Tuesday, 26 March 2013

What the Fabric Store Is Going On?

Last week, I happened to walk through the doors of a couple of fabric stores, lets called them MF and FL.

They are my go-to-shops for notions and fabrics since this town has seen more than its fair share of fabric shops close its doors. As the remaining shops tend to cater to the quilting crowd, it seems to be a challenge to find quality fashion fabrics that are appealing.

What struck me about shopping at MF and FL is how distinctly different they are from each other. Now, my intend is not to tear one shop down and build up the other. I'm just making observations about fabric shopping in the city.


Last week, I didn't find FL to be a magically shopping experience. I was quickly turned off by the large home decor display that greeted me at the front door. If I want to shop for home decor I would travel down to Ikea, they make home decor fun. But I digress...

"Seriously?" I thought to myself as I walked past the display of household knick knacks.

What the fabric store is going on? It didn't even feel like a fabric store. Fabric seemed to be an after thought the way that the store layout suggests. The most salient floor space position in the store is devoted to housewares, quilting fabric, bedding and drapery. They need to change their name to Home Decor Land and Stuff.

I was also turned off by the fact that the three FL locations in the city do not have the same discounts for the exact same fabrics. I found the fabric I used for the Vogue 8667 dress discounted at 70% off at one location where at another location the same fabric was only reduced 50% off. What is up with that? I shouldn't be surprised really. Last year a local television station did a story on a large discount North American retailer that charged different prices at different parts of the city.

MF on the other hand only has one location in the city. It is a large heavenly space dedicated to fabric. All kinds of fabric including a large selection of vintage fabrics. Sometimes it feels like I'm walking through a museum.

Labelled bolt of fabric. 
What I love about MF is the selection. MF was the only place in the city that I was able to find silk organza. I can find quality fashion fabrics and I can find fibre content details on the labels. Gasp!

What the fabric store is going on when you become thrilled with content details attached to a bolt of fabric that does not read "100% unknown content." This is becoming more and more frequent at FL. Thankfully, not so at MF.

Now don't get me wrong, MF is not a magical shopping experience for me either. They have a resident cat. I'm allergic to cats. Maybe it is a good thing that they have a cat otherwise I might spend more time and money there.

And I did have that experience with the African print cotton fabric that I picked up last year. If anything I learned from that sewing experience is never trust a sales clerk's instruction on fabric care if it is not clearly marked on the label. Their guess is a good as yours. Instead, I would recommend doing a fibre test or just walk away.  

Fabrics from MF
I long for the by-gone days of fabric store sales ladies that are knowledgeable and can give you an honest opinion. And for the fabric and retailer selection of by-gone days.

MF may seem like a museum of historically vintage fabrics in some corners of the store but by golly I'm glad we have this gem in the city.

Do you find shopping for fashion fabric to be a challenge in your area? Or do you bite the shipping cost bullet and order fabric online?

Oh, hold the presses! It is all making sense now, FL must be competing with Ikea since they have a fabulous fabric section?

I did pick up this lovely 100% cotton that would make a lovely french cuffed blouse.   Oh my goodness, fabric stores selling home decor and home decor stores selling fabric! Where to shop if I were not trying to stash bust?

Happy Sewing!


  1. In my area, there are too few fabric shops, and I only know two. The first is 25 km away, and has mostly home decor fabrics. Fashion fabrics are just a few, and VERY expensive, especially for a beginner sewist like I am, who doesn't want to spend a fortune on a, let's say, shirt fabric.
    The other one (35 km away) has also some good price fabrics, but I have a hard time choosing because I hate those colours!! Dark, fading colours, while I like bright, cheerful ones.... so it's hard for me, too. Although I have never bought online (yet ;) ), I did see some lovely fabrics on a few sites, so I am saving for a pretty large order - this way, shipping costs will be insignificant ;)
    Happy sewing!

    1. Oh my gosh! 25 to 35 km away and not even for fabric that makes you soul sing. I haven't bought fabric online yet either. It is like reading a newspaper online, I'll miss touching the object of my desire with my fingers. How a fabric feels is part of the decision process for me. I would need samples! :)

  2. Have you made it out to Northwest Fabrics aka Marshall Fabrics, near the airport on Berry? I drooled badly when I walked in there. Everything is sorted based on fabric type, and it's hell on the pocket book. But unlike FL, they actually sell good quality fabrics there (along with bad as well), and like MF you never know what you're going to find, but you'll definitely enjoy the experience. Well, the experience of digging through fabric; don't expect much help from the staff, because they'll hate you as soon as you walk in the door. But at least it's another option.

    1. No, I have never been there. I'm going to have to check it out, thanks for mentioning it.

  3. Our local is a chain and is slowly being converted to a no-sew fleece and tacky furnishing store. I love the clerks,they are sweet but they are not sewists, they only know what they carry- none of them have sewn any of the samples in the store and you cannot get an option or advise from them, I buy buttons, big4 patterns and go online for fabric lately. Sad.


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