Saturday, February 1, 2014

Free Fabric: 5 ways to get it!

For many of us in the world right now, finding money to spend on our craft supplies can be difficult.
As much as I adore so many of the beautiful fabric designs out there at the moment, I just can't justify constant purchases of it (until my lotto win comes through ;)).

I thought I'd share with you all some ways of getting fabric for free that you can use to plump out your fabric stash, as I do.

The first thing to mention is that many of these free fabrics won't be the beautiful designer fabric you fall in love with in online stores. Think of them as complimentary fabrics, blenders, solids etc. You might need to stretch your imagination a little to see how to fit them into a quilt or other project
but the results can be spectacular!

1. Win Fabric Online

There are sooo many people giving away fabric online these days. To find them simply do searches using the terms

Fabric giveaway
Free Fabric
Quilting giveaway
Win Fabric
FQ giveaway

in your search engine or in website searches (Pinterest, Flickr, Twitter etc.). Many blogs do regular giveaways so sign up to receive updates, and lots of online fabric stores have regular giveaways advertised in their email newsletters.

Most of these giveaways require you to either comment or share on social media sites or subscribe to regular emails, you can easily unsubscribe from these emails at any time and companies that send you unwanted emails are open to huge fines so are unlikely to bother you.

Vintage sheet quilt and pillow cases by Hide Away Girl

2. Recycle centres
Reusing fabric from clothes and scraps is the where the whole idea of quilting originated, the idea of thrift and the need for us to reduce the amount of waste in our lives is not a new concept but it is a good one.

At my local recycling centre (nice name for the useful junk drop off area at the rubbish dump) there are a number of caged boxes filled with clothes, linens and odd scraps of fabric. Anything you can find in these cages is completely free to take away. Unless you are used to gleaning fabric in this way you can feel overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff or just depressed by what appears to be pile upon pile of crap.
It takes time to develop an eye for sorting through the crap to find the gems, but I suspect most of the crafty gals and guys reading this will be thrifting creative peeps who might be used to using their imaginative eye.
I look for colours and patterns first and foremost then check if they are made of cotton. Large long sleeved shirts and long skirts and pants can yield up to a yards worth of fabric - not bad for free!
Mens shirts in solids and stripes can work beautifully with more expensive designer fabrics or together can create a subtle minimalist look for modern quilts.

Always wash your finds, some things will require soaking in a stain remover first. My favourite method of cutting up clothes is to hold the garment with the seam at one side and cut through two layers of fabric at once with a pair of fabric scissors (cutting the seams off in one go).
I discard the collar and cuffs but some thriftier peeps can get some small pieces of fabric from them too.
You can also start a good button collection in this way, and from my experience there is nothing that a toddler likes more than a jar of mixed buttons!

A quilt made from mens shirts by Alix at Mamaka Mills
A detail from another recycled shirt quilt by Alix at Mamaka Mills

3. Family closet

Instead of throwing out or giving cotton clothes to charity stores, think about incorporating them into your craft. The first good thing about using your own clothes is that you have usually chosen them for their colour or pattern so they already appeal to you. The second good thing? They can bring back memories of places, events and people and when you and/or your kids are looking at your photos in the year 2030 they may recognise some fabrics that are now on their favourite heirloom quilt.

You can also incorporate clothes that your baby or child has grown out of but are so darn cute you just don't want to give them up. Shirts and dresses that belonged to a grandparent or parent can also be repurposed into something usable that you can keep as a way of remembering a loved one past or present.

This also applies to your linen closet, pillow cases, tablecloths, sheets and doona (duvet) covers can all be repurposed into lovely things.

Vintage sheet quilt by Kristin at Woolly Petals

4. Industry waste

Do you have upholsterers, curtain makers, tailors or some other business that uses fabrics near you?
Chances are they will have a constant supply of scrap/waste fabric. Why not ask if they have any offcuts that you can have? In my experience most places are happy to give it to you for free. You can sometimes get scraps of leather that are great for making bags, iPod cases, brooches/pins and other crafty pieces.

5. The last way to get get free fabric is to get involved in a fabric swap, I know it's technically not free but you could swap some gleaned fabric for it. There are many online swaps for fabric pieces and quilted blocks. Just use your search engine to find:

Fabric Swap
Quilt Swap
Block Swap

Hope this helps and please share your ideas for where to find free fabric!

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