I get a lot of emails asking me about my (supposedly) large collection of fabric and I thought that maybe it was time to answer a few of the most popular questions right here.
I guess this is mainly for people buying fabric from outside of the US, but I know that there are some of you in the States too, that just aren't sure about buying fabric online.
I'll start with a few basic tips for how I choose fabric without being able to see it up close:
Be aware that fabric prints don't always photograph true to colour and that the quality of cotton can really make a difference to how a print looks in the flesh.
I tend to judge whether or not I'm likely to want a print that I haven't seen up close by whether it's by a designer that I generally favour.
I know that sounds obvious, but it's really the way I judge things. I know for instance, that Alexander Henry's prints are in colour tones that I really like. The vibrant colours aren't too acidic and most of the novelty prints aren't too cartoonish. There is nothing worse than ordering some new fabric, waiting the week it takes for it to arrive (if you're outside the US) and then discovering that the colours just aren't right.
I try to go for clean, true colours. I don't like prints that have acidic, (in my mind) fake colours. And I don't like prints that are too dense.
Find a designer that you like, and expand from there, that way you're less likely to be overwhelmed by the enormous choice out there.
An awful lot of the great novelty prints that you see a lot of us using are by either Alexander Henry, Micheal Miller or Robert Kaufman. So they're all a good place to start. But don't make the mistake of assuming that because you like one of their collections that you're going to like them all. Or for that matter, thinking that you have to like an entire collection. I often find that there's only one or two colourways or specific prints that appeal to me, and only buy them. I don't think I've ever bought an entire collection of fat quarters for instance.
I don't buy based on a particular project (unless I'm trying to justify buying yet more fabric!), but I do try and picture how a fabric will fit in with rest of my collection. I also try not to buy too much on impulse (hah) because I hate to make mistakes and ending up with something ugly. But I am happy to buy something just because I like it, even if I have no idea what I'm going to do with it.
On to where to buy on line:
There are a multitude of on line shops out there and some of them are wonderful, and some, not so much!
These are the main shops that I buy from. They are all based in the US and all accept either PayPal or credit cards. They all sell fabric by the yard rather than the meter - but there's less than 10cm difference in the measurements, so I just tend to think of a yard as a meter.
Reprodepot - a firm favourite. It not only stocks a fantastic range of fabrics, but the shipping is cheap and fast! I don't think I've ever waited more than a week for an order to arrive and the shipping is only £5.50, which is fantastic when you consider that a lot of UK based shops charge that for shipping.
You can pay using both credit cards or PayPal, which is an added bonus. I highly recommend them for overseas on line ordering. Minimum cut is one yard.
Cia's Palette - another excellent resource. Cia is a lovely person and her website is another great place to shop. Her range is slightly smaller than Repro, but you can often find prints that are sold out elsewhere, because she keeps the popular prints in stock for longer than a lot of stores. She only stocks fabrics that she likes and never just because they're cheap.
You can only pay using credit cards (outside the US), but Cia's shipping is again cheap at £5.50. And she'll happily stuff as much fabric as she can fit in to one envelope!
Z and S Fabrics - I love this shop for a lot of reasons. Not least because it's so damn cheap. They stock all the firm favourites, but at often $2 - $3 dollars cheaper than everywhere else, whilst keeping their shipping costs the same as every one else. They also have frequent sales, making it cheaper still. But don't worry, the fabrics themselves are great quality.
They accept credit cards only (overseas) and the shipping is again really fast.
Superbuzzy - oh my! This wonderful site is designed to drain you of all of your pennies. It is jam packed with the best Japanese fabrics, trims and books and as if that wasn't enough, it's recently started accepting PayPal! Lethal.
The really popular prints are sold out pretty quickly so I highly recommend that you subscribe to their newsletter, or you won't get there in time!
