10 things I have learned while shopping for fabric.
Shopping,  Tutorials

10 things I have learned when shopping fabric

Another 10 things post in a row. Why? This was actually combined with the previous one but then the list of fabrics too over the post and I decided to split it into two.

I do not shop for many clothes, anymore, but I think that most of the fabric shops in the Helsinki region know my face! In my years of sewing, I have definitely bought wrong fabrics for wrong projects, bought too little or too much, paid too much or embarrassed myself when trying to keep my kids in control while, at the same time, trying to select a right kind of fabric to my project. So, I thought to share what I’ve learned when shopping fabric.

Shopping fabric

1. Be smart and frugal

Wool fabrics in the remnant bin.

Always check the factory remnants and discount bins first. You can find good quality fabric at very cheap prices.

2. Check the quality

If your fabric shows any signs of pilling, leave it. It will get worse, believe me. Also, if the fabric still looks good after being manhandled, crushed and stuffed into a bin with other remnants, it will probably be worth getting.

3. Does it wrinkle?


Breath into your hands to get them a bit warm and moist and crush a corner of the fabric into your hand to see how much it wrinkles.

4. How much to get?

1,5 metres will make a pair of trousers, a short-sleeved top, a shift dress or a narrow skirt for me. Two-metres will make a  fuller skirt, an A-line dress or a shirt. 3,5 metres will make almost any dress.

You need more fabric if there’s no waistline. My trench coat took over 5 metres of fabric!

5. Not all salespeople are experts

Very confused person.

Keep in mind that not all the fabric salespeople are experts. I have got some very confused looks when mentioning my coverstitch machine. If in doubt, consider getting a second opinion.

6. Know your basic fabric types by feel

Learn to recognize the following fabrics by feel: wool, cotton, linen, silk, polyester, viscose. If you need help, check my previous post!

7. Notions are surprisingly expensive

Sewing supplies.

Buttons, trims and zippers are expensive and can double the price of your project. Consider stashing at local flea markets. Also, it’s a good idea to save buttons when you throw a worn-out garment to the bin.

8. Remember the matching thread

I do stash the fabric without any idea what to make out of it. However, it is very annoying if I get the inspiration and can’t start the project since I don’t have the matching thread.

9. Ditch the kids

My daughter a few years ago in her dress.

Don’t take your little kids with you or if you do, zombify them with a phone and some videos. You don’t want your kid climbing on top of the bolts. That will give you a reputation…

10. Straight into wash

At home, don’t take your fabric to your sewing room before washing it. That way you can be sure that the fabric in your stash has been washed. Wash at the highest recommended temperature and tumble dry if it’s allowed. You will want the maximum shrinkage to happen before you cut it.


I hope you found this useful! Thank you for reading and do subscribe! Special thanks to all of you who already subscribed to my blog! Happy sewing!



I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


  • tzipi glick

    Thank you for a very nice article. I do have a question about washing the fabric. I used to wash everything before sewing- but then i saw that it took the vewness out of the fabric. Also- to put a 4 1/2 m piece in the machine can be heavy for the machine, no? Do you also dry clean non washable before sewing?
    Thank you

    • kk

      Good questions! I think that if your fabric is good quality fabric the washing shouldn’t change it much. You plan to wash your garments anyway? As the fabrics tend to shrink it’s better to have all the changes to happen before you sew it. Also, some fabrics might have irritating chemical residues, so it is a good idea to get rid of them. The exception is that if you never plan to wash the end result. I may also get lazy with 100 % polyester fabrics that do not shrink, especially if I am in a hurry.

      I don’t know about your machine. My washing machine is big enough for me to wash the bedsheets of the whole family of four. That’s dozens of metres of cotton that is quite heavy. In case you cannot fit your fabric into your washing machine (your machine manual should tell you whether the fabric indeed is too heavy for it), you can at least soak it in water and hang it to dry. I tend to do this also for the more delicate fabrics such as wool and silk.

      I know that some sewing books recommend dry cleaning before you make a garment if the fabric is for dry cleaning only. I tend to stay away from those fabrics, if I can, since dry cleaning is so expensive in Finland. Anyway, in general, I don’t dry clean before I make a garment. I will steam iron the fabrics that should prevent most of the changes from happening.


  • Karin

    Great post! And yeah notions are crazy expensive! Like small buttons for 2€ a piece, when I need about 10 and my fabric wasn’t even 5€! Since I figured that out I tend to stash notions. Especially with buttons you can save a lot by getting them from low budget stores, flea markets, and when I throw away clothing I also always take off the notions.

    And I think washing your fabric is very important, not just because of the shrinkage but also because you don’t know where it’s been and you’ll likely will wear it close to your skin. I mean, maybe someone touched it with moist hands to check the wrinkliness 😉 just kidding! 😉

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