Online Fabric Shopping

17 Jul Online Fabric Shopping

As promised…….

My July fabric order from Mood Fabrics arrived last week. (Thank you, Mood!). Receiving my fabric orders are not just exciting, but always a little intriguing.


Online fabric ordering is somewhat like a box of chocolates, but unless you are fortunate enough to live close to an inspiring fabric store, that’s the way it is.

I’ve been sewing with online fabric orders for nearly five years. It gets easier, but it never gets easy.

I am so very grateful to Mood Fabrics for affording me the opportunity to explore online fabric shopping as part of its Sewing Network. Each month the Mood Sewing Network Bloggers receive a gift certificate for fabric and most of us place an online order. Thanks to the store’s generosity, I have sewn many fabrics I might not have sewn otherwise. I don’t always pre-order a sample, so the fabric is not always what I expect.

Here’s a look at this month’s order that I placed from the stores images: (images linked to Mood Fabrics)

1.Pink/Navy Zebra Printed Polyester Chiffon with an 11″ repeat

zebra fabric

2. 1.5mm Turquoise Solid Stretch Neoprene

Turquoise Neoprene

3. Grenadine Silk Crepe de Chine ( the same fabric as the lining in this dress )

Grenadine Silk Crepe de Chine

and three swatches.

Here goes ๐Ÿ˜‰



Holy Jungle Print!



Maybe you’ll understand how this fabric reminded me of a Lilly Pulitzer print based on the website photograph. Ummm………. I’ll figure out something. Can you bear another tunic? A maxi?

No surprises with the silk, since I’ve already sewn with it,


but the beautiful Neoprene with which I had planned to make a fit and flare dress is much thicker than I expected even though I have ordered two pieces of Neoprene from Mood. Obviously the 1.5mm description meant little to me. Back to the drawing board on this one too.


I’m sharing this order with you, because I have received many emails and many comments to explain my online ordering process. Following are a few of your questions, and a lot of my advice, but only because you asked. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Do I choose the fabric or the pattern first?ย 

I have done both. Sometimes I like the thrill of being surprised by the fabric. That decision is only safe when there is no preselected pattern.

How do I successfully sew garments from online fabric orders?

When I committed myself to sewing again, I knew online ordering was the only way to buy fashion fabric. I live in what was the Textile Capital of the US, but no more. Two chain stores which supply mediocre fashion fabric now exist in my town.

  • Order a sample. As you can tell from my order, a sample is an absolute must to know what you are buying. I always order a sample for expensive fabric, and maybe should do this more often. One reader stated that by the time her sample comes, the fabric is usually sold out. I liken this statement to thinking about a RTW garment only to find it sold when you go back to buy it. It’s happened to me too, and some things just aren’t meant to be.
  • I am willing to take a chance on fabrics. It doesn’t always work out as expected, but it’s not the end of the world. One must be flexible when the fabric is not what was expected. When you can remain flexible, the fabric will not go to waste, and you might discover a new fashion style. For instance, yesterday I saw a newswoman wearing a turquoise neoprene dress different from my usual style and providing a new idea for my fabric.
  • Familiarize yourself with as many fabrics as possible, and know which ones are consistent. I can almost always predict how a silk twill will look and feel, or a wool gabardine, or cotton broadcloth. Mood Fabrics’ Guide to Fabric and Fashion is an excellent resource.

Mood Guide to Fabrics

  • Carefully read the descriptions provided by the vendor. Mood Fabrics and EmmaOneSock always provide excellent descriptions and often garment suggestions. BandJ Fabrics do not provide descriptions.
  • Get a Pantone chart. EmmaOneSock lists the Pantone numbers for every fabric.
  • I’ve yet to learn how to gauge a fabric by its weight, but it is a must. Can someone direct me?
  • Reading sewing blogs is very helpful. Most sewists critique their fabric and provide inspiration.
  • The Pattern Review website pattern reviews always list the fabric content sewn giving you an wide array ย of fabrics used by home sewers.


Don’t I want to touch and feel the fabrics before buying?
Indeed. This sensory experience has caused many impulse buys, but as we know, one can never have too much fabric.

For me, I find that online shopping is a more deliberate process than in-store shopping. ย If I am traveling, I generally overindulge believing it is my only chance to shop at that particular store.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy Marrone, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Patterns Magazine. She can identify all fabrics from online photos, proving that it can be done!

