Wednesday, March 7, 2012

$1 a yard! (Cheap fabric: awesome or icky?)



It's organza! It's pretty! It's colorful! It's $1/yard! It's.... polyester. Oh. But STILL! (Fulton Fabric in the Fulton Mall, Downtown Brooklyn, NY)
 
Got your attention with that post title, didn't I? But fabric addicts, I do apologize--I don't have any special insider news of a ridiculous new online fabric sale. (Though I do recommend an occasional browse of Fabric.com's Under $2.95 clearance section, where you can find nice apparel fabrics for $1.95/yard and sometimes just $1/yard.).

Mainly, I have some questions for you, like:
  • Do you often--or primarily even?--sew with cheap fabric? (And I mean CHEAP--$1-$3/yard, and quite likely of the polyester persuasion or even cut from old bedsheets).
  • And if so--why? Are you just trying to save money? Make laundry easier? Acquire fabric stash at speeds exceeding the boundaries of quantum physics? Avoid working with expensive, tricky-to-sew-or-treat fabrics like silk and wool?
Now, polyester has no place in my sewing/fashion fantasies. In said fantasies, I prance around in warm soft wool crepe dresses, slippery silk charmeuse blouses, rayon lycra polka dot tops and light and breathable cotton lawn skirts, all fabric acquired via diligent online or Garment District sale-hunting.
But put a nice polka dot or geometric print fabric in front of me with a big handwritten "$1/yard!" (or, let's face it, even "$3/yard!") sign and I LOSE ALL REASON and sense of fiber content.


Cheap/super-discount fabric PROS:

  • IT'S SO CHEAP. I mean, come on... we're talking $4 dresses... $1 skirts... $3 pants... my eyes glaze over.
  • CHEAP FABRIC MEANS NO FEAR.
    • No gorgeous fabrics languishing in the stash because they are just too precious and special to ever actually cut.
    • No obsessive terror as I sew/pin/fit. Who cares if I accidentally mess up my $2/yard polka dot polyester skirt?
    • No fear of breastmilk stains or toddler handprints all over my fancy new silk dress, or beautiful wool items eaten by clothes moths or accidentally shrunk down to doll-size in the laundry.
  • Cheaper (wearable?) muslins that are perhaps a better match with the actual weight/hand of your fashion fabrics.
  • We can't all find apparel-appropriate tablecloths and curtains or drive out to amazing estate sales. (I'm looking at you with jealous sewing stink-eye, you Sew Weekly sewists you!)
  • Have you noticed that even some pricey ready-to-wear designer duds aren't made from natural fibers either? (I once examined an entire row of tags in a rack of adorable $300+ Betsey Johnson dresses, only to find they were all 100% polyester).

Newly opened Jay Fabrics on 52 Willoughby St.  
Newly opened Jay Fabrics, on 52 Willoughby St. in Brooklyn. Fabrics out front were $2/yard; those inside weren't much pricier.

Cheap/super-discount fabric CONS:

  • The distinct possibility that you will spend precious days, hours or even months lovingly fitting, constructing and sewing something... only to have it turn out crappier than a mass-produced discount store sweatshop special (though possibly better fitting).
  • Why is it so cheap? Is it possibly of even more suspicious/unethical/bad-labor/unenvironmentally sustainable origins than more expensive fabric? (Of course if it's remnants, second-hand or thrift store fabric, than it's likely MORE sustainable/responsible than some fancy new shiny freshly-manufactured pricy fabric).
  • Do you really want to live a fast disposable consumeristic life, or do you want to savor your fancy special sewn garments made of buttery-soft awesome magic fabric? Yummy!
  • It's easy to overcrowd your stash with random impulse-buy crap, like the 4 yards of hideous pink cotton suiting I bought in a Fabric.com $1/yard sale, now waiting for a trip to Goodwill. (To be fair, I also got 4 yards of AWESOME $1/yard orange stretch cotton sateen).

