28 March 2009

I Shop, Therefore I Am

In the comment section to my last post, Dawn writes, "Shannon the fabrics are beautiful. Being stuck in a Fabricland wasteland I have wondered about ordering from FM. Could you share your experience of the cost of duty in getting fabrics across the border? I may have to succumb!!"

I am in much the same boat as Dawn. The only fabric store within 20 km of me is Fabricland, which is a Canadian chain store. Fabricland has a rather hit or miss assortment of fabrics - I have found some beautiful silks, wools and linens there, but to say that the quality of the offerings is inconsistent is an understatement. Not to mention, the prices are sometimes insane - for instance, Fabricland sells mid-quality silk dupioni (with a permanent crease down the middle of it!) for $35/m CDN. Online, I can purchase high quality dupioni for $10.50/yd US. Even with the exchange, shipping and customs money grab (which isn't always charged), it makes more sense to buy online.

So, over the years I have increasingly turned to online shopping for my fabric purchases. In today's post I wanted to list out some of my favourite US haunts (in reverse alphabetical order).

Vogue Fabrics
Vogue Fabrics has a wide range of knit and woven fabrics - silk, wool, linen, cotton, rayon and blends. They also sell trims, notions and patterns. The fabric they offer is available in a range of prices and quality, so a rudimentary knowledge of textiles is helpful to weed out the great bargains from the junk. Although I am not a member, I still appreciate the Vogue Fabric by Mail swatch club, as the coordinating fabrics they put together are inspirational. I have never had a unfortunate purchase from Vogue Fabrics.

Thai Silks
Thai Silks has a huge assortment of silk fabrics - from chiffon to georgette to organza to charmeuse, in a wide range of colours and prints. This is the place where I buy my silk organza for underlining. I have also made a few other fashion fabric purchases too.

Textile Studio
Textile Studio carries fabric and their own line of patterns (the original patterns in this line were designed by Loes Hinse). The fabric offerings are unique and interesting and much of it is the drapey, spongey fabric that is superbly suited to Textile Studio and Loes Hinse patterns. A large portion of my stash has come from Marsha, the proprietress of Textile Studio, who truly understands the meaning of customer service.
ETA: Textile Studio will no longer be carrying fabric. This wonderful resource is another casuality of the economic down turn. So sad.

Sawyer Brook
Sawyer Brook is a purveyor of beautiful, higher end fabrics, as well as buttons, lining and interfacing. The fabric selection here is not huge, but it is exemplary. The quality of all the fabrics I have purchased from them is astounding. However, you do pay for this privilege - be prepared to shell out between $10 to $100/yard. However, if your budget allows, this etailer cannot be beat.

Lucy's Fabrics
Lucy's Fabrics is my go-to place for excellent knits - cotton and rayon being my favourites. They stock a wide selection of solids and prints, suitable for children through adults. You can also find lingerie fabrics and notions, as well as trims, buckles and purse hardware. Laura, the owner of Lucy's is a master of customer service and I have never been disappointed by her. She is also a dog lover which earns her an A+ in my book.
ETA:  Lucy's Fabric no longer carries a large selection of fashion fabrics.  This has been a major blow to my stash of knits.

Fashionista Fabrics
Fashionista Fabrics has a small, but impressive section of fabrics - in the categories of wovens, wools, cottons, silks and knits. Melody, whose customer service is simply the best, also stocks the latest Burda magazine and an assortment of notions and vintage patterns. I have been known to go on some major hauls thanks to this wonderful online resource of succulent fabrics.

Fabric Mart Fabrics
What can I say about Fabric Mart? There is a reason why this etailer is near and dear to the hearts of many a seamstress. Their fabric selection is constantly changing, with an assortment of silks, wools, linens, cottons and blends available on any given day. A knowledge of fabrics is certainly helpful, as the textiles range from high end beauties to low end garbage. However, my hits at this site far outweigh my misses and I wouldn't give them up for anything. I can easily say that a good half of my (1 100 m) stash has come from FM. They also carry buttons and other basic notions. One of my favourite things is their free bundle that gets sent along with your order if you make a minimum purchase (usually $75) - I love the surprise of mystery fabric and the bundles have provided me with some inspirational pieces.

Emma One Sock
EOS is not for the bargain hunter. Linda, the owner, scours the NY fabric scene looking for unique fabrics, often designer in origin. You must be prepared to pay for these exceptional fabrics - there are no $4/yard offerings here. However, if you are looking for something interesting and certainly not run-of-the-mill, this is the place.

