Sunday, June 04, 2017

Tips for Finding Thrift Shop Scrap Bags

Most of my stash has been built from thrift store scrap bags. Over the years, we've found some fantastic deals, some mediocre deals, and a few bags that I probably shouldn't have spent my money on.

If you're lucky enough to find a big bag of scraps, here are my tips for deciding whether or not it's a good deal. Most of the stores I've been to keep their fabric scraps near the linens.

Look at the contents of the bag and decide whether it's full of quilting fabric or if it's mostly other stuff. The shops I go to won't let you open the bag. You probably won't be able to tell for sure through thick layers of plastic if it's 100% cotton or a poly-blend, but you can see the fake fur and fleece.

Once you've found a bag of what looks like cotton, decide if the colors and patterns you can see are the sort of thing you want to work with. My favorite bags are the ones with a lot of variety, but  these days I'm seeing smaller bags with fewer fabrics in each one. Sometimes they're sort of coordinated and sometimes they're not. If only one of the fabrics you can see appeals to you, it's probably not a great deal.

Guess how much fabric there is. I've heard that there are four yards of fabric per pound, and have weighed some of my own yardage to confirm it, but that varies a bit depending on how thick or thin the fabric is. For little thrift store bags, I guess how many folded pieces there are and hope that each is equal to at least a quarter yard. For bigger bags, I make wild guesses.

Remember that you're paying for fabric you can't get a good look at. That gorgeous print might be yardage or it might  have pieces fussy-cut right out of the middle. It could be an apron someone cut out and never sewed together or have fusible stuff stuck to the back. I can and have worked with all of those possibilities (watch out for old pins in vintage fabric!) but I'm not willing to pay top dollar for extra challenges. If you can tell whether the fabric is from a box store or a quilt shop (some prints are instantly recognizable), adjust the amount you're willing to spend accordingly.

Don't compare the prices to brand new quilt shop fabric. At the very least, compare it to what you'd pay on the clearance shelf. Patience is the key. I haven't found a great deal in more than a year, but I've got enough fabric to keep me going until the next one.


Tami Von Zalez said...

I too have built the majority of my stash from thrift shops. I also live in a rural area so I think there are more quilters.
As new pieces of fabric come in, I donate the less desirable ones. When you buy at $2 to $3 per scrap bag, it is well worth the money to snap up the entire lot and just sort out the uglies.
I have a tradition to incorporate a scrap fabric from my latest find into my current project - a nod to mystery quilter's donation.
Pop by for a visit some time - looks like we employ the same thrifting techniques.

Anonymous said...

I almost never see fabric around here. One time, apparently someone had donated a stash of someone who died. I didn't want any of the fabric, but I bought some of the rulers to share with newbies who don't have all the sizes. I hope my stash doesn't wind up there. LOL You had some good tips in this post, thanks!

Goofin' Off Around the Block said...

I haven't found much fabric in the thrift shops around here. I guess if I ever do, I now have some great tips to try to help me decide if it's worth it or not. Thanks for the nice tips. --Andrea


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