Monday, June 22, 2009

Buying Fabric Online - Part 2

I know I've been a little remiss in posting part 2 but I sewed this weekend! The entire weekend and I was loath to leave my sewing machine for the computer! Cause you know once you get on the computer it becomes a great big time suck and you are left wondering where did the last three hours go!

That was the first thing. The second thing is that I'm going to have a guest blogger at the end of the week...I'm pretty excited because it's my daughter sharing her version of McCalls 5893!!!

Okay back to Part 2 of buying fabric online...

The next point on my list was to be adventurous...seriously folks nothing ventured...nuthin' gained! You need to be willing to take a chance on a piece...something that you haven't used before or a color you don't normally wear. Order it from an online vendor recommended by me or one of my fellow bloggers. And when the piece arrives, if it's not what you expected...can you change your expectations? Can you dream a new dream? Or are you locked into your original position?

Many times I've received a piece from an online vendor that didn't match with what my perception of the fabric would be. Nine out of ten times, I will just add it to the fabric closet because in a week or a month or several years from now, it will work with a newly acquired piece. Now this advice works great for us collectors...but if you are a person who doesn't stash I can see how this philosophy would make you slightly nervous.

However, there are several sites where you can alleviate those fears. offers a design wall that allows you to take their swatches, put them on the wall and play around with them to see how well they coordinate. This is a godsend for not just garment sewists but for quilters too. Personally, I love the design wall. Whenever I'm unsure of a combination I throw it up there and see how they play together...well and they come home with me...not so well and they get tossed back in.

At Emmaonesock, not only does Linda provide a large swatch of fabric, but she also has a picture beneath it that shows the drapability of the fabric. This is wonderful when trying to ascertain the hand and if the fabric is appropriate for a garment. Fabric Mart has a similar feature, they drape the fabric over a bolt again allowing you to see how the fabric falls.

But I think Ann of Gorgeous Things has one of the best sewing tools for a sewist...there is an amazing gallery of photos of sewists wearing creations from her fabrics. Want to see what a print looks like in real life...check out Ann's gallery. Want to see if that woven has some drapeability to it? Check out Ann's gallery.

Most of the major online retailers show coordinating fabrics together. If you don't know if something matches, check what the retailer has shown alongside the fabric or noted below in the copy. Again, if you have a question, use the customer service number...seriously that's what its there for and they are willing...well actually more than willing to assist you.

Finally back to my original point about being adventurous...say a piece comes and it's not what you wanted...don't be afraid to experiment or manipulate the piece. Wash a dryclean only piece. Bleach, dye or print a piece...let your imagine fly and do something out of the ordinary for you...

But let's say what shows up is just so terribly wrong that all you can do is go, "what the h*ll was I thinking?" Then my next point is Very, Very Important! Know their return policy. Almost every online retailer has a FAQs section or a customer service tab. Check to see if you can return fabric. Is there a restocking fee? Do you have to pay to return the fabric or is a credit given for shipment? If the fabric is non-returnable and you are weary of purchasing online, do not buy from that retailer. I can say that in good conscience.

Since this is getting a bit long...I'm going to stop here and do one final post on buying online where I will deal with color/monitor issues, whether or not you should be on the online retailers email lists, and give you a listing of a few good books to own that will assist you with knowing your fabrics better!

And if you don't mind, I'm going to slip in a few finished garment posts 'cause I really want to show you what I've been up to and of course my daughter will do her guest blog post. Look for it because I really like her version of the McCalls dress.

...and as always...more later!


  1. Some offer swatch service too, for a small fee, so you can *feel* it. I have never used it, but noticed it on listings.

  2. Right on again Carolyn. I've never been disappointed with EOS fabrics and she sends the nice swatches fast. If you don't get what you thought it was - color, weight, anything from our TNT seller, Fabric Mart, send it back and Fabric Mart will refund or do a store credit. Of course this doesn't apply to the freebies but they are usually wonderful surprises. BTW did your Vera Lavender fabrics arrive yet? Mine are scheduled to arrive today.

  3. I can attest that Gorgeous Fabrics, Emma One Sock and Fabric Mart all have great customer service when you call( e-mail, too, but sometimes it is the voice on the phone that makes all the difference). All have been helpful and both Linda at EOS and Ann at Gorgeous things have been great with giving their opinion on whether fabrics coordinate. I haven't called FabricMart for that yet.

  4. I love Emmaonesock for her wonderful service, gorgeous fabrics and return policy. You've introduced me to Fabric Mart and I have gotten some fabulous bargains there. I don't buy as much from Gorgeous Fabrics but their service and quality is great too. All three have good pictures and descriptions, which is very conducive to buying.
    I succumbed to the Vera Wang sale, especially after I got the 20% off notice. I didn't go crazy, but 10 yards is winging their way to me.

  5. How fun! I can't wait to see what your daughter whipped up!

  6. Great info Caroline. But how about a post on how to control myself and not buy so much fabric. I'm trying to stop buying so much but not very good at it.

  7. Very good information. I'm usually the" mmm! that looks interesting, let me order that" kind of person. The fabric may or may not be what I thought it would be, but I always find a use for it.

  8. My Vera Wang fabric arrived today in a very big box. It is lovely. ;) It will be the start of my fall wardrobe, as soon as I get the summer sewing done. Hope everybody else enjoys theirs as much.

    Lois K


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