Thursday, November 4, 2010

Buyer Beware

I used to think that buying shoes and clothing via the web was risky. Now that I consider myself a fabric connoisseur, I've been taking even bigger risks. Lots of textiles look pretty enticing on the web (especially if you have good resolution on your monitor), but many of them are not of a good quality. Truthfully, I'd rather see and feel what I am buying in person. You really can’t tell what a piece of fabric is like from a picture. I actually like to feel the weight of the fabric. I, also, like to check out the dye job. With the local choices that I have in fabric shops, I'm concluding that I don't have much of a choice, but to order via the web. Not to mention, since I've been vending at local events it has become more important that I sell items made of fabric that's not offered at the local shops. I've come to understand how important knowing that thread count is the number of threads per square inch in the fabric. It determines the quality and weight of the fabric. Threads are counted for both the length and width of the fabric. If they are the same number of threads in both directions, the fabric has an "even weave." Fabrics with an even weave are easier to work with as you sew, since the fabric will have the same amount of "give" in both directions.
The last event that I sold at there were only 4 of us who sold children's clothing and/or accessories. The other 3 booths had items made of the same textiles. In fact, I received lots of compliments on my fabric choices. Those compliments sparked some interesting conversations, as many times I was able to explain to buyers that I interpret my items through color first. A fabric has to speak to me, whether I'm buying in person or through the web. I've even started buying entire bolts from the local stores. Purchasing that way allows me to receive a discount and it prevents others from buying the same fabric. Just a note, Joann's rarely re-stocks their bolts, so if you think you may want to make multiple items from one print, buy it when you see it (if you can afford it). Also, you may not want to go fabric shopping if you can't afford to buy large quantities. I always come out with more bags than I intended.

Some other tidbits:           
  • when buying fabric through the web, you may want to look for descriptives such as quilting weight, 100% cotton, some other natural content, etc.
  • amazingly many designers, quilters, seamstresses don't know the long list of natural fibers. Everyone is familiar with cotton, but what about wool, ramie, jute, hemp, silk, linen, rayon, etc.
  • 68 x 68 threads per square inch is a good count, higher than average fabrics; a lower thread counts may be too lightweight for your project, a higher count may be difficult to work with... especially if you make wearables
  • if thread count info is not listed in the fabric description, email the seller. again, they should be familiar with their product, if their not... red flag!
  • allow yourself time to purchase swatches before buying yardage
  • look for sites that have examples of finished projects or customer testimonials
  • a lot of companies are run by people who actually use the fabric they sell, this is a great way to tell whether they trust  the fabric themselves
Now, because of trial and error, I only buy brands I’m familiar with. Or, I only purchase from reputable companies. Lately, I’ve been pleased with about 90% of my purchases, but I can always use the other 10% for lining and interfacing. And, I never buy fabric from companies with sketchy or non-existent return policies.  If you need a few suggestions for fabric sites, please email me...

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