A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance through my internship to visit a fabric mill on the Rhode Island/Connecticut border. It was a fun trip for me because I really love getting behind the scenes and seeing how the things we use are made. Below are some pics from my trip. The mill was huge, less than half of the building is in use. Domestic textile mills are suffering as production goes digital and overseas, so the operation is significantly smaller than it was in its heyday. The coolest part of the trip was going to the basement room where they keep seconds. If I'm remembering my terminology correctly, seconds are pieces of fabric that have been printed and finished and ready for sale, but for whatever reason, the designer is not happy with the colors or the textures so the designer chooses not to accept the fabric and it must be reprinted. The imperfections in the fabric are usually not visible to the average consumer - our standards are not as high as the designer who has seen the process through from start to finish - and so for the most part these fabrics are perfectly good. The mill can't sell the fabric to the designer so the entire bolt of fabric goes to the basement with the other seconds. Here's the cool part: you can come to the mill and purchase these fabrics for $10 - $16/yard. If they were accepted by the designer and sold in regular retail stores, they would be 8 to 10 times more expensive. I saw several names of small fabric design houses I recognized and was giddy at this new discovery. This is the way to go to get designer fabrics at cheap cheap prices. Because I am not yet a very accomplished sewer, I picked up a $5 bundle with small pieces of several different fabrics (though, in the interest of full disclosure they actually gave it to me for free. They were very nice!).
If you've got a textile mill in your area (there are lots in New England), call them and see if they sell seconds at a reduced price. Most likely they will, and it will be a great way to get a good deal on perfectly good fabrics.