6. Note the fabric width
Another helpful thing to notice when you’re purchasing fabric online is the fabric width. Narrower fabrics will require more yardage for any given sewing project.
Pattern envelopes will usually give you a chart so you can get a good estimate of how much extra you’ll need for a narrower width.
7. Ask yourself if you need extra fabric
Some fabrics are going to require more fabric by the nature of what they are. Patterned fabrics, plaids, and 1-way prints will often need more so you can match the pattern.
Napped fabrics like velvet and corduroy can also need a little more since you have to cut your pattern pieces in one direction.
Also, it’s not a bad idea to order a little bit extra of natural fiber fabrics. Some of them can shrink a lot! We’ve probably all been on the sad end of a shrunken sweater!
8. Pay attention to scale
Scale is how big a print is. In general, go for a bigger scale print when you have a larger canvas. Think about how beautiful large scale Ankara prints look as full maxi or circle skirts.
Online fabric stores will show scale with either a small object like a quarter, or a ruler. This can give you a good idea of how big a print is going to be when it pops up in the mail.
9. Study the product pictures
Besides scale, the product photography for online fabric stores can give you some valuable information.
If you see a pic where the fabric is just flat, you might see the colors well, but you’ll miss other details. This kind of product shot is great for quilting fabric.
Better for garment fabrics: a shot where the fabric is folded or draped on a dress form or other surface is going to show you how heavy the fabric is. You’ll also get a good sense of the drape.
Best: in the age of YouTube, some fabric stores show little video clips to show you the drape and weight. Golden!!!
Onto things you can do to become a smarter online fabric shopper.
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.