Now that we've created a pattern, I thought it was a good time to tell my fabric finding secrets. Sewing can be expensive if you go to the fabric store first, that is. I don't start there when I get a new sewing idea. So where do I go...
My Closet...or a friend's closet...
It seems as though I always have something in my closet, drawers, mending pile, etc. that I'm no longer going to use. When making children's clothes small pieces can be amazing things. And sometimes my spare clothing can render a larger piece...for a little girl dress or skirt.
All you need to know is what size of piece does your pattern need. All of my patterns use a rectangle of fabric. You'll need to know how wide and long your rectangle needs to be. You find these measurements by measuring the widest part of the pattern piece (dresses/skirts-the bottom width) and desired length of the item. Sleeves can be a different fabric than the body, too. Keep in mind the pieces that lay on the fold will need the width measurement doubled for a fold. Some children's pants are cute out of two coordinating fabrics, one fabric for each leg with a cuff or ruffle that corresponds to the opposing leg. Jeans can become a skirt. I'll tell you how another day.
I use this method especially for denim, velour, or other special occassion fabrics. Men's shirts can make nice bloomers, or small jumpers and peasant shirts. Think about those dresses with full skirts or no waist line....lots of good yardage there. And, save the buttons. Buttons can be expensive.
Repeat the same thinking with your husbands closet. T-shirts make great sleeping shorts/shirts for girls or boys.
Next...the linen closet. Sheets are great night gowns. Pillowcases are wonderful jumpers or tops, especially vintage ones.
After you finish scavenging your house, check with family and friends for extra pieces of clothing. What you can't use pass on to someone else. Keep in mind...any small/long piece could be a ruffle or cuff someday. Although you will need a place to keep it until you need it.
A stranger's closet...no not literally
Now you're ready to check with http://www.freecycle.org/ It's an online e-group for exchanging free stuff with others in your area. You usually need to give something before you can "get" something. Also, be aware of going to strangers homes or giving out your address to strangers. And, you may need to be prepared to get some rather nasty bags of clothes. I've had the occassion where I sorted, outside, on the porch in old clothes and had to send most of a bag or two to the garbage. But in 5 years that's only happened once, and had some really good finds.
Most thrift stores have discount days. I hit them only on that day and look for the more expensive types of fabrics, denim, velour, high end cottons (men's shirts), etc. in large pieces. I look for the biggest shirts I can find...at least a 17" neck. For women's fabrics, look for skirts with lots of fullness or dresses with no waist, or a full skirt. Denim pieces are found in the women's dress and skirt section. It's ok to have a seam down the back, this looks cute down the front or back of an A-line skirt for a daughter. Just put that seam on the fold crease and it will be down the front or back of the new skirt.
If your thrift store doesn't have a discount day...full price day may be worth a hunt.
Also, our thrift stores have a fabric bin of fabric for sale. And, remember the sheets and pillowcases...great yardage there.
Now to the fabric store....
I've learned a valuable lesson recently. Cheap fabric or even chain store fabric is likely to disappoint....especially when purchasing 100% cotton. Now, I have found non-cotton buys at Walmart on the $1 table and made some cute things. But, I'll never buy cotton there again. And, I may not even buy cotton at any other chain store. Not because it's unusable, but because I don't like to iron. Every piece I've gotten at a chain store has needed ironing to a greater extent than the quilt fabric pieces. However, as you learn to feel for the best cottons, some can be found at the chain stores...in the clearance section of course, lol.
So where do I shop...quilt stores. The owner or worker there will teach you a lot about cotton fabrics. Price is not the determining factor all the time. You may even find that as you develop a relationship there, they may give you some of their scraps...One scrap I was given recently is several yards long. Just not a quilters type of fabric so they didn't need it.
Another great place is http://www.fabricshack.com/ The saleabration part of the site is the place to start. They carry all high end, high quality fabrics. As new lines come in they discount the older lines. Same quality as low as $2/yd. That section doesn't usually have much in it. But there's quite a bit in the $4 section. Keep in mind you're probably buying in 1 yd or less pieces...not much fabric is needed for children's pieces. So it's not a bad price in the long run. Some things can be made for growth...a little wiggle room in a tiered skirt width. and a ruffle added later to extend length can make a $6 skirt do a couple of years.
Happy fabric hunting....