Without easy access to my favorite local shops during COVID-19, I finally started to seriously shop for sewing stuff on Etsy. Here is a rundown covering all the things that I wish I had known before buying fabric on Etsy. Keep reading to learn the benefits of Etsy fabric shopping, get a starter list of great sellers, and tips for avoiding buyer’s remorse.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Benefits of Etsy Fabric Shopping
There are many different perks to buying fabric on Etsy. Still, the main reasons I keep coming back to their “global online marketplace” include:
- Mega Selection
- Specialty Options
- Unique Upcycled Fabrics
- Variety of Cuts
- “Project Helpers”
- Fair Pricing
- Easy Add-Ons
First of all, buying fabric on Etsy gives you access to anything you could ever want. They have a much wider range of fabric choices than you would find in a brick-and-mortar store. This is especially helpful if you are looking for a rare or hard-to-find fabric. Plus, unlike at your favorite local quilt shop, at Etsy you’re not limited to whatever is in stock. You might have to shop from more than one vendor, but you can almost always get everything you need when fabric shopping on Etsy.
One of my favorite things about buying fabric on Etsy is that I’m not limited to just what’s available in the current lines of Robert Kaufman, Michael Miller, Moda, Ruby Star, Riley Blake, Art Gallery, RJR, Free Spirit, Cotton & Steel, Henry Glass, etc. For instance, I came home from a recent African safari with a bit of fabric. Once I started to sew with it, I realized that I didn’t have enough yardage to finish all of the gifts I wanted to make for friends and family. Flying back to Tanzania for another couple of yards wasn’t an option. But, Etsy to the rescue! I got what I needed from a friendly seller specializing in kitenges from northeast Africa. Problem solved!
In addition to fabrics from other countries, Etsy is also a great place to nab everything from heavyweight boiled wools, handwoven silks, dyed cotton, block-printed canvas, and other sorts of one-of-a-kind fabrics created by indie manufacturers. If you can dream it, Etsy probably has someone selling it if you’re willing to do a little hunting through their listings.
Unique Upcycled Fabrics
Looking for fabric that doesn’t have such a hefty carbon footprint, but you’re not quite ready to troll your local thrift store to find what you need? Buying fabric on Etsy might be just the eco-friendly solution you’re looking for. They have a lot of upcycled fabric options. For instance, ten years before Moda released Maureen McCormick’s charming “A Blooming Bunch” fabric line and six years before the sisters from A Beautiful Mess released “Flower Market,” I bought the cutest homemade charm pack from a Southern Etsy seller. She had cut all the 5″ squares from washed, starched, and pressed vintage floral ’70s bedsheets. So groovy! So affordable! So perfect!
Variety of Cuts
You can’t exactly go into JoAnn and ask for a fat quarter from a bolt of quilting cotton. Still, just about every Etsy fabric seller includes fat quarters and yardage (typically in half yard increments) from their selections. This flexibility can be especially significant in those instances when you only need a smidgen of fabric to finish up a project.
I have two confessions: I hate making bias tape, but I’m usually too snobby about finishing my projects to use mass-produced, pre-packaged cloth bias tape. Hence, Etsy is my savior for luxe-looking “semi-homemade” options (apologies to Sandra Lee for repurposing her catch-phrase). You can find many different industrious sellers offering affordably-priced and ready-to-go DIY bias tape of all varieties (single-fold, double-fold, fusible, continuous, etc.), all sizes, and made from fabric featuring specialty prints, polka dots, stripes, etc. Etsy sellers also have items like ready-made pillow cover backings (Would I like to buy a fabric panel with an already inserted invisible zipper? Yes, please!), fabric piping, pre-shirred yardage, etc. It’s a regular wonderland of semi-homemade options for people buying fabric on Etsy.
Generally speaking, I’ve never bought fabric from a seller on Etsy and felt like I’ve overpaid. Prices pretty much match what you’d find in your local quilt shop. Most Etsy online storefronts aren’t giving their items away, and that’s okay. I’m willing to pay for the convenience of getting what I need when I need it. But that’s not to say you can’t get a deal! I always check to see if a seller has a clearance section. Many Etsy fabric sellers share discounts on end-of-the-bolt cuts of odd lengths or on yardage from fabric lines that aren’t moving or that they no longer want to carry in their shop.
Pro-tip: Always check the “Your Offers” section of your profile to see if any of your favorite Etsy fabric sellers want to reward your loyalty with an exclusive coupon code. Some sellers generously have given me as much as 20% off my next order of fabric.