Fancy vs. cheap fabric: A super-short story:

Why this topic? A few weeks ago, the Brooklyn Burdastyle Sewing Club (join us! you know you want to!) went on a little Garment District outing. Little Z and I met up with everyone at NY Elegant Fabrics, my first time in that giant, well-stocked—and overpriced—fabric shopping palace (detailed review on Shop the Garment District).

It was a disheartening experience. Z rushed around yelling some of her favorite words ("Green! Green! Green! Fabric! Fabric! Fabric! Dot! Dot! Dot!") and I ended up swatching some rayon-blend knits and wovens in dots, stripes or checks:

Swatching at NY Elegant Fabrics Swatching at NY Elegant Fabrics
BUT the types of fabrics shown above were pretty much all I saw for under $15/yard. Becasue there is no room in my sewing budget for $39/yard Liberty Tana lawn, $50/yard wool doubleknit, and most definitely not for $150/yard bright orange zebra fake fur.

It was depressing, and I felt acutely broke, not to mention limited in my sewing visions. In the end, I just got 3 yards of $15/yard super-soft cotton/lycra striped knit with excellent weight and recovery.

Red and white striped cotton spandex knit

With the idea of making a Sweet on Stripes dress knockoff (inspired by the Sew Convert).
The next day, I was at home in Brooklyn, and had a sudden need for a large quantity of black stretch polar fleece (seriously) to make a costume for a friend. NY Elegant sells such things--for $10/yard and up. But so does Fulton Fabric on 398 Bridge St. (my detailed Yelp review here), a discount fabric store a mere short stroller ride away from my apartment:

Fulton Fabric on Bridge Street in Brooklyn (Fulton Mall)

And Fulton Fabric sells said fleece for $5/yard, but they gave it to me for $4, because they always do that and they are nice.

And because I of course couldn't resist taking home some of their $2, $3 and $1/yard fabrics in the process. Four dresses, a Ruby Slip muslin and one weird costume worth of fabric, all for less than the cost of the one stripey NY Elegant dress. Some highlights:

Lightweight vintage-looking floralBrown and cream polka dot poly georgettePurple poly stretch crepeLarge-scale purple and gray floral print poly chiffon  
Clockwise from top left: Vintage-looking floral poly woven ($1/yard), polka dot brown and cream poly georgette ($2.50/yard), super-soft and drapy floral poly chiffon ($3/yard), purple stretch poly crepe for muslins ($2.50/yard)

I told the store clerk and some fellow customers at Fulton Fabric about my NY Elegant experience, and they laughed in incredulity. "$20 a yard?" said a woman perusing a row of colorful embroidered polyester satins. "That's just crazy!"

So: is it? Or is that just the price you pay for quality?

And that's enough on this endless blog post. I'll save my detailed photo-heavy reviews of Fulton Fabric and newcomer Jay Fabric (and my roundup of things I have made with cheapo fabric) for another day.

Let me hear your cheap (or fancy) fabric confessions! Awesome or icky?

P.S. By the way, if flummoxed by how to sew either fancy or cheap fabrics, I really recommend having a detailed fabric sewing reference book handy. I love both Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide and Sandra Betzina's More Fabric Savvy: A Quick Resource Guide to Selecting and Sewing Fabric, though the latter is sadly out of print. They both include tips on pre-treating, pressing, washing, etc and recommend types of needles and presser feet for a huge range of fabric types.

36 comments:

  1. I have a LOT of experience sewing with cheap fabric -- a LOT. To this day I could count on one hand (ok, maybe two, and a foot) the times I've spent more than $2/yd for fabric. Especially when you're starting out, as I was about three years ago, you need sewing experience more than you need high-end fabrics. And depending on where you shop, cheaply priced fabric may just be something left on a single bolt, something that got dirty or wrinkled in shipping, or just something that's out of date/style. I've found treasures in the proverbial bargain bins of many a fabric store, and I've even seen the SAME fabric for more than twice the price in "better" fabric stores on many an occasion.

