If you want to find great vintage fabric, you have a number of options. One is to go to a thrift store. I've found great fabric at thrift stores. I've made roughly 5,000 thrift store visits in my lifetime, and probably 10 or 20 times I've found fabric I love. Which means at best I have found great vintage fabric at a thrift store on less than one half of one percent of all of my visits. This is not a return rate that inspires optimism.
You can find great vintage fabric at large outdoor shows like Brimfield or Bouckville. I loved the fabric I got this year at Bouckville. I sold one of the feedsacks I bought there for 34.6 times what I paid for it. (That is not a made-up figure. I did the math.) Which is to say that if you study the market and take the time to look, you can find great stuff for resale at shows. Sadly, these shows only come around a few times a year.
You can find estate sales near you on sites like estatesales.net. You can arrive before dawn (4 a.m. is my earliest), wait in line, make the mad scramble through the door and find a treasure trove of fabric - or not. Sometimes the "vintage fabric" that is advertised consists of bins of polyester. Or 1980s quilting cotton from JoAnns. At best, a 50-50 proposition. More likely a 20-80 proposition. Plus I don't like to get up that early. Nobody in their right mind likes to get up that early.
You can find auctions through the web site auctionzip.com . I love auctions, and I love the fact that I can look over the listings in advance and assess whether an auction is worth attending. Auctions are more of an even playing field, in my opinion, and you can pretty much guarantee you're going to come home with what you went for - if you're willing to outbid your competitors. If the fabric is good enough, I'm in. I found some of my favorite fabrics and sewing supplies ever at this auction just down the road from me. I found the best feedsack in the world at this auction. I spent 11 hours at the nearby auction. I drove 500 miles to get to the other one. Auctions require commitment, stamina and sometimes a decent cash reserve. They're my favorite way to find fabric. Like shows, though, they don't happen often enough.
But all of the fabric you're seeing here came from one source. I did not have to travel to get it. I did not have to get up early to get it. I did not have to spend a frightening amount of money. In fact, I believe I was in my pajamas when I bought it. Yep, Etsy. Right now there are 44,801 listings for vintage fabric just in the "vintage" category on Etsy. There's probably more if you add the "supplies" category. And although buying fabric online can be a bit of a roll of the dice, I've never had a problem. My friend Patty has taught classes in fabric and quilt history, so I'm completely confident buying from her shop, which is where I found every piece you see here. But even if you don't know the seller, you can pretty much tell who the pros are.
All I'm saying is: There's great stuff out there, if you're willing to look. And it might be easier to find sometimes than you think.