Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stash Flashing and Fabric Fears

Do you collect vintage fabrics - and do you ever use them?

Left - 1960s batik cotton, friend's stash. Right - 1940's cactus feedack, Etsy

The first place I head in an op-shop (thrift shop) is the haberdashery section, you never know what you'll find. Not only fabrics but vintage trims, dress shields, shoulder pads, ribbon, etc.

Left - 1940s cotton pique, etsy. Right - 1940s rayon, opshop.

I'm always a bit afraid of using my vintage fabrics though - what if I mess up? I'll never find the same fabric again!

Left - 1930s rayon crepe. Right - 1940s cold rayon, both from Retro Station

Hopefully this is the year I overcome my fabric fears.

Left - 1950s mayan influenced cotton, friends stash. Right - 1950s polished cotton roses, op-shop

My tips for Vintage Fabric 

1. Visit your local thrift or op-shop, and ask where their fabric is. 
Have the patience to go through it all. 
(side tip - if its a small store ask them if they have anything that's 'really old' from the 50s. It might be out the back and I've found some awesome things just by asking).

Left - 1950s atomic cotton. Right - 1950s polished cotton.

2. Make sure you look at the fabric carefully. 
Look for fade lines on the folds, thread bare patches, light stains. This is especially important with rayons.
Stains might shift with a soak on cotton, but I've had rayon disintegrate from the stain removing chemicals.
Fade lines can be often be dyed over on cotton, but some rayons oxidise when they fade and the lighter areas won't take the colour.

Left - 1940s cotton challis. Right - 1930s rayon chiffon, both from Retro Station.

3. Size matters. 
If you find fabric that is 90 cm wide (36 inches) you're probably holding something vintage. The standard 115 cm/45 inch we're familiar with now wasn't common at all in Australia during the 30s, 40s and 50s.

If you need to quickly measure a piece try holding it at arm's length, and across your chest (to your opposite arm pit). On most people that's roughly a yard/meter.

Left - 1940s birdie and blossom chiffon (rayon), op-shop. Right - 1940s puppy cotton, Etsy.

4. Etsy and eBay are your friends, and try different searches.
I've always got my eyes peeled searching for '1940s fabric' or 'vintage western fabric', but have you tried searching under other fabric types? Searching for 'vintage rayon', 'novelty fabric', 'pineapple fabric' and 'vintage pique' turns up some interesting results.

5. How much are you happy paying?
I'm not comfortable paying much more for vintage than I am for modern fabrics (although we pay through the nose here in Australia). Roughly $10-12 per meter is my limit. 
Online listings have a great range - but sometimes hefty postage costs to match.

I know I sound like a broken record, but it doesnt hurt to develop a relationship with your vintage sellers. 
Some of my best dealers have now become close friends - and once they know you're after certain things they'll always keep an eye open.

Talking about cost though - sometimes, you just find a fabric that's too fabulous for words.

With a heft price tag to match!
This 1940s puppy fabric cost a lot more than I would normally spend - but puppies! 
Ribbons around their neck! 
And enough to make a dress!

Sometimes, a girl's just gotta have it...

Have you ever used your vintage fabric? What are your tips for finding it?


Kate said...

I found a huge (cheap) lot of vintage fabric at an antique store once. It was mostly 60s/70s fabric but there was some older stuff in there as well. I also tend to be a little afraid of using it! I always put a lot of thought into finding the "perfect" pattern for the fabric before slicing into it. That seems to help the "vintage fabric anxiety" :)

kate steeper said...

The UK still has surface mail , which is a huge saving on email , it would take up to 12 weeks to reach you , so often worth asking the seller to quite for it

Mariela said...

I feel exactly like you do about cutting into vintage fabric. I don't want to mess it up. Right now, I'm working on making a few wool skirt for winter. I want to make pockets on the front instead of the side seam but just don't want to cut into it. What if I hate what it looks like or I mess it up.

I've had such great luck finding cheap vintage fabric since moving to Nevada. I have 7 or 8 yards of vintage wool in 4 different colors, I've found a lot of cotton prints and even vintage yarn.

You have some amazing fabrics. I love the puppy and cactus fabric.

Kate-Em said...

I love that puppy fabric. Not surprised you went over your budget for that one! All the 1950's rose prints are gorgeous too.

Claire Gittins said...

You've got some beautiful fabrics in your stash. I have a few myself and feel the need to wait until the 'right' pattern comes along before I'll dare cut into it. But, it is nice to use it because then people can see it other than it being locked away. Once you've used some there is always reason to buy some more ;-)

princesspincurls said...

I'm dying over your fabricy finds! I've never had this kind of luck in op-shop myself in regards to fabric. And that puppy fabric-WOW! It may have been price but totally worth it. I have a skirt made out of vintage pink and grey kitten fabric and it is my most treasured possession. xx Shauna

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