2.20.2009

fabric conundrum

I bought this dress eight years ago in France. It's probably 60 years old and made of the nicest woven cotton fabric. Though it's probably been washed hundreds of times, the weave remains even and without any balls or piling. Is it me or have you all noticed a general decline in fabric quality over the past few years? I generally won't buy fabric from many of the big fabric retailers as the quality is really lacking. Once washed an item immediately develops a landscape of unsightly tiny balls of pile. I've noticed this with ready-made clothing too. Cotton broadcloth from Purl and Reprodepot still retains a certain quality, but when seeking any other type of fabric, things get tricky. I've found a few nice little shops in Manhattan. Although even the garment district is shrinking as companies move all garment production to China. Where do you all find nice quality fabric?

45 comments:

Grosgrain Kathleen said...

Ugh. This is so true. Whenever I shop at Forever 21 I refuse to wash what I buy. It "forever" ruins the garment.

marymary said...

Right this moment I was online looking for _nice_ white fabric. How timely. I'll be watching the comments here with interest.

Kyrie said...

I find this very troubling as well. If I'm going to make or buy something, I want it to be quality (speaking of, we are loving our tablecloth dress around here! I'm hoping to post about it next week). The best I've found so far in terms of quality, though it's a bit delicate, is Liberty lawn, or other lawns from online shops that carry fabric and patterns for smocking.

Nancey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancey said...

I was going to suggest Libery as well, but I wish there were a manufacturer even almost as good that was a little bit more affordable...if anyone has any suggestions.

secret cake said...

Unfortunately, I've found this to be the case, too.

I don't have any fabric suggestions, but I would like to take a moment to *sigh* at that sweet little cherub and that darling dress.

myimaginaryblog said...

I was going to say what Kyrie said about smocking/heirloom shops. This used to be one of my favorite suppliers:

http://www.princessdesigns.com/

They have changed owners but still have good prices, service, and stock, I think.

Here's another nice online shop with a smallish selection, but all of nice quality:

http://www.bessiemary.com/

And this shop has things that are unusual (including vintage fabrics or buttons and unique imported fabrics) that are sometimes somewhat pricey, but very nice quality (and she has excellent service:)

http://www.farmhousefabrics.com/

With all of the above you would be paying premium prices compared to discount warehouses or even the large retail chain, but you're also getting a much more "premium" product.

The last time I was at Britex in San Francisco (very pricey fabric mecca) a clerk there told me that pima cottons (which are usually pretty good quality) have become more widely available and come down in price some (compared to, say, 30 years ago.) At Britex that means nice pimas go for about $8/yard (worth it if you are putting a lot of work into something.) My only difficulty with pima cottons is that they sometimes are so tightly woven that they can be hard to sew on. But that can really vary.

With the very fine heirloom fabrics (swiss batistes, etc.) you'll of course pay a lot more than $8/yd. (And with the Liberty of Londons you'll have to trade in your firstborn son. Which might be worth it . . .) I wish I could absolutely testify that the heirloom-quality fabrics hold up for years, but sadly I haven't gotten around to using the few I have stashed. (Sigh.) But I do know they definitely look better after one prewashing than the stuff you get at your average chain retailer. And, come to think of it, I have at least one dress someone else made for me from heirloom-quality fabrics which has been washed a lot and still looks stunning.

As far as cheaper options, some of the things I've gotten from fabric.com have been pretty nice, but it's always a gamble. Good luck. (And good luck to you, too marymysistermary.) :)

myimaginaryblog said...

Here's one at Farmhouse that I would guess to be comparable (or close) to the one in your (beautiful) photo:

http://tinyurl.com/dbcz9t

Fortunately little dresses don't require a ton of yardage.

(Which won't help marymary, who's looking for a LOT of yardage.)

myimaginaryblog said...

And another:

http://tinyurl.com/dg74yj

(Okay, I'll stop before I get too carried away.)

Art Nest said...

What a wonderful topic to post about. I'll be interested in the suggestions others provide. I'm wanting to find some lovely linen to sew dresses for the girls this summer...
Zana

Art Nest said...

PS: The photograph is stunning!

Stacie.Make.Do. said...

Of course it depends on what you're making, but I often use the really nice muslin bed sheets I find at thrift shops. These work well for many projects and of course have a lot of yardage for a low price. Naturally, you can't use this if you need new fabric.