I encourage readers who are scared or turned off by online fabric shopping to be open to this new way of shopping. Yes, mistakes will be made, but your sewing world will expand by leaps and bounds ๐Ÿ™‚

Until soon!

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor E. Frankl


  • Karen Mulkey
    Posted at 18:21h, 17 July Reply

    Like you, I am forced to purchase online as the fabric stores here in Houston offer slim choices of quality goods other than one expensive store with mainly fancy silks, etc. . Also, like you, I have educated myself scoping out reliable sites, reading their descriptions, buying a Pantone chart and crossing my fingers. I admit it’s not as much fun as touching fabrics but there is that fun, surprise element of opening that package from the mail.

  • Marina Villalobos
    Posted at 18:51h, 17 July Reply

    Because I live in Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic, I buy most of my fabrics online. Although, Santo Domingo, the capital, has a very fine fabric store (the owner travels twice a year to France and Italy to buy fabrics), the store doesn’t carry many of the silk crepe de chines and stretch cottons I like . Most of the fabric I buy is from Mood, Ema One Sock and Gorgeous Fabrics. I am rarely disappointed, even though I never order samples due to the logistics and time constraints. These online stores have excellent descriptions and over time, I have become adept at selecting the right fabrics for my projects. I rarely buy fabrics from sites where there are no descriptions. A picture can be worth a thousand words but one needs to rely on the words as well!

  • Deborah Penner
    Posted at 18:56h, 17 July Reply

    We live in a rural area so I have ordered by mail for forty years. Places such as Mood and Sawyer Brook really do a great job with the photos and descriptions. So much easier than waiting for swatches and then waiting again for the order that often took 2 weeks or more as in the earlier days. One learns how to judge by the photo and what does or does not work. It also helps to find a reputable vendor who will make good if you are really unhappy. Some also take returns on uncut and unwashed goods.

  • Carole Mellin
    Posted at 18:57h, 17 July Reply

    Gorgeous Fabrics often suggests a pattern which will make up nicely in the fabric offered. It helps you get an idea of the drape. I often order from Fabric Mart. They have several images which you can click to open. I find the image with the fabric draped over a table gives the best idea of both the drape and the pattern. Your zebra fabric would have been a good candidate for that sort of image! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Angela
      Posted at 20:35h, 17 July Reply

      I took a train to the city for the first time the other day and will have to start taking advantage of the fact that I have that privilege ๐Ÿ™‚ (I moved to NY recently ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Mary Lynn
      Posted at 23:19h, 17 July Reply

      I order from Fabric Mart also and their examples on tables do help , as well as the fact their fabric is discounted and they often have further sales. So if you don’t like it or it’s not looking like you thought it would, frequently you haven’t blown a lot of $$$$ and you can use it for a muslin. I ‘ve gotten some really great buys from them. I also like Emma One Sock – great descriptions of fabric and how to sew with it. and take care of it. and Marcie Tilton’s. I’ve been amazed to order fabric from her and she’s actually answered the phone!

  • Autumm
    Posted at 19:10h, 17 July Reply

    I get about 1/3 of my fabric from Joannes and 2/3 from online shopping. Spring of 2014 at my Joannes had some fabulous women’s spring shirting fabrics. They also have some nice stretch sateens. Online I can purchase good priced silk – I got silk haboti from fabric mart 2 years ago for around 5 dollars a yard. Online I can get good polyester crepe for making inexpensive dress that are machine washable, and rayon, poly, lycra which is also good for jackets, dresses and pants that wash and wear well for much better prices at, fashion fabrics club or fabric mart. Some others fabrics I like to get online is voile and batiste and recently based on a bloggers suggestion supplex for gym clothes from fabric mart. One Mother’s day I got silk stretch Georgette from mood for $6 a yard – that was a nice mother’s day gift to myself!
    In the beginning of my online fabric shopping I only purchased the least expensive fabric that I could find on sale and in as small increments as I though I could make a garment from. Now I still look for sales but know better what I’m getting so can purchase more yardage with confidence.

  • Angela
    Posted at 19:15h, 17 July Reply

    So true. I have also started ordering my yarn and a good example of what you are illustrating here is my current project. I ordered 4 colors for a yoga shawl I am knitting and online the light green color looked quite pale, but turned out much brighter than the photo when it arrived and when I began knitting the project it looked like a baby blanket so I decided to order a 5th color and save the green for a future project. I am happy with this solution. The yarn is fabulous and I never would have found the yarn in any yarn shop around here. I have discovered so many fabulous yarns and fabrics by ordering and my stash of both love me for ordering ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mary Glenn
    Posted at 19:25h, 17 July Reply

    I don’t order much online fabric but I have always been pleased with what I got. I do think that all the years I have spent sewing have taught me a lot about fabric . It’s worth a shot and just start with small amounts. I try to make the sample as large as possible on the screen and as I only order from reliable sources, I am usually Ok. My favorites are Marcy Tilton and Mood .
    Living A car ride from NYC means I can enjoy all that has to offer.

