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Was I born too late? My love of all things vintage makes me wonder sometimes if I was really meant to live in a different time period….and I sew! Who does that anymore?

For many years I have been collecting and tinkering around with vintage fabrics and furnishings in a way that has recently been labeled “upcycling” and you can see many of my (mostly) home-dec creations in my first book, Fabric Remix.

Some of my favorite fabrics to work with are the mid-century geometric patterns on barkcloth, which are becoming harder to find and also harder to afford. Because there was no such thing as the Internet when this love affair started, I’ve always favored scavenger-style shopping…thrift stores, estate sales, flea markets, antiques shops, etc. and I think it’s just more fun to get out there and dig for treasures. My all time favorite bricks and mortar store for this is hunt & gather in Minneapolis. There is no other place like it and if you ever find yourself anywhere near that city you must visit that shop! But, there can be dry seasons for this type of hunting during which I have found some great online sources when I need some inspiration or just feel that itch.

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Trueup has great vintage fabric source guides that will steer you to whatever you’re looking for, whether it be real vintage or reproductions. I like Donna Flower and Vicki Grubb (Something Fine), both from the U.K., and Etsy also has some shops, Moxie is a good one…and then there’s Ebay. Once you start clicking around you will soon find yourself buried in a virtual pile of awesome textiles.

Once my finds are safe at home they are thrown into the washing machine with some OxyClean (or other super detergent) and then the dryer or line-dried. I don’t coddle fabrics. If they can’t survive a trip through the washer they won’t serve my purpose. That said, if you put down a wad of money on a lovely but well worn and fragile piece that you would never dare to machine-wash, I understand that happens. If that’s the case, then you should hand wash, line dry, and don’t plan to use it for something functional.

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Need some ideas for how to use your vintage? The obvious choices are crafting pillows, bags, bedding and table linens. But how about a lampshade or a shower curtain or a skirt? Maybe sew a cover for your bicycle seat or a cushion for your pup? And don’t forget to save the scraps to use as patches when the knees and thighs blow out of your jeans!

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Want to try some of my great fabric and upholstery projects? Simply let me know how you source vintage fabric or how you use it in the comments below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of my book Fabric Remix, or a copy of Signature Styles which gave me the inspiration for the upcycled skirt project I shared with you this week! Comments must be left by 9:30am EST on Friday, August 5th to be eligible. Good luck!

~Sandy

Artist and designer Sandy Stone has been breathing new life into old furnishings for nearly two decades. Her work has been featured in Country Living magazine and Midwest Home. She currently works in her home studio in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis. See more from Sandy at Sand Stone Design Studio.

20 Comments

  • Missing

    Oct 15, 2014, 11.15 PMby wchervinko

    HI. My grandma has been a life long quilter and recently we have been cleaning out her basement. She has over a 1,000 different patterns that we have found. We have tried posting them to eBay and craigslist but have not had many hits. Please let me know if anyone is interested in check them out. Thanks Wesley

  • Missing

    Aug 1, 2011, 10.59 PMby gralo

    My happy place is picking through the boxes at my local flea hoping to unearth vintage fabric, patterns, and notions. I hit up the thrifts and estate sales too. The estate sales are interesting since you are often let inside the house- it’s fun nosing around in someone’s house- creapy, but fun. I bought a box of vintage fabric (and a vintage dress form) found on craigslist. The fabrics have been used to make totes, and skirts, and I’m currently whipping up a shift from a bedsheet. My sewing room is decorated with apothecary jars filled with buttons and colorful zippers. My friends have remarked that I’ve got a sixth sense for finding sewing stuff- it almost finds me. I like sewing, but I LUV hunting for vintage sewing stuff.

  • Missing

    Jul 30, 2011, 04.18 PMby poppyvalentine

    I make clothing, bags and accessories from beautiful vintage fabrics from the 40s to the 80s, I also make bespoke pieces with your own vintage fabrics. You can see the range at www.poppyvalentine.com

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    Jul 29, 2011, 02.03 AMby MadeByMarzipan

    Question, guys: does fabric weaken with age? I’ve heard that you shouldn’t use old thread (think wooden spools) because it deteriorates and breaks more easily… has anyone found that to be true?

  • Me_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 01.59 AMby reliablechef

    Love the look of vintage but have never actually worked with it. I tend to get reprints as they are more easily found. I got a stash of samples once that made an awesome quilted fabric book for my “not so little anymore” girl. :)

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    Jul 28, 2011, 11.36 PMby elisana

    Most of the vintage fabrics I own I have purchased at a synagogue’s thrift store close to my house. Recently I learned that the temples here used to have bazaars that sold fabric way back when. I made my daughter a jacket with some quilted fabric I got there (http://www.burdastyle.com/projects/miss-g-s-chick-jacket). Last week I went to another thrift store and got a vintage sheet with flowers in orange, yellow and pink,, much like the colors of the bottom pillow in the cover of your book :)

  • Missing

    Jul 28, 2011, 11.06 PMby lemmonsc

    I’ve recently inherited a large (several thousand yards) of fabric from a distant cousin who worked for designers for top end department stores in the 60’s and early 70’s. Silks, wool, and, of course, lots of polyester. When they closed they gave her all the left-over fabric. I’m having a fabulous time going through it all, washing, sorting and figuring out what each piece might want to be. I’m now on the hunt for vintage patterns to go with all this fabric.

