Rare for Two Reasons–My Vintage Airplane Fabric

If only fabrics came with a “born on” date, I wouldn’t need all those reference books.

Dating the textiles in my collection is usually a bit of a guessing game, with lots of comparison involved.

But sometimes I get lucky.  Take this World War I airplane print.  I found it in a pile at a second-hand store that buys and resells estates.   Still in its original wrapping, this heavy-duty cotton duck was shipped from a NC mill to a family in Richmond Va, back in July 1978.

And never used.  Maybe mom never got around to it.  Maybe the airplane-loving little boy it was bought for grew up too fast.  Their loss…my gain.

Subject matter is the second reason this fabric stands out.  Since women were the shoppers, sewers and decorators of the last century, most fabrics are loaded with female appeal.  In my collection, I have tons flowers, cute animals, and more than a few french women in long skirts.   Planes, especially, war planes in happy primary colors, are pretty rare.

So what to do with this exception fabric find?  10 yards in search of project.  I welcome your suggestions.

And here is one of my new favorite reference books for dating fabrics.  If you’re a collector, check out the two guides by Elleen Jahnke Trestain (published by the American Quilters Society).  Thousands of full color swatches in each will help you place your fabrics in time.


  1. Vintage Airplane Fabric. I have a 2 year old little boy and I have found this fabric online, but can not find a source to buy it. Is this fabric for sale?

    • Hey Patty, This print came from the 1970s so it wouldn’t be in production any longer. I’ve sold most of what I found at an estate sale but if you’re interested buying a small amount like a yard, I’ll dig it out and see what what I have.
      It would be perfect for a two year old.

  2. I see this is a old post but I had to share. I found this post searching for fabric to make a valance for my sons room…..
    My husband is 37 years old and has a quilt with this exact fabric. It was made for him by his lovely grandmother. She was very talented and made many quilts. She kept this one simple. She used a solid piece of this material for the quilt. Our 5 year old son sleeps with it now!

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to share–I LOVE fabrics with family stories and yours is a great one. I imagine your son having wonderful flying dreams sleeping under such a treasure (and wrapped in a labor of love by his great grandmother).

      By the way, we sleep under a 90 year old quilt made my mother-in-law for her hope chest at the age of 13. It makes me think she is watching over us.

      Good luck in your fabric search! Thanks again. Christine

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