Monday, June 07, 2010

Building a Fabric Stash on a Budget

A recent question from a reader gave me the idea for this post. I mention sewing with fabric from my stash quite often & how that saves me money. When you first start out sewing with the hopes of saving money, especially on clothing or pajamas, it seems impossible. By the time you pay for fabric & a pattern, you've already spent more money than you would have by just buying them at the store. Plus you still have to spend some time sewing them & we all know that our time is very valuable these days.

There are some really beautiful designer fabrics available these days. They are pretty & really great quality, but on my budget $8 or $9 per yard is just too much. If I ever use fabric like that, it is reserved for special projects.

Most of the fabric that I use in my sewing projects come from the thrift store. I love, love, love vintage floral patterns & so I am drawn to vintage bed linens. A lot of the fabrics that I purchase from the thrift store are bed sheets & pillowcases that I repurpose into flag garlands, quilts, clothing & pajamas.


I really built my stash up while living in Ohio. I would often make a trip to my favorite thrift store & come home with a stack of new linens. It's not as easy to find such linens here in Las Vegas, but I still love to hunt every now & then.

Find a few thrift stores that you like & figure out their sale schedule. My favorite store in Ohio, Unique Thrift Store, ran a sale every Monday where everything in the store was 50% off. As to not be tempted to buy anything at full price, I would only shop in this store on Mondays.

Pillowcases were always marked at $1.00 in this store, but I would buy them on the sale day for 50 cents a piece. One pillowcase will give you about a yard of fabric, more or less.


I would pick up bed sheets for about $3.00 a piece on sale days. This post at Crafting a Green World breaks down how many yards of fabric you get out of each size bed sheet. But if you estimate that you are getting about 2-3 yards of fabric per sheet, then it's a phenomenal deal.


When investigating a bed sheet or pillowcase in the thrift store, it is important that you ask yourself a few questions before deciding to purchase.

1. Do you love the fabric? Will you actually use it? Do you have a specific project, or two or three that you could use this fabric for? It may seem like a great deal, but if you purchase the sheet & it ends up sitting on your shelf forever, then it was just a waste of money.

2. What kind of condition is it in? If it's dingy or dirty, faded or worn too thin...just leave it there. If it's in great condition, not too thin, even color throughout...go for it!

3. Is it priced right? Are you going to end up getting some pretty & unique, great condition fabric for about 75 cents per yard or will it be more like $3.00 per yard. You decided what price works for you.

Each thrift store also has a section of fabric yardage for sale. Usually located near the home linens. Here you will find cuts of fabric. Lots of times you can tell this fabric has never been washed. Some crafter bought it & never got around to using it, then donated it to the thrift store. Lucky for you, you can pick it up for cheap! Again, ask yourself if you are really going to use it. Do you have a specific project in mind for it? If not you could do the same thing the person that donated this fabric did & again, it's just a waste of money.


I've also acquired some really great fabrics from my mother & my mother-in-law. Both my mom & my husband's mom sew & they had some fabrics sitting around that they no longer have need for & so they passed it along to me. They're not all plaids, those were just the ones I was drawn to pulling from the shelf today. :) Anyway, this is an awesome way to build your stash & best of all, it's free!


Because I sew for my business, I spent quite a while searching for fabrics & building quite a large stash. It felt great when I got to the point that I could pull many different fabrics for a patchwork quilt or a flag garland & I didn't have to run to the fabric store for any fillers.

I do have some tips for shopping the fabric store as well. I always shop at Joanns & I only shop the sales. Watch for the clearance section to go on sale for an additional 50% off. You will be surprised at the great fabrics you can find in that section. I usually end up paying around $2.00 per yard. Remember once again to only buy fabrics you plan to use.

And a little bit about patterns. Once again, search those thrift stores. I've seen patterns for as low as 10 cents each. Plan to get them for less than a dollar a piece at most thrift stores. When shopping for current patterns, I never pay more than $1.99. Watch those sales at Joanns. I like Simplicity patterns a lot & I quite often get them for a buck.

You really can save a lot of money by sewing at home. It just takes some strategic shopping & planning. Set your limits & stick to them. You will be surprised at the bargains you can find & in the end you'll be proud of yourself not only for the awesome thing you made, but the awesome deal you got on the materials as well.

Hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any more questions. :)

31 comments:

A. said...

Yes! Awesome pointers... especially on the patterns. They go on sale all the time - the thought of paying $12 for a pattern kind of makes me want to grind my teeth or something. Love your chalkboard backdrop. :)

RachelDenbow said...

Great post! I think someone else in my town is even better at searching and buying all the vintage floral sheets than I am because I haven't been finding many if ANY at my usual hot spots. EEEEK!
Must search out some new hot spots!

Kayanna said...

Awesome tips! I use all of these secrets myself :) Came home today with a whole stack of new vintage linens for $5! Love it! You can't find those beautiful colors and patterns in new fabric so it's not only an awesome deal, I love the fabric even more than most new stuff.

Jeni said...

You have some great pieces in your stash! I too love love vintage linens. I just recently finally started sewing with them. I have to agree with you on Ohio. I live around Cleveland and the thrifting is fantastic! :)

Great post!

