So how does a Fabric Shopper shop for fabric?  Today I am going to give you all my secrets to finding the very best fabric at the very best price.  These are my online only tips, because some of you are like me and can only get great designers and manufacturers online and not at local quilting shops.  Also, I may give a few specific shop names as examples, but this is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list.  There are thousands and thousands of great shops from which to buy.

how to shop for fabric online

How to shop for fabric online

 

How much fabric do I need?

When I have a specific project in mind, the first step is to know what type of fabric you need, how many prints you need, and how much of each of those prints you need.  So let’s say I have a little girls dress that calls for 3 prints: a half yard of a main fabric, and 2 quarter yards for details and trim.  Now it’s time to shop.

What type of fabric do I need?

Most projects that I sew require quilting weight cotton.  It’s the most common.  Sometimes I might need a minky for the back of a blanket, so then I typically go to JoAnn, but many online fabric shops carry minky these days.  I rarely shop for knit, rayon, or voile, but all of these are easily found at many fabric shops as well.  When I need home decor weight fabric I like to go to Fabric.com because they have a large selection and free returns.  Always make sure you know what type of fabric your project requires.

What brand or designer?

I typically like to find fabric that is made by a manufacturer I know and trust, like Riley Blake, Micheal Miller, Free Spirit, or Art Gallery.  These are just a few companies (though not an exhaustive list by any means) from whom I know the kind of quality I’m going to get.  Also, most of my favorite designers produce for one of these 4 companies, so they typically have what I like.

My personal favorite designers usually depend on the project as well.  Some, like Amy Butler, Heather Bailey, and Joel Dewberry are great for sewing for around the house or something I want to incorporate into decor.  The Quilted Fish, Lori Whitlock, and Patty Sloniger are perfect for kids and baby items.  My Mind’s Eye is great for boys fabric.

What price do I want to pay?

If I don’t have a specific fabric in mind and I am looking for something easy on the pocket book, I start shopping sale sections.  So I might go someplace like Fabric.com and see if they are having any current sales on any of these manufacturers.  They typically have daily specials, so it’s a good place to start.

Or, I go to the sale sections of some of my favorite online shops and see what they have.  Hawthorne Threads, Fabricworm, Fat Quarter Shop all tend to carry just about everything, and they have sale sections that are easy to navigate.  Most of the Fabric Shopper sponsors have great sale sections and I highly recommend starting with any of them.

Sometimes I see a newly released collection and know I just have to have it!  Then I am looking specifically for prints from that collection and I use the following steps for this instance as well.

How do I choose coordinating prints?

Now I know I need 3 coordinating prints. When shopping online, it’s always safe to stay within a specific collection. That completely takes away any guesswork.

Fashionable Fabrics is a great site to browse by collection and before you even click on the section you know if that collection is on sale.

fashionable fabrics collection with sale

Fashionable Fabrics Collection with Sale Tags

 

Fabricworm has sale % sections and even though they aren’t listed by collection, you can find all of the prints from the collection beside each other in each section.

Fabricworm Sale Section

Fabricworm Sale Section

 

Fat Quarter Shop gives you a lot of ways to organize your searches, by name, price, etc…

Fat Quarter Shop Sale Page

Fat Quarter Shop Sale Page

Hawthorne Threads is a great reference because the collections are always broken down into color palettes, like this:

hawthorne threads palettes

Hawthorne threads Palettes

 

But maybe you’d prefer to mix prints from different designers and difference collections.  The Fabric Shopper has a great series called Mix It Up Monday that almost always shows photographs of fabric bundles.  How does this help even though computer monitors can still show colors slightly different than real life?

coordinated fabrics

coordinating fabric lines

 

Let’s say I want my project to be red.  I don’t care if that red is slightly berry red, wine red, or clay red.  I do however want to make sure that I don’t end up with one of each (ick!) So the photograph may not make it perfectly clear which red is showing on my monitor, but I can tell that whichever shade they are, they will coordinate.  Fool proof!  The same goes for any shade of blue, green, yellow, whatever color you’d like!

Time to buy

So I’ve decided on my 3 prints.  Now where do I buy them from?  This decision can be influenced by many factors too, not the least of which is “where can I find them in stock”.

1. How soon do you need them?  If shipping time is a strong factor, then you are going to want to choose a shop that ships same day/next day.  Check the shipping policies to find out if there are any guarantees.  For instance, Fat Quarter Shop promises same day shipping.  Hawthorne Threads ships almost always at least by the next day.  Fabric.com may take up to 2 days or so to ship.  So what is more important?  Price or shipping speed?

