Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PR Weekend and Mood: Talk about Fabric Shopping

So, I had two experiences in the last week that made me think about my fabric shopping habits. First, fabric shopping with all the sewists in town for Pattern Review weekend. (Oh and here's a few pictures from the PR Weekend flickr group. I was photographed in purple locks, so I'm hoping those pop up spoon).

Me and Deepika (credit: click to go to flickr)

Me, NancyC, Karen and Andrea (credit: click to flickr)

And the second, last night Mood held a focus group about their on-line store which they are planning to give a major overhaul. I attended, along with some other NY area sewists, bloggers and craftsy people like Carolyn, Nancy K, Elizabeth and Marina,to provide some feedback.

Anyway, shopping with and hearing about other sewists' habits and experiences really got me thinking about my own fabric buying habits both on line and in person. And I'm curious about yours.

First, are you a stasher or do you buy fabric as needed? I don't have all that large a stash, but I'm also not the type that is restrictive about my buying. I don't do fabric diets, but my general mantra is there will always be more fabric. So, if it's a fabric that there will not be more of - that special something that I really love or catches my eye or is orange (my true weakness) - then I buy with glee. I also do a lot of my buying for a specific project that I'm working on. So, what's left in my stash is generally fabrics that I think are spectacular but just haven't gotten to sewing quite yet. I do pro-actively stash interfacings, lining and an assortment of miscellaneous notions. Nothing is worse than realizing you didn't buy something you need for a project.

Do you buy fabric on-line or only in person or a blend? Even though my office is near the Garment District and I prefer to support brick-and-mortar stores, I'm actually pretty omnivorous. Like most of the other participants I prefer to feel the fabric before I buy. However, I'm definitely susceptible to the lure of free shipping, special fabrics and on-line sales. So, ultimately what I've sewn and what I've stashed is a blend of on-line and in person buying.What about you? Why do or don't you buy on line or in person?

What do you buy on line? Just fabric? Fabric and notions? Do you buy basics to keep in your stash or just what grabs you? I tend to only buy fabrics on line. Most notions I can find in the Garment District and I actually really like shopping for them. Is that odd? I do, however, usually buy interfacing on line since I have a preferred brand. 

Where do you shop on-line? And what motivates you to shop there? I have to confess that most of my on-line buying has happened at FabricMart. They are very good about emailing sales, special fabrics, discounts and fabric-of-the-day type picks. I never mean to buy fabric; I just sort of end up with something in my cart that I can't pass up. 

What is your worst fabric buying disaster and what do you do with your mistakes? I recently documented my worst fabric ever: the faux leather that I attempted to use as muslin for my leather jacket, which you may recall ended up in the garbage:

You know it's bad when a muslin ends up as a wadder!

What are your best fabric shopping tips and what are your do's and don't's? I hate polyester. I know. That's not a tip; it's a hostile statement. But I'm almost always disappointed with polyester, particularly the varieties that seem to inhabit the internet. So, I just don't buy the stuff on line. And since I came up with that guideline for myself, my fabric purchases on line have been much more successful.

Anyway, tell me about your shopping!


T. Sedai said...

(Part I because Blogger thought my comment was too long)

Oooh, PR weekend looks like it was fun!

As for my fabric shopping habits... Hmmm...

(1) I am a total stasher. No doubt. *However* I do tend to buy fabric for specific projects and not just at random. Usually I have to have a specific pattern in mind for a fabric before I buy it. For basics like grey or navy wovens I need to have a general plan (like pants or jacket or whatever). Of course, there are a few things I have that were just too awesome to pass up, even though I don't know what I am going to do with them yet. And, well, my weakness seems to be silk for less than $10/yard. I mean, the price is just too good to pass it up... Oh, and if the price is $2/yard or less then I just buy it - it can always be a muslin if I decide I don't like it yesterday.

(2) I buy fabric online and in person, though it seems my fabric buying has shifted to mostly online lately. I would prefer to buy fabric in person in a store, and while I *can* get to the LA garment district it is not convenient. And the local fabric stores are, on the whole, stuffed to the brim with quilting cottons and polyester junk. I have a *few* good fabric stores (more than some people, I know), but they take more than minimal effort to get to, and don't carry basic things. If I need something specific it isn't worth the effort to drive there and not be certain of what I am going to find when I know I can get it online for the same or better price.

