Castaway to Couture

Castaway to Couture

Sarah got in touch to tell us about Castaway to Couture

Castaway to Couture is an exciting project for op shop lovers and refashioners. it is a National refashioning competition to celebrate National Sewing month in May, brought to you by the Australian Sewing Guild Inc. (ASG), in collaboration with Red Cross Shops.

The idea is simple, pick up a garment (or a few!) from Red Cross Shops, use your sewing skills to refashion it into something new and enter the competition via the ASG Facebook app. Winners will be determined via public vote, so make sure you let your friends know how they can vote for you!

The winner will receive a swag of prizes:

  •  A 12 month subscription to the Australian Sewing Guild Inc. RRP$60 (not to mention exclusive member discounts and deals)
  • A 12 month subscription to ‘Love Sewing’ Magazine RRP$99.95
  • A signed copy of ‘The Sewing Bible for Clothes Alteration’ by Judith Turner RRP$40
  • 12 month access to the Genie Centre Magic Circle videos & ebooks RRP$144.95
  • Plus articles/profiles of the winner will be published in ‘Love Sewing’ Magazine and on the Australian Sewing Guild website and blog. Just think of the exposure!

The Castaway to Couture competition is open to all Australians and don’t be put off that this is the Australian Sewing Guild – we truly welcome anyone who loves to sew! There will be no picky inspections by the ASG, it’s all down to the public to pick their fave refashion via the photos supplied. Entries open 2 March 2015 & closes 22 May 2015. For full details on the competition, terms and conditions etc please see –

You can enter as many times as you want it it’s not just for expert seamstresses so next time you pop into a Red Cross Shop get inspired and get creative.

If any of you crafty op shoppers enter be sure to let me know and I’ll share some pics to help your votes on the page.

Castaway to Couture

Castaway to Couture


Why are Op Shops becoming so expensive?

Why are Op Shops becoming so expensive?

Why are Op Shops becoming so expensive?

Thanks to Desley for contributing this piece in response to some recent discussions on op shop pricing on the page and group. Desley is an op shop fan who has been following the page from almost the beginning and has several years first hand experience in managing an op shop in Brisbane.

I hear this cry every day so I have to put pen to paper again to explain NOT justify the current situation of “Op Shops”.

Maybe the larger charities should be renaming their Thrift Shops Boutiques; Second hand stores or something similar as the Op Shop of today is not and will never again be the same as the Op Shops of the past.

In my mother’s day, the Op Shops were social enterprise outlets many run by Charities to sell items that their members sold ie the Society for the blind sold wicker and cane ware that their blind members made in their workshops. These outlets evolved into thrift shops stocked with donations from the community and provided an outlet where disadvantaged people could come and buy clothing and homewares at a low price. Don’t forget in my mother’s day pensions were very small and coming out of a depression, many people struggled to live.

In the 21st century the Op Shop scene is completely different. Large Charities run huge retail outlets which fund their core business to the community. If you are confused about an organisation’s core business please check their websites and it will provide information such as Lifeline provides a free telephone counselling service to the Australian community.

These outlets are not shops that a person can pop into and get free or cheap clothing, they are retail shops not dissimilar to any other second hand dealer.

The Government regulations, insurances, rental, power and IT costs have increased remarkably.

There is a way however that a disadvantaged person can obtain free or cheap clothing through these organisations and these methods are known by the persons Social worker, case worker, the Government Department or the organisation who is assisting the individual or family. It is a rare occasion that a person can just walk through the door and receive free clothing as not even paid managers have the authority to give away stock and the policies around this are not made by them. Think of the goods that would walk out the door for free to friends and family if these polices were not in place. Op Shop stock belongs to the organisation not to staff members. These organisations are not in the op shop business to provide the general public with bargains and the sooner you come to grips with this fact, the sooner you will lose the feeling of disappointment over the pricing of some of the shops stock.

Sell it cheaper and make more money?

Sell it cheaper and make more money?

If the stock was cheaper than they would sell more

One of the best fallacies I keep hearing is “If the stock was cheaper than they would sell more”.

Having run an Op Shop for 5 years, I can tell you from experience that reducing the price on stock does not increase sales – believe me we tried that many, many times. In actual fact, a person who buys at a reduced price still only buys the item that they want the reduced price does not encourage them to purchase more items than they want in the first place. Often when we had ½ price clothing or fill a bag, people mostly opted for the one item they found OR the few items that did not fill the bag. Now this would be different if op shop stock was ALL designer brands, but as the seasoned op shoppers and volunteer staff know, designer brand donations make up a VERY small part of your stock and if you sold all this stock off cheaply you would be left with a lot of not so attractive clothing that has to be sold at a price that will not recoup your overheads.

