If you’ve been in a fabric store recently, you know how expensive fabric can be. Once upon a time, sewing your own clothing was something you did to save money; now it’s practically a luxury. However, if you’re willing to compromise a little and be a little adventurous, there are ways to get inexpensive fabric.
Most thrift stores sell fabric pieces that have been donated to them. That can be hit and miss, but it’s always worth looking — never know what you’ll find! They also usually have bed linens, sometimes as full sets, sometimes just as the individual components. Flat sheets are the easiest to work with and have the most useable material for the money. But, how much fabric is actually in a sheet? (North American sizes; other sizes are found via Wikipedia, where I found these.)
- TWIN Flat: 72″ (2 yd) x 102″ (2 5/6 yd)
- TWIN Fitted: 39″ (1 yd, 3 in) x 76″ (2 yd, 4 in)
- FULL Flat: 87″ (2 1/3 yd, 3 in) x 102″ 2 5/6 yd)
- FULL Fitted: 54″ (1 1/2 yd) x 76″(2 yd, 4 in)
- QUEEN Flat: 105″ (2 9/10 yd) x 110″ (3 yd, 2 in)
- QUEEN Fitted: 60″ (1 2/3 yd) x 80″ (2 yd, 8 in)
- KING Flat: 110″ (3 yd, 2 in) x 114″ (3 yd, 6 in)
- KING Fitted: 76″ (2 yd, 4 in) x 80″ (2 yd, 8 in)
- CAL. KING Flat: 111″ (3 yd, 3 in) x 114″ (3 yd, 6 in)
- CAL. KING Fitted: 73″ (2 yd, 1 in) x 85″ (2 1/3 yd)
Keep in mind that those estimates can vary, so if you’re relying on every last inch of fabric, this may not be the way to go. Other considerations: tears you may not see because the fabric is folded or the lighting is poor, stains (likewise), or the color may not match what you need it to be (and many sheets are poly/cotton blends and won’t take a dye well if at all). But you could get lucky and find exactly what you need for $5, and considering broadcloth runs between $2-6 (not on sale, without a coupon), $5 for 6 yards of queen sized flat sheet is quite a bargain, if you can find one at that price, in a color you can live with, not counting the gas and time you spend running around to all the thrift stores. If you go to the thrift store for fabric, take your tape measure so you can see if whatever fabric you’re looking at has the yardage you think you need. (Actually, that’s just good advice: have one of those little retracting tape measures on you all the time — they’re handy, and you never know when you’ll need one.)
You can also find curtains and tablecloths at the thrift shop, but for those you’ll definitely want a tape measure, and maybe a friend to help you.
Another source for large, inexpensive pieces of fabric is Walmart. On clearance, these queen sized flat sheets are $9 (full $7, king $11). Plum not the right color? There’s lots more to choose from in this aisle, but the regular price is $11.47 for the queen flat. At that price, it’s only a little cheaper than broadcloth from the fabric store.
Curtain sheers are also pretty inexpensive, and less fragile than chiffon. They’re sold in single panels in varying lengths. The store brand Mainstay 84″ panel is 59″ wide (it’ll be on the package somewhere); that’s 2 1/3 yd x 1 1/3 yd, 11 in. However, because of the rod pocket at the top and the hem at the bottom, you’ll lose some yardage, call it $2.44/yd of nearly 60″ fabric since the sides are selvedge. Walmart sells these for $4.87; the shorter 63″ sheers are $3.62 on the website, so I think the ones in the photo are on the wrong pegs. The color selection is more limited than what you can get in the fabric store, but chiffon can be pricey, so again, that’s a pretty good compromise if you can find a color you can live with.
It is possible to dye polyester and nylon with special dyes. Jacquard makes iDye Poly just for that and it comes in 16 colors, but it looks like it sells between $3-4 per packet, so that would have to be factored into the cost of the fabric and whether or not buying sheers and dyeing them is cheaper than just buying the chiffon to begin with. One packet dyes 2-3 pounds of dry fabric — maybe 3 of those sheers. (I have not tried disperse dyes like iDye Poly myself; if you have, feel free to leave a comment with how it worked for you!)