What? You don’t pay 150 dollars a yard for fabric? Darling, you haven’t LIVED

I was having a conversation with some ladyfriends recently and we were discussing shopping, and the holidays, and what we pay for things. Or more, what we would be willing to pay for things. Since I’ve started sewing, which none of my friends do, really, I don’t actually buy much clothing anymore. I buy jersey tops, jeans, underwear and shoes. And the rare sweater, but I tend to get most of those at thrift stores or vintage shops. Still, I browse enough websites and window shop enough to be kept abreast of what is out there and what it all costs. And of course, I turn to many a shop for inspiration/blatant copy-catting. ANYway, we were discussing buying stuff and what seems reasonable to us and we all came to the conclusion that this is completely relative.

For example, say you love a top. And this top is typically 100 dollars, it’s from Anthropologie or what have you and it’s lovely and out of your price range. Then the top goes on sale. Awesome. But the sale price is 40 dollars. Now, on one level, this is a 60% discount, I mean, that’s amazing. But on another level, that’s still 40 dollars, not exactly a deal. Or is it? Because of course that all depends on your budget and your salary and your socio-economic background and what you grew up with and what, really, when you say reasonable, you really mean.

But what does any of this have to do with sewing and crafting, you might be asking yourself. Well, the question I really want to ask is, how much would you pay for fabric? What seems reasonable to you? What seems cheap? And what, if anything, is too much to pay?

This is a question I’ve been considering for a long time, and it’s one that finally came to head this past weekend when I sojourned up to New York to shop in the Garment District with my friend Michael, and see Punchdrunk’s mind-blowing performance piece Sleep No More (which I will soon be blogging about over here, so jump  over in the next few days, if you are interested). I should at this point mention that when it comes to fabric, I love nothing so much as a bargain. I tend to do most of my shopping here, in Philadelphia, scouring Jomar and Fabric Row, poking around dusty little shops and annoying surly fabric cutters with my questions. That’s just how I roll. I enjoy the hunt, the search for something special and inexpensive among all the rubble. So I don’t spend a whole lot of time in the garment district, in fact, this was my first ever trip to buy fabric.

I met up with Michael,

who works at a little brand called Theory, at the famous big button that has become the icon of the New York Garment District.

May I just point out that this button would be useless? It has five holes. That’s foolish.

Our first stop, after a catch up session, was at the notorious B and J Fabrics. Which is magnificent. And, like most things in New York, so expensive that you feel like you might actually have to pay to breathe.

However, the selection is magnificent. MAGNIFICENT.

Look at that. 85 a yard. Like you do.

Wools you ache to touch.

Silk jersey for a mere 53 a yard. It’s practically a bargain!

I also got to see Liberty of London fabrics in person for the very first time. And I have to say, they may be made of cotton, but they FEEL like they are made of clouds. And sunshine. And happiness. Sigh.

But for all this, I didn’t buy a damn thing at B and J. Why? Well, frankly, I just can’t justify that to myself. Can you?

But I did treat myself to this silk darling at Mood. Which is also awesome. And a hell of a lot friendlier.

Oh, this thing is luscious. It’s a panel, and it’s awesome, and I think I know what I want to do with it (blouse, duh). And, now that I think of it, at 14 dollars a yard it’s the most I’ve ever paid per yard in my life. What? I told you I was cheap!

I also picked up so other treasures, mostly at Paron’s, whose sale Annex is my new best friend, but you will just have to wait around to see those. But you CAN see how happy I was (am) with my big bag of fabric:

Or maybe it was just the Old Fashioned I enjoyed.

In total I purchased about 12 yards of fabric (BAD Leah) for, on average, 7 dollars a yard (GOOD Leah). And for me, that’s rather high. So what would you pay for fabric? Do you have expensive tastes, or are you all about the thrift store finds and vintage sheets? Do you see fabric as an investment? What do you consider to be a good deal? I’m honestly curious, here, no judgement! As long as you don’t begrudge me my cheap thrills I promise not to make fun of your criminally expensive 4 ply-silk fetish. To each their own…


Filed under Fabric, Inspiration

11 responses to “What? You don’t pay 150 dollars a yard for fabric? Darling, you haven’t LIVED

  1. i try to only buy fabric at my local fabric store (aka not joanns) where the cheapest fabric that is not on sale runs about $14+ per yard. fortunately, i’m pretty small & short, and i don’t make dresses with giant skirts, so i generally don’t need more than 2 yards to turn something out. $20 a yard is pretty average for me, especially considering the quality & fiber of the fabric. i am always on the lookout for amazing bargains – at the thrift store, flea market, etsy, sale rack at said fabric store, etc – and i have definitely scored some real jewels for pennies on the dollar, so i guess it evens out 🙂

    i think my biggest expense is lining. i prefer to use bemberg rayon & that stuff gets expensive! but everything else feels icky and, idk, the rayon just feels so lovely. it’s worth it to me.