2. What is the price?  If you aren’t in a hurry and shipping speed isn’t the major factor, then you can shop around for the best price.  Compare the place you originally choose your prints to other places on the web.

You can choose to just click to places you know and see their prices.  You can go to Google shopping and bring up multiple sources and compare prices.  Another place I like to go is EtsyEtsy is a venue of independent sellers and there are thousands of fabric supply shops selling almost anything you need.  Search for the prints by name and designer, and you can even choose to show results by price.

A few caveats about buying from Etsy.

  • Double check the size of the cut.  Often fabric is cut by the yard, half yard, or fat quarter.  Know which increment you are pricing.
  • The second and most important thing is to check the shop’s policies (especially the shipping policies).  Etsy doesn’t calculate shipping well for fabric sellers and most will come right out and tell you their rates and let you know they will refund the overage.  Look for this info first, but if you are not sure, contact the seller and ask.
  • And third, before buying from a shop on Etsy, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS check the seller feedback.  Look for comments like “easy to work with” “fast ship” “great packaging”.  Let other shoppers’ experience be your guide.

3. Is there a return policy?  This differs by shop.  Some allow you to return and some do not.  If this is important, check the shop policies.

4. Method of payment.  Did you want to use Paypal? Many online fabric shops allow you to do so.  Rather use credit? (remember, most credit card companies will reverse charges if you can prove non-delivery, so this might be worth the protection if you are ordering from someplace new).  Make sure they accept your credit card type.

5. Go with what’s familiar.  Often times buyers will look around a little, but they become primarily comfortable with buying from a handful of online shops.  Some buyers are even loyal to the point of only ever buying from a single vendor.  If you have a place you like and the prices are right, go with it.

Always remember…the most important this is that you are comfortable what you have purchased and from where you’ve made your purchase.

The benefits of buying fabric online are infinite, so use these tips the next time you are starting a sewing project.

Anyone else have tips they’d like to add? 

Leave a comment and let us know what had helped you buy fabric online !

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7 Responses to How to shop for fabric online

  1. I do not even understand how I ended up here, however I assumed this post was
    great. I don’t realize who you might be but definitely you’re going to a well-known blogger should you are
    not already. Cheers!

  2. Lana Stewart says:

    I like to shop online at Missouri Star Quilt Company. They not only have daily deals, but deals for the week! Their tutorials for short cut methods on piecing quilts are easy to follow, too. Thank you for the great information on shopping for fabric online!

  3. send flowers says:

    Pretty! Thhis was a really wonderful post. Many thanks for
    providing tthis info.

  4. Barbara Kugler says:

    I frequently order from Hawthorne Threads because their prices are very good and they have a loyalty program. First they will give a discount based on the total yardage in your order and also they keep track of your cumulative yards ordered and give an additional discount based on that. Their selection is huge also.

  5. Belinda says:

    One of my favorite features at Hawthorne Threads is their “find coordinates by colors in this print”! Just wish they carried Kona Solids yardage since I often use them to identify my starting palette. Fat Quarter Shop also has a pretty good “search by color” feature. I’ve been known to ask a shop to identify & bundle a set of coordinates for a specific Kona color or set of Kona colors. Pile O’Fabric has been great at doing that for me. Lately, I’ve been using Palette Builder by PlayCraft to give me a starting Kona palette from an inspirational picture (like from Design Seeds). I’ve even used it to give me a starting palette from a fabric’s digital image. Link to Palette Builder – http://www.play-crafts.com/blog/palettebuilder2/
    Sometimes I’ll purchase a charm pack or mini charm pack as a way to inexpensively have swatches of an entire line before deciding to purchase yardage.
    Great post!

  6. Gunilla says:

    Hi! Shopping online is great, and a feature I like is being able to buy not only in half or one yard increments, but also .75, or 1/3 for example. Unfortunately all my experiences with fabric.com has not been good ones, so I avoid them, despite sales unfortunately. Every other shop has actually been great, and I’ve tried quite a few on Etsy, but usually the ones that advertises on blogs. I love shopping fabric online, and think it is a great opportunity and possibility!

    • Christie says:

      Increments! That’s a good one too! Thanks!

      I used to like fabric.com better. Their packaging is meh, but their free shipping is good. They also put those stickers on each cut of fabric and I’ve had some adhesive removal issues. I rarely buy from them, but I always like to window shop their sales!