Sources of Fabric: From Remnant Bins to Flea Markets

The days when fabric was relatively cheap are over in America. As a result, those looking for bargains in retail stores are often disappointed. Crafters who earn a living making quilts and crafts have been hard hit by changes in the marketplace. These folks are scrambling to find affordable fabric. Here are a few ideas that may help you plan your fabric shopping trips.

Retail fabric stores are still the best all-around sources since they carry such a large selection. Independently owned stores continue to disappear as small operations don’t have the buying power of the chains.

To soften the blow of high prices, sign up for frequent shopper cards at stores in your area. Then, you will receive sales flyers and alerts when special sales are taking place.

In some cases, stores offer incentives to frequent shoppers. For example, after you make ten individual purchases, you get a coupon for free merchandise to use the next time you’re in the store.

Don’t overlook the reduced fabric table in retail outlets. These often have seasonal fabrics you can stash away for later. In addition, remnant bins often contain bargains. For small projects or to build your stash, remnants are great.

From time to time Big Lots will have pre-cut fabric that is sold in packages. The price is usually good. However, the selection is limited. In addition, if you need a specific amount of fabric, one of these packages can contain too much or too little material, depending on your needs.

Assuming you can find new sheets or tablecloths at reasonable prices, these can be used instead of conventional fabric for many decorating projects.

EBay and other non-retail websites do offer fabric. However, it isn’t always a bargain by any means, particularly since there are shipping costs involved and fees that the seller must pay to the website.

This leads some quilters and sewers to consider non-traditional sources, such as thrift shops, yard sales, flea markets, tag sales, estate sales, and consignment shops. These will sometimes have fabric at a decent price. The downside is that it often requires frequent shopping trips to find what you want.

Price isn’t the only consideration when you’re buying previously owned fabric. Consider the fact that you know nothing about how or where the fabric has been stored if you buy it through eBay, thrift stores, etc. At least you can smell the fabric in local stores, which isn’t the case with websites. If it smells the least bit musty, beware.

This brings up an unpleasant subject that shouldn’t be ignored: cleanliness. For your own protection, launder any previously owned fabric several times in the hottest water possible or have it dry cleaned. Don’t take it home and store it in your living space until this is done. Textiles can harbor bed bugs, which are making an astounding comeback in America.

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