    • I have never used expensive lining, and I know that I should because I know it’s a little touch that would just feel so luxurious and give what I make that sense of quality, but I kind of can’t get over spending MONEY on a LINING I mean it’s the INSIDE, no one SEES it. Which is also why my seam finishing is for crap, if you must know…

      Where do you get bemberg rayon? Now I must know…

      • that’s what i used to think, too, but then i wore a dress lined with polyester lining while in new orleans. during the summer. it basically… stuck to me all day. and it felt like plastic lol. it really isn’t a *giant* difference in cost… cheap poly lining is, what, $4 a yard? and bemberg rayon is $7-$12 a yard (depending on where you source it). so it’s not making a huge difference in the end cost, especially since one generally uses less yardage for the lining. and the feeling is WORTH IT. as a cheapie for everything else in the world (srsly, i buy used socks), trust me.

        you can buy boring solid colors at joann’s. i think it’s $9 a yard there. i get mine at my local fabric store where they have every color in the raaaainbow. you can also buy it online – mood has it for $7 a yard, but their shipping is kind of high so it really costs about the same when you factor that in. the proper name is “ambiance bemberg” so google that!

  2. Candy

    My friend bought some fabric for £25 a metre and it sat unused for ages because she was scared of getting it wrong and wasting the expensive fabric.

    I have 3 fabric shops in my town, I regularly visit the cheap one (most fabrics are between £1.99 and £3.99 with a few dupionis at between £8.99 and £12.99) If I have some extra cash and have a particular fabric and pattern in mind then I will visit one of the other shops where the fabrics are more expensive but also better quality (I recently spent £12 a metre for some wool for a skirt for which I needed 1.5m) I will also happily pick up fabrics from charity shops.

    When I visit my friend in London we go to the silk shops where the fabric prices can be shocking, I have seen cashmere suiting and silks with price tags for £150/m, the fabrics are lovely but I don’t think I would ever actually get pleasure from using fabric that was so expensive, I would be scared to cut it, sew it and even wear it. If I am actually shopping for Fabric in London I will be more likely to spend money in the cheaper treasure troves of Goldhawk road.

    The only fabric that I have spent above the norm on is Spoonflower fabric, it averages about $25 a yard and once you factor in shipping to the UK and customs fees it works out quite expensive but I would call it reasonable value as I get to print and use my own designs.

    I would love to have a spending spree in Mood, that would turn out to be the most expesive fabric haul ever though as I would have to factor in flights from the UK!

    • Yes, see, that’s the thing, I don’t think I will ever be at a point when I buy and use fabric that is THAT expensive so I will probably never know if it’s actually worth it to buy silk at 90 dollars a yard. I have never bought spoonflower fabric but I have my eye on some amazing designs, especially some border prints…

      I have long dreamed of this goldhawk road business, but would the deals be worth the airfare?

  3. I heart Paron’s. I’ve only been once but they were so nice to me and their sale room is awesome.

    I tend to choose cheap for new patterns — so if I mess things up horribly, I’m not losing a lot of money to my scrap bin.

    But for a pattern I am comfortable with fitting, I will splurge on fabric — I think the most I’ve spent on fabric is $20/yd for a silk taffeta that I just pull out of my stash and pet (I need to make the pattern & muslin and work out fitting before a pair of scissors goes anywhere near it). That price is a splurge for me. I’d spend more if I thought it was worthwhile for the garment I was making, but I can’t think of anything that I’d want to make that I’d spend that kind of money on, and I tend to max out around $10/yd for most projects, and average much lower.

    • Yeah, I’m totally in that boat with you. The one thing I would say is that I hate hate hate unnatural fibers, so I will pay a little bit more to avoid them, for the most part. I can deal with rayon and synthetic taffeta, but polyester satin and I are not friends.

      It’s always interesting to think about a specific garment that would be worth more money. Like, say, a gown, or a dress for a wedding, or even one’s own wedding dress. Maybe that’s a whole other discussion, like, if you were GOING to splurge on fabric for ONE garment, what would that garment be?

  4. Jessica

    When I first started sewing two years ago and saw the prices of fabric I wanted to quit. Before making my own clothes I normally only bought things from the sale racks, out of season or thrifted/swapped. So you can imagine my shock seeing prices of 20, 30, even 40$ a meter for suiting fabrics, or basic jersey! I won’t pay more than 5$ a meter for anything, but I normally don’t go over 3$. The bargain corner of my fabric store, thrift shops, and bedding/linens warehouses are where I stock up, and on trips (it always seems THEY have better deals out of town, right?)

    So when I buy 4 meters of Jersey and squeeze out a dress, a skirt, a top and a T-shirt for the hubby, I get an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, not only from actually constructing the garments, and clothing my family (in style, I might add), with better quality material and construction than what I would pick up used or on sale, but that all that cost me 12$ – It’s exhilarating

    Patterns, linings and interfacing are the same, max 4$/m – I suppose I treat anything I buy the same way, keep looking and wait a little while and you will find what you want for less, the wait adds extra pleasure once you finally acquire the item.

    • That’s amazing that you can squeeze that much out of that much fabric! Hats off to you, that’s great. I try to be really careful cutting fabric but I always have some scraps left over.

      It’s funny, I balk at spending money on fabric, but I will pay up to 20 dollars on a pattern. I figure I’m going to make the pattern more then once, so it’s worth it. But I wouldn’t pay a lot for something I wouldn’t make more then once, it just doesn’t seem to make sense.

  5. The most I’ve ever paid was 30something for some liberty fabric. I have yet to find any liberty on sale anywhere for less than 25.

    It’s hard for me to justify spending more than $12 a yard and if I pay more than 8 then I nearly always make a muslin because god forbid if I ever mess up that expensive fabric!!!

    I, too, am cheap when it comes to lining fabrics.

  6. Pingback: “Don’t go to the well, Peter, there’s no more water there” | Struggle Sews a Straight Seam

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