Where do you buy your vintage fabrics? This is the question I am asked most often. The answer is not simple. I scour many places in search of high quality vintage fabrics. It's my full time job and I love it! But if you want to search for your own vintage treasures, start with your local garage sales and swap meets.
The African indigo and mud cloth fabric shown here was purchased from African vendors who spend three to six months a year at their native homes throughout various regions of Africa. They typically live the rest of the year in the United States, making their living trading and selling vintage African textiles, decorative accessories, beads, and hand crafted baskets. Some of them sell on eBay, but I have found the African vendors I work with prefer to sell person-to-person at textile shows and local craft and jewelry markets. So be sure to check around the next time you are at a farmer's market or craft market. Often there is a vendor or two who travels to other countries and brings back a few textile pieces they planned to re-sell upon returning.
Vintage textiles originate in every part of the world. To maintain my own sanity and reduce the mistakes I might make when buying, I focus on specific regions. I am influenced by trends in home design and fashion design, since this is my background. You can pick any location or period that appeals to you. I started by focusing on vintage African fabrics, and once I became more comfortable and familiar with the lay of the land, I expanded my search to include Mexican textiles, then Chinese indigo batik, and then Guatemalan Corte cloth. Each time I would educate my eye first. Become accustomed to what is well-made, and what is cheap or a reproduction. This education period simply prevents ending up with a bunch of fabric you can't use or resell.
Probably the most difficult thing for me when hunting for vintage fabrics is to pass on the pieces that are simply too damaged to salvage. I have to remind myself that there are more vintage textiles out there that I can save and send on to a new home. I have to be very disciplined or I would buy a bunch of vintage textiles that I can't resell.
It's rare that I purchase a vintage fabric that I will simply "flip." Each piece requires careful cleaning, spot cleaning, mending, and occasionally patching or hemming. And then there are those times when a vintage African indigo or mud cloth falls apart in the wash! Heartbreaking. Or I get home to find the wool sarape has bled from water damage or sun faded but I had forgotten to flip the cloth over the inspect it thoroughly. So take your time when shopping. Occasionally you may second guess yourself for passing on a treasure that you should have purchased, but in my experience, there are always more incredibly beautiful vintage textiles out there waiting to be discovered and repurposed.
You are always welcome to purchase vintage textiles within my shop. You can rest assured that each piece has been carefully selected, completely cleaned, and restored without destroying the character and history that comes with a vintage cloth.
Happy vintage picking!