How to Buy Fabric Online
Whether you're decorating a kid's room or your whole house, you can save a lot of money buying fabric online. However, you can also waste a lot of money if you're not careful. Here are some things to keep in mind before hitting the checkout button.
To me, there's a three step process to buying fabric online:
1. Browse - on and offline
2. Choose - offline
3. Purchase - online
Shopping For Fabric
No matter how good the pictures are, you can't get an accurate idea of the color of a fabric from a picture on your computer screen. The last thing you want is to end up with ten yards of fabric that's almost right. Almost right is almost always much worse than totally wrong. Not only won't you get the color right, you also can't judge the feel of a fabric online. Something may be absolutely gorgeous, but not the right weight for your project.
You will ultimately choose offline, but it's perfectly fine to browse online. Spend some time getting ideas for what you'd like and print out the pictures of the ones you like best. I like to start a word document and copy and paste the pictures, along with the websites. Collect these and then you'll have something to show a friend or decorator. Of course, going to a great fabric store can inspire you too. Sometimes you'll find a print or piece of trim that launches your entire project.
If you find something in a traditional fabric store that you like, make sure you take a swatch as well as record the name of the maker and the name of the fabric.
Tip: Take a digital camera shopping with you. You can take pictures of things like tassel and trim that you can't take home samples for.
Always Choose Offline: Get a Swatch
Once you've narrowed down your search, order a swatch. A lot of stores will send you a swatch for as little as $2. Some online shops charge more or they charge shipping. Shop around for swatches just as you do your fabrics to get a good deal. I found a fabric I liked for my daughter's room online for $10.95, but they want $8 after shipping for a swatch. I found the same fabric at another site for $17.95, but their swatch was only $2, no shipping. I'm no rocket scientist, but it's pretty easy to decide that I'll be ordering the swatch from one place and if I decide to order the fabric, I'll use the other provider!
Buying fabric online is just like buying anything else online. Follow these tips for happy shopping:
- Deal with a credible online fabric store. Reputable stores should offer samples by mail and have a good return policy.
- Choose wisely. Don't buy expensive fabrics without seeing samples.
- Look for credible payment methods such as Paypal or credit card. Look for an online store which does not store your personal & payment information. There should be guarantees of this stated clearly on the site.
- Make sure you understand any charges other from shipping, such as packaging costs.
- Do business with online stores that display customer service numbers and emails prominently.
Tip: Some online stores have physical affiliates and will allow you to pick up large quantities of fabric in person. It may be cheaper to drive a ways vs. the shipping charges.
Bonus Tip: Once you know exactly what you want, hit the online auctions. EBay sellers have great selections of small yardages of fabric. Although, you won't be able to see or feel the fabric before purchasing, you can read the seller's feedback to determine if other customers are happy. Online auctions are a great place to find fabric for accent pieces, quilts, or pillows.