Durable fabric for crafting baby items
July 24, 2013 8:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm a novice to sewing and I'm also a novice to being an aunt. Suggestions for online fabric stores with durable/washable/adorable fabric?

I have, as of my last pregnant-friend count, four babies to make stuff for. I bought a book of patterns, I have a sewing machine and I'm taking a class to learn how to use it properly, all I need is, well, good fabric.

I know about Spoonflower, which, while awesome for the selection, leaves me slightly doubtful about the durability of the digitally printed fabric in a setting of baby barf and baby puke. Organic is preferable but not necessary. I don't even know what I should be looking for, actually, in fabric terms. Something that won't fade or bleed or shrink; something I can make baby blankets out of, or diaper bags.

Suggestions for search terms or, even better, online fabric store recommendations? If the recommendation is "Spoonflower is actually awesome for this" then great, but I really don't want to make my friends things that will require finicky care.
posted by lydhre to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
No real suggestions for fabric sources, but I will point out that durability is basically unimportant -- babies outgrow clothes long before they can wear them out! (In fact, that is largely still true of my 5-year-old, but in that first year, clothes are sometimes worn only for a few weeks!) So maybe worry less and frolic in adorableness more. :)
posted by acm at 8:16 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have heard bad things about Spoonflower prints fading when washed frequently. Your gut is right, Spoonflower is not awesome for this -- also they are very very expensive when compared to equally cute traditionally-produced quilting cottons and flannels, some of which are awesome for this.

Quilting fabrics (including flannels) come in multiple quality levels. Joann Fabrics sells some good stuff and some bad stuff; until you get a feel for which is which, it can be better to avoid their quilting cottons. Their basic baby flannel has held up well for me in the past, though.

The type of fabric to choose depends on what you're making; does your book have advice on that? Generally patterns should tell you. Baby blankets will often work well in cotton flannels, which are softer and drapier. Bags may need a heavier fabric, like a cotton-linen blend (pure linen may be too floppy) or a cotton duck or canvas. (I like Essex cotton/linen for a sturdier whiole still soft blend, but it doesn't come in prints.) Bibs work well with flannel and terrycloth.

I am 100% pro-prewashing your fabric before using, especially if you're making a high use item like baby gear; you want to find out if something bleeds before you use it, and pre-washing will also pre-shrink. Wash the fabric the same way you'd wash the finished item.

There are some great Etsy sellers with adorable fabric; be cautious when buying from shops based on Asia, as the quality can be spotty (I've had a couple adorable fabrics that bled like the proverbial stuck pig).

Online shops I have bought from (or visited in person): If you're willing to go $$$ (but still cheaper than Spoonflower), PurlSoho is very well-curated and has a wide range of fabrics and you won't get crappy fabric ever (good deals, no, cheap shipping, no, but IMO everything in their shop is very high quality). FabricWorm is also well-curated but slightly less pricy on shipping. Connecting Threads is cheap, covers quilting only (including flannels) and has limited selection; the quality is decent but not terrific.

When buying online, make sure you're comparing apples and apples -- some shops sell fabric by the 1/2 yard, some by the yard, some by the meter. Make sure that really good deal isn't on 1/2 yard only.
posted by pie ninja at 8:19 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Like acm says, baby clothes do not need to be particularly durable, they are either grown out of or stained and ruined in a couple of months anyway.

The same is really true of blankets and such, a toddler will probably not be using the same blanket as he was as a newborn, because he's a lot bigger, and the old one is stained with vomit anyway.

My daughter is about to turn two and I've thrown out more clothes because they're stained with strawberry juice (or whatever else) than anything. Note that none of these clothes are even anywhere near two years old.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:42 AM on July 24, 2013

When I make clothes for my kids I use quilting weight 100% cotton fabric. For blankets I often buy flannel from Jo-Ann. I think they call it Cuddle Flannel...it's soft and durable. No complaints so far!
posted by christinetheslp at 9:00 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I strongly suggest you use 100% cotton for anything the baby will be in contact with. It is great for sensitive baby skin.
posted by saradarlin at 9:10 AM on July 24, 2013

Best answer: Sewzanne's specializes in children's fabric. I have ordered from them in the past, with no problems.
Monaluna sells organic children's fabric. Haven't tried them, but the fabrics are really cute!
Ottobre is a Finnish magazine that sells mostly children's patterns, but also has an etsy shop selling the fabrics they use in their designs.
posted by annsunny at 10:25 AM on July 24, 2013

Best answer: Fabric.com is sort of the Target of online fabric shops--they have a ton of inexpensive but reasonably good-quality fabric, including knits, lawns, canvas, and quilting weight cottons. They also have frequent sales. If you're a novice-level sewist, I'd probably recommend them for projects where you'd like to make something cute but not sob with despair over the cost if they don't turn out well. They also frequently stock nicer fabrics like Liberty lawns if you want something a little fancier for a pretty dress or skirt.

I agree that FabricWorm and PurlSoho have a less extensive and pricier but better curated array of fabrics. They also tend to stock independent manufacturers and interesting imports. PurlSoho also has the Purl Bee, which has lots of fun projects.

Spoonflower offers a great service when you need the exact right fabric--in my case this has usually been for theme projects-- but is stupidly expensive compared to just buying some cute fabric (like, most quilting weight cotton is about $7-9 per yard, Spoonflower's is $18), and the digital printing really does not look as good or wear as well as the printing on commercial fabric. But if you really need sloth-themed alphabet fabric, there's only one place to go.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 2:57 PM on July 24, 2013

Best answer: I love Hawthorne Threads for novelty / kids' prints.
posted by superfish at 12:49 AM on July 25, 2013

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