So, these are the online US retailers that I stalk most often. As of late, because of the decrease in the Canadian dollar and a lack of storage space, I have greatly diminished my fabric buying. Lastly, let me say a bit about Canadian customs. It is random. I have had $200 parcels make it through customs with no charges and I have been nailed on packages $20 in value. For the most part, anything over $40ish is going to get nabbed by customs and I will have to pay. As an example, my last order from Vogue fabrics was for $157 dollars and customs asked for $14.30 (sales tax + $5 custom's processing fee). Considering, I can't find fabrics like this locally, especially at such good prices, I feel the online experience is worthwhile.


Marji said...

Great list.
I have a question though. Have you ever shopped at The Wool House in Toronto? Some of my best pieces of wool and cashmere have come from them. LOL, sort of a reversal of the border thing.
As well, there is an online yarn retailer in Kitchener that I frequent. SheEweKnits.

k said...

I'm in a fabric store wasteland. Thank you so much for the links.
I'm just putting my toe back into sewing, not that I ever got in far before. I'm getting excited, though. Thanks again.

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

What a wonderful post! But I have to tell you that this post once again reminded me of how blessed I truly am...not only do I work in NYC every day near the garment district but a package ordered from my beloved Fabric Mart only takes a day once shipped to reach me.

That being said...I have shopped and recently from all of the fabric vendors listed...I'm stimulating the economy right? *LOL*

Reethi said...

Shannon - how far are you from Toronto? For silk dupioni, I often hit Little India, on the east side of the city. Most of the places there will sell silk dupioni for $7-10 a yard (I would do a burn test though.) Little India is generally useful for summer-weight fabric. I also do hit the fabric stores downtown, especially for notions - I refuse to pay Fabricland's $3.50 tag for an invisible zipper, when I can buy the same thing for $1.

gwensews said...

Thank you for the reviews of the online stores. Looks like there's much shopping yet to do!

Anne LO said...

Great review!

Only $5 customs fee? In Denmark we pay CDN$35 per shipment in customs fee + 5-10% import tax + 25% VAT. I snoop shop so much at online fabric stores but never buy anything. :-)

Dawn said...

Thanks for sharing, Shannon. I get to Toronto a couple of times a year and try to fit in a Queen St. "crawl" that includes LA Fabrics, but sometimes the six month spread between visits is too long and Fabricland, too disappointing, and since the demise of Timmel, not a lot of Canadian online sources are available. I will be seriously looking at your suggestions. Dawn

Marsha said...

Thanks for the info regarding online fabric sources. I need to buy more online....but I have this need to feel the fabric before I buy it. I need to get over it--I know I'm missing out on some great finds!

ACorgiHouse said...

Great list, I agree. I am also in fabric wasteland, I can't even buy a zipper locally. I have used all these sources many times, and I completely agree. (I'm also totally jealous of Carolyn and her NYC sources.) K

Linda said...

Great list. I frequent a few of these myself.

Lory said...

That's a good list. I've only ordered a swatch for Emma One Sock and the fabric blew me away! As for online shopping, I've only purchased from Trim Fabrics. I guess I'm in the beginning stages of my online shopping journey.


Shelley's Garden said...

I, too, also have found myself buying more and more fabric online and across border. (Although last May did have a great time on a rare trip to Toronto to check out Queen's St) I love ordering from Fabric Mart and only occasionally end up paying customs. I tend to keep my orders under $100. But recently have been deterred by the increase in shipping to Canada in addition to the exchange rate. In January, an $46 US order ended up being $93 Canadian after shipping and exchange rate. Now -- shipping only takes 10 days and a while back it would take 3 weeks. When I was in Los Angeles, a man at Fabrichotel said he can fit 8 yards of cotton fabric into an airmail envelope and it only costs $10 to ship to Canada. FM doesn't seem to use such shipping methods. Wonder if I waited to purchase more at once, risked paying more in customs, if I'd end up saving a bit on shipping in the long run?

Claire S. said...

What a great list ! I've ordered from FM and fabric.com and have yet to be charged customs (I hope I haven't just jinxed myself !)

I HAVE got caught with shipping charges tho - my last FM order was doubled after the shipping was added, but I had ordered all sales and bundles and it 'still' was only about $2/yard all told.

Last summer was my first trip down Queen Street in Toronto - it won't be my last but next time I'll be prepared and not so overwhelmed :-)

ambika said...

Oh, this is so helpful! I'm so going to reference this list when I have something in mind. Currently I just need to work on my stash.