It’s been a lovely quiet, productive and magical holiday week here at 3 Hours Past. I’ve been down to Byron Bay again with my girlfriends, I spent time in the country at my in-law’s farm, swam hard and slept long, lazed around with Lila and Stephen for several days of crafting and painting, and have been fine-tuning the Petit Four concept….
Thanks for all your kind words about Stephen’s lobster painting– he’s terribly pleased with himself and get this– he’s happy to take commissions to paint lobster silk for you! A few people have emailed me since Christmas to ask where they can get a lobster of their own, and the answer is on Etsy.
I’ll pack it carefully in a mailing roll, wrapped around a cardboard tube and wrapped in tissue paper. It’s ultra light, so the shipping isn’t prohibitive. He warned me that subsequent Lobsters will be prettier than mine (now he has his hand in) and I’m not allowed to swap! As if I would. Check out the Etsy listing for more details and for Blue Lobster measurements.
I’m working on several small projects right now to delight and amuse y’all, finishing off the Pavlova work and finishing up the notes for the Tiramisu 30 Minutes a Day Sewalong that kicks off on January 8th. I also have several classes lined up for January, and I’m fine tuning a system to make enrollment a breeze for you and for me.
How To Shop for Fabrics Online
I often receive emails requesting help shopping for knit fabrics, more so in the lead up to the Tiramisu Sewalong. It seems to me that rural areas in general and particularly Canada and parts of Europe have a dearth of quality knit fabrics. I’m very sorry. In Australia, I can generally find what I want for knits at The Fabric Store and I’m very lucky to have that resource.
However, I have an appetite for eco-fabrics that my local Fabric Store doesn’t always satisfy. Also, fabric prices in Australia are shocking. For example, I can find very useful organic cotton knit for about $22/m on a good day if I’m lucky. That’s fine in my book because I know the shirts I make from the fabric will be well made and get a lot of wear and in our house we love the way organic cotton feels. The price also limits my consumption, which is generally a good thing.
This morning, I had a lovely email in my inbox from Fabric.com with a 30% off code (clear1212 for 30% off all fabrics). They are not sponsoring this post, I am a very satisfied long-time customer and I simply want to show you what a great resource they are for sewists in fabric-poor areas.
I have ordered from them for years and years- at one point I stopped because I couldn’t justify the shipping prices. Their customer service has always been prompt and thorough. I am a politely demanding customer and enjoy putting retailers through the paces, just like I stress-test all my designs and fabrics. I worked in retail for a long time, I know what good customer service should look like.
One time fabric.com sent me the wrong colors of two lengths of cotton slub knit. Rather than pay for return shipping they let me keep the mistake fabrics and also sent me the correct colors. That’s a company who cares about their customers.
I was recently tempted back to fabrics.com by their tencel georgette and the great range of organics. I discovered that their customer service has become even better for international orders. I could see they’d improved and updated the shipping prices when I ordered. Then to my great shock and surprise, my big box of organic cottons and tencel arrived on my doorstep less than a week after I’d ordered it. That’s a big big deal to someone like me who has waited 6+ weeks for fabric orders in the past. Also, the shipping prices weren’t outrageously expensive.
This is my shopping cart from earlier today. I have several Cake Patterns projects coming up in 2013 that I want to sample in organic cotton jerseys and twills. They’re awesome fabrics and since I wear my samples into the ground I’ll use the fabrics I like best.
I have heard nothing but good reviews of the organic French Terry and figured I could make a couple of light tropical sweatshirts for Lila & myself. The mocha tencel is for another Negroni- I recently bought a length in brilliant blue for a dress for me and it’s a gorgeous fabric. You’ll see the dress soon, it’s loooovely.
How To Get the Best Price as an International Shopper:
There’s a few little tricks to getting the best price when fabric shopping internationally, small ways of shopping that make a big difference in price per yard (shipping inclusive). I’ve been doing this a while, but if I’m missed a trick let me know in the comments.
