Thrift Store Fabrics – are you in? Tips for scouting and using second hand fabrics


Do you admit to picking up fabric everywhere you go? I do. Pretty fabric, at least. Here’s a stack that I came home with the last time I browsed my favorite thrift shop. I love finding fabric treasures at yard sales and thrift shops.

Here are 5 tips and tricks for finding great thrifted fabrics and using them too.

Tip #1: Shop Small

I think most of the big thrift shops (the franchise ones, anyway) get rid of the fabric that comes in.

My favorite one is a small thrift shop linked to a charity. They have a great fabric and crafts section.

Whenever you see a small church or charity run thrift shop, take a quick peek inside to see what treasures they have. It could be a big win!

Tip #2: Look closely at the bundles

A lot of thrift shop and yard sale sellers put fabric stacks together in bundles for easy sale. My favorite shop stacks up about 5 yards for $2. I usually have to buy the whole bundle to get one piece I really like, but for that price, who cares? 

I browsed through my pictures for this blog post, and found lots of projects made with thrifted fabrics. Like the heavy blue duck cloth on the car cozy above.

And the nice red knit that I made this top out of.  That ended up being a super find… about 3 yards (plus other stuff in the bundle) and I really, really like the quality. 

Tip #3 Wash It!

I always throw my stack of thrifted fabrics in the wash as soon as I get home. That helps get rid of any funny smell, plus I find out how it’s going to hold up. If it can’t make it through one wash, then I want to know now.

Tip #4: Look for Vintage Sheets and Tablecloths!

I’m sure you know that fabric can be found in other departments too… this nap mat came from a thrifted sheet. Lots of people use soft vintage sheets for quilt backings too.


Tip #5: Get the Solids

In general I look for good quality solid fabrics when I am scouting out thrift stores and yard sales. It’s easier to make them look modern when I mix them with my favorite designer prints. If I have to buy other fabrics because they came in a bundle, then I use them for practice projects.

Bonus Tip: Purse Handles Too!

And there’s more… I often find amazing purse handles at thrift stores too. I’ll cut the handles off an old bag and sew them onto a new one that I made. Here’s how.

What about you? Do you admit to buying thrifted fabrics? Where do you find them and what do you use them for? 



Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂

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    1. Hi Crystal… the one that I was talking about here is a private little shop associated with a women’s shelter. If you live in central Florida I could give you the name. I think you just have to look around until you find your favorite thrift shops. Good luck!

  1. I love this post, because I am always on the hunt for fabric too. The thrift stores near me tend to not carry fabric…..but I love re-purposing clothing into other items. I mostly use the clothing to make purses & bags.

  2. I am new to sewing and I took a class to make a purse ended up spending 35 dollars on fabric for a tote bag. The nice ladies at the class told me to go to goodwill or browse the 1 bin at walmart. I have only buy fabric from thrift shops or walmart till I bring my skills up. Great post.

  3. Salvation Army Thrift shops usually have fabrics hanging along with sheets, curtains, table cloths etc. I have about 5 yards of a wool suiting fabric that’s just gorgeous I picked up for $2. Considering making a skirt and then re-donating so someone else can enjoy the find as well.

  4. I always look for fabric at thrift stores and garage sales. Save the "special" pieces in my stash and use all others for practicing techniques and making quilts for charity..

  5. dannyscotland says:

    I definitely buy fabric at the thrift store. My stores in this area seem to have small fabric sections, but I have found that sheets, pillowcases, and dust ruffles are cheap and abundant. And how cute is a dust ruffle made into a skirt for a little girl? Can’t get much twirlier than that!

  6. I have a great little store in my town and try and hit it once a wk. 4yds of pink knit with white dots $2.00. Last week found 10 yds of navy blue sheer fabric for $6.oo (to make curtains with). I love my thrift store!

