Tips on where to buy your Fabric

Buying fabric is great fun, but you've got to hold back a bit. I know its easy when you see a bargain to think "Oh, that will come in handy, if I make a nuns outfit for my pet guinea pig" but the chances are, yer never will!

Put it to the back of your mind and only buy fabric for the project, you are currently working on, otherwise your house will end up like my spare bedroom, when I say bedroom mean, I mean 'Mill'!

Don't be a snob when it comes to buying fabric, check out your nearest historical textile town and find out if they have a market, and of course on which day. Not much use turning up just to find a WH Smiths, a mobile phone shop and a Greggs. Markets are great for fabric stalls and so much cheaper. I've always been an advocate of the saying "you get what you pay" for but, this is not always the case with fabrics.

Black Velour Evening Dress
Beaded applique on the back

I buy the majority of my fabric from a lovely Asian lady called Manjit and pay substantially less than if I were to buy it from a household name. I also buy all my haberdashery stuff from a handsome young Asian (I must find out his name) on the same market. The Asians love intricate and beaded pieces, which are quite often diamanted. They can be placed on a plain cheap dress and instantly , turn the garment into something you could wear at any party (not that I get invited to parties, the last party I went to was to take my 6yr old daughter to a soft play area, where there were hundreds of screaming kids and what seemed like thousands of sweaty feet throwing themselves like meerkats off large foam objects). The photo of the black dress is just a straight dress, with a bit of nude power mesh shoved in for easy measure and a beautiful piece of lace that cost £8. Boom a party dress under £20.

Sort out your fabrics. This is where my neighbour comes in handy again. Once she had sorted my patterns ,she got started on my fabrics, they are now in boxes labelled, wools and tweeds, silks and chiffons, stretch and lace ( I love lace!) lastly cottons. This is time is well invested as it saves you rifling through boxes and boxes for that little bit of blue stripy stuff "you are sure you've seen somewhere"!

One of the morals, I have always taught my kids is 'loyalty'. Buying fabric is one such occasion where you must throw loyalty to the wind and learn to be a savvy buyer. Just because you like popping in to see 'Brenda' and she always asks how 'our Michael is' , doesn't mean you only buy your fabric from her. Different places will specialise in different things. I always buy my silks and stretch lace from Manjit, but I always buy my wool, from a bloke, who's so tight, he nearly trims his nails when the scissors get near the yard stick. God forbid he should ever give me an inch more than I've paid for. That said, he is still cheaper than anywhere else and quite often stocks end of rolls from high class sources, so needs must. Smile, pay the man, take your fabric and buggar off!

Check the internet for any nearby factories. Quite often there are factory shops, that buy rolls of last years fabrics from designer labels and sell at a fraction of the price. I am lucky, I have one, that stocks many kinds of fabrics from curtaining to fine cotton for shirts.

The internet is a cheap way to buy fabrics, but it can have its disadvantages if you don't have your wits about you. There is an old saying; "let the buyer beware" the following, are things to look out for

  • Make sure you check the width and the size of the fabric in the description, before ordering. I have made so many mistakes by ordering material, thinking I'd got a right bargain, only to find when it arrives, it's a fat quarter and then 'the right bargain feeling' turns into the 'ripped off and fuming feeling'. I have WASTED FOUR BLOODY DAYS feeling, frustrated, waiting for it to arrive, and now have to frantically start searching locally for something similar. Always check the width and length.
  • Colour can also be a problem when ordering on line. I have ordered fabric, that appears to be blue in the picture, but when it arrives it looks more like green, which, is fine if your are making a tunic for Robin hood, but totally useless, if its intended for the 'sky' bit of a collage!
  • Look out for postage charges,always check to see if seller is going to charge per yard or give you a discount for several metres. It can be costly, if you require several metres as fabric can be heavy.
  • Lastly, quality and texture are something, which you cannot feel in a picture. Digital cameras are a wonderful thing, however descriptions can sometimes be a little misleading and loose in their choice of adjectives. For instance, I have ordered fabrics, described in their words as; 'a beautiful fine cotton' and when it actually arrives, my word is 'SACKING!'

Keep any scraps of fabric. Quite often I will substitute a patterned fabric for a plain fabric or vice versa to create a contrast on a garment. I have often put a plain collar on a patterned blouse or used my scraps to make piping or little cute bags.

Hopefully, I have given you a few things to think about and over the next few months, will be giving you invaluable tips on various aspects of sewing. Enjoy your sewing, keep reading for updates and finally ,the golden rule of sewing ,is there are NO rules, take chances and see what you come up with. Instinct can be wonderful!

Posted: 13th March 2014



Good luck Julie.



Good luck with your new venture. You were fab on sewing bee and your new and exciting products will be fab too. Andrew and all the Hodkinsons xx