Oh boy, I just got my first question. Do you have a fabric question? I will do my best to answer: just respond to this post or email to kim at trueup dot net.
I am new to sewing and collecting fabric, and I was wondering if you have any tips/advice on searching for and buying fabric on eBay. The choices on ebay seem overwhelming, but from your pictures it appears that you often hit the jackpot in collections of beautiful patterns.
Thank you very much!
Hi Caroline! Fabric shopping on eBay can indeed be overwhelming. I’ve never bought new fabric via eBay so I will talk about my vintage fabric searching powers.
Most of my favorite scores are from eBay lots of yore, when there was less competition amongst bidders. Things are a bit more expensive these days, and the good stuff is more scarce, but vintage fabric bought on eBay still tends to be comparable or even cheaper than new. My usual search is “vintage fabric lot.” That tends to yield a manageable amount of listings to wade through. It might take some time and patience, but looking through the listings that don’t have photos for the search result listing, or have cruddy photos, can sometimes yield treasure. Lots tend to be mixes of crud and treasure, scrap and yardage, but I love that.
I’ve never done it vigilantly, but searching for “material” instead of “fabric” might unearth hidden lots that most fabric collectors won’t find.
I also use the search terms “atomic” and “eames” a lot. Sellers are way too liberal with these labels (rarely do you see authentic Eames fabrics up for auction), but most listings will be fabric that is at least vaguely midcentury. You might also search for “feedsack,” but feedsack collectors are In The Know and drop some serious coin on them.
Searching for specific fabric types, like “cotton” or “quilting cotton” or “barkcloth” or “rayon,” will help narrow things down, as will searching for specific colors and/or pattern types, like “geometric,” “novelty,” “juvenile,” or “floral.” I also sometimes play with variations on decades, like fifties, 1950s, 1950′s, 50s, 50′s. (Does anyone know how smart the eBay search engine is in regard to time period searches?)
Don’t limit yourself to the “fabric” search term … try “drapes,” “curtains,” “sheets,” “bedspread,” “tablecloth,” etc. After all, these are just big pieces of fabric with hems.
I haven’t utilized browsing within categories much. That would probably turn up some things I normally wouldn’t find.
When you come across something you like, view the seller’s other items to see if they specialize in fabric, add them to your favorites, and keep checking back (you can sign up for email alerts that list items from your favorite sellers). I will compile a list of my favorite sellers for a future post.
As far as new fabric, hmmm, I don’t have many ideas beyond searching for specific designers, lines, or manufacturers. And I have never found new fabrics to be cheaper on eBay than they’d be from my favorite online stores, so I haven’t gone that route. Does anyone have any recommendations for new fabric eBaying? Are there bargains that can’t be found in regular stores?