Tips for Buying/Selling Vintage Fabric

I recently purchased some fabric from Etsy and while I was searching I ran across some things that I thought might be helpful tips for people who are buying or selling vintage fabric.

My recent fabric purchase

For the Seller:

  • Judging a book by its cover

The first thing a buyer sees while searching is the featured image. Before they even click further to see the product they have to be drawn in. Use a good semi-up close photo of print. This will catch their eye and make them want to see more. Avoid blurriness.

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The title is another thing that you first see, however you do not see the full title at first glance. The first few words are important. I suggest putting the yardage first before anything else. Such as, “1 yard of 60’s fabric.” I was bummed that many of the pictures I saw were only scraps. It would have been helpful to mention this in the title.

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Price is another thing you see first. There isn’t much to say about this except make sure you aren’t overpricing your items. Compare prices of other sellers. Also keep in mind stains (I’ll touch on this more later). Don’t overcharge for an item that is stained. Many old fabrics will be and no matter how cute the print, a buyer doesn’t want to pay extra for a stain. I know you are trying to make a profit but there is nothing like a bad review to kill your business.

  • I like what I see but I need more info

Once the buyer has clicked on an item they want to know more about it. Include an up close and further away picture of the print. It is also helpful to use something to compare the size of the print. I see many sellers use a coin of some sort. Another thing I liked was some sellers draped the fabric on a dress form. You may not have one of these, and that’s ok, but it really shows the sewer how the fabric lays.

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Size is important too. Many patterns call for different yardage depending on the width of the fabric (selvedge to selvedge). Try to include that width along with the totally length of fabric.

As an extra bonus include what type of fabric it is. If you are not a sewer this many involve a little research but it really helps the buyer and could give you better reviews.

  • Questions

One question I had when looking at fabric is if the seller would be willing to sell smaller amounts of the fabric. For example, it you have 5 yards of one fabric offer it in 1 yard increments but if they want to buy the whole thing offer it at a discounted price. Like if you have 5 yards you might say, “5 dollars per yard but 20 dollars if you buy all five yards.” If you aren’t willing to put that in your listing try to be open to it is the buyer messages you and requests a certain amount. *Disclaimer: I would only do this if you had lots of yardage and I would not sell smaller increments than 1 yard. If you cater to doing whatever size a buying wants you may only end up with a quarter of fabric that you can’t sell*

Now back to stains. A lot of fabric will have discoloration or a stain. This may not be a big deal but many people do not want to disclose this information because it makes the listings less desirable. You don’t have to necessarily have a picture of it (even though it helps) but include it in your listing description. If you choose not to make sure you disclose the information if the buyer messages you and asks.

For the Buyer:

  • At first glance

Don’t be sucked in to that fabric that first catches your eye without a bit of research. If not included, ask about stains and fabric type. I saw many a cute floral pattern that ended up being horrible polyester. It wasn’t included in the description but I could sort of tell from the picture (it was shiny on the non-print side).

What even is this?!
  • Don’t overspend

Just because you love a fabric don’t buy all five yards when you only need 1. Try to contact the seller and see if they’ll sell you less or cut you a deal. I like to have a price budget going in.

  • Really analyze what you’re buying

A lot of prints in the 60’s are bright and busy. Look at the sizing (if shown) or print to make sure you’re not buying something for a dress that will make you look like a carnival.

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  • Always wash

This should be a given before any sewing project much it super applies here. The seller may have bought a fabric with some stuff at an auction or it came of someone’s attic. ALWAYS wash before using.


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