Tips for fabric shopping

Tips for fabric shopping

Fabric shopping
What am I going to learn?

In this section, I’ll share with you some tips for fabric shopping. If you ever happen to feel lost in a fabric store, then keep reading! I’m gonna tell you something about orienting yourself in a shop and choosing the best fabric for successfull sewing projects!

When we walk into a fabric shop sometimes it can be overwhelming. And exciting too! But also overwhelming. Too many options and we don’t know where to start. Don’t panic and keep reading these tips for fabric shopping!

First of all, you may find yourself in a fabric shop for two possible reasons. Either you have a new fabulous pattern that you want to sew and you’re looking for a specific fabric you’ve got in mind or you just fancy fabric shopping and you’re looking for inspiration. Isn’t it great when you touch a fabric and it tells you “I wanna be… your next pleated skirt”?! Yeah, it just does. Like that.

So… those are the two different reasons for walking into a fabric shop and they require two completely different approaches. However, they do have one common rule: always choose fabric and pattern that perfectly match! Otherwise, good chances are you’re gonna be very much disappointed by the end of your project.

If you already have a pattern in mind, take a look at the fabric suggestion for that garment. Usually there are a few options listed and you can choose depending on the season, target (or mood!). But don’t let these suggestions dictate what your garment is gonna look like! They’re just suggestions! They can be useful to get you an idea of what are the desired fabric properties for that project but you can always experiment a bit and find what best works for you! Try to have a look at the garment design illustration and/or the picture of the finished garment. Line drawings will tell you the story… they are usually the best way to understand what the best fabric match would be in terms of weight and drapeyness without getting influenced by the designer’s choice.

Let’s consider some examples. This is the Sencha blouse by Colette Patterns:

From the garment design illustration, you can tell this lovely blouse has a loose style on top and it’s more fitted at the botton because of the pleats. From that you can already guess a thick and stiff fabric wouldn’t work with this pattern: it would create too much bulk at the waist where the pleats are and it wouldn’t contour the body on top at the shoulder seams. So, for this pattern you would probably need a drapey lightweight fabric, but a mediumweight cotton would also work for a slightly more structured style. Now let’s have a look at the pictures which suggest two different styles for the blouse. You can see the yellow blouse looks very soft so a mediumweight silk would be very nice for this style. And can you notice how the second polka dot blouse (oh, I love polka dots!) holds a bit more the shape? So you could probably also use a light-to-mediumweight cotton for this other style. Now, let’s have a look at the fabric suggestions included in the pattern:

Lightweight fabrics such as silk or rayon crepe, silk charmeuse, silk habotai, jacquard. Medium weight fabrics such as cotton poplin or light twill.

So… yeah, we got it!

Let’s now consider another wonderful pattern: the Arielle skirt by Tilly and the buttons:

In this case, the garment design illustration suggests the skirt has a very linear structure, there are no pleats, no gathers. As it’s a pretty fitted style, we may want to use some mediumweight fabric that holds that nice shape, such as a denim or a cozy wool. The lovely yellow skirt on the right just confirms this idea as well as the fabric suggestion on the pattern:

Medium-weight woven fabrics such as stretch cotton, sateen, denim, gabardine, brocade, suiting, pincord, lighter weight canvas or wools. Choose something with enough body to hold the shape, but not too thick or the darts will be bulky. A touch of stretch would be a bonus.

So, we have seen how much we can learn from our pattern illustrations in order to dive in our next project with confidence and a trustworthy fabric! Then, of course, we can always trust our seamstress’ sixth sense and go for the fabric that makes our heart beating faster!

Another tip that I want to share with you is about matching fabrics (and finished garments!). Sometimes we just can’t help falling in love with that one fabric we saw on the shelves, perhaps it’s also on sale (lucky us!) and nothing can stop us from grabbing it and bringing it home. Then, yeah… it’s just perfect for a skirt so… we bring it to the sewing machine right away and sew a wonderful pleated skirt. We put a lot of effort on this project and it’s finally done, so now we just can’t wait wearing it for tonight’s party. We take a look at our closet and… aaaarghhhhh!! We find out we have no shirt, blouse or top possibly matching with our freshly-baked skirt. How depressing is that? Yeah… ask me how I know. Take home message: when you want to make your own clothes you also want to give a thought at how you will be wearing and matching them together! It’s easy to get excited about a wonderful print, perhaps it’s also half price so… why not?! Well, if you’re so in love with that fabric and you know you have nothing in your closet to match with, you may want to spend a little more time in the shop finding some other matching fabric. It’s much easier to do it right away: you’ve got all fabrics there, you can hang them over the table, see how they look together, how they drape, what they’re perfect for. Trust me, it’ll pay you back! And yes, you’ll end up buying more fabric than planned but you’re also gonna take the most out of your time and effort and you’ll be so happy to have a perfectly matched outfit for your next party!

Well, that’s all for this post, you can share your comments below if you like to! I’d be happy to hear what’s your experience with fabric shopping. Are you a compulsory buyer or you always want to give it a second thought?

I’ll see you around pretty soon!
Ciao ciao!

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