Buying Fabric: Things To Know Before You Hit The Fabric Store

What is a sewing machine without fabric? It is a giant paperweight in your craft room. Purchasing fabric will be a lifelong task when you take up a hobby or career at sewing. In time, you will even have your own secret fabric stash that you will covet and forbid your spouse to even come within ten feet of for the rest of their life. Until that fateful day appears, you need to know the basics on how to buy the right fabric for the project you are currently working on.

Buying Fabric: What to Do Before Leaving Home

Just place the car keys down on the counter. You aren’t ready to head to the fabric store yet. There are essential steps in the process to know which fabric to pick up so you don’t spend half the day wandering the aisles of the fabric store.

1. Study the pattern design packet or instructions

Whether you downloaded the pattern instructions from online or you picked up a pattern packet, there should be a list of suggested fabrics that you can use for the sewing design. You need to decide on what fabrics you want to use as some pattern packets will give you a wide selection.

Keep in mind the qualities you want the fabric to have as these packets will tell you the best fabrics that have been tested to work well with the pattern. So when you are selecting fabrics, you want to stay within the same style range. If the pattern suggests heavy fabrics, you don’t want to start picking out lightweight fabrics. Instead, you want to pick one that is in that heavy fabric group.

2. Figure out your measurements to know how much fabric to purchase

So you don’t buy too much or too little fabric, the pattern packet has measurements printed out based on the type of project you are doing. For clothing designs, some will list body measurements by waist size, bust size, hip size, and neck/back to waist size. It is a good tip to measure yourself or the person who will be wearing the garment, even if you know these measurements by heart. Body sizes can change quickly, especially for children who have gone through a growth spurt.

Once you know your body measurements, check the pattern chart to see how much fabric you will need based on the clothing design you want to create. While you may feel inclined to get more fabric than the pattern packet suggests, normally the stated amount will give you more than enough fabric with extra to spare.

3. Understand what fabrics your sewing machine can handle

Not every sewing machine is the same or can handle working with all types of fabric. It’s a great time to review your sewing machine capabilities and the types of fabric you won’t have any issues with. Now is also the perfect time to pick up any optional accessories you may need to work with the fabric that you select, such as leather needles if you plan to use leather fabric to make clothes or purses. The last thing you want to do is pick up fabric that your machine simply can’t handle. Having said that, it’s nice to buy a sewing machine that can work on most fabric.

Protip* If you are a mom and looking to buy a starter sewing machine for your child, make sure the model you are buying is a solid one as kids are fast learner and they love trying different projects that will require an all-around machine.

4. Buying Fabric: Know What It Says on the Roll

Once you have written down all the measurements and figured out which fabrics to buy and how much you need, know is the time to grab the car keys and head out to the fabric store. Don’t be overwhelmed by the rolls upon rolls of fabrics hanging on the walls and on shelves. There is a system to the sewing madness, as your craft store will have signs that indicate the fabric types. The store may also separate fabrics by use or patterns such as home decor, seasonal prints and baby sections.

When you pick up the bolt of fabric, you will see label information featured on the end. Typically, information will include the type of fabric it is, the color, the fabric content, number of yards, the fabric width, care instructions and the country of origin. Pick out the fabric that fits into your preferences and amount you need.

If you purchase fabric online, you will typically get all the same information as you would in the fabric store although some online stores may not list the country of origin — if that is important to you. Shopping online can lead to a few risks, as the quality of fabric may differ from what you find in a brick-and-mortar store.

Compare fabric pieces as well as pricing to find your go-to online fabric stores, and still have at least one brick-and-mortar store to go to in case you need to make an emergency fabric run if you run out of material in the middle of a project.

Now that you know how to shop for fabric, build up that secret stash with all the items you need. Then get started sewing the projects that will make your life fashionable and a little bit easier.

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