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Got It Made

How to Source Jaw-Dropping Vintage Textiles Online

Got It Made BY hadley rolf 09/29/2016

 

Think you’re good at hunting down vintage? You’ve got nothing on Carleen’s Kelsy Parkhouse, who’s famous for integrating impressive flea market finds into her line of modern A-line skirts, shift dresses, and shells. But as a result, she “spends more time researching on the internet than is romantic or fun.” To save you some of that time and trouble, we got Kelsy to spill on how to find the good stuff you could turn into your own clothes, napkins, maybe that chair you’ve been meaning to recover—without having to set foot outside.

 

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DO YOUR HOMEWORK

For total textile novices I like to point out the difference between a fiber and a fabric. Silk is a fiber, charmeuse is a fabric. It's nerdy but true. Folk Fibers is one of my favorite quilting and textile accounts on Instagram—she does a lot of natural dying too. And I do think it's important to get off the internet sometimes and just visit fabric stores and actually look at the labels and start absorbing that information.

 

DON’T PUT TOO MUCH STOCK IN PERFECTION

“My initial collection was almost all antique textiles—particularly vintage quilts sourced from across the web. When I’m looking for these fabrics, I don’t like it when they are too pristine. If they are really immaculate, I won’t buy them—I really prefer it when they are beat-up. The best ones have been used and washed for generations and are being sold because they are too worn-out. If they are museum-quality, I want them to go to a museum. I don’t want to make a coat out of them. I think that’s true no matter what you’re looking for—because you can also be less afraid to make mistakes.”

 

KEEP AN OPEN MIND

“I source almost everything online because everything where I live in Brooklyn is either picked-over and no good or highly curated, gorgeous, and priced accordingly. Neither of those serve my purposes very well, so I rely on eBay and Etsy. When starting your initial search, it helps to stay open and to be inspired by what you find. I would say try to be as specific as possible with keywords (types of quilts, eras, colors, fabrics) but also experiment with different word variations and make your search more broadly if you aren't getting anything good. You really just have to put in the time!”

 

FOLLOW THE THREAD

“I recently bought a group of four to six quilts that looked like they were going to be super awesome, and then they came and were not at all what I was expected. But I kept them around, and eventually they ended up making sense for a vest. The funny thing is, if I ever tried to find quilts like those again, I would fail.”

 

AT LEAST ATTEMPT TO HAGGLE

“I grew up going to the Long Beach Vet Stadium Swap Meet with my mom, who taught me how to bargain young. When you are a kid, it works so well because people think you are cute—they would say yes because I was seven years old. It’s obviously not quite the same online, but it’s always worth asking.”

 

GO THE EXTRA YARD

The amount you need for a project is a very case-by-case situation—because it also depends on the width of the fabric—but generally speaking, you can probably get a simple top or tank out of about a yard of fabric. If you want to make a shirt that is fuller or has long sleeves you could need up to 2 ½ yards. You could also probably make some pants or a simple dress out of 2 ½  yards of fabric. This is where piecing together different finds can come in handy!

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