I plan to find pockets of time over the next few days to dedicate to the simple pleasure of reading it.

weird seventies fabric and childhood memories

A few years ago I acquired this rather odd-looking fabric, straight from the 1970s:



Despite its strangeness it does have a sentimental attachment as it once belonged to a travel cot my brother slept in as a baby in the mid 70s. When my parents got rid of the cot I kept onto the fabric and, for the past few years, have been racking my brains as to how I can use it. I really wanted to create something to pass onto his children as a – sort of – family heirloom. This Christmas I finally came up with a solution as my little niece has recently acquired a Build-a-Bear. After some pinterest research and a fair bit of making it up myself I produced a sleeping bag and matching pillow for her bear (unfortunately I forgot to take a pic before wrapping it up). I quite like the fact that the material that was once used when her daddy went camping can now help her toys have a ‘camp out’ too.

Using this fabric also got me thinking about other odd 1970s pieces that I have used, taken from a decade where unsettling and oddly coloured patterns seem to have been de rigour. In fact the orange shades of the above fabric remind me of the slightly trippy hues and effects from the Willy Wonka film (which both delighted and scared me as a small child).

A few years ago I acquired some second-hand fabric featuring animals in the 1970s shade of brown. I turned them into this cushion cover and this peg bag:



Afterwards a friend noticed the cushion and remarked that she had once had a pair of curtains in the very fabric!

I am sure that somewhere in a charity shop is the Magic Roundabout fabric that my aunty made curtains and a gym bag from. Alas all I have now is this Magic Roundabout mug, picked up from a jumble sale about twenty years ago:

Childhood memories: Magic Roundabout mug bought at a jumble sale


Are there any fabric patterns from your childhood that both delighted and unsettled you? How would you feel if you were reunited with it once more?

Second-hand (and home-made) Christmas: Part Two

Having recently talked about the second-hand Christmas ‘trimmings’ in our house I thought I would post about the pre-loved presents I have bought (and made) this year. As you may know, from other posts, I do buy second-hand gifts but only for those people whom I think would appreciate, or not care, that it is re-used. This year my charity shop gift buying has focused on my children – interspersing pre-loved gifts with new ones.

As always I have raided the bookshelves of some of the local charity shops to give a selection to the girls.IMG_9328

My twelve year old will have the Hilary McKay and Cathy Cassidy books. I’m going to introduce the Amelia Jane books to my six year old. All these books were from the same Dorothy House shop and cost just 20p each! My eight year old is really into real life mysteries so I ordered a second-hand book for her online (which hasn’t arrived yet, uh oh!).

My eldest requested a jewellery tree and I picked this one up for £2 from the local PDSA shop:


As well as second-hand presents we have been making our own to give to neighbours, teachers and school friends.

This week I helped my eight year old make these cushions for a couple of her friends:


She also made some holly leaf decorations, sewing very carefully up the spine of each leaf:


And some bath salts, using dried rosemary and lavender from the garden:


Finally we all made these very chocolatey biscuits for neighbours:


I’ve also sneaked in a couple of extra ‘home-made’ presents for my youngest two. I’ve found some great free printable paper dolls online (via pinterest). I’ve printed them on thick card and they look very adorable:

IMG_9341Of course there were other presents that I intended to make but I feel I am running out of time. There are a couple of projects I want to work on in the New Year as we have quite a few family birthdays in January and February. In the meantime the presents are wrapped (using our recycled brown parcel paper), and waiting for Christmas Day…