11 Tips for Choosing the Best Fabric When You Shop Online

11 Tips for Choosing the Best Fabric When You Shop Online

Many of us shop for all of our fabrics online, here are my tips for getting the best quality fabric for your money!

11 Tips for Buying Fabric Online|Chambraybluesblog|chambrayblues.com
My least favorite fabric, made a not so great purple crepe back satin dress.

Tips for Fabric Shopping Online

There are so many online places to buy fabric, how can you tell what you are getting when you shop online? It’s unfortunate that so many local fabric shops have closed. Here in Wisconsin we have loads of quilt shops, but only a couple carry apparel fabrics. It is frustrating that there are so few choices. I have taken to shopping for most of my fabric online. Here are my tips for knowing what’s a good buy and what will disappoint you when it comes in the mail.

  1. Choose a well respected fabric site for your purchases. I find that the fabrics that I like the best come from higher end fabric retailers such as Mood in NYC or Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, Illinois. This is not to say that I spend a lot of money, I always look for fabric that is on sale. The most expensive fabric I have ever bought was $29.99 a yard and that was for a lace bolero type jacket which required only 1 yard. For most projects, I stick to fabrics $12.00 and under and in this price range there are lots of choices.
  2. If it seems too cheap, it probably is. Everyone loves a good deal, but if the fabric of your dreams is priced at only $2.99, it’s probably going to disappoint you when it arrives in the mail. Some online retailers have fabric reviews available which is very helpful. Mood especially has photos of garments made with many of their fabrics which is very helpful. If the site you are looking at doesn’t have reviews, try checking Amazon reviews for that fabric and retailer. Several times I have been ready to order a particular fabric, but have changed my mind if it got poor reviews on Amazon.


Check the fabric specifications before ordering.

3. Check the fabric specifications before you order. Not all retailers have this information on their website, but some do. When you order from Mood fabrics for example you can see the care instructions, actual fabric width, weight and size of the pattern repeat. The weight is the most important factor here, you will find many fabrics are far to sheer without a lining of some kind. For knits look for a weight of about 7 oz for good coverage. In this screen shot from the Mood website, the navy and white fabric pictured is 198 GSM (grams per square meter) which is the industry standard of weight measurement for fabric. Use the Google conversion tool to convert the grams to ounces, and it’s 6.98 oz which is a good weight for most apparel. For lingerie you can use lighter fabrics, 4 or 5 oz should work fine. Anything lighter than that will be hard to sew, have more shrinkage and less coverage. Heavier knits in the 10 to 12 oz range are great for bottoms such as slacks, and more structured skirts and dresses.

4. Check the size of the repeat on printed fabrics. Looks can be deceiving when it comes to prints. Many online retailers will have a ruler or measurement of the print included. Be sure that the print you are ordering is a good size for your project. Large prints work well for longer skirts and dresses, wide leg pants, duster jackets, kimonos and gowns. Prints with small repeats can be used in long styles as well as styles that have lots of little pattern pieces.

5. Order plenty of fabric to match plaids or prints with one way directional repeats. When I place an order for a plaid fabric, I usually get 1 or 1 1/2 yards extra fabric. This is necessary to match the plaids on your pattern pieces since pattern pieces cannot be interlocked together, but must all be layed out the same direction for matching the print.

6. For velvet fabric, order extra fabric for napp. Velvet has napp (the cut of the fabric makes it look darker one direction than the other), this means the same rule as #5 is true: You will need more fabric, as much as 2 yards extra, for your pattern layout due to the napp of the fabric.

7. Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. If you are not sure if a particular fabric will work for your project, call and ask customer service.

8. Cotton fabrics are being made narrower than the usual 44-45″, order more fabric just in case. This topic has been brought up in several Facebook groups for discussion. Fabric that was traditionally 44 or45″ wide is not that wide anymore. It may be marked that on the bolt, but in reality is measures only 41, 42 or 43″. Depending on what you are sewing it may not be an issue. For quilting for example, this may not cause much of a problem because you are cutting small pieces anyway. I have recently been trying to make a full circle skirt out of a cotton woven. I’ve tried bringing home three different fabrics now, and all of them are so narrow the pattern pieces don’t fit without alteration. This is frustrating since the pattern envelope has yardage requirements for 44-45″ goods but if the fabric isn’t actually that wide it doesn’t work. Save your self some frustration and order at least 1/2 yard extra just in case.

9.Lingerie and other specialty apparel fabrics may only be available from certain suppliers. It’s hard to order something if you don’t know what it’s called or you can’t find it by name on a website. I have a list of suppliers for lingerie fabrics for my upcoming projects. If you are interested sign up here to get access to the resource page.

10. Double check the width of the fabric you are buying with your pattern yardage requirements. It’s easy to read the chart incorrectly, be sure you are getting the right amount for your chosen style and size. Don’t forget to check the yardage for interfacing, lining and trims as well. They are listed individually on the envelope. If you are unsure of what you will be making, try these general rules:

Blouses, short skirts, shorts, short sleeve tops: purchase 3 yards

Calf length skirts, dresses, full skirts, jackets, long sleeve tops, pants: purchase 5-6 yards

Formal gowns, full dresses with long full sleeves, full circle skirts, flowing dusters and jackets: purchase 10-12 yards

11. If you are unsure of your purchase, make sure the website allows returns. I am one of those people who never return anything even if I’m not satisfied with it. Usually I find a different way to use the fabric that will work better than my original project. Not all companies accept returns be sure you understand the return policy before you buy.

This dress fabric wasn’t one of my best purchases online.

I bought this purple crepe back satin online. I was disappointed that it was lighter weight than I had hoped. I still made the dress up, but it was hard to sew. I will wear it, but next time I will spend more and get a better result. This $4.99 fabric is a bit stiff and puckers easily. Plus it scorched with the iron even on a low setting, and unraveled like crazy. Oh well! It’s on to the next project!

Did you make a bad fabric purchase online? What was the outcome?

For more inspiration, see these other posts:

The Tunic Bible: Embroider Your Tunic Dress

4 Unique Styles from 1 Basic Kimono Pattern

How to Make a Paper Butterfly Dress

Sew Along Dinner Date Dress Reveal

Men’s Thrifted Shirt Upcycle Hack in 7 Steps

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