Fabulous Fabric Finds

fabric colors
fabric colors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been organizing my new “Creativity Room” this week.  A friend and I decided that “Sewing Room” was too narrow a name for this space.  I plan to do scrap-booking, make jewelry, write, sew, quilt, knit, do embroidery — who knows!  I am thrilled to have a whole room in our new house to dedicate to being crafty and creative.  It is one of the big pluses so far from our recent move.

My job for the last couple of days has been to sort ALL of my remaining fabric into categories, find a place to store it (either in a tub, on a shelf, in a cupboard, project envelope, whatever), and then LABEL it clearly so that I will always know where to find what I want.  (hah!)

It has been great fun (and hard work) to get a good close look at and to touch/feel each piece of fabric.  Fortunately I had help from a fabric-loving and hard-working friend as I packed, so some of the sorting was already done!  I have lots of categories: batiks, black and whites, brights, Asian, African, neutrals, solids, red/orange/yellow/green/blue/purple, blue and yellow, florals, holidays, novelty prints, kid prints, Civil War era reproductions, 30’s era reproductions, textures, new and inspiring, and vintage.

The vintage category is the reason for this post.  I found 50s fabrics that I think are too fantastic not to share!  I also found the daffodil crocheted doily that I mentioned in a comment on another post.  (I found it, Theresa!)

Here it is!


I love the detail of the daffodils.  I’m sure that someone skilled with an iron and spray starch could get those flowers standing tall.  But since I just dug this out of a rubber-maid tub where it was in exile for several years, I think it looks pretty spectacular after being squished flat for so long!  The colors are still very bright.

I appreciate the handwork that goes into embroidered pillowcases, into crocheted doilies, into tatting, and the like.  I used to gather pieces at these sales, usually spending no more than 25 cents for anything.  I got this wonderful daffodil doily during the Champaign-Urbana era of our lives.

We used to live in Champaign-Urbana (Illinois) in the late 80s and early 90s, while my husband was attending graduate school there.  I held various jobs, but at one point I had three part-time jobs that gave me Friday afternoons off!

C-U has amazing garage sales and estate sales.  There is a large population of students moving in and out every year (because of the University there) as well as the town population of professors and other residents who stay/live there for years and years.  This blend of folks and households yields a wonderful extravaganza of all types of merchandise.  (I haven’t lived there since 1995, so things may have changed — I hope not, though!)

I was relatively new to quilting back then so I often looked for yard or estate sales that mentioned fabric.  I once bought 2 boxes of fabric for about 4 or 5 dollars.  There was more than a hundred yards of fabric in those boxes!  I was thrilled beyond words.

I remember one estate sale that had a whole room full of fabric and this sign:  “All the pretty quilting fabric is gone.”  I found that NOT the case at all!  Even then I had very quirky taste.  I’m sure whatever they meant by “pretty quilting fabric” would not have been my first choice anyway.  In the end, I bought several large pieces of fabric (many were several yards each) — all for 25 cents per piece no matter how large or small.  I’m fairly sure that the fabrics I’m featuring in this post (below) came from that estate sale.  I’m not positive, but I do remember getting a lot of very cool 50s fabric at that house.

Now the fabrics.

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I named these “Atomic Flowers” because I think you can see the influence of the atomic age (all those flying electrons!) here.  My guess is this is 1950s era fabric not only because of the atomic influence, but because of the colors and the stylized design.  There is no information on the selvedge edges.

Here is another vintage fabric.  This one is a border print with black, white, chartreuse and gray.  The images could be interpreted as possibly chickens, some sort of candelabra, and something that looks like a llama with a very bushy tall tail!

The fabric looks like it was previously used in a skirt or possibly as curtains.  There are machine stitching holes and small slits (as would be used to match pattern pieces) along the top and the bottom of the pieces are hemmed in a wide hem.  The sides are raw, but look like they were in a seam at some point.

Ballet, anyone?

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I love the girls and young women on this fabric!  I love the hairdos!  I love the ballet outfits and the little tableaus!  I especially love the pianist!  (I wish I had “That Girl” hair!!  Anyone else out there remember Marlo Thomas?)  The bright red background is still vivid and bright.  The whole thing screams “1950s” to me.  This is yardage; it was never made into anything.

This next item is much older.  I found this darling little 30s era doll dress mixed in with some of my grandmother’s fabrics.

I don’t know if she made it or if maybe one of her sisters or maybe one of my Aunts might have made it.  I’ll probably never know.

The skirt is made from feed sack fabric.  It is pale pink with circus themed characters.  There is a clown with blue polka-dotted clothing and tiny blue monkey riding a white elephant.  I also see several different striped balls and a duck dressed up like a band leader.  I also see several trees that look a lot like Christmas trees… ?  Not sure what that has to do with the circus, but oh well.

The dress is not hemmed because the selvedge of the fabric is there.  The back is open.  I wonder if it was held closed with a safety pin or a few hand stitches?  Or if it was never finished and never used on a doll at all?

My grandma used to tell me stories of going to the feed and flour mill to pick out the prettiest bags to use for her projects. I have a small stash of her fabrics, but not many feed sacks.

The last fabric is a doozy!  This fabric looks like it was once a skirt.  Someone took the time to detach it and to save it, and I’m really thankful they did.

I was immediately struck by the artistic nature of the characters and colors.  My first thought was, “Here is the topic for my next blog post!”  There is something Picasso-ish about it.  I also catch a drift of Don Quixote in there. Whatever the source of the appeal:  I love it!

Maybe it’s just me.  What do you think?  What do you see?

The selvedge on this last fabric is very clear:  A Signature Fabric, “Circus Days” Created by Hans Moller, of Associated American Artists c1953.

I did a quick online search to see what I could find about the artist and the organization.  I found an article by Karen Herbaugh.  Read it here.  The Associated American Artist group was organized in 1934 to try to make fine art more affordable and available to the general public.  Between 1952 and 1957 several well known artists designed fabrics.  The chart in the Herbaugh’s paper lists many fabrics, but Circus Day by Hans Moller is not on the list.  I sent an email to the American Textile History Museum, whose fabric collection is one of the features of the article.  I’ll let you all know if I hear anything!


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I am a pianist, musician, music teacher, choir director, mother, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, sister-in-law, friend, neighbor. I enjoy music (of course!), quilting, sewing, beading, traveling, kayaking, camping, biking, hiking, gardening, knitting, scrapbooking, cooking, reading, poetry, drinking good coffee, and having fun with family and friends. NOTE -- Creative Commons License: All work of The Tromp Queen (quirkyjazz, aka Jill) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 Unported License.

6 thoughts on “Fabulous Fabric Finds”

  1. You found the daffodil doily!!! It was worth the wait; I agree that the colors are still vibrant, and I am, once again, an admirer of people who have the talent to create such beautiful things. Your finds in the post remind me so much of when we went through my grandmother’s and mother’s hope chests – such treasures to be found. My older sister got the sewing, etc., talents in my family, after both my parents. My only creativity – which is arguable – is writing. Needless to say, I love the idea of your “Creativity Room.” Thank you so much for bringing me the daffodil doily. And the colors of the fabrics are beautiful!

    1. 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed seeing them! I’ve having a blast organizing my Creativity Room — in fact, I may call it my Creativity Corner! (I have an attraction to alliteration…) Don’t be modest: You have a talent for writing. Not arguable at all. I appreciate your comments and your comraderie so much! Thank you for being here.

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