Now, I know many of you will be super efficient when it comes to purchasing fabric and this post is by no means prescriptive but as someone who has often whiled away the hours searching for the perfect material, I have shifted my approach to enable me to become a more savvy fabric shopper.
I’ve been sewing for almost three years now and my habits towards buying fabric have definitely evolved for the better since my novice days. I tend to do most of my fabric shopping online and streamline my search to filter specific fabric types that fall within a certain budget. There is a plethora of choices when you’re looking for fabric and while sometimes it can be fun to splurge on a handful of designs you simply like the look and feel of, it can be handy to narrow down your selection to make the process much more time friendly and stress free.
If you’ve just started out on your sewing journey (exciting!) then cottons or stable knit fabrics are good options to start with. One thing I would say is try to resist the urge of buying expensive fabric when sewing your first few projects. I still have an unfinished T-shirt made from an expensive Art Gallery Fabrics cotton poplin laying dormant at the bottom of my wardrobe. I know there are so many gorgeous designs out there and it can be very tempting to throw caution to the wind and treat yourself to pricier brands but I speak from experience when I say start with budget-friendly buys, any mistakes will be easier to bear and you’ll have extra pennies to put towards great-quality fabric once you’ve aced that pattern.
Sign up and save
Many fabric shops offer incentives to obtain your custom including money off your first purchase or free delivery. Signing up to a store’s newsletter is a great way of hearing about the latest promotions and newest fabric ranges. Some shops also offer a points system so that every time you buy with them you’ll gain tokens that will eventually amount to money off. Similarly, next time you’re in the supermarket or newsagents, pick up a sewing magazine as these often contain discount codes, sometimes up to 20% off!
Out of touch
Nothing beats stroking fabric in the flesh so you can really gauge if it’s suitable for your project. Of course, as many of us are shopping online at the moment this is a tricky one, but there are ways to navigate online shopping to ensure your new fabric matches up to what you expect. Personally, if I’m buying a floaty or expensive fabric and want to assess its composition I’ll order a few samples. Another tip is to focus your search on shops offering detailed descriptions of the fabric including its weight, opacity and drape, better yet if they have multiple images and videos.
Books can also be a great resource for swotting up on different fabric types and the garments they are best suited for. A constant source of reference for me has been Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book; it includes 125 swatches to help you become familiar with a range of popular materials and includes useful notes on their composition.
Pattern before fabric
What comes first, the pattern or fabric? I guess this one boils down to personal preference but for me I’ll always try and buy my pattern before I dive into my fabric search. When you know what garment you want to sew, the pattern will give you suggestions about what kind of fabric will work best. What’s more, you can ensure you have the correct amount of fabric needed for a project.
Quality over quantity
My final takeaway piece of advice is that once your confidence grows and you can afford to spend a few extra pennies on your projects I would recommend trying to buy sustainable fabrics where you can. Many online shops have an ‘organic’ or ‘Oeko Tex 100 certified’ fabric section on their website. Not only do these fabrics boast superb quality, the method of production means they have less environmental impact and are tested to ensure they don’t contain any harmful substances.
Do you have any tips for efficient fabric shopping?