Sewing with reclaimed fabrics

  I love working with reclaimed materials.  With my shampoo, laundry detergent and glass cleaner making ways, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess nobody is terribly surprised.  But honestly, I’ve found that reclaimed materials tend to be closer to what I’m looking for than the fabrics I can find at the stores anyhow.  They’re softer and pre-shrunk having already been laundered many times, and you can clearly see if you’re going to have an issue with pilling.
Curtains and a tablecloth I’m turning into a dress
  With all that being said, finding pre-loved fabrics to work with can be a little tricky, so I thought I’d share some tricks I’ve learned while working with them myself.
  • Go big– check for fabrics you like in sheets, curtains, tablecloths and long drapey skirts first.  Seams aren’t your friend, so while that old silky top may have the coolest pattern you’ve ever seen, unless you’re planning on using it for something tiny, like a headband, pass it by.
  • Speaking of old thingstry to avoid destroying vintage pieces that are still in good shape.  I’m not talking about the old raggy curtains you had in your dorm, but if you’ve got an antique bedspread that could still be used as a bedspread the idea of hacking it to pieces when it still has a use makes me flinch.  Now, if said bedspread has a big stain/hole you can cut around?  Go for it.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix and match– One of the challenges of working with reclaimed fabric is that you can’t specify how much yardage you get.  Don’t give up on the idea of a project because you only have 2 yards of fabric for a 3 yard project.  Maybe your piece would look even better with a contrasting belt instead of a matching one.
  • Don’t get hung up on what things currently are– Several of my favorite shirts have been made from a set of knit bed sheets, and curtains were good enough for Scarlett O’Hara’s dress, so why not yours?
  • Start your iron low– Your fabrics aren’t always going to come with a content label when you’re getting them second hand.  The more you work with fabrics, the better you’ll become at recognizing them by sight and feel, but until you’re confident, start your iron low.  If it doesn’t take the wrinkles out of your piece at that setting, turn it up a notch.  If it isn’t getting the wrinkles out it isn’t going to burn your fabric either.
  • Relax– Yup, it sucks when you find an awesome fabric and you only have just enough of it and something goes wrong.  But it happens.  Make a muslin version first if you’ve found something really special, and enjoy!
  Have any other tricks or tips for working with reclaimed material?
  Share them in the comments!

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