Sunday, January 27, 2013

How I track down out of print fabric

So, you have seen something in a quilt or a book or in your friend's stash, and you think, I simply must have that! How do you go about it?

Hopefully you have the name of the fabric, and the designer, and the manufacturer. The more information you have, the better. If you don't have it, I would suggest searching supplies/fabric on Etsy with a description of the design and crossing your fingers that something will come up. This doesn't always work, but sometimes it will.

Now that you have a name, try to find a picture of all the fabrics in the line (if you are looking for more than one). Recently, I was trying to track down the Lizzy Dish line, from Andover, designed by Lizzy House. But, as it was released four years ago, I had a hard time finding a photo of the whole line. Until I found this quilt pattern.

Now, print your picture out, and make a table. And carry them with you! And fill them in as you buy things! Because I didn't consult this, I ended up buying two repeats, and I almost missed buying one of the fabrics altogether, because I didn't realize that they were so similar, because I didn't keep consulting my picture.

Now comes the shopping:

1. Search by designer, and line name and fabric name, and manufacturer, in combination and separately, every way you can think of, on both Etsy and Ebay, favoriting or watching fabrics when you find them. (But don't buy! Not yet!)

2. Message every one of those fabric sellers to ask (politely!) if they have any other of the fabrics in that line in stock, and if you already have purchased a few, make sure you are specific about what you are looking for. Remember, it costs money to list something on these sites, and not everyone lists everything they own, nor do you want them to list things in expectation of your buying them, and then you go and buy from someone else. It was a rare shop that didn't turn out to have one more Lizzy Dish print somewhere, and one even turned up four for me, ones I would not have found anywhere had I not asked. (And the added benefit of this is that even if you found a fabric in every shop, by buying from fewer places, you will probably save on shipping.)

And don't forget to search the recent past! Etsy and Ebay do a good job of hiding sales that have gone through and auctions that have ended. But if you search on Google, you can still find them (if you scroll down the results long enough)... It is a pain, but the rewards can be great, so make sure to message those people who have sold it in the past too, and ask if they have any more in their stock.

Also, by checking search engines you may turn up an independent online store that carries a print you can't find elsewhere. For instance, I just found a store in California that is carrying that very hard to find yellow kitchen equipment print.

2. Write down what you have found in your table, and wait a day or two for slower responses to trickle in. Don't panic and buy stuff as people message you back. Wait and see if you can't get a better quantity or price from another store.

3. When everyone has replied (or you have given up on those who haven't) and you feel you have considered your purchases carefully, feel free to make them.

As for Lizzy Dish - I bought 4 fabrics on Ebay and 12 from Etsy in this manner, making a total of 16! 16 out of 21, and I was unwilling to give up the fight.

some of the prints set out on the ironing board

If you are also unwilling, follow me to step 4, finding the last elusive prints.

4. Alright, go back to Etsy. Search generally for the fabric, the pattern, the designer. Not in supplies now, but everywhere. You are looking for people who have used the fabric in the bags, clothes, etc, that they are making. Now, email them and nicely, sweetly, beg for scraps.

You may get a few scraps this way; I did! But even better, and more amazing, here are women sympathetic to your plight (after all, we've all been bitten by fabric love) who may take pity on you and look through their stashes for coordinating prints that you have all but given up hope on. And I admit, I have gotten two more prints this way, and a lead on a third.

This got me firmly at 18, teetering on the brink of 19.

The 19th crept in, the 20th, the mustard knives, was suddenly listed on Etsy after I checked every few days for a month. (Which goes to show you need to keep rechecking, and can't give up!)

The final print - the pink knives, I got in a swap, and only found out about it through asking a seller on Etsy if she had the print. She did not, but knew of a friend who had some Lizzy Dish, and so, in about two months, I had the whole collection.

And then I started making a scrappy trip around the world quilt with it.... (actually, I started making the quilt a few weeks before I had that last print, but, it doesn't really matter for the story.)

25 blocks of a projected 56...