Admit it – when you enter an op shop you head for the best brands, the best quality and the rarest items. Multiply yourself with hundreds or thousands of customers and most op shops cannot provide only the rarest or best to every shopper – this is why these items are marked at a higher price.

They are not marked at a price for a dealer to buy and make money on or for a person to buy and make a profit by reselling.

Why does donated stock cost so much?

Why does donated stock cost so much?

Stock is made up of donations which are free

Another favourite of mine is “stock is made up of donations which are free”.

Granted donations provided to op shops are not paid for initially BUT it costs the charity to sell these items unless they operate out of the back of a church or of a charity owned premises. The little community based op shop I started for a small NFP cost $10,000 to set up.

Then the ongoing costs like

  • rent (increases 5% every year in all commercial cases)
  • electricity (and you all know what that is like)
  • multiple insurances including public liability and workers compensation
  • Government fees and banking/eftpos charges (the bank even charged us $350 to close the EFTPOS account…shame on you ANZ).

I have seen it all in those 5 years

  • The women and men arriving and departing in their new BMWs and Mercedes Benzes complaining about our $15 dress/suit price when none of us could even afford the insurance on their cars.
  • The dealers who want rare and mint condition collectables for a few dollars so they can make greater profits.
  • The people who shoplifted or got their children to shoplift from us.
  • People raiding the bags of donations spilling them open on the footpath and taking the best of the items being donated.
  • People dumping a load of unusable household furniture outside the front door of the shop so I had to call on help to dispose of it before we could open.
  • The flasher who waited until one volunteer was alone then absolutely terrified her with his disgusting antics.

Our little community based op shop ran for 5 years as the overheads were overtaking our takings so by thinking out of the box we started to sell online.

The online sales eventually took over the physical shop sales so the Directors in conjunction with the auditors decided to close the physical shop.

We were not a high-end op shop, we could not sell furniture (no physical space) which brings in more money to charities but we were proud to sell ONLY items that we would buy ourselves. We were totally into recycling, clothing suitable only for rags was given to a local mechanic and framer. Kmart and cheaper chain store clothing was bagged and sent to our local women’s and men’s refuges. Anything that we thought that was too good to discard and that we could not sell was placed into a box outside the store for people to take for free.

People are also critical of cases where volunteers get first choice of donations. I can assure you this is NOT the case in all instances. Our store policy was that volunteers were not able to purchase donations until they were priced and on the shelves for sale.

As a matter of fact we had a wish list for our clients who were searching for specific items ie those who collected frogs, fairies etc etc. If we had a donation that suited we would telephone them to let them know that we had some items that they might be interested in. Many of these people became good repeat customers who thought very highly of staff and exchanged Christmas Presents and flowers etc on special occasions with the staff. Sadly the people we assisted in the community were the ones who suffered with our closure.

These people included

  • The women and children from 3 local domestic violence shelters who obtained free clothing and footwear
  • The men women and children in the local crisis care centre who obtained all their goods free from us
  • The long-term psychiatric care patients leaving the local hospital who were given free starter packs when they left a hospital to go into transitional housing
  • The local homeless who received backpacks with toiletries blankets and whatever else was needed.


Should there be another Qld or Australian flood we are not there to provide any of the $250,000 worth of clothing or homewares we did in 2011 and 2013.

When a house burns down the devastated family cannot walk through our doors and receive clothing to take away with them.

When local refugees need someone who can speak English on their behalf they have to find someone else.

When a person who has no money to get to the local shopping centre is passing, they now cannot call in and ask for help.

This is only a small selection of the services we provided to our local community and all these services cost the organisation money to provide.

Money which only came from the little op shop run by 4 dedicated volunteers.

So think twice before you complain about op shop prices, think about the REAL reason they exist – unless you have worked for one like I have, you have no idea what the real story is!

Thank you Desley for giving us an insight into how you and your volunteers made such a positive impact on your local community.  You sound like you achieved miracles the people you helped will appreciate for a lifetime.

Desley still fundraises for her community at Brisbane Vintage and Collectables Op Shop and yes they sometimes do post so please check out their amazing Facebook page here.