    If it feels icky, however, I'd use my judgment and pass. But you just never know. For a child, especially, I'd stick to the cheaper options. If you're making a very special garment for yourself (or for someone else) that might be the time to splurge. But it always pays to shop around. For three yards of fabric, the difference between $2/yd and $5/yd isn't great. But when you're talking $20+, it's huge. I'll stop now.

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  2. Terrific post! I really don't know the answer. I've sewn with cheap fabric (in my universe, the cheapest I've been able to find is 5 bucks a yard - Canada's more expensive, y'all) and I've sewn with expensive fabric (well, I've topped out at 32 bucks a yard).

    Some cheap fabric is not cheap. It's just nice fabric on sale i.e. rayon jersey. Some cheap fabrics are quite acceptable. They have nice drape (generally less nice hand). But you don't have to baby them!

    Having said that, as I sew more, and develop skills, I am inclined to use nicer aka pricier fabric. I'm a bit of a fabric snob even with RTW. I figure, the only way sewing my own things is a sustainable activity in the long term (once my skils are very good) is if I can apply those skills to really fine textiles.

    You are at a stage right now (expensive new baby, expensive urban lifestyle etc.) that spending a bomb on fabric just isn't reasonable. The great news is that you can spend a moderate amount on lots of fabrics in your environment and look great. And with your skill, your finished items always look beautiful.

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  3. It might just be the Dutch in me; but I can't spend a lot on a yard of fabric. I look for inexpensive, but I'm careful with the feel and drape and look of the inexpensive. My level of sewing is still a work in progress and I'm working on getting a better fit for my clothes and I believe this lends to my hesitation to spend a lot of $$ on fabric. I have indulged in some higher priced voile but then I carefully select a basic pattern which can't be screwed up too badly and will serve as a staple in my wardrobe.

    The may be a day when my sewing skills advance and then I may consider using more expensive fabric; but for now I rely on the less expensive, works for my budget kind of fabric.

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  4. I started out sewing with cheap fabric - from the Walmart bargin table ($1/yard, yo!). It was fine at the time - I was learning how to sew, I had more wadders that wearers, I felt fearless with my cheap fabric, etc. But I did notice that the cheap stuff was difficult to sew with (especially when it came to pressing - all that polyester makes a lot of melty holes!) and I was getting very careless and sloppy with my work (because, hell, it's $2 worth of fabric, etc etc). And actually wearing the stuff was really hot & ikcy, which is a big no-no with our 100*/100% humidity summers here in Nashville.

    I do pay more for my fabric, but I am not opposed to buying stuff from the bargain bin or flea market or even just cheap stuff with a little bit of poly. We've all got budgets we need to stick to! But if the fabric feels gross & plastic, or it's a hideous color or print, or it just feels really cheap & flimsy, then it only gets bought up if I need something hideous to make a muslin with.

    I think the biggest thing I've noticed with my nicer fabrics is that I am much more careful with my sewing now. I actually make muslins, use proper seam finishes, rip out mistakes, press as needed, etc. No more blasting through a project just to get it finished. So for me, it's worth the extra money because it means I'm putting the extra effort in. And anyway, if I'm going to spend so much time making something, I want it to actually be nice when I finish it - not some weird cheap thing that feels like it could have come from Old Navy.

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  5. I only have one real apparel fabric store in a 100 mile radius of my residence (thankfully I live in the same town as it, otherwise I'd go crazy), so if I want to buy fabric in person I have to stick with the mostly cheap fabrics. But I've found that a) if you dig you can find some gems and b) mixed fabrics (poly/wool and such) can actually be very nice. It's the 100% polyester satin that you want to stay away from.

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  6. I have no shame in sewing with cheap fabrics, but I'm also picky about the fabrics I bring home. I won't even set foot in the garment district if I don't have a pattern and color or fabric weight/type in mind (together!), and I curate all of my stash to make sure there's nothing I can use without having to go fabric shopping. But then again I've never found really cheap fabrics (like $1/yard), it's more like $4/yd rayon or cotton voile, or $5/yd denim or twill (is this cheap? I have no idea.)