Julie said...

we have unique in VA as well, its my fave thrift store ever!

jess said...

great tips! Thanks!

Kim said...

i've been looking at your blog for awhile now. thanks for these great tips. i'd love every piece of fabrc you posted. here's my question...how do you get rid of the thrift store smell in the fabric? thanks!!

Michelle said...

What a timely post! I've been building up my stash of thrift fabrics for the past couple of months, and I absolutely love using repurposed fabrics whenever I can now. They're definitely less expensive than new fabric, it's good for the environment, and the patterns are unique and often vintage-looking, which I really like. At one thrift store, they sell bags - almost garbage-bag size - of fabric for $1.50 a bag. There must be over 20 yards of fabric in each one, much of it in 2-3 yard increments. I've also discovered sheets and linens, and I got 3 Simplicity patterns (my favorite, too) at Hancock's yesterday for $1.99 each. The same thrift store that sells the $1.50 bags of fabric sells new, uncut patterns for 10 cents each. Sewing has opened up a whole new "green" (and thrifty) world for me!

Jenny said...

Great advice! I'll be visiting the thrift stores soon!

craftydill said...

Great tips to sew by!
I've started a vintage linen collection too and it all started with bedding that was used by me long, long ago... thanks mom for saving all those great 70s linens! :D

Shelby said...

Thanks for sharing! I started buying sheets and pillow cases about a month ago and thought it was strange but it is such a relief to know I'm not the only one! :P

jessi said...

Pretty much the same thing I've done - great tips Candace! I have a few of those pricey fabrics in my stash, but I can't imagine how I would ever afford to build a whole stash from them.

Courtney said...

Another favorite place for me to pick up not only vintage sheets, but buttons, trims, notions, and fabrics is estate sales!

Jessica (aka--MOMMY!!!!) said...

Thanks for the tips. Buying fabric can really kick my budget's butt.

marisa said...

Thanks for these tips. I'm a new sewer and got caught up in the buying part more than the sewing part. I have no idea what i would use half of the stash I have for but I'm gonna start asking myself if I would REALLy use it!

Wendy said...

Yup, vintage linens are the way to go! I also get a lot of mileage out of old wool coats, which I can always pick up for a song at yard sales. Great post!

Bethany said...

Thanks! Your tips were super helpful!

Santa's Helper said...

Thrift stores are great ways to get vintage fabrics. I have a "stash" of couple hundred yards of various fabrics. I get them at yard sales, (national yard sale rt.127 amazing), and "antique, vintage" stores. But JoAnn regularly puts thier clearance bolts at 50% off, and a paitient shopper can find many bolts of decorator/quilting/clothing fabrics including fleece, sweatshirt, flannel, etc for $2.00 to $3.00/yd. Hobby Lobby also has great buys. You have to go in weekly to catch the bolts when they are marked down. And if you are lucky enough to come across a Wal-Mart that still carries yard goods, you can get it for $1.00 - $5.00/yard for awesome fabrics!

nigel and jo said...

Thanks for the helpful post. I agree that it's so important to stop and think about the fabric you're planning to buy. Even though it's cheap, it all adds up.

offthelist said...

I love thumbing through the fabric section at the thrift store. I never thought to take a look at the sheets for some vintage love. I think I'll have to schedule a trip this weekend.

Another tip for those of us in Canada who shop at Fabric Land; buy a membership. It's fairly cheap (around $20) and you get access to a ton of deals that you wouldn't other wise.

Cheyanne

Beth said...

Don't stop at the bed linens! I often look through thrift clothing for fabric as well - especially great if you sew for a little girl, a woman's or girl's skirt is plenty of material for a dress. Once I thrifted a handmade skirt made of Liberty lawn, lined with beautiful white cotton and with a scalloped trim, for 25 cents!!!! Enough fabric for a dress and bonnet for my girl with leftovers for other projects.

You can also find linen easily, both natural or dyed, in women's clothing.

Panda said...

You do exactly what I do! My fabric cupboard is full to overflowing with thrift-shop bed-linens (some are the same prints you have!) or remnant pieces. Repurposing from clothing is my newest thing.

I never buy new fabric unless it is a very special designer print that I cannot live without, or a basic colour poplin that I havent been able to repurpose from anywhere.

Carolina said...

Yay! Another Vegas sewing blogger! : ) Maybe we should go thrifting together sometime?

I, too, have gotten fabric from my mom's stash! :)

Country Girl in the City said...

These are great tips and it makes want to go to the thrift store right now! Just found your blog today from One Pretty Thing. I'm following you now!

Have a great day.

Stephanie said...

@Kim: Toss a cup of baking powder in with the detergent when you wash your thrifted sheets. Funky smell all gone!

Great post and great thrifting tips! Glad I found your blog today!

cwp said...

2nd pic
sheet on the left
my gma had those!!!
and the matching bath towel sets :)
still does!

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kristenvuc said...

Stumbled onto your blog. Love it! Am a local and appreciate your thrifty references. Cannot wait to snag some vintage sheets of my own!

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