6 August 2013

Fabric Shopping Online: Hints & Tips


Buying fabric online can be a great way of accessing a wider range of options than may be available to you locally. Moreover, shopping from home can save you valuable sewing time… and you don’t even need to get out of your (handmade) PJs. I’ve had a few emails and comments asking me to share my tips for successful online fabric shopping – so here goes, and do share your own tips in the comments…

1) Take advantage of search categories
If you’re not careful, browsing online fabric shops can suck up a significant part of your lifetime – mmm… so much pretty fabric to look at… But take a moment to work out what sort of thing you’re looking for, use the search categories, and it could take only take five minutes. For example, I usually just look under categories such as ‘red’, ‘Nani Iro’, ‘stripes’ and ‘kittens’, natch. Work out your own favourite categories and it’ll be speedier than scrolling through every option online, and certainly much more chillaxed than walking the aisles in an IRL store.


2) Request swatches
The biggest thing you miss when shopping online is the chance to touch the fabric and get a sense of qualities such as texture, thickness and drape. Moreover, colours often look different on a computer screen to real life, and online photos don't always provide an idea of scale of print. So before you order five metres of that eye-catching lobster lawn, it’s a really good idea to request a sample first. Many shops are happy to send out a few swatches either for free or a small admin charge (just don’t abuse your sampling privileges!). Some also have a "swatch club" where you are sent a whole booklet of swatches for an annual fee. If you’re not too hot on your different fabric types, I highly recommend Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book as an invaluable online shopping companion.

3) Check the width
Before placing your order, don’t forget to check the width of the roll to make sure you’re buying enough fabric for your project. Some fabric shops are targeting quilters in particular, so often you’ll see options to buy “fat quarters”. Don’t let this put you off – if you buy four fat quarters, that will usually mean you get 1 metre / yard of fabric as a continuous piece, but do check first whether it's a metric or imperial quarter.


4) Keep an inspiration board
If you see a print you adore but know you can’t buy it straight away, pin it to a Pinterest board or bookmark it for later. That way next time you need some new fabric, you can begin by looking at your favourites first rather than starting from scratch. Beware though – often I’ve found that a few hours after I’ve pinned a fabric I like the look of, it’s done the rounds on Pinterest and sold out – doh!

5) If in doubt, ask!
Not sure if that linen will work for your dressmaking project? On the hunt for that elusive lobster print? Want to find a lining to match? The internet can look faceless at first glance, but don't forget that behind that website there's a person or team who are passionate about fabric and excited to help their customers. If you've got a query or a specific request, drop them a line and they'll usually be more than happy to help.

So those are my tips. As for where to shop, some of my favourites are featured in the right hand column of this blog. If you feel like a splurge, now's the time to do it as my sponsors are currently offering you the following rather lovely discounts:

Dragonfly Fabrics - 15% off until 1st October 2013 - enter code "TILLY" at checkout
Elephant in my Handbag - 10% discount off your first order, valid until further notice - enter code "Tilly" at checkout
Fondant Fabrics - 10% discount until the end of August - enter code "Tilly" at checkout
Fabric Godmother - 15% off all full price fabrics until the end of September, and the first 10 orders will get a surprise gift! - enter code "TILLY15" at checkout
Fabric HQ - 15% off until the end of August - enter code "Tilly" at checkout
Minerva Crafts - 10% off orders, valid for 6 months, can be used once per customer - enter code "TILLY10" at checkout
Plush Addict - 15% off all non-sale cottons prints until the end of August - enter code "Tilly" at checkout
Sewbox - 10% off Hot Patterns for the month of August - enter code "HOT TILLY" at checkout (no I didn't choose that code myself!)

Do you have online fabric shopping tips of your own to share?

Fabrics shown in these photos are from various sources including Ray Stitch

46 comments:

  1. Thanks Tilly :) great advice here, I have never been brave enough to shop online. perhaps I might give it a go now.

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  2. You can always start a secret Pinterest board to keep your unpurchased fabric wishlist hidden from view.