Their shipping is £5.50 ($11) for up to 4lbs in weight.
eQuilter - a large on line store with an amazing amount of different fabrics. I don't shop here often, because it's a little overwhelming. I find that when you are buying just online, it can be easy to have too much choice. I have always been more than happy with my orders from them though, and they're great when you're looking for a specific catergory of prints.
They accept credit cards and their shipping is on a par with everyone else mentioned.
The Fat Quarter Shop - another good store, with super fast shipping. I'm pretty sure that the super helpful Kimberly has managed to get my order to me in only 5 days! There's a good range of fabrics, and unlike some of the others, you can by as little as a quarter yard. You can pay using credit card or PayPal.
Shipping is £5.50.
Fabric.com - I'm kind of in two minds on whether to include this one, because it's a little more cutprice than the others. But you can get soem good bargains. I will say that you should probably stick to buying prints that you already know you like. I find that they stock a lot of cheap fabrics that just aren't great in real life. For some reason I also find that their colours aren't quite true. Like I said though, stick to what you know and you'll be fine. They accept both credit cards and PayPal. Their shipping is more expensive at £8 and often takes a lot longer than the other sites. In general I'm not overly keen on them, but I do think it's worth taking the risk if you find a bargain. I also buy most of my non quilting fabrics such as chenille from them.
So those are the main ones that I use and recommend.
There are a few tips for buying from overseas though:
The fabric is packed in to what is called a Priority Mail envelope. This is a flat rate envelope that fits about 6 yards of fabric in it. However, not all of the sites will fit that much in. Reprodepot for example generally only allow for 4 yards before the shipping costs jump up to the next price level. Cia on the other hand will get as much in there as possible.
But here's the most important thing of all when buying from the US -
you can only buy up to £18 worth of fabric at a time or you will have to pay customs. The £18 has to include the cost of shipping. Which is where a lot of people are caught out.
So when you're making an order you have to make sure that the combined cost is under £18, or it's just not worth it. Now don't quote me on this, but before I knew the rules I was stung for £8 in customs, when the entire order was only £4 over the limit. So it does add up and it's not worth paying the extra.
Depending on the price of the fabric, you can usually order 3 - 4 yards and still be under the limit. If the fabric's on sale then wahooo! You can order even more - just remember that you still can't exceed 6 (sometimes 4 ) yards before the websites shipping fees go up.
I know that the customs tax side of it put's people off buying from the US but it really is as simple as not spending more than $36 (£18) including the cost of shipping.
Unfortunately, the shipping costs on some great sites make it impossible to buy from them. There are a few US sites that I haven't listed because once you've paid the shipping, you could only literally order a single yard of fabric before you were over the limit. So if you're wondering why some sites aren't listed, that you would expect to be, than that's why. And it's a shame.
Ok, so that's the basics of buying fabric online. I hope that it's been helpful. Have I missed anything? I think that I'll write a little something about the popular designers out there another day.
Edited it add -
I've had a lot of emails asking me specifically about this fabric and where you can get it.
I've just spent an hour searching online (not a hardship) and whilst I can't find it in any US online stores, I have managed to find it in a UK shop and a German shop.
You can find it in the UK here. It costs almost £12 per meter, including shipping, but that's about normal for over here. And at least you can get it. I haven't seen this shop before, but it looks pretty good.
Or you can get it here at Volksfaden. Which is run by an American lady called Linda,who emailed me awhile ago to let me know about her new, gorgeous online fabric store. Linda is an American who now lives in Berlin and she's determined to bring decent prints to Europe and good for her!! And us!
The euro exchange rate makes it about £14 per meter, including shipping.
There's not a lot of choice in the shop at the moment, but Linda tells me that she's got lots more on the way, including some Free Spirit collections and lots more Lecien.
The print itself is part of the My Folklore collection by the Japanese manufacturer Lecien. It can usually be found in SuperBuzzy and Purl Soho, so it might be worth contacting them to see if they're getting it back again.
If anyone knows anywhere else that you can buy it, please do let us know.