Choosing to Use Deadstock Fabric

Deadstock fabric is becoming much easier to get hold of, with several sites offering fantastic deals for fabric by the roll or the metre. But what actually is it and is it a sustainable way to shop?

Q. What is deadstock fabric?

A. Simply put, deadstock fabric is material which has been created for a brand (usually a fashion label) but not put to use and is no longer required by the brand. This is normally due to fashion brands over ordering the amount of fabric they need for making garments.

Though, during the current pandemic, I’ve also noticed other types of garment manufacturers selling their fabrics off as deadstock. Because this is fabric which has been ordered in large quantities by companies, they can afford to sell the excess fabrics at a reduced rate to home sewists and small businesses. This means you’re likely to come across some great deals, but it also means that the selection of colours, prints and fibre types is restricted to whatever needs selling off. In some cases this is boiled wool and silk, in other cases this could be linen jersey or organic cotton fleece.

Deadstock silk
I bought this deadstock silk recently for a dress project I’ve been trying to find the right fabric for for some time

This makes buying deadstock fabric a little bit of a gamble – once it’s sold out, there’s generally no more to restock it and you might not find anything you like for some time. But when you do happen across some fabric you like, it can feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. I recently came across 100% silk at the amazingly low price of £10 per metre and it didn’t take long for me to order four metres, enough for a project I’ve been struggling to find the right fabric for plus some extra. There are of course some fabrics which are still expensive – I’ve seen a piña, abacá and silk blend deadstock fabric selling for £54 per metre, but you have to consider that this fabric would not be cheap to purchase in the first place given the fibres it’s manufactured from. (If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, check out my post all about natural fibres for more information on piña, abacá and silk.)

Some fantastic deadstock suppliers keeping it eco

Without deadstock outlets like Amothreads and Simply Fabrics Brixton, these fabrics would likely join the hundreds of thousands of pounds of unsold stock that fashion brands have been burning or sending to landfill. There’s also the added bonus that in buying deadstock fabrics, you’re helping to save thousands of litres of water from being used to manufacture new stock fabric, as the manufacture of textiles is incredibly water intensive. Amothreads even prominently display the amount of water saved by their sales of deadstock fabric – at the time of writing, this is up to more than 16.5 million litres! That’s roughy equivalent to the volume of eight Olympic sized swimming pools! As the vast majority of fabrics manufactured are for commercial garment making and the fashion industry rather than for home sewists to use, deadstock fabric could have a positive overall impact on the supply of fabrics for the growing number of people turning to slow fashion as a remedy to the constant marketing and throw away culture of fast fashion. For those of us already making our own clothes, it’s another option to potentially get hold of some top quality fabrics while helping to reduce our individual impact on the planet.

Amothreads and Simply Fabrics Brixton aren’t by any means the only two deadstock fabric suppliers either – they’re simply the two I knew of in the UK (or with UK sellers) prior to writing this post. In the UK, there’s also Selvedge and Bolts, Offset Warehouse, The New Crafthouse, and probably many more I’ve not yet discovered. Overseas there’s Fabcycle in Vancouver and Queen of Raw in New York City. It’s worth mentioning though that some suppliers only sell deadstock fabrics (like Amothreads) and others sell a mixture of deadstock and carefully sourced, ethically produced or recycled fabrics (like Offset Warehouse).

Like many other online fabric stores, deadstock suppliers are generally happy to ship overseas too, which makes things a lot easier when you discover that fabric you like is actually half way around the world! You can even search for deadstock fabric on Etsy or follow the fabric designers on social media and wait for them to host a remnant sale (some do this reasonably regularly). Some other home sewers might sell pieces of their fabric stash occasionally too, so if you see anyone advertising a stash sale on Instagram or Facebook, it might be worth having a look at what they’ve got. This isn’t quite deadstock, but it’s the same principle – you’re buying fabric which is otherwise unused and unneeded by the current owner.

While it might be a little frustrating if you’re looking for a particular type or colour of fabric and there isn’t any at the time, deadstock can be considered one of the more sustainable sources of fabric for the above environmental reasons, as well as being great value. You may have to wait to get the type of fabric you’re looking for, though if you’re anything like me you’ll have a list of projects long enough that by the time you get around to making the one you want to use deadstock fabric for, it may well be available from deadstock suppliers. The current pandemic is skewing this a little, as shops have sat closed for many months and so there’s more linens and other summery fabrics currently available than there might normally be, so perhaps now is as good a time as any to take a look at what’s available. I would also recommend following deadstock fabric stores on social media, as you’ll see what’s available and new in as they post it (it’s how I found out about my silk – I wasn’t looking for it at the time).

Different fabrics
All kinds of different fabrics are sold as deadstock

Let’s be clear here, I’m not encouraging anyone to increase the size of your fabric stash unnecessarily – particularly if money’s been tight given the current circumstances – but if you’ve got a project that you’ve been struggling to find the right fabric for, or perhaps you’re considering undertaking a new project and want to see what’s available, it’s certainly worth a look. Who knows, you might find the perfect fabric for your project.