Looking for classy, contemporary fabric and pattern shops online.
May 31, 2008 11:07 PM   Subscribe

Are there any trendy, fashion-forward fabric and sewing-pattern shops online?

One of my friends is teaching me the basics of how to follow a pattern to sew clothing. I've been to my local fabric shops and they all have similar fabrics available, and the same clothing-pattern brands, such as Vogue and Simplicity, etc.

Now, I don't want to waste my time sewing clothes that I'm not going to like. A lot of the fabrics available in my local stores are...matronly? Country-kitchen? I've seen lots of boring florals, unoriginal stripes, and tacky satins. Even the plaids are these obvious sugar-sweet color combinations.

The patterns, by and large, tend to be boxy, frumpy, and outdated. I found a few nice dress and skirt patterns, but it seemed odd that, out of so many catalogues, I could only find a handful of designs that seemed at all well-cut, sleek, or original. I personally know a lot of younger people who like making clothes, so why did so few of the patterns seem to appeal to a younger demographic?

So I wanted to check out the competition online before I purchased anything. I mean, I see clothes in stores made from beautiful, creative fabrics. They must get the fabric from somewhere, right? And I'd always assumed that clothes made by the individual would fit better than clothes that are mass produced--and yet, a lot of the common patterns seem to be designed to fit in a boxy, not-tailored way. So, are there any online fabric and pattern shops that are more cutting-edge? (They don't have to cater to beginning-level sewing or anything--I plan on getting good at this, eventually.) I'm willing to do some work on my own--if someone could even just point me in the right direction, maybe recommend a magazine or a blog, I'd really appreciate it. All the searches I've done online have led me to more of the same tacky stuff I can find in the fabric stores here, and I'm looking for something a little more attractive.
posted by suimin to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 95 users marked this as a favorite
If you're interested in retro stuff at all, there are many sites out there. I wish I could remember the most recent one I've found, but Repro Depot has always had cool stuff. Even if you don't want to do retro stuff, using the fabrics in more modern patterns could work well.

Gayfeather Fabrics is a small store in my town that I know does a thriving mail-order/Internet business and will be happy to send you swatches. It's run by a well-respected woman and they have lots of beautiful stuff you'd never find in a larger store, especially silks, batiks and some semi-ethnic stuff from different cultures.

You also might try going to your local JoAnn or Hancock and just taking a long, hard look at what they have. The grand majority of their stuff may be polyester florals, but I know they have some great stuff here and there. I have a wonderful duvet cover made of two complementary cottons from Hancock that came from Japan and look vaguely kimono-esque.

Finally, if you have a local sewing guild or a smaller sewing machine/quilting shop, why not ask there? I imagine it's fairly similar to a local yarn store (LYS) vs. Michael's for knitters.
posted by Madamina at 11:16 PM on May 31, 2008

Built by Wendy sells some cute patterns.

Check out the sewing and clothing forums on Craftster.

Also, knowing your location might help for people in your area to give you suggestions.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 11:26 PM on May 31, 2008

Best answer: For patterns, burdastyle, built by wendy, and fitz patterns are great.

For fabric, purl soho, superbuzzy, contemporary cloth, crybaby's boutique all offer a pretty good selection of unique fabrics. If you're interested in more high-end designer fabrics, some of my recent favorites are Oliveira Textile, rubie green, michael miller fabrics, and Lara Cameron. The textiles section on designsponge and print & pattern are great for following new designers..
posted by logic vs love at 11:44 PM on May 31, 2008 [8 favorites]

Amy Butler has fun fabric and a few clothing patterns.
posted by slowfasthazel at 11:52 PM on May 31, 2008

Look at the designer section within the Vogue books - they often have Calvin Klein and other designers in there, which are quite good. I also like the vintage vogue series for cute 50s outfits.

The fabrics mentioned above are great, but depending on what city you are in look for a store that stocks designer remnants. I live in Sydney and there's a store that does odd rolls of leftover designer fabric from the trades.

I also like Britex Fabrics in San Francisco which has a mail order service.

Chinatown often has wacky, oddball fabric stores too, and cheaper than big-box boring retailers.

Good luck! Sewing for yourself is awesome.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:12 AM on June 1, 2008

I would second many of the suggestions above for fabric sources and patterns, and add that there are a ton of retro patterns on eBay as well.

Also, two things about pattern companies (I've looked through *a lot* of standard pattern books): First, since there are far fewer really accomplished home seamstresses in the world today than there were fifty or even twenty years ago, the patterns are really slanted toward the beginning sewer. (Burda World of Fashion is the only more complicated line that comes to mind right now-- check that stuff out, too, much of it is fashion-forward.) And second, I think that mainstream pattern companies tend to follow trends in the ready-to-wear market (sometimes a little late, but they do follow them). Have you noticed how many things in the mall stores right now (and last year, too) are very floaty and unstructured? Gathered, empire-waisted tops, for example, and full skirts.

