Thursday, September 13, 2012
Fabric on the secondary market
Last weekend, I purchased somewhere between 60 and 70 yards of 60" wide Pendleton wool at a cost of $135. This, conservatively, works out to about $2.25/yard. Given, that our local fabric shops sell these exact woolens at prices between $15 and $30 / yard, I feel like I got a heck of a deal. I also got 12 zippers at $.50/zipper and some exceptionally good sewing books at prices between $.25 and $2 each. (Some were duplicates of ones I already have, so look for a give-a-way coming soon!)
How did I manage this feat of shopping craziness? By shopping the secondary market. Some of my favorite places to find fabric are not in fabric shops. Rather, they are in thrift stores (charity shops, elsewhere), thrift shop outlets (I don't know if these exist outside of the Northwest), and garage/estate sales. Most of the bed sheets that I use for muslins and summer dresses come from the Goodwill outlets around here, as they sell them by weight. You just have to wash them thoroughly before using! Of the three, I prefer the garage/estate sales for more expensive fabrics (when you can find them!) because you can see how the fabric has been stored, there are usually other sewing accoutrement, and prices are ... flexible.
The estate sale where I got this fabric was about a mile from my father's house up in the hills around my old elementary school. It was being handled by a professional estate sale company that my father knows from his antique business, which is how I found out about it. As soon as I walked in, I felt as though I would like the people who lived there. One of the other shoppers said that the husband had been involved in designing Pioneer Courthouse Square, a wonderful public space in the center of downtown Portland. There were all kinds of books on rock collecting, antique bottles, cheesemaking supplies, and lovely dishes -- all in addition to closets full of beautiful wool fabric in 3-5 yard lengths. Several pieces had already been pre-treated (there was a note pinned to the wool that said so), but it all smelled like moth balls.
I took the pieces I'd bought home and soaked 2 bath towels with hot water until they were soaked, but not dripping. Threw them in the clothes dryer along with 1 or 2 lengths of the wool of similar colors for 40 minutes on high, et voila! This was a much better/easier approach from my perspective than pressing each inch of the fabric with a high-steam iron or paying a dry cleaner lots of money to steam/iron the pieces for me. I also did this with a couple of the moth-ball-smelling pieces and it managed to get rid of most of the smell. The fabric got a little softer, but didn't shrink very much at all. Now, I just have to figure out what to do with it all!
Do you ever find fabric in unusual places? I'm definitely up for more suggestions and pointers!