Ever fancied making your own clothes, stitching your own curtains or learning to upholster? Vintage revival is in, and there’s nothing like being simultaneously thrifty. But fabric, especially one of a kind unique prints, can be really expensive — sometimes halting your projects before they’ve got off the ground.
If you’re short of time or would rather not search individual stores, there are some shops out there that sell fabric at very competitive prices. Here’s where to get free fabric samples/swatches, etc.
- IKEA – IKEA’s most basic fabric starts fro $1.29 a yard, which is pretty rock bottom. Designs are a little bit limited but if one catches your eye, you could have yourself a bargain. They also do pre-cuts for fixed prices.
- Discount Fabrics USA – while this site has some high-end fabrics, they also have a budget section where every fabric is $6.99 a yard. They tend to be classic designs – think classic furniture upholstering!
- Warehouse Fabrics Inc – an online only store but very good for tons of cool and unique fabrics that you’ll be dying to sew with for under $10 per yard.
If fabric is your thing, it’s well worth registering with as many fabric selling sites as possible, and subscribing to their newsletters – even if they’re priced out of your range. Why? SALES! Fabric retailers are just like furniture or clothing retailers – they often have sales to clear previous season stock or make way for new additions.
So, if you’ve had your eye on a particular print but can’t justify the $20/yard price tag, you might find that it drops into the sale, or you even get sent a really cool discount code taking tonnes off the price. You might not have such luck, but it could be worth a bit of inbox spam to find out.
There are thousands of thrift shops out there. In recent years they’ve become something of a dumping ground for unwanted household items – an easy way to clear your clutter without the feeling of guilt and waste from simply throwing away. We all know it’s hard to find items in your style and fit at the thrift shop, not to mention it takes mountains of patience. But there are bargain fabrics to be had out there! So it’s time to start thinking about thrift shops differently and changing the way we browse them.
1. Look for: Sheets, curtains, rugs, blankets and other large span pieces. These are basically exactly what you’d be buying online anyway! Large pieces of fabric in plain shapes – perfect for cutting and sewing into anything of your liking. Sometimes the idea of second-hand sheets can be questionable, but give them a boil wash and they’ll be fine for reuse. You might even get super lucky and find sheets still in their packaging!
2: Look for: Oversized clothes. If you like the print of something but not the style – buy it anyway and use your stitching skills to unpick and rework the fabric into something new and totally you! Remember it’s important to find clothes that are a bit oversized so you have spare fabric in case of accidents or emergencies. In both scenarios, you’re paying attention to print and quantity more than anything else. If it looks terrible at time of purchase – great, you’ll see an even bigger difference when you’re done and be prouder of your creation!
This also works in regular stores where they have a sale on. Sometimes in a desperate bid to shift old stock, prices will be slashed. Move quick and you could walk away with yards of fabric for a few dollars which you can then rework. What’s cool about this tip is you’ll usually be able to return your purchase, even if just for store credit, if you realize it’s not going to compliment your project.
If you’re still not convinced at store prices, even when their fabric is on sale, maybe places like Craigslist, Gumtree and eBay are more your thing. The likelihood is you’ll buy second hand, but that doesn’t necessarily mean used. If you’re handy at eBay sniping or don’t mind calling a Gumtree member, you could take advantage of those failed attempts at creativity and forgotten hobbies to try pursue your own.
- Cheap fabric!
- Potential designer bargains to be found
- Do someone a favor and take it off their hands
- People often sell in job lots – kilos of fabric at rock bottom prices
- Shipping / traveling to collect can bump costs
- The inevitability of time wasters
- Relying on pictures
Around the Home
We’re not talking real estate, we’re talking recycling. Think about what you’ve already got in your house, and how it could be put to new or better use. Maybe it’s time for a spring clean anyway! But if you have some old curtains under the stairs, or sheets stuffed at the back of your laundry cupboard, it’s probably time to repurpose them. It’s really the perfect solution – no expense and declutters at the same time. Don’t forget to ask relatives and friends too!
And now we get to the good stuff – the free stuff. eBay and Craigslist are cool for bargains, but nothing says bargain like a freebie. There are loads of sites and networks being set up across the country, selling everything from gardening equipment to lighting. Somewhere in there, if you look in the right places, there’s heaps of fabric. Some of our favorites for sourcing free stuff include…
From Other People
There are over 5,000 local groups on Freecycle, which is all about not for profit recycling. The site has “wanted” and “offering” ads, so even if you can’t find any fabric being offered, you can advertise that you want some and let the people come to you. It’s all about taking and giving, so while you’re signing up perhaps you could see if you’ve got some things to freecycle. As they say, one man’s trash…
The ReUseIt Network
It’s a bit like a free stuff directory – select your state and see what groups are available in your area. Some are actually Freecycle ones, others are individual groups set up by local recyclers. They vary dramatically in size, but they’re all full of free stuff and they won’t grow unless people participate. It can be a little time consuming to trawl through so many different free groups, but when you’re after something for nothing you should be prepared to do a little bit of legwork.
Surprised? People are increasingly advertising their items for sale on Facebook in designated groups. Why? Because it’s free and reaches thousands of people. If you didn’t already, join some yard sale groups in your area and keep an eye out for fabric. You can advertise that you’re looking for fabric too.
And of course, don’t forget actual real-life yard sales! Fabric, particular things like bed sheets and curtains, often fall into that pile labeled “single use” due to factors like taste and sometimes hygiene. If you’re drawing blanks online, it could be that people just don’t think it’s worth going to lengths to advertise their old fabric. Spend a Sunday rummaging in your neighborhood for some textile treasures.
Fabric Samples, Swatches, Scraps
If you’re into quilting, patchwork or hunting for generally smaller pieces of fabric, you can always take advantage of free samples. It might seem a bit cheap, but why pay if you don’t have to? Most stores will be happy to cut you off a sample to take home to help you decide, but what you do with it once it’s cut is up to you! Some of our favorite sites for a fabric freebie include…
Pottery Barn – you don’t even have to leave your house to take advantage of free samples here. Simply choose the ones you fancy, fill in the form and Pottery Barn will send them to you free of charge.
Crate and Barrel – the upholstery arm of the chain are no strangers to handing out a freebie to help you decide on your overall purchase. Or just use it to help your sewing side project… Whatever! Call or pop into a store to select up to five free samples.
West Elm – available online or in-store, West Elm have tonnes of cool in season fabric samples to choose from. Make your selection, fill in your details and await your swatches!
Even More Places…
Furthermore, if you have a favorite store that offers some form of soft furnishings or upholstery, the chances are they will do you some free samples or happily hand over offcuts (cloth that remains after a larger section has been removed), even if they don’t advertise it. You just need to ask! With all samples and swatches, there’s no guarantee of exactly what you’ll get. They could be uniform pieces, or just offcuts from other customers’ orders. You can’t be too fussy, but you can order more to a second address (friend, neighbor, grandparent, workplace…) if what you’ve got doesn’t fit the bill.
Related Article: Are Hobby Lobby Classes Any Good (Sewing & More…)?