This morning, I went shopping and loaded up my cart with the fabrics I still need for projects coming up in the next few months, showing zero restraint. It’s a clearance sale, the prices are already less than half what I’d pay here and I know precisely what I need. It’s also handy that I sew from a limited color palette, it makes shopping much simpler.
Once I filled it up, I went into the cart and put in my information and held my breath to see the dreaded US-Australia shipping prices. I also entered my code for 30% off (clear1212). The shipping was around $64, and the clearance savings was something like $48. I wasn’t happy with that, for the clearance to be worth my while I wanted the shipping to be less than the savings.
As a rule I never buy fabric online if the shipping costs more than the fabric.
So I threw out the Tencel crepe georgette. I don’t have a particular project in mind for it, I just wanted to have a little on hand. I used it to line the tulle Pavlova skirt and it’s marvelous- cool and light and drapey.
Then I started paring down some of the other yardages until the shipping dropped dramatically from $64 to $24. In international shipping of all kinds, that’s the way it works. There’s “tiers” of pricing for various weights of packages and sometimes the difference between a $64 shipment and a $24 is merely half a yard of fabric. I’m not kidding, it pays to play around with the yardages.
I am happy with my final purchase- if I could find these fabrics here, it would easily cost twice as much as fabric.com (plus shipping). *IF* I could find these fabrics here- which is doubtful except for the plain organic cotton jersey.
Swatching For Sewing Confidence
I’ve mentioned fabric.com consistently on social media and here on the blog as a great source of good knits, to the point it probably looks like I’m on their payroll (I’m not, if only…). The biggest aversion to purchasing fabric online I hear from y’all has to do with the tactility of fabric shopping. You want to touch and play with the fabrics before buying. I get that, I do. So order swatches. Fabric.com (and other online retailers) know you want to touch those fabrics first, they want you to love their fabrics and return to them as a happy repeat customer. It’s in their best interest as a retailer to let you sample their fabrics and to create a positive buying experience for you.
That’s why they swatch everything they carry. Even if you live in Antarctica, a small swatch of fabric is cheap to purchase and ship- get several at a time for the same shipping price. After a while, you get a better idea of what all the information on a fabric listing means because you have ordered before and/or swatched. I usually toss in a few random swatches when I order other fabrics.
Sometimes I torture test the swatches to be sure the fabric is appropriate for my purposes. It works really well, and means I spend my fabric money more wisely because I *know* I’m buying the right fabric for the intended project.
I hope this helps as you sort through shopping for your upcoming projects and for the Tiramisu Sewalong. Many North American retailers treat us internationals like our money isn’t worth their time. Most of them, in my experience. Fabrics.com is not like that, I have zero reservations in recommending them to anyone.
Do you have any experiences using fabric.com you’d like to share? It’s always useful to hear the good and the bad about something, so feel free to express yourself honestly. Do you have any tips for finding great fabrics online? Do you have any leads for local indies that carry delicious fabrics in your area? Share! Let us all know!
Psst- just over 24 hours left in the Pieces of Cake game on sewingcake.com. It’s been really, really fun so far. I got a bit cranky about some of the methods being used to hunt for pieces. Just a bit- it didn’t sit well with me that most people played the game as intended and others did not.
Next time we do a search game (yes, another one. I can’t resist, it’s too fun), I would like it if you all would help me set very clear parameters so we’re all on the same page and have a good time. (If you’re a brilliant tech wizard and you want to show off your tricks, then share them with everyone so we all get smarter. Sharing is caring) Assembled Pieces of Cake are rolling into the Pieces of Cake gallery, I am in *love* with the variety of submissions so far!
Oh oh oh and one last thing before 2012 kicks the bucket- I have a German translation of Tiramisu’s instructions on my hot little desktop, translated by Constance who is opening a pattern and fabric boutique based in Germany. More on all of that later- but for now if you’re a German-English speaker and you’d like to run your eyes over the translation before I place the text beside the illustrations and publish it, please email me. Thanks!
(Also, if you’re a retailer or a sewist in a language other than German or English and you’d like to have a crack at translations or proofing in the future, email me. I’m open. Let’s work together.)