    1 Reply
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      Jul 29, 2011, 03.47 AMby elisana

      lucky you!!!

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    Jul 28, 2011, 10.34 PMby nouvellegamine

    i’m always terrified to use any really beautiful vintage fabric :/

  • Missing

    Jul 28, 2011, 07.18 PMby VictoriaR

    I have found estate sales to be a good source. The problem is that you need to go to a lot of sales to find something good. It is an adventure, but not for the weak or impatient.

  • Missing

    Jul 28, 2011, 03.06 PMby lindad65

    Estate sales, yard sales and flea markets are my sources. Estate sales are a particularly nice source where you can sometimes find yards of unused fabric. Imagine a sewer or crafter who bought fabric and just never got around to using it…

  • Missing

    Jul 28, 2011, 01.10 PMby laurenp

    This has set my little sewing heart alight! I cannot wait to get paid and go for a fabric hunt!

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    Jul 28, 2011, 10.54 AMby flymy

    my mum used to live in london so she had a wealth of markets and little vintage shops at her doorstep despite the fact that we no longer live there all her old clothes which she made in her youth for vintage fabric have been handed down to me. this means that i have an amazing combination of retro and vintage clothing which i remoddel into my own clothes 20 years later

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    Jul 28, 2011, 08.28 AMby nell

    I used to do a lot of my vintage fabric sourcing online, but now that I live in Melbourne (Australia) I’m surrounded by a plethora of op shops and vintage stores. I just wander into stores that look promising.

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    Jul 28, 2011, 05.51 AMby squiddlepop

    I go to second hand shops and fabric shops and look in the scrap bins where you can find gorgeous vintage materials extremely cheap but still a decent size. I use vintage materials to decorate rubbish bins! I have also used it to plait unique headbands, create shoelaces and to turn a plain glassons cardigan into something interesting. I love vintage material so I would like to see what other people use them for! :D

  • Dewey1_large

    Jul 28, 2011, 05.12 AMby Danielle MacIndoe

    My grandma’s house is one stop shopping for all my sewing needs. The supply is unending and includes everything; patterns, cloth, zippers, buttons, bias tape, ribbon even old scissors and tools. Every color of thread imaginable, though I learned that using vintage thread isn’t the best idea. The cloth is my favorite. I always have a mental list of the pieces I want to take home next. She worked in cloth mills from a young age and has always sewn. And it seems she is the only one out of her friends to instill a love of sewing in her offspring, so I am slowly being given all their stashes too. I make little dresses or skirts out of it. I think she’s quite pleased.

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    Jul 28, 2011, 01.54 AMby gillthecat

    i only use thrifted fabric zips buttons as a mater of principle as i hate waste and i hate adding to manufacturing when its out there already, i read people making silly projects spending a fortune on flash fabric and i think shame on you ,, your wasting the planets resources giving money to big stores, when you thrift it the money goes to the needy and your not adding to the worlds pollution,, sorry thats my rant, on the selfish side it costs next to nothing, and i find insane lovely fabrics, that inspire me,, i have every possible fabric in every colour weight all for a couple dollars, i say viva vintage fabrics and give to the needy charity shops are the future i also found 6 m or 1963 marimekko fabric for 6 dollars, and 7 m of duponi silk for 5 dollars its out there just go look

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    Jul 28, 2011, 01.16 AMby BLink

    On my days off, I love scouring antique shops for old sewing notions and fabric. Most are in small quantities, of course, but if the fabric piece is large, I’ll make something like a one of a kind tote bag, or if I’ve got several small pieces, I’ll patch them up to make a larger project like an apron. Fabric flowers are another way I like to incorporate vintage fabric scraps; they don’t require much, and they look super cute!

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    Jul 27, 2011, 10.38 PMby poppykettle

    Oh, and I’d be curious to see where everyone else sources their vintage finds from? I wouldn’t mind expanding my repertoire…

  • Me4_large

    Jul 27, 2011, 10.11 PMby poppykettle

    I’ve only just ‘discovered’ using vintage fabrics, and as my recreational time is short I usually hunt & gather online. I like the giant florals from the 40’s and 50’s which I usually incorporate into parts of dresses along with more modern fabrics. I also love vintage upholstery fabric – I found a gorgeous & very intricately patterns one the other day which I plan to cut up & use as an appliqué on a t-shirt. To date, my ultimate online shopping haunt is www.vintagefabrics.com.au – which conveniently is really close to where I live :)

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