Think Outside the Box Store: 3 Places to Find Unique Fabrics

Find Unique Fabrics for Your Projects!

When you have an awesome sewing project in mind, but you really, really want it to be unique – skip the chain fabric stores and rustle up a one-of-a-kind, vintage print!

There are plenty of places to find sewing and knitting supplies on a budget, but to find something that truly stands out can require an investment — not of money, but of time and a willingness to think creatively. We put together a list of reliable sources for unique fabrics you can turn to again and again:

1. Find vintage fabrics at estate sales. Estate sales can be a great place to find sewing supplies. When someone passes away with supplies for a hobby no one in their family follows, there are often years’ worth of treasures to be found. Sometimes there are entire sewing rooms filled with yard after yard — even entire bolts — of fabric that is no longer produced, dozens of spools of thread, vintage sewing machines and more.

Feel hesitant about showing up at an estate sales hunting for a deal? Just think of it this way: don’t you want all of the fabric you’ve hoarded over the years to be used and loved?

2. Repurpose thrift store finds. Thrift stores sometimes have cuts of vintage fabric, too. More importantly, though, they have endless sources of fabric to repurpose. That weird avocado and orange table cloth from the 1970s? It’s unlikely to see a dining room again any time soon, but it can be repurposed into a funky, fun shirt or bag. Same with huge hippie skirts and old curtains. Shirts and cloth napkins can be turned into smaller projects. Blair Stocker taught an entire class on scouting thrift stores for creative treasures.

Yard sales are another good spot to find old clothing and decor that can be recycled into something new.

Find great fabric at thrift stores!

3. Ransack your closet. A surprising source of fabric? Those deteriorating T-shirts that have been sitting in one of your drawers for months or years can become all kinds of unique projects. T-shirts with interesting logos can be turned into quilts. A quilt made of band shirts from all the concerts you and your best friend have seen together can make a great gift. And the leftover bits can be turned into T-shirt yarn, which can be fun for big, chunky knitting projects. Be sure to check out Diane Gilleland’s class on repurposing your old t-shirts.

Learn how to to make T-Shirt quilts on CreativeLive!
credit: Diane Gilleland

When choosing a fabric to repurpose, check its condition carefully. If fabric isn’t stored well, it can deteriorate, grow mold or mildew, or fade. Be sure to unroll any bolts and unfold old table cloths or skirts to check for holes, burns, worn spots, faded colors or other problems.

Also some unsavory, but important advice is to check for bedbugs. Luckily, they’re not likely to be in properly cleaned and stored fabrics — but it’s possible. Bedbugs are good at hiding, but they often leave shed skins and dark spots along corners and edges. If you see these in a drawer or shelf, don’t risk it. They’re a pain to get rid of. It’s also a good idea to wash and machine dry any fabric you purchase before adding it to your stash. The dryer cycle is essential, because it’s the heat from the dryer that kills any bugs or eggs in the load.

Keep any fabric you can’t wash sealed in a plastic bag until you know it’s safe.

And with a few afternoons of hunting through estate sales and secondhand stores, you can gather a whole collection of fun new fabrics for future projects, all on a budget.

Do you want to learn how to find unique fabrics for your sewing projects? Download our free guide, Thrift Store Shopping Tips today!

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Kyla Cathey

Kyla Cathey is a freelance writer, chronic hobby switcher and cat lady from Lodi, Calif. She enjoys sewing (badly) on her three vintage sewing machines.