    I also have set foot in Elegant Fabrics once and walked promptly out because I didn't have the budget to buy anything in there lol.

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  7. I always use cheap fabrics... haha :) I usually spend between $5 - $10 a yard. I make sure it doesn't LOOK too cheap (ie. doesn't have snags in it while it's still on the bold, etc), and if it looks and feels nice, I pick it up. I have zero fabric snobbery, haha... so far it's served me well! I still get just as many compliments on my $3/yard dresses as I do my splurgy $15/yard dress!

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  8. You're lucky to have so many fabric options close to you!

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  9. Like lladybird, I also learned to sew on Wal-Mart's $1/yd table...I still buy most of my fabric on the cheap, but now I know how to spot the diamonds in the rough: $1/yd wool jersey, sweathirting fleece, awesomely marked down end of season scores at Hancock's. As a frugal mom, I always keep an eye out for deals--and as a plus-size sewist, I have a hard time picking out $10-15/yd fabric when I know I'll be spending a minimum of $30 to make a basic skirt, and $50+ for a shift dress. Sewing ain't cheap, y'all--but it's ESPECIALLY expensive when there's a lot more junk in your trunk!

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  10. I LOVE sewing with reclaimed fabric (bed sheets, duvet covers etc) because YOU KNOW THEY'RE NOT GOING TO SHRINK you can also feel good about making something out of nothing :-)... I used to buy a lot of cheap fabric on the internet, but I wont do that anymore because you can't tell the quality, I made a lovely stretch jersey maternity dress and I had to throw it our because after a few washes the fabric just went NASTY.

    So I think now I'd spend more on fabric.. but not as much as like £20/metre ... I dunno..

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  11. I don't buy or sew with SUPER cheap fabric (unless it's for a test garment or a costume) but I do try to always buy good quality fabric when it's on sale. In fact that's kind of my shopping motto, I pretty much refuse to pay full price for anything ;)

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  12. I like quality fabrics at a cheap price. I do have a large stash of fabrics to work through. I always wash by fabric before sewing. Not only does it get rid of sizing, dust, and lint, I can find out how well the fabric handles before I make something. If the quality is very low (e.g. too many wrinkles, it crokes, or it's just not loose a weave), I can plan another use for it (and not waste time making a garment).

    Rose in SV

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  13. I'm totally guilty of using cheap fabric for most things. That's what you get on a teacher's salary. I'd love to be able to purchase Liberty and pretty silks-- maybe one day. The most I've ever spent on fabric was for the couch! Twenty bucks a yard.

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  14. I just started sewing because I am unexpectedly unemployed. So I do have time, but no extra budget for fabric, and $10 a yard is my upper limit so far, and mostly shop at discount fabric stores, but that requires a lot of time sorting through outdated prints and faded stuff. Sewing has become a luxury hobby, and it is hard to read about more expensive projects, or sergers, all of which is above my - current - means.

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  15. I really enjoyed reading this post. I was debating this topic in my head the other day. When I first started sewing I bought $2/polyester and my first dress was so clingy I never wore it, but meh it cost $5 to make. Second dress I spent $40 on 2 meters cotton sateen, then I went back to $5/meter polyester because I loved the colours. Since then I have been sticking to buying nice quality cotton sateen on sale!! So $20/meter down to $5/meter!!!!! But on the weekend I was wandering past a fabric store similar to the ones in your pics, and I got sucked in buying heaps of fabric - non are cotton, all unknown compositions. I haven't touched them since I got home because I feel icky about them not being "natural" but I figure I could make wearable muslins with them, and they could turn out to be great dresses. Plus there is no stres is i mess up. But something in my mind makes me feel icky about them.

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  16. Like K-Line said, dollar a yard just doesn't happen in Canada. Even the clearance section here is usually $5/metre for anything decent, although if you catch that on a 50% off day it's not too bad.

