Something which comes up frequently in my conversations with sewers-to-be or aspiring crafters is cost. Obviously, in an ideal world, I would be writing this from a velvet-upholstered chaise longue, or possibly one of these, surrounded by bolts of silk crepe and rockabilly/geek fabric from Spoonflower (and not even the basic combed cotton either). Even without those things, I do, however, do pretty well for fabrics. Maybe they’re not designer, but I’ve been very proud of some of the things I’ve created. Today, I’d like to start sharing some of what I’ve learned about sourcing good sewing fabric for a good price. All you need is a little willingness to think outside the box (or in the case of thrift stores, the rack).
You may already be aware that most charity/thrift/op shops have a basket somewhere in the store full of remnants of fabric. Admittedly, a lot of it is weird late-80s bright coloured geometrics (or maybe that’s just New Zealand), and I’m not saying you can’t make some fun garments from the crazy prints, but if that’s not your thing you can still strike gold.
But it’s not the only place in the store you’ll find great fabric. In fact, it’s usually right next to my other big source of sewing material- the bedlinen section. Flat sheets are one of my favourite sources of fabric, especially as I sew a fair few costumes that require a lot of fabric- and there’s a lot of fabric in your average sheet. I’ve made everything from Victorian skirts to medieval gowns, all from bedsheets:
If you like prints, rather than plain (and I share that, I have a big weakness for awesome print fabric as you’ll see in some of my project posts), don’t discount duvet covers. They come in a wide array of lovely and unusual prints, and it’s possible to have a lot of fun with them. For example, this dress used to be a Superman duvet cover:
If you can get the shape of a garment in your head (reading the pattern and getting your head around the pattern pieces is the big key here), you can have a lot of fun getting a big design to fit the shape.
Ebay (and if you’re in New Zealand, it’s equivalent TradeMe) can also be a great source of fabric- the prices run the gamut from a dollar or two to super fancy expensive, but as with physical rummaging at a thrift store, if you’re willing to put the scrolling work in, the reward is finding some great fabric at good prices.
Of course it’s not just about the fabric- most op-shops will have a bunch of vintage notions, and this can be a great way to stock up on unusual/vintage buttons and embellishments, embroidery thread and the more basic stuff- hooks and eyes, presser-studs and zips are all things I’ve picked up this way, and had no problems using. There’s one exception when it comes to thrifting notions and that’s sewing thread- thread can age, and old thread is much more likely to break, and break quickly- not what you want when sewing. But other than that, the thrift store is your oyster when it comes to fabric.
How about you? Where would you recommend looking for thrifty sewing gold? What great finds have you hit on, and what did you do with them? Let me know in the comments!