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    1. That's an idea... although I do like to share the gems I've found too!

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  3. Sometimes I browse the fabric message board over at Sewing.PatternReview.com, to see what other people are buying. It's a good way to learn about different fabrics and what they can be used for. Sometimes you'll learn about a specific designer and fabric, which is very helpful because then you can go search "Robert Kaufman chambray" or whatever the item might be, and you'll know you're getting the exact same stuff someone else was raving about.

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  4. I haven't really done much online fabric shopping at all, and actually was planning to write a post about it, so this is really helpful, thanks! I guess the sample swatches are a good idea and something to bear in mind.

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  5. Tilly! I've needed this. Finding it so hard to source fabric at the moment. One trick I use when I'm looking for unique fabric is to search for vintage sheets and duvet covers. Great for cottons and florals. And so cheap too!

    Elena
    www.randomlyhappyblog.com

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  6. Great tips! I love Truro Fabrics too along with all the ones you mentioned. And wow, thanks for the all the discount codes, off to have a nosy now...

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  7. Thank you Tilly for these tips. I have yet to order fabric online and feel that I am missing out on some great finds.

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  8. Great advice, thanks Tilly! :) I've yet to purchase fabric online so I have no advice or tips.

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  9. I'm thinking you need to make your fabric board on pinterest a secret ;-)
    (your coupon code for Sewbox made me smile :-)
    Happy stitching ~ Tracy

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  10. Oh, just a great post. Thanks for this!

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  11. thanks for the great post, I am a big fan of my 'wishlist' bookmark folder! its jam packed x

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  12. Tilly, my go to list is from Tasia's BIG LIST over at Sewaholic (http://sewaholic.net/online-fabric-shopping-the-big-list/). It's a bit older (Dec 2011), but the comments at the bottom keep it up-to-date. Thanks for the hints!

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  13. What a great post Tilly thanks so much. Loads of great u
    Information and incentives too, can't be bad! With regards colour I recently sent for some dusky pink yarn for a gift, I was keen to get started on it, but when it arrived it was bore mauve than pink so the whole thing was delayed as I had to reorder something else and send the pink back. I love reading your postsTilly always great fun, thank you
    Lots of love
    Dorothy
    :-)xxxxxxxxxx

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  14. Hi Tilly,

    Thanks for the good advice. I've purchased online before for fabrics and found it a really good option but can't beat the buzz of rummaging through a fabric shop, feeling every one as I go along. ;) I have, however, been searching for a fabric to make some cushions with that has fairly wide chevrons on it. Any colours would be great. Any help? X

    Best Wishes
    Amy
    Thelongcollection@gmail.com

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  15. Oh my gosh, you've both made my day & ruined my financial month with this blog! Thank you!
    If I spent less time fantasy fabric shopping online i'd be much more successful at my job. I do love a good feel & rummage around my local fabric shop (aptly called 'The Cheap Shop'), but on a day to day basis, daydreaming about voiles & cottons & satins & that lush cosy jersey dress i could be sewing up is way better then staring at spreadsheets.

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  16. I buy a lot of my fabric online. If a fabric store has a newsletter I always sign up - they share new products as well as sale information and coupon codes which are always handy.

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  17. Great tips! thanks so much!



    http://www.etsy.com/shop/CurvyTiffy?ref=listing-shop-header-item-count

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  18. have you seen www.spoonflower.com? there is a similar company in the UK but I've found spoonflower cheaper, even with the cost of shipping.

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    1. Yes but I've never bought anything from Spoonflower. Maybe one day I'll design my own pattern...

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  20. Thank you Fluteangel. There are so many chevron fabrics on that site! Can't wait to order some! X

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  21. Thank you so much for this post ! Living in Belgium where the choices are really limited, I wanted to buy online, and the UK stores seemed the best option, but I didn't know wich store to choose. And thanks for the discount codes !