  • susan gill
    Posted at 19:58h, 17 July Reply

    I would love an idea of which sewing blogs you subscribe to.

  • Mary Korby
    Posted at 20:47h, 17 July Reply

    May I also suggest Fabrique Fabrics? Although luckily I’m close enough to visit their Plano, TX store, they also have a good website. The staff is very knowledgable and customer oriented. I would be comfortable speaking by phone to anyone there re potential use of a fabric with a particular pattern or for a particular style. They have a wide selection at various price points.

  • Mary Funt
    Posted at 20:56h, 17 July Reply

    Although I’m lucky and live close enough to NYC that a monthly trip to the garment district usually happens I still find I need to mail order fabrics. Mood is wonderful but you do need to pay close attention to the descriptions. I frequently order from B &J and have found that calling the store can be immensely helpful. Their salespeople are extremely knowledgable about the fabrics and can steer you in the right direction. I recently needed a stretch satin for a project and was searching for silk/Lycra satin. A call to B & J informed me that that fabric didn’t exist but they had a rayon/Lycra satin that would be perfect. I ordered and was very pleased with the fabric. I’ve had similar experiences with Mood.

  • Angie
    Posted at 21:04h, 17 July Reply

    Living in the Pacific NW, I’m fortunate to have almost no need to buy fabric online. There are plenty of good stores between Seattle and Portland. That said, I would just concur with your point about being flexible. I think we have all purchased a fabric (or many!) over the years that we initially thought we’d make into X, only to later make into Y when we finally got around to sewing it. I have some fabrics in my stash that I have made into multiple garment styles in my mind … This is the great thing about fabric–it keeps and can be used in multiple ways. Some of us feel guilty about having a “stash,” but I’ll never forget a sewing friend of mine who actually used up her stash and said it was a terrible feeling to have nothing in reserve, ha!

  • Linda N
    Posted at 21:57h, 17 July Reply

    I too am stuck in the Shenandoah without a real fabric store. All we have out here are the cheap chains and quilt shops. It would be so nice if stores like Mood and Fabricmart would list the weight and country of origin on their websites. I’ve learned what different weights of linen and denim are but they don’t give this information, so shopping can be risky. Organic Cotton Plus is much better at giving all the information. Mood offers two to three photos of the fabric. If only one of those photos was of the bolt end I know I’d be spending so much more!!

  • Lynsey
    Posted at 02:57h, 18 July Reply

    I really wish I had a Mood over here, I live in a small town in southern England where are a couple small haberdasheries but nice fabric is hard to find, most of mine comes from online but the descriptions are sparse and I’ve ended up with some real duds.

  • Brenda Marks
    Posted at 09:34h, 18 July Reply

    I am thinking about the question of fabric weight in on-line descriptions. My suggestion is to find a site that tells weights and sells swatches. That can be very helpful to understanding what you will get: you can then infer how future fabric will be.

    Often I’ve confused weight and drape.; that’s a huge problem. Now I look very carefully at all photos to see how the fabric behaves. I compare it with fabric in my stash to see how the online fabric will act.

  • Julie Starr
    Posted at 10:49h, 18 July Reply

    Great post, Sarah and I’m learning a lot from the comments, My biggest blunders have probably been in judging pattern scale. Many sites show a ruler along the bottom of a photo but I agree that the ones that show the fabric draped over a table or dress form are the most helpful. Descriptions such as “falls from the body in wide cones”, etc, are also good indicators. I keep meaning to start a reference swatch book with content and descriptions of every fabric I buy but you know what they say about good intentions! I feel that the more I order online the more successful I become at it and if I end up with an occasional dud it’s still worth it to have a world of selection a click away.

  • Ana Sullivan
    Posted at 14:28h, 18 July Reply

    I think you are right that we have to change ourselves in the way we think about shopping for fabric. I have pinned this to my Fabric Pinterest board.

