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How to Shop for Fabric You’ll Actually Sew

6 fabric shopping rules to help you stop impulse buying fabric you don’t use.

Posted in: Fabric & Textiles • October 12, 2022

Impulse shopping has a purpose, even in sewing. If you’re really hungry while waiting in line at the grocery store, grabbing a granola bar is not a bad idea. You probably have a tchotchke in your home that you bought on impulse, but it’s now a significant little trinket in your life. And if you fall in love with a fabric at first sight, it might spark a really spur-of-the-moment creative idea.

But if you buy too much fabric, have yards of unused fabric getting dusty in your stash, or you aren’t sure if you’re buying the right fabric for your projects, you might need to implement some firm fabric shopping rules. Here are 6 fabric shopping rules to follow.

1. Don't buy on a whim unless you'd sew it on a whim

If you find a fabric you will reach for any time you sew from your stash, it might be a contender to buy on a whim. Do you sew with linen all the time? Do you love to wear lightweight cottons? Make a list of the fabrics you sew and wear often.

This rule doesn’t forbid you from making impulse purchases but gives you a guideline. It helps you ask, “is this fabric going to be practical for me in my life?”

2. Buy in your color palette

Sometimes you see something in a color that works really well on somebody else or just looks great on the hanger or bolt, and you fall in love with it. So you bring it home, and you don't have any clue what to do with it. You don't feel right in it. So your unused fabrics are often in the colors you don’t wear.

Knowing your color palette adds another filter to your fabric shopping. Look at the clothes you wear. If you don’t see that color anywhere in your closet, maybe it doesn’t belong there. It might, if you’re looking to add more color or you want to try something new, but there is a high chance that the fabric will go unsewn.

3. Buy fibers you’ll actually wear

If you're somebody who only wears natural fibers and you see a beautiful fabric, but it's in polyester, that might not be a fabric you're actually going to wear. So really consider the fiber when you're looking at fabric. What makes you comfortable? What do you feel good wearing, both physically and mentally? Do you like to sew with a fabric that presses easily? Or do you love the idea of knits, but you don't actually enjoy sewing with them?

You can also consider fibers by season. Sometimes you can save money buying off-season. Knowing your favorite fibers can help you take advantage of sales.

4. Spend time with some swatches

The antidote to impulsive decisions is time. So, give yourself some time and distance by taking a swatch home with you from a fabric store or ordering one online. If you’re feeling at all on the fence about a fabric, a swatch will cost less in the long run than yardage you won’t use.

Swatches are also a good way to feel productive without feeling like you’re missing out. If you’re afraid of missing out on a fabric, it doesn’t hurt to ask the fabric shop if they can set it aside for a day for you to decide.

5. Drape the fabric on your body

You might feel awkward doing this, but it can help sway your decision. Find a mirror, bring the bolt, and drape some of the fabric over your body. It will show you how the fabric will look when you wear it, and you can get a sense of how much you like the color. Try draping it like a top, a dress, or bottoms to see where you like it on your body.

6. There will be more fabric

You can’t buy every fabric you love, so you’re always missing out on something. That’s ok. Chances are you have a stash full of some pretty cool fabrics at home. When you feel particularly upset about passing up a fabric, remember that there will always be more.

Bonus tip: Create a Venn diagram

With all the tips above, you can create a Venn diagram for the fabric you sew and wear the most. Think about the colors, prints, and fibers you like best, and you can confidently impulse purchase fabrics that sit at the center of your Venn diagram—especially if they are on sale.

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