    For me it really depends. I will definitely trawl the clearance sections (not to mention the fabric section of my local thrift store)for prizes, but if there's something specific I really want (stretch denim, wool coating) you can't rely on the clearance racks. And even wool-blend coating up here often costs $30-$50/yard.

    The worst is finding good heavy-duty knits. They never make it to the clearance and rarely seem to go on sale... and even crappy polyester sweatshirt fleece usually goes for $20/m.

    I will mostly jump on what I want if I can find it under $10/m. Above that, I will stalk the sales, since my local fabric store (yes, singular) puts things on 50% off with moderate regularity. But I try really hard not to buy something *just* because it's cheap.

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  17. I sew a LOT with cheap fabric. Often, it's free stuff that friends dump on my lap when they clean out their (or their mothers') stashes, and usually 100% polyester something-or-other.

    I use cheap fabric to explore, experiment, etc. I go into the project thinking "If I completely make a mess of this, no bigs. If I LOVE this garment and it turns to crap in two months because it's made of crap, I can re-make it in a great fabric with confidence and know that I'll adore it for a few years probably."

    I have a little kiddie, too. I don't work outside the home anymore, and most of my clothes need to be high-performance. I use a lot of natural fibers that I can launder easily. Cotton, linen and hemp are my go-to fabrics because they hold up to washing and they're comfortable in my environment. Linen and hemp especially can be prone to wrinkling BUT- after I "wear in" those clothes, the wrinkles are less of an issue.

    In fact, I have a pair of old (3 years) linen pants that I can wear for days on end (don't tell on me) and they're only gently rumpled, if that.

    I also sew a lot with knits. Especially lately. I can't deny that they're generally pretty easy to source, usually not terribly expensive, and for "wash and wearability" they're pretty good. The trick is to use a cute cut so I don't feel like a blob...

    Oh! And for some reason silk has a reputation for being high-maintenance, but I'm not sure it deserves that rap. Many silks wash quite well in a cool laundry load and stand up well to daily wear. Obviously not super-delicate silks or embellished ones, but most medium silks wash to delicious blousey softness and continue to wash well. I usually lay mine flat to dry or hang them on a soft hanger and always smooth the wrinkles. Minimum ironing. The only caveat is sweat- it *will* degrade silk very quickly, so it's important to at least rinse sweaty silks as soon as you take them off...

    Great post!

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  18. oh- and when I'm faced with $20/m for hemp or organic cotton or merino jersey for a t-shirt (my husband is picky), I remind myself I'd easily pay at least double that here for a similar garment. Sometimes I luck out and a cheap fabric wears for years, but usually we get the most wear out of great (generally more expensive) fabrics.

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  19. Tanit is so right - sweater knits are insanely expensive here. The reason I've bought them from the US online, on sale for 7 bucks a yard (although, with shipping, the cost doubles) is that I can't get them that inexpensively here most of the time - if I can find them!

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  20. I wrote this awesome response, and then word verification locked me out like 10 times...apparently I'm a robot.

    At any rate, I'm all in favor of cheap as long as it feels nice. I shop often at Denver Fabrics and they get mostly designer leftovers, so a lot of times it can be great quality even if it's cheap...and other times, you get what you pay for for sure. I'd love to say that I could sew with Emma One Sock anything, but it's too pricey, and "well-edited" means I get to sew less and that's sad.

    Fabric.com is evil with their $35 free shipping, and I often have to force myself to step away from the computer because I've ended up with too much junk from them. I did recently find stuff that I had bought at Hart's Fabric at fabric.com for about 1/3 of the price. But in general online buying is so dicey when you can't feel the fabric.

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  21. Thank you all for the awesome comments! Peter, I had a feeling you'd have 2 cents to share on this topic--you were the one who introduced me to "It's a Material World" and the H&M fabric shops... StephC, you are right that even fancy fabric often costs much less than basic RTW--but only if you actually successfully sew the garment and it works out. When it is just sitting in a giant not-yet-made-into-clothing stash, it's hard to justify. And I so did not know that silk and sweat were such a deadly combo--I handwash silks but usually very sparingly when there is visible dirt. Tant-Isis and K-Line, I had no idea about the high fabric costs in Canada--any idea why that is?

