Fabric Shopping at the National City Swap Meet

I was visiting a friend in San Diego over the weekend.  Once we got our fill of sun, sand and cool ocean air we decided to explore the local swap meet for a change of pace.  While I was looking up info on the nearby Kobey swap meet I stumbled upon the National City Swap Meet that has about a dozen fabric stalls.  What!?!  Fabric! Trims! Notions!  I’m in and so is my non-sewing friend who I forced to drive me there and help me dig.  She’s so sweet.

**Tip #1:  Bring a friend for extra muscle and moral support**



Digging for Treasures

I’ve shopped fabric stalls at swap meets before in Torrance.  The fabric there were on tables, bolts and somewhat nice-ishly organized.  The National City swap meet was a whole other story.  The fabrics are basically thrown in piles on a tarps on the floor.  There are sometimes skinny aisles for you to walk through.  If there wasn’t an aisle I just had to walk on top of the piles to get around.  Most of your time will be spent on all fours tossing cuts of fabric around.

*Tip #2:  pre-wash all your fabric.  Who knows where it’s been.  Or in this case, you know exactly where it’s been.**

Swap Meet Fabric Stall


Prices were great if you compare it to the local options of Yardage Town, JoAnn’s etc.  If your reference point is like mine where you can buy similar fabric for $2.50/lb it was good but not a bargain.  Prices were $1.50-$2/yard.  One of the stall was $5 for whatever fits in a medium size bag.  Buttons, zippers, elastic, lace and other notions were not a steal of a deal either.  The bra elastic was $0.50/pair.

Swap Meet Bra Elastics

**Tip #3:  Ask for the prices before you spend all that time digging.**

**Tip #4: Ask if they will cut what you need.  One place won’t cut anything under 5 yards so you have to take the whole piece. I sense a fabric swap in my future.**

**Tip #5:  Bring cash in small bills. $1 and $5 bills.  You don’t have any haggling cred if you whip out a $20 bill when you’re haggling over $0.50.  Even if you’re a non-hag, they may not have small bills to make change for you. **

**Tip #6: If you can’t get them down on the price, sometimes they’ll throw in extra fabric**




I would say that the quality is on par with what you’d find that the Micheal Levine’s Loft aka much better than JoAnn’s.  Most of it is good quality, quite a bit of knits and sheer polys.  There was a stall with a handful of denim.  I didn’t see much linen, silks etc but nothing is labeled so I may have missed it.

**Tip #7: Check fabrics for holes, tears, sneaker prints (LOL) and other imperfections.**

Some of the zippers were from reputable brands like YKK.  Unfortunately the ones that I wanted where no one brands and I didn’t want to chance it.  Failed zippers are not attractive.

Swap Meet Zippers



 The Score

Here’s what I scored. Lots of striped fabric.  No surprise considering my recent obsession with the Kristen Kimono Tee.  From top to bottom.
– My favorite is the bicycle print knit.  It’s a really short width maybe 38″ and there was writing on it from a permanent marker so I don’t have too much to work with.
– The mustard and white striped fabric is a nice medium weight very much like the fabric I used to make my Burda ballet wrap.  I think it would make a nice cardigan.  Maybe McCall’s 6844 also known as THAT Cardigan Pattern.
– It’s hard to see by the way I folded the fabric but it’s a teal, grey and white large striped fabric.
– White with thin black stripes.
– Yellow and white stripes.
– Bra straps in purple, pink, yellow, camo and glittery silver.  The silver was a sad loner so I got it for free.
Any suggestions on what I should make with these fabrics?

Swap Meet Fabric Score

I spent $11.75 + $0.50 for admission to the Swap Meet.  I got 8.5 yards of fabric for $9.75 for an average of $1.47/yard.  And of course the fun of digging for treasures is priceless.  Have you shopped for fabrics in unusual places?  I’d love to hear about it.  Leave a comment in the comment section or drop me an e-mail at detectivehoundstooth at gmail dot com.

Happy shopping,

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13 Responses to Fabric Shopping at the National City Swap Meet

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  2. Kyle says:

    I went to the National City Swap Meet in Nov of 2013 and had a blast!! I didn’t see any of the zippers or bra straps that you saw. I’m definitely into looking for zippers!

    • Kyle says:

      p.s. the funniest part about my visit is I went with Elizabeth from Sewn blog. I was grabbing all the fabrics at one stall and she said, “pace yourself, girl” so I dropped all the fabrics and then we checked out other stalls and THEN decided what to buy.

    • Let me know if you ever make it back to SD. It’s more fun going with a sewing friend than a regular old friend who just puts up with your craziness. From what I hear their stock is purchased from the LA garment district so it’s inconsistent. I occasionally find finished bra straps in LA but just the bar strapping with out the sliders and rings can be found in nearly all the trim stores.

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  5. Raye Ann Clayton says:

    Great finds! Suggestions: bicycle into a tank with teal binding. Skirt with teal stripes(if it’s thick enough), cardi with the mustard stripes…I bet you can actually make a capsule

  6. Accordion3 says:

    I like the bike print too!
    Make a Tshirt or tank top from it. Or, maybe use it as the bodice in a knit dress like the incredibly popular Moneta.

  7. aleah says:

    Wow, sounds even dodgier than the place in Solvang was! Great finds, though. I love that bike print! I say tank top, maybe even with FOE straps/binding if you don’t have enough fabric for shoulders. The mustard stripe is lovely too. I would make a dress, obviously, but a cardigan is a good idea too.
    I love that all the weird discount fabric piles have striped knits lately!

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