Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting Fabric for Free? Check for its Prior Care, First.

After reading Money Saving Mom's post on "5 Ways to Save Money on Sewing Supplies," I wanted to take it a step further and discuss what to look out for when it comes to old fabric.

Have you ever been the benefactor of old-but-new-to-you or vintage fabric? There are some great prints out there that have been discontinued or ones that harken back to days long past. Wouldn't it be great to repurpose those for a new project? Absolutely! However, a few words of caution.

I suggest investigating the fabrics before accepting or purchasing them. Many folks store fabrics in the wrong place or under the wrong conditions. When considering the purchase of an older fabric, or one that doesn't come from a store, look for the following:

1. Is one part of the fabric a lighter, or washed out shade, from the rest? That tells you that the folded piece may have sat near a window. The sun is horribly destructive to fabric. This can happen to new fabric, too! I know you've seen younger people who have baked in the sun and look many years older than they truely are. The same thing happens to fabric, but without the overly revealing swimsuit or fragrance of coconut oil.

2. Look at and listen to the fabric. Pick it up and feel it. Is it cotton, but it feels rough / crackly? Can you hear it crack a little? That means it was stored in too hot an area (think attic), and is no good. It will probably rip (and leave a little dust when doing so) with very little force. I had a quilting teacher in Columbus, OH who told us the story of one of her customers. The woman had such an addiction to building her stash (and hiding it from her husband) that she stored her fabric IN THE ATTIC OF HER OLD GARAGE. Oh, that poor fabric! Well, guess what? Her husband found out. How, you ask? He learned of her stash when the weight of the fabric become too much for the old garage, and the attic and roof collapsed onto their cars. It has been nearly a decade since I heard that story, and it still gives me goosebumps.

3. If you're just not sure, and you're talking to the owner, ask! Ask where / how she stored her fabric. Her honesty and potential lack of knowledge on how to properly care for a fabric stash could save you some heartache in the middle of a project.

4. Even if your fabric comes from a store, check the outside of the bolt compared to the inside. Some smaller stores showcase their fabric in their front windows to lure in customers, and the fabric suffers sun damage. That amazing mark-down may come at a higher price later. Most good fabric shops know better and wouldn't do such a terrible thing to good fabric.

So, whether you are saving money by getting fabric at a tag sale, or are the beneficiary of your friend's sewing room purge, make sure that old fabrics, threads, etc. are going to last as long as they were intended. Otherwise, you'll lose time and money, and to me, that's more frightening than sun-washed fabric!

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