How to find beautiful bargain fabrics at markets

Posted on Posted in Fabric Shops

A brilliant sewing project needs 3 things – a great fitting pattern, a patient seamstress, and a beautiful piece of fabric.

The fabric shopping world is vast and sometimes strange, and where you live has a huge impact on your available options.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to get to a great market like Birmingham or Leicester, you can score some unique and fantastic quality fabrics that can’t be found anywhere else, and pay next to nothing. If you want to find cheap fabric that doesn’t look or feel cheap, then read on!

There are two types of fabric market stalls –

The first kind sell a little bit of everything – you’ll find a lot of plain coloured bridesmaid dress style fabrics like chiffon and crepe, a selection of patterned polycottons and possibly some questionable sequined lycras and matted furs. These stalls can be great for picking up basics, but they tend to restock the same things so you’ll usually see the same fabrics each time you visit.

The second kind sell all sorts of weird, random fabrics that change every couple of weeks. These stalls, my friends, are the holy grails of fabric shopping.

These magical stalls often buy leftover bolts from high street manufacturers and even luxury designers. This means you can often get hard to find fabrics that you see regularly on ready to wear clothes but rarely in a fabric shop, particularly those with elastane! Some will also buy discontinued designer cottons like Liberty, and sell them at a fraction of the original price.

I’m very fortunate to have had access to  Birmingham and more recently Leicester market, and regularly pick up stunning pieces from as little as a £1 a metre. Seriously – One. Pound. Per. Metre!!

BUT you need to approach with a critical eye because amongst these treasures will be fools gold – flawed fabrics and “seconds” bolts. There might be a printing error, tears in the fabric, dodgy weaving or off grain printing. Some of these can be cut around, but some need to be left behind. Always unroll and carefully inspect the length of fabric you want to buy before they cut it – you might need extra to cut around problem areas or change your mind completely.

Of course, due to the unpredictable nature of these bargain finds there will still be gaps in your fabric shopping list that can’t be fulfilled by these stalls, so there will always be a need for the many incredible fabric shops, physical and online, that we are spoilt with in the UK. But if you haven’t shopped markets before and you get an opportunity to pop along to one, you know what to look for!

I picked up these two pretties at Leicester market last week for just £1/meter, and if I saw these in a bricks and mortar shop I’d expect to pay £12-16 per meter for these! The left is a lovely medium weight printed stretch crepe, and the right is a buttery soft double knit breton. I can’t wait to sew them up, and they’ll be making another appearance on the blog in future samples for Octavia Patterns.

I’d love to hear about your local and favourite markets, and the fantastic bargains you’ve found there!




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