Drown me in Silk!
November 18, 2015 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Sewers and couturiers and designers of MeFi, where do you buy your silk charmeuse?

After the awesome-as-always responses to this question of mine, I've decided to have my wedding dress made for me. Hooray! I recently went to my local purveyor of fine fabrics and ordered a delicious emerald green silk charmeuse and have eagerly been anticipating its arrival, but unfortunately today the store called me to tell me that the manufacturer is sold out and will not be restocking that color. Boooo!
Since that particular color was the only one in all the bazillion fabric swatch books I looked at in store that was remotely close to what I wanted, I don't think that particular store is going to be an option, despite my desire to support local businesses.
So, I think I may be considering delving into the great unknown and ordering my fabric online. Yikes! I'm a little hesitant about this, since I know nothing at all about fabric (I chose the previous one based purely on color and on how lovely and soft the swatch felt, and trusted the store's promise that they only deal with quality manufacturers). I know that I will need to order swatches first, since colours may appear differently on my monitor than in real life. Beyond that, I'm a little lost. I've asked my dressmaker for her opinion and help, but would also love to hear from MeFites in the know about silk charmeuse!
So my questions are:
- Is ordering wedding dress fabric online a terrible idea? Should I just go with a sub-optimal colour and order from the local store my dressmaker trusts?
- What online fabric retailers do you trust? Which do you avoid like the plague?
- What are key terms I should be looking for when assessing what is a quality fabric and what is not? (All I know is that I need silk charmeuse, and that I want GREEN)
- In the world of silk charmeuse, does more expensive equate to better quality?
- Anything else I should know about online fabric shopping?

Thanks for your help!!
posted by Dorinda to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Mood Fabrics will sell you swatches of fabrics so you can see them in person before committing to buying yardage, and you can also phone them to discuss what you are using the fabric for so they can give you guidance. They've got a variety of greens in stretch and nonstretch silk charmeuse in stock as we speak!
posted by there's no crying in espionage at 12:13 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

So, I'm not 100% clear on how experienced you are with dressmaking? Because unless you understand fabric very well I think you need to follow your dressmaker's advice above ours. Even just within the world of charmeuse fabrics, charmeuse comes in different weights, and different weights are going to act differently on your body, and are going to be appropriate for different types of dress designs - something that would look great in a lined design could be uncomfortably revealing in an unlined design. So I would be very cautious about picking something out because *you* like the way it feels on the swatch - it might feel very nice indeed but also be not that great when it comes to actually being made into the dress that you have in mind. Also of course make sure you're paying attention to things like the width of the fabric - something may look very reasonably priced but if you need to order 8 yards of it instead of 4, the savings can disappear fast.

I am pretty much a novice at this sort of thing myself (things I sew rarely look quite right), so I'm afraid I can't give you a lot of answers, except that basically I would really really try to find something you love at the store your dressmaker knows and trusts, because she is used to working with their fabrics and knows them well.

BUT on the other hand, the expensive but highly trustworthy Britex Fabrics is featuring an emerald green silk charmeuse right now, and it does look lovely. You can get a swatch for $1.
posted by mskyle at 1:14 PM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

I would call Gayfeathers Fabrics in Madison WI and see if they can help. I bought some very nice silk charmeuse there to make a wedding dress.
posted by sulaine at 1:15 PM on November 18, 2015

I have a lot of artist friends so this might not work for you, but I bought a zillion yards of white silk wholesale and then used some in its white state for my dress. I then had the rest custom dyed for the bridesmaids by a fiber artist and costumer. It turned out incredibly beautiful, but you'll need to trust in the artists skills as there is some risk the fabric won't dye evenly, etc.

If you have theatre or art connections ask if anyone professionally dyes fabric.
posted by littlewater at 1:16 PM on November 18, 2015

Dharma Trading is THE place to go for plain natural fiber fabrics for dyeing, but have also recently started carrying colored silk charmeuse. They also do swatches.
posted by yeahlikethat at 1:17 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just to clarify re: mskyle's helpful comment:
I have zero experience with dressmaking, and am very much following exactly the advice of my dressmaker in terms of what kindof fabric to buy (including her directions on weight, yardage, width, etc). I'm seeking advice on where I might buy that fabric, as well as tips on navigating online fabric buying in general (in case there's anything particular to watch out for).
Thanks for all your really really helpful answers so far!!
posted by Dorinda at 1:27 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sarah Veblen's website has a lovely selection of silks

posted by egk at 2:42 PM on November 18, 2015

A word of warning about Mood, I have heard several people complain that there is a problem in that if you go to the physical store, you may see several bolts of, for instance, emerald green silk charmeuse, in different weights, qualities, etc--but then when you look on the web site, there will be one listing for emerald green silk charmeuse and your cutter may or may not pull the correct bolt. Emerald green silk charmeuse is a made-up example, the complaints I have heard have been regarding different weights of other solid fabrics like jersey knits.

If I were buying this, I'd look first at emmaonesock.com. She has an impeccable reputation and carries at all times silk charmeuse and stretch silk charmeuse in a huge range of colors.
posted by HotToddy at 3:09 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, I just checked and FabricMart currently has a large selection of green silk charmeuse. They are jobbers, i.e., they buy garment industry overruns and sell them at a discount. The fabrics are always very high quality. Don't buy at the listed price (currently $29.99/yd). They have a regular sale rotation which in a few days will begin again with "alphabet" sales; i.e., categories A-D (which will include charmeuse) will be 50% off. They will rotate through the alphabet and then have some non-alphabet sales and then do the alphabet again. One caution, though--things sell out fast so by the time you order a swatch and receive it, the thing you want may be gone.
posted by HotToddy at 3:17 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you know anyone in NYC (or other large city) that would be willing to trek to the fabric district to get swatches? Or, if you see a bricks and mortar store online, can you call and ask for swatches to be sent? IME, stock changes so rapidly that shops are not able to keep up with their online selection and even that only represented a fraction of what they had in the store. They were much better with phone inquiries. YMMV.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:34 PM on November 18, 2015

Mood Fabrics has a lot of different colors of silk charmeuse and will send you swatches.

Thai Silks also has a lot of different charmeuses and is probably cheaper than Mood. I don't think they do swatches per se, but they sell "assortments" of samples and might be willing to swatch something specific for you if you call them, or at least let you order a small cut (1/8 or 1/4 yard).

Britex Fabrics in San Francisco also has lots of lovely silk fabrics. Not sure about swatching.

The primary thing that affects the cost of silk charmeuse is the weight of the fabric and the quality/length of the fibers. The unit of measure for silk weight is the "momme" (mm)--NOT millimeters! It represents the weight (in pounds) of 45"x100 yards of the fabric in question. Higher mm weights are more expensive. 8mm might be about right for a scarf or a very lightweight blouse. 18-19 mm is about the lowest you would want to go for a dress, and 30mm is heavier and luscious. The right weight will depend on your dress.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 3:48 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

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