  7. Christie R says:

    Ha! Great fabric fiends think alike! And husband thought I was crazy for collecting thrift store, yard sale, and even cloths with an unrepairable rip…just because the print was pretty or just great quality fabric! My favorite find? A Ralph Lauren king-sized duvet cover (still in the new packaging) with 3 matching feather-stuffed throw pillows for $5 at a yard sale and now it has been repurped as a dog bed, a sewing chair cushion, an Ikea-esque chair cover & the remnants are destined to be pieced into a QOV quilt backing (its red with navy pinstripes and oh-so-soft cotton). I need to blog this! Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Sandy Allen says:

    Yep! I love thrift stored for fabric! Our Goodwill charges 50 cents a yard. I’ve gotten come great quilt shop quality fabrics that way. I stay away from the ones I can tell are thin and not good quality. I’ve reigned myself in, though, and only buy what I need. I have to use some of what I have already!

  9. Trish Hanson says:

    RThe 1st place I check in thrift stores is the linens section. That’s usually where they put any fabric yardage. But I have also found awesome pillow shams, curtains, etc that I buy just for the fabrics. They’re also a great source of quality linen. I buy the biggest linen dresses I can and they come in the brightest colors! I also use clothing if I find something great, especially leather or suede jackets in great shape. I mostly make bags. Today at an estate sale, I got 5 yds of turquoise with white polka dots for $1!!! Pluse 5 1/2 yards each of 2 different florals (modern) for $1 each!! So excited!

    1. Natasha Tung says:

      My friend got an entire 2 or 3 bolts of fabric from one for like $10 a few months ago!! This morning my husband asked if I’d ever be interested in going to an estate sale, and of course I got very excited! (He has no idea, LOL).

  10. Stitch Studio CO says:

    Not only am I ALL in to the fabric thrifting idea, my partner, Jenna, and I have opened up a store in Downtown Colorado Springs (Stitch Studio) to do just that! If you’re ever in town, stop in and visit. I’m sure you’ll find some fabulous fabrics!

    1. Carla Anderson Keahey says:

      Oh my goodness, so cool! I will stop by next time we drive down there.

  11. Natasha Tung says:

    I bought a sheet from a thrift store once that has polka dots on it. It was kinda cute but i’ve never figured out what to make from it. I’d always wondered about dying it, but I think I’m just going to use it as a muslin. It’s a cream sheet and the polkadots are pink and gray I think, so not really in vogue right now!

  12. Patricia Andrews says:

    I bought a pretty tablecloth that was for a large table and it had four napkins with it. It was red,green and had gold thread running through it. I ended up making a beautiful tree skirt from it and still have some fabric left over. All for two bucks!

  13. Lori Michel says:

    Hi Caroline,,,check out your local Pawn Shops,,,some have great material hidden on shelves, and church sales and Senior Citizen Centers usually have set up space to sell things,,,material and patterns too….Love me some recycled fabric…..

  14. Carla Anderson Keahey says:

    I LOVE a good thrift fabric score! I just made a fantastic dress out of thrifted fabric so cheap we’ll call it free. I use it often for my wearable muslins or practice runs.

  15. Kelsey McMullen says:

    Our local Salvation Army almost always has fabric in stock. I will often find muslin and retro prints. I will also by t-shirts & men’s dress shirts in large sizes to upcycle into clothes for my kids.

  16. Lara Trottier says:

    I have, mostly repurpose though. I did go and by all of the t-shirts for a t-shirt quilt as a surprise for my brother-in-law, had to do that over many stores. We do have a store by us that’s called arts to scraps that has a fabric area. I’ll have to check out the salvation army.

  17. Amanda Taylor says:

    I saw a pattern in a magazine that need a two way stretch fabric in a bold print… very hard to find locally as most of the shops near me sell upholstery or quilting cotton not dressmaking fabric… pondering how I could get the perfect fabric online, I walked into a local charity shop and sitting in the fabric box on the floor was exactly what I needed for just£1.50… along with several other bargains… I made a pile of fabric to buy and one of my craft club ladies walked in and started to look through my pile ahh-ing and oo-ing about the lovely material until I bobbed up and said "hands off that’s my keep pile!!" She hadn’t seen the fabric box before so now we compete to see who can get the best buys!! Always look at the sheets and pillow cases too as they’re great for quilts and summer dresses…
    I also buy mens shirts for patchwork and repurposing.. A few darts and I can get a smart fitted blouse or cut up to make tops for my son with the scraps still going for patchwork… very little goes to waste…

  18. In Alameda, California and we have a store called ReCrafting Co. ( I have started buying my fabric from there. I’m really excited about the quality and variety that they offer and how much money I save.

