See that beautiful poppy?
That was part of a cheesy jacket manufactured, oh, around 1972, I’d guess… you know the kind? Based on athletic wear, with knit cuffs and waist and zipper up the front and made of either polyester (the early gross type) or acetate? Truly awful, in other words.
But, look how pretty that poppy is cut out, stabilized, and partnered with quality quilting cottons.
If you have a local clothes depot, real gems are waiting for you, too.
Cambridge, Mass. offers “Clothes by the Pound”. These are the articles that local Salvation Armies have given up trying to sell. They are heaped in piles on the second floor of an old office building near Kendall Square. One fills a bag, it is weighed, and off you go with a trunk-load of fabric for about $9.00.
While I’ll admit it’s not for everyone (the smell takes some getting used to, for instance), I love it! One gets down on one’s knees and starts flinging garments around like a dog digging for a bone in the old cartoons. If I’m there with fellow-treasure-hunter B., we might toss items between us, with commentary such as, “ooooh, an Ann Taylor — I can see you in that!” The clothes piles invite a scrappy approach to acquisition that I seem to be more comfortable with than traditional shopping. In fact, I am more comfortable routing around through used crap than trying pants on in an upscale clothing store at the mall (an activity I hate so much that for years I didn’t wear pants, and No, I did not go around half-naked. I wore skirts. They can be bought off the rack and fit fairly well).
One problem with a place like Clothes by the Pound is that it spoils you. I’ve gotten so that I wait for SALES at my favorite thrift stores, because $5.00 for a man’s shirt, even a very cool vintage Hawaiian, seems like, well, too much.
And, actually, another problem with Clothes by the Pound is that even though I’m not looking for clothing to wear, I often find great pieces — like a gorgeous 100% wool J.Crew cable-knit sweater that was originally a Man’s Large, inadvertently shrunk — and now a perfect felted fit for a medium-sized woman.
I’ve learned to look for African fabrics, Indonesian batiks, and Indian madras. Also, anything from Hong Kong, because it tends to be hand-tailored and incredibly high-quality.
This quilt also features fabric from manufacturer’s headers (the green fish print). Those are fun because fabric companies create sample booklets with colorways, so you would have coordinating prints, or a particular print in five different colors. All swatches well-sized for a quilting patch.
Lastly, I recommend discovering a curtain maker or upholsterer in your area who would be willing to let you take some of their scraps. This has been absolutely invaluable to me. The real boon of a connection like this, especially if either of these sources work for upscale clients (and most people getting custom-made curtains and upholstery, are), is you avail yourself of very expensive linens and drapery weight polished cottons, for example, that you would NEVER pay for (many costing over $100/yard!!).