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  22. Thanks for this post. As a relatively new sewer, I'm terrified of spending a lot of money on fabric and totally screwing it up.

    I live in Brooklyn too. Park Slope to be exact. Thanks for the info on some nearby fabric stores. I just signed up for the sewing group!

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. I rarely spend more than $5 a yard and it's great stuff. No poly mixes (which do have there place in the sewing world). I first started only buying non expensive fabric because I was new to sewing and there was a high chance the garment was going to be a failure. Now that I can sew and sew pretty well I still don't spend allot on fabric. I have lucked out with shopping and a local apparel fabric store has shipment from NY once a week of fabric that is left over bulk fabric.

    Good post.

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  25. GREAT post!

    I've sewn on everything from $2yd poly to $40 a yard silk satin. Since I don't sew a huge number of garments a year (limited time for sewing) it is worth it to me to get fabric that I really love and think I'll be happy with. I really have developed a distaste for poly and prefer natural fabrics in general.

    In person, I let my fingers and eyes be the judge of quality for the price. Online, I am a much tougher sell since I've generally found that the truly cheap fabrics almost always disappoint.

    I second what Steph said about silk - it's my favorite fabric and I've learned that more often than not, it washes up just fine.

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  26. Sorry! That last comment was me. Not sure why it posted as anon.

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  27. I was there at both of those stores today! I work nearby and only found out recently that either store existed. I hate paying more than $10/yd for fabric (and even then, it better be super nice). I didn't see anything at Fulton Fabrics that interested me at all, but I did see a nice lightweight cotton blend print at Jay Fabric that I might go back for. Mostly I did feel like 90% of the fabrics in both stores just weren't going to be comfortable to wear though. I do think there are bargains to be had in the Garment District though. Now I'm off to check out this Brooklyn group!

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  28. I'm re-acquainting myself with my sewing machine and skill. As such, expensive fabric does not quite fit into the picture--I can't imagine at this point wasting precious fabric as I re-learn my sewing skills!

    However, I'm a bit of a touchy-feely person. I can't stand yucky feeling fabric next to my skin.

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  29. Basically, I just buy fabric I like. I won't buy the super-cheap poly stuff - but only because I don't like the way it feels - not because of the price. If I find cheap cotton I like, I will buy it. There's a place in Toronto that sells a few bolts for $1 a yard (5 yard minimum buy though) - I've bought fabric from there if I like the way it feels.

    Broadly, though, I used to buy a lot of $2-a-yard fabric, but nowadays, I've upgraded to about $7-$8 a yard for most things. I don't think I've ever spent more than $20 a yard - my skills just aren't at that level.

    I don't pay much mind to what 'experts' think is 'correct' though in terms of how much you should pay for fabric - my sewing journey is individual - and I'm going to do what makes sense for me.

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  30. That's a great post !!!
    If I look back, 90% of the clothes I sewed was with cheap fabric. I buy most of my fabric in markets like where people sells fabric for 1, 2€/yard.

    I love knit fabric and the thing is that in markets you have way more choice than in the fabric distric : Montmartre. For example, you can see the fabric I once boutht in the Sarcelles market : http://lasandrou.blogspot.com/2010/06/confessions-of-fabricaholic-2.html

    In the markets, i can find beautiful prints and sometimes it's just the fabric left of what clothing company used for their collection.So you can stumble on very good fabric !

    As for sewing the cheap fabric easily than the expensive ones, I found out that I'm afraid to cut some of my cheap fabric because the print is so cute and I know if I made a wadder, I won't find it again.
    While I know if I failed with the expensive fabric ( from 10€/yard to above), I know I can find it again in the shop!That's doesn't mean I won't do all I can to avoid the wadder with the expensive fabric :p

    The con of cheap is like you said, that price is so low that you buy too much fabric. Actually I have a big stock of fabric and for some of the fabric, i just don't know why I bought it apart from the impulse of the moment...

