sewing workshop

Sourcing “Vintage” Fabric

One of the frequent questions that I receive in my inbox is how to go about finding fabric sources online, and more specifically garment fabric that is a reasonable facsimile of vintage fabric. I purchase about half my fabric online, and the other half is what I’ve found at various retail spots. So I don’t claim to be an expert. But I do know a couple places to hunt online and ways to find vintage-style fabric.

First let’s talk a bit about fabric that reads “vintage”. Certainly classic patterns like plaids, houndstooth, polka dots, and checks work well with vintage styles. (There is a reason they are classic after all!) Finding novelty, floral or other prints are far more difficult—especially if you’re looking for a fabric that isn’t quilting weight cotton (of which there is an abundance of darling reproduction prints). My number one piece of advice is to study. Whether you find the fashions of the 30s or 50s appealing, spending a bit of time learning what colors and patterns were popular for your decade of choice is half the battle. I’ve included some images from my collection of mid 40s fabrics; these are not only pretty to look at but tell quite a story when it comes to selecting fabric for your modern-vintage projects.

Another key to modern fabric for vintage sewing is finding similar fabrics that were popular in the past. While they aren’t as available as they once were, you can still find rayon (or wool) crepe and challis, which were two popular fabrics in the 30s and 40s. I’ve been able to find woven rayon fabric quite often both online and occasionally at brick and mortar shops (the most surprising finds have been on the clearance racks at JoAnns!). You just have to search. (How I wish there was a one-stop-shop for vintage-style sewing supplies!)

Here are a few fabric websites that I frequently haunt and/or have purchased from. Most of these are US-only websites, so I’d love to know some other spots that you shop online as well.

Denver Fabrics – This is where I’ve found a lot of rayon material that I’ve used for dresses. It’s hit or miss, and be sure to read the descriptions carefully, but there are gems. I’ve found lovely rayon crepe, sueded rayon, cotton lawn with late 30s-appropriate prints, and novelty tropical designs that would work beautifully on a 40s midriff ensemble!

Fabric.com – I tend to go here more often if I’m looking for a cotton or linen material, rather than rayon (they carry mostly rayon knits), but I have found some cute materials (and great “classic” designs) for good prices.

Gorgeous Fabrics – Admittedly, I have only “window shopped” here, but there is a wide range of fabrics stocked here; lots and lots of nicer fiber contents that are suitable for vintage styles. Again, like all of them, you have to dig through to find prints that would work. (I’ve noted loads of florals that would be amazing for 50s dresses!)

Fabric Mart – This one is really hit or miss, and when you see something you have to snatch it up quick! Occasionally I’ve seen great rayon and silk prints that would work beautifully for many past eras, and of course lots of classic plaid wool during the winter.

Sawyer Brook – This is where I found the lovely silk print for my Swing Dress I made earlier this year. Again, another place to keep an eye out for quality fabrics in prints and colors that work for vintage sewing.

Vogue Fabrics – A mish mash of different fabrics, like most of the other websites I listed, but worth hunting for. I noticed quite a few rayon challis fabrics recently (some more appropriate for vintage sewing than others…).

Lastly, another great place to check is the Threads online fabric shopping list. It’s a few years old (so some links are no longer working), but does have a lot of websites listed that would be useful to check.

Now if you’re looking for real vintage fabric, thrift (charity) shops are great places to start! Of course, you won’t always find what you’re looking for, and supply and demand are in flux constantly, but I have discovered some real gems. Other sewing bloggers seem to have good luck at these sorts of shops as well—Debi is one that comes to mind as someone who has used some thrifted fabrics to make her vintage pieces. Other spots online would be Ebay and Etsy; just search “vintage fabric” or more specifically “vintage cotton print”, “vintage rayon”, etc. (It’s all about the search terms!)

Do you have any favorite places to hunt for vintage-appropriate fabrics online? Please do share—I’d be delighted to know!

July 20, 2011 · 16 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing · tags: ,

Debi July 20, 2011 at 08:21

Lovely post! I’ll pull together a list of some of my online sources as well!! Thanks Casey!