(3) Mostly online purchases are fabric, though I also buy interfacing and some harder to find tailoring supplies. Also serger thread. And needles in bulk. Sometimes hard to find thread colors. Also lots of rhinestones and sequins. And sometimes patterns or pattern magazines on Ebay. Ummm, let's just say if I can't get it at a Joann then I go to the internet. Ok, fine, I buy most sewing supplies online. I would say that when I buy fabric usually there is something fabulous and impractical that I love and can't live without, but while I am buying that I also look for fabrics that I can have as stash basics. When I buy notions and supplies I stock up and buy things for my stash.

T. Sedai said...

(Part II)

(4) I think the better question is where *don't* I shop online. Well, FabricMart is my favorite (darn them and their crazy good sales), though I have recently been liking the contents of (though I am annoyed by the slooooooow shipping - I ordered almost 2 weeks ago and they just shipped it?), and I also frequent Fashion Fabrics Club, though lately I haven't been too impressed with what they have. I have bought fabric from Mood online (their website annoys me but their fabric selection is amazing, though mostly out of my budget). I also buy a lot from Spandex World for skating costumes. And I have bought some things from the Michael Levine online store as well.

(5) Well, I haven't been 100% happy with some of my recent FabricMart purchases, however for $1.99/yard what is there to complain about really? The bad stuff goes in the muslin box. Though I did take a gamble and order 8 yards of a white polyester stretch gaberdine at $1.99 - and it is *really* nice. Super soft and not too thin and slightly stretchy. Perfect for going under some thin fabrics in my stash... Oh wait, I was supposed to be talking about bad fabric. Life is too short to spend too much time thinking about bad fabric when there is so much good stuff out there.

(6) Shopping tips - well, I agree that avoiding polyester is a good idea, though I don't always follow that advice. Though I won't pay more than $2 for it either if I can't touch it first. Poly/rayon/lycra blends tend to be pretty safe though. Also, always check the width of fabric before you buy (check twice then order a little extra anyway). Also, look around at lots of different online stores before you buy anything. It will give you a good idea of what average prices are so you can have some idea if you are finding a good deal (for example, I would say $15-20/yard is average for 44" wide silk without any special patterns or anything fancy going on, so when I saw $6/yd silk charmeuse on sale at FabricMart I couldn't get it in my cart fast enough). Also, if possible try to have a good knowledge of what different weaves of fabric are like - it helps a lot when looking at fabric descriptions. Also, I am going to state that unless you are buying stretch fabric from a specialty place like Spandex World, be really careful of buying things sight unseen. A lot of times "stretch lace" and "stretch velvet" are not what you are expecting. For active wear/dance costumes you want to look for a 5-10% lycra content and the main fiber will usually be nylon.

Anyway, it is late, and I should stop rambling so I can get back to work on skating costumes (I need to finish 2 of them by this weekend so no sleep for me this week).

T. Sedai said...

Umm, in my first comment it should be " it can always be a muslin if I decide I don't like it tomorrow." Not yesterday. I should not listen to the Beatles when I type comments...

ElleC said...

I am a stasher, I only occasionally buy for a particular project. I only buy fabric when I find it cheap, as in $5 a meter or less, usually less.

I have never bought fabric online, but I may start soon, as I am boycotting my local fabric chain.

I buy some notions online, mainly because that is the only way I would get some things.

If/when I buy online I will follow the advice of bloggers such as yourself.

I honestly have not bought many real disasters, I have some off grain rayon that will be muslins.

My tips are:
-shop in thrift stores
-stay away from prints as they can look dated really fast and don't age well
-buy black fabric when you find it in a thrift store, you can always find a use for black fabric
-polyester is evil
-if you find silk in a thrift store, always buy it, even if it is a dated print, you can use it for lining
-if you find real Ultrasuede, buy it, no matter what color (dusty rose anyone), you can always find a use for it

That's about it.

Meg @ Mood Fabrics said...

Thanks for coming, Tricia! Great insights.

No, I am not a stasher, not even now that I work at Mood. I buy only what I plan to make in the next three months.

I'm not a poly fan, but we have some new polys in the store that you would swear are silk but without the price tag. These could make me change my mind.

Tanit-Isis said...

That sounds like so much fun! Hmm, I love your questions---I think I'll turn them into a blog post! I'm a bit of a stasher, but usually of basic fabrics---denim, plain knits, lining, interfacing---stuff I know I'll use at some point. I also do a lot of fabric thrifting, so when I see something "good" there (usually a basic, but not always) I tend to grab it.

The Slapdash Sewist said...

Looks like PR Weekend was fun! I want to see the purple hair. Good questions--I think we are pretty similar in our buying habits.

SEWN said...

So fun to see you. Loved all your clothes and the wig!