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?
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).
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.