I recently polled our Facebook fans, asking them, "I'm in the process of writing a blog post about tips on how to buy fabric online. And what better way to get feedback than from our customers! So, what are some things you consider when buying fabric online? What is helpful about our site? What could we improve upon? I can't wait to hear what you have to say!"
And was I surprised! There were so many comments praising how we do things and it felt great! I was actually not really looking for praise when asking the question, but it sounded like our fans liked the way things were.
So after reading all the comments, I've compiled a list of things fabric lovers are looking for when they buy fabric online.
Descriptions -- Online customers are looking for someone to tell them about the fabric. they can't feel it, so describe it to them. When training our fabric describers I always tell them, "Pretend your trying to describe the fabric over the phone to someone. Describe like the person doesn't know anything about sewing." So we've come up with basic descriptions that anyone can understand. Keeping it simple is sometimes best.
Here's what some of our customers said about our descriptions:
Kristin S. says, "I like how Fabric Mart describes how sheer/opaque it is or how stiff it is. But the photos of the fabric draped over a stool are especially helpful for showing those, plus scale of the pattern."
Here's a description from our website. Our title offers you basic information about the fabric. It's the first thing you see besides the photo, so if you're looking for a heavy cotton and you see it says "lawn", then that is not the fabric for you.
- SKU is obviously important, but actually more important for us, so we pick the right fabric for your order.
- Designer/Origin - This field highlights where the fabric is from whether it is a specific designer or specific country. We do not go to long lengths to figure out where every single fabric comes from because it would be impossible. But if it's a cotton shirting from Japan, we will mention that. (Japanese shirtings are a very nice quality fabric and we want you to know that!) Sometimes you will notice the designer field says, "NY Designer". In this case, we would LOVE to tell you who it came from, but sometimes we're not allowed to say. (We don't want to hurt our relationship but doing something we're told not to do!) But by at least telling you it is a NY Designer, you know that it came from someone very special :O)
- Content - This is a very important category because you need to know what the fabric is made of.
- Colors - Colors can be a tough thing. Computer screens are all different so it's hard to say that what you're seeing is what we're seeing, but we try to give you the best information we can. Some online stores give you Pantone color names. I like this actually, but because our fabric moves so quickly it's hard for us to put even more time into something that already times a good amount of time to do.
- Width - You know how the back of a pattern gives you yardage based off of the width of the fabric? Well check this information out before ordering your fabric so you have enough! Chances are till you come back to get more, the fabric will be sold out. :O(
- Stretch - Whether a fabric has stretch or no stretch is really important to know. Some people swear by wovens with stretch, while others hate it! Plus, if it is a knit fabric, we'll mention whether the fabric has 2-way or 4-way stretch. All of this information helps you use the fabric to the best of it's abilities.
One thing that customers mentioned that was helpful for us is they like when % is listed with the fabric content, such as 97% Cotton, 3% Spandex. I wish I had a better answer for you on this, but because of the way our business is we don't always get that information with the fabric. Many times we have to burn the fabric to figure out the content. If we know the exact %, we will definitely share it with you, but if we don't we at least mention if it has lycra/spandex. If anyone has insight on how to figure out exact % in spandex, I'd love to know that information.
Uses: It's nice to know what you can do with fabric, right? Some people have a hard time visualizing what they can do with the fabric. So we give you some basic ideas to spark some ideas.
Care: You know that care label on your RTW clothing? That's pretty helpful when you're not sure how to care for it. This space on our website is just that. Some customers don't like 'dry clean only' fabrics. Others just don't know what is best for certain fabrics, so we give you our recommended washing instructions.
Additional information: This is basically anything else we want to tell you. We talk about the drape of the fabric, how sheer it is and any other information we think is helpful for you to know. Read more about drape and sheerness in the photos section below.
Photos -- Photos tell the visual story. Look for photos that help you visualize the descriptions.
Here's what some of our customers said about our photos:
Rosamond F. says, "I have to agree with almost everyone on the great photography showing the material draped and with peaks. I love the description of stretch. You are my go-to fabric source because your site is very user friendly and informative. I have found your photos to be true to the colors too, very important."
Lisa C. says, "I appreciate a ruler that shows the scale of plaids and florals. I also consider care instructions, since I dislike dry cleaning. Your site does an excellent job describing the hand of the fabric, its care requirements, the scale of any plaid or pattern and for what garment or item the fabric is suitable. I think the way to order fabric online is to try it! Order a couple of lengths and try them out. While I still buy occasionally from a brick and mortar store, online is a better deal for me in terms of selection and price--not to mention convenience."
And another comment about print and why we include a ruler in our photos: Sandy A says, "I wish online retailers would all showcase their fabric with a ruler near so I could see the scale of the prints. I've bought fabric more than once and been disappointed when it arrived when I saw that it had three inch birds and flowers, instead of the half inch birds and flowers that I saw on the computer screen."
Showing the scale of a print is really important. It's hard to know what size print you're looking at on a screen if there's no relation to scale put in place. Most of the time we use a ruler to show you the size of a print.
Our fans liked how we drape the fabric over a stool. This shows them a few things -- how sheer or opaque a fabric is, how the fabric drapes (look for the folds. The smaller the folds the more drape and closeness to the body it sits. The larger the folds, the stiffer the fabric is.)
Close-up of the fabric weave is helpful so you can see how thick or thin a fabric is, how lofty or smooth a fabric is and even comparing weaves of different fabrics.
There you have it! This will allow you to consider different things when shopping on our website as well as others. Other online retailers may focus on things we don't, and that's ok! We've listened to our customers to give them a better shopping experience and it is great to see it shows by their comments. For those of you not so confident about buying fabric online, give it a try. We hope that by hearing from other customers that they are giving you words of encouragement. There's no hurt in trying and we offer a return policy so if you're unhappy with the fabric, you can return it.
Do you have any other tips on what helps you buy fabric online?