We've been to pretty much every Goodwill store in the Valley, from Surprise to Queen Creek. On the right day, and with a little luck, there's always a treasure to be had at the remarkably professional nonprofit chain. Still, on the whole, we have to say we've had the very best luck at the Central Phoenix location on the southeast corner of 16th Street and Indian School. We're not sure why, exactly, but something about that spot seems to facilitate great finds — maybe it's the location that the established upper-middle class people in nearby north central Phoenix favor for donations or maybe it's not as picked-over as the suburban stores. Whatever the reason, it's the best, and you should appreciate us telling you so. After all, we're reluctantly reporting this to you because it's our job, fully realizing that you'll now snatch up the great Ikea furniture, vintage Western shirts, and classic T-shirts we've been snagging there over the past year. C'est la vie.
Flo's
Friends are sick of hearing us boast about how we bought a like-new Braun espresso maker for 10 bucks, but we can't stop talking about it. We found it at Flo's, where we're also proud to proclaim we've in the past found a fabulous still-working vintage 30-cup percolator, a portable CD player (for $7!), and a hot plate shaped like a giant daisy. We were eyeing one of those mini-TVs, but we made the mistake of going home to "think about it," and when we returned the next day, the little television was gone. That's because Flo's prices its junk to move. So get going — there's a toaster at Flo's with your name on it!
Hobby Lobby Creative Center
In February, we bought 32 sheets of leftover Valentine-pink felt for a quarter. The month before, we stocked up on all our holiday décor for next year — and got every last reindeer ornament and dreidel-shaped earring set for 75 percent off. We're fans of Hobby Lobby year-round, to be sure — we get all our art supplies, sewing notions, and crafting junk there. But our favorite time to shop at this monster-size shrine to DIY is just after any holiday, because that's when Hobby Lobby crams an extravagant clearance aisle full of stuff so special we can't say no to most of it. Better yet, all this great holiday-themed stuff is augmented with markdowns from all over the store — the framing department, the art department, the fabric department — which makes us a hobbyist who just can't say no to any of this cool, nearly free stuff.

Best Thrift Store for Amateur Paintings

Savers

It might be a fish. Or a horse. Someone who saw it thought it was a hat. But whatever it is that's depicted in this fabulous thrift-store painting from Savers, we got it at a steal. Aficionados of so-bad-it's-good art must be on to this place, because each time we drop by in search of a '50s prom portrait or a half-finished, vintage paint-by-number, we notice that the wall of art has grown. Still, we rarely leave without something splattered onto a canvas by a weekend painter — and you can, too.

Best Thrift Store for Square Dancing Costumes

Travel Thru Time

Travel Thru Time
If you're getting your Annie Oakley costume ready for Halloween or just have a hankerin' to go do-si-do with your partner, mosey on down to Travel Thru Time, a cluttered little gem of a vintage shop in Phoenix's Encanto district. From tame to downright tacky, an assortment of square dance regalia that would outfit a high school cast of the musical Oklahoma! 10 times over can be found at this fun store. We're talking a huge rack stuffed full of ruffled gingham beauties and polka-dotted cuties that never dwindles, thanks to the shop owner's buying addiction. How much will one of these babies set you back? Prices vary according to style and craftsmanship. A well-used set printed with chili peppers costs about $40, while a checkered lime two-piece made for a championship dance goes for over a Benjamin. On our last visit, we even spotted a vintage skirt painted with little cowboys and frilly skirted square dancers in action — perhaps as a reminder that other people really do wear this shit.
Tempe Sales
Far away from the bustle of chain craft stores is Tempe Sales, the little gem of a craft-slash-fabric-slash-furniture-parts store in a dilapidated old building near the railroad tracks. If you're searching for the perfect bun feet for a reclaimed chair project or need some braided trim for an apron you're sewing, this is the place to go. They even carry marble slabs and high-end upholstery fabrics. Be forewarned — you might have to dig through bins or poke around in the back room to find what you want, as it's not exactly as organized as Jo-Ann or Michaels. But it's worth the effort.
Wet Paint Art Supply and Gallery
There's a reason ASU art students flock to Tempe's Wet Paint for supplies, and it's not just because it's within spitting distance of the college. The family-owned store carries a large assortment of drawing pads and specialty papers, oil and acrylic paints, sculpting media, and screenprinting supplies. When we needed oil-based colored pencils for an art project, this was the only place in town we found them. And Wet Paint's staff actually practices what they preach. Because most of the workers here are artists, they'll steer you directly to the clay you need for modeling or the best paint for plastics without upselling you a bunch of art crap you don't need. Not that we don't get distracted by the ever-changing selection here. On our most recent visit to pick up some Letraset, we were mesmerized by the Munny vinyl toy customizing kiosk and the huge cache of spray paints — for legal tagging only, of course (wink, wink).
Scrapbook Barn
If you're desperate to make bad vacation snapshots look like golden memories, try browsing through Scrapbook Barn's extensive selection of decorative papers and accessories. They've got ribbon by the yard. Decals. Die-cuts. Even machines that will crop, trim, and punch paper shapes out for you. Unlike other scrapbook stores with static inventory, supplies at Scrapbook Barn follow pop culture trends. Gothic and Victorian culture is huge this year (thanks, Twihards!) so the place is packed with faded Victorian flowers, flocked velvet chandelier paper, and "bite me" stickers. On recent trips, we spotted some sweet retro paper with blurry photos of 1920s bathing beauties in swim caps and a pretty stick-on scroll design done with miniature pearls. With those tools in your scrapbooking arsenal, no one will even notice how sunburned and totally blitzed you look in your vacation photos!
Stamp Works
If you are a stamper, this little hidden gem at Old Town Market Square in Chandler should be your headquarters. Not only do they carry all the rubber stamps you'd care to own, this shop is filled with many other must-have cropping goodies. Look for markers, paper, and adhesives to serve your creative needs. They also offer a monthly class schedule filled will projects that will make your heart sing. Some examples include Card Blitz, Sassy Ladies, and It's a Date. Sounds like a lot of fun and worth making a date. "Dream it, Believe it, Create it" is Stamp Works' motto, and they have created a lovely little space to invite you in to do just that.
Janca's Jojoba Oil & Seed Co.
DIY, it seems, will never die — not as long as the economy's down and Martha Stewart's still upright. If you're a soap-maker, or want to try it out, we've found your materials. Janca's Jojoba is the only local soap supply shop that also sports a storefront. (Most are mail-order only.) Known best for locally growing and processing the high-end cosmetic grade "liquid gold" jojoba oil, Janca's has now branched into full soap and cosmetic making supplies. Find a wide variety of other oils from coconut to apricot kernel, a full line of essential/fragrance oils, all kinds of soap additives like pumice and lavender flowers, and chemicals you can't pronounce that soap makers get giddy over as they play chemistry lab in their home kitchens.The people at Janca's are super-helpful and can order you anything you can't find elsewhere. If you've ever wondered what to do with mango butter or pink French clay they'll be sure to help you with some ideas. And then sell them to you with a smile and without a shipping fee or a wait.

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