In search of Fabulous Fabrics

Where have all the haberdasheries gone?

Is it just me but searching for trendy yet affordable fabrics for sewing projects has become a challenge in the last few months?

I remember when I was younger going to a number of markets, haberdasheries and a few fabric warehouses in west Wales with my mum, look at fabric rolls and bolts for her sewing projects and falling in love with all the pretty and funky patterns. It was the same as going to a sweet shop and gazing at all the glass jars with different colours sweets.

I was drawn to all spotty and striped patterns, and any fabrics that had stars, bugs, rainbows, fruit, toadstools and anything fairy like prints. Not forgetting the buttons and ribbons.

But two years ago, while looking for bridal fabrics, I noticed that all of the markets, haberdasheries and fabric warehouses seemed to have either reduced their stock, kept the same stock for the last 5 years or have disappeared altogether.

What happened to The Fabric Warehouse in Carmarthen and Culverhouse Cross in Cardiff? Who remembers the haberdashery department in David Morgan’s in Cardiff? How small is the fabric stall at Carmarthen market?

Looking for bridal fabric, especially lace, was a difficult task for both myself and my mum. After what seemed like an eternity of Googling bridal fabrics and obtaining a lot of disappointing samples, we got lucky and found a haberdashery in Cardiff which stocked bridal fabric, including lace which didn’t resemble window netting.

The range of fabrics, ribbons and all the bit and pieces at Butterfly Fabrics on City Road, Cardiff is great and had everything I needed for my wedding dress as well as ribbon for my wedding cake. I was reliving my childhood memory again, looking and feeling fabric rolls and bolts and dreaming up of sewing projects.

As for the customer service in there, oh my goodness, I rather not say. It wasn’t the best I’d experienced and still feel slightly traumatised. Plus, I got booked by a traffic warden after parking on City Road far too long than I was permitted.

18 months later and I’m still a bit traumatised after that experience!

So, I’ve started my search for alternative haberdasheries and fabric suppliers after becoming frustrated with local offerings like Hobbycraft, Dunelm Mill and Cardiff Market. I find Hobbycraft expensive and the range is small, Dunelm Mill stock great fabrics for cushions and curtain but not for small craft projects of dressmaking and the markets…well what can I say? A bit out of date?

Makower Scandi Christmas themed fabric in red, cream and taupe
Makower Scandi Christmas themed fabric in red, cream and taupe

All I can say is ‘Thank goodness for eBay! My feedback score on eBay has spiked in the last month after  buying a lot of fabrics from eBay sellers. I was apprehensive at first, between trying to figure out what a Fat Quarter is and the quality of the fabrics. There’s nothing worse than buying something from eBay and it smells musky or of cigarettes.

I have to say, the fabrics and customer service I’ve experienced with a number of eBay sellers has been excellent and I have gained a lot more confidence sourcing fabrics from the site. Gone are the days of extortionate P&P costs and you can haggle the final price without feeling too guilty or embarrassed.

However, I’m not 100% happy buying from eBay as I know sellers lose a fair bit of commission between eBay fees and Paypal. Luckily, the favourite sellers on eBay have their own website and much prefer ordering this way. I’ve listed their websites below.

Buying fabric online can be tricky task as you are unable to feel the weight and quality of the fabric before purchase. In an ideal world, I would like to buy fabric at a shop or market so I can have a good feel of the fabric, inspect the pattern, fabric construction etc. Unfortunately, this is not always possible with haberdasheries disappearing from the high street as well as being time poor!

My experience of buying fabric online has been a steep learning curve – not knowing what a ‘Fat Quarter’ is, colours look completelyley different on screen than in real life and the patterns a lot bigger than as seen in the photo.

Some of my mistakes have been my fault such as not paying attention to what type fabric I’m buying for example satin instead of cotton or not buying enough to complete a project. However, a number of online fabric suppliers can improve on listing their fabrics to help their customers.

I have found a few excellent online fabric suppliers that provide a lot of details about the fabric such as if it’s cotton/poly-cotton, repeat of the pattern in cm’s and place a ruler or a little item like a 50p coin next to the fabric so you have a better idea of the size. Most importantly, they have invested time and money on the photography of their fabric, so the colours you see on screen are close to as to real life. I’ve listed my favourite and ‘tried & tested’ online fabric suppliers below.