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  22. You rock lady! Love your involvement on the online sewing world. Loved watching you on sewing bee program. Thanks for the discounts :) hope i wont break the bank while shopping online. ha ha

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  23. Hi, Tilly, thanks for these tips! I'm bookmarking this for future reference.
    And also, thanks for the post on fabric shopping in London - my trip to Walthamstow last week was.... ahem.... "fulfilling" (I bought something like 10 different types of fabric!!). I never buy fabric that cheap here in Italy - not where I live, at least!! And I did find some gems... ;) now onto sewing! - well, after reordering my house after a 10 days trip :( but I'm coming, my dear fabrics, I'm coming!! :D
    xoxo from Italy

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  24. Tilly, thanks so much for this post! Also, thanks a million on your post on fabric shops in London! I was recently visiting UK and I was so happy to discover Shepherd's Bush and all those fabric shops thanks to the info that you shared!

    http://trapkeybygaia.blogspot.com/

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  25. Hi Tilly, Brilliant list and discounts are not to shabby either thank you. I want to make a hoodie top ( papercut) and wondered what fabric you would make it from - it suggest merino wool but I'm not sure my budget would stretch that far

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  26. Hi!

    Just wanted to throw out our website for fabric shopping - http://www.theneedleshop.net

    We spent a ton of time custom designing our site for easy browsing, in many ways! We have 1/2 yard options and of course are happy to send samples and answer questions.

    And, we have some large scale, home decor weight chevrons as well. :)

    Best, Rachel
    PS. Our storefront is in Chicago, if anyone is traveling this way!

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  28. Thanks Tilly. Such superb advice! x

    www.keightlystudio.com

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  29. Hi there,
    I feel so incredibly jealous when I see posts like that. What amazing choice you have.
    I live in South Africa and I have just started sewing. I looked on one of the sites and shipping to me will be +/- £25(that converted will be astronomical for me). Same as the actual fabric prices. I tend to buy fabric that's £3-6 a metre and when it's towards £6 p/m I have to think about it for a long time.
    I have completed 2 Matilde blouses already and they were both made from fabric that's less than £1 p/m. Will post in your gallery one of these days.
    I wish that one day I would be able to shop and able to afford the beautiful fabrics available in first world countries :)

    Mina

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  31. what a lovely information about online shopping fabric,I m really appreciate for this post, this post got me some quit important information which i am looking thanks

    nice party dresses | streetwear

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  32. Thank you for this,
    I have ordered some sample fabrics and patterns from fabric godmother, can't wait for it to arrive.
    From krystal

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  33. Thank you for this,
    I have ordered some sample fabrics and patterns from fabric godmother, can't wait for it to arrive.
    From krystal

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  34. Brilliant, thanks Tilly, these are great tips, AND you've introduced me to some online shops I've never seen...there goes the next pay packet ;)

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  35. Your article related to women's shopping,mostly women's are like best shopping,when the online shopping is increased all people are selecting social deals,in online retailers also providing very easy online shopping process.

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  36. In online shopping most of the blogs fabric shopping is not good.But your post was awesome and good to see that.All the tips you shared was really nice and understandable.Thanks For sharing that with us.

    luxaim

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  37. Hi Tilly,
    I've been searching high and low for a pretty cream elastic for my daughters shoes and I can't find any. Do you have any suggestions? thanks Lou

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  38. Thanks so much for this. bookmarking for future reference :)

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  39. If you've got a query or a specific request, drop them a line and they'll usually be more than happy to help.online shopping

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  40. I have used Croft Mill Fabrics for online fabric shopping quite a bit since I took up sewing again in the last year. A family firm, they offer good service and an excellent range of fabrics.

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  41. Thanks for the good tips, wish i have seen them earlier, because i worked as the designer's assistant, and i had to find fabrics for new dresses (i understood nothing in that field) and write my essay in 5 hours about these fabrics (god, still can't understand what for she needed an essay). The point is i have not found any good online shops and had to go to the warehouses to find something.

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