  19. I find lot of great fabric at the Goodwill stores in my area. I spent $20 yesterday and have at least 35 yards of fabric in wide widths. Several vintage woven pieces and lots of knits for t-shirts. Planning to make some t-shirts for myself and need knits to make practice pieces. All my knits are nice solid colors. Makes me so happy to find thrifted fabrics to feed my fabric addition.

  20. Meriel Johnson Aho says:

    I love thrift stores for fabric! We have a great little one in my town that always has at least one treasure, and they sell it at about a dollar a yard.

  21. I will buy fabrics almost anywhere, from fabric stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army, yard sales. Smaller bits go for doll clothes. I’ve been lucky enough to find tweedy things in fuchsia, one of my favorite colors. I bought a roll of very light muslin at a local thrift store and have been making all cotton night gowns.

  22. I thoroughly enjoy shopping for fabric and find it any where. My favorites have been table cloths and flat bed sheets plus bed skirts! Plenty of fabric. The red table cloths made thee most beautiful Little Red Riding Hood capes, last year. Fun and very inexpensive 🙂

  23. I love going to Goodwill on the two Saturdays of the month where they have 50% off everything. I always find great fabric for no more than $5.00 a bundle then it becomes $2.50 at the register. Not only is it a great treasure hunt but I find I am about the only one in that section of the store. I have no idea when this fabric obsession will end but if it ever does I am sure I could sew with my stash until the end of time.

  24. I ways look for fabric at thrift stores and usually come home with some great deals deals.

  25. Absolutely, nice thing about budget fabric is that it can be washed. I’ve made several quilts using this wonder purchases.

  26. I look for large sized clothing with few darts, etc. and take them apart, using the fabric to create other pieces. Also if I’m testing a pattern for fit, I look for sheets which offer a lot of fabric for little money. I’ve also bought pieces I knew were too small or damaged for the lace, embroidery or other trims to use with upcycled pieces. Men’s shirts are often a great source for upcycling–again, low cost and 100% cotton which is important because I’m allergic to polyester. This thrifting offers me interesting fabric, colors I like, fabric I can wear, unique clothing, a chance to do creative design and sewing as well as recycling.

  27. Gigi Johnson says:

    When I was young and strapped for money and two little girls to sew for (my youngest will be 60 next month.) I would haunt the local Good Will for huge dresses and would use the material to make matching dresses for them. My current thrift store has yardage priced separately. I’ve found enough to make a queen bedspread as well as enough for cushion covers for the long swing. I have a major yardage stack of new material. I can now buy material at Joannes (with a coupon) if necessary, but it is fun to find 4, 5 yards for $3 at the thrift store. 😁

  28. I love shopping for sewing supplies at thrift shops. I do all the things you mentioned and also have a few tricks of my own. I buy long webbing belts for purse straps and men’s shirts for baby and little kid sewing. They usually have great fabric in them. Curtains, table linens, and sometimes jackets can be used for purses, wallets, and hats. I have a HUGE camel hair man’s dress jacket that I’m saving for a new jacket for myself. I have taken apart stuffed animals for fake fur and most of the time the stuffing is usable. I always wash everything first for the same reasons you mentioned above. I love your blog! Keep up the good work.

  29. Marion Sensenich Clemans says:

    Hi Caroline. I loved reading all the comments on finding stuff for seeing at thrift stores. But I didn’t see my favorite find…. leather skirts! They are light enough to sew with my Viking Emerald machine (using a leather needle of course, and a Teflon presser foot. I’ve found some beautiful full length ones for $4.00. Suede too. Obviously they are great for bags, straps, coin purses, and even cool bookmarks. My most used item however is a pillow for my car to get the back of the drivers seat a little higher. I made one side from a smooth leather and the other from suede. I keep the smooth side up to make it easier move on it and the suede is against the cloth seat and keeps the pillow from sliding around. Also, I made a puppet stage for my grands out of a brightly striped tablecloth and pot holders from a quilted pillow sham. I had to make a rule that I have to take more stuff to the thrift store than I bring home😁

  30. Kathy Davis says:

    Thank you for the tip on the purse handles. They are very expensive when purchased new. I will now be on the look out. And thank you for all the patterns and very useful information you freely give to us.

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