5 non-traditional sources of fabric – have you tried these?

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We all know and love our local fabric stores right? Heaven knows I spend enough cash to keep mine in business! But as a self-confessed fabric junkie, I’m always on the look out for other places to source interesting fabric and embellishments. Part of my love of the sewing process is the search for the materials, often taking just as much time to do that as on the garment construction. To keep things interesting, I love to mix up my fabric sourcing. Sometimes a quick run to a chain fabric store is all I have the time for, but SOMETIMES I may get a child free hour…..so in that time I LOVE to head to some of the places in the list below to see what treasures I can unearth.

1. Vintage Market

If you are lucky enough to have a vintage market/barn near to you, oh what a joy they are to behold!! I am lucky enough to have not 1, not 2 but 3 permanent vintage markets in my small city of 180,000 people. Vintage markets can be a great source of antique linen tea towels, vintage sheets, tablecloths and napkins in amazing designs as well as vintage clothing which can be used to refashion or to make something else entirely. You can also be lucky enough to find buttons, notions and even uncut vintage fabrics.

Here is a pic of my local vintage market, courtesy of Vintage Melbourne.

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Yup, it’s pretty amazing! Beware however, that this is not necessarily a cheap option, at my local market, vintage sheets are in the region of $10-18AU each. You do, however, get quite a lot of fabric for that money and I know I’m guaranteed to find some every time I go there.

Here are some of my most recent finds:

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A pink gingham tablecloth that is destined to be a Ruby dress and a cute jar of buttons. Β I also found these amazing hand-carved stamps which will be perfect for stamping leggings.

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2. Op shop/thrift store

If you have more patience and want to spend less cash, another great place to rummage is your local op shop/thrift store. Here you can find large t-shirts/sweatshirts etc which can be used as fabric for kids clothing, old sheets that can be used for making muslins or for making patterns and interesting table linens. Here is a dress I made from a thrifted doona cover/duvet cover. The pattern is from the Happy Homemade Vol.2Β book and yes, the dress is still in need of some loops and buttons on the back.

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Unfortunately these stores vary greatly in the quality of goods you can find and so you may need to try a few stores in your local area. I am super lucky that my mother-in-law loves searching for treasures in op shops and often brings me some of her finds. You do need to be prepared to find nothing, which can be very frustrating.

3. Large chain stores

If you are disappointed with the range of knit fabrics at your local fabric store (knit fabric with prints are virtually non-existant where I live), then the large chain stores can be a great place to find knit with prints, stripes or unusual colours. The trick is to buy the largest size you can find, thereby giving you the most fabric for your $$. The bold green fabric for these leggings was found at my local K-mart as two women’s long sleeve t-shirts on clearance for $2 AU each.

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You do need to beware that the quality of fabric found in these cheap t-shirts can vary and THE COLOUR CAN RUN in the wash so be sure to wash SEPARATELY before you sew with it (voice of experience here)!

4. Your own wardrobe.

Having a spring/autumn clear out? Take a second look at the clothes in the op shop pile. Could you make something else out of the garment that doesn’t fit you well? Now I don’t want to encourage hoarding, because heaven knows the fabric stash is bursting out of the cupboard as it is, but there can be fabric gems amongst your old clothes, especially the items that are hardly worn cos’ they just didn’t go with whatever else was in your wardrobe. Β Recently I was searching my local fabric stores and online for unbrushed fleecy – the track suit material that is not fluffy on the inside – well no-one seemed to stock it. Then I had a look in my wardrobe and there was this:

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I’m not really into it anymore, but hello, look at that lovely unbrushed fleecy fabric!! This will be chopped up into track pants for one of this kids in the very near future.

5. Friends and Family

As Suz from Sewpony said recently in her Washi dress post, letting friends and family know that you sew can be beneficial. She was gifted fabric for her lovely washi from a friend’s mother. You can check out her dress here.

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I have been lucky enough to score some vintage patterns and fabric from my grandmother. One of the patterns above has notes in her handwriting to add length to the hem when making these overalls for me aged 3 1/2 – priceless!!

So, there we go, 5 alternatives to your local fabric store – do you have an interesting place to source fabrics that we might not have thought of?

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10 comments

  1. I have never been to a vintage market… Maybe I should come visit you and we can check one out together haha I like op shops and most of my daughter’s leggings used to be tops πŸ™‚ We have a lovely fabric shop here in Bendigo (House of Cloth – google them), they have a lovely selection of vintage fabrics at very realistic prices.

  2. love shopping from my own closet- there are so many garments that I don’t wear, that could be made into something I would wear. Thanks- these are great ideas!

  3. Thanks for the tip about the vintage Melbourne website – I hadn’t heard of it before! I’m now in the habit of looking through my for-the-op-shop bag quite a few times before I’m ready to part with it. I cant help but feel a little guilty for the charity whose now receiving a half-filled shopping bag rather than giant garbage bag of clothes. I have also found some excellent fabrics at Savers in Brunswick. They have a dedicated section full of weird and wonderful fabrics.

  4. Such a great list! I buy a lot of my vintage sheets and patterns at estate sales. Not sure if you have those. And I love buying XL T-shirts (on sale, of course) to fashion into clothes for the little ones!

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