    In summary, I would say that the fabric price doesn't matter, as long as you pick wisely your fabric ( is this fabric a good quality ? do i really really like this fabric ? ) and on your budget. That's what I'll try to apply this morning when i go to the market :-)

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  31. Very interesting post! I have done both - insanely cheap and wildly expensive both have their place. Once you are very comfortable with your skills, no longer experimenting, and thinking of a 10 year garment, you will want to spend the dough. Having said that, though, at least two of my favorite garments were made with $1/yd fabrics!

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  32. I need to make 250 little white aprons by march 9th and I need the materail cheap under a dollat a yard I live in north east texas where can I go does anyone have any idea?

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  33. This really helped me a lot, I've re-engaged in sewing and refuse to buy fabric for 4 dollars a yard and up because when I started out on this sewing quest my first purchase was $8.00 per yd, I thought that was too much for beginner, but I bought it anyway, since I could not find any cheaper fabric worth while, I used this to make my first pencil skirt which was not bad however, had few bumps and turns in the process. Thanks for directing me to some bargains.

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  34. I find a great source of inexpensive cotton fabrics is goodwill sheets, perfect for costuming and mockups

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  35. I stick with cheaper because someone told me the difference a long long time ago. Ya know back when you first shop for bed sheets and you are standing there like a doofus with your mouth wide open in awe of the numerous options. I remember going to Joanns buying .5 yards of at least 200 different cotton blends because I had my mind blown for the first time. But heres the lesson my Aunt that someone who told me the secret for cheap and expensive is the amount of processing.

    Scouring: A chemical wash that removes impurities (like seed fragments) and the natural wax found in cotton. This leaves even the finest cotton fibers with a yellow hue.
    Bleaching: If a fabric is going to be dyed or printed with dark colors, only minimal bleaching is necessary. If a fabric is going to be white or a light color, much more bleaching is required.
    Mercerising: A treatment where a caustic soda solution is applied to the fibers causing them to swell. This allows the fabric to take the dye better and makes it feel nicer.
    Singeing: A process that burns off the surface fibers from fabric to produce smoothness.
    Raising: In some fabrics, this is a technique that pulls fibers up off of the surfaces to create a "hairy" feeling such as in flannelette.
    Calendering: A mechanical process where fabric is passed between heated rollers to generate different effects on the fabric (i.e. smooth versus embossed).
    Shrinking: Pre-shrinking the fabric at this stage means there will be very little shrinking after laundering once the fabric is used in a garment or quilt.
    Dyeing: Cotton is very absorbent so dyeing is a popular technique. To make sure the color stays colorfast, more complex chemistry is used during the processing and that makes the fabric more expensive. To keep costs down, a cheaper dye (which may not be colorfast) could be used.
    Printing: Printing a design on fabric may be done over the dye or it may be applied directly to the white fabric. The paste or ink used also must go through colorfast procedures.
    Finishing: Many fabrics have coatings on them to make them feel stronger or softer and to make the colors appear brighter. These finishings often include formaldehyde which helps to preserve the cloth and keep bugs out during the storing/shipping/selling process.

    Yes, that $20 a yard fabric has been coated in formaldehyde. That includes the special fabrics that say organic. What you are paying for is extra chemicals, washes, and treatments that could irritate or hurt you. I am no expert but the cheap fabric has never irritated my skin.

    I prewash it with Dreft. Never use dryer sheets or hot water always cold on first wash. It comes out softer than the expensive fabric and easier to sew.

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  36. Does anyone have some good resources for cheap fabrics online? I've never been able to find any stores around any of the places I've lived. I'm currently in tacoma and our only options are pricey specialty stores or the big craft stores which have always seemed expensive to me unless you have a coupon.

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