How to Save on Fabric

  • A long while back I was part of a great blog tour based on the idea of saving money while sewing over at Sew Thrifty. It was such a great series, and I wanted to share my contribution with you and point you to the other articles because there’s a lot of great knowledge there!

I’m excited to talk a little bit today about saving money when it comes to fabric. It’s something I’ve thought about over the last little while and my thoughts have actually changed on the topic over time.

I’m frugal by nature. Find me a good deal and I’m all over it. I learned to sew using things from the remnant bin at 50% off the sales price. But as my skill has increased, so has my philosophy on buying fabric.

It used to be all about cheap prices. I didn’t care what it was, if it was really inexpensive, I would buy it. I’d sew with it, and I’d be satisfied with the results–for about two washings and I’d notice strange shapes, pills, and poor drape. Since I was learning, I attributed it all to my sewing skills, but as I look back now, I don’t think it was ALL my skill. I think some of it was the quality of fabric. So my first tip for saving money is:

Buy Quality Fabric

But wait, you might say, isn’t higher quality fabric more expensive? Yes, but it’s worth it. Since i’m taking the time to make clothes for my kids and myself, I want them to last and look nice for a long time. I want those clothes to last through more than one child. I want the reason I get rid of a garment to be because styles have changed, not that it looks old after a few washes. Another thing you realize when you start sewing with higher quality fabric is that it’s easier to sew with, your results look better, and it’s a better experience all around.

Lower quality knits peel or develop holes easily; cheap cotton wrinkles like crazy. I don’t have time to remake an item or to iron it every time it comes out of the wash. And since time is money, that’s just one more reason to buy quality fabric.

I’ve also been thinking about how to know when you should buy a fabric so that you’re getting good quality. Trust me when I say I’ve had some bad experiences ordering fabric online only to realize once it got there that it wasn’t anything I was going to use. It was a total waste of money, which brings me to my second tip:

Read the Descriptions Online

I see a print I like, I see a price I like, and often I’m tempted to just add it to my cart and check out. But those product descriptions are really important. What are the care instructions? What weight is the knit? Does the fabric type match the project it’s intended for? These are all questions I ask myself before purchasing. I know that I don’t like sewing with lightweight knits, so I avoid them. If I can’t tell from an online description whether it’s a medium or heavy weight knit, I leave it. It’s not worth wasting money on.

This does require that you know your fabrics–something I’m not so great at still. I prefer to shop in a store most times because I sew by feel and drape most of the time. But learning more about fabric types is something on my to-do list as I know it will help me better understand product descriptions and know what I’m getting.

Ask Others Before Purchasing

If you’ve never bought fabric from a source before, use those Facebook groups and your sewing circle to see whether others thought it was quality. If you can’t find anyone who has used that vendor before, consider only purchasing a small amount or swatches so you get a feel for quality before investing in more. It might take more time and possibly extra shipping charges, but at least you won’t have 3 yards of a knit with no stretch or recovery that will sit around forever without being used.

Only Buy What You’ll Use

I’m also learning what fabric I ACTUALLY use on a regular basis. I might like a print, but if I’m not actually going to use it for a specific purpose I’m learning to leave it. This doesn’t mean all the fabric in my stash has a project slated yet, it just means that I know I’ll use it and have a general idea of the type of project it would be good for. I also have learned to match yardage with a general project idea so when the perfect pattern/fabric combination appears I have enough for the project (vs. not having enough so it sits on my shelf forever wanting to be used).

With these tips, I think you’ll be better prepared to make great fabric choices that lead to amazing projects. And don’t forget to look for sales–quality fabric is even better when you can get it at a killer price! Happy fabric shopping!

Where I shop

So where do I get my fabric? I’ve narrowed it down to a few favorites that I usually go with because I consistently get beautiful fabric for a good price. Remember that I try to only buy what I’m going to use and fabric/colors I consistently reach for.

  • Raspberry Creek Fabrics–I love this shop. Their knits are thick, have great drape, and very reasonably priced. And if you really want something you can ask in the Facebook group and she’ll check about sourcing it for you. All shopping is done online but if you’re in the Salt Lake City area you can pick up fabric so you don’t have to pay shipping.
  • Imagine Gnats–This is one of my favorite sources for woven in particular. They stock beautiful quality apparel fabric, and is my go-to when I want bottom weight fabrics I can trust. (NO LONGER OPEN)
  • CaliFabrics–This is a fun source for a wider array of fabric and some great designer fabrics that were over milled.
  • Fashion Fabrics Club–They have it all. You do have to watch the descriptions and know what you’re looking for though because they have it all. This is my source for Cotton Chenille for my burp cloths as well…

Lisa Mabey blogs at Mabey She Made It about DIY, Crafts, Home Decor, and Sewing.

View Comments

  • I like what you said about only buying the fabric that you need to use for a project. My sister has been telling me about a quilt that she wants to make soon. I'll share this information with her so that she can look into her options for professionals who can help her with this in the future.

  • Hello
    Loving reading your blog which I have just discovered all the way over in Perth Western Australia.
    I go fabric shopping and see something I love but don't have the pattern yet but I like to have a bit of a stash as there is not a lot of fabric shops nearby and choice is limited here. When shopping for fabric as a guideline how much fabric would you purchase for a project that you are not sure what it is exactly at that time so you know you will have enough. I mean do you have guide, that is a long sleeve blouse you would automatically take 2 metres. or a long dress purchase 4. Thank you I would value your thoughts on this.

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