Over the years I have gotten some great fabric from thrift stores. There are lots of times I purchase fabric with no project in mind and the fabric often dictates the project I make. I may see a piece of fabric and a project instantly comes to mind. Then there are those occasions when I just have to purchase a piece because it is so beautiful and unique. However, when it comes to shopping for fabric at a thrift store the results can be hit and miss at best, but it is always a treasure hunt.
Identifying The Fabric
Thrift stores are a great source of materials for sewing, crafts and art projects. However, how do you know what you are purchasing. Sometimes you can feel the fabric and identify what it is and other times you have to take your chances and test the fibre when you get home. A fabric burn test is a great way to get an idea of what you are working with. With just a small swatch of the fabric, you should be able to identify if it is a natural or synthetic fibre. If you have enough of the fabric, you can also test a small piece for other factors like colour fastness and shrinkage. There are also lots of great fabric guides available to help you identify and work with different fabrics.
Fabric shopping can be an expensive venture, so a thrift store is great source if you are on a tight budget. You can sew beautiful projects for your home and make unique handmade gifts for your friends and family without a huge expenditure. It is also a great source for fabric if you are a beginner sewist and you do not want to spend a lot on materials to practice.
Thrift store fabric shopping is a great way to find unique fabrics. You can sometimes find beautiful vintage fabrics or designer prints.You can use them on their own or combine them with other old or new fabrics. Pieces will vary in size, but even a small piece can be used as an appliqué, pocket or bag strap. Often times you can get fabric by the yard or you can purchase a bed sheet or tablecloth.
Purchasing your fabric from a thrift store extends its' usefulness. You can prevent more materials from entering the landfill by repurposing abandoned yardage or an article of clothing. I do not usually purchase clothing pieces, but you can often find a piece that you can use for a project. If you do not want to use a piece of clothing, you can reuse the buttons or other elements.
Here are ten tips for fabric shopping at a thrift store:
- Head over to the linen section where you will find fabric by the yardage and ends. You can also find sheets, pillowcases, and table linen in this section.
- If you are purchasing bed linen; a crisp, new content label is a good indicator that the linen may not have been used.
- Examine the fabric for any imperfections, damages, weak spots and stains.
- Tug gently on an end of the fabric to confirm there is no dry rot due to poor temperature and moisture control. You will generally see other signs of dry rot, but if it is not visible the fabric will tear with a gentle tug.
- Smell the fabric for any unpleasant odour. Some odours are difficult to remove.
- Access how much of the fabric is usable.
- Do not dismiss half completed projects that you can take apart and use in a new way.
- Do not buy it just because it is cheap; access the uniqueness of the material, how much you like it and what projects you will like to make.
- If you purchase a bundle of fabric in a bag; go through the bag after purchasing and donate any pieces I do not want, before you leave the store.
- Identify the fabric content and clean accordingly prior to use.
Shower Curtain - made from vintage sheet
Apron - vintage pillowcase and new fabric
Hand Embroidered Apron - vintage pillowcase and new fabric
Scrap Pincushion - remnant fabric
I-Spy Bag Toy - old kids shirt
Please share your tips for getting fabric and other sewing supplies at a thrift store. What is your best thrift store fabric find?