Recently I discovered an enormous plastic bag filled with scrap fabrics at my local Goodwill second hand store. What a find!
It was almost all cotton fabrics, with just a few flannels, felt, and lightweight denims thrown in. All but one of the printed fabrics were small-prints in a variety of colors.
There were Christmas fabrics, itty bitty polka dots, and ginghams. Woo-hoo! I was in Hog Heaven! And the whole bag was only $7.99!
The down side to buying fabrics from people you’ve never met before is that you don’t know where the fabrics have been. Were they stored in an attic where mice may have chewed on them? Did the family have indoor animals who left pet hairs on the fabrics?
And since I make my fabrics into doll clothes that children will play with, it’s important that my fabrics be sanitized before I begin working with them.
So as you can see in the Figure C and Figure D images above, when I got home from the Goodwill, I sorted my fabrics by color and placed them in a mesh lingerie bag, so they could be washed. You won’t know whether or not the fabrics are machine washable, and you won’t know if they’ll shrink in the wash. But sorting them by color will help prevent them from bleeding in a way that damages other garments, like white shirts.
When you wash fabrics in a lingerie bag, they will come out of the wash all wadded up (see Figure E), and often they don’t dry properly in the lingerie bag either. That’s why, in Figure G (below), you can see that I take them out of the lingerie bag and spread them out on a table to dry flat immediately after I wash them.
Furthermore, cheap craft felt will usually pill (see Figure F above), and some fabrics will simply be damaged beyond repair if they were “dry clean only” fabrics. However even though I know I may lose some of the fabrics, if I don’t know the second-hand fabrics’ history, I still feel it is very important to wash them on the “sanitize” cycle in hot water before I make these fabrics into doll clothes or other playthings.
I try to keep this in mind when buying second-hand fabrics at a yard sale or second hand stores. The price needs to be fair, even if some of the fabrics are not salvageable after washing them.
Vintage fabrics can be quite thin and threadbare, like the little white floral fabric you see above in Figure H. For the teeny-tiny bits and pieces I just cut those away from the larger chunks of fabrics, but I don’t actually throw these in the trash.
In my sewing area, I keep a bag of thread tails and fabric bits, which I use for stuffing pillows and plush toys, so any loose scraps that aren’t much use to me after washing will get cut into strips and thrown in with the tiny scraps and thread tails.
Why buy nylon fiber fill when you’ve got an abundance of fabric scraps and thread tails?
In my recent second-hand store fabric “haul,” I discovered a couple of little gems! The green fat quarter on the right hadn’t ever been used, and on the left you can see that I added a pair of fabrics from a pre-cut quilter’s bundle to my stash as well.
Even these must go through the wash, I’m afraid… Maybe I seem like a prude, but if I don’t know where they’ve been stored prior to their arrival at my house, I always wash them, just to be sure they’re clean and ready for children to play with whatever I make them into.
This particular bag of fabric also had two surprises. I’m not sure what these were (see image below), but they appear to be a finished creation or sections that were meant to be used with some other finished creation:
If you happen to know what those little blue floral strips were meant to be used for, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
I washed these too, and if I can’t think of a better use for them, I’ll use them as bookmarks!
Last but not least, I iron my fabric scraps for good measure. I’ve found that if I skip this step and leave them all wrinkly in the fabric cupboard, then I never seem to feel inspired to use them. Ironing them makes me more likely to feel inspired to put these fabric scraps to good use!
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Disclaimer/Credit/Affiliate Marketing Link:
Chelly Wood and the ChellyWood.com website are not affiliated with any of the doll or toy companies mentioned in this blog post, but Chelly enjoys designing her doll clothes to fit a variety of dolls. To learn more about the doll companies mentioned in today’s post, please visit the doll or toy company’s website.