Jess said...

I would recommend Treadle Yard Goods in Saint Paul MN
They have a website, but no online ordering.
They will, however, help over the phone and send things through the mail.
It is true that the big chain stores have lower-quality fabric.
Sometimes the fabric companies even sell the same prints to different stores on different quality of fabric.
I wish that I had such a lovely dress as yours, and how wonderful that you bought it in France.

Heather said...

I live in a small town in Indiana and am coming to NY in April. The only fabric stores in my town are Hobby Lobby and Jo-Anns. :( I would really like to find some cooler fabrics. Would it be possible for you to share where you shop in NY for good quality/cool designed fabrics? I read your/your sis-in-laws blog about 3x a week! I ordered your village frock pattern a few months ago but have yet to try and make it. I'm too busy making smaller sized things for all my friends that are having babies!!! I enjoy what you ladies have to say and would appreciate some advice on where to shop in NY for sweet fabrics. Thanks!

Dana said...

I second the Treadle Yard Goods suggestion in St. Paul. And, like Heather, I make it to NYC now and again and would love to know your fabric haunts beyond Purl!

susaninfrance/texas said...

i use old linen sheets from France and have boxes of them...i know that is not helpful! but now that I am in the states, I like fabric-store (dot) com for their linens. very reasonable prices and i've found a few that i really like to use. the 5.3 ounce makes really nice clothes and housewares and holds up really well. looks similar to my antique linens. i also cut up old clothes from thrift stores to make little dresses and pants.

Courtney said...

If you ever have any reason go to the Detroit area, there is an AMAZING fabric store in Royal Oak called Haberman's. They focus on garment sewing and have an incredible selection. I've been to B & J and many others in NYC, and still, this is an amazing store.

They have a website with limited offerings and are very helpful over the phone.

Rach said...

I wish I knew. Its hard, really hard. Other than Liberty...

melissa said...

Wow you all have so many good suggestions. I can't wait to check out the on-line shops. Heather requested my sources in New York. There are several little shops on the far west side between 38th and 39th streets. My favorite only sells linen and is at 260 W. 39th St. #4. There is another men's suiting fabric store across the street from the linen store. I forget the name, but they have fabulous men's shirting fabrics of the highest quality, though they cost about $20 a yard. They also have nice wools and corduroys, though they too are on the pricey side. I've found some nice velvets and silks at 554 8th Avenue (between 37th and 38th). This place has good prices. At all these places you can try to barter and get the price lowered, especially if you buy several yards. I find B & J fabric completely overrated, and very, very expensive. I would not go there, but visit the other little shops on 39th St. and you'll be sure to find fabric at better prices.

I've also tried an on-line shop that sells historic fabrics. They were pricey but seemed to be of nice quality. I especially loved their diaper cloth (an old-fashioned weave) and their heavy hemp cloth. This address is: www.wmboothdraper.com.

Good luck with your fabric hunting and I can't wait to here more of your suggestions!

melissa said...

Sorry, I misspelled "hear" in my comment!

Joy said...

I am so glad you asked this question, as I have experienced the same in terms of fabric quality. Your photo is beautiful. Thank you for being so faithful about posting, it is always fun to check in!

lynne said...

Wow, GREAT topic.

I love the idea of using high-count sheets -

and I love that picture, M.

lynne said...

Oh, I also wanted to say that the Robert Kaufman Carolina Chambrays from Purl are really nice and sew up beautifully. The colors have a lot of depth (the selvedges are really pretty)...I think $9/yd isn't too bad.

Tamsmam said...

i have found many of the japanese fabrics (i have used kokka, yuwa, lecien, nani iro and a few others) are absolutely gorgeous and soft. they drape beautifully (i have made clothes for myself and my daughters) and have a wonderful soft (and oftentimes unusual) texture. they are cheaper than liberty, albeit more expensive than most cotton, and i buy them at purl and at superbuzzy.

Mindy said...

I second the complaint!

If you're looking for something whimsical, I love Moda fabric. They are just simple cottons, but the sew and wash up well.

I also use a lot of decorator fabric for sewing clothes. You can find some great silks, linens and cottons that make a fun skirt, coat or dress.

