Sunday, September 7, 2008

In Search of Vintage Fabric

I’m often asked how I’ve come by the vintage fabric in my stash. Well, I wish I could report that there’s a super secret one-stop place for affordable vintage textiles. Ebay might fit the bill on that one, except for the part about affordability. Fabric up for auction on that site can be terribly overpriced, in my opinion.
I acquired most of my fabric during my year-long foray into the vintage resale business. While out treasure-hunting at garage and estate sales, I’d occasionally find a piece here and there. Only once did I come across an estate sale for a grandmother who loved to sew and never got rid of her stash. That was a fun one.

If all the driving around and digging through musty boxes isn’t your thing, I have found that inexpensive cutter quilts (ones that are tied, not quilted) can often net some great fabric pieces. Salvaging the backs is the greatest prize – large pieces of vintage goodness ready to become part of a new project. I’ve found quilts such as these for reasonable prices at antique and thrift stores.

{separating the quilt top and backing}
Depending on whether the top is salvageable (some I’ve found are practically in shreds), I either rip seams or cut around the outside edges to separate the quilt top and back. Then begins the tedious effort of snipping and pulling out the ties. Usually, the quilts are musty and full of sneeze-inducing allergens. I get the old batting or cotton blanket (as is often used) into the garbage as quick as possible.

{snipping ties}
Oxobrite is my solution for getting the stink out of old fabric, as well as brightening up the whites. (Do I sound like a 1950s commercial?) The dismantled quilts will soak in our big clawfoot tub for a good 24 hours, changing the water once or twice depending on how yellow and musty the fabric pieces were to begin with. You won’t believe the odors that Oxobrite will release out of old textiles. Yuck.

{recent salvaged pieces}
Even when the tops of these quilts are irreparable, I still save all the pieces that I can. Little scraps of vintage fabric are great for making mini crazy quilts or crazy quilt squares for a larger quilt. I also cut out swathes of salvageable patchwork to turn into small pillows, doll quilts, or little stuffed hearts.

{crazy quilt square}
Happy sewing!