Sewing Tips

“What is deadstock fabric, and where can I get some?”

(Continued from my previous post about sustainable fabric sourcing:
https://7pinedesign.com/sustainable-fabric-shopping )

About half of my sewing projects are made with non-traditional fabric: materials not originally meant for the home-sewing market:

  • upcycled vintage linens
  • upcycled wedding gowns
  • “deadstock” fabric

People ask me “What is deadstock? and then when they find out, they often want to know “Where can I get some of that?”

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“Deadstock” according to urban dictionaries, refers to sneakers (trainers for you Brits) that are new-but-never-worn. In the sewing world, “deadstock” refers to fabrics woven and dyed/printed for apparel manufacturing, but not used. You may wonder “Why wouldn’t it all be used?”

There are at several reasons that bolts of fabric intended for manufacturing might never be used:

  • the fabric mill produced colors and prints based on sales orders, and some orders were cancelled
  • the apparel manufacturer ordered yardage for sampling, and didn’t use it all
  • the apparel manufacturer ordered yardage for production, and since all components (fabric, lining, interfacing, trim, etc) can be shipped with quantities over/under 5%, it will never all match up perfectly and something will be leftover at the end of the production run
  • the apparel manufacturer received purchase order cancellations from stores who had placed orders (usually the store has to pay a re-stocking penalty) and the factory has more flexibility selling off un-used fabric than un-wanted garments

So there can be bolts of fabric lurking wherever there are fabric mills, sample-rooms, or garment factories. Back in the eighties when I lived in NYC there was plenty of overstock material for sale….now that most apparel manufacturing has moved overseas, there are only a handful of fabric shops left. In contrast, I have read that the Los Angeles garment center has over 200 shops selling deadstock:


http://fashiondistrict.org/explore/fabrics-notions/

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With is so much availability in California, some eco-conscious makers such as Christy Dawn and Little Minis are scooping it up (a little due diligence about these businesses will warm your heart if you feel the importance of eco-conscious apparel):

http://thehivemag.com/cool-collaboration-christy-dawn-x-little-minis/

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What if you don’t live near a fashion district, yet you’re tired of buying the standard “home sewing” selection from the mass chain stores, or just want to be more thoughtful about sewing sustainably? There is another source of deadstock for the individual sewist, or very small business: leftovers from the home furnishings market. Just as with the clothing business, making draperies and cushion covers demands estimating yardage, so there will necessarily be leftovers. Of course not all home-dec textiles are appropriate for apparel, but sometimes you get lucky! Who can forget the dress that Scarlett O’Hara made from the draperies:


https://www.thejamesmadisonmuseum.net/single-post/2017/04/19/Museum-Musings—The-Curtain-Dress-from-Gone-with-the-Wind

How about Maria in “The Sound of Music”? Again with the curtains:


https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/fashion-beauty/style-advice/g553599/10-iconic-dresses-from-the-sound-of-music-julie-andrews-von-trapp-family/

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In my small town, there is a seamstress who is fully-booked sewing up draperies for local homes and offices, and she sporadically donates end-of-project partial bolts to the local thrift shop. I imagine that most of it is purchased to make smaller home-dec projects, but sometimes I find pieces that can do double-duty as clothing. For example, this past weekend I picked up this piece of vintage cotton print (the linen napkin and deadstock roll of schiffli-embroidery are from my stash):

The label says it’s made in the USA by Cranston Printworks, which was a Rhode Island company supplying the quilt and curtain market for decades.
I heard that the mill closed a decade ago …yet I see fabrics at Walmart labelled “V.I.P. by Cranston”. They all seem to be manufactured in China, which makes me wonder if Walmart purchased the “Cranston” name to put on their own private-label fabrics…similar to their license of “Danskin Now” for activewear or “Faded Glory” for jeans.

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Here is the final project. The pattern is Duchess and Hare “Sweet as Pie” and the gingham fabric for the ties and ruffle are from Hobby Lobby:

I can see how it once was a kitchen-curtain look…but I like it!

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Do you use deadstock fabric? Do you have a favorite source for it?

Happy sewing!

Janet

7 Comments

  • Theresa in Tucson

    We have a fabric store here in Tucson, Fabrics That Go, that carries some deadstock along with their regularly stocked fabric. I prowl through there on occasion. A former fabric store, Home Fabrics, closed several years ago also carried deadstock that I used to make curtains for my rentals. I like to see what I can create out of home dec fabric. My last purchase was some bargelo effect upholstery fabric destined to be a capacious shopping bag. Your little dress is really nice. Some little girl is going to be in twirly heaven.

    Theresa in Tucson

  • [email protected]

    Hi Theresa! Isn’t it fun to prowl and find discoveries? It’s such a fun creative challenge. If I’m ever in Tucson I’l be sure to check out that shop!

    Best regards, Janet

  • Paloverde

    How would you classify the fabric that I always think of as from jobbers? There are quite a few online stores (sometimes with physical stores as well) that sell fabric left over from manufacturing. Sometimes it’s run-of-the mill stuff but sometimes it comes out of a designer’s workshop. If you search the net you may even find how the designer used it in their collections.
    Let me give a more concrete example. Lots of different online stores over the past year have offered up lots of different printed lawns (really nice lawns!) that were intended for the designer Tori Richards but never used. One night while I was watching TV, I saw a man wearing one of Richards’ shirts and it was the same printed lawn that I had and was even in the same colorway!

  • Karen Vogelsang

    I live in the Philippines and there is still a big garment industry here and therefore also a big market where they sell deadstock from factories. I love shopping there as the fabric is incredibly cheap ( rarely over US$1.20/yard) and there are such great finds to be had! Much better selection than in the regular fabric shops but you have to buy it when you see it as it will probably be gone the next time!

  • [email protected]

    Hi Karen! I’m jealous….when garment production was done in New York City, we had the same: lots of fabric available on two blocks (38th and 39th streets) for incredibly cheap prices. But you have to “shop quickly and grab fast” as my friend would say! Lucky you in the Philippines!!

  • paloverde

    Well, the places I think of immediately are never cheap.

    Emmaonesock, Gorgeous Fabrics, Marcy Tilton, Peggy Sagers, Fabric Mart Fabrics, and Mood immediately come to mind (and that’s without thinking hard). Even a California-based, less expensive place such as Cali Fabrics can sometimes have designer leftovers. These places sometimes tell you who the fabric is from and sometimes they write the designer’s name in an obfuscatory way (but you can still figure it out).

    Smuggler’s Daughter is another California online place and I’m sure there are other East Coast places too.

    I admit that I love Fabric Mart Fabrics for their great sales (and yes, they carry a lot of more inexpensive, non-designer textiles, too) and you never know what designer’s leftovers they’re going to get. Right now they’ve put up a lot of Milly fabrics. Tomorrow, who knows?

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