  • karen lyon
    Posted at 15:02h, 18 July Reply

    I think that we need we need to devise some basic terms for the thread count, drape, fabric thickness, print repetition, and examples of what the fabric is suitable to make. These guidelines would make it a little less a hit or miss proposition when ordering fabric online.

    • Laura Casey
      Posted at 08:51h, 23 July Reply

      Karen….Marcy Tilton’s website adds pattern suggestions for each fabric, EOS (Emma One Sock) adds coordinating fabric choices when viewing a close up of a fabric….and I also like FabricMakers which is a west coast fabric online store…just google any of them. Laura

  • Karen Helm
    Posted at 16:16h, 18 July Reply

    Excellent advice, Sarah. I love buying online, which is a good thing, since there are no fine fabric stores left in the Philadelphia area anymore. Often I order swatches, sometimes not. I never hesitate to pick up the phone and call the store about a fabric’s weight if I have a concern. I think we are so lucky to have such resources available to us online – and what a thrill when the order arrives in the mail!

  • Joen
    Posted at 19:10h, 18 July Reply

    How about sewing a pair of pjs with your zebra print?

  • Cynthia Kindred
    Posted at 15:18h, 20 July Reply

    I am not sure that I will ever be completely comfortable with ordering online even with full descriptions, I have managed to receive a few duds and I know fabrics.. However I am in complete agreement that we have to change as times are changing. Here in Chicago we do have a limited few fine fabric establishments with awesome assortments of fabrics and prices. For me these establishments are definitely a “hike” but worth every minute, mile and $$ spent. With that being said those are planned excursions and in between online shopping is the way I go. Valentino said it well…………it gets easier but not easy. While I am excited when that package comes I do open it with trepidation!

  • Cissie Wellons
    Posted at 19:42h, 21 July Reply

    What an interesting post. Like so many, I live in a small town that is miles and miles away from a “real” fabric store. I have no other choice than to order online. there are times when I just love a fabric, having no idea of what to do with it. Other times, I have a particular project in mind. My biggest issue is how much to get. Invariably, if I order 3 yards, I end up using 1.5 yards. And vice versa. This results in lots of large scraps or abandoned projects. But still, it’s a whole lot more satisfying and lots less expensive that RTW shopping!

  • Linda L
    Posted at 08:11h, 22 July Reply

    Nice post about online ordering. Most all my fabric is online ordering as the only fabric/craft store very near me is JoAnn’s. Recently I have acquired a few nice fabrics from there, mostly I get my notions and patterns there. I am always excited to get a fabric order in the mail/FedEX/UPS. Yesterday I actually got two shipments-EOS and Cali Fabrics-fabrics from EOS were as expected, Cali’s were okay but not exactly the colors I saw on my monitor. Quality was good and that is important also.

  • Laura Casey
    Posted at 08:47h, 23 July Reply

    YOU are right, fabric buying online has become easier (proportionate to your fabric knowledge) but it’s never easy…..however you do a great job….!
    I miss Waechter’s…..especially their buttons!
    How’s that puppy doing? I get my new Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier next Friday….her name will be Gracie and 9 weeks old.

  • Joy Rosalie
    Posted at 09:10h, 24 July Reply

    It would be very helpful if the websites gave some indication of the stretch of the fabric. How far four inches stretched.

  • Bambi Drisko
    Posted at 20:05h, 27 July Reply

    A few of the sites include a photo of the fabric made up into an actual garment (and worn on an actual person!). That’s very helpful to determine print proportion and drape as well.

  • Autumm
    Posted at 23:20h, 30 July Reply

    A really good option when you are just getting the hang of online fabric shopping is: Vogue Fabrics By Mail” Swatch Club. I subscribed when I first started ordering online and it is really helpful. They send pages of swatches that coordinate and cover all fashion fabric from poly to linen to silk. They also pair fabric with patterns and suggest outfits from these so you get everything. A really good and affordable service.

  • Laura W
    Posted at 23:17h, 20 December Reply

    Love your blog, by the way! We are
    Hoping to make a 2 piece dress / suit with peplum top and pencil skirt using neoprene fabric like the one tou mentioned in this article. We are trying to decide between the 1.5mm… 2mm …or 2.5 mm thickness we’ve been able to locate it in. It’s for a 16 year old. Your thoughts?

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 21:43h, 02 January Reply

      Many thanks for your comment! I’m sorry I cannot be more help to you but I am not familiar enough with the mm thickness to make a recommendation. However, I will say that I prefer the very thin neoprene when sewing for me.
      Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

Post A Comment