Thursday, October 02, 2008

Guestimating Fabric - or How to Build a Stash!

In my previous post, Charlene asked, "...what method do you use to determine the amount (of fabric) to buy" Well, this really got me thinking. First of all, I don't know that I have a much of a "method", but I guess, in a way, I do. A couple of years ago when I started getting back into sewing, I really had a desire to sew with some fabrics that were new to me. Living where I do, my only local fabric stores are JoAnns and quilt stores. This means little to no wool, rayon, silk, rpl, ultrasuede, knit prints, batiste, or many other fabrics that I was dying to try. So like any good girl would, I turned to the internet. Oh, what a dangerous thing that is!
Now, I'm not one of those people who knows what my full season line up will be. I tend to sew what I feel like at the time. I always do have a plan of a number of things I want to make, but I may or may not end up making them. When I do buy fabric on line, I usually try to look at patterns I have and figure out what I'd like to make with the fabrics. I kind of came up with a general rule of thumb based on a variety of patterns that I have, making generalizations about how much a basic pattern would take. This is what I came up with based on my size (I usually plan on the fabric amount for a 12 for a blouse or dress or 14-16 for pants or skirts(
Most fabrics other than cotton and some silks are usually 55-60", so I base yardage on these widths. If the fabric is 45, I usually add more or check the pattern

Pants - 2 yards, 2.5 for wide legged (I'm assuming 55-60" wide fabric here)
Jackets - 2-3 yards depending on the style
blouses - 2 yards of f 55" will make a long sleeve or short sleeve blouse. A sleeveless blouse takes about 1.5-1.75. Sleeveless, 1.5 I tend to add about 1/2 yard if the fabric is 45"

Knit tops - 1 yard for sleeveless, 1.5 for short or long sleeves.
skirts - my favorite pencil skirt takes exactly 1 yard of fabric. Skirts with more detail, I plan on 1.5 yards. Fuller skirts, I buy 2 yards.
long skirts - 2 yards
dresses - a basic sheath or straight dress can be made with 2 yards, fuller dresses take aprox 3. Vintage or very full dresses will take up to 4 yards.
Vests - 1 yard - yay!!
shorts - 1.5
crop pants - 2 yards.
2 pc suit - 3-4 yards
3 pc suit - 4-6 yards depending on type of skirt, jacket, pants.

These are just general guidelines that I use if I am just buying for my stash (collection, inventory, store-house, whatever, it's still stash!) If I KNOW what I want to make with a pattern, I do go by the amount on the pattern envelope. If it is a fabric that shrinks (like cotton, linen, rayon) I buy extra to allow for the shrinkage. Also, be aware that most of the 45" fabric at JoAnns is actually 42-44" These couple of inches can make a huge difference in a layout, so I will buy 1/2 yard more. Again, these amounts are just guesses, but it kind of helps to know a ball park figure so you don't have to carry around a bunch of patterns with you every time you step into a new fabric store. These amounts change with the styles, for example, I used to always say 2 yards for pants, but now with wider width legs, most patterns need 2.25-2.5. So, check your favorite patterns and most used styles in your size and get a general idea of what works for you!

So, with this information in hand, I will let you know some of my favorite internet haunts.
First, I must mention Fabric Mart. This is one of the first places I bought online fabric and a lot of my stash has come from here. They have great "bundle" deals and deep discounts on a lot of their fabrics. Selection is limited, but you can oftentimes find great deals here
has a much better selection than Fabric mart, and they also have good prices, although not as deeply discounted. I like that they put information labels on all of their fabric cuts. Both of the aforementioned stores also have good service and quick shipping.

Gorgeous fabrics - the name says it all! Ann has a wonderful selection of fabrics here and one of the best selections of fashion knits at a reasonable price I have seen. She also has good service and fast shipping.

Fabric - my absolute favorite stop for shopping for linen. It takes a little bit of expoloration to find your way around the site, but they have a fabulous selection of linens in different weights and colors.

Textilestudios - this online store sells Textile Studio patterns (Loes Hinse) and a variety of fabrics. They don’t have a huge selection, but they have good quality fabrics that are different than you’ll find at other sites.
Denver Fabrics/Fashion Fabrics Club - a great selection of fabrics with a good search engine. They really do have super prices, but my experience has been that they need to step up their customer service and shipping. Don’t order here if you are in a hurry to get your fabric. But, you can find a better deal here than most other places.
Fashion Sewing Group - run by Nancy Erickson. She has her own line of patterns and newsletter that features pattern updates/ modifications to keep things fashion forward. I have ordered a number of beautiful fabrics from her. I would recommend subscribing to her newsletter for great fashion information, sewing techniques, fabric swatches and pattern updates.

There are lots of great online fabric stores out there, but these are the ones I have ordered from most often. I’ve orderd from a few others and gotten some great fabrics as well. Among them, Sewing Studio, Trim Fabric, and Thai Silks.


Elaray said...

I usually buy 3 yds of everything. That covers everything except some dresses. It gives me the option of changing my mind - which I sometimes do.

cidell said...

I tend to overbuy at four yards. And I do that because I rarely know exactly what I'm going to do with something. But, this is great because even when I have a general idea, I still buy too much because I don't know how much I need!

MarilynB said...

I agree with your yardage guidelines. I find that over time, I usually tend to buy the same colors which certainly helps in building a wardrobe. It's always inspirational to look at my stash, it motivates me to create.

Little Hunting Creek said...

I rarely know what I am making when I buy the fabric so I tend to over estimate how much. But this gives me extra if I change my mind or make a mistake. If I have some left over from a project I use the excess for test garments or experiments. I haven't bought fabric since last March, since I am trying to use up some stash, but it doesn't seem to diminish!

Charlene McGill said...

WOW! Thanks for all the detail information, especially the list of online stores. I have always been a little afraid to buy from stores online I have never used. So, knowing that someone else is comfortable using a particular site, helps a lot.

Marji said...

Beautiful stash cabinet. I buy pretty much the same yardages for similar garments, and usually don't have regrets. Great information to post.

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

I like how nicely it is all stored...makes it easy to shop! For years I used the standard "5 yards please" which allowed me to make anything I fancied...but now years later with 2 & 1.5 yard pieces left in the fabric closet waiting for their chances to shine again, I am more specific when purchasing and have developed guidelines very similar to yours. It is really nice not to put fabric back into the closet!!!

Gwen said...

Wow! This is really helpful! Both the amounts of fabrics and the links. Thanks so much! :)