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Sources of and Inspiration for Unintended Yardage

Not-so-obvious places to find fabrics for garment sewing
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Sewing enthusiasts are always on the prowl for fabric. As more fabric stores close, building a stash becomes more and more challenging.  I have found that with a little detective work, you can find fabric in interesting places. I’ve shared my strategies for turning up garment-worthy fabrics in the drapery fabric aisles, but there are other fabric gold mines just waiting to be uncovered.  Here are some of my favorite sources for unintended yardage.

Antiquing isn’t just about furniture

My taste has always leaned toward contemporary, so hunting through antique stores and malls had never really been on my radar—until I realized all of the luscious linens that are to be found there.  

I adore 1940s vintage tablecloths for sundresses.

Vintage tablecloth sundress

Colorful vintage tablecloth sundress

Sometimes, working around the gravy stains and moth holes is part of the fun.

Old lace tablecloths and dresser scarves supply lots of yardage and often come with finished edges for interesting details.

Lace dresser scarves

These two folded dresser scarves just needed a back to become a lovely vest.

Vest from two lace dresser scarves

Mix smaller pieces, such as handkerchiefs and table napkins, with other fabrics to create wonderful garments.

The trapunto appliqué detail on this linen towel provides a fun focal point for this “mixed up” top. Notice the tablecloth sleeves, as well.

Top made from handkerchief and smaller linens

Yardage from discount table linens

Don’t stop at at the old linens. There are yards and yards of new linens to be had.

I love wandering to the back of discount department stores—think T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, etc.—where I can always find a stack of beautiful linen tablecloths. Often, the extralarge sizes are hanging around, since not many people have 10-foot dining room tables to cover. 

A bias-cut dress and funky skirt were cut from the same gray linen tablecloth.

Bias-cut dress from linen tablecloth

Close-up of bias-cut gray linen dress

Skirt made from gray linen tablecloth

This sundress fabric was waiting for me…

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  1. User avater
    sew4th | | #1

    Your fabric combinations and garment details are so inspiring! For me it's easier to start experimental sewing with "found fabric," such as my thrifted cotton Ikea futon covers in quirky prints. Nothing to lose, so why not go for it? As you've mentioned, matching the fabric type/drape to the desired look is the key to success. Your straightforward writing style keeps me reading (and sewing) on... Thanks!
    JillV, aka sew4th

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