Reply

Tessa July 20, 2011 at 09:13

This is great, Casey – thanks! I haven’t yet bought fabric online, mainly as a) there’s a very cheap place around the corner from where I live in Sydney, with lots of vintage-y cotton prints, and b) my Mum’s stash is so enormous that we’re still working through it (yes, she needs help with it – it’s that big). But when I do need some, I’ll certainly come to this post.

T.xxx

Reply

Sarah July 20, 2011 at 09:25

Every vintage fabric I have has been sourced through Etsy! It’s really a gem for vintage supplies and you can find them relatively cheap. Thank you for some of those links, some of them I haven’t seen before. Also, I love Fashion Fabric Club, especially when they have a sale. I’ve found some beautiful wool and boucle there!

Reply

New Vintage Lady July 20, 2011 at 09:27

http://www.reproductionfabrics.com/
‘An online source of cotton reproduction fabric for costuming and quilting. Fabric of time periods 1775 to 1950, including the Civil War and Depression Eras. Consulting and custom sample sets available for costumers.’

Be careful. You can loose hours searching through their textiles. So, so many great repro prints.

Reply

Carys July 20, 2011 at 09:31

I totally agree, the world definitely needs a vintage-style sewing supplies shop: since so many of the people who make their own clothes are interested in vintage style, it would actually be a great idea! Anyway, I loved this post-I am yet to buy any real vintage fabric myself, but my mum often finds the most amazing novelty print material, I will definitely be showing her this post!
From Carys of La Ville Inconnue

Reply

Jen O July 20, 2011 at 11:26

You are so right about classic fabrics. I think too many people forget about these. There are great new textiles out there that are often perfect for a vintage fashion. For true vintage fabric, Etsy is amazing!

Reply

Reagan Foy July 20, 2011 at 11:46

Oh Casey….I love this post! Its hard to resist sitting here and spending all day searching through these sites. I’m gonna have to make some time soon and just search and search. Thank you for the post!

Reply

Lauren July 20, 2011 at 11:49

Great post, Casey!
About what year are these scans from, do you know?

Reply

Lisa July 20, 2011 at 12:18

Love vintage fabrics and all your knowledge…Xo Lisa

Reply

Sarah July 20, 2011 at 13:11

This is incredibly useful, thank you so much! These are great tips. Besides thrift stores, I also frequently check the big antique malls in my town – some of the dealers will sometimes have stacks of unused vintage fabric (!!!) tucked away in a corner of their booth. It’s usually not cheap by any means, but it’s oh so pretty!

Reply

the fabled needle (jen) July 20, 2011 at 15:30

I have found good stuff on 2 sites mentioned in the comments – Reproduction Fabrics and Fashion Fabric Club. The first is mostly quilt weight cotton I think although I’ve spotted shirtings there as well (I haven’t bought any so I don’t know what they feel like). Flea markets and antique malls are a good place to poke around. Also, large metropolitan areas often have a garment district with fabric stores where you might not be able to find retro prints but you can find classics like you’ve mentioned or nice solids.

It’s funny though because many dresses I’ve stumbled upon from the 1940s-early ’60s are made with quilt weight cotton, something I’m no trying to avoid especially when making a skirt/dress with gathers! (I cannot afford to add bulk in my waist area.) So I suppose many women back then had limited options too.

Reply

Victoria / Justice Pirate July 20, 2011 at 16:25

oh how cool. I know nothing really about such names of fabrics so that is cool. I’ll have to bookmark this since there are no fabric stores near where I live and I really need to push myself to do these projects.

Reply

Irene July 21, 2011 at 02:34

I just found the PERFECT fabrics for a few sewing projects I have lined up from your link to fabric.com! Thanks for the recommendation, Casey!

Reply

United Global Product Sourcing November 1, 2011 at 22:05

This is a great resource for sourcing fabrics, awesome job!

Reply

Salomea December 21, 2013 at 14:41

Thank you for this great post! I usually don’t buy from US shops as shipping to my country is too expensive but when I saw Denver Fabrics and their selection of outstanding rayons I just couldn’t resist!

Reply

Care to comment? Thank you ever so much for taking time to share your comment! Although I try to answer questions, I am not always able to respond to each comment individually. But please know that I appreciate from the bottom of my heart every comment I receive!

Previous post:

Next post: