As I started to write this, I realized that there is alot of territory to cover so this topic will be covered in several parts. And second if I may, I would like to stress that if you have a great bricks 'n mortar store near you, please support them! Fabric stores service a narrower market than say the supermarket, and if they are struggling to maintain (especially since we all must eat!), you can imagine how much harder it is for both the bricks 'n mortar and the online stores to survive.
First let me start with several "suggestions" on how to buy fabric online.
1. Know your fabrics
2. Listen to recommendations by others
3. Be adventurous
4. Know the return policy
5. Be diligent
6. Books, books and more books
My first suggestion is the one that brings the most comments. Know your fabrics. I've heard things like how can you purchase online if you can't touch the fabric? How do I know if the color is true? Or the weight?
These are all valid questions. However, in my case I've learned to read the descriptions for key words. Online vendors who take the time to add descriptive words are doing their best to assist you with your purchases. So key words that I look for describe the weight. Words like lightweight, mediumweight or heavy weight. These are true descriptions of the weight of the fabric. The challenge can come when the author of the website's idea of the weight differs from your idea. This has happened to me but it hasn't very often.
Other descriptive words that I look for to characterize fabric are words like drapeability, flowy, stiff hand - words that refer to how the fabric hangs and moves. Think about the garment you want to make when reviewing these descriptive words, make sure that the words accurately states how you want your piece to hang on you.
My last criteria are the phrases that fabric retailers include like...fabric is great for dresses, and blouses or perfect for pants. These phrases are included to give you some guidance on what type of garment will make up well from the fabric you are drooling over! *smile*
Finally, if all else fails and you are still not sure about the weight, the color, or the hand of the fabric, call the online retailer's customer service department and ask. Believe me the times that I have made that phone call, I've been very happy with the responses and information shared with me. But most importantly, I've been thrilled with the fabric that arrived at my home.
Okay, so you say those are great suggestions...but I'm just learning to sew, or I've been sewing for awhile but don't know much about fabrics! And since I don't have a bricks and mortar store near me to touch fabrics and get an idea of what I like...I just don't feel secure about purchasing online.
Here is an idea...start your own fabric file. Buy some index cards. Cut a swatch of the fabrics from your stash or collection...swatches that you know the contents of...and secure them to the index card. Write a brief description of the fabric on the card. I would even write what you either made from the fabric or what you are thinking of making. On the flip side of the index card, I would put a little additional information - where you purchased the fabric and how the fabric is made.
Now determining how the fabric is made could be the more challenging issue. However, there are several books available and there is always google! *smile* Seriously though the more information you put on the index card, the better reference you will have. If you keep all of these cards together, you will surely develop a knowledge of fabrics and fibers that will assist you when purchasing online.
The last thing I want to discuss today is to listen to the recommendations of others. Most of us read several different blogs daily, weekly, etc. I am not the only blogger making fabric recommendations...listen to their experiences. Pay attention to what they share about using particular fabrics. See if their lifestyle is similar to yours and if they are using pieces that would work well with your own lifestyle. And finally, almost all of us have favorite online vendors. Try a small purchase from these vendors. See how their shipping is...do you receive it quickly? Do you like how its packaged? Is there a coupon or additional swatches included? Is the fabric like what you expected? Was the customer service helpful?
I have alot more to say about purchasing fabric online but if you have any questions, please feel free to post them. I think of buying fabric one way. You might have different concerns that I haven't thought of and would like to discuss. So ask away...
I will be working on more items from the yellow wardrobe this weekend. The weatherman says that the sun is finally coming out for more than a 24 hour period this Wednesday in the Northeast...so I want to be ready with some color drenched wardrobe pieces!
As always...more later!