A Guide to Buying Vintage Fabric, Patterns & Notions

Today is all about vintage! I love the occasional rummage through the treasures at the op shop, but I’m finding it pretty hard with two busy toddlers. Cass from Cass Can Sew is a vintage superstar – she finds awesome fabric, patterns and notions and then she makes the most adorable outfits with them! Have you seen her vintage romper tutorial? No? Get over there!!! (Once you’ve finished reading this post of course!)

 When Roslyn asked me to contribute to her Back to Sewing Basics Series to share with her readers my tips and tricks for buying Vintage
sewing related goodies, I was more than happy to oblige. If you’re
familiar with Cass Can Sew, you’ll already know of my addictions to all
things vintage! I could go on and on and on all day about gorgeous
vintage fabrics, patterns and the likes!
There are quite a few different ways that you can source vintage sewing items.

  • Op Shops & 2nd Hand Stores
  • Garage / Yard Sales
  • Church Jumble Sales
  • Ebay
  • Etsy
  • Vintage Online Stores
  • or by raiding your parents/grandparents linen closets!
favourite way would have to be scouring my favourite Op Shops, Gargage
Sales & Jumble Sales. There’s nothing like walking into your local
Oppy and discovering gorgeous vintage fabric remnants, a metre or two of
lovely fine lace or that perfect sweet little pattern from the 1960’s.

Here’s a few of my favourite tips when searching Op Shops, Garage Sales & Jumble Sales for those Vintage Sewing treasures.

Try looking for smaller Op shops…

As we all know, the big oppy’s/charities have become really over priced!
Although you can sometimes still snap up a nice little bargain, it’s
often cheaper now to buy a brand new shirt from a retailer than it is to
purchase from a charity. The two Op shops that I visit on a regular
basis & always seem to come out with something great and at a
reasonable thrifted price, are charities for animal welfare.

country town Oppy’s are a treasure trove! These quaint little op shops
will almost always have much more vintage for you to drool over! And
will be far less expensive!!!
I go
straight to the crafting section. Since I’m a sew-a-holic… the craft
section is where I head to first up. I look through all the patterns,
you never know what’s hiding unless you delve into it properly! Then I
search the fabrics, then I head to manchester section and keep an eye
out for lovely vintage sheets, pillowcases, tea towels, tablecloths
& doilies.
Get to
know your local op shop volunteers. They love to chat. I’ve found that
if I get chatting to them about sewing, they sometimes will mention
that they have something that you may be after at home and that they’ll
bring it in the next time they are rostered on. They also sometimes
have goodies waiting out the back, just waiting for you to snap up… so
I often ask if they have any new items that I may like.
A few extra tips…

When searching for Vintage Patterns…

Check the Contents of Vintage Patterns.
When finding vintage patterns, I learnt very quickly to check and make
sure that all the pieces of the pattern are there. There’s nothing
worse than getting all excited about making that cute little apron
dress, to find that you are missing the main piece of the pattern!

Most vintage patterns were published in individual sizes. If you spot
a pattern that you love, that you actually plan on sewing (and not just
hoarding it for it’s loveliness), make sure that you have the correct
size. You can usually find the size towards the top of the front side
of the packet.
Another word on sizing.
The measurements for sizing on vintage patterns often differ to the
sizing charts of today. It’s best to have a little read of the
measurements table that’s printed on the back of the pattern packet.

Vintage Sewing books are a wealth of knowledge! Don’t forget to search through the book section of your local op shop for wonderful sewing books and magazines. Many of these get right back to basics and can teach you all about drafting your own patterns. You may even learn some traditional sewing skills as well!

When searching for Vintage Fabrics…
you come across a lovely vintage fabric, you’ll often find it rolled up
and secured with twine or a rubber band. Take the time to unravel the
fabric to make sure that it is in one piece. A few times now I have
been in a hurry and not done this, only to get home and find that the fabric would be better used for scraps!
same scenario as above goes for searching for that perfect vintage
sheet to use for your next sewing project. Have a good look at the
sheet for wear and tear. Fading is often an issue when you come across a
vintage sheet, so be sure to checkout the condition before purchasing.
A little word about notions…
Often times, buttons
can be found at op shops, tucked away in jars under the glass cabinets
at the counter. But sometimes they aren’t so easy to find. I know that
my local Op Shop keep a jar of buttons out the back. They’ll often
take the buttons from garments that aren’t fit for selling. So if you
can’t spot the button stash, it always pays to ask the lovely
Trims, ribbons & embellishments
are more than often stored in shoe boxes or the likes within the
vicinity of the fabrics section of an Op Shops. It’s always worth
having a good rummage through these boxes to see what treasures may be
hiding there.
hope this helps you all on your search for your own Vintage Sewing
Treasures! I love ooh-ing & ahh-ing over others’ fantastic finds.
So please don’t hesitate to stop by Cass Can Sew via Facebook or Twitter and share with me & our little crafty community, your best finds!
Thanks so much Cass! For many beginners, once you have bought your machine and a few essential tools, there is not much money left over to build a big fabric stash! Thrift shops are great to pick up vintage lovelies and garments for refashioning. Happy sewing, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the Back To Sewing Basics series!

11 thoughts on “A Guide to Buying Vintage Fabric, Patterns & Notions

    1. Thanks Christie 🙂 Last week, I finally got around to making that pattern… I've just got to do the hem & then make a pair of panties to match. I can't wait to share it on my blog.

  1. Thanks Cass, I have to say that I have some patterns that I've bought and haven't checked that all the pieces are there – including a Size 2 version of the Style pattern you've got. I'll be checking pattern pieces in front of the TV tonight!

    1. Your welcome Jackie 🙂 Isn't it a cute pattern. I've just made that one, I've just got to do the hem… can't wait to share it with everyone 🙂

  2. Great advice Cass! Totes agree about the pattern pieces, even though I sometimes I buy the patterns just because I like the art on the front cover.

  3. All good advice, but since you've used this term multiple times and I'm feeling very dumb, I had to ask. What is an Oppy shop? I've never heard that term in my life before. Thanks.

    1. Hi Vicki, The term refers to 'Opportunity Shops' which is what charity run thrift shops are called in Australia. 'Oppys' or 'Op Shops' are a shortened nick name version. Don't feel dumb! I have a feeling it is only Australia where they are called this!!

  4. Oh great. Thank you for the info. I really tried so hard to figure it out the entire time I read and then re-read the post and finally just gave up. LOL Now I know.

  5. Vicki, thanks for asking what an Op Shop was, I had no idea that "Opportunity Shop" was where it came from. We call them "thrift stores" here in the U.S.

    Roslyn, I love the sheet with the green pansies. Absolutely stunning!

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