Top 5 Tips on How to Shop for Fabrics
I often receive messages, asking where I buy my fabrics from, and how I choose them. The answer to both these questions is “it depends”. Since that answer isn’t very helpful, I thought I’d share my top 5 tips on how to source great fabrics.
Tip #1: Research Online
When I have a project in mind, I literally trawl through websites and social media for fabric inspiration. Unfortunately, not all images tag the suppliers so finding where to buy the fabric can require quite a bit of detective work. If there’s no direct contact for the image, I start with what I call a “basic search”, whereby I Google the fabric by describing the fabric in my own words, e.g. colours, pattern etc. I then move onto an “advanced search” when I use specific adjectives to describe the fabric in more detail, e.g. colour or size of flowers on fabric. This is basically improving my search terms from the basic search. I’m persistent with my search and such investigations usually lead me to the fabric that I'm looking for.
Tip #2: Order Samples
For me, ordering samples is a really important step in the process for finding the perfect fabric. The colours, textures and pattern proportions can be very different compared to online photos. This may add about a week to the sourcing process but is a vital step that shouldn’t be overlooked. Once you receive all the samples, lay them out together to see how they complement each other.
Tip #3: Visit Markets/ Independent Fabric Shops
I don’t always find my fabrics online: I do enjoy visiting markets and browsing independent fabric shops. It’s at these places that I usually find my most precious fabric gems! I especially love an impromptu visit to a fabric barn shop, which (to my family’s dismay!) is usually whilst on holiday. However, when visiting these shops, I usually buy more fabric than required. I do this just in case it’s hard to source the fabric again as such independent places don’t always offer courier delivery (so it’s always best to check!).
Tip #4: Mix and Match Using Same Supplier
When looking for cushion fabric to match upholstered chairs, I like the cushion pattern to differ from the chair upholstery but for the fabric weave and colour to match. For this reason, I typically find my desired cushion fabric by revisiting the supplier’s site from where I bought the upholstery fabric. Most suppliers sell fabric collections: this is a set of fabrics that are all made from the same material but that vary in pattern and/or shade. By buying the cushion material from the same supplier, it’s usually quite straightforward to find a complementary fabric.
Tip #5: Buy with Confidence
When searching for fabric, I sometimes find something that I “quite like” but that I’m not 100% sold on. When this happens, I tell myself to move on as, most often, my gut is right and there will be a fabric that’s more suitable out there. I always tell myself to “buy with confidence” and to trust my instinct. When finding the perfect fabric, however, do make sure you read the fabric descriptions and pay attention to the pattern scale (this helps you to understand true proportions). And, as always, order a sample before you commit to ordering in larger quantities!
I hope this gives you some inspiration with which to buy your own fabrics. Below, I’ve also listed some of my favourite fabric sources: