Tips: How to Get Your Swap Meet On! ~ Diane's Vintage Zest!

Tips: How to Get Your Swap Meet On!

I'm definitely a girl who goes to extremes.  One day, I'm having dinner at Melisse and the next, I'm going to the swap meet to score some cheap finds.  :)

A few of you asked where I get my fabric, especially the one from the cape I sewed a few months ago.  Well, I know that there are beautiful fabric shops out there, but since I'm a beginner, I would be too nervous to use fabric that's more than $10/yard.  Thus, I'm always on the hunt for a great deal at my local swap meet!

It can be a little tricky to navigate your way to a good deal, so here are a few tips to make your swap meet experience a great one!

Getting Ready

1. Be ready to shop outside.  That means wear comfy shoes and put on the sunblock.  Usually, I'm not out for too long and I don't burn.  However, I've taken my guy before and he burns in a hot minute.  Bring water and maybe even a parasol.

2. Bring cash.  How much should you bring?  More than you expect to spend, but only as much as you can afford!  You may find those perfect buttons for 5 cents a pop, and not be able to pass them up!

3. Leave your bulky purse at home.  It will make it MUCH easier for you to rummage through fabric and carry all of your stuff home.  Not all of the fabric that you find will be as easy to see as the booth below.

Personally, I bring just my phone, keys, and wallet in the little pouch I sewed up.  Then, I put the little pouch in a huge tote bag where I can stash all of my buys.  If you're planning on buying a lot, consider bringing a rolling cart.

4. Eat beforehand OR maybe not.  If you're picky about your food, it's probably best to eat something before showing up.  Then again, you can partake of some fresh fruit from one of the fruit stands.

Or some delish Corn on the Cob!  There's always lots of fried food, fresh juices, and everything in between.

5. Go early OR go late.  Most people will tell you to go early to get the best selection.  That's definitely true, especially if you're looking for more options.  However, it's a good idea to go late for last minute deals.

Do you need proof?  You see the patterns in the below?  Well, I went through the whole plastic crate, and I really only wanted one (the aprons in the first picture of the post).  They were selling the for 2/$1, so it was 50 cents for my pattern.

Well, I was about to fish out 50 cents while they were in the midst of packing up, when they just offered me the whole crate for free.  Yep, that's right $0!  I had to walk around with it the rest of the day, but that was no problem for me!  I even had a couple of offers to buy some of my new patterns.  :)

6. Go without expectations.  There's probably a chance that you won't find the exact items that you want.  There may be lots of fabric, trims, buttons, and zippers to pick from, but probably not exactly what you want...

Lots of elastic, but after taking the picture, I had to hunt around for the width I wanted!

Ever since I started my green lace dress, I keep an eye out for black pearlized buttons.  I haven't found them yet!

7. Be open-minded.  There will be items that you weren't originally looking for, but they're pretty awesome!  That's where Tip #2 comes in.  You'll probably walk away with one more thing than you were expecting to buy.  :)

Just check out this awesome piece of furniture.  It's a vintage record player with built-in speakers!  A little TLC and this would look amazing!

8. Try on, Try out.  When you're about to buy an item, make sure that you try it on (for a piece of clothing) or try it out to make sure it functions.  I bought some gold scissors a couple of months ago, which work really well!  Then again, I went through each pair and tried all of them out.  If you're gonna to buy, you gotta try!

For fabric, it's definitely necessary to give it a once over to make sure there's no discoloration, holes, or other damage.

9. Haggle!  It's very common to haggle, especially if you buy multiples.  For example, I've bought multiple yards of fabric and knocked off a couple of dollars off of the price.  If that doesn't work, another tip is to ask for more of the same item.

If you need bobbins, and they're asking $1 for four bobbins, ask for five instead for your dollar.  Lots of times, they'll give you a deal better than you expected!

10. Have fun!  I've found lots of unexpected items, and loved checking them out without the intention of ever buying them.  This was an old Ironrite Mangle machine on sale.  Awesome!

Here's a video of one in action.

Here's a cement mixer.  Yep, a cement mixer.  I was on the fence, but in the end I had to pass...  Just kidding!  Sometimes I see crazy items, and I can't help but laugh out loud sometimes.  And then photograph them.  :)

I'm not sure if any of these tips will help, but I hope they do!  Let me know if you have any questions.  :)

Tomorrow, I'll share with you the other items I scored, including my fabric for the Summer 2013 Pencil Skirt challenge.

*Update* Here's a link to my fabric buys on this trip!

Happy hunting!


  1. So many things to many possibilities. Looks like you had as much fun as I have at a flea market. : )
    Lots of good tips.

  2. I've never really done swap meets ( I think I went once with my husband and it was just a bunch of old electronics for the most part), but I LOVE garage sales and thrift stores for patterns!

  3. Exactly! It's so fun when you can buy something for very cheap, fix it up, and have something original for your house or wardrobe that people "ooh" and "aah" over. :)

  4. Oh I just love all things swap meet/flea market! It's so fun to search through and see what treasures you might find, even if you don't walk away with anything! Thanks for linking up at the Summer Bucket List Party =) Marcy @ day2day SuperMom

  5. I love flea markets. Great advise.
    Debi and Charly

  6. Thanks! I'm always happy to share. :)

  7. What great tips! Thanks so much for sharing at Thursday's Temptation. Your post got the most views so I am going to be featuring it at tonights link party!


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