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These days, fabric is NOT cheap.
My mom used to sew all her clothes because it was less expensive to sew than purchase, but now DIY sewing projects can cost more than buying premade ones.
When I was a beginner, I was too afraid to even start sewing because I was worried I would ruin an expensive piece of fabric and waste money.
That’s when I started looking for sources for fabric to repurpose. Because using cheap fabric is one of the best ways to practice sewing! And, inexpensive fabric is also great for sewing a test garment before using your expensive fabric to make the real one.
Luckily, buying fabric doesn’t have to break the bank if you get creative with your sources.
I’ll show you how to get cheap fabric and how to start thinking of the items around you as potential sources.
Ideas Clothing & Household Goods to Repurpose
Repurposing is my absolute favorite way to get inexpensive fabric. You can use almost any fabric-based household or clothing item for something if you think hard enough.
For instance, you can make new dresses, shirts, shorts, pillow covers, bags, and other fabric crafts out of old items.
Take, for example, this dress I sewed my daughter out of an old twin-size sheet!
You can even use old clothes fabric for embroidery appliques.
My Anita Goodesign doll house quilt (one block above) had so much applique that I used old shirts, scrubs, and pants to get the perfect look. The bed itself is from one of my daughter’s old baby shirts!
A. Home Items to Reuse
Here’s a quick list of some of my favorite household items to reuse as cheap fabric sources and some examples of what I’ve done with them.
- Bedsheets (I also like to use sheets when making a muslin to check for fit.)
- Tablecloths (They make great dresses–check out the flannel one I made above by sewing a tablecloth to an old shirt that was too short!)
- Pillowcases (You can turn these into smaller toddler pillowcases even!)
- Old fleece blankets (turn into baby sleepsacks or toddler pajamas)
- Shower curtains (use for outdoor upholstery or bag making)
B. Clothes to Repurpose
If you have kids to sew for or like to sew doll clothes, you can take larger adult pieces of clothing and refashion them to fit smaller people, for example.
Here are my favorite pieces of clothing to upcycle to new creations.
- Large dresses
- Big shirts and coats (check out my envelope pillow cover from a button-down shirt.)
- Denim jeans (quilt blocks, anyone?!)
- Men’s dress shirts (check out my men’s dress shirt repurposed into a drawstring backpack!)
- Pajama pants (these are so simple to turn into DIY pajama shorts.)
- Fleece jackets (I made a fleece jacket into a DIY doll sleeping bag once!)
C. Notions from Repurposing
I also like to gather sewing notions through repurposing.
Routinely, I scavenge for buttons off old clothing, and I remove the zippers from old baby sleepers. Zippers that long are expensive when bought separately!
Really, it is so easy to use my seam ripper to get a monstrous zipper out of a sleeper, and it gives me something to do while binge-watching my favorite TV shows.
Places to Get Cheap Fabric – Ideas
Now that you have ideas of alternative sources for fabrics, let’s get into the best places to get fabric cheap or where to find items to repurpose.
1. Garage Sales and Estate Sales
Estate sales (and garage sales, too!) are a great place to get cheap fabric.
In this digital age, the best thing about estate sales is many places post pictures and item descriptions online.
Take a look and see if anyone is cleaning out a fabric stash. If so, be ready to pounce!
Even if you don’t find a fabric stash ready for the taking, consider looking through the linens section and the closet to find cheap items to repurpose.
When buying preowned, make sure to inspect the fabric thoroughly before purchasing, and give it a good cleaning when you get it home!
2. Thrift Stores
I usually browse the larger sizes first and select items with beautiful prints that lend themselves to new outfits.
And even if you don’t like the print of an outfit, you might want to grab some outfits with a lot of fabric to use for practice projects.
Keep on the lookout for unique buttons and clasps, too!
People will get rid of stained or torn clothes, but this doesn’t mean you can’t use the other parts of the clothing for new designs.
Check your local thrift stores for their sale days when they mark down certain items.
Students get a discount at our local thrift store on Wednesdays, so I like to bring my very understanding husband (he’s working on his MBA now) for an extra discount!
3. Church Rummage Sales
I don’t know if this is a thing anywhere else, but here in Texas, churches love to have rummage sales and bazaars.
This is one of the best places to get cheap fabric and other goods to repurpose for fabric!
If you catch a big church sale, you can look through 50+ booths of people unloading goods for no profit to themselves.
4. Flea Markets
Kind of like thrift stores, flea markets are an excellent place to find cheap fabric sources.
