People often think sewing their own clothes will save them money. But once you add up the fabric, the patterns, the notions, the thread and all the other miscellaneous items you need just to make something simple–well, you can wind up spending a lot. Not to mention the fact that beginners often make mistakes during the learning process and can spend lots of money on projects that just don’t work out. In fact, that’s a major concern for non-sewers. “What if I spend a lot of money on a sewing machine and fabric just to find out I’m no good at sewing?” Whether you’re that beginner or an expert who just wants to save as much as possible, the answer is to find free sources of fabric. They’re everywhere, if you know where to look. And we have lots of easy projects to get you sewing.
The trick is to realize any garment is potential material for your project. Old, worn-out, stained, ill-fitting–none of that matters. All that matters is if your pattern pieces will fit onto the garment when it’s cut up. Say you have several old pairs of jeans that don’t fit anymore. I had a closet full, and decided to make something out of them. Because pants are fairly narrow, I went with a princess line jacket. Slim pattern pieces that fit easily onto the denim once I cut the leg seams open. Easy peasy–and free.
How do you prepare the garment to become something new?
When you recycle an old garment, all you have to do is cut it open at the seams until it lies flat. Then arrange your pattern pieces so they fit. Sometimes you have to mix and match grains and patterns and colors, so this method isn’t ideal for every sewing project. But it works fine for most. Do be aware of things like stretch, bias, and grainlines when laying out your pattern. Also, be sure to mark any major stains or flaws you don’t want in the final piece, so you can avoid them when laying out the pattern.
So, where do you look for free fabric?
Start in your own closet. What’s in your closet that you haven’t worn in a long time? Could you turn it into something new and fun that you would actually wear? While you’re at it, check your kid’s closet and the linen closet, too. Sheets, blankets, old drapes–all of it can be useful. As can old sweatshirts that can be made into fabulous cushions or cosy hotwater bottle covers.
Next, ask your friends if they’d mind cleaning out their closets for a good cause. Everyone likes to declutter, but then we feel guilty for throwing away perfectly good clothing. Sure, we could donate the clothes to a charity shop. But often those bags just end up in the back of the car, taking up space for long periods of time. So, suggest they clean out their unwanted clothing and give it to you! You might even bribe them with a new handbag or skirt out of the haul
Now, let’s turn up the volume a bit. Hop on Facebook, Twitter or your favorite social network and let everyone know you’re looking for used clothing for a project. And be sure to let them know that the size, wear, or condition doesn’t really matter. You can end up with some really great stuff this way–bridesmaids dresses, fur coats, leather gloves–all sorts of stuff.
Don’t forget your other social circles like your church, school or hobby clubs. Chances are good there are lots of people around you who would love to unload this stuff. You could even offer to help them with the clean out in return for the unwanted clothing. Why not hold a swishing event – it’s a great way to get some new fabric.
Finally, if you only need small pieces of fabric, for quilting or making baby clothes, you may be able to score some lovely material from other people who sew. Ask for scrap donations from your friends or relatives who sew. Often they just end up throwing away perfectly good scraps big enough to use. Scraps can make fabulous patchwork quilts.
Got any more great ideas for scoring free fabric? Let us know in the comments!
Julie Anne Eason is an independent web publisher and writer. On her website, SeriousSewing.com, you can find all sorts of articles including help with buying sewing machines, dress form and sewing tables.
Never sewn before? Check out Easy sewing projects for beginners