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Tips for buying fabric online!

I feel I have become something of an expert on buying fabric online over the past few years. Especially since becoming a mum (7 years ago). I think most mums would agree that shopping with a baby or young child in tow is not straight forward or relaxing. But much as we love our little cherubs we still need to getting our shopping fix!

Unless you have local relatives or friends prepared to babysit the choices are to take baby/young child on an outing to the shops that they are highly unlikely to be interested in,… bring on the tantrums, nappies, toilet training accidents and wandering off situations. equaling parental stress. Or grab a cuppa peruse the net when you get a 20 min slot of peace and quiet!

For me I was happy to be absorbed in motherhood from the start as long as I could have a little fabric fix now and again! There is a lovely bit of creative escapism when perusing several fabric shops online and conjuring up what you would make. In the next moment you might need to be whisked away to clear up an inevitable mess, spill or nappy, but you can leave your little fabric world and come back to it later.

All this said whether you are a mum or not online shopping has come along way in the last few years. There is a huge choice and variety from specialist fabrics to an array of prints that covers any subject you could possibly want.

I know (especially) when you are just learning to sew that the prospect of buying fabric online is a bit daunting. You may not know different fabric types and therefore not want to buy something unsuitable for the project you have in mind.

I thought I would share some of my tips for buying online, whether a novice or slightly more experienced sewer hopefully these tips might be helpful.

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Get to know fabric types:

You can learn a lot about fabrics from washcare labels in ready made garments, what type of fibres the fabric is made from, its washability how it hangs and how well it lasts. You can also get to know fabrics in your local haberdashery, look for composition labels or ask the seller further details about fabric if there is not much information on the roll.

Fabrics are generally constructed in two main ways – woven or knitted. woven fabrics don’t usually stretch although there are exceptions when woven with elastane. Knitted/jersey fabrics usually do stretch, although how much by can vary greatly.

Then there is the composition of the fabric which has been woven or knitted.  There are natural fibres such as silk, cotton, wool , linen and there are man made fibres such as polyester or viscose.

Each type of fibre has its own special qualities such as polyester doesn’t tend to crease and linen does but has a cool handle and natural earthy look. Fibres are often blended to create different handles and properties.

There is a huge variety in the way fabrics are knitted or woven resulting in lots of different textures and weights of fabric making it tricky to buy online. However the more you know the better judgement you have as to whether to order online or not. You may also find yourself drawn to certain fabric compositions. I am a big natural fibre lover, especially when it comes to sewing clothing. I will often start my fabric search looking for a natural fibre fabric like linen. I might end up with something else in the end but it makes a good starting point.

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Look out for fabric manufacturers names:

If you quilt or work with printed woven cotton you may well see the same names cropping up in different shops or online. such as Makower, Robert Kaufman, Riley Blake, Lewis and Irene, Cloud 9, Alexander Henry, Art Gallery fabrics and Dashwood to name but a few. These and many more manufacturers offer a high standard fabric.  Once you have felt the quality of these fabrics you are safe in the knowledge that what you order online will be of this standard. It’s worth looking for the name of the design to use in your search too.

All these manufacturers sell woven craft cotton, many also sell other qualities that are not as common. I have recently bought in some of Cloud 9’s double gauze for my online fabric shop. It is super soft and drapey, lovely for dressmaking. Laminates and knits are also being manufactured by some of these brands.

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Ask the seller:

Don’t be afraid to ask the seller, many online fabrics shops particularly smaller independents are run by passionate sewers who may well know the answer if you are not sure. Some stores are also prepared to send a cutting for the cost of postage or small fee, if you have enough time on your project this may be worthwhile.

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My personal buying guideline:

As I use online fabric stores a fair bit I set myself a couple of simple rules:

For a purchase over £15 – If I am not sure its right I find out about samples before buying.

For a purchase under £15 – I generally decide its a stash addition if its not what I thought it would be!

I also have a list of fav sellers with which I have bought from several times. I know the type of quality these sellers offer and what their service is like. These are always my search starting point.

I am very excited to now be offering Bobbins and Buttons online fabric shop and hope you will feel you have come to a shop that offers a good mix of the best quality dressmaking and craft fabrics. I am always happy to answer your fabric inquiries. I value your feedback if you feel like having a mooch in the shop and letting me know what you think!

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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