Good luck to you-- it's really great when someone asks you where you got something and you can say, "I made it myself!"
posted by weezetr at 5:29 AM on June 1, 2008

If you've ever watched project runway, you've seen them go to Mood. Every large city has a place like that - it's a matter of finding the place. In Atlanta, it's this place called Gail K on Cheshire Bridge Road (I can't tell where you live from your profile, just throwing that out there). I found out about Gail K by asking someone working in our local Hancock Fabric if they knew where I could find a particular high-quality kind of fabric, so you might try your luck that way. Or, if you can tell us the closest city to you then maybe a MeFite knows the name of the shop in your vicinity.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:18 AM on June 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I second Burda World of Fashion.

To name a few, Emma One Sock, Casual Elegance, Textile Studio, and Apple Annie Fabrics have nicer apparel fabrics.

I have purchased fabric from all of above, except Casual Elegance. Textile Studio also has their own pattern line.

Hot Patterns has a huge following.

You might like Jalie patterns, Onion patterns, and Marfy. Jalie patterns are mostly knits. Onion patterns are written in Danish, but you can buy translation on other websites. Marfy does not have instructions at all, but if your teacher is experienced you could get through it.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:02 AM on June 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: SewMamaSew carries good stuff, and her blog has very useful tips and tutorials.
posted by dogrose at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2008

hotpatterns are by far the most stylish patterns I've found, but I've not tried them yet as rumour has it they're rather tricky. A lot of people on patternreview.com have reviews of the hotpatterns patterns up (as well as most of the major sewing store staple brands), so check those out for tips. If you're patient and your friend sews well you should be able to get through one. (A few of the users on patternreview.com also have sewing blogs, linked either in their profiles or their reviews... I can't remember them all off the top of my head but you'll find them out soon enough after reading a few of the reviews as they're rather prolific. I'd check those out too.)

For fabrics, check out Fashion Fabrics Club. They have a lot of the fabrics I can't seem to find at my local fabric store, like non-Mom Jeans denim, jersey, etc. E-bay is surprisingly good for those things too. And yeah, if you live in a city large enough, there should be at least one non-chain fabric store that has fabrics you'd actually want to wear.

Also, check out the sewing forum at craftster.org, it's a little more DIY, but there are frequently good tutorials and pattern/fabric shop recommendations.
posted by AV at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2008

Best answer: Denver Fabrics has a fairly good selection of tencels, silks and linens (and their prices are very decent).
posted by vers at 7:21 AM on June 1, 2008

Be sure to check sections marked as "quilting fabric". They often have better cottons than the "fashion" fabric section. And thirding that you should definitely check Craftster for discussion and eBay for fabric.
posted by dilettante at 8:20 AM on June 1, 2008

Best answer: My mom likes Wild Ginger software for custom patterns.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:36 AM on June 1, 2008

You might also consider reading Threads, which, aside from being a good sewing magazine, has ads for places that sell fabric online. I also think there was a discussion in the forum about how hard it is to find good fabric at the local crafts store.

If you are ever in NYC, you should absolutely visit the fabric district around 39th st on the West Side.
posted by Lycaste at 9:03 AM on June 1, 2008

:) If you think about what you said, you answered your own question...
A pattern that is simply glove like for you will be a nightmare for me!

Also the pic for the pattern could well be deceiving. For example "a drop waisted, knee length, knife pleat skirt in grey wool with black trim" but two sketches of it . One a size 6 on a twenty-something figure and the other size 14 and on a fifty-something figure. The description will fit both and the tweaking required while drawing them would be the same things you would keep in mind and apply if you were to go about sewing them.

Drawings like these are more helpful. (If you look through the site you'll see what I mean.) The sketch on the left are the features of the pattern but the result (or sketch on the right) is going to be completely dependant on you.

And the diference between a good fit and a bad fit is a few darts.
The biggest thing is picking patterns that you know will look good on you. That are designed to both fit your basic shape and then also create the shape you wish to be perceived.

And fabric... I have picked up some incredible stuff from thrift stores for a few dollars.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 12:04 PM on June 1, 2008

I am quite fond of Sewing Workshop patterns. Pick up a copy of Threads and scour the classified ads in the back; many small pattern companies do tiny display ads, but have much more interesting Web sites. I also really like Christine Johnson's patterns, which are mostly for knits (she also sells fabric online).

There may or may not be an independent fabric store in your area, as they are a shrinking breed. I know good ones in Portland OR (Josephine's downtown, and Mill End in Sellwood), San Francisco (Britex), Asheville (Waechter's Silk Shop), Springfield MA (Osgood's), and Atlanta (as Medieval Maven noted, Gail K), but mostly I mail order.

Eventually, unless your body is absolutely identical to your preferred patternmaker's fit model, you may want to make your own body double or learn to use patternmaking software, or both. Now that I think of it, I need a new Duct Tape Double....
posted by catlet at 7:06 PM on June 1, 2008

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