(image source: Make Do and Mendable)
Hopefully you've already 'met' Jen from Make Do and Mend-able, who is preaching to the choir round these parts with her investigations into living ethically and sustainably with an emphasis on handmade. If you haven't then I thoroughly recommend you visit to her lovely blog, and whilst you're over there, check out her fabulous Ted X talk about the year she and her family pledged to buy nothing new. Everything she is doing is so positive and relevant, and her manifesto makes me want to scream 'YES TO ALL THIS!'. If Dolores wasn't in bed asleep right now, I'd probably scream it out loud for real. Anyways...
Jen posted her Top 5 Sources for Secondhand Fabric back in May, and it was so good to read. I'd been brewing a similar blog post for a while in response to the many questions that I've received in the topic both in blog comments and at the classes I teach, but had failed to get as far as clicking the 'publish' button to date. It's something that I think is incredibly important for limiting the impact of our hobby on the environment, and thankfully Jen has allowed me to repost her original post in the hope that it may inspire more sewers to get hunting.... Thanks Jen!
Sewing your own might seem the 'greener' option, but fabric production is a pretty resource and labour intensive business. Growing cotton uses vast amounts of water and pesticides, and has a heavy environmental impact. An easy way to still sew your own, but lessen your 'sewing footprint' is to source your fabric secondhand. Here's my Top 5 places to find secondhand fabric:
1. Charity Shops
If you get lucky, charity shops will sometimes have donations of 'acutal' fabric from someone who is having a clear out. Failing that, keep your eyes peeled for old duvets and sheets-there are often fabulous retro prints, and you get TONS of fabric for your money. Also check out the clothes rails for skirts and shirts in larger sizes, as the fabric from these can be salvaged to be made into something else.
2. Vintage Shops and fairs
No excuses are needed for a rummage around a vintage shop, but while you are, be sure to keep a beady eye out for old curtains, and again, sheets and duvets, or even tablecloths. Sometimes there will be stashes of French linens, and tea towels, which are great for home furnishings.
Have a look on the Make Do and Mend-able Pre-loved Craft Stuff group. You can post a wanted if you are looking for something in particular eg. stretch fabric, or red cord etc. There are also lots of other groups like Fabric Addicts Destash and the Vintage Fabric Addict Support Group.
Some crafters will periodically have a 'de-stash' and list their unwanted fabric on Instagram. Search using #fabricdestash or #fabricforsale. It's a bit hit and miss, but you might unearth a gem! Also follow sewers whose blogs you admire, and you never know when they might choose to destash...!
(image source: Etsy)
5. E-bay, Pre-loved, Etsy
These are all good places to find fabric, if you are prepared to do a bit of searching. Keep your search terms as specific as you can. If you just search "fabric" you will get thousands of suggestions! If you search for "red stretch knit fabric", or "yellow polka dot cotton" you are more likely to find what you are looking for more quickly.
One word of caution, there are lots of new fabrics for sale on E-bay now, and lots of people have set up E-bay shops to sell new fabric. If you just want to avoid the new fabrics coming up in your search, be sure to check the 'Used' box under Condition, in the search terms on the left hand side.
Thank you so much, Jen! That was great to read. I have a few more points to add on this topic, so I'll revisit it again soon. So, what about you? Is sewing with secondhand fabric something you think about? Have you scored any fab secondhand fabric recently? Do you have any tips on how/where to find it?