In Bags & Accessories, Fabric, Materials and Supplies, Sewing, Thrifting, Tips & techniques

5 Tips for Finding Beautiful Wool Fabrics

What’s not to love about wool? It’s a natural fiber that’s warm and cozy and easy to sew with.
(Photo courtesy of Kristin Nicholas!) Earlier this month I launched my newest sewing pattern, the Field Study Fold-over Tote made up in a gorgeous wool plaid fabric. Of course you can make the bag in a variety of materials, but why not try wool for a change?

 

plaidwoolstack

 

Great wool fabrics are not always easy to find, unless you know where to look. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your quest for the perfect wool fabric for your next bag, coat,  pillow, or whatever!

1) Local Shops

Of course one of the easiest places to look is your local fabric store. You can see the fabrics up close and determine if the hand, weight and drape is suitable for your project. Personally, I’ve had very limited success at the big box stores. Smaller independent shops tend to focus more on quilting cottons, but if you can find one that leans more towards the fiber arts (like knitting and rug hooking) you may score.

 

vintage wool blankets, one found on Etsy, one thrifted locally

 

2) Etsy and eBay: 
I like to start with a search for “wool plaid fabrics” on Etsy and/or eBay. I’ve found quite a variety of new and vintage wool yardage there as well as blankets.  Most sellers are good about listing dimensions, flaws and other details. Photography can be hit or miss, so if you’re unsure about color (is that orange or red?) contact the seller and ask questions. You’ll pay top dollar for a vintage piece in mint condition, but if you’re cutting it up to make something, you may be able to settle for a damaged piece if you can cut around the flaws.

 

over dyed herringbone and glen plaid

 

You’ll also find quite a few Etsy shops that cater to people that hook rugs, selling smaller cuts of wool that are often overdyed in beautiful colors. These are great for smaller projects such as hats or pouches.

 

 wool plaids1

 

3) Shop online, large and small:
Some of the larger online fabric stores have a high quality selection of wool fabrics but you can expect to pay a bit more. Many offer swatch services that are a good idea to take advantage of. It’s better to pay a few dollars to see and feel the fabric in person than to order expensive yardage and be disappointed that it’s not what you were hoping for. Shops such as Britex and Mood often carry designer fabrics, while you can find more mainstream (and affordable) fabrics at Fabric.com. (Fabric.com even takes returns, which is super helpful!)
Specialty online shops that cater to rug hooking, folk art and felting crafts can carry an interesting assortment of wools. Check out: Heavens to Betsy, Bird Brain Designs, and The Woolery.

 

4) Pendleton Woolen Mill Store:

Oh beloved Pendleton, that iconic brand known for it’s quality American made wool blankets and fabrics. The Pendleton Woolen Mill Store has yardage available in the $34-84 range that can be ordered by phone. They are located in Portland, OR and if you’re in the area you can go to the outlet in person to shop! I hear they have great bargains on smaller cuts. Next month they’ll have a a huge March Madness sale, so mark your calendars if you’re interested in scoring some beauties.

 

thrifted wool from apparel

 

5) Thrift stores and rummage sales

Ok, I saved the best for last! Maybe I’m biased, but searching out plaid wool fabrics in person and on the cheap is a winning combination. Check the craft section for piece goods, the linens section for blankets, the outerwear section for coats as well as the mens and womens apparel departments. Larger pieces of clothing with fewer seams, like long skirts, are ideal. You might even find a nice big shawl or scarf in the accessories area. Give everything with potential the once-over to make sure there are no stains or holes that can’t be worked around. Rummage, church and estate sales are also a good bet.

 

betz white field-study-tote

 

For my Field Study Tote, I used a mid weight wool that I bought online. You could use a heavier wool, such as blanket or coat weight then skip the fusible fleece stabilizer (specified in the pattern instructions) to keep the bulk down. I bought the 2 blankets (3rd photo from top of post) with the intention to make bags, but now I’m not sure I want to cut them up!
Do you have any special resources for finding great wool fabrics? If so, be sure to share them in the comments!
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Showing 10 comments
  • O. Jolly

    Just wanted to say your Field Study Tote is gorgeous!

    • Betz White

      Thank you so much, O!

  • Deanna {sewmccool}

    Thanks for the great suggestions. I live in northern Indiana where we have LOTS of lovely quilt shops but not much in the way of garment fabric. I wind up purchasing most online. Thanks for naming a few I hadn’t heard of!

  • Sandy

    Love your ideas! Thanks so much!

  • Mimi K

    I have used Dorr Mill Store in New Hampshire- https://dorrmillstore.com/index.php
    They have lots online and even more if you visit and the prices are pretty reasonable.

    • Betz White

      Oh thanks for the suggestion, Mimi!

  • Amelia

    So, I live in your area (I’m in NW DC) and am always on the prowl at the nearby Unique Thrift/Value Village. Actually, (hope this isn’t creepy!) I often think of your beautifully upcycled items when I come across anything cashmere or wool. I’m not in the market for buying these fabrics new, and I don’t often get to craft with them. I’m wondering what is a reasonable price to spend on, say a women’s size large or men’s size medium 100% wool sweater (or a cashmere sweater) in good condition in a nice color for upcycling? Do you have a set of criteria you use when deciding whether or not to buy? Thanks!

    • Betz White

      I go to that store a few times a year! They price things kind of high if it’s a good brand on the label. Be sure to go on sale days! (Mon and Thurs) I’ll pay $5-6 for a great sweater. If it’s marked higher than that, say $9-12, I get pretty crabby and will only buy it if I need it for a specific thing and I know it will be perfect.

  • Stephanie

    I love wool! Fabric Mart often has some nice choices too – they have designer remnants.

  • Beth

    I purchase almost all of my wool at yard sales. But our local goodwill store sells wool sweaters and coats left at he end of the season for $1 each. Great time to stock up!

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