How to choose your fabric?

Shopping fabric fix

If you are like me, aka, a fabric hoarder you know that your fabric shopping sessions are like a visit in a candy store. Everything looks pretty, colourful and has potential. Your quest for the best fabrics has 3 different variants:


  • You need an outfit for a special event but have no design or have a design but are undecided about the type of fabric and colour
  • You treat yourself to a shopping spree with no specific agenda
  • You go shopping for your essentials (plain cotton, interfacing, denim, zips, etc)  and you know will you buy anything that crosses your path

Here are my tips for effective and satisfying fabric shopping.

You have a specific project in mind or even a vague idea
  • Take the pattern you have in mind with you or a rough drawing
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Describe what u want to achieve.  The sales assistants in fabric shops are usually sewers themselves or at least crafters with years of experience and they have seen it all in their shops. They also know all the rolls tucked behind others, forgotten but real gems for that project you have in mind. I can recommend a great shop in Walthamstow with a very impressive range and the best sales assistant in town: Jane. She is THE BEST! Tell her what you want to achieve, she will find you THE fabric

She combined and found me this blue taffetas and green brocade for my Christmas choir concert outfit in December 2015

I knew what I wanted to make, I didn’t know in what fabric
  • Be patient: Don’t buy the first best fabric you like
  • Take photos in each shops you visit, go back and look again
  • Go with a friend, sewer or not  but with a style you trust
  • Ask for business cards, for samples (some shops will charge 50p). They are used to it and automatically staple the sample to their card
You go for your essentials but are open to what you’ll find along the way

It is the deadliest of them all. You go home to find out that some cheeky fabrics have made their way into your bag and you can’t remember when…… Shocking I know!  This is when you buy useless fabrics who will in the end be forever forgotten and a collection of mistakes in your stash.

  • Set your mind to what you are after: essentials…..
  • Have a budget. You will be less tempted to spend £30 (believe me the price go up quickly) instead of £10 on zips and button
  • Go somewhere you’re likely to find everything under one roof

If you can’t control yourself:

  • Stick to your favourite colour scheme for fabrics. That orange print looks good but if you’re more into blues you’ll might find that orange repulsive and useless once home.
  • Stick to your type of fabric. If you are a linen type of person, buy linen

My worst ever mistake

You are on a shopping spree, lucky you!

This is the time to experiment. Shopping sprees are meant to be fun and you’re meant to have an open mind. This is the best time to step out of your comfort zone.

  • Experiment with the type of fabric. I know i was shy and scared to try silks, chiffon and even jersey but pushing that fear away is how you will progress as a sewer. Brocade is a good introduction to fabric texture. A little stiff, a little slippery, has the advantage and inconvenient of cotton and silk. When you tackle it make sure your nails are filled to perfection or they will catch every time and ruin your experience and the fabric.
  • Try prints, gradually bigger. Prints represent a sewing challenge that we are all scared to tackle in our sewing progression.

What to look for is the repetitiveness of the print as it will make it easier to match your seams. The larger the print the less often the pattern print will reappear and the harder it will be. Tiny prints don’t also require seam matching but is a good introduction. That topic can be tackled in another article

Start with simple squares. Not too scary, is it?
  • I recommend that you buy a fabric of no less than 1.12m wide because print matching waste a lot of fabric. You will need a lot of it to sometimes cut pieces right in the middle to find that perfect asymmetry. You can also use the scrap for another project.
  • The last point is also valid because a small width will limit you when you finally decide what to do
In all cases
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Have water and snacks
  • Charge up your phone
  • Have pen and paper
  • Take with you the pattern you have in mind or a rough drawing
  • Take a break once in a while in a café nearby to recap, especially when it is for a specific project

However, no matter what project you have in mind, remember what truly matters is how your fabric type will react to what you have created. Drill and silk don’t fall the same when finished. This, I will cover soon: Fabric types: what to make with them


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