VW Campervan, Happy Monsters and Cheerful Dinosaur print fabric
VW Campervan, Happy Monsters and Cheerful Dinosaur print fabric

Local markets can be a bit hit and miss. I’ve visited both Swansea and Cardiff markets in the last few weeks and I was disappointed to see old fashioned or aged fabric. They are good to get fabric for fancy dress or costume making but not much variety for craft projects. Cost per meter is cheap (between £5 and £6 per meter) but I rather pay a little bit more knowing the fabric has been stored properly and not smelling musty or damp.

I’ll would still have a look at any fabric stand at a market, especially in the remnants or off cuts box as you never know what gems you might find in there.

Specific Craft & Hobby fairs are a great way to meet haberdasheries and fabric suppliers, especially if they are a new business or don’t have a strong online presence (missed by Google). When I visited the Cardiff Craft & Hobby Fair in Cardiff City Stadium in June, I came across Little Laura’s Haberdashery and her stand was amazing. I spent a small fortune with her but her prices were competitive compared against Hobbycraft.

I have had joy buying fabric from IKEA‘s little yet affordable fabric from their in-store haberdashery. Most of the fabrics they stock have big and bold patterns, some not suitable to be used for small sewing projects. However the small patterned fabrics, especially the Cath Kidston style rose print, is great value for money and has gone down well with my bunting commissions. If you happen to live near an IKEA or planning a trip soon, it’s worth having a rummage through their in-store haberdashery.

My mum has mentioned about buying duvet covers with dainty or small patterns to cut up an use for sewing projects! I haven’t done this personally however it is another option if I struggle to find a suitable fabric for a project. I cannot say at this stage if this is a cost effective or expensive option, depending on the cost of a single duvet cover.

If you’re in a similar position as me and have been struggling to find trendy yet affordable fabrics, have a look at the following haberdasheries and fabric suppliers I’ve found on my search.

Hope you find this helpful!

Online Haberdashery and Fabric Suppliers:

Little Laura’s Haberdashery – www.littlelaurashaberdashery.co.uk

Oh Sew Crafty – www.ohsewcrafty.co.uk

My Fabric House – www.myfabrichouse.co.uk

My Fabrics – www.myfabrics.co.uk

The Original Wind The Bobbin – http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Wind-The-Bobbin

Killer Crafts – www.killercrafts.co.uk

Fabric Rehab – www.fabricrehab.co.uk

Bramble Blue Farms www.ebay.co.uk/sch/bramblesbluefarms/m.html

Sew.co.uk – www.sew.co.uk

Other Haberdasheries and Fabric suppliers

Dunelm Mill – www.dunelm-mill.com
Note: I don’t find the Dunelm Mill online store great for buying fabrics so it’s usually best to go to your nearest store.

Hobby Craft – www.hobbycraft.co.uk
Note: Again, same with Dunelm Mill, the online store is not great for buying fabrics and better to go to your nearest store. I personally find their fabrics per meter quite expensive.

The Fabric Warehouse – www.fabricwarehouse.co.uk
Note: I miss Fabric Warehouse as they used to have so many stores in the UK and I was a regular customer at their old Carmarthen and Cardiff branch. Sadly they closed these two store, including many others and are down to 13 stores in the UK. Good news is they have a online shop and fabrics are reasonably priced.

IKEA – www.ikea.com/gb
Note: The selection of fabric is small and changes often so if you fancy a certain pattern, always buy more than you need! Excellent value and good qaulity fabric from IKEA’s haberdashery.

John Lewis – www.johnlewis.com
Note: I love the John Lewis in-store haberdashery but the fabrics per meter are not cheap! Some are eye watering expensive! But I find you’ll get good bargains when you go during seasonal sales or clearence period as they often to generous discounts (up to 50% off). Again, in-store is better than online.

Fabric Designers & Brands:

Cath Kidston – www.cathkidston.com

Makower – www.makower.co.uk

Maywood Studio – www.maywoodstudio.com

Michael Miller Fabrics – www.michaelmillerfabrics.com

Riley Blake – www.rileyblakedesigns.com

Romo – www.romo.com

Liberty London – www.liberty.co.uk

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