While I don’t have as good of luck with rock-bottom prices and a large variety in our local flea markets, I know my grandmother used to be an expert shopper and haggler at flea markets in her area!
5. Antique Shops
While antique shops are hit or miss on low pricing, finding vintage fabrics and unique linens is a fun treasure hunt at antique shops.
Every once in a while, I can also grab some gorgeous lace here.
6. Friends and Family
I have a running request from all family members (and a few really good friends) to let me take a look at their household donations before they give them away.
I’ve taken shirts of my grandmother’s and sewn them into nightgowns for my daughters, and I recently made leggings out of old exercise clothes.
I don’t worry as much about dirty clothes when they come from people I know, so that’s a definite plus to sourcing fabric through people you know!
Discount Stores and Department Stores With Cheap Fabric
If you don’t like the hunt for fabric from preowned sources, don’t fret!
You can find cheap fabric and items ripe for upcycling new at big box stores.
Here are some of my favorite places to shop.
1. Dollar Tree
While my Dollar Tree sells fat quarters or sometimes single yards of fabric for $1, I love when I luck out with a huge tablecloth or a nice king-sized pillowcase.
You can use that pillowcase to make a kid’s dress for just $1!
While at Dollar Tree, I also like picking up cheap ribbons and other sewing notions. (Here are all my favorite sewing supplies at Dollar Tree.)
You can also check out 20 Dollar Tree embroidery blanks if you like embroidering!
2. Kohl’s and Other Stores that Clearance Well
I caved when my husband and I graduated optometry school and opened a Kohl’s credit card about 10 years ago.
After 8 years of school spent in scrubs, pajama pants, and sweatshirts, we suddenly needed dress clothes to actually practice in.
Kohl’s was having good sales and offered a whopping extra 40% off if we opened the credit card. The several hundred dollars we saved buying these clothes was SO worth opening the credit card. (We pay it off every month, of course.)
Even now, Kohl’s clearances like nobody’s business and my Kohl’s card gives me up to 30% off the discount prices and often free shipping.
I buy their store-brand plus size or XXL clothing for $2 or $3 sometimes.
Right now, I’m working on sewing knit sundresses for my girls from a few XXL shirts I got for $2 each!
Two other stores where I can find super cheap items on clearance are Walmart and Belk’s.
Walmart unloads clothes for $1-$3 if you keep an eye on their major clearance sales.
The picture above is also from my latest Walmart remnant stash–4 yards for 4$ is SO cheap! I also got several sweater knits I’m super excited to try with my serger.
I also buy 5X women’s swimsuit tops and bottoms from Walmart for $1 at the end of summer and use those to sew my daughters’ swimsuits for the next year.
3. Ross, Marshall’s, TJMaxx, and Others
These are like the thrift stores of new clothing.
You never know what you will find, but you can at least guarantee a price cut from department stores.
Affordable Fabric Stores
While most quilting and fabric stores are pricey, check your local area stores for cheap fabric.
Two popular sources in my area are Hobby Lobby and JOANN.
1. Hobby Lobby
Hobby Lobby no longer has their 40% off coupons, but you can watch and every other week or so, their fabric will go on sale.
You can also keep an eye out for their remnant bin or their clearance bolts, where find even more inexpensive fabric.
Sometimes their cotton fabrics are $2 a yard, which is something I’m willing to jump on!
They also routinely have batting and notions on clearance.
Hobby Lobby also has scrap leather pieces for cheap if you plan to sew small leather crafts like wallets, keychains, doll purses, etc.
If you watch the JOANN sale ad, they will discount most fabric types up to 50-70% at some point.
If the prices aren’t discounted, they still usually have a coupon for 40-70% off a regular-price purchase. They also offer incredible doorbusters on Black Friday and sometimes on other holidays.
I buy a lot of cheap cotton fabric from JOANN but don’t find knits I like as often. As with Hobby Lobby, also make sure to check the remnants bin!
Where to Find Inexpensive Fabric Online
If you’re not blessed to have so many local cheap fabric sources, you can still get cheap fabric online.
Shipping is usually free, too, once you meet a certain threshold.
Depending on the season and what you’re looking for, some great discounts are available! I’ve written an entire post on the best online fabric stores where you can buy cheap fabric if you want to check out my complete list of favorites.
I hope this has inspired you to see new life in items around your house and to also know which items to keep an eye out for when you are shopping. Let me know if you have any other places you like to find affordable fabric so I can get on it!