Sewing School’s Guide to Second-Hand Fabrics

Posted in: This and That — By on December 16, 2010 7:18 AM

If there’s one thing we LOVE at Sewing School, it’s sewing with second hand fabrics…

  • It’s a more eco-friendly option to reuse fabrics that are still in good condition
  • You can find some great fabric bargains at thrift shops
  • Reusing the fabric from a favourite piece of clothing can give that garment a new lease on life and add sentimental value to your project
  • Sometimes you can find really neat vintage patterns and prints

That said, it can take a special eye to find those second-hand treasures in your closet or at a local thrift store.  Here are Sewing’s School’s tips for buying second-hand fabrics:

  • Take a very close look at fabrics for stains, rips or imperfections.  You definitely want to know about these before you start sewing with that fabric.  You may decide to buy that fabric anyway and just use the good part.  Remember: Sometimes stains or imperfections don’t show up under certain lights — if you decide to buy fabric with small stains, mark an X on the stain in pen so you’ll know it’s there and you can cut around it.
  • If you fall in love with the print of a flannel shirt, but it’s an extra small, you may not end up with a lot of fabric you can work with… Be mindful of how much you’ll be paying for the amount of fabric that will actually be useable.
  • Fabric isn’t the only thing you can salvage from old garments — also keep an eye out for cool buttons, lace, trims, etc.  It may be worthwhile to buy something just for the notions!
  • When I’m looking for fabric at a thrift shop, I go straight to the household section and look for high thread count sheets and vintage curtains.  Sheets and curtains are really just huge pieces of fabric.  Nice sheets are also great to use as backing for quilts and are a steal at thrift store prices.  You may also find unused pieces of fabric in this section!
  • If you’re looking for sturdier fabrics, such as denim, twill or corduroy, long skirts can be a great source of fabric.
  • If making clothes is your thing, check out the dresses and blouses — you may be able to alter existing garments by shortening hems or adding a cinched waist, rather than starting from scratch.
  • Remember all of those band t-shirts from high school that you just can’t possibly get rid of? Why not sew them up into cushions or a cozy quilt?
  • Wash anything before you use it!
  • A final tip about finding fabrics at a thrift shop is that PATIENCE is key.  Some visits you may not find anything, whereas on another day you can strike gold.  It all depends on what happens to be in stock.

We hope these tips help you find some awesome fabrics and give them a new life!

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