In addition to all of the other reasons that buying fabric on Etsy rocks, another is that it makes it easy to do one-stop shopping. Many sellers also have other items that you might need for your project, like patterns, notions, and rulers. More robustly stocked Etsy fabric shops occasionally offer other nice-to-have stuff. I’ve gotten cute project bags, handy pattern weights, quilt design boards, pincushions, seam rippers, and even neat thimbles.
I recently caught the Twister tool “bug” that’s afflicted so many quilters. I bought a tiny Twister ruler, a cat quilt pattern, plus some fabric because the same seller had all three that I needed. She made it easy to put all the items as add-ons to my order. You’ve got to love that kind of convenience. I know I do. Plus, it’s kinder to the environment if you can just have one package shipped to you. Better still, you can even use Etsy’s custom search tools to see if local sellers have what you need! Shop local and shop on Etsy? That’s a real win-win.
Where to Go When Buying Fabric on Etsy
The following are favorite shops for Etsy fabric shopping because they have great selections, fast shipping, clear pricing, and detailed fabric information:
Risks of Etsy Fabric Shopping
In many ways, buying fabric from Etsy is a lot like shopping online from bigger vendors, like Fat Quarter Shop or Scrappy Fabrics. One big difference is Etsy sellers can be more friendly and have greater variety. And, just like with those bigger-name online fabric stores, the benefits tend to outweigh the risks when buying fabric on Etsy. Still, there are three things you should consider while shopping for cloth on Etsy:
- Quality Unknowns
- Unclear Pricing and Increment Limits
- Potential Delivery Hassles
1. Quality Unknowns
If you aren’t sure what a fabric feels like or really looks like in real life, buying fabric from an independent seller on Etsy can feel like a gamble.
Others will include additional info with a fabric’s listing specs to help you shop, such as details about:
- Color (Is that solid red more of an orangey coral, brownish brick, or pinkish raspberry?)
- Weave (How is the quality? Is that fabric you’re considering tight or loosely woven?)
- Cut (Is the fabric you want selling as continuous yardage, or will it be cut down?)
- Width (How wide is that fabric you’re interested in? Is it 45 inches, 60 inches, or 108 inches? And, how big is its selvage?)
Pro-tip: Some Etsy fabric shops offer swatches for a minimal cost. If you aren’t in a rush to start, this is a great option to confirm the fabric will meet your needs before placing an expensive order.
2. Unclear Pricing and Increment Limits
Buying fabric on Etsy sellers can sometimes be less expensive than buying it at your favorite quilt store. That’s because some fabric sellers offer discounts on end-of-the-bolt cuts or yardage from lines they no longer want to carry in their shop.
Pro-tip: You’ve shopped around and gotten the exact fabric you need in your cart at a price that’s in your budget—or so you think. Did you check the seller’s shipping costs? Do they add excessive handling charges?
Always double-check this cost when calculating what you’re going to spend to make sure you pay what you want to pay. A seller with the best price per yard on that Tula Pink De La Luna fabric might actually be the most expensive option once Etsy adds the shop’s shipping and handling fees.
3. Potential Delivery Hassles
It took not paying attention a few times for me to start being more diligent about checking where a seller lives. Though being able to shop from sellers overseas is a big bonus of shopping from Etsy, the time it takes to get a couple of yards of fabric from Japan will be a lot more than if you placed an order from a seller in the continental U.S.
I’ve also run into trouble with sellers not sending my complete order or sending an incorrect item a few times. Every seller has been accommodating, but it’s worth knowing that getting the wrong thing or the wrong amount can (and does) occasionally happen. Hence, ordering your fabric from Etsy isn’t always the best idea for your sewing projects with time-sensitive turnarounds.
Final Thoughts on Buying Fabric on Etsy
Over the years, I’ve gotten a few yards of knits from Girl Charlee (after my friend Maureen recommended its store), some Batman-themed fleece from JoAnn (to make cozy blankets for my niecelets), and a bit of rayon with a cute print from Mood Fabrics (because I love Project Runway and their “mascot” Swatch).
Etsy wins over these and other online shops because of the sheer variety they have available. The most dangerous thing about buying fabric there is that it’s easy to shop beyond your budget. I often add just one more cut of material that I never knew I needed for my stash to my Etsy cart.
Overshopping on Etsy, though, is a problem I can live. I know at Etsy I’m supporting someone’s small business and—in some cases—even helping out an independent designer. To quote DJ Khaled, my occasional buying bacchanals tend to have me singing his autotune anthem “All I Do Is Win-Win-Win No Matter What” when opening my Etsy fabric seller packages. After all, there are worse ways to get a quick dose of happiness than buying fabric on Etsy, no?