You can find this much loved community op shop at Shop 5 407 Beaudesert Road, Moorooka, Brisbane.

You can also help support their latest campaign “Women helping women in need” by donating to their You Caring Fund here.

If you’d like to tell us about what happens at your op shop, if you’d like to write a review on one of your local op shops please just drop me a message here

Vintage & Op Shop Tour in Planning

Vintage & Op Shop Tour in Planning

Vintage & Op Shop Tour in Planning Mode!

If anyone is keen on a vintage and op shop coach tour please drop me a message so I can add you to the “interested list”

I’m hoping to run it in May or June beginning with a pick up in Mordialloc around 8.30.

We would then make our way to Rosebud to check out the Rosebud Vintage Bazaar which has been on my to do list for so long I’m now attempting to do something about it!

Rosebud Vintage Bazaar

Rosebud Vintage Bazaar

We would then make a trip back stopping at a number of op shops on our way home.  I’ll aim to include a variety of op shops, some big some small and try to arrange some additional discounts as an added bonus where possible.

If you’re keen on finding out more please drop me a message here

The price would be around $40-50

I’d make sure there was without doubt a coffee stop or two on the way and pick a spot for lunch.

Paper To You Giveaway

Paper To You Giveaway

Paper To You Giveaway

Thanks to the lovely ladies from Paper To You who share our love of op shopping I have a super sweet giveaway running.

This beautiful handmade posy made from a repurposed op shop children’s book would make a lovely gift for a friend, a sister, your Mum, a teacher…..

The giveaway starts now and see the bottom of the post on how to take part but now to find out more about the Paper to You team.

Paper To You.  Beautiful bespoke hand crafted paper art

Paper To You. Beautiful bespoke hand crafted paper art

Paper To You

Paper to you was conceived in January 2013 after playing with paper designs and realizing we had a talent to create something truly beautiful and functional from something as simple as paper.

We are a mother and daughter team and have always been creative in our family, paper is accessible, cost-effective and comes in many varied forms such as thickness, colour, texture and construction.

Paper To You.  Beautiful bespoke hand crafted paper art

Paper To You. Beautiful bespoke hand crafted paper art

Our philosophy has always been for our art to be sustainable and to reuse paper and give it a new purpose. We began by recycling our own old books and sheet music but in an effort to expand our range and manage the quantities required we sourced our materials from Op Shops.

Beautiful old books worn with time and discarded by their previous owners became our inspiration, particularly children’s storybooks. The quality of the paper and the beautifully drawn illustrations are now so hard to find in our digital world. These books allow us to make the prettiest of flowers, some delicate whilst others are colourful and bold. Old classics such as “Heidi” and “What Katy Did” are rare finds these days.

Our range has expanded and now includes old maps and atlases along with recycling advertising material from retail outlets such as our recent Kikki K Christmas catalogue flower range.

Paper To You.  Beautiful bespoke hand crafted paper art

Paper To You. Beautiful bespoke hand crafted paper art

We attend a limited number of markets on the Mornington Peninsula and have also recently been part of a craft collective pop up shop in Yarraville. We have several florists who sell our flowers locally as well as in Point Cook. We are always happy to work one on one with our customers and you can order and buy direct from us.

You can follow us via our website, Facebook and instagram and can email us directly at

We are Op Shop enthusiasts and can often be found in our local Op Shops but on occasion have been known to travel outside our own locale to source material for our art. Whilst books are our prime target squeals of delight can often be heard as we come across treasures from our past or that rare find that you had no intention of buying such as my recent acquisition of a “Star Wars” Yoda mask or a gorgeous seashell needing a new home.

Huge thanks for telling us a bit about you!

Paper To You.  Beautiful bespoke hand crafted paper art

Paper To You. Beautiful bespoke hand crafted paper art

How to Enter

To enter on Facebook please like Paper To You and share the pinned giveaway image on the I Love To Op Shop page.

To enter on Instagram please repost the Paper To You giveaway image using the #Papertoyou and #ilovetoopshop

To enter here please just leave a comment below and share on social media.

Op Shop Toddler who I figure is impartial as he is 2 and cannot read will pick from the names on Monday 16th Feb, the posy will then be posted off during the week.

I’m also happy to add a note from you if it’s being sent to someone else.

If you’d like to take part in a giveaway or competition please contact me here for more info.


Pin It on Pinterest