5 Pitfalls Of Second Hand Fabric And Notions


Recycling used fabric and those 40 year old threads your Great Aunt left you may be good for the planet. But is it good for Quilting?

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5 Pitfalls Of Second Hand Fabric And Notions

Quilting can be an addictive and expensive pastime. Even if you are only making a lap quilt, the cost of fabrics and threads can mount up. As quilting supplies become pricier, budget savvy quilters are turning to thrift stores to tap into a veritable treasure trove of used fabrics. Recycling donated clothing, bed sheets, duvet covers, buttons, threads and even old quilts is a trend that is on the up.

5 Pitfalls Of Second Hand Fabric And Notions


Reasonably priced older quilting supplies can be found at estate sales and yard sales. You could even be gifted the threads your Great Aunt has been collecting for the past 40 years. It all helps to reduce the rising cost of quilting.

But is using second hand fabric and notions a good idea?

When you consider that recycling old fabrics was how our Grandmothers and Great Aunts used to make quilts, then yes it is. However, there are some things to keep in mind before you grab that tote full of mothballed cotton from dear Aunt Bessie and start sewing.

Smelly Fabric

Yes, you can get the smell of smoke or mothballs out of fabric. But. It can take time, a lot of washes, maybe even some chemical cleaner. That cheap recycled fabric could work out more expensive in the long run. Not just financially, it will cost you precious quilting time too. Unless it really is an exquisite example you simply can't pass by, ask yourself if it's worth the bother. Sometimes new is the cheaper, easier and more environmentally friendly option.



Never use old threads in your sewing machine. Especially don't use threads on the old wooden spools. The biggest problem with older threads is they can deteriorate over time causing them to break constantly. This will lead to intense irritation for you and extra wear and tear on your machine. Old threads can be dusty, covered in old lint and smelly. Unlike fabric, it's impossible to get these threads clean once the dust and other aging debris has embedded into the rounds on the reel. Dirty thread will upset the tension causing your machine to skip stitches.



This is one notion where you should never cut corners on quality. The structure of your quilt depends on the thread holding it together. Always use a brand that you know and trust. And always use a clean new reel.

Mixing Fabrics

You can use whatever fabric you want when you make your quilt. However, it's a good idea to remember different fabrics behave in different ways when washed. Regardless of how good they look together, if they don't play nice in the washing machine, that quilt you've spent months working on? Will be ruined.

Not all fabrics will shrink. If they do, they may not all shrink at the same rate. Some may not even be colorfast. Make sure to wash all second hand fabrics before you begin to stitch. It's better to find out how they react before they are an integral part of your quilt.

Aged Fabric

Whatever garment or sheet you decide to use, make sure it isn't worn out. Check the fabric carefully. If there are tears, holes or areas where the fabric has thinned, don't use it. The damage to the garment will be a weak spot in your quilt.



Tee-shirts are an excellent source of fabric for quilting and can be found in an abundance of thrift stores. The nature of tee-shirts is to be casual and the fabric used is, well, casual to a tee. In fact, it's a very relaxed fabric with a passion for wandering, How many times have you tried to iron a tee-shirt and found one of the side seams has moved round to the front? In order to use this fabulous source of quilting fabric you will need to add a bit of structure with some Stabilizer. Otherwise, your quilt will have a distinct diagonal lean.



Recycling second hand fabric and notions can be both beneficial to the planet and your pocket. Keep these tips in mind when you shop and your purchases will help you feed your quilting habit and stay on budget.


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