Mindy said...

ps--if you're in the DFW area, Cabbage Rose in Fort Worth is fantastic! Their website is www.cabbagerosequilting.com.

Morae said...

Honestly when I'm looking for fabric that will last a thousand or more washing I go with bed linens or table cloths. Usually ones with high thread counts and tight weaves. But once you get the feel for them you don't necessarily have to shell out big cash for them. I find them in the thrift stores a lot, where you know they've already been washed a hundred times. Another bonus to this is that the fabric is unusually wide. So you get quite a bit of flexibility in your patterning. Less seams = less places to come apart at.

allydru said...

Agreed on the bed sheets. I just used one of skirts -- superb.

I also like the quality of Amy Butler fabrics (in addition to her funky patterns.) The dresses I've made for the girls (and washed a million times) have gotten softer and smoother, rather than rough and pilled. Took me 5 years to find a shop in our area that carries it, and it just so happens to come with the added bonus of gorgeous wools. Most good shops these days only carry cotton (for quilting) -- because really, what kind of crazy person actually uses cloth to sew CLOTHING?!?

Sad, but sadly true.

Great ideas above, by the way. My bookmark bar just expanded by half.

rebecca said...

I love your creations and I'd love to sew the village frock, which ist why I ordered it almost one month ago (jan 29). Still I have not gotten it in the mail and after contacting you twice over the shop I did not get any answer :-(
Which is why I'm trying here right now.
I still would love to have the pattern and know what went wrong.
Please let me know what's going on.

Herzliche Grüße,
rebecca

amy said...

I could not agree with you more on the quality of fabrics in these times. You really have to look hard for quality "anything" nowadays. Thank you for sharing your post!

Heather said...

I don't know, but you have made me think that I should ask my mother-in-law where she got the cotton for our sheets two Christmases ago. She made us a set of queen sized sheets from organic cotton that are so soft and fabulous we basically wash them and put them right back on. She made them two years ago and there has never been even one pill. I imagine wherever that came from there might be more than sheeting. I shall get back on here if I find an answer.:)

Anonymous said...

It really does matter that about all of our textile mills have closed in the US. There was nothing like good, old-fashioned competition to keep better and cheaper goods on the market.
I'm enjoying finding some places with better fabrics - thanks!

melissa said...

Rebecca:

I've tried e-mailing you three times regarding your pattern, and have never heard back. I need you to confirm that your address is correct before I send you a new one.

Hopefully you'll respond to me...

Melissa

Deborah said...

A response to your plea:
http://whipstitchlounge.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-kind-of-crazy-person-would-want-to.html

Am happy to take requests and suggestions as we add stock--shop owners are listening, and we want to help!

Michelle said...

White vintage sheets.

Mommymita said...

I love http://www.carolharrisco.com/catfabric.shtml

They are so nice and talk me through a bunch as I look online (it is hard to tell the hand and weave from internet pics) and then they send me samples.

It is expensive but so worth it. I am in love with any of their swiss fabics and kind of like cooking - when you do so with good ingredients you don't need much else - so it is with sewing, simple design are beautiful when beautiful fabric is used.

j+g said...

gorgeous pic of a gorgeous babe!

jojo-caramel said...

C'est effectivement une bien jolie robe !!!! Vintage one :) aux Puces à Paris, chez Emmaüs... or new ones au Marché Saint-Pierre à Paris http://www.marchesaintpierre.com/
new fabrics like Liberty of London chez Tissus Reine à Paris http://www.tissus-reine.com/
ou chez De Gilles tissus
http://www.degilles.com/Studio%20DeGilles/index.aspx

(I was wondering what is really inside a lots of new fabrics...)

little dresses said...

I buy up those old white sheets at the thrift shops. They are usually very soft from years of washing and the quality is amazing. If there is any tint to it (sometimes they will have a yellow tint) I wash them in Cascade dishwasher liquid- works every time. Then I have bright white, soft, good quality fabric for dresses and slips.

xoxox,
Samantha

TeamMcDonough said...

Have you tried Martha Pullen? marthapullen.com I've found her patterns and magazine Sew Beautiful useful for special baby items.

:o) mg said...

hrm.... farmhouse fabrics is very near me. I shopped there so many years ago (only had one child then.. now have five) that I forgot about them.
I'll have to go give them a visit and tell them they are very much recommended on the better blogs.
:-D

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