There’s something that just feels right about laying your eyes on new fabric - touching, feeling, and draping it – it’s often almost an exhilarating process. Well, gone are the days when you had to visit a brick and mortar store to get your hands on good fabric. Today, you can shop for all kinds of fabric from the comfort of your home, just as easily as you order products from Amazon.
Online shopping seems pretty easy, right? Plop down in front of the TV, binge your favorite show, and mindlessly add items to your cart. That’s what I do, at least..
The truth of the matter is that buying fabric online is easier said than done. To start, you need to know which fabric stores are worth their salt, and which type of fabric will suit your sewing project. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to help make buying fabric online an easy, hassle-free process. Easier still, it’s broken into two parts: all about the fabrics, and all about the store.
The Golden Rule of Fabric Shopping - Know Thy Fabric
Selecting the right fabric is the most crucial step in any home sewing project. Choosing the wrong fabric can spell doom to your project right from the word “go”. In fact, there’s a sea of choice when it comes to the types of fabric available online – that’s why it’s so easy to make the wrong choice!
Whether you are a veteran enthusiast or a just entering the world of sewing, the chances are good that you are often attracted by the patterns and color of a given fabric. But there are several other elements of the fabric that you need to keep in mind (besides how pretty it looks). That’s why the golden rule of sewing is to know thy fabric.
Every fabric type has important attributes and ideal applications to understand before buying. Here are just a couple examples of some fabric types you’ll find:
(1) Cotton – This is an eclectic fabric that’s available in different weights, from heavy canvas to lightweight shirts. It can be used to sew pretty much anything, from trousers and dresses to handbags and jeans.
(2) Spandex – This super-stretchy fabric is used in tons of different applications – from athletic clothing to dancewear and beyond, it’s a smart choice for any project that requires a 2 way or 4 way stretch.
(3) Milliskin – Like spandex, Milliskin is a stretchy fabric that’s incredibly light, thin, and easy to manipulate. Most commonly used for dancewear and costumes (both of the cosplay and Halloween variety), this fabric is difficult to work with yet incredibly rewarding.
(4) Lace – Perhaps you know this best from your grandmother’s doilies, but lace has plenty of uses in the modern world. From curtains to creative patches for jeans, this fabric can be used as to accent any project.
(5) Satin - There are several types of satin fabric, running the gamut from lightweight to heavyweight. It comes with a glossy look and feel, much like silk.
(6) Sequin – You probably are already envisioning what this flashy fabric looks like. There are many variations, but all contain bright, reflective flakes that are used in the most fashionable dresses and clothing. Most sequin fabrics are have an organza, tulle, mesh or taffeta base.
Of course, this list is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Make sure you know the application of your fabric and what attributes you’d like to work with before committing to a purchase.
It’s All About Choosing the Right Online Fabric Store
Check Out Product Descriptions
Every type of fabric comes in several different variants. That’s why a good store provides a deeply detailed and descriptive product description. Make sure each product includes the fiber type, fabric care instructions, and features, such as 2 way stretch vs 4 way stretch – these details are what distinguish great online fabric stores from good ones.
View All the Inventory
There are many fabric online fabric stores out there, but few have a truly impressive selection. To ensure the site you’re buying from is a one-stop-shop, take a look at all the products they offer. If they have a wide selection of quality fabrics, chances are you’re buying from seasoned pros.
Touch the Fabric Before You Commit
The last thing you want is to open that shipping box only to find the wrong fabric. To avoid this, choose an online store that allows you to order swatches of the fabric for a nominal fee before you actually make the big purchase. This is also a great time to see how attentive and knowledgeable their customer experience team is –if they aren’t friendly and quick to respond, look elsewhere.
Secure Checkout/ Payment Options
SSL/HTTPS encryption is a must for any online fabric store. Make sure the fabric store has a secure payment processor, and look for the lock icon in your browser when viewing your cart. If it lacks this crucial security technology, run fast and don’t look back.
Pay Attention to the Return Policy
When it comes to buying fabric online, mishaps do happen. It’s easy to order the wrong shade or pattern when you’re matching an existing fabric – this is when a flexible return policy is crucial.
A great online store should have no problem accepting any fabric that you are not satisfied with. An even better store will allow you to return fabric beyond the typical 30 day policy – be sure to peruse the return policy before placing your order. Again, this is an area to test customer service – ask them about their policy, and make sure you’re met with a welcoming human.
Look at the Pictures
A great fabric store will have accurate pictures for every item. This way, you can see the fabric from all angles so you can find and buy the right one. And, of course, you should always request a swatch if you’re unsure of the exact shade or hue of the fabric you’re looking for.