Buying fabric online: 5 ways to get it right

Buying fabric online really opens you up to all sorts of possibilities. There's so much choice and the prices can often be incredibly reasonable (a dangerous combination). 

Of course there's drawbacks too.

When you buy fabric online you can't always be sure what you're buying is what you want. The fabric can be off or the colour not quite right. That can be a total bummer when you're itching to get stuck into a project.

But all's not lost.

I've been buying fabric online for years and have put together my 5 favourite tips for buying the best fabric online to help you get it right. Every time. 

Buying fabric online can be tricky. But there's no reason not to get it right. Follow these 5 tips to get it right every time | Randomly Happy

#1 Order samples

This really is the easiest, most 100% foolproof way of nailing the right fabric. Every time.

Ordering samples from online stores is easy. Online stores usually make it very easy for you to order - usually by putting a handy link somewhere on the same page. Of course all online stores are different, If in doubt you can always email. But there really is nothing better then having samples of fabric to check you like the colour, feel, stretch.

Sure the downside you have to wait a while for samples to arrive.

I get it. Waiting is tough.

And usually you have to pay for shipping and handling (though some online stores offer free samples - again email to check if you're not sure). It's all totally worth it though.

OK. Honesty time. I sometimes skip the step. Particularly if I see I tasty looking bit of discounted fabric. I just jump in and buy a metre. But it rarely works out. Just after Christmas I bought a metre of cosy looking sweater knit to make a fitted sweater. I didn't order a sample. I didn't even check the fabric composition.

Big, big mistake. 

When it arrived the fabric felt icky (technical sewing term there) and the colour wasn't quite what I was expecting. I made the top anyway, but couldn't bare wearing it. It ended up straight in the charity shop. What a waste of resources and sewing time, right?

Moral of the story? Samples are your friend.

Buying fabric online can be tricky. But there's no reason not to get it right. Follow these 5 tips to get it right every time | Randomly Happy

#2 Read up

When I want to get an idea of how a fabric + pattern will work together look I hit a few of my favourite blogs. I hit them hard.

I mean, sewing bloggers are really good at talking about fabric and patterns. That's a given, right?

But I'm also really starting to find online fabric stores themselves are getting in on the blogging game and producing some really interesting posts showcasing fabrics they sell. I think it's a great way to see what a fabric will look like and get inspiration.

My three favourite online fabric store blogs at the moment are Indiesew (US based), Fabric Godmother (UK based) and Girl Charlee (UK and US). I get those straight into my inbox and devour those posts immediately. So much fabric goodness.

#3 Hang with your fave suppliers

Once you've found a few suppliers you love it's worth signing up to their mailing list. You can be sure to get regular updates on new fabric and supplies and never have that crushing moment when you realise there's only 1 meter left in stock because you missed the boat.

Trust me I've been there. It's a bummer.

Signing up to mail lists, even following your favourite supplier on social media, can help you stay ahead of the curve and be the first one to get your hands on delicious fabric.

Bonus: you also get a heads up on sales and special offers. Nice one!

#4 Become a fabric geek

Guys, you need to get to know your fabrics.

Even more important. Get to know your fibres.

Sure there's a big difference between jersey and melton wool. But there can be just as big a difference between cotton jersey and spandex jersey. 

When I first started sewing I thought most fabric was the same. I was keen to make a nice thick T-shirt one day so I bought some interlock from eBay. I didn't really look too closely at the fabric composition. All interlock is the same right?

Well, no. Not at all.

When the fabric arrived it was horrible. It was 100% polyester. And not the good kind either. There was no way I was going to wear that. If only I'd checked the fabric composition AND ordered a sample. 

What's great is that it's not too hard to learn about fabric. Once you start ordering samples you'll start to get a feel (literally) and know what to look out for. You can even get a book to swat up on fabric - I got this book for Christmas and have found it incredibly helpful. 

#5 Stay inspired

Buying fabric online can be tricky. But there's no reason not to get it right. Follow these 5 tips to get it right every time | Randomly Happy

I always think gathering inspiration is a great way to keep my ideas fresh and to know what to look for when it comes to buying fabric online.    

I have two ways of keeping track of my favourite fabrics and stay inspired.

I keep all my favourite samples (remember those from tip #1) in a box. When I'm thinking of sewing up a new make for my handmade wardrobe I usually head to that box first. I generally tend to go for the same types of fabrics (hello jersey) so I have quite a bit in my sample box. If I'm lucky the original supplier will still have that fabric in stock. 

If i'm out of luck and my trusty fabric supplier is out, then I head over to my second source of inspiration...

Pinterest. 

You know that had to be coming, right? I have a Pinterest board where I pin fabrics I've been stalking for upcoming projects and things that just take my fancy. It's a great way to keep track of fabrics and suppliers.

And a wee bonus

And because sharing is caring I put together a handy inforgraphic for you to use to help you remember all these tips + tricks. Nice one, eh?

I'd love to hear from you - do you buy a lot of fabric online? Have you got any favourite suppliers or great tips to share?

Buying fabric online can be tricky. But there's no reason not to get it right. Follow these 5 tips to get it right every time | Randomly Happy
  1. Reply
    Miah

    Very nifty! I love the info graphic! I have recently discovered the magic of buying tulle BY THE BOLT!! My sewing life will be forever changed haha.

    1. Reply
      randomly_happy

      By the bolt? Man, I hadn’t thought of that – what a game changer. I guess a lot of tule skirts will be in you future? 🙂

  2. Reply
    Mark

    HI Elena, Love this guide to buying online, and thanks for featuring us! I agree with all your tips and just want to add that at http://www.girlcharlee.co.uk you can order samples free of charge that normally arrive next day (we know how waiting can be frustrating!). We would also add to your ‘Hang with your Fave Suppliers’ section that we are more than happy to answer any questions about our fabrics and your projects, so call us, email us, we love to help!
    Happy Sewing!

  3. Reply
    Anne

    Great fabric buying tips! I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for tomorrow evening that features your tips:
    http://sewing.craftgossip.com/?p=88272

    –Anne

  4. Reply
    5 tips for buying fabric online – Sewing

    […] Buying Fabric Online: 5 Ways to Get It Right, by Randomly Happy […]

  5. Reply
    Alise Harper

    I am starting to get into sewing and I am not finding the time to go to the fabric store. Thank you for your tips about buying fabric online, I like how you mentioned to order samples before buying lots of fabric and then ending up not liking it. This is an important step to ensure I get the perfect material for my sewing project. It may take more time to order samples but getting exactly what you want